Beth is the character in The Second Cup who epitomises the dissociated voice. Below is an excerpt of when she’s in hospital…
I look down at where my legs should be and see blue stretched across me like the sea with the white foam of the wave across my chest. Maybe I’m a mermaid washed to shore.
The pink dress comes over to me and dips her hands into the edge of the blue sea, lapping her fingers about at the edges of the waves. I still can’t see my legs, but now I can feel them. I can’t tell if they’ve formed into a big tail, but where my feet should be, fins point out at strange angles. The pink dress has an ancient mug filled with brown gloop, like gravy but thinner. I’m worried she’s going to throw it into the sea to pollute me. But no. She holds the mug to my lips. I take a sip. It’s tea. It is not hot enough. I need scaldingly-hot tea if I’m going to use it to clean my insides from the thoughts clogging up my system with poison.
I like my tea hot. This tea is cold. It will be stone cold. I remember this day. All of us at the caravan taking too long to eat breakfast and my mum saying over and over: “The tea will be stone cold.” Outside the caravan, I touch the stones. Their smooth sides, so smooth and rounded that they don’t have sides. I wear jelly sandals and sections of skin poke through between the squidgy slats of plastic. They make my feet look like aliens. They’re meant to make my feet look fat. I can’t remember who told me that. It wasn’t Grandma; it was someone else.
The stones near the path between the caravans and the beach are warm from the sun. The ones getting a quick bath from the tide are cold. Stone cold. We’re meant to be playing on the beach. Although it isn’t a beach; it’s where pebbles meet the sea. I wonder if this is a new beach, the stones waiting to be ground down to sand by the waves. Is sand just tiny little pebbles? But I don’t ask – don’t risk learning anything new in return for the ridicule.
It will be one of those things that Beth says.
Then instead of saying “This tea is stone cold” it will be “Remember the time Beth asked about pebbles being turned into sand by the sea” – and they will all laugh. All of them; even the ones too dull to think to ask the question and the ones too young to know the answer.
I’ve died and come back as a mermaid. I can remember my skin. The small red spots growing blotchy, covering me with a birthmark stain. That’s when I first realised I was being reborn. My new birthmark. I feel hungry but I know it’s my body digesting itself, starving enzymes feasting themselves on my organs. The rigor mortis has set in. It’s why I can’t move my tail yet. The transition has begun but is nowhere near complete.
The pink dress wipes the fluids pouring from my mouth and nose. If I were still alive, I would think I had a cold and my nose was running. Or that I’d been to the dentist for a filling and I was drooling. But I know my body is purging itself, fluids draining from my corpse.
Soon these fluids will be too much to be wiped up and they will run into the sea and I will be free.