The rustling of the duvet wakes me. Sleep greasy on my skin. I can’t have been asleep long. A groan and nudge in the ribs announces; it’s time. The lid pops, echoing in the calm of the early hours. The drip drip drip against the plastic bottle, drumbeats of piss pounding through the thick of the night. The smell of bleach and urine, eau de lockdown. The paralysed side of his body, heavy, dull, he doesn’t feel his elbow poke me as his arm involuntarily twitches, as he shakes himself dry. I’ve known this sound for the last 5 years. It’s rhythmically repetitive. The intensity of it in the last few months grates on my skin. I roll away, claiming more duvet, binding like a bandage, to soothe it all. Awake now. Thoughts devouring every last morsel of sleep. Lying there, my breaths heavy with despondency. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like this. First, we were locked out of life. Brain haemorrhage and stroke saw to that. But we got by and found our way. And then, as we emerged from the depths of recovery; lockdown. On our own. No respite, no help. My whole being aches at the prospect of enduring this indefinitely. The voice with no sound whispers to hold on, to ignore the rage that bubbles and blisters at everything and nothing. The snores rise once more, settling into a pace that soothes me at last. I roll back towards his warmth. I lay my head on his shoulder, knowing he won’t feel it, and try to recapture sleep. Quiet, stillness. Then a shattering scream. Adrenaline floods me. The baby.
Syreeta Challinger came to writing unexpectedly. Initially it was a tool, writing as therapy after her husband suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage and stroke in 2014. Syreeta found solace in words, playing with prose, and her writing is visceral and honest. As a carer and a new mother, her writing is about strength of spirit, of humanity and hope. Of care, courage and compassion; of love.