All We Wore by Claire Thomas Hawnt
Every month, NWS members are invited to respond to a writing prompt in 500 words or less. We love to celebrate the immense talent and creativity in our community by featuring the work of one writer on our blog. This month, we have decided to feature two pieces of work because we just couldn’t choose between them!
July’s prompt was She was wearing a wedding ring. But then again, so was I.
Claire Hawnt submitted a piece of work called All We Wore. We absolutely loved the tension that Claire injected into this piece in such a limited amount of words. Particularly masterful was the moment of comic relief at the end of the piece, followed immediately by the suggestion of a bigger story in the very last line. Finally, the idea of flinging words like pebbles is a perfect image that will stick with us for a long time!
Claire said: “The piece was inspired first by my thinking through some questions about the prompt. When would you most notice a wedding ring? When it’s on the finger of someone you fancy. When would you think about your own wedding ring? When you’re looking at someone else. And what would make that ring most obvious? If you had nothing else on at the time? Could there be an innocent explanation for being naked with a naked person you fancy? Well yes, if you were modelling for a life drawing class… And that’s how the piece came to life.
I’m always interested in the restraints we place on ourselves, and the tensions between our desires and our behaviour; between what we conceal and what we betray. In this piece I’ve explored the tension between needing to behave “properly” and the feelings of fear and liberation in a situation where nakedness transgresses the usual rules of how we behave.”
All We Wore
She was wearing a wedding ring, but then again, so was I. It was all we were wearing.
There was only silence, in the beginning. She took the couch opposite me, disposing her long legs in one neat graceful movement, like a dancer. I tried not to look at her. I had the feeling that she was, similarly, trying not to look at me.
I focused on the ring to avoid her. Absently I slipped it off, and rolled it between my finger and thumb, thinking about it. Outside this ring is the whole world; inside, my whole self. Either is a universe shaped like a zero. Zero, which in binary code represents an absence; or, in a non-binary world, a beginning.
What am I beginning here?
I realise I need to breathe. Everything begins with a breath. Focus on the breathing, in and out; not on what the angled fragments that are all I can see of her. They are like a cubist painting; the creamy length of her thigh tipped up; the crook of a finger encircled in gold, the angled tilt of an arm. I am afraid that if I look at her full on, she will turn me to stone.
Perseus had a mirrored shield, but I have no defence. Moreover, he had the advice of the gods, but in these times, the gods are oddly silent. They are not forthcoming to would-be heroes looking to defeat monsters, or even to find themselves.
On the floor between us, the window casts a blade of light. I have the oddest feeling that if I cross that blade of light it will sever me from something; wound me in ways I can’t explain.
The silence between us endures, heavy and awkward as a rug we are compelled to carry. How do we fold this silence, end to end, so that we can meet in the middle?
Suddenly she flings a handful of words into the silence, like pebbles.
“I’ve never done this before.”
The silence wasn’t a rug after all. It was a lake between us, smooth and clear as her voice.
“Neither have I,” I say.
“So am I.”
I take all the courage I have and raise my eyes to meet hers. A passing cloud erases the blade of light on the floor. We look at each other, finally, straight on, unclothed, blessed by the clarity of this near-empty room. I do not know how long this bond between us will last. It could only be today. I exhale, slowly, on the count of three, trying not to notice how the glow of her red hair. I remind myself that it is all right to do this, despite the wedding rings. I remind myself that life modelling, even when you are married, is not a sin; just so long as I remember that’s all it is, and all it can be.