By Vita Forest
How much of what Nicola did was unconscious? Was it an unconscious decision to apply for that job? In that other world she thought she lived in, Nicola didn’t have to do that. It had not been part of her plan. They had more than enough money for a comfortable life and she had time for contributing to her children’s life, to her family’s life, to the community. But somewhere down deep, a tiny hand had tugged at her shirt tail and told her to put in the effort and apply for that job. Told her that even though she didn’t have to, she should. Called back to her from the future that it was an absolute necessity.
And she got the job. Started building her career again. It was good to feel useful, to be good at something, because she was unconsciously beginning to get the message that she wasn’t good at being what Joe wanted anymore. That little hand again, tapping at her side, pointing out the way he winced as she spoke (shrill), the way he sneered at her achievements (small), the way he stayed out more and more (Important meetings).
Was the swimming unconscious too? Was the building up of her strength and stamina just something that she happened upon? Afterwards, she would charge up and down the pool, screaming into the water, as her fingers clawed and her feet thrashed and her whole body beat out her frustration. Up and back, up and down, back and forth, following the black line on the base of the pool, hypnotised by that thick black line, her world reduced to getting to the end, then slapping the side and doing it again. Turning herself into a warrior. Strong. Flexible. Resilient. And smelling a little of chlorine. But it gave her a place to go. It gave her something to do. Something regular. Something calming. Something slightly more wholesome than turning to the drinks cabinet (which was also tempting).
Nicola liked the way swimming made her lungs burn, her arms ache, her temples beat in time with the blood pounding around her body. She liked the way the water blanketed and obscured the noise of everything outside the pool. She was a fish, a dolphin, a stingray, communicating through clicks and squeals. There was no language. No words. No betrayal, just survival. And that was unconscious too. Nicola could go through the motions, let herself be carried by the water, by her body, by her routine, until the time came to emerge from the pool and get back on land. Among the living. In that new life that she had had no inkling of, except in her deepest unconscious.
That place that seemed to know everything.