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"The Christmas Concert, Front Row" by Rachel Canwell

I am in the church hall when those first notes begin. Like crystallised raindrops landing in a pail.

Your song.

Familiar, unexpected, beautiful and pulsing with pain.

On stage, just feet away, the girl with curled hair and teetering, uncertain voice is singing your song.

Our song.

The song.

The room spins away.

And just like the movies I am flying through space. My heart,

beating and banging in a million rhythms, in a million places.

I am here, but I am not,

I am in a basement disco; drinking, wearing neons, screaming this song.

On a bus; one ear phone each. School skirt rolled up, socks rolled down.

In a doorway doubled over, both of us sweating and praying and puking.

Engagement rings, wedding days, antique lace, peeing on sticks, late night calls.

White rooms, clutching hands, sick jokes and promises.

In a chapel. Alone.

I am in all these places, just me and those notes. Just me and your song.

And inside I am laughing. And screaming. And dancing. And crying. And bleeding And dying.

But still that girl sings.

She sings, even though right here,

here on the front row my heart, my soul, my gut have all fractured. Split into a million jagged pieces ready to be thrown across the four corners of this dusty hall and the world beyond.

Suddenly I can smell cider, suntan lotion, White Musk, chips, vomit, hospitals,


I am overwhelmed by every shade and scent of you.

Dizzy with anger and dizzy with joy; I want to stand up and shout, to shine like a beacon in this room full of toddlers, mothers, grandfathers, next door neighbours.

I want to break through their proud thoughts, their lists of festive things yet to do, their badly disguised boredom and scream.

‘This song, it doesn’t belong to any of you.’

can’t breathe but I can’t leave.

So instead I wrap myself in this bittersweet gift of your song.

Consumed by the first Christmas without you

Rachel Canwell is a reader, writer, teacher and blogger but not necessarily in that order.

She is currently working on her first novel and looking for a home for her flash collection, inspired by the sea.

You can find her on Twitter @bookbound2019

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