Tania:

The Shells of Where We Used to Nest

You were seven years old. Sun bright the way it only is when we are kids. You had wandered off alone. The way many children do and smart adults still try to. You enjoyed climbing trees, picking up rocks, catching grasshoppers with which you!d scare the other girls in the class.

You found the nest, nestled on a lower branch. Straw, sand, saliva. Not the perfect circle seen in children's books, but identifiable anyway. Mother Bird was nowhere in sight. Teacher was nowhere in sight. Classmates were nowhere in sight.

And then you saw the eggs.

When you told me the story, your face crumpled. Eyebrows furrowed, head tilted to the side. You scratched at the insides of your palms and your voice changed. It's amazing how the most vivid childhood memories often revolve around guilt and lessons we wish we'd learned second hand. Your face pinched by regret and the bird that never was, never became, never got a chance.

When I think of birds' eggs, I cannot help but think of Winterson and how she described stealing another!s heart, the way she would a bird's egg. Such an apt analogy on so many levels. That's how you stole mine, after all. Sleight of hand, a simple gesture. An unthinking action whilst I was not looking and then suddenly, the nest was empty.

What happened to us, Lover? I flew through the sky to see you. Home was where you were. Where we were together. Not this space where we cling desperately to each other and yet tiptoe through eggshells as if they were mines.

You were seven years old. You slipped the egg into your pocket. Palm-sized home of a creature yet to exist. The object before life. Before birth. Pre-history in a shell. Broken before you even got back to class.

Perhaps you thought you!d see it hatch. Like in those videos back in school. Baby birds pecking their way out of crumbling wombs. First the tiny tapping. Then the hairline cracks. Then the almost elastic membrane beneath slowly stretching to puncture-point. And then, suddenly, a beak.

But amidst the shells of where we used to nest, we break upon each other. And I am liquid in your palm, splinters in your pocket.