Silk inside a chestnut shell

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Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk inside a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well

Estelle White

The silk inside a chestnut shell. The silk inside a chestnut shell. The silk inside…

I love horse chestnuts. I love the smoothness of the conker on my hand. Its coolness against my palm. I love conkers. Conker competitions – because I was the Conker House Competition winner at primary school. Sepia Novembers.

My housemates aren’t so sure about a conker competition. They look on, smiling; seeming to find my childlike fondness for conkers bemusing, yet not joining in my search for them.

The horse chestnuts on the ground represent something else now, too, beyond memories: Prickly to the touch. Difficult to get near. Will break only if stamped on hard. The me I present to the world, to my workplaces. Resisting closeness, in case anyone takes it, and uses it against me.

But, in the therapeutic community, and away from the world, I break easily. The slightest push, and I fall into tears. I am cracked all over. Broken.

Broken, completely, on the inside. But there is no silk to find therein. I fill to brim with frustration at my father for not being able to grasp how a lever handbrake works; with anger and jealousy that I can’t take the steering wheel and drive for him, as my brother could. As I wish my mother well, in spite of the resentment roiling inside me, because being wished well is what she needed to be.

I am still bitter on the inside. I’m not sure breaking open was a good idea. Because now I am in pieces, and it hurts so much.

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