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My eyes hurt the moment I get out the pool, so I rub them thinking it’s the usual chlorine sting.

It isn’t.

When I get home, my wife takes one look at me and says: what have you done? I say nothing. I’ve done nothing. But she replies: well you must have done something, have you seen your eyes?

I go and look at them in a mirror, and they’re red and bloodshot and feel like someone is pricking them with pin after pin.

My wife comes into the bathroom just as I rub them again. She says: don’t do that. You’ll only make it worse. I drop my hands and say, I know, I know, but not rubbing them doesn’t make them feel any better either. I go to rub them again, but she pulls my hands away from my face. I ask her what she’s doing, and she says just what I do when she picks at her eczema. 

I walk past her and out of the bathroom, but she follows, saying, you didn’t wear goggles again, did you? How many times have I told you to put them on? I head to our bedroom, her still following, and tell her I lost them. She asks if it’s that hard to buy some new ones, and I say, no, but I forgot. That’s all. I lie down on the bed and tell her I just need to close my eyes for a bit. I need a nap anyway. When I wake up, I’m sure I’ll feel better.

I don’t.

The pins now feel like knives. Only when I close them does the pain stop.

My wife comes into the room and asks how I’m feeling. I pretend to be asleep, and eventually she goes away. I reach over to my bedside table, take my Ipod off the top, and put my headphones on. I hope the music will relax me, and for a while I drift in and out of sleep.

After what feels like ages, I feel my wife sitting on the bed beside me. She’s shaking my shoulder gently, saying my name, wake up, wake up. One of my headphones has fallen out, and I hear her clearly.

I say, what? And she says, come on, you’ve got to get up now. We’ve got dinner with Jenny and Phil, remember? I say, right, sure, I forgot, and sit up. I can’t open my eyes. I try but even a little slip of light makes them hurt.

My wife tells me we need to go to hospital. We’ll cancel dinner. They’ll understand. I say, okay, but what about Jenny? She’s been planning it for ages. We never see them anymore.

My wife rests her hand on my thigh and says, you won’t be seeing anyone at this rate.

At the hospital they wash both my eyes, ask which swimming pool I’d been to, and tell me to invest in some goggles. The doctor tells me to go home, rest, and keep my eyes shut.

On  the way home we stop at a mall and get some goggles. When we get back in the car, my wife leans down to scratch at the eczema on her knees. She looks at me. I don’t say a thing.

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19 thoughts on “Chlorine

  1. This is good man 🙂 I reckon if you just thought of a larger plot and worked your way through it you’d be in a pretty good zone.

    Perhaps your interest in your characters is as shortlived as your main character’s interest in the other characters of their story often is; I know I get bored if I write the same thing for too long, but that’s because I rarely plan anything.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to patronise- what you’re doing is already great.

      • Are you serious? The only reason I haven’t deleted mine is because there are a few people I know who probably enjoy some of what I’ve written.

        It’s nothing more than a side project to me- I want to write something bigger but when I’ve got really low moral/motivation (all the time) then the blog is a good way of staying productive (because I do try to write at least three posts a month).

        Your blog of course will mean something different to you, but it’s really just a side project right? These things that you do for free are great, but it’s sort of like bleeding out. Well…that’s just my opinion, I sometimes worry that later (the magical “later” in which I’ll get my act together) I might not have the mind/abilities that I have now.

        Well… I could probably write a post about it but I won’t. Just saying what I think.

      • I write these for the discipline to make myself write to a deadline I set for myself. If – when – I have time I will expand a lot of them and incorporate them into larger things. I also hoped to get feedback on things people think didn’t work, which you have, thankfully, done.

        I generally give myself a word limit and try to make something with some meaning within that limit. I’ve been doing a Master’s but wanted to keep writing so I thought I do short short stories, one a week while doing that. Now I’ve finished the Master’s I want to start doing longer things. I just need to make time for it. And create a new discipline.

      • Yeah- I think I missed your point earlier and became sort of side-tracked, but you’re reply’s good none the less.

        Congratulations on your achievement, I could only managed a general degree, in Biology.

        I think your stories have good structure, and often an interesting point to make- they sometimes just make me think a while, reading a line or two again a few times.

        Good to hear you’ve got plans.

  2. You want feedback on things that don’t work? I don’t think I’ve ever read anything of yours that didn’t work. You’re one of the best writers I’ve read in a while. I subscribe to dozens of blogs, but yours is one of the handful that I actually ever get around to reading.
    Congrats on the Masters.

    • Thanks for the comment and continued appreciation. Maybe I need to be more comfortable with what I write. There’s always that niggle in the back of my head that something doesn’t sound right or it doesn’t tie together or I could give the characters more time or develop them more. Oh, well.

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