Alexithymia

By Thomas Clark

As the train pulled up to Ipswich, stopping before it continued in the opposite direction, Oliver noticed a little girl sitting on her mother’s lap. Her mother wrapped a comforting arm round the little girl’s shoulders. Normal girl, he thought, normal girl, normal clothes. What was striking to Oliver, however, were the large burn marks and contorted flesh that traced the outside of her mouth.

He could see the accident played out now, the child would have seen her mother filling up coffee cups from the kettle- the cool water gushing into the hole from the tap- before waddling over to the counter; trying to guzzle the boiling liquid straight from the nozzle. He could see the blood-screams. He could see the child sitting and waiting for her mother to come home from work, the sticky flesh embarrassingly red on her face.

Now her mother sat still, cradling and comforting her before the train left. They did not get on it though. They were going somewhere else.

He imagined her growing up, friends and colleagues asking how ‘it happened’ when they had had a couple of drinks. Oliver tried to think of his childhood, but the burn was in the flesh of his brain and no image formed. He began trying very hard to understand what it was that he was feeling.

She made eye contact with him. The train pulled away. He traveled in the direction he came from and couldn’t remember where he was going.


Thomas Clark is an 18 year old writer currently working on the Suffolk Coast in England before going to study English Literature at Oxford University later this year.

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2 Responses to Alexithymia

  1. Kitty says:

    Really liked the image of what the author saw – and how seeing it made his history pool together until it mingled in a mix mash of messiness.

  2. k white says:

    Moving.

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