The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes life stories
There are men in this world and then there are women (it doesn’t really matter what kind they are) and then there is me, the girl who has never completely grown up. There’s something of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or the better half of Peter Pan about me. I am entirely lovely at first it seems.
Vulnerable, I have depth, there’s a poignant sadness in my eyes yet I remain inherently pure. Arrogance and pride can never quite venture near the insecurity of a youth, the gamine. There is nothing about the word sex object that can be traced back to me. If I am stained by anything it is lipstick and coconut oil on my hands (for my hair). In the hair salon women stand around me braiding my hair exclaiming the prowess of their men, eating hake from the chippy at the corner shop, doing my nails. I already feel a fraud as if nature is ganging up on me. This is not me. This is not who I am or want to be. But do I want to be ‘Alice’ forever. One day I will be too old to remember any of these things. But I’ve already learnt that love releases you from wounds, turns salt into gold.
I was after his flesh and his spirit. You see God in love could keep his soul. Love poured out of me like a sonnet even while I heard his voice in my head like a mixed tape masterpiece that I could hit replay on all the time. ‘You’re a child that needs to be supervised, told what to do, placated, a docile, docile child. So how can you mother my children if you’re a child? How can you be a wife if you didn’t have a mother, some mother-figure, a feminine role-model?’ He was the one who found me destitute in squalor, in poverty of the spirit, identity and the mind living on the street. He wrecked my psyche, my ego and it was years before I could finally let go of him. The relationship was bittersweet. It taught me that everything in life worth longing for and holding onto is fragile. It served as a reminder that now I am tired of the cold. Cold men with their cold hands tying the threads of my heart together shutting light, all sensibility out, gathering those threads, gathering them like hunters in the wild.
That’s the trouble with growing up, getting older. The world gets meaner, men and women and even sometimes children get meaner if you don’t play by the rules of the game. I mean the world at large can be a really miserable nation with shark teeth ready to rip and pull at any moment. And when that rug of love is pulled out from under you whether you’re a child playing in the dirt or a child playing in love your spirit can become dispossessed, lost, displaced. Men, their hands could feel like moss or wind or winter, water in a spring. Women were a different kettle of fish. I tried to catch them but they danced in a rush, sprinted out of my grasp. They had their own needs, which meant they had their own children, pressures, depression, sadness, they had to place their own disorders and homes in order. They did not want me to call them ‘mother’. I have taken the ‘inner me’ beyond and back. When I make contact with its imaginary blueprint it is a pretty picture reminiscent of a constellation.
I see stars diamond-bright. I see illusion in everything around me, people’s facial expressions, their hand movements, the physical, emotional and then the imagination, the pictures it comes from, perhaps a childhood frozen in time. I see illusion even in the beauty of men. In their physicality and the momentum, which drives them to succeed, to climb ladders of distinction with audacity, which leaves the precocious child, starved for their dominion. I was once (and some parts of me, the innocence longs dearly for that dominion to fill up my lovely bones) that precocious child. I still have that spirit and that spirit seeks out its mirror image. The male image that is of a protector, caretaker and in some ways a nurturer. But also a destroyer to sabotage the purity in the head of that precocious child and so when I was twelve years old I did my best not to make any sort of long-term plans and I think for that I have paid a terrible price. I have felt anxious all my life.
My mother the sun, my father the moon both not smiling. Anxiety could do that to you when you came from nothing but a sleepy city that had fish and chippy shops all around at the bay and boats from all over the world that docked in the harbor. It, anxiety could rub off on you when you were having your best moment in the spotlight, academic achievement. I am tired of winter. There are things such as ghosts and if I am going to survive then I have to study the survival of other artists, women, the female mystic and poet, the feminine. I am not a woman; I am not a warrior, a mother, a wife, and not even a girlfriend. I am a child again and an innocence and purity sticks. So I curl up on the sofa with my legs beneath me leaning my back against the back of it, brushing hair out of my face, wishing the blues away. I am twelve years old again. High school is so fresh it is in my pores. It makes me feel dizzy.
So dizzy that it is sometimes hard to breathe, hard to eat, hard to react to the world around me. Hard to see how much work it takes to make popular reality and to define just what that means. It means I don’t have to make any plans yet. I’m bored and the only thing that interests me is war, television, the history that Martin Luther comes with, Bunsen burners and the periodic table. Life is bittersweet at twelve years old. My mother is sweet, talking her way into some deal with my father. In the photograph I am holding in my hand I am happy, smiling, hugging a gap-toothed brother wearing a mini-tuxedo complete with bow tie. What is happy anyway? Is my mother happy? Who is that woman with a perm anyway? She makes the bathroom smell like a crush of perfumed heaven, chemicals up in the air conspiring together and baby powder. I have no inclination of following in her footsteps. Feeding her children on hamburgers and mayonnaise as if they both were food groups.
All children are brats until they become the future leaders of the world. If my mother were a flower she wouldn’t be a rose she’d be a sunflower just because she burns that bright. When she’s in the room I’d have to blink. Shut my eyes to really think. She makes me want to run away and hide and cry my eyes out when she tells me to shut up the preacher man can hear you. I have failed. Perfect timing. There’s a bittersweet squalor in her voice. She’s conserving so much energy in trying not to be genuine, sincere. Daddy’s always lovely. Surely only love can cure me now. There’s something physical, cerebral almost and it is not just the chemistry about being put under the spell of becoming fond of him (the lover) or loving him I simply wanted to become attached to his interests and his goals. He illumined the world, with his serious and funny ways and I wanted my world to be illuminated in the same way. I talk about the lover and my mum in the same voice. I use the same tone because I was left defeated in their wake. I trailed after them always masking my hurt and humiliation. It was not my journey to follow them, to follow their lead as I later learned with maturity and in ill health.
It’s morning in Port Elizabeth. I still get the blues. At any time of the day, any time of the night. The fishing boats have gone out at sunrise. The ocean is miles away, out of sight behind factories, and the residential area. I can’t see it from my house even if I went and stood outside on the grass. I hear the cars on the road moving, hooting, lights blinking. Kids in the park. There are truants smoking, girlfriend and boyfriend holding onto each other for life by the slide. Nothing in Port Elizabeth is like it is in Johannesburg. Life is quiet. I hardly see the neighbours. I’ve lived with that stillness for most of my life. I wanted to be a serious and funny and wise adult and the precocious child but learned that you couldn’t do both. So I have my rituals all planned out in from me. First my coffee, then my work and then doubt levels the playing field. I can do this. My companions are my books. They’re not in meetings the whole day. I’m not twelve years old anymore. I have responsibilities. But I cannot escape that mouth (mother’s milk bitter and sweet) because it has become my mouth now on how I view the world.
Then raw and crass, shocking, explosive drama (all the usual stuff of a damaged and dysfunctional family) flies through the air. Plates too. Shut up, the preacher man will hear you, my mother will hiss. Doesn’t she ever get a sense that this is familiar ground for her? How did I come this far with the language of a prostitute dying to belong? Some days I need poetry like I need life. In the olden days poets truly were the masters of their own universe. My mother was like the Gestapo. She knew everything that was going to happen to me before I did. I did the acting in childhood part to please her. She helped me rehearse my lines. I brought home one year a trophy to please her. My sister is far away in her own ghost nation, late twenties, medium height, slender, eats organic (in the ghost nation of Johannesburg). Meanwhile I am growing older, early thirties, tall as a white reed. In some ways I think I am dreaming when I think of any memories I have left of home. It’s as if I’m awake and I’m dreaming at the same time.
It’s as if it’s another diary entry in just another black hole, void and journey on a page with strips of faultless blue lines. It is difficult for me to love again. I’ll have to examine whether I’ve put the pain I’ve experienced from past experiences into a distillate all this time. The men that other women had committed their lives to, my lover and my mother all have one thing in common. They’re con artists. They scam hearts and hearts are delicate things. There’s not much sense in messing around with them unless you want to destroy someone. If a parent does not invest everything, everything they have and own and possess in the world in a child, in his or her own biological children what becomes of the child? Male destroyers turn the precocious child into a female destroyer. And when that female enters their domain, she begins unknowingly to play by their rules because she has to keep up with them or otherwise she is forever lost to a cause. All the men will say merrily, your throne for their kingdom and when I was a child I laughed and I played at fairies and believed it was all fairy dust because I was raised that way (and because my father told me to). I was taught that men and women have very different roles to play in society. Equality didn’t mean anything to me as a child. In those days it was different.
What I found in life and what I believed were two different things. God meant doing right by everyone even though they did you wrong. It meant going to church, devoting your life to raising your family in that environment, spiritual uplifting of the poor and the needy. What affairs of the heart will teach you is not so different. We’re all the same. We want to be loved. We want to be ushered into this world with as much celebration and hoopla as possible. I was raised to believe in an ark. But even soon in that aftertime after important people in my life had moved on. When I left the most important adult relationship in my life, (the first boyfriend, the first in a long steady line) I began to move away from things of the spirit world. In fact to me the entire world was primed to be covered in a sense with a darker shield of magic and I knew that I unknowingly now I too had become a destroyer.
© Abigaile George August 2012
More travel stories
Diary of an insomniac
I want you to feel the cold like I do, weep like I do, make sense of the senseless world around you like I do. I want you to imagine the unbearable lightness, futility, looseness of things past holding you back
Running with Lithium
Head made of stone sound the alarm for here hallucinations abound like driftwood, a gull sweeping through the sky overhead. In the photograph her skin is as dark as dry blood as she stands in her white dress.