••• The International Writers Magazine:Relationships
The curious language of Laura, Lynn and Peter
I was the angel. The good one. I was the one with the children and the husband. The glowing mother. The successful writer. The novelist. Not Lynn. I have a home. I was the one with the family. I was the lucky one. I am thirty something or other now. I am a daughter, a sister, wife, and a mother. An independent woman who was taught early on to love her body for the bright translations it offers up to me, ‘me’, at a moment’s notice. My body does not belong to me anymore. It belongs to winter. That adrenaline rush. That fight/flight. I needed to have proof of the stars. So I reached out to the clouds during the day. I beckoned sunlight. I measured its weight. Felt its shape with my fingers. Found a place for it. I needed to say to the universe give me the moonlight. Let it shine its spotlight on me. Let the rain wash my sins away. It’s cold. It’s so cold. I can hardly feel my feet. My hands do not belong to me anymore. They belong to another world. Another king. I gravitated towards its foliage. My mother raised two girls but in the beginning of mum and dad’s marriage there were whispers, issues of infertility. It was something never spoken about. It’s winter. Winter clothes lost in translation. The throne that is called a tree’s shiny leaves. I let its itchy arms hold me close. Bring closure to the cold-heartedness of winter. The winter guests of leaves, of lighthouses, of foreclosure. Then, only then will I happily toil this earth for you, for Peter, for Lynn, for my children, until the end of the world. Until death comes for me or eternity. I’m not tired yet. I want to stay up and watch the sun rise. Waiting for the future. Waiting for ghost matter. Plants to grow in the earth that I’ve toiled for you. Putting my heart aside.
Dear Peter, friend and lover, I miss you. You slipped or fell all beautiful and original folds of you through my fingers in the city I fled from as a girl. Johannesburg. I write about Johannesburg’s people from memory. That love song and mad dance of pollution, climate change, global warming. I don’t want you in my head anymore. Clearly you’ve moved on. You’re married. Your wife’s expecting. Your life is perfect. I still think about you. I still write about you. Love poems to myself.
A flood always comes with change. Religion is golden. It is another far-off city. I’m a Christian so I can’t do that. I don’t smoke cigarettes because my body is a temple, and stars always seem to silence me. It’s in me to find a voice for them. I can’t wish ill on another person. Can’t wish revenge on them. That it’s best served cold. All I can do is believe in the sweetness of human life. The best of humanity. I know that I am not responsible for your wings. For you being lost in translation. You’re beautiful anyway. We’re Christians but when we’re flying off the handle we’re also sisters, Daughters, losing our religion. I almost inherited the rain when it came. Childhood is brief. It is making me grow smaller and smaller. I see the two of us, Laura and Lynn eating chicken and ribs in a restaurant, celebrating someone’s birthday in photographs. Posing, Laughing our heads off. Our childhood was brief but it was brilliant. I showered your face with kisses. The backyard was the wilderness filled with tigers and snakes. Wild tigers, and poisonous snakes that we had to catch. Pretend to kill. You’re always giving me a speech now. Lecturing me on my potential. I always say I love you at the end of our conversations through the whirring loophole of the telephone. I feel this is the last city. I am not going to move house again from here. This is my last house. My last renovation. The last time I will paint these walls. My last psychiatrist. My last psychologist. And when I had the children, it was the last time that I was ever going to be alone. Be myself. I was now supposed to be a responsible adult. I had brought life into the world. I always found sanctuary in winter. Midwinter.
She could hear him singing and this made her smile. It made her happy to think that she had done that. Brought that smile to his face.
‘Say hello.’ He said.
‘Hello.’ She smiled back at him.
‘Show don’t tell.’ Her stroked her arm and kissed the nape of her neck.
‘Isn’t it supposed to be ask don’t tell.’ She closed her eyes.
‘Something like that.’ He opened the newspaper. His glasses perched at the end of his nose.
‘Does this mean we’re a couple? We tell each other everything, don’t we.’ she turned her head to admire his profile.
‘Togetherness for a man means altogether something different to a woman.’ He turned the page to the business section
‘Always? How sure are you about that?’ She sat up and brushed the hair out of his face.
‘You need a haircut, darling.’
‘Yes, whatever.’ He answered in return.
‘You’re not listening to me.’ She sat up and put the pillows behind her back.
‘Oh, I am very sure that having a relationship means different things to a woman than it does to a man. Do you like my sister?’ Laura crossed her arms when she looked at him. She knew he wasn’t going to give her a straight answer.
‘Yes, yes I do. What’s not to like? You love her. You like her. I like her too. I think that she is very nice.’ Peter never looked up from the newspaper but he was paying attention to her now.
‘Nice. Do you think she is beautiful? A lot of people think that she is beautiful.’
‘You’re beautiful, Laura, and I’m with you.’
‘No, I’m not. Not like that. I don’t have a magazine look, Peter.’
‘You’re good enough for me.’ He leaned over and kissed her on her cheek.
‘It's not what a woman wants to hear.’
‘Okay, she’s beautiful. Why won’t you believe that you’re beautiful too? This is what I don’t like about you. You’re so insecure sometimes, you know and you don’t have to be. You just don’t.’ He brushed his hand through his hair. It brought a smile to Laura’s face every time he did that. He looked so handsome. It was times like these that she thought to herself that she really didn’t deserve him.
‘Peter, I always want you to be honest with me. Promise me, that you will always be honest with me, always.’
‘Laura,’ Peter sighed. I’m not going to marry your sister. I’m going to marry you because I am in love with you.’
‘Let’s go for a walk. I have all this bunched up nervous energy.’ She got out of the bed and stood in front of the mirror looking at her reflection. ‘Say that again.’
‘Say what, love?’
‘Say that you’re going to marry me, babe.’
‘Okay, if it will make you happy. I’m going to marry you. Besides I don’t feel like walking anywhere today. I just don’t feel like it. The walk. Let’s put it off. Let’s stay here instead for the rest of the afternoon. I’ll make us coffee and croissants.’
‘I think that I would like that very much. You making me breakfast. Promise me breakfast in bed for a lifetime and I’m yours.’ Laura smiled at him, then looked back at her dishevelled appearance in the mirror.
‘Anything for you, sweetheart.’
Laura lifted Peter’s shirt up over her head, pulled it over her shoulders.
‘Don’t disturb me for the next hour or so I want to finish the pages I started yesterday. I love inhaling you.’
‘You’re the best thing that happened to me Laura.’
‘And don’t you forget it.’ She winked at him.
I am the last city, the sanctuary. The language of snow in Johannesburg is tired now and, I am tired of the layers of winter clothing. I just don’t want Laura to resent me now for the burden that I have become in her life. Of course, Laura stopped writing seriously when the second child arrived. A boy and then when I got sick there was a girl and a boy and Peter and then me. She never brought the children with her when she came to visit me at the hospital. Sometimes Peter would come with her but he would hover. He would say a quiet, stiff, forced ‘hello,’ and then speak to the men. Smoke with them as they stood outside on the patio. Even when it rained he would do that. Laura would say comforting things and apologise for not bringing the children who were in their teens by now. We would talk about the same things, mill around them. The children, Peter’s work. Peter was a director. Something important. Some high profile job that I could never understand really. Laura was always very happy to see me. She always bought me bitter chocolate. I was the last city. I was the city she was never going to leave. The walls that she was going to leave the same color. We spoke about that brick wall of clinical depression in full sentences. I asked her to stop coming, and then I asked her to stop bringing Peter with her. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me especially him. I loved him, but I also loved him like a sister loves a brother. He was the brother I never had but that was before they got married. When Laura first got married it wasn’t like before. Things had changed and I had to get used to it. Couldn’t just pick up the phone and call her like I used to. We couldn’t hang out and chill with each other. Go on holidays with each other.
‘Don’t come. I’m damaged. I don’t want you to be around me, Laura. I think the reason I’m like this is because of the relationship mum had with dad. Did our parents love each other?’
‘Yes, of course mum loved dad, and dad loved her in his own way.’ But Laura could never see it from my view. It didn’t end there. Sometimes when she came to visit we used to fight. I used to fight with her. Ask her not to come anymore because I was so ashamed. Shamed that my life was a mess. Shamed that I was unsuccessful. That I didn’t have those kids. That husband. Peter, and the children were her whole life.
‘Why wouldn’t I want to come? Lynn, you’re my sister. My only sibling. We have this connection. We always have. I have to help you through this now. It could even be in my family. Think. My children. Your niece. Your nephew. In our genes.’
‘Oh, Laura. Life takes. I could never get married now. You know that. After the depression, how can I love anyone, fall in love again. I’m no good to anyone. No good to you.’ Then Laura would take my hand in hers and squeeze it until I couldn’t feel it anymore. She will turn to me and say, ‘It’s all that medication you’re taking. You’re just not yourself. You see, when you come home with me and Peter, the children, things will be different.’
I would hold onto her before she left. Peter would come over and call me ‘sport’ or ‘kiddo’. ‘Everything alright here, with the two of you.’ He would always say and I would smile and kiss his cheek like a sister would kiss her brother. I couldn’t make out who he was anymore. The man that I had slept with was not the same man who called me ‘sport’, and ‘kiddo’.
I am the unknown. Yes, I slept with Lynn. It would break Laura’s heart if she ever found out but Lynn was so different before she got sick. She was exciting. Beautiful. She was dazzling, and so was her personality. The first time I met her she was laughing at something Laura had told her and she looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. I think Laura saw something between us because later she said that Lynn had that electrifying effect on everyone she met. It was like I was sleeping with Laura’s twin. She held my hand in the kitchen. Came up behind me and took me by surprise. I looked at her open face. I knew what she wanted me to do. Every time I looked at her I knew she wanted me to make a move. She wanted me to make that telephone call. I know what to call her now. She’s emotional, her tantrums hysterical. She’s unstable. There were warning flags. Looking back there were conversations. Life hurts. This painful struggle. I can’t live anymore she said once but everybody says that at some point in their lives. I didn’t take her seriously. Nobody did.
© Abigail George May 2016
Email address: email@example.com
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