The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
When My Brother Was Moses
I fall in love like stars assemble themselves, arrange themselves in a constellation.
When I fall asleep, when dreams cometh, my subconscious with its unfathomable handbook tells me that towns are being shattered like in a war. Iraq, Sarajevo, the continent of Africa. The dark hurts infinitely. Infinities are like spells. Elegant math equations that you cannot make head or tail. Earth is a maze.
I worry about people. I think that they are not intelligent enough. Whose fault is that? Who is to blame? I worry about married people even though I know it is my business not to do so. I worry about the humiliation of fat people. It is like a ticking time bomb and there is nothing I can do about it like the feeling of incompleteness of a married woman that this is it. It is not going to get any better than this. The trips to the Kruger National Park. The shopping sprees in malls. Vacationing in paradise. This was a wife’s heaven. Not the culture and certainly not the passion of books. I think I worry too much about human stains, about proof, about order.
Be it psychoanalysis of her alcoholic husband, or rather the Zen arcade of her children, was not going to be the name of this married game. There are a lot of things I regret in my life. One of them is not telling my elegant, otherworldly mother how much I love her for the things that she does for me. Neglecting my siblings. Abandoning my younger sister. Straining to live. Missing my brother for all that he is worth.
What is the source of beauty, of possessions, the material, the world at large, flux, that dark void, destination anywhere for the queen of New Orleans, truth and beauty? I think his name is God. I think I have experienced sadness more.
I think I have experienced sadness a million times. I think I have been more sad than happy but it has more to do with the state of the world. With politick. The world is new. The world is new and strange. It is filled with beautiful strangers. Countries. All you need is a visa and a plane ticket to get you where you want to go. All you need is a mentor. People tell me all the time I need experience. It makes me hostile towards them when they say that. It makes me want to not want to love them, or be them, or worship them, or praise them, or like them anymore. I think of Moses in the wilderness. Tara was the pits like nighttime in a museum.
Tara glowed at night like a ghost story. Tara was heavenly like Mother’s Day giftwrapped boxed truffles but who wants to read about the joys of madness. Was the wilderness kind of like a rehabilitation centre for him, for Moses? Was the burning bush his epiphany? I am obsessed with music the way that Moses was probably obsessed with silence in the history of that place in the wilderness leaving pharaohs and the River Jordan far behind him. All people have in this world are callings. All people have a calling to the ministry whether you are a teacher or a nurse. It does not matter if the career has chosen wintering you or summering you.
It does not matter if the career has chosen the philosopher in you for we are all poets. Published. Unpublished. Calling up the vanishing point. Disappearing into the forest. I swim. Tara is excellent for swimming, for sleeping, for recovery, for relapse after relapse. Tara is awesome for falling in love. For kissing in the dark. For necking. For heavy petting. For gravity. For walking. Tara is a town, therapy town, a paper village, an artist’s retreat, an occupational hazard, and the people, the crowd that you meet there become like family. Blood is thicker than water. You will hate it. You will love it. You will learn to write there again.
It will feel like Paris to you. The mansion will feel like Paris to you. So will the church. The doll house. The swimming pool. The psychologist’s room. You will dream in occupational therapy. I buried myself away for six months. I did not show my face to the outside world. To be a recluse is a pretty impressive feat. You will not need introductions to be made or make small talk. You will not need to travel or drink cocktails. You will not be the soul and life of the party. You will not need love, a spouse or children. Who says you cannot live on liberty, culture and books alone? Who says the dead poets cannot nurture you?
You will feel shame, confusion, everything and nothing all at once. All at the same time. Books will whisper to you that you are an adult now. You can peruse them to your heart’s delight. You can make an afternoon delight out of them. Laughter will keep you sane even when you are drowning. You will feel shy in the arms of a boy. You will feel trapped in the arms of a man, a rogue male. An older man, a father figure. You will slow dance at the Valentine Ball held in the canteen. You would have helped with the decorations made out of paper. You would have stretched out balloons before you blew them up before you felt like running with scissors.
School still haunts me. The blonde girl gang. The bullies on the playground. If I could only forgive them. I still imagine we were friends. I still imagine period that I lived out some kind of other life in high school. That I did not change into my swimming costume for general swimming on a Wednesday afternoon in the school bathroom where no one could see my skinny frame. Anorexia. I did not know I was starving myself then. Could not give that code a name. I gave up eating animals when I was at Tara. I used to make collect calls home to my family at Tara. For six months Tara was my life but we do not talk about.
It is a castle in the air. Yonder. My sister’s hair smells like spring flowers. The sky is the limit. Port Elizabeth is home. This was before Cape Town. Before Johannesburg. Before my sister started running in marathons at the weekend. Frequenting boot camp. We are climbing up towards the blue towers of the sky eating purple fruit that stains our fingers. Mulberries. Mulberries are the colour of wine. Aloes grow in my mother’s garden. A green feast of them. A weather kind of beautiful. A Hollywood kind of magical in Southern Africa. I miss her and that is the truth. I miss the magical being of her. Cheshire cat-beautiful. Alice-wonderful sister.
Her speaking voice which is different on the telephone now. It is hard to read, aloof, indifferent and difficult. It is cold. It is a harsh whine. It is a stale load. It is day old cake. There is still a sweetness to it. It has a certain kind of absence. I am propelled to my bed. To pull the covers over my head after conversations with her on the phone. I need her. I desire her. I love her. I love her. I have an enormous void where my heart should be.
‘Look at you. You are fat now. You are so fat.’ Mum says.
‘You are going to die soon. Probably in your forties from your arteries being blocked or diabetes or a hurt murmur.’ And he laughs. It is not a quiet laugh. ‘You are probably going to die soon anyway from a broken heart. Who broke your heart? That guy from the production company. Johannesburg is so over. Get over yourself. You have one life to live and it is damn precious. You are probably going to die from a stroke or a heart problem. You eat everything. Don’t you ever get tired of eating like a pig? Oink. Piggy.’ My brother says his mouth full of rice pudding or bolognaise or homemade lasagna or cold pizza or chicken while he watches me eat rice pudding or bolognaise or homemade lasagna or cold pizza or chicken.
‘I am not going to give you any money for that. I am not going to buy clothes for you. You’re plus size. There are no plus sizes in the shops where I shop. I don’t know what you like. I do not know your sizes. Where do you think I am going to find the time to go shopping for you? If you are too scared to go out to the shops you can order stuff online. Do you think I am rich or something?’ My sister says.
‘Do you want some tea?’ Daddy asks me. ‘And an Aunty Val’s samoosa?’
‘Yes, please. Don’t add sugar. Can I have two? Aunty Val is the best. Her house shop is the best. It really saves us at this time of the month. Dad, why don’t people like me? Why don’t they like us?’
I sat at the kitchen table watching my father move around the room.
‘Depression has a stigma attached to it. Maybe they think we’re crazy or insane. That’s just the modern culture of society today.’
‘Nobody loves me. Nobody is going to love me like this. I am never getting married. You’re married and look at you. You’re not happy and you sleep in separate beds.’ I took my glasses off and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes.
‘Maybe you’ll get married one day when you fall in love. When you meet the right person. When you feel that connection to another person who feels the same way in the world like you do. You’ll of course marry someone who is older. Wiser.’ My dad put the teabags in the cups and poured boiling water from the kettle onto the bags to steep. ‘No offense kid but I was thinking that we should both go on a diet.’
‘You’re the same. You’re just like the rest of them having a go at me all the time, daddy. First you tell me that there’s nothing wrong with me. That I’m sane. That I’m fine the way I am. I’m perfect, lovely, beautiful, and clever with my hands, a chef par excellence but I guess that’s just rubbish. Trash.’
I began to cry. Real tears started to stream down my face. With fatherly concern, he sighed and put his mug down on the table and stared at me.
‘It’s for our own good. We have been putting on a bit of weight here and a bit of weight there. Look at our bellies. It’s not good for us honey. Please. It’s for health reasons. I want us both to be here for a long time. Of course, I want you to be happy. If you don’t want to eat less, you don’t have to.’ My father smiled at me. ‘Don’t be sad now. Don’t hate me now.’
‘Okay. Fine. Whatever.’ I sniffed and dried my tears on my bathrobe. ‘They’re the reason why I eat. I hate myself. I hate the fat. I hate them for hating me. Hurt screws your thinking cap. Wounds, my failures, exits are scars. You’re wounding me.’
‘They don’t hate you. It’s because of the way you eat. I think that’s what they hate. They want to protect you. You say you’re fine but I can see that you’re not fine.’
‘So, they want to protect me from myself. You know, that just doesn’t make any sense to me.’
Entries in my winter journals. Is snow not beautiful as it spreads itself out like a blanket on a playing field? I am snow. I am a bolt of cold. I am the wet that butchers. A butchered exposure to the elements. Dining on anticipatory nostalgia. Missing the war. Watching the steam from my cup of coffee evaporate. I miss that. Light gives us extraordinary directions. I follow the blue journey of the sky. The sky seems to be caging everything inside a dome by design. We use that word architecture like we use the word glaciers. Both words are luminous. Both illuminate things. My mother’s face is a flower. Her face is a dream. Tara is a hallucination.
All mothers want is to daughters to follow in their footsteps. Her physical body is an architectural wonderland. I love her. I love her. I desire her. Mountains are messengers. My brother went up a mountain a boy. When he came down after his pilgrimage he was a man. He was Moses. What I miss most of all are the Sunday evenings in my house. Dad used to go to a bakery and buy rolls fresh from the oven. The five of us used to sit around the kitchen table with the warm, sweet rolls dripping with yellow margarine dunking it into mugs of hot coffee. I used to drink coffee as a child. That was my breakfast. So that’s my life story. Sweet, isn’t it?
© Abigail George December 2014
Email address: abigailgeorge79 at gmail.com