The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories
Shut the door. Shut out the quiet light. Tell yourself to swim away from the tigers with arms pillars of smoke. One day I will find myself in a forest without men, without huntsmen and warriors, nomads and ghosts that burn all hours of the day and night.
One day I will dazzle and fizz like a champagne virgin. I will laugh in all their faces. I will weave and thread stories, braid hair and dwell in possibility. My mother taught me that. White Knight you jewel. The bluish sky falls off you. I prefer the word ‘solitude’ to ‘loneliness’. White Knight you jewel of Hollywood. One day I will shut the door. One day I will shut out the quiet light. One day I will tell myself to swim away from the tigers. My tingling arms pillars of smoke.
What a pale and beautiful creature you are (you once were upon a time now we’re world’s apart) but are you happy? You went on to paradise and wrote and wrote and wrote and won prizes and planted flags. My beautiful creature as cold as some things that come from the life of the sea, lover of love, of pictures of health. I have bits and pieces in memory of you of other peoples’ keepsake stuff. Angelic mouth with eyes like dew. I knew at the end of it you would still have a soul-consciousness to come home to. Alas the same could not be said of me, dude in black, urban-cowboy in black. To yearn for love, to live in that paradise again is a wish granted to a chosen few, the chosen ones and what happens to the others?
Others live to exist for their families, raising their children or for themselves, for their ego. If there is no love, no culture, reality to feed you, nurture you, caress your tired or grief-stricken face at the end of the day then I imagine that there are people out there who sometimes feel as lost as I do. What can loneliness communicate to you? It can also be a lovely feeling. You’re freer in a way than other people are. But who is there for you to talk to at the end of the day? People need companions. People need friends and family, loved ones and acquaintances. People need contact, closure, and relationships. There are people who build empires on these kinds of things. And then there are people who need, want, desire love as wide as rivers. You’re the Pacific.
And then there are people who turn their back on that and embrace a life guided by the pulse that tells them to be brave. And to turn their back on a world that calls them an Outsider, a loner, strange with strange ways of doing things, a strange way of thinking. And you just have to have the courage of your convictions if you are this sort of person. I am this sort of person. So weirdly out of sync with the rhythm of other women my age. So good am I am at this thing, this sly-odd movement that I have won prizes for it. It feels like a bird’s wing in spasm in the air. It feels like a rush of warm, sweet air into the beautiful red ribbons of your heart, a cry in the dark, a promise that you make to meet up with someone at heaven’s gate next to a deathbed.
Someone dear and truly loved who has passed on from this world into the hereafter. What’s eternity anyway? A more novel, adventurous dimension because it becomes lovely when you think of it in that way. Not meeting up with strangers but meeting up with familiar faces. The faces that you knew, loved and cherished since birth. They were people who were always a part of your world in one way or another. So I say one day we’ll all meet in heaven. We’ll make our way there from all of our other destinations that we ‘lost’ a little self, worth and identity in. Everybody is married in some way to his or her soul and every bit of our soul is intended for and to be hitched, hooked, stitched to God.
Whether you want to believe that or not is entirely up to you but to me it makes sense. I love the useful wonder in thinking that. And then there are those lukewarm questions that tug at the puppet strings of the heart. Not floating, suspended by nothing but an existential breeze in the air, not drowning, just there, behaving mysteriously as if they had all the right in the universe to be there. When I was in love I wanted to know everything about him and nothing at the same time. Falling in love, head over heels, sweeping flaws under the carpet did not come with instructions. I did not know how to correct something I did wrong. Everything was new and pretty. To love someone since you were a child is a very long time.
Illusions, they do not come with flaws and they cannot love. They’re too much in love with themselves. People do not ask, ‘What were you like in the womb?’ Men do not say with a great amount of insight, ‘You seem to have been a fish with the spirit of a lioness even then.’ They’re answers for the volcano dreamer. The last battle won for me was ‘keeping in touch’. My sister and I had a conversation and it went something like this. We ended up not really saying anything at all like most of our conversations these days.
God can keep your soul. Let me bury you there in paradise. In no particular place in paradise. In your claustrophobic world where you were so cold. You white knight death cutie on parade. It’s the little deaths in pixels from childhood that is as nutritious and forgetful as dreaming. These days everything is crisper. Images are sharper and brighter. The ‘less is more’ syndrome is in a minority. Even refugees and the Masai seem to agree with me with their toothpick limbs and the wounded sensibility they look at me with. ‘I am not responsible I want to say,’ but I want to say something, anything really to make this dark, dark feeling go away when I see these scenes. It’s just not fair and then the world seems to agree with me but not enough.
(And now what about the men). Of course the men are in secret code so they can never be discovered out. In a mirror I see a wife (always a fretful wife with screaming, crying babies). ‘Poor babies,’ I enjoyed saying and why didn’t he love his beautiful wife more and why was I the chosen one. I couldn’t really see why inexperience was so sexy. There is nothing barren about this man’s ego. But his hands always felt cold. He had dark, dark hands; skin like velvet and even his eyes were dark. They were always so full of concern for me. I pretended it was wonder. Living your life and moving forward is the easy part. It is the forgetting that is the hardest.
I can put a face to a name, city, and occupation. I remember. It is all in the details.
I don’t want to meet these men in heaven or in any place else. The men with all that sadness, rage and perfect-wonder in their eyes. All their faces look the same to me and after all this time I did not step back from the picture and say I forgive this and I forget that. They look at me and as if to say, ‘You too had a role in this. A part to play in all that drama.’ The drama felt quite useless to me on the one hand and like banana jazz in my head on the other. ‘You’re quite mad, you know.’ One man told me but he couldn’t exactly look me in the eye. So I bravely posed in mask after mask after mask. Another man preferred ‘the girl’. Well, that was his thing. He didn’t want educated, intelligent or smart. He didn’t want cute. He wanted ‘the girl’.
He wanted a pure, angelic face in tight jeans. He wanted obedience. He wanted to be put on a pedestal and worshipped. And so I did all that. I couldn’t quite understand why, because I could make conversation, but he never wanted to talk and understand how claustrophobic I felt sometimes just being in his presence. It felt completely otherworldly to me. This thing called love or rather, ‘the affair’. It didn’t exactly feel like romance to me. No, there was nothing romantic about it. I feel a great deal of shame because I did not listen to my heart. A heart that was telling me his wife meant a great deal more to him than I did and even on a certain primeval level his wife’s body meant a great deal more to him. She had given him children.
Any woman who can do that is a queen. Queens do not keep secret diaries and Croxley black notebooks with red spines detailing seductions and dalliances with the opposite sex. Sometimes I love those notebooks. I have them. I have kept something back, a part of their spirit and their joy for living and maybe they kept a part of my spirit too (oh, I know that is wishful thinking). And this is what a female writer, any female writer does. Ah, she thinks too much for her own good. She has memories to write up into stories, laughter that she has kept spirited away for far too long because no one has been there to make her laugh and there’s poetry too. Perhaps not easy on the eye because it is meant for people who actually enjoy reading sonnets out loud for fun?
What are memories for if not for assassinations, pretend?
And he had built the house they all lived in (the one, big, happy and boisterous family). But since this is my secret diary it is just between you and me. Nobody else has to know especially my father. I don’t want him to think differently about me and the life I chose give or take a few years ago because I am not that person anymore. And I don’t believe that time heals. When people say that it is as if there’s something specific to time. There’s nothing specific about time and even clarity doesn’t even figure into it. I can ask my ancestors why I’ve never been lucky in love. Why I’ve failed so dismally in that department (much too much of a daddy’s girl)? I can say I will never give my heart away again but I don’t believe that.
I usually fall in love up to three times a day or more. Men move me. Delicate men move me even more. This generation of youth, of women wastes love. They fail to see it as a commodity, as a spiritual property and gift.
In the mornings when I am hungry I have my breakfast, usually toast spread with margarine. And I make myself some tea. Just toast (brown bread toasted in the oven like in the old days). I smile when I think to myself that I am from the old days now. I wake up earlier and earlier and go to bed later and later. It feels good to be thirty-two. I don’t feel it (old, stale, as if I was coming into a rut, the state of the nation, the world my generation found themselves in) when it was my birthday. Now that the next one is around the corner I am feeling it.
It’s feels like an effort this morning to make an hardboiled egg or one scrambled into bits. I have my toast with jam this morning. I think of him and everyday it doesn’t hurt less, it hurts more. I’ve given up on humanity. What I see on the news or the little I read in the newspapers terrifies me. It scares me half to death. The suffering children in Asia, Africa, (they’re just babies), unemployed youth, strikers protesting, marching. I see the desolation of poverty. How it isolates people from the mainstream of society. What is relevant to me in society is not relevant to the media. They write what sells and it is usually salacious material. Here today, gone tomorrow or the next week until it comes back as an update or haunts you when you least expect it.
It is funny how the mind can play tricks on you especially when you’re over thirty, reaching that point of middle age. The news often pins down the status of refugees, painting the women with their children, food aid flown in from abroad, white tent after white tent in a field of white tents and again there are stories of orphans. It never seems to end. We’re capable of many, many things. God can keep you soul and man will take and take everything else.
© Abigail George April 2013
abigailg at dbm.co.za
More stories in Dreamscapes
I am having fish and nothing else. Fish rubbed with salt and pepper into its belly. Food has become compensation for love, the phases of the moon, for a collection of short stories, for shame, for fantasy, for literary revelation