21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction



The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes

Wintering between Glaciers
Abigail George
For as long as I can remember I have talked to the dead, spirits that have passed on to the hereafter and in that aftertime I housed collections of every kind, blank pages as clean and pure as milk, the estate of moths, my useful tools frigid like the weather, stunned, shrouded fakes during all seasons. 


I am swallowed whole by the light, wood in the forest. Everything has been harder even the planetary lentils. Their name is beautiful and black-pitted, veiled in the pot; their continent and in their honeymoon there are open roads. There are no boundaries, no ghost-pillars; the feast of ocean and the wild sky. As they split open on my tongue, these cathedrals that was once as hard as stone become cauldrons, unflinching masters. I need nerves of steel here over the steam escaping from cooking pots; a wonderland of Basmati rice and chicken curry. We grew up really fast. There was church and school and afternoon activities and then there was our house; our home, our parents, our family, where the roots of a supreme cover-up began.

The silent sea under the pier at Shark Rock in Port Elizabeth I imagine must feel like ice and I can feel myself slipping, between the waves welcoming folds, drowning in this watery landscape of a small town setting becoming a flailing half-drowned thing, the ocean’s skin on my skin. If only I had not grown up wild, heard all these words inside my mind like pine or willow trees, heard their music gel like the song of wind sweeping through the branches in a desolate forest, multiplied with the unbearable lightness of the features of my serotonin and dopamine and wondered what seed would embed itself comfortably in that heady space of wild blue sky; the seed that was words? I have turned myself perfectly into this wintering where I am an uninvited guest. With this self-knowledge comes joy and the emptiness of loneliness and childhood hurts, opening myself up to possibilities.

In melancholy I am locked in a quaint, inventive state of mind like animals captured and paraded in zoos or portraits of every generation.

I refuse to die here. Instead I lay on my bed, covered with the bedspread. I pretend I cannot get up today, I cannot move, stir from this place. On every branch, every leaf sighs dew, intact bubbles of purified water. If I squeeze it with a finger, it oozes like a spasm, like blood falling, before the bubble melts. The conflict that is inside every man is the same conflict inside of me. How to make contact with a vital, young woman who is as visible as stone and the conflict within me is how to be that woman, unquestioning, imaginative, aware of how to create, to create children but it is a pointless exercise at my age. Perhaps if my mouth was still shut up like a door or a brick wall like it was in my youth I would have more hope, then there would be more hope for me.

How sweet lukewarm hot chocolate milk tastes when the wind is up, sometimes hollering, sometimes just banging incessantly against the windows, caught in my hair as I give the dog food and fresh water in the twilight watching the new moon. How sweet my parents would have been in the beginnings of wedded bliss playing house. I buy and arrange furniture flying solo. No science, proof of life, Dadaist instruction given to me to grow reed-thin, to grow as tall as a ladder, to beam me into another dimension, a reality where I wasn’t baffled or having to voice the thin red line running through it, the river of fat teeth, the river of tides, the river of mercy, of fat Buddha statues that was my life. I am left guarded, holding my breath under water; the water of the ocean-sea, wearing a green mask that tastes of salt, a ghost with a long memory of perfume, watermelon on a sandy beach, sunshine beating down on my shiny head and smiling in another country. In photographs, pictures as a family we made a cold diagram, our faces launched forever into oblivion in the frames of the negatives with our crooked smiles, gaping teeth. The only thing that I found comforting was our wide-eyed innocence for all the world to see and the fact that we couldn’t blink, see the routes we would end up following; anxious even as children when we were pulled apart at the threads, sobriety set us in a rhythm that never failed. We painted smiles as soft as velvet as children on our faces, squinted in the white sunlight. Poor us, poor tarnished jewels on this growing conscience of a planet, of a continent; how fragile we were in our small town setting.

What they couldn’t see was the glow of the beguiling machinery that built us. All its internal cogs, whistling relics, traps, wheels, hearts made of stone built to last bloodlines and bombs; the external hush that followed us into adulthood ambushes us at every turn.

Why can’t wintering between glaciers be sweet instead of a Mecca in an age of iron? Why does it have to be a lesson, lines in a blood knot, a blot on the landscape that leaves me thrilled and bedazzled wanting more? Then shutting out death until it is no longer present or hostile, putting out its feelers for barbarism for life. 

You, my brother, older, grown up, turned in an ocean of beads. Your eyes were ice. I am cold in sleep just a body quietly curled up with a belly filled with tuna fish sandwiches and hot, authentic vanilla chai made from tea bought in India where my sister spent Christmas and New Year 2009. I am feeling like waves in dark waters picking at their own feast. A woman like me stays in place shut up like a mountain. I give this to you. This language inside your flat where you fit but I don’t, I fit badly wherever my sister fits perfectly, but you refuse it, to have that would mean the death of you and bad luck. Now you’re testing me with a knife. How it glints with its own just reward in my mind’s eye. Just prick me with the needle; I want to say, wishing it so and be done with it. Apparently no nurse has to burn like I do. I watch how she moves, pivots, turn, points it and the pattern imprinted on skin. She could beat me with a stick and I, the outsider of the family, the writer and the poet would not feel anything. Certainly not the weak pulse in every unforeseen gesture of my blood. I need my rest. They say I’ve climbed enough brick walls, licked enough ceilings and then suddenly I’m falling into air without a sound out of nowhere fast. Reality is all speeded up; its rock face’s habitat, its seduction theory. I’ve done well to keep this to myself before this motion goes haywire or under wraps. There stands a foot not yet six feet under, not yet rot. There’s something noble about it. It has that kind of air about it. Does it belong to a director, a visionary or a saint? It would be madness on my part to say I recognise its paleness and the bare heels. This is my punishment; to be called lazy, mad, to be called a lunatic and to be rushed around. Is she hearing voices, the system, the establishment, my own mother will ask? Take her to the clinic or the private hospital, they say, so I’ve heard. But it has been said and not been said in my presence. They’ll see to her. They will see to all her needs. It is a nurse who will see to it that she eats. She will peck at it; my pure doppelganger, whatever’s plated in that country to death.

Melancholy is the blood of my blood, rushing through my veins, splintering off, veering hastily in different directions with its fat teeth. It is bound in the cities of dark waters. It runs with the aid of the moon, birds in flight, carrion, smitten-fog, lizards and there’s so much plain life apparently embedded in them; in handfuls beneath skies that refuse to die. In this country you can taste dust on air, words of a secret poet and writer. Where were the episodes of tension, the ripples? They were there when I was opening a tin of pilchards, when my sister was making us supper again, cutting up pieces of meat, dicing potatoes, opening up a packet of soup to make a gravy to go with the stew for a brokenhearted father, an emotional mother, a withdrawn older sister who fell asleep every night with the light on; a middle child; a sister, always caught in the middle who smelled like yoghurt and honey and a brother who as he grew older became alluring to all types of women. He is darker than the rest of us with his cropped hair and his eyes. There is just too much wintering going on in his eyes these days and it pierces my heart to bits and pieces; like when my brokenhearted father was sick in the hospital and we, the four of us, didn’t know if he was literally going to make it or not. My mother did not cry. She did not make pots of tea, tear her hair out, instead she meditated, went to prayer meetings, went to church and ignored the fact that my father was sick and that the rest of us were sick with worry.

My father was so ill in fact that the doctors had intimated that he was on his deathbed and that perhaps as a family we would have to prepare for this. Nobody that we knew of came to the house, came to the hospital to see him because this was in Port Elizabeth and as far as my father’s family was concerned my mother was persona non grata and if she was persona non grata then so was my father and my brother, my sister and me. While my mother ignored it into oblivion and there ‘it’ stayed, he recovered and everyone said it was a miracle. Instead of talking, we ate. We bought toasted cheese and tomato on whole-wheat bread sandwiches at a café just outside the hospital after visiting hours in the evening and ate it the car on the way home. I cooked, while I did that for the two of us, my mother planted fruit trees, blushing rosebushes and put antheriums into pots, pansies, lavender and herbs in her garden.

By now my brother and sister were living in another city, working hard, going out with their friends at the weekend. Eating for me felt good. It made me want to live. We ordered takeaways, pizza over the telephone that could be delivered to our home, ate fish and chips with lashings of brown vinegar and coleslaw. My mother and I walked barefoot on the beach. I did not get to know her better. I did not get a chance to get to know her as she was when she was a girl or a youth. During this time I did not ask her anything, question her about her history, instead I wrote poetry with a passion and saturated the blue lines on paper with words buzzing with an intensity of light and energy. It made up for the passion I did not feel coming from the union of my parents, my sister’s coldness towards me; it helped me with some recovery from the universe around me, it helped me imagine, kept me from the wolves, kept them more and more at bay.

Eating was like the creation of poetry; preparing and laying the table, fork on the left hand side, knife on the right and glass in the corner of the plate, a jug of water on the table filled with blocks of ice tinkling against the side of the jug and filled with slices of lemon or cucumber. We even imagined we were eating a feast even if it was only rice and lentils, what the proper Indians of Durban, of anywhere in Africa called, ‘dhal’. As I grew older, wiser, more emotionally grounded, settled, mature, set in my own, determined ways; as my brother began to settle himself in his work and the world around him, as our loyalty to each other became stronger, I began to see myself in other writers and poets work. I was slowly fashioning myself after them, educating myself, learning, processing English, the language and I knew, I knew I could never bring children into this world and subject them to the warm, ceremonial womb of blue seed that the local swimming pool was to me, a sanctuary, where I couldn’t hear the raised voices of mother and father arguing back and forth, fighting it out behind their closed bedroom door. I just didn’t have that kind of tough fight within me.

© Abigail George May 2011

also published in Wintering Between Glaciers

Share |
More life stories


© Hackwriters 1999-2014 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.