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The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories

On Not Leaving Home
• Abigail George
They look at you as if to say. You are not beautiful. You are not pretty.
It is a pity. Shame. At least you are good for a laugh.


Your personality makes up for you being a wallflower. Always sitting on the sidelines. Waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting for that boy to call you up on the phone and take you out on a Saturday night. Waiting for that boy to call you. Waiting for that same golden boy with the gorgeous eyes to kiss you.

He looked at me as if to say I cannot pick this journey apart without you. I cannot walk away. I looked at him as if to say I cannot unweave the details of you inside my head that I have been carrying around inside of me. I cannot walk away either. He looked at me sadly and I read in his eyes. One day I will be able not to look at you anymore but it will not mean that I love you any else. I am just walking away from a situation that will end in war. I am just walking away from a situation that will end in conflict.

We cannot behave this way. It is either all or nothing and in the end, it was nothing.

God, I loved him. I did. I loved everything about him. I knew he was flawed. I loved him anyway. In retrospect, every day that we spent in each other’s company was magical. It was a hard and fast act of love. It was sharp. It was a bazooka-carrying kind of love.

The weather is foul today.

I did not find him to be shallow in his thinking. I did not find him to be a boy. A boy would find a game in everything even in his thinking. Rather, I found much more frightening, I found him to be a man. A man always thinks ahead. There is always a (hidden) strategy in everything he does. A man always has the answer to everything. A man is elegant.

He could not look at me. He would not or could not look at me. I vainly hoped he would. I wanted him very badly to take me in his arms again. Nobody would tell me that I was losing my mind and that he was the wrong kind, the worst kind of man to lose it for if ever.

I look at your picture every day. With love. With love. With love and a measure of loss. You made me feel beautiful in a way. You country of ice cream. You melting pot. You Johannesburg. You Johannesburg people. You volcano and the men were like birds. Pretty to look at but not pretty enough to eat.

The longer I stay in this game (of writing) the prettier the rejection letters are that come by me.

When he (the cute doctor) said, ‘you have water on the lungs’, he made it sound (well I do not know if it was meant so deliberately) like the delivery of a weather forecast.

My life begins and ends with my childhood.

My childhood house rules over me like my paternal grandmother’s arthritic hands did when she made me sandwiches, strong, hot tea or a meaty broth that we used to call soup but that was long ago when I was a child. I am a grown (halfway to beautifully) woman now. My purpose (if there was any one at all) now is to write.

I do not want, desire or need to meet more people (or people who are famous in any way, and this includes people who celebrities) I only want to change the world. I only want to annihilate all the fear and rage I still have inside of me. The vulnerability I will keep. The vulnerability is the motherland. It is where all the storytelling comes from. ‘The deluge caught in the paper cup.’ I am the sole owner of that. The protector, the guardian, the nurturer and the caretaker.

I am staring at the four walls around me and all I can see is literature, literature, literature (how wonderful and brilliant the environment of all that is, how giving it is, how nurturing, how it makes the world turn round and round, spinning forever on its golden axis), the global domination of music and the world. All I can see is literally literary gold dust. I can see is the fabric, the material, the currency of the moon and stars. Writers of older generations have called them ‘these celestial beings’ that look upon us or is it us looking upon them to guide us. Destiny is written in the stars. To be fair, it began with the poets, truth be told.

I am becoming a writer. Slowly and surely, I am becoming a writer. I do not think I will stop, (like Jerome David Salinger did with one or two books embarrassed by the fame or notoriety that followed in the footsteps of Franny, Zooey and Holden Caulfield I think before he stopped in his tracks and said so far and no further). I think I will write and write and write until kingdom come. I have many stories in me. I have a lot of storytelling to do. I am a woman and like all women, I have a long memory of suffering. I will not stop with one novel I will write another and another with my

I wake up and I dream. Tell me, is it possible to dream at the same time that you are living, working; breathing in what you call your personal space? I think I work hard. People who work hard do not make a show of it. Rather, they work hard to make it look effortless. Those who pull it off are called successes. Those who pull it off and improvise at will are the wunderkinds. I think that sometimes it is difficult for me to rest. To put my head on the pillow and stop the racing thoughts that are inside my head.

I looked at him and I said I want to marry you. I looked around to see if anyone had heard me say this but I saw that no one had. The workplace was like any other. It did not come to a halt just because a woman had fallen in love. The working world is filled with women now. Every one of them is a catch. Everyone them is a welcome sight. Some of them are daughters and some of them are mothers raising families. Many of them are single parents. One part of me was sad and the other part was glad that nobody had heard what I had said. If anybody could see how happy I was around him, how apprehensive, how nervous and anxious he made me feel it was he. Oh, it was he. He turned me into the suffragist I am today. He turned me into the Christian feminist. With love, certainties always disappear.

He was the one who said I do not love you anymore. He was the one who said I do not care for this kind of behaviour. This is not the way a moral woman behaves and I am only used to a certain class of woman and not the mad kind. You are criminally insane. You need to get yourself into the hospital. You need to go home to your mother. You need to get some help. You need a reality check. He only had to say it once and I understood this. It was over. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. He is the kind of man who would torture your soul into the early hours of the morning. The kind of man that you would sob into your pillow for.

If he had said anything of truth or beauty then I would have been damned for sure. Damned if I stayed because he would have destroyed me. He would have made love to me in drunken stupors, he would have come home in the middle of the night with me asking him, where have you been and more importantly who have you been with, be quiet you will wake the children. He would have destroyed me. Since I had never known mother love, only a father’s adoration I would have adored him since that was the only love I have ever known. That and affection. He left me in the end. He walked away with the swagger in his heels.

He was the one who stood tall in the end. He was the one who could not face me in the end.

I do not think my mother realises what she brought into the world when she gave birth not only to the child she thought she could not have but to the first of three. The child she nearly died bringing her into the world. Her first daughter. Her love nearly killed me. In the end, it saved me. It saved me from ‘the man’. It saved me ‘from the men’. ‘It’ (her mother love) was my boat on the rough seas of life. She was my lighthouse. She was my lighthouse guiding me, beckoning me in the dark hours of the morning away from the rocks of the cliffs of nighttime’s darkness visible to a journey of self-discovery.

I did not like the doctor. He did not like me on sight. I did not like his gung-ho manner as if he was a slick Warner Brothers cartoon character or a spaced out cowboy. They all think it but they do not have the blooming guts it seems like it to say, ‘If you do not stop eating, the fat will get you. The fat in the end will kill you faster than the water in your lungs will, the acute depression will, the stress of the acute depression and the renal impairment. I tell them I am trying. They look at me as if I eat cheeseburgers and drink chocolate milk all day long all the time. You are trying but you are still fat they say. It does not make any sense. We will do some tests and then we will get back to you. They come back to me and say hey, you are okay but they never say the words that I am longing to here. I want them to tell me we think you are going to make it. You are going to be more than okay but I never hear that.

They will talk about the illness in your mental faculties even less as if you are more aware about it than they are. Jesus, what am I going to do with the bunch of them? They are terrible liars and I just seem to keep coming back for more and for more. What is wrong with me and then, then they get so eager like monkeys and cannot wait to get all soppy and poignant on me, whatever that means. They really want to show me how clever they are and all I have to say is, well, I have heard that one before but what can I do and in the end they all say the same thing. Prevention is better than cure. I will send you home with some vitamin tablets to make you feel better. By then I am feeling homicidal I am telling you. I feel just about ready to do anything. I want to tell the world you have made your mark on me. You have proven your point. I know what principles are. I know what they are.

In a funny way, I am calm. I have not slept at all in days knowing that I have to go to the state hospital. Knowing what is waiting for me there. Long queues. People as I have never seen them before. Benches filled with people and their detritus. I have become the working class overnight. I blink my eyes. I am blinking back tears. I am a human being with a fighting chance in all of this I want to yell at the nurse but I know that she has her own problems too. She has children. She has a life outside of this state hospital. Some days are great and others not so great. Maybe her daughter is like me. I am not a pincushion. Yes, I have a vein if you will just wait a minute here I will lift up the sleeve of my shirt. Easy does it. What is wrong with my life? What is wrong with this picture? Nothing at all. Says a voice. People come here every day. They are treated in their hundreds. They are treated in their thousands and now you are just one of them.

What do you do they always ask that. I look after my dad and he looks after me. They stare right through me. Yes, quite. What did you do before that? The doctor with his cute personality scribbles on the page. I studied in Johannesburg, had a nervous breakdown and then I came home.

© Short fiction by Abigail George June 2015
Email address: abigailgeorge79 at

marilyn and arthur

Abigail George on
Marilyn and Arthur

Sir, I do not need you to save me and belittle me a little in the process.

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