I thought of you this evening.
I always do.
Autumn is whispering through the trees and it has been a long time since we spoke.
Everything is brittle
I sleep fitfully and wake to laughter
Footprints appear on the veranda
Dust settles on books I once read, desired to read.
Essentially I am alone.
I leave the house out of necessity – a short walk to the corner café or the park
I buy a box of menthols and relish blowing smoke from my mouth
I imagine myself someone else with a cigarette in my hand
A serious writer
A French intellectual
I read books on Satre and Simon De Beauvoir
And convince myself that I have mastered the art of being that which I am
I have learnt to love silence.
Sometimes it’s best
Voices outside and barking dogs become intrusions and intrusions become ghosts and ghosts?
I saw a ghost once
A long time ago
No-one knew what she was but I did.
She was old and wore black dresses and sensible shoes.
She liked my art, she came to me often
Always when I was alone.
Always when I was far from the crowd.
I guess even ghosts get lonely.
I’ve painted our room…my room.
It’s red, dark red, blood red almost
When I look at the walls I feel vital – I feel like someone with a Spanish name – I come over all Gaudi,
Sometimes the walls seem to throb around me, pulsing, vibrant, life force, gauze stiffening wounds of our collective suffering
And then I think
What the fuck!
Who paints their bedroom red – no wonder I sleep so badly!
Nights are hard.
I close my eyes and pictures flicker past my lids like old cinema reels
I see you smiling and waving
Your voice carries through time and space
Your breath on my neck sends goosebumps down my spine
I don’t know which is worse actually,
The dreaming or the waking.
Then I get out of bed and stare in the mirror.
I try to find something of myself I recognize.
I listen to old Morrisey records,
Come back to Camden is my favourite.
I think of the Donmar warehouse and meeting you again,
My hands clammy
Hoping you’d still like me.
I was early. I am always early. I went to freshen up, the queue was long and then you walked past me and I felt like time stopped
We laughed about it later as we walked to some bar
Illicit passion so exciting.
You grasped my hand and kissed my mouth, your beard tickled against my cheek and I wanted you like no other.
And then I just get angry
Blinding fucking anger
And I feel so helpless and senseless and stupid and silly
And I hate you but not as much as I hate myself.
There was a domestic disturbance tonight,
The neighbors’ were fighting,
I called the police
I think he broke her nose.
The kids were screaming and crying
I felt sick to my stomach
At some point it all went very quiet and the only sound was the police car siren and that red light flashing through the curtains.
I expected him to be arrested
But she sent them away
I could hear the conversation in my head
Oh no Constable my husband didn’t hit me he just banged my head against the floor accidentally until my nose shattered – he didn’t mean to – he has a really stressful job and he hasn’t been sleeping – and I was nagging him (she laughs apologetically and winks) you know what we women can be like! Any way I really feel so sorry for him – they are threatening to retrench 50 from his branch and I don’t work – just keep house – look after little Tommy and Rita and Cindy and Roy – so anyway, he’s under a lot of pressure and sometimes he just needs to get rid of it – and you know men – sometimes they don’t know how to communicate their feelings – sometimes they don’t want to talk about it – sometimes they just turn into completely different people…people who fuck babies and beat women – people who fire off missiles and develop nuclear weapons – people who shoot other people out of revenge or spite – people who slam the door and walk away…people who forget you like you never existed, who shut their hearts like a tomb and bury their feelings in vaults and banks in Switzerland where you can never reach them…
I watch her pathetic face
I watch her spin her story like a spider web
Her husband emerges, his white shirt unbuttoned, there is a blood stain on his collar and he is sweating
He looks hard and smug
He looks like the cat that got the cream.
He puts his arm around her waist and I see it – I see it all the way from my vantage point, the slightest, smallest, revealing flinch.
The officer smiles – he shakes the wife beaters hand and gets back into his car
He waves goodbye like an old friend and drives off.
The baby starts crying
He lets go of her waist
She looks up and I swear she sees me looking at her and she holds my gaze and she doesn’t flinch, she doesn’t blink and it’s like some light went out in her eyes – it’s like someone pulled a switch
I swear to God the woman is dead.
He fucking killed her.
It’s funny really…how quickly it happens, that light just switched off.
For a moment I think I could laugh till I cry
Not because it’s funny
I am so Goddam sad.
I catch my reflection in the window – I look eighty years old.
I look like a lived through something to tell the tale.
I look hard, there are lines around my eyes.
I feel like a cheap impersonator
I say my name, it rolls off my tongue and splashes onto the linoleum
It doesn’t sound right.
I say it again, I keep saying it – maybe a hundred times over.
I’m a shit actress
Who the fuck does this?
Talking to myself like some freak…
The writing is no better
Spilling and spitting all this masochistic shit out onto the page like it actually means something
The only person I want to read it is gone
The only person I want is gone.
It’s been swell…
I think about something calming
I put my ear to the phone and float off into the place where all the wires connect
I’m in the zone
Disconnected voices and talking heads
Oh these technological gifts that are devised to bring us closer yet tear us so very far apart.
Did I tell you I was afraid of mermaids?
Did I tell you that I got stuck on a rope ladder when I was five and the other kids threw sticks at me?
I guess not.
Why don’t you love me?
Do I give you indigestion?I don’t really want an answer – unless it’s what I want to hear. If you’re going to be unkind then don’t bother.
I am fine. Really. I am holding it together.
Sometimes I marvel at my own resilience.
Did you know that when you cut off a starfishes’ tentacle it grows back?
You can’t hurt them.
Resilient little fuckers.
That’s what I call evolution…
Anyway it doesn’t help me much – but you must know that.
I’m preserving my body for science,
When I die I am going to give myself over to science
They can cut and prod and inject me
Shave my hair off, remove my organs
Put me in a glass case
I don’t care.
Hey Fred have you checked out the tits on this one? Wait a minute have you seen this…my god you’ve got to take a look at this…Her heart – it’s all broken up – Jesus how the hell did she make it to thirty? – It’s like a freakin’ jigsaw in here – it’s all come undone…in all my years as a whatchamacallit I have never seen this before – sure I heard about it – but that was just a metaphor right? A heart can’t seriously break – I mean it’s not a bone – it’s an organ…Remarkable. This is the kind of break I’ve waited for all my life – wait till the board sees this…get me a camera wont you?
Oh well – At least I’m good for a laugh.
I am considering adopting a pet. I figure with my new single status it should be a cat. At times like these I think it appropriate to run with clichés – they serve an important function right? I mean think about it – how else is society going to put us in neat little boxes unless we follow protocol?
So I went to the SPCA –on a reckie – just to see. I could have brought them all home…People would have called me the cat lady – I’d be on a special edition of Oprah – along with the hoarders and obsessively compulsive freaks society likes to point fingers at. There’d be fur everywhere, the neighbors’ would complain of the smell, I’d hole myself up with them – just me and my 69 cats – I’d start to imagine myself one of them – maybe get plastic surgery like that woman in America, grow a tail, hiss and meow, drink milk and lick myself.
They’ll call the authorities, men with gloves on will raid the house, they’ll put the cats in cages, they’ll look at me in that sad and sorry way, they’ll go home and tell their families about the cat lady they’ll ask ‘how does a person end up like this?’. The same second rate reporter from the same second rate rag will come in with them, they’ll find me squatting over the kitty litter tray – I won’t care because I am no longer concerned with the cares of their world. The reporter will take a picture – a guy in gloves will cover his nose and back away “I’d be careful of her buddy – she’s got fleas” The story will be in the Saturday paper, it will probably make page five next to a story on a girl in Beijing who thinks she’s a dog. People will read about my sorry life over toast and tea and when they’re done they’ll use the page to line their budgies cage or dump it in the recycle bin. It will probably induce mild outrage, the animal lobbyists will call for blood, another dubious psychologist will explain that I am a very ill woman but that I can be rehabilitated. They’ll forget about Iraq and the Sudan, they’ll feel better about their sorry petty lives – someone will exclaim “at least I’m not like that’.
I am not going back there.
It was like a concentration camp for pets but with more food.
Abandoned faces peering out through cages – pleading, questioning, scarred little faces. Pitiful, alone, tired, rejected faces the weight of the world in their eyes.
A ginger tom licks my finger, his tongue warm and sandpapery, pink as polony. His meow is small and tinny. His green eyes search for some recognition in my own. I send him a telepathic message – I tell him that I know how he feels, that I’ll come back for him, that he is not alone.
Get the fuck out of here
I know your kind. Liars the whole freakin lot of ya. You’re not coming back. Chicken shit assholes – you think this is some kind of game? that I can’t see right through you? I’ve been in this cage for 2 months which in cat years is like twenty. You think I haven’t seen it all done it all, fucked it all? You think I don’t know what the fuck goes on back there? Jesus Christ you pathetic bitch – get a life will you. I wouldn’t go home with you if you were the last human being on this godforsaken planet – I’d rather go to Korea and end up on a plate then listen to you whine at me twenty four seven about your broken heart and your sorry sad pathetic life – blah blah blah – get a grip will you? What the hell is ever that bad? I’d like to see you in my place for just one day. One day lady.
They always have Brooklyn accents. The tough cats. The ones who knock over rubbish bins and prowl the neighborhood looking for a fight. They’ve got that swagger, that ‘I’m not afraid of anything’ stride. They catch mice and lizards just for fun and steal fillet steak off people’s plates. They never talk in Zulu these cats, yet they mouth off like Julius Malema. They have big paws and no balls. They come home late smelling like cheap perfume. Yet when it storms they stay close to you and meow pitifully. They drop the act faster than a two dollar hooker…whatever that is.
I have your mail. Twenty five credit card bills and a news letter from some wine club you thought would be a good idea to join. They call you by your full name, it sounds pompous and strange – it doesn’t quite fit. They’re offering a special deal on Pinotage from Peru, they say it has a nose of grass, tobacco and chocolate – I’ve never really cared for wine. A point of contention I’m sure. “”It doesn’t look good you said to be with a “woman who drinks spirits”.
I laughed when you said that
You spat the word out like I was drinking some witches brew, Jesus juice.
When we went to restaurants you’d always pour two glasses of the stuff even though I hate it. It’s civilized you’d say –“ just try it – you’ll get used to it – I got you a wine of the month subscription for your birthday.”
Thanks. It’s what I always wanted. Right up there with wrestling lessons and a cage dive with sharks.