The steak knives were missing. Is there any value in that truth?
Give me a little earth. A place in the sun. A bowl of shelled, salted and roasted peanuts. Let me have a piece of the supernatural universal in my hands. Give me something to grow in the chilled earth that was once made of volcanic rock. I do not really care what you give me to grow just not hidden sadness, or egoism. Too many people let egoism grow on them and then they call it arrogance. Once arrogance is in the picture then your whole wide world is turned asunder. At some point in your life, you are going to stand alone. Sometimes it feels like an hour. Can be longer. Wait for it. It is coming. Like winter in the air. Clouds that look like people. The human being does not know how organic conversation is. It is just as organic as depression, or any other mental illness is. It is just as organic as paperwork.
It really means nothing at the end of the day, that sexual impulse. Like a river, it has a song. A marginalised beginning and an end. Marilyn Monroe sweetheart with her ballad of plum flesh naked under moonlight, the Kafkaesque novel between her ears. Her feast of autumn flesh. Her winter flesh. Her most basic mood a summer or a spring in the photo album is ripe for the taking. It was her wedding. Day framed by shell people (and those most fragile relations and relationships, delicate, and sensitive), and memoir. A white glove. A cab driver. Grape juice instead of wine. She was still childlike. Innocent of family life as a newlywed. The archipelago of rainbow children with their ghetto planet. Sometimes she cried. I could not feel empathy for her because I was not yet born. This image of the autumn chill is always on my mind. The butterfly. Coconut milk. A woman must always keep a diary. A thinking woman must keep all things Orlando to herself, that she will write a triumphant book from beginning to end with unchanging hope, instill her characters with extraordinary innocence. There is always this struggle for creativity. The tapestry of a wonderful dream. I love men. I love women. You cannot ask me to give up either because always my search is for love, for acceptance, for attention, for affection, for approval. Joy fills my lungs. The release of forgiveness. Fresh and new as rain and the wheels of James Byron Dean’s Little Bastard.
Cauliflower for breakfast. Who knew? Look how sweet it looks on the plate. Almost as if it can live, and breathe for a little while longer. How divine the florets look in their pale green mess of a feast of leaves (why did you leave me heartbroken, cold, and alone). We are all acting a bit part here, and a bit part there. We are all learning how to cook slow roasted vegetables. Doctors, talking heads, talking to themselves. I try. I try. I try. I must. I must not be afraid to dream, to have goals, to see myself fail and then to have the courage and the motivation to dream again, and when all I have to offer the world is my sadness. The delicate fissure that frames my every psychological framework in my nucleic acid. I do feel incomplete without family life. No anchor there to empower or uplift me. No lifeline there only the harmonic pleasure of ocean wave after wave. Intuition a quiet dream. A Jinny, a Rhoda, and a Susan. I am not a Jinny, a Rhoda, or a Susan. I spy with my little eye on the dreams of others. What am I? I am in need of a room of my own, caught between fantasy and delusion, financial, and emotional security, and a world to call my own. I refuse to evaporate. I am an endangered species. I am in need of money, the bliss of joyful happiness, the splendid loveliness, the new, and the psychological. What is this feeling? What is this situation located beneath my collarbone? What is this sensation rising up within me? I have poets to confront. Social cohesion in African countries’ neighbouring communities. There are no longer any borders, any boundaries of any kind. Steps of all kinds must be taken towards being a commissioner of peace, and reconciliation before bullets ricochet out of control. Although I will never forget the tension of childhood. I will never forget the surface tension, that loss of the measure of self-control I had as a child. I am growing older beautifully, gracefully guiding the skeleton quiet with shark teeth. My mother is elegant. She has never stroked my hair. Put comb or brush through it, but love her I must. I must forgive her. In forgiving her, Jesus comes, my being is filled with the Holy Ghost, and I wash away my sins and hers together to save myself if I want survival. Light numbs me. Numbs the pain, that pressure behind my eyes. With one blink and the world as I know it, is gone. Reality is blurred. Material possessions as I know them are gone. I need to know how to love. How to accomplish the grand design of it. Flowers are beautiful. Her flowers are beautiful. I watch how her garden grows. How she nurtures the roses with her green fingers, and under my breath I am thankful for not feeling peaceful as a child in my childhood home.
There is no more sadness. There is no more emptiness. Just empty coffee cups as I work through the night. Plunging myself inside and out of manuscripts to the beat of a different drum as I word a childhood world dreamt up in the kinks of kindergarten, and adolescence. I guess my mother needed me as much as I needed her. She gave me her everything. Her mess. Her grief. Jesus Christ. Tennis and swimming lessons and ballet. Weekly visits to the hairdresser to comb out the kinks in my hair. It was all right if my dad called me his Angela Davis. She did not want me looking anything like her with barely an afro. If I had to have my hair straightened, I had to grit my teeth while my eyes watered. ‘Pain. Luvvie, do you feel any pain?’ The hairdresser would always ask and I would shake my head as she pulled the comb through the thick cream on my head. Mothers of children who had their hair chemically treated as children always knew the cost of what beauty meant. They would never hold their daughter’s hand. My mother never held my hand. She knew there was a lesson to learn in everything for the baby that was being thrown out with the bathwater. She gave me the shore, the bay and the baby of the family, my brother, and her brothers, and the Hotel Alabama. Do not think you know all of me just because you walked into a chapter of my life. Only know this, that there has always been a division between us, that there has always been eyes watching over us, that there has always been a spotlight on us. Perhaps a better word would be conflict but we need each other. We need this complicated love because it makes up our personality and our genes now and yet it gives us enough personal space to breathe. I know this battle will always have a beginning and a middle but no end. What do they do with the urine samples in the renal unit at Livingstone Hospital? What do they do with the vials of blood? How day in and day out do they make savage case studies of tragic women?
I need to write to live. I need to write to survive. This is also how my mother makes hummus in the food processor. With olive oil and a can of chickpeas. She makes it with love and red chillies from my brother’s garden that burn your mouth. The garden where he grows friendly mange tout, blushing baby tomatoes, basil that hates direct sunlight, mint, celery, avocado trees and papaya that play at happy family. They take to the soil as if there is joy in their taproots. We drink chilled water with mint, lemon and cucumber as if we are movie stars living in the Hollywood Hills. I try to understand what this magical feeling is inside of me. This sensation as I realise he is no longer here to frighten me to death with his stories. My brother. I am no longer half of his soul. He is no longer half of mine. It is only when we talk on the telephone that I become aware of the distance between us, and the decay of our relationship. I am prepared to accept responsibility now. For that distance. For that decay. He is no longer my sun. My Virginia Woolf in disguise. She is my veil, my apprentice, shaman, owl wise. I see Jean Rhys’ ghost in-intervals. Joyce Carol Oates’s hands and rouge. Rapture. Oh, rapture. There was Plath’s lipstick. The milk, the buttered bread, Ariel. Gas. Gas. Gas and stamps. Updike’s father’s tears. A child’s eyes can see the worm. Daddy has a painted drum. Let the dishes rot-into-nothing. Hemingway’s earth does not waste-anything-in-the-end. The cornfields of Illinois are pretty. Where David Foster Wallace grew up. His childhood made up of bonfire anecdotes, shark teeth and infinite jest. He was the pale king sitting on an earth-throne. The so-called psychotic bewitched by libraries. By the halls of Amherst. The Midwest where of-all-things genocide took place. Murder and speeches. His dream songs. They came from space. He gripped his pen. Left behind an alphabet of supernova writing. There were monsters hiding in the closet. Monsters under the bed. The room is smaller than he remembers when he returns home from Amherst, water and lobsters pouring out of him. Worms, holes, the dark, maniacs. Hooks already programming him.
There it was staring back at us (although we did not want to admit it). There it was. The archipelago (we did not want to admire it). There it was staring back at us. The body has gone into shock. There it was like a ghost story. A soldier missing a limb but understanding what shrapnel meant now and a woman’s addiction to alcoholism. Diabetes threading its way through her nervous system. This woman my second mother would die from it. Dad also has diabetes. He follows a special diet. His palate clean from things of childhood. It is a Monday afternoon. We take things slow and easy. We drink our ‘elixir’ of mint water. Making a mantra out of the words. ‘Healthy lifestyle’ and ‘pain’. It was Christmas, which meant people would be coming home for the holidays, festive cheer and we would all drink. Hold the bottle as if it kept the Grand Canyon and liberty in its mouth. I listen to my parents argue as I have always listened to them since I was a child reading a book under the covers with a torch. I am thirty-five.
It burns me up. The waves of my childhood sea. I call it home. I am a girl again. A girl playing nursemaid to my father. The mall has shark-infested waters. Do not let us go there. I prefer sunlight. I prefer soaking up the sun and the breeze in my hair to booze. To boozing it up. To my brother’s beers. My sister’s wine. Both of them do not believe that they are alcoholics. I find this information startling. Like the fact that I have studied ballet. Even though I grew too tall. Even though there were girls who had prettier feet than I did. My feet looked like fish. Those words reverberated in my tiny chest but I was not alone in that room. My reflection staring back at me. This is the river’s song. Melodic. Catchy. I mourn many things now. I dream of high school corridors. Youth does not have a name anymore. I live for water. For a body of water, the weight of it to uplift me, empower me. I dream of capturing castles in the air. I also will myself to be happy. Happiness is best when shared with a friend. I remember my mother whispering to me. She does not whisper to me anymore and nothing seems as lovely as when my mother was in my life. I wish it could go back to being that way. That perfect world. People bring life into the world. Couples make love. Elderly people move around in their nursing home, half-forgotten. Others live with their children, grandchildren, forgotten too. I must do something with my hair. Buy new clothes. Do that makeover. Maybe it will makeover my soul. Maybe I will get a new soul instead. Replace the old one. I love me. The old one or the sinister new one, I ask suspiciously.
Funny girl, you are beautiful I tell myself.
I need love or rather I need the design of it. The walls made by an architect’s hands or hours. Does this mean that a man’s hands must make the walls? Hours make me stand still staring out of the window waiting to welcome home a brother and a sister. We have been estranged now from each other now for years. I hold the winking horror of it all, of humanity inside my head. Inside the chambers of my heart. Cells and platelets float by. Nerves need the childproof cap that covers those pharmaceuticals just as much as I do. All I can do is grin at this new lopsided world. What dwells in a flood of tears, of sobs? This river’s song is so complex. So complicated but bear with me. Her song is not so strange after all. Not so where are you. Where have you been all this time? Something flaps in the air. What must I do with all this time on my hands? I cannot stand the footage of war on the television anymore. Cannot stand politick? This talk of cohesion. Social cohesion. Yet they are all there in their sheep’s clothing. They all flood my brain like rain. Like the hens in my paternal grandmother’s backyard that I remember feeding biscuits to with my siblings. I am dead to them. Hard to believe how they looked up to me once. Would have done anything for me. People used to concentrate, focus on my potential but that is history. That is a wilderness song. I am that river. Can you see the symbols? Can you see them staring back at you in the water? Love I will never understand. Life in a field. I think of the collages I made with my siblings in Sunday school. Life with them now.
About the Writer:
Pushcart Prize nominated for her fiction “Wash Away My Sins” Abigail George is a Port Elizabeth-based South African blogger at Goodreads and Piker Press, essayist, poet, playwright, grant, novella and short story writer. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg. She is the recipient of writing grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, the Centre for the Book in Cape Town and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council) in East London. Her writing has appeared numerous times in print in South Africa, in various anthologies, and online in e-zines based across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Ireland, and the United States. She is the writer of eight books including essays, life writing, memoir pieces, novellas, poetry and a self-published story collection.