Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nine Hundred Miles



Into autumn.  All summer I was drawn to the cold sea at Brighton.  I went into it, became accustomed and stopped flinching.  I began to understand how people did this all year round, and why.  It shocks the body into a kind of alertness – wakes it up.  On one of the colder days there was just me in the sea and a woman in a pink rubber bathing cap, the kind you don’t see any more.  There was a faint smear of matching pink on her lips.  I pictured her applying it earlier, preparing for her date with the sea.  She had English sea-blue eyes.  She said, I like to do this until December, but I don’t like it so much when the boys have gone.  She meant the lifeguard who sits in the small enclosure made of deckchair material, between the yellow and red flags.  Lifeguards are there from May until October.  The other person on the beach was an old man, very thin, a little bent but sprightly, and he hopped over the stones barefoot as though all of him was used to this and at home there.  Stones no longer cut his feet, his skin was tough enough to withstand the wind and the rough sea only made him stronger.  I was there with M.E. and my clutch of auto-immune diseases, pretending to be like them.  Later I would have to balance the benefits against the after-effects.

I seize the days any way I can - pretend to be strong.  It doesn’t make me strong but sometimes it lends me something I can put about me like a temporary cloak – a cloak made of thin, diaphanous material, not suitable for rough weather, but it’s something and it covers me for a while.  Same with sleep and insomnia.  Some nights I lie for hours knowing that I am not asleep but I keep lying there faking it, which is nothing like the real, deep sleep that renews you, but it is something.  And it can happen that if you pretend enough you fall into the real thing for a while – the wellness, the dream-time, and you gather something ( that dense, warm substance tinged with rose and gold) in the core of you.

How hard can I pretend?  I can take on the sea, I can sleep underneath insomnia, but I don’t know what to do about my mother’s husband, who has decided that I am to be an enemy.  A good old family friend (doctor/psychotherapist) tells me that mother’s husband suffers from paranoia.  He needs his enemies.  He has also nominated one of his own daughters and hasn’t spoken to her for years.  When she was three years old she screamed when he tried to lift her from a bus.  He has not forgiven her.  My supposed sins are many and there is less reason to forgive.  If I begin to look at myself through his eyes then each apparently innocent remark, or even the act of bringing a cake on a plate, can hold an unexploded bomb of malign intent.  If the evil is not in me then the danger (for him) might be that it runs riot in the rest of his world. 

So I know that I am in a sense serving a useful purpose.  But it doesn’t make anyone happy, and to be thus nominated has brought that other substance into the core of me.  It is a grey, cold substance made of fear – a strange sense of guilt also, as though the evil he perceives is becoming an entity in its own right.  It may not belong to me but it needs somewhere to call home.

I have been filling myself with chocolate, with sweet things and with the pierogi my Polish friend brought with her – she filled half a suitcase with them, enugh to stock the freezer and still give some to my children.  The chocolate and pierogi help but there are blood sugar issues to be considered and inner DJ has Sinead O’Connor’s 90s song on a wailing loop (but nothing – I said nothing can take away these blues), or Joni Mitchell (I wish I had a river I could skate away on).  My mother, who was not allowed to come to my recent birthday gathering, is only minutes away from me by car.  She wants to see me, loves outings, fish and chips in a cafĂ©, a walk on the forest, the yellow gorse flowers that are always in bloom.  We had a terrible relationship for years but things had come right between us – the possibility of gold and the substance of rose.  Her husband would prefer things to be as they were and is now her keeper.  Nothing can take away these blues.

If I can’t meet with my mother then it is easier to be closer to the sea than the forest, where she also lives.  I flit between one location and the other, give myself the illusion that my feet don’t properly touch the ground, pretend that I am always on the move or a seagull (how my mother could imitate their cries) – in flight.  I love sitting on aeroplanes and trains, being in transit, and wish I had the reasons and/or resources to do a lot of this. I'll get on the train at East Grinstead with a harmonica and pretend that I am going nine hundred miles ....

   

14 comments:

Susanna said...

None of this is your fault. You have done what you could for them and I am sure you will again when the situation arises,as it will. It is horribly upsetting. Try as hard as you can to step back from it

Reading the Signs said...

Thanks, Susanna x

Montag said...

Fly a pennant of that diaphanous pageantry, and dance as in the finale of Fellini's "8 1/2"

Let the music pervade...

Reading the Signs said...

I haven't seen it, Montag - trying to find it on Youtube!

Sabine said...

I recognise the cloak. Sometimes it doesn't even hold for a deep breath.
But other days, ah well you know.

Reading the Signs said...

Sabine yes - on days when the light is right and the wind in the right direction :)

'tis I said...

I abhor these things your mother's husband is doing to you, the pain it causes you, the unfairness brought upon you. It is strange how the accusations, the paranoia, the evil projected upon one leaves a mark in one's soul - as you say, even when one knows one is innocent of the charges, something tainted is born into the world that one somehow carries, something not quite tangible but still palpable. A palpable, tainted shadow (would make a nice name for a 1980s band, don't you think? Tainted Shadow. This "joke" simply to reduce the pompousness of my words – not to demean the pain you describe, please).

As for the keeping in transit – yes. It is where one can be happiest, sometimes – freed from the human condition of time and place. If it ever gets translated into English, look up Olga Tokarczuk's book Bieguni ("Runners" or "Travellers"). A magical collection of short stories about rootless people. I have just finished it. I wish my mum was still the way she were, so I could talk with her about it, it's one of the rare fictional books that can still make me tremble with that deep-seated beautiful shock that really good literature can give. A recognition of something, a truth about life rarely touched upon. My mum was always the (only?ish) one I'd turn to with amazing reads; though we were close, we were not so not as people, not emotionally, but through what we had read, we could touch souls (she still lives, of course, but as her speech is gone and as she soon will be, too, she has turned inward and the things that connected us as people, not as Mother and Daughter, have lost their importance forever).

I shall translate a little section, from the back of the dust jacket (these things have a name, these snippets put on the cover to tantalise one, but I can't remember it):
"Nod your head, move, move. It is the only way of escaping. The Sovereign of the world has no power over movement, it knows that when moving, our body is holy, you can only escape it if you stay moving."
I'll put the wiki link on her under my name. Some of her other works have been translated into English; perhaps they are equally good. I've only read this one.

I think about you more than I manage to write to you; I'd like you to please know this, you beautiful friend. The relative silences are due to the current shape of my life, not due to you or a lack of love and friendship.

Sending you strength…

x

Montag said...

I know...

I was going to write that "We should wrap you in that diaphanous...", but it seemed too presumptuous.

Reading the Signs said...

'tis you thank you for this and all - yes, the tainted shadow ...

There are some works by Olga T on Amazon that seem to have been translated into English, but not the collection that you refer to.

x

Montag the gesture is appreciated x

Fire Bird said...

sheesh, there are so many kinds of loss. Sorry for yours and hoping it is not permanent.

WV offers - 1010 Guangue

belinda whitworth said...

Love the description of deep sleep

Reading the Signs said...

Fire Bird I'm intrigued by the "WV offers" and "1010 Gangue" :)

Belinda thanks - good to see you.

Fire Bird said...

Err I mean that is what WV offered on that occasion... I liked the feel of it in my mouth

Reading the Signs said...

LOL - I actually thought it was something to do with Wolkswagen :) Of course - the Word Ver Leprechauns!