Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A short story

It all unravelled because of a bag of apples. I imploded because of a bag of apples. A bag of apples was the catalyst which tipped me over the edge. Whichever way one says it, it still sounds ridiculous. However it is what it is and I can no more change the fact now than I could then. Until that point I had held myself (and by ‘myself’ I of course mean my mental state which is what anyone really means when they say ‘myself‘) in a tight grip of rigid self-discipline, so rigid was my grasp on my mind that other aspects of my life spiralled somewhat. It was important you see, to go to college and make my mother proud and uphold all the promise I had shown in childhood. I tried to kill two birds with one stone and also honour my grandfathers memory by studying politics but eventually conceded defeat and switched to a degree in English. I wrote good essays, rarely excellent but always passable and if ever I caught myself loitering in cubicles or hallways staring into space or snivelling like a lost toddler in a supermarket I would take control and move along. But that day in September, at the same market I had walked through every day for years, above the roving soil and beneath the whispering trees, I crumbled.
A lady had just purchased six apples, two green and four red, from a stall beside me. Maybe I will never see her again or maybe I have seen her everyday, I don’t know. She was the sort of woman who smudges sweetly across peoples visions like sticky marzipan on a child’s lips, making an impression that can only last as long as the moment she is actually there, but I do know that day she was wearing a blue beret and brown calf-high boots. As she stepped toward me someone bumped into her and the brown paper bag split down its crinkly spine sending the apples skittering across the ground. It was something about those sweet smelling orbs of fruit lying bruised and speckled with filth, ignored by all except me as the woman gasped and jumped back, and her lover skipped across the square to buy her fresh apples in a fresh paper bag and it was something in the way she turned toward him smiling, happily walking away from her fallen bounty, that made the whole thing seem so incredibly pointless and callous … the tiny fragile bind of reason I had held tightly inside me snapped, shrivelling into the my stomach and then expanding through my chest and images of so many horrors filled my mind … I don’t remember what happened next but I am told that I fell and then lay on the ground with my forehead grinding into the moist earth, howling into the darkness of my folded hair and did not stop even as the doctors pulled me to my feet and their soft sponges smothered my cuts in vicious iodine kisses. Then one of them stabbed something cold into my arm and I slept, my vision tilting down and down and down as I lost control of my neck, my poor head lolling forward onto my chest like a fleshy puppet with broken strings and just before the grey clouds slipped behind my eyes, I saw a young horse step on one of the fallen apples as its furry lips caressed another.
It was all just the luck of the draw.
When I woke up I saw the familiar cloud-print curtains of my bedroom and sighed. My scalp hurt and the scabs felt rough beneath my finger tips when I ventured to run a hand through my hair. My eyes felt worse even than my head; light is a friend to no one in those few seconds between sleeping and waking worlds but that day in particular it poked at me from behind my veil of exhaustion and beckoned to me with persistent nagging tendrils that danced behind my eyes even after I tried to blot them out with the back of my hand.
I could hear people downstairs and strained to listen to their conversation.
“…her mothers dutiful clay hooray. I peed on the door but really the play is mine.…”Either they were taunting me or my hearing had been damaged and I didn’t know which was more likely. I couldn’t imagine anyone my mother associated with peeing on the door for a play and decided to test out my hearing before leaping to conclusions.
There was a sort of ringing silence in the wake of my poetic outburst then footsteps up the stairs and my door opened revealing my mothers anxious face.
“You’re awake dear.”
“I must be.”
“What did you just shout?”
“Get yourself some teeth Lil. It’s from ‘The Wasteland.’ I was making sure I wasn’t deaf.”
My mother crinkled her brow and for a moment I thought she would be angry but the moment passed and she smiled broadly at me.
“Well I’m glad you’re not!”
“As am I.”
Already I was regretting my outburst and the attention it had forced upon me. Her smile was stretched too tightly, too eagerly. It wasn’t real. I wanted to go back to sleep but even as I began to sink back into my pillows I knew that the light had too strong a grip on me and I would not sleep for many hours. The doctors medication had worn off and my body was choosing life and action and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
“Are you hungry? I have toast and can make some eggs if you like? Or coffee? Orange juice?”
She was getting happier with every second that passed. Happy that I was alive. Happy that I was awake. Happy that I was not deaf. Happy that I remembered poetry.
“No thank you.”
Again her brow crinkles. She was doubting me. Doubting that I was fully alive. Doubting that I was well rested. Doubting that I had even heard all her offers of food. Doubting that ‘The Wasteland’ is a suitable poem.
“Nothing? You have to eat, love. You had a horrible turn and now you need to rebuild your strength.”
“I feel very strong.”
“But you aren’t! If you eat right and take care of yourself, if you let me take care of you, you will be!”
She was determined. I would live. I would get sufficient rest. I would learn to listen to people. I would read more positive poetry.
I sit up, carefully avoiding putting weight on my scraped palms.
“Maybe some coffee would be good.”
“Coffee! Yes, and a little toast? Just one slice and then we’ll see.”
“I‘m not hungry.”
“Just one slice…”
“No toast.”
“…I’ll only put a little scraping of butter on it.”
“No toast.”
“…Just you wait here and I’ll bring it to you…”
She shuts the door and I fall back onto the bed. My hands are shaking and I am crying without tears. My face contorts but no sound escapes my lips, no moisture escapes my eyes. I am crying but not as such that anyone would notice. For the first time in my life, at twenty-two years old, I am crying like an adult.
When my mother returns I pretend to be asleep. She sighs and puts my coffee and unwanted toast beside the bed. I hear her telling my step-father that she doesn’t know what to do. I don’t know that to do either. Get yourself some courage Lil.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Spy - (an excerpt)

         A tall and quiet fellow
of the build to play cello,
with dark hair thinly coating
from heavy knuckle to elbow,
          Eased into a booth
his limbs broken of youth,
and beneath the Maitre d's doting
affected the air of a sleuth.
         He had a serious face
where neither pride nor disgrace
were absent nor gloating
when he saw the briefcase.
         It had been left on the floor
by a wine drenched whore,
the noise of fading footsteps floating
crossed the line between civilisation and war.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Floods of Words.

Some days on the promenade
Leaning against rails flecked paint and salt
The churning water beneath my stand is clear and clean
- I am able to pick out the pebbles and pause to reflect!

Yet other days, similar to these
I stand the same, flicking at rust,
but the water flows a confused myriad of greys
while still beneath the froth pebbles play.

Appearance then, set in motion
equalled by temporal scene
must hold true to my efforts,
the essence remains what it has always been.