Thursday, 31 July 2008
His role was to tether me to the earth, even if just through the sheer force of irritation. My role was to lie around watching Rugrats on pay TV and not fuck him up the ass (figuratively or literally). Clearly, the relationship angst we had each accumulated conspired to lower our expectations impressively. We were perfect for one another, really.
I was depressed and heavily dosed with various medically sanctioned pills that seemed to be having a placebo effect. That is, they were as genuinely ineffective as they would have been had they been sugar pills. He was doughy about the edges and chronically unmotivated. Naturally, we decided that it would be a good time to take some action, so we bought some dope and set about systematically smoking the lot.
I didn't blame Housemate for getting pissy, really, circumstances being what they were. She was young and unexpectedly pregnant. There were hormones involved and Wes and I were annoying as all hell. She really did turn a rather fetching shade of harpy, though. Self-absorbed, but empathetic, little beast of contradiction that I was, I was quite prepared to forgive any sin committed by unfortunate Best Friend/Housemate during this "special" time that had resulted from that other "special" time when she and New Boyfriend were intimate for the very first time. Wes, however, was not similarly disposed.
What I saw was Loved and Loyal Friend behaving fairly uncharacteristically, and somewhat understandably, like a megalomaniacal princess. What he saw was Scary Future Sister-In-Law acting like the unstable bitch she truly was. At the very least, her aggression was misplaced. Wes and I were so soft about the edges we were virtually amorphous. It was like she was stamping loftily on naughty bunnies in her beloved cherry Docs.
Inevitably, the ultimatum was delivered in Housemates' dulcet tones, with just a hint of hysteria. She and Potent Brother had talked. They needed space. Wes and I found a one bedroom flat that suited our needs and moved our stuff in. We came back to collect the cat, then left for good, my friendship and Wes' animosity for Housemate both intact.
That night as Wes and I slept in the glow of hope that only fresh surroundings can bring, Housemate and Potent Brother were awoken by a frenzied banging on the door and were met with a different sort of glow. It was Next Door Neighbour Who Still Lived With His Mother come a callin' to let them know he had knocked over the gas heater in his bedroom, setting his mother's house ablaze and that the fire had spread. They were dry, old weatherboard terrace houses, built close together to burn quick and share the heat. Housemate and Potent Brother fled into the night.
We visited the next day to sympathise and gloat. There was a wall missing. Some of Housemate's things had burned or melted. Everything smelled of smoke. Half the house would need to be rebuilt and Housemate and Potent Brother would be forced to move in with disapproving family while looking for a new place to live. It was around this time that Buddhist, Wes, decided that it was appropriate to bring up the subject of karma.
A decade on, Housemate, now Scary Sister-in-Law, still barely tolerates Wes. Wes smiles into her slightly sneering face and thinks about karma.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
I've told some lies. Haven't we all? Now that I've embraced adulthood in earnest, I avoid deception where I can, but the self-serving fictions of my youth are planted for all eternity like standing stones in a barren field. Most of them were sins of self-deception or excuse. I don't remember any of them being deliberately malicious, although now that I think of it, I did once lead a cheating ex to believe that the blood test necessitated by his caring sharing ways had delivered the news I dreaded rather than that which I actually received. For the record, I don't regret that one at all.
I'm not sure, because the effects of our deceptions reverberate beyond our control or ken, but I think that my worst lie was one that began innocently enough. It was a lie formed in the telling.
My housemate and I were sitting at the table in the kitchen. We were joined in the room by our new boyfriends who were brothers. Cute, I know, but my friend and I soon became willing participants in sibling rivalry, joining in arguments about which couple did the dishes more often. But this came before all that; before my housemate found out she was pregnant and before the house burned, when things were still new and quite nice really.
We were talking. My boyfriend stood behind the others facing me, while he cooked toast at the bench. He looked at me meaningfully, grinned and mouthed the words, "I love you".
It was far too early in the scheme of things to be mouthing anything more meaningful than, "Coffee?" at each other. It really was...even if I'd felt it. Which I didn't. I liked him. I needed him, but I didn't love him. Not at all. Not in that way. But there he stood, behind my housemate who continued talking, oblivious, while he grinned over her shoulder and I mouthed the words, "Me too."
"Really!?" he mouthed.
"Mmmm," I nodded. I smiled. He got way too excited. My housemate and his brother asked questions. There was no way back.
Monday, 28 July 2008
...all the rage in Paris.
Sunday, 27 July 2008
When the taxamadoodle thing came through, I intended to see to the tinsen-mobile whose servicing needs have been deferred for many moons, because I haven't earned enough to pay for said servicing (see previous paragraph).
The money was processed on Thursday afternoon. It will be in my account on Monday. The tinsen-mobile stopped going, "broom, broom", and started going, "broom, chugga, chugga, cough", on Thursday evening. Why doesn't that surprise me even the tiniest little bit?
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Time was passing, but I could feel my impatience slip away into nothingness at my feet. I held her to me and pressed my chest into her back and breathed deep for what seemed like the first time in a week. She sighed, feeling it too and I let my peace flow from me to her, knowing full well that I owed her for a week of hurried denials and shovings to and fro.
I will love you for all time, but I plant this kiss upon your neck, like a pin prick of light in the endless night sky, to remind you in this single moment that you are loved.
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
It has been interesting to note, however, how many people cannot abide positivity in others. I'm not talking about blind, naive, abuse-taking Pollyannaism, just solid, reliable, making lemonade with these goddamned lemons kind of positivity. When it's a matter of life and death, you need to be prepared to fight for it, or at least end or de-value errant friendships in its name.
I found, too, that many of those that I had drawn to me and been drawn to during those wretched years were, for various ignoble reasons, heavily invested in my continued disfunction. In that sick, sad little world, resentment is a foul, foul river that will flow your way should you ever have the gall to express the belief that you are worthy of life. If you don't turn your back on it and walk away slow, you will become yet another bloated corpse moving with its tides.
Now, as a homeschooling parent, I pass, like a greased, but flailing monkey through an infinitely diverse, yet ultimately conservative, social set. Every little snippet from my past, dropped casually into a conversation, feels like an admission as it falls and fills the space between me and another. Ironically the present is sometimes only marginally less problematic, so in the end, I do no justice to any of it.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Thursday, 17 July 2008
I have lived and died and cursed my blackened soul. But I was always there standing when the time came; always there and paid before my bills came due. Then one night, THP, Spud and I went to see Will Oldham at the Corner and I swear that music was so sweet and sublimely sad and I had collected twisted, cloying sorrows in my body for so long that part way through the gig, something in me broke and all that sorrow engulfed me.
When the pain in my back got too bad to bear from standing, I would squat for a minute or two to rest it - just long enough for relief, not long enough to draw the attention of bouncers looking for signs of conspicuous inebriation. That night I went down for a minute and didn't really get back up for years.
But it was THP who died of it. We were leaning on each other before that; two drunks staggering home through the starless night. Then I stepped out from under him and while I knelt on the beer-soaked carpet of the Corner, unable or unwilling to pull myself up, he fell hard. In reality, that was later, of course, because deaths of that sort are always slow and are never amenable to neat metaphor or convenient cliche.
But in that very moment, I succumbed and something vicious began. I closed my eyes and went into the blackness with Will Oldham in my ears and Spud's hand on my head and through ties of love and inter-dependence; through trailing guts painfully knotted and entwined, I dragged the others along behind.
Ridiculous diagnoses followed, one after another, when “the blackness has her”, would have sufficed. Crazy cures – chemicals and electricity and endless stupid questions that I could never hope to answer even if I had the strength to look outside myself and speak. Ignorant presumption of cause and effect; the blind leading the blackened and charred. Sear my soul and send me back to die slow instead of fast.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
“Wait!” I screamed after her. “Your hat!”
She ignored me, which was to be expected, we hadn’t talked, not really anyway, in more than 10 years. I scooped up her black hat. The mesh veil fluttered beneath my fingers in a breeze that wasn't there. I stood and watched her walk away from me into a summer day so bright it hurt my eyes. She paused for a moment under a palm tree and I thought that she might turn back, but she ceased her stride only long enough to swing a laughing child into her arms before moving on towards the man waiting under the next tree.
I don't know why I was surprised. Of course she has moved on. Did I think that she would make of her life a monument to death's immutable power to take and destroy? Did I think she would wear that hat forever?
As she was lost to me amongst the headstones, I looked once more at the hat, as if to reassure myself that she had been there; that she had come back. Time is as transient here as it is anywhere. The past and the present intersect. She wore that hat a decade ago.
She seemed utterly consumed; lost to me as surely as I was lost to her. I touched her hand. I whispered, “I'm sorry.” The mesh veil hid her wet eyes from me. She knelt by that dark hole. She knelt there for the longest time until finally she was led away from me. I called after her, “Wait! Your hat!” but she walked on, her back hunched against the rain and dusk descending.
“Wait!” I screamed. The little black hat lay in the mud by my grave; its mesh veil splattered with flecks of cold, wet earth. “Your hat...”
I scooped it up. The mesh veil fluttered beneath my fingers.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
There is nothing like absence to help you completely lose perspective and cut the mental ties that hold you to the earth; the ties that bind you so completely in spite of your mind dwelling on blessed release beyond dawn and dusk. He left loving notes for me and for his beloved little sister, but then, it's easy to be generous when you're walking out the door without a glance behind.
Perversely, or perhaps logically, part of the family culture we created in the time we had, involved the joyful marking of occasion. The grand gesture was his specialty and I joined him with the enthusiasm of the child once and always denied. We gave each other extravagant gifts and monumental surprises that seemed to proliferate further beyond our meagre means each year. He had the final word though, I think, and in that act, among other more profound changes visited upon those who loved him, he took my birthday.
As you may already know, life and death are complicated. There are so many things linked to the moment he faded from his life that thinking or talking about any aspect is like Pandora unsealing that jar and unleashing bloody hell upon her world and my mind. This is how I convinced myself for a decade that I had writer's block. Every time I picked up a pen, that one epic story would come to me in its various forms and demand to be written, but who could do justice to that tale? Not me, I assure you. There is a place beyond misery and devastation that is rendered trite in the telling - even here and now in the un-telling.
This blog was born of the necessity to reclaim something that is innate to me. So here I am and whatever else I may be doing and wherever I am going or not going with it, I am indeed writing. Similarly, I had made efforts before to reclaim his death day as my birth day, but I had never really had a happy birthday without him and I had no idea how to manufacture joy in the face of the sheer magnitude of his leaving. This year, after a decade, I finally accepted that there is no fighting death.
And that, I think, is the longest, most gut-wrenching pre-amble in history, because this post is not about the boy who took my birthday with him when he left, but the woman who gave it back.
This year I decided that I would let my birthday go and choose a new one and so I did...just like that. I 'suggested' in no uncertain terms that my dear friend, Wes, should buy me a cake of chocolate and this he did...in no uncertain terms.
My mother even said (without prompting, I swear) that she would like to take me out for lunch one day soon to celebrate. She is not good at occasions, so this meant a lot, but it all still felt pretend; not surprisingly, as if I had contrived the whole thing. Leading up to the day, I had confided to a good friend that I had no idea how to mark the occasion; how to distinguish it from other days. I had never really had an adult birthday before. What do grown ups even do on their birthdays?
I have told you before that with few exceptions I am pathologically independent. It is integral to my survival for now. I take or make what I need or I simply learn to live without it, but I just did not have it in me to give life to my birthday. I needed the blessing of an outside force to make it something other than a childish indulgence.
Then this arrived at my door with a card from my friend:
It was such a sweet extravagant gesture, that the occasion was brought into life in one fabulous, embarrassing, funny instant. The real gift was not the strawberries or the sweet sweet chocolate or the indigestion resulting from my desire not to waste a single one. The real gift comes next year, because I own my birthday now. It's mine. Next year, I'm going to do something or nothing. It won't matter. My birthday will be just like anyone else's.
Sometimes moments of importance slip away from us because we don't know how to mark them. Having a baby, buying a house, losing a lover – these things mark themselves. They are great monuments on life's road and they proclaim their own importance. The gift of a bunch of strawberries that gives you permission to have a birthday is somewhat more difficult to frame and hang on your wall.
So after my birthday, I simply said, 'Thank you', to my friend because this story would have been too much to tell in passing and our conversations tend to happen that way; in the minutes that we find here and there.
My amazing friend and her wonderful family have just marked one of those ironic birthdays of their own and I hope that it's okay, but I didn't want to let any more time pass without telling her how much her gift has meant to me and that I am thinking of her now.
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
And so it transpired that, one morning, very early, before the sun had awoken to touch the land with its warmth, a tiny new guinea pig came into being. He blinked about him in the dark and realised almost immediately that he was cold and that he did not like cold one little bit.
He looked within and found a voice and though it was but a small squeak, he sent it forth into the world to say, "Won't somebody make this cold go away?" and interlaced with that plea was another, equally as primal and it said, "Where, oh where, is my mother?"
Then, it seems, he was heard, for he felt himself scooped up in hands, both gentle and warm. As his wet fur was rubbed softly, he became quiet, for he was able, now that the cold had been banished, to look upon himself inside and out and see that he was beautiful.
He nuzzled the finger that stroked him with his now warm, fluffy snout and he did not notice that his mother was awfully big or that she had precious little fur and spoke in strange, lilting tones that sounded like, "I love you," instead of, "Brrrrrrrt!"
You will know your family not by ties of blood or the stripe in their fur, but by their love, unconditional and everlasting.
Monday, 7 July 2008
JayHe chased and pledged undying love in exchange for favours. She scuttled away, and chittered at him in outrage. In time, they became quite companionable together in their to-ing and fro-ing. This went on for the better part of a year with no sign of any 'progression' in their relationship.
Then one morning, I awoke to find Jay lying stiff under his water bottle. Perhaps he died because we had been unable to get his usual food and the nearest substitute disagreed with his delicate piggy little constitution or maybe he died of a broken heart as his love remained ever unrequited. Either way, we buried him in the backyard and I noted to myself that 'the circle of life' has a way of kicking you in the teeth like that.
Thus, my indecision began anew. Should we find a new male companion for Justine? All of the same pros and cons presented themselves once more for consideration. In the meantime, Karen and Justine moved back in together, enjoying once more their comfortable existence as young, single hutch-mates about town.
Then, of course, Theo arrived on our doorstep - quite literally. He was sublimely beautiful, but he came from the wrong side of town, which in this case was the home of a neighbourhood family (parents included), who were inbreeding guinea pigs at an alarming rate in squalid, dark, smelly and over crowded hutches simply because, I think, they really loved guinea pigs and didn't know any better. I didn't quite know how to handle that the day we toured their hutches. You expect irresponsible pet owners to be people who don't care enough. I offered a bit of knowledge in the form of conversation, humoured them a bit in the hope of influencing and gave them our spare hutch. A couple of weeks later, holding back tears, one of the daughters offered us Theodore.
Theo & Justine
On Wednesday night I was working on an urgent project for a friend. I fell into bed at 4.30am after researching and writing a short report. I awoke a little after 6am needing the toilet. On my journey there, I passed the maternal hutch and felt a moment of surreal horror as I saw what looked, in the dim pre-dawn light, like lumps of meat lying in the hay. I took a breath which was enough to remind me that I could handle whatever had happened and knelt by the hutch.
He was tiny, but his little face was raised to me and his barely audible squeaks spoke a primal plea that was answered in an instant from within me. I snatched him up, before my mind had even framed a thought. He was wet and so cold, I couldn't believe he was alive. I was shocked to find that the largest lump of meat was actually a black pup, three times the size of the runt I held in my hand, certainly no colder, but lifeless, the membrane over his face forming his death mask. I pulled it away with a single deft movement and rubbed his side with my finger. My bladder had raised the alarm too late for what would have been a fine strong pup, but for a quirk of outrageous fortune.
The other lump of meat was the placenta, ominously intact, a testament to a mother's complete rejection, for if a sow doesn't eat at least a little of the afterbirth, there will be no milk for her pups. (Dig that crazy circle.) Justine had hidden herself inside an old pair of baby pants. She seemed very frightened, but not hurt or sick, although it was hard to imagine how the gigantic pup had come from inside her. I might have hidden too in her place. It seems we did not warn her adequately of what was about to happen. In her panic, she failed to recognise her own; failed to realise that they were part of her - the best of her - her great miraculous life's achievement. In her terror she hid, while one suffocated and the other begged for life and her equally terrorised 'midwife' sought refuge inside the pigloo, barricading the door with more baby clothes to keep the horror at bay. So much for sisterly solidarity.
My heart sank, but I had assessed and triaged and only the runt required immediate attention. Carrying him in one hand, I grabbed the hot water bottle from my bed, turned the heaters on and huddled there with him, rubbing his cold wet body from tip to toe with my fingers to tell every last bit of him that he was alive and cared for and that someone desperately, oh so desperately, wanted him to live. I cut his umbilical cord with a pair of paper scissors and discarded it. He had only me to sustain him now.
I believe in the power of names and naming and so, later that first day, with my daughter's blessing, I named him Tamburlaine. I gave him a warrior's name, in the hope it would define, in stark clarity, every shred of strength within him with just a touch of whimsy thrown in to see him through the long cold nights ahead. And in bringing him into his life, I made myself his mother - loved and in love.
In the absence of tiny little cartons of guinea pig milk at the supermarket, Tamburlaine is subsisting, even thriving, it seems, on an unflavoured human nutritional drink. Infant guinea pigs cannot regulate swallowing and breathing, precluding feeding with a syringe or dropper, so Tamburlaine requires frequent spoon feeding...very frequent spoon feeding, in fact. If I fail to anticipate his hunger, he has learned to squeal insistently until his food is forthcoming. There are no nappies to change, which you may think a significant mercy, but instead, simulating a sow's tongue, I have to use a warm wet cotton bud to “massage the genitals after every feeding.” (The pup's, not mine.) I quote from Peter Gurney's The Proper Care of Guinea Pigs so that you know I'm not making it up for my own amusement. This helps the mini-pig go poo poo or wee wee; usually, as it happens, on my hand.
Waking, or being awoken every hour or two to feed him and waking more often than that in anxiety to just check on him; to touch him and know that he is breathing and safe and warm has led to a profound lack of sleep and if I don't sleep well, neither does DK, so closely linked are we, even after all this time. Thus, we have both succumbed to yet another miserable cold. I don't think we've been really healthy for more than a fortnight since April. This one seems the worst yet. It certainly is for DK and truly, I am in no fit state to give her the extra attention that is her right as a dear little girl with a minor, but uncomfortable illness. I am trying to hold up my end to some extent, even as I attempt to mother the mini-pig and nurse my own ills.