Love Letters #10

Dear Amelia,

One day, when I return, there will be summer and rain at the same time. There will be a rainbow over our apple tree, and we will watch the seasons merge into each other, the apples growing larger and sweeter. One day, there will be a future for us.  After the rot of the city has lifted. After the destruction has become a faint memory, we will live again. Life will sprout through the cracked crevices of what once was our solid foundation. It has been shattered, but we haven’t, dearest. We haven’t.

Yours truly,

Dean

Unknown

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Treasure

Down, down under

In the dark, snaking rut

where the rats roam free

And the filth runs amok

Deep deep down,

in dank, glistening tunnels,

eerie silence

through slimy funnels,

There lies a glinting rock,

Shining in the dark

Reflecting,

Gleaming,

Lost.

While its owner runs wild above.

‘Hank, have you seen it?’

‘Hank?’

‘HANK?!’

‘Yes, dear,’

Far, far away,

When the grimy, grey sludge,

Is belched onto shore;

A small, tan child

Reaches down,

And lifts his treasure from the mud.

 

Why is Everybody so Butthurt?

Ohh, blogosphere. This is a terribly controversial subject, but I am here to address it because I have an opinion on it.

So, nowadays, on the internet, there is something called a ‘trigger warning’, that a lot of people get very het up about. This ‘trigger warning’ causes arguments and misery and general unpleasantry.

What is a trigger warning?

It is a warning on any content (especially video content) published on the internet about the contents of said content. It could warn about sexual abuse, self harm, hair pulling, suicide, harassment and a number of other issues that the content may cover. The warning is present to protect the people viewing the content who may be affected by the images or words, especially if they have suffered those issues and don’t want to be reminded of it.

At the surface of it all, it just seems like a genuinely nice thing to do. Oh, hey, I am posting a video that contains some imagery of self harm, so beware if that sort of thing ‘triggers’ you.

Triggers you?

You know, gives you a panic attack or makes you spasm or makes you feel sad or depressed or triggers a bipolar or schizophrenic or psychotic episode.

I am not being sarcastic, honest. I do know that a lot of people suffer with these things. Why do you think they have warnings before a movie if there are flashing lights? To prevent epileptic episodes in people who are epileptically prone. That is important, of course. It’s important for people who are truly mentally ill.

But I am talking about triggers for things that would probably cause mild discomfort at best, exaggerated wildly by some bored teen with large opinions on feelings sitting comfortably behind their laptop. What. So now EVERYBODY has ‘severe anxiety’?

It may also be true that there are plenty of people out there who like to seek attention by complaining in the comments of videos that they were ‘triggered’ and telling the video makers off for making the video. Some of them, especially the younger and more impressionable ones, write that they are shaking and feeling terrible because of the video and shame on the video makers for not putting a trigger warning on it.

Then you have the angry realist army marching in with comments like, ‘there is no trigger warning in the real world.’

Which may sound a liiiiitle harsh, but to be honest, there is a sound point there.

There ARE no trigger warnings in real life. Controversial, painful, hurtful, cruel things happen in the real world on a daily basis, and going around with your eyes shut, shouting, ‘TRIGGER WARNING’ is childish at best.

Making videos to spread awareness of abuse and suicide is helpful to the population. Sharing experiences allows other people to recognise when they are in danger, and to know they are not alone. However, when does it become too much? Too much angst, too much feeling sharing, too much irrelevant anger and regurgitating the past over and over again, complaining about being triggered, arguing about triggers, telling everybody off on camera for not putting trigger warnings on their material.

If we all put trigger warnings on material, I am sure, in order to cover all the triggers out there, we would fill an entire page. Which is just impractical. People need to deal with their triggers and realise that the world is not going to be a safe place, ever. You need to make it safe, you need to do your bit, and you need to help yourself. Strangers on the street are, sadly, not going to help you.

When I was a young and impressionable girl, I allowed a much older man to manipulate me, rape me, convince me of unimaginable things, lower my self esteem, and make me feel pathetic and horrible. I was immensely depressed. I thought that was ‘love’. However, I escaped his evil clutches, and yeah, sometimes, when I see a video or read a book, I am severely reminded of what happened and it is certainly not pleasant. Despite this, however, I don’t think it is necessary for people who write about sexual abuse, or make videos about it, to put a ‘TRIGGER WARNING’ so I can be spared some depression.

If I lived my life afraid of being ‘triggered’, if I went around shouting at people who didn’t make sure I wasn’t ‘triggered’, I would be in a sorry state of affairs. In fact, I would probably be a mental cripple.

The point is, there ARE no trigger warnings in the real world. People have to deal with their issues, and get on with it. And it may be harder for some than for others, but we have to understand that this world is vast, and cruel, and harsh. And not everybody will bow down and respect your broken feelings. In fact, they may make them worse.

It’s a Tumblr generation thing, to find everybody and everything so problematic. It’s a self righteous, butthurt attitude spawned by teenagers, taken on by tweens, and spread around the world because teens now have a platform on which to vent their feelings. Which is fantastic, of course, but it causes a lot of problems.

Five, six years down the line they will step back and realise that perhaps they were being a little too het up about it all. Or maybe, as it becoming increasingly apparent, this attitude will be enforced by others, creating a generation of weak little weevils, too afraid to step out their front doors for fear of being ‘triggered’. The world owes you nothing. You are not special. There are millions out there suffering worse things and are not ‘warned’ before a gun explodes in their small little faces. Grow the heck up. I’m sorry.

People need to grow up.

And, I guess, life is about learning to deal with that, and sticking to the nicer people who lift you up instead of put you down.

 

They Don’t Laugh

I met a girl yesterday who didn’t laugh. She didn’t smile either, not once.

So I made some jokes and inserted some funny bits into conversation, but they seemed to go right over her head.

Well, thought I, I must be an exhaustively un-interesting person. I didn’t retreat into my shell, though, I persisted in trying to engage her, since we were travelling together.

I offered her some mango pieces. Who can say no to mango pieces? She declined, and carried on munching her pasta. I told her a funny anecdote that always makes people laugh, but she just stared at me, solemn, and said,

‘Oh, that’s funny.’

Then she proceeded to talk about her uncle’s wife’s marital problems and how her uncle is an awful person.

Huh. Okay. I am not interested in any of this, and I do not see the necessity of this conversation because it adds no value to my mind, in fact it just pollutes it and makes me feel depressed.

So I tried to steer the topic away and towards something we had in common, i.e. our university course. Hallo. Maybe she has some interesting insight on Dubliners. I for one, while recognising its significant political and literary value, thought it was boring at first. It still wouldn’t be a book I would pick up on a fanciful whim. I was also having troubles analysing it properly in a fashion that my examiner would find scintillating. She just said,

‘Yeah, it was okay.’

‘So which stories would you chose to compare with Langston Hughes’ New York poems?’

‘Oh, I don’t know.’

Silence.

So our conversation petered out because she didn’t have opinions on things I found interesting, and I wasn’t interested in gossiping about her adulterous family members. And she did not laugh.

In fact, the whole debacle depressed me immensely and I greatly regretted agreeing to travel home with her just because we live in the same city. That, and the fact that we are on the same course, is the only thing we have in common with each other.

Who are these people, that do not laugh, folks? That like to gossip and not much else? Who shun conversation unless it is about other people? Where did they learn such behaviour?

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Kids Will Be Kids

Today I realised I am good with kids, and even though I need to shout sometimes, they generally listen to me. Also. They like me.

Which is a warm thing to know, really. Unless they can sniff out the chocolates in my bag, in which case it’s probably just the bribery.

Bribery works wonders on kids, folks. More than telling off or strict behaviour does. All week the Year Ones have been irritable and hot and very disobedient. I had one child imitate everything I said, at a raucous of encouraging giggles from bright eyed counterparts. Oh how innocent those chuckles were, and how enraged I felt.

Finally I resorted to telling the class to ignore the little rogue. They did. Surprisingly. That only increased his naughtiness, and he began screaming in their faces as I was teaching. But they kept stoically on, until finally i turned to the piqued little fellow, who was all red faced and exhausted with the effort of creating trouble, and I said,

‘Henry, are you ready to return to your place and behave yourself?’

Meekly, he nodded, and went back to his seat, pleased we were all acknowledging him again. I didn’t hear a peep from him the entire lesson after that, and he raised his hand when he wanted to ask something, too. What a naughty creature.

Today, Year Two were not listening to their class teacher, who is a lovely woman but whose voice is a little low. She looked at me as I was leaving my lesson, and said,

‘You have to call these kids a thousand times, and it makes you not want to do anything nice for them.’

So I turned around, put on my stern face, and said in a loud, controlled voice (it’s my mother’s voice, and she is a bossy lady. I am far from bossy but oh boy, I know that voice inside out),

‘Year Two! Can you not hear your teacher telling you to be quiet?’

Still some chatter.

YEAR TWO!’

Sudden stillness in the class. Aha. I yanked their attention by the pigtails it would seem. She looked at me gratefully as I lectured them for thirty seconds about listening to their teacher, and they sat solemn as I left the class.

At this rate, I will probably lose my voice.

Today is Friday and because it was the end of the week I told my Year Ones that the winning ‘team’ (they are arranged into teams) would win some treats. Some naughty boys refused to believe it, and started making airplane noises and pushing each other when I was trying to make them read. Cross, I wrote their names on the board and when their team won, they did not receive anything. It’s always the boys, it would seem. The girls are (mostly) well behaved.

The crestfallen disappointment on their small little faces made me almost cave, but I did not give in.

‘Next time, you will remember to behave when I tell you to, won’t you?’ I reproached them, at eye level (I got on my knees for this).

They nodded seriously and went to sit down, looking like their world had ended.

They gotta learn, you know. And rudeness won’t be rewarded.

I do strongly believe that kids ought to be kids, of course, but kids also ought to learn how to listen. Play when it is playtime, and listen when it is time to listen.

Despite my harshness, however, they did all run up to me as I was walking through the playground at playtime, and hug me in a pile of chubby arms, calling my name.

One whispered, ‘Miss, you’re my fayyyy-vourite teacher.’

Huh, fair praise indeed.

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Curiousity

Yesterday the cat returned through the open window in the front room. She shocked us all, even the owner who came several times, I assure you, worry stricken, to call for her baby. She has returned more confident than ever, but is still spooked about the rest of the rooms in the house. She is getting used to us, though.

This morning I sat with her on my lap, singing to her. She licked my fingers. I was so touched until I remembered I had been making tuna sandwiches beforehand. So much for catterly affection, eh.

We are tremendously pleased that she has returned, of course, and we are loathe to let her go again before we get her a GPS collar. Just until she gets used to us. It shan’t be long. Then she can traverse the neighbourhood as she pleases.

I can’t believe she knew to come back to us, though, despite only being with us for three days! She is a gorgeous thing with beautiful eyes and the most delightfully clean coat ever, spotted with black and ginger and white. She is perfect.

Love Letters #9

She didn’t know Enigma Boy.

He was tall and had long legs which he would stretch out over the aisle, and she would have to carefully step over them when she came late to her lectures. Sometimes he would notice and pull them back quickly, looking up at her with these deep green eyes, murmuring a ‘sorry’ in an accent she could not place.

At first, she would see him around the library sometimes, or sitting in the cafeteria with that other boy he was always with. With the snub nose and the toned arms. But it was only him she had the eyes for.

His complexion, she remembered thinking, was healthy. Cheeks that were a beautiful combination of reddened brown, the result of a lot of healthy sunshine and clean air. Thick dark hair that fell over his face just a little, just so, and he was always perfectly dressed.

She wasn’t. Perfectly dressed. Ever. She wore black jeans every day and alternated between three grey tops, over which she would shrug on her black hoodie and if it was cold, her dark green trench coat. Same black lace up boots, like out of a victorian photograph, and her curly black hair up in a messy bun, always, because she mostly forgot to brush it.

He probably just thought she was a messy person. Maybe he didn’t even notice her. But he talked to her friends, oh he talked to her friends. Maybe because she was too awed by him, that she was frightened to talk to him. She knew she gave off indifferent, moody vibes when she was shy. And she was tremendously shy around him.

Her heart thundered in her ears when he passed her in the corridors, and the notes of his foreign, exotic language were a soft melody in her ears. She could pick his voice out in a crowd.

And anyway, why was she thinking of him like that when she had herself the finest man a girl could wish for. At least, that is what she told herself.

He IS  a fine man.

He wasn’t as handsome as Enigma Boy, that was for sure. And he didn’t have good haircuts, was a little too skinny and smoked legal highs. She spent a fortune on his legal highs, mostly to avoid one of his horrendous tantrums. His ‘ludicrous’ moods. Well, that is what love is, she would sigh to herself, sitting in her lecture, while he was probably out somewhere smoking weed. Love is sacrifice. Love is patience.

And yet, despite all the sacrificing, patient love, this Enigma Boy occupied all her thoughts.

Once she was outside the lecture hall having a naughty smoke. She puffed in and out and closed her eyes and enjoyed the acridity of it, because it made her brain float a little and she needed that. Then she froze, because there he was standing right in front of her, also having a naughty smoke, only he was not puffing, just sucking it into his mouth and blowing it out.

How cute.

She saw him talking to a glamorous girl with red lipstick and thick, straight, glossy hair, both of them smoking, telling the girl that he did not smoke, he just puffed socially. Then he looked up, directly at her, her, and she looked away quickly.

Once he sat right in front of her in the lecture hall. His hair was so neat from the back. And when he shifted in his seat, she smelled him. Tobacco, mint, leather, spice. She closed her eyes and breathed in deep until someone poked her and asked if she was okay.

I’m okay. Oh. I am okay.

Then Enigma Boy turned. Their eyes met. She didn’t know why, perhaps it was out of habit, but she forgot to be shy, and she smiled at him. Not a regular smile that you give to somebody you see daily in your lecture hall. Not a ‘hello, there’ kind of smile, or even a smile of acknowledgement.

It was fully fledged smile, of warmth and comradery and her teeth even showed a little bit, so maybe it was a grin.

Oh, how embarrassing. 

She smiled before she realised what she was doing and by then it was too late. Her heart dropped, thudding pitifully somewhere at the bottom of her ribcage.

Ouch.

To her surprise, he smiled back. A wide, friendly smile. Not a stranger smiling out of courtesy, but a smile as though perhaps they had known each other all their lives.

Warmth bubbled up gently in her chest, and she averted her eyes back to the projector screen in front of them, pretending like she was listening aptly, when really she was graining that smile to her memory, burning it into her retina. Those green, green eyes. That wonderfully tanned face, with features so perfect in their slight imperfection. The way he’d turned, looking at her.

She barely heard the discussion between her friends after the lecture. All she thought about was that smile.

On the last week at university her friends went to have lunch together. He was going, too. Ar first she wanted to say no-no-no-no. But her friends dragged her along, insistent. She ordered a tall glass of vimto, and then he was there sitting next to her asking how her exam went. At first she was fumbly and shaky, her heart an oscillating drill, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, but then her thoughts gathered themselves and soon she was prattling on, sipping her vimto, while he listened and laughed sometimes and then it was his turn to talk.

Into the evening, they talked and laughed and then she was not feeling nervous but happy. Funny. Liked. Listened to. Appraised for the words she spoke, and the thoughts she shared. Not like she had felt in a long, long time. All through the evening and then the fairy lights came on and it was twinkly and summery and four of them wandered back to the bus stop together, Danielle talking about how her engagement went down, glittering her large ring at them. Laughter and happiness floating up into the summer twilight.

That was her last day at university. Last day ever. They didn’t even swap numbers.

Years later, after she had miraculously escaped the malicious grip of her ‘man’, after she had left university and met another gentleman, so kind and sweet and handsome, and married him, she was to remember that green eyed smile. Not for the butterflies it gave her, for that memory could not resuscitate any giddy feelings within her that her husband had not made her feel beforehand, but for the happiness she had felt during and after.

She remembered that smile and thought sadly that perhaps it was not a romantic smile, perhaps it was the smile that might have made for a wonderful friendship.

One can never know.

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Nine Days

Cats have nine lives. Maybe I could be a cat, and each day could represent a life. A life is a very long time, folks. It is certainly long enough to revise for a final exam comprising of several literary books from several different eras.

The rest of the lives I could use for much needed revision.

Nine days is not enough, how do cats do it.

Speaking of cats. Oh sigh. Such a big big sigh. I am miserable.

My inlaws got a cat on Thursday. She is a beautiful little thing, around five years old, and we’d got her from a lady who is travelling for two years. They say you shouldn’t let cats out for the first two weeks because they need to settle, and they would only just try to find their way to the home they know if they are let out.

So we were terribly vigilant about keeping doors and windows shut.

The darling little creature stuck only to the front room, where she hid under the sofa at first, but then gradually began to come out and lounge on the window sill and meander around the room, letting us tickle behind her ears and stroke her soft, warm fur.

We tried to make her go into other rooms but she would always race back to the front room. She still needed to get used to the place.

This morning at 6am I opened the kitchen window, closing both kitchen doors so she wouldn’t come in. I knew she wouldn’t anyway, she never left the living room! But, you know, just in case.

I accidentally left the window open when I left. It was only a sliver. But I am sure enough for any kitty to get through.

I got a text from my sister in law when I was in another city at around 8am asking if I had seen the cat.

She is missing.

I feel so so awful and terrible and weighed down because I think it is all my fault. My husband thinks it might not be me, because his dad went out late at night and left the front door open. But it might be me. And everybody thinks it is me. And the cat is missing, and her old home is more than 20 minutes away in the car.

I am so worried that I can’t focus on my revision for my exam in nine days, and I know everybody will blame me and the kids will hold a grudge against me (because they are the kind of kids to do that, at least one of them is) and the poor cat wandering about all lost and scared in new surroundings and it’s all just awful awful awful.

Poor kitty.

 

The Night Bus

Alex wasn’t known to travel the Night Bus. She had always been told it was for the likes of misguided sorcerers, and unsavoury beings. She had been brought up to be afraid of the Night Bus, namely because it operated at the Witching Hour and vanished when the faint glow of light in the far east appeared. People, or rather, her family, did not suppose she would ever associate herself with such darkness.

But Alex wasn’t afraid. Alex was not afraid of much anything. She felt contemptuous every time George warned her about waiting for a Night Bus. She thought he was being over-protective and altogether too controlling. When her mother died, and her family disintegrated like a dead, dried out insect, Alex found herself more and more prone to follow her feet towards the solitary black lamppost on the corner of Night street.

A small sign hung from the top, creaking as it swayed gently, even when there was no breeze. Scratchy black writing scrawled across it:

Night Bus. Ticket Holders Only

What did that mean? ‘Ticket holders only?’ Where did one acquire a ticket for the Night Bus? There certainly didn’t seem to be any ticket offices anywhere nearby. She’d even asked at the town bus depot. They all shook their heads and shrugged, equally baffled. And yet Alex had seen the bus trundle along the cobbled streets through town, swaying from side to side, filled with people.

What kind of people? They didn’t all look like vagabonds and destitute sorcerers. Why, she had even seen a little old woman with a flowery hat, nose pressed against the glass as the bus sailed past Alex’s window one dark night in November.

She’d waited sometimes at the black lamppost. She crept out just before the Witching Hour, when everybody at home were sound asleep, the dim glow from Father’s oil lamp glimmering under his study door, and made her way through the dewy grass and over the cold slabs of paving, to await the Night Bus.

It never came. She heard it rumbling in the distance, and sometimes caught a glimpse of a pair of large headlamps sweeping over darkened windows, but it never passed her and it certainly never stopped at the lamppost.

She knew it did for some people, though. If she leaned out far enough from her bedroom window on some nights, she saw it come round the corner and judder to a halt. She watched shadowy figures clamber on, and some hop off, waving canes, whispering, plodding along, scattering through the maze of cobbled roads that snaked through the city, vanishing into the nightly mist that clung to the sides of buildings and wafted across avenues.

How, thought Alex, am I to go about finding myself a ticket?

Love Letters #8

Walking down the street with his hands in his pockets. He always cleaned up so nicely. His hair slicked back, his face tidy and trim, his suit brushed and straight with the crease in the trousers, shoes shined up to perfection, like brand new, reflecting the street lamps in their gleaming glory.

The pavement was shining with the mist of rain that floated down upon the town. Heels clicked and shoes scraped with the faint gravelly echo of damp street sand. The evening twilight descended upon the world, combining with the golden glow of the street lights to create a surreal dusk stillness, when the streets emptied and families sat around dinner tables, and shops were empty and dark behind their shutters because shop keepers had long gone home.

I stared. Thomas? No. It could not be. Impossible.

But it was, and he was!

He whistled a little as he walked, his step jaunty, and my heart ached. I loved his whistle, his cheery, melodious tunes. His whistle meant he was happy. He turned quickly into an alleyway and vanished.

I peered into the darkness of the alley, squinting a little. It was like a cavern, swallowing up all light, so I couldn’t make anything out. What was in there? Should I follow?

My footsteps sounded loud on the pavement, so I bent over and slid my dainty heels off, holding them by the straps by my side. I followed him.

I heard his whistle, faint, further down. So I hurried, further and further and I still could not see him.

‘Amelia?’

I froze, my toes curling inwards on the cold, damp concrete beneath me. My eyes focused in the gloom; the brick walls on either side of me were illuminated by the faint lights out on the street; they were glistening.

‘Thomas?’

His voice was so clear, as though he was standing right next to me.

‘Thomas?’ I said again. The whistle sounded again, even fainter, and I knew then that the voice I had heard could not have come from Thomas, his whistle was too far away. Or was it?

‘Amelia..’

I jumped. It sounded right in my ear. I looked around frantically; nobody. Nothing. Just the damp concrete and the strangely glistening walls. My heart beating wildly, I tried to shake off this panic that rose within me like bile.

There is nothing to be afraid of, just carry on, it is not real.

I could not do it. My fingers clutched my shoes as I turned and raced out of the alleyway, the long rectangle of light from the street ahead of me looking so far away, every hair on my body standing on end, screaming at me to go faster faster get out of here before I am grabbed.

Finally I burst into the light, as a car sailed past me on the road. A gentleman walked across the street, head cast downwards. Lights twinkled at me in the shiny, shiny, post-rain twilight world.

I glanced behind me and shivered as I walked hurriedly, still barefoot, along the pavement. It was not Thomas. It could not be Thomas. Not my Thomas, at any rate.

It was not real.

Dear Amelia,

I write you from the depths of this ship. My cabin is fairly tight, four beds confined to a space not even wide enough to fit my length. But it is alright, the boys are friendly, we all await the end of our journey nervously. What will the war hold in store for us? I have spoken to some boys who have already been on the front line. They are cagey, and I heard one telling the the lieutenant that it was hard to remain cheerful about it all. I know they don’t want to terrify us with horror stories, and so we carry on. The closer we get to our destination, the more sombre everybody becomes, but we mask it with our jokes and tales of women and joy, and we smoke and smoke and smoke. Write me, Amelia, keep me updated, all the time. Fill your pages with tales of home.

Yours, 

Thomas

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