An Uncomfortable Man

I warn you dear reader this post is a little sordid.

The earth is crawling with life. Simply heaving with it. Crawling to microcellular level. Even life is crawling with life. Our very infrastructure is bacteria.

If you get a telescope out and skim the surface of Mars, you would see no life. Remnants of what scientists say might have been, could have been life, but never life itself.

The Mars rover leads a lonely, long existence.

And in this life, we are often lonely. Some of us are. We seek connections with other people.

Some connections are entirely benign, and enrich our lives.

Others, not so.

There is a man at work. A tall man. And he makes me feel vastly uncomfortable.

I noticed it first one day when I was talking to him, and I saw his eyes meander down to my chest. Ok. That was weird. But ok. What made it more uncomfortable was that his eyes stayed there, glancing upwards into my own once or twice, but lingering there.

I brushed that encounter away. After all, it could have been anything. Maybe he didn’t realise what he was doing.

I hugged myself, crossing my arms over my chest.

I was making coffee, downstairs in the business centre news anchor on the flat screen TV hooked up to the wall droning away about something or other. I leafed through the newspaper on the countertop, the coffee machine gurgling as my coffee splattered into my cup. Then there was his voice next to me. So close it made me take a step back and clutch my neck in fright. There he was, standing so close to me I could feel his body heat radiating off him.

‘Alright?’ he said, as though nothing was wrong.

There were some Americans filing into one of the meeting rooms; they had flown over for some big event, and they were part of his agency.

‘Yeah,’ I replied, glancing at them, ‘aren’t you part of the meeting?’ I gestured. So uncomfortable, battling with my distaste.

‘It takes the piss,’ he murmured, ‘but yeah.’

Ok. So go then. And leave me alone.

When I looked at him, I was shocked at how close he was to me.

Then I began to notice it more and more. He was moved to the seat next to mine, and every so often he would lean over, too close for comfort, and whisper something conspiratorial. As though we were in this pessimism towards the company together. Something derogatory about someone or other. Some ridiculous complaint about the weather, because yes, we always talk of the weather, or some moan about the horrible traffic into work. Such normal conversations, so what is the problem?

I tried to be nice. I tried so hard, but I just didn’t want to.

It would have been easy, if I didn’t notice how he looked up every time I stood up. And he would think I couldn’t see but I could feel his eyes on me. And when I looked at him they would snap away, from my chest, from somewhere else.

I began to cross my arms when I stood up, and to scarper as quickly as I could, round the corner. When I saw him walking towards me I would pretend I hadn’t seen him, and turn the other way. Every time he caught me though, he would stand way too close. When he showed me something on my computer, I could feel his breath on my neck.

Once I went downstairs to the receptionist; we have a little repertoire, and I put my hands on the counter and leaned forward. Her eyes met mine.

‘What’s up?’

‘I really hate this man,’ I told her.

Her eyes melted a bit, they cleared as though some clouds shifted to show a sky of understanding within.

‘Go on,’ she said, grimly. And I knew she knew.

When I told her, she immediately understood. I felt validated, somehow, as though I wasn’t just imagining things. She nodded firmly at me, and then when I told her who it was she said she felt the same vibes from him. She told me to request to move desks, which I did. I only moved one seat away but it was much better.

A week later, his agency moved him to another building. I heaved a sigh of relief. I felt free again. I almost danced when I left my desk. The air in the office was cleaner, lighter. I no longer looked over my shoulder.

Another week passed, and I get an email. To my work email. Addressed to me only.

Hi Len!

What lovely weather we’ve been having! I hope you’re enjoying the sun, I certainly am!

Hope you’re doing well!

Cheers,

Name

Now, you might think I am crazy. That’s a perfectly normal email, right? Right?

And he never did anything physically inappropriate, right?

He didn’t touch me. He didn’t say anything. In fact, on the surface of it all, he was always rather nice. His email was rather nice too. So you could say I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

And I do think I might have overreacted in my mind sometimes. I have to email him back, because he is in my company, and as my colleague put it, what say he is moved back, and then he asks why I never replied to any of his emails? His new office is literally four minutes away, I can see it from my window.

But I know how I felt. I know how relieved I was when he left. I know how my guts twisted whenever he came in. I know how close he stood to me, how his hands would accidentally brush me, where his eyes would wander. That was real.

I am not complaining at all. I am just stating the fact. He was an uncomfortable man.

 

 

Advertisements

The March Hare

This is a re-post of a post I posted in March 2013. March is special to me, for a very self centred reason.

alice in wonderlandYes there does seem to be rather an obsession with the creations of Lewis Carroll. Can’t you find any characters of your own, Lenora, rather than plagiarise everybody else’s!? Good grief.

Well yes, but I haven’t quite invented anything to do with March, and March happens to be a very important matter in my life. For example, at some point in my life, I shall demand to visit the town of March. Given than my husband to be is also born in March, this does not seem like such a concerning possibility. The March Hare, now, is a very celebrated character and I feel as though he deserves a very special dedication.

So, here’s to the March Hare, the subtle creature whose madness is rather equal and just as potent as that of the Mad Hatter, whose loyalty to his opinion is disdainfully grandiose, and whose ability to be demeaningly gracious is marvellous to behold, and quite candidly I tell you this, but it is also terribly enviable.

Here’s to his dubiousness on whether liking what one gets is the same as getting what one likes.

Here’s to his distinctly severe attitude to uninvited sitters at his table, and here, finally, is to his ability to be rather less grumbly than the Mad Hatter, and to possess a likeable amount of gloom and absurdity.

Here is, in short, to him who stands below:

Image

You have decided to leave some birds in the bushes. You used to want them all.

Originally, I wanted to use this quote for a piece of fiction, but then I thought, who am I kidding? What piece of fiction would do the real-world relevance of this quote any justice?

For a bit of background, this quote comes from an uncomfortable novella called ‘Alexander’s Bridge’, written by Willa Cather. I thought it was uncomfortable because it was a little clunky and slightly underdeveloped. Also it left a morbid terror in my heart. It is short, and a good read, if anybody is interested. You can even read it for free online on this website, if you desire.

You have decided to leave some birds in the bushes. You used to want them all.

I want all the birds in the bushes. I want to be the nicest, kindest, prettiest, most skilled, most revered person about. It is a secret, but I do. I want my husband to think I am the most beautiful woman he ever saw, the most interesting, funny, intelligent, valuable. I want myself to think it, and be it, and not care so much if he or anybody else thinks it either. I want to be relevant, but indifferent to my relevance. Ugh, that sounds whiny.

I want to be the most successful, do the best, speak the most interesting and outrageous words, make an impact that will make people look up and pay attention. Maybe even influence their thought processes. Maybe create a ripple through time, affecting future generations.

But I also realise this about myself; I am lazy, I don’t think hard enough, I don’t apply my thoughts, I waste a ridiculous amount of time, I procrastinate and lie about, I don’t tie ends together, I trail thoughts in the sand until they are unrecognisable mounds to be discarded.

In short, I am not a ‘great’.

I stumble, mumble, and am naive.

It is the truth.

I have a myriad of interests, but hone none of my skills. I am only slightly good at multiple things.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

I want everything. And because I want everything, I have nothing.

There.

I need to pick a skill, see, or a couple of skills (hah, doing it again), and master it. Then I will achieve what I want to. There is not enough time in life to master everything. And if you want to master something, like I do, then you have to make a decision.

My mother says it’s our generation. Apparently we all want to be famous and rich and successful. But that isn’t what I want. I don’t want to be famous, or even rich. I just want to know I have mastered something, that I have something to offer, that I have something I can say I worked hard for and achieved, that I made a difference that is positive. That I was intelligent and applied my intelligence correctly, that people learned something important from me.

Do you want all the birds in the bushes? Or have you plucked a couple and left the rest for other people?

a095fdf718b9e2aabb9ca1b5ad7e5f62--pretty-birds-beautiful-birds

Rosemary Millette artwork. Rosemary paints pictures around her hometown of South Dakota. Rosemary’s artwork has been featured on numerous state conservation stamps and she partners with many groups working to preserve wildlife and the natural world.

 

Power

As a relatively powerless person in the grand scheme of things, I have had very little experience with the phenomenon of power.

Not many people have access to it, mostly due to a lack of desire on their part to be anything in particular. Which is a good thing, maybe.

Also, there is that saying, with power comes responsibility.

I omitted the ‘great’, because ‘great’ power only applies to a minuscule fraction of humanity. Not everyone is born to be an oligarchical king. And country leaders oftentimes don’t hold full power (like Donald Trump, thank God), unless they are Kim Jong-un. They have massive responsibility, but they shirk it, to their moral detriment.

My interactions with power are few and far between. There was that teaching stint I had for three odd years. I felt mighty then. I managed many classes of 30 children, at all age levels, and I controlled them very well. I was in charge, I was looked-up-to. I had authority.

I was also responsible for anything that might go wrong. But I enjoyed that responsibility.

I wouldn’t class myself as ‘power-hungry’, but sometimes, just sometimes, I like to feel impressive.

Even if it is for a very short amount of time.

Like cruising down a highway, the beast beneath me building momentum slowly in that German way it has (no acceleration, but excellent speed maintenance), the budding strength of the car creeping up on me until I’m doing 90mph and ripping past everybody else, engine growling, wind screaming, countryside scaping.

It is the most terrifying, exhilarating feeling.

Snaking from lane to lane, outdoing other cars, hands tight on the steering wheel, sharp bend approaching, swaying with the car as it grips, oh so beautifully, to the tarmac, and round we swing.

I feel electric, powerful, mighty, fast, euphoric.

For a brief few moments, I am the queen of the roads, the devil behind wheels, the racing champion, sailing in a beast with the wind currents. The car bends to my will, and lends its strength to my desires. We become one terrible entity.

I could fly off the tarmac and tear through the atmosphere.

I could do anything.

For a brief few moments.

And then, great responsibility crashes through my power-high, and I remember the tarmac, and the speed, and pain of impact, and I reluctantly take my foot off the accelerator, and slow down, and match the humdrum pace of other commuters.

Sometimes I am forced to because humdrum commuters create obscene traffic, and how very dare they.

I guess you could say I, too, am a humdrum commuter. But I don’t see myself that way.

I am the queen of these roads. Move aside for my majestic power.

 

Monday Blues

I am feeling the Monday Blues.

The sky is grey, and I feel tentative. A small hole, from which to peer into the world. Is it safe to exit? I feel achey and vulnerable.

I don’t want to smile at anybody or engage in conversation.

How was your weekend? People are quick to ask.

It was alright. Quickly move on, how was yours? Now I can sit back and listen, or pretend to, while I to try to figure out what is so unsettling.

I was told recently that I am not good enough. In so many terms. It felt horrible because it came from somebody very valuable. I don’t try hard enough, apparently. In what way? In all the ways.

I think I am good enough. I think I am struggling, sure, but aren’t we all?

I think I am trying hard enough. Everyday I wake up early to meet my goals and achieve what I want to achieve.

Everyday I try to look better, be better, work better.

I don’t think it is kind to put somebody down because they don’t meet your unrealistic standard. I think that is cruel, and puts pressure on an individual.

I think some people have a standard in their heads and they expect other people to meet that standard, without accepting their strengths. They look only at their weaknesses and focus on those. I think that is a bad attitude to have.

I think people ought to look at themselves first, and try to improve themselves, before they treat others badly and say hurtful things to them.

I think – well, I think some people should not speak until they are absolutely perfect. And that is impossible. So they should just grow up. And hold their malicious judgement.

As if I don’t put enough pressure on myself, to have it from somebody who is supposed to be supporting and encouraging, is simply soul-crushing.

Monday Blues.

 

Letter to the Season

Dear Season,

I am sitting in a heated house while I write this. I am very much aware that many people don’t have heated houses, and the cold is so biting, that I feel guilty and undeserving of such a blessing.

It crept up on us, you see. We weren’t quite expecting it. Do believe me when I assure you that I am not attacking you in any way, whatsoever. You started off quite warm. I didn’t wear a jacket for two weeks straight, and oh, last weekend you were so deliciously warm.  You daintily shed off your summer garments, when they browned and frayed on the edges. Softly dropping them to the ground as you gracefully welcomed the inevitable change in your very soul.

But today you are cold. You breathe an icy breath on my toes, you whip through lush grass, and suddenly the blades look ominous and cutting. Where did your cold come from? Am I being too ungrateful in questioning it? Is it uncouth of me to expect warmth in the season of blustery winds and rainy days? You welcomed the storm, O’ season. You opened your warm arms, welcomed the ravaging winds, and now the air outside is biting and snappy, and sends us hurrying from one indoor place to another. Does it bother you that we no longer wish to revel under your skies? Or are you glad, Season.

I send you a shrug, O’ season. I see how people are bundling up against you, I see the shelves are groaning under the weight of all the goodies we are expected to hand out to children, I see the glamorous lights twinkling in the early evenings, and I send you a shrug.

Make of that what you will.

Good day to you.

Regards,

Lenora

7905511.jpg

Image Credit: Hazel Thomson Art

Winter Sunflowers

My sunflowers started out as small seeds, teardrops of dark grey streaked with cream. They began to peep through the soil, hardy little shoots, two little green leaves so tiny I could crush them in a heartbeat.

My sunflowers dug their roots into the soil, spreading the delicate little underground branches so they tangled together, and curled around the edges of the plant pot.

My sunflowers began to droop; there was no more space for the roots to spread, so they begged to be placed in fresh soil. I dug holes in my flowerbed for them, in soil I’d prepared weeks before.

In the second week of October, my sunflowers, now fifteen cm tall and developing firm stalks, their leaves long and wide, found a new home in my Westerly flowerbed.

I worry about my sunflowers. I worry I planted them too late. I know they don’t get along very well with Winter, and I worry she will grasp them with her frosty fingers at their most vulnerable stage.

I am not a gardener, you see. I grew up in the desert, all our plants died. We planted carrot tops and garlic and onion bulbs, and the weak, pale shoots that managed to scrape through dry soil was cause for much celebration and excitement for us. Summers back in England were spent fascinated by frondescence. We loved weeds, that is a sure sign, if any, that we were deprived of greenery. I don’t know if I did right by my sunflowers, planting them at the end of August, like I did.

I have planted about thirty tulips and hyacinths, in preparation for spring! Here’s to hoping they explode with colour at their due time!

I used up all my sunflower seeds at the end of summer, and now it is an experiment to see if they will grow.

A race with time, and a bet against the weather.

So far it has been warm. Too warm for October, in fact. Despite ‘storm Ophelia’, Britain has been basking in plenty of sunshine.

I hope that bodes well for my sunflowers.

bd309e4865fd3cb683812b62d2ca32ea

A Small Thought

I don’t have a favourite colour. I never have had one. I just tell people its blue, but when I picture blue in my mind it doesn’t please my guts.

Lately I have been saying it is metallic pink. Everything I own now is metallic pink. Even the shoes I am wearing. Deichmann, 19 quid.

I don’t particularly like metallic pink but it pleases my gut, so there must be some sort of spark there.

I think some children are embarrassed to talk about marriage and children. It’s a strange phenomenon. An eight year old boy I was teaching was trying to explain storytelling through the generations, and he said, ‘When I’m, well, when I have a child of some sort. Well, a small cousin of some sort, I will probably have a lot of stories to tell too.’

I chuckled at that. I was like that. I told my mum flat out that I would never get married. Ever. That it was a ridiculous notion and intolerable to me, at age eleven. Secretly I was crushing hard on my now-husband. He was fourteen and quite dashing. Did I tell anybody? Of course not. And I was quite cruel to him too. He must never be allowed to find out. I even prayed that when I was older, he would want to marry me. I actually got on my knees and prayed.

I said, ‘Oh dear God, please let me marry him when I am older.’ Every day for two months. I didn’t even say, ‘please let him be my boyfriend.’ I wanted something more solid than that, I suppose. Something in writing. 

Then I forgot, of course. Or it didn’t matter to me so much. My attentions were drawn elsewhere. Life. Exams. Stories to write and read. Exciting social events. Friends. Everything took over.

I even deviated a little and lead myself astray by mixing with some Bad Folk. Let us not tread those waters.

But at eleven, I prayed for him. So weird.

Seven years later, though, I married him. I guess prayers are answered. I married him after only four or five dates. That is weird. But I so wanted to. And I still want to. And I would do it all over again and get really excited to.

I have also never told anybody this. I fear I will appear a fool.

If I ever get to be old, I want to be old with my husband. I want to sit on a bench and stare as the world rumbles by. I believe it will be rumbling by then, not screeching as it is now. My hearing shan’t be as clear as it is now so that might contribute to the rumble.

Who knows.

All I know is that we are here on earth, and earth is fleeting. The people we meet and live with and accompany will leave us, will die, will be separated from us.  All I know is that we are still whole, with or without our loved ones, and that one can love wholly and completely without giving a piece of oneself away.

And that is what I am trying to do.

SR-Main.jpg

Monstrosity

A word must be put in for monstrosity.

It has an ugly head, but disguises itself wonderfully under the soft and peachy skin of a four year old child who is loved by everybody. She knows she is loved. She knows her smile will charm an adult, and a kiss on a wrinkled cheek will yield more affection, which she thrives on.

Her eyes are wont to fill quickly, as her heart is so sensitive, and the adults croon over her, saying what a kind and wonderful soul she has.

‘You were so sweet and charming, Len,’ my mother says.

She doesn’t know the truth.

She doesn’t know that when I was four, I used to pinch a little girl. I pinched her and she cried.

I did it again the next day.

And the day after that as well.

I don’t know why I did it. I just remember doing it. I remember feeling guilty.

So why did I do it?

What was wrong with me?

Was I guilty about doing it, or was I guilty about being found out?

If you look at photographs, you see a small child with shiny brown curly hair and a dimpled smile. Her eyes sparkle with innocence and brim with joy.

If you peep into my memories, you see lots of love. Lashings of it. I am saturated in love. I have so much that it spills easily out of me and I can make little gifts of it to give to everybody else.

So where was the love in my four year old brain when I pinched that innocent little girl who did nothing to me?

My mother doesn’t know that when I was seventeen, I thought I was in love, and did many selfish things to chase something that was bad for me.

She doesn’t know that when I was twenty three, I felt hard done by, and used my husband’s love for me to selfishly get my own way, even though another party deserved to have her whims met more than I.

She doesn’t know that I have temper tantrums, sometimes, and say cruel things to my husband, who goes out of his way to please me, and who always wants to treat me well.

She thinks I am kind, and compassionate, and sweet, and she takes comfort in the fact that a child of hers creates good in the world.

But you see, I don’t feel so good.

I feel monstrous.

I cannot sleep at night, because I cannot ask forgiveness of those I have wronged, because I am either terrified they will crash back into my life, or because they do not know I have wronged them.

I did not commit a murder. I didn’t take anybody’s rights away. They probably don’t even think about what happened because they don’t know, and even if they did, they would not think it was monstrous.

But it is.

Oh, it is.

And humanity is not perfect, nor will it ever be. Humans make mistakes, that is for sure. But I have learned one heartbreaking thing about adulthood, and that is that humans have the power to hurt others. They can hurt others without realising it, so very deeply, and they can make selfish mistakes.

The mistakes you can make, others can make too. So you really should work on treating people well, and really think about what slithers out of your mouth.

There.

That is all I have to say today.

I wanted to disguise these dark thoughts in a piece of fiction, but I don’t have it in my heart. I feel very heavy and monstrous.

I have to work on being kinder, and better, and more honest. And dear God, forgive me for pinching that girl when I was four years old, because I severely regret it. What was wrong with me?

I long for a past I didn’t live.

I was watching some old adverts from the 1950s, and as the scratchy music saturated the room around me, my retina display screen flickering with the erratic film of times of yore, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of deep sadness and great nostalgia.

I felt as though I belonged somewhere, and left it a long time ago, and these jingles reminded me of a time I was a part of, and yet missed.

It was so strange.

You see, I was born in 1994, the turn of the century. I would say I am a millennial, if even that, right on the cusp of one generation and teetering on the edge of the next.

I grew up with dial-up internet connection, satellite TV and the iPhone revolution. Of course, we didn’t have any of these things, because my parents had old fashioned notions about technology. My mum still thinks she doesn’t need a mobile phone, and laments days of yore when she could do what she wanted without somebody being able to get a hold of her whenever they wanted. It works swell for me, I am an anxious person and I need to check on my mother’s safety, much to her vast irritation!

Of course, there were aspects of my life that were still very reminiscent of times of yore. My grandmother’s kitchen was time capsule, not changed since 1971, and her habits and ways were very much what she had been brought up with in the 40s and 50s. Can you believe she was born in 1935? Before the second world war? My own Nana? The thought fills me with wonder. My mother was a70s – 80s teenager, and the pop songs of the time were what she sang when in a good mood. Songs I never heard but knew off my heart, so when I did hear them I was pleasantly surprised and suddenly sad.

‘Video killed the radio star, video killed the radio star’ over and over when she fried eggs or mopped the kitchen floor. I heard this song throughout my life from her own mouth, and then last month when I was watching Take This Waltz (directed by Sarah Polley) – the song played in one of the scenes, and I had to pause it, sitting up in shock. Hey, this is an actual real song!

When I was in a museum once, a song from 1904 played over and over again, scratchy and faint, and I stopped and stared at a wall for five minutes because I felt as though a rope had suddenly jerked me back through the curtain of time, and I was in a place I had never been, but ached for. I wanted to stay there forever, but at the same time I wanted to run far, far away.

I ache when I watch those old adverts. It’s so strange. What is this phenomenon?

When I scrolled down to see the comments under the video, I noticed quite a lot of other people felt nostalgia for this time too, despite never existing then and never experiencing it.

My husband scoffs at me, he has no time for the old, he is always looking ahead at what is new and innovative and what the future will be. But I seem to be a sad little ghost peering in through cloudy windows at years gone by, straining my ears to hear the voices of decades past. I want them so badly. I don’t know why, or what I want, but I want those sounds, that scratchy record player, those brown shoes, the clatter of forks, the dull brown wallpaper, the 1960 Cadillac, the haze of cigarette smoke, the jingles, the streets, all of it.

My logical mind tells me that this, here, now, 2017, is my time, just like 1962 was their time, and forty years later this will be vintage nostalgia; but I do not see it like that.

And I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

Its the strangest thing, because I am certain I would not particularly like life back in the 1950s. Men were incredibly sexist and women did not have many chances in the world, life was more difficult, and the economy was trying to recover from the Great Depression.

However, I know there were good parts too, else the elders wouldn’t want to talk so much about it.

What do you think? Do you ever feel nostalgia for a time you never lived?

bf0b07983e7aca65aeae6f5874e5969f