In the Dusk [18]

His first visit home was tinged with sadness. He came because of her sadness. He did not say so, but she knew.

She was walking in the garden when she heard the carriage pull up to the house.

Just a caller.

It was the right time for it.

Twilight in October. Days shortening rapidly. The breeze not yet cold enough to usher her indoors. Face lifted to the stars, which shone silently in the clear dusk. Distant clouds pink and purple, the surge of breeze every so often rifling through the changing leaves. Not so brittle, not so soft, so the rustle they made was like sheafs of textured paper being flipped through y invisible hands. What stories would the leaves tell?

Any moment now, her mother would call to her. Would say someone or other had called in, and she was to make herself available.

Dreary sigh.

‘Ahh, Laura. The beauty of dusk does not soothe you tonight,’

She whipped around, and there he was. Taller, if that was possible. So brown. Brown so his green eyes lit up his entire face, and the smile that did not appear on his lips beamed from his eyes.

She did not know what to do or say, so she moved towards him and flung her arms around him, hiding her face so he wouldn’t see her tears.

Furiously blinking them away, she exclaimed, ‘Tom. What are you doing here!?’

‘I was long overdue a visit to my dear mother,’ he said, and when she didn’t let go of him, he added, ‘I came straight out here to find you.’

‘How did you know I would be here?’

She stood back, finally, and her eyes glittered, but her smile took over her whole face.

‘Twilight on a clear day – I would be surprised to find you indoors.’

She sighed again. ‘It makes my heart ache,’ she murmured.

They stood a little whole longer outdoors, as the dusk turned into a clear, shimmering night.

Evening in the Garden by Jakub Schikaneder

Favourite song

What is your favourite song?

And why?

My thing to do when I am cleaning is to sing. I sing very loudly and probably very warbly, but I love to sing. I like to pretend I am an opera singer, or just a regular singer. I like to sing low down to the floor and high high high as a kite. Deep as a ravine, roaring in an echoey bathroom.

When I was a teenager my cousins recorded me singing loudly while I cleaned the bathroom, when I caught them they fell over themselves giggling as they tried to run away from my furiously brandished sponge. Was I embarrassed, then? Oh, terribly so. They mocked me for weeks afterwards, but then I realised I enjoy singing for the fun and the good mood more than I am embarrassed!

My mum sings when she is happy. When I was a child, hearing her sing made me feel relieved, it meant she was in a good mood.

Singing while she washed dishes, singing while she changed nappies, singing as she blew raspberries into my baby brother’s chubby little tummy. She used to sing ‘Video killed the radio kill’ which I later learned was ‘Video killed the radio star‘, and ‘Kookobara lived in the old plain tree‘ which was actually ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree‘.

So that is something my sister and I inherited from our mother.

I think my kids may have inherited it too. They both sing with great gusto, in public and at home, feeding off each other, instigating each other, louder and louder, opera style, until people turn to look at them and I try to shush them because they might ‘disturb other shoppers’ even though I myself do not mind their singing.

It’s a zeal, I think, for life, when you can sing. Loudly and freely.

Secret Toast

He always asked for secret toast. His bedside table stacked with books, the curtains always flung wide open and the windows dangling on the edges of falling off. Surges of winter air when the months were cold and gusts of fresh earthy breeze in spring. In the summer hot air pregnant with the scent of the roses outside and the apple trees burdened with their scarlet load. Tangy and sweet.

Secret toast, melted butter, the thinnest layer of strawberry preserves. Preferably with a cup of tea. Cocoa when he was smaller. Becky would bring it upstairs to him. After he was tucked in bed. After the lights were turned off. After he had brushed his teeth. He would hear the familiar creak of the stairs down the hallway. The squeeze of the floorboard just outside his bedroom door. Secret toast and hot cocoa.

‘Now eat up and go straight to sleep,’ Becky would say, leaving him with it.

She wouldn’t sit and talk to him, or play a game of chess. He never stopped pleading. By the light of the moon, he sat alone in his bedroom eating his secret toast and sipping his warm hot cocoa. Sometimes the stars would twinkle through the large windows of his childhood bedroom. Sometimes the stars would twinkle through the dormer window of his adult attic. Studio attic. Stacks of books everywhere, no shelves to put them in. Stacks of books neatly put away in shelves in his childhood, probably by Becky.

Secret toast at 12am, 1am, 2am, three.

Secret toast with butter and the thinnest layer of the cheapest jam he could find at the local corner shop. Cup of tea with a splash of milk and a tablespoon of sugar. Sweet and strong, like arms guiding him through the tough moments of it all.

The loneliness of it.

But the comfort in its familiarity.

Image Credit

Human Graffiti

I have twenty eight years on this God-given earth.

I think every single human being is made to put their mark on earth, in any which way. Little dots graffitiing out way through the blip that is our lifetime, before others replace us.

And others come across our art, for it is art, really, and what do they see? What do they learn? Do they continue our mark, adding paint and fine-tuning our brush strokes? Do they add details that we never saw, burgeoning our art into something else?

A beast, maybe. Clawing its way through solid walls and leaving a trail of rubble and wreckage in its wake. Sharp, sabre toothed, bad temper, a reek you can smell through seventeen mattresses.

Or a home, silent and still. Lampshades dangling cobwebs and dust. Do they come in and brush the dust gently away, painting warm glowing light in the corners, adding colour to the drab sepia, laughter of children drifting down hallways, carpets laid fresh like green grass. Strong, strong roots. Calm, loving, old arthritic hands knitting cardigans for everybody’s babies. And then years later, when you walk down a hospital corridor with your own babies and pass a rack full of hand-knitted cardigans a warmth floods your being. You wish she was there to knit cardigans for your own babies. My Nani. My Len. My first baby, she said, always, even though I was the first daughter of her first baby.

What do you see when you stand on the old old spot where millenniums stood before you? New homes on old grounds. New parks where old schools used to be. Do you think of the ghosts of yore, or do you dream of your own future ghosts to be?

Are you caught up in this race that everybody seems to be on?

Are you clouded by other people’s emotions and expectations?

Sadness and joy.

Have to fix all pains.

Not realising that sometimes, pain has to run its course.

What is your art?

New art? Continuation of somebody else’s art?

What pictures do you draw, my friend.

Can you say no?

Can you decline a wedding invitation, a request to go dancing, an enquiry about your ballet shoes?

Can you say no to the girl who asked you to watch her sister while she spends some time with her boyfriend?

Can you say no to the woman who wants to go cycling with you… but you really want to be alone?

Can you say no… when someone says they will pay you £2.50 an hour to teach their son another language?

Can you?

I couldn’t.

I couldn’t say no and I was told all the time.. SAY NO. Say NO. No.

No, I said, to those telling me to say no. No, I can’t say no.

Even though I just did.

Say no to the man who says ‘come and see me, be brave.’

Alarm bells clanging and mouth dry and heart wringing in fear.

Say no, Lenora, please.

Say no.

Just say no.

But I did not say no.

Sometimes I think I have healed but then I wake up dripping in sweat, heart palpitating, from a dream in which I am saying yes to all the things I do not want to do. I am frantic and anxious and running away but I cannot escape him, he has his sharp claws dug deep into my back.

It’s been eight years.

I said yes for two years and then one day I said no and it took all my strength to do it.

And it took me seven months to stop hyperventilating everytime my phone rang.

Took eight months for the severe stomach pains to go away.

It’s been eight years since I said that final no, and I still dream I can’t say no.

So please say no.

Let your children say no when they’re little, so that when they’re big and need to say no, they should be able to.

Say no.

To the right people.

It’s okay.