March

 

The sun has not yet risen completely, it struggles through some pinkish clouds, a colourful backdrop to the silhouette of a cherry blossom tree, now downy and pink. The car door of a 2005 Nissan Micra opens, a black boot with the toe worn away is pulled into the driver’s side, the door slams shut. Engine rumbles. BBC Radio 4 starts, 7:25am with a discussion on whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union.

I don’t have many thoughts on the matter. I know most politicians are arguing their cases based on personal gain. Nobody really cares about what will happen to the rest of us. Are we safer? Are we more susceptible? I’m inclined to stay, mostly because I don’t like massive change. The last time we had such a big change, bombs were being thrown down on London.

Boots walking on the pavement. Sometimes trainers. Sometimes wet, sometimes dry. Sound of ice scraper scraping away frost off the windows of my Nissan Micra. Ice chips flying over the edge of the windscreen, breath clouding as red-cold fingers tap the ice scraper on a red brick wall, and slip it into the car door pocket.

Knocking on a wooden door.

Bags and shoes clattering down a narrow corridor. Two boys clambering into my car, shoving each other as they do.

“Don’t talk to strangers!”

“Have a nice day!”

A blue scarf is wrapped around my neck, a light blue jacket, slightly rumpled, adorns my shoulders. I carry a black backpack, containing my laptop and all my study books.

Into the glass library, hot cup of black coffee swirling, loud tapping on a keyboard.

A cough. Two coughs.

Chatter over books.

Chatter over chips about books.

A pile of books falling on the table, feverish thumbing through the pages. Hours stretched out in the Glass Library on the sofa, the light from the laptop screen heavy illumination in the dimness of the library at midnight.

The frost stops.

I say goodbye to my family who are going to visit my dad for Easter. I didn’t go with them because I am bogged down with assignments.

D and I travel to March, a small town with one high street and a quaint little museum. We have a Subway, buy some books from a charity shop, and drive on to Sutton Bridge. It’s windy and cold and barren, and nobody walks along its narrow streets. Lots of houses are run down and empty, graffiti scrawled on their broken walls. We drive to Hunstanton beach the next morning, and a storm drives us indoors, wet and shivering. We have jacket potatoes and tea. King’s Lynn  is empty because it’s Easter Sunday, so we watch Zootropolis in an ancient picture house. The seats are red velvet, and the ceilings are heavily designed, stained glass windows adorn the balcony looking out over the black and white tiled lobby.

The clocks go forward.

The sun shines.

The blossoms open their pretty pink and white petals to embrace the deep blueness of the sky.

I am again sitting in the dark, typing away, twenty two years old and not a day wiser, each click of the clock a loud, muffled thump as the last second of March ticks by.

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Love Letters #1

I don’t know if you know this, but I love you.

I thought I loved you in the first month of our marriage.

I thought I loved you last year, when we were married for a year.

I thought I loved you on December the 19th, when I threw everything out of the cupboard in anger, and you were furious, and we didn’t talk all the way back to your family home, and you went out until late, and I was bloated and felt horrible, and you came back as I lay in the darkness, and without a word you held me.

Or last month, when you slept holding me so tightly I woke up with neck pain, and you massaged it before hauling yourself up for that long drive to work.

I did love you then, of course I did, but as the time passed, it crept up on me more and more and poked me on the shoulder, and when I looked back to acknowledge it, it had become a mass double its previous size.

Threatening to envelope me and overwhelm me.

Shall I give myself up to it?

I don’t think so.

I think I will carry on walking through life, clambering up the steep bits, pulling myself up the stark cliff faces.

Sometimes you’re ahead, holding your hand out to steady me over the sharp rocks, and sometimes I am throwing you a rope, and slowly hefting your tired body up.

Sometimes you are leaping on way ahead of me, and I am out of breath and in tears, struggling to catch up, calling your name but my voice is so faint over the wailing wind.

But you always stop. You stop and look round, and realise I have fallen behind, and you wait for me. Sometimes you come back to help me forward, holding me tight in your strong arms, whispering sweet somethings in my ear. Somethings I will never forget.

I want to get old with you. I want to go everywhere with you. I want to see you smile, and watch you learn and grow and change. I want to see your awe and excitement, I want to be a part of your epiphanies. I want to make you happy.

I know sometimes we will fight horribly. I won’t agree with you and you will become cold and hard, like marble. But you know me, and I know you. I know what you are about to say before you say it, and sometimes you can guess what I am thinking just by looking at my face.

Sometimes I smile at you, and you ask me what’s wrong.

“That lip,” you say, “is quivering.”

You pull me away from the crowd.

“Your eyes,” you say, “are not happy Len eyes.”

“Your personality,” you say, when I am at my lowest point, sad and inadequate and demotivated, “lights up the room.”

I know I love you more today than I might next week. But know that even when the love wanes, and anger and frustration take its place, I will still get up early for you, I will still see you off, I will still kiss you goodbye and make sure you have your hat on your ears. I will make sure you have enough blanket at night. I will get your pyjamas ready for you on those late, exhausted nights. I will ‘sort you out’ for lunch, because I know better than you know what you want. I will make sure you eat when you are so focused on your work you forget to take your coat off. I will hold you until you fall asleep, your breathing gradually becoming deeper and deeper.

I love you in words. I love you in actions. I love you in thoughts.

 

After I Left You

By Alison Mercer.

I found this book by chance in a town called March, in March, and I read the blurb and thought it would be interesting, and so much to Damian’s disappointment (he thinks I buy too many books and is heavily concerned about where I am going to put them all) I carried it to the till.

Every broken heart has a history.

Anna Jones went to university in Oxford, at a college called St Bart’s. While there she meets a group of people who later become her friends. The relationships she has with these people are at times complicated and even fragile, everybody being young and wilful and in the process of growing up.

The story starts off in the present day, with Anna heading towards middle age. She has a chance encounter with her old ex, Victor, and this brings in a flood of all the old friendships and experiences of her past, which make her realise that she needs to face up to what happened at St Bart’s so long ago.

But what did happen? This huge question creates an atmosphere of suspense and trepidation throughout the book, and it is done so creatively and also craftily that there were certain points where I could not put the book down. I always wanted to know more!

I think the strength of this book lies in the massive secret that is slowly being unfolded. However the plot of a book cannot rely alone on the buildup to exposition, and what really carries this book forward is the wonderful characterisation, the strong, complex portrayal of human behaviour, relationships, the selfishness and insecurities of youth, all interwoven into these characters, making them very real and sometimes hateful. I also couldn’t help falling slightly in love with some of them.

After I Left You is one of those novels that will linger with me as life drags me ever forward. It belongs in my bookshelf, a place reserved only for books that evoke something inside me and ignite my mind. This is one such book.

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On Mothers

Mothers are strong creatures. They sustain life within their able bodies for nine months, and then after the trauma of growing a real life baby and birthing it out of them in what is commonly hours and hours of excruciating pain and exhaustion, do they get a holiday?

No, sir, they do not. They immediately launch themselves into a manic system of nurturing, which makes for very comfy times for the newborn baby (who by the way remembers nothing of the pooping and crying and burping and crying and pooping and crying), but horrific times for the mother. Staying up all nights at unheard of hours. Is she partying? Well, she has vomit on her but none of it is alcohol induced. She is rocking and patting and humming and sleepwalking and sometimes, she might be crying.

Her body has just gone through a tremendous change and she is sore and painful and completely, utterly self-less. Nothing she does is for herself. That bath? For her? Gosh no, see how she dips her elbow inside to make sure it’s the perfect temperature? She WISHES somebody would do that for her. No, folks, it’s for the precious little person that she is taking care of now, that is claiming every second of her life. She will gladly jump into a bath of cold water just to get the baby gunk off her. Hell, she is too afraid to poop in case it wakes up and screams its head off.

She is a powerful lady full of love and care and emotions. Sometimes she has other minions who are clinging to her skirts as she attempts to take care of the little creature she has birthed. These other creatures are a little older, but still as demanding.

‘Where’s my breakfast?!’ screams one.

‘Charlie is eating my toes, Mummy!’ shouts another.

‘Muuuuuuum. Tell Peter to get out of my room!’

‘Mother, I can’t wear this it’s stained.’

‘TELL LENORA TO TAKE OFF MY SHOES RIGHT NOW MAMA!!!!!’ (my sister, folks)

A mother is a therapist. She listens to everybody’s problems and helps them come to a solution. A mother is a cook, a cleaner, a nurse. She is exceptionally skilled at hearing noises in the night time, and can wake up at the slightest floorboard creak. She is used to her little ones running up to her to tell her all the gory details of their potty business.

A mother is a selfless being who gives everything she has to her children, only to have them move away from her at some point when they reach adulthood and start fending for themselves. For a lot of mothers, this is a welcome break.

Be gone, they think, and leave me finally to do what I have been wanting to do for eighteen years! To sit back and have a cup of tea without any interruptions!

But that doesn’t stop them from worrying about whether or not Peter has had dinner and why Jane is looking so pale.

Mothers are powerful because they have magical ears that can pick out exactly what their baby’s cry means, the silence that means a toddler is behind the door with his fist inside the sugar bowl, and who is in the kitchen by the way they open a fridge.

‘GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN,’ the mother roars, aware she sounds just like her own mother.

They are strong because they put everybody’s emotions before theirs, and carry their troubles along with their own. They cater to everybody’s needs, at the detriment of their own.

They are forgiving because no matter how many times you have transgressed the limits, they will still love you and make sure you have a nice hot meal when you come home late from university, shattered.

My mother lost her mother five years ago. Sometimes my mother wants a mother to get warmth and comfort from. I heard her say to her friend once, ‘It’s just hard, you know, a mother is the centre of your world.’ Sometimes I say, “I’ll be your mother, mama,” because if I didn’t have my mother I would be lost, so lost. I want to make her feel better. It’s nowhere NEAR the same, of course. She bats me away and tells me not to be so ridiculous when I try to give her a motherly hug. Sometimes my mother will get a faraway look in her eyes and when she thinks nobody is looking, a great sadness will come over her face. I know, then, that she is thinking of her mother and it breaks my heart because she is my mother, and I never want her to be sad. When my mother used to cry, I would cry too, because her pain is my pain. And I am not always the nicest daughter to her, and I am so sorry for that, so I am actually going to pause this post and go call her.

Mothers are special folks. Not everybody gets along with their mothers. Some mothers are different from other mothers. They come in all shapes and sizes. But if you have a mother, and if you love your mother, then this is a post that commemorates her along with all the other hardworking mums out there. May they be blessed and happy and healthy, and may they find peace and happiness in their children and families.

Shriya Das mother-and-child-painting-358-L

Shriya Das