Love Letters #46

To the night.

As the day wanes, and the sky gives way to the ever-lurking darkness, the sounds of life retire.

Alive.

But not quite so.

Under a darkening sky, the stars begin to wink. Off and on, in and out, and the purple tendrils of space creep in between them.

And the earth begins to hum, a strange hum that nobody notices by day.

In the silence of the night, they say.

But the night is never silent.

A small face, from the third floor window, upturned towards the sky. It stretches beyond, forever. Stars upon stars, and when you look away, more stars appear, only to be wiped out when you focus on them. And the more you look, the more she looked, layers of stars appeared, until the sky was alight with them, hundreds of thousands, how had she never seen that many before.

And through the years, when life takes her up in its arms, harassing and tugging and screeching like an unstoppable machine, the night still hums with the sound of the earth. Not heard as often, when sleep embraces her warmly, when she snatches at what little she can, she forgets that the earth hums. Hums with the sound of millions, droning through the dark. And the wide silence of space, above.

The night has sounds, you see. Far away freight trains, spilling their hoarse roars into the atmosphere. A dog barking, yowling over the distance, like a banshee over the hills, distorted by the long shadows of trees and the loud silence of night. A car driving by, the engine obscenely loud. And lights in houses, everybody tucked away, except those who dare venture out in the echoing dead of it all. Breathing, as a whole. Breathing, as one.

Dead, but alive.

Alive, but not living.

And the stars, the same, but different. Through older, wiser eyes. Twinkling that same old story, through thousands of years.

And the sound of the earth humming its hum, uninterrupted by machine life.

The sound of the earth, humming, louder and louder, as the inky blackness of the sky spreads its fingers down to earth.

And the stars wink brighter, one by one.

This, this is the night.

And she is at peace, in the thundering hoarseness of earth, the trains in the distance, the snippets of humanity, the wind rustling through blades of grass, the insects, teeming at her feet. She is at peace, as the world sleeps around her, and the earth keeps on humming.

She is at peace. For now.

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Running on Empty

Why do people say that they are running on empty?

They aren’t running.

They are just empty.

The sun can suck your energy out.

Especially if you live in a country where the sun is consistently shrouded by cloud.

Clouds of shroud.

Covering its beaming face.

When the sun comes out all and sundry scuttle from their hidey holes.

And it drains energy.

So lobster arms and legs sprawl, blistering, in the heat, empty cans hanging loosely from fleshy claws.

And people are truly, then, running on empty.

And when the sun sets, and the ashen dregs of barbecues are ground into the floor under hardened soles, the cold night air surges again, and the stars pop out to twinkle, one by one.

We never run on empty.

We just run.

Love Letters #44

Eyes wide.

Awake.

They are wonderful eyes. The small lines travelling from the pupil to the edge of the iris, so fine, so perfect in their tangled journey outwards. And from afar, so mesmerising.

The black hole in the middle of this emerald city expands, and contracts, and expands again. And when her face is so close to his, it is so wide that the iris is a slim ring – a jade moat between the black fortress, and the milky sea beyond.

She knows he is smiling without looking at his mouth, because the skin at the corners of these windows to the world, to the soul, crinkle a little.

And she is at peace.

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Calidity

Today is a real Monday of a day, folks.

Nobody in the office wants to talk. All conversation is terse and halted. Stumbling and awkward.

The air is heavy and thick, and breathing is difficult. The heat pounds outside on the glass, in that silent scheming way it has. Condensation forms a layer of sweat on the lips of windows, and the small puffs of air we get through the slim cracks, made so because this country is an infrastructure of Health and Safety, are few and far between.

Alex uses two screens, her hazel eyes scanning first one and then the other. Her long neck pulls her head sideways, almost like an inquisitive sparrow, but there is a look of tense determination on her face. I feel irritated every time I look in her direction, so I don’t.

She always has work to do, and when she doesn’t she actively seeks it. She is like a badger sniffing out of its set. A mouse tottering to and fro. A beaver stacking wood. A long neck waving here and there, alert and watching, snapping up a job the moment it comes through. Scavenging.  She is an honest working person but she drives me mental with her oblivious morality.

And the Woman Who Laughs is wearing jodhpurs today. Jodhpurs. And a waistcoat. And a cowboy hat. Indoors. She might as well have bells hanging from her hems.

The fields in the distance sizzle with heat. The sun shimmers on the green, a lazy haze over the slopes. Even the birds seem too tired to chirp. And minuscule cars on the distant hills glint brightly in the sun as they wind around the curling country roads. I contemplate drowsing in my car for half an hour, but the heat in there is ten times worse.

A yawn.

A clatter.

Keyboards clacking away.

A laugh, hushed.

A murmur.

A conversation in the far end of the office.

Hello. I have a query today.

Goddamnit these people never answer the phone!

I would like to go home now please.

Ergophobia

What do you suppose we call laziness, when it is diagnosed by a skilled physician?

What, do you suppose, we call the consistent, affluent pouring of money into a trough, from which we cherry-pick luxury?

What do we call it when a young man idles under a tree, hour to day to week to month to year? A book hangs lifelessly from his soft hands, and the humming tick of his mind slows to a mere clatter, every few hours or so.

What do we call it when the sunrise is missed, for years on end, in favour of a warm bed, the result of long nights of amusement and carousing?

Well, Adrian Dermody certainly didn’t know. He didn’t stop for a moment to think anything of it. It was nothingness to him.

Nothingness decorated with soft scent and gilded most marvellously.

And yet, there was a perpetual cloud around his vision. He was listless. He was calmly suffocating. There was no mirth in anything.

‘What is the matter with you?’ his mother said, crossly, when he picked at his supper, sliding the food around his gleaming plate like a petulant child.

‘Why mother, I tire of life,’ he said drearily, and leant on his in-turned wrist to stare glumly out of long, rain-lashed windows, which reflected the marvellous dining room in which they sat.

His mother, who had been ergophobiac all her life, merely tutted and rang the bell for the servants to clear the dishes away. She would then rumble off to recline on a chair, while she talked idly of nothing with her son and her husband, the latter of whom would murmur absently that he was ‘listening, dear’, whilst he laboured away at the week’s newspaper puzzle.

For he, too, was an ergophobiac.

And ergophobics will never be happy, and mark my words.

 

Lady Frost

It snowed on Sunday.

It was the most beautiful moment. The flakes floated down softly, yet vastly, and blanketed the world in white silence. It continued this way, muffling the earth and quieting the anxiety.

It settled in mounds, neatly covering surfaces, polite enough not to transgress corners too sharply.

Then the night set in. The skies were clear and bright, deceivingly normal. They told no secrets, and never whispered of the harsh frost that slid down over the snow, beads of icy diamond, crystal hand running smoothly over the world, leaving trails of black ice and hardening the surface of the globe.

Harsh.

Bitter.

Painful.

Treacherous.

Tendrils of bitter cold snaking through the streets, splaying over the pathways, freezing around the condensation on doors, cracking in the locks and stubbornly welding things together.

The world was so beautiful come morning. White and blue, a clear sky in stages of brightening colour, black, bare boughs against soft blues and yellows of a mellow sky.

The snow didn’t melt, it stayed in the same way in which it settled, untouched, with a dangerous glint to its surface.

And pavements were deadly, and cars crackled on the road as they inched oh so slowly around corners.

Frost is the most beautiful and majestic creature, she changes the world so marvellously, but to love her is to prick one’s finger on a flowering rose bush. She is deceiving and devious. She is only good in sips, the rest of the time one spends peering at her through heavy hoods or the cloudy window from the warmth of one’s home.

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Love Letters #40

Dear Friday,

Am I allowed to write a love letter to a day of the week? Is it the done thing to do? Am I cheating on Tuesday, if I use her generous time to commemorate her competitor?

Oh but Friday, how I look forward to you. I eagerly await your sunrise, I dance through your hours with a spring to my step, even in the dead of winter. You fill me with joy, hope and an anticipation which grows with every hour approaching dusk.

You signify the end of an arduous week, and the blossoming of freedom and a thousand possibilities. You are better than a Saturday or a Sunday, because rest during your hours feels deserved, somehow; earned.

Oh, I love you, Friday. A deep, burgeoning love. A love that breeds of yearning and satisfaction. A love that comes from tenderness and care; a soft lamp on a tired evening, the soft rustle of pages turning in an exciting book, the warm smell of freshly cooked pizza, delivered to the front door.

Friday, you massage my achey feet, you throw my door open for me and the light flooding out is beckoning, full of promise. On other days I walk in stressed, thinking about the work ahead of me, but on your days, you caress me so and my mind empties. My shoulders relax.

I miss you when your last tendrils float away into the deep night, and I long for you before the new week has begun.

You are my new hope, and my old joy.

Yours most faithfully.

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Twilight Terrors

It isn’t dark.

It isn’t light, either.

It is the tricky light; where the sky is clear as day, but earth is filled with shapes and shadows, which move when they shouldn’t.

They slink behind trees, and peer from the pale walls of white houses.

They watch, silently, as you go about your business.

Maybe they hide in the backseat of your car, so you turn around quickly when you get in, but they always vanish just in time.

Maybe you hear their cackle echo as they shoot round the corner, like a vanishing puff, and you aren’t sure if you saw something, or if the not-quite-darkness played a trick on your eyes.

The best weapon for this time of night is a warm jacket. Make sure the inside lining is soft, and make sure you drown in your jacket. It’s the only way to keep you safe from the Twilight Terrors.

The Last Day

It was the last day of summer.

The last day the frogs leapt in unison. The last day the Rooks flew into town, sailing on the wafts of music which floated up between the long fingers of flutists. The last day peach gowns were worn, gossamer and chiffon wafting gently in the breeze as though underwater.

It was the longest day of the year, the shortest night. Some reckoned the night didn’t come at all, because the sun was peeking blearily over the tip of the horizon, hiding her fiery hair, but not quite low enough so her rays didn’t escape and lighten the blackness of night.

Penny’s parents were preparing for the sunset, the sunset that would never come.They ran around the kitchen like headless chickens, and she smiled to herself.

She watched them from her corner in the kitchen, where the small window fit neatly into the little alcove, and was a porthole to the view of the sharp, steep landscape outside their house. She sat on a small red cushion, worn and faded from years of use, on the small wooden window seat.

When she turned back to the view outside, she saw the Rooks. An entire flock of them. A colossal black cloud, swirling over the mountainous city, like an ominous vortex. Their hoarse cries rising in the sky, a bellow of extortionate proportions. The very utensils shook on their hooks, the mugs rattled and the cupboard doors vibrated with the sound of over a thousand of them, and Penny slammed her hands over her ears.

The music from the city was drowned, and the sun sank lower in the horizon. She watched as they soared around the city once, twice, and a third, final time, before they swooped upward, covering the sky, and bringing darkness onto the world. Pitch blackness draped her window, and Penny found herself looking at the glass and seeing only her dim reflection, and the reflection of the wooden kitchen in it.

She turned to her parents, they had stopped what they were doing, and were standing, frozen, eyes on the window. The house began to hum with the screeching outside. It was beyond anything she could imagine, and even though they heard it every year, the sound was momentous. Time-stopping. Gut-wenching. She felt it in her bones, her heart was beating to the sound of it. Her breathing changed to match the shift in tune. The sound was increasing. Louder and louder, the vibrations more and more intense, until, as the clanging orchestra outside reached its peak, a sudden silence filled the room. The darkness outside surged, replaced by a dim twilight, and Penny stared up at an empty sky.

The Rooks had vanished.

The remaining twilight would hang over the world for a few weeks, before the black tendrils of winter edged their way across the sky, bringing frost and snow.

The last day of summer.

 

 

Love Letters #14

18.09.1994

Falling in love is like descending into madness. The first few days are euphoric. Everything they do or say is special and fabulous, melting your heart into mush and making your knees tremble with the sheer power of their words, their voice. Then the twisting knife of jealousy and fear begins to pry at the very top layer of your skin, shaving off small translucent curls. Barely noticeable in the beginning, obscured by the encompassing passion of hormones and intoxication. Hormones, I think, can be like drugs, if administered in large enough doses.

Soon the knife digs in deeper and the Alices and Katies and Corals of the world rear their pretty heads and tinkly voices, wreaking havoc in the oh so perfect system.

It’s not supposed to be like this. It’s not, it’s not. Every time I think about him my whole body shifts, as though it is leaving this realm of reality and floating a little higher. Everything is a little brighter. Old crushes are now pale and unappealing, mere fragments of memory on the edge of this brilliant sphere in which I now hang.

Falling in love is painful.

I am not too young to understand it. This is love. This all encompassing passion. This drive to do things I have never done before. This mad hunger pushing me outside my comfort zone. The whole world is small and insignificant. Nothing matters.

Until it feels like your whole world is shaken and pulled from under your feet like a rug, and you are displaced and the fall when it comes is hard and harsh and sudden, aftershock reverberating around your skull like a metal stinging wasp.

Who is Alice? WHO IS SHE? I thought you loved me. I thought this was love. I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME.

Lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling, too numb to cry. Wanting to scream and scream but knowing it won’t solve anything, won’t take the pain away.

‘You’ll get hurt,’ they tell me, ‘you don’t know what you are doing. Stay away from him, you don’t understand love.’

I fell in love. You don’t understand, you adults with experience, that I need to experience this for myself. I am young and naive and too trusting, but this feeling is too powerful for me to ignore. You should know this. I can’t stay away. It is physically impossible. My intuition doesn’t know any better.

And when all your prophecies come true why do you say ‘I told you so.’?

Just hold me and tell me this is a lesson to learn from, like you learned yours. I know you want to keep me away from the pain that you know, but how will I learn until I have experienced the same pain? How will I know, like you know, if I haven’t been heartbroken.

‘Ah, young love.’

That is what they say. Because they know.

Now I am like you. I want to protect my baby from being hurt, from falling in love and chasing that which is bad for her heart and soul. I want to prevent her from feeling like she has been seared open from inside. Like I was. My little baby with the torn hole in her chest.

Now I look back I wish they had dragged me away from him. I wish they had chained me to my room, rather than let me be foolish and have my happiness and sanity snatched away from me so.

They did, though. Didn’t they. I escaped and did it all in secret anyway. All I have now are thorny memories and bitter regret.

Falling in love is like descending into madness, because when you escape its frenzied clutches, you see everything clearly again. You see situations for what they were. You see people for the selfish manipulators they always were to you. Stark reality pierces you from every direction like poisoned arrows, and you wonder, where was I all those months? Why didn’t I see this from the very beginning.

‘Ah, young love,’ they should say, ‘the drug that clouds your judgement and steals your sanity.’

Signed,

L.P.

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