Those Eyes

I was reading a news article this morning, about a woman who supposedly used a stun gun on her son to wake him up for the Easter service.

She said she didn’t actually use it, but the investigators found some telling bumps on the boy’s legs.

Now, I know that sometimes kids can be frustrating. I know this because I was a frustrating kid at times. I clashed horrendously with my mother, it was a mixture of difficult personalities and constant misunderstandings. I was also smacked sometimes. -shrug-

But the point of this post is not to berate this woman’s parenting skills. The fact that she was hauled up in front of a court room for her actions is telling.

I am writing this post because the news website posted a photograph of this woman.

A colour photograph, taken with a sharp-eyed camera. It was otherwise an insignificant story. Scant, lacking detail, except for that photograph.

Her hair was in neat dreadlocks, gleaming maroon strands intertwined with black. Voluminous, lustrous.

Her face, defiant.

At first glance she looked angry, distasteful, the face of a criminal woman seeking to abuse her child.

But I wanted to look more closely.

Her face seemed resigned, the more I stared at it.

There were hollow dark circles beneath her eyes and her colour ashen. Her mouth curved slightly to the left, in a way that signified determination, and a little anxiety.

But her eyes stood out to me the most.

Slightly yellowed, they gazed out at the camera. Tired, telling eyes. The more I stared, the more I felt drawn to them.

There was pain in her eyes. A pain I didn’t know, and couldn’t touch.

Something hard in those dark, dull orbs, born of time and consistent disappointment.

My eyes bored into hers; mine alive as each minute passed, and hers dead, frozen in time, encapsulated in a moment only she would ever understand.

What was she thinking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

Roadkill

Nothing motivates me. Not the knobbly edge of a cucumber, not the smooth roundness of a fresh tomato, not the creamy ripeness of a fresh avocado. I just chop all the ingredients up and throw them in and…

I don’t even wash my dishes afterwards.

Yes, they are piled up in the sink at home, as I speak. The washing has been in the machine, washed, since Saturday morning. I know it. I see it daily. But I don’t spin it for another wash, nor do I hang it out.

I am, quite simply, drained of energy.

I still get up quite early to go to the gym. I attend every spin class, but avoid eye contact. I push and push and push until the sweat runs rivers down my back and my muscles shriek in anguish. My fat jiggles with every push and my sports bra struggles to maintain a stationary chest. I need to get tighter sports bras else I will become saggy.

I lift weights after the classes. I can lift about 89 kilos in my glutes now, and 20 with my chest. For squats I can only do about 35, but I can see myself becoming more shapely and smooth. Lines and curves where they were always meant to be. Is it bad to enjoy the look of your own body?

Lately I have been noticing a lot of roadkill.

Yesterday it was a badger, lying warped on the verge of a tidy little country lane. The black stripe running through the middle of its little head was muddy and bloody.

Today it was a partridge, the bright green and brown of its coat brilliant in the shine of the morning sun. Last week a rat, on the pavement. Before that a crow, dead and limp and lifeless. A squirrel, a chick (where did you come from, little yellow soft baby?), a shrew (inhibit gardens, not roads, sweet misunderstood creature).

Today also it was a pigeon, lying smack bang on the corner of the space I park in daily at work. As I swung my legs out of the car (literally, I swing them out, and swing around the car to grab my bag from the passenger seat – lots of swinging) I thought to myself, ‘what if I killed it yesterday?’

In moments, the pigeon was forgotten.

What is roadkill, anyway, in the grand scheme of things? What is a dead cat in the face of a murdered Russian asylum seeker? What is a bloody and muddy badger in the face of the death and decay of minds and bodies that thought and did and said.

Don’t animals think, too? Won’t they be mourned by other animals? Ought we not to be kind to them?

You see, I say all these things, in a way that appeals to your pathos, but I feel no emotion. I don’t care for roadkill.

I feel a pang of sadness, but then it is quickly forgotten. It makes me think of rotting bodies and graves and sleep and heaviness and the physical vessel holding life – heartbeats in a chest that could stop and with them all sense of hope and happiness and dependency…

On Friday the friend of a close friend was on her way home from the park with her husband and child, when she collapsed and fainted. Moments later she died. She was fit as a fiddle, completely healthy, happy, laughing, smiling, planning, doing.

Today was her daughter’s first birthday.

I don’t know this girl. But her death has shaken me to my core.

See, she wasn’t a pigeon or a badger or a cat or a shrew. She was a mother and a wife and a daughter and a … a person. Thirty minutes before her death she sent a video of herself and her daughter on a swing, laughing and happy, to a group chat consisting of her closest friends.

Thirty minutes.

And thirty minutes before the death of the badger, did it leave its sett, say goodbye to its wife, and plunge through the undergrowth in heedless joy?

We are all meant to die. Human or animal. Some deaths mean more than others. But at the heart of it, it is the same thing. A heart stops beating, life lifts away from a body.

That is what I take from this.

I want to be loved. Not romantically, not just by my mother. I want to be loved by my Creator. I want my death to be a ‘return’, not a departure. Do you know what I mean? I want goodness and kindness and comfort and peace to fill the space I will inevitably leave behind.

We are not roadkill.

Touch some hearts, maybe?

Be kind? Smile? Help people? Make a good impact on the world?

Be ‘loved’?

What do you think?

Anomalous

I am always looking for odd things within the normal. It is never good enough.

I am waiting for a plane to drop out of the sky. Is that too morbid? Hair made of cloud. Running so fast my feet lift off the ground, and I am leaping through the air. Not flying, no. Powerful through the kinetic force of my leaps and bounds. Why is a sunny day just a sunny day? It can’t be. There must be more to it than that.

What are brains whispering behind the closed doors of faces?

How many universes really exist, through the perspectives of billions of people.

Can the heavens and the earth sense our tread? And if so, are we hurting them?

A piece of heart. I pick up a ‘piece of heart’ with my toes when I am too lazy to bend down. It was a paper, but all the girls made fun of me. They said, ‘Eurgh you have real human hearts lying around your house!’ Cackling in that cruel way six year old girls have. Tears sprang to my eyes. I was only trying to be part of the conversation. I glanced at the boy who was my friend. He looked away.

A pair of knobbly, bright-red feet under a door.

A cluster of girls.

One brown face looking up at me.

‘What do you want?’

Hurt, walking away from the group I always associate with, because one newcomer decided she didn’t like this foreigner.

Or maybe it’s because I was weird.

But none of the other girls stuck up for me. None.

Why?

I feel like an outcast most of the time; but then I slurp some coffee and I am vibrant, energetic; ripples of laughter rippling outwards from my circumference.

Awkward silences. Lots of them. Lack of eye contact. Insecurity. Power. Speeding along country lanes; the sky is a different colour every single day.

If it wasn’t for the clouds, I think our sunsets would be monotonous.

 

But it is never any good. Not good enough.

I want an inspiration to seize my fingers, but I am learning that you have to create your own inspiration.

So this is mine, today. A mixture of memories and daily thoughts.

What inspires you? Do tell me. What makes your brain tick, your fingers itch?

Elucidate

Are we exhausted? We don’t know. Do we elucidate like everybody else does? Do we turn against each other, or fall into each other’s arms?

We don’t know, you see.

We sit at our desks, and days merge into other days.

Did we visit the pie shop on Monday, or Tuesday?

No, that was two Mondays ago. Henriette had a cheese and tomato pie, with lashings of melted brie. She smiled in Hans’ face, and told him he was doing a capital job.

The man who stole the moon sailed into the harbour on a ship made of Glimmer. Nobody knew what Glimmer was, but they all cheered as the tug boats hauled the gleaming ship into harbour. Men threw their hats into the air, and women waved crisp white handkerchiefs with their initials embroidered on the edges.

Their maids did that for them.

The woman who’s eyes were replaced with emeralds appeared on an emerald throne, among a throng of public supporters. They screamed that they loved her, trying to grab her, hands of all colours reaching out towards her glittering throne, but nobody could touch her, for she was protected by a wall of fire. Others lurked in corners muttering darkly about how she contributed nothing to the earth, and why is everybody celebrating her blindness?

And, do we elucidate? Do we make clear our intentions?

Do the offices of the world yield some world order?

We will never know.

We are mere cogs in a gargantuan machine.

 

 

Yellow Girl

Back in the day, there was a reason for everything.

A well-thought-out reason.

A reason pondered over cups of tea and reams of warm conversation, preserved with ink and sailing thousands of miles to each correspondent.

Hostility ran wild, self-preservation ran amok.

There were sheep, and cows, and acres and acres of land. Empty land, up for… well, grabs, really.

People called themselves Frontiers, revolutionists, fighters for freedom, tea planters, imperialists, soldiers, White Man was superior to the darkies.

Everywhere.

From Africa to India to Australia to America.

White Man was superior to the Negro, never mind the latter outnumbered the former.

White Man was superior to the Red Indian, never mind they weren’t from India.

White Man was superior to the real Indian, who was awed by their white skin and cowed by their division to conquer.

White Man and his delicate White Woman were superior to everybody, so they built a separate toilet for the black woman who cleaned their shit.

There was religion, and the up-holding of one’s values. There was chastity, minor hand-holding before marriage, and many bibles. People were appropriate and went to church where they preached hypocritically, then went home where the Help had bathed their babies and were now preparing their dinners, heads down, skin not worthy of the same quality of life. Church. God loves everybody. Just not black people.

it’s true!

God says white people are better. It says so right here in the bible, Master Johnny. Right here. Them black slaves were born for it.

And that you may tie to.

There was primitivism and people were less intelligent than others, because they had darker skin.

And that, was a fact.

Oh, yes, a fact.

They couldn’t possibly be half as intelligent, Harry, because, look, they have spears and boomerangs! We must teach them the ways of civilisation. Why, they are mere savages.

The man taught the white children from Academia. He taught the half-castes how to run a farm, and he taught the darkies how to make saddles.

Oh, why? Why! Why even ask, the whites were far more intelligent, of course!!

Let’s built our homes here because we found this land. Right here, Laura, right here, my little half pint. Never mind those nasty Indians with their wide faces and black hair and harsh, glittery eyes.

Eyes of humanity and hope and fear and loss and fierce love.

We feel this way, we are human, they couldn’t possibly.

Oh certainly we shan’t have sugar, we are rationing, didn’t you know? Here’s an orange. Just for you.

Oranges grow in Jamaica and Florida.

The French and the Irish and the Danes and the Scots and the English and the Germans.

My grandad was Irish and my grandma was Scottish.

But I am American.

Yes this is my country but my ancestors came from Europe, and get those damn immigrants out of my country they are taking all our jobs.

In sunny Florida.

And oranges grow in Florida, where the white man rules.

oh why, why do the black communities have so much poverty?

why are they like this?!

Oh.

Shithole countries.

Oh.

Why?!

I don’t know, maybe because they were stripped bare. They froze for two hundred years to serve your pasty arses. Then they got rid of you but were ruined and stripped.. bare.

Diamond mines in India for little Sarah Crewe from England.

Diamond mines in India for little Aditi Kapoor. Diamond mines made of broken glass and corrugated pipes. 

Maybe I’ll marry a yellow girl.

Yes, marry her. Have some half-caste children. Let the Americans be scandalised by your brutishness. You brute man. Then a white girl comes along and you don’t have to divorce the yellow one, and she shan’t complain, because you are a white man, and you have the right to do with her as you please.

 

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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 #39

Have you ever sailed into a horizon of clouds?

A giant mass of faded blue puff, rising in the distance like a manifestation of a nightmare storm. It’s England, though, it isn’t real. It won’t turn into a tornado; it is too benign for that. It is still, like a painting, a wall of such exquisite detail, as though some artist in the sky painted every stroke with tender love and care.

Every shadow, articulated.

The road winds in and out, up and down ahead, and the sky around the faded blue cloud is an ombre of colour, from the palest blue, to a bright and sundry pinky yellow.

The trees begin to silhouette themselves, but it isn’t quite twilight, yet.

And the clouds billow in the sky as though fuelled by some ferocious fire, only not so bitter, not so black, not so violent.

Still, like a photograph.

A still moment in time, as the sky transcends daylight and becomes that sultry, mysterious mixture of day and night. Not quite here, not quite that.

I love those clouds. Those clouds that don’t quite know what to make of themselves, that take on the hues of the ever-changing sky, shrugging on the colours and exploding in every emotion. So ominous, yet so safe. So surreal, yet so familiar. So strange, yet so reminiscent of thousands of autumnal evenings, throughout the centuries.

And always, always, a fresh wonder to the eyes.

On the Introduction of a Lady

Lady Pinky-Moe was born on a cloudy day at the bottom of my grandmother’s garden. She was born amid a glass of delicious, satisfying berry juice and the chirping of birds, the screeching of crows, and the deliriously haunting sound of the leaves swaying in a ferocious wind that was significant of the sad departure of the last dregs of summer.

It was cold, the day Lady Pinky-Moe was born. Cold, windy, grey.. simply divine. You may be thinking that I am slightly off my head by saying that; how could it be ‘simply divine?’ you wonder, ‘if it is utterly cloudy and grey and cold?’

Well, quite simply, dull days have a magic of their own. The magic of this day was the leaf-shaped glass that held the satisfying berry juice, clouding up as the biting wind chilled the drink to a perfect temperature, sweet on the tongue and cold down the throat. The magic of this day was the sound of the swish of the bright pink skirt as the lady stepped out from behind the white rose bush that leant against the old ebony fence right at the back of the garden. The flash of bright orange as her scarf was blown about her face, her smooth black hair waving in the wind as she straightened up, looking about her in a confident manner. The magic was in the way the line of trees behind my grandmother’s back fence were whipped about by the wind, whispering to each other, creaking and groaning and then rising in a chorus of psithurism. When I turned my face to the sky the fresh breeze was accompanied by little flecks of rain.

When she saw me in my little blue checkered dress, the glass of berry juice loosening in surprise in my hand, she darted forward sharply and grabbed the glass from my fingers.

‘Well, now. You don’t want to spill this delicious drink, do you?’

‘No -no.’ I said, completely awestruck. She was beautiful, and so elegant. My nine year old mind struggled to comprehend how she managed to be so commanding and kind at the same time. And she was talking to me. Never mind she stepped out of nowhere. To me she was real.

Her eyes were sharp, stark, large. Her hands were gloved, and she had a loud voice which she used to air her many opinions about all sorts of matters.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was Lady Pinky-Moe, named by the childish version of myself and the name had stuck against my whim, as names are wont to do.

Wuthering Heights

What is a ‘wuther’ exactly, and why are these Heights Wuthering? Is it some kind of present-tense form of ‘wither’? Do the Heights of this home ‘wither’ in agony because of all the pain, heartbreak and madness that has taken place under its roof?

You need look no further, dear reader, for I have the answer right here, quoted from Emily Bronte herself, ‘Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliffe’s dwelling, “Wuthering” being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.” (Wuthering Heights)

I first read Wuthering Heights when I was a wee tot of ten years old. I was at the age where I had mercilessly devoured all the normal, nice children books my parents had bought in bulk from charity shops at 5p each and filled my bookshelves with. I was tired of goody two shoes Enid Blyton characters and children playing detective.

I was living in a country where English books were a rarity, and you could only find really expensive recent editions. I loved old editions. Recent editions do nothing for me. They look like they’re trying too hard to appeal to the children of today who care only for how a book looks, who are only interested in something if it matches the technicolour of the TV cartoons that a lot of them are constantly glued to.

I like my books with plain, faded covers and yellowed pages that are well loved and smell slightly musty.

My father had a bookshelf filled with classics that my parents were dubious about sharing with us children. William Golding was too deep for us. The Mill on the Floss was “not for your age, yet, Len”, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey was definitely not suitable subject matter for sensitive minds. And Wuthering Heights? Good fried grief.

I read all those titles and more hiding in the corner between my desk and the metal framed window, the heat of the sun beating outside and warming my bedroom walls, even though the air conditioning was on full blast. If there was somebody in my room, I snuck into my wardrobe (I was small then, I fit perfectly!) with my reading light (2 dirhams at a bazaar) and read till my eyes were sore.

It was in the wardrobe that I became acquainted with Emily Bronte’s Catherine and Heathcliff. It was wildly abhorrent, yet so enticing. I kept waiting for the redemption of the characters, for them to come together at last, in harmony, their misunderstandings put to rest. No such thing happened, and desolation began to peer at me through the final pages.

I thought their story was wildly romantic, and was devastated at the deterioration of Catherine and her thoughtless choices. The depth behind these choices were lost on me. I was only invested in the surface emotions. I didn’t understand why she was pulling all the feathers out of the pillow, I only knew that pulling feathers out of pillows was a fun pastime, and if Catherine did it, then my own secret pulling was justified.

Never mind I wouldn’t dream of justifying such a thing to dear Mother.