Room

Women have always done it, unrecognised, hidden. And even once allowed, we deny it, because being allowed in itself takes something away. Who offers the permit, and do I want it anyway? I may continue in secret. No-one will know, either way.

it’s warm and dark red and the woosh-thump-woosh-thump’s always there, and I’m on my own/never alone safe warm nourished part of you and that’s all I want and ever need

jerked screaming, fighting every push and brutal squeeze, too bright, too hard, can’t go back, let me back let me back, let me in … skin touch soft warm fill me keep me safe together

I have a room where I go and close the door so no-one can reach me. It seems like I’ve had it forever, but there must have been a first time that I discovered it. Everything has a beginning …

rewind until I can hear her screaming at me, until she’s grasping my wrist, and I’ve done something wrong and I don’t know what still don’t know, and her breath smells and I look up into her eyes and know that I’ll never be right so I need to vanish. I stand still, her bone-witch fingers surrounding my wrist, and as she shouts down at me I can’t move. Tell me it will be okay, but there’s no-one else but me and her and brick by brightly coloured brick I build until I vanish. I’m gone where she can’t touch me anymore and that’s when I find my room.

Ten years on, my room has materialised. I learned to read and a door opened into somewhere I never knew existed. I can retreat until I don’t hear the screaming anymore. And when I’m all wrong, don’t fit it, don’t get the joke, can’t play with us, my room’s still there, where I can’t be touched. John Peel’s on the radio, though, and I believe that somewhere there’s a way out.

In time, I discover that I was right, and I pretend the room’s gone. I watch as the sky fades, blue, green gold, to darkness, setting sun, silhouetted trees and chimneys. I’m in the attic, real room of my own. Mismatch thrift shop furniture and peeling wallpaper spell freedom. Rent paid, I can enter and leave when I want. I lie on the worn grey carpet and reward myself for each page I write, each sunset I paint.

At night we drink and smoke and dance and the music’s louder than my heartbeat, until the sky lightens from navy to turquoise again. Milk fresh on the doorstep, we stumble back indoors. And later when I’m heaving the night into the toilet, my t-shirt clings against my skin, and I go to my room, but I’m not telling anyone. I creep in, furtive, would never tell, never share, can’t admit that the room’s still there.

I’m spent, another night, red wine in jugs you can’t tell how much you drink and we were laughing so hard my throat’s sore and my ears still hear the music and now it’s all stopped, and I’m chilled, skin clammy, but inside my head is quiet and I’m not dangling on the edge of madness, won’t see a counsellor, see her, won’t see her again.

Another ten. I’d get up if I could but the gap in my symphysis pubis is too large, and the baby stretches my belly, I’m seventeen stone at my biggest, and my mind has slowed like my steps. The sun shines in, cats rolling on the golden carpet. My world has titrated down to one room, can’t diminish any further, but it’s not the room I was thinking of.

I’m never alone, and it’s eating me and I want to be one, own, me, gone, and the drugs take the edge off and gradually I claw back a tiny place that’s my room. I can sit still, feed the baby, watch birds in the garden and think. There’s something new, though, and it glows green as I realise I’m not allowed to be alone.

Maybe the end should have been when I delivered the baby, but I’ve found that’s not an end. And now, behind a barrier of books, I am rebuilding my room, stealing back moments to write. My desk is tall, broad, blue-stained, grain of the wood still visible, family photos backdrop my thoughts. Does time need to be scarce so I write every word?

Mum, mum, I need a drink, did you get more eggs, can you wipe my bottom, can you drop the car at the garage, what’s for tea, I’m going to be late, can you help me with my homework, you never told me it was parents’ evening, where’s my socks, I need a lift, is there more cake, he’s got all the socks, that’s mine, I want it, it’s not fair, I want, it’s not fair, I want, I want, I want …

Blindsided: story in pieces

[Interstitial: n. Of an intervening space; esp. a relatively small or narrow space, between things or the parts of a body, of the minute spaces between the ultimate parts of matter. From the Latin, interstitium, space between]

[fragment: transf. and fig. a broken piece; a small detached portion, a part remaining or still preserved when the whole is lost or destroyed. from the Latin, frangĕre to break]

 

What images have burnt a trace in your mind when all else is forgotten? What stands when all else has fallen? What do we take with us when we flee?

Story burns, story stands. Story defines and identifies.

Anders Nilsen compiled Don’t go where I can’t follow, a story told in postcards, letters, cartoons, scraps torn from his jottings as his fiancée Cheryl was torn from him, from life. A camping trip, photos from when they visited France, then everything changes with the black and white text and sketches in The Hospital. After that, The Lake, the graphic story describes how Anders scatters Cheryl’s ashes where they had planned to marry. The book was first created as a memorial for friends and family. A relationship in ninety pages, this assemblage is as moving as thousands of words. It tells the story.

 

[fugitive adj. Apt or tending to flee; given to, or in the act of, running away. From the Latin, fugĕre to flee]

 

Story is elusive. Scattered snapshots, some burnt, blow across the pine needled forest floor. The house no longer stands, the people have been taken away, but a child hid in a gap in the wall, and now he is running too, so the story can go on … start … flickers, traces of memory, Fugitive Pieces, blurred memories tainted and torn by trauma, as in The Drowned City, the first section of Anne Michael’s novel. Chase the story, run it down, pursue it, consume it until it is part of you that only ends with death.

 

[fiction n. arbitrary invention, that which is fashioned or framed, counterfeiting, the action of ‘feigning’ or inventing imaginary incidents, existences; the species of literature which is concerned with the narration of imaginary events and the portraiture of imaginary characters. From the Latin fictiōn-em , noun of action, fingĕre to fashion or form]

 

Experimental stories glide into your mind, unseen, seep, creep, slide. Their presence eludes touch, but they are there, none-the-less. Expect no start, middle, end, no neat ravelling of threads to form a rope evenly over pages, chapters. When you close the book the rope is there, none-the-less.

In Katherine Angel’s Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell a woman meets a man, has sex, conceives, has an abortion; ‘and then down, down, down, further and further I tumbled – Alice, pointy boots, tressed hair, topsy turvey into a tunnel of grief, into its numbing invisible embrace.’ (p238) Abortion reverberates through her life, through the white spaces in her book where something elusive starts to become present, something intangible, something that changes texture when you try to grip it.

‘5.           Years later I roamed, stunned, excited, through the Neues Museum in Berlin: rebuilt, restored; the archive of itself.

Its wounds preserved, lovingly rendered. Its memory on its skin.’

(p282)

Story emerges, unbidden, unbound.

 

[borrow: v. To take (a thing) on credit, on the understanding of returning it, or giving an equivalent; a thing recognized as being the property of another, to whom it is returnable.]

 

The pieces for this story are borrowed, appropriated, adapted. I learn through others. I take what I am given, and that which I am not given. I consume, devour other people’s stories to narrate my own.

Life’s events force story: we are compelled to tell our stories, of trauma, of change. Life is rich in complexity, messy, uncertain, relationships are tangled, and however much you want closure, a creative writer’s perfect plot, the script writer’s story arc, neat endings are unlikely. As Anne Carson writes, ‘The fragments of the Geryoneis itself read as if Stesichoros had composed a substantial narrative poem then ripped it to pieces and buried the pieces in a box with some song lyrics and lecture notes and scraps of meat … you can of course keep shaking the box.’(P6-7). That is life, that is writing about life.

 

[shake: v. to move quickly to and fro. To vibrate irregularly, tremble. To shiver, vibrate, flutter.intr. A poetical word for: To go, pass, move, journey; to flee, depart, in physical and non-physical senses.]

[unsettle: v. to force out of a settled condition; to deprive of fixity or quiet, not peaceful, not firmly established.]

 

Ref

  1. Marsh, Henry, Do No Harm, Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery (Phoenix, London, 2014)
  2. Jay, Martin, Downcast Eyes University of California Press 1994
  3. Nilsen, Anders,, Don’t go where I can’t follow (Drawn and Quarterly Quebec 2012)
  4. Michael, Anne, Fugitive Pieces (Bloomsbury, London, 1998)
  5. Carson, Anne, Autobiography of Red, (Jonathon Cape, London 1998)
  6. Angel, Katherine, Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell (Allen Lane, London2012)
  7. Inspiration for word definitions derives from oed.com and etymonline.com accessed 3, 25, 28 March 2015 and Downcast Eyes (referenced above)

Room – First Draft

Women have always done it, unrecognised, hidden. And even once allowed, we deny it, because being allowed in itself takes something away. Who offers the permit, and do I want it anyway? I may continue to write in secret. No-one will know, either way.

it’s warm and dark red and the woosh-thump-woosh-thump’s always there, and I’m on my own/never alone safe warm nourished part of you and that’s all I want and ever need

jerked screaming, fighting every push and brutal squeeze, too bright, too hard, can’t go back, let me back let me back, let me in … skin touch soft warm fill me keep me safe together

I have a room where I go and close the door so no-one can reach me. It seems like I’ve had it forever, but there must have been a first time that I discovered it. Everything has a beginning …

rewind until I can hear her screaming at me, until she’s grasping my wrist, and I’ve done something wrong and I don’t know what still don’t know, and her breath smells and I look up into her eyes and know that I’ll never be right so I need to vanish. I stand still, her bone-witch fingers surrounding my wrist, and as she shouts down at me I can’t move. Tell me it will be okay, but there’s no-one else but me and her and brick by brightly coloured brick I build until I vanish. I’m gone where she can’t touch me anymore and that’s when I find my room.

Ten years on, my room has materialised. I learned to read and a door opened into somewhere I never knew existed. I can retreat until I don’t hear the screaming anymore. And when I’m all wrong, don’t fit it, don’t get the joke, can’t play with us, my room’s still there, where I can’t be touched. John Peel’s on the radio, though, and I believe that somewhere there’s a way out.

In time, I discover that I was right, and I pretend the room’s gone. I watch as the sky fades, blue, green gold, to darkness, setting sun, silhouetted trees and chimneys. I’m in the attic, real room of my own. Mismatch thrift shop furniture and peeling wallpaper spell freedom. Rent paid, I can enter and leave when I want. I lie on the worn grey carpet and reward myself for each page I write, each sunset I paint.

At night we drink and smoke and dance and the music’s louder than my heartbeat, until the sky lightens from navy to turquoise again. Milk fresh on the doorstep, we stumble back indoors. And later when I’m heaving the night into the toilet, my t-shirt clings against my skin, and I go to my room, but I’m not telling anyone. I creep in, furtive, would never tell, never share, can’t admit that the room’s still there.

I’m spent, another night, red wine in jugs you can’t tell how much you drink and we were laughing so hard my throat’s sore and my ears are ringing and now it’s all stopped, and I’m chilled, skin clammy, but inside my head is quiet and I’m not dangling on the edge of madness, won’t see a counsellor, see her, won’t see her again.

Another ten. I’d get up if I could but the gap in my symphysis pubis is too large, and the baby stretches my belly, I’m seventeen stone at my biggest, and my mind has slowed like my steps. The sun shines in, cats rolling on the golden carpet. My world has titrated down to one room, can’t diminish any further, but it’s not the room I was thinking of.

I’m never alone, and it’s eating me and I want to be one, own, me, gone, and the drugs take the edge off and gradually I claw back a tiny place that’s my room. I can sit still, feed the baby, watch birds in the garden and think. There’s something new, though, and it glows green as I realise I’m not allowed to be alone.

Maybe the end should have been when I delivered the baby, but I’ve found that’s not an end. And now, behind a barrier of books, I am rebuilding my room, stealing back moments to write. My desk is tall, broad, blue-stained, grain of the wood still visible, family photos backdrop my thoughts. Does time need to be scarce so I write every word?

Mum, mum, I need a drink, did you get more eggs, can you wipe my bottom, can you drop the car at the garage, what’s for tea, I’m going to be late, can you help me with my homework, you never told me it was parents’ evening, where’s my socks, I need a lift, is there more cake, he’s got all the socks in his drawer, that’s mine, I want it, it’s not fair, I want, it’s not fair, I want, I want, I want …

Origin of self FINAL EDIT

A clap of wings startles me. The seagulls circle, then go back to the cliffs. I continue down the beach. My pelvis adjusts as pebbles shift and roll. My hips rise and fall, impressions on my feet. Stone-pain seizes my focus.

At the edge I hesitate, can’t do it again. A moment, you’re always too cold, but still I throw myself into you. Draw heat from me, I want to fill your lack. Always my gift dissipates too fast. You’re implacable: I’m bereft.

I kick off again, release, float, push against you, pull through you, surge, immerse. And beneath you, I’m gone. Moment in green. Perfect vision, until everything blurs, clears, blurs, salt filled eyes, mouth, ears.

Too much, I sink, stop, stand, relief in stone-made pain. I gasp. I’m not you, still within my depth. Still I ask, ‘Draw me out, write your name on me, gouge it in my skin’. I should stay, there’s safety at this edge, but I release the rock. Be in me, fill me, take me over. For a second I surface, breathe, submerge again. I’m in you, of you, and you enter me, every hole: every cell of mine takes you in, and my feet feel sea, just sea.

And it’s never enough.

Afterwards, I lie where the waves pour over me, in and out. A little way up the beach a dog’s nails scratch over stones, sharp against the hush of the waves. The seagulls circle again, screeches breaking the silence of the seas. [1]

Slowly, this time, so slowly. I descend. Spasm, contract, breathe, forced slow exhale, then down again. Painful pause, I crumple at your edge, inhale. Your waves reach out. At bursting point, I crawl until I’m in you, then I lighten. I need you as my body spasms, ice cold some relief. Contract.  Half standing, half floating for a moment, stones scrape my knees as I fall again. I scream, exhale, pant, breath subsides.

Hips widen, pelvis shifts, I open, push down, face full of salt, womb screaming, I give you more of me, all of me. I submerge, flow into you, expel it, release with one last surge …

It’s only instinct makes me hold him, warm against me, no breath yet, until we surface, dual gasps, both scream, bereft.

[1] Royle, After Derrida p56.

Vector 4

I strip, confident in Larium, in DEET and nets. I light the coil, just in case. Strange pre-bed dance, I arrange the net, but later in the night you announce that I have failed. Your faint hum loudens as you near my ear. I swipe, sleep-stupid, no way to see you. I put on the light. I wait, still. Silence. I listen, then you hum again. Self-betrayed, I know you’re near, but my skin’s too dull to sense your touch. Just sound, faint sound, until a flicker of movement and I see you land on my thigh.

I pause, hand raised, then slowly, slowly move in, eyes closer, hand closer, mustn’t blow you away. And, nearing, I see, strange night intensity, you’ve started to feed from me. You’ve breached my boundaries. Near-sighted, I peer. Caught in the act, you-re magnified, and more as I see your belly swell. I should stop you, little thief, but it’s too late. Instant gone, I’m part of you.

And months later, sweating, aching, I regret my gift, the blood you stole to ensure your dynasty. Generations of mosquitos are there because I gave you part of me.

The peculiar desperation of selling blood

There’s a price on everything, I find, and it’s not just tins of beans and jars of coffee. I could write about coffee, script dreams of vente lattes, towering foam, sing a macchiato, black/white clash, soul sold for cappuccino, is it fair trade, hold the chocolate, but even the deficiency of own brand instant won’t explain the lack.

There’s a price on everything, you see. Some people have money but no time. You claim time but no money endows you with a different sort of richness. Richnesse, richesse, largesse, how will you share it, spare it? Can time flow over, abundant excess?  Can you really give time, donate, donner, Dona? What do you do when neither time nor money mean anything, the money isn’t there, or it is yet it is valueless, and the hours are too long, but are too short to fill the lack?

There’s a value to everything that you don’t see. The value of knowing each of your possessions is there. What do you need? It changes, with time, with person, with the life that you are living, but think. What is the value of knowing that jar of coffee is there, when you don’t want a drink? Take it away, takeaway, small cardboard cup, no longer warm in your hands, and for a moment sit with the lack.

There’s a value that you don’t see. You don’t see. Not seeing, does that mean it’s still there? Is the cup still warm? Am I, are we, are you still valuable? I pour the boiling water, listen, hope, scald fingers again. I pour the boiling water, listen for the bleeps, success. You don’t see, do you? Moments pass as the water runs from metal to clay, energy of heat, of movement, transferred, transported. And if I cannot see it, am I blind, or are you? Sight is priceless, is that not true? Or is it a commonplace, too easy to say, too easy said, falling off your tongue like the water falls later and burns me? I pour, switch on the tap, tap, taps, fixate on the flow, the rush, feel the rush as the water flows, scalding. Listen. Can’t you see? Does the noise of flow fill the lack?

There’s a value, don’t you see? A value that says pass or fail. No six six, no six sixty, now you’re blind. But in blindness, we still see together. What’s blind, and what is partial sight? Classify me. Put me in a box and ignore my discomfort until it hurts you too. Did you see the girl in a box, no arms, no legs. Pure torso. Uncomfortable yet? Stay with me. Come with me, and watch as light transforms, each silhouette a life. The contrast has a certain clarity, life is beautiful when you can’t see the detail. Can you see? Face the sun. What’s glare to you transports me, new world with each change in the weather. It’s the value that you put on clarity, clairity, éclairité, éclaire, and I become lighter and lighter until I float away. Do you feel the lack now?

And where’s the value in the binary, the black and white? I see the silhouette: do you? And the black is no longer black. Tones shimmer, sepia brown and gold spills from the edges as solid men morph, a gentle transformation by that light, by my sight, my lack. My lack transforms men. Tell me, what do you lack? Manques-tu le manque? Manques-tu le manqué? Manques tu les disparues? What has gone? My chest tightens at the thought of loss, and again when it is not lost. I lack nothing in my eyes. Do you perceive, per-see, through-view a lack?

(And in that binary, we missed the white. It’s easy to miss it in the glare, to miss what’s always there. Blank page, chora, womb: that’s red, not white, and if there are no words, how can we read, what is read? White on white, j’écris à l’encre blanche. And if you don’t see that, it’s not my fault. Why should I worry if you don’t realise that something is missing, that you’re missing something, that the lack is yours.)

We’re heading home now. Are you coming home? Home, where there is no lack. Home, without lack. An in a duplicitous leap, we lack the lack. Home lack, home less, and my home diminishes, less and less, homeless, one great semantic leap to the unheimlich. Do you see it now? And can you put a price on it, other homes in this area have sold, sell now, just get in touch. In my house, do you feel the lack, the lack lack? And when it is sold, can you tell me how much it costs, when you have turned my home into cash?

Origin of self

(The difference between 0.4 and 3.5% NaOH)

 

My pelvis adjusts,

Stones shift,

Press into my feet.

I kick off again.

 

Molecule rolls over molecule,

Energy transfers,

Move, shift, crash.

 

Tympanic vibration.

Your waves,

Transport me.

 

I judder, rebalance, stand,

Feel the salt in my hair,

My mouth.

My eyes sting.

 

Draw me out,

I should stay.

There’s safety at this edge.

 

But I let you take me.

And I am in you, not of you,

You don’t need me.

Foreign body, sink or float?

 

You transform,

I dissolve.