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 …

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Frontier Love: Revised

frontier love

to love = aimer

 

we love without borders

in limerance I give myself to you

no holding back, no baggage

our love is perfect

hold this/that moment

 

je suis

tu es

nous sommes

nous tombons

nous sommes tombé(e)s amoureux,

nous aimons

 

a border divides us, a sea, a language

I don’t know why I think I can love in French when my English love is imperfect

 

Nous nous aimons

nous nous sommes aimé(e)s

nous nous aimions quand …

nous nous aimions

nous aimons sans frontières

en limerance je me donne à toi

sans retenue, aucun bagage

notre amour est parfait

tenons ce moment

 

I am

you are

we are

we fall

we fell in love,

we fell loving

 

une frontière nous divise, une mer, une langue

je ne sais pas pourquoi je pense que je peux aimer en français quand mon amour anglais est imparfait

 

we love

we loved

we were loving when …

we used to love

 

 

under au dessous de La Manche, 250 feet below sea level, pour toi ca c’est soixante seize mètres, I pause, je m’arrête, weight of water (l’eau) crushing me m’écrase

as I travel again comme je voyage encore une fois

my life divided/ma vie divisée

from yours

no we. oui?

If you say tomber en amour to a French(wo)man, s/he/they/we may start looking for holes.

 

to see: voir

the sea: la mer

je traverse la mer pour te voir

je deviens une mère/un père

tu deviendras un père/une mère

nous serons des parents

unspeakable difference

 

 

 

Knife-edged Love

If you are broken I might be enough

sun in my eyes blind me to what stands

stone grey sea rise and fall with my heart beat

worship me you say

my fingers freeze

waves ride in relentless sea

wind in my hair

feet enclosed in fur lined boots

worship is not enough

I stay hidden

ice at my breast

unceasing sea turn me over

sun warm on my eyes

grey white winter skin and hair

 

what I want is fractured

knife edged love

chill freeze my fingers

rays caress me open

heaped spray spreads into sheets of foam

wind blows harder

knife marks your wound

 

out of place nothing before me

no more skin exposed than lips and nose and icyfingertips

 

sea slide up the beach bubble and roil

sun seeps through the cold

just like your words scar

other than as a mirror for you

what I want doesn’t exist

strip layer after layer,

expose my eskimo skin

I bare myself for you

 

still chill on my heart

roll no gold line roll on

you are hundreds of miles away

would you do the same for me?

Blindsided: Referral Letter

The EyeWorks

High Street

Bexhill

 

Dear Dr Keane,

I examined Mr Adam Sharp, dob. 2.6.80 today. He attended c/o frontal and temporal headaches for the past three months.

I found a bilateral temporal field loss which has not been noted on previous examinations. I include a visual field print out.

Mr Sharp’s visual acuity has also dropped in his left eye from 6/5 to 6/9, and in his right from 6/5 to 6/6.

I would be grateful if you could arrange to refer Mr Sharp as a matter of urgency.

Best wishes

 

Clarissa Vider

Bilateral hemianopia

Blindsided: Glossary

Person. This story is about Adam, a person.

Patient. In some people’s eyes, Adam is also a patient. These people are part of the medical establishment. To them, he is patient, has to be other, the object of their care. Without this otherification, he is dangerous. Sometimes Adam feels like he is no longer a person. Is he a number, an object?

Practitioner. Optometrist, General Practitioner, Registrar, Consultant Neurosurgeon, Health Care Assistant (HCA), Nurse, Porter, Theatre Nurse, Technician, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist, Consultant Anaesthetist, Consultant Neurosurgeon (again),  Registrar (again), Senior Registrar, Have I lost you yet? Adam feels lost amongst this barrage of qualifications, acronyms and hierarchies. Name badges make little difference when you can’t see. Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Health Care Assistant (HCA), Porter, Consultant Neurosurgeon (again), Registrar (again), Senior Registrar (again), HCA, Nurse, Occupational therapist, physiotherapist, psychiatrist, counsellor, general practitioner

Paper. This is a term paper, which I present to you for marking. Within this paper is a fictional paper written by a fictional doctor for a fantastical version of a journal for doctors, the British Medical Journal, and outwith this paper is a paper on blindness that would not stay unwritten. Each sheet you hold is paper, pulped wood, smeared with petrochemicals. Inkjet ink will smear with tears. Papers determine one’s identity: in this paper you may find out more about Adam, about the relationship between person and patient, between patients and practitioners, about me, the author, perhaps about yourself too.

Record. This paper is a record, but what is it recording? A record is a testimony: I write this on behalf of those who cannot write, speak, see. Memory, statement, report, in black on white. A written account of event(s). An achievement. Nothing in here is off the record, but it seeps out from the boundaries of the record; what I have read sprawls across this record, bleeding print, ideas that haemorrhage unstopped

Story. Story, first, was history. Now, story is, ‘a narrative of fictitious events, designed for entertainment’. Beyond definition, story is elusive. It dances between fact and fiction, fragments and the whole. It lives in the space between the sheets of paper, not just in the inked words on each page. It finds a space in your mind: story is nothing without mindspace. Story is not, if it is not read, not told. Story is personal, of a person, for people. See, speak, write, create a story, find a (happy) ending.

Tumour. There’s a tumour in Adam’s brain. As a sneak preview, I’ll let you know it is a pituitary adenoma. Does that mean much to you? Never mind. A few millimetres of errant tissue in Adam’s brain changes his behaviour, his choices, his life, his story. Meaning collapses for him. Mind you, when the story starts, he doesn’t yet know that he had a brain tumour. Bear that in mind.

See. Seeing: we see without thinking, we ‘look, behold; observe, perceive, understand; experience, visit, inspect’. I see: I follow what you are saying. I see: I have (a) vision. Also, See, ‘throne of a bishop, archbishop, or pope’ from Latin sedem ‘seat, throne, abode, temple,’ related to sedere ‘to sit’. I do not see, I am unseated.

Blind. Lacking sight? Unable to see? Blindness is seldom total lack of sight: most blind people have some residual vision. For them, life depends on exploring what is left. Think of blindness as part-sight, ‘now we see through a glass darkly’. The original sense of blind comes not from ‘sightless’ but ‘confused,’ underlying phrases like blind alley.

Sight. A thing seen, esp. of a striking or remarkable nature; a spectacle, a vision. The apocalypse. Something which calls forth contemptuous, horrified, or amused glances; a shocking, repulsive, or ridiculous spectacle. A show or display. Aspect, appearance, look. The perception or apprehension of something by means of the eyes; the presentation of a thing to the sense of vision. A view, a glimpse. Hold all these aspects of sight in your mind’s eye.

Loss. Something is missing, disappearing. At first imperceptibly, sight vanishes. Adam becomes aware of this slowly. Something in this eludes me, I cannot address it adequately in 6000 words. Practitioners lose perspective. Adam loses his personhood, loses half his field of vision, loses his …

… Pouvoir. (French) v. to be able to, can, may, might, n. power. From the Latin, potis sum, to be master of. Command, agency. Adam loses his ‘pouvoir’. Some is snatched from him, physiologically, some is taken by a system that disempowers him. Impuissant, he cannot see, so he cannot [………..].

… Savoir. (French) v. to know, to see, to be aware, to realise. n. knowledge, learning scholarship. from Latin sapere, (nominative sapiens), from PIE root *sep- (1) “to taste, perceive”. Homo sapiens – to be human? Knowledge, empathy, understanding all are needed to be a medical practitioner. Henry Marsh writes in Do No Harm, the voice of the practitioner for the purposes of this paper, ‘illnesses happen to patients, not to doctors.’ (p215) Knowledge, savoir, has a protective function. Adam is unseated, unsettled, uncertain, sans savoir.