The Unbearable Lightness

There’s an all important pearlescent dribble that slides down our slopes and warms our wombs. Crawling through the cave of our cunts: they even say it has a tail. Like a lamp it plugs us in and turns the dull purposelessness of our design into something bright and brilliant: or so it would seem. I can’t deny how inexplicably beautiful it feels to beam from the inside out. It amazed me that at my heaviest, I could also be so light. And in that lies the paradox of all things. How can something die in the place designed for life?

There’s no worthwhile explanation. Nothing that could fertilize the too barren soil of my soul.

So there was a void. There was a gaping gash-wound so deep that I became a tunnel, big enough to bury even the biggest train. Frantically I threw out some of the dearest things to make space for the growing hole.  Not just people, but bits of me too. Parts of who I was that I will never get back. Parts that probably wouldn’t fit me anymore anyway.

I thank my lucky stars that there were friends who refused to be discarded, refused to back off. Those loyal lunch box and linen stealers, the ones who come thick as thieves in pairs like Jobber and Giambrone, or alone like the beautiful-faced wolf girl. Whether they have the strong arms of the polar bear warrior mamma who bravely birthed the Amazon, or the plentiful heart of the green eyed hard-girl who raises her fist to the world and cries for dead birds. No matter if they are a free spirited moon swan, the perfectly protective pink panther who has been there from the start, the softly savage De Palma, the raven haired witch sister who softened the severity of my sadness somewhat with sunflowers and haikus, the former pieman with the honey nature, the loyal ball-busting bambi-eyed wifey, the big hearted tin woman, the beautiful blondie who birthed my most favourite feline, the kindly compassionate one who Can Do It and WILL do it one day, the dos ossos, the coolest aunty with the contagious cackle and the button collector who went ahead on that tragic path and recalled the painful details to help me navigate through it: I will never forget how they weathered the storm of my sometimes unbearable personality and they will stay forever etched in the essence of who I am. So in the next life I’ll recognise them when they come tripping through the door, tea-stained CV in hand.

And I once sang at the top of my little voice, ‘from the darkness came light, from the blackest of nights‘, from behind my battered Come And Praise Hymn book, without questioning the purpose of choirs and childhood crooning. Without once considering the impact this conundrum would continue to have on me. So I fantasize almost as naturally as I catastrophize. Because from one thing springs another, like an endless rhythm of waxing and waning. Except from within me, (I think cynically), nothing springs naturally but my words. And maybe in the end all I really need to make me complete is the birth of a bloody good book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running free

What do we need, where do we go
When we get where we don’t know.
Why should we doubt the virgin white of fallen snow,
When faith’s our shelter from the cold.

There was always a bit of him in every bloke I fancied. He set the precedent, created the mould. With his long blonde hair and his keen light eyes.

One day I was a child and the next I wasn’t. Turning the metaphoric (as well as the actual) corner to find him, sitting on the steps outside the off-licence in his ripped jeans and Megadeth jacket. He was new. 3 years older but still new. And from them on, so was I.

Of the gang of boys secreting from the estate, he stood out. Poisonous soulless fuckwits who revelled in hurting and humiliating wherever they could. I suspected a kindness in him that years later I would discover to be real.

So I became a collector of things connected to him. I immersed myself in things he liked, so by default perhaps I would become one of them. And it’s an embarrassing thing to admit that a lot of who I started to become was built around the interests of a bloke.

My crush on him forced me into a world of fiction. With pen kissing paper I crafted everything the way it should be and not the way it actually was. Lined A4 pads filled with romantic scenarios and how the two of us would one day come together. And I cringe now when I read them because it’s hard to take your first crush very seriously when you’ve been around the block so many times. If I was lucky enough for him to look at me or speak to me, I’d squirrel the encounter away ready for my wordy hibernation. Entire books based on scraps of something that could have been. And through him, I honed in on what I really liked and what I really wanted.

In later years I would discover that I could talk to him not just from within my head but in the real world too and finally came the time for me to put down the notepad (for a little while at least) and see how the real world compared. Although he never really had the same affect on me, there was always an appreciation, a softness I suppose you could call it, whenever I saw or heard of him. And those feelings, inexplicable at the time and now so very familiar, are still the basis for whether I really like someone or not.

I can conjure him at any given moment: walking with his hands in his pockets, wearing an oversized lumberjack shirt, flicking his hair out of his eyes. He smirked in a way that immediately made me think of sex, regardless how young I was or how little I knew about it. Him screaming ‘bacon’ at passing police cars, him putting my hat on his head on my 13th birthday and leaving behind the intimate scent of his hair, winking at me unashamedly while he pissed a heart shape on the floor of the underground car park and making my face burn with shyness when he asked why ‘I ♥ CB’ was scrawled all over my rucksack.

Hearing word of his death stunned me. Not high pitched and insane, not shaking and crying but somewhere still and adolescently sheepish within me. Not just because we were close in age but because despite never having been a part of my adult life, he somehow always seemed to feature. Characters fashioned from the essence of him made it into two of my finished novels and it occurs to me now that for him to have never faded in my mind, he must have burned so very brightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best jokes will make you cry

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Towards the end of my dad’s life, I remember feeling close to tears whenever we spoke on the phone. I was desperately trying to disguise the strangulated quality of the lump in my throat. Desperately trying to savour his voice. Because I knew there would be a time when I wouldn’t be able to hear it . That time is now.

Phil used to say that he could tell whenever I was talking to either my aunty or my dad on the phone, because I would cackle like a wild woman with laughter.

My dad’s humour was elaborate; hidden like a present in the depths of a long story. Lapsing absentmindedly from English to Greek. Across the warm gravel of his throat, his words came with the exhalation of smoke, like long semi-colon pauses. I smile-waited, throwing my legs up on the sofa.

I don’t remember if I’d spoken to him the day that he died. But I do remember speaking to him the day before. And whatever it was that he’d said to me, he’d made me feel more positive that he was going to be ok. Horrible trick of the light.

So three years ago today, around this time of day, I had lunch alone and texted a childhood friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I told her I loved her and missed her and hoped that my text would repair the hole of time since we’d last spoken. Later that night I would be calling her with very different news.

I went home from work and idled about waiting for my husband to come home. I made a list, asked the universe for a sign and then the burger phone rang; it was my mum…

I could detail the stilling sadness of the events that followed but they would just be words spoiling the whiteness of the page. You wouldn’t be able to feel them as I did. Instead I’m remembering how much he made me laugh. The wild whirl of his personality was like the swooping of birds, cutting through the sky in formation. Plunging bravely headfirst: magnificent in their fearlessness.

Thinking back now, I wonder how exactly I knew that the best comedy requires an equal measure of tragedy.

He received a card one Christmas, with nothing written inside. I commented it on it as I handed it to him, confused who the hell it was from. “Ah that’s from Costas” he replied without hesitation. Quizzing him on how he knew, his answer came straight off the cuff “because he’s not speaking to me”.

 

 

 

 

 

The first stone

 

“Oh heaven, oh heaven, I wake with good intentions. But the day is always just too long”  Emeli Sande

If it weren’t for the fact that I am guilty of almost everything, I would be the most judgemental person on this earth. In this way I can be thankful (almost) for my mischievous nature. Because it gives, at least, some understanding and acceptance of the misdemeanours of others. If I wasn’t such a bitch, this quality would most likely make me a better friend to have.

And just like the song says, with each new dawn I’m at it again, new fuckeries to add to the long list of charges. There’s no solace in the knowledge that at least my sins are not crimes. No. This noteworthy distinction isn’t enough for me to let myself off the hook, and it isn’t for you either. Because I know I’m not alone in this denigration of self. This perpetual dispute over actions and covert intentions resulting in all manner of conclusions but leading invariably to one thing: guilt. When I really think about it, it’s no wonder I am so afraid of nuns.

A new year carries with it more weight than a new day and as such, we find ourselves seeking ways to clean the slate. Sprucing up the self is always the best place to start. I thought about it for too little time whilst in the bath and resolved that I would seek out this self-assurance that at the time seemed such an attractive quality to me. In the time it took to dry my toes, I had changed my mind. Seeing it as an annoying form of arrogance: too restrictive a territory for this turbulent traveller. And the research that it involves would certainly dilute my well-intentioned enthusiasm before I knew it.

Sniffing around the scene idly, surely there was something important I was getting at. A grotty skirting board somewhere that needed a clean. Self-assuredness is great en’all but when we really want to do something, we’ll always find a justification to make it possible…or else spend our days what-iffing. Bringing us back nicely to guilt and regret: the two most popular postcodes for people to reside.

But all things have their place and guilt surely helps us stick to the right track doesn’t it? Or is guilt a smothering straight jacket supressing the life and lust deep within? Either way, you’ll feel it regardless, even when you try not to. And I really envy those self-serving pieces of shit that don’t feel it at all. The ones who will always do what suits them best. They’ve got the right idea. Because as my new favourite Nan told me, “life is such a quick thing. Before you know it there’s no time left at all.This isn’t a revelation of any sort but coming from the nicest and most elderly person I know, it’s a rightful incitement to a little selfishness now and then.

So we move forward, past the wishes and expectations of others and into a new undiscovered realm. Fresh and untarnished by anyone else’s wants, this place is uniquely ours. We are the only dreamers of this particular dream. And it’s everything it should be and more…the sun stings bright happy eyes, playful blinking, lips lifted flirtatiously like the hems of skirts revealing some leg or gums. Frolic and flounce with all the fucking frivolity of a dance thoroughly needed. Exhaling. Muscles slumped, one on top of the other like a bum sits nicely on the heels of your feet. Looking around, like a baby blinking into existence, you see that you’ve achieved more than just the aesthetics of your dreams: in this place of unabashed insistence you realise that you’ve found yourself.

This is where we experience the flipside of guilt. The un-sulky and much more deeply rooted kind. On the verge of liberation from the combined misfortunes and self-inflicted sadness of the past, we notice a fire-exit like a giant green flashing angel. But we realise that by walking through it, we are condoning and accepting the hideous happenings that we have spent our years hating. Because on the verge of acceptance, comes that one last pang. “If I take this final step now, it means I have gained from the severance and loss of a child. It means I have benefitted from the loss of a soul that deserved his life certainly more than I do”. Or at least that’s my deepest fear. And when you see someone, whose womb has seen both life and death, smiling sincerely from the snag of their stubby toes to the flick of their bottom lip, you have to know it doesn’t come without repeated mental punches to the gut.

So we stay on the precipice, looking through the window at a feast we will never enjoy. Hungry, hurting and self-loathing but not entirely unhappy in our darkest of places. Arms folded smugly across my breasts, hair unmanageably long: I watch from the window as children swarm my street on their way to school. Like happy woollen kebabs, padding around blindly with just their noses poking out. Warm necks to the sky as the first of the year’s snow falls. And I can’t help but be softened like butter slip sliding into the pores of my toast.

Letting yourself off the hook isn’t as easy a thing to do as it sounds. But you must because hating hard on the unprejudiced unpredictable strike of lightening that once struck you and invariably despising the crispiness it has left you with is a rash that will prickle over the whole surface of skin. Slowly driving you insane with its itchy creeping demands. Till you’ve scratched and scratched and there’s nothing left but the dabby stickiness of blood and sinew. Boiled blistering skin, parched thin, scarred and weeping, no longer any use to anyone at all.

And maybe that’s what it means to burn in hell.


The spark that saves

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It wasn’t just that she nearly killed a grasshopper on her windscreen, it was that I was hellishly miserable. Casual murder everywhere I look. And it’s no wonder I dreamt I was working in the library again. I told my boss that I’d come full circle. A complete back-track to the past. She smiled and showed me a courtyard that hadn’t been there before, a jungle of abandoned bed frames. It’s not just the meat, that I too have started eating, but the newspapers too. The radio interrupting my peaceful cooking time with a forced injection of panic. And why doesn’t the news come with a forewarning. Nudity and extreme language in films aren’t going to affect you as much as the random massacre on a beach full of sunbathers. It affects you deeply. This darkness, like a tumour, spreads until it’s stage-threed every last shred of your happiness, shattering the illusion of safety.

And now I’m blindfolded with the image of a man pointing a gun at a tourist, the image of the grasshopper getting almost crushed to death by the windscreen wiper. All this horror and I can’t bare it.

For all those of you ready to pounce on me that terrorism isn’t quite the same thing as bug death, I’d like to say yes I know. I appreciate that. I’m not comparing the deaths of many to one insect. I’m speaking from the perspective of my own feelings. And now I’m pissed off at all this self editing, too much awareness of my audience and who I could possibly offend with my words.

As with everything, it makes me think of Dylan. How much more I would have feared the world he would have inherited. I’d like to say he’s safe now. But who knows if that’s true. When I buried him my mother in law at the time said something to me which was barely audible. I think it was this: he’s beautiful now. It saddened and angered me all once. Provoked something in me that rebelled against the acceptance and peace she was trying to share with me. But it’s stayed with me, why? Because I think I want the sentiment to be true.

It’s an argument I have constantly with myself but I wonder why people breed when the world is so frighteningly dangerous? But then I see something a friend wrote about his son on social media: ‘what do you want to be when you grow up? A little tiny woman’ and I know why people do it. I suddenly know why they all would given the chance. Why I would if I wasn’t so riddled with indecision and fear. As simple as that. A new life. A little growing person who takes the world outside of itself and reinvents everything. It’s not Disney sentimental, its the spark of something brilliant in a haze of heavy shit.

Why do people hate so much. What is the impetus to kill when our days are numbered anyway. And why is it always the people who have nothing to do with the quarrel that end up losing their lives. Why must we sit in fear of our flesh being penetrated by the bullets of emotion sprayed like tears from dulling eyes? I don’t understand the horror that most have suffered, but I guarantee it’s enough to have ruined them. To have made it seem right to pick up a gun or a bomb or a sword and to lash out at the world, as it has done to them. And who am I to judge when I have never seen war from the wrong side of a TV screen. I feel for them too. I really do. And at the risk of sounding like a fucking idiot, I want the killing to stop. I want the aggrieved to heal, as we are all trying to do. I want armies of compassion to run bravely onto the path of war and disarm and diffuse till everyone realises what a prick they have been. Till every war monger looks themselves in the face and decides there has been enough killing. To see they have made their point loud and clear. On both sides of the fence. From all religions and governments and walks of life. Lets stop fucking killing each and take on the much harder task of doing a little good.

Be Four: And After.

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The Overview

Another year has passed. And don’t other people’s children seem to grow so fast. One minute they are seeds and the next in bloom. But this period of only 4 years, feels like an eternity stretch. Slow burning and wearing, like the sun in the Sahara.

I lay awake last night, as I do most, trying to picture how big a four year old feels like. How heavy they would be. How I would hold one. And I couldn’t. Despite of all my dry heaving, I can never bring anything up.

Losing a baby is something you’re tarnished with forever. I suppose most of us choose to be, because it’s all we have left. The pain and misery over the emptiness any day. And have I turned weird because of it? Do other mothers feel cautious around me? Nervous of me even? Do they hold their children harder when I’m around because I’m a reminder of how it doesn’t always work out? Or perhaps that’s all just in my head.

Bitterness talking

I half wonder whether people aren’t tired, in the honest bitchy part of their brains, of me ‘going on and on about it’. I can’t say I blame them if they do. But it won’t stop me because ours is a grief that never expires and if that’s tedious to witness then off they can fuck.

The bit I hate the most, is feeling at a stand off with other mothers. Because for their sake, you have to be ok around their children. You can’t grab their baby, smell it’s little head and cry for all you’ve lost. You have to be cool and relaxed and non-weird about everything. Which is easy for me to do because other people’s feelings seem to matter more to me than my own. Which is weird in itself because I didn’t think I was that considerate. Or perhaps it’s that I have a deeply coveted envy like a lord of the rings Gollum, seeping out of me like the glistening goo of a bed sore. Mop it up, quick, before anyone sees. God forbid anyone should see: smee.

Most of the time I feel for them. Their little tired bedraggled faces: never getting enough of anything they need. And if I really look with my Cypriot seeing eyes, I can see. Of course I can see. They are just as weird as me. Because having a baby brings it out in us, whether alive or dead. Something so precious brewing within, sends the whole world on a wonk. And the slip-sliding of another soul from the wetness of our knickers is surely the strangest and sweetest thing we will ever know. After that, how can anyone ever be the same again.

So if they’re strange and too clingy, I forgive them. If they gang together in gaumless groups, visiting farm parks and purposefully adopting speech impediments then again I’ll forgive them. If their only subject is the little shit dragging itself along the carpet then so be it, I’ll revel in every word they share. If being a mother brings out the worst in them, estranges them from their partners and everyone who doesn’t have a baby, then of course again I’ll forgive them. Because they are just becoming everything I couldn’t, and I would be a fool to judge.

I sometimes wonder whether people don’t just have children because they can’t think of anything else better to do with their lives. It’s not a bad way to pass the time is it. It gives you some focus, something to take your mind off the here and now, the realisation that you’re hurtling through space and time towards a certain and relatively pointless end. And if relationships are target driven vehicles to get you from a to b, then parenthood surely is one of the major destinations on your hop and ride tour of the same old shit. So keep squeezing out children people, why not, they are fairly cute most of the time and hopefully one in 500,000 of them will be a child genius who will solve all the worlds problems and the drain on the earth’s resources that all the others caused will have been worth it because we would have one beautiful soul in a sea of dumbfucks.

Backtracking

It pains me to think that I might never have another child. Especially when I think of the autopsy. My poor baby in bits. How many? Who knows. But I can’t think of it, not even me, it’s too dark a place even for me to go. So I picture him whole, complete, perfect at last.

If I’m offensive I apologise. I don’t mean it against you and your children, you’re lovely and deserving of all the things you have, don’t feel guilty about it not even for a second. Just because some bitter old bitch casts a critical shadow on everything you do, it doesn’t mean you have to pay attention, shrug it off and lets both pray you never know what it feels like.

But I must lash out now and then because this wolf is hungry and I’m not very good at starving it. Because even though I might look normal, I’m actually screaming in agony somewhere in the corner of my soul. Isn’t it funny how we can do that. Split ourselves off into sections, nice and neat. I’ll wear my work persona today with my yellow office shoes. Today I fancy the goth bitch who’s sarcastic and relentlessly sulky, she’ll compliment my handbag perfectly. Today I’ll be loathsome and intolerable…today I’ll be the sexiest woman you’ve ever seen, lean as you like, slithering my way up your legs….

If I’ve turned into a horror, simply because I have suffered, I hope that some of you will forgive me. Because underneath it all, I’m still mostly me. And that’s not such a bad person to be, despite it all.

The conclusion

Today I want to make peace with something. Even though I don’t know how. Even though I know it’s fleeting and elusive. I miss my baby and wish I could have held him. With all my mite I send out a love so hard I pray it bends the barriers of life and death and penetrates his little heart. I hope he feels it when I’m lying on my bed listening to the special music that connects me to my grief, soaking my pillow with snot and secretions.

Four years old. I should have written him something about butterflies and moons and beautiful magical childhood things. But that’s just not us.

One Born Every Minute: or so they say

Today I miss Dylan harder than normal. And there is guilt that the pain isn’t this intense every day. So i examine that guilt and it occurs to me that somewhere in our psyches we have learnt to equate suffering with love. The more we suffer the deeper we love. Perhaps somewhere within there is the insistence that I will never recover from the grief of this one thing: because that recovery would negate the proof of my love for him.

And what is this ‘recovery’ that I speak of anyway? How do any of us ‘recover’ after suffering a loss, a trauma, a heartbreak? Is it ever possible to recover or do we just learn to function? Is learning to function detrimental to the soul because it denies the real state it’s in. Is this how we learn to mask who we really are? Accumulating those brownie points so we can hold our head up in society, proudly, look at me, i’m a shining example of success.

All this editing and concealing leads to confusion and disharmony. And aren’t I the very same woman who abruptly told an old friend that ‘even a one legged man can win a race’. It just goes to show the level of disdain I have for my own grief (and most likely hers). My defiance that the slap of bad fortune I was dealt across my face would bring me to tears. People convinced me, somewhere along the way, that my feelings were less important than the success of day to day chores, than the drama of other people’s lives. The reason I fell for it is this simple: I watched the women who came before me do the same thing and accredited it as a testament to their strength of character. That’s what our hero’s teach us. Suck it up and keep on keeping on. Progress. Be an effective cog. I discover that my anger wasn’t that she couldn’t run the race, more that she didn’t notice me limping alongside her.

So what am I going to do, sit and cry? Wail on an on about the things I’ve suffered? I wish I could, it would be far easier to bare than this in-held deepening rage. But it doesn’t come and I wont fake it. So instead I write all my wrongs, and everyone else’s to boot. And hope that somewhere along that some fucking thing can be learnt at least. I’m not instigating a mass sulk, or to use our suffering as an excuse not to live. No. I’m asking that the fuller story be told. The wider view taken, look around you at the souls that share your universe. Really see, because i’m sure it’s not that hard to do if you really want to. Sadness doesn’t hide itself as well as we think. Bitchiness, meanness, anger, frustrations, bossiness, controlling ways: surely these are all signs of the limp. I remind myself of this before I take offence when someone does something I dislike. And although I don’t have to like them or try and heal them, it’s true that I don’t have to hate them or hinder them either. I would give myself a pat on the back sooner than a punch in the face if only I had the conviction.

One born every minute, and other such falsehoods.  Expressed in this way, as a number per day in 2013,

  • 1,914 babies were born every day.
  • 9 babies were stillborn every day.

It tells a truer story. In the un-editing there should be something to be gained.