Monthly Archives: May 2012

Final section


Dec 31st

Another year is over, but this will be last year of here & now – tomorrow I will be re-born, she says that tomorrow we will be together, that I will never need to feel alone again. I will, finally, be what I should always have been.

She says that I will rise, phoenix-like from the ashes of my before life.

She says that I will be beautiful, that I will look onto the world with eyes that can really see.

She says that I will fill the space left for me- that I will no longer creep into corners, afraid that somehow I take up more space that I deserve.

She says that I will be free.

And all of this is mine, all I have to do is open the door & let her in.

She says is easy now, all the hard work is over.

I just have to make one phone call………………………………

 

Later

Her voice is louder now, more insistent, “I need to get with the programme, I need to make a move”

For the first time, I am afraid, really afraid of her. I want to block her out, to push her away, I want things to be alright, I want everything to go back to what is was, I want her voice to just stop.

I try to muffle her , to still the wheedling, demanding, now shrieking instructions – I mumble nursery rhymes from that far away time when I really believed that I could make someone else’s’ life better.

This little piggy went to market

The little piggy stayed at home

This little piggy had roast beef

This little piggy had none

& this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home

I curl up into myself, crooning lullabies to myself, trying desperately to comfort the screaming terrified child inside myself

Hush little baby, don’t say a word, papas going to buy you a mocking bird

If that mocking bird don’t sing, papas going to buy you a diamond ring………………

I cannot make enough noise, I roam around the apartment turning on the Hoover, the ancient yellowed food mixer, the washing machine runs empty screaming on fast spin – I try to fill the room with sound  I run from room to room – the TV, silent for so long wheezes into life, the radio shouts out some incomprehensible football score, I find a scratched & dented cd & play it again & again – if I can only drown her out, give myself a moment of stillness then everything will be ok.

My home sounds as if it is holding its own demented, deranged  gathering, but it’s just  is not enough, I am almost glad when my neighbours join in, the muffled shouts, curses and bangs on the wall create another layer, more protection against her shrill keening.

The more I try, the louder she becomes, we are at face off – two screaming dervishes. Locked into some terrible moment, a second of hatred frozen in time forever.  I look into the mirror & see her eyes – hate filled, hate fuelled, hateful,

Suddenly, I am very, very afraid, moaning and clutching my stomach as if to really hold myself together, I curl up in a tiny ball.

I have made a terrible mistake; my twin is not my other perfect half, the element that will make me whole. She is that part of me that common sense tells me to bury deep down in the cellar of my mind, the succubus thrown far away from warmth & light & mothers’ milk – the scurrying thing that  lives somewhere in the spaces between walls and I have let her out.

Suddenly, there is silence, the electricity has run out. The silence is so shocking, so raw in its intensity that I recoil from it as if I have been punched – now there is just her voice, on & on it goes, sometimes shrieking, other times a terrible whispering goading rant. The message is always the same “do what you need to do & I will give you silence, I will give you peace”

Jan 1st

I am defeated, I know now that I cannot deny her what she wants, quite simply, I cannot survive another onslaught – I am ready.

She knows that I need all my wits about me for the task, so her voice has become  tender again, she soothes me, rocks me in a lullaby of love, affection and desire, her voice is calculated to ensure that I am at maximum efficiency, the list of tasks repeats like a mantra of deranged  domesticity in my head

“Make the flat look nice

Buy food

Make the phone call

Invite the changeling to a new years day meal

Act normal”

The phone call is surprisingly easy to make – the changeling is a creature attracted by the superficial, by the look of things, she is careful not to look too closely at anything, so, accepts an invitation to dinner with a mother figure she has seen only once in months and then only to ensure my safe delivery from the mental hospital.

Making the flat look nice is actually far more challenging, even before the whirlwind  of sound & motion that has made up the last 24 hrs, my home could best be described as adequate for a person in my situation.

But good little hausfrau that I am, I do my best, bustling about with a brush & dusters, plumping up cushions & finding scraps of fabric to cover the worst corners of sadness & loss,

I find a huge box of candles, bought where & when I have no idea and cover every surface with them.

I have forgotten that it is really New Years day & that all the shops are closed, so my grocery shopping is perforce somewhat limited.

I come home clutching a cheap bottle of wine, some slightly stale bread, pate & a jar of olives that have been in the shop so long , so unwanted that the whole jar in covered in a thin layer of dust and grime.

There are some of those tin foiled covered chocolate Santa’s on special offer – just a  little past their sell by date – I have no other evidence of festive celebrations , but surely these pinned to the wall will help to give the message “everything is fine”

Her voice is cajoling now, “get dressed, make an effort, fit in, don’t draw attention” – for a moment I am confused, the voice seems to be my mothers’, her endless mantra of invisibility.

I shake my head to clear it and take a deep breath, wherever the voice is coming from, and its good advice. I find something clean[ish], brownin [ish] and inoffensive.

I am ready to greet my daughter, but her voice continues in my head, there are other preparations, other plan that must be put in place. Tonight, I really will be the hostess with the mostest. It’s a one shot performance, I am ready for my close up.

Midnight ……………….

It’s so peaceful now, for the first time in months, there is silence in my head. I sit on the floor, back pressed against the wall, savouring the stillness.

The evening went well, all things considered. The changeling arrived on time; I don’t think she is capable of anything as sloppy as lateness. Lateness shows a freedom of thought that she is simply not capable of. So, promptly at 8pm into my door – trippity trappity, she steps, dressed with care. Just enough to show effort, not enough to suggest that this is anything more than a duty visit.

 

We circle each other warily, luckily, we both have enough social veneer to provide a gloss to the encounter.

I ask about her course, she asks if I am taking my medication.

I compliment her on her cardigan; she quietly counts the tablets in the box I have so considerately placed on the centre of the table in the middle of this sad little room.

There is a silence and then we both begin to speak at once

“you scared me , you always scare me, I don’t understand what happened”

“things are going to be a lot better now – I have a plan”

I stop speaking first and there is an awkward pause, good hostess that I am, I quickly offer  her another drink and then I wait.

So, now, it’s  much much later, I’m cold from sitting so still. I stand up slowly, feeling old, tired and stiff and make my way old lady like to the mirror. Slowly I stare at my reflection and although my vision is perforce impaired, I can for the first time, see clearly .

I stare at the bloody pulp that is one side of my face with inner calm & no-body looks back at me.

“if thine eye offends, then pluck it out”


books on the I-pad


this is all a bit of a new venture for me – techno dolt that I am, but am rather enjoying the magicalness of it all – i click on a picture of a book and hey presto – there it is on my I-Pad & i have NO idea how that happens…………………………….

Obviously, my inherent meaness, lack of funds & in the 21st century, baffling lack of credit/debit cards, means that I can only access free books – so the many gaps in my 19th century/early 20th century reading life are about to be filled.

Starting with a slew of Brontes, some men in a boat, Mowgli and friends and a pinch of Edward Lear

I am looking forward to them all.

 


she beat him like the red headed stepchild he was


These are Marias’ gifts, her dowry to her new family, the sharp bite of freshly squeezed limes, the hint of garlic in a rich tomato sauce – her mothers’ recipe, and the scent of sweet almond oil which she ceremoniously combs through her hair every Saturday night.

The children, ranged in size on the sofa, watch her carefully. They are unmoved by her attempts to make their home, their lives more beautiful.

The cheap glass vase, filled with flowers picked from a quiet corner of the park, is shoved to one side, replaced  centre stage by the economy sized bottle of red sauce.

The same red sauce is used to cover,  to drown any of her cooking they actually deign to eat. Usually, they simply look at the food, push the plates away and move pack like toward the freezer, with its seemingly unending supply of chicken nuggets and oven chips.

Her face aches from smiling,  her throat feels tight,  her words, her first love, feel as trapped as she does in this grey pebble dashed North Dublin suburb.

Even the children’s’ names catch in her throat,  Ardal, Declan, Siobhan and Niamh, these are not names she can imagine whispering endearments to, so she doesn’t .

When summer comes, she is dismayed by the lack of heat,  but makes the best of it.  She had assumed that they would all de-camp to the outside, to talk. eat. read after the months of grey rain which kept them indoor, the curtains drawn by 4pm. But the curtains remain closed, the children’s’ milky white translucent skins keep their indoor pallor.

Sometimes, he, her new husband, joins her in the concrete clad garden, but he too, is anxious in the sunshine and sits in the shade watching her bask under the sun.

The children’s hair, at first fascinates and then begins to repulse her, she is unwilling to touch it and stops helping the younger two at bath time, much to their relief.

They attend mass each week in a church where the car park is larger than the boxy church and its purpose-built community facilities. Looking around, she realises how many of the congregation share the children’s’ colouring, their skin so thin that the bones seem too close to the surface, too protruding to be normal.

She starts to be unkind, a push here, a poke there, There is a terrible fascination in seeing how easily their skins bruise.

The  children are more wary around her now, they wear their hostility openly, badges of pride. She becomes adept at the sly pinch, the push that is a fraction too hard.

They are all involved in guerilla warfare now, they stalk each other around the dull grey house.

She knows her marriage is over when she beats the youngest step child and doesn not even bother to invent a reason.

She beats him with his own hairbrush and when it is over, she looks down at the brush, with those ginger hairs caught in it and throws it away from her and has to wipe her hands many , many times before they feel clean.


beaten like a red headed stepchild


so, this weeks written task – a short story that includes this phrase and the entomolgy – for those who like that kind of thing

The origin of the phrase “red haired step child” dates to the 1830’s &  40’s when Irish emigrants began arriving in America. The newly arrived Irish  were somewhere below free blacks on the social scale at the time, and lived in  segregated communities. Then, like now, young men were having sexual relations  with young women before marriage. Sometimes the men were Irish and the girls  were not. This resulted in many out of wedlock children with that red Irish  hair. When these young women did finally marry, usually to a young man not of  Irish descent, the new husband was not particularly patient or sympathetic to  the red haired step child and treated them harshly. .
Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_did_the_phrase_’beat_you_like_a_red-headed_stepchild’_come_from_and_what_does_it_mean#ixzz1w9IBRjaY

 


section 11


November 12th

Leaving the apartment for an occasional foray, I have lost my intense interest in sweet food, but she is insistent that I MUST eat, I MUST be seen to have some of the patterns of day to day living, so, every few days she sends me out & now I have made a fantastic discovery.

At first I wondered if everyone I passed was also trying to listen to tiny whispered confidences, to block out the raging ,rampaging, rumbitious roar of the every day – I stared at them in some curiosity –

Who were they listening to?

What messages were being given to them?

For everyone I passed was protecting their ears with huge woolly hats & headphones – somehow I had forgotten the uniform of the young – their need to cocoon themselves in a soundtrack of their own making – so, now I go amongst them, my ears & head swaddled in fabric & outsize eared headphones – everything is diminished, muffled, distanced and my disguise has the added bonus that should I fail to answer promptly a query or comment in a shop, the assistant often repeats it, slowly & loudly as though I am a foreigner struggling to understand the local patois.

Of course, I keep the headphones on at home too, I have become hyper-aware of noise and terrifies that I might miss the commandment that will liberate me from this period of limbo.

I spend a lot of time curled into  a wall, head pressed against the woodchip, rocking backwards & forwards- today for a split second, I saw myself as others might, a thinning middle aged woman, rocking, keening, mumbling to herself – there was a moment of perfect, exquisite sadness & loss and then she started to speak & I was lost again in her voice, her promises to me.

 

 

 

 

Dec 1st

I need to write this down, to try & explain clearly what is happening – when this is all over I will be called to account & I want to tell my story – I know that I will be judged and I suspect found wanting. My whole life has been one of failing others, of not meeting some unspecified hunger in all around me.

One of my first memories is as a lumpen, plain & lumbering toddler who running to my mother after some tiny disaster, heard not the soft murmurs of comfort & affection but instead a hissed intake of badly disguised annoyance and a mumble of “why wasn’t it you – why not you instead of her?”

Whenever I walked into a room, I always felt my mothers’ eyes slide to a point just behind me, looking for someone more interesting, more desirable, simply more – but there was only ever me and her disappointment was the melody that ran through my childhood.

My long gone & in all frankness unlamented husband also used to look at me with the same slightly baffled expression whenever he saw me, a “this is not quite what I expected” gaze – he reminded me of a child who ripping the paper of a long awaited Christmas gift, finds, not the eagerly anticipated toy, but something else, something somehow wrong, something perfectly alright in itself but somehow not quite what was expected or desired.

Even the changeling, who really had little to go on in terms of what a proper mother should be – her own flesh & blood  one having managed to fail at every hurdle, who should have greeted my tentative movement towards  warmth & affection like a sun starved seedling, she often pushed me away, not in anger but more a world weary annoyance – “this is not quite what I am looking for – what else do you have?”

This is the way the gentleman ride – trumpy trump, trumpy trump

This is the way the ladies ride – trumpty trump. Trumpty trump

This is the way the children ride – trumpty trump, trumpty trump

But by the second verse, she would wriggle away, choosing instead to follow my husband from room to room, he in turn, would occasionally look down at her in slightly baffled surprise, but she always choose his mild indifference over my clumsy  attempts at parenting.

All of that is , of course, is my explanation for all of this, I have never managed to be what is expected, but now, magically, I have the chance, the opportunity, to get it right, to put everything back where it should be. I can finally make it all good .

 


section 10


4th Oct – dawn

I must not let things slip again – the days & dates must not get away from me. I must be vigilant – my task is clear – I wait for further instructions – I am the handmaid of my sisters’ salvation.

10th October

The thing, the thing, the actual thing is the how & the when & the where and she is obstinately mute on this topic. I have been waiting for direction – but it doesn’t come.

I beg, I cry , I rant – “tell me what to do” – but there is no answer

So, I am forced to consider it myself – how must the changeling die?

She is very clear on one point – I must escape capture, there are those who will not understand my act, they will not see the liberation I am offering, they will trap me & not allow her to complete the circle – it will all be in vain.

So, I need a plan.

 

Halloween

What a perfect night for evil – yes I am all too clear that what I am doing could be seen as evil, as unnatural, as the act of a mad woman – but now that I understand I see why this must happen – it is an act of love.

If my twin returns to me, I can be free and as she has so patiently explained to me, the changeling herself is unhappy with her life; her death will also set her free – I can finally make my daughter happy – I can finally be the mother I hoped to be. In death, I can embrace the changeling, hold her to me & show her the depths of my love for her.

It all makes sense and now I have a plan as well.

In the days before everything unravelled, I loved to read murder fiction; I became a cognoscenti of unusual death, of ritual slaughter, of the disposal & dispersal of unwanted bodies. I read books about the monsters outside, to silence the monster inside. I could comfort myself that my few acts of maternal failure, of parental unkindness were nothing when placed on the continuum of human serial killers. I read books that kept my mind quiet, to silence the tiny voice that plagued me, whispering in my ears “you could do that” “that’s what you’re like” “you know you want to” – I became most interested in the most bizarre, the killer cannibals, the dungeon masters, the collectors of grisly souvenirs – the ones I was most definitely not like, after all I reasoned, all parents struggle with their children, all fantasise about that moment of inattention – I steadfastly ignored the fact that even I was sure that most parents did not fantasise about their child’s funeral.

But, now all this reading has revealed itself as a very useful resource, I have achieved killers 101, I have a game plan.

 

Nov 5th – another bonfire night

– I have a strong feeling of a journey undertaken; I am quite literally,   not the woman I was, when I look down at myself, my lack of substance is ironically the most substantial thing about me – I continue to vanish at a rate.

Her voice is quieter now, she comforts me with visions of what the future will be, a continuous soft monologue , she murmurs into my ears as seductive as any lover. I try and keep myself as still and quiet as possible, mouse-like I creep about, my whole attention focussed on her voice – I am waiting for the signal, but I  have learnt my lessons well, I know now that I must do nothing to attract attention, no more make shift sound proofing, no more careful arrangement of furniture within the apartment – everything must seem normal, I must seem normal and I have hit upon a way to drown out all other sound without the possibility of marking myself out.


William Blake -the schoolboy


In fairness,this has been the reading for my Yr 8 (age 12 & 13  English class – working on the principle that they tell me  that  they hate all poetry,so they might as well hate fantastic writing instead of the “written for children” stuff.

So, we have read this   – it seems apposite on a beautiful May morning to look at a poem that says that school destroys all love of learning, damages the very roots of personal development and is of less value than time outdoors ,a view they had no problems  identifying with. So we read the poem, we made storyboards, we produced power points on the life of William himself , they loved the fact that his wife was illiterate when they met and that she still spoke to his spirit on all business matters after his death.

To quote Ahmed (age12) aot the end of our project “William Blake – what’s not to like”!?

 

 


I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the sky-lark sings with me.
O! what sweet company.

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn.
The little ones spend the day,
In sighing and dismay.

Ah! then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour,
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learnings bower,
Worn thro’ with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy,
Sit in a cage and sing.
How can a child when fears annoy.
But droop his tender wing.
And forget his youthful spring.

O! father & mother. if buds are nip’d,
And blossoms blown away,
And if the tender plants are strip’d
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care’s dismay.

How shall the summer arise in joy.
Or the summer fruits appear.
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy
Or bless the mellowing year.
When the blasts of winter appear.