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………………………………
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”
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
Make the phone call
Invite the changeling to a new years day meal
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.
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”