It used to reside in open plan offices that smelled faintly of yesterday’s soup. It used to curl up on keyboards and yawn at powerpoint presentations that were doomed to be made-viewed-discarded-made-viewed-discarded. And, once a month, it used to slink onto my bank statement and preen.
The Point didn’t enjoy its unexpected uprooting. It disappeared for long months, presumably butting its head against the closed glass of sliding doors that no longer allowed entrance. It must have spent hours beneath familiar windows, now closed just too far to admit it. I’d hear grumbling yowls in the night, as it yearned for what was and bemoaned what is.
And then one day, it finally wended its way back to me, with ears chewed until scalloped and with pale moons of bare skin along its flank, an inverse leopard. We started out slow: careful sniffs at a paint palette and a cautious paw batting a runaway sponge. Staring matches with spider plants, pressing close to a warm oven door, curling into loving arms.
Beneath the surface, I spit glittering vitriol in an acid arc around myself. These spattering thoughts blister words into the dirt: ‘Join me in lockdown… feel this grief for a past life… falter here with me, in this stuttering uncertainty.’
But there are those who continue to grow within four walls, plucking opportune plums from a laden bough and making life sweet. They barely stutter at all.
I, meanwhile, simmer in my acid bath, my skin growing thinner with every slow second. The liquid blooms rose-pink and rises.
At some point I should stand up and wade out, before too much of me is lost. But the burn is comforting and the return of full gravity is too much to bear.
I’m staying here. Hip deep in shed niceties, I pass the time by drowning well-meaning platitudes until they dissipate to nothing.
My night sky is scattered with heart glow – a bunch of flowers, just because; a birthday card with both sides filled; a glow-in-the-dark keyring from a long ago trip; a scribbled post-it in mother-tongue handwriting.
Over time, a light might fade alongside memory, a dull white dwarf then nothing. But another always arises in that same patch of sky, burning fierce with love.
One day, I’m scared that those dark patches will stay dark, as every note and card and piece of kitsch crumbles to dust, and she’s not there anymore to set the sky alight anew.
I will not live beneath a dark sky: I will seek someone who sows stars and together we will strew galaxies.
I’m waiting for a letter. It exists in potentia every morning I approach the letterbox, a Schrödinger’s envelope that only resolves itself as my key turns in the lock.
The letter will contain an appointment date, one that I can hang on my empty reels of calendar. It will let me pretend to myself that things will one day revert, the threads will once more be woven into a tightly held pattern of predictability.
In the meantime, the future unspools wildly and puddles at my feet, shapeless and purposeless.
Of course, my former self resented those tight wefts of work and travel. The endless predictability of the future chafed and bit, and left no thread free for a spontaneous embroidered trill.
Yet despite the benefits to my current state of uncertainty, I remain blind.
Society isn’t all that keen on people having unplanned futures, or unpredictable and potentially unstable paths. It likes individuals to snap into acceptable roles, populate and pay up. Faltering in no man’s land is a sign of weakness, laziness, fecklessness, or failure, so people self-flagellate until they implode or fit back in.
I circle myself in my mind and snap at my heels whenever I start enjoying myself. I can’t relax into this state in case I start liking it.
Instead, I remain vigilant and wait for a letter, listening for the click-clack of a loom re-started.
The post-holiday blues are sniffing at the door, scrabbling with intent at the letter slot. Anxiety gives a howl as she butts at the drooping handle, while Misery sits back with his old head resting on his paws, waiting for the inevitable opening of the door. Irritation nips at the others and gives a volley of angry barks at being kept in the cold.
Every song that plays on a playlist that I know to be filled with chirpiness somehow hits a mournful note.
I’m keeping the blues at bay by imagining myself launching into the blackened sky and flying higher and higher until I’m above this thickened layer of mist and rain.
I emerge into blazing blue skies and find the Sun’s fierce glow.
I dance over the cloud plain until the memory is locked in place and I can bring it with me as I descend back down to earth.
Happy New Year to everyone! It’s been too long since I last wrote a post – I’ve had a veritable cornucopia of minor illnesses along with the usual cramping beast so I’m not sure I’ve felt even vaguely healthy since October. Fingers crossed for a good start to 2020!
I’m currently in the south of Spain, where evenings remain lengthy and skies are adamantly blue. I’m somewhat amusingly on a ski holiday, which is possibly the worst activity imaginable given my various body issues, so I’m enjoying the views and the atmosphere whilst keeping my feet as firmly adhered to the ground as possible. It’s been bizarre to walk down a snowy mountain in a t-shirt at the start of January.
It’s my first holiday in a long while, mostly because I get ill when I travel, and then get anxious about being ill when I travel, and then get ill because I’m anxious… and repeat.
I did get crampy and did have to spend the first couple days in bed, but it’s a relief to have ventured forth despite the fear. It also brought up memories of the last time I’d been in these mountains, and the changes in my health and wider life. Last time was back in the ibuprofen days when I had travel anxiety but didn’t really think much about getting ill, turns out I still wasn’t carefree even when I really could have been!
I’m now thoroughly appreciative of good health days, of my many patient friends, and of the kindness of my family. And I wish all of you a full complement of the same.
Admittedly some of that time had been spent in an orderly queue of egg sacks while she’d still been in nymph form, but she’d nevertheless been conscious of waiting for something of the utmost significance. The thing that would ignite her faith in the point of existence. The source of all passion and joy.
That thing was definitely not meant to be snot. She was fairly sure of that. Unfortunately, the Bureaucracy Fairy had wrinkled her upturned nose and frowned down at her furled scrolls before declaring that this was, in fact, exactly her calling.
She was the Snot Fairy.
She’d been handed a crumpled scrap of bin liner, several wooden buckets, one burlap sack, and a gluey looking feather. She’d seen the looks the other fairies gave her, the wide berth she had suddenly gained. Their slender arms were filled with pots of glitter, gauzy lilac wing extensions, baskets of daisies, tubes of luminescent paint.
She slumped away to blend into the smudge of night.
The manual had waxed lyrical about the range of skills she was to deploy. There was the bucket of transparent snot that she had to tip at the very top of the nasal cavities so as to ensure a constant sticky trickle. There was the sack of squishy pink-grey lumps she had to haul down into the darkened passages of the lungs, ready to be cough-retched out the next morning. There was the incessant tickling of feathers followed by the art of maintaining a strong grip to avoid being swept out in the ensuing sneeze-fest. She had to pay careful attention to map out who each human made contact with, so as to plan the next target on her route, and she would spin from respiratory tract to respiratory tract with expert speed and accuracy.
Some nights she would spot one of her compatriots – the real kind, not the glitzy kind – bringing in veruccas or athlete’s foot, or painstakingly gluing stubble to twitching expanses of skin. They would nod to each other, acknowledging a fellow occupant of the bodily trenches. And they might share an eye roll if a flower fairy giggled at them from a nearby vase.
Some nights she was left alone in bedrooms filled with the sound of blocked sinuses. And she’d wonder what exactly it was about her that screamed ‘snot’. Why was she more snot than chicken, or begonia, or book?
And somewhere in her bin-liner draped body, there lit a fire of resistance.
I remember the feel of it, that blanket of trust and warmth and pride and ease. From the inside, it seemed impossible that anything could exist outside the golden globe.
But I’m on the outside now. And I can’t find a path back through the purpling bricks of disappointment and hurt. A wall started stacking the minute disillusionment hit, the minute I slid out of the golden bubble. Each brick whispers a memory, and as I brush my fingers against coarse surfaces, those jolts of remembered pain rip their way back in.
And I jerk back from love.
My body built those bricks in response to threat: each one shaped around grit that would have scoured my heart raw. Each one is a warning that this love hurts.
To get back to love, I would have to pass through these mounds of past pains, feeling them anew.
I know that love is somewhere in there. But it might not be worth the journey.
And they’re determinedly shifting back into sight whenever I sulkily swing my head in the opposite direction.
They’ve been swelling with every hour that passes, from tiny tweeting companions to hulking feathered dinosaurs that send jerking fear into my stomach whenever they stomp into view.
They hate being ignored. Hate all those other things I choose to look at instead, hate the way I airily dismiss their existence to other people, ‘This evening? That sounds lovely, I’ve got no plans at all.’
Eventually they’ll tire of the chase and they’ll move in for the kill, no longer allowing me to avoid. Black sweeps of wing will reach around me so there is nowhere for my eyeballs to flee.
Dealing with them is painful: every feather is sharply serrated and sticky and progress is slow. But they eventually shrink as I face them, rhino-sized to ostrich, to turkey, to chicken, to blackbird, to a sneezing puff of minute feathers drifting slowly to the ground.
Sometimes it seems they’re caught in amber, in beads cast down by a sweating Sun. And it’s a beautiful place to be – all golden light and weightless suspension, and they’re barely aware that the slide of liquid has stilled around them.
And sometimes the amber darkens to tar. Surface long unbroken, they suspend beneath a blackened crust accompanied only by the larvae of petroleum flies and the souls of all those creatures who discovered the afterlife was hot and sticky.
And sometimes a light catches the tar and it turns to ice. They’re barely visible within, just shadowed potential, but the faintest signs of thaw mark the gritted grey surface. There’s no way to know if they will emerge from Schrödinger’s ice cube unscathed despite their years of stasis.
The scent of the sewage works is sliding around the window. Not exactly offensive, just faintly organic. A nasal weathercock that signifies an easterly breeze.
It’s raining on the shed below (and, unsurprisingly, elsewhere), and each drop has its knees bent up, arms wrapped around for maximum velocity, and is making a satisfying thwack-splat on the plastic-wrapped roof.
Through the collisions of kamikaze rain come the sounds of planes, every takeoff and landing a slow, deep rumbling sigh in the contented chest of the heavens.
I can feel all those sounds in my bones, the smells trickle along vertebrae, and that grey light – so often loathed – offers a soft cloud buffer between the world and me.
I’m a little raw today.
Last night, I unlocked one of those boxes I keep in my head and spilled its contents out, despite my brain’s best efforts to squirm and wriggle out from under your mercilessly gentle spotlight.
And under that light, the shadows of the Dread Shame might have faded a bit.
So I’m wrapping myself in greys and rumbles, bathing in the faint scent of sewage, and hoping I’ll have a while before doubt wheedles its way back in.