Mending the Net: The waltz of regret

Monday, July 17, 2006

The waltz of regret

I was born in Kent, a garden only so much in my mind as a vegetable patch is. Not knowing a great deal about plants in general, I can only offer this much insight into the flora of Kent – if you want brassica, that is your county and no mistake. On that vein, I’m unsure if cabbages have eyes but, if so, I cannot to this day look upon them; I once trudged through fields of water-logged cabbages on my way home from school when the bus unexpectedly broke down. It is not an experience I recommend. I washed and washed and feared I’d never be free from the smell but, happily, I am. I know this because people can be next to me on hot days.

The first eleven years of my existence were spent pleasantly enough. My father was never really a part of my childhood. He lived in the same house as my brother, my mother and I, but he never took an active role in our upbringing. I remember him calling me fat when I was four, and telling me I was over-sensitive at the same age. These basic themes are recurring ones with him. Since my brother and I have left home, I think it all hits harder on Mum. Last time I was back there she cried more times in private to me in that one visit than I have ever seen her do so in my entire life. It was quite disturbing, actually. I hated to see her so unhappy. I love her so much. That said, I don’t do well being in the same house with her for more than a month or two. She’s terribly protective of me when I’m within a wing’s distance of her. I think she should be a vicar; she’d do well with a congregation to worry over.

This isn't to say that my father is a bad man. He never broke my spirit entirely. He appears to have developed a new hobby in painting, oils being his favourite. So that's something we can at least make a tableau of conversation at.

I was against medical advice. I think I might have that as my epitaph. It’ll make people wonder, if nothing else. I plan to leave a brood of at least two children behind me who can make of that what they will. You see, with my older brother, Mum had a horrible pregnancy. The placenta kept trying to break off and she bled a lot, only put on a stone throughout the pregnancy (eight pounds of which were my brother) and was generally extremely ill with it. The birth was even less of a picnic than a usual birth, as well. So she was advised against more children. After that came a miscarriage, more warnings against children. Then there was me.

In case you wonder why you got all that slightly gory information, I tend to agree with the book The Red Tent that states something like “Women want daughters so they have people to tell their stories to, who’ll remember them and their families. You need to understand who has been before you before you go on.” I paraphrase. A lot. I highly recommend the book, by the way. It’s by Anita Diamant. A telling of the life of Dinah, Biblical daughter of Jacob and Leah… Jacob as in the father of Joseph (of the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat). There you go. I have no idea how you feel about religion in general, let alone religiously drawn books, but I recommend it. That is a question for you – are you religious at all? Do you have faith? Feel free to attack those as two separate ideas entirely, if you wish.

So up to the age of eleven things went along with a reasonable amount of pleasure. When I went to secondary school, it was horrible. I was ill often, studied hard though. Made friends, as you do, but made some bad choices in them. One girl, for example, held me as the object of obsession, even after I transferred from that school to another one. She would email me from various accounts, harassing me, wanting to know my every moment. Phoning me, following me, dressing like me, signing onto the internet as me wherever possible and “becoming” me. It was a very strange time. I try not to think about it.

Occasionally the stumbling of butterflies amidst the chaos of air betters us. If we stop to notice it then surely we could be touched; faith has a chance to resettle where the bounds of hope have long since fled. If memories indeed pass like ashes – cold now bereft of the caress that the flames afford – then perhaps these faltering flights best echo moments in their prime.

The apple blossom of the orchard has flown past and fruition beckons. Summer, then. The glowering, grey, passive sky could use some convincing, though, by the looks of things. I’m one for believing in the weather. Note that I singled out the weather and not one of those smiling hopefuls who report it to me. The weather affects me. I don’t think anything wonderful has ever happened to me on a warm and dusky evening, for example. My memories are held together by strands of colour, smells, and the texture of gravel clawing against my face and grazing my hips.

A relationship that began on a bench in the centre of the city didn’t really have a hope of working; ah, behold the power of hindsight. At sixteen I thought I knew all about it – life, love, sex, men. Everything. I thought I was just about ready to fall into a world of passion that flew at me and then smothered me in caresses and safety as the twilight rolled on. This, I thought, was happiness. Something I’d been searching for and something that I could now tangibly touch, stroke, hold. I even had the bruises to prove it. Everybody knows that it’s the bruises that make it real, right?

“I want to photograph the way the shadows of the raindrops look on your cheeks” he said, “they look like tears.”
“I wish they were” and then he left.
He gave me the alphabet magnets because he thought they were like my childhood and I told him I wished he’d paid for them so he said he only takes the things he needs; I said “take me then”, but he just laughed.
He traced the bruises on my arms and I said I’d fallen, said it wasn’t him, he shouldn’t think that. I said “he’s a good person but he gets angry sometimes.” He said “so do you” and I thought the bruises looked like nebulas.

Sometimes he thinks that I’m stupid. Sometimes he wants to cover my mouth until I stop breathing because I should know when to be quiet. Sometimes he bites me too hard.
I still sing the same song I sang with him

We used to sing together, I know this, his voice was prettier than mine
I said I split my lip on the table corner when I tripped
I said I’d hit the back of my head on the bars of the bed
I said he loved me, really he did..

I said he didn’t mean it.
He ran his fingers on my spine, tracing letters with his fingertips.
He wrote my name on the insides of his wrists, along the veins.
He bought me the perfume I wore even though he hated it.
He wrote me letters in loopy handwriting, signed his name with curves and curls
and in the end wrote

P.S. I didn’t mean it.

For a smart young woman, I have been such a misled little girl most of my life.

Stepping further away from that, leaving words in the dust and hoping for strong winds - these are the things I will take happiness from.


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