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African Renaissance

Illusion Written on the Body: Manic Depression

Abigail George

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There is nothing lost in translation when coming home to the mock wife playing house, moving furniture around just for the sake of it. She is the one who is burning the pots that I have to wash but I wash those pots with a lot of hard work and love I am not coping because I am not the doctor. Because I am not the one who is fluent in the doctor’s language no matter how hard I try. How will I be able to benefit from wearing that white laboratory coat, stethoscope around the neck, with that particular bedside manner?  

Where is my infinite piano? Watch this. Watch this romance. It is clever math, no; it is elegant math with all of its violent alertness under my fingertips. What is the weather like in Los Angeles? What is a winter like in Los Angeles? What will my head say to my heart as I walk on that beach, or breathe in that valid air from that Parisian meadow with my moral compass to navigate me on those open roads, the wide open spaces of the Midwest? What will my limbs say to each other in London if I ever get around to having that London experience forgoing all my responsibilities as a writer and a poet in South Africa? For is not that what I am primarily.

A South African writer and poet living in a post-apartheid apocalyptic city. City life as opposed to life in the rural countryside. Searching for greener pastures in the asphalt garden where everything is golden and chameleon-like. I have never wanted the experience of loss. The measure of loss but life has given me that responsibility. Sutures too. Moreover, panic and I have had to thread both against threadbare knuckles. I have covered myself up with an American quilt. It has become my shroud. It has become my cover in other poetry. However, I feel it all the time now. The warmth of anxiety. I feel it humming, humming, and humming in my bones. Singing to the leaves on the winter trees. Guests every one. They are like bees. They are a rapturous swarm.

What do I know without having a sophisticated culture, a knowledge and education beyond this tidal moon and sun and then I think of the planets. How like the planets I am? I know my place. I know my place so well now that I cannot give it up. And why would I? There will never be a case of mistaken identity. All I will ever know about life is the predictions of Sappho, poetry and writing. And how sometimes how beautifully unpredictable life can be otherwise. There are storms in the dark and we need to speak about the acute pain from those storms in beautiful and wonderful ways. Mostly the image of depression is that of a wild thing. When I am crazy, I know that is when I am most alive. When I am not crazy, when I am most sober is also when I am most alive but I do not know it. All feeling leaves me and I long for the stress of crazy. I long for someone to tell me I am beautiful. You are mine. The pain of Sarajevo is in my blood. Mingled there in my blood. Staring back at me in my blood and but what can I do but stare back at it?

The door was somehow left ajar for me and my heart was bursting. It ready to be split open like a pomegranate. Seeds everywhere like seawater. I found wild oblivion, the safe passage from suffering in those seeds. At first I could not speak of the fantasy that I held in my hands and that my head wished for so ardently. I could not interpret those promised lands that my mocking husband returned from. I needed land and yet I needed to be reborn as well. I needed stress, a tour of the flesh like I needed the back of my hand. I flickered and then I was buried once again amongst the flowers. And with dirt upon my head, I soon realised that I was supposed to be the beautiful keeper of the vanished and the unexamined. The apprehended. I do not want to age. To age means to give up your mortality like an artist giving up their brushes. To age means to give up everything. To age means that you are not bold anymore and that you do not have anything to be brave over. It just happens to be in your blood to think these things. Never mind how you try not to. I need to write to you of the quiet courage of our mothers and our grandmothers. So pay attention.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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African Renaissance

What they say about first impressions

Abigail George

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In my family, the men are in a league of their own. They are authoritative, speak their mind, they’re elders in the church, patriarchal.

Politics has always been a part of my life; ever since ex-President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was released on that eponymous day from house arrest. My paternal grandfather, Staff Sergeant Joseph William George served in Regiment 39 during the Second World War. He was a highly decorated war hero. My father was a God-fearing, devoted, hands-on father, devoted husband, loving son, an educationalist first and foremost, (who was) later promoted to an Inspector of schools during the heyday of post-apartheid when all the primary and high schools in the Eastern Cape of South Africa had to be integrated (due to race relations because of our new-born democracy).

My father also found the time to be writer, scholar, and academic, lecturer, volunteer and community leader, and who graduated from no less than universities with six degrees, (Rhodes University, the University of the Western Cape, the University of South Africa, and London University). My father wanted to be a medical doctor, he had the marks in mathematics and physical science and chemistry for it, but he came out of the impoverished (now vanished, dysfunctional) community of South End, (District Six in Cape Town is more well-known), in the city of Port Elizabeth (situated in the Eastern Cape). It is the price he had to pay. My father taught me that a life of service is never easy.

Now I wish that my father just had more time to settle down and pen his autobiography. All the families in South End were forcibly removed (my dad has written about this, co-authored books, written pamphlets on mental health awareness, see the historic forced removals, South

End: As We Knew It, South End: The Aftermath, Depression the Sickness of Our Time: A Sufferer’s Perspective) from their homes, from a non-racial, inter-faith conscientized, cosmopolitan and vibrant community that knew nothing of gangsterism, illicit drug use and abuse, crime, and alcoholism, addiction, sexual, and domestic violence. This community knew absolutely nothing about endemic racial slurs, the class system, prejudice, and racism.

Due to the promulgation of the Group Areas Act it literally tore families and worlds apart, and now apartheid is supposedly a part of a bygone area, and yet the emotional baggage, the scars are carried by the youth, the young men, young women of the Northern Areas of the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Here God means everything to the mothers, and grandmothers of this downtrodden-violent, and brutal, and close-knit, protective community. We are staunchly fundamentalist when it comes to Christianity, church, religion, and family. In the Northern Areas young people don’t get the fairy-tale ending, the happily-ever-after. Instead the young men are the assassins of a kind of Dante’s inferno, the kingpins of the underworld.

Nobody has spoken about the compensation on the land question, (not yet anyway), nor the widows, children, and compensation for the great-grandchildren whose great-grandfathers, grandfathers, and uncles served in the Second World War, although the question(s) of land reform is on the lips of everyone. Will divinely-elegant solutions and positively-intuitive answers come in time, before combative, nonverbal -communicative revolutionary acts will be trending like who the Duchess of Sussex is wearing, climate change, global warning, and the global recession. It seemed as if my father wanted to save everyone that he has met, and come into contact with in his life from the mental anguish, and pain, clinical depression, and hospitalisation, institutionalisation for mental illness.

He obtained his teaching diploma at 16-years-of-age, my father never drank, he gave up his six-pack-a-day cigarette and tobacco smoking habit before I was born in 1979. My father is primarily the oral-storyteller in our family (and I’m a filmmaker, playwright, poet, and short story writer because of him), and he was also the first in his family to achieve his doctorate (in philosophy). He made his own way in the world, on his own terms, while eating the dust of the colonial masters, eating the breadcrumbs from their kitchen tables. My paternalistic-family has the blood of slave ancestry, European, non-European, Germanic, Dutch, and Saint Helena flowing through our veins.

The turning points in our lives make us aware of our own survival instincts. What do poems make us aware of then? Our own immortality.

We’re all rivals at some point in our lives. We all compete with each other until the day we mourn the days we lost listening to our souls and the feeling lost and numb only comes down to this. Not having a profound and serious respect for humankind. He’s been described as legendary, but he won’t even accept the word “mentor” in his vocabulary. Winter is the most perfect time to rest. There’s a lightness and a being in the air. Now there are only time for ‘botanical drawings of observations’, a palace, throne room, metaphors, and for growing older.

My father is now the illustration of a dark horse of a man growing dimmer and dimmer, and I leave that open to your own interpretation.

My own childhood transformations have come and gone taking bedtime stories, Disney and chipped teeth with them. Family history, imagination, the wilderness. When the world feels apocalyptic. When your mind’s eye sits through silences. The day your parents told you they were either going to separate or divorce and you felt like an interloper. I was the chosen one in summer, spring, winter and autumn.

The sun and days compensate for the lack of you. Now, we talk about love as if it is a mountain. We want to hike to the stars and forget about our hearts and what startled us into believing that we cannot live forever. Love is not love when it alteration finds. Shakespeare said that. My father taught me that God can even bear fruit in drought. God has no substitute. He can boast of having known poet Arthur Nortje, political activist George Botha, diplomat Bhadra Ranchod, intellectual Neville Alexander, assassinated struggle heroine Dulcie September, but he won’t with every altruistic bone in his body, so I will do it for him here.

Daddy is in the autumn of his years now, and I find myself thinking of his legacy, the thousands of lives he has touched with his fatherly concern, charitable kindness, humane goodwill, I will miss you more than the stars the day that you are no longer here. He has never curried favour with anyone, least of all politicians, and government leaders. It is both a curse, and a gift to write about my father. I am well aware that I cannot illustrate him as a man, he was daddy, confidante, and friend. My father always took a neutral stance in the arena of community politics when it came either to parliament to prevent the closure of the Elizabeth Donkin Hospital, a well-known psychiatric facility in Port Elizabeth, or the boards he served on in an executive capacity.

Everything, everywhere in this place, in Port Elizabeth, in the Northern Areas is marked by my father’s tenacious spirit. He has fulfilled his “mission, and five commissions”, this son of Sarah Rosaline, a domestic worker for prosperous white families (she took in washing to make ends meet, was a seamstress at Collegiate High School for Girls, that I attended for a year, and that real estate mogul Pam Golding also attended. My grandmother was so financial-savvy she even bought property in Fairview, unheard of in those days), and he was also the son of Joseph William, a casual blue-collar worker. In my mind, to me, his daughter, this “missionary-son” of the Northern Areas of the Eastern Cape, has fulfilled his divine obligation.

He has fulfilled his spiritual duty, and his prophetic vision with his age-in-action attitude. My father, or rather “daddy” has lived a fascinating and remarkable life, his glittering-mudslinging story deserves to be told, and we all know that, in his eyes lies confession, memories of attending a talk by comrade and compatriot Ruth First at a political rally in London, memories of writing with invisible ink, memories of  university life in London, interrogated for over an hour as if he was a terrorist at Dover Airport. Confession that he was recruited into a subversive political organisation at the age of 16-years-old led by the late struggle stalwarts and intelligentsia Neville Alexander and advocate Fikile Bam.

Ever heard of the Yu Chi Chan Club? If you haven’t, I’m busy writing that story, transcribing his (daddy, of course) “all of his confessions” before I get to Robben Island: Our University.

He was head over boots into politics, and the only thing that saved him from Robben Island, the quarry, the bucket system, his conversations being bugged, was his comrades, and compatriots.

I came home to forget about my glory days at film school, and instead found people who were extra-ordinarily gifted in times that were much too late for lullabies.

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African Renaissance

Best of the Net nominated essay: “Secrets”

Abigail George

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So, mother, like Johannesburg, you cut me in deep, imaginative and raw ways. A cut from you was a project. Thinking of you, staring at you, looking at you, your progress illuminated the world around me.

Everything was brighter and so, I was always regaining strength.

The love I had for you was lost on the pages of my journal. Lost (always lost). You laugh and say nothing and it hurts. The bright heights of it. Lying on my back I’ve been draped with a blackening world’s information. When evening comes it is even more poetic than the previous day’s evening. And when I spy the afternoon sun, that great yellow balloon, I am a woman found who dares not speak of the insanity found in her family and whose shell of pain is wet and bitter.

I have lived in chosen exile. On the surface prayer is like a vision, cold is a delight, the silver lining that passes by, salt and air meeting on the wind. In poverty there is always decay, the song of a choirgirl, crystals of light, a graffiti of them. I trace them on my arm, the windows and my palms. What he, the lover does not know won’t kill him like it kills me?

I am slowly destroying myself. I have nowhere to go but down, down, down and there is no one to rescue me, to pull me out from under the dark towards the light. His roses looked like cabbages. Red cabbages, a red song for the mad girl, a flower for my bleeding heart.

The boy I used to play chess with in the park, sit on the grass barefoot, walk to the library with. He doesn’t have a name. His face doesn’t exist in my memory anymore. He has become a dark line, a dark fantasy although I can still hear his voice but it is from far away.

All these affairs of the heart have made me feel strangely creative.

They slide through me, teach me, whisper to me in the dark. I hate the dark. I need the light to burn bright even in the middle of the night.

I pull sheets over mirrors. And I imagine the lover whose dark hair smelled of rain. The rain of a child’s world. This is my sky, my grass, my rage (I view the world as an Outsider).

Girls are drinking beers in fancy restaurants trying to make conversation. Crystals of light evaporate in winter rain outside my window. Sexuality is really not of the flesh although most people think it is. It is of the mind. It is of the ego. It is intellectual.

When is childhood ever at an end? This planet is unstable. I am unstable. I was tangled in an obsession for being a ghostly not of the flesh sexual object. I thought that that would open doors for me to humanity for humanity’s sake. I thought I would be able to hear the chords of the earth’s harmony. It kills me to say this. Madness can be as magnificent as euphoria.

If only my childhood was different. Anne Sexton. Sylvia Plath. Robert Lowell. Confessional poetry down a brick lane. Confessional poetry for a coquettish girl. How beautiful and extraordinary those words seem to me now and forever more. When is childhood ever at an end for a writer, years of history and the educating of a young girl’s mind? I saw pictures of a formidable brick wall seeming to close in on me in those affairs of the heart and the mind.

Disjointed, evaporated fragments of the spirit. And every one becoming more and more apparent to me as the long days and the longer nights went by of my late adolescence and early twenties. Everything is disjointed, in fragments, there’s no clarity in what I have written down to me the reader. Everything is a journey. I’ve had enough of feeling this wretched way. Enough of the dead of a hot summer season, a season of fruits challenging me to think and to escape into a voyage in the dark, a sheltered experience, the blue-eyed wonder of the sky, stars falling down, stars in my lover’s eyes pleading with me with a clean perception during the midnight hour, scrutinising me openly with likeminded possibilities like clouds gathering across the sky.

Everything in life is a journey. One must walk the path of inexperience to get to modernity, influence, perception and wisdom. I think a writer, writers like Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Keats, Orson Welles, F. Scott Fitzgerald and a poet like Emily Dickinson knew this.

Two Muslim girls are standing outside my office window smoking as if their lives depended on it.  I hated the taste and smell of cigarettes when I lived in my hometown before I left for Johannesburg.

I don’t know where the children get the impulse to smoke from these days. At this moment I am concentrating on improving myself. Having a set routine, sleep hygiene, working on not having sleep deprivation, writing in my journal. And I wonder do they think of me, the men, as often as I think of them or do not think of them? The sexual impulse is sacred but I never saw this between a man and a woman, never grew up with it only with the realisation that sin matters.

I couldn’t stand to be happy. When darkness fell upon the city of Johannesburg, I came undone under his fingertips. I didn’t know why I hated myself so. Why certain books changed my life? Why I could only surrender when a man touched me? Love comes with paradise, tears, the explanations, the words, the observations that comes with gravity, the love songs, and it will leave you wanting lying in the dark.

There is no such thing as organic time or a clock. White meringue weddings are for girls, for orchids, for arum lilies, for tea light candles, delicate material like lace (not meant for a wonder guts like me, a tough cookie). I will not appear the same in the photograph as I do in memory. What do children communicate when they laugh, when they smile? Is their world not filled with joy? Why not mine? The faded leaves of grass under school shoes, bubble-gum stuck under a school desk, reading Athol Fugard’s A Road to Mecca, remembering all of these childhood things brings something temporary to the surface. Not tension, not indifference, but a feeling of love for being young and not being in an adult world yet. A feeling of being fearless, so motivated that I got the lead role of an archaeologist (or anthropologist, I forget) in a house play. I don’t know what courage means anymore.

Can you see the fragments now? How disjointed the narrative is? But is it enough? Is it enough to want desire? Sometimes I think that is enough. The sexual transaction can be far removed from being ‘a moveable feast’. Dampness seeps into the lining of my coat as I enter the hotel in Johannesburg (fifteen years ago) with someone else this time. He does not put his hand in the small of my back. He does not offer to buy me a drink. He falls asleep almost immediately as his head hits the pillow. The relationship is over before I know it for sure. They don’t come back to me.

Am I so forlorn? Is youth and wisdom wasted upon me? Maybe they’re seeking much more high maintenance girls. I just wanted someone to understand me. It wasn’t so much the educating part of it that I wanted. Dead writers have taught me that the pinnacle of creative expression is to challenge conventional wisdom always. I’ve surrounded myself, invoking their spirit, reading and rereading lines of their work, succumbing to their world of madness.

The world is not the same for women as it is for men. The role that women plays is still a diminished one in the equilibrium of space and time although there have been women who have been visionaries just as much as men have been. Women have taught by example, led by example just as much as men have but what these women have known is that wisdom comes later rather than sooner. It comes with maturity.

Darkness falls and I feel an emptiness inside. I am alone and I’ve finally surrendered to it. I am more in love with love than being in love with someone. I am Eve taken from Adam’s rib. A daughter doing what her mother did and did not do.

Secrets, keeping secrets is a demanding world. And then there is the rural countryside filled with patches of grass, the history of how to grow pomegranates, catch fish, the heritage of ruins, rain pouring down like a ritual taking its place in the hierarchy of the food chain, seasons that come upon us and pass, steps, leaps, stars, human stains, animal stains, blood, shark teeth, a school of fish, whales.

This world is meant for sessions of personal injury, hurt, deep pain, smiling laughter, you calling your daughter darling, the grim existence, and the caged existence of the young poet. I am capable (every young poet is) even though the cigarette smoke’s vapour’s injury starts with a mocking signal. I am not lost. Bold Heaven is pulling at vital me. I am a Romantic as I become more and more curious and the objects around me transfix me. The death of a relationship is in the air like horses in a race to the finish line, an aloe’s sap and tears, mirrors, your reflections, encounters with angels above and angels below on the earth’s alchemic plane as consciousness travels the globe, alongside the dimensions of spirit, the elements of soul.

The poems of Ted Hughes is the music that has shaped my nutritious isolation, my night swimming, my eternal waiting, and my frantic, hysterical weeping.

My night swimming comes with its own frequency and rhythm. My limbs take on a life of its own (so poetic, I am guarded against humanity, my imagination, inspiration, the Milky Way, the knowledge of other galaxies, the light of the shy laughter of a couple not far off from me swimming in the dark), suspended between the pull of gravity on earth’s plane and other parallel dimensions. The parallel dimension of my pure flesh and intricate bloodwork, my dreams and goals, the gift of my personal space (that most private area), an arena that so few have viewed.

Daughters do not always become mothers and mothers are not always perfect. They have their flaws. Ordinary mothers. Extraordinary mothers. Put them in a box. Every goddess-mother. I see my mother’s brilliance pick a valuable and beautiful object up and suddenly I’m transported to the room in a mansion. And there I shut Pandora’s Box.

Plant a flag there. If only God could hand out a medal for every birth-pang. Every mother has pulled funny faces when she was a child, held a cloud of a helium-filled balloon in her fist by its string before it became a shred, dreamed of a childhood continued when she became a youth in her sleep, as she paged through fashion magazines reading her horoscope not knowing yet that her future was predestined, that she was predestined to be a sexual object on her wedding night, a friend and confidante when she was wooed by her future husband, that her eldest daughter would be a failure, her second a major success and her third child would be a Scout, a quiet, bookish, loner as a boy who suffered from asthma and a beautiful intellectual, funny and sweet, a deeply imaginative-thinker, oh-so-serious who would be charming and artistic, sensitive and understanding as he grew older, and that this introverted leader would be both spiritual and show humility when it was called for in political meetings, a man after Winston Churchill’s and Abraham Lincoln’s own heart.

Betrayal is lethal. Plath a gone girl in young womanhood reaching dazzling heights like me. Live or die. Those were Anne Sexton’s words.

Pure. Introspective. Demanding a haunting interpretation. Yet their craft and bittersweet verse still defies terrifying and manipulative electricity, attachment, movement. Clever girls. Mother had daughters who were clever girls. You were no woman in black, mother. I put my suicidal illness inside a jar like a butterfly and leave it there for the moment. I escape into the pages of my journal, those hard lines, the physical, emotional, and mental appetite beckoning.

The landscape changes every day in leaps from green. Once I was in pursuit of Hughes, advancing upon him, closer to the flame in his psychological framework’s psyche, harvesting his cool gaze, that tower, that secret winter. His throne burns me, my guilt flares lap after lap in the Olympic-sized local swimming pool like diamonds in the sky marking the distance to the stairway to Heaven, the ladder to the Milky Way. Hughes sits at my table (I want to say that he should explain himself).

Mice in the kitchen, tails between their legs in the universal-solitary-shape of death after being wounded by the mousetrap, no survival guide for them, escape-route, seductive exit and their whiskers no longer move baffled by the world around them, there’s just an ode to the mute and I begin reading my letter from home that serves to improve the fragile, loved half-lie I’ve been living. Where, when did Pablo Neruda find the time to write twenty love poems and a song of despair?

Hughes is in my life again. His Winter Pollen. I’m staring at his photograph. He comes to me as if in a dream sequence. He is even more handsome than I remembered. I remember going back to the city’s elements. The city of Johannesburg. The watery-prophetic eyes of women and children, decay, dirt, spiritual poverty and that there’s nothing pretty or picturesque about the pain of the mind. It can be more acute than the pain of the body. Johannesburg to me is a kind of Hemingway Paris. A psychological construct made up of childhood dialogue, the female writer who speaks in code, the young women who would slip away in the early hours of the morning arm-in-arm with their dream man of the night after a nightclub closed.

Johannesburg was a Freedom Land’s anchor, a feast where the abnormal became normal, running with scissors, poetry in my twenties, knives, guns in the air. Sacrifice is not effortless. Midnight is but a voyage into the goal of a dream. Laughter keeps me alive. I seem to have been born with this intuition. Even now Johannesburg makes me think of the stale smoke of a cigarette and men who have moustaches. Boats have become arks. Girls have become quiet women. Here there are no ducks in the park in their own world of silence marking time with their song.

My sister adores her reflection, her face is a lake, the face of a scholarship girl. I watch her swallow shiny things, flicker, go up in flames, rise towards truth in the flesh and the spirit, her celestial madness and I ask myself does she never feel fear or vulnerable, does she never meditate on the sun only on our silence. She was a pianist when she was younger, tap-tap-tapping the clouds of the keys.

I can only survive with the memory of my Johannesburg. I can no longer kill the sirens with their elegant-shapes. The sirens who slit their wrists, jump off bridges, leave the car running, and hang themselves.

They’re becoming as rare as the rainforest, pilgrims. Perhaps they were too pure for this world, the heat of their sensitivity could not withstand any thing, withstand a pilgrimage, listening to the noise in a glitter-ball-world, arrows of ballads flying through the air landing at their feet like dew, sounding like a symphony or Beethoven.

Every dress, every heel, silk stockings, perfume is a gift but who will receive them? Daughters? Orphans? The Salvation Army? A fete’s jumble sale? Is it for a wedding, a baby’s christening? Beautiful women become ghosts of themselves like leaves. Now, weaving delicious spice sinking inside a curry-pot, (wet masala, mother-in-law, ginger and garlic, turmeric, fragrant curry leaves), I concentrate on the bowl, open my mouth wide to taste.

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African Renaissance

The mulatto

Abigail George

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I’ll leave the pain for tomorrow. Won’t even think about it until tomorrow. That is, if tomorrow ever comes. So, I walk in the present, barefoot, sometimes struggling to survive. I’m going to make myself some cocoa. My new best friend swears by it. That, and colouring books for adults, journaling for five minutes daily. I breathe in, out. In, out. He’s gone. He’s out of my life. This powerful figure that I dreamed about loving me, sheltering me, protecting me. He’s gone and married someone else. She had the daughter I could never give him. Someone else gave him the son I never could have. He’s gone. I’m looking for something to read. But I’m not in the mood for J.D. Salinger’s war stories. I’m too old for him now. He married girls. The kind of girl who wins a scholarship to an Ivy League University, and leaves her postgraduate studies because she thinks that Jerome David is the man for her. She’s got it all made now, because Jerome David is in love with her, and wants her to have his baby. Stupid girl! Sing it Cranberries. Zombie! Zombie!

My nephew is obsessed with zombies. A zombie called Benjamin Sylvester. Updike married the love of his life. All these women. Giving up their studies to follow the man of their dreams just so they could have children. Must soak in bath salts. It helps me sleep. That and my melatonin. Melatonin gives me gorgeous sleep. I don’t need sleep. I don’t need to eat. I don’t need a man. I don’t need pleasure. I just go through the motions of smiling, laughing, becoming angry, becoming Geisha. No one ever stays long enough. I didn’t tell you that before. I’m telling you that now. They don’t stay long. Perhaps my behaviour is absurd. Once I was too young. The love of my life tells me now over lunch that I look like his daughter. He is only ten years older than me, but this is his train of thought. I must submit. Never did. Never will. I believe in family values. All this time I could have been happy, but I’m old now. I look back at all those men. Gorgeous, impossible men and I never knew that they were in love with me. I only know that I’m fragile, you see. It would have destroyed me. Love makes staggering beauties out of the other women. What did it do to me? It would have destroyed me. First things first, what is this love? My parents neglected me. Dad was a writer. Mother was a fulltime knockout beauty. That business, that kind of beauty requires maintenance, maintenance, and more maintenance.

So, I learned how to read by myself at the age of four. Or three. I don’t know. I forget. A man understands this fragility in girls. I am a woman now. Surrounded by money. Money won’t make you happy. Won’t do anything for you, but make life perhaps more comfortable for you in ways you couldn’t have even imagined when you had no money. My sister, my beautifully put together sister has left me forever. How to deal with this. I write about Jean Rhys’ sexual transaction, she had a Mr Mackenzie who didn’t love her enough to make an honest woman out of her, I had my own tragic Mr Mackenzie (how I adored him, he never adored me back). I write about all of the non-existent love affairs now in my life. Now I literally have a throne. My beloved, my beloved, my sister gave me a throne. Gave me this nouveau rich life. I don’t want any of it. I want her back. I want her here with me, beside me, but we’re not tweens anymore.

She refuses to worship me. Nobody knows how to deal with me. Least of all me. I tell myself to behave. Do I behave? My mother says shut up! You!Intellectual fool, there are no more such things as nuns anymore. Maybe I’m a closet-homophobic personality. Lots of heterosexual men are. Even though I say I’m sorry, even though they pretended to forgive me for not sleeping with them, they didn’t. I know that now. Because I’m not a girl anymore, I’m a woman. I’m not beautiful. I want to die sometimes. I’m so embarrassed about the state of me. My emotional state. I don’t eat. I hide food away in my bedroom. There were maggots in the meat. On the plate. I had to dispose of that. I had to do that. Nobody must come into my inner sanctum. All I want to be is to be loved. Jimmy never let me meet his kid. A boy. The most beautiful boy that I have ever seen.

Sometimes he would tell me who he really was in love with. Just for kicks, I guess. Just to watch all the love he had with me drain out of his exquisitely handsome face. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. He was seeing a student doctor who was doing her practical. She was like me. Of mixed-race descent. Half non-European. Half-European. She was beautiful. I could see just how much of everything she was to him. They watched television together with her younger brother who was in primary school. He had other sports in mind for me, when the two of us were together. It was attention. It was attention that I wanted. All I ever wanted. Now I’m old. The men have moved on. Except I haven’t. I’m reading my Gwyneth Paltrow newsletter.It is telling me that a mulatto is not a thing. The mulatto is not an inanimate object to wear on your arm like an accessory. She is life, she takes life, she gives life, beauty to the world around her.

In the bathroom, I look into the mirror at every conceivable angle. I don’t like what I see. He isn’t here anymore. The man is gone. Never to return. Isn’t it because of the way I look?I‘m still bone-thin. The wretched mood swings are still here. Wouldn’t it have been enough for me to beautiful, charmed the pants off, as they say, and married, but the men knew what they would be in for from the start with my funny face. The temper, the tantrums. It would have been a never-ending story. Women, some women are also attracted to me. This I do not want. Not ever. All I want is the gone man. One-night, endless nights of passion with the gone man. But lovers turn into mothers as John Mayer so eloquently put it. I could not, do not have that impulse within me.

To be mother. My writer father was both dad and mum to me. He washed the dishes, was a terrible cook, terrible driver. But my father was very good at remembering when to pick me up from someplace. I’d come out, he’d be waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting for me. Everybody loves my sister more. She’s vulnerable, and open to interpretation at the same time. Now what did that remark mean, I think to myself. What did her smile mean, I think to myself? She’s off to Prague. She can’t speak a word of Czech to save her life though. She will always be a foreigner. A stranger in a strange country.  Guess that’s what she gets. For changing her mind about loving me. Nobody loves me. I am impossible to love. If I choose someone. They walk away. Leave me on the sidewalk, jump into their getaway car to go to a girl. And I stand there, plot and plan revenge, revenge, sweet revenge. Or, I’m in a parking lot. Done with me, they race away into the waiting arms of a fiancé. Men have everything. Men have it all. J.M. Coetzee outlived his son. Yes, yes. In the end they are just as insecure as I am. In the end, they have secrets too.

They don’t like growing older. But their looks increase. They are blessed manifold. They are blessed with children. And wives. Women who will adore them for the rest of their lives. I’m a natural born depressive. They want sexy and cute and vulnerable. I cannot be twenty-years-old forever, however much they want me to be. However, much I want that. They just want me to sit on their lap. I would have done that in a heartbeat if anyone had asked. Nobody asked. Nobody did anything. Nobody said anything. Nobody is taking my phone calls anymore. I’m old. I’m old. I’m haggard-looking. I still want someone to love me for me. Nobody wants to love me. I’m impossible to love. I’m too hectic. I’m too intense. Sorry. Apologies that I can’t be happy all the time. I still want someone to take me in their arms and tell me that everything, everything, everything is going to be alright. It isn’t. It would be nice if there was someone just to say that once in a while. You will find me in a locked room every year. For a week. I take brand new medication. I become a novel person. My personality gets a makeover.

The pills are fresh from clinical run trials in Europe and America. Now I listen to Carly Simon. Have conversations with her inside my head. She wasn’t a happy woman either. She was the most desirable woman in the room. She wasn’t happy either. Like me. Like me. She didn’t, couldn’t have the one man she did want. He was more in love with himself at the time, than he was with her. There is always a period in an actor’s life where the man is more in love with himself, that is his whole genetic makeup, his ego is his personality, his personality is his ego. His identity is caught in the crossfire. This other man, he actively, consciously makes conversation with me, all I can think of is Mr Columbia University. All I want is the men. Not this guy who talks like a woman. A woman who is an insane gossip. To me, he is more woman, than man. The way he talks, the way he touches all of my things like he wants to inhabit me. I know what he’s thinking. I know what he says to my mother. She can’t stop smiling she thinks that she’s finally got me off her hands. She’ll finally gong to marry me off. Then I will be somebody else’s problem. Not hers. Not hers. It hurts. It hurts me badly. Everything she tells her friends about me. I have so much insight into Vivien Leigh now. Marlon Brando. Laurence Olivier.

You have to first be in love with the role that you are playing. Be conscious of how you look, you must dress the part, how you walk, how you talk. Then you must be in love with yourself. Then the director’s vision, and the screenwriter’s vision. I’m an insecure personality. Mikale knows this. He knows I am mentally ill. Do they care how they treat me, how (in other words) they enable me, how they speak to me, they must hate me, or, or he is doing it out of love. For we have always been in love. I know that now. The thing is that the truth has come too late for both of us. This man looks at me with possession in his eyes. He wants like them all, to possess me. He wants to destroy me. Are you feeling sore, you wanted to make me whore, mistress, my love? I would have cared for you with my entire being for my lifetime. Dedicated everything to you. You chose her to be your wife. On that particular day you couldn’t wait to get her into bed. You said your vows in front of family, and friends. A television actress. You gave her what she wanted. A child. She gave you what you wanted. Thought you were too old to have children. She gave you a daughter. The daughter we should have had together.

Sometimes I pretend she’s ours. And when you sleep with your women, the girls I mean in all the ways that I did not, could not, would not, will not, or drink alone in a bar, think of me, think of me David, because my heart will be filled with despair, and all the time thinking of you. It is my turn now. It is my life that is complicated. The game is over. The love, David, I mean should be gone like you, but it isn’t. I loved you. We fight. I know you like that. But it degrades me. You want me to talk dirty. You know of course I would do it for you in a heartbeat. You don’t expect it from your wife, but your lovers. I can only be mistress and whore. You made that very clear to me.  Understand. You say stay away from me. But in reality, you are saying stay away from my family. If you go near them, I will kill you. Now we don’t talk. I remember your face in mid-orgasm. How you would hold me afterwards, how we’d talk and laugh like old friends, not boyfriend and girlfriend. Not husband and wife. We were, in Carrie Bradshaw’s own words ‘fuck-buddies’. It is lonely here in utopia. You’re not the man standing in my kitchen, even though I very badly want to. She is the hostess at all of your parties. She is the hostess with the mostest. Well, I could never even come out of the bedroom, to see you in your element like that. You’re not my mission anymore. I’ve stopped searching. Given up the ghost as it were. If it feels like I’m alone, it means I’m really alone now. Will I ever become accustomed to the loneliness?

I have nothing to offer but wine and my womanhood. What man wants an old woman with cellulite and stretchmarks and surgical scars, when they can be adored by girls. You have your manhood, gone man, (if Julianne Moore can say that in a Paul Thomas Anderson film, then so can I, and I don’t need my father’s permission to do anything anymore, he wants me gone, out of the house like yesterday. I don’t need a guru, or Dr Phil, or a self-help book written by Vishen Lakhiani). You’re man but also woman half-formed by the glory of the electric poles of the sea. You want me to submit to vertigo,you innocent. You want me to submit as any hot-buttered stripper squishing your insides together down below in the hummingbird of your gut. Your tongue is a compact disc holding on to a music school. John Updike’s music school. You unearth Pompeii. Unravel the fine threads of Rilke’s letters to a young poet at the military academy he attended as a boy. Porn stars seem to have it all figured out. I sit and wait at the doctor’s empty chairs all around me and think of a time when I was free. When my bones did not hurt, when my blood was not high. I’m ghost.  Ghost with juicy memory. You’re stillmy Hemingway (my darkness visible). My Kurt Cobain. My James Dean. I listen to the holy LanaDel Rey on repeat. Madonna is a rose-eating-peach. I compound death. You shuffle when you walk now, stranger to wilderness. There is no getting around this. This death, this life, this costume drama fake, fake, fake. I think of the life of Frida Kahlo, Jenny Zhang, Dorothy Lasky, Joop Bersee.I think of Elsa Lasker-Schuler. I have this image ofyou. I was obsessed with you, you said in life.You are a geisha. You are a Lady Gaga. You area minx in leather pants and leather jacket. Redlipstick. I have nothing to offer but joint, and street gang, the poor gene pool that I come from and the bipolar as tight as a noose around my neck. Bipolar singing carols in June. In those early days the bipolar was both judge and executioner. I eat the psychiatrist in flashes of flame, watching her descend as ash. It’s my job to eat her soft flesh, her thighs. Her hair tastes like snow. It melts away like asuicide. Of course, I know that it’s not good for me. Then I begin on the psychological, next the phobia, the fear, anxiety eating away at my sexy-thin heart. I am sick, sick, sick then well, well, well, then productive, productive, productive and then when I’m like that, I write, write, and write. That ismy reality. That is where I live. People have even diagnosed me schizophrenic, schizoid-affective. It makes me gag. I try and do normal things around the house but only normal people can do normal things.

Now I read disability literature to pass the time. Pamphlets on mental wellness. Sane means health, vigour, vitality. Enough about boring me. Are you as boring as I am? What’s in your head? Is there a fire waiting to burn inside your head as well? Eating makes me fat. Eating anything makes me fat. Can you smell that? Mum has burnt the rosemary chicken again. That’s the smell of my childhood sea. It’s gorgeous out there. I don’t want to see gorgeous anymore. The gone man loved me once. Now he has responsibilities. I must stay out of the way. I am in the way. Now, I am in the way. I remember how he said goodbye. Take that memory away from me. Take it from me now, please. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. It still hurts. He doesn’t care that he hurt me. He doesn’t care that we can’t be together anymore. The more I tell him I don’t care that he is old enough to be my father, the more he turns his head, and refuses to even look at me.

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