The talented scribe: Everybody has to grow up sometime

Whenever disaster strikes me in my world, I think of home (home as sanctuary, soft place to fall in flight, and adrenaline rush), or I go home. Welcomed by elderly parents, a happy dog licking my hand.

An old man forgets everything. Daughters though, have long memories.

Memories of their wasted potential, and their mother’s wasted potential, memories of the tender eyes of the first high school boy they kissed, memories of painful things, memories of regret, and desire, and of wasted pain. I always thought, I don’t really know why, of angels hiding in the dark ocean. Coming out into the light like volcano-lovers, or smoking, and drinking like Hemingway and Fitzgerald in France.

I thought of the poet Sharon Olds, and the writer Patricia Highsmith, oh, gosh, how much I wanted to be like them, how much I didn’t want to enjoy sex, being kissed, pulled in close, and held in a man’s arms.

But for most of my life, I was a blind oak, a sleeping woman, in pieces, in phenomena of constellations, found in galaxies of other worlds, dominated by the guy in quasi-relationships, and in the end, I forgave my father, what else could I do. He was in a wheelchair in the autumn of his years.

I thought that marriage could save you pain, but it only illuminated my mother’s. Sex was non-existent for her for years after my birth. I forgave my mother for staying with my father when I was an atheistic- teenager. I looked at her, and wanted to be her. In control without anti-depressants, and sleeping pills, sane, with a half-man, half-female, sane, without a man. There was something about her intuition that was divine, almost natural in the supernatural. Then there was her faith, her courage, the price she paid.

I was raised in the household of a strong woman, leaf falls to ground.

Belief defies religious belief, norm becomes opinion, girls have fun, let loose at university, but I did not. I lost myself in films, and art exhibitions. The rain always took on a pensive transformation for me, for the sea I would dress in skinny jeans, comfortable sandals, and t-shirt if it were warm outside. It was always important to me how I looked to men first, and women, girls second. All women were affectionate girls to me.

My father always had self-destructive patterns in his behaviour. He used to drink, was popular with men and women, and dreamed him up a bisexual persona that I had to live with; my mother had to live with.

There was always talk, Sunday mornings he was in church beside my mother, and my mother ever protective of me, her only child, her only daughter sheltered me from my father, the cheat. Told me to grow up to be a radical, politized feminist writer, and thinker. To be an intellectual. Nothing like her.

She was a homemaker, and sang in the church choir, sometimes taught Sunday school, the piano, and participated on the stage sometimes, acting a bit part here and there. Always a supporting role though. She was a dreamer, everybody said so. Then they looked at me and said that I was just like her. We had the same large brown eyes, same hair, and same dreams. I had to have goals, and plans, it made me forget about the time I found my father wearing pink lipstick, and peacock-blue eye-shadow sleeping it off.

Summers meant holidays, hiking, and in my own writing, it meant wilderness. Anything could be planted there, stemming harvest, and my history with boys in high school was always complicated, but not my writing-history. It made me feel complex, the writing one of my teachers said once, unfairly, was more quantity than quality. How I hated her for that, planned her death from a mugging, a gunshot wound to the head, and I even planned my own death from an elixir of sleeping pills, and neat whiskey.

There was always an emptiness in my life, even when I was with other people, a person, or my closest girlfriend, we would be laughing, talking, drinking, but there would still be this void inside of me.

The bullets would be heart-shaped, and I would be playing Russian roulette with a make-believe gun. Now, I think of my mother, of my own androgynous beauty, what had attracted her in the first place to my father, that first sexual impulse, the first time he touched her, that was the catalyst for my own writing, touch.

I remember my writing from childhood, and adolescence, how dark it was. The colour of the day, the stolen blue in the middle of it, a sea of wave after wave that belonged to the ocean of my youth. My ex-lover is at work. I wonder who he is attracted to now, if he’s fallen in love, who is the secret object of his beloved affection, and I wonder what her name is, what she tastes like, smells like, moves like on the dancefloor in a nightclub, sounds like in church, how she walks, how she talks on the exhale.

Books always tasted of sea light to me, the thrilling cadences, and rhythms of borders, and salt, and air. That strange hissing sound as meat touched grease in the pain that hit the air, a woman’s perfume like a risky adventure with an exciting, and tall, dark, and handsome stranger from an off-campus bar, sea air in my lungs, the vibrations of classical music reminding me of waves hitting the shoreline. Peak breaking, trough meeting trough, and light. The sea, like the kitchen table was always sacred to me.

I remembered Paul’s words, but what could words do anyhow. She, (he was talking about me), does not even know how to do sex, how to kiss even. That is not all she does not know how to do in bed. The people guffawed. The guys cheered him on him to tell them the whole story, the sob stories, the scenario in the bedroom. He said, she said, the talk got louder, the conversation boisterous. I turned inward. My identity cemented in this crowd of strangers.

What could intimacy between a person, and a girl possibly mean, he is infatuated with her looks, she is infatuated with the vision that he has of her. It is a lonely hunting-and-gathering game between the two parties. One searching for meaning, and respect, the other a sign of devotion, admiration.

Again, I turned inward, felt like an orphan from a country orphanage like Coco Chanel, self-pity rising up in me like an award for the role I was playing.

Abigail George
Abigail George
Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.