The Secret Orchard

She wants diamonds, to live in a mansion (she thinks that’s the perfect life), to be the hostess of parties, to run her pale king’s life. She wants to hear the church bells ringing. She wants to sip champagne at these parties. The mulatto’s pale king is at her side. The years will go on. She’ll call it depression. Poets call it torment of vertigo. But she tells herself at least have his last name; he must love me. The wardrobe is filled with clothes, but her pale king does not love her. He came home ready to fight; she hid her bruises under dark glasses. She remembered growing up in a shack. The fact that she didn’t know what a tureen was. They ate at the country club every Friday night, with his old school friends. The women ignored her every smile.

In the secret orchard, I’m here waiting for you, but you never appeared, love. You then went off to the races. Called me your Coco Mademoiselle. Do you still think about me? You were a house of fun, made me laugh, made me smile. And all I could think of was unbuttoning your shirt, undoing you, abandoning myself in your arms. But now it’s over. You left me waiting for you by the house of fun. You never came. They say you’re in therapy now. It is scary how much you can love someone. I see a protea, and I am overwhelmed by grief. She’s gone. She never said goodbye. There’s nobody calling on the phone to speak to me.When I telephone out, I’ve burned all my bridges.They put down the phone.

He keeps me away from his friends. Everything I do foryou; I do for you. Same old Abigail. Same old him. Would have been a bad mother. I know this in my bones. That is how I taught myself not to cry. He has some happiness in his life. Being wife is not for me in this life. I have to write this down. if I don’t, I’ll forget about it. I will love you in secret if that’s what you want. If that’s what turns you on. I don’t want to hear church bells ringing.I am writing against depression. Dawn is breaking. You’re not here. But I am feeling fine. You see,I’m leaving soon. I’m going far away. You’ll see me everywhere. God and guards will be on my side.Don’t kiss me. Don’t hold onto me like you did once.

And when I began to write for English class Rob Perez was always in the frame of my mind. I pictured him making his way through the papers, marking them in red pen and finally until he came across my paper in the bunch, there is where he would finally align his vision with mine. At first glance perceptions are normality not borderline or bipolar. They’re usually just realities of light and energy. I felt an undeniable (yet also unattainable sense) of magic drawing in his dance of movement and on the contemporary as he made his way between the desks in the classroom. Memory, memory, memory could hurt the eyes, could pierce the heart away in tune to their own Hiroshima, could half-drown you in desire.

There between my pages he would find ministry, meaning, shielding me (and my secret forever) and standing solid at the same time behind my descriptive words. He made everything sound pretty and as fragile as words like climate change, global warming, ecosystem, and wetlands in class, where he stood magnificent and cold upfront in the class, reciting poetry out loud, completely detached from the reaction that was being raised in the crush of my schoolgirl heart. It had brought me much undisclosed joy to watch this adult male in my hemisphere. In my dreams we would have ‘conversations’. We would talk about books. My first choice had to be William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. I could imagine reading some of his own work, praising him or telling him what to rework, blushing that I could be that brave.

Back home before I had left. When I had been a suburbanite-townie with the infinite sea in my backyard, before I discovered ‘the’ Sylvia Plath, her husband Ted Hughes and their baby daughter Frieda in a poem in a time and place unlike any other I had never experienced again, in a country that time had for the most part seemed to have forgot. I stood on the beach, the wailing wind in my hair feeling as if the earth had been chilled by the inclement weather. Smooth, clean, washed shoreline, gulls softened feathers find its place channelled. On the beach, before I left for boarding school in Swaziland, my mother and I went for ice cream. She mother-blazed a path past me (like she did on so many other past and future-times), her mouth set in a grim, determined line. She was determined to say goodbye in her own way.

I am an adolescent girl again. Girl from Mars! in her school skirt and her summer blouse, from Ash (that Irish band). To keep my mind away from you, teacher, to stop it from enthralling me, to keep the knowledge of you clean, pure I am a collection of lost and found, an uneducated volcano, impatient smoke and the voice of denial. I have become a series of pounding satellites in orbit, the reminder of skinned knees from meeting the pavement, scary broadcasts on the evening news with the words coming out effortlessly from research. That is where I’m coming from, an illuminist. Fear from childhood gone. Troops in hardship just an imprint burned on my brain. My bedroom has become my throne room.

Here I have turned hours into a spotlight on loves, death, eternity, daughters and mothers. I wonder if he’s old now. I wonder if he’s elderly. I wonder if he’s been ill these past few years, or perhaps he’s been in perfect health. I wonder if he takes long walks in much the same way that I take long walks to combat the spells of depression. I wonder if I spoke to him in those days, would he have understood my highs and lows. The energy I would feel one day, and then, next, being overcome by tiredness and hunger. I wonder if he’s been ill in the same way that I have been ill. I wonder does he have high blood pressure or diabetes now, has he ever been hospitalised for depression, lived on and off with the stigma in the ways I have before I turn my thoughts elsewhere.

It is easy to be damaged by love. Especially when the object of your affections does not reciprocate your feelings. We have all been there. First love, first breakup, first date night, first marriage, first child from that union. Away from the moonlight, in the morning you realise you have made a mistake. I listen to rain, until the evening drips into silence. I haven’t lost the darkness since I was a child. Nobody but my biological father understands this darkness. God answers. Distance changes everything. Distance lends enchantment to the view. And when the end of love comes, it proves I have lived, and will live again. You will love again. Let the pale king live in his world, mulatto lives in yours. For both of your psyches are wounded.

Tycoons marry beautiful women. If you do not love yourself first, how do you expect to marry someone as insecure as you are. Marry a teacher, master, someone who makes you laugh, who makes you smile, who has a good sense of humour, who tells you that you are the most beautiful person in the world. Kindness, gentleness, a man who understands you completely. A man who has you at ‘hello’. Don’t marry for money. Marry for love. Woman is minor. Man is major. We only have to look at the sciences, philosophy, education, psychology, the canon of English Literature to see how Jean Rhys is minor and Dostoyevsky is major. But we write, male and female to inspire.

You didn’t want me. You didn’t want to marry me. I refused to be kept like a bird in a gilded cage. To be stroked, caressed, petted, fed titbits from the master’s plate. Once I thought you were the most amazing man I had ever met. It’s over. It’s over. You walked away from me once, pale king adored by your loyal subjects. I see now that you never loved me. Treated me kind. I came here to forget. Came here to forget that we don’t love each other anymore. There is a reason that you’re gone. The bipolar mood disorders. The clinical depression. The madness. The insanity. The sleepless nights. Insomnia, sleep apnoea, Pax, Lithium, Risperdal, and tranquilizers. I tried to kill you with kindness. I still think of you.

But I’ve moved on. And most of all you’ve moved on. You don’t love me, accept me. Never will, and I have come to some sought of sweet understanding about this. Have a child with someone else.

Abigail George
Abigail George
Abigail George is a researcher and historian. Follow her on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram @abigailgeorgepoet.