Monday, 28 September 2015

The Makings of a Virago


     The signs were all there: insomnia, talking to myself wandering from room to room, kissing mirrors leaving bright scarlet lips, eating tubs of fudge ice cream while sitting on the dusty floor of my closet, squeezing the compliant cat so hard he ran out into the rain never to reappear. Like somebody else I know. I started thinking about underwear again. Not the super-enriched cotton full-size briefs and saggy vests designed for plain comfort, but beautiful, sensuous silk brassieres and panties sewn in delicate Belgian lace. This was my madness; this awful knowledge that my old undies must go. You see, I realized this fact when I found myself crawling across my bed, on hands and knees, nose pointed into the fragile fabric of the Venetian coverlet. Sniffing, inch by inch, for any sign of your earthy scent. Snarling like a police dog looking for a running man. It all seemed so futile. What I actually smelled was not clear. Whiffs of laundry detergent? Cat pee? After shave by Jean Paul Gaultier? No matter. I made a sad ceremony of violently balling up the bedspread and tossing it into the washing machine. I turned the temperature dial to 90 degrees, the maximum. I said it out loud. "Disintegrate, please disintegrate." I had one more important job. I emptied the top dresser drawer onto the carpet stained from the dregs of red wine. Once I took a sip of that Merlot and held it in my mouth while you kissed me hard and sucked the alcohol and spit it out, like a fire-eater in a circus. I've drawn your face on the large stain with a black magic marker. Now you are absolutely permanent. I can see your face whenever I want. the big brown paper bag was stuffed to the brim with my lingerie rejects, and I dumped the lot in the recycling bin.

     I've been thinking. I've always tended to rescue men as though they were an endangered species lost in the wild. I kept them as exotic pets. I loved them passionately until they wanted their freedom. I found them on street corners, smoking like old delinquents, recollecting their night raids of vandalizing cars in midnight parking lots. I found them angry in their leather jackets, pounding their steering wheels. I could make them shed tears on my shoulder. I found them exiting bad marriages, and biting their manicured fingernails until they bled over their suits. They were all ready to talk when I invited them home to huge bowls of spaghetti and plastic tumblers of cheap red wine. Sometimes I ironed their shirts. They fought over me in kitchens, punching with hard, clenched fists, and grappling on the linoleum tiles with the shouts, "Don't you touch her!" "Don't you go anywhere near her!" They came out with bloody noses. I should have been happy with that. They were clever and funny and ruthless. I walked down the aisle, knees trembling beneath white satin, and married the man who would leave me.

     There are some images that stay with you for the remainder of your days and nights. These continue to haunt my dreams. I've tried to make a film in my mind, splicing together the times of my life when I felt in love and alive. The film is finished, now. Of course, it has to be private. But I have the privilege of running the reels anytime, anywhere. I've seen the film many times: waiting for a bus, pushing a trolley down supermarket aisles, putting my head under water in the bath wondering how long I could hold my breath. In the kitchen I let the tea kettle boil dry. The red plastic clock ticks as loud as a metronome, and matches the thundering palpitations of my heart. Perhaps I could label these beats as 'Andante' or I could speed everything up and go for 'molto Allegro'. I'm watching as each frame moves by in slow motion. there is no sound except the lines I provide myself.


     1.  Late at night Richard tapped on my bedroom window. His Christmas-rush shift at the city's post office was finished. Under the blankets his body froze me until we held each other in a death-grip. I breathed my hot breath into the crook of his neck. He said, "I broke the guy's arm. He kept baiting me, calling me "Jew-boy", so we had a fight in the elevator, and I twisted his arm behind his back until I heard the bone snap." I wanted to say, "he deserved it." I wanted to be horrified. Instead, I felt some thrill of danger in him. So I rescued him that night, and lost my virginity. Blood seeped onto the sheets. For months I wore his engagement ring, with its tiny stone, on a chain around my neck. The secrets started then.

     2.   "Carry me to your castle", I said, and he would scoop me up, and gently place me on the bed. That night he was the conductor. On the turn-table was his surprise; the climactic movement of Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde'. he instructed me. I was his eager pupil. The music played so I could recognize the soaring phrases, and hear the exciting build-up of the exhilarating crescendos. "Can you hear it?" he whispered. He started the music again. He wanted me to wait and wait, and I now knew when to let go. We made filmic-love for 6 minutes and 24 seconds. The timing of this was impeccable, and he came at exactly the right moment. The tormented chords moved over our bodies, and it was thrilling. But I was young, and wanted that night to be the template for our always love. More fool me.

     3.   When my husband walked in I had no idea where he'd been for all the hours I waited. his face was set. His lovely mouth looked like a slashed black line. His eyes were defiant when he said, "I don't have to explain to you where I've been." All I remember is the overwhelming rage and fear coursing through the hands, arms and legs that had been sitting, so afraid, yet quietly mending a dress that resembled a painting by Picasso; so colourful, such a happy pattern of abstraction. he seemed grey to me, standing across the room, legs astride. I still held the tiny sewing scissors, and I saw myself, from afar, run ning at him. I thought of spurned, faithful Jocasta, wife of Oedipus, and I wished I could stab out his lying eyes myself. For I was already blind. Vengeance is always a crowd-pleaser on film. We got a divorce, and I framed myself as a cinematic mourner in the court room. I can never remove the shock of walking down the office stairs, and seeing him with his arm draped so intimately around the long-haired woman, stroking her arm. Everyone knew except me. I can still hear him say, "You think making love has to be spiritual, but it's really just fucking." I'm going to burn this cruel bit of celluloid, now.


     4.   This is my favourite section of the movie: those wild and unconventional places to make love. here is a winter walk with Mason, our cold hands swinging, our talk leaving small frost clouds. There were snow drifts beneath the trees looking like soft eiderdown pillows from a Norwegian bed. He pulled me down on the cold ground, and lay my head on the settled snow drift beneath a tall, snow-laden Spruce. It was quick.
, minimal undressing, just enough openings. I felt the cold through my back and then the heat. Soft flakes fell from the branches like little cotton stars over our bodies, and I dreamed I was inside the most beautiful snow-globe that the Norse gods had violently shaken.

     5.   Under the old, dark eaves of the costume department; sneaking up the rickety stairs so no-one would see us. A Sunday. I said, "I want to put on the most beautiful dress for you." it had to be a courtesan's gown, yards of lace over vast crinolines. I'd wear a feathered mask. But there was nothing as erotic as that desire hanging beneath the plastic dry cleaning bags. Instead, I dressed in a simple, elegant grey crepe with pearls and sequins on the bodice and 21 hooks and eyes. I stood with my naked back to you, and you came to me in silence, and slowly fastened each one. I could feel your breath on the nape of my neck. You stayed in the same clothes. The uniform you always wore; jeans and a blue shirt. I don't know of anyone else who expressed her love on an improvised pile of winter coats, furs and an old chenille bedspread. I stole that dress.

     FRAME  6         FINIS

     6.   I threw your twelve string guitar at the wall. I have gone mad. I went from room to room in the emptied house, singing five versions of Ophelia's lament. When I reached our bedroom I chanted your name over and over and over until I lay down on the scuffed floorboards. You see, being awakened can be dangerous. I should know.


A cast of two

The copyright of this post belongs to Claudia Anne                                                    September/15

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


How many drops of happiness do you contain? Don't doubt that there are lost treasures waiting to be found within the chambers of your heart. Will you keep them a living secret like memories locked in a box? Do not be the ghost of a bride you once were, confined and defined by your past. Be whole again, explore all that you are. Let me drive the travellers from the heath. I will bring them in from the cold and set them up in the comfort and warmth of a Bedouin tent. They have a drunken three legged dog and a bear that plays the banjo and I defy you not to laugh. They will not scorn you, they will welcome your mirth and share in it with you. Come, bring me my locket in payment I have no need of that silver pebble at my throat and they will not uproot themselves for nothing.

Come now. Head towards the weeping willow at the crook of the river and you will see their fires blazing orange against the twilight, the air spiced with woodsmoke and something altogether more mysterious. I know your mother warned you never talk to the gypsies in the wood but she lived her life in fear of shadow demons, do not be hampered by those narrow lines. Go. Live your chameleon dreams, travel through meadows honeyed with dew, through valleys filled with the song of streams, dance naked under the moon doused in perfume and be true always to yourself for you are peerless and priceless and you will become whole again.

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Mermaids and Marigolds

Wednesday was the worst day. It should have heralded the middle of the week, a peak from which she could slide back down into the weekend and her longed for day of rest. Instead it had become this pinnacle of dread. The Nursery gave out at mid day and the well-shod of Finchley descended on her for lunch, their chocolate-smearing, nose-picking, sneeze-swiping, sugar-sprinkling children in tow. The 'Terribles' were not limited to the twos in her experience, the three, four and five year olds that visited her cafe seemed equally capable of rising to the label, as did some of the Mothers. How was it possible to get cappuccino foam on the lamp shades for goodness sake? And yet there it was, mocking her belief in the propriety of a certain class. But they were reliable customers at least. When many of the other traders on the road had gone under she still managed to keep going and she knew it was these regulars she had to thank. She tried to forget that they were the stone in her shoe and smoothed her pinny, ironed on her smile and braced for impact.
The day did not disappoint: two glasses of spilt juice, four returned (half eaten) shortbread squares with smarties missing ( after all that is what happened when the children ate them) -"Smile" and a near emergency when little Amelia had to be taken to the kitchen with her Mother to empty the tea pot of its scalding liquid before the child's finger could be removed from the spout. Then there was the arrival of the raucous Barnston twins who brought with them their Harmonica and a toy kettle drum and proceeded to 'entertain' their unduly appreciative captive audience. What were these Mothers thinking Sky wondered, other than perhaps "Make it stop!"
When she had opened the tea shop Sky had envisaged a quiet clinking of tea cups on saucers, a genteel kettle whistling in the background of an aromatically steaming kitchen, clouds of pink frosted cupcakes and hand piped delicacies. These wild wanderers swishing in and the constant competition between the smell of bleach, floor wax, coffee and gentleman's relish ( don't ask!) was somewhat at odds with her dream. Now by the end of each day she was desperate to escape the marigold handcuffs and slip into a world of her own creation. The church bells would chime their evensong melody and under their spell she would lock up one life and enter another, forget the marmalade stickiness on the backs of the chairs and suck instead the sweet nectar of life; stroke her cat from whiskery nose to the tip of its tail, run her hands through the bowl of frozen peas, sink into a sloe gin at sunset and wait for her haddock to poach. After dinner she would submerge her skin beneath bath water, rainbow-slicked with fragrant oil and let her cares melt away. She would remember the ripples on the lake surface that she had enjoyed in the weekend's sunshine and imagine her silken skin to be that of an iridescent mermaid with magical powers, one who has never heard of marigolds.

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Put Yourself in Cinderella's Shoes

Autumn curls her toes in the murderous morning's frost and decay, her leaves embroidered with Jack Frost's needlepoint. I set out along the path remembering the feel of shale and shell beneath my feet from that first Summer when we had crunched hand in hand along the sand but it all seems so distant now. Now as I walk the path I feel the emptiness by my side, the ice cracking beneath the heal of my boot, the crust on a creme brûlée. As a child I remember the joy of puddle jumping on these ice-glass surfaces, the innocent destruction that brought a sense of power: to crush the sheet to tiny glass-like shards and watch the splinters spin off across the slippery surface. Now all I see is how brittle things are, the veneer of our reality so thin, so easily broken.
It is a while since I have taken this path through the woods and I do not remember where it leads but I know I must follow it, put some distance between us and our latest dispute. I find I can forgive more easily as the miles extend between us and time serves to bandage my heart. I must lose myself to find myself, talking sternly all the way. Stand on your own two feet Cinderella. Why was that not the moral of the fairytale I want to scream? Can I not make a happy ending of my own? But I had never been taught to believe in myself, to be enough, and so I was bound by fairytale law to rely on you to bring my happy ever after. I am a glass slipper girl: I can dance the first dance and cast my enchantment but I have no staying power without your desire. What lies between us is ethereal, we both need to believe in it to make it real. It is hard to recognise magic in the utilitarian, day after day. But I would be lost without you. If I hobble home to you on lotus feet will you kiss my toes and mend the rift, make love glitter between us again? I may have one last dance to share.

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan