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.
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