Thursday, 26 March 2015

Big Toe Locket

Trevor did up the clasp and admired his girlfriend's beautiful white throat before he asked her, still with her eyes closed, to turn and face him. The silver necklace sat attractively across her clavicle, the tear-drop pendant nestling in the dip between her small pushed-up breasts. Perfect. Exactly the effect he had hoped for.
Open your eyes,” he commanded her.
She did so, fluttering her eyelids flirtatiously, to see her pulsing throat reflected in a hand-held mirror. “Oh babe, it's gorgeous. Your best yet,” she said breathlessly as she lightly caressed her pearly skin and the delicate chain.
Trevor knew Lou was vain and materialistic; she delighted in anything sparkly and wanted all that his money, inherited or made, could give her. His latest gift would certainly sweeten the deal. The marriage deal. His third, her first. Lou had to be bought and wasn't ashamed of it. If anything she played on it, realising early on that he liked raining elaborate and expensive gifts on the very people he wanted to influence. And she wasn't adverse to playing that game or in the end being possessed, not if she could squeeze anything she liked out of it.
So here they were, two and a half years on, with Trevor finally feeling like he'd managed it. She wouldn't refuse him this time. He could tell by the dazzling smile she was wearing. This little piece had certainly trumped the Michelin starred restaurants, classic sports cars and luxury holidays, and confirmed his status as a Sugar Daddy, a rapidly greying-haired and bearded one at that.
Teddy Bear,” Lou called in her little girl voice from upstairs where she was now admiring herself in a full-length mirror. Trevor took the stairs two at a time and found her in their bedroom holding the pendant out in front of her scrutinising it, “What exactly is it? It looks a bit like a solid tear-drop, but it's not is it? And I can't open it.”
No dear, it's a big toe for good luck like a rabbit foot. I had it specially designed and what's inside is for me to know.”
Lou's face was a picture, one of distaste for her latest gift mixed with fresh contempt for her much older lover, “A toe! What a novel thing to do! Did you give one to your ex-wives too? I'm sorry babe, it's just unusual that's all – it's still beautiful,” she said trying to mask her ungrateful blunder.
Yes, if you must know I did design similar lockets – a lung and a kidney – for Joanna and Rachel, both of which are stored in the family's vault. You don't think I'd give you something they'd previously worn? It's a unique one-off piece just for you,” he said planting a kiss on her furrowed brow. “Darling, do hurry up, we have a long drive to the castle.”
Nicely done, he thought going back downstairs to load the car and start the engine. A tiny hiccup, but it was coming off as he planned. A conservative man, his wooing of Lou had been arduous as she failed to so easily yield to convention. She was a modern gold-digger unlike the meek girlfriends and wives that preceded her, but he almost had her. His forever girl.
The drive to Wales was uneventful. Lou slept most of the way, her doll-like head lolling on her shoulder, as he revelled in foul looks from other drivers. It was only natural they should be jealous of his faster car and younger companion.
They arrived at the holiday-let castle in Roch just as the light was dimming. Trevor had made out he'd rented it for a long weekend when really it was his property. Lou tore through, exploring rooms, while Trevor ensured the housekeeper had kept to his exacting requirements: a chilled ice bucket for the champagne and a light candlelit fish supper. He drew out a key, the same size as you used to find on a tin of spam, and a magnifying glass from an inner coat pocket. He couldn't wait to open Lou's big toe locket and share details of his life's ambition: the assembly of his perfect wife.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

You & I

There's a cord between you and I. You, I'm sure, have taken scissors or a knife to yours, made a clean cut and tied a tight knot in its frayed end.
I didn't. I couldn't.
And unless both do so, a connection, though it may be faint and no more than a fragile thread, remains. A one-sided, unfair exchange. I sense you, but you can't me.
You wanted nothing more to do with me, and yet your shadow still comes to visit. At odd times. Your shadow keeps irregular hours. It comes when I'm quietly reading, gazing vacantly at a distant point, washing my hair, or just as I'm about to drift into the land of sleep. Your shadow slips in thinking I won't know it's there, but I always feel its presence. Its unmistakable breath. A noticeable cool breeze.
Other times, it will plant a thought and your name will enter my brain with an elastic band snap or a bubble gum pop like Batman fighting evil in Gotham City. KAPOW!
Once upon a time, I could have been your Robin, your sidekick, but by the time you realised that it was too late. And so now your shadow stealthily calls in. Drops by, hangs out. Flutters pages as I read or wafts a chill breeze around my face, feet and hands. My fingers are like icicles, my toes cubes of ice. I no longer feel around my flat for draughts or air pockets like I used to do because I know it's only you. You seem to have this need to check in from time to time, but refuse to acknowledge this truth to yourself on a human level.
You and I are twin souls; pearls from the same single strand. Did you know that?
I should have cut the cord when I threatened I would. I haven't.
Why didn't I? I tried...
I censored thoughts. I archived evidence of your being. I did everything I could, bar the one thing I knew I should. Cut the damn cord! The string that ran from my throat to yours, that tethered me to you like a bobbing kite.
I couldn't bring myself to do it. To close the window to my soul completely. I don't know how you could. How you could cut your cord and tie a sailor's knot. Do you regret it?
I like to think so, but probably not. I was TROUBLE. A vortex of conflicting emotions. You could never have helped me to untangle them; at times, you unwittingly aggravated them. Unseen, I would erupt. The fiery passionate nature that my family know me for would come to the fore, bounce off the walls of my flat, and then descend into Churchill's black dog of depression.
Why should you have to deal with that?
Nobody should have to deal with that.
Fear holds me back and I let it. There's safety in fear and singularity. Surely you realise that?
What the soul wants isn't so simple to perform. The human in each of us pulls our strings. Goes against what our soul really wishes or ignores the lessons we've come here to learn.
Severing human-to-human communication dispelled that odour of fear. The air became fragrant and spring-like. The darkness disbanded. Now I wouldn't, I couldn't fail you. I couldn't be rejected like a misshapen mannequin.
But dismissing your shadow was a step too far. I didn't want to cut and burn like you like a cancerous tumour from my life, although I know I might have made it seem that way. I had to. I was never going to slice the cord all the way through as if I was slitting the neck of a stunned beast. I don't mind the sight of blood, but it's not in me to be the one to shed it.
We're the same you and I.

Picture Credit: Peter Francis

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Misunderstood

Sometimes those that have nothing or who give everything away are the wisest people. And what they do without or give isn't always material possessions. They may make 21st century sacrifices, but they also give their time, their energy, a thoughtful gesture, a kind word, a friendly smile. Some of them don't recognise their own giving spirit because they couldn't possibly live any other way. If they went against their own nature, it would be like rubbing coarse salt into a raw, weeping wound. Some of them try, feeling they need to toughen their outer shell, but often it feels too unnatural. It doesn't sit well.
Yet these giving spirits can be misunderstood, especially by those who they assume are kin and think much of. Another who they see the same light in could misinterpret their words, their actions. And when that happens it's painful. A pain that's deep and long-lasting. A torturous, lingering pain...
A nauseous stomach, a shattered rib, a punctured lung. A grumbling spleen, a twisted knee, a sprained ankle. Sharp, daggered shoulder pain. A constant head drum. Drum-drum, drum-drum from dawn to dusk. Fighting for breath and clutching their chest; every intake a rasp or a wheeze.
Then the rain comes...a drop, a splash, a gush. A showy fountain, a spectacular waterfall, a fast-flowing river. Followed by dull, heavy skies with a single ray of sun poking through. A slight reprieve from the throbbing ache.
The thick cotton clouds lighten and gulls once again wheel overhead with their pitiful cry. In the trees, the wood pigeons coo, 'My baby's sick. My baby's sick..' for even they know this sickness is not over. It will return with a fresh pang, a new symptom when it's least expected. A sudden sadness, a welling of eyes, airways obstructed by muted dry sobs. Or it might be a violent burst like a blow from behind or a ruptured appendix. A fleeting memory, a brief encounter, a single read word, a heard five minute song causes a rainbow streak or luminescent stars to shoot and flash. That emotional wave crashes, tamed or volcanically active, as if the one afflicted were the shore. The sand on which it beats with a shush or a deafening roar.
At moments like that, go with it. Let the current, the out-pour take you. That's what makes us human. We all have masks that can slip. We all make mistakes, we trip.
But it's hard when the pain dealt doesn't dissolve into nothing, return to its original nature, or soften to that of a daylight bulb. Dimmed, no hissing spark, no licking flame.
How could someone who seemed to be on the same wavelength as me get me so wrong, they wonder. It's puzzling to them because they're genuinely interested in people: their backgrounds, their everyday lives, their culture, as well as in those that appear to share that same spirit. But assumptions, presumptions in this online world are hurtful, and this is where the misunderstood are more likely to be hurt.
A throwaway phrase, a held view, a strong opinion may be taken the wrong way, and that's when the pain starts. Character assessed and pulled apart. Confrontation, a refusal to engage or an abrupt silence. Hurt flows in both directions.
Let the drawbridge down and thieves rush in, upset beliefs and perceptions. Steals precious jewels from the victim, a sense of who they thought they were, and crushes them. Grounds them to a fine dust.
But this loss, this pain doesn't make those misunderstood seek to be consoled. The very opposite. Pain is a catalyst, a helpful companion, an instrument for compassion. All they want from life is to be understood as to understand.
Picture Credit: The Tragedy, Pablo Picasso 1903

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Little Miss Average

Average that's what she was, had always been. The average kid who was average at school. The average teenager, possibly a touch more responsible than her peers, but who still experimented with the latest fashion and make-up, and along with it nightclubs and alcohol. As an average young adult, she'd kept some of those habits up whilst holding down an average administrative job. She'd followed the set rules of home-commute-work-commute-home, as other averages had done before her, and like them saved her salary for her 'BIG NIGHTS OUT'. A Saturday, once a month with the girls. She became a member of a gym and added it to her schedule as if she were revising for an exam. It could not be put off, it had to be done. Every single day. Averagely, although she would strive for sweaty perfection. Pound away stress on the treadmill or cross-trainer; immerse herself in dance classes, forget about those around her and perform.
A baptism of rhythm and music.
A hamster exercising in a wheel, in a cage.
Too average to stand out from the crowd, as she didn't have a lot to say nor did she ever think to push herself forwards. She was just getting on with the average status quo. No burning ambition, no drive. A pastel shade of wallpaper that you might find in any average home. Magnolia. A pale English rose. With average looks and the average height for a woman. An average build. Typically blue eyed, but not typically blonde.
As you get older, the more average you become.
And so it was with her.
In her mid-30s the average looks were faded, nature gradually stripping them away, but by this point she had stopped being merely average. She owned an average apartment, but paid below-average bills, and had opted out of the average marriage with the average kids. She refused to be Mrs Average, preferring to remain little Miss.
She now avoided the gym, but still did the average daily fitness – a combination of average yoga with average pilates - with lots of walking thrown in as she refused to learn to drive the average car. Her average feet, she claimed, were made for walking! Her weekends were full of the average domestic chores: food shopping, laundry and cleaning; the evenings saved for the average television viewing in the ratings war. Her social life was about average for her age, far less boisterous than it had been in her youthful days, and the venues had changed to caf├ęs, restaurants and cultural settings.
Average she was still in appearance, but not in her attitude to paid work. She passed up opportunities that failed to meet her exacting requirements, that didn't give her essential 'ME' time. Time to volunteer, to read, to write, to learn, to create, to reflect. Some might complain she was inflexible, but the balance for her had to be just right. Rigor mortis in regards to compromising on this had already set in, which meant her mind was years ahead of her average peers and older generations.
But despite this growing intolerance for the hustle and bustle of life, she's still your average person: nice. Although there are days when little Miss Average has a little more bite.
A hamster freed from its cage to trundle around in a clear, minuscule plastic ball.