I have a twitch. A nerve. A nervous twitch. Hardly perceptible. It tick, tick, ticks just beneath my eyelid. It happens when I’m under pressure or overstressed. It feels worse than it looks. It’s off putting for me, my eyelid involuntarily contracting. Can you see it? My nervous twitch. No? Of course you can't. You can't see me at all. Perhaps one day the twitch will grow, pulsating beneath both eyelids, then down to my nose, my lips, moving along each arm. Maybe it’s happening now. If you could see me you would notice how my fingers tap, tap, tap against the fake, oak worktop. Twitch, tap, tap, tap.
Yap, yap, yap.
Around me and apart from me, people talk and laugh. I wonder whether they hold a secret which I can’t share or if I have a knowledge which they don’t understand. I speak but no-one listens. When they listen I can’t speak.
Madalena sits quietly in the crowded, noisy room, alone. Her speech is clumsy and stupid and so she remains silent. Two people talk avidly. She does not understand them, two dogs, yapping. Yap, yap, yap. Everyone is saying the same things but a different way round, she thinks. Glasses clank and laughter shoots at her from behind.
“Hello,” someone speaks. A mouth in a suit. Yap, yap , yap. A mouth. A suit. Yap, yap, yap. She stumbles and mumbles and slobbers and sniffs and waffles her way through a dull conversation. The mouth walks way to mingle, smiling. Clichés hover in the air, just above the mingling, jingling, claustrophobic crowd, ready to be snatched by convenience conversation. To match the convenience food, she thinks as she looks witheringly at the withering buffet. Then she gazes towards the ochre floor tiles with the white lines in between, until a pair of feet invade her personal eye-space. Her eyes try to will the feet away. The familiar grey, worn Reebok remain defiantly.
“Maddy?” A hand softly touches the red hair curling by her cheek, “Madalena? What’s up?” She stares up, somewhere vague past her husband’s smooth cheek, notices light glancing from each hair of his young, coarse blond stubble.
“I’m tired. Just feeling a bit tired.”
“Me too.” They drive home from the party. Paul is tired. Madalena is tired. They are silent.
How the angels fall. Plummet to the ground, then frail and spinning, floating, scraping. Like dry leaves on an autumn path. Hear them, that almost imperceptible rustling, white noise. Hear the angels scream in the unknown climate as their wings disappear then watch them adapt, rise again and fight with wildness, childness and pride. I believe in them don’t you? Angels on this earth.
Paul is calm and kind. Not an angel, he is born of this earth. I met him at Uni. He was comfortable. He’s got large, soft hands. I’d watch his hands move lightly and sensitively, up and down the neck of his acoustic guitar. He sometimes shared a joint with me in his cosy, Victorian high-ceilinged room with the purple, velvet curtains but he said that it didn’t do much for him. Paul would laugh at me. He always said that I was too innocent for this world, that I should be wrapped up in cotton wool. He just sees what he wants to see in me. When we became a couple I stopped the raves, the parties.
When I first started university I was shy yet the drugs made me wild. I’d talk, laugh, hug, dance on the stage at Lakota. I wanted to be famous, for what- I don’t know. Anything. I would have done anything, anything to be famous. I joined a modelling agency, did a few nude shots and posed for an amateur photography group dressed in a sheet. I joined a band as a backing singer but I didn’t really understand the African soukous rhythm and didn’t get asked back to the next rehearsal.
We married straight after graduation. His graduation, not mine. Paul, my husband. It was ok, for a while. Until the smell came. He said that he couldn’t smell anything. But it was sulphurous, hanging around me, exuding from me. If the smell had a name it would be humiliation. It arose when there were people around, shifted around like a dark cloud.
Childlike fun suppressed. People looking through cold eyes.
People always see me as innocent. I’m small, slim, red hair and pale brows. It’s like I feel like a completely different person than others see me. I don’t see myself as innocent at all. I feel almost corrupt. I tell Paul that I'm not so innocent, that I've done lots of things. Drugs, clubs, I once met a madman and went off with him. Paul just laughs and tells me that these are not his idea of fun.
I see things that other people don't see. I see things how you're not supposed to see them.
A bundle of coincidence observed by a logical mind within an illogical framework called western society. No one knows what's happening yet the grey authorities deceive us and make us doubt. They neither know nor care what we're going through. The unthinking masses are ruled by their sterile brother. It didn't used to be like this. Things were just things, life just life, nothing underneath, no hidden messages. When I watch t.v it doesn't make sense anymore. Not the sense that everyone else sees.
People telling others how to live (and in between I feel the pure fire). People telling others how to think (yet in my dreams I fly).
The birds start off high, in an invisible bubble, connected, flying simultaneously, around, down in a wide corkscrew shape, in huge circles, lowering towards the earth. Madalena gets on the bus to go into town. The bus mmms. The talk drones. In round, round circles. A young, old fashioned, permed girl listens to an elderly woman's story of lost gloves. A middle-aged couple, growing lumpy and baggy together, stares, puffy-eyed out of the window; they do not speak to each other anymore. Others stare too, out of the window at red-bricked houses and English front gardens, teenagers in sportswear, black skinned, brown skinned, white girls with corn rows and gold earrings. The bus drones. The talk circles. Regular passengers get on, greeting with nods, niceties. Life goes on. Then suddenly the sphere is shattered. The man stands up at the front of the bus, “They’re here, I’ve seen them on my t.v, they came in my sleep, they do experiments on us, they shapeshift. The aliens. They’re here!” his voice is clear, over the drone of banality. He is insane, does not fit in with this smooth circle, this regular, round pattern of events. Every face, every ear, every eye focuses on him. Shop girls look at each other, finding fun in the event and smirking; the elderly squint inquisitively, some glancing at the bus driver, who returns their stare in his mirror. A boy frowns, stoned, beneath the brim of his baseball cap and a baby chews, the only one oblivious. “Save yourselves, save yourselves!” he proclaims with almost religious vehemence, “they speak to me on my t.v, they read the news, they change their shape to look like us. They’re here!” No-one speaks. Yet a circle is shattered. The man gets off at the next stop, with a heavy sigh and gear change from the driver. The bus mmms. The talk drones. In round, round circles. Madalena can feel the twitch in her eye as she rings the bell and gets off at the bus stop near the supermarket.
The twenty first century arose out of the secular, nuclear force of the 1990s. Extremism. Terrorism. Love and hate. The Saviour is the beast in a paradoxical world.
I walk between the aisles, trapped, momentarily, in the bright maze. The packages, garishly flaunt themselves. Imagination unnervingly animates everyday objects and situations, with their dubious normality. I must remember, when need be, to close that precious infinity of imagination to keep me safe and shallow in the spontaneity of now. I must remember that the most interesting train of thought, one that seems exotic and tempting to follow, may be a path which I may later label as a red herring. Once one begins to travel down the path, dark and light become alternate extremes, or they merge into one, thus making the coloured world murky, meaningless, that grey-greenish yucky colour that as a child you create from mixing together every beautiful, round pallet of colour- pink, purple, blue, black, yellow- in your watercolour box. A world can switch from magic and sense and colour to a creepy grey nowhere. Paradoxes. Thoughtless though patterns.
I’m trapped. The cashiers are guards. They’re comfortable with their superior status, next to the barriers leading to the exit, reading for the exchange, the intercourse between consumer and market. The heady money-scented fusion of product, need and profit I am trapped. My one sure way of escape is to buy something. I walk around, along the aisles. I must purchase something, anything. I must escape. I pass women talking in strange languages. They choose spices, rice, bunches of green leaves. BUY BUY BUY BUY. Packages of bright light. I am lost amongst the cartoon cereal packet world, products offering their selves, tempting me to make the exchange. I am sick amongst this falseness, the panic flutters inside, threatening to take over my mind and limbs in a fever of uncontrolled flight. BUY BUY BUY. I pick something. A little something, anything. I walk towards the queue, the fluttering turned to impatience, waiting to be released. The floor bends, distorts, as does my spine, as if I am only a figure reflected in the curved, round mirror that hangs up on the wall. I reach the cashier, I pay, yet the cost is irrelevant. I want freedom. Relieved, I stare back, through the glass, at the other inmates.
The rulers are not visionaries. They don’t prepare for the future. Convenience. Fast food. Sell the little people cheap rubbish in fancy wrappers. There’s a hole the sky. A circle shattered.
Paul is opening and closing the kitchen cupboards. He picks up a packet of long grain rice and looks at it unenthusiastically before placing it back down and deciding on a take away. There are endless options along the High Street: fried chicken, curry, Chinese, Turkish. “I thought you said you were going shopping today. Maddy? Madalena?” Madalena is watching him, tapping her fingers on the table.
“Paul, do you believe in God or angels?” she asks him, she is wearing her glasses. Twitch, twitch, twitch.
God or angels? God and angels?
Something happened to me. Something happened that I don’t understand. There is a lock in my mind and somehow there’s a door. I must find a metaphorical silver key, the colour of the moon and open my consciousness to a new adventure.
Paul is comfortable. I can put my arms around him at night, and that’s how I feel. He is the sort that people say is 'husband material.' He married me because he didn't want to lose me. I'd dropped out of uni in pursuit of some kind of fool's gold and he knew, also, there had been others. He doesn't know how many others.
He has never really turned Madalena on, not really. Perhaps at first, yes the first time. Then after that it was easy, a convenient friendship, a companion, an intelligent man with calmness and kindness in his voice and manner. That is a secret. He is in no way repellent to her, though, just comfortable. There is no danger, no fire. Not too smothering, just a little bit boring.
Madalena looks in the mirror. She brushes her long, red hair. She thinks about the other secret. The secret that is now buried, replaced by another more sinister secret. How she danced, how men watched her, how she longed to be famous. The men liked the long, red hair, they would kiss it, tug it from her face, stroke it, tell her always how beautiful she was, how much more beautiful she was with her hair down and free like this. Pre-Raphaelite, that is what Ben said, Ben. There are moments framed in Madalena's mind. How strong she felt then: Ben, Andrew, Leon, the other guy, the psycho, her magical man. She does not even know his name. He does not even need a name. He is there, out there somewhere, away from here where she is bored and all boxed in.
When I was younger, and stronger, I was The Lover, stealer of hearts, in this Tarot pack of a life. I would smile, flirt, yes, I'd flirt and it was so much fun. I became greedy, snatching up those hearts, stealing as many as I could before time released its relentless weapon: age. I was young, panicking, naive, in a hurry. I was afraid of getting old, fitting everything in those few short years, with my short skirts, outrageous fashions, that I knew had a time limit, as they would just look ludicrous and ugly on someone older; one day I'd be aged, a sexless woman, undesirable and desireless, tired of men and disappointed. Yet now, I am not yet old, just older, I no longer wear short skirts, I don’t want to. I don’t feel that same need for attention, the kind of attention you get from the street, or in clubs. Contradictorily, I feel almost invisible, anonymous, not wanting to flaunt my sexuality but yearning for some kind of recognition that I'm still attractive. I am, aren't I? Still attractive?
Looking into this mirror as my face disappears, in its place, the figure of hunger, drawn and gaunt, its bony hand held in emaciated skull-like shock to its face.
At twenty one she liked to go shopping to buy clothes to wear at the weekend. She loved to dance. Especially if she was being watched. Especially on stage. At twenty one she looked good without even trying in the sexy outfits that she dared to wear. She always told herself that she could not always dress this way. Her hair, once the cause of school yard jibes, was now her strength. She felt that it was unusual, natural, and glossy, unlike her peer's bleached and highlighted styles.
The ecstasy she took one night triggered something inside. A magical world was opened to her: the music, the lights, the interconnections between herself and the cosmos. It was something good. The ecstasy, the repetitive sounds, the voice that she heard from everywhere, somewhere, told her to rise, rise, rise, rise above those school yard jibes. She was sexy, she was confident, she had beauty and potential. She did rise. For days the high would still be there, not chemically enhanced, but natural. She knew she was different. She was going to be something different, famous.
Magic, E magic. Dancing alone yet in a crowd, all listening to the same rhythm, feeling the hand on my bare shoulder, turning, laughing, floating in a safe bubble, looking into his eyes, the wide black pupils. Dangerous eyes. Mafia eyes. He could not hurt me though, I was in my safe bubble. “Hello, Rag doll.” I do not know why he called me that. I met him one night, then lost him again at the end, in the crush amongst the smiling Jamaican bouncers and the women in fur and florescent fabrics. I felt down but kind of high. It was ok, though, I knew that I would see him again.
She held that magic, youthful, budding sexual something, that power. An untamed sexual power, just realised, that would attract men easily, in the biological animal-like realm of human relationships. At the same time the male of the species could see she was innocent and just knew that if they tried hard enough, pushed hard enough, waited just long enough, they could have her too.
Old, sick god, what place have you here? To tempt a blind man, then punish? To give gifts freely and in return take sanity and strength?
I can't think too much about the past, this dwelling will trip me up, make me stumble. It’s like climbing a cliff face, if I look down I'll get dizzy, maybe fall. I should just concentrate on the clinging, the climbing, the holding onto things that won’t just crumble in my grasp. Now, I’m different. I may not have achieved kudos, yet I’ve gained in the last few years things that most women would envy, hold dear. These same women would tell me how lucky I am to have such a good looking, faithful husband, a lovely house in a fairly good area. I’m doing all the right things. I try. Paul loves me, yes.
I lie in bed. I listen for them in the darkness. The voices. Yes, I hear voices. The angels. I have heard God's voice. They say that to hear voices is a sign of schizophrenia. It says so in the books written by self-proclaimed psychologist Gods. To hear God is madness, and I’ll be punished. That’s what the cruel leaders say.
God is an energy, eternal. A power. The universe is held together by energy. God is that energy. Even from a scientist's point of view, this must be possible. Scientists use human logic to analyse an illogical society. There is a feeling of conspiracy which feeds from a mistrustful society.
If there is a God, is there also a devil? A dark spirit telling me lies, deceiving me, haunting me.
Paul told me that I’m not mad because one cannot diagnose oneself. If I keep telling myself that I'm mad, I’ll be rendered sane. Yet, symptoms of some kind of secret sickness blight my life. Everyday situations with people are reduced to a lonely humiliation, I rerun every scene in my head, analyse it. Then there is that lingering smell. The smell of sulphur or shit.
I’m falling to sleep. There are a row of figures, all sitting in rags, deformities on their faces. One man puts his face close to mine, cut, scarred, the left eye hanging. “This is what you've done to us,” he accuses, “this is what you've done.”
The men wanted her. She always seemed like so much fun, pliable. In the club, or at a party, dancing, hugging kissing, like one big family, sharing cigarettes, joints and bottles of water, “safe”, “sorted”. On a comedown at someone's flat smoking grass. In a safe, round bubble where real life did not touch her.
Eventually the bubble burst. The sphere was fragile, too beautiful, too colourful for ruthless reality. So was she.
She started to say eccentric things. “Music is invisible.” Listening to the simple construction of the music yet being aware of the primal rhythms which made the electronic music so effective. “Language only explains a minute detail within a vast cosmos.” They did not want to know or talk about that, though. They just wanted to get high and have fun. Fuck anyone or anything else. She knew she was different, in the cold she cradled herself, she would be famous, then they would listen to her, then they would take her seriously. All fun disappeared. All she could think of was the games they played, the looks they gave. The way they laughed at the things that she said. How they knocked her back down. How they bruised that budding ego. It was easy for them. She became quieter again, even more introspective sometimes than before. Her friend Melanie wore red and had a heart locket around her neck. The Queen of Hearts.
...falling into a game and I don’t know the rules. The object of the game? To find out the rules. A paradox...this game is starting to get frightening. The prize? Is the prize to die? Do I reach another place? A paradise? And my consolation for losing? A disappearance into grey obscurity? It is a chess or card game played by a nonchalant God. I am the Queen of Clubs, the white pawn, the joker.....the others would just get high and laugh.
Paul is looking into one of her large, pale eyes. She has her glasses pushed up on her forehead. “No, I can't see it,” he says slowly, eventually. He cannot see the nervous twitch but it has been driving her crazy, just underneath the eye lid. “Relax,” he urges gently, palms open, relaxed. There are paint stains on his fingers. “Do some watercolour with me, or go swimming.” She likes to keep in shape and she is sick of the inside of the house. Her life seems so limited. She goes swimming, her eyes just above the surface of the water, like a seal, watching the other creatures. The twitch in her eye pulsates subtly yet noticeably.
I'm deep and shallow, like water. A brook running through a forest which holds secrets, fears and questions.
I swim in a line, up and down, looking straight ahead. The cries of the children in the small pool ricochet off the tiled walls and floors. The noise cumulates with the water around my ears, the subsonic noises that reach my eardrums as my arms dig strongly through the chemically blue water. As my ears are above the water, then immersed again, I hear the children’s cries, a message which seems to shout, “I'm still me! I'm still me! I'm still me! It's elementary!”
I watch the innocent that I feel I have a duty to protect, in the shallow end, a coffee skinned boy with long dreadlocks with his cheeky, fat faced darker skinned friend. Young Muslim girls, in long t-shirts and orange arm bands, a tough little white boy emerging from holding his breath bravely beneath the water. Children. What is their future? Maybe a place at college? A footballer or footballer's wife? A teacher, a youth worker? A happy mother, a kind father? Perhaps a drug dealer? A wife beater? A life stripped of their dreams and dressed in the suit of conforming, mainstream society? A few will survive. A few will fight. A few will refuse to compromise. The others? I feel sadness as I prophesise their fall.
I'm floating on the surface. Outside there is rain, tall white tower blocks next to old terrace houses. I hate it. I hate myself. Below the surface. A swift, dark moment. The stinging in my nose and eyes, submerged, everything suffocating, muffled. Feeling the insignificance of it all; our ambitions, our futures, our attempts to do the right thing, to achieve, to be better than we think ourselves now. Wondering why every time I do the right thing, it somehow seems the wrong thing, in my heart. This is not my life. There's something missing, or there was a mistake, I should be in another life somewhere. Emerging, resurfacing, the onset of anger. Hating myself. How do others see me? Do they see me? I could drown myself. I have the choice. All the people who realised that they loved me would die too, relatively soon in the grand scheme of things.
A logical mind within an illogical world, this swirling mass of atoms and chemistry. Spirituality, magic and imagination are saved from drowning in my doubt. They, in turn, save me.
Sometimes now I see him, speak to him, quietly under my breath so Paul can’t hear. I imagine I hear him, I do hear him, a telepathy.
I will get on a train, run away, the other side of the city, over the bridge and find him.
I did meet him again. It was that same kind of feeling. An atmospheric, chemical thing, a mood, a moon phase. I was down but kind of high. It was as if I knew something was about to happen so I went for a walk. It was night and I felt safe, a mellow warmth whilst a slight cloud obscured the moon. A full moon. Of course it had something to do with it. How can it not. The phases of the moon reflect energy onto the earth. Powerful energy. I used to tell them that...they would just laugh and get high. He stopped his car and opened the door. “Get in, Rag doll,” he said and for some reason, I didn’t think, I just got into the car. I always look at people's eyes. You can always tell what people are like by their eyes. It’s the one thing that people cannot hide or fake; pupil size, clarity, animal instinct to stare or look away. This guy's eyes were the sort, well, you could tell that he had a psycho streak. Cocaine eyes, wide and glassy. Dangerous and attractive. Yet it was he who said that my emerald eyes were dangerous, sexy. We drove through the city and I pointed out to him where I used to work and he laughed when I told him how I got the sack and that I left college in pursuit of fame. I told him about Melanie, he said he'd like to meet her too and get high with us both. I never took anything for granted, you know, but I felt kind of lucky and safe because he was honest and I know that he was much stronger than me and he had those eyes but it was exciting just driving through the city with the music playing. I felt like a gangster's moll. We drove over the suspension bridge and thought about all the people who had committed suicide.
“Shirley Bassey's daughter jumped from here,” I said.
“Yeah?” he said, interested. Then, “Do you want a gun? Do you need a gun?”
We got out of the car and walked over the bridge. The wind was so strong that I could hardly walk and it carried our words over and away across the city like smoke. The wind was blowing so strong, it felt natural to spread out my arms like wings, laughing as the wind blew my hair back from my face. I hadn’t felt like that for a long time and the lights of the city kept me safe. We drove back to my place. He was quiet. We drove back to my house and the streets, the lights, the mirrored high-rise, rushed past like a Clint Eastwood film. “I live above 'Lock, Stock and Barrel', the antique place,” I said and he stopped the car outside.
“See ya, Rag doll,” he said.
“See ya, man.”
I walk in the rain. I want the raindrops to wash me away. Wash me down the drain so that I can disappear. A rain of obscurity, falling from clouds of self-delusion, saturating a deluded self. Raindrops glimmer, then seep into the cracks, all the fractures of a doubting mind. Brown water runs down the gutter, Nothing seems real, yet everything I experience is real. My hair is sticking to my face, my neck. No one can see me.
Sometimes I feel that I know the answer to an eternal question, that is what makes me special. When this realisation occurs it's as if I've known it all along, all through this confusion. Truth, a silver fish, darting though the stagnant pool, rippling the surface, causing confusion, emerging into the light, glinting. Each day is a constant fight to rise, rise, rise. It used to be easy. It felt like I was heading towards something, the 'perfect self' perhaps. Now, I rise, flailing, sometimes failing, to get away from someplace or something. I hold onto a pride, of sorts, whilst memories of my past, real and imagined persecutions, haunt and humiliate me. Is my paranoia a result of another level of consciousness? Would I be free on this higher state if I could release myself from this prison. Looking through bars of self doubt, insanity, even self hatred. If I could release myself from this prison, from a fear to simply be. To exist, only. Am I not an atom reacting with other atoms? A mass of chemical actions and reactions. A mass. A mess. And fear. Fear and madness. Fear of madness. Fear of obscurity, hate, mediocrity yet, and yet, fear of rejection.
I am a passenger. And reluctant. I have been man-handled onto this mental roller coaster ride. One moment, I'm on top. Such clarity and such a wide perspective. I can feel, breath the rhythm of life that has been disrupted by the constrictions of Western society. I see, as I look down onto the terrain. Laughing, shouting, screaming, always going forward, and fast, then the next moment I slide down, down (these moments seem to last the longest and cling to memory like sensory scum, blighting thought or sight and haunting smell). That's where I am now. It seems like I’ve been like that for a long time. Walking through the city in the rain. Passers by, words like arrows. I’m in a darkness. Their eyes are hostile, hatred and their minds are inside mine, reading every thought. Unravelling every secret.
No, life has no rhythm.
The voices, the sounds. My secret sickness.
Paul is a good man. He works hard, he is uncomplicated, simple. He buys a newspaper everyday after work and reads it whilst drinking a cup of milky coffee. Today, he is not really concentrating on the black and white news stories. He is worrying about Madalena. She came in the other evening soaked to the skin, tears and raindrops merging with mascara and ruddy cheeks. How silent she was. Her mood has changed, her skin now is dull, her eyes the same. When did this change begin? It is more insidious than startling, yet if he compares the woman now to the girl he first met, changes are obvious. She has always been fragile but now she recalls bad dreams, weekly, if not nightly. She cannot even watch t.v without making comments which are ludicrous, wacko almost, as if she is reading too much into everything. He wonders if she is bored and perhaps she needs something solid and rational to occupy her permeable mind. He has already given her a fountain pen and lined jotter to write her thoughts, her poems. She has not really written everything since university. Maddy is in bed. She told him earlier that she was raw, open.
Purple is the aura of a shadow of my hand and a poem shields me from prying eyes. Wednesday is the colour of green and grey is the colour of society's lies. I look into the eyes of my black brother. His eyes show the colour of rage and an endless voice that surrounds me tells of war in an innocent age.
I see things how other people don't see them. I see too much. I see nothing, it isn't really there. This madness, it magnifies every aspect of life. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange, often hellishly ugly, my senses so alert and oversensitive that it hurts. What’s happened? Is this the inevitable consequence of age. I’m not yet old but my soul now is full of fear, constricted by pain. Is it the disintegration of the atom that forms my consciousness? My mind disintegrating. These voices. These sounds. I fear I’m really drowning, holding the pen and paper above the waves. Scribbling my truths, that I see before I'm engulfed.
At night she looks at the face of her husband, sleeping. Grey shadows smudge around his features in various shades merging like the watercolours he paints which he claims helps him to relax. Grey, black, a dark yellow colour creeping through from the light on the landing. The darkness and shadow seep into his tousled, blond hair, he is amorphous for a moment, then as darkness deepens into hollows in his cheeks, pulls at his eye sockets, she sees his face. The man with the mafia eyes. He is looking at her, he has a potent, hidden power. She reaches out. Her arm pulls him towards her. She wraps her legs around him, pushing him inside of her. The face changes. He is the devil; horns, grey skinned, black slanted eyes. She cannot escape him. She does not care. The pleasure is such that if it were to kill her, it would be worth it, this moment. Afterwards, she lies in Paul's arms.
It’s the devil's sea that I’m drowning in. I’m bleeding, between my legs, mingled with the devil's sperm. Paul works hard. He left at half past six this morning. The smell of sulphur lies around me in a crucifix. The voices, the sounds. Ringing in my ears, making me mad. The devil taunts me. A voice tells me, “don't stop, don't stop writing.”
Paul's friends are having another party. David, a forty year old single gay teacher and his house mate, a Polish feminist, also a teacher, called Kasia. Madalena does not want to go. Paul does not really want to go. Then, when he thinks about it, he realises that he does not want to go with Maddy, he would rather go alone. Recently, she has been sapping his energy, he is sucked dry. She wakes him to make love in the early hours of the morning and all day at work his mind is taut, he concentrates solely on his work and thoughts of going back home to his wife leave him with thoughts of dismay, a slight dread. She is almost always silent, or sighing, in bed, writing thoughts in the lined jotter, yet she has a passive dominance, a suffocating, lethargic energy that threatens to pull him down with her. He always returns. He knows why he does. The sex, those moments where all the pain makes it worthwhile. She always had been hot, the party girl he met at University. Sexy, crazy yet shy too.
I’m in a box. All sides are holding me in. The whole structure is crushing down on me. No longer do I sneer, fear or humour the blind and weak unthinking masses. These feelings are replaced by self righteous estrangement. I loathe their lame stupidity. Their conformism and lack of originality. They lead a life based on the truth from soap operas. They emulate human behaviour from the television, from each other, yet never act out how they truly feel. They reel out the same old clichés as jokes and still pretend to laugh and nobody feels embarrassed at the true underlying feelings their weakness betrays. It’s stupid and it’s dangerous. A lie to them is nothing, like the flick of an ash from a cigarette. A lie to them which is like a dagger into the backs of their competitors. A lie to them doesn’t bolt shock waves through an awakening mind, too sensitive to patterns of light, darkness, truth, reality.
I still can’t feel the pain of hunger of the millions of people dying, yet I cry at the cruelty of an animal abandoned and thin. Why is that? Why do the news stories and images of ill treated animals touch me more than the maltreatment and injustice of my own species?
The voices. The sounds. Music, chatter, David's voice, confident, sing-songy with humour retelling a story of his travels to India, Lisbon, Tunisia. Paul, a wine glass held in prolonged fashion to his lips as he listens intently, then blowing out red liquid bubbles and choking with laughter at David's exaggerated, camp anecdote. If only I could free myself from this sluggishness. I’m so bored with this life. I’m so alone. I want my man with the mafia eyes. Perhaps I could leave Paul, try and find him. I drink more and more. I hear the devil in a conglomeration of organised sound, shouting out humiliations from my soul, from my past, for everyone to hear. Yes, yes, I was a slag, a slut, I'd steal those hearts but that was before they took mine. I'd have sex with who ever I wanted and I'd owe them nothing. No emotion, no relationship, nothing. I'd get high, yes, I'd fuck after a few lines late at night, a bank card and white powder on the mirror, a rolled up twenty, a guy I met in the club and jaded techno hammering in the background like an overplayed soundtrack to that part of my life. I drink more and more. Everyone will hear. Nothing is the same. Everyone will know. I know that I need to rise again, rise, rise. I drink more and more until I'm drifting. This is a stagnant water. It seeps into my pores and makes me ill. Am I alone? Are there others like me? A battle going on in their minds? Mind warriors. Fractured souls. And a conglomeration of sound resonates a single message, “It's elementary.”
Madalena cannot remember screaming or knocking the glasses onto the floor. She can remember crying in the taxi on the way home and throwing up as she stepped outside.
I know what hell is. Sometimes I want to stay in this hell, burning, screaming, burning. After all, doesn't this secret sickness make me special? Doesn't it make me cry out for attention? Isn't that one of the components of my soul? Attention to disperse obscurity? Are fear and humiliation my driving force, upwards to an imaginary level? These scars in my brain affect me deeply.
Madalena looks at her face. Her eyes red and swollen. She thinks that she may have been crying in her sleep. Madalena is sad. She hurts. And she hates herself. She picks up the black-handled scissors, metal blades so sharp. So bright. Grabbing a clump of her angry, red hair, she hacks and cuts and saws. Hair falls like autumn onto the tiled bathroom floor. She holds the blade of the scissors to her wrist, she cannot penetrate the flesh, her hand shakes and she drops the scissors to the floor. She follows, falling, falling, frail, onto the curls of hair and grey, plastic tiles.
Paul comes home from work. He is tired. He works hard and long hours, and for what? He walks upstairs and sees Maddy on the floor. He is tired. He is tired of Madalena and her moods. He closes the door and goes back downstairs. Strands of red hair stick to his shoes and travel with him.
Yes, yes, it's not me. It 's them. Within Western society a game of cowboys and Indians is going on. I see them, the grey men in suits on my t.v. They have grey hair, grey faces. If the cowboys cannot win, they cheat. The game is no fun. All childlike spontaneity is suppressed; dimensions of spirituality and imagination are ignored. They're the dominant force and will take over. Yet, what's left? What is left? A vile and unnatural society where the poetry of the soul is smothered. Western society, with a heart made of gristle, gnarled by years of oppression and false promises. My heart, yet my heart is tender, quivering, feeling each vibration of the soul's strings.
My magical man with the mafia eyes, where are you? Do you think of me too?
My hair is a sandy, clammy halo of feathers, cut short about my ears. I'm sick. I want to change. To live. To sing. To laugh. To dance. To share. To trust. To see, to hear a triangular flock of birds fly over. To brush an inoffensive money spider from my hand. To feel mutual appreciation with existence. Instead, I hide from this world. This pain. Instead I sleep. I dream.
In the middle of a round room there's a box. Inside the box is a flap of skin from a murderer's collection. But nobody sees them, ever. Inside the white round room, the box remains, although the skin soon dries, turns to dust and creates a little universe. Inside the white, round room the body of a dreamer floats.
The grey leaders experience the dream world. They feel emotion. They're intrigued by stories of the unknown away from the eyes of the scientist but they refuse to believe existence beyond the physical. Absolutely. They choose to ignore, or they simply cannot sense the invisible, the unspoken, the spiritual. Us and them. We all have the same basic human needs yet the grey leaders refuse to acknowledge the connections between us. They just want to dominate and control.
Madalena sits, crouched, in the corner of the room. Paul says that he hardly knows her, she has changed so much. Her short, fuzzy hair, the way she looks with hostility at him, or shows no emotion at all, good or bad.
Paul has gone downstairs now and is talking rapidly on the telephone.
She looks up from the corner of the room. No tears now. There is no point now if tears do not precede comfort. The cup is in her hand. Am I alone? She asks a frightening God. No one answers and she half-doubts because her parents were atheists. Nothing, nothing is the same, she thinks and watches an aphid crawl over a bump on the wall. She plays God for a moment and holds her finger over the fly's life. But she knows that she will not kill it, she is never cruel to animals. Does an aphid have a consciousness? Do birds fly just for fun? She watches the birds outside her window chase bubbles which are invisible to the sight of the human eye. Myself? She tackles the age worn question. I'm merely an atom, from a scientist's point of view. Or a fallen angel, a player in a game, or he philosopher's perceiver. Am I alone? She listens and hopes that the unknown tapping sound outside is a spirit trying to get in touch.
Are there others, searching, listening through cups at floors? Just looking for an answer, whilst formulating the questions. Wondering, wondering if others know more, if they have the answers. After all, they seem so confident, so matter of fact, like they must know it all. Am I alone, in a land of aliens. Have I died? Is this hell? Do others see more clearly or is this the true clarity? Are my faculties degenerating or is this the true picture of reality?
She places the cup to the floor, and listening hard, she thinks that she hears her name.
A knight rides before me, towards me. It is white. A white knight? Is that good? It arrives and stands before me. A breeze blows. It's cold. It's the starkness of a secular life. A politician, a warrior of nuclear life. It has the burning cold of a disease that nobody understands. The knight wears a mask as sharp as bones. It stands before me, unthinking, unfeeling, the horse wearing a mask of the same. The white knight is before me, a metal blade, threatening to sting, with an essence of fear and death held on its tip. Its eyes dehumanise life.
I need to find an armour for my spirit, she realises quietly to herself in the relief of waking reason. The dream I had last night was born of the grey dimension. I must move on. Move out.
I look in the reflection of the train window. Evening blackness moves silently behind. Sometimes I see the orange squares of street lights in the darkness, and the white squares of illuminated house windows. The train moves towards the big city and I know I’ll find him. I look into my reflection and I see his face. In my mind it never changes, never ages or tires. One that I can never remember, not truly. Merely a gestalt vision, his mouth, the shape of his nose, side on, his dangerous eyes. A face that I can never forget, it’s his spirit, his essence that remains whilst we are apart.
The rhythmic noise of the train. The reflection changes. I’m a Jesus figure, a face of woe, a martyr. A devil's puppet or puppeteer. I am nothing. I am no one. Going nowhere. Nowhere? Here. I exist. I can only see through my eyes and guess at the vision through other's.
At least I'm going somewhere, at least I'm someone in this strange place, here.
Knowing eyes look back, empathise and smile at the good parts of my psyche, the parts that will give him pleasure. Those bits in between that I cannot see, unselfconscious revelations of soul. His eyes look back and elation fills me. I'm travelling to him, my man, my magical man; mystical, dangerous man. I want him to elate me, to drive me through the city, to read my every fear, to take my fear and cradle or humiliate me as he desires.
Now my mind is free, there is no pain. It's vast and wide; an ocean with depth and waves and sun and sky. Life and unknown worlds deep beneath its surface. It is he who wonders there. It is he who marvels at my hidden worlds.
Don’t ask his name, for names mean nothing. You can’t burden him with a name or label him like a pet or an object. Yet he is many people, many names, many things....I fly to him. In the reflection, in the glass, my wings stretch out behind me.
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