Adolescent Girls

‘He says you smell like crushed pineapple and coconut oil.’
‘Is that a good sign?’
She nodded her head carefully making sure she was understood.
‘He says he wants to make out with you.’
‘Oh really.’ She blushes but you can see that it makes her happy.
‘So, do you want to?’
‘Want to what?’
‘Stupid girl. Do you want to go and make out with him in the woodshed?’
‘I don’t know. Do you think he respects me?’
‘Why do you ask that? It’s not about respect. Don’t you want to be popular? Don’t you want to be my rival?’ Elizabeth turns her head to hide the smile on her face.

I’m sure it’s cold in the woodshed. Already it sends chills down my spine. Elizabeth is popular. Elizabeth doesn’t care what anybody thinks about her. She drinks and she smokes. I am her friend. I don’t know why she likes me. Seems to have accepted me. To me there is a silent threat in the brave that go ballooning, the family tucking into the potato salad at the funeral, expressions from a family picnic in childhood, from memory and desire a cook for all seasons from childhood, and that roast in the oven with its juices running dry. The triptych expressions of a modern day Picasso. It is all a feast of vertigo to wash away my sins. I hear voices.

I have heard them since childhood. They came out of the closet at night like vampires. Dancing like mad at the bottom of my bed. Chattering away like hummingbirds. They come out from under my bed. They are armchair travellers in their private self-worlds. Those ghost people have wings. They have an angelic shine to them. They breathe in ice. I am the experimental nation. The boy can’t see. He doesn’t have a third eye. He’s handsome. He drinks and smokes too. When the others come for me I have different personalities. I’m obsessed with the supernatural, reincarnation, illusion and imagination. But I’m also obsessed with celebrities, swimming, Egyptology, genius, philosophy and couples.

‘But what’s it really like?’ she began to whimper.
‘What’s it like?’ Elizabeth repeated with a snort and not for the first time I wonder why we’re friends. Is it only because she sometimes copies down my homework for class. Is it only because I am cleverer than her by far.
‘Okay this is what you do. Pretend he’s like a vampire going in for the kill. Why’re you such a scared cat now all of a sudden? Don’t you want to do this?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Look. It’s not that hard. He’ll perhaps hold your arms down, sink his teeth into your neck and all you have to do is perhaps moan a little kind of like you’re enjoying it. That’s all you have to do. It’s not history or calculus. It is really not that hard.’
‘But why me?’ Elizabeth just rolled her eyes.
‘Because you look white and talk posh, Coconut.’ Was Elizabeth’s reply. And then she realised that she could back out of it if she wanted too.

I wear the shroud of troubled and illness well. Assia Wevill little earthquakes shooting off inside her heart. Assia Wevill little earthquakes shooting off inside her mouth. The perspiration glistened on her skin. She certainly never seemed wasted on anything other than the otherworldly. Sylvia. Syliva. I will scream I promise I will if I ever hear that name again. I can hear her breathing down my neck. I can smell the gas. Can’t feel her pulse. I am letting her go, surrendering her to night land. For isn’t night time, and the dark where she belongs with her head filled with the elegant math of night time and dark. I always feel dissatisfied with my writing as if I have never done enough. And Ted looks at me as if he knows better. Lift your head. Arch your back. As if that is all I can do. Look perfect on his arm. Flirt and flit. You don’t talk English proper but that’s okay you were a beautiful child who grew up into a beautiful woman. But I want to tell them that I have news for them beauty does not last forever.

Housebound cooking and cleaning like mad and looking after his children. Teaching them German. Death becomes you. They all stand around him. They all smile and nod. I wonder what it will be like to sleep with his doppelganger who will probably have half of his intelligence, his wit and charisma. Ted’s poetry reminded me of how vital our humanity is to us. And every day he makes promises he will never keep. He tells me that the bruises will go away. But I know better. I know they will never go away. And what I say goes. And the bruises will never go away. There I said it a second time and you can’t make me take it back. I didn’t know who I was on my way to seduce when we went to Devon. Strange as it may seem now. I didn’t ask myself beforehand, make notes in my journal that I was going to seduce Ted Hughes the future Poet Laureate. Luncheon of meat and potatoes again. My lunch of blood. How I wished I would never have to cook another meal for Ted’s father again.

So inglorious of everything I said and did. Ted and I would just have to look at each other and he would say something, do anything. It was almost as if she was there in the room with us. Spying on us. All suicides go to heaven. They’re on a heavenly course. Navigating the silver linings of clouds. Wet hair smelling of driftwood. Feet finding footholds at the bottom of the lake. Sinking fast. Swim seraphim. Swim you modern day Sappho. You phoenix, you but you refuse to rise out of the ashes. Where’s your spirit quiet little contemporary, you funny little stranger you? Are you commandeering bliss? Stoker’s Dracula is hideously obscured by history. After that all the men that I met in my life seemed severely damaged to me as if I could see the childhood trauma on their fingertips. Fashioned after Stoker’s Dracula. Every one of them. Their wives were no longer thin, gamine brides awash in the illuminating glow of newlywed radiance.

Do not go in there. The voice said to no one in particular. You will be skinned alive. But I don’t know that voice. It is not familiar to me so I don’t pay attention to it. I also do not move from where I am standing. I am not yet a woman. I am not yet Orlando. I am not yet Lady Lazarus. If I go in there I will become a vampire. I will become a female version of whatever is in the woodshed. I don’t want to play this game anymore. The boys leave my sister and me alone. We are left standing on the periphery. We’re interlopers.

‘Don’t you want to see what’s in there?’ I ask my sister tugging on her arm. She’s ignoring me. Something else has torn her interest from me. So I turn back with her to follow her home.

There’s a loss that comes with breathing. But the stranger in the ghost house has no voice. He does not speak of self-help, a shelf-life and a double life, red dust, dead parakeets, sweat running down his wife’s back, the madness and despair of Liberace. Something is unanchored yet still beautifully functions. Something is productive. It is called family and the awareness of coming home, a flag was planted here in the South’s wilderness where a genocide took place, there’s whisky in a glass. There are books that are a sanctuary. An Eric Clapton record is playing. The red dust of this county does not speak of self-help. There is a suicide. A death in a river. And the police come. The police come in the middle of the night. Like the detectives in plainclothes that came to my house in the middle of the night when my brother took a knife and stabbed my father. Nothing romantic about it. About the onslaught of death, of it catching up to you.

Like a thief in the night, a cat burglar, a cat drowning in a bag with her kittens, that is how I felt as if I was a drowning visitor. I saw guns that night I led a double life. I pretended I did not see or hear anything and inside I was numb. When I saw my father’s blood. It had an oppressive quality. Like everything in my life so far. The drugs refused to work. So I took more and more of them slept all day and all night. The double life of the romantic jasmine. It lives and it dies and it lives and it dies. I can talk and talk and talk and no one will be listening. Down the winter road I came across men who stare at goats. Men who were good dancers. Men who were good actors, some were heavy drinkers in my mind, and philanthropists. The knife was sharp. It struck air again and again and again. And then is was anchored in skin. I didn’t scream. I was a Scout’s knot. Ran in my sandals to the neighbour’s house as fast as my feet could carry me. Outside the air felt cool as rain.

How I wished it had rained? But there was no rain that night and they called the police. Down that winter road there’s no romance in death, hair and flesh coming loose. And still daddy was left standing, unafraid. My brother was prancing around all of us, smirking, smiling. With cunning deceit, high he was having his cake and eating it too. Pinned daddy to the bed with his arms like shark teeth. My mother had ran away in the dark. I was left with notes, a stem and a route to follow. A flowering bleeding heart making waves, beating fast. It was Christmas. It was Christmas. But there were no presents. To hell with it if I do not ever fall in love. It is a case of much ado about nothing. I have lost my mind and recuperated in hospitals. Once again become anchored to reality in recovery. I do not have a brother and I do not have a sister. I do not have a mother and I do not have a father. They live their own lives, so they amuse themselves. While I am kept sheltered in Pandora’s Box.

It is a box filled with romantic villagers. It is a box of my own making. What a comfort they are to me. I am an orphan on Okri’s famished road. I am Nabokov’s and Kubrick’s Lolita. And soon I will be forgotten like breath. The moveable feast of sex, romance and death. Damaged, damaged, damaged but I must not speak of it. It will be the death of me and I must live a while longer, sit on my throne, collect bones like arrows that fall from the sky. I must collect bones like dust because curiosity has killed me but I have nine extraordinary lives. I am left smiling like the Cheshire cat. This is the brother who I am supposed to love. I do not admire him anymore. I feel nothing for him. When I remember that night from hell. If he had a gun we all would be dead. I cut up the onion, seduced by its layers. And I cry for what has been lost, gems every one. My youth, my youth, my youth and there is no ring no ring on my finger, all those chronic wasted years. Now he is Lucifer manning.

The gate to the wards of hell. My boy what has become of you? Water. The secrets that we keep are committed to memory. They’re lessons in the needs of people around us, a lesson in obedience, sometimes even wisdom. And it takes bold work for us to realise that the future is bright when sometimes we are challenged, when we have to mine glory. And make a ceremony out of it. There are profound ingredients that goes into making a spaghetti bolognaise. Family is of course the first priority. Next the butcher, mint from the garden and limes for the cocktails. Footsteps on the stairs and laughter scribbling in the air. With the advent of avocados and mangoes perhaps they were the first fruits. Food for thought in the Garden of Eden even before Eve was made from Adam’s rib via the maturation of a human soul and a vortex in flux. Young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I cannot live in water forever. My mother is outside in her garden working in the hard ground of winter dragging rose bush after perfumed rose bush. One side of the house a vegetable garden, the other filled with the seductive theory of fruit trees.

And then as if woken up from a dream the day begins.

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