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The Frozen Wilderness
by Abigail George
2015-06-21 11:42:39
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Home. I killed for my brother.

I killed for pleasure. My brother would gather virgins around him. The gathering of virgins I would call it or them. At the end of the day, they would leave our house without a stitch of makeup on although they would arrive with creamy lipstick on. When they would leave, their clothes would be ruffled. They would have missed a button on their shirt. Every one of them a diva in their own country. Some would talk a lot. Others would say nothing at all. Do not look at me, I would think to myself. Do not talk to me, I would think to myself. They would be announced. My brother would open the door and introduce so and so to all of us. I would forget them or at least try too. Can you ever forget sirens in youth? They were winners on the surface of things but I knew that like my brother they were dreamers. When I was a child, I knew what love was.

I looked at her not for her day in and day out. Love was mother. Nothing about the reality that young lovers lived in was real. There was always conflict. In our house, there was always conflict. I imagined there was conflict in the girls’ homes too. They satisfied my brother in ways that were unimaginable to me. These mermaids had mansions and I think if my brother held them close enough to his chest, if he held them in his arms then he could hear the ocean. Taste the salt in the air. Feel the breeze in his hair. What people could never understand was what I was really writing about? Was it my family or the men that I had loved, something that I dreamed about the previous night locked down in my subconscious or something that I had imagined? Was it pain, was it laughter, and was it fear, vulnerability? Oh, do not trouble yourself with thinking so hard. It is and always will be all of those things.

A mother’s love will keep on feeding you, nurturing you, be your caretaker. She will see you through all the days of your life when you are selfless, cold and composed. Sleep is the elegant answer for everything. It lets you forget and in the forgetting there is both a surrendering and a letting go. What is death? It means we finally meet our destination. We finally meet our ancestors, our people that have passed on to the hereafter. We finally meet our tribe of people. We finally meet God. The future haunts me. Ongoing lighthouses. I am in love with lighthouses and what they represent. To me they represent life and hope. The proof of both which is sometimes unreachable. The loneliness of the lighthouse keeper. Longing that is the future of life. Of our survival. We can call it many things but it goes for the most part by the name of ‘humanity’.

I do not mind the stars out. Out of the frozen wilderness came my mother and father experts of the bare bones of my childhood. Mum is all the shades of a lighthouse. Dad is the ship with a dumbed down crew whose bellies are filled with wine that passes in the night. Loneliness flowers and I become like driftwood. They are still there and all the time. They are ghosts. Ghosts. I can never, just never get over that and I do not want to be bitter. God, I do not ever want to be bitter. An amazing triumph. I have not come to that yet in my life. Have not experienced that yet to say. As I write this, I am lying on my bed. I love this room. What was my itinerary today? God, what would it be like not to be me? It was exciting when I felt the first stirrings of it. Desire. Desire was a man’s world. It was different, much more difficult to understand the word ‘intellectual’, even harder to understand ‘existential phenomenologist’.

af01_400I love words. Even ‘perverse’. Can an intense love be perverse and misconstrued? I always find you in war movies all dressed up in camouflage. The husband and wife. Protector and mother. This union shall remain forever like a winter’s tale or the arrival of winter guests or the history of a suicide. The more things change, (the more they stay the same) you will mature like birches and willows, the grit of granite, the codes that trees keep to themselves.

The girl in me remains a perfectionist for the rest of her life. Her sister will never telephone from Johannesburg to speak to her. The one with the gorgeous dance. The flaming halo of golden hair. The one who is praised when she is standing near the mouth of the river’s edge with her pose or the shoreline with the breeze blowing through her posture. I cannot understand the attention that she gets. I cannot understand her glitter.

I remember the humiliation. I was brave. I was strong. I did not cry. Not then but now, things are different. I have become much more fragile. Illness has made me fragile. You will always remember being humiliated by someone you have loved with your whole heart. That energy that filled the hours that you thought about him was never wasted. Mum said when you came home; give your heart peace of mind. Even at high speed, not everything is lost. The sparks will make you shiver. While I am the drowning visitor, my sister thrives. People thrive all the time why should I be any different. Instead, I feel it acutely. This lesson on constellations. Why one star shines brighter than the next? My sister is the tiger’s possession. My sister is lying down in the playing fields of green pastures. All I can think of asking her is how does she endure this planet when I cannot. She lives. She lives. She lives.

I know she means to harm me. There is a sugar coated moonlight, wasteland, a wilderness history of daughters and mothers in my storytelling. I remember the sweetness of childhood. How I long for those days again. To experience that kind of ongoing joy. Never thinking of the distance that would rule my poetry and my stories between my mother and me in adulthood. I am living a lie.  I can tell you I am happy. Perhaps you will believe me. Perhaps you will not. I can smile but you will not see my pain. I can laugh but I can tell you that my life is a torment. I do not know cannot recall when I first realised this but I was very young. A child. I wrote it in my diary and then I burnt it until it was a black and charred mess. Something inside of me too was scorched, and I thought of Lord Kitchener’s scorched earth policy. I can feel the stillness of the earth and everything is beautiful. My life is unfinished.

I know that I am living in a world of artists, writers and poets who are interlopers where everything that is anything to do them, with futility, loneliness and solitude is a great source of inspiration and even the smallest thing, a speck is a wonder. Mothers and daughters do not love each other all the time. Sometimes they are rivals. All beautiful women are rivals. All beautiful women are insecure at some stage in their development of their formative years. Every woman is a romantic. Love when it comes there is always a barrier. You cannot always go in head low or high, chin up gracefully. You see you are always at the mercy of something. The man is a mirror. The woman projects herself onto him. What she sees in his eyes is what she will become in the end. Lover or wife. Mother of his children or mistress of his house until the early hours of the morning.

A woman will always be left with the questions of how will he empower her, uplift her, lift the veil and sometimes, just sometimes a woman will be a child in an all-powerful man’s eyes. I see men from a great distance. Almost as if I am anticipating showers of rain or if I am going to weather a storm. As if, two halves make up the whole of my identity. The half of me flowers, blooms multiply very quickly out of my heart, my lungs and then you know the rest of my body comes of age and matures very quickly. The other half worries me though. It has so much insight. Sometimes I think it has too much insight. It tells me I am already shot to hell in this relationship. I cannot stop loving him I tell this part of my identity. I just cannot. I wanted to grow tomatoes I said to the living. Give me a perimeter, the chilled earth of this planet, yellow gloves to plant haywire and haphazardly.

Instead, this identity said to me, if you want to grow something grow courage because in the end when this relationship stops working and starts hurting you are going to need it I am afraid for you. Do you want the seeds of joy, and then go home. Therefore, you will stand at the burning portal of love saying repeatedly to someone who is no longer there. Who has already left, who has already left you, you will say this repeatedly.  I love you. I love you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. All that is left for you are replicas of the perfect man standing, waiting for you in a succession of lines. You will soon discover that this is not enough. You will not be hurt, wounded, caused pain, humiliated in the same way no matter how very much you will want to be. There are stars. There will always be stars. You can count on that but love I am not so sure of that.

I cannot make you any promises about love appearing in your life again. He resided in a dream world. He still resides there. He makes it a point to take girls to bed. You tell yourself with the key information that nothing can hurt you anymore meaning he cannot hurt you anymore but you know that you are telling yourself a lie. You know you are both a coward and a fool. Love is an offering. The night is meant for anointing. For pleasure and pain. Considerable suspicions, existing to discover treasure after treasure, and what of ignorance? How could that ever harm me? I am immune to light and to the discovery of that noble light. The power of missing the war in the fire of human relationships, dancing around the bear of that dynamic, seeing the distance in the eyes, the gaze of the lover with the arms and the skinny legs of a gazelle. I knew I would and could never enter his astonishingly white world.

The same way I knew he could never enter my astonishingly coloured world. So I tell people all the time, do not feel compelled to love me. I will never love you back. You are never going to be good enough for me because all my life people have said that to my face. You are never going to be good enough. Now it is my turn. Just because I can. Men can do that to you. Men tall in their office space. Radiating wives, children, bread and milk. Men who love fast cars. Men who love the word ‘sexy’. I no longer have any illusions about love or men. I know where I stand now. On the shoreline is where I want to be. In the foetal position under the duvet. Men have hurt me. You have guessed right. Have they loved me? No. What Camelot and what they have done is damaged my soul, the memory that I have of it and destroyed my spirit.

It has withered away into cloud people. The sky is nothing but a repetition of blue. They have destroyed that too. The grass is a marathon of green river underfoot. They have destroyed that too. The flowers in my mother’s garden is a progression of little souls. They have destroyed that too. Possessions. My own material possessions, branches with their songs, the cigarette with its own suffering, impoverished assignments of a female writer, insects in a hinterland of their own making they have destroyed that too. I keep my distance now. I know my place. Next to my father’s side. In the beginning, you would think that suffering would be brief. Well, I have news for you. It is not. It can sometimes last a lifetime, the only way you can get it out of your system is to go the Goethe, Hemingway and the Rilke way, and that is to write it out of your system.

I watched my brother. I watched his virgin suicides. Every single one a game. I am pain. You, only you will know the kind of game that I am talking about.  Girlhood, the pain of being torn apart, torn from your beloved mother’s apron strings, finding closure in a stranger’s arms, films about war, cold men in camouflage. Anita Brookner became Anita. She became the protagonist of a novel. A novelist in the novel of someone else, a young woman who admired her a great deal and who admired her writing a great deal more also. You will be all you want. I wanted to tell the girls who disappeared with my brother behind his closed bedroom door. Just believe and you will be all you want. Read plenty of books even the ones you do not really want to read all that much and you will discover who you really are. That you are beautifully wise and talented even though your mother might not think you will not amount to much.

If you do not marry the right kind of man, which means a religious man or a man who is older than you are so he can mould you into the perfect wife. ‘Anita’, you are not as flawed or limited in your thinking as you think you are. You are important to the survival of the species, to your future children, to this envious planet, to your own self. Self-doubt, selfishness, frustration, unreason will kill you. Be happy ‘Anita’. You have this one unspoilt chance at life so be happy. I called all these girls ‘Anita’. Not one of them stood a real chance with my brother. I mean a long-term chance. ‘The Anita waltz’ when they went away and I never saw them again. ‘The Anita phenomenon’ when they left messages for him that were never returned. Anita, I want to say. An older sister to a younger sister, do what I did at your age. Improvise happy if it so damn hard for you to be lucky at it.

You, Anita of all people are not arbitrary. You, Anita of all people are not lonely. Anita you are lovely. Anita becomes the voice inside my head. I saw a silence branching out of my head. Gosh, it was beautiful. Beautiful and extraordinary at the same time. I know that one day like all of these divas that expand their loveliness as soon as they enter our house and sirens with gloss on their lips shatters something inside of me. I know that one day my skin will wrinkle and sag. I will grow old. I will no longer be golden but for now, they are lovers. Youth is still on their side.  I am in shock because I love him, my brother so much. This fisherman with his love-sickness, this ugliness that pours out of his soul, this dark space of this dark horse like my cramped sentences, and I hear the voice. It says quite calmly, it is my nerves that are on edge but was not your man like this.

Johannesburg. I like you. God, I like you. I like everything about you. Your hair, your eyes but my ancestors say that we are not made for each other. In life, in terms of that great human commitment called marriage, I resemble nothing of it at thirty-five and I was not made for the artificial life. For everything that is fake. Life did not go around saying I was doomed. It showed me what living inside a work of art meant. In my case a self-portrait. It taught me many, many things and I soon turned from girl to woman. At the end of that journey then those words came, you were doomed from the start. Sorry I am only telling you now but I did not want to hurt you or else you would not have realised it far too soon. There is intellect. It is beautiful. Something is missing. I am missing. Intellect has perspective. Intellect has splendour.

Intellect has depth on its side leaving you to ask was that enough? Am I enough? I said I could not love you. I said I could not go the whole way through loving you. I knew what I was up against. Watch me. Watch this. Watch this transformation from a girl into a woman. I led you up the warpath with your sweet tooth. I want to live. You are too much for me. I am too much for you. You are too intense. Shine your sun on a girl who needs her personality to be rubbed off on the people around her. On her world that needs to illuminate the people around her. I am not that quiet girl anymore. I am a woman demanding to be taken seriously. Stepping into a room. Your girl has a lotus blossoms for hair. Your new girl no longer needs the bare bones of childhood to hold her up. I am all wrong for you. Elegantly and gracefully so.

Accept the fact that I must exit now. I want to be reminded of love, of having experienced it but I do not want to necessarily be reminded of you. The seeds of crocodiles and nightingales that you planted inside me, its harvest, its repeated harvest. Well, go ahead then and call it poetry if you so wish. Just do not be dramatic about it about the longing and the loss. I will take my cue from you. You are a unicorn, which is what you are so accept it. If you want, take it and accept it as my parting gift. I am sad when the light is sad. When I think of Hemingway’s Paris. Hemingway driving ambulances during the war. I cannot love you anymore. I just do not have it in me anymore to love someone who is not capable of loving me in return the way I want to be loved. I do not with moonlight and roses. Not with pizza and red wine for two.

Love someone else. Love someone else quickly. Let her be the lucky one. I have seen girls come and go. I always knew he had a voracious appetite for pretty girls. All of them were pretty. All of them had perfumed hair. They had trust written on their faces for the whole world to see. When they left, I could almost see them blinking back their tears. Stunned as if someone had slapped them in the face. All I could do was feel sorry for them as I imagined that I was felt sorry for when I left Johannesburg. You want love to be more than the rub of intimacy. Sunlight was a performance of a sonnet. Birdsong was a refrain. You walked all over me to get to me and get at me, to me you did in the end Lothario. I am appalled at your skill. You are an island. All men are islands and all women are birds. Life can be lonely that is why we need each other. Why men and women need each other.

Writing is wonderful. Writing is fabulous when all I feel is pain, sorrow and suffering. Man, you are in the wrong country if you ever, ever fall in love with me. I am alone here with my map. My map is your mouth and that is all I need. Words come out for your mouth. Poured out of you like weather and rain. That is when I fell for you even when you were saying nothing. Laughter and prayer is wonderful but only if you are in the right mood. There are mansions in the diagrams of poetry. You are a wolf. I am the sheep’s clothing. How can a person limit all the poverty in the world? With your mind, dear. Only with your mind, I am afraid. Behold memory. She is a gift just as much as the words tranquility and sanctuary is.  Books are like white picket fences. Are you happy? Are you happy? The voice says. I go inward. I am numb. I am frozen.

I am a wild iris. There is nothing but blackness all around us. It consumed me for a while. The trouble with this all-consuming blackness is that it brought with it poetry. I loved the face of this poetry. Trapped its every collective. I wish I could see you Paris, I asked once but now I see Paris wherever I go. Hemingway’s Paris. This kind of poetry has spheres that ask me to travel with it all over the world, across the ocean-sea. Lust has its own engineered oxygen here. It hurts when it goes away. It lives and it dies with its own regrets. With its own failures and velocity. I saw its smile for the first time. When poetry smiles at you it is like the first cry of a newborn when you bring them home, the cry of a broken heart. It is a miracle and a half. Do you know what perfectionism is? You do not want to know the half of it.

You push yourself to perform, to win at all costs, whatever the cost, the next day you wake up, and you do it all over again. I forgive you. That costs me nothing but I will never forget. That will cost me my heart, the personal velocity of everything that I believe in I am afraid. I hope you will have a better time at forgiving me. You wrote me a story every day I spent time in your company. Stories interwoven with losing a beloved, regret, remote cities, distant lands, countries, Transylvanian ghost stories that enchanted me, left me feeling elated, a devil in a blue dress, and then desire woke up inside of me and I did not know what to do with it so I gave it back to you. I am sorry. In the end, this is all I can say (it is not easy for me, all I can tell you that I am sorry I did not love you. I am sorry I did not return your love because I was ill prepared for the repercussions. 

What do wild irises do when it comes to planting season? I dream about them at night when I lay in the dark in my bedroom. The garden is dark. I breathe in the dark. These kinds of nights seem to have a dawn of their own making. Winter, is only like some kind of predetermined destination that I thirst over. I imagine it as a neural pathway or a scientific theory. I love it best like any guru and his enlightened search for self-help on that predetermined destination. I love winter best as if the scientist loves their algorithms and equations. Give me winter over you any day. I promise you I will never love you. I seemed to have started out at the ruins not the castle for some reason. The forecast said it would rain so I took an umbrella. Although I am no longer half-alive sometimes when I breathe, I think of the way you looked at me once and how the floodgates of my heart just opened up.


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