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by Abigail George
2015-08-23 10:09:11
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You knocked me down hard crying bird. What was keeping you aloft? Knocked me down with a feather. I fell to my knees. Still I forgave you Hadley, my future wife to be.

We drove out to the ocean to say our last goodbyes. It was not that anybody suggested it (let us go out to the sea) but we had been college sweethearts. The ocean has played a large part in our wooing, our courtship. We had sat there and watched the sun go down or watched the sunrise, talking for hours about our dreams. We had spoken about our dreams about a family life and how many children we would have. Even their names. Now we sat in silence. I reached for her hand but she pulled it away. What do you want to hold hands for, she said coldly. This year was supposed to be our wedding. We would have had a summer wedding. Gone skiing for our honeymoon. I am shocked. I said. I am shocked at your behaviour. I did this for you. Coming out here to say our goodbyes. I really did not want to relive memories that certainly mean a lot to you. She replied.

For the first time she meets my gaze. I drop my eyes and all I can think about is how I will never forget this moment. How it will stay with me for the rest of my life. How we should not have come to the ocean to say our goodbyes but let it be at the dormitories. It would have been fine like that. Four years of my life down the drain. I thought I had the perfect life. Is this it? I guess this is it then. She did not say anything. She looked out of the window. You knocked me down again. Still I gazed at the muddy blue in your eyes helplessly. Now I come unaccompanied to weddings. I went down to the sea to fish for crows. For it was always crows on my mind and at the back of my skull whenever I thought of you. I cannot marry you that is what you said. I want to have a career.

I said well that of course you could have a career I am not going to take that dream of yours away from you. No, you said as if I was an ignoramus, you do not understand. I do not love you. You were just being polite then, I asked her. Well I want to be a political correspondent not a wife in your bed. As if that explained everything. Now wherever I go I am ‘the loner person go talk to him’ or the interloper. People do not know what to do with me at weddings. I just know I will never run into the love of my life at them for now. I will hate you for life now if you just mention those words Paris, France to me now because that is where she is now. I will talk to a girl a little but I know that she is never going to be quite as quietly brilliant, fiercely intelligent, as virginal and as lovely as my college sweetheart once was.

When I received a wedding invitation from one of my oldest friends, I decided to go.

hurt01_400I wonder what they are going to do with all the leftovers from this wedding banquet. It is full house. Take it to an orphanage I suppose or people; those kind of people if you know what I mean will begin to make parcels up for themselves. They will say oh, we cannot let all this good food go to waste. I will take it home. It will be dinner. Thank goodness, you can thank your lucky stars that there was not a chocolate fountain. The bride and groom have already cut the wedding cake. People are descending on the wedding cake now. Toppled the bride and groom on top. Some children have decided to eat the edible flowers and wear happy smiles on their faces. I look at this milieu around me and I cannot believe the levels that humanity will sink too at weddings. You might disagree with me but a wedding is also a lesson in humiliation.

I see those girls still waiting for someone to ask them to dance with poetry in their eyes. I look away. I cannot bear looking at those creatures anymore. They are like gulls you know. They hover. I think of mountains and of dogs. The veins branching out in both. I think of indigenous trees. How they grow in codes or not at all. Swiftly in heat or not at all in cold. Then I think of you. How I call you loss, humiliation, (you are static). Ongoing electricity. I do not want to remember the mess you left behind. I want to forget Johannesburg. I sleep under my desk writing in a journal always trying to reach you but never getting that far. I think of the fresh air of mountains. I think of the breath of dogs on the hunt. I think of the verdigris on trees. I think of losing a beloved and a death.

A death in the family from cancer. A woman I hardly knew but was family. I think of her in her sleep while I walked in streets. Knowing that she was dying and losing her knee-length hair that felt like silk while I became better sane. Does she remember any of these things? Washed by strange hands. Intent is my middle name. I see rhinos and dodos. The infirm in my imagination. Nothing can put them back together again. Nothing can bring them the elderly back to life again. I think of the poachers. I think of extinction. In the same way, some parts of me are extinct. The parts that did not receive electroshock therapy treatment. In the same way that I have experienced loss the world around me is experiencing climate change. I can tell you now that humanity is an endangered species.

I know you dance with them at weddings in the same way I waltzed with you once too. I know you laugh with them, smoke with them, tease your hair and smile with them. I know you are no longer a part of my life. I planted your memory, the memory of the perfect girl and I water it religiously. I water it often and every year there is a harvest. The backyard is brighter because of you. You are even in the spare room of the house. There is a bedroom waiting for you if you want to come and visit. No room for your husband I am afraid. I take a pill. It is chemical. Every year I return to live vicariously through that twenty-two year old body. I take small breaths when I think of you. It is all I can do. I am better than sane. I am beautifully sane now. Out of the psychiatric ward for now.

Little shark teeth marks. There is an Easter shine on your face. A chocolate hollow Easter egg. Your fingers are warm, brown and sticky. Your smile breaks my heart because I do not have a child of my own. People are always sharing their children with me. You cannot eat the pickled fish yet. There are bones in the fish (what if you choked). You are not grown up enough. You cannot eat the speckled eggs. You might choke on them too. I will be thirty-six this year with no university degree and no children. I wonder do people believe me when I tell them, it is infertility. It has been so long since I have met anybody. Now I have a nephew. He is my whole world. You, you are the man in my life. You bloom on the patio. I hope people do not do to you what they have done to me in the past.

That is break my heart. Little man, my nephew, you are our little prince. Weddings can do that to you. They can make you think about the children that you do not have. Fellow, you are the heir apparent. Scholar of trivia you are so fragile. Hands, fingers, toes, nose. Every work of art that you do goes up against the wall. Every ball that you kick is a goal. You are too young to know the difference yet. I wake up to your coughing. It is not I that comforted you the night before the wedding. It is not I that you want to comfort you. You are looking for my mother’s arms. A mother who has brought three children into the world. I want to comfort you. I want you to reach out for me and at night. I love you best. Lashes closed. I hope that one day you will write in the journal that I give you.

I am thinking about books today. Today of all days I am thinking of books. Books and writers. Writers and books. Shakespeare and company. The sky is blue.  There was no forecast of rain. The bride’s dress is a meringue. All brides should wear a meringue when they get married. I am thinking I should not have given this couple a list of my favourite of books as a wedding gift. Listen to me: I am that kind of person. I am just that kind of fellow. I am that boy behaving badly. Drinking in a milk fed contagion of a day. I drink in the people at the wedding. I watch them dance. I watch them slow dance. I watch their slow moves and their flirting. I watch the wedding photographer. Trying not to imagine the wedding night. There is going to be a swampland of men and women whose throats will be reeking of doctored punch when the clock strikes midnight.

Girls are dumb. They will believe anything a man tells them if he says I love you, puts a ring on that finger, and takes those vows in a church before God. I listen to the girl say, how she will obey him. I think of feathers. I think of pigeons flying through the air. The stained glass windows of the church. I think of the blue sky in the bride’s throat. How one day she will mind her consonants and vowels in the presence of the man who is now her husband so as not to cause a domestic disturbance. I think of the antique silver knives on the tables. How they reminded me of my own brother’s Swiss army knife. How a boy not much older than he was, was stabbed to death multiple times on a street corner in the early hours of the morning because of gang related territory. I think of jellyfish swimming in a purple sea.  Jean Rhys’s Dominica and her wild Sargasso Sea and her three marriages.

Which one of the men I wonder was the great love of her life. She is a supernova. I think all women are supernovas in their own right. Anne Sexton was a supernova kind of woman. A mother who unfortunately in a time when women did not have careers beside motherhood had four careers. One as a manic-depressive, poet and the others wifedom and motherhood. Hemingway was an ambulance driver. Bet you did not know that. He drove ambulances in the war. Rilke was an Austrian genius. In his dying, he was simply an artist. After his death he still lives. Sylvia Plath (she was a sad case study and nothing unfortunately was going to save her from her fate) was an unfortunate death in the family. Death by suicide is always an unfortunate death in the family. It is like saying that someone passed from cancer.

It has to be spoken about in hushed tones. In whispers, whispers, whispers. Robert Lowell is a bird. I imagine him. Robert Lowell and his poetry workshops and how he spoke and breathed life into everything that he valued and believed in but he did not value and believe in his own life all that much. If he did, he would not have committed suicide. He stunted the childhood of the words of the poets he taught. The bones of the poetry he himself wrote were sweetly powerful, an aphrodisiac for people who loved words. Now poets are people. Whether they belong or bleed in the upper classes or the working classes. Poets write for everybody. They do not discriminate but then you get those adults and you know you are just not going to get along with this fellow or that woman. They strike a nerve. They are hell-bent in making you crazy or telling you that you are crazy.

Kurt Vonnegut is a Kurt Vonnegut. He is a real jewel of a man. Stephen King may think like an intellectual but horror is far from intellectual stuff. It is only good enough for scholars of trivia. High school students. The very brave. People who live in houses and who carry torches like bazookas. Jerome David Salinger I just do not get. He only published a few books. He lives like a recluse for the most part of his life. He loves girls. Not women. Girls fresh out of college. I just cannot hate someone who wrote with so much confidence. I do not want to say that he wasted a lot of the talent that he had but he could have published more books if he wanted to. I can smell the hunted like a jam sandwich spread with orange marmalade. The girls who have arrived unaccompanied. I can see the single people on one side.

The girls are waiting to be asked to dance. It is both beautiful, sad and damned. Half of the title of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. I may drink a little at this wedding. What a sad, haunted pose Sylvia Plath must have given sitting in classes at Smith. What was her New York like? Did she see it through rose-coloured glasses? I love you Sylvia Plath. I love you Anne Sexton. I love you Robert Lowell. I love you Rilke. I can never bring them back to life again unless I am writing about them. Stephen King I love you. Kurt Vonnegut I love you too. I feel the loss of the grandeur of this church hall. It is packed. Packed with wilting floral arrangements. There is chicken. There is lamb. All kinds of vegetables in cream, in sauce and in butter but I am not hungry yet. There are no tables in here. The tables are outside. People are almost hugging each other there is so much love in the air in their little groups; their exclusive cliques as if it was high school all over again.

I do not want to meet the eyes of that girl. She is becoming mysterious to me now. When a woman become mysterious to me, I just have to get to know her. I do not know what it is about me. It is all we could find at this late stage in the game the groom said to me breathlessly. She is in the family way. I see one girl is eyeing me. She has had her eye on me since I have entered the hall but I am going to take my time. There is plenty of time to separate the class acts from the ones who will make me die a small death on the dance floor (I mean the kind of girl who would want to lead me). I want a woman in my arms. Not a girl. I pretend that she is not looking at me. I look everywhere else. I look at my shoes. I look at the new in-laws. I think about going across and talking to my male cousins. I think about dancing with the flower girl even but there is no music.

The wedding singer has not arrived yet. Something about transport problems. I hear a voice in my ear. The sweetest voice I have ever heard in my life and I think to myself that I can marry this woman. I look around. It is the girl has been staring at me ever since I entered the church hall. She has just asked me to dance with her. What else can I do? I am trapped. Instead, I start talking and then she starts to look bored. Like she wants to get out of there fast.

‘Just hang on.’ I say. ‘I will be right back.’ Even though I know, I will not be right back. I would probably take a good twenty minutes to return and by that time, I reckon the mysterious girl would have disappeared.

‘Before you go, what’s your name stranger and are you not going to ask me mine.’ She does something with her hair and I am in love.

I am going to spoil this. I just know it. Perhaps the groom knows her and can make introductions later. I think she is too forward but she is lovely. All girls are lovely in their own way. I just look at her. I cannot seem to take my eyes off her now. Women can do this to me. Gentle women but this woman is not gentle. I can see she has been around the block before. She thinks she has me eating out of her hand.

‘Are you just going to stand there and look at me all afternoon?’ She says. ‘Well, now. I am going to get me some cake. It was nice meeting you.’ I watch her walk away. Half of me is relieved and the other half is thinking well, fool, why did you not say anything when you had the chance. I like it when I do the talking and not the other way around. I like it when I pursue and not the other way around. In my head, if we had spoken, exchanged names the conversation would have went something like this.

‘Are you Christian?’ I would have asked her. I would have had to ask her something just to start the conversation.

‘Yes and no. My mother is Protestant. My father is Presbyterian.’ She is doing that thing with her hair again and it is making me wild.

‘What are you doing here?’ as if she had nothing better to do. Girls love weddings. They hope to meet their future husband at a wedding, which is why they go to them all the time is what I figured.

‘The bride was one of my best friends in elementary school. I came to support her and to say goodbye. I am moving to Paris, France. My fiancé is French.’ She wants to dance with me because I am cute and she has a fiancé.

We talk some more. She bought a bird, some kind of parrot or parakeet for a wedding gift but she loved my idea and said as much. Books are always useful. I mean you think that a husband and wife would have a lot talk to each other about for the rest of their lives but people do not think she said about what happens when the children come. Think, she said, about the husband who comes home at night and is so tired that he just expects his dinner to be kept warm for him and waiting for him when he get home. Perhaps a glass of cold milk to help him fall asleep. A piece of tender meat, gravy with potatoes and his single malt whisky. She is moving to Paris to marry some French diplomat fellow who works for the American consulate. This girl is too much. She is expecting something from me and I am not doing it for her. She wants me to be impressed.

This mysterious girl wants me of all people to be impressed by her but I say nothing. Girls change and start acting and talking funny when you begin to be impressed by them all of a sudden. They laugh too loudly, I just hate that you know (it puts me completely off them and then you realise but gosh, girls have an ego too), and then they want to know why you are not married yet, you being quite a catch and all that. Not bringing a date with you to a wedding. When they begin talking and acting up all crazy like that I almost want to start talking about meeting my wife and our small children somewhere outside this church hall or outside some marquee tent. Give me a Jane Eyre or a Jane Austen any day. A woman who knew how to dress, wear her hair, pay attention to a man or just ignore him until he went away and realised that he was making a nuisance of himself.

Yes, a man likes the company of women. Even a woman as austere and who kept to herself (that is an attractive quality in a woman) as Jane Eyre. Do not worry so much. Women worry all too much about the physical. What we think about the surface of things. We will find something to like about you. About your person or your personality. About your face, usually it is your aquiline nose or your lips. Those eyes that will meet your gaze and then look away again as if she does not have a care in the world or reciprocates your attention. Tender is paradise. The mysterious girl had the face of an angel (do all girls not have the faces of angels) and a body for sin. I knew that the mysterious girl had an aquiline nose and bewitching eyes. I knew her face was very clean. It did not appear to me that she was wearing any makeup.

‘What do you think of the wedding dress?’ I asked her. The mysterious girl with the bewitching eyes.

‘It is a meringue but she has the body for it.’ I smiled when she said it. I caught her eye, she caught me smiling, and we both smiled at each other. I liked her smile. When a fellow likes a girl’s smile, he is done for.

‘All brides have the bodies for meringues when it calls for it.’

‘I did not know men knew much about dresses and such.’ We smiled at each other again. We played this game on and off. On and off. We spoke about the weather. About how it was such a perfect day. We would smile but I still did not ask her to dance. For a man to ask a certain woman that he likes a lot well someone has to introduce them to each other first.

I looked at her at her eyes, which seemed to be dark to me now. Her peacock blue eyeshadow. Her pink creamy lips but other than that she did not seem to be wearing that much makeup, her face was clean as I have said before which made me happy because that stuff is usually hellish to get out of a shirt and they always charge me extra at the drycleaners. Maybe it is because of my face or my name or because they are, Chinese and they need the extra dough to put their kids through having a good education. I knew I was going to kiss her. I really wanted to though. At some point in the conversation, I had stopped listening to her and she had stopped looking at me.  I could not believe that they actually had doughnuts at weddings. You could have them in any flavour you wanted. For some reason that was the groom’s favourite dessert.

Doughnuts and coffee. People were wild for them. Fat people, thin people, children and even the diabetics who you could see a mile away. They were the ones asking, ‘Is there grape juice instead of wine? Is there salt in everything? Is there even salt in this?’ They were ones telling the servers and the waiters they could not eat red meat. They would have the Cajun chicken or the rotisserie chicken. They were the ones who wanted orange juice. Orange juice at a wedding. I shook my head. I could not understand how sometimes people could be so petty, pretty unbelievable and ungrateful. I could hear how some husbands and wives said well at our daughter’s wedding it was catered all the way. That is the done thing. To have catering at a wedding. The thing is nobody complained about the vegetables though.

That is the conversation we would have had if I had the guts to talk to her. I looked for her in the church hall afterwards. People were taking off their jackets. Children were dancing, sliding on the floor even though the wedding singer still had not arrived. The bride and groom were taking photographs in the gardens. Lovers were drinking champagne and getting lost in the maze or the labyrinth. That could have been me. I thought to myself. Yes, you foolish darling that could have been you. You see I do not like forward girls. If she had only waited, I could have asked one of my cousins if he knew her. What her name was? I could have said something like, ‘Nice weather we are having today. Would you care for some punch or to dance or a walk in the gardens?’ The trouble is I do not like girls or care for them if they shock me. I am a romantic. Let me do the talking.

I want that drink now.


Abigail George has a new book in the Ovi Bookshelves,
"Brother Wolf and Sister Wren"
Download for FREE HERE!


In the same shelves you wil also find one more book from Abigail George
"All about my mother"




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