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by Abigail George
2016-02-27 10:43:20
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I don’t know this place yet. I’ve come on holiday armed with an Anne Tyler novel and Mrs. Dalloway. They hurt me much in the same way she, my own sister did. Reminding me that I am not quite woman enough. Never had those children or those golden parties where I had to see to the arranging of flowers beforehand. I was the introvert.

You were a bittersweet year. I try not to remember but I do. The family. It was a Tsitsikamma summer spent by the beach. We rented a house that year. We untucked the color of the night. We fry chicken samoosas eat it by the dozen. There is something about chicken, family, the holidays. Drink it with fruity cocktails that my sister mixes. We eat barbecue before it turns dark and cold out. Pork chops, T-bone steaks bought by our local butcher, sweet and sour ribs. Tortilla chips with soft cheese. That year we were not in need of a map. My family was my tribe. The waves hit the rocks. The ocean’s turquoise water. Until the school of family comes I am left dreaming inside this house I can’t afford. Dear family or diary, it is a new year. It is all a part of us now. This season. My sister wanted the fantasy. Bombay dreaming and we gave it to her all summer long. I knew I had a crooked little heart but what about my soul. I had a lot of time to think. To numb the pain. To dance on a sheet of glass. Instead the smell of wet dirt faded away. The same way the memory of my first love did. It was us that was going to change the world besides climate change and global warming. The mocking sea. It raw and beguiling before we all fell to pieces. The inside of the house felt like paradise island. I can see an old map in her eyes. Science. The roar of famous men, their silence and the solid ground they stood upon. She was like a box found in the remains of tall grass. She was a key. Salt and light.

To the lighthouse. Virginia Woolf’s lighthouse. To Jinny, Susan, Rhoda’s waves. I don’t swim anymore. Much too self-aware. I use to take to the water like Jonah’s Whale or a fish. Then I went underground. Had visions of the River Ouse, Ingrid Jonker’s sea. I went out one day and saw the world and it was a vision of loveliness.

That and a tangled, banged up wreck found alongside the beaten track.

‘You are beautiful. You are interesting. You are fascinating. You are cultured. You are the most beautiful man I have ever seen.’


‘Yes, please. Live with me. I wish we could live like this forever. I’m in love with you. No regrets. No looking back now.’

‘Don’t say that.’

url01_400‘I mean it. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.’

‘I already have you. All of you. What more do you want? Having me and love is never enough for any woman.’

‘I won’t see your face again. After tonight I mean.’

‘That is the girl inside of you saying that. You don’t know what it is like yet to be a man, to be dominated by a man inside a man’s world. All you see is this face, this body.’

‘I feel you. I want to see you all the time.’

‘You don’t want that.’

‘How do you know what I want?’

‘I am always startled by a woman’s beauty.’

‘All women are beautiful to you?’

‘Yes, all women are beautiful to me. You will only see that when you are older.’

‘I don’t want to grow old. Men lose interest.’

‘It is a fact of life. Women grow old.’

‘Men, what happens to them? Men have it easy, easier than women. The night is bright. Bright with stars.’

‘Let’s talk about your eyes instead. Your eyes are bright with tears. You will learn. This has all been an education for you.’

‘Yes, a beautiful education. I was never very good at it though. School. What happens to kids who do not do very good at school. What becomes of them in the world?’

‘Don’t say it like that. You sound bitter. You are too young to be bitter.’

‘Kiss me.’

‘Stop crying.’

‘I’m happy. I am crying because I am happy. That amuses you? You’re smiling.’

‘You don’t know me. You don’t know why I am smiling.’

‘You don’t know me. You don’t know why I am crying.’

‘Come here. You still smell like perfume. Look. A sunrise. We’ve been up the whole night. Tell me about your parents, where you grew up, what were you like as a child. Were you loved?’

‘What’s the use of all of that? I don’t know how to answer that. What do you want me to say?’

‘I wish I could go back with you and change what has made you so jaded. You’re wrong. You are going to make it. You are not going to be the victim of your circumstances.’

‘You believe in me.’

‘Why wouldn’t I? The best is yet to come kid.’

‘I don’t believe you.’

‘That is because you are insecure. I wouldn’t dream of hurting or lying to you. I’ve had people do that to me.’

‘That of course is the man of influence and experience talking. I need you like the air I breathe. I need you, did you hear what I said.’

‘It will never be enough. You’ll learn. What do you write in that journal of yours? Do you write about me?’

‘I write about things that make me happy, and things that make me sad.’

‘Have I ever made you sad?’

‘My father made me sad.’

‘Have I ever made you sad?’

‘That is the second time you asked me that. I don’t have to answer it if I don’t want to.’

‘I have made you sad.’

‘Well, you’re unique, and I always forgave you because you deserved it. I love you.’

‘You don’t know me. You don’t know what I am capable of.’

‘I know you’re capable of deceit amongst other things.’

It is summer. It is always summer even when it rains. My tears, where do my tears come from. They come from love, and the Pandora’s Box of loss. She frequented bars. Went into discotheques, and theatres on her own armed with wit that she aimed to charm with. At the end of the evening they discovered her personality. Drinking fruit cocktails at the bar, she found herself on the arm of many men. Did this make me happy or sad? I pass shades of many women in the street. She could be anyone of them if I looked close enough. The world around me is elegantly sane. Each woman carrying that of the brilliant witch’s cargo.  The light of it. Each woman like mum I have learned has her own map. Her own skill. Mum, she is the other half of me. She is the life and death of me. Of my childhood. Accompanied by starvation of anorexia, the scarcity of life, love, and the arrangement of light, purpose, meaning, the eternity of honesty, and the infinity, the infirmity of crazy town. It might seem a little strange that I am still a girl locked away inside the body of thirty-six-year-old female waiting, wasted, admired by her father. What do I carry around in my pockets? Art, chewing gum, mints, paper, notebook, pen. Little fragments of the wreck of a life. Every reason has an edge. Confessions will come in passing. In diaries. In journals. On the stage. In performance. In acting out. In love. Any woman can be vicious. Can be treated viciously in life. What is her lot but to remain silent and not to dance but to watch from the sidelines since birth? She does not have wings. No cards for her. No invitations to weddings. No bridesmaid dress. Mum is different. I am different, I was always told but not in a special way. Not in a go to way when crying, or sad, or exhausted with the wanton act of trying too hard to be beautiful.

Mum, she is both mother and father. She taught me to write from birth. The pen and paper came later. They were both knitted tightly. Wired into a bud. A calyx made of honey. I slipped into your soul to find myself there. It matters to me in retrospect of who she was. Mother and daughter. She knew spells and potions. She knew how to poison me. She knew how to read tea leaves. Once I knew nothing. Then I knew of the world. I was the one dominated before I took the wheel. My reality became a gift. My intellect evaporated. Listen to my soul. It is filled with the song of the river and waves. You will find the ocean there. Something indescribably old, crazy fish, and beautiful. If I live I am still crazy, but will it still be a beautiful life or a beautiful lie.

‘In life faith was her loyal master. She kept the light on at night. Sympathies in her heart.’

‘You think that is the kind of girl I am. The kind of woman I am. I can do anything I want. I can do anything I want to you.’

‘You will never be able to destroy me. In life it is men who destroy women and not the other way round.’

‘I don’t want to anticipate anything from you because if I anticipate anything from you it means I must believe in you. I must believe that somewhere out there is a God or some kind of god.’

‘Oh, you’re playing guarded now. All I have to do, what I mean is this. That all I want from you is empathy for my situation.’

‘Why do you expect to accept empathy from me? I am just a girl from the wrong side of the tracks with very little education. No knowledge of culture. I have a journal. You smile at those words as if I was lying to you.’

‘What kind of father did you have?’

‘I had a bad father. He was remote and absent and there was a lot of the time during my adolescence when I felt lost like I was wasting away.’

‘Now tell me what kind of mother did you have?’

‘I didn’t have a mother. I worshiped someone who was made out of stone for all of my life and I still do.’

‘I believe you. I can tell just talking about it makes you feel uncomfortable.’

‘You know I will tell you something right now. I will telephone her and she will make me feel really bad.’

‘She makes you feel really small.’

‘Yes, she does but when I come to a place like this tonight it makes me feel elated that I am in the company of people who do not know how to live but how to die a succession of deaths in an afternoon in the post-apartheid asphalt wilderness in South Africa just like me.’

I know this place. I have been here before. Surrounded by the aura of white light. I know of this place because of him. I wear my hair like this because he wants me to. He likes it that way. He buys me perfume. The only woman I ever really knew who wore perfume in my life as a child was my mother. I’m afraid of him leaving me.

‘You don’t know anything.’

‘I know you.’

‘No, you only think that you do.’

‘Really. You really think so.’

‘You’re nothing to me but a child.’

‘It is easy to hurt me. It is easy for you to walk away from me, and it is easy for you to say that to me.’

‘You don’t know my wife. You don’t know my children.’

‘What is it like for your wife to know that she does not complete you?’

‘Power completes a man. Knowing that he has an heir.’

‘Daughters who will follow in their mother’s footsteps?’

‘Yes, you could say that.’

‘See, I can get it right half of the time when I dream.’

‘Dreaming is for fools. Every young person has goals for half of their life. Marriage isn’t everything. A woman soon discovers that out.’

‘Then girls are living fools in an electric wonderland. Somewhere in this world you have a doppelganger but the only difference is he has a heart, you don’t.’

‘You only say that because you want to get back at me. You want to hurt me.’

‘No, I say it because I want to understand you. You tricked me.’

‘I never told you I loved you.’

‘No, that was my mistake older man. Did I tell you that you remind me of my father?’


‘There is that smile again. The Cheshire cat that got the cream. My shiny education. You might think you know me and that you’ve met me perhaps a hundred times before in gamine waifs but you haven’t.’

‘You’re perfect, you know.’

‘You’ve made me perfect, and I guess that is my gift to you. I know the blueprints of the her-stories of Jean Rhys, Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, and Elizabeth Donkin. I should have known. I really should have.’

‘I’ve been really good to you, you know.’

‘You have but you also know that I would never betray you. Don’t leave me.’ Long sigh.

‘Of course you know that I will, now that you’ve confessed that you will never betray me.’

Living, loving, dying is an art. I haven’t been here before but I know what he will say. All I can think of to myself is what is he waiting for? I can’t dance the night away like my sister but I know that she is beautiful like our mother. She is the lucky one and I was the one who could not fit.

Yet I was the one who was loved once and the world then was perfect. Everything about it was beautiful. The long conversations that seemed to go on for eternity. He made me feel beautiful. He made me feel extraordinary. I pretend that I know what that art, the art of lovemaking is there for, and of separation of genders, what that really feels like.

‘Do you feel loved?’

‘Yes, you have made me feel loved.’ I turn to look at him, mostly to stare at him and feel sated at the same time.

‘Exquisite. Your neck. Your shoulder blades. You. Just. Perfect. You. Everything about you. You should not try so hard to be liked. Just be yourself.’

‘My mother always wanted me to be someone else. Will you always be there for me?’

‘Always. I promise. I am pouring love into that black hole where your heart should be. You sure need it more than I do.’

‘What is desire?’

‘Don’t you feel it?

‘I think I feel it now, with you. For the very first time in my life I think I am feeling it. Desire.’ It gave her a warm feeling.

‘What do you feel inside?’

‘Happy. Delirium.’

That was then. This is now. A decade later. I have gone to the dogs where all the lost children are found. Looking after infirm parents. A caregiver. I see my sister once a year when she comes home. She is beautiful. Stepping off the plane as if she was stepping off a page in a catalogue while I was the one who put everything on the line.

‘I know you.’ I turned to look at him, the accused. I didn’t want to blink back the tears. Didn’t want to strain my voice.

‘Are you sure?’ he asked me and I could hear the slight tremor in his voice.

‘Yes. You’re capable of many things but betrayal is not one of them.’ He laughed out loud showing his teeth.

‘Oh, that’s the child within me. You’ve betrayed your wife with me, haven’t you? With others? There had to be others besides me because you are formidable. You are a man of the world. I am a child, you are right.’

Even after all these years I was still a child, and my parents could see nothing else. My mother could see nothing else, and neither could my sister. After all those years I could see nothing else either and whose fault was that. Was it the way I was raised, and who was to blame there, my mother, my father, the nature of competition?

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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