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The clairvoyant and Alice
by Abigail George
2016-08-28 11:26:52
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List of things to do

Make up bed
Clean room
Do the laundry
Write up a page of your memoir
Take a warm bath
Wash my underwear and hang it up in the bathroom
Scrub the toilets
Wash my hair
Bake a chocolate chiffon cake
Hide the fudge and dates
Wash the dishes
Go to the Post Office

‘She always managed to make me feel small. I withdraw into a shell. She wins.’ Dr Phil’s guest on the television belted out. Tears were not far away. Everyday Alice made a list of things to her. It helped her to remain focus. It helped her to be a good girl. Not to get into other people’s way in the house. For a girl Alice was extremely dirty but she had a kind of loveliness, an aura about her. Hair unkempt that was always falling into her eyes. Dirt under her fingernails. Mud on her boots. Alice enjoyed the company of men. Her father, her brother’s friends, Mikale, Julian, an ex-boyfriend and Onke, a childhood friend, watching television with her nephew. She did not trust women. Beautiful women. Beautiful women like her mother. In her mother’s garden the flowers and the sun seemed ancient to her.

Even in winter the trees were green. Her brother took a pruning cutter to the trees. They had to go. It made sense when he said it but she knew she would miss them in a way that was difficult to explain. It was difficult for her to make friends with women who were far more attractive in their own way than Alice was. She thought about women whom the world had not been kind to. Women just like her. Women unattractive in their own way. It seemed to her that it was women not men who had all the power. The power to destroy people on their own quiet path on their part with no effort at all. Of course men had the indomitable power of crushing anyone in their way.

abi01_400_05They drowned the mothers’ of their children in ice and single malt whiskies but in the garden in the mornings when Alice took her coffee and rusk outside all she could see of that pale winter was the white sacrifice of the sun. Alice could see that it had rained the previous night. The street was wet. The windows were dirty throughout all the rooms of the house. The cat and her brother had tramped mud into the house. Here and there you could see the muddy imprint of paws on the tiled floor in the kitchen where the cat had been sniffing for food. Always hungry. The tomcat spent most of the day in the sun where he could find it or up in trees or on the roof. But now that the weather had turned cold out, it had become more difficult to find him.

Bitterness cut through her. The rhythms of the day (a morning show on television, kettle boiling, scraping the eggs that refused to turn into a neat omelette from the sides of the pan, greasy bacon). Remember who you are, who you were once, she mouthed to herself. She had studied film. Thought she would be a director. Make documentaries. A proper journalist but life had not turned out that way. She was always a dreamer but dreamers don’t get anything done. She discovered in her late twenties that they’re good at wasting their time. They waste their energy on goals that exist only for them. Other people can see right through them. The trees where the dogs made a field day out of the mud seemed to be stained with an ancient green. It had rained the previous night. She had been cold even with blankets piled high on top of her.

Under her favourite bedspread she tossed and turned until the early hours of the morning. Heat. Warmth. That was what she wanted but didn’t get. Her whole night had been uncomfortable. In her thoughts she imagined that she had put a lid on the heavens domain over rain. She felt as if she could smell a rainforest in that lost country. She could feel premenstrual stress moving through her. It came with the cold gust of wind that blew through the trees outside her window. She remembered the emotion she felt that day when she left Johannesburg. Her mind in turmoil. It was not a challenge she welcomed. She didn’t trust herself anymore. Didn’t believe in the choices that she made. What was wrong, what was right? She couldn’t see it like she saw things before. Always with a focus and clarity that demanded concentration. The dogs had barked.

All through the night next to the bridge people would pass her house in the dark. Making their way to the street where rows of houses stood in the dark next to each other, menacing and linked by the moonlight. Alice wanted the same fragile inheritance that her mother had had. Children, a son, ‘an heir apparent’, a husband but she could see now that it was growing farther and farther out of her reach. She was nearly forty years old. A ripe age. She was happy. This was as good as it was going to get. She knew she needed nerves of steel to handle the anxiety that sometimes came upon her in moments when she no longer could keep it together. Her mother was a difficult woman. Wonderful in her own way but difficult to relate to. Difficult to speak to.

And now her brother preserved the planet in his patch of garden. Growing all kinds of plants. His green fingers reaching into the soil and almost through magic something would appear there that wasn’t there before in front of her eyes in a few weeks. A young green shoot would appear. Her mother would sing her brother’s praises and she would be sent to the kitchen to make him a grilled cheese sandwich or cinnamon French toast. Unity, solidarity and reconciliation lost on her mother. Her brother had his moments when he sat her down and lectured to her on the state of his being. How could Alice understand him when they were so different? They both wanted different things from life. He wanted to settle down and marry. Have more children.

Sons and daughters. Alice would never have those sons and daughters. There was a kind of inaction on her side. The films that Alice watched now were more like exploding suns with the information keys to a more novel future. They made her feel like she was only living a half-life like some peasant woman in that Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh’s work that spoke volumes. You want to be happy, Alice mused but you have to take those bold little steps to secure your happiness.  

‘Poet.’ Her brother said with eyes of glass. He was coming out of the rain and closing the door behind him.

She smiled. What else could Alice do but smile? She felt the dough in her editor’s hands. Kneaded it back and forth.

Back and forth.

‘It’s going to rise beautifully. Just you watch.’ Alice gritted her teeth. ‘It’s going to be a beautiful bread. Oh, high riser my little loaf.’

She decided to go and see a medium because she had so much fear inside of her. Fear inside of her of dying young.

‘I want you to know that when we start with this there’s no going back.’ The medium told Alice. ‘You also have to pay me upfront. I’m sorry to be a sore bear about this but that is just the way it is. Is there anyone in particular that you want to talk to? Nobody special that has passed on in your life. Okay then we’ll see how it goes.’

Alice reached for her handbag and took her grant money out and painstakingly counted the notes in front of the medium.

‘Yes, there is someone. I was thinking perhaps I would like it if my paternal grandmother came through. You see, I never told her that I loved her. I loved her dearly.’ Alice cleared her throat.

The medium took the money from her and counted it again.

‘Oh the money is real.’ Alice laughed nervously.

‘It’s a bad habit. I’m sorry. I don’t mean anything by it. I do it in front of everyone.’ The medium reached over and touched her hand. It felt as if he were touching her soul.

This made Alice feel even more nervous. ‘Someone is coming through.’ The room began to feel cold as if there was a draught in the room.

‘Is someone here with us, now, in this room?’ Alice looked around her as if to see some long dead relative standing there in the room was with them.

‘False alarm. I think I must have left a window open in my sitting room. Hang on, while I go and close it. You don’t have to fear me. You don’t have to fear anything.’ The medium said as he pushed back his chair and got up. ‘Would you like some tea before we begin?’

‘No, I’m fine sir. I’m fine. I don’t want you to go to any trouble. I just want to find out am I going to be okay. I just want to know that I am not going to die anytime soon.’ Alice was chewing her bottom lip.

‘Perhaps we should leave this for another day. I can give you some material to read up on what I do. I think that’s the best route to follow.’ The medium looked at her with fatherly concern in his eyes.

‘Yes, yes. Perhaps you are quite right. I didn’t think this through, you know. It was a spur of the moment thing. The thing is I just want to talk to someone sometimes.’ Alice brushed her hair out of her face.

‘You’ve had a rough couple of years.’ The medium went through his Tarot cards and began to aimlessly shuffle them on the table.

‘I don’t want to die young. I just feel terrible about this. Is there any way you can make this feeling go away?’ Alice asked.

‘Alice you’re not going to die young and anyway I don’t have that kind of power over you, whether to tell you what the circumstances are going to be when that happens. Do you follow your horoscope?’ the medium began to lay the cards on the table facing downwards. Alice began to follow what he was doing with interest.

‘I just have this feeling that something bad is going to happen.’

‘Alice let me stop you right there. You know I have found that deep breathing exercises, meditation and even prayer helps me. I mean, when you’re young, younger than you are now, you think that you’re going to live forever, right. Then things start to happen. A birth in the family, your girlfriends from high school get married, there are christenings and deaths. That’s life.’ The medium paused here aimlessly.

‘Are you telling me to go to church?’

‘Yes and no. Why do you believe that you’re going to die?’ The medium brushed his hands across the cards.

‘Are you doing that to feel the cards energy?’ Alice ignored the medium’s question but he looked across at her and smiled.

‘Well, yes. That’s very perceptive of you.’ He paused and looked at her again with a fatherly concern in his eyes.

‘I read a lot. You see I think I have a lot of fear inside of me and I know where it comes from but I don’t really want to talk about it.’ The medium nodded his and scratched his chin as Alice said this.

‘Perhaps you should think about going to see a therapist. There’s no shame in seeing a shrink. It helps sometimes. It gives you a different perspective.’ The medium began to pick up the cards one by one and turned them around. ‘Have you been sick recently, Alice?’ the medium said her name emphasising the first letter of her name.

‘Yes, I have. I find it interesting you should say that. Can you tell what was wrong or do you want me to offer up that information?’ Alice began to relax a little.

‘I think it was your kidneys. Chronic illness?’ The medium ventured.

‘I went for a biopsy but they didn’t find anything wrong with me. I’ve always suffered from bouts of depression and wrote poetry for years ever since I was a young girl. Way before high school and all of that.’ There was a long pause while the medium consulted his cards. Alice began to study him closely.

‘Yes, I can see that high school wasn’t easy for you. Would you like it if I lit some candles and incense just to set the tone and mood? We might be here for a while. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes less. Give or take twenty minutes or so.’ The medium touched her hand again. His hand was cold and Alice tried not to wince visibly.

‘Oh, I don’t mind at all. If you think that candles and incense will help us connect with the spirit world. I hope that someone comes through for me. I have been waiting for this for a long time.’

‘Can I say something?’ The medium studied Alice’s profile.

‘Yes?’ the medium gathered up the cards again and began to shuffle them again as if they were in a casino.

‘There was in my past an opportunity for a love affair but also something unfinished inside of me.’

‘If you want my advice,’ the medium said to Alice, ‘then I believe that happens to all women your age.’

‘Fear just seems to be running away with my life these days.’ Alice gave a tight smile. The medium patted her hand.

‘Don’t worry. You’re young still. You have so much potential. You’re going to live to a ripe old age. Somewhere in your eighties.’

‘Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.’ Alice put her hand over her mouth and sighed. Í shouldn’t have come after all.’

‘If you didn’t want to know why did you come and see me?’ the medium leaned back in his chair.

‘I think I’ll have that tea now. Would you mind terribly? I’m sure you don’t get asked that every day. For tea I mean. I wanted to come and see you on some other business. You see there are these dreams that I’ve been having and I don’t know what they mean. I don’t know much about the supernatural. I mean we were staunch Episcopalian. My mother was Lutheran.’ Alice drummed her fingers on the table.

‘I have some reading material for you on that. I put it out on my kitchen counter top.’ Said the medium almost wisely.

‘Then you knew I was coming today.’

‘Alice, yes and no. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the universe. How do you take your tea? I am certain that is not the last time we will see each other.’


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