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Nearly Thirteen Years Nearly Thirteen Years
by Abigail George
2014-02-28 10:30:19
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Are you trying to make a statement by doing that, going out like that?

Would you prefer me to be lonely, stay in on Friday and Saturday nights with oh-so-serious-you?

Wipe that smirk off your face. You’re sly. You’re very, very sly? You’re a fox. You’re a red fox. And you’re going on a hunt. Are you going on a hunt femme fatale?

I’m what?

You’re something else. Come here. I want to remind you that you’re a married woman. You do not have options. I am your husband and you have to obey me.

Oh. Now I see the choices that I have.

And? Dance. I want you to dance. Spin around. Put some fresh lipstick on and then kiss me.

No. You’re talking crazy. Why don’t you get up from that sofa lazybones and make me. Why not dance with me?

Why don’t you join me on the sofa?

I’m not in the mood. I’m starting to hate you. I’m a lover not a hater. Oh, he gets a smile for that one. I wonder what my reward will be.

three01_400I’m starving. I’m going to make a sandwich. Put on some music for us and I’ll get a bottle of red.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

No, no and no.

I just want cake.

You have to start watching what you’re eating some time so why not now?

A tiny piece of gorgeous cake made by my gorgeous wife then I’ll keep the peace.

You promise?

Don’t I always keep my promises?


Depends on what?

I guess the planets mostly. The price of a loaf of bread. America. Conspiracy theorists.

Come here.


Look at me.


Come here. Just turn your head. You can still see me.

Why can’t you just say what you want to say to me? I can hear you from where I’m standing.

Real people do not talk like that. Do newlyweds talk like that? Do people who have stayed married for thirteen years talk like that? I know that in Terms of Endearment they did not talk like that. Nor in August: Osage County. Someone died in each of those movies. Someone loved. Someone special and funny. Someone who had a unique spirit. I know that real people don’t talk like that but sometimes I imagine that they do when I feel as if I have a peculiar spirit or nature. Lie. Lie. Lie. Liar. What I meant to say was when I feel sad, gripped by it, carried to its threshold, when it speaks to me, when my head is wrapped tightly around it, can’t get loosened from it. In my head I would make up the conversations we would have over a period of nearly thirteen years of married life. Are vows terms, conditions? Will we go to church or lie in on Sunday mornings with our cold toast complete with gloop of shining marmalade with its pretty sun face, lukewarm milky tea and the newspapers reading our favourites. You will tuck a stray brown curl of hair behind the lobe of my ear, kiss it. Say, ‘You’re really sweet. You smell lovely. All perfumery.’  Later on you will go and make us coffee (my pretend husband will go and make me coffee and yes only in my dreams) before we go out for a walk on the beach. We will hold hands. You will put your arm around my waist. We will look into each other’s eyes, talk about our week at work, about our friends at work. Someone will say something funny. We will both guffaw like crazy. We don’t have children. We have accepted that we can’t have any. It isn’t anybody’s fault really (this really means it’s my fault. It’s impossible for me, for my genes). We have a dog called Misty Upham after this beautiful Native American girl who played the role of a beautiful Native American nurse and cook in the film August: Osage County. You (my husband) have a dog. I have a cat. Kitty. Cat for short. In real life my cat is dead. Tender is the day, the salt on the breeze catching my hair, the nape of my neck, and the backs of our legs. You’re laughing and complaining at the same time, that I decided we come out today of all days. We’ve both rolled up our pants. We’re eating vanilla ice cream with a chocolate flake inside of it. You’ve picked me up. I’m screaming. Screaming with joy and terror. It’s cold. The sea has always freaked me out. I can swim. I just prefer to swim in a heated pool, preferably indoor. I hate the smell of chlorine, the sight of skinny people, so wrapped up in the joy of their thinness and revealing it to the world at large. There’s something beloved about my local swimming pool. I’ve been swimming there since I’ve been a child with my mother and father, my two younger siblings.

Beetroot. Coleslaw. Fried chicken. All of this in front of you a feast. A huge serving. Not like those portions you’re used to getting at the clinic. The portion that could fit into your hand. Now eat. Eat as much as you like or eat as little but you have to eat some. Put it on the end of your fork and now eat this stuff. Some of it is healthy and some of it is unhealthy. Just for you I added extra Tabasco and mayonnaise. Beetroot, coleslaw, chicken is the colour of the day. It will brighten you up. You look so pale because you haven’t been eating right. The doctors spoke about this. Your therapist. You can’t push people who care about you, who are concerned about you and your episodes of mild clinical depression away from you. Just think that not so long ago this was your favourite meal at the hospital. You couldn’t eat anything at that posh clinic. Just think what will happen if you don’t eat. You’ll simply fade away, waste away to absolutely nothing but skin and bone like those kids in Ethiopia, Somalia, wherever-in-Africa. Ethiopia’s in Africa right? See I made you smile. History was never my strongest subject in school or is that Geography. See how I made you laugh. Look at me. A regular stand-up comedian. You’re a moron if you don’t eat this. I’m going to have to throw this good stuff away. I can’t eat all of it. It’ll go off in the fridge. Are you listening to me or am I losing you? Hey, don’t tell me I can’t click my fingers in your face. I need you to pay attention to me. Listen you. You have to start eating and putting on some weight. This kind of lifestyle is not doing anything for you. This negativity. It’s just being selfish. You’re being selfish. Can’t you see that? I hate this. I hate wearing this hat. It is making me tired. You playing these games. These mind games. You can play them with your doctors, the other patients, your psychologist, the occupational therapist then that is fine by me but you can’t come home like this. You can’t come home to me like this. I am your husband. You’re not behaving. If you don’t know how to behave like a wife, a proper wife, then what will happen to both of us? You’re sabotaging us. Something close to perfection. Marriage is not perfect but it can be happy. It can make both people realise that they aren’t perfect people. You’re making us, the once upon a time perfect us unhappy. Don’t do this. Just do the small things. It’s not such a big deal to have a meal. It’s not as if I’m asking you to eat three times a day. This is just the beginning of a very long road to sanity. Forget about being sophisticated. Forget about vanity. Maybe I’ll give up on you today but I won’t give up on you tomorrow and that’s just the way it is. I was saving the vanilla ice cream for you. You’ll find it in the freezer.

And then he ends the conversation like that. He switches off the lights in the kitchen brooding and brooding and brooding. And then the brooding turns to bitterness and then rots and festers in his heart or wherever bitterness, rotting and festering takes place. My dreamy pretend husband leaves me in the darkness of our perfect kitchen that I picked out of the pages of a magazine. Imagination is a wonderful thing. The thing is I am not even looking for a husband. And that is the wicked truth of it all.

In the thirteenth year a nephew has come along, a girlfriend has moved all her flat’s furniture into our house, my parents’ house and I begin to hate, rot and fester more and more. This is me speaking and not my imagination. Life begins to become more brutal, less forgiving. God, how it wounds. This aggression. Life aggravates me and my nerves. It feels like lightning and electricity combined. Can you even imagine that kind of catalyst communicating to the world of the dead? All the suffering. All the details. All I want is God to speak to me. On the other hand words speak to me also. I grasp at them like my nephew’s hands grasp at nothing and everything. And when that voice comes it comes in moth-speak, fog evaporating, leaves tearing up districts, Whitman’s blades of grass, rain meeting pavement, making it wet, slick, making hair wet, slick, licking umbrellas, shoes, coats. It comes with the wind that shakes up everything in its path. I remember how the Johannesburg people wanted to take my father away from me, from Port Elizabeth, my brother, my mother and me. Mostly me I think. They thought we wanted his money. How cruel. People are cruel (here I mean family). Love ones to loved ones. The closest to you. I don’t believe in worshipping family anymore. Scratch that one law, rule, resolution out. It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. Relationships and everything else were blackened that September and October. 2013. 2013 taught me that pretend was just play-play, another child’s jubilant playing field. And now we come to nearly thirteen years of leaping and awe-inspiring loneliness etched into every landscape that I’ve travelled through, every wonder I’ve quietly observed, every childhood that has burned to the ground, every passion that felt like a fever, that has taken on the guise of a pretty flower in a garden that has made your spirit felt charged and ready for success, every three-leafed clover sorely missing its fourth. Now we come to thirteen years of depressive suicidal illness and disability. Thirteen years of emotional instability. Ups and downs. Follow the writer. The twit. The twitter. The twittering. Follow the babble, the kerfuffle. Follow the leader. Play reader. Play. Push the red button. Drift. That is what it comes down to. Just drift because that is what humanity is meant to do when facing off the physical. When the physical becomes nasty, mean-spirited. And all it gives your brain is negative information, wishes that will never come true no matter how hard you wish for it, no matter how long you hold your breath. It feeds your brain ugly myths and unfortunately there is nothing of the fairy-tale kind where good always triumphs over evil, where I am good, good enough.

I loved you. I always will. For thirteen years now I’ve loved you, met up with you again, again and again in my dreams for real and not pretend and sometimes it kills me to say it. You’re somebody else’s husband. Somebody else’s fella. Some days are good. Some days are bad. God has married the romantic gentleman you to my memories like the world around me has grown to become more digital. It just goes faster. I have no control over it. There’s no function key that I can press. My contemporaries are far more advanced than me. I’ve come to terms with that. I still don’t know anything about you. I don’t know who you are. What you think about when you lie awake at night in your bedroom next to your lovely wife who is nothing, nothing like me. Is she ordinary-extraordinary? Lie. Lie. Lie. Liar. You were my best friend. My only friend as it turned out to be. You taught me truth was the only policy to live by. Some kind of special gentleman you were. You offered me some kind of hope, self-esteem, and culture in a zoo of players. For some time now you have made me very happy. I’ve starved myself for so long. Can you understand what I am trying to tell you? I am never coming back, going back.

You made me quite ill. Frighteningly so. I scared myself to death. I was high on you. Addicted to your kind of human nature, funny hint of environment, scarcity of empathy (did you even know what the word sympathy meant or did it just mean having a sexual transaction to you)?


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