||My father, the writer
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|Suddenly there is this uncontrollable shift; this mechanism in my brain, invincible and everything that came before, stability, emotional stability, normality and coherency is lost.
The loss of relationships derails you but love will find you in spaces ultimately devoid of sacrifice. This town is poor, small, and uneventful. You seldom feel out of touch with the reality of it.
I have always felt that there is an intense radiance behind words, streaming through the invisibility of white pages, an aggression of trapped particles between phrases.
Everything in an illness is an adapted move to the social climate, not structured, then a rescuing force reaching, straining to make sense of the world around you in an embellished utopia or a hellish nightmare filled either with pure, unfathomable dread or adrenaline shooting through your body, powered by an inescapable thread, a disconnected feeling of separation from the masses. They include people who are sociable, in good health, unafraid of the stressful aisles at the supermarket, lists and the hum of shopping malls.
I have become a voyeur, a painter, a masochist because of my depression guided by inseparable common sense and my own vulnerability.
My skin is like velvet, food tastes bland, pretty dots of nothingness dissolve on my tongue, wet, rainbow-coloured, greasy. My teeth feel like plastic, my eyes strained. I feel intensely hungry all the time.
I am a writer as well who distils the essence of vanity and the eternal broken hearted nature of the human condition. It’s a link, not a shortcoming.
My characters make choices that lead to their self-development, while I improvise.
The films I watch on television are just pale reproductions of what a happy family should be.
I tell myself often I’m going to have a wonderful life. I am going to be happy. I am lost in thought, filled with fire and ice, indescribable shame, raw, compelling Moodswings. With one contemptible look, I am confrontational. I become a sullen girl, mean, cerebral; my hair has the colour of rust.
My medication is on the bedside table. I call it, ‘The Pharmacy’. Their physical shape leaves an imprint on your brain that says you are on dangerous ground. Their prowess like the end of a romantic affair is painful and like your beloved’s perfume it is remote and intriguing. It is like smoke, signalling a brittle, unforgiving outcome of a mysterious nature.
I learnt to be successful you have to have an aversion to needles, doctors, well-meaning therapists. My heart keeps pumping. It’s my mistakes that are unpredictable, that bring me psychological terror and not relief. In my head, in relationships I tell myself, ‘I’m not in love.’ or ‘You don’t mean that much to me.’ I convince myself I don’t feel anything. It’s the way men are, their frame of mind.
The worst times are when my creativity is dulled and compromised. If I could freeze-frame happiness, I would bathe in the heavenly glow of junk food and films starring sad women like Marilyn Monroe for eternity.
My father strokes my leg, my neck, drums his fingers on my knee, kisses my forehead, pats my head and I put my arms around my father’s neck. He has just come home from work. He is tired, withdrawn. I am 5 years old. We watch the news together holding hands. I sit in his lap. “I love you daddy.” But his eyes are watching the flickering images on the screen. A world I already abhor.
“Don’t look.” My mother says. She is pregnant with my sister. I defy her, numbing myself already at this young age to senseless murder and violence. I finally do look away because I do not understand this world. My mother is triumphant, “I told you not to look.”
I am not yet twelve but already I know no man will ever gaze as adoringly at me as my father, be as forgiving of my temper, my depression as he is or be as loving towards me.
My father gives new meaning to the word, ‘unconditional’. For most of my life it is as if together we make up the two halves of a perfect whole. Dangerous spheres inflicting a harmful energy like pulsating neutrons. Within damage to the human heart, regret is almost always terminal. Our relationship has always been unconventional. When he kisses me as an adult, it is on the mouth, full contact that I inwardly flinch from. When he embraces me, he holds on too long before he draws away and smiles at me. “Don’t fight with your father.” My mother says. “He is tired. He needs his rest.” Her elegant fingertips tap-tap-tapping the kitchen tabletop, as she makes chicken curry for supper from scratch.
In my mind, as I grew older, violence became as intimate as sex. I think my father was abusive towards my mother but in ways that did not leave physical scars. I’d rather be defined by my work than relationships or love.
I fall in love with my therapists’ one after the other and then I leave. They are married, unavailable. I am afraid what will happen if they reciprocate my feelings. I am afraid I will fall in love. They are close in age to my father, well educated, cultured. I want men to think of me as vulnerable and out of reach. My life is a lie. On the bad days it is unconvincing. My eyes are weary, old before their time.
I would be dull. I would be very dull without my colourful childhood, the years I spent as a teenage hypochondriac, without my bipolar, brilliant father, my relentless mother and I wouldn’t laugh at jokes about tolerating someone who had a chemical imbalance or a mental illness.
Love is irrelevant to me. I’m estranged from the art of seduction, the brutal dissolve of parents fighting.
What drives me, makes me look successfully into the future, turn down advances, avoid the cruelty and ignorance of men? Global images that radiate innocence.
The table was set for breakfast. My mother reached over and smacked my sister leaving an imprint of her hand on her cheek. It was the inherent traces of sadness in her mood that spelled trouble, which ignited a passion for a harmful craving, a physical caving into a surreal canvas or painting that she would drag the whole family into.
Without a trace of a pathway to a hopeful predestined destination, a line to the telepathic, a loss of reaction to sibling rivalry, the creation of dependency to rampant self-medication leads to a culture of death. It leads to the death of technology, childhood, loss of social life and innocence at the beginning of treatment for me at 19 for clinical depression. Swallowing pills that promised my mood would become patient in the perfect moment. This became a normal world loaded with daily cross-examinations in my journal. I could not eat, sleep or read a paragraph without feeling sleepy. My body was a domain governed by an age of innocence and an unforgiving wretchedness. It was bold, dynamic. If it had been a colour it would have been a splotchy inkblot, a domineering black hole veering towards a space defined by borders and infinity.
The essence of normality becomes a borderline suburban reality, blurred, distorted and unclear like a mannequin’s features, like the aftermath of feathers after a cat’s pronounced feast.
The vanishing pink traces of my mother’s fingertips against my sister’s cheek at the breakfast table, a lipstick smudge against her morning cup of coffee stretched my imagination beyond belief. Would I become her or would I cease to exist, as I knew it, dieting, shopping, living vicariously through characters in a weekday series on television or airbrushed pictures in a magazine.
The date between my mother’s fingers is the colour of runny molasses. She doesn’t sit down and eat meals. She grabs whatever has been prepared and snacks on that. She likes to eat exotic dried fruit, oily nuts, rich; dark boxed chocolates and transfers it daintily from her palm to her mouth. She drinks milky, powdery white like coconut flakes, Soya milk. Her diet seems to sustain her survival attitude. I wish my face could be that animated as I finished a plate of steamed fish and green vegetables.
My mother and I were like two bodies hurtling through space. To her, giving in doesn’t mean giving up. She feels a source of pleasure in every impulse to eat. The backlash I experience when I do the same is exhilarating and dangerous.
Just like that I was hospitalised for my depression. Did my parents know better? Yes, of course they did. They were trained educators. They taught children. It was their job; their purpose. Their training prepared them for that. To be forewarned about the unthinkable and the psychological traits of an unhappy child. To me my parents had an invincible power over me like the stars did in your daily horoscope. I always did as I was told. My inescapable sadness was once again misconstrued as ill health. Once again my creativity, my giftedness, my talent, my poor life skills was not seen as a challenge that needed to be directed, encouraged but as something to be ashamed of.
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