You know that feeling when you have worked on a story so much that it is now lifeless, and you think, ‘Did it ever live?’. It’s like, it’s like, it’s like when a fisherman pulls an octopus out of the crystal Mediterranean and takes it to shore and beats it on a rock until it’s dead and what was jewel-like in the water is now jelly on land and what was beauty is now death and what had potential is just wet and slimy flesh grey on grey rock.
The baby is nearly thirty months, not truly a baby any more. He can climb stairs, pedal his tricycle, put words together in groups, although only his mother is very good at understanding him. He pronounces words using only half of his mouth, making the sounds fluffy and intimate. Only if you spend a lot of time with him will you understand his way of speaking. His mother likes this. It’s nice for her that they have this almost secret communication. She’s the one who explains the world to him. She knows that soon he’ll get better at speaking, and soon enough he’ll be at pre-school, and he’ll have other people to explain, and he’ll need her less and he won’t want her so much and this soft time they’re sharing will change into something else.
Two people, at not quite their first meeting but coming together out of boredom and as a result of the deliberate steeping of their own hearts in salt, in a squat-style nightclub in East London at the beginning of Spring, will medicate each other’s wounds only partially successfully and, kiss.
I knew her mother. A woman who didn’t like other people much. You wouldn’t ask her to take in a parcel for you, to watch your kids while you popped out, for any kind of favour. I didn’t know she even had a boyfriend but she must’ve. One day she was ‘showing’ and took to wearing smocks. I asked her about the dad, a few times I asked. She said he was away, said he wasn’t into commitment, said he wasn’t interested. To be honest I think she was just saying things off the top of her head, getting rid of me kind of thing. Anyway the bairn, when she got here, was right bonny but a wild thing.
I usually write about autumn in October but this year, even though autumn is finally here, in the difference in the air itself, in the wetness of the air, in the russet twilight, I won’t write about it. Things are changing. I can’t spend my life looking back. Always staring into myself like Narcissus into a lake, although actively listening for Echo, re-working things that float around in my own head, taking twigs of experience and twisting them into some kind of wicker metaphor for something that could be universal. I should write a story about what is going to happen, or what is happening right now in this moment, unravelling at the speed of an eye over text. That’s what I should write. Even using ‘should’ begins to play into the past tense, but maybe doubt is the mood of the present tense, maybe ‘am’ has embiggened its role in our tensual state. No, I think I’m wrong. ‘Should’ is the moment before the present. But what can you say about the present? I am writing this. I am writing this to you. You are reading this. You are thinking, what will happen at the end of this sentence? Or maybe I am thinking that and in thinking that I reach the end of the sentence. Become the moment between the present and the future. Where are some characters to accompany us together riding this to the end, we’re both here, but is there anyone else?
I’m still working on my dissertation and creative project story fans (as of writing only 2000 words and lots of edits to go). Next month normal service resumes but until then please enjoy this guest post by the very talented Sue Oke. She blogs over at susanmayoke.com. Pop over and say hello!
North to South
It’s the voice I hear first, a baritone with the unmistakable soft edges of a Yoruba accent. We turn at the same time, tentative smiles of recognition blossoming as our eyes meet. And then he’s grinning, wrapping me in bear hug, his enthusiasm temporarily infectious.
‘How are you? How are the children?’
I grab a breath, the rote , ‘We’re fine,’ slips out of my mouth.
He barrels on, ‘And what of Oga?’
Oga… chief… boss… master… he’s using a title to refer to the man who, twenty years ago, used to be my husband.
In July, August and September I have to write a lot to finish my course. Instead of writing new things for my blog I’m going to tart up some old things. Here, from November 2011 is one of the first re-tellings I tried out. Let me know what you think.
November: 14 Down, Mythical Maze (9)
After Theseus leaves
What kind of madness can you call it that led Ariadne to this island? She tries to remember, but her memories wisp away when she attempts to catch their threads.
I can’t remember much of the flight – its innards if you like. I was told that in Spanish the word migas is for the soft part of bread. The middle part surrounded by the crust. Do we have a word for that? It’s what I need now to describe the missing part of the flight in my mind, or if not missing then out of focus, getting out of the way when I try and look at it. Not that anything happened on the flight. I think. The outsides of the experience I recall. At the boarding gate, waiting for the plane to taxi up to the window. Wondering if the plane would be in a hurry – it was already an hour delayed – and would taxi too quickly, bashing into the window, killing us all or maiming at least/ at worst.
She showed up in a taxi. The sort that trawl the train station picking up tourists and children making brief prodigal returns. She took from the taxi a re-purposed cardboard box. Its four flaps were folded closed rather than taped shut. Her only other luggage was a hard plastic case on wheels.
She introduced herself to the receptionist as Shona Omara. The receptionist, who was also the proprietress Mrs Headle, told her how to find her room.
Shona pulled her case up three flights of carpeted stairs to the third floor. Along the walls of the staircase Shona noticed scuff marks, presumably made by other guests dragging their own luggage. She made a second trip to the lobby to collect the cardboard box. Continue reading