The International Writers Magazine: Life Moments with Abigail
The Most Vital Organ of All
The dimensions of love are beautiful. They can inspire you to wuthering heights or not at all.
Walls have emotions too if you listen carefully. Their voices are made of stone. He is not there anymore. I look and look and look for him but to no avail. He cannot be found. He does not want to be. I have to ask my heart does this make her happy or sad that she, my heart is finally released from the past. Relic. Witness. I am restored to a healthy specimen. Touch as poetry is always filled with consent and profound courage. It leaned into me like a lover. I do not exist for this love anymore. All I can remember was coming in from the cold. Coming home.
Coming home. It always starts this way but near the end of love you realise you must survive.
Once upon a time in my life, in my twenties, women seemed to be made of echoes. All that harmonic summer the interiors were cool in the beach house my sister rented. We were made of iron. Made to rust. Made for verdigris. The men and women around us at the beach seemed to turn into echoes of entertainment. Their roots in harmony. Haunting and pleasant at the same time like a picnic lunch. I could have danced but I did not. Instead, I drank.
I am killing myself slowly. I do not recognise my face in the mirror anymore. I cannot stand to look at myself. It sometimes feels as if I am already six feet under pushing up fields of daisies.
I drank lukewarm wine that day on the beach. It is her idea to do this every year. She laughs at me. She laughs at my father who is now infirm and elderly. My father the man who in the end had sacrificed everything for her to give her an expensive education. My sister is beautiful. I am not beautiful. She has a high profile job at an investment firm. She travels extensively.
She goes on holiday with her closest friends, never calling home collect, never to speak to my father or me. She laughs and laughs and laughs with my mother and it hurts me. The wine was warm. That was how hot it was. I do not think I like her. I do not think I like anything about my sister although I forgive her and I love her until it hurts to breathe. Her closest friend has affairs with married men. Oh whatever, she says when I ask her why does she have so many toxic relationships with people.
As if to say, she really does not care what I think. She made something of her potential and I did not. She was the winner in the end and in the end, the winner takes it all. She goes out with the tide and comes in with the tide. Her hair is wet. I hope the sea washes her clean of all of her sins. It is an afternoon sea. It roars and roars and roars like a bleeding lion. Every morning she makes us breakfast. Luncheon meats with scrambled eggs and toasted rolls. Rolls that she toasts for five minutes in the oven. The five of us have healthy appetites. Must be the sea air.
Instead, my thoughts turn to that day on the beach when everything even the light of the day seemed to buzz with electricity especially the houses. All of them had high walls and dogs. I wanted love and marriage. I wanted a house in the suburbs with a swimming pool. I wanted to homeschool my children but God had other plans for me. I want to know what is under my skin. I cannot help thinking this way. I do not want to stop playing this mind game. I am rising and falling. Always rising to the occasion and then falling into dreamland on my bed.
I know there is a network of veins. When, how and where. Everything feels like a wound. The noise, the garden sprinkler, birdsong, music, the radio. It is all like fire to me. The general population, the psychiatrist, the psychologist is of no help to me. They all want to teach me ‘the joy choice’. Why be happy when you can be mad as hell. The sun and sky in your reality shielding you from the real mad hatters. The real haters. This is my soliloquy. I am Antigone. I am Joan of Arc. I hear voices in the dark. I sometimes see things. Mediums call these visions.
My sister. I love her. I love her. She has survived. She is the wind beneath my wings. When she takes off her top to go swimming she seems to say, ‘Look at me. Do not come too close or I will eat you alive like a shark but look at me from afar and admire me.’ She is made of perfect flesh. She is made of perfect blood. She is made of fantasy, illusion, flaws and delusion. Just like me, she too succumbed to the illness that has befallen all of us. Mother, father and siblings. Just like in the family pictures in the album, we have to live the perfect lie.
I have written many manuscripts. Some are partially finished. Some are in draft form. Some are waiting, waiting, waiting for me to arrange the stories just so. To complete them. I think some are competing for my attention. The short stories neglected. The poetry abandoned for the novel. I have to write about my twenties. The almost rape. My experience of sexual violence. The Johannesburg people. Family who had abandoned me because of my mental illness. They do not believe that it exists but then what is it that is so wrong with me.
I have a memoir to show for it. They abandoned me to the leper colony of this expensive hospital. They would leave me there. Buy me chocolate bars. Bring me home. Take me back on Monday mornings. I would eat fried eggplant on Friday evenings with my aunt. The television would be on low. We could go on for hours not talking. In my dreams, I was swimming through open windows. The hallucinations started when I went home on the bus. White lights became halos. Red lights meant demons were driving the cars.
I ate cold pizza on the bus trip home from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. To think that I was so brave that I could do that. Get on a bus and come home. The music playing on the radio of the taxicab provided the background music for my hypomania. I was running with scissors. Scribbling graffiti on walls. Nobody gave a damn. I did not give a damn. Society did not give a damn. The Johannesburg people remained were they were on their island amongst the idle rich. Liberated by their wealth.
When I found myself homeless and living in a shelter for women in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. When I found myself months later living off money from my parents at the Salvation Army. Alone, where loneliness really struck me for the first time. Where men looked at me like the housewife looks at a piece of meat at her butcher’s. A man whispered in my ear, told me in sweet nothings that I was extraordinary at letter writing. That was the origins of my first self-injury. Listening to what men had to say about my life.
In Johannesburg, if you are in the right place at the right time you can make a lot of money. A prostitute told me that as a house cleaner washed the blood out of her carpet. She lay in bed recuperating and I asked her how she was. She smiled at me. I could see what the man had seen in her. That she was beautiful and sexy and all of that but all I could see was her childlike innocence. I felt very sorry for her. Now all I tell people when they ask what do I do. I say I studied in Johannesburg and then I came home to look after my father.
I do not tell them what I studied (which was filmmaking or that for a brief time I was a volunteer at a production company). That I did proper research for my documentary film by going to a brothel in Hillbrow, Johannesburg of all places. I do not tell them I had a nervous breakdown. She (the prostitute sitting up in bed) said very beautifully to please excuse her appearance and if I wanted, I could go and talk to her sister who also had a room at this hotel. Two sisters. Both of them were prostitutes. That was my life then. That was my life now. Storytelling.
My lungs felt as if they were made of ice. I want a reality in which there are only beautiful and good things. My interest remains in human life who have walls in their lives. All I want is love. All I want is love. All I want is love. Yes, yes, yes I believe the more times I say that. The more times I repeat it like a mantra I believe it will come true. The whole world will love me, only me and it will make up for the fact that for my mother. She who did not love her daughters equally. I failed you see. I failed at making her love me. Nothing golden or pale about me.
My mother is shallow. My sister is shallow. My brother is shallow. They are all good-looking. Marshmallows for brains though. There must be a chain link between being shallow and being good-looking at the same time. They all have perfect smiles. Perfect hair styled just so. They look after themselves so when they see me they all have a good laugh. I am the black sheep and the joke of the family. They see themselves as successful. They see me as a failure. Piling on the pounds tree stump. Oh, I cannot help it. I smile. I laugh.
I try to get the joke but really, I find myself in an abyss. I have always lived in a sheltered environment. My father has protected from the world but I went out on my own when I was very young. Moved to another country when I was sixteen. Swaziland. I scared my father. Came back home and he did not want to let go of me again and after that I spent a few months in Johannesburg. What a miserable failure that was. I made so many mistakes, foolish choices and in the end, I had to live with the consequences of those decisions.
Men and women are bad for women who have a mental illness. I came home. I came home to my sea. To a pharmacy that delivered psychotropic medication in all the colours of the rainbow. To a brother who finally left home too. I was a child again experiencing another phase of childhood. The childhood where you get to be a grownup looking after two grownup children. Your parents. The relationship that you had with them is now transformed a voice seemed to say to me. I was alone now. Most of the time in the evenings.
My parents went to bed early and I would be left to read a book, listen to music softly or write the novel. I think I am finally starting to live again. Before I thought I was slowly sinking like buried treasure, slowly dying like flowers in a vase. The leaves rotting in the water. Everything has eyes you know. A mirror for example. A window. The glass that you drink water with. Anything that you can see your reflection in. Everything but what do I know. Being as crazy as I am.
I want to be in charge of my own life but it seems more and more these days my sister is. I think the girl who had the affair with the married man is mad. She is the one who is in need of a therapist. She is the one who is mentally ill but my sister will have brunch with her at a café or they will go out and have a coffee and cake. I am crying out for something. If it were a choice between love and survival, I would choose survival repeatedly. My sister has ruined me for life but she will never know it.
I cannot ignore the pain that she has caused me. I cannot ignore the pain that my mother has caused me. I sit in the sun and reflect. This is how far I have come. I cannot sit still anymore. I am no ghost. I am no ghost yet. If something has to be haunting, let my stories be haunting. This is my life but I say I am tired. I cannot cope anymore. All that remains of pain is the memory of childhood trauma. I am drowning in salt water. I am the drowning visitor.
© Abigail George April 2016
abigailgeorge79 at gmail.com
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