Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Wilderness of Glass

Her heartbreak, against the brush of his letter, is as real as the heartbreak she’s experienced in all of the five other times she’s been heartbroken since her relationship with Graham began, almost six months ago. The letter she has just read and cried over, that she now clutches as close to her heart as she can get it, is full of more of his promises and lies, full of more words of comfort and reassurance that serve to mask – and yet, at the same time, amplify – the few direct declarations of love that are also included. She clutches Graham’s letter, and creases his letter, because she is, as she always says whenever she thinks somebody needs to know, passion personified.

This morning, through the tears she has wept bitterly for the past two hours, the slight hill from her front door seems once again to be enough of a rise for her to pretend that the sea is on the other side. That is, away past the top of her garden. It has something to do with, perhaps, the emptiness of the scene, the way she imagines the blue sky dropping away into nothingness. Or maybe it’s something she remembers from when she was a girl, the pretence of the sea merely her eyes providing her with false anticipatory information based on previously noted scenes.

Some of the days she spends at home are all of her occupation. There is glass to care for and look through, as there is glass to obscure her view. It all needs a certain kind of tending. Sometimes, when she’s alone, she feels like her own curator.

It will do her no good, she thinks, at some appropriate point in the day, to sit there moping. Resolving to leave the house in order to capture what’s left of the day, she dresses quickly, stuffing Graham’s letter – which she envisages reading again while she’s out, in the clear of the day – into the tuck of her skirt. Stepping outside the front door she instinctively breathes deeply, through her nose, in order to fully capture the illusion of the sea which, of course, is lost the moment she breathes in. The short climb to the top of the garden reveals not golden sands, nor the vast eternity of undulating water, but rather a few parked cars and the drab houses, just like her own, sitting across the street. She is, as she always is at this moment, quietly devastated.

The short walk to the park is full of the dangers of the estate, the dangers that are higher on her mind today than they are on what might be called normal days, if such days exist. The fraught dangers, the hazards of leaving her house - what a fool she is! – grow with every step, with every pass of activity. The obligatory teenage gang, boys, for instance, staring as she weaves through their rude, deliberate obstruction. What, she asks herself, if she were a pretty woman, a beautiful, sexy, younger woman, what then would those boys have meted out? She passes, or rather squeezes through, the small gap between the parked cars and the lengths of bushy hedge that she could have avoided had she crossed the road, as she originally wanted to do, instead of following through on this tiny, and completely unnoticed, act of defiance. The torture of this short walk, the sheer angst of it all, is no less diminished by the fact that she is fully aware of how dramatic she’s being and how much enjoyment she’s taking from being at the centre of her own imagined battles. To the park then, in a strange kind of triumph.

Bear witness to her arrival. The four corners of the park are quickly scanned for new promises of danger. There is a path through the centre of this park, in the form of a stream, which she would most certainly enjoy were it not for the other people who, today, as every day, are mostly the young mothers from her estate displaying their children in what she knows to be their ongoing gesture of mockery. These same children who are always surprised at her indifference, her hostility even, despite her resemblance to, if not their own grandmothers, somebody else’s grandmother. The reflections she has, at the sight of these children, are fast, fleeting, but enough to catch her with regret and, yes, a small yearning. She often comes to this park, although she would never admit it, to see herself, for a short time, as she could have been. A small snapshot to complement the bigger whole.

The swings. Occupied by children, of course.

On the cool of the grass, Graham’s letter, a crushed ball, somehow burns through the tightness of her fist. It’s as if she has squeezed everything from it, neutralised it, rendered it pliant and made it work for her in some mysterious, and as yet undefined, way. Opening it up again, glancing at its contents, there is, immediately, the fantastic realisation that she has him. That this letter, with its untruths, its bold claims, its hurtful jabs in the dark, will be more valuable to her now that it has been washed by her tears and broken through her touch. She will reply to this letter, in her own fashion, with the memory of this breeze, the clarity of the moment she’s currently experiencing, ringing in her ears. From where she’s sitting, the view of the park, its transformation at the drop of the hill, suggests the sea. The ozone cuts a crisp path through her nostrils and brings everything into the sharpest focus.


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12:50 AM  

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