life

Tantrum

January 10th 2007. I had just broken my New Year’s resolution which was to attend whole days of school, from 8:40 to 3:15 every weekday, instead of leaving at lunchtime or walking out mid-lesson or writing the whole day off and failing to turn up at all because depression was killing me from the inside out. Apparently I had to go to school because it is the law. There should’ve been a law in place to protect minds like mine being infected with lugubriosity but I suppose parliament were too busy dealing with the impending smoking ban to really care about the rapidly snowballing mental health epidemic. They’re still too busy now.

Anyway, it was 12:40pm and I’d just walked out of Physics. I knew mother would be at work. I knew father left home to go to the pub between 12 and 12:30 every day. I dragged myself home to our disgusting council flat on the A1000, silently praying that I’d feel even just a tiny bit better after having a cup of tea and a spliff, whiling away the afternoon lying on my dad’s bed, staring at the ceiling and listening to records with only our cat and the voices in my head for company.

I turned the corner into the entrance to our block. My dad’s car was still outside. Shit. What is he still doing here? I thought he’d be out. I needed to steal some of his tobacco for my spliff. Damn. I ducked behind a bush and threw away my roll-up. I didn’t want him to know that I smoked. He’d be disappointed and blame himself. I dug around in my bag and found the sickly sweet body spray that I’d nicked from Superdrug a week prior. I sprayed my uniform and my hair and my hands. (In hindsight, this makes it more obvious to parents that you’ve been smoking but at the time it was all one could do). I stuck a chewing gum in my mouth and spied on my dad.

The car boot of his fourth-or-fifth-hand-definitely-belongs-in-a-scrap-yard Vauxhall Cavalier was open. It was a red car but was so faded it was practically pink. The back seats were folded down. He was throwing full black bin-bags into the car in a semi-organised fashion. ‘Girl From The North Country’ was playing from the tape deck. What the fuck is he doing? I crept out from behind the bush.

“Dad?”

“Hiya babes. Give us a hand with these bags, would you?”

“Sure, what’s all this? Are you taking stuff to the charity shop?”

“Not today.”

“Ohhhhh, you’re going to The Dump?”

“No, I’m dumping your mother.”

“What?”

“I’m moving out. I can’t take it anymore. I’ve found a flat. I’m sorry, princess.”

“Are you fucking joking?”

“I’m not going far.”

“What about me and T? You can’t fucking leave us with her, you CAN’T.”

“You can come and visit whenever you want.”

“Aren’t we coming with you? How many bedrooms is it?”

“Just one babes, it’s a one bedroom flat.”

“But we can come and live with you, right? We can sleep on the floor? We can get sleeping bags? You said we’d all leave her together, and it’ll just be us three, the way it’s meant to be.”

“I’m so sorry, darling. I’m so sorry. You can call me anytime. I’m still your dad, I’ll always be your dad. Nothing will ever change that, even if we’re a million miles apart, I’m still your dad.”

And in that moment I realised that this would be one of those scenes in my life that would be called a “major life event”, one that in the future I would look back on to see how greatly it affected the course of my life, one that therapists would ask me about, one that might be described as a turning point, a new chapter, one that cements a new fixture on my timeline, a “before dad left” and an “after.” I knew that this would be something that I one day write about. I had to do it right.

I realised I could do this one of two ways.

I could either kick and scream and shout and throw a teenage tantrum of epic proportions. I could tell my dad that I hated him and that I’d never forgive him for leaving us with her and that I’d never trust him again and that he’s a bastard for walking out like this and that I never wanted to speak to him or see him ever again. I could cause an almighty fucking scene, shout louder than the traffic, grab the bags from the boot and toss them into the road, strew clothes all over the street, frisbee his vinyls into the trees. I could beg him not to leave.

I could cry and hold onto his legs like I did when I was a small child. Every morning when he left to go to work I would grab onto his legs and refuse to let go and I’d cry and cry because I didn’t want him to leave. He’d peel me off and escape through the door. I’d sit by the window all day waiting for him to come back. I’d look out, nose pressed to the window for hours until I’d see his head bobbing up the street, then I’d run to the front door which I wasn’t tall enough to open and wait to hear his keys. He was always so happy to see me. I could guilt-trip him into staying. I could try to persuade him to let us live with him somehow. I could propose that mother live in his new flat and us three continue to live at this place. I could just keep screaming and crying until he realised he couldn’t leave me in a state like that, that what he was doing was wrong, was mean, was bang out of order. Was unforgivable.

‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ started playing from the car.

“I will always be your dad and you will always be my girl,” he said.

Or I could be delighted for him. I could be pleased for him. Pleased that he’d escaped the asylum, the house of horrors. He was getting out of this place alive. He wouldn’t die in that room, as I’d feared he would so many times. He’d be so much happier in his new place. T and I would have a safe place to go after mother beat us or kicked us out. We wouldn’t have to sleep in the park, we could sleep at dad’s! We’d probably get to see more of dad, since he largely avoided the house other than to sleep and bathe. It might even be cool – I could leave the house with no need to make up mad excuses about where I was going, I could just say, “I’m going to see dad” and she’d never know because they don’t speak, she’d never call him to ask. When I’d get in trouble I could go to dad’s. When I’d get into trouble at school they could call dad, instead of the wicked witch on the landline. Maybe things would be better for everyone. Maybe with dad gone, she’d be less angry in general, and therefore may be less angry at me and T. He must feel so guilty for leaving us as it is, I shouldn’t make it harder on him. I should help dad move out. I should help dad move out. I should support him, just like he’d support me if I’d moved out first. He’s free. I should revel in his freedom, breathe it in like second-hand smoke. He wouldn’t have to deal with mother anymore. He wouldn’t have to see the violence and feel powerless to stop it. His mental health would improve. Maybe even his physical health. He was free. He was free. Finally. A week after they’d ignored their 17th wedding anniversary. Free.

“Why aren’t you at school?” he asked, breaking my chain of thought.

“Black dog.”

“Shit,” he replied, worried that I’d inherited the same madness that he’d been plagued with for so many years. “Come here.”

We hugged by the car and he said,

“I’m not leaving you. Or your brother. I’m leaving her.”

“I know,” I replied.

I decided that I didn’t want to look back on this and be ashamed of my reaction. It was up to me now to protect myself and my brother. I had to keep my shit together. And I didn’t want my dad to spend the last stages of his life riddled with guilt. You should never trap or try to contain a free spirit – the best parts of them are always the first to waste away.

“Give us a hand then?”

“Okay,” I said, walking head down into the block. “Hey, Dad?”

“Yes, love?”

“Seeing as you’re moving out and you’ve got the biggest room… can I have your bedroom?”

“Course you can. But you’re probably gonna have to fight your brother for it anyway.”

“Challenge accepted.”

I picked up a box of books and heaved it out the door to the car. ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ played. “They are indeed, Bobby,” my dad said quietly, sighing.

Then I went inside and emerged with two of his acoustic guitars.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” he asked.

“No, what?” I replied.

“You’re gonna have to find someone else to steal tobacco from.”

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life, poetry, prosetry

my wisdom is as neglected as chaos is

You can’t even think straight. Cleanly, that is. It’s straight enough, but so coarse and asperous I must put it in the shell of another—hence this “you” and its rhetorical undressing. You, tell me something funny. Ok, well, earlier there was pure despondence, that utter undesire for the substances of your life as you stood surrounded by linear narratives like sweaty shiny dudes at the gymnasion in tank tops for bearing tribal arm band bullshit tattoos doing bicep curls in incidental unison, their grimaces of exertion gaping back at them and that’s when irony got its hooks in deep around the vainly lathered notion of so little being left to the imagination when in fact the ancient Greeks were the ones who trained naked. Has our sense of the aesthete changed so much, or merely the gods in whose honor we do compete.

Our stories shape us and we shape our stories, you cried, as if in objection or acceptance—‘twas difficult to tell; it all depends on the angle and the context. The commercial break reminds in no uncertain terms that this particular loneliness has been brought to us by double caffeine coffee pods and home security systems but says nothing not a thing at all about extremism. Oh the places I’ve been, and left, reaching out from fate, trying to remember the crumbling Olympia of people within.

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poetry

twelve lines plus one

If I sit down now I’ll never get up again and then we’ll never know.

If we never know we’ll never go.

I know.

(This isn’t what I came for, this isn’t what I need.)

Well now we’re settled in.

Yes we’re settled in again.

Again.

That old woman across the way mops her bedroom floor in her nightgown each morning.

You say settled in, I say emptied out. And the clock overtakes us all.

Maybe she’s cleaning up whatever comes out of the woodwork.

Your grip is slipping again isn’t it.

We’ll never go.

I know.


Originally published a long time ago on Art & Insolence where I usually hang out. Bringing it back because it’s been on my mind lately.

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prosetry

Invention/Charade

Till it all falls away and nothing’s left but a great teeming swarm of perceiving subjects treading holy water somewhere out there between the infinite and the madness in us all, our immortal content.

That’s a beginning, he hopes, nodding to nothing, sitting on a city sidewalk bench in a city full of sidewalks and benches you can’t sleep on, sitting going on and on in media res in a month in a year in a lifetime, sitting there in the middle of a lifetime of specific individual looking and this time of all times looking at the cool kids with the old cool so old and crumbling away under the silky illusion of every new beginning as if they can’t be bothered to do the Ambrose thing and read it on and in and through themselves in maybe just a little bit of silence.

As he sits and looks he imagines his gaze weighs on their pretense just as times and stares and yearning sticky-fingered hands have worn down the surfaces of ancient sculpture, feeling for meaning, wondering how they do it and if oblivion laughs at us, if falsity is falsity no matter how good it looks, wondering how truth sleeps at night, how they do (soundly), being a truth they’re so truly sure of they don’t even have to tell and shouldn’t because the telling is decay.

Decay right then and there the moment you touch it or tell it like when you first holy roll the car off the lot, so he shuts himself up and turns to the unknown human at the other end of the bench and says I don’t even have to say the first thing about how doing’s just easier because it’s tricky, you know, to carry yourself with dignity.

And trickier still to be in these midsts, he hears. So he rises and heads up the stone steps into the museum thinking I don’t really like portraits anyway—they make me feel I have something to make up for. Give me landscapes and skylines and dark streets and rivers and seas and deserts and myths where the people are little more than marginalia free of any immediate anthropologies coming down hard on all this why.

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prosetry

An Education

Once upon a time, my odd behaviour, strange way of thinking, and outrageous antics were endearing. Everyone loved me and my wild ways, perhaps even because of my wild ways. But now that most people have a greater awareness and understanding of mental illness, my behaviours are appalling, tragic, pitiful, dangerous, distressing. “Such a shame.

Once upon a time, it was funny when I climbed into a chest freezer in a supermarket because I was so tired and wanted to sleep and the shop was too noisy and I needed to be cold because I honestly thought my blood was on fire. “Omg you’re sooo crazy hahaha!” “What a nutter, you’re so funny!” “Lmfao I fucking love you, you crazy bitch!” “You are SUCH a legend!” If I did that today, you’d call 999, failing to hide the embarrassment on your face. You’d scuttle away from the “scene”, but not before telling the crowd of onlookers that I’ve “been like that for years.

The idiosyncrasies of mine that were once adorable are now utterly deplorable.

It’s funny how things change. Unfortunately, I haven’t. I’m still as sick as ever. But at least you’re educated about mental health now, right?


Originally published on The Magic Black Book as 010218.

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prosetry

Continuous

Made choices not from equilibrium, as sometimes thought, but from crests or troughs. Just a ship at sea. I can’t get over how primitive I feel in even acknowledging that, how human, how dare I.

Is it always this way, though, so reactive? I sometimes get sea sick and think it should be spelled -ee rather than -ea, thinking if enough people hear me as me (t=0, where t stands for thought) then maybe they’d show me how to cut the kinds of breaks I’ve been so loath to cut myself and be usual.

There’s a knife around here somewhere and I promise I’m just being dramatic. I would say it’s because I’m Latina if I were named Micaela, and a woman. I can imagine it, though, and did, so why not say so while we’re at it, just a little rocking back and forth. It’s not that sharp anyway.

Crests and troughs, highs and lows along this simple sinusoid since birth, growing to the kind of anthropoid that takes remarkable comfort in the disquiet of his expository tales of questionable oscillation and completely ordinary rates of change, stories of this for that and because of or despite, trying every which way of treating normal as a phase so he can be it but not just.

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fiction

Seasons’ Spell 4

Part 4 of 4, the end. Reminds me: “The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap. Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning” (Sam Shephard). Another beginning, a new beginning, or the same beginning, like part 1. Then part 2 and part 3.


He has written a note and left it on the table. The window, now closed and locked, is doing its time-weary best to stand against a wind that creeps disregardfully through the cracks and gaps and spaces, frosting the eight frames’ edges and inadvertently softening the view of a bitter, fuliginous gray sky hanging over leafless brown-black branches, if anyone were there to see.

The oxalis is long-dead but its empty pot remains on the sill, pointless and inert. The curtains have been removed, the tablecloth is gone, and the chairs are tucked in, left behind as if to commemorate shared comforts, and also loss. The photograph is gone but a faint rectangle of long-shaded paint remains on the wall in its place, and the only sounds in the house are the occasional wintry creak and groan of tired timber and the wind’s solemn, discordant breaths. The note sits on bare maple nicked and scratched.

I love the you I’m sure you’ve become even though I’m not there to know and see, he wrote.

*

And spring returns, and the house remains. The trees, the hills, the sky, the night, the day—they all remain with time, ever changing, ever the same.

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