1 / lavender, anthurium, bird of paradise
|Aug 21, 2019||1|
There’s a song on A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships called “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)”, which, despite now having gripped me in its entirety, immediately struck me for the lyric “But your death it won’t happen to you / It happens to your family and your friends”. The song as a whole speaks unambiguously: talking someone down from suicide, extending a hand to the depressed—but that singular lyric, emancipated from the others, mirrored a precise thought of my own. One I’d had standing at Bristol Temple Meads in July, waiting for a delayed train that would take me back to Cornwall.
I jotted it down in my Notes app—the thought—and, a few months later, worked it into my manuscript. I’m not sure if I can share the quote here, per submission guidelines, but I imagine it’s fine [as of August 2019, it is definitely fine]:
Indeed, I was conscious of the fact that my death—the echoed ringing bell of it—was, despite itself, not something that concerned me. My death would be something that happened—perhaps a rupture—to everyone else. (October, LXI)
Admittedly, it’s wordier than Healey. Requires more gymnastics. Certainly not conducive to lyric metre, and definitely a rough draft—but I still felt eerily heard in listening to somebody else voice the sentiment. Universality in the specific, etc. Everything is the same all the time forever. We can each play custom mouthpiece to a single human thought.
Typed into Notes, as all things tend to be:
“I am so undeniably sick of sharing: sick of divulging and devising and designing for the sake of others; for the possibility of being understood—or, perhaps, more crucially, liked—and yet I am desperate to be heard. I crave the choice of when to speak, and about what subject, and in whichever manner I elect to, and simultaneously I crave an audience which will—when I make the aforementioned choices—witness me (or the voices I choose, on a wider scale, to amplify). The reality of the matter is that the choice is as much mine as it has always been. The denudation of my agency has been incomplete: a placebo. I am free to do whatever I like. Any cage is in part my own construction, and thus I may sack the city, too, by right. Let the walls fall and be built as I desire. As such I shall decipher if, when, and of what I wish to speak.”
Written as I sat at a circular wooden table in the crowded kitchen/dining room of a friend’s Ellerslie house:
& you’re so happy for your friend but you know nothing will ever be the same again & you never thought about how much things might change; never thought about how much you loved and appreciated the thing until it was over; until it had happened for the last time and that last time was long gone
& everyone else has a top priority and everyone else has an exciting new thing
In April, I visited my family home briefly, and made a point to document my wait for boarding: “sat in the Domestic terminal of Auckland Airport with an overwhelming caramel slice and a truly disappointing hot chocolate”. I also finished writing the first draft of a full-length play (another first), which may never see the light of day, but which I believe in, and which includes this excerpt:
Lights up on the GALLERY EXHIBITION. Well lit, with bits of the kind of white light art galleries use that manages not to feel overtly industrial; the same art from GENIE’s STUDIO. There are two white benches, backless like uniform stone slabs, aligned behind the frames and downstage, equidistant from left and right, and equally separated from each other. It is distinctly empty of other people.
GENIE paces slightly as she speaks down the phone.
GENIE. …Yeah, no, it is. It is, and I still can’t believe it. In my head I just thought I’d keep striving forever, along the periphery line, out of sight and mind and never quite getting to where I’d worked so hard to be. Which is ridiculous, because I’m so young, right? But at the same time you can’t help feeling ancient, and overdue. (Something over the phone) Exactly. And we never can quite predict what’ll be the thing that works out for us. But— listen, I’ve got to go – I’ve got to tell them it’s all fine. More than. (Something over the phone) I can’t wait for you to see it either. (Putting on a slight voice) Oh my god! (Back to normal) Alright – I’ll see you— bye – bye!
GENIE ends the call, looks around at her remaining art, takes a deep breath. This is a hugely cathartic moment: a quiet triumph, a quiet contentment, not for anybody but just for herself. Very emotional, very celebratory. A lingering moment just to take it all in.
Morsels from May:
On rejection(s): “this is the year of them! the year i am committed to them running back to me, again and again, slick and supple and slow as they like, a wet heat and a deflated gut and an uphill trudge with a ball and chain, dragging your organs; i want to kiss them by the end”
On the minutiae of someone you love without definition, and admire unconditionally: the impression of glasses on the bridge of a nose
On overdue realisations: “need to let you go not for lack of love or for being hurt, but for lack of being proactively chosen, & chosen first, or chosen last & in a way that lasts, which perhaps in its absence is equal to a hurt, an ache & a longing both quenched & deepened—so i must step away from you”
tired, capable, yearning; yearning almost like an ache, waking, sleepless and dreaming
I started writing another play in July, which I may very well finish writing (but have put on hold for now), about two friends on a trip to the Coromandel. They’ve been separated geographically, and, it seems, even slightly by technology, and are reacquainting themselves with each other in a caravan in Kūaotunu. It’s a caravan they’ll end up stuck in, by road slips and by weather. It’s a play about love we don’t address, and how perhaps we should, even though now I’m wondering if sometimes we lose something by trying to turn it into what we think it ought to be. But that’s not the person who wrote the following excerpt talking; it’s the person she is six weeks on. So, without further ado:
W stacks the last of the food into the fridge. M begins to deposit room temperature snacks, tea, etc. into the cupboards.
W. You can –– Stop. You don’t have to be polite –– it’s –– it’s me.
M. I’m not being polite.
W. Oh, what, you’ve just ––
M. –– And from what I recall, you never were a fan of men who sat at Christmas.
W. You / remember that?
M. To be fair, it’s killed me since you brought it up. I notice it everywhere.
W. Are you one of them?
M. God, no –– I reckon Grandma would’ve killed me ––
W. Lots of things seem to kill you these days.
M. Hope you don’t.
W. Nah, I reckon you’re safe. At least while you’re stacking the shelves.
M. Told you I wasn’t a Christmas sitter.
W. (Back on task, thinking aloud as she works––) It requires at least a trio to work, I think. / If it’s only two people, like it is now, men might be more inclined to pull their weight. But if there’s a third party, they’ll defer it. Typically to a woman, regardless of her age.
M. How precise.
W. Only women seem attuned to the domestic labour of other women, or at least they’re the only ones with empathy enough to do anything about it. Even if we hate fulfilling the prophecy, and we hate the unspoken credence we’re giving to the inaction of the men in the room, it’s more important to lift the other woman’s weight. Men seem to think stacking their plates is proactive.
W realises she’s well and truly launched from a minor springboard.
W. Sorry. I ––
M. Don’t apologise. You’re right.
W. Thanks. I am that sometimes.
W. Do you remember Pattie Dowden’s sixtieth? She was / the librarian ––
M. Yeah –– she worked in the library. We were –– eleven?
M. What about it?
W. It was the first time I was seconded to the kitchen after a meal. We were sitting around the table, all of us –– me, and you, and our families and whoever else –– and my grandma had already gone –– you know she was friends with Pattie?
W. And anyway, she’d gone to help clean up, and we’re chatting away, happy as Larry, and my granddad says, “Louisa, deal with these plates, won’t you?”
M. No, I do remember that. I remember your face changed.
W. Yeah, it was rage. Rage and resignation and kinda like I’d closed up shop. Because I’d never been to Pattie’s; I didn’t know where anything was. And there was this sudden awareness –– awareness and understanding and some kind of innate signal –– that I’d been asked because it was a room full of men. And boys. And that was suddenly some role I had to fill, even in the eyes of a man who had read me books and cleaned up my scraped knees and was meant to respect me. And I wasn’t gonna make a fuss, was I, like –– it’s someone else’s house, and a room full of people. But he’d only asked me. I was the only one he was sending off.
W pauses, aware of how big this recount has become, perhaps insecure about it. M’s eyes are still on her; he’s still listening intently.
W. What I’m trying to say, is –– I knew you didn’t sit. Because you didn’t sit that time, you got right up with me, and tried to carry the heft of it even when I forced you to go halves with me, and you always got up when I did. Before I did, most times. And at the time I was very stubborn about it, and I didn’t want to reward you for basic human decency so I didn’t ever say anything. But. It meant a lot to me, that you did that. That you were like, “This isn’t [W]’s mess,” and tried to rally the boys.
She looks at him again.
W. Fuck –– we’ve been here all of five minutes and I’ve monologued at you over crockery. I’m sorry.
M. I’ve missed you.
W. You’re just saying that now.
M. No, I’m not. I’ve missed your brain –– all your anger and your eloquence.
I’ve been somewhat fixated recently on identifying people as those who sit at Christmas vs. those who don’t. I’m in the latter camp all the way, and will champion them. I like to think all those around me would do the same. (I’m wrong, of course. Wilfully, at first, I think, or else misdirected. But wrong no longer. The glasses have lost their tint.)
Also from July, some morsels (as borrowed from May):
On music (and the ineptitude of the medium to which I devote myself): “i am always trying to write towards the feeling that a swelling melody gives—a wordless beauty, and richness, and complete understanding, that cannot verbally exist; one which becomes diluted in the description of it”
On saying goodbye to a (very specific) skin lived in: “i am you & i love you & i was you, & you are always with me, & what was me in you & you in me has perhaps—i hope—left both parties stronger”
I felt as though I got very lucky with July. I could not have anticipated at the beginning of it where I would be at the end. I would have been happy with it. I am holding fast to that once-present happiness which is now past. There is still so much of that happiness. I can’t help seeing better now—but not in the sense that my July self was incorrect. She was right! She was right for what she knew, as I am right, now, in August, for what I know. Which leads us into:
This month is wondrous and wearing me down. It’ll receive better treatment in hindsight, and any poems penned are too fresh to share. (Not for my own sake.)
Instead, take a line from the fifth play I’ve started writing in the past twelve months:
SILVIA. He’s got so much love to give, Julia. It blinds him.