failed intentions

The weekend after I turned sixteen, my mother showed up. Sure, she’d missed the big day, but then we never did dwell much on ceremony and anyhow, until then she’d overlooked every scarring ricochet in my skewed trajectory towards womanhood. Without her along to show me how, I’d been wearing my new found femininity as if it were two sizes too big; shuffling along in a flush of feigned flippancy.

So after twenty two months silent, I was surprised and secretly pleased to know that she’d remembered without prompting the day, sixteen years earlier, when I’d been cut from her stomach and lain, blue and bawling, on her naked breast; the first of three rude shocks to be placed there. This was our anniversary. And she had come.

After sharing our space for a few days, we understood that she’d soon be gone. Then on the third night, she pulled me aside. Following her into my bedroom, we sat beside one another on a sagging foam mattress while she rifled awkwardly through her bag, uncovering a book filled with poetry and proffering it to me.

For the briefest of moments, I caught my mother peering tentatively from behind a shield of false confidence to observe how her toughened daughter would respond. Bewildered, my guardedness fell away, making space for recognition at the sight of her poorly painted mask, as if catching a shaky reflection in a tainted pane of glass.

She stared at the empty palms lying in her lap. I looked at the book. Letting it fall open I found the words she’d inscribed on the inside cover.

Like mist in the morning you came to me, showering me with love.

And I took it all in; as does the grass.

Clearing her throat she took my hand, and held it like a resignation; light and loose and absent. A ticket for a ship that’d long since sailed. She said nothing. The following day she was gone.

For my sixteenth birthday my mother gave me poetry. But despite countless hours cradling that book of words, I’ve not had the heart to page past the naked lines she penned; an exposed underbelly of romantic sentiment.

A silent revelation of my mother’s best intentions.

 

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come and see my well watered eyelids

I am not an attractive crier. Rather, I’m the swollen, snotty nosed variety, whose puffy eyes and blotchy cheeks continue to betray me for days afterward. For me, even the term is lacking, as the unobtrusive shedding of tears envisaged when we hear that someone’s been crying doesn’t come close to depicting the disturbing display I can muster. If I had to characterise it, I’d be inclined to compare it to the desperate outcry of carnal moans, bellowing from a distressed animal, rather than anything I’ve witnessed enacted by an actual person. When I cry my whole self gets involved. It’s a shoulder shuddering, chest heaving, exhausting episode, whose legacy lasts long after the moments it actively occupies. Suffice to say, the first time I saw The Notebook I wore it on my face (and my sleeve), for the remainder of the week. It’s a messy business.

While I’m happy to make this admission, what makes things slightly awkward is that I cry a lot. Naturally, over the years I’ve learnt to use restraint while in company, as what I’ve come to realise is that being in the presence of an inconsolable, slobbering wreck of a human makes people feel slightly uncomfortable. The more that I think about it, witnessing someone lay bare their ragged soul must be more than a little confronting.

For the purpose of full disclosure, I think it’s necessary to declare at this point that I rather enjoy crying. Truly, there are days when no prospect seems more refreshing than indulging in a glorious, gut wrenching weep; though in the past, openly disclosing this to people has been a source of genuine alarm. I suppose this is because crying is largely considered the result of weakness or helplessness or pain; traits which we typically view as undesirable. Therefore, if we see someone tearing up, we have an uncontainable urge to somehow, through comfort or otherwise, make them stop. But actually, crying can be a form of relief; a much needed release for pent up emotions and excess energy. Sometimes, crying can be therapy.

I’ve cried a lot this week. On Tuesday morning I opened the fridge to discover that I’d forgotten to refrigerate the Bonsoy. An inconvenience which could be considered mildly annoying at best, the absence of chilled soy on this occasion left me utterly ruined. I stared at my bowl of dry muesli sitting pathetically on the breakfast bar, smothered by a spill of sliced banana. A surge of sobs instantly broke forth, loud and uncontrollable. Lowering myself onto the tiles, I leant against the kitchen sink and wept inconsolably; an onslaught which refused to dissipate even as I scraped myself off the floor an hour later to fix myself some toast and vegemite.

Since then I’ve spent many hours sitting solely in my apartment; crumpled, like the mess of snot soaked tissues surrounding me. The barrage of emotions which commenced largely without warning has somehow avalanched into a gushing onslaught of grief for which I can’t easily account. My tendency for tears, a characteristic with which I’ve always felt comfortable, is for the first time leading me to question my mental stability. I can only imagine it has something to do with the solitude; a perplexing theory, as until now, I’d thought I was enjoying it.

I’ve never lived alone before; I’ve always been afraid of the silence and the things with which my mind fills it. But over the past two weeks I’ve found a certain peace with this lifestyle. I’ve lain on the floor beneath a ceiling of fairy lights, listening to the sounds of domesticity floating in through the open balcony. I’ve bathed with the bathroom door open. I’ve let my body clock govern my sleeping patterns. I’ve spoken frankly and openly to my plants and revelled in their silent responses. I’ve allowed myself to feel lost in loneliness. For the first time in my life, I’ve not been afraid when I switch off the lights. But curiously, perhaps nonsensically, I’ve done it all with well watered eyelids.

I’m no stranger to sadness. But what’s got me all worried is that in the past when I’m not feeling good, I’ve mainly had a handle on what it is that’s coloured me blue. Having to wander, bewildered, through the cluttered terrains of my mind, searching for the source of my upset has been altogether disturbing.

Then, in the midst of discomfort, I began to wonder if whether, similarly to the way one might procrastinate about vacuuming the lounge room or cleaning out the garage, I’ve previously used obligations and responsibilities as a way of putting off something far more daunting; organising my messy head space and sorting through my baggage. Now, with no commitments monopolising my days, it’s becoming apparent that it might be about time to pour it all out on the floor and have a good hard look, in order to attend to whatever it is that’s been clogging my mind.

I’m sensing it’s going to be quite the job; it’s got me rather anxious. I’ve never much liked cleaning. In the absence of knowing just what’s to be done, I’m finding myself shoving it all to the back, where it’s less of an obstruction. I just don’t feel ready to take it on. I think I’ll settle for a fresh box of tissues and wait out the spring.