Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The hotel lobby is empty, save for the doorman chatting with the receptionist. She is vaguely amused by the presence of a uniformed porter in an airport hotel, an obviously perfunctory setting. She had skipped breakfast and the coffee she ordered on rising was soapy and weak. She walks towards the door, spiky heels clicking sharply on the shiny floor. The porter hastens towards it, in obsequious effort to fulfill his duty.
His cheerful "Have a good day now!" greets her like a saucepan crashing suddenly on tiles.
" Yes, thank you", she manages mutely.
A line of taxis awaits her outside. 'Thank God I'm out of this bloody country' she thinks.
Traffic isn't heavy, as she anticipated on a Saturday. The radio creaks and stutters in the front, conveniently diverting the driver's attention. She sees the church in the distance. Discreetly, she withdraws a little bottle from her clutch, takes a quick swig of brandy, and replaces it.
Cars are parked along both sides of the road, so the driver pulls up abruptly, a bit away from the gate.
"Here do you, love? That'll be fifteen so"
She hands him a twenty, doesn't wait for her change and makes for the church to claim her seat near the back, though not so near either as to stand out from the crowd.
The church is unfamiliar, a decided advantage. She knows she will be seeing plenty of familiar faces throughout the day, something she is no longer used to.
The church is awash with excited whispers, greetings, last-minute checks, photos, with the usual strains of a quartet defiantly playing the wedding standards in the background. The noise, people, sense of anticipation, from which she feels removed, is not unlike that of the airport yesterday. There is already quite a crowd, and she scans the seats on the right hand side to choose her spot, her vantage point, when she feels a hand on her elbow.
"Del?! I thought it was you! I said it to Benj. 'I'm sure that's Del', but we weren't sure. We were behind you coming into the church, late as usual! But, it is you! How are you? God, it's been years!"
"It is me! Surprise!", she manages to respond, unable to come near the level of gushing enthusiasm that greeted her.
"Are you here on your own? Never mind! You must sit with us. Leah and Gus are keeping us a seat. Come on..." She links her arm and leads her towards the side aisle, ushering her up towards the centre, where Leah is sitting, guarding space on the pew with her bag. As they approach, the noise of the crowd quietens to a whisper, as news of the bride's arrival spreads.
"Look who I found, loitering at the back of the church!" proclaims Amy, just a little too loudly.
Leah, poised as always, greets her quietly, gently squeezing her hand, while Gus winks at her.
All eyes are on the bride. 'Nessun Dorma' heralds her majestic entrance, as the crowd behold her, gracefully approaching the altar. Amy is gasping beside her, her elbow sharply angled close to her face, straining to take a photo. She draws back from her, not bothered about being deprived of the view.
The ceremony unfolds like a film: she, watching the action from afar.The figures at the altar are hazy in the distance. Everything back here seems so, since she moved away. Like a film, that she can tune in and out of, with the safety of distance, disociation, even. And just like in a film, when she does become involved with the characters, she must work hard to contain her emotions.
"I, Ian Collins...do take this ring..."
A tear falls down her cheek. She cannot help it.
His voice, crystal clear through the microphone, makes him immediately present to her. His voice, with its distinctive West Cork deflections pronounces without any hesitation that this is his, Ian's wedding. This is no film, no make-believe. This is real, this is happening, now.
Leah, discreetly offers her a tissue. She focuses intently on her smokey blue dress, her Jaegar that once made her feel like someone. Now, as she gazes at it, all she can think about is all she threw away in the name of 'feeling like someone'.
'Why did she come here?' she wonders. She painfully endures the rest of the ceremony. After the bride and groom make their exit through the back of the church, she mumbles something to Leah about needing some air, and slips out the side entrance.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
She lingers in that middle space, that hazy limbo between sleeping and waking. Maybe sleep will once again evelope her. That is the favourable outcome. She doesn't dare to 'hope', or attach any active voice to this sentiment. She merely waits, passively. When she becomes aware of her waiting, realising she can no longer quench her waking consciousness, she turns over and checks her bedside clock: 3:05am. Great! A half hour earlier than last night.
The rising and falling motion of her husband's body beside her, the nasal ripplings of breath, in and out, in and out, rather than having a calming, hypnotic effect, serve only to make her resentful and even more awake. She lies on, trying to employ the usual strategies of falling asleep she has read up on: empty your mind, focus on your breath and lie still. She begins counting her breaths, in for five, out for five...
The more she breathes, the more awake and annoyed she becomes. 'If this doesn't work', say all of the sleep experts, 'get up and do something else'. So once again, she is up, tiptoing downstairs, wondering how to fill these nocturnal hours.
The cats, asleep on the sofa, sleepily raise their heads, clearly put out by this interruption. Cato sleeps on, wrapping a paw around his head in determined refusal to be so rudely awakened. Tess however, sidles up to her, affectionately nuzzling her head into her arms, purring loudly and playfully coaxing her towards the pantry, where she knows the food is stored. Both cats are drawn to the food, and once they have eaten their fill, settle back to sleep, leaving her once again awake, and at a loss.
The back garden and patio, usually so dark and dull, shaded by high brick walls are tonight bathed in luminous moonlight. She opens the sliding door and floats noiselessly out. Though she spends a lot of time in her garden, none of this is familiar to her. She feels blanketed by the velvety sky, the grass is so soft, almost smooth, like lava, and the plants and shrubs exude an exoticism afforded by the silvery glint of the moon. She lies down on the flat of her back, as she used to always do as a child, making pictures of the clouds. Now, she just gazes up at the sky and waits. She's not 'taking it all in', as in that clicheed expression of moments such as these. Rather, she just gazes, waiting for something to move her. She feels oddly safe out here, safe but detached, like in a dream, a sort of fleeting sense of harmony that she experiences as a listener rather than musician. More and more, her life seems to be like a dream and she's finding it harder and harder to cling onto any sense of reality.
A sudden chill makes her sit up and wrap her gown more tightly around her. She sneezes, gets up, and decides to move. She takes a tin of woodstain and a brush from the garden shed, and begins to treat the shed, a job she had meant to do weeks before now. The soft motion of the brush as it easily glides up and down, changing the faded wood to a deeper, richer red, somehow gives her a sense of purpose. She, yes she, was actively doing this task and the results were immediately visible. She keeps going, the tedious, repetitive nature of the job calming her mind, and the potent smell of the woodstain keeping her focused on this moment.
As she painted, deepening the colour on the shed, she doesn't notice the sky lightening, the moon and the stars receding, the distant sound of birds singing. Only when she finished, and replaced the lid on the tin, did she realise it was morning. Today would be another busy day, and once she rolled into the hospital it would be straight into her rounds. She would go about her day in her usual way, counting down the hours until the end of her shift, when she could come home, and do as she always did, which was to count the hours until her next shift would begin. Whoever says that we don't become institutionalised in this society is a fool, she thinks. Where is the room for magic?
As she makes her morning coffee, she looks out at the newly painted shed, the vague impression of experiencing the beautiful transition from night to day still with her. It is fleeting, but it is enough to support her through the tedium, the senseless, deadening routine, until hopefully the next such moment.