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Mum, I think I might be gay
by Abigail George
2018-09-09 08:38:18
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Pink watermelon flush in each cheek. Why didn’t you love me mum? Are you aware of the storm you created, rain pouring down, my heart feels as if red lace is wrapped around a stone, a canvas, the painter’s sketchbook. There’s an odd fairy lightness in her body, my sister’s body. There is no connection between us. No longer any sibling rivalry. And so, the image of the autumn chill is always on my mind. Leaves all set for death and their diverse origins, destination for a cool wilderness landscape that feels like a frozen North American lake.

I remember the despair and hope in the eyes of young girls thinking they are wearing fashionable clothes. I remember the range of peace, the delicate flutter of the eyes of old women, the limbs now infirm, who long for the warm sea when they used to go swimming as young girls.

mu001_400I remember the love song in silence when I felt I could no longer escape him. How does he move in the lovesick world now? I am the ice woman, frozen to her core, wrecked. See the descriptions of the clowns at the circus. I am one of them now and forever. There was a sane life, an insane life, a reality, a past regret, a mistake that was made, a telephone call, an apology, laughter, past energies in a story and I was left to wonder how some people find love in this world. A love that is as ancient as rain, the apron in the kitchen amongst pots and pans, a feast-meal on the table on Sunday, daddy sitting on his throne.

Childhood is lost on me, dead to adult me, past is past yet it still has such sweetness, its dissolve. And some nights it comes back, awful, familiar, all the gruesome stories with such clarity that I know it is not my imagination’s spell playing tricks on me. I want it to wash away all my sins destination anywhere instead it says, ‘Remember me. It doesn’t matter who you love, who you fall for, who and what you desire or drink (alcoholic), watch the men dissolve. They won’t come back.’ And when the awful becomes too close for comfort I take to my bed after drawing the curtains, leaving the windows open for cool air, closing the bedroom door and I will lay on the bed until I can feel notes on grief begin to vibrate within me, as if they have a quiet, harmonic society and how beautiful and sad their symphony sounds to me. It is a breathing lesson, a lesson on suffering, on living, on life.

What is brutality here? It is nothing but a memory, an interruption, and becoming a mute daughter. The flick of a belt buckle, a stinging wet cloth held under a tap of cold water, mummy, mummy’s red hands, mummy’s gardening hands inside the chilled earth, hard laughter, harsh words, running to daddy, feet bare. He is shouting at mummy. I look at her for the first time now and I see that she is tired. Her hands hang limply at her sides now. She says nothing.

My skin feels as if it is burning all over. Daddy I am burning. Daddy I am crying. I am pink all over, then red. My skin feels raw, itchy. It feels as if I am Joyce Carol Oates’s harvesting flesh. She says nothing. She simply turns around and walks away. What did I do? What did I do? Where is the key to that country? How strange is the marriage of the mind to harvesting? The mind means education, psychology, something must be taught and something must be understood.

To harvest means to bring closure to a season. This is what family means. To eat in front of the television, to scream and scream and scream until you cannot scream anymore. Nobody will come to you, comfort you. And so I grew up, moved up, moved away from the world of a child and the games of the child and the adolescent and stopped believing that she lived a secret life. Perhaps mummy had a secret lover. She was beautiful in that way, easily bored in that way, did not find the same things that daddy found relevant and beautiful. They were from two different worlds. They were from two different cultures. She came from money and he didn’t. She came from Johannesburg and knew a specific way of life from there.

My mother came with a Pandora’s Box, suitcases packed full of clothes from there when she arrived as a newlywed. My father came from Everywhere in Port Elizabeth. South End, Walmer, Fairview, North End, Korsten, a fisherman’s village called Port Elizabeth, Gubb’s Location, New Brighton, Zwide, Kwazakhele, Nelson Mandela Bay. Through the years those names became lodged in my memory as I studied his research wanting very much to hold onto it rather than send it to the archives at the University of the Western Cape (my father the political activist learning how to send messages using invisible ink), read his diaries from his London and European experience (I rediscovered him, his suicidal illness, and by this time I was enchanted by his depression, watched slides of the palaces he visited but I could never imagine myself there. It was enough for me to see Versailles as a tiny photograph held up against the light. He witnessed many great things, magnificent things of wonder. Daddy was wonderful in those days, a thinker, an intellectual, a teacher, a role model to me who brought me back to poetry. Because a fire was in my head like the studies of the Robert Muirhead poems I had begun to write, because a flash of winter was in my head like the chains of bitterness in a veteran photographer’s memory but there was also something unfinished inside of me, something had dissolved.

Look for opportunities the guardian band of gold around the sun said and that became my mission’s. I began to imagine other people’s shackles of pain, their chains, their prison walls put up all around them, the spirit of fear, hurt and rejection within them, abandonment, and spiritual neglect, poverty and for some reason it felt like I was multiplying gravity. I got tired of people asking me to smile please, you’d be lovelier if you did. Did I have courage, that mute child in the photograph? I’ve suffered but what is suffering anyway when compared to others. I have a mental switch but what do others have? What are their coping mechanisms? The universe gives freely to me.

I have refuge if I want it. I have a sanctuary if I want it. Hope is there. In the arrival of it there is always freedom. There is always revolution in the mind of the poet and quintessence in the poetry that comes from the mouth, the voice, the straightforward thinking of that kind of revolution. I’ve met someone else. He tells me everything.  He isn’t afraid to tell me anything. And slowly the veil lifts my smile and becomes like a scar. My wounds are like stigmata. And I begin to see and hear everything again. Hope floats. There are angels everywhere yet I still feel incomplete like some kind of show off finding it tiresome to live normally like the people next door who weren’t embarrassed to get drunk in front of their children. I’m embarrassed by loneliness, despair and my bleak outlook on life. I know where you’ve been once upon a secret life. A secret life.

Do insects have secret lives too and what is their best intention for all those years they live with secrets?  Therein lies their survival. When my sister comes home she and my mother sit down together as if it was the most normal thing in the world and they drink. They drink cocktails. Pink syrupy liquids that seem to sparkle, sparkling wines, Peach schnapps’, vodka and orange juice cool as ice going down their throats. I prefer my secret life.  As an adult my mother, mummy is no longer my morning star and my sister is still my dream stealer. They have become my life, guarding the car keys and the bottle of milk stout. I have to find my own projects. According to God’s plan he wants us, me to act accordingly, justly, with integrity, humility. He wants us to go forth into the new world knowing that He is always on our side now and forever more. We’re all born with a philosophy, not necessarily a Plan B so to speak, and we want to bring meaning to our own lives. I found a book once called Norah’s Secret Life and as I was reading it I discovered many things about this woman whose life I wouldn’t exactly call exciting or romantic.

She had ‘romantic’ love affairs but they were doomed from the start. She was or wasn’t significant but her life seemed to become something symbolic as if I had to have an opportunistic use for it later on in life. She was unfortunately not the marrying kind but she had a wealth of spiritual knowledge unlike any other woman of her generation and sometimes in the love affairs she had she would think like a man when it came to the ‘transaction’. In the material world men dominated she knew she could never win. And so she became like the smiling faces of children amidst poverty. When she wanted to escape she did what all men did, she educated herself, she painted, and she received visitors, she wrote unfathomable poetry that was never self-pitying but stories that were in a way. And in one way, perhaps some ways she became the caretaker of so many women who lived in isolation of a society who would not accept them because they chose to live an unconventional life. At the end of one her love affairs Norah seems to be coping with her new life as best she can like the stars in the evening sky when the earth smells clean and as fresh and new as vanilla. She is bright. Her spirit feels bright. It feels too bright. Her conversation can be illuminating and clever. She wants to be entertained. She wants to be filled with joie de vivre. She also wants to be pursued. Doesn’t any woman want to be pursued? Men are extraordinary when they are in pursuit. They have a grand perspective.

They’re regale you with stories. The world becomes magnificent when they’re in it with you on their arm and you’re going places. It doesn’t really matter that you’re part of his secret life. They’re still pretty impressive. They make you feel desired, beautiful, and the grief that you once felt or had so strongly in your life above anything else is no longer triumphant. You’re no longer flying-walking-singing-chanting solo. It is the year 2013, nearly two in the morning, December and another Christmas has come and gone and my brother is about to become a father. I can’t mock him anymore. And in the exquisite compass of the infinite internal struggle between suicide, wanting to fly, wanting to have that family, that plan coming together, the memory, the thought of Plath, Hughes, Bessie Head, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell I am still here. I am alive with an awakened spirit, with everything that I’ve put the sum parts of me through I have realised that I cannot turn back. I have to move on, move forward because I‘m the sun’s mistress and life after all is a mission. I don’t really see how my life could change after this, after all I’ve put it through.

Two birds. Plath and Sexton. Once upon a time they were two birds on a mission too. Joy fills my lungs so does a surge for the realisation of humanity. Our survival. Our instinct. The little one’s name is Ethan. Ethan Ambrose. We’re all actors acting in a bit part there and a bit part here. My brother held this bright shining thing in his arms. Something that would be educated, instilled with his values, his parenting skills and I felt as if I was being torn apart by some primal, primitive animalistic force. And I knew that I would put the past Jean Rhys’s Mr Mackenzie’s (plural) behind me. I never had an ounce of ambition within me anyway. They had all come with the world’s territory. There it was. The undocumented love affair was really most of all inside my head however brilliant the man was and however bold his moves and brave I was to take him on. I knew something different now. I was more defiant like Norah was in her secret life because eventually she had found her way out. Nobody wants the ending of a book or film to be spoiled for them. Norah had found her way out and she was happy. As happy as could be.

Women deserve to be happy. Men are altogether different. Lost boys everyone. They are always searching and I don’t think they ever grow up. Good things are born from painful experiences. Ropes, ropes and more ropes. I have had enough of them, the hangman’s noose and their knots with basic tension. I want a pretty city, with bright lights on the promenade as I walk into the sea, as I feel my hair against my skin, my feet bare, the night air so crisp and all I see is the clarity of my mission. The sun has her mistress and there is a man that lives on the moon. I am a drowning visitor. I sink further and further away and I finally grasp the shoreline. Here I am free. I have hours to think, I am no longer trapped by gender equality and who wants to trapped by equality, brutality, everything gruesome, obituaries, by hours, and things of childhood-making. Starving landscape after starving landscape, brittle like filament, a burst of thirst pulsating like a shiver, a thread of sweat, a breath, a river, shamanic wisdom, the normal who live next door, the other side of the mirror is buried under smoke, the incessant flap-flapping of the wings of moths, seasons draw wrinkles on my mother and father’s face.

A green feast shoots up everywhere in the garden and everything seems young, fresh and new again. The rain has its own way of thinking and it is a way that humanity will never understand. It can be a beast. A serious beast with a serious intent who remembers their vowels in a coolly distracted way on a hot-cocktail-drinking day in apartheid South Africa while sunbathing next to a chlorine-blue swimming pool in the backyard. The earth on the other hand has a vision of her own. I see all of these things in the mansions of my imagination. Something is bright within me. I enter into a contract with them. I am lifted up, up and up. I am standing in a forest. I look up and what do I see.

The blue jewel of the sky. God’s sky. God’s forest. I close my eyes, feel the sun against my skin, and imagine standing on the beach, a lone figure watching the waves and their never-ending spiritual love story (spellbinding ghost story) with the shoreline. I step forward feeling the burden, the will of the river-sea rises up to meet me. I no longer stand tall, my wounds are frozen, the physical, the deep pain is numbed and becomes a posture, the world turns upside down and I am being navigated towards something greater than myself, away from painful experiences of the past. The lasagne tastes good. It was made by a prophet, my mother. The prophetess. Once I was skin and bone but they didn’t call it anorexia nervosa in those days. In those days I had to ‘perk up’. In those days ‘I had to pull up my socks’, ‘put meat on my bones’. These days I think about my ancestors. I have ancestors. Everyone does. Everyone who lives on this side of the world. Dark skin, white skin, mixed race, different faith, rituals and the burning of incense that comes with them, doctrines stored away like a file of a case study in a psychiatric institution (mental hospital) they all tread on religion at some point in their lives. They have their own exact perspective. And when I dream I dream of the waterfall of the past when I was a girl. And everything that I see makes me feel wonderfully calm, as if I am made of substance. I remember when I first drank red wine (it came out of a box), when I first tasted, really tasted basil, felt as free as a bird with a broken wing, drank a soup made entirely out of noodles, fell in love with sushi (fish with no eyes in a blanket of sticky rice), a girl, a boy, the world, a married man who dominated me and the world around me. And so the world of my childhood-making, mummy and daddy evaporated. I still remember the man’s skin, his knowledge of the universe, his experience and influence, how his flesh became my flesh, how I could see him as a boy and it was the most beautiful feeling in the world. It made my heart sing. It made words dance maddeningly inside my head, on the page of a book and I could finally see past, present, future merging into one.

I moved from one unpredictable, unusual affair, situation, and relationship to another and I grew up and became more fragile, that is my common sense and sensibilities and my ambitions grew into humility and humility grabbed with greed at the wuthering heights of my pride. The people that I knew once passed on. Nothing unusual about dying, moving to another city, moving forwards even if it is towards poverty, marriage, terminal illness, suicidal illness, mental illness, the icy grip of the panic of terror and anxiety.

Time. I don’t believe in it and I never will. Time steals away your dreams, your soul, your spirit, your childhood. It closes in on you until you are forced to face your deepest fear. Death stands there in the gap from this world to the next. Eternity. It is not loved. It is not nurtured. It is not a paradise-in-waiting. When I meditate I go inside myself and see God. There is no longer a divide between the wards of hell and the divine paradise of heaven. One is a lake of burning fire, choking smoke and plumes of ash and the other one is locked and a saint stands before the gates leading into heaven. Death has always been there, looking down, or over my shoulder and with each step that I take Death follows me with a steady pace. I’ve never seen Death’s face but I have been frightened that when my time has come my work here on earth has not been done. I do not want to leave anything incomplete. Everything must be put away, packed in boxes, connections that were once as alive as electricity must be disconnected.

I’ve been close to death. Close enough. I think about you a lot. You were kind, nice, sweet, and younger. You made me feel like a museum piece, a statue. It’s been years since I’ve seen you. Not so long ago we sat and laughed as if we were old friends, good friends. I made you coffee. You made me forget my sadness, my manipulative nature, my family’s arrogant manipulative nature and in some small, adequate way I began to feel alive again as if I could survive everything that life had arranged, assembled for me. But I am bad for you. I am not the chosen one meant for you. How can I make you understand this? I do not belong in your world. There is nothing welcoming or bold about the arrival of me. Choose another. I am giving you your freedom. Hush. Here.

Now go. I want to watch you, study you, watch you fail, surrender, let go, fight for the underdog, understand you, comprehend you, what makes you whole, what makes you think, what do you love? What opinions do you have on the current trends in politics, who will you vote for this year, do you believe in magic, why have you not forgotten me, what do you remember, do you have any fears (do you have any fears about my disability), what anchors you? In forgetting you, the pieces, the tiny bits that refuse to evaporate have become distilled beautifully and I also have realised that I need to write more than I need human company. I don’t care about ambition. If other women think you’re arrogant let them think that. Don’t waste your time, your energy on them. If other men want to destroy you, your empires, your soul then let them think that they are getting away with that. I’ve forgotten about your mistress, your ego that strokes your vanity (that I can’t take away from you). It belongs somewhere else but not in your personal space. Children need the ego. It makes them feel different in a special kind of way in a world filled with ducks and games. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke but am intrigued by women who do smoke, with their airs and graces, with all their manufactured secrets and that one slim cigarette held between their fingers.

The women in my family do not smoke. They’re like a union of spies. I only learned about fear late in life. They do not drink red wine out of a box only fruit juice cocktail on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and Easter. They do not sit for portraits, go to parks, spread out a blanket for a romantic picnic lunch made for two. They only go to the beach in December when it is the summertime in Southern Africa. There’s something clean and pure about depression when it is looked at with the round peg that can’t fit in the square hole in the eye. Clarity is found and so is rest. The people-traffic-zoo outside is possessed with identity and the idea of not emancipating themselves. Why would they do that if they think that their reality, their dreams, their goals and their imagination is enough for them? The stem grows. The branch reaches forwards and we all move towards the light hoping that it will put the spotlight on us. When I feel weak inside is when mummy speaks to me. My heart slips and thuds inside of me at the same time. There’s no awakened rhythm in that red palace. All the voices of mother, father, mummy, daddy, sister, brother become familiar to me. They are not the same people all of the time and their visions are awesomely vibrant and energetic, burning like phosphorescence, a lone star. They orbit me. The invisible air tastes like salt. My mouth gulps down slippery seawater that licks the insides of every one of my teeth. I want to feel you inside of me, as I open up to you like the flowers of a manuscript. I’ve already lost you to another woman. Is she a girl, does she have a matron’s figure at a girl’s boarding school or is she as dead to you as I am to you now. I don’t say these things to get at you, to think like you do, to get inside your head I’m just lost in the silence of violence like George Botha, Richard Rive, Kevin Carter, Dulcie September, Arthur Nortje and when I feel most intensely lost is when I write poetry, that is when everything I’ve collected in my heart comes out. I really don’t care for now’s sake if I never saw pictures of you, heard sob stories of you again in my life, your living memory, so romantically-felt is enough for me and it will stay with me until the end of my lifetime.

The heat. It’s hot, intolerably-hot and there is nothing I can do to eliminate it. Was I really loved as a child? It serves to improve the lies I keep telling myself. That I am not pretty enough, tall enough, enough for enough’s sake. There are millions of children who are not loved, who bathe every day in dust and shit. Life is designed for oppression, ridicule, rejection but also for liberation. In some wanton way the world makes us want to move backward without us having any say about it. House torched. It was burned down to the ground with two children in it. The door was locked. The mother was away. There was no father as there is often in these cases. And so another community is brought together but this is no celebration of life. They thought a witch lived there. It shows how fragile we are as humanity. And I am preoccupied with love when the world around me is burning. These are all things we wish that could be buried in peace and dust and memory. There are happy, healthy progeny.

Mums that are glowing in a blue and white hospital gowns. Their skin radiant with life but what happens when you like writing poetry about death, grief and denial. It is a land that time forgot. This kind of writing (poetry) is a writing that so few people can understand. There were no angels on the frontier when pioneers confronted wilderness and poverty in Southern Africa just dust that has been here for millions of years. The lasagne tastes good. It was made by a prophet, my mother.

The prophetess. I’ve worshipped her all my life. She has taught me how to forgive, how to live, and I am beautifully grown now. Although the universe is still sweeter, purer, more honourable than I am with all its untitled interpretations. How can the extraordinary unconscious of the universe be anything but baffled by humanity. I am. People are not as invincible as they think they are. Freedom fighters every one? Unfortunately no.  Coldness. Aloofness. Indifference. Introspection. Suffering. Water. Ghost nations. Precious bittersweet gifts everyone. Nothing belongs to us.

Abigail George has two books in the Ovi Bookshelves,
"All about my mother" & "Brother Wolf and Sister Wren"
Download them, NOW for FREE HERE!


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