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Smith and Carol Smith and Carol
by Abigail George
2023-04-23 07:15:07
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Julian Smith was respectable but unhappy. A psychiatrist for nearly three decades he had experience on his side. He had a married daughter but they had never really been close.

abi01_400_07‘Smith, you’re a gladiator. How do you do this day in and day out offering advice? How do you live?’ It was on Carol’s lips but she didn’t say anything.

‘Sadness, Carol, always calls for introspection. Can you find the time to write?’ Smith smiled at her.

‘I love shopping the same way I love writing. The older I get it seems that I have all the time in the world to write. In my dream my mother, she didn’t have cancer. We had a relationship.’

‘That’s good. That’s a good thing. Cherish the time that you had together.’ Smith gave a hoarse little cough.

‘So, tell me a little bit about what you are writing now. What inspires you, your imagination and creativity? Are you an aspirant novelist, poet or a short story writer?’ Carol wanted Smith to tell her that she was still young. She wanted Smith to ask her to tell him what she thought of love. She wanted to hear those bright magic words out of his mouth, ‘Are you in love or are you waiting for love?’

‘Oh, I don’t know what to say to that. I haven’t written that novel yet. When I am tired of writing poems I write stories. When I am tired of writing stories I write poems. Does that make sense, doctor?’ Carol crossed and uncrossed her feet at the ankles. Smith nodded. Carol looked away. She did not meet his gaze.

If only this man knew what I was thinking of him, Carol thought to herself. If only he knew I was thinking of what he could do to me in bed but I am the only one who has this ticket to this masquerade. All I want to feel is close to him, is what Carol though to herself. Carol did feel close to Smith in those sessions where and when he deliberated the psychological framework of her psyche and her intellectual capacity.

‘I think. I feel, doctor. In the evenings after the ancient sun has burned the whole day away what is left but cathedrals of stardust. We are not so different, doctor, are we?’ Carol brushed a stray curl away from her face. Smith nodded his head. He needed a haircut. Carol thought to herself.

Carol knew she was in love with Smith the moment she met him. He looked sad. He looked as if he needed to be taken care of. His shirts ironed. Supper at half past six. Memory is strange. The older that you get the more strange love becomes, Carol thought to herself. The stranger the memory of love becomes. The more you want it. The more you desire it. Its golden rapture. Its state. That’s life. Exhale. There’s a feast of winter in your hair. You, Smith glow like orange and yellow and gold. Hot, sexy, dirty noise becomes you. We’re hanging loose. Picking each other’s brain. I can see your soul. Everything has fallen away. The day. Stars. Worship. The open wounds of sacrifice. We’re still here and nothing has tasted sweeter. The information society of our bodies between us familiar in our hands. We’re fixated on what connects the dots of ‘us’. Chronic illness. Doctors experimenting on our bodies. No, let’s not go there. I said blinking back tears but you went there anyway. I stand there clenching and unclenching my fists. You smell of cologne. You, Smith, are the dream of the river. There are messages in the insignia of morning, the salt lick of the ocean, the golden throne made up of particles of matter that turns into the prize of light. Cells acquiescing turning the sun into a star. There’s a tribe of bones inside of me flickering with the colour of milk. I know the habits of this federation that sometimes calls itself ‘blue’ or ‘pharmacist’. In childhood whenever the velvet links of the body found themselves in the bay, I, Carol, was homesick for grace and mercy. Once it was just a concept – the sea. A talisman. It taught me that to write anything novel, that takes a cathedral-like planning. You need many things. A manual to create something beautiful to look at. You have to find beautiful instruments that will help you create the clandestine ‘art’. A path of vital water so clear that you can see your reflection in it. The circumference of the sea leaves dreamers in its wakened state. Lungs need air to trace every lining in them. You will either find at the end of the world’s ‘monsoon’ rains or ‘sanctuary’. You will find women placating themselves with having children, running a household, and their men keeping busy with hobbies in white light. Even inside her head Carol would ‘talk’ to Smith, her psychiatrist. She would ‘talk’ about her father. She looked after him know. Her weak, infirm, diabetic father. He had suffered from depression his entire life. Now it was her turn. Smith had spoken about ‘making peace’.

Smith had told Carol to make notes. To journal. To keep a diary. It was important for her own wellbeing. Sometimes she would read what she had written in her meetings with Smith. He would never comment. She never spoke about her wealthy sister and her younger brother if she could help it.

‘Every refugee has a soul. Dad has come down with sleeping sickness. This has happened before. He takes a blue pill and it goes away. Last year my sister was in India. The previous year she was in Phuket, Thailand. She spent Christmas on the beach, not with us. I have to work myself to the bone like a star. The tablecloth is white. Pretty. Embroidered. I don’t trust myself with the knife. Something about its edge reminds me of last year. How no one cooked.

There was no lunch. The knife edge, well, it has this enabling effect on me. Christmas is not so merry this year. We can all feel it hanging over us. Instead we plate servings of huge cuts of ham, tongue, lamb, and chicken next to the creamy and fake margarine shine of potato salad. After all this is the holiday season. We must eat. We must drink. We don’t stop at one or two drinks. Or three or even four. It’s depressing this time of year especially when we stop stuffing our mouths.’ Carol read beautifully. She did. But the next part her eyes glazed over.

You’re saying yes to my perfume. I shut my eyes to the graveyard landscape. The day has a brilliant oyster shine to it. Our speech is golden. One day this body will be dust. Ashes to ashes on a heap of heat and dust. Clay. Its late morning. Past eleven o’ clock. Every single thing I’ve tasted they’ve never had to. My sister’s an angel.  My brother’s a broken boy. Relationships can do that to you. They can make you stay or they can make you say, ‘the body my body this body yes.’ The body my body this body yes is saying yes to you. Yes to you. Applying a faint pressure in the small of my back. Yes to all of you. The dirt under your fingernails. I am saying yes to all of you. Yes, yes to your hands. The soft/rough touch of your hands. Yes to your lips. You’re saying yes to my perfume. Fingers in my loose hair. Bobby pins falling. I am falling for you. Barrettes falling to the floor. You’re quiet. Blood and flesh. Skin and hair. A luminous Masai symphony. I’m of the opinion that I’m in love. I’m in love with you. Halfway there. Afterwards I write this down. Before I forget. I don’t want to forget. The body my body this body is saying yes to you. Coming up for air. Milking its worth. The light and dark myth of Julian. All I wanted was a summer love, not a proper boyfriend. The first time I met Julian he was playing his guitar at the State hospital (see mental institution). He was singing a gospel tune. He was as handsome as rain with long, dark hair and sensitive hands, an interesting face. You were wrong, his eyes seemed to  say to accept the fact that I loved and adored you from afar, because I didn’t ever say those things to you but I kissed his sweet face hungrily I went on with my life thinking he was ‘the one’ for me anyway. I knew what was coming. I knew the day would come when he would break my heart and all I would be left with would be flint to make fire, a village and a voice made out of sticks and stone. I would be left blindsided like an extra edited out of a movie scene. The scent of the sea can sometimes smell like roses too. The ‘never’ landscape surrenders itself to the light and truth. The air agrees with young people who come to the beach with their boyfriends and girlfriends. The waves seem generous and giving enough. I think that this is what ‘their’ eyes want to see. Humans in their most natural environment. Humans happy and free as little birds. Sitting on the beach is like switching on a light when you enter a room in your house. At first you are disoriented. Distracted by things you cannot see. The sand feels like worn carpet underneath your toes. Then the light reveals everything to you. You remember something of your childhood tied to your mother’s apron strings. Helping her cook in the kitchen. Stirring, drying the dishes, eating the proof of the pudding, taste testing recipes, peeling, preparing, laying the table and in an instant you’re either transported to happy days or happier days. You’re in a time machine and suddenly you’re a changed person or not. You stay the whole day on that beach. You eat ice cream with your elderly mother who looks like your sister (yes, people have told you this and you and your sister has said time and again that ‘oh, we have good genes’). Your brother and son (see photogenic nephew) walk barefoot on the sand picking up shells, feathers of gulls, birds that never seem to fly away for winter.

I find myself at the mercy of clinical flight. The blues. Clinical depression. The offended a volcano. Abundance explosive. The blouse is like a plume around her neck. My mother’s neck. There’s a museum of photos inside my head. There is silence in the dust of the desert. There is silence everywhere. Behind every voice. Behind every trembling voice. Every tragedy. Every shriek. The pale wavelengths of the catastrophe. Depths glittering like the sea. Jean Rhys’s sea. Bewildering driftwood. Mountains of stones in the middle of the ocean-sea, ocean-river. Fancy fish swimming for their lives.’

Carol was hungry so she stopped in a café and had some coffee and a toasted sandwich. She was half-listening for the naming of peace on this winter afternoon. The sunlight as bright as a summer son. She had been seeing Smith twice a week for nearly a year now. She looked out of the window. She looked at the women who looked close enough to her age. She stared at them up and down. She wasn’t afraid of them. She imagined herself and Smith as a couple. Man and wife. She didn’t think he had a wife or children. There was no set of photographs on his desk. Just a computer, a prescription pad, a telephone, a small Eiffel Tower, pen and a notepad. Ever since she was a child she had a frustrated and restless trust in the grown-ups in her environment. She had a frustrated and restless trust in Smith. When she watched television as a child she was always watching for strange images on the screen in front of her. Her mother’s garden was a field of flowers with their cool green leaves. At night the strange fractured wind that blew would blow through her too. She could see the river of life’s rehabilitation in the Transvaal mornings of the Johannesburg of her childhood, as well as in dogs, stray cats, waves, and ice cream.

‘Can you find time to write? Smith asked Carol again the next time he saw her.

‘Of course I can. When the mood takes me I can write about anything?’ I can even write about you. Carol wanted to add.

‘I wanted to tell you that I am sorry that I can’t see you anymore after the end of this year. My wife has taken ill and we are moving to the country. Montagu. The air will be better for her asthma there.’ Was it just her imagination that Smith was not meeting her eyes?

‘Oh, of course I understand. These things happen.’ Carol pursed her lips as if she had just tasted something bitter like lemon water. What she really wanted to say was this? You have been leading me on all this time. You gave me this idea that we could have had a wonderful life together. I trusted you. I fell in love with you. Have I not told you everything about myself? You know me better than I know my own soul.

‘You have to write, Carol. You have to go on writing. You have to save yourself from the grief of losing your mother. The emptiness that you feel on certain days. You have to eat too to nourish your body physically and mentally. I too know what loss is. That unconsciousness gap that you feel when you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about nothing and everything. Thinking about the fear that is in your heart.’

Carol said nothing to this. She folded her hands in her lap and stared at the beautiful bookcase against the wall. Carol thought about Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys.

‘Do you know anything about the writer Jean Rhys, doctor?’ Carol found her voice. Her mouth was dry.

‘No, as a matter of fact I don’t.’ Smith pushed his spectacles up his nose. It was hot. The air conditioner was not working. The heart of the heat of the day had slowly crept into the room.

‘Jean Rhys, she was a superstar and she didn’t even know it.’ Carol started to feel the heat rise in her face. ‘I am a superstar, doctor and I don’t think I even know it.’ Smith let Carol speak without saying anything. ‘Do you garden?’ Carol sighed.

‘Yes, I garden. I have a garden.’ Smith answered followed by a dry cough.

‘I can see. Your hands. Dirt underneath your fingernails.’ Carol wanted a cigarette. She just didn’t know what to do with her hands.

‘Children walked past the house. Kicked a geranium pot over. I just fixed it.’ Smith held up his hands. ‘I do garden. I do love to garden.’

For a long time Carol did not say anything. ‘What is humanity without mothers, fathers, and children? Sometimes I think to myself that I am badly in need of love just like all the other women out there who are married and have babies. Sometimes I think that I need a man in my life, a child, or children. Sometimes I think to myself I am doing just fine. I have no need of any of that. What good will that do me except take me away from my father. Take me away from my work which is writing.’

Smith got up from where he was sitting and reached over to Carol. Took her in his arms and hugged her for a few seconds before he released her.

‘Everybody including you Carol, the people out there who you despise so much are waiting on the world to change.’ Smith smiled warmly at her. Carol shivered even though it was a warm day.

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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