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Notes Notes
by Abigail George
2023-02-18 08:44:47
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‘What does that mean exactly, asking me how I am? Fine. Fine. I am always fine, and you? I ask you all the time how are you and you always say you’re fine.’ Silence seemed to creep around the edges of our telephone conversation. Inside my heart, running like ice through my veins. People change all the time and when the time came, when it was alright, she would change too.

I told myself this to placate myself. I knew how morally bankrupt she was then. How far removed we really were from each other, right then. Once, we had been inseparable. People change personas for love, as I am sure that she had changed her own self for her American lover. People changed their moral values when it came to love. We were sisters. Wouldn’t the point be we would always be sisters.

notes01_400But how long could we go on loving each other. This sham playing itself out, that each of us cared what the other one thought. It was wrong of me to still think of her as pure. Virginal, sweet. An innocent with a heart filled with tenderness. You rained on me this morning, Constance, and I could hear the smile in your face, as you brushed your hair out of your face.

I remember when we roasted marshmallows around the fire. Your laughter. Your smile that reached your soul and then, everything would be alright in our world. I did not hate you, or the sound of your voice grating my nerves. You did not make me feel lost, empty, useless, panicky and anxious. Chapters of our childhood, are buried underground like volcanic rock.

You’re lava. Molten and hot. I understand now that she has ruined me forever for men. Her silence has ruined me forever for men. What stands in the way of a lover reaching me, capturing me in his warm embrace, is the perfect cut out of my sister. She is beautiful, sophisticated. Her nails are elegant. Her lips are fire engine red but she does not love me. She’s crying.

Constance cannot love me in the ways that I love her. Yes, she’s crying. It is her that is reaching out to the lover. That distant male figure that is even now further out of my reach. Her hair is golden brown. Tastes like honey. Her skin is pale. Her skin tastes like milk and manna. Light and salt. I want to say to Constance, that her tears rained on me this morning. I don’t remember.

I don’t remember who started the fight. All I remember was that winter was in the air and I was a guest in my sister’s house and on the surface (tension) of our relationship was layers of betrayal. Of who possessed more power. Who was more important, significant in the greater scheme of things. Who mattered more and of course, the answer to that was always Constance.

There was the arrival of fear in my heart that I would lose my sister to the hunger of the city forever. The power of the birth of the internal struggle for a woman to let a man see her inner beauty was never-ending. City life came with prophecy, silence, my suffering, Constance’s pride. I never thought that Constance, my Constance would turn into a poser, a faker, an artist.

Constance’s loneliness in the shark big city of Johannesburg, filled with sharks in sharp suits and male sharks wearing shoes as sharp as steak knives. All women wanted from the city were to be loved by all men. All men wanted was passionate trysts with their mistresses in hotel rooms. With the idolised wife and kids comfortable ensconced in a house in suburban bliss.

All women wanted was what Constance wanted with her all heart. She wanted to be worshiped from afar and to be adored. Our father had never given her that. I touched the actress’s face on the magazine. She had just won a best actress award. She was blonde but had dyed her hair red for the film. Was Constance like this? Just this body to her American lover. Skin on skin. Meat.

Meat tea. Flesh and bone and perfume. I was not a person to Nick. Constance’s Nick. The American. The American lover. I did not exist in his imagination. I did not exist in his reality. I was not even a woman. Constance was the wonderland’s winner. The rabbit in the top hat pulled out by the magician. Who was I, if I wasn’t Constance’s confidante, first, and then her sister. 

I was Alice. Constance should be thinking, I thought to myself, that she’s blessed right now with all the major relationships and friendships that she has in her life. I looked at the redhaired actress’ face on the magazine again. Stroked her face gently. Pretending that I was brushing a stray curl out of her face. Superstar actress. Movie star glamour and style. With a toothpaste, commercial smile.

I doubt myself in my late thirties. Constance is thirty-something too. I think of the rhythms of the day in my life, tumbling me back in time, back into the sun. I’m insecure. I’m at home these days, trying to write a novel. Isn’t everyone trying to write a novel these days? I secretly think it’s a mistake. I am making a mistake. The lead role in the book is based on Constance.

She never reads anything I write so I think I’m safe. The protagonist is promiscuous. She sleeps with her boss. He is powerful. He heads up a media house. An empire of sorts. In the book, Constance is Carol. Carol is Constance. The boss is also very much married. I make notes. Notes on the last time she kissed her American Nick’s lips before he jetted back home.

Jetted back home to West Virginia. I made notes on the times that Constance and Nick (Carol and Anthony) would sneak off together. The last time that Constance and Nick escaped from the routine of their daily lives by going to a concert or the lion park or for brunch. If everything that I was writing was true, it didn’t matter to me. I told myself, I didn’t matter to Constance.

I needed to escape too. I woke up on a Saturday (in the early hours of the morning) thinking that she was the one, like so many others before her, take my friends in primary and high school, that had abandoned me first. I had never neglected her. I had been there for her, always. I can hear what she’s thinking. I can also hear that she’s thinking it with a smile. Her life for mine.

But here, her smile never reaches her eyes, not even for a second. I can remember, as far back as childhood, when Constance made me happy and there was no effort at all on either my part or hers. I suddenly understood in a way how love, loving someone could give you freedom. I felt independent then. Terribly grown up and educated. There was a trust in our conversations.

I missed those days. And if she were to read the novel, a kind of love story about us, Constance and Alice, Alice and Constance, ‘Where is this all coming from?’, is what I imagine her thinking if the conversation ever came up. ‘What right do you have to judge me?’ But what right did Constance have to judge me. I was out of the way now. Out of the way forever.

Can she smile at that, that she got the best of me? I understood her in the same way her American lover, Nick, did. I understand the child in her heart. The girl that she still was in some indefinable way. She kept me out. These walls were glacial. She drew me in with her opinion. In circles. In paradigm shifts. In metaphors. I had slept in her bed. I got the best of her. She had comforted me like a mother.

And of course, the day came when Constance divorced all of us. No telephone calls would come from Johannesburg. When she did phone, my mother spoke to her behind a closed door, saying after she hung up the phone, that she didn’t want to speak to any of us. She had made that abundantly clear where we stood. The estranged father, brother and sister in no man’s land.

She’s smiling in the photograph on the coffee table (it’s the day of her graduation ceremony from university), but is she happy? Her face, the film star, is on the cover of a magazine but is she happy, or just smiling for the camera? Is she more than a pretty face? Now all that Constance speaks about is how unhappy she is in love. How unlucky at love she is.

But she seems to have everything. Compared to her, I, Alice, have nothing. I, Alice, have inherited nothing. I gather that every lover Constance chooses, she leaves them breathless in her awakened state. She blooms. She doesn’t blossom. She blooms and everything that she chooses to speak about is profound and what I have to say doesn’t count. Doesn’t count at all.

For those who walk away from love, they pretty much leave an open door behind them. A trail of breadcrumbs for those that follow in their footsteps. In photographs from my younger days I have carefree written all over my face. The best of me was living in those yesterdays. Now, pushing forty, I didn’t know what to think of the passing years anymore. How can I be a rebel at forty years of age?

I’d taken them all for granted. Now, I live pretty much like a recluse and you, how do you live in this world, Johan? Have you experienced depression all your life and was there a trigger and stigma to it? Johan would be a brilliant composer. He would be my husband. Older than I was, maybe by about twenty years or so. Perhaps older than dad. Johan would be an artist.

It was true then that Dorothea, matriarch of the Jacobs family didn’t want me to go on living either. It was almost as if she could read what was on my heart. Written on my body. Flesh and bone. Skin and meat. And I would remain a child, wishing that the notes found in my black Croxley notebook would be pretty and lovely and truthful for all of eternity.

With a kind of humanity like Elijah’s I hope to speak of many, many things in my novel. Love and fulfilment, fear and sensitivity, the labour of love, the effort of the commitment in adult relationships, male and female friendships. The autumn pavement brings with it a change of season. A betrayal. The force of loneliness. The comprehension of futility.

The machinery of solitude. Dying is an art. All of its angles, corners, personal space has a neatly arranged art when it comes to the giving birth of documents. Papers. A manuscript. Truth filled journals filled with hard truths. Constance is a hot climate that I want to dissolve in and all I want to do is worship her. The same way that her American, Nick, worships her.

‘They laugh at me. Don’t you think that I don’t know that for a fact! All your boyishly handsome and charismatic gay friends are laughing at me. Your overweight sister. Fighting fab with flab, isn’t that what you say? Aren’t these your words?’ Constance was still my sister. She’s somebody in whose company I long to be all the time. Doesn’t matter what she says.

‘You know the answer to that already. Why don’t you ever ask me about my writing? How come you never ask me about my writing?’ and from far away her voice comes to me. We’re fighting now. I can hear she’s tired too, tired of this game that we play. I can hear she’s teary-eyed. I want to tell her to forget everything. That I’m sorry. That I love her. I made a mistake.

‘Why do you care so much about what people think about you? About what I will think about you? Be your own person. Stand up for yourself, why don’t you, think on your own two feet for a change,’ And I think of the girls that we once were, I was the winner then. The golden girl but she has the lovers, the mothering instinct, the glorious job. The glory that comes with it all.

And if my mind is twisted, it’s all your fault because you made it that way. Your mouth is red and beautiful and you’re lovely. That colour suits you. They talk about you in that way because you’re beautiful. They’re jealous of you. They want what you have. You’re intelligent but does Nick, your American see that or does he just want to take you to bed. You know you can (but our parents didn’t raise us that way).

But there are things that I will never tell my sister. I’m dreaming of the exit out even though we’ve just both said, ‘hello’. She’s asked me how I am and I’ve asked her how she is. How was her day at work? Is she in love this time around but she sounds defeated. And like a hundred other times, she makes it sound as if it’s my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it.

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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