Seven

How do we know if we are lucky? What is the measure of fortune? I met my husband when I was 23 years old. I had just graduated with a degree in finance and peacefully separated from my boyfriend of five years with a thank you for the easy terms of this first love. If you believe in providence he was the door gently closing as the window flew open on the rest of my life. I was ready when it happened.

Did this make me lucky? The confluence of finishing university and heading toward a man I knew I was going to marry within 1 week of our introduction? I met my adulthood at precisely the expected time. I was engaged within a year, married within three, and Sam was born a decent 13 months after. You make it look so easy, people said. You are so lucky my single girlfriends agreed. I was at the centre of the happiest circumstances for those early years, from my graduation to our engagement, to the wedding, and the christening of the child we made.

I was lucky on anniversaries and each New Years Eve, and when we moved from his small apartment to the house on the harbour. They came and came, the blessings. I was loved, secure and successful, and I turned out to be a good mother too. Fair and disciplined like my own had been, and able to keep up with my boys, which gave me a great sense of pride. I was never political about it. But I did want to raise a good boy.

But is this fortune? Is this luck in the end? Did my richness of blessings simply mean I had more to lose when the time came? Are we ever supposed to have it so easy? Does God have certain lessons for women like me? A sermon would say there is no such thing as luck, that this discounts the providence of God, of his divine plan for each of us. God is in the detail, it would say, and everything that is happening has been planned for you, it is unfolding exactly as it should. There is no luck where there is belief.

But still I have wondered. How do I measure what I was given? Can it only be understood in light of all I have lost? My faith in God teeters at the edge of something I cannot fathom when I come to this place. Was I merely lucky and the underside of this indiscriminate application was the way luck runs out, or has its fill of you and turns its charms to another, some other who may or may not take a little of what you had left when the time comes to collect on theirs?

My husband began his affair not long after my 30th birthday. Four years after our wedding and seven years before the police knocked at my door. Seven years. For as long as I had known and loved him. Seven. The number of the unlucky. The number of smashed mirrors and distorted images. The Romans believed in seven years of bad luck specifically, they thought that the body needed this amount of time to renew, to complete the shedding and changing of life’s seasons. But could seven years ever be long enough for you to completely shake off what has settled on the skin?

My Priest does not condone my superstitions. I have admitted to them in private, the rituals I’ve followed when no one is looking. There is God’s will, and my own he reminds me, but my bones know something different. I try even harder to put my faith in God, to trust his plan. But I remember the mirror I smashed on my 30th birthday, the crack of my engagement ring against the glass and the way the surface shattered outwards, like a quiet explosion. Perfectly intact, but ruined just the same.

Because you cannot see yourself clearly in fractured glass. It will only reflect your image in fragments. The cracks separate you into pieces. This is what happened to my life when she entered. Nothing ever looked the same, it was a reflection altered forever. And though I tried to bury the pieces of glass, the way they said that you could repair such things, they were just too sharp to smooth over.

Seven years of bad luck. And then the day they knocked on the door to tell me he was dead. The body renewing itself, shedding and changing, trying to shake off what had settled on the skin. And all the while new life taking hold, the cells he and I put together to create something new and strong like this. When he died I was three months pregnant. They still say I am the lucky one. But what is the measure of fortune now? Are we all counting something different in the end?

Seven years at body, remember

Time for a new voice. I am now examining the other side of the coin …

Advertisements

Mosaic

The only truths I ever told were with my body, Mack. Every time I laid us down. The sincerity of the body has been much maligned by the idea that words are more honest than a beating heart. This is what I have learned since then, that my body knew us better. Every confession it ever made, those revelations in your arms, they were the only truths of our seven years, the gospel that I now believe.

It tried to tell us, time and again. Honesty traded from limb to limb, prayers written out across the body. And I have to believe that this is what lasts. That truth and faith are ultimately the same. That while we are all telling our little stories, trying to make our characters fit, our bodies remember a different truth. A leap of faith made when hands reach across the widest of chasms. And how sometimes, Mack, we nearly make it.

Beneath the thrum of expectation, the beating heart wins in the end. Because at the end of the day it is love that makes us, not the other way round. Messy, inconvenient, thoughtless love. No matter how hard we resist, it is the force that shapes our lives. The heart has always had other plans.

We can dress up in someone else’s clothes, we can recite lines fashioned from other mouths, and decorate our promise with beads and silk, but these offerings only last until the candles burn down. Love is what the body remembers.

The heart is a mosaic, Mack – full of cracks and flaws. Every splinter of glass we lay down simply adds to the composition of our love. Piece after jagged piece reveals the breaks and fractures the heart can endure. It is the pattern we make of this life. The story our body remembers. Seen clearly from a distance, Mack. And so very beautiful up close.

I pour another red and reach for a second glass. Lucy will soon be here with cake.

Mosaic at body, remember

(The end of Maggie’s story. Over to Lucy now …)

This nearly was mine …

South Pacific - Teddy Tahu Rhodes & Lisa McCune kiss

It should come as no surprise that I am a romantic. Not the flowers and chocolates kind so much as the wrenching, fall into your lover’s arms kind. Make that the throw yourself, head-first, stupidly and ridiculously into their arms kind (even when they are not there to catch you). And it would seem that I have always been more aligned to Young Werther than to Hallmark’s Valentine; as I noted in an earlier post My Barbies Never Got Married, even as a little girl, when I played with love I recognised that it was neither patient nor kind, the way certain books suggested.

As I described in that piece, while my barbies re-enacted every dramatic musical moment from Cabaret to The Sound of Music, I came to consider love in my own, very lyrical terms. It was the crescendo that shook you from your skin, or the potent ache of a torch song that settled in your bones. My understanding of love was set to music, and to the songs of musical theatre in particular.

I am still as drawn to the stories of musical theatre as I was back in my barbies’ hey day. The difference now is that I live in one of the great theatre cities of the world. And I get to write about it. After starting this blog I obtained a position writing for an international theatre website, and I have since been dividing my creative time between my blog/novel and writing about the world of musical theatre. The two are in no small way connected – a Sondheim fan in particular will see how often I have borrowed from this poet of the musical theatre world to describe a moment or experience in Maggie Valentine’s life. And more than that, spending a few hours in a theatre each week watching people do what they love for a living is a potent reminder of why I need to keep working at what love.

Last week I got to attend the opening night of Opera Australia’s acclaimed production of SOUTH PACIFIC and I was so moved by the show that I wanted to share my review here. I have seen theatre all over the world, but this particular production, starring opera singer Teddy Tahu Rhodes and his (rumoured) paramour Lisa McCune took me back to my childhood, to when love and music were so entwined that I could not separate the two. In that darkened theatre, I remembered why I hear love and feel music. This is how it was when it was all brand new. This is how I learnt it.

And even now, with all the cracks and scratches in the record, I can still hear the high, sweet strings of my own romance. I can still hear love in the rise and fall of each note. Music and memory have always engaged in a dance. And for me, it is still a fine romance.

Here is an excerpt from my love letter to review of Opera Australia’s SOUTH PACIFIC

“…While Some Enchanted Evening is the beloved jewel of SOUTH PACIFIC, it is Rhodes’ exquisite This Nearly Was Mine that elicits the loudest cheers on Melbourne’s opening night. In this lament to the ephemeral nature of love and joy Rhodes reveals the heart and soul of both the man, and in some ways the musical itself – the idea of what people have, and what they must lose when paradise is altered. For pathos it is matched only by McCune’s heart-wrenching second act reprise of Some Enchanted Evening where Nellie comes to the painful understand of how losing love can sit right up against the joy of finding it.”

The full review can be read here at BroadwayWorld; we all need our little reminders, now and then …

Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes kiss

Image Credits: Jeff Busby

Paradox

I did want to be a better person. I did want to be brave and fierce and true. I did want to open my palms and expose the stories deep in the grooves. I did want to make the harder choice and the wiser move, the moving left to make it right. I did want to be a better person, all along.

I suppose I thought love was the way to do it.

What does the body remember …

What does the body remember of another?

What memory sits at the tip of the tongue, ready to burst? Does desire constantly swim in the veins, little pieces of longing that warm the blood and rise to the surface at the slightest provocation? Do they reconstruct and orient the desire toward that which we cannot forget? Is remembering merely the act of desire trying to make itself whole again?

I miss your body. I miss how I made it mine. I miss the caught breath and the shifting weight. I miss the switch that flicked, the way your hands would suddenly tighten and pin me down.

I miss the safety of this certain surrender, the risks we took. The weeks apart, how time would build a tension in the muscle, a coiling of need that unravelled so beautifully on those nights we came back.

Sometimes a fast and furious unwinding, the release like a firework that explodes in the dark. At other times a slow and tremulous untying of knots, working into the early hours and seeing the sun come up on each other’s skin.

I never lost the craving, even when we were in our wars, all those battles finely played to lose. The body has always been the ultimate traitor, don’t you think?

Rock Bublitz at body, remember by Joanne Piechota
Image by Joanne Piechota