Grace

Forgiveness.

It always comes back to this. The desire for it, and the struggle against it. If I forgive, will I also forget? Is that the greatest fear when it comes to letting go of the anger we hold for those who have done wrong by us? If I forgive you Ben, for the casual destruction of our marriage, do I also risk forgetting? Because when I am angry at you we still exist. We are not done, not when there is unfinished work between us. Will forgiving you mean leaving you behind?

And what of Lucy, and Maggie Valentine, the trio we have become in this affair. I have bound myself to them both, haven’t I. If I blame them for what happened, do I somehow continue to absolve myself?

Matthew: 6:14-15

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

What blame do I carry in this? Or were we all just doing what we had to do to get by? Happy accidents, and tragic ones too, before we all collided? If we knew then what we know now … ah, isn’t that always the question. I’d like to think we would in fact do better.

I do forgive you. All of you. No one escaped the damage in the end, did they. The light is shining through the cracks now, and here we all are. Illuminated.

My baby kicks. A fierce knock before I feel her shift down inside me, ready. I am ready too, Grace. I am ready too.

**

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Resistance

You touched my wrist.

This is how it began. I caught it, fleeting as it was.  A rare moment where you know exactly what is happening to you, and how. It was only this on that first night at the bar, but I felt your hand on my wrist all the way home and I sat up and stared at the wall until the moon disappeared. It seemed funny at the time, just short of ridiculous. I was cultivating a broken heart and it wasn’t supposed to rearrange itself so quickly. It felt – distasteful – how easily I fell. Did you think about me that night too? Were you telling yourself a story about how you had touched a woman’s wrist and felt the pulse of her under your index finger? How it had been a moment and nothing more, the kind you no longer considered yours to take?

Did you go back to your room and sense the missed connection, the idea that something had been lost? You had stopped me one the way back from the bathroom as I was leaving. It was all there as you leaned in and said you liked my dress. I thought – absurdly – that you might kiss me right there with our workmates still at the bar, and it made you frown when I laughed. What if I hadn’t laughed? What if I had kissed you outside that bathroom door, and what if we had left the bar together? What if you hadn’t left me to walk home alone.

I think it would have been a drunken, unremarkable fuck. You would have been fighting the vodka for sensation. We might have gotten it out of our system right then and there, this newly single girl and this satisfied married man. Challenging our status in an act of rebellion before acquiescing, settling down. If this had been our first experience – bold and blunt in the way of sex with a stranger, might we have packed up and walked away the very next day? Was resistance our biggest mistake in the end?

It led after-all to this. Weeks of words, weeks of timorous courting that gave way to weeks of burgeoning desire. That first flirtation, built on the memory of you liking my dress. The hesitant reciprocation, built on the memory of you touching my wrist. And suddenly your name a symbol I sought out, popping up on email, on text, and then emboldened, in the buzz of my phone. Until one waking hour was too long without you.

We imagined each other first. Was that our undoing? By the time I knocked on your hotel door six weeks later our intimacy was already as intricate as any biography. The gift of the digital age – our first few chapters were written before we had even kissed. By the time I disliked your distance, by the time you recognized my need, we had a secret to protect, and perhaps even more, a limit to be tested.

Limerence loves an obstacle after-all. Was that the secret of our great passion then, Mack? As simple an equation as unrestrained appetite meeting constrained circumstance? Advance and retreat, left and right, infatuation elevated to obsession through our little dance. Was resistance our biggest mistake in the end?

Or had the mistake been made long before we met, and we were being given a rare and profound chance to fix it? Did the gods hold their breath a little as they introduced us, and did they let it out with a sigh when we both kept on stumbling? You were the mystical one, Mack – were they there that night? Was there something fated in our fall, a desperate cupid’s hope for love to be better than how we had chosen to live it?

I stared at the wall for hours after we met, and I knew my life had somehow changed. A small spark of understanding, an awareness that I was approaching the edge of life as I knew it. Did you stare at the wall and feel it too? Or were you initially unmoved? Was our beginning merely a flirtation that got out of hand – a common desire we forgot to rein in?

Were we fated Mack, or simply making our biggest mistake?

I never once asked if you thought we were a mistake. I never got to hear your soft no, or a resolved and closing yes. The doors continue to open and shut on possible answers, but I am in no way closer to the truth of it.

Joanne Piechota at body, remember
Image by Joanne Piechota

Ghosts

It happened at Whitehaven, where that sense of beginning resolved itself into the rest of our lives. We were making love, if I close my eyes I can see this night, see our bed against the window, the gauzy curtain floating toward us in a kind of moonlit dance. Such poetry prescribed to memories – turns out I have this talent too, Ben.

I was watching the curtain and you above me, your beautiful, serious face in shadow, and how your touch felt just as light on my skin. I need you to know something you said as you moved inside me, and I closed my eyes, squeezed them tight, listening to your breath and the advance-retreat of the waves outside. My eyes were still shut when you said, so simply, I love you Anna and I kept them closed to hold onto the moment, to take in your body and your words. Cells and words absorbed, dissolved, inside me.

And I cried Ben. I cried that first time you said I love you, lying there with my eyes squeezed shut. That’s why it took so long to say it back, that was the pause you must have felt, the silence that led you to roll off me and turn away. I returned the words against your back, remember. I love you too, Ben.

I’m in that same bed tonight. Eyes still closed, searching out that memory, embellishing it with ideas of moonlight and dancing curtains. Perhaps all I really remember is the way you said I love you, and how it took too long for me to respond. It turned out we were only ever going to be able to make light of such declarations. Quickly taking out the I from the sentence, learning to hand out love you breezily, this compressed version that would become far easier to say, and to receive. Moving somehow from declaration to assertion. But that first I love you was magic, Ben. I just never told you, never had the language to tell you about champagne fizzing, about phosphorus under my skin. What else did we forget to say across the years?

I am not surprised to find myself melancholic tonight. I have come to Whitehaven for the first time since your death, come alone for the first time, ever. We have three weeks until our little girl makes her entrance, and despite protestations from all concerned – with your mother the loudest – I wanted to take this weekend out from the new life I’ve been living. I wanted the ocean sounds and the grit of sand beneath my swollen toes before this new baby comes. Something to calm me, something to centre me because the truth is I don’t know if I can do it. I’m terrified, and the only place I am not so scared is here. Swimming out into the deep, remember. I am hoping the weekend will remind me of what I used to love.

When I open the front door with the half rusted key, I know I am stepping into my past. There are ghosts everywhere, memories rustling from room to room as I switch on lights and open windows. The smell of salt and seaweed mingles with the musty scent of a house that has been locked up for months. It must feel nice, I say out loud as I listen to the whistle of air rushing through the lounge after I leverage open her doors. It must feel nice to be revived. The ghosts concur.

I have brought you with me, Ben. Packed in my suitcase with my cotton dress and Havaianas. Or perhaps part of you was waiting here already, little flame-flicker memories of you that I have not been able to sit down with in the city. I feel you everywhere in this house, I feel us here, and Ollie. We’re untouched here, Ben. Pristine. How can I even explain it, when our real home baulks and strains against us. Were we only ever truly a family for those three weeks a year, is that it? The ghosts rise up and mix with the dust, and refuse to give me an answer.

**

Move On …

“I chose, and my world was shaken – so what?

The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not

You have to move on …”

– Sondheim, Move On

You get up the next morning because you have to. Because the time has long since passed where you could lie in bed all day and turn your face to the wall. Because this is where you were always going to end up, and you cannot claim ignorance – even when the pain is fresh.

So you get up and you go to work, and you sit at your desk in the hope that the inertia of an every-working-day will help you push it down. You forget your password and answer ‘great’ to questions about your night, and all the while your fingernails dig in to your arm and leave their mark – but it keeps your voice steady, this other kind of pain, and when no-one takes a second look you are grateful for the sensation.

If you are a little white in the face and your shoulders are weighed down, it can be chalked up to that extra wine the night before. And though you cry silently in a bathroom stall through lunch, you wash away the tracks before the hour is out.

This is how it goes. The first next day, and the worst, because it’s all just sitting there on your skin, this ache. You will not listen to love songs – you know not to listen to love songs – and it’s a quiet day when you don’t have a soundtrack. Just the ticking of the clock, and if you could shift the hands forward you would, because it is okay to crawl in to bed when the sun goes down. No-one cares if you face the wall at night, in the hours assigned to the broken-hearted.

It’s the daylight you have to watch in the coming weeks. Those mornings where your skin is just a little flayed, your nerves jangling on the surface as you scrub at wine-cracked lips. Trying to remove the stains, hiding the evidence from the night before. Applying an extra layer of concealer before you go.

You are a fortress in defence of your sadness. You don’t want to lose it to the seven stages, not when it has been the only steady thing. But of course you are well on your way despite yourself. You skipped right over denial, and before long anger makes its presence known. It suddenly threatens to replace the hollow with a heat. It flares in your chest every time you revisit that last text – the one that says ‘if you need me …’ well fuck, when didn’t you need him? And there it is again, the little flame that won’t go out.

(You taste a little acid on your tongue each time you bite down on this new life of no reply).

Until one day you delete the message (and yes you are sure!), and it is neither heat nor hollow that results. Just a slight sensation of falling, and for the first time a little thrill betrays you. You stop counting the weeks on your fingers, you stop guarding your sorrow, and it lessens in everything but dreams by the time the seasons change.

The truth is, you are moving on. And in some small way you want to say sorry for this letting go. It was never your intention to be the faithless one. You fought so hard to hold on after-all. They say the average daydream lasts 14 seconds. Well this one lasted seven years. But you can’t keep telling the same story, not when time has its own ideas it likes to dangle, just within your reach.

You have to move on. Still, you know why Orpheus looked back. And though you know your past won’t survive the light, you still long for one last look at the dark. You have to move on. But first you look over your shoulder. To see clearly what trailed behind you all of this time.

And just for a moment – in this looking back – you catch a glimpse of two lovers as they actually were. Two glorious creatures turning in each other’s arms, sending off sparks. A vivid blaze across the night of your life.

You watch them spinning away from the world, in an endless, beautiful dance. And then you let them go.

“Look at all the things you’ve done for me

Opened up my eyes

Taught me how to see …”

***

Eidyia’s Note: In re-posting this piece here I see that I wrote the truth well before I realised it. That lyrical genius Sondheim really does say it best … settle for the glow, time for letting go. Move on.

She’s Someone

She's Someone Image

Image borrowed from A Girl’s Guide To Taking Over The World.

She’s someone. Your sister, mother, daughter, yes. But more than that – she’s someone. She has a line deep in her bones that takes you back through time. And she doesn’t belong to, or with … she’s someone.

You can carve her up, invade – but she’s someone. You can lift your virgins and trample your whores. But she’s someone. She has a name that is not yours to dissemble … she’s someone.

You can call her a gift then give it away. But she’s someone. You can mine for her diamonds then disgust at their shine. You can trade her and blame her but let me remind … she’s someone.

She. Is. Someone. On every continent you raise your flag – she’s someone. Underneath your gaze and your book she is someone. When you shout her down she is someone. When you order her body with gavels and clocks … she’s someone.

Revered.

Desired.

Punished.

Reviled.

You have too long called her mine. When she’s someone. This woman who doesn’t belong to, or with. Though history will seldom ask of her name (this woman, this girl) – let me remind …

she’s someone.

Balloon Girl, Red Heart by Banksy
The Girl with the Red Balloon – Banksy

Warning’s fair. I don’t care. Very much (a declaration of independence)

I made a list of things that have changed in the stretch of time since I saw you last. A top five in some-particular-order I thought you might like to know. In the desert certain things grow – so here goes. Here’s what you haven’t heard in the millions of seconds since the tick tock of you and I.

For one – I’ve grown my hair. I got rid of that Amelie bob you liked so much. I went all Blue Lagoon in fact. Long and lush, and messy. No more sharp angles and coy fringe.  No eyes cast down – then up – peeking out from behind a veil.  When I toss my head now people have to make way (it should be no surprise you liked it best contained).

Brooke Shields, Blue Lagoon
I think we have the same stylist.

And two – I’ve gotten fatter. I know – I’m supposed to get fit and fabulous, right? I’m sure that is # 2 on the standard list. But I spent years trying to look better than someone else – to just be me. So I’m filling out my own skin this time. A little extra flesh to feel a little less …diminished. It goes with the hair I think. I’m suddenly full to over-flowing. And very rarely hungry (I imagine in another time with my curved belly and hand-full hips I’d be good for Picasso‘s dream at least).

The Dreamer, Picasso
The Dreamer (and me) by Picasso, 1932

Number three – I’ve gone part-time. I’ve sort of stepped to the side and let everyone else keep running their ragged race. And as they heave and puff their way up the corporate ladder I’ve slid down the snake of sleeping in and pouring wine. Can you even imagine? My ambitious friend! The house I’ll never have, the ceiling I’ll never break? Oh, I’m as aspiring as ever, but the dreams are all mine now baby (I could almost bottle them).

Wild Rock Bublitz
Spilling some Wild Rock

Cause number four, love – I’m writing. Yeah! I’ll say that again. I’m writing! See, all the words got stuck in my mouth when it ended. We used to talk every day, remember? And when that stopped my mouth filled up with everything unspoken. So many words crowding my tongue. They over-flowed and dribbled down my chin, and the only way not to choke was to spit them out. I captured the words in my hands and as they siphoned through my fingers the trickle turned to flow.

Turns out that fucking writers block was you in fact. Renouncing feeling so I wouldn’t explode, silencing the questions – that was you. It all got trapped in the tip of the pen and I scribbled blank pages for years. Now I’m covered in ink.

body, remember blog
body, remember
Image by Joanne Piechota, words by me

When I think of how much I used to say – I suppose nothing was new and remarkable in the end. Even my declarations of love were lost in the rinse-repeat. Eventually we were just like any other couple, ironically. Words as wallpaper, covering up the cracks and revealing nothing.

And now I’m all cracks and splinter, and I’ve never felt more beautiful in the light. So lastly on this list of things that have changed …

If you go, or if you stay. Warning’s fair. I don’t care. Very much.  Either way.

(if you kiss me … if we touch …)

Eidyia’s Note: I wrote the above piece almost 18 months ago, 3 months after I ended the relationship that inspired body, remember. I remember the tentative fierceness of that period, how I was angry, and sad, and triumphant all at once, and how the words just kept coming. Every night, sitting up in bed with a glass of red wine, leeching the feelings out through my fingers. As a creative period in my life, it remains unmatched. Now, now the writing is work – the best kind of work of course, but work nonetheless.

18 months later, everything has changed – and for the better. This is the genius of life – it renews and revives no matter how often you forget that it can. I’m going to write more about this tomorrow, but wanted to re-visit this early declaration of independence, today.

Thank you as ever for coming along for the ride xxx