Same Script, Different Cast

The morning you died was ordinary enough. Oliver muddled tennis and violin, we were half way to school when he said Mom, I need my violin. Mom. An affectation from too much American TV, my girlfriends and I had noticed the same habit in all of our kids lately, the way they rolled their r’s and whined out our names. I made a mental note to further limit TV, and turned back for home with a sigh.

My Dad suggested that Ollie might regress for at time while he processed the news of the baby. 9 years old, an only child for nearly a decade. It would only be natural if the thought of a baby unsettled him a little. And true, there had been instances in these first weeks since we told him. Losing his lunch so that I had to take time out from the office to drop off a hastily-purchased sandwich, or like today, mixing up his after-school classes after months of being on a clock-work schedule. Two nights ago he had even wet the bed. I found some odd comfort in this – my beautiful boy, still my baby, quiet and simmering under the surface. Just like his Dad. Another mental note – draw him out a little on how he is feeling, Anna, when you get the chance.

I left Oliver in the car when I ran inside for his violin. The phone was flashing, I noticed the red flicker of the machine on the kitchen bench as I dashed past. It would have to wait, I was already going to be stuck on the bridge for far too long. It wasn’t until I had seen Oliver safely through the gates (only seven minutes late today) that I reached for my phone in my bag and saw the nine missed calls, with three corresponding messages. Something fell in my stomach right there as I sat at the lights. It’s hard to say when we became attuned to what it might mean. The multiple calls in a row, and messages left one immediately after the other. When we’re so used to being contactable, so used to being found that we never expect to be chased down in this way. Unless. Unless we haven’t called back when we are needed. When something has gone wrong, and we are not where we are supposed to be.

It’s 9.11. Always a funny time to catch in the blink of your phone. Seared in collective memory, the number gives me pause and then I hit the little handset sign. All nine calls from your brother Joe. A flick to the voice mail screen – it’s Joe again, every time. I am certain in this moment that I cannot listen, that the world will alter when I hear Joe’s voice and whatever he has to say. How do we know such things, such precipice moments? When do we become aware of the moment just before? Thirty seconds ago my life was about getting Oliver to school as close to on time as I could manage, was about my mental grocery list, and a niggling feeling that I’d forgotten to pay the cleaner. Now I am holding my phone away from me as if it is some kind of bomb, the seconds ticking over until it whirs in my hand, makes me jump at the sudden flashing. Joe again, and this time I pick up.

***

Hi there Readers … body, remember started as Maggie Valentine’s story, the story of a young woman whose married lover dies suddenly, and how she has to grieve her loss in secret (if a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it and all that). I realised as I was writing her story that the other side of the coin would be just as interesting – what would happen if it was your husband that died, if you secretly knew he was having an affair … what would your forest look like? I am now half-way through Anna’s story, the wife I introduced here in the piece, Seven. The above excerpt is Anna’s experience of the day Ben/Mack dies; you can read Maggie’s version here. Same script, different cast …

Thanks as ever for reading!!

Rock Bublitz at body, remember

One of these days …

Equilibrium

“Spotting is the process of delaying the rotation of the head, relative to the body’s rotational speed, by way of visual focus on one or more fixed points in space”

Lucy Mason was always going to be a ballerina. An encounter with Swan Lake at four, the lessons that followed in an octogenarian’s garage – these were the first landmarks on the map of what she would become. She followed the path one perfected step at a time.

The finest of lines exists between fascination and obsession, and no-one crosses it better than children. By her 10th birthday Lucy was dancing every day. Feet turned out, shifting from first through fifth in the course of a conversation, her arms conducting silent music. This is how she met the world.

Lucy loved the sinew and strain of a dancer’s body, the strength concealed as grace. She would even come to love the pain this body could endure – the bleeding toes, the torn muscle, every ripple of hunger from the inside out. She knew just how much the body could tolerate when it ached for perfection.

Most promising – this was the refrain she danced to through-out her teenage years. Promising. A vow made by the ones best fit to offer it – teachers, competition judges, the modelling agent who liked her frame. Lucy came to consider it no less than a prophecy, a notion of a future where she was already accepting flowers and applause. She need only keep her eyes fixed ahead to get there.

With such focus, Lucy made the lightest impression on the present. She let life glance off her movements and ignored the chaos of life waiting offstage. There would be no high school parties or fumbling romance, no office job or savings plan; should life present an alternative she would simply steady her centre and rehearse even harder for the life that was waiting.

And when she fell in love it would be set to music. Falling in to arms that would lift and catch. Touched by hands that would open before her and never clench. Not into a fist as it slammed against her cheek. Not wrapped around her throat as she was forced against the wall. Not turning the skin at her wrists a deep and spreading blue as they tightened their grip around her. This was not part of the prophecy. This was not the promise and the plan.

When a dancer learns the art of turns she is told to fix her eyes on point in the distance. With each turn the body is in constant motion but her vision remains set. At the last moment she will whip her head around to catch up with her body and there is a split second when all elements are in synch – a moment of pause – before she returns to her spot and continues to spin.

This is how she remains oriented, how she understands the location of her body in the space she occupies. If she stops focusing on this point in the distance her equilibrium is lost, she will tilt out of this delicate balance and her body can no longer support the motion. It is likely she will fall.

What does the muscle remember? How long can it hold the memory of dancing? When you have lost your balance and find yourself on the ground does your body remember how you turned out your feet, how you used to move from first through fifth, your arms conducting silent music? If you can just fix your sights on a point in the distance, the place where the future is waiting, can you pick yourself up and regain your momentum?

Can you keep on spinning when everything conspires to pull you out of the dance?

Degas Ballerina at body, remember

Danseuse, Degas

Note: Lucy is the second female character in body, remember – the woman that Mack steps in to save on that fateful morning by the river. She grew out of the piece above that I free-wrote a few months back, and it wasn’t until I was done that I realised that I had known her all along.

Where Maggie is constantly looking back, Lucy has spent her life focusing on the future – and both have done this at the expense of engaging in the world. They are essentially my equal and opposite forces, and their relationship will be the real catalyst to change as the story plays out.

Thanks for reading this very rough-draft introduction to Lucy!!