Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Perfection. No demands, no lies, no tears. She was the perfect person to divorce. She had taken the news of his extinguished love with calm composure. She had stared past his pleading eyes. Those eyes she had looked at for countless years, and she had nodded her head.
She was thinking about the way the trees in the distance seemed to be nodding their assent to her quiet decision. Her decision to accept this, as she had accepted him for the last few years. The way she had accepted him into her bed when she didn't want him, the way she had accepted his silence when all she wanted was a conversation. The way she had accepted his mute insults, his looks of disgust when she wished for an admiring glance.
She awoke from her meditation and he was talking. “I just can't do it any more. You know I love you, and I could never have imagined...” The trees in the distance were now shaking in the breeze, then bowing their heads now denying his presence. No, no, no. Goodbye.
“Ok, that's fine”- she heard herself say. Her eyes fixed on a poplar pine that seemed to be about to break in the wind.
“That's it?”- he said.
“What would you like me to say?”- she answered.
I won't beg, I won't talk, I won't say anything, because nothing works. I have tried, her innards whispered to the wind.
Some time later, she heard the door shut and she glanced at his foot leaving at the same time as the wheel of his suitcase crossed the door.
She was alone. She sat in the lounge room staring at the gathering storm. The only noise in the house was the wind howling and readying, gathering the storm. Within her, a calm sea-breeze swept her tropical seas, lulled to sleep the tranquil and serene boats of acceptance.
Surprised with herself, she watched as the first drops of rain stained the pavement outside her door.
The howling winds gathered up speed, and the rain became heavier and gusts propelled the water horizontally. Before long, the street was flooded, the water touching the confines of the road. The drains overflowed and the rain showed no signs of abating. She contemplated the spectacle and wondered if this was nature's response, crying the tears she refused to cry. Her thoughts were thus preoccupied when she noticed that the water had now broken its banks and was flowing towards the already overflowing creek and directly into the front yard of the house across the road. The grimy water and leaf debris was nudging the front step. A figure appeared at the front door, and a few people down the road were starting to walk towards the house. A rescue truck with sandbags stacked in the back was already parked a few metres down the road.
Without a further thought, and pulling on her gumboots, she ran across the road, taking only her house key.
The water pushed at her, the torrential speed pushing at her legs as she crossed the river that was usually a road.
Leaves and sticks beat at her legs as she forced her way across.
The noise of the water and the roaring of thunder drowned people's voices. Stepping on the opposite kerb, she busied herself lifting large waterlogged sandbags and stacking them against the house. When all the sandbags were used up, another truck pulled up with a load of sand. It was tipped onto the ground, and the rescue officers brought an armful of empty Hessian bags to be filled. The people worked mostly in silence. Digging the sand and filling the bags was hard work. Exhaustion was neglected ahead of the need to keep the water away from the houses. The water had now reached five other houses on that side of the street. Her boots had long ago overflowed, and the cold water and the soft sand that she trudged on underfoot was the same that squidged in her boots.

Orders were given, as the rain gave no signs of easing off. The repetitive task kept her mind occupied. Hours and hours went past, her body aching and her limbs begging for respite. Digging and filling bags, then lifting them and stacking them on top of the others.
In the early hours of the morning, the rain eased to a drizzling haze. The tired neighbours started to retreat back into their own homes, counting their blessings. The camaraderie that had joined them for the night dissipating with the flood waters. The raging river that was the road slowly becoming static.
She stood in the water, at a loss, her sense of purpose leaving her, her distraction ending.
Exhausted and aching, she took her boots off by the door, and walked straight into her bedroom. Her wet and muddied clothes a pile on the floor. She climbed into her side of the bed and fell almost instantly asleep.
The street was a bustle of activity for the next few days. Rescue trucks cleaning up the damage and sweeping up the mud. Engineers assessing the creek and monitoring water flow. Council workers carting off branches, insurance officers assessing homes and storm damage.
She sat calmly watching the world passing by. The world had wept for her, the tears she had not shed; would no shed.
During those weeks, the clean up of her marriage took place in conjunction. The calm after the storm, the repair. As if it had never happened. Money was transferred, furniture was moved, slowly obliterating their lives together. Her curtains were changed, his smell faded, the dent her wedding ring made on her finger fainter every day. The road was swept, the water dried and the mud drained away. The branches were piled and then shredded; taken away to mulch someone's garden.
A month after the floods, the street was as it had been before, calm, still, pristine. Those driving past unaware. Unless you were told the story of what had passed, no signs remained.
She faced looks of pity everywhere she went. People would seek signs on her face, some tell-tale sign. Finding none, they would become confused and ask her how she was doing, or offer advice, or ask if she was seeing someone. She started to avoid people, and spend more time staring at the television. Sometimes she would clean dishes, sometimes she would sleep. She started to become accustomed to solitude, and still she felt nothing.
The rain continued. Temperatures started to rise a little, and flowers came into bloom, and new green growth sprouted on trees. The seasons did not change rapidly, as if the shock of a season change would cause an uproar. Everyone was eased ahead gently. So the rain continued well into spring.
One cloudy morning in summer, she ran into Nadia, and old friend of hers and her husband. She was a woman whom she did not enjoy socialising with, and had thus avoided since the break-up.
Nadia did not look at her, unlike others did. She seemed to skip the step that everyone proceeded to when they saw her: the searching look, the pitiful stare. Instead, more preoccupied with her own agenda, she rambled on about all the tasks she needed to perform for the day. And yet, she was not moved. Her own blank stare remained unabated. She was waiting for the usual awkward excuse that Nadia would invariably reach to eventually: “Well, you look great, it's good to see you!”
Instead, to her surprise, she heard the topic of conversation proceed in an unexpectedly oblique direction:
“ that was when I heard you guys had split up; and then I ran into Stuart, saw him at the mall, in fact. He seemed different from the last time I saw him. You know what it was? He seemed better, happier. As if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders.” This last sentence caused her to look up at Nadia's face. She had not expected such a direct insult. A weight lifted off his shoulders? His burden gone? That wife that made him so unhappy? It was her turn to search someone's face for clues.
“....and then he told me that you guys had split up. I said that he looked like maybe it was a good thing, and he said it was. Oh, no offence intended, but I always thought maybe I would have a chance at him, if you know what I mean?”- she winked in a coquettish manner, and placing her saccharine hand on her arm.
“You did know he is seeing someone, didn't you? Oh, my, I hope I haven't spoken out of turn. He said they have been going out for a couple of months, and she moved in a month ago. She is a keen gardener...”- Nadia's monologue continued uninterrupted. Nadia's lack of awareness of the outside world was useful, as she quietly and calmly calculated the time it had taken for Stuart to find a new live in partner. If he had even waited until after their split. She looked down at her hand, and assessed the dent on her right ring finger. It was still visible. Unlike the seasons, there was an abrupt change in her. Suddenly, anger welled within her, like and enormous wave about to swallow an entire town. It was so sudden that she felt it biting at her throat, urgent. She walked around...her acquaintance, and vaguely heard Nadia say: “I guess I'll see you later” as she sped away.
Her heartbeat was almost at her mouth, she could taste it. Her body driven by a fury that was palpable, raging, surging, attacking. She moved through the crowd, and her only thought was to find him. Above her, the rarest January sky on record; rainy, cloudy, stormy; started to darken. The late blooming jacarandas almost glowed against the blackening canvas.
She found herself climbing in her car, her shaking hands gripping the steering wheel, and her white knuckles tightly holding on to the car, urging it forward. She drove fast and dangerously, weaving between cars and following too closely. Her little car trembled, as she drove it fast towards her prey.
She visualised how she was going to do it. She saw herself swinging her cricket bat against his head, his wet brain splattering on a white wall. The sound of the wood smashing against his skull, the pool of blood on the floor. Over and over again, her mind's eye replayed the scene; she was going to kill him, she knew it. The calm she had felt until then seemed a distant memory. An impossibility of giant proportions. The only way she could spend this fury was to kill him, end him; and the crunching sound of his nose breaking brought almost climactic pleasure to her exploding chest.
She pulled up in front of his house, and her adrenaline driven muscles propelled her. The light around her seemed brighter, the dark sky framing the scene of her imminent crime. All the anger she had neglected to feel when he had ignored her messages for years, pushed the dinners she had made for him away and made a sandwich instead, or mocked her tastes in music now being given freedom of expression, a liberation that would end in murder. Oh, the satisfaction that her decision caused her.
She stood at the door, imagined the fear on his face as he would retreat from her, relished in it. She looked around, and saw evidence of the other woman, her garden gloves, her clogs by the door. And although she would have thought it impossible, her anger grew. The doorbell was like a chiming of anticipation. She heard his footsteps, and she gripped the bat, readying it.
He opened the door, and there he was, staring at her. Her rage surged, ready for its climax. And in the millisecond that it would take her to order her muscles to act, she saw him.
She really saw him. A thirty-something man, greying and balding. He looked haggard, and his two or three day growth seemed dirty instead of sexy to her. The deep furrows above his eyes from constant unhappiness she had never noticed before, and his downward pointing mouth, which had seemed to her in the past to be a constant smirk, a sexy smirk, yet another mark of how unhappy he was. His expression was a mixture of surprise and....was it still love, or habit, or longing, or lust, or caring, or another emotion that she would never understand?
Her anger, her propellant, slowly extinguished itself. She looked at him, at his face, at his eyes, and the violence that she had prepared for him gave way to something else. An infinitely buried silence, an emptiness, a loss. For the child she would never have, for the many more evenings to be spent alone, for her sleepless nights without him, for his ability to move on to the gardener. And from the silence, a gathering storm nudged at her consciousness. Small droplets at first, but the stillness of her tropical beach was brewing a hurricane, a monsoonal summer long overdue.
He was saying something to her. She didn't hear him. Her tears were falling and clouding her vision. Her howling wind was loud, her throat tearing at her, and she wanted to reach the refuge of her car. Sobs rattled her, and she knew this storm would cause a flood in her.
She drove away, trying to peek at the road behind her tears.
Cottony soft white clouds had replaced the black ones, allowing the sunshine to stream in strong yellow rays. The dust on her windscreen sparkled in the sun, and the rain had already dried.
A long hot summer stretched ahead in the distance.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Mammalian like you

4th January 2011


I wonder if enlightenment includes being able to separate what binds us to mammals from what we are able to discern practically, as objective intelligent beings. For example, love is a simple reaction to hormonal changes in the brain and a host of other rather inconvenient mixtures of shyte that get in the way. Love for our children merely becomes the fact that we need to preserve our genes. We succumb to the purely physical, the purely animal.
Our instincts to protect other children are simply the footprint in our brains: the need to protect the next generation. Wars are males of the species (no sexism intended, but the truth is that is how it works in nature ) displaying, defending territory, pissing in their neighbour's yard.
Happiness is satisfaction in the feeling that we are going through all the motions correctly, achieving our mammalian goals.
And yet we wonder why as humans we have 50% depression rates over a lifetime. Are we in fact in a situation where we are simply trapped and as mammals will sometimes find when they are locked up in a zoo where the cages are too small for them, we become depressed. Are we creating an environment where there is no way out, where depression is a way of life because we can not achieve what our bodies and minds are supposed to be able to achieve. We are cursed with a brain that tries to tell us day to day that in fact the meaning of life lies hidden in a bucket of KFC, in the latest shade of lipstick, the shiniest fabric or the cutest arse you can muster in a summer season. Happiness is the subject of countless books, seminars, essays, women's magazines. How to achieve the perfect body, the perfect meal, the perfect date, the perfect eyebrow shape. Religions provide a framework of behaviour to guide our actions, to get to the hidden kingdoms. Why do we all dream that one day we will be wholly happy, no matter what, we will achieve all we ever wanted? What do we want? The biggest house, a pool, happy children. What is wrong with living now and not waiting for what might happen later?
When are we happiest? When we abandon the laws of unnature that we have set ourselves: when we simply throw creature comforts aside, abandon our pseudo-responsibilities and allow ourselves to have irresponsible fun. We go for walks for leisure, we spend time with people we would prefer to see more often, we get together in groups.
This is how chimps live I guess. In large groups, gathering all day long, occasionally hunting and lying in the sun when it is all over spending time with loved ones. Helping each other out with child care, with gathering.
When people abandon some of society's norms; for example, choose to not have television, choose not to buy vegetables but alas, grow them in our backyards; or choose to live within a bartering system, we ridicule them. And unlike what they are probably trying to achieve, that is, unity with the universe and getting closer to nature, they end up isolated and labelled freaks.
Don't get me wrong, I am the first one to yearn for a shower when I am off camping. But I have grown up in this society too!!!
I also participate in this human race that makes us live longer....and yet the secret of a healthy body and a healthy mind comes back to good food and exercise.....
I guess I would wish that I an live as authentically as I can. To listen to my body, to eat what it needs, to exercise when needed. Our society is such that a lot of these things we are meant to be doing are abandoned ahead of work, washing dishes, keeping up with the joneses.
Don't you ever feel just a little bit trapped?
I wish you all a savage new year. May your inner mammal find satisfaction and peace. Seize the day.

Mummy guilt

They say that guilt is a useless emotion. It is basically the feeling of having done something we should not have done, or omitted to do som...