Some people would draw it but I choose words for my pictures. You know the place, you’ve passed through on your way to somewhere else. You didn’t stop and if you did it was just to buy some food before you drove on. It was nondescript, home to no one you know. You can’t even remember its name. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t small, it was just a town. What were the people like? who lived there?
Sameness came late in life. It didn’t have enough time to
bed in. She always felt on the outer, even now. She still knew single women who
owned bright scarves and loose fitting summer dresses. They danced on beaches
in the moonlight in holiday brochures. In reality they drank cocktails and read
racy novels by pools in places that were out of season, holidaying in weather
that was slightly overcast.
She had learned to cry silently, just let the tears fall out
of her eyes with no sound. She could do it anywhere. There was not the time or
space to cry in front of anyone. She realised now that all women learned this
skill somewhere. It was only men for whom tears were a show and tell session.
She supposed the house was nicely decorated. She did not
know. It was the same with how she looked. She wasn’t indifferent just unsure.
Maybe mirrors lied? She could never see her own image without seeing herself. She
wanted to know what she looked like without knowing who she was, that way she
could judge her looks objectively. How else could she know, how did anyone know?
She didn’t know if other people had that problem and there was no one to ask.
The house was meant to be like her clothes, an extension of
herself. The walls were, grey, blue.
Magnolia. Colours she never wore. She found it hard to see herself reflected
back in décor. The whole idea seemed as elusive as the image in the mirror. It
was a skill you could not learn. The house was a house. Nothing more. The car
was the same. Things she knew she should be grateful for even though the weight
of them on her shoulders…it was best not to think about it.
Then there was him. She did love him but she wasn’t sure he
noticed. She couldn’t help thinking that if he had to choose between her and
the sofa that the sofa might win. Or the telly. And almost certainly she was
second to his phone. She had learned to cook, convinced herself to enjoy it.
Convinced herself there was purpose in this life of looking after others.
Contrary to her politics, to what she had spent her life saying, she had ‘settled
down’. The emphasis she had realised too late was on the ‘down’.
Trying to tell herself there was meaning in ironing someone’s
shirts. It was bullshit. There was no meaning. The shirts were just ironed. They
would need ironing next week. Wasn’t she lucky, she had a roof over her head? But
when she added it up, the roof, in
exchange for the ironing? It had looked like a good deal on paper but was not
so good in real life.
She knew she was meant to be happy and by comparison maybe
she was. It was like the mirror, she didn’t really know. Certainly, there was
no time to sit by a pool in overcast weather and read a book. Shouldn’t she be
grateful for that? Except somewhere she wondered if women with bright scarves
were actually dancing on beaches.
She loved her children. They were both special and ordinary.
There was no great tragedy to interrupt her days. No cataclysmic existential
mountain she had to climb except everyday mundane existence. The ignomy of
housework, the tedium of tidying up, the emotional hefting of small children,
then big children. There was no war to suffer through, no hurdle that a tradesperson
She loved her burgundy jacket with the same passion which
she had once marched against-she couldn’t remember what she had marched
against. Maybe she hated the jacket. Emotions were hard to separate when your
time was spent moving the emotions between family members. His needs, childrens
needs, someone else’s needs. Her thoughts and feelings only existed in the
gaps. There were hardly any gaps. She went from yoga to pilates, to yoga again,
sipping stupid ineffective diet tea along the way. She wore last seasons lip
colour and this seasons nails.
She had friends but no one to talk to. She drank coffee in a
place with an Italian name because otherwise it wasn’t real coffee, except that
real coffee was grown in a different hemisphere. None of it made any sense. She
tried hard, so hard, just to belong.
But hidden in the box in the back of the wardrobe, a place
no one ever looked. In a box with a lock and key, hidden from the whole world,
inside that box, written on a piece of paper-the name of a beach and bright,
sparkly, brilliantly coloured –scarves.