I can hear his voice in my veins. He calls me his, ‘Porcelain-darling’. Sometimes in my flat here in London I would move from one room to the next astonished at this ‘love-experiment’ I was delving into. I was now once again ‘a work in progress’ as I had been as a child in Dominica. The first man I ever loved made me feel more of an exile on these London streets. Far away from home, the only home I had ever known. It was the known. Love is like plasma, floating mitochondria, atomic particles, the accurate building up of ignorance into life experience, the harsh, neon underground bricks of illness.
Love for me was always an unlikely dilemma. Do I or don’t I? Sometimes I think we live with ghosts. Love is a ghost. It is ancient as illness but it makes me bleed at the starting line. Curtains at the open window of the hotel room are moving in sync with my little bleeding scarlet heart. Why do I write? I want to find myself in eternity when I’m in heaven. Everything has returned to normal. I am on my own again. I don’t want to strike it rich or land me a guy to marry me (both at the same time would be a dream).
There will be no reunions with family, with lovers, with ‘him’, that kind, sincere wealthy man I first met when I was such an ingénue. He taught me the difference between the words, ‘authentic’, ‘squalor’, ‘but these are terrible living conditions’, and ‘you can even find human nature in a symphony if you listen close enough’. He taught me the meaning of words like, ‘the brittle movements and accurate moments of solitude’, ‘how to be astonished at how ignorant people were, how vain women and men were’, ‘all pictures always carried powerful observations of life in the details’.
I would hear his voice everywhere I went in the beginning stages of our relationship (I called our little affair). His voice healed some parts of me especially when the dark air of night was advancing.
‘God is mostly in your head but most people do what their hearts tell them to do.’ ‘Life is boring and we need activities like love to get us through the day. We’re a match. People think life owes them something if they’re not born rich but even rich people are lonely and ignorant. They can go to the best schools in the world, but are they educated, no, cultured, no. Have you ever felt abandoned, neglected, ill at the thought of being rejected (I felt like that my whole childhood) I wanted to ask but was too afraid to, too afraid he would think I was a mouse, weak. There was clarity in that.
You need to think more of yourself, Jean love. You need to express yourself. If you feel indignant, feel indignant. If you feel confident, feel confident. Don’t be so afraid of the world around. What is the worst thing that could happen (I already knew, that someone could laugh in my face, stare me down until I looked away but I never confided this in him because there was no reason to). Sometimes I think you feel terribly lost. I see a terror in your eyes as we leave one another. You remind me of a lotus flower and for me it is the most beautiful flower in the world.
He could articulate it (love), show it, examples of it (I could only describe it, make plans for it for the most part in my head, connecting threads of the purest thoughts of it in black notebooks). I was his pretty doll whom he spoke of in whispers to in the dark.
Jean, sometimes I think you are hiding something away from me. I think an entire wonderland must exist inside your head for your own pleasure. What sweetness that must come with. It must taste refreshing. It must taste like pink happiness, a deposit of charm in a room that has not felt it for days, for my Jean, my bird without wings.
And so his champagne voice would carry me through the day and for most of the night for this insomniac. Sometimes I could feel the stress on my heart, its thudding, hammering away pressure and there was nothing in the world I could do about it. All I had to do was to live. I would watch children sometimes and think to myself what their gifts to the world would be when they grew up. Sometimes my heart would turn to paste as I watched them and I would think that now, finally everything had been taken away from me. I could never be free and then I would walk down back streets.
There would always be an undeniable lightness in the road’s blackness as evening began to settle all around me. Its magic fingers in my hair, the wind rearranging my hat, massaging thoughts of rope and poison, putting stones into the pockets of my coat and walking into a lake filled with ice and trees at the bottom into my mind’s eye.
I would think of the dilemma that faced Romeo and Juliet and how sometimes when I was feeling very low how that same dilemma faced me. I wanted to be myself but not on my own like this. I knew I had failed. I did not know how to get back to life.
I did not know how to dance to modern society’s beat. I did not know what modern meant anyway but I knew I was a most modern woman attached to absolutely nobody and nothing. And then the tears would come streaming down my face. I could not stop them and why I. Life would had not been fair to me. I did not know anything about modern acrobatics and the flying trapeze artist was a comic to me and sometimes my mind’s eye was a width of a thread and it was simply connected to nothing. Some days I would feel brave as I if I had a destination in my step but I knew that was a lie.
Soon everywhere I went I would hear his voice in my head, as if he was with me in the room. ‘You can survive anything, Jean as long as you put your heart and mind to it. You look beautiful tonight, simply divine, and come here let me hold you. It feels as if it’s been forever since I’ve last seen you.’ By that time he was already a ghost. It didn’t feel real to me. His voice had no substance but it kept me company, the illusion was so strong. I didn’t know how to distance myself away from that habitat of his beautiful house filled with fireplaces, flowers and pictures hanging on the walls of landscapes, a wine cellar. I just wanted to dissolve.
Sometimes you live poverty. I’ve lived in poverty. And at first I didn’t want people to see me like that. You know, drab, pathetic, old clothes, out of fashion. Funny, but it made a difference to them, made their hearts and their diplomatic hearts and heads softer towards me. They exhibited empathy to what I always thought was my unlikely demise. They gave me money and I would use it to live as best I could. There was an understanding. Out of sight, out of mind. It was fine if I was going out of my mine with loneliness so long as it was on their terms.
And when a guy (I really don’t really his name, how we met), he finally he broke off the affair a few months later he was very diplomatic and suave about it. Although I couldn’t understand how he could be so composed about the whole deal. To them money meant success. I had no money. I wished sometimes that I could distance myself away from it, my love for it but I needed to live like other people did, don’t you see. Whatever that word ‘normal’ meant it gave me Goosebumps just thinking about it. And then in the end I thought it was normal to distance myself from society.
From London to Paris, Europe what a pilgrimage, what a privilege. Whoever gets the chance to travel these days? And then I was soon back in London again. Whatever happened in Paris had been an adventure but now it was over. Sometimes I felt vertigo as I was walking on those London streets. I felt blessed with the knowledge that somehow I was perhaps writing for a generation that would come years after me in a golden age. It was a generation who was now experiencing life as children while I was a grown woman. Sometimes I thought to myself I was not meant for this world.
In the evenings London would become a ghost nation but I did not want to be stuck in a room. It was too depressing. I became too aware of my current situation. It would make me feel sad. I would feel like having a drink and then my whole outlook on life would change after I had the drink within me. The man who lived below me would knock a broom into his ceiling and ask me to ‘keep it down in there’ (whatever the hell that meant). I didn’t know what on earth I got up to in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes I thought I would just be writing, scribbling away, staring at the walls. I would think about love, how much I really liked the idea of it.
There are a lot of things in this world that are rotten, unpleasant things to deal with. In the evening or usually when I am alone something always seems to loose itself violently from me. Sadness, a wounded feeling as if I almost don’t belong in this world and in a way I know I don’t fit. Perhaps I am too reckless in the choices that I make. Perhaps I am not a safe person to be around. Too much of a thinker, brooder, reader always keeping love and the attraction of it in the dark until I can feel pin points of lights trying to break through the cracks. I am no good. I am bad at love.
I am bad at affairs and matters of the heart and bad at relationships. I must rest now. Tomorrow is another day. So I wait until the room is filled with darkness and I listen to the noises in the street outside, downstairs, in my own room. And I know I’ve walked that street today like a ghost as if I was not aware of my surroundings. Soup is always good for the soul, as are confessions. Here is one for one. I don’t believe in the death of things anymore. I believe in life as much as that is hard to believe. If only someone knew me well. If only I had a companion.
If only I didn’t have to suffer for my art. All of my life I watched women in their relationships with men. How they would smile, turn their head, their eyes watchful and waiting, how they would smooth their hair down, arrange the food, the salad on the plate or cast their eyes over a menu and how the men were pensive, eager to please in this sunny environment. How could I have known then as a child that I was not one of them? And that I was never going to grow up and be one of them? I would watch these women always smiling; listening (but were they really listening).
And I wondered why these women with their fine clothes, elaborate hats, and brooches why never spoke back. They were always nodding their heads like puppets. I knew from an early age I was not too pretty so I would have to work hard, but also I would have to discipline myself not to be too smart. I reckoned that people’s lives are meant to be celebrated when they’re alive not dead. There was always something pure about the day as I set about my walk and there is something to be celebrated in that. The union of life mixed with the elixir of what I drank (and I always thought of it as an elixir).