Monday, July 16, 2018

A Number of Things

Life is so full of a number of things. I've just paid my TNB bill...just in time. I read the bill I picked up just today (if I had waited one day, it would have been too late) and peered at it uncertainly, trying to figure out how much I had to pay. RM123? Well, that must mean that I didn't pay last month's bill as I thought I had.

And then I looked more closely and realised that this bill had a yellow stamp on it - a warning - that my electricity was due to be cut tomorrow if I didn't settle last month's bill. So I logged on to my computer, it took forever to load as I had allowed the battery to run out for days, and then I tried to log onto my bank...which took even longer. And then when I had by some miracle managed to do that and positioned everything so I could pay the refused to click. It required me to log out and log in again...why? I don't know. Because that's what happens when you forget to pay your electricity bill and you have left it to the last minute and the power company decides to threaten you and you become all thumbs.

I have been on a course of Barbara Pym novels (interspersed with more serious fare such as Montaigne's essays) and I find the notion of a spinster rather romantic. Overlooked, sort of dowdy women who dress down, always full of good works - no one really sees you, but everyone knows you're there, especially when they need a favour because, after all, you have nothing better to employ your time with. Right?

We always read about the spinsters - those women of an uncertain age - from the slightly mocking vantage point of men, or even, married women. They are figures of fun. Sexually starved and so, always inordinately interested in everyone else's business.

I think I might like making cups of tea and always having a freshly (or nearly freshly) baked cake on hand for visitors who drop in unannounced to tell me their troubles and cry on my shoulder.

In one way of course, I typify the classical spinster - I live in a house full of cats. And I mean full. Last count, 7. I need to find homes for three. Maybe four. Now, more than ever, I regret that I didn't give Smeagol up for adoption when I could have. Now it's too late. So I need to give up one of my adorable kittens.

They were orphaned at a week - their mother was run over by a speeding fiend who doesn't realise that you're not supposed to rev down condo carparks - while she was heading to feed her kittens. I came back from work at 10 at night and heard one crying. I couldn't resist that cry so I went in search of the one making it and found a tiny kitten, eyes and ears not open. I gathered her up and called Veronica - I needed help as I went about in search of milk for her. We found it, in a pet shop that was already closed (I banged on the doors in desperation) and the very nice people there let me in, listen to my garbled, rather hysterical explanation of finding the kitten, and sold me a jar of goat's milk powder.

I took her home, made the milk, fed her (Veronica was still there)...and then went to bed. Only to be awakened about one and a half hours later when she was hungry again. After I had fed her, she went to sleep. But the crying went on. I went down all 17 floors and found the next kitten. There was another one crying but I couldn't find it. And this one was screaming fit to beat the band. So I took her upstairs quickly and fed her and pooped and peed her.

At eight in the morning, Veronica called me. She had found the third. Actually the guards had called her at 3 in the morning but she was so tired, she didn't go down till five. And she brought the little ginger ball of fluff up to me, almost dead. She had been warming him (they were all so cold). I fed him and put him with his sisters. The next day, I took them to the vet who said they were healthy...but how was I going to keep them when they needed to be fed every one and a half hours and I had a full time job?

Here's where I have learned: just step into the breach and do what you can. Help will come for the parts that you can't. I called my friend Jacqui - she told me she could take them temporarily as her brother-in-law was due for an operation in three weeks. Well, three weeks were all I needed. When I took them back, their eyes were open and they could stagger around like little drunks. I quickly taught them to eat wet food (rather than drink milk) and Rose taught them to use the kitty litter. In one day.

So, here was the routine. They slept in the cat carrier (there was a hot water bottle under towels there) and they would come out to feed, use the kitty litter, get some cuddles, then go back to the cat carrier to sleep. They were good kitties.

Now they are about two months old and so cute, they'll melt your glasses. I wish I could share their pictures. But Jacqui hasn't shared the ones she took yesterday, with me yet. When she does, I will. Then you'll see.

Anyway, I'm sitting here writing this, when I really should be cleaning up their kitty litter (oh, there are reams and reams of poop in the sand and some smeared all over the floor) and then reading a few essays by Montaigne, then perhaps taking a shower (I'm covered in sweat because I have just run 5km, mainly because my body has become to unwieldy and caged in flesh and I need to create some room to breathe).

I want to continue to sit and write this but I know I will feel more virtuous if I go look for the wet wipes and start tackling the poop. Then maybe I can go downstairs and deposit some of the stinky plastic bags in the trash. Also the aluminium cans and plastic bottles and glass bottle in the recycling bin.

Life is so full of a number of things. Why is one of those things always poop?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

You Stopped Crying

You stopped crying because everyone told you how pathetic you are. That you should get over him already. That he wasn't worth it. You didn't believe them but you hardened your heart until it was nothing but an empty Coke can you could take out and kick around when you felt like it. It didn't matter. It was just your heart. This pathetic old heart that got broken because it didn't deserve to have its love returned.

You stopped crying because the tears and the source of the tears dried up. You stopped crying because something inside you died.

And you felt it die. And you knew that the world was a little duller, a little more bleary, that the colours you had before, were now gone. You stopped crying because you got used to the pain. This dull ache inside that twinges at times, but doesn't bleed. Not anymore. Your blood is thick now, it moves more slowly. It clots quickly. It is not thin and sparkling like champagne leaping through your, nothing makes your pulse race or your heart skip a beat.

You stopped crying but your eyes are shaded, hollowed, haunted. Not so as anyone would notice. But enough so you know that deep inside you, it's gone.

He's gone.

And your pain is not his business. He doesn't care but it is not for him to care.

In fact all he feels is disgust because your pain was so potent, so public and it rained down recriminations on his head. His friends said, how could you? How could you? Look at her! Don't you have a heart? How could you do this?

And he said, I can't pretend to love where I don't love. And please stop making me feel guilty about it. I want to move on with my life. You're either my friend or hers, and if you're hers, please just leave me alone. I don't want to hear it.

I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of her.

I'm tired of you.

You stopped crying because they told you he said that. What sort of fool could continue to love after you heard something like that?

You could.

You loved because you couldn't help yourself. You loved like a disease, an affliction. A weakness. A giving way. A tearing. A dissolution.

But you forced yourself to stop crying.

You also stopped laughing. But nobody noticed. They were just so glad you'd stopped crying.

And you stopped loving.

You wanted to stop breathing. But that was not allowed. They rained their voices down on you. Their concern. And you didn't want to disappoint them.

You were pathetic.

You knew that.

But they didn't have to know that.

So you went skydiving and wrote about it. You ate food and you took pictures of it. You joined clubs and you told the world, hey look at me, look at this, look how happy I am.

You smiled. You forced the light into your eyes. You posted your pictures on every social media platform you could lay your hands on. You wanted to be everywhere. In everything.

No one could miss you.

Look at my fabulous fabulous life, you said.

Look at all these friends. My friends. People I hang out with. People who care about me.

Look at how I'm never alone. Not even for a day.

Look at me.

Look at me!

LOOK AT ME!!!!!!

I'm not crying anymore, do you see?

I'm not crying.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

My Book

So my book is out. And I've run through the first very limited printing of 50 copies. Who would have thunk it? I thought 50 would be way more than enough. But, apparently not. So I'm printing 100 more.

I have lists of people to send it out to, people I want to give a copy (because they are not depressed enough, and a little more sadness is always good).

These are strange times.

I can't believe that I printed so many copies, that I'm doing readings and parties and book launches and signing the copies and and and...putting myself out there, as if my life depended on it.

And, while all this is going on, putting together the next book...and the next.

Why the urgency?

Beats me. I really have no idea.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Come What May

My dear, I don't know if you still read this; we have drifted so far apart...but yesterday I launched my first book. I selected a collection of my work - poems, prose pieces, formatted them into a proper book, designed a cover on Canva, found a printer...and printed 50 copies. They were beautiful.

Then, I organised a book launch. In a proper venue. OK, the venue was sort of informal but there was food and wine...both the best of the best...and I asked Mark to bring a speaker and a mike so I could give a reading.

I went up on stage, hammed it up, told a few lame jokes, then read three of the pieces. People clapped. I don't know if they were being polite or they actually enjoyed the selections. I realised that everything I write (even the stuff that is supposedly quirky and crazy) is sad. And that I am sad.

One of my guests (I invited quite a few and some didn't turn up which was good because there was not enough space for everybody) said the book was so sad. He had flipped through it.

(A horn is blasting away now, or maybe it's a car alarm)

I chose the 28th of April for a purpose. It was my mother's birthday. The book is dedicated to her and this was my way of honouring her.

I felt happy, sad and drunk, all at once.

Everyone wanted to buy a copy.

I handed them out for free and wrote things into the books...signed copies.

My dear, you're gone now. But I thought you would have liked to have seen me, liked to have seen me or been there.

Life goes on.

It does, you know. And things only happen when you make them happen.

Most times I feel like I'm being impelled by a force stronger and more resonant than me. I dig my feet into the ground and resist, but it lifts me up effortlessly and bears me along...and I'm too tired to fight it.

So I give in.

I give in, my dear.

I give in.

Come what may.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

That Awful Feeling

On Sunday I got the news that an uncle had died more than a year ago. On New Year's Day last year to be exact. My godmother had texted me the news.

I didn't really react - he was old, and it was so long since I had considered him family - he got together with some low class female almost as soon as my aunt died all those years ago and kicked his own children, my cousins, out of the house.

OK it's not as bad as it sounds because they didn't really live with him. Both were at boarding school and they simply went to stay with the aunts for the holiday. But being rejected by their only remaining parent in favour of some stray woman they had never met who was now employed in 'comforting' their father because they could not accept her? Well it was bad enough.

I had not thought about this uncle very much through the years. I heard about him from time to time - he was running a post office, he was jailed for suspected arson - but not much else. As far as I was concerned he was subhuman. What man does that to his kids?

I would have probably continued to feel the same way if my intensely nosey godmother hadn't done some detective work and stalked his new son's FB page. He had another child with this woman... And his son, more than two decades younger than his other children loved his dad. In fact, he considered him a great father, husband and a true inspiration.

His grief at his father's passing was apparent. As was his estrangement from his half brother and sister. He never contacted them to tell them that their father had died.

And as we went further back in his posts, we realised that my uncle had been sick a long time; that there had not been enough money for his treatment; that his youngest son had actually tried to do a crowdfunding campaign and only managed to collect some 30 pounds.

It was all so heartbreaking. That he died poor and sick. No matter what he had done. And that he never got to see his other children again. That he never got to meet his grandchildren.

And I thought about whether it was worth it, all these grudges we hold on to, way past their sell-by date.

And I thought about the grudges I hold and tried to imagine what it would feel like if they died while we were still estranged.

It's been a troubled few nights.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Little Birthday Interlude

It was close to 11 at night and I suddenly bethought myself of my father who was turning 80 in an hour. I assumed he was with one of my siblings because I didn't think they would let him see in his birthday alone. I called him. He didn't answer. Then he called back. I asked him where he was. At home. Who was with him? No one.

I said, OK, I'll come over.

I'll come over and see your birthday in with you.

I called Chubs. He was already in bed. And not willing to get up and drive all the way to see in the birthday. "I'll see him tomorrow," he said.

I rang off.

I called Sue-Ann. She was the one person who would know where I could get a cake, a birthday cake, at the last minute, this close to midnight. She did. She came through for me - first she tried to describe the place to me, then she sent me a location on Google.

I changed out of my nightclothes and sallied forth to look for this 24-hour cafe that sold birthday cakes. I found it. I parked. I bought the cake. I made it to my father's house at 11.23pm. There was loads of time to arrange the cake.

I stuck the eight candles in.

Then I decided that it should not only be the two of us celebrating the birthday.

I started calling and texting around.

Finally by 12, I had assembled my sister and her family on one phone and my two aunts and cousin (my father's sisters and niece) on another.

We sang his birthday in. He blew out his candles and cut his cake. It wasn't that great a cake, but it was miraculous, given the time of night. And here's the thing - it LOOKED the part. With strawberries and oreo cookies and chocolate cream.

We put away the cake, sipped the wine and then I was out of there and back home by 12.20am.

I felt sort of satisfied.

It was no great shakes, but at least, he didn't see in his 80th birthday alone.

That's something, isn't it?

And now I'm back home, resuming the transcribing that was interrupted when I suddenly had my brainwave.

Later for you.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Smile Of A Mona

I watched the video where you were led to your death. Death by hanging. Rumour had it that you went defiantly. Rumour had it that your last words were that you could not die. They said you smiled on the way to the gallows.

I watched the video and saw, it was not true. Your face was contorted in fear. You were an ordinary woman, being marched, handcuffed, to your death.

An ordinary woman with an ordinary woman's terror.

And you died, after all.

None of this, of course made the slightest difference to the stories, the legends that grew up around you.

Quite frankly, I believed them too.

How could you not be swept up in the hysteria? The murder was so cruel. Unnecessarily so.

And you smiled in court. Every picture they took of you, you were grinning like a chimpanzee. You relished the attention. It was what you had longed for all your life.

You didn't look evil. Just crazy.

You didn't have the strength to carry out the heinous murder. The strength to slice through the bone.

It was the man who did it. Even the courts accepted that. You were just the third most culpable. There was the one who committed the murder. There was the one who got rid of the body and the weapons.

I am not quite sure what you did. Maybe you sliced off the easier parts, the parts with tendons rather than bone.

But the legends about you continued to grow. Men were afraid to look at you, afraid you would curse them with impotence.

And that was the real trouble.

Your smile emasculated them.

It fed into their primal fear of the female, the weaker but deadlier sex.



The man who was killed was a loathsome creature. He was willing to traffic with the devil to gain more power and wealth. During the documentary, they kept repeating - this was all about greed. They meant your greed. And your husband's.

Because you did what you did for money. But he did what he did for money too.

So, whose greed?

Your face as you were marched to the gallows said it all. Gone was the false mask of bravado. Gone were the one-liners that sent shivers down the spines of a nation obsessed.

You died.

You just died.

But oh, how they want you to rise. And show your face again.

And smile, Mona, just smile.