Sunday, April 16, 2006

New Life, Old Death

She loved colour – her walls were a deep shade of rusty red. Being Catholic, she had a number of Sacred Hearts on the walls and other pictures of Jesus gazing down mournfully, scattered throughout the apartment. They gave her comfort, but her husband found the stare unnerving. In fact, he took down the one in their bedroom and placed it on the floor, face turned towards the wall. It did not endear him to her as the red walls had not endeared her to him. He had wanted green.

Everything in the apartment was either floral – like the curtains or the sofa - or lacy – like the tablecloth. It was all too feminine and claustrophobic for him and he longed to escape to the cool green spaces of his native New Zealand. KL irritated and unnerved because there were too many things and people crowding him out.

In the hall, was an impressive hi-fi system – her first Christmas present to him; it had taken her nearly a year to pay off. He left it behind when he took off, claiming rather cuttingly that it was not good enough. Cheap stuff. He could get something better at home. He'd never allowed her to touch it and now the intricate tracery of knobs and controls overwhelmed. It sat in her living room, covered with a crocheted doily, large, impressive and useless. Kinda like their marriage.

She loved angels – there were angels throughout the apartment either tiny Christmas decorations, hanging from the door of her bedroom, Raphaelean prints smirking from the walls or sparkling crystal statuettes on the occasional tables around the apartment.

On one wall, proudly displayed, a house blessing crewel-stitched by a friend she no longer talked to. It read:

May this house be a place of peace, rest and love.

Her dressing room had a console table (also a present) with the pictures of her nieces and nephew and her collection of quartz crystals, from her brief fling with the New Age.

The bookshelf in her bedroom overflowed with cheap romance novels, a little strange for one with a bachelor's in English and a master's in linguistics, but she lived in those stories, always dreaming of some dark, brooding, mysterious stranger who would appear one day, see her for who she really was and sweep her off her feet.She went back to those novels very quickly after her marriage, disappearing into dreams to better handle her growing disillusionment with the real thing. Similarly, her collection of VCDs seemed to run to gaudy Bollywood effusions – colour and drama and emotions spilling out all over the place. Nothing for quiet reflection; that would have been too painful.

She had a cordless phone, as her size made it difficult for her to run to the phone every time it rang. Her husband never answered the phone, unless she was not there as it was seldom, very seldom, for him. He had no friends. She had plenty. One of them, observing the drama at her apartment one day, gave her the cordless phone for her birthday. She clung to it like an umbilical cord, her only connection to the outside world in her increasingly solitary existence. Her husband did not like her family or friends coming over and made it pretty obvious. They stopped coming.

Her apartment was spotless, vacuumed at least twice a day. She had asthma and dust always bothered her. The constant drone of the vacuum cleaner got on his nerves and soon she had to cut down on it to prevent the armed neutrality from erupting into a full scale war.

“I feel like a stranger in my own home, I can’t even clean it when I want."

Everything was arranged with an eye to comfort and taste – the effect was warm, motherly and embracing. But there was no bassinet in the corner and now there never would be. Her husband gone, her uterus shot to pieces under an avalanche of medication and any sex these days, only virtual. The apartment was full of things and empty of all that mattered.

The warm, red, pulsating walls closed in as she curled up on the sofa, weeping at the latest Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster. She wept that he was dying of heart disease and would not be able to marry the girl he loved. She wept at the unfairness of life and how alone she was. How alone she would always be. She wept for the absent child who would have given her increasingly solitary existence some purpose and meaning. She wept for her lonely womb.

April, the cruellest month.

A month for new life, old death.


goldennib said...

I never want Spring to mean death for me.

Jenn said...

No. I guess nobody does. It's just that spring is a time when what was once buried starts resurfacing. It's like when your leg goes to sleep. It feels numb. Then when it starts to wake up you feel pinpricks all through it. Which is why TS Eliot began The Wastelands with

April is the cruellest month.

part-time buddha said...

He actually begins The Waste Land with that quote from 'Satyricon':
"I have seen with my own eyes the Sybil hanging in a jar, and when the boys asked her 'What do you want?' she answered, 'I want to die.'"

I'm not trying to out-nerd you here, but Eliot would not have begun his masterpiece with this quote is it were not significant. However, his snobbish insistance to leaving it in dead languages means that most people (these days) overlook it.

But this still falls in line with your arguement: if all you want is to die, it must be cruel to watch everything else come back to life.

Jenn said...

Oh Wow! I didn't know that. I think like everyone we skipped all the Latin bits (and the German, there was German wasn't there) and went straight to April is the cruellest month. Whence we had a long, long discussion on the significance of spring (in the north at least, because in the South April is the middle of autumn) and death.

So cool. I love nerds. Feel free to outnerd me any time.

part-time buddha said...

Okay, permission to nerd it up taken.

Yes, there is German, right afer 'I will show you fear in a handful of dust' (my favorite verse ever.) Those lines, and the one 8 lines later, are from 'Tristan und Isolde,' which is, in part at least, a story about things not being what they are.

There is also a line in German earlier which means 'I am not Russian at all; I come from Lithuania, I am a real German,' which once again deals with things not being what they seem. (I pick on this theme because I feel the opening line, 'April is the cruelest month' does the same thing: most people (in the north) look forward to spring. The poem disregards that for its own ends.)

To fill you in a little more, The Sybil, which I is spoken of at the very beginning, is a mythological figure. Apollo granted her the eternal life she begged for, but she forgot to ask for eternal youth. So she got older and older until she'd shriveled so much she could be kept in a bottle.

Jenn said...

Oh that Sybil, I remember her from Greek myths. She was one of the reasons I hated Apollo. The other was Eurydice. He kept having to have these women. And if they would have him in turn, cursed for life.

All of this highly, highly inneresting...I am high right now, though not on alcohol.