A black dog had its paws on my shoulders for a week or so. I think it’s jumped down now.
My mood has considerably lightened today; I found myself singing along to my iPod at work for the first time in (what felt like) ages. Lots of Velvet Underground, and Stars, and Depeche Mode. I also forced myself not to glance at the clock throughout the day, as this is a habit I’ve fallen into recently when feeling low, as though willing the minutes of my life away will make me feel better. All it does is impress upon me that I’m not around forever - so I fly through whatever it is I’m currently doing, to dash off to the next item on the checklist – be it mopping, dusting, eating, gymming, walking home, whatever. I tend to zip through life if I’m not careful. Forget stopping to smell the roses, sometimes I don’t notice there’s a garden.
I’ve always been a quick-paced person. When I was a hyperactive child, my poor Mum had to administer a mild sedative every morning and evening, just to get through the day without hanging herself. That sedative was also to keep me still long enough so that my skin would repair itself, as I had universal eczema on a pretty epic scale. One of my earliest memories is of being three years old, sitting up in a hospital bed in the middle of the night, with a wan yellow light stretching through the door from the corridor, onto the wall. I was crying, because my skin itched terribly under the bandages the nurses had swaddled my limbs in. I think my Mum had gone home, because I was alone, though I do know now that she spent most of her time at the hospital with me while I was being treated for an exceptionally bad flare-up. But I have a sister, and she must’ve needed to spend time with her too.
I remember climbing down from the bed and heading out into the green corridor, in search of the toilet. I was wearing my favourite white, black and red PJ’s, with the long sleeves that covered those bandages with an extra protective layer. I think a night-staff nurse came and took my hand to guide me along the corridor, and thence back to bed.
Anyway. Those were the bad old eczema days, made all the worse by my being a restless, noisy little shit who wouldn’t stay still long enough to let her skin heal. Some things never change; nowadays, I have problems staying still long enough to let my mind heal. But I’m working on it.
The trouble is, whenever I stop whatever routines I have and go quiet inside and out, things start creeping back in. Memories, thoughts, feelings, all of them turning into a beautiful maelstrom of taking-the-piss, whereupon I can’t get any peace. This is generally what happens when I take holidays, so I don’t take many holidays. This, of course, leads to my much-used body having a bit of a breakdown. That’s a bit annoying when you’re a cleaner. I’m working on that, too.
If only therapists weren’t so bloody expensive! Yes, I could get one on the NHSmeg, but then I’d be wasting my time – firstly, in the however-many-months on the waiting list, and then trying to get through to a pre-paid pill pusher with a timetable to keep and a buzzer that reminds you of this. Been there, done that, popped the pills and back out again. I’ve been off those things since ’05, and have absolutely no inclination to go through the side effects and Hell of cold turkey again.
God, I don’t half whinge! My apologies. This is the only place I can talk about this kind of stuff. If there’s one thing I’m very afraid of, it’s being boring. Or bored.
I talked at length with a good friend this afternoon. His account of recent honeymoon travels made my mind stream with colours. So much to take in, to comprehend, along with the fundamental knowledge that whatever you experience, there’s still so much more out there. In particular, his description of the mountains made me remember -
- another vivid, early memory. Waking up beneath Austrian mountains on a crisp morning. We were camping as a family. The annoying buzz of a cranefly along the ceiling-seam of the tent woke my four year old self. I climbed out of the stuffy sleeping bag and opened the zip of the tent’s door very carefully. Everyone carried on sleeping behind me, as I poked my head out into the crystalline air. The sky was a hard bright blue; the mountains a darker shade, shot through with streaks of glaring white. Pine trees huddled around us, not quite tall enough to eclipse the range beyond them; their thick smell was fresh and spicy in my nose. The first thing I heard, apart from my own breathing, was the call of a blackbird. Even now, to hear its honeyed warble and to smell pine makes my heart swell up like it’ll burst from my chest.
I crave those mountains, thick woodlands that move like a green tide as the wind swills and shakes around them. The granite crashing of an ocean, stark and peppered with foam, throwing itself against ancient cliffs. I’d even take ice-skating at the Rockefeller centre, Manhattan. As a teen, I harboured ideals of becoming a journalist in that city. I think I’d watched too much "Godzilla", circa 1998. 3am, drawing images from the movie book, listening to the soundtrack (Ben Folds Five, Green Day, Foo Fighters etc) with the film on silent in the background, on my beloved TV/VCR combi. Those were good days (nights.) I was 13, it was summer holidays, and I didn’t get up until 1pm – usually sleeping flat out on the carpet on a bunch of towels or light linen, because it was breathlessly hot.
Speaking of light linen – in a shop window in the city centre, a mannequin wears a beautiful mid-length dressing gown. It’s made of cool cotton, palest cream, almost white. Pure, perfect, draping over the mannequin’s hard curves in seamless folds. Half of me wants to wear it, to feel it sliding over my skin like a warmer version of silk. The other half of me wants to see it with a slash of red paint thrown across its folds, like blood. Like the stripe of scarlet across Beatrix Kiddo’s wedding gown.
I must admit, I still harbour a fantasy of buying a cheap wedding gown from a charity shop, wearing it as I perform my monthly hair-dye (always a messy business – the bathroom looks like a scene from "The Silence of the Lambs") then walking down the high street in its white-scarlet splendour, with my antique katana strapped across my back.
Chances of being thrown in a cell at the holding-station down the road? Pretty high.
Valuation of the memory? Priceless. Particularly if I run into a vicar.
“Bless you, my child.”
“Oh Father, I rarely sneeze.”
This is the truth. I sneeze so infrequently, that it always scares the crap out of me when the event occurs.