He reminded me of red heat, and dust under a pale sun. He loved to tan. He loved surfing.
He was and came from a part of the world that was foreign to me. In return he gave me solace; moments to be by myself; with my precious words that I was just discovering.
He read my letters and then gave them back to me when I asked for them; when we were through.
He is only a ghost now; written on the body, my spine, the river of my back, the scent of his head on a pillow, between sheets, a bedspread, his warm mouth on my skin lost in high speed, not following or thinking or allowing for a plan. There is only a peace of mind that affords me some rest now on the past.
Writing poetry has become my cognitive therapy. Although it is a lonely activity, it keeps me sane away from the bogeymen of my sister and the ghost of my first love. Technically, now my first love is words, language stretched out like the elastic bands of calamari that I spoon from the plate to my mouth with my oily fingers.
I live in the present moment; safe from the harm of his memory; battle scarring, emotional wounding. We were so far from being a suitable fit anyway. He is no longer familiar neither are his fingers; me clinging to him for fear that I would lose sight of him, of my sister, lose my hold, my grasp on him, shut-upped by her ringing voice and so I shuttle in the in-between. My arbitrary common sense tells me so.
For as long as I can remember I have talked to the dead, spirits that have passed on to the hereafter and in that after time I housed collections of every kind, blank pages as clean and pure as milk, the estate of moths, my useful tools frigid like the weather, stunned, shrouded fakes during all seasons. The light, wood in the forest swallows me completely. Everything has been harder even the planetary lentils. Their name is beautiful and black-pitted, veiled in the pot; their continent and in their honeymoon there are open roads. There are no boundaries, no ghost-pillars; the feast of ocean and the wild sky. As they split open on my tongue, these cathedrals that was once as hard as stone become cauldrons, unflinching masters. I need nerves of steel here over the steam escaping from cooking pots; a wonderland of Basmati rice and chicken curry. We grew up fast. There was church, school, and afternoon activities and then there was our house; our home, our parents, our family, where the roots of a supreme cover-up began.
The silent sea under the pier at Shark Rock in Port Elizabeth I imagine must feel like ice and I can feel myself slipping, between the waves welcoming folds, drowning in this watery landscape of a small town setting becoming a flailing half-drowned thing, the ocean's skin on my skin. If only I had not grown up wild, heard all these words inside my mind like pine or willow trees, heard their music gel like the song of wind sweeping through the branches in a desolate forest, multiplied with the unbearable lightness of the features of my serotonin and dopamine and wondered what seed would embed itself comfortably in that heady space of wild blue sky; the seed that was words? I have turned myself perfectly into this wintering where I am an uninvited guest. With this self-knowledge comes joy and the emptiness of loneliness and childhood hurts, opening myself up to possibilities.
In melancholy, I am locked in a quaint, inventive state of mind like animals captured and paraded in zoos or portraits of every generation.
I refuse to die here. Instead, I lay on my bed, covered with the bedspread. I pretend I cannot get up today, I cannot move, stir from this place. On every branch, every leaf sighs dew, intact bubbles of purified water. If I squeeze it with a finger, it oozes like a spasm, like blood falling, before the bubble melts. The conflict that is inside every man is the same conflict inside of me. How to make contact with a vital, young woman who is as visible as stone and the conflict within me is how to be that woman, unquestioning, imaginative, aware of how to create, to create children but it is a pointless exercise at my age. Perhaps if my mouth was still shut up like a door or a brick wall like it was in my youth I would have more hope, then there would be more hope for me.
How sweet lukewarm hot chocolate milk tastes when the wind is up, sometimes hollering, sometimes just banging incessantly against the windows, caught in my hair as I give the dog food and fresh water in the twilight watching the new moon. How sweet my parents would have been in the beginnings of wedded bliss playing house. I buy and arrange furniture flying solo. No science, proof of life, Dadaist instruction given to me to grow reed-thin, to grow as tall as a ladder, to beam me into another dimension, a reality where I wasn't baffled or having to voice the thin red line running through it, the river of fat teeth, the river of tides, the river of mercy, of fat Buddha statues that was my life. I am left guarded, holding my breath under water; the water of the ocean-sea, wearing a green mask that tastes of salt, a ghost with a long memory of perfume, watermelon on a sandy beach, sunshine beating down on my shiny head and smiling in another country. In photographs, pictures as a family we made a cold diagram, our faces launched forever into oblivion in the frames of the negatives with our crooked smiles, gaping teeth. The only thing that I found comforting was our wide-eyed innocence for all the world to see and the fact that we could not blink, see the routes we would end up following. Anxious even as children when we were pulled apart at the threads, sobriety set us in a rhythm that never failed. We painted smiles as soft as velvet as children on our faces, squinted in the white sunlight. Poor us, poor tarnished jewels on this growing conscience of a planet, of a continent. How fragile we were in our small town setting.
What they could not see was the glow of the beguiling machinery that built us. All its internal cogs, whistling relics, traps, wheels, hearts made of stone built to last bloodlines and bombs; the external hush that followed us into adulthood ambushes us at every turn.
Why can't wintering between glaciers be sweet instead of a Mecca in an age of iron? Why does it have to be a lesson, lines in a blood knot, a blot on the landscape that leaves me thrilled and bedazzled wanting more? Then shutting out death until it is no longer present or hostile, putting out its feelers for barbarism for life.
You, my brother, older, grown up, turned in an ocean of beads. Your eyes were ice. I am cold in sleep just a body quietly curled up with a belly filled with tuna fish sandwiches and hot, authentic vanilla chai made from tea bought in India where my sister spent Christmas and New Year 2009. I am feeling like waves in dark waters picking at their own feast. A woman like me stays in place shut up like a mountain. I give this to you. This language inside your flat where you fit but I do not, I fit badly wherever my sister fits perfectly, but you refuse it, to have that would mean the death of you and bad luck. Now you are testing me with a knife. How it glints with its own just reward in my mind's eye. Just prick me with the needle; I want to say, wishing it so and be done with it. Apparently, no nurse has to burn as I do. I watch how she moves, pivots, turn, points it and the pattern imprinted on skin. She could beat me with a stick and I, the outsider of the family, the writer and the poet would not feel anything. Certainly not the weak pulse in every unforeseen gesture of my blood. I need my rest. They say I have climbed enough brick walls, licked enough ceilings and then suddenly I am falling into air without a sound out of nowhere fast. Reality is all speeded up; its rock face's habitat, its seduction theory. I have done well to keep this to myself before this motion goes haywire or concealed. There stands a foot not yet six feet under, not yet rot. There is something noble about it. It has that kind of air about it. Does it belong to a director, a visionary or a saint? It would be madness on my part to say I recognise its paleness and the bare heels. This is my punishment; to be called lazy, mad, to be called a lunatic and to be rushed around. Is she hearing voices, the system, the establishment, my own mother will ask? Take her to the clinic or the private hospital, they say, so I have heard. However, it has been said and not been said in my presence. They will see to her. They will see to all her needs. A nurse will see to it that she eats. She will peck at it; my pure doppelganger, whatever is plated in that country to death.