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March 20, 2023

The Scholarship Girl 08

By Abigail George

Melancholy is the blood of my blood, rushing through my veins, splintering off, veering hastily in different directions with its fat teeth. It is bound in the cities of dark waters. It runs with the aid of the moon, birds in flight, carrion, smitten-fog, lizards and there's so much plain life apparently embedded in them; in handfuls beneath skies that refuse to die. In this country, you can taste dust on air, words of a secret poet and writer. Where were the episodes of tension, the ripples? They were there when I was opening a tin of pilchards, when my sister was making us supper again, cutting up pieces of meat, dicing potatoes, opening up a packet of soup to make a gravy to go with the stew for a broken-hearted father, an emotional mother, a withdrawn older sister who fell asleep every night with the light on; a middle child; a sister, always caught in the middle who smelled like yoghurt and honey and a brother who as he grew older became alluring to all types of women. He is darker than the rest of us with his cropped hair and his eyes. There is just too much wintering going on in his eyes these days and it pierces my heart to bits and pieces; like when my broken-hearted father was sick in the hospital and we, the four of us, didn't know if he was literally going to make it or not. My mother did not cry. She did not make pots of tea, tear her hair out instead, she meditated, went to prayer meetings, went to church and ignored the fact that my father was sick and that the rest of us were sick with worry.

My father was so ill in fact that the doctors had intimated that he was on his deathbed and that perhaps as a family we would have to prepare for this. Nobody that we knew of came to the house, came to the hospital to see him because this was in Port Elizabeth and as far as my father's family was concerned my mother was persona non grata and if she was persona non grata then so was my father and my brother, my sister and me. While my mother ignored it into oblivion and there 'it' stayed, he recovered and everyone said it was a miracle. Instead of talking, we ate. We bought toasted cheese and tomato on whole-wheat bread sandwiches at a café just outside the hospital after visiting hours in the evening and ate it the car on the way home. I cooked, while I did that for the two of us, my mother planted fruit trees, blushing rosebushes and put antheriums into pots, pansies, lavender and herbs in her garden. By now, my brother and sister were living in another city, working hard, going out with their friends at the weekend. Eating for me felt good. It made me want to live. We ordered takeaways, pizza over the telephone that could be delivered to our home, ate fish and chips with lashings of brown vinegar and coleslaw. My mother and I walked barefoot on the beach. I did not get to know her better. I did not get a chance to get to know her, as she was when she was a girl or a youth. During this time, I did not ask her anything, question her about her history, instead I wrote poetry with a passion and saturated the blue lines on paper with words buzzing with an intensity of light and energy. It made up for the passion I did not feel coming from the union of my parents, my sister's coldness towards me; it helped me with some recovery from the universe around me, it helped me imagine, kept me from the wolves, kept them more and more at bay. Eating was like the creation of poetry; preparing and laying the table, fork on the left hand side, knife on the right and glass in the corner of the plate, a jug of water on the table filled with blocks of ice tinkling against the side of the jug and filled with slices of lemon or cucumber. We even imagined we were eating a feast even if it was only rice and lentils, what the proper Indians of Durban, of anywhere in Africa called, 'dhal.' As I grew older, wiser, more emotionally grounded, settled, mature, set in my own, determined ways; as my brother began to settle himself in his work and the world around him, as our loyalty to each other became stronger, I began to see myself in other writers' and poets' work. I was slowly fashioning myself after them, educating myself, learning, processing English, the language and I knew, I knew I could never bring children into this world and subject them to the warm, ceremonial womb of blue seed that the local swimming pool was to me, a sanctuary, where I couldn't hear the raised voices of mother and father arguing back and forth, fighting it out behind their closed bedroom door. I just did not have that kind of tough fight within me.

Article © Abigail George. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-07-03
Image(s) are public domain.
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