No greater joy
My stepdad works early most days and it’s only ever on weekends when he’s awake and getting ready at the same time as me. And it’s on the weekend that I am able to indulge in a particular hobby. A very odd, but very gratifying hobby. This hobby is to - when my stepdad is in the shower - wander into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of lovely, cold water. Or fill up the kettle for a few cups of tea. Or wash some of the dishes that are sat by the sink.
Because when I run that kitchen tap, the shower runs cold in turn. And when that shower runs cold, there comes a delightful shout of ‘HEY!’ or ‘OI!’, as the water pouring over that man turns to an icy rain of hell. I keep it running just a moment longer than could be considered unintentional. I want him to know that this is a planned attack. There is no greater joy than drinking down that cup of victory water after turning the tap. Or preparing a cup a tea for myself and my Mum. Or drying off the newly cleaned dishes. The petty satisfaction from knowing what I have done is stronger than any other I have experienced. And I always find myself looking forward to the weekends.
You lock me in that room, a box only three-by-three,
and, there in the darkness, you let me be
for none to see.
When out of that box I am lead,
it is with a leash round my neck and a black bag over my head
to cover where my hair was shred.
You drag me around for walk and water,
you see not your son, but a daughter;
she is what you birthed, she is what you taught her.
And you when you dress me in silks you made on your loom,
I wish desperately to return to my little room,
where darkness has died and instead colours bloom.
Quiet night in.
I skim my hand over the water’s surface, ever so gently. The temperature of the bath matched to mine. There is no end to me or start to it. I am surrounded and I rest so freely in that knowledge. All my sounds amplify here, though, despite that it is far from quiet. The slosh of water, the draw of breath. The creak of pipes, the wind outside. Even so, I make sure to keep my movements slow and don’t dare speak words into the almost-silence. There is nothing I need to say, anyway. There is a heaviness to my thoughts that leaves them long since sunk. That heaviness rests in me as I lay with all but my head and kneecaps submerged. I let the feeling anchor me for a long while, until the water grows cool and staying becomes more uncomfortable than leaving.
Patterns I had drawn up my arms earlier today remain despite the wetness. Messy, fragmented lines breaking from spiralling designs into half-formed thoughts into long, arching shapes. The ink is jagged like dark cracks across my skin, turning the sharp plainness of myself to a fractured mosaic. I have made myself into a work of art and I just can’t help appreciating it. It is beautiful and graces me kindly. The ink doesn’t run with the water drops as I stand from the bath. I’m glad it hasn’t smudged but avoid touching it just in case. When I step out of the bath and wipe myself dry the ink only slightly fades - still fully visible though more grey than black. It looks more natural this way, I suppose. Blends better with the tones of my skin. I smile and let my sleepwear cover the pictures. It‘s something I can look at more closely tomorrow. For now, I return to my room, hanging my towel on the hook by the door and closing it behind me.
Still damp from the bath, I walk the few paces towards my bed. It is cold from waiting. Before crawling in I pull an extra blanket from the box kept underneath - the temperature outside is already in the negatives, no doubt it will creep through the walls as I sleep. The blanket I choose is blue and weighted, a would-be intentional choice if that was not the only blanket I have left. The others have already found themselves in my bed as winter has progressed. Still, I feel I need the security tonight. The comfort. I sit on my bed, rearrange some pillows, smooth the blankets, and turn the TV on before lying myself down under the pile of insulation. It will play music for me as I rest (the playlist I decided while getting dressed). The soft sound and softer light will keep me from the rawness of night. If only just for tonight. I know the music will be gone when I wake tomorrow, the light of the screen replaced by that which dawns through my curtains. It will be quiet, and I will wake slowly. I will dread the day which waits before me, but I will leave the comfort of my blankets to face it. For now, though, I lay in the low light waiting for sleep to take me away. My head remains blissfully empty. I can’t for the life of me remember why I was ever so stressed.
Windy winter mornings
Morning breaks through the guise of sleep. They have laid there resting for a long while but sleep has not seemed to reach me. The time spent in that state is now time wasted - and not even wasted comfortably. The window that had been left open in their exhaustion now lets a cool breeze permeate the room, spreading past many layer of blankets to kiss at the arms and legs beneath. Light jumps in too, through the blowing blackout curtains flapping heavily with each gust.
Todays morning is cold and bright. The cold is something he likes. How he wishes to embrace it fully in all its icy delight. He wonders how long he could walk in the cold, how far he could get. Could he pass each street twice, then thrice, till there was none new left to see? He wants to leave, to see, but is kept by her desire. She who is only annoyed by the air which penetrates her perfectly warm darkness. It has probed her awake, and now keeps her there as she tries so hard to avoid the coming day. She wishes desperately to be left alone.
They do nothing for a long few minutes. Just lie in the warm-cold contrast. Sleep will not visit again, not like this, so they stall in the in moments between. Then, he leaves the bed and lets the chill take him. Winters day is waiting, and its expected to be windy. Even so, he ‘forgets’ to bring his coat when he makes his way outside. When that first gust of wind hits him it stays to rattle within his very core. Dead leaves fall around me in artful, cascading waves as he wanders down the back path. How cold it is outside, but how utterly warm he feels.
The pack of tissues you gave me, to dry my salty tears.
You did not try to touch me, just stared as drops dripped down my face,
Over my lips and nose in a gushing flow. I have not cried in years.
Least not in front of you.
Our words are short and clipped - like the ragged remains of my hair.
The gaps of silence longer than the spoken sound itself.
Our meeting has weight, repressed emotions and words unspoken piled on, layer after layer.
My haircut started this conversation, but still it is far from over.
I will keep the tissues you gave me. I don’t think I will use them though.
They are the peace between our to-and-fro.
There’s a burning in my eyes and I can’t manage to rub it out. No matter how hard I dig my knuckles in.
It runs deep beneath my lids to rest behind my sockets, and I think it knows I cannot reach it there. The itch tingles like hot daggers across flesh – the only thing absent is the smell of signed skin, which is relieving.
Maybe its my lack of sleep catching up, or the slow build of tears, but resting only worsens the ache when for I wake, and my tears run dry long before any relief reaches me.
I think it is worse, the burn, when soothing tears stop before the feeling fully dislodges itself.
My tears come and go in unpredictable waves, and often I find myself making do with half-comforts. I’ve been using ice packs as pain relief for a while now.
I don‘t remember when the ache in my eyes began; if it was earlier this day or further past.
I think it was a word. Or maybe a memory, that started it.
Something that called to the deep dark doors sealed within me and broke their locks with the gentle press of a trigger. My defenses are weak, so when that dam broke the flood gates quickly followed.
The initial rush of old emotions didn’t last long, but the though of them lingers within my mind. Thoroughly distracting from all I do.
I wonder how long they will last before being laid to rest. I hope not as long as before.
And I hope the pain in my eyes will leave soon as well. It’s making the blue-light more unbearable than usual.
I hoard my words like a dragon, refuse to let them go for fear of forgetting.
Each word is precious, each thought my own.
I shake at the thought of losing even one.
Such obsessive practises clog the flow of story,
Each line tripping over the last to land in a jumbled mess,
Of half finished ideas and bland lines hung with pretty words.
My attempts at imagery cave under their own weight.
Sagging and weak, even I cannot see them for what they wish to be.
I’m sure of what they once were - grand within my palace. But unseen.
How cruel! I could not just leave them collecting dust.
But so much was lost in the process of pen to paper,
And it leaves me unsure of what my words first meant, if I ever understood them.
They are me, just as much as I them,
But I fear they’re becoming another twisted intangibility,
Lost in unknowing, avoided for ease.
I send prayers for the lines that must be cut.
Know they are me in my mind, and will bubble back up to the surface
When I find space enough on the page.
Aches and sores.
My scars have started aching. Dull sensations that ripple up my body; they prickle when touched, reel when my clothes drag against them, itch when I focus on the feeling for too long.
This hasn’t happened before and I don’t know what to think. I thought my wounds had healed, that I could forget about them and even contented myself to spending life changing in the dark and turning away from the sickening gaze of the mirror. Anthing to avoid glimpsing a look at the discoloured skin that patches across my body. I thought I had already dealt with the worst of it; the blood crusting to an itching scab that took an age to finally fall. Not that the itch fell with them - that took much longer to subside.
But maybe it’s the changing seasons. The relief of autumn turning to the welcome dread of winter and dragging the past along with it.
I think that’s it. It’s the past I’ve been feeling. The way it weighs on my shoulders, around my eyes and in my mind as I try to sleep. It calls to me from the scars on my body, opening old wounds and letting the blood fuel whatever twisted entertainment it desires.
My scars are a reminder of the past I’ve tried so hard to forget. If not for them I could almost believe all that happened was just a bad dream. How I wish it was all a bad dream.
But the ache of old scars reminds me it was not. I wonder how I will fare this winter without the bliss of ignorance. The ignorance felt better, and I can’t help wishing my scars would quiet down, leave me be to my forgetting. They don’t want me to forget - but I want to live the easier life, so I will try my hardest to.
Thoughts on Artists?
The path of an artist is the best and worst path a person could walk.
Constantly, slowly, being bled dry of all we are. Blood and will evaporate faster than they can be replenished; feeding the ever-hungry appetite of our creations only for us to suffer the watching as they fail. Though that’s no better than the drunk relief of success, where we bleed ourselves three times as fast in the inebriated haze and reap the results in cold sobriety.
Forever resigned to falling far into the watcher's abyss – where others’ words slice, their eyes stab clean through. That fear so consuming is steals your breath, then all else if you’re not careful. Wounds turn to scabs but never to scars, always a tug away from reopening and costing more blood than can be spared. Artists who have scars are enamoured with the ugliness of them. It fuels their work, though at the expense of dignity – shame in exposing themselves to cruelly compassionate comments. God forbid pity is spared for an artist. What do they stand to gain?
Always taking parts of our souls and chunks of our hearts to be reshaped into exquisite beauty we ourselves may never dream to be. Our medium of choice, our method of death. Decorating our delicate inners, we send ourselves into the world – tangible and ready to fracture. Then rinse and repeat. Cutting out our hearts until there’s nothing left to beat blood round our bodies. Offering up our souls until the face in the mirror shows a person who has long ceased to exist. What little blood we have left. How useless our searching has been.
We are tumbling round the creative cycle with no way to stop of soften our falling. Perceiving failure we fall harder, perceiving success we push to go faster. There is none as selfish as we, pushing ourselves to such limits then vomiting the aftermath into existence and expecting praise.
But for the pleasure of casting such need for creation into practise, what can't we justify? In the endless pursuit to actualise our personal epiphanies of thought and feeling, any pain is better than the maddening itch of ideas under the skin. If left too long they bubble up to rash on the surface, demanding to be scratched out into open air. Such ideas must be outlet or thoroughly tamped, least we artists go mad at our own hand.
Because that’s never happened before.
Willingly we step into a box of our own creation and hide ourselves away in the furthest recess of our minds. We beg to be let free of our prison despite never reaching for the key. Deficient in our dark room, we are never kissed by the morning sun as it casts blessing through curtains. To deny ourselves such simple pleasure is telling in its own right - the kind of self-destruction we crave. Our deaths are slow and tortured; they creep in to sit alongside us long before sickness or age catches up.
Perhaps it’s selfish in itself to make the path of creation seem as anything less than an incurable fear. Fear of the companion which sits beside us and watches as we contemplate all we do not need to. It must be bored. If not, it must be lonely. It likely cannot find company among any others, being as feared as it is. Artist fear it too – but fear fuels feeling, and then creation is born.
By creating, we become secure. There’s a finality in knowing a part of ourselves will remain in the world, even after the expansive darkness of our companion finally opens its jaws to gobble us whole. Creation is a cosy blanket for those who know they will be forgotten. Their desire to live will follow them into death, will be known through their work.
Truly none other is so selfish. No other path as excruciatingly beautiful as our own.
Artists truly are incomparable.
Mother. You who took my seed and fed it with your essence,
Showered me until I bloomed.
You who I reached for through the dark nights of my adolescence.
You would hold my hand as I slept,
My mattress pressed next to your own.
Reassurance in that flame I kept.
When that hand ceased to exist from mine, pain of a sudden stabbing,
Left to stumble around the manic darkness,
Arms outstretched, hands grabbing.
Time did not treat me kindly there,
Neither I to you.
Your teeth grew sparse, and I gained a smile for which I did not care.
Now I realise it was not you who let my hand drop,
But me who snatched mine from yours,
Me who sewed my eyes shut to put all seeing of you to a stop.
Long since dining at darknesses dinner table,
My steps now flow with the falling.
I am steadily unstable.
But I know if I were to feel the warmth of your hand
The desperation would send me spiralling down.
Fed with your blood, fed with your love,
In frozen suspense without your sustenance.
I take the seam ripper and gouge my eyes,
For I fear the mess I’ve made of you.
Blood drips where tears cannot.
Mum. How I wish you would hold me again.