settle your stomach

settle your stomach

as we lie about

the how

and where

and for how long

but not what,

we always knew there was something –

we didn’t care what it was

as long as it was there.

I settled on your stomach

laughing about

the mess we have created

with our dishonesty

while your laughter

shook our skin

so that pieces of memories

fly in every direction

discharging our obligations –

if we cannot remember

our love

if we cannot define our feelings

maybe we never loved

maybe we never felt

at all.

The Train Station

I went to your platform, with a satchel on my back and your music in my head

I was about to board your train

But the signs on the walls held me back. They said

                  No clowns, no criminals, no fun and games, no carving names into seats;

                  Sex, but not sexuality, feeling, but no speaking of it, no honest conversations, nor baggage, no bare feet;

                  No open-mindedness, and no history, everything picked apart and put back together, altered, amended, no wait and see;

(with no thought to how that would change me)

                  No food, no drink, no lying about and wasting the day, no smiles, or glee, and definitely no ten-minute silences for anything lost on the journey;

                  No adventure, no crawling under seats, no looking out of windows or seeking new discoveries, and definitely no ten-minute silences for the freedom we gave up just to see.

 

None of these were my rules. And none of this was me.

As I walked away, I looked back at the train to see how I would feel,

And there it stood,

black and white,

on sheets of your imagination

Its destination as far from me as possible, already taking flight into a place

with little broccoli florets for trees and stick men for humans (what childish uniformity)

 

Your train is not from this world; it was just a dream.

This ticket was never free, and it was never meant for me.

I had hope

As I sit down to write this letter I realise that it has been a very, very long time since I have written a letter to friends. The truth is, my time was not really my own, not because I have been too busy, but because I have been concentrating almost exclusively on my fledgling relationship. Little did I know that, no matter how much you bend over backwards for someone, not having the grounding of love and passion makes every moment more pointless. So, on Wednesday, after he landed back in South Africa, having been away for two weeks, I did the necessary and long-overdue evil of telling him of all the ways that I have been unhappy. My intention was to express my hope that our relationship would get better, but he saw it as an opportunity to end things. As painful as it is, he had a point. He told me that he has not felt strongly for me and that he feared he never will.

It was a lonely ending, with an agonising lesson – that again, even though I chose this man carefully and gave myself freely to him because I believed him to be wonderful, love is the most difficult thing to find. Relationships require the dedication of both partners. He never let me in. It was easy to be with him, but it was also a lonely experience due to the undercurrent of silence which characterised the time we were together. He never tried to know me and at some point, I stopped trying to talk.

I may have not believed this before, but I see now that for some couples, although there is also choice, there is a whole lot of luck involved in the moment that two people meet and decide to be together. I used to kid myself that I chose to be single (unmarried) for this long, but the truth is that we are always seeking that special person. No one can tell me that they are happy (totally fulfilled) without the love of that someone special. We need that other person to affirm our place in the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t be happy single, because we can, but love is the human condition we seek. Experiencing the death of another relationship (but, in particular, this one) just makes me think that people who find love are so lucky. Making that love work is another thing, but simply finding it in the first place is near impossible. So, my attitude towards this has changed and I hope that everyone who is reading this will go to the person they love and reaffirm their commitment to them. Work on what you have, if you think there is enough love there, and don’t think there is a more perfect other out there. There is no such thing as perfect.

With him, I had to keep reminding myself that I DO have intelligence, that I DO have independence and affectionate friends, and that I AM interesting and loveable. It was a warning to me; not one which I chose to ignore, but which I hoped would not be the be-all and end-all of the relationship. I know from the past that losing recognition of yourself is the worst way to end up and that no relationship is worth that.

It has been a strange and rather abrupt process of lesson-learning. On Saturday I was very happily preparing to go to a gig with no ill-intention. The musician at the gig, a man (boy) that I had met at a music competition a few weeks earlier, suggested we become Facebook friends. Quickly the comparisons began. The young, aspirational muso versus the unloving (but kind) established man. When I saw my kind man two nights later, I barely recognised him. It was as if he had aged during our time away. Even the colour of his eyes seemed paler. This has nothing to do with reality, just the changed perception I had of him. And now, even though it hurt then, I cannot remember a time when we were happy. Nonetheless, I know we were and that there were moments when I simply adored him. He is not different, but I am, because I am back to being me. Friday night I donned by Docs and my short skirt and played pool while watching bands. I told my friend that I felt 24 years old again. Truthfully, I have been trying really hard to grow up and at the same time, trying to be myself, and maybe that means hanging out in grungy bars and wearing Doc Martens.

The lovely friend who introduced us said he felt bad for having done so, but of course I have no regrets. I was the best behaved girlfriend I have ever been. I didn’t even look at other men; that is, until aspirant muso arrived on the scene. It was perhaps the most mature relationship I have ever had – there were no fights, we held hands all the time, we were generous with our compliments and with our time. And that’s the funny part, because on paper it looked like a really healthy relationship. My mom once told me that I must never meet a man in a bar, but even though I met him for the first time in the park, there is more to a relationship that how it all began, and more to a person than what they are not. And there is more to finding love than the intractable hope I have continued to feel and will continue to feel, indefinitely. I don’t know how else to be.

The Signs

A pulsing red room, filled with distorted strangers in big dresses and masked faces; I feel like I’m at a comedy of my own making. I am desperate and alone. My face is buried in the music, my hair swishing, deflecting my vision, distorting my near-teared sadness. Like a clown, I wear my smile across the plastered paintwork mask. My eyes are like satellites roaming through the haze, seeking my jokes amongst these sure-mouthed strangers. My lips are taped shut by my inability to swallow; I cannot flirt sufficiently without trying to draw breath. My shoulders are weighed by disappointment, but I continue to swath myself in my hair, these tears. This music is so insistent. It buoys me up; it allows me to close my eyes to my own mind. I wish and swish and feel the music close around me like the curtains of circuses. I hide behind its fabrics.

The signs are all around me. They pulsate in this dark red room in the early hours of a morning I want to leave behind forever. I look for exits everywhere I turn; “This way to run”. But I stay. Like an accident scene, I cannot turn away; I cannot run when my happiness is embodied in the advancing form of you. You have warm brown eyes that say nothing but yes, while your smile is far, far away in another person’s dreams.  My signs are easier to see.

My signs are mobile; the gathering dust in corners, the pile of dishes creeping over the sink’s edge. My signs are visual; the salt lines of another wasted day caught upon my cheek’s contours. You can smell the signs in my sweaty sheets; you can hear them in my sad song playlist. But no one is here to see them, or smell them or help me to deal with what it means. Because I am the immobile one, the clinging form of past happiness drip, dripping from the walls of my prison cell; my silly clown makeup smeared across my face. Just another joker.

The signs pile up around me. You never asked me if I was okay. But even if you had, I would have wished and swished and hoped you would have shown me your exit sign.

I grow tired

I grow tired

Of these eroded city streets

Black hands at every traffic light

And the corroded markings

Of ineffectual cuttings

On the privileged arms of the white right

 

I grow tired

Of the way too many bodies

Are trapped behind the wall of poverty

And the guilty feel of money

As it paves the many layers

The source of our inequality

 

I grow tired

Of people knowing better

University-educated narcissism

These detached understandings

When I know I know nothing

But I feel more than mere definitions

 

I grow tired

Of feeling the weight of others

While disappearing into the crowd

And never being anyone

To anyone else but me

Unless I wear big boots and talk too loud

 

I grow tired

Of wishing for something else

Besides this path strewn with city lights

Leading nowhere but to more hands

Which my guilty eyes see

And my fists prefer to fight

 

And I think, Please, Stop

Please, stop