Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Tonight will be a dangerously in-between time. The leaves are still green on the trees but the evenings are cold and it is dark by five. Tonight will be a night for making sure no lights are visible to the street and leaving knocks at the door unanswered. Tonight the cat will stay inside no matter what.

There are the dead and then there are the living, but how can they be told apart? Well yes, the dead ones are supposed to be ashes, under the ground, or carefully labelled parts in crypts. Occasionally suffering a sea change is also acceptable. But that’s what is supposed to happen. It doesn’t always.

I mean look at me. Am I the woman I once was?
I don’t think so either.

Even the memories are those of a stranger: a remote assemblage of things that happened some place else a long time ago to a casual acquaintance who subsequently drifted out of touch as such acquaintances do. When did she move out? And who or what moved in instead?

No. Those questions are too disingenuously innocent. When did I kill her off? Why? And how did I end up inheriting the body? Why isn’t it safely underground or decently scattered ashes?

None of which I say to the woman sitting opposite me. I fear I made a mistake when I let her inside. But when we were children we were good friends. So what else could I do?

“It’s all so shamelessly self-indulgent” she continues smoothly without pause (and I must confess that I have lost all track of what she is saying or how long she has been saying it), “Just like recounting dreams. That too is fascinating to the dreamer (and why shouldn’t it be?) but so interminably tedious for those forced to listen to endless recitations of “and then suddenly I realised that I wasn’t naked in my old high school auditorium at all, but stuck in Euston Station with the train just pulling out. What do you think it all means? Do you think it was about S-E-X?” She pulls a quizzical face, exaggeratedly wide-eyed.

“No,” she replies sharply to her imagined interlocutor, “It’s about being an unutterable B-O-R-E!” She sighs. “I’m probably not really cut out for this whole dream analysis schtick,” she says, “but the money is good.”

I shift in my seat wondering if I should try for a word in edgewise. I think she should leave now. I thought she was leaving already. The taxi to the airport has been called but it seems to be taking forever to arrive. Me? I just want my life back.

“Anyway” I think irritably to myself, “I never dreamed things like that. All my life – and hers too – I dreamed of two things: journeys and deaths. Both of them my own.”

There is no describing the country of those journeys: it is beautiful and it is terrible and it is home. To describe the deaths that find me there would miss the point. Yes. They are nightmares but I hated to wake. Though it is perhaps amusing that the means by which I sometimes met death never once coincided with those which I used, from time to time, to seek it out.

Oh yes. That’s what she was saying was self-indulgent. Talk about full circle. Her sister and the saga of finding the right doctor and the right medication and the right dosage and the right talking treatment and why doesn't she just get over herself already and stop being so interminably B-O-R-I-N-G and it was just like her clients and they were just as bad.

But there are no bottles of pills in my kitchen cupboard: there have not been for some years now. And I do not drive. Were my arms bare today (though why would they be on such a clammy chill evening?) there would be no scars or scratches at which to be alarmed, though the particularly observant might note bruises that looked recent. And these last few years it is true that I have developed a seemingly unquenchable thirst for solitude.

She, on the other hand, is infinitely more garrulous and more brittle. Her expressions, so vivid on the face, never once reach the eyes. She speaks words spun out of glass at shattering point.

Outside the taxi pulls up. Finally.

“Anyway – so lovely to see you again! When are you coming out next? I know. I know. It’s a long flight. But when you do go home, do come and stay with me!” she says as the taxi pulls up. “I didn’t really mean that about my sister. I do love her really. She just doesn’t seem herself any more. And I shouldn’t bitch about about my clients – hope I didn’t bore you – but there’s something so liberating about just cutting loose and letting it all hang out. It’s such a release, you know? Cathartic!”

“That’s fine. Take care. Have a safe journey.”” But some unknown impulse makes me add at the last second,“I don’t know about catharsis – I was never much good at that. Repression on the other hand." I shrug. "Turning that pressure upwards and inwards notch by notch until it crushes you into something else.” I shrug again. It is as close to an admission as I have ever come. “Anyway, take care.” I say again and smile. But I don’t know if the expression reached my eyes or not.

She looks puzzled for a second, then heads for the taxi. I watch her carefully as she goes and politely wave goodbye. Did her feet quite touch the ground? Did she look a little transparent as she got into the cab? Translucent? Does that brilliant lipstick hide cold pale blue lips? How did she come to inherit the body? Perhaps I should have asked her.
No matter. It is not a question I know how to answer properly. Why should she?

The taxi pulls away. I herd the cat back inside. Lock the front door and secure the chain. This door will not be opened again tonight, no matter who comes knocking. I turn off all the lights visible to the street and retire to one of the back rooms with a book. To do otherwise on this night is to invite lit fireworks through the mail slot and smashed eggs on the windows.

But the kids roving about in the supermarket vampire costumes are okay, really. And if the ghostly dead get out and about once a year, what of it? When push comes to shove, it’s the ghosts of the living that spell trouble. And we're so much harder to spot.


Blogger dove said...

It being Halloween I thought I'd have a go at a ghost story.

11/01/2006 12:22 am  
Blogger Man Eegee said...

glad to see you wielding the pen again, dove. i often feel as though i am a specter, mist, walking among shadows - i suspect it's been due to the lack of real-life activism. that'll be changing soon so hopefully the darkness will dissipate.


11/02/2006 1:38 am  
Blogger dove said...

It's good to be wielding a pen again, I think, albeit with somewhat unanticipated results. I didn't intend to be away nearly as long as I was.

Take care of yourself Manny. It sounds like things have been fairly rough lately.

11/02/2006 11:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello world! I'm from Latvia, I now have a computer and Internet! It's so interesting here! But on some forums I see strange posts, they offer to buy some pills or something and they look very stupid. It is robots posting? I thought moderators should delete such posts. Maybe somebody will explain me what's going on? But at all it is very interesting to speak to all you people!
Kisses! :)

2/01/2007 1:03 pm  
Blogger dove said...

It's called "I have been a very very very bad blogger lately" (and possibly I need to turn the visual moderation on -- though I'm reluctant to do so. Not in hopes: hope never was my strong suit. Just because, I guess).

2/05/2007 10:32 pm  
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2/06/2007 10:55 am  

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