Essay from Abigail George

By Abigail George

I am cooking loneliness in a pot. I am making a broth with it. I add garlic and ginger, leaf masala and meaty bones to the pot and more boiling water. I throw salt in to taste. 

I think of the neverending invasion of war ingredients in daily life. I think too much. I overthink. Stop. Ants tripping, crawling with life. The world is filled with people who don’t care about me or who love me. There were billions of them at last count. I am a tree and then I grow into a branch, arch my back into a stretch. Small and red is my heart now. Just a curious ribbon tied to my hair. I remember when the man climbed me, climbed into me. The bliss I felt at this feeling, this encouraging emotion filled me with hope. I climb into the boat made of wildflowers and somehow land on the moonlight. I make a cave out of the night air.

I have experienced love for the last time. This is the last wound I will ever experience. I think of the Dutch English poet, Joop Bersee, and our friendship. The call I answered was to write poetry. The sum of being a poet is solid inside of me but as temporary as conceit. The man is still visible to me but he is walking in the direction of a church. He wants to pray me away and put me inside a box, confine me to that box. I want to honor him in some way. Of course he wants me to forget all about him. In the same way he has forgotten about me. All I remember about the relationship is this. That I was helpless in his arms. When we kissed, my hurts turned to stone and his kisses turned into a killing machine of the hardness that surrounded that stone. I pulled him into me and he became a siren and the ink in my pen. I gently stroked his face and he turned into a secret. 

You are despair and beauty. You are my beauty and despair. Gil, who are you because I am a mess without you. I have become a virgin again. I remember your pale hands, the strength in your hands. I brought you steaming mugs of black coffee and tea. I brought you roasted chicken and rice to nourish your soul. I no longer have a man. The man who was my man turned into a waterfall in my bathwater. I think of him and my heart goes doom, doom, doom. I don’t have room to dream anymore about him. Politicians have that kind of time.

Air is singing to the solitary world I frequent. To me, to all of me the peas are dazzling green glitter. Burnt mixed vegetables. Coffee is getting cold on the kitchen table. Lukewarm water in an Energade bottle. Mother makes ice tea. Ice tea with tea bags bought from Woolworths. Pale sister with Slavic cheekbones. Middle sister, Middle East, middle of nowhere. So many middles. What is beautiful, what is the prize for being beautiful, give me a horse that could ride to the stars or to Mars. Dazed naartjies spilling over onto the countertop. 

The beautiful one with red lips. Her high heels in a box. Her red shoes flattered her ankles. Father reads the paper. He cuts out articles. The plate is yellow with turmeric powder. The rice is spicy. I put whole chillies in the pot. My father didn’t notice. The fruit is warm. Sweet. Dishes piled high in the kitchen sink. Memories of Collegiate. I was a bullied Model C schoolgirl. Bullied at home by a domineering mother. Bullied at school by teachers. My sister’s hair is straight. My hair is curly. Wild. I can’t tame its galaxies. The yellow of the egg could’ve been a fetus-chick. I live with no resistance from a man. All my life I have carried these war ingredients with me.

See their beauties, see their prizes, see their dead march. The hereafter calling. Plants harvesting seeds that will not grow. I grow older, colder, infirm, weak at the knees until I am winter. I have become just like those depraved wildflowers. Needy and slim. I am a warehouse and in this warehouse I store blackened images that turn into shrouds and these shrouds have veils. Too many of them. I am grateful for the negatives. Grateful for these copies. I make copies of heartbreak and write poems about them. I take them to the flea market and exchange them for books that I read in my spare time. I am happiest in these moments, for when I am alone, I am with God. In the hours I meditate and pray my thoughts convert themselves to only do good. Good deeds. Good things. I pick up a jar of olives in brine that I found at the back of a kitchen cupboard. 

My galaxies for your galaxies. Are you alright? Are you okay? And the voice came again (louder this time) are you alright? Are you okay and then it went away when I swallowed my pills with water. Until I heard the music of angels. I felt safe then and I remember my mother’s face when she wasn’t tired or stressed. I remembered the beauty of her face. I remembered a time when I didn’t feel tragic, when I felt brave and galaxies were in reach and war ingredients were not in reach or kept in safekeeping or treasured or cherished. The man keeps telling me that soldiers are angels too. And heroes and fallen comrades, stalwarts but I am tired. I am tired of shame and being tragic. So I don’t listen and because I stopped listening, he turns and walks away. I only notice when I turn into a bird and feel hungry and the wind picks up and begins to carry me to a distant land on the continent that I love so much. That I call God and church. And the only sound that comes out of my mouth is chatter and birdsong. I don’t like people who are dishonest.

“Open your legs,” he instructed me. I sat up. My back very straight. Watching him as he fumbled with his pants.

It has been three years since I have seen the man. I don’t know where he is or what he is doing. When he picks up the phone he pretends he is someone else. I am in denial. I am in love with a ghost. I have nowhere to go but meet these lines on this page. The female protagonist is waiting for me on the page. The good citizen is made of light. The good citizens are made of heat. The good citizen is a witness. The good citizen needs space. I need space too, to be creative, to be a thinker. The man is a business insider. I am waiting for my man to appear in the doorway of the restaurant. In the meantime, my spirit tells my soul a story about a Native American chieftain who went to war and never returned home again to his wife and children. I am staring at a jar of olives in brine remembering the brown eyes of the man. My brown eyes meeting his. Debussy’s Clair de Lune is playing in the background. I stare at the boneless loveliness of the wildflowers. The trees are unhappy. They are just as unhappy as the woman in the picture hanging against the wall is. The woman is unhappy because the man has left her and returned to his wife. There is a hunger within me now that cannot be sated. The woman is as I am  at war with silence. Her face is as holy as the river phoenix. Wasps blame the sunlight. The lull of the day hovers. The woman’s brother is a drug addict. He has been to three rehab centres. The woman thought the man would save her but he didn’t. I thought the man would save me. 

The woman and I are in the same boat. When the man told the woman that he loved her, she believed him. The house was hurt. The walls and ceiling were wounded. The floors were carpeted. I am not a good girl. Recovery is possible. The doctors tell me that they think sobriety is possible. There were pages turned. I can’t face this light and heat, this chare=ge of energy, the flow of the velocity of interpersonal relationships. Did he love me, did the man in the picture love the woman? I want to ask the woman in the painting, why is she crying? You see, I know why I am crying. I am crying because I will never be loved again in my life and no one will ever be kind to me the way the man was kind to me. The man told me to take my pills in a caring voice. 

It’s been years since I have seen the man. I don’t know where he is. I lay on a towel in the garden sunbathing. I felt sick but still I lay there, not getting up, tolerating the heat. I remembered a man from my twenties. He walked past me, turning his head and meeting my gaze. I remember the heat in my face. He wore a leather jacket in a photograph in a magazine. He was a producer of films. Handsome and clever. He was thin and the colour of his skin was dark. I was not asked to see my brother’s child when his daughter was born in the hospital. I remember when his son was born he would ask me not to kiss his son. I was allowed to hold the child but not kiss him. I remember how the mother slept for a few hours in the morning and how instead of looking after the baby, he gave the child to me to hold. It is afternoon. I am sitting in the lounge writing. I am writing largely for myself I suppose. To amuse myself. To distract myself from the war and war ingredients.

I am Greta Garbo and Pablo Neruda. I am Fiona Apple, Grace Kelly, Vivienne Leigh and Jean Rhys. I have made a temple out of an alien spaceship. Are you paying attention? I am in need of emotional support. I am depressed. I cry the tears of an orphan. I have no one in my life to call family. On my own again I am flying solo. I make a tuna fish salad. I think of the sea and pollution. I think of the blue sky and climate change. I think of the genius of this fish, and eating if eating the genius of this tuna would turn me into one. I make a dressing with black pepper, sugar and vinegar.. I butter bread, sit down at the kitchen table and eat happily. I don’t have the man in my life anymore but I have food.

When the man kissed me, I wanted him to extinguish me. These  days I practice doing good. When I do good, I feel good. I have hours, days, and silence ahead of me. I am as strong and peppery as a jalapeno and disciplined. I turn books into old friends and call it natural progression. I don’t know what to do about the anger inside of me. Please tell me what to do about the anger inside of me.