There’s a word in German – labil – which, about a person’s character, means weak or unstable (although I often got the feeling it also meant malleable, although the dictionaries I have appear to disprove that feeling; though I often think intuition plays a greater role in translation than vocabulary). The bottom line is that, today, I feel very labil, and don’t feel like writing or working or anything. The only thing that escapes self-censorship here is that I slept very badly and was outside when the thunderstorm started (and should really have stayed outside for it rather than going to bed and watching the lightning through my closed eyes because I was trying to sleep).
I should write that book about parenting as a way of recanting. It was never meant to be like this.
That’s the post. Maybe therapy later on will help.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 154
‘The days slipped by in haste, and Agata grew from being a child to being a young person. She learned to speak, too, though very slowly, and it took her years before she could say her own name, and the name of the woman she now thought of as her real mother. She used to stand in front of the mirror in the dead son’s bedroom which she now slept in, and watch her mouth move and form invisible and soundless words. They would reach up her throat and all the way to the front of her mouth, and then come to s stand still just behind her teeth, and no matter how hard she tried, nothing went past those teeth. Petra told her not to worry, and they communicated by sign language or written notes, for the one thing Agata had been able to do from the very beginning of her life in this village was to read and write.
‘And one day, without thinking about it, without forcing herself to make words, she was watching her mirror image stretching her lips, and rolling her tongue around her mouth, and saw, literally saw, her name drift out of those lips under the red eyes and colourless hair, and hang in the air. So she said it again, and the words became like bubbles blown from a child’s game, and drifted through the room to the open window where the spring sunshine was sitting on the sill. The roar of an aeroplane overhead exploded them. Agata didn’t care now, and she blew more word bubbles out of her mouth. “Petra.” She liked the way her lips smacked together when she said the first sound, and then how her lips had to part again for the second, and her tongue crash into her teeth for the third, and the rasp of the fourth sound in the back of her throat, and the final exhalation of the bubble with the last and final sound of the name. She skipped down the stairs, went up to Petra, hugged her, and said the word out loud again. Petra cried, and lifted her up in the air, and twirled her around herself in celebration. Those were the happy days.’
Aggie pushes the car through ever-decreasing gaps in the traffic, foot down, with no care for anything but her and Lilibet’s safe passage, hurtles along the roads, the dual carriageways, motorways, southwards. And all the time she’s telling the story, she can’t remember where the village was or is, can’t remember when it was that she was a child, worries that it seems like something before even the Second World War, worries that Anna is right, that Robert is right, that Martin was right, and that she’s an old woman disguised as a young warrior. She draws deeper breaths with every minute that passes.
‘And then something went wrong. She came downstairs one morning to find Petra in the kitchen with a man, with the boy, the man, and her heart exploded. They were kissing, and he had his arms wrapped around Petra, and she was leaning into him, sucking his mouth, and pulling him down onto the table. But Agata wanted him, wanted him from the moment she saw him, and didn’t want her mother to be touching him like that. That’s when she started hating the woman who had taken her in, and things were never the same.
‘A few weeks later, he came into her bedroom at the dead of night. “I’ve seen the way you look at me,” he said. “Are you going to do something about it?” And she undressed herself, old enough now to be a woman, to be receptive to a man’s needs, and gave herself to him, there, silently, on the dead son’s bed, the blankets all wrapped around her legs and his when they’d finished, and dawn only half an hour away. After that, it happened every night, and by then he’d moved in with Petra. All Agata could think about was him and how she could get rid of Petra. She mentioned it to him one night, and he laughed, and told her it was all only a game. And stopped his nightly visits. And three weeks later she didn’t bleed. She said nothing to anyone, and then her belly began to swell. That’s when she told Petra about it, that’s when she told him about it, and that was the night they dragged her out into the field beyond the village and cut her open, and left her to die. Until the mentor came from nowhere and saved her. Saved her for what?’
Only twenty miles to go, and Aggie is crying, and Lilibet snores through the tears. To be so alone.