Our lovely neighbours, to the left as I sit at this desk facing the wall writing, L and K, very kindly asked us across to celebrate their joint birthdays. As we were sitting there, in the garden they’ve spent so much time and energy on (putting our lack of time and energy to shame), relatively socially awkward, as M and I can be, I asked M why it was that I couldn’t just lead a straightforward uncomplicated life. Everything over there seemed (and I say “seemed” advisedly, because we can never see below the surfaces of people’s lives) so wonderfully relaxed, uncomplicated, and lovely, and I realised that I somehow had unlearned that. M said it’s because my life is so driven by the need to write, the need to find more time from somewhere all the time rather than just living it. No argument from me.
And just now, back from the daily walk that I had to go on (the one that made me turn down a beer or several while we were next door, and on which I stopped off at the DIY shop and bought the electric jigsaw M wanted so she can saw some wood and make stuff that my hands would never manage to create, I was rolling a cigarette and pondering exactly how I would describe what I think I’ve lost. Is it pragmatism (the definition for being pragmatic I find in the OED is “dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations”), or is it a sense of fun and adventure? I’m sort of leaning towards pragmatism, although a part of me thinks I never had it.
Take my scheduled visit to the doc on Monday for my foot pain – I’m spending time (and dropping the max dosage of ibuprofen) trying to make it better so I don’t need to go to the doc, because my brain is saying “more time wasted,” as well as telling me he’ll tell me I need to go have an x-ray (which again will be “more time wasted”). When, in fact, mt brain should just be telling me to try and get it sorted, and stuff whatever amount of time it takes. I do know that some people, again, will tell me I’m overthinking all this, spending time thinking about thinking, but I need to work things out in my head (and writing this daily is actually part of my self care, a kind of therapy), because I am articulating my thoughts rather than just letting them swirl round my head in ever-decreasing circles.
The sounds of happiness and boisterousness from the party next door wafting into our garden along with a wonderful smell of food are making me happy, happy for L and K, and happy, just because (we could have stayed, but, you know, that time thing and the fact that we are historically hermits, probably the main reason we found and married each other.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 164
Right now, Aggie doesn’t want the sobbing Marit to see Lilibet, starts walking towards the exit with her long arm wrapped almost entirely around the girl.
Lilibet, understanding the body language, hangs back, keeps back, walks deliberately slowly and apparently inattentively and directionlessly, at a distance, seemingly staring at the ground, even though, in reality, she’s scanning all around them for what might be danger, although she has no idea what shape or colour that danger might take.
Aggie knows she’s there, is thankful for her understanding, for her care, for the way this woman, who has suddenly and unexpectedly come into her life, seems to be in a perfectly choreographed dance with her, seems to understand and anticipate everything. She draws a deep breath, pulls Marit closer to her, whispers soothing sounds to her, as she imagines a mother might to an unsettled baby, sounds that don’t really fir together to make words, but just are, some natural exhalations to calm the infant and the world around it. She wonders at the primitiveness of it all, the seeming simplicity of such things. In the ancient days, she supposes, those sounds might have been considered spells, and the women that exhaled them witches. Perhaps she is an ancient, she thinks, perhaps she is that old, perhaps she was a witch, perhaps the memories she has are false to try to conceal from her that she has lived almost longer than humans have had speech for. Why else would the mentor have told her she’d never die.
And now her susurations turn into words. ‘I’ll give you the money back for your ticket.’
‘I didn’t even have a ticket.’ The words, in between sobs, show just how desperate Marit was to get away. ‘I don’t have anything. Nothing of my own.’
So Aggie has a thought, one that forms instantly, not one that’s borne of hours of carrying an unformed idea around with you until it finds expression in solid measurable weighable and meaningful words, but a thought that just appears, from nowhere completely formed. And she realises its risk, and she understands it could be the most stupid thought she has ever had, and she tries hard to dampen it down, to screw it up into a tiny ball like an unwanted piece of paper that’s crumpled up and discarded at the first opportunity as just so much rubbish. But she can’t, and her mouth opens before she can stop and releases what could be dangerous, that could have consequences even beyond her vats mind, that could change everything for the worse, that could end it all between her and Lilibet before it has even began. ‘Do you want to come back to Norwich with us? We were planning to leave again straightaway.’
‘You and … that … that … woman?’ Marit says.
‘Lilibet and I, yes,’ Aggie says in as level a voice as she can manage.
‘Can Katharina come, too?’
‘I don’t see why not.’
‘Will that w… will Lilibet not talk about what happened?’ Marit stumbles as she forces the words out, and Aggie catches her.
‘She doesn’t remember it, Marit,’ Aggie says gently. ‘That’s the point. She didn’t pull the trigger. Valentine did.’
Marit nods, wipes the snot of her sobs from her nose with the back of her right hand. ‘Yes,’ she says, almost too quietly for Aggie to hear. ‘Yes. I’d like that. As long as Katharina comes, too.’
‘Then we will make sure she does,’ Aggie says, and holds on tight to Marit until they walk back into Robert’s house.