Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 65

Another fragmentary. I’m copyrighting that noun.

A miniature daffodil has come out in the garden.

I spend too much time writing these posts.

My mind is perpetually racing with hat I should write.

I should spend a maximum 30 minutes doing this, including the Aggie chapters.

It’s too windy again.

I spoke with M last night about my mind racing, and she said I should stop if it’s become a chore.

More like a curse. In some ways.

And stop spell and grammar checking.

Spend more time reading and baking.

Today, I will make a start on tidying up the study. It’s a wreck, and I’m sure that’s making me feel discomfited, too.

And the damn war.

I still haven’t figured out the system for the perpetual calendar M got me years ago. So every morning I spend minutes guessing at where the numbers are that I need.

Illogical.

An episode I wrote down in the family WhatsApp yesterday: I took Madge (my 1966 Spitfire) for a short drive yesterday – she’d been parked on our lovely neighbours’ drive for almost a week after the building here started. As I parked her up at the local hypermarket, a grey-haired woman left her car (with the boot open) and came across to me. ‘I’ve not seen one of these for ages,’ she said. ‘There can’t be many of them left.’ ‘About 200 in the UK,’ I said. It turns out that she and her husband used to run a business which repaired and raced classic minis. We talked about the guilt I feel when I have to leave Madge out in the open air rather than in a garage, and that, no matter how well-fitting car covers are, they always blow off. ‘You don’t still fix classic cars, do you?’ I said. She shook her head. ‘My husband died three years ago.’ ‘Oh no! I’m so sorry,’ I said. And I asked her how long they’d been married. ‘Almost 50 years,’ she said, and looked very sad. ‘Her name is Madge,’ I said, feeling she needed to be introduced to this wonderful car (which speaks to me when I’m driving her; honestly), feeling that it might cheer her up again. And she did smile, and patted Madge’s boot, and said “A very suitable name for a car like this.’ I told her it had made my day, meeting her, and she smiled back, thanked me, and walked off. Part of me wished I’d asked for her name and contact details. The other part of me decided it was best to have her in my life just for long enough to make me happy, and to carry her sadness and smile with me forever.

We all need small joys.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 22

 

Just before she opens the front door, Aggie changes her mind, drops everything, including her coat and the satchel, onto the floor of the hall. A brain flash. She’s sure she saw something in Madam’s bathroom that could be of use to her. She sprints upstairs, three steps at a time this time, making no noise even with her boots on, the boots she would have never kept on in the house before today. She pushes her way into the room, through the chaos she and Sir have left, skids into the bathroom, rifles through the cupboards. There it is. A box of black hair dye. Does this mean Madam doesn’t really have black hair? She shakes her head. That thought seems an irrelevance right now. We can all disguise ourselves as anyone we want to be. It’s our shape, our posture, our gait, that give us away, in the end. And our thoughts unless we learn how to manipulate even those. She puts on the plastic gloves, drapes a towel over her shoulders, stands in front of the mirror with the bright bulbs around and above it, mixes the dye according to the instructions, poorly translated from whatever language they were originally written in, divides her hair into sectors (an old-style Berlin of a shock of hair, she thinks, and smiles at that ridiculous comparison), dispenses the chemical-smelling sludge into the sectors, making sure she doesn’t miss a single thread of hair, until her head is entirely covered in artificial mud. And finally, she does what the instructions tell everyone not to do. She spreads the last of the dye on her index finger, and smoothes it over her eyebrows; first the left index finger to the right eyebrow, and then the right index finger to the left brow. She sits down on the closed toilet, closes her eyes as tightly as she can and quickly skims the very final portion of the potion over her eyelashes, starts counting to a thousand as slowly as her brain lets her.

In that stench of chemicals, in the darkness behind her eyes, and in the light stinging of the substance in places it shouldn’t be, she divides herself again, into even more parts than before. One of her is already on the train to London, is already in London, plans what to do, where to go, how to find the root of this evil she feels, part of her is just enjoying this unexpected silence of self-care even if it’s more self-protection and masquerading, though her height will probably always give her away. Perhaps she will wear a slouch in her walk. And her final part finds its way back to that sanitised room, where she’s awake again now, alone again now, scratching at the scabs she wears on her arms, her stomach, her legs, her back where she can’t reach them. The old face comes in again, the green eyes bright again, and takes her hands to stop her from scratching. ‘Don’t,’ the voice says. ‘You’ll scar.’ ‘Scarred already,’ her young voice says. ‘Only inside.’ The old hands let her go and stroke her face, stroke her hair. ‘You’re a survivor. You’ll always survive. That’s how you were made.’

Aggie has reached 1,500 before she realises how far she’s gone. She finds the sink, starts running warm water, washes the dye first off her eyelashes and eyebrows, scrubs herself dry, opens her eyes, washes her head clean before even looking in the mirror, dries her hair. When she does finally look in the mirror, she still recognises her enormity, but her face has changed, and she’s looking at the sister she never had.

 

30 minutes exactly, that took 🙂

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