This morning I’m wordless. It’s taken me 20 minutes to write this.
My back is crooked again. It spasmed yesterday, about an hour before I went on air. That old injury again. Or maybe it’s a new one. Muscle spasms protect injuries. Apparently. I’ve been struggling with this since I was 19. I think stress and depression play a big part in it. Healthy mind, healthy body, and all that.
Sometimes I struggle for space – in my head. around me. Even all this feels self-indulgent at times. Shouldn’t a writer be hidden, and only the truly creative parts – poems, novels – be visible to anyone else. When I was at university I scoffed at the idea one professor tried to impress on me; that we need to know about authors’ personal lives before we can understand what their writing means. Part of me is still scoffing.
My body always seems to collapse when I take time off from work. I’m on holiday next week. And every time it happens, I tell myself not to take any more time off, to just keep working, keep pushing so that the collapse won’t happen. And then I forget that resolution. The truth really is that relentlessness is not sustainable.
The crux, though, is this – I don’t think life has ever really tested me (and, Fate, I’m not trying to tempt you); not like it’s testing Ukraine right now, not like it’s testing Syria, Yemen, and all those other theatres of war, all those people across the wider swathes of the world in wars, in famine, in drought, in poverty, in real pain, in despair, dying. Yes, yes, it doesn’t do to compare myself with all that, because, in essence, I have not chosen my life, nor they theirs. Circumstance has put us where we are. Circumstance has created our bodies with all their strengths and failings.
Circumstance has it that I am never happy with what I have. Therapy taught me that this is probably because I’m still trying to live up to my parents’ expectations, that I’m still trying to escape from their put-downs (whether they were deliberate or not). Perhaps. Therapy is another luxury, just like acupuncture (in the West anyway). I have never researched if the ancient Chinese had mental therapy as well as physical. Needles for the mind. Actually, I’m answering my own question – 5E acupuncture has always dealt with the mind as much as with the body; it’s just not necessarily talking therapy.
I am wormholing here. One eye on the clock (I need to get my body’s basic rhythms exactly right so I don’t end up having to dash out of the studio when I’m on air, and having had 3 doses of ibuprofen yesterday could have an adverse impact), the other eye sort of on monitoring the pain, the word count, and anything else.
The last 10 and a half months seem to have been a succession of injuries. It could be that this time since we moved is just the prelude to when I reach 12 months in this new home and suddenly am totally healthy and pain-free because I’ve finally settled. There is always a reluctance to move away from the past. Maybe it’s that reluctance that injures and makes for the fear pain actually is.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 42
Zav picks up his and Aggie’s cups, clips the letters and papers with his hairy fingers, stomps across to the coffee machine, refills it with water from the tap, picks out espresso pods, puts a clean cup in the machine for Anna, presses the button unnecessarily heavily, half-listening to the women’s murmurings, not able to catch a single work of their reminiscences. ‘What about the child?’ he shouts across the room. ‘What about Cassandra’s child? Have you forgotten about that?’ The steam scorches against his right arm.
‘That’s what we’re talking about,’ Anna says, more ready with words than Aggie could ever be.
‘We’ll find it,’ Aggie says. All in good time. She looks at Anna, wants her to take her shirt off and show her the bullet wound from when they were both really only still children.
‘And I want to know who sent you,’ Zav says, puts the cup gently down in front of Anna, can’t take his eyes off her hair, her eyes, her colouring, retreats back across the kitchen to make Aggie’s coffee. ‘I can’t imagine you don’t know.’
‘Just like you thought you knew who sent you?’ Aggie says, doesn’t even turn round to speak to him. ‘Someone’s weaving a web that we don’t understand yet.’
‘And there I was thinking the housemaid understood everything.’ Zav bites his tongue. ‘I shouldn’t have said that.’
Aggie shrugs. ‘Say what you want. It doesn’t mean I’ll listen. Nor be offended. I’ve got used to your misogyny over the last day.’
Anna takes a sip of her coffee. ‘And there I was thinking you’d been together forever.’ She smirks.
‘Ha.’ Zav brings Aggie’s cup and his to the table, almost drops them onto its surface, drops into the chair opposite Anna with a sigh.
‘I was expecting you to say chance would be a fine thing,’ Anna says.
‘It doesn’t work like that,’ Zav says. ‘This was all down to chance.’
‘No such thing,’ Aggie says. ‘The three of us are chasing each other round in circles.’
Zav opens his mouth.
‘Don’t even say it,’ Aggie says.
‘I was going to say we need to stop chasing round in circles and do something meaningful,’ he says. His expansive gesture makes some of his coffee swill out of his cup onto the table, a splatter of black on one of the letters.
‘Stupid man,’ Aggie says, and pulls the letter away, shakes the drips off it. ‘Oh no! Why didn’t I think of that before?’
‘What?’ Anna says.
‘The envelopes, where are the envelopes for the letters?’ Aggie says. ‘Wait.’ She bends down to pick the drawer back up, puts it on the table on top of the letters, on top of everything, starts rummaging around in it, lifts out paper after paper, reaches the bottom, plucks the empty containers up, dumps everything back in again, drops the drawer back onto the floor, on top of the bullet hole in the parquet. ‘Here they are,’ she says. ‘I hope.’
‘The writing looks the same,’ Zav says.
C Stratford, XX C….. Road, Norwich. Aggie reads the address out loud.
‘Where’s that,’ Anna says.
‘Half an hour’s walk up the hill. North East,’ Aggie says. ‘I used to live out past it.’
‘Let’s go,’ Zav says.
‘Wait,’ Aggie says. ‘The postmark is from almost 20 years ago.’
‘And?’ Zav says.
‘It means we’re not looking for a child anymore.’