Night sweats. Weird dreams. Imagining something’s happened which hasn’t actually happened yet.
I pondered any number of ways to start this morning. Instead, I have another fragmentary. Or because.
As always, I kissed the top of M’s head before coming out here to the study. She asked me why I sniffed her hair, and I said because its scent makes me feel like I’ve come home. She said it made her feel as if she smelled like an old house. That was not the intention, I said whilst laughing that romance was obviously dead. Just goes to show how subjective reading and writing can be. That’s the beauty of it.
I had any number of Zoom and phone calls at work yesterday. Without exception, the people I spoke to were asking my views on what was going on in the Third Sector, and without exception, they were grateful for my views and opinions and pointers, and made me feel I was really contributing something to what they wanted to achieve and to the sector as a whole. One of them even said “I knew just speaking to you would help.” If that’s not job satisfaction for me, I don’t know what could be, and I am immensely grateful to all of them (and everyone I deal with every day) for their respect and kindnesses.
I met Dave Mann through his son J, whom I played cricket with at Stradbroke. Dave became a good friend, although infrequently seen because he’s probably even more nomadic than I am. Not only is he a genius comic song writer and performer, but he also has a wonderfully eclectic taste in music, which he puts into weekly music shows which you should listen to. Dave suggested we might do a punk show together, so we scheduled a Zoom call for 6pm yesterday, both of us thinking that, as I’d sent him my list of songs already, we’d be done by 6:30. We ended up talking for over 2 hours, not just about the music, not just about things associated with the music, but just about everything, and, like every good radio guest, I managed to get him, the host, to talk about himself – he’ll probably edit those bits out, modest human that he is. We decided we’re going to have to meet up in London soon, because we actually have far more in common than we thought we did. We also concluded that it was probably a good thing we hadn’t spent our lives living close to each other as we’d probably have got into a lot of trouble together. Once he’s put the show up, I’ll spread the word on my social media. It was a blast, and another thing to be grateful for yesterday.
K, one of my daughters, put together a writing playlist she shared with us last week. I’m writing this to that music, and am loving it.
It’s the little things. Maybe the definition of a fragmentary (which is obviously my invented word of the year, and I’m claiming the copyright on it) should be – a container of little thoughts and happinesses.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 53
Suddenly paranoid, Aggie moves slowly, not wanting to give away that she hasn’t actually been asleep.
Katharina smiles again. ‘You were out of it,’ she says.
‘I obviously do need sleep,’ Aggie says.
‘We all do,’ Katharina says. ‘There’s no point trying to convince ourselves that we don’t.’
‘You’re right.’ Aggie rubs her eyes in a show of tiredness.
‘We’ve got about another hour to go before I make a stop,’ Marit says. ‘You ok with that?’
‘You’re driving,’ Aggie says. ‘I’m in your hands.’ She notices that Anna’s hand has for some reason found its way round hers, Anna, still breathing deeply, eyes closed. Is she pretending, too?
‘Rest some more,’ Marit says. ‘The countryside’s not got much to say for itself.’
Aggie slips her hand of Anna’s, still surprised at how close in size they really are, shocked by how distorted her inflated reality is, looks more intently out of the window. Remnants of ancient forest, the rest replaced by farm lands, houses, industrial units, vacant spaces littered with ragged grass. The road is so straight it must be Roman. She wonders how much of the forest still belongs to the public, imagines Roman legionaries shivering themselves awake in the damp of an English February morning wishing they were back in Italy, somewhere warm and dry, cursing the strategy of war and occupation that brought them here, taking their anger out on whatever people they could find. Or perhaps they made friends with the natives instead, grew families with them, shared water and read and meat and love. She rubs her eyes again. Perspective.
The cell she had woken up in, after Anna had escaped. She realises now that t wasn’t only the electric shocks in the bars that had stopped her escaping, that she’d had no strength, as if it had suddenly all evaporated. She’s back there now, the rolling car through the landscape lulling her into another trance. She sees her hands reach out for the first time to the metal, no sign of anything that could hurt her, the fingertips, fingers curling, ready to wrap themselves around the bars to pull them away from their frame, to pull them out of the way, hands tightening, the sizzle and shock and heat and sparks that transform her body into a shuddering juddering mess, thrown against the bars at the back of the cage her back on fire, thrown to the middle of the prison she’s in, lying on her back, eyes open, gazing this time not into the blizzard coming down but up to more bars, more metal, more deadly current, wonders how her heart can still be beating. The voice. You’ll never die, never, and the pain will always be there. She won’t survive, no-one lives long out there, you didn’t save her. Learn your lesson. In and out of consciousness, and the green eyes following her every time she tried to move, and the cold food, and the feeling of weakness. I am your strength. The voice, the snarl, the glowering aura, the hate. Aggie screams why until she’s hoarse. And no answer comes.
Aggie feels heat in her hand. Anna has reached out again, is sitting up now. ‘I have the memories, too,’ Anna whispers. ‘The same ones. The cage. The electric shocks.’
‘We were meant to be saved,’ Aggie says.
‘I was the first to escape,’ Anna says, leans into Aggie. ‘Because of you.’
‘How many did they make you kill?’
‘Too many,’ Anna says. ‘And I’ve never been able to stop.’