Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another Memoir Extract: TRAVEL

1993 : Sitting by myself, wearing white leggings and big T-shirt; bare feet up on the opposite seat, boots under the table and a pile of library books in front of me. I’m watching a man with dark hairy arms, in the seat next to my feet. He has a pinky ring on his left hand and a sturdy beard buried in The Scotsman. Long hairs seep out of the neck of his cotton shirt. I wonder about his hands, how the long fingers would feel on my neck, tangled in my hair. Men like women with long hair. The glint of gold on his collar bone brings me to my senses; I can’t bear a man in chains. A child is grizzling further up the carriage - please let them get off at Berwick. Farmers are out hosing their fields. Still in the flat countryside of England, windbreaks of young trees laze in the beating sun. Fields of rape-seed turn the landscape into a painting with pylons etched between long looping power lines like suspension bridges.

Our table is littered with Yorkie bars, plastic glasses and orangeade. We were lucky the train was empty. I’d forgotten to book seats and had been worried but soothed with the idea of us all in separate carriages. Lee, Paul and Claire spread themselves out around the car but are now sitting together playing cards.We have become civilized travellers. I used to be the-mad-woman-on-a-train, screaming at my children under my breath, between my teeth and kicking their feet under the table. It was a case of, ‘Sit there, be quiet, give him that, leave her alone, don’t say things like that, look at the sheep, there’s the seaside, don’t, you’re the oldest, don’t talk to him then, play cards, shut up, leave me alone, give him some paper, see the mist rolling in, no you can’t, just because, shut up and sit down, Jesus Christ, you’re disgusting, blow your nose, I don’t know, another hour, watch my coffee, WILL YOU GIVE HER SOME PAPER!

'‘There’s the sea!’ Claire stands up. We’re coming up to Berwick. I like coastlines; see myself as The French Lieutenant’s Woman standing on the edge of land, pointing my tragic but beautiful face out to sea, watching for my future; waiting for something to happen. I want a house where the air is on the move: not stagnant - well-travelled air and a great expanse of sky. Sometimes I stand on the pier at Tynemouth. I’ve never been further than one night in Amsterdam.

Lee is 16, Paul 12, Claire 11…and I’m still alive. I dreamed the other night that I was smoking; I haven’t smoked for six years. The skin on my fingers is white/pink – nicotine stains long gone, nails white-edged. I dream a lot; sometimes they’re so strange I fear for my sanity – not the usual crazy feelings but real questions. I once dreamed that I halved Claire in two, put the bottom half inside the wardrobe and sat the rest of her up in bed. A day or two later a loud knocking on the door made me so afraid of what I’d done. I imagined a social worker at the door demanding to see my daughter. I tried to put her back together but the bottom half had withered slightly. Selotape held her together for the interview, which I don’t remember and everything turned out all right! I don’t know why I halved her in two.

A gypsy told my fortune last week. I saw her coming but couldn’t make my body avoid her. She grabbed my hand and talked fast with a strong Irish or country accent into my face. I couldn’t break free and could feel passers-by watching us as we stood beneath the hot air vents in the shopping centre. She said everything would be okay, that someone long-dead watched over me, that a man loved me and I would move house but not far. I kept asking her how much it would cost and she continued talking. As she tucked a small bunch of lucky white heather into my fist she asked me for three pounds. I couldn’t speak throughout the spiel, my chest was bursting into my throat. She took the money and I walked hard for the Haymarket exit, stumbled into Northumberland Street gasping for breath, trying to hold off tears. Why am I crying? I said to myself over and over again.

I glance at the children, ‘Look at the cows, they’re lying down. That means it’s going to rain.’ Lee is teaching them to play Chinese Patience. They’re not listening to me. I press my face to the window as the train curves. I can see its head and tail until my breath clouds the glass. Berwick is behind us now, only half an hour to Edinburgh. We spent a week in Berwick when Claire was one – she had her first birthday in a sand pit. The beach was impossible; it reeked of rotting seaweed, fumes waving up the cliff to keep us away from the edge. How many edges can there be in any one life?

1 comment:

人妻 said...