Destiny

The ring on his finger jolts her out of her reverie. She tries to focus on it, to catch the symbol engraved in the thick band of silver, but his hands dash about too quickly, and are shoved into his sleeves when he isn’t talking. But she has seen the ring before, she knows it. She has dreamed it.

It seems too cruel, this nudging of fate’s elbow in the face of hopelessness. Perhaps it is a trick of the mind; a desperate attempt of her subconscious to render this truth untrue. What is meant for you won’t pass you by, her mother’s words echo a grim cliché. She is not sure she ever believed them.

But she knows she dreamed this ring. He pauses with his hand to his face and she sees the symbols clearly at last. And she remembers. She had been on a train, in this dream. Coming home to her parents’ house from college, a familiar ritual of stopping and starting, of whizzing scenery. As the carriage pulled to rest in the station, she was simultaneously outside and inside the train. She felt herself stepping out onto the concrete of the platform, pushing past the warm bodies and feeling the crunch of passing anoraks in the station.

But she was also still standing inside the carriage, and the man she loved at the time was presenting her with this ring. He stood on the platform, facing her; they stood on either side of the door, facing each other. He held her gaze in his, blue eyes cold and frank. And his left hand held out a small black velvet box. But I’m not even your girlfriend, she said, confused. But in the dream it was alright. It was all going to work out, because he gave her this ring with this symbol on it, and this must mean that he loved her.

She knows she wrote the dream down somewhere, if only she could remember where. All of her diaries and notebooks stretch out before her mind’s eye, those in her apartment and those that have been left behind shoved into drawers and behind bookcases in her parents’ house. And suddenly she feels exhausted.

I have to go, she says to him. I’m sorry, I’m not feeling great. I’m going home. He looks surprised, disappointed, bewildered. She smiles grimly to herself at his oblivion as she walks away.

Ark

A light came on
burning through the
January dark.
Clouds hung low
and through the melting snow
came the bow of my ark.

But oh
you were snatched away
long before that
afternoon of glory.
He pushed the ring
onto her hand
and she turned her face to me
and said:

Take your breath and
cradle it in your lungs;
put to your lips what’s left
of my lover’s crumbs;
leave your skipped heartbeat
with me,
he’s not free
to take it;
and stand there
before him in the light;
forever clothed,
your soul so naked
in your eyes.

So I raise my white flag.
But you must learn
you can’t hide from life.

The 353 Days of UnChristmas

Christmas is well and truly over. But somehow, this year I am struggling to make myself take down the decorations. Maybe it’s because I’m clinging to the Christmas holidays like someone who knows she might drown if she doesn’t keep pummelling the water. Or maybe it’s because it doesn’t really feel like Christmas happened this year.

If I’m honest, it feels like that every year nowadays. I think people go through many stages of Christmas disillusionment – the inevitable Santa Claus discovery, the year that toys and trinkets don’t excite like they used to, the year that Christmas becomes a marker of loneliness. The magic fades over the years, and you are left feeling increasingly dissatisfied. You can eat all the turkey you can muster, stuff yourself with Christmas treats and chocolate, get raging drunk with Granny and Uncle Tom – but the more you try, the bigger the anti-climax.

Of course, Christmas has famously been a difficult time for me for the past couple of years, and I am getting over that, year by year. I don’t mean to sound too maudlin. But let’s face it – Valentine’s Day is a pushover. Christmas is the hardest time of all, when Christmas movies and songs and pop culture in general push the association of exalted romanticism.

It all looks like a lot more fun now, looking back on it. In a few weeks’ time I will be gazing back with starry nostalgia, picking out the best and most “Christmassy” moments as the pinnacle of my personal happiness and satisfaction with life. But the truth is, Christmas has become somewhat of an ordeal. There is nothing worse than being told you should be happy – there is nothing more assured to make you utterly miserable.

I’m somewhat uncomfortable that this blog has taken off on such a gloomy note; but there is hopefulness in the air. Every January, between the 10th and the 15th, I feel life trickling back into me again. I pick up where I left off. I realise that I actually am happy; I might not be as ecstatic as all my favourite Christmas movies seem to think I should be, but I am happy.

When I woke up this morning I felt surprised at this glimmer of happiness. And then I felt ashamed at my surprise. Today I will take down the Christmas decorations; I will submit a short story to a competition; I will do the reading for college that I have been avoiding, camel-like; and I will look towards a bright future.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, I have not only survived another Christmas – I even managed to enjoy most of it. And that’s something to be proud of.

In the beginning…

I had to delete several old posts on this blog in order to start afresh. I do this too often – backtrack on old, failed projects, and wipe the slate clean so that I can feel that excitement of the beginning again.

I was always like this – I was one of those strange children who liked September, who liked the possibilities of change that a new school year heralded. I was usually disappointed, of course. Change tends to happen when you least expect it, either a bolt from the blue or a drastic action born of desperation. Real change for me tends to happen in the winding down of the year; in the dark of December, or the final few months of a school or college year when the evenings are drawing longer and everything has a misleading air of finality about it.

I have to hope that it will be the same this year. Starting a masters seemed like just the catalyst I needed, but it turned out not to be so, as usual. I don’t handle disappointment well and I am extremely impatient, so you can imagine how this went down. Now I find myself feeling trapped, lost. Lonely.

It’s always about cliff tops, for me. The freedom of leaping off; the terror of falling; the devastation when you hit the ground. The courage to make that leap in the faith that you will survive it. I feel now as though I am trying to jump; I have my arms raised to the sky, my face screwed up in resolution – but my feet are going nowhere. I move into an apartment, I start a new university course, I meet new people, I fall in love with the wrong man. And still I am standing at the edge of the cliff and nothing has changed. I am still me, and I don’t like it.

Maybe I need to create my own catalyst – that is what I tell myself now. I am trapped in my own life, but maybe if I recreate some of my old identity I won’t mind this so much. I am sick of passing through years with the expectation of reaching something better, soon. Maybe next year.

At the end of the day, this is what I have. So I might as well use it.