Tuesday 5 February 2013

The Circle of Stuff

So I went to London, to help my friend move house.  It seemed like such a good idea – I would help her but also lose myself in cleaning and packing, in lugging stuff around and then reversing the process at the other end. Pass the parcel. Pack, unpack. A circle of stuff.

I even took my running kit, thinking I’d jog round the streets and parks of North London. But instead I sort of came undone. I unravelled.  I became more and more unreal.  And, as if to compensate, in a vain desperate attempt to pull me back to the here and now, my body started to hurt…badly. 

I hadn’t quite realized where she was moving to, hadn’t clocked it was nearly back where I used to live, twenty years ago or more. And past and present collided and left me winded. Neither here nor there.  A nobody person lost in nowhen nowhere.

And I was reading this amazing book, by Sandie Dent (don’t bother Googling it – the few agents she tried couldn’t see the gemstone glittering in their darkness), and that just compounded the schism somehow. A woman, around middle-age, goes back to her teenage home and clashes into old friendships, past loves and remembers/dismembers the past.  Dis – the Roman god of the underworld, of course, fell Hades.  And I, such a wan Persephone, always in love with darkness.
‘Do you like pomegranates?’ said my friend as she flung stuff into a trolley at Waitrose.
‘Not any more,’ I replied. Maybe I never did. 

Nothing makes any sense.  Maybe it never did.  Ain't life funny?  

I thought I’d go out, once the boxes were unpacked, once things were transferred to corners, in piles, trying to adjust to their new spaces.  I thought I’d wander down Church Street, maybe have a drink in a café, bob in and out of a few shops, trace my fingers over the gravestones in the cemetery.  But I felt too alien. It would all have felt fake. I walked past my old house, past the places where I lived and loved and laughed and cried.  And none of it felt like it belonged to me.  Now even my memories have turned tail and run run away. You gotta laugh, right?  

So I walked back, to the place that wasn't the place I loved, across the wide space of the park and came across an enclosure of deer.  My memory has no deer.  Were they always there and I didn’t know?  Or maybe I didn’t notice. Maybe their entrapment didn’t bother me then, when I had no fences around me.  Back then, when I thought I wanted to be encircled.
And there was a goat too.  It looked at me incuriously. ‘Wouldn’t you rather have a cliff or a mountain or even a tree on a beach to climb?’ I said.  It turned away.  Either it didn’t care or it knew that it didn't make any difference. Wherever you go, there you are.   

I limped back to the new place.  Worked on through the pain.  Because every muscle and joint in my body was/is hurting.  It feels like I’m being pulled apart at the seams, bone by bone, cell by cell.  I think I would like to crawl away now, into that hole in the forest where hurt animals go to lick their wounds.  It would be…peaceful. Piece fall? 


F said...

If I have to go back, I try not to look too hard at the places I used to love. If I just glance at them, they sometimes seem the same, or close enough. It's hard though. Memory is stasis, and coming back is like time travel, stepping into the future, you miss everything in between.

Unknown said...

Deer in Clissold Park? My, Stoke Newington has gone up-market since I lived there! I make a point of staying away from old haunts in London when I visit now: they are never as I remember them. I was young and (relatively) unencumbered by responsibility & anxiety then. Things don't look the same now.
I agree with you about Sandie's book.