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Scent & Compatibility

That moment you inhale their essence for the first time.

Drink in the odourless perfume,

Emitting scent signals beyond the mask of visual cues.

The sink or swim of compatibility, wafting by.

Perfume

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Lottery winning lemon trees..

The daydream starts off small. Almost low key.

Fed up with chewing only on the left side of my mouth cos I desperately need to fix the teeth on my right side, I was thinking how great it would be if all I had to worry about was steeling my pride to actually show a dentist my nashers. If I actually had the cash to flash, the humiliation would be short lived and the pain of orthodontic treatment welcome. No more fake-demure, closed-mouth smiling. Bonjour open-mouthed guffawing and best of all,  bye bye chew-avoidance food choices! I could eat crusty baguette, steak, apples, and toffee all day.. most days.

Back to the real world and cottage cheese whilst I mull over the other basics that my lottery win would sort out.

I muse the imagined pleasures of: never counting or budgeting; not even noticing the end (middle in my case) of the month approaching; meal planning without considering pasta, rice or potatoes (I love all three by the way); being able to just say “great idea, lets do it!” when the kids or friends suggest an evening/day out or holiday plan; buying them shoes in multiples and before the last lot have to be binned; and paying someone to clean….just so we could sit, eat and talk together for the precious spare few hours we have at home.

I’d finally get the electricity circuit checked and modernised. How happy would I be to never again worry about the boys plugging seventeen appliances into one mega adaptor? The defunct air-conditioning system would be fixed, as would the extractor fan that only ever blew shit into the flat, before it kicked the bucket completely. Our circa 1952 bathroom suite would be cremated and replaced with anything simple and practical that isn’t the colour of nicotine. Our tiny beige kitchen, complete with broken electric hob, temporary (its been 3 years) second-hand gigantic microwave oven and empty space where the fitted fridge-freezer packed in last year, would be revved into 2017. Vibrant and efficient. Nothing fancy. IKEA will do us just fine.

I’m a virtuous hour into fantasy family building and benevolent gestures before the daydream starts to creep beyond the entirely necessary or charitable boundary: If the lads learn to drive in the Toyota then I’d have to get a new car. I never liked the Toyota anyway, but it’d be great for them….though I just can’t decide between an Alfa or a Merc… I do quite like that stunted Range Rover thing too….What if, instead of paying someone to clean, what if I just didn’t work at all? Then I wouldn’t need help to free up family time….though, in all fairness, I could probably still do with a cleaner. I mean doesn’t almost everyone have a cleaner nowadays? It isn’t normal that I cant even afford what my parents could – I’m now muttering to myself – How pathetic that I struggle more than they did at my age? I mean, shouldn’t generations be striding ahead of those previous? My head is swelling with senseless irritation as my daydream drags me into the irresistible quicksand of “can definitely survive without” territory.

I’d need a place in Seville, as well as Provence and probably Barcelona. I’d keep the family apartment in Brussels as a sort of bolthole for when I’m in town. Or maybe the boys could share it if they want to stay in Belgium? But then I’d almost certainly have to buy the one next door (which isn’t on the market) and knock through. I mean it just wouldn’t work for the two of them as it is (we’re four in the real world and our apartment is home and a happy one).

I’ve totally abandoned my morning to hedonistic reverie at this point and am loving each imagined detail. My beautiful Provençal villa. Al fresco dining all hours with happy family, friends and neighbours. No-stress travel, hopping between locations, with Provence as the hub, buzzing with life and happy noises. We have the time to listen to each other, to enjoy each other, to care for each other. No one is worried they need to run off and do something else. We have time, quite simply and everyone is relaxed and smiley. There are no deadlines, no disappointments, no resentment, no discomfort. Money can’t buy happiness perhaps, but in my fantasy world, it goes a long way towards nurturing the good seeds that we have already sown.

My daughter resuscitates me from the suffocating burden (not) of imagined wealth. She’s hungry. I havent fed her for at least two hours and despite being taller and stronger than me and being accompanied by an equally capable friend, it seems that they may actually starve if I dont personally feed them every couple of hours. It takes me a cruel minute or so to leave lala land and get my chef’s hat on. I resent my son talking to me about where I need to taxi him from and to at 5pm. It feels just as when you’re prematurely disturbed from deep sleep and know that if you can just get back there quickly then you might be able to finish the dream….but you never do. Oh the frustration… I need to get back to my lemon trees…

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18 Summers

18 years since I glimpsed you for the first time
18 years since you made me a mum
18 years of grappling with my own mortality
18 summers since I’ve loved you until I’m numb
I weep as I write this to you
Remembering the tension of that day
Hearing the doctor muttering about oxygen
Before they whisked you away
I’d no clue what was normal
Reality, momentarily on pause
I just absorbed the oddness
And lay there in my silent bubble of noise
You were returned to me, eventually
And I recall wondering, how I should know you were mine
Our eyes met and I loved you
So began the rest of time
The rest of time has been a rollercoaster
You’re a challenging old soul
I wouldn’t change a hair on your head my darling
I just want you to survive through the cold
The cold that has often enveloped you
Though your radiant warmth pulls you through
My pain is that I can’t do it for you
Still I shadow your every move
I love your kindness
That you notice intolerance.
That fairness matters to you
That you are true
I love your courage
In the face of your difference
Though I see your pain in solitude.
I wish it could be easier for you
18 summers since I first met you
18 years of showing you my way
The stage is yours now my angel
Lead me forward to your next day.
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Fay’s Story

There was once a little girl named Fay
She was gracious and kind in every way
With her flaming red hair
She attracted more than one stare
As she quick-stepped through the passage of childhood.
As she blossomed through school and beyond
Fay struggled at times with le Monde
Her sweet nature betrayed her
And fed her bounty to that charismatic stranger
Blind to the mask, she strode on.
When she awoke to the truth, Fay was thirty-one
Browbeaten, confused and a mum
Despite a decade of devaluation
She kept schtum for fear of humiliation
And crawled into a private pit of ‘make-do’.
Submission, Fay learned, did not curry favour
It just fuelled verbal aggression and sulky behaviour
In the interests of the kids, she could take it
Until the day she understood they wouldn’t make it
She knew.
So she ran, that young woman named Fay
Still gracious and kind in every way
She began her new life
With no-one calling her ‘shitty wife’
She’s dancing again, is flame-haired Fay.
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Ruby awakening

Twenty years ago, poor and a bit lonely, I moved into a studio flat above Ruby’s nails. It was a tiny little abode. Just a room really, with a kitchen the size of a toilet and a bath that you could only sit in and even then, the water would just about cover my knees. You could reach the toaster from the loo and watch tv from anywhere. I loved it!

Weird science. Today has been one of those crazy weird moments in time when you feel like someone is trying to tell you something. Or that something is right, even though you woke up feeling that everything was wrong.
That was how my day started anyway. I woke up three hours after I’d forced myself to go to bed. Eyes stingingly tired but unable to sleep. Too many thoughts invading my head. I grabbed a coffee and went to steal a sacred moment all on my own on the balcony. No peace to be found there either. With all the crap I’m trying to juggle at the minute, I just can’t seem to relax my brain.
Several hours and one hilarious trip to the orthodontist later, (lost in a part of Brussels I’ve never seen in 21 years, with numbers 2 and 3 children screaming at the gps as she kindly sent us down every blocked street and into roads closed for market day) I was back home. Restless, knackered, many many euros poorer and desperate to be somewhere else.
I didn’t realise I’d nodded off until my delicate flower of a daughter woke me up by somersaulting onto me on the bed, simultaneously nattering at me about getting her nails done…mid discussion, as if we’d been having the conversation before. We hadn’t. “if I get gel nails then it’ll help me stop biting my real ones and anyway I’ll pay for them myself and Joanna says it’s only 30€. Can you find a place that’s open now mum. Here, your ipad’s here Mum. Mum are you hearing me?”
I confess I was being a total misery. Only guilt at bad parenting inspired me to fire up the damn iPad and write ‘where to get gel nails in brussels’ in the search bit. What are gel nail’s anyway I was wondering, when there it was. The first result popped up. Ruby’s nails, Ixelles.
Twenty years ago, poor and a bit lonely, I moved into a studio flat above Ruby’s nails. It was a tiny little abode. Just a room really, with a kitchen the size of a toilet and a bath that you could only sit in and even then, the water would just about cover my knees. You could reach the toaster from the loo and watch tv from anywhere. I loved it! and every day, on my return from work, I would look in Ruby’s window. I had awful nails. Bitten down to the cuticles. I so wanted to get my nails done but I could neither afford it nor bear the shame of showing anyone my hands. Ruby’s obvious warmth and smiley disposition, she was always smiling when I looked, didn’t help me any. I never dared go in and only stopped biting my nails ten years later. I moved out and on after eighteen months of making my bed on the sofa. But I still have a fleeting, fond thought for my mini abode and Ruby when I drive past the place.
It was already 16.30 when I rang Ruby. I could hear a back-ground buzz through the receiver but she took the time to explain that gel wouldn’t work on bitten nails (my daughter inherited the joy of manicure by teeth from me sadly) and then lost me completely when explaining the merits of ‘resin'(?). “Why don’t you and your daughter stop by this afternoon and I’ll take a look and see what we can do” she said.
Twenty minutes (and twenty years) later I was chatting away to this lovely woman who I’d spied on whilst living above her shop.  I couldn’t resist telling her my story. Her and the two customers sitting in massage chairs whilst getting pedicures. It was sitcom-esque. Betty, a skinny little thing, who Ruby introduced as having pretty much financed her (Ruby’s) children’s educations through all her treatments and the other customer, a cheery Polish lady, trying to join in the banter, but clearly understanding nothing. Then Ruby. Absolutely the matriarch. Strong, warm and reassuring, whilst gently cursing her apprentice’s every deviation from instruction.
We took an appointment for ‘acrylic’ nails one hour later. Ruby told me she’d moved to this salon in 1995, from another situated in the exact spot I now live. We both felt the weirdness of this additional crossing of paths as I dragged my daughter off to fill the spare hour with a quick supermarket spree.
It was eight o’clock before we left the salon. Ruby is quite the artist: my daughter is now sporting beautiful turquoise-blue shiny nails. But the nails were just the support act. Ruby is a magical mix of Iranian, Pakistani and several other origins. She speaks seven languages fluently and she has a lot to say in all of them I suspect! Whilst she modelled and painted the nails, we discovered all sorts of, frankly, weird meetings of minds: Family situation; the same turns of phrase; we’d met through work, though I never knew she was Ruby….. Cliché I know, but it felt like we had some connection in a previous life. And just as I left, she said “oh, I must give you a flyer for my son’s bar/restaurant” Turns out its my local and a place that holds many happy memories for me. LOFT, on the Rue de Namur is where I always celebrate my birthday and take my closest friends.
I’m not sure I’m skilled enough to convey the impact that Ruby had on me today. I’ll just say this: No matter what shit is being thrown at you, keep your eyes and ears open because life, inspiration, is all around you and the positive messages are clear….if you are listening.

A Silent Jolt

“Your loyalty was only ever determined by opportunity..”

‘This is really not nice‘, you say….with no hint of irony.

After so many years:

  • hiding your crippling self loathing behind false masks of charm, vivaciousness, achievement and talent;
  • manipulating everyone you meet to feed you with constant admiration, attention and preferably adulation, though you’ll seek and take a negative reaction rather than make no mark at all;
  • lying pathologically without conscience and often in grandiose fashion, to suit whatever it is you wish to do or make someone believe or feel about you, even when it would actually suit you better to tell the truth or the ’truth’ lies so manifestly elsewhere;
  • believing your own lies and feeling no remorse or guilt about them, their impact on people you supposedly ‘care’ about and how ridiculous you look simply ignoring or denying the truth when you’re outed;
  • belying no startle reaction when confronted with your lies. There’s no anxiety, fear or shame where there otherwise should be;
  • deflecting your lies onto other people or situations. Someone else is always responsible for your misleading actions. Or your invented/exaggerated illness, operation, accident…..…. caused you to ‘lose focus’;
  • surrounding yourself with ‘enablers’, family members, friends and colleagues who you’ve groomed to support your questionable behaviour, again through lies and manipulation, so that you can rely on them mopping up after you, defending your pity plays and even chastising whomsoever attempts to unmask you;
  • using anyone, including your own children, to assist you in justifying any misleading situation, which you see as not that big of a deal really;
  • feeling entitled to constant attention, affection, adulation and sex from those you have invested time in grooming, charming (and devaluing), though you ignore their feelings, needs, desires and achievements;
  • devaluing other people’s achievements when their successes drive your insecurity complex insane;
  • claiming that you’re easily bored to justify living by an entirely different moral code than the rest of the boring population: You think that degrading lesser mortals with smug sarcasm, thinly veiled as ‘only joking’, triangulating friends and partners into paranoid competition for your attention, provoking rage for your personal amusement through ‘fake’ controversial opinions, expressed for the sole purpose of bringing your chosen opponent down a peg or 3 ….you think these things make you some kind of charming and eccentric maverick…. No…… they make you a self-serving, manipulative arsehole.

After all these years, wearing your multiple masks in carefully distinct territories, maintaining your brain-washed enablers’ worship of your obvious lies and manipulations, allowing your ever-increasing need for attention (of any kind) to consume you, I guess it doesn’t feel ‘very nice’ to be ignored by your chosen ‘chief’ provider of narcissistic supply. Not that you can or will ever question your accountability in my having reached the end of the line. Despite slowly chipping away at my every effort to love and support you, by rewarding every truth I spoke (during hundreds of hours of intense conversation) with another lie. You will simply bad mouth me, play the victim and move onto the next empath who crosses your path. You cannot be alone, without supply.

Your loyalty was only ever determined by opportunity, like a 6 year old who forgets they had a play date when another friend crosses his path with a bag of treats. Whats the beef if you lie and cheat when your head gets turned by a random opportunity? You were only going for a treat after all. No big deal. You don’t want to grow up and be accountable. You just want your way.

I’ll tell you whats really ‘not nice’ honey. Discovering that final betrayal: another reckless and unnecessary lie. You choosing the high risk option, when the truth was banal and uncontroversial. You deciding to risk causing me substantial hurt (again), by fabricating yet another elaborate story, this time around your own child, simply to ‘justify’ being out rather than free to make a phone call and all of which was later compounded by a virtuoso performance of ‘how wonderful if feels to be able to be so straightforward with you my love’ …… The truth, that night, would have looked as simple and unequivocal as this : “I’m invited to ‘x’ birthday party tonight, so can we talk late, or would you prefer tomorrow?” Yup, definitely worth jeopardising my already limited trust in you for that….

My rage at you carelessly pushing me beyond where even I can find a half convincing excuse for your actions, fell silent in the absence of words to describe my pain or the will to fight. You are not worth fighting for. I’ve made so many excuses for your bad behaviour, accepted your obvious lies and given you ‘another chance’ time after time. I’ve sold myself short to a demented chameleon.

via Daily Prompt: Jolt

Reality denied

So my mum arrives Saturday,

So you won’t be free next week then?

I’d no idea she was coming at all….

So you won’t be free next week?

Well she expects me to drive her to the Paris house for Easter…

So you won’t be free next week then? Or for Easter?

Well I haven’t really thought that far ahead.

But you’ll be busy for Easter then?

I’ve made no firm plans yet.

So are you taking your mum or not?

Well she expects me to take her to meet my brother and then they’re staying at the house for Easter.

So you’re going to be in Paris with them for Easter?

They know I may have other plans, though they’d be delighted if I was around.

But you don’t have other plans?

Well I’d love to see you.

But you’ve already arranged the whole of April without consulting me. You’re clearly going to be with your mum and brother until after Easter. I imagine I’d have been invited, had you wanted me to be there. Saying you’d like to see me too, saying that now, sounds very nice but is impossible to achieve, given that you have already committed to them.

Oh no, they accept that I may or may not be around.

But your mother arrives Saturday and expects you to leave for Paris with her. You know that you will take her.

I’m so annoyed she didn’t consult me in advance. Honey the doctor has also just confirmed my appointment on the 24th.

I’d no idea you’d asked for an appointment? How convenient that it falls just after Easter. You’ll be able to spend the holiday with your mum and brother and then go up to Lille for the appointment.

Honey I do have to get my back sorted. The pain is chronic now. I simply can’t commit to any of our joint plans until I’ve got the pain under control. I just threw some random dates out there. I’m doing this for us. You do understand that don’t you honey?

Your back flares up every time you have a sticky situation to explain honey.

I do find it difficult to organise all of these things. Even though you may find them banal. I’m already having a panic attack thinking about the doctor.

You’ve had to organise a few appointments and make a few decisions. I’m sorry that you find that difficult honey. It just feels like you have a response, that isn’t an answer, to every question I ask. You’ve missed all of the significant moments in my life so far this year. You make no ‘plans’ but everything falls into place around the dates that suit you keeping all of your significant players apart. Panic attacks and illness are your response to awkward questions…..

Honey, I have to pop out to the shops, talk later?

2 hours later

Insert picture message – a painting” Honey, heres the painting I’ve been working on.

Looks like a great start. Nice movement.

Oh thank you honey, so do you like it honey?

As I said, yes. It looks like a great start (head in hands).

Denial

Prudence

Life is a risky business. Any path can lead you to a dead end or might be paved with gold.

I’ve always envied people without ambition or curiosity (as I feel it). Childhood friends who marry the guy or girl down the road and buy a house close enough to walk to their parents’ home…..and they do pop in….every day…just for a chat. They often go on holiday together, to the same place most years and always take a packed lunch for the journey. There’s a picnic for every trip. No one seems to get bored. Everyone feels they belong and accepts their lot. Occasionally someone goes haywire and is brought into line or quietly exiled. Either way, no one ever discusses the episode. High holy days and family celebrations, always with the same people, menus, stories. People get older, but nothing really changes and everyone likes it that way.

I often wish that I could have settled for contentment and security. Married the first guy I got engaged to. Settled down with children and allowed him to love me and never cheat. I did think that I would marry Sam when I said ‘yes’ to that proposal. But the creeping anguish of seeing my entire future laid out before me felt like strangulation and I ran. I was just too young then and still so a little later, when I got serious with a handsome medic during my university days. Things would change once I’d seen a bit of the world. I was 28, with three engagements behind me before I finally started to understand that there would always be more of the world to see.

At 48, I still don’t know why familiarity bores me, scares me even. But I’ve stopped needing to answer that particular question. I don’t compare myself to anyone and my relationships, both of friendship and love, are fulfilling and strong, without being composed of either dependance or routine. I have learned to just accept that feeling strongly rooted, suffocates me, though I will fight to the death for my 3 children to feel secure and loved enough to make their own choices and mistakes. Recognising who I am and that we are all different and that thats ok, has finally liberated me. I feel responsible, even risk averse. Perhaps prudence is in the eye of the beholder?

Prudent

Dun

Sudoku, faut cu

Thats really all I can write.

Police phares calling

My mind is falling

Failing.

Gaslights burning

Stomach churning.

How to explain

The pain.

I talk about reflecting

But I’m dun with it.

Sista’s fecked it.

Im tired of this confusion.

Dun with your pollution.

This ain’t love.

Scrabble you say?

F*ing take it away.

Take your fake sudoku intellectualism

And stick it up your twisted chism.

Bonne nuit.

Bonne vie.

Dun.

Fragility -A day in the life of humanity

24 hours and 3 unsolicited encounters with selfish opportunism and human kindness have broken and rebuilt my fragile sense of security. My tears mark both.

I felt something behind me and caught his stare, very briefly. That was it. A feeling of something not quite right. Then I carried on packing the shopping in the bags, as quickly as the cashier’s steely stare demanded. It was 8.30am. Hardly any customers around, but she wasn’t prepared to let me pack conveniently. I paid. I left. Caught his eye again as I shoved the bags in the boot. He was quite ordinary. I told myself not to be paranoid and headed off to the next shop, a little smug at the thought of crawling back into bed with all jobs done by 9.30.

I already knew my wallet had gone when I parked up at shop number 2. I dont know how I knew or why. I was thinking about my hand-cream falling out of my bag as I scurried across the road in the rain. I had a memory of something, but I couldn’t remember what. I still can’t. When I ran back to the car, I knew I wouldn’t find anything. I didn’t. Then everything went very numb as I drove back to the first shop. the cashier didn’t see anything. No one remembered anything.

At home, I tried to find the numbers to cancel cards and stuff. I couldn’t even remember what was in the bloody wallet. Papers flying everywhere. It was some time and several bad-tempered calls later, before I could head off to the police. All the while furious at losing my precious day in bed. You see I never get to sit around, read a book, think, be ill…quietly.

The police inspector was less than gracious. I tried to tell her I’d parked on a meter without a ticket….no money, no cards you see. She couldn’t do anything about that. Wouldn’t do anything about that. There-followed an hour of seemingly bonkers Q&A. How much did your shopping cost? What were you wearing at the time? What was I wearing?? WTF does it matter what I was wearing FFS?? Could I describe him – yes – South American looking…..perhaps North African? she queried…..well no….

When we eventually finished typing, printing, signing and copying the 35 bits of paper required to officially acknowledge that some low life had nicked my wallet containing the largest sum of money i’ve ever withdrawn in one go, in order to pay the deposit on my daughters summer gym school (because I missed the deadline for bank transfers) , it was then that Inspector stoney-face asked if I was ok. Tears flowed from nowhere.She took me aside and tried a pep talk. Was I blubbering because of other things? I just carried on blubbering and eventually ran off to meet my friend who, due to catch a train, had stopped off on the way to give me some survival cash….and missed her train.

I made some tea, as Brits do in the face of an impending nervous breakdown. Tea for Ella. Coffee for me. I’ve been away from the mother country too long for tea to work.Turned out she hadn’t really missed the train. She couldn’t get on it, due to her own breakdown. Mine paled into insignificance very quickly, so I ignored my phone ringing incessantly as I listened and drowned her in tea. She produced a pile of cash through her tears. Human kindness is far more overwhelming than its wicked contrepartie.

As I waved Ella off back to her own private hell, the back of my mind was niggling me with the classic replaying of events. Why couldn’t I remember what happened at the till? Number 2 son was greeted home by my tell-tale red eyed ‘I’m fine’. Even he (he’s lovely, but 17 by the way) detected the lie and proceeded to interrogate. More tears….and the phone kept ringing.

Inspector Quigley drove round to my flat, after umpteen calls and texts. Mr Wagner had handed in my wallet, minus the cash and cards but still clinging on to the store cards and a business card…with my telephone number on it. My uniformed hero refused tea and rebutted any apology for my lack of response to his vain efforts at contact. He wanted to know if I was ok too. Tears again. His colleague had primed him about my ’emotional’ state. He was concerned. Just doing his job. He restored my faith in a holy moment of care. Rare is care. This kind of care. Powerful and restorative goodness. Pure good.

24 hours and 3 unsolicited encounters with selfish opportunism and human kindness have broken and rebuilt my fragile sense of security. My tears mark both.