These are my musings and observations on my daily life, loves and the laughter that are all a part of my experience of living now in the shires of England.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Short Story - Obsession by Marjorie H Morgan


 

 ‘Order: Che sarà, sarà’

You woke me in the night and again this morning.

I see you everywhere I go even though you have not walked the streets of my neighbourhood. I hope you will. One day soon. With me.
A week. In the beginning my being was without form, and void, and darkness was written on my face. 7 days. Brief touches as fingers collided over the table. You always smiled at me. Day four saw you start to wink at me upon my arrival in your world. A great light shone. It was good; the secret began to slip away.
Day seven: when I left without even your name. You held my hand (and my heart, but you may not have known that then). A handshake is known as a gesture of politeness, to me our meeting hands was about reaching into your space and letting you into mine as our skins held each other tightly. On purpose. With the sole intention to touch, be touched, and be at one. The barriers were broken right down as the wall around my heart quietly lay down and freely gave all to you. With my open hand (and heart) I give you my ticket that requests you to ‘Please roll all over my grass’. I have opened my body garden to you in its entirety. This is my etiquette. I invite you to make it yours. You are not in Versailles, in Louis XIV’s garden, you are in mine. Please step in and blossom. I will mirror you.

Skin on skin. From foreign to familiar. It is a miracle. From the epidermis through the dermis and directly past the subcutaneous tissue until it found its dock. Water cannot penetrate this skin, oil cannot penetrate it. It holds blood, bones, tissue and organs in place. But your skin touching my skin. Your look meeting my look. Simply complex matters that made it impossible for my skin to hold desire within me. It burst out like a tornado at the first sight of you. Lust sped soundlessly ahead and was swiftly followed by love and yearning. I tried, vainly, to peg them down but the whirlwind that swept through my heart had picked them up from the depths and rushed forward to you. My natural covering had so long hidden my heart. You peeled my membrane back as easily as opening a ripe banana. Soft and pliable I waited, and hoped, for you to enter my skin. I waited for you to close the gaping wound in me without leaving any scars.

You kissed me. You kissed me and I accepted your kisses. How willingly I accepted those kisses. You kissed me on my cheeks; once on the left and once on the right. I kissed you back. We both gave and took. I have been conquered by your kiss. I surrender.
Before you blessed me I was well known for only kissing once, against current social convention. Avoidance of overt physical contact has been my norm. But I was hungry for you so those two kisses were like a drop in the ocean of my desire. I am glad that you are Italian. I can pass off my acceptance of your continental greeting as behaving like the locals, fitting in. How I want to fit right in to you.

My guarded body is released to you. Others have mounted expeditions to slash and rip into my body. I have given you free access and the key. I admit you into my confidence. I invite you to interpret and know my body before you ever think of letting go.

Hundreds of minutes away from me and yet I can still feel your touch, the downy hairs on your cheek brushing mine as your lips move from one side of my face to the other. Lingering … Those moments have lasted for over a day now. Was this total contact longer than 10 seconds? But how long does it take to change a life? I am still holding on to your hand, or are you holding on to me? The firm but gentle grip is there. The pressure is equal from both sides, or is that my imagination? I did not expect even a handshake goodbye as I thanked you, but to my delight you leant forward and my heart exploded. A kiss. Two. A natural action for you? A dream come true for me. I was at last so close to you. My knees wobbled as it took all of my concentration to hear your words above the sound of my heart beating like the entire drum division at the Edinburgh Tattoo. The torrents of blood rush recklessly through my head as we float in our waking dream. I can now feel your hands reach up to my shoulders and hold me as you move around me. Your scent has frozen me. You are my dawn and my fresh spring. Somewhere the daffodils are swaying in the gentle breeze to celebrate this birth. I perfectly reflect the position of your hands by the location of mine on your body. My hands meet behind your slim back gently making small folds in the loose white shirt that covers you. My arms cradle you against my chest for a while, a sweet perfect, but so brief, while. Our eyes are closed, but I can see you perfectly. I can always see you. I rest, at peace, my atonement.
Suddenly, I am aware of people around me, around us. We have been suspended in a weightless tunnel that reaches from the core to the light white clouds that float freely above the mountain peaks outside the window and down across the red and black tiled terrace to sweep silently, with their reflections, across the lake.  The room seems noisy as the suspended crockery clatters back together. Cup nestling in saucer. You nestling in me. The waves have continued to lightly rock the sail-less boats that hug the shore waiting for the right moment to leave with the wind.

With that kiss you pulled me in. Again.
The first time was when you came to the table and smiled, even though you were obviously tired; you were performing solo until that time. Your eyes smiled along with your mouth, and my heart leapt to greet you as I forced myself to sit still even though you were rapidly pulling me into your soul. De Balzae was right, there are no little events in the heart. And my heart can see correctly. I see you. You are essential to me.

You kissed me into the greatest joy and simultaneously bid me farewell; that was the paramount wrench of sorrow.


Now you are not where I can see you. But then, for those 7 days, during our genesis, I encountered and savoured you twice a day. Mealtimes were exciting. The meals were terrible. I had no interest in mere food. But my eyes followed your every graceful movement through that hall. I rushed to get there both morning and evening to share space with you. You performed a daily waltz between the tables. I was spellbound and reluctant to leave even when the lights were eventually dimmed.
My appetite disappeared and was replaced by a different hunger. Sated on you I would sleep restlessly awaiting the break of my fast from you. Never to be disappointed you rose before me and were always there.

What can I offer you? I do not know. All I know is I want and need you. I desire you all the time. I want to see you every day, everywhere, especially where I am. Do you even know that I exist? It cannot be otherwise for me. The other case cannot exist. You whispered ‘Che sarà, sarà’. I saw the tears in your eyes as you said ‘thank you’. The tears surprised me into a higher level of consciousness even though at that moment I was also struggling to contend with the fact that my whole body was at war with itself. I noticed those drops of water wash over your brown obsidian pupils and push their way pass your flickering eyelashes, and I wanted to put my hand to your face and gently gather them up, to keep them as part of me, to absorb them into my skin, as I want to take you in, to taste them, to taste you. Why did you cry? I wish I knew. I wish I knew so much. About you; about my fear at asking your name; about why I didn’t follow my instincts and leave my contact details on a piece of paper that I was supposed to have pressed into your hand and that you could, even now, as I breathe your memory in, hold close to your breast, where I would like to be. Now.

Why did you thank me? What have I done for you? I pray that it is what you have done for me. I thought you had been avoiding me this morning, but now I know that you have been trying to save yourself. I want to save you. Let me save you, please. And I will let you save me. Need to be saved. Need you. Not used to the rawness of desire but you have ignited my insides and only you can control the raging fire. I am sorry that I need you so much, but I am glad that you feel it too.

Impulse tells me to find a way to get back to you before you disappear forever from our shared space leaving me with nothing but flat memories and this incredible void in my soul. 641 miles separate us and I do not understand how I managed to leave my heart behind me. I ripped myself from you hands and faltered my way to the plane. It was your touch that anaesthetised me. I lost all power. My body was on automatic. There was no clear thought available to me. I have cursed time and responsibilities for over 24 hours. All the way back here my centre has bled. Only you can transfuse me.
I think only of you. I see only you. I need only you. Then I can begin.

I have looked at images of where you are right now, but they are flat: especially as you are not in them. Your form exists only in my mind and in your separate reality.
When you rush in and disturb my mind I feel the immediate plummet and ascent begin in my abdomen. The impulses have raced from my brain to twist and turn my containment. No balance remains. All mineral equilibrium has fled from my control tower and agitates my being. The movement initiates at assorted points and omnipotently sweeps all cognisant thought aside. You roller-coaster through me with total control; outside and in. Just a thought…
I am light-headed and my blood force is plunging. My time is arrested as I eagerly savour you. You.

My memory echoes a sad lament as I remember. For me you amazingly breathed life into the whole room and directly into my quickened heart. As you fluttered from point to point the short red waistcoat elicited a glow like everlasting embers and your warmth bathed over the hall. I felt jealous that others were sharing in your beauty. I wish I had King David’s power and position so that I could be with you again now. I could watch you for days and then share the murmurings of my heart with you at night. It is finished. We will be set apart together. I make you mine. I choose you. You have completed me. 



(2003)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 











Saturday, 19 May 2012

discovered fragments



discovered fragments

discovered as a child: new identities. I am related -linked- to other people. I do not come first in their minds / worlds. I came first in my world. As I wake up I think of me and what I want. They do not think of me first, not even my mother does this. And I thought she had my needs as a priority – more childhood discoveries: all people are selfish. There are, however, degrees of selfishness.
In one of my identities I can be an obedient child. Only because I want the rewards of obedience. My mother sees my behaviour, and she is pleased, and I am rewarded. My motivation was selfish from the outset. I wanted the praise, and, of course, the treat, so I modified my behaviour to obtain my goal. It was no great hardship and I can lapse between being an obedient child and a terror, as I am sometimes called.
The label “terror” is just being recognized as the self that my mother has hidden. She sees herself in me. She sees her days of freedom in my moments of carelessness. I care deeply. I want everything I know is due to me. I am not prepared to compromise at these moments of pure light and Mother knows. She knows because she feels it in her memory. Her fear forces itself into words, it tries to stop me being open to my dreams. She calls me a terror because of the slate that skins her desires, the flint that cracks open the hidden reaches of her dormant selves.
I am just a mirror. She does not fear me. (It is envy.)

As the obedient child I co-exist with your plans – what a temporary state we swing through – eclipsed in the arc of life. I never intended to act in accordance with your will. The bigger picture has captured us both, unknown. You often forget how it was. I fight to resist more compromise. It’s not you I’m against, it’s me I’m for. Age makes you blind to memory. I refuse to forget who I am.
I want to run, so I run. Into the street, around the corner, onto the grass. Rolling, rolling, laughing. I feel the pleasure of laughter in my skin. I lay on my back and the sky moves me around. The clouds make faces for me and draw me upwards. With handfuls of grass I stretch and retract myself. My eyes are now closed and I feel myself falling, falling into the centre of the earth, falling into myself. I laugh out loud and enjoy the rush as I plummet nowhere.
Your voice snatches me back from myself.
I know where I was all the time. I can find you anytime. You have lost all the skills of a child. Your panic is expressed in small beads of sweat that decorate your furrowed brow. You grip my arm and I have to let go of the grass that was stabilising me. You have made me angry. Breaking me down. I don’t want to leave myself behind, but you insist. I hate that.

I like the company, at times, but still I want myself to know all there is to know about me, me alone, me as me. Not as a sister, or a daughter. Just as me. When my most important identity has been understood, by me, then I can think about being another identity. Right now I’m busy getting to know myself.

Stop interrupting me.

(2004)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 

Friday, 18 May 2012

No title - Poetry by Marjorie H Morgan


No title

I may never find the right answer
To your face, to your hands, to your name.
This discovery will turn into a mad dancer
A timid and gentle flame
Of a candle. It flickers, shivers, and cries
When the night fills up with wild sounds
Of silent glances and desperate tries –
When lightening resounds.

Trees nod even if they disagree.
Strong winds make them comply.
My little candle still remains free
Under the pressures of the endless ‘why?’

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Peace - Poetry by Marjorie H Morgan


Peace


I have found it.

It’s been a long journey
but I’ve eventually arrived.
Years of struggling through
the wild terrain of racism,
months of climbing over
the rough rocks of sexism,
weeks of swimming around
the world of separatism,
days of walking in
the dark caves of isolation,
hours of crying the tears
that overflow the pool of desperation.

It was autumn
and things were bleak
shadows covered my every faltering step.
I moved through the long, cold
dark winter of my life
in a dream of terror
hoping that any minute
I’d awaken.

The spring came with
a whisper of the promised
sunshine,
the rays of life peeked
from behind the clouds
of despair.

Then,
it was suddenly
a summer’s morning.
I was alive
I am free

I have found a place of peace
... inside of me.

(1996)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Short Story - The Memory by Marjorie H Morgan


The Memory

“My name … is … Danielle,” she spoke in a barely audible voice but immediately all four people around her stopped what they were doing and leant closer to her. They heard something. What was it? Did she move or speak?
Danielle felt like she was suffocating and she gasped frantically. It was quick, rapid breathing. The bodies crowding her were now no more than shapes but she knew - somewhere in her mind - that they were real people. She was back at last. The strong smell of disinfectant in the room caught her off guard. She croaked, “Please, don’t let me go again.”

“Hello there.” Then there was a pause, “Can you tell me what your name is?” a deep but gentle voice questioned her. It was the type of voice that would make a marvellous baritone Danielle thought as she fought to grasp the rest of his words from the air that was swimming around her.
“I’m Hutch. You’re doing fine. We’re going to look after you, young lady.”
There were unfamiliar noises around her. And a steady beat off to the left caught her attention. She tried to recognise it but the memory wouldn’t return.
The white ceiling tiles were dazzlingly bright, even though her eyes wouldn’t open. The strips of light that were evenly placed up there burned into the back of her eyelids and she tried to frown.
“I’m your doctor today. How are you feeling?” Danielle attempted a smile but found she couldn’t. His name somehow reminded her of her rabbit, Snowy, and how he would jump around and gently nudge to get attention; softly, but firmly, drawing her focus to him. Snowy was there. Danielle was convinced. She was safe again; at home and dreaming.

“Now, let’s see. Here ….”  The musical voice broke into her thoughts. As she felt Dr Hutch touch her left arm Danielle noticed that his words were fading away as if someone was slowly turning the volume down on a stereo. She struggled to catch the words. She turned to the left – there was nothing there. The sound was still fading. She knew he was letting go. But he had just promised not to, hadn’t he? Danielle knew she had to trust this velvet-toned stranger so she turned painfully to the right and tried to hear him there. His words seemed to be falling into sand. Then questions appeared and hovered just above the surface of the greenish coloured sea that was now in front of her. They were all jumbled up and were closed in small, round transparent cases that seemed to sway gently in a breeze. The containers reminded her of something. Her memory shifted as she searched … then it came; it was the old 35mm film that her grandfather had been so fond of. He called it, “Proper film for a proper camera. No new fangled computer stuff. You have to think for yourself.”
She missed Grampy. She wished he was there, now. A feeling of total sadness invaded her entire body. She shivered involuntarily. The shadows around her noticed because their murmuring got more intense.
Instinctively she knew she wasn’t dreaming. The fear gripped her throat as she panicked. “Where am I?” she questioned herself. Grampy was good with puzzles, he’d help her work it out. But where was he? A person in the distance resembled him; with that familiar cap, walking with a bit of driftwood in his hand. The dog next to him confirmed it. Grampy and Flash. Always walking and looking for something together after Gramps had gone.

Danielle started after them but knew that she wasn’t moving; her feet were totally still. She stared at her legs without recognition, and when she looked up again Grampy and Flash were no longer there. Suddenly, although it didn’t make sense, Danielle knew she had to dig for the words. Tears as heavy as hailstones fell from her face. They were making the sand hard to move.
She was on her hands and knees, digging in a frenzy, trying to uncover the letters and arrange them into recognisable words. She knew that they were her only means of escape. If she could unscramble the puzzle then she’d be able to get out of this lonely place. Within a moment that quickly disappeared Danielle immediately realised that she had no concept of time. What puzzled her most of all is why no one had come to find her. She couldn’t figure out why she was all alone.

She tried to move the heavy sand but it changed into flames and she was unable to see anything. Her eyes still wouldn’t open. Panic tightened around her throat and she tried to call out but there was no sound. Danielle wasn’t sure if it was her voice or her ears that weren’t working. Slipping through time she remembered feeling the heat as she went back into his flat, the man she had told she was leaving. She was flushed and embarrassed after such a wonderfully dramatic exit. Now the annoyance she felt at herself for rushing out without it made her blush. But she had to get it. She needed it.

No one knew that they were together. It had been a secret because it would ruin her image. Standing there alone on the pavement she felt cold, despite the afternoon sun, but she knew she couldn’t replace what was still in there, so reluctantly she turned back through the opened door and mounted the stairs to the bedroom. It was there that she saw him, sat on the side of the bed that they had recently shared.
He was sobbing and had a lighter in one hand and the photograph in the other.

“What are you doing?” she screamed as he looked up at her and flicked the lever with his thumb.
“I’m sorry,” he mouthed as the flames flew all over him.
Danielle knew she should run out but instead she went towards him and snatched the photograph and then tried to roll him onto the floor, but Edward was much bigger than her, she’d always felt protected by his size, but now he was resisting her touch. Suddenly alert he grabbed at her and his fire covered her arms like an electric blanket that was too warm. There was a strange smell. Familiar, but strange.
“I’ve got to get to the phone,” she though as she dropped to the floor with Edward on top of her. But she couldn’t move. She was trapped. “Where did he get petrol from?” she thought as she was smothered into unconsciousness.

“She’s off again,” a familiar cold voice came at her from across the room. Hatred began swelling in her immobile chest. The calm resignation of that unbearable tone meant only one thing: she was being let go again.
“I can hear you,” Danielle croaked, Frantically she cried, “Don’t touch me!” but her scream got trapped in her throat as the rate of her breathing was snatched from her control by the medication that slipped into her arm and quickly raced around her body. Each drip felt like another thick blanket suffocating her mind.
It felt like sinking. It was that horrible plummeting sensation all over again. It made her sick and weak and she’d only just crawled back to the top.
“I only want you to see me,” Danielle thought as she was thrown onto the coarse unforgiving sand. The questions were still suspended over the sea in transparent cases and the sand was full of holes she had already dug. She manoeuvred herself to a smooth flat section of sand and started digging. Escape must be under the sand.

The day when cameras had last captured her now seemed so long ago. The photo shoot that morning had been staged by her agent. Danielle was coming out of a gym looking fit and healthy as usual. She looked surprised, as arranged, and then relaxed into a wide but coy smile before dashing off to the waiting car.
Reflecting on the wonderful life that she had Danielle attempted a duplicate smile but her skin was so tight near her lips that she couldn’t move. Confusion played in her mind. A tear came from the corner of her left eye and rolled down her altered face which was no longer smooth. More salty tears stung her as they travelled downwards past her bandaged-covered ear and sank into the pillow. A small oasis quickly formed but nobody noticed - apart from her. She heard them talking, they called her Jane Doe.

That last afternoon was the only time she had alone before she was due to fly back out to Los Angeles. The woman in the crowd also knew that it was her last chance for about six months to see Danielle in person so she rushed forwards. A bright smile was on her face.
“Ellie! Ellie!” she shouted. Although she felt a little out of place she was determined to be noticed. “Do the big smile you practised,” she said to herself as she leaned forward and shouted the girl’s name again. She pushed the shorter, thinner girls and screamed, “Ellie! Over here. Please …”
“Not now,” were the only words she heard as she was pushed back by the group of hysterical people who surged ahead of her.

The hospital room where she lay hummed with machines.
The television was on in the background.
Sharply focused and tagged was a picture of a beautiful woman with her head flung back as she laughed with joy.
It said ‘Missing: Danielle, also known as Ellie, Jenkinson. Last seen ten days ago….’
“That’s me,” Danielle said, “that’s me.”
Nobody heard or looked at her.

“She was such a great actress,” the familiar voice spoke tenderly for the first time. “I used to watch all her films.”
“I know,” responded a new voice, “I’ve never quite got it. You know … why they crave the fame like it’s all that, then just disappear the next day.”
“I bet she’s on some private island somewhere, just enjoying the sun, sand, and …”
“Sex!” they both laughed together and, with their backs to Danielle, they folded their arms and sighed.
“Some people don’t know their luck.” the tallest nurse concluded. “Turn it up a bit, Jackie, I can’t hear it. It won’t disturb her … she’s dead to the world.”
Holding the remote control towards the suspended television Jackie increased the volume and turned to look at the patient lying on the bed on the other side of the room.
“Hey,” she said in a quiet voice while she gently nudged her companion in the matching uniform, “did you see that?”
“What?”
“I think she moved.”
Nervous laughter responded to the comment. “No, don’t worry. She always does that. Twitches and twitches but never comes around. I’ve been here since day one.”
The two nurses took a moment to look at Danielle and then, as if on autocue, they both turned back to the television screen when the music signalling the end of the missing appeal was played on screen.
“So, how long have you been on this ward?” Jackie questioned, absentmindedly making conversation.
“Me?”
“Of course you!” chortled Jackie, “poor little lamb over there can’t hear a thing you said. Do you think she’ll ever talk again with those injuries?”
“Just as well really. Sorry, I mean, just as well she can’t hear. We have to keep her deeply sedated until she heals some more. Did you read the notes yet?”
“Yeah, she’s alone. Nobody’s reported her missing. But with that beautiful auburn hair I bet she was noticed a lot before! You know, someone you just had to stop and stare at … the ones who cause even straight women to admire them. Someone must miss her, surely?”
“Hmm.” Jackie’s colleague glanced through the half-closed blinds on the door and said, “We’d better finish changing these dressings before we give her a bed-bath, we’ve got three more on this side to do before tea-break.” She didn’t want to discuss the patient any more so she walked back to the bed and stood expectantly, waiting for her co-worker to join her.
Taking the few steps across the room Jackie sighed and agreed, “O.K. Let’s get on with it then.” Then she added tenderly, “Pass me that large dressings and tape, please.”

They moved around the bed like synchronised swimmers. Gentle movements raising limbs, cleaning and redressing the wounded form on the bed.
The television hummed in the background.
“From the look of these fingers, it seems like she never did a hard day’s work in her life,” Jackie looked up from the delicate work of replacing the layers of protection.
“Not sure how she’d cope if she saw what’d happened to her hands.”
 “She’ll heal. Given time. She’ll heal.”
“She was the lucky one. That poor man died trying to save her you know.” Jackie commented.
“Looks like she had regular manicures,” the talkative Jackie continued, “look at this.” Raising Danielle’s hand she glanced towards her fellow nurse.
“We get all sorts in here,” was the only response, “When they’re in this condition they’re the same as anybody else. Helpless.”
“They need us, so we’d better get on with it. Eh?”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“How many more did you say we had to do?”

Sat on her sofa that same evening Felicity Parker took the photo out again and looked at it. She hated and loved the image at the same time. When the girl had been brought in to the burns unit the week before the photograph had been in her only hand that had recognisable fingers left. It was partially scorched but there was no mistaking the beautiful girl sat next to the older woman.
Felicity set aside the microwaved meal and pulled on her reading glasses. The case fell to the floor and lay next to the scrunched up chip paper and empty cola bottle that was the previous evening’s meal. She had fallen asleep after eating while holding the photograph.
There was discolouration around the top edges of the print, and it buckled where it had been tightly clamped in Danielle’s hand for several hours before she was found.
Felicity knew that it was the girl’s only original picture of her dead mother. She had read all about it years ago. She remembered everything about her. She knew it was Danielle as soon as she saw her hair through the bandages that evening. That rich reddish-brown hair was the colour she had tried to make hers go for months. She had seen it outside the gym that morning. Felicity fingered a lock of the hair that she had since taken and then slipped it back in the envelope with the photograph.

“I could have helped you,” Felicity murmured.  “All I wanted was an autograph. You shouldn’t have said no to me.” Then she hung up her uniform for the final time.

(2010)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012

Friday, 11 May 2012

I feel ashamed ... now what?


‘What will they think of me?’ ‘Do they think badly of me now?’ These were some of the reactions that assaulted my mind after I behaved badly. Well, I think I behaved badly and that was where the shame rose from, out of my thinking and straight into my subsequent actions.

It would have made sense to face my perceived problem right then but instead I crawled inside of my shame and zipped myself up. This led to me behaving even more oddly.

Let me go back to the beginning, well kind of back to the beginning of this situation.

I felt out of control the other day – and as a control freak this is tantamount to feeling like I did on another recent date when I was in the swimming pool and trying to swim for the first time in over three decades: I knew I was going under!

I panicked.

I replaced the water with shame: it was all over me. Where did this particular form of  shame come from?

I wanted to be seen to be in control, to be right, to know what was going on. But I didn’t. I had no clue. The sense of water filling my ears came back to me as I struggled to stay afloat in the room. I knew I was sitting right there but I felt as if I were in the swimming pool again. I’m sure I was blushing – I felt hot and uncoordinated even with the way I was trying to fix my face. I knew that they knew that I knew that I was lost. The heat increased throughout my body and slowed down my thinking process. I felt like I was wading through porridge with only a flexible plastic straw to help me.


The main thoughts that seemed to be fighting for supremacy in my head were that I was there as the mother but I felt like the child – in fact, I acted like the child. The shame spread. I grew nervous and fiddled constantly. Eye contact was not possible for more than a few seconds because they’d know even more then. When I did talk I could hear myself saying banal, irrelevant things that were like adding    to my internal smouldering fire of shame. Each word was cringe inducing. I drew into myself until I felt myself disappear. I left the shell there – a bit like a robot casing, and that went through the motions for the next few hours. You see I was paralysed with shame because ... I believed I was wrong, I believed people would laugh at me, I believed people would judge me.

It took me some time to accept that it’s OK for me not to know everything as a mother, as a person, as me. It’s OK. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It took me some time to remember to trust myself and to believe that it was (and I also was) neither bad nor wrong to be in a situation where I didn’t immediately have all the answers. I had to walk away from the circumstances before I could remember that but I got there in the end. You see, shame was blocking my thought receptors. Shame paralysed me.

This may sound obvious now (stupid?) but my initial reaction to the feelings of shame were to try to prove that I was a good mother in some other way. But everything I did seemed – to me – to be like throwing lit matches on free-flowing petrol.

Then I remembered who I was. Who I am. As the memory fought through the clouds of internal shame I regained my contentment and state of self-acceptance that had be obscured by the fiery layers of embarrassment. I felt like I was being judged by other people but I have since realised that the only person judging me then was me.

I humiliated myself. No one else had the slightest hand in it. In a split second I was in conflict with my own values. This may sound bizarre, but there it is. I did (or didn’t) do something that I thought I should (or shouldn’t) do and I ended up in a crazy self induced funk. It was horrible.

Thankfully I have moved passed this incident. I hope I have learnt a lesson from it. I know I have – I changed my attitude to myself. When I believed I did the right thing, the only thing I was capable of doing right then, I no longer felt any shame for that situation that I had been in.

So here I am, now I’ve shared this rather indistinct episode with you and so I guess I’ll feel even more ashamed now that you know about it ... or maybe not.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 
 Eleanor Roosevelt



Thursday, 10 May 2012

Untitled 5 - Poetry by Marjorie H Morgan


At last
the message has arrived
you are gone
... to me
gone.

You are my past
I let you slip away
and I’m sorry

My heart bleeds
my eyes burn
my soul is empty

I let you go
why didn’t I do more
when you asked me
so often
so many ways
so well

yet
I still let you go
and now
now
I pay.

(2003)



© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Short Story - Travelling Man by Marjorie H Morgan


Travelling Man


It was Friday evening. I’d had a brilliant week at work and everything was going well. I was up for promotion after landing another big contract. I felt smug, and rightly so, I had a good job in advertising, great mates, lots of offers for casual sex and, best of all, I had my car - my VW Golf. I was driving to meet some of the lads to celebrate my good fortune, well it was our good fortune really, because we shared almost everything, even the odd girl or two. The stereo was pumping out the sound as I whipped along the road. I had been here before, excitement before an evening on the pull. The chase was almost as much of a buzz as the prize, but not quite. I felt the energy flow through me as I urged Black Betty along the road. I was speeding and I felt good.


I almost didn’t see him. But I did. Now I can’t forget him.

Volkswagen has always been people minded. I used to laugh when I first understood what Volkswagen meant. But now as the owner of my fourth VW vehicle I was in the club; I understood what it was to be an owner, a member, part of that select group where there are no rules written out but everybody who truly is a member knows instinctively what it means to be a member. And each last person is proud of their individual status but even more proud of the badge of belonging to that group. I was driving along the M53 in my Volkswagen, I had just passed junction 13 I think, going north, and there he was. Just so out of place. I saw him.

Out of the corner of my eye at first, that’s where he first planted himself in my mind. Through the narrowest angle possible. I was just overtaking a coach, or was it a lorry? I can’t remember now, but it was something bigger than a normal car. Anyway, he was there, on the hard shoulder, or just behind it actually, on the grass verge that was like overgrown bushes and brambles. I noticed him mainly because his blue shirt was billowing around him as the traffic, of which I was part, thundered past him. If I remember correctly, and this is from looking in the rear-view mirror for a fraction of a second, he didn’t move at all. He was sat hunched on the ground with his arms clasped over his head and his elbows rested on his knees. He was thinking. At least that’s what I thought. Silly place to sit and think, I laughed to myself and changed lanes. 

I used to hitch when I was travelling around in the summer after I’d left school and in the first half of my time at university. I only told my mum about it many years later and even then she flipped and gave me a right ear-bashing. I lied to her and said that I’d only done it twice and then only that year. In fact I’d hitched for about four years and saved myself loads of train fares that I spent on more interesting pursuits (if you know what I mean). But seeing Mum holding her head and asking for the curtains to be drawn, in the middle of summer as well, because she had one of her ‘bad heads’ coming on, then I changed my story to ease her pain. That was another time that I learned not to say everything that I was thinking or remembering thinking. It had just slipped out.

Nothing slipped out of him though. He was like a rock. Impenetrable.

I was on my way to meet Gary and Stu in Clanstorm; it was only 25 miles away but I was going to be early because I was driving faster than was legal. The thrill of speed bit into me again as I saw something else to overtake. Then, I saw the sign for the exit to Junction 12. I had never noticed it before. No need to, I was never going to Rolforde. 1 mile the sign said. Before I had time to think about the distance I was slowing down and moving into the inside lane. He was on the edge of my mind. The blue shirt man. I thought he’d have disappeared by now but he clung on in the small space free in my mind just behind cars, girls, drinks and mates. He’d dug and held on, like a lobster, with silent, still tenacity.

I was curious. I knew I was going back. I didn’t know why. But I knew I wanted to go back. Even if he wasn’t still there I had time to drive back the length of the junction and still get to Clanstorm in time to meet the boys. So I turned off.

Suddenly, I was afraid. I didn’t know what of. I shivered and pressed the button to close the window. On the bridge I hesitated. This was foolish, I knew that. What was wrong with me? Why did I want to go back? What else had there been that I wanted to see again? Just a man in a shirt sitting at the side of the road. That’s all. What could be so compelling about that? I was on my second tour of the roundabout when I indicated and rejoined the motorway.

I was on my way back. The nine miles seemed longer now I was looking for something. Usually the motorway just flashed behind me. Cars and lorries were just there for my amusement, the games I played as I passed them using my skill to weave in and out of the lanes and braking to avoid the speed cameras in time. This time I drove as if I was taking my driving test. I was more careful that in the five years I had had my full licence. And, I noted a curious thing, I was looking into the cars that were going in the opposite direction to me - the direction I should be going in now if some foolish idea had not captured my mind, the direction I would be going in if I didn’t leave early with time to spare - I found I was looking for him. Looking for that man in the blue shirt inside other cars. I didn’t know if I expected him to be driving or to be a passenger, but I wanted to see him. I wanted him to really be in another car then I would have laughed my idea off as what it really was: foolishness.

Three miles from the spot that I saw him I found that I couldn’t breathe without thinking about it. And I was swallowing in hard lumps. I felt my saliva become heavy as I inhaled through my nose and my chest expanded. With an extreme effort I let go of the air that was inside me. I heard the air leave my mouth and felt myself sink deeper into the leather seats of my Golf. I always drove with the seats quite reclined, a smile fought its way onto my lips, I was used to people asking me if I was going to drive the car or sleep in it as the seats were so far back, but I liked to feel comfortable when in charge of such a powerful beast.

Then I saw him. Again.
Across the six motorway lanes I could see him. All at once I was angry and relieved. Why was he still there? Why hadn’t anyone offered him a lift. Then I realised he hadn’t moved. Maybe he was dead. I should just ignore him and drive past again. That was best. Why get involved in something that is none of your business? That was Mum’s area: helping the helpless. I was planning on a fun night, and didn’t mean to be alone when we’d finished clubbing. We were going to this new place we’d heard of in Clanstorm. Gary went there before and said that he was not short of offers. What could I say in response to that? I had to go. That’s what my plans were for the night. Not to be stuck in some hospital or police station giving no information to officials just because I was stupid enough to be curious. I didn’t want to see him. My stomach sank.

I left the motorway again. Across another bridge and back onto my original path. I prayed that he would be gone when I reached the spot. Despite my half-hearted prayer I drove in the slow lane and kept my speed down. It was strange to be passed by little family cars and lorries. Now I knew what they felt like. I wanted to change up gear and speed off but something held me and forbade me from driving any faster.
Damn! He was still there. That was three times I had seen him sitting there. And I had him in my mind. He was my silent presage; it was beginning to feel creepy, all unnatural. He was blocking me from thinking straight. What thoughts did get through were telling me to ‘Drive, drive, drive ...’ However, I still indicated and pulled over onto the hard shoulder.

Before seeing him there I was free from the responsibility of adulthood. My parents, I guess they spoiled me, their only child, and they still allowed me - in fact they encouraged me - to live at home while working. I used all my income to look after my car, my friends, have holidays, girls and lots of fun. No house, mortgage or serious responsibilities for me. Free to live life.

I stopped just about three metres past him and looked back at him from the mirrors. I angled the door mirror to fix him in my sights. He was not dead I thought, but he wasn’t moving much either. Just behind him I saw something else that was not normal on the motorway, especially for a hitch-hiker; he had suitcases with him. Two brown suitcases and a holdall. They matched. This was weirder than ever now. He had obviously not planned on being in this spot at this time - that much was clear, here on the side of the road was not his destination, who would plan to be here with all that luggage? How did he get here? Who left him here? My eyes squinted as I strained to see some answers in the reflections of the mirrors.
I sat watching him for a good few minutes. But they were not really good minutes as I had nothing to compare my feelings to. I had not visited these emotions before. My mum would know what to do. I went to dial her number, then, knowing that she would be aghast at my uncertainty I stopped. Mum was the original Good Samaritan; she went out of her way to help then sat in the dark suffering from the stress of other people’s problems she had picked up and made her own.
I rotated the ignition key towards from me and the powerful hum of the engine faded - it always sounded so good. Turning, I checked over my shoulder to make sure it was safe to get out of the car. I hope that nobody passing thought that my beautiful black Golf had broken down. That would never do. Nevertheless I put the hazard lights on because I didn’t want anybody to plough into it while I was following some instinct that I couldn’t name. Despite the cloud of uncertainty that held me I knew that nothing could happen to my car in this deviation from the night’s plans. That was not allowed. Ever. That car was the most important thing to me. I spent most of my salary either on accessories for it, or petrol and insurance to make sure that I could drive it when I wanted to, as fast as I wanted to and have as much pleasure from it as possible. It was the most beautiful thing ever created by man. By Volkswagen man. For me, the people.

‘Hey,’ I shouted at him from a few feet away, ‘Hey! Are you alright there mate?’
He didn’t respond.
I guess I would have been more shocked if he had responded.
Louis Vuitton cases. Original too. Clara was always going on about them. So I knew a thing or two. These were the genuine articles. The real McCoys.
Looking at him I assumed that the cases belonged to him. He was dressed well. Good threads I thought.

I moved closer and saw that his back was moving slightly. He was breathing, I was thankful then I doubted my own eyes and checked to see if it was the wind making his shirt and body sway with that almost indiscernible movement. I moved from doubt of his existence back to tenuous certainty.  Thank God he wasn’t dead. I had imagined that he had died and was still in the position that death had met him and rigor mortis had cloaked him. At least I know he’s still alive. But I suddenly didn’t know why that mattered to me. Only when I knew that he was alive did I dismiss the fact that I had cared that he still survived. What was it that he had survived, and why was he here? I didn’t want to know, but I did at the same time. I hated him instantly.

I wanted to walk away. I turned but could not take the required steps.
Turning back to him, he still sat with his head obscured by the sides of his arms, I called out again.
‘Look, mate, I was just wondering if you were OK.’
Nothing. No response. No movement. No slight acknowledgement of my presence just a few steps away from him. Nothing.

Was that all I was going to get out of this obstinate lump? My rage started to build. I felt like kicking him into some reaction, but images of my mum with one of  her ‘bad heads’ stopped me. I could imagine her reading the local paper saying I had been jailed for kicking a hardened man to death on the side of the motorway for no reason other than he refused to speak or explain himself to me.
The longer I though about it the harder it was to do anything. What is the right action in this situation? No matter how much thought I expended on it the answer was not available to me. This moment was unique and I was rooted to the spot. Who was he? Why did it matter to me? I wanted to be in my car on the way to the Cavern but he slipped into my head and now he won’t let go of me. And all without even the blink of an eye or whispering a word to me.


I was there. He was there, too. But time and place had disappeared. We inhabited a territory of grave silence.
His silence drowned the sounds of my thoughts. I was still. Captured and held by the stillness that surrounded me, that surrounded us, because, before I’d even acknowledged that I was no longer apart from this man, I had become linked to him. I had stopped, I had thought, I had stood and wondered. Now, the seconds had multiplied and speed past, like the traffic on the periphery of our new world, but inside of this space that we both inhabited, me as and intruder and him as the owner, inside of this space the seconds were divided and stretched beyond recognition. Being there with him was as natural as sunrise. I remembered early morning walks along Flandley Sands with my father as we looked for bright shells, star fish and lobsters: still moments I no longer usually thought about but yearned for, and now I had duplicated one of those moments, here in the middle of urban life.

The phone rang and frightened me back into the loudness of the motorway.
‘Yeah?’
‘Josh? What’s keeping you man? Where are you?’ Stuart was always impatient to get the evening going. ‘You’re wasting good drinking and pulling time! Get your ass here man!’
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ I didn’t know what to say and the words slipped hesitantly out of my mouth. Now would be a good time to just get back into my car and return to normality. Thank God, I thought as I forced air in through my nose.
‘Josh?’ Stuart shouted into my earpiece, ‘Whassup?’
Had he heard my uncertainty? I was embarrassed and I looked away from the phone.
‘Nothing, Stu,’ I lied. Everything had altered, forever.
‘I’ll be there in a while, just got held up… keep one warm for me, and I don’t mean a beer!’ I tried to inject some laughter into my tone but I could not even fool myself.
‘See you in five, gotta go, the cops are in the next lane.’ Switching off the phone I looked again at the blue shirt man. The choice was simple, my friends were waiting, and plenty of unattached sex was guaranteed at the end of the night in Clanstorm - according to Gary.

My emotions ran like stampeding buffalo; there was no hope of corralling them. Suddenly the moment of fear had past.

I got him in the car without a struggle. It was as though he was waiting for me, but not only me, not even me. He didn’t care who moved him. He looked as though he was beyond caring. But he also looked as though his careless state was such a recent acquisition that he was not yet comfortable with it. Did I care? I didn’t think so. Not before that sighting. Just one second, a glance was all, as I passed the lorry and he had taken out a tenancy in my thoughts with full squatters rights.

Looking good, going to the gym, having a laugh with my mates, football of course, drinking loads and lots of sex was all I cared about. No strange silent people with piles of luggage and no words.
The fear returned. I felt a sense of uselessness wash over me; I felt like I had just fallen out of a tree and broken my leg and all my friends had already run off. I didn’t know what to do next. The pain of his silence made my breathing hard. I even had to strap the seat belt on him - I don’t usually wear seat belts, except when I see the police doing stops, but I strapped both of us into the car. I was afraid, yes, that’s it, I was afraid to damage him any more. He did nothing to help me decide how to react. He remained blank.

It was years before I knew what happened to put him in that state. But it changed me because he wouldn’t leave my mind even when I had dumped him, and his expensive cases, all in tact, at the nearest police station. That in itself was unusual for me. I was not a fan of the police, I was always trying to keep out of their way, now here I was being a good citizen, helping a man who seemed to have given up his mind to another time, it was not obvious if he had lost it, but it looked more like he had chosen to stop being his old younger self and allowing himself to be someone else, someone new, who didn’t care about late arrivals for flights, luggage, football, women. Damn idiot! He behaved like all was foreign to him, everything was new and abhorrent. He twisted time to his own measure. And I was now in his tunnel.

His name was Jason Prentice.
A banker, merchant banker as well. The guy was loaded. He had all the platinum cards and thousands of Euros in his wallet. On his way to Switzerland by the travel documents that he had. I had to look to know what to call him. The name seemed to mean nothing to him. He didn’t react when I spoke.

‘Jason? Is that your name, mate? What you doing here then?’ His head was now rested on his chest as if his neck muscles had ceased to function. I was angry again. What the hell was he up to? Why didn’t speak? Then I thought maybe he’d had a stroke or something, but then he moved to the car all right, just a little heavy with his step that’s all. God in heaven! This was beginning to really piss me off!

The drive to Tweedton Police station was tortuous. I couldn’t explain why I’d brought him there and he wouldn’t explain anything. I spoke to Stuart and Gary on Monday when I got back to work. Mum fed me with chicken soup when I got home that Friday night because she said I looked like I was coming down with something; I didn’t object although I didn’t taste anything that I ate. I was numb. I ate to please her then I slept for the rest of the weekend. Well, I stayed in my room, turned off my phones, and tried to understand why.

All I saw was a man travelling from his past to his future, a man that was stuck in transition (or had he reached his destination?). To me he looked like a pilgrim.

Jason Prentice. Travelling man. He emptied his mind and past into his suitcases. The only sign he made was by refusing to touch his luggage again. Like a cobra poised to strike him he reeled back from the designer bags when they were presented to him three weeks later in St. Jude’s Hospital. He was on his way.

There was no compromise. He separated his lives.

Nobody comes to see him, except me. I walk across the town to the hospital, I walk and I think. I think as I walk, thinking, questioning myself without resolve. Then I watch him through the long glass windows from the gardens or the corridor. I can’t get any closer.




(2003)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 









Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Missing out on happiness?


There are times when we are so busy trying to fit all the little things into our lives that we can miss out on the big things. The important things, like people. Like ourselves.

We seemed to have been trained, yes – trained – to strive for more of ... everything. And until we get it we are expected to experience the feeling of emptiness. The feeling that something is missing.

How do we know what's missing? How do we know if anything is missing? What are we constantly looking for and how can we ever be sure that we have found it?

I watched a film several years ago called The Pursuit of Happyness. Based on the true story of Christopher Gardner, the actor Will Smith portrayed a man consumed with big dreams and the determination to achieve them – Gardener knew what was right for him, he knew what would make him happy and he pursued it despite the tremendous sacrifices that he had to make along the way. He did what he thought was appropriate because he knew he deserved that happiness for himself and his family. 


I wondered how Christopher Gardener knew that his path would bring him happiness. I wonder how you know what is right until you experience it. Maybe it’s only then that you can know that all the sacrifices were appropriate.

Many sections of the constitution of the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence are forgotten but one that is oft remembered, if not always followed, is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

How do you know what happiness feels like until you have initially experienced it?

How do you pursuit of happiness if you are unfamiliar with happiness? This is a difficult position to be in. The best time to identify it is now. I believe that we are all capable of identifying happiness if we stay still for long enough to recognise it. Once we allow ourselves to go deeply enough we can see the shape of our own happiness.

With a little reflection and deep thought you can figure out what is really missing from your life and what will bring you the happiness you are relentlessly pursuing (and often masking with many other ersatz items). Sometimes it is difficult to name your own happiness because of the memories of it floating away in the past. This is when you have to be brave and claim it as your own, because it is your right to be happy.

I’d suggest that when you find the path to your own happiness that you draw a map to remind yourself of it where and how you found it in case you inadvertently get lost one day when all the minute missing things try to cloud your way.
.
My partner explained it in a beautiful way when she said that there is a feeling of emptiness and strange loss when you are away from a loved one, and this could be because just being with them makes you 'happy'. Being together is the shape of our happiness. I wish everyone this type of contentment.


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