So far, dear Agnes has been a veritable storm in the kind of teacup one is served lukewarm tea in many a British town hall. The trees around these parts still intact and only the screech of a branch scraping across the conservatory roof, proof that a storm whose bark has turned out to be worse than her bite, might just be pulling on her surgical stockings and getting ready to whip herself into frenzy.
Inside I am snuggled up in an orange blanket, staring at a defiant moon hanging like a huge dinnerplate in the sky, neither moved nor threatened by winds only just tumbling out of bed. A cosy night then. Coronation Street, our Brocante bookclub choice on my Kindle, and a pot of spicy cinnamon tea on the coffee table after a wet afternoon running through town, late to meet Finn for a motherly head to foot check after a raucous Fresher’s night out.
I have been feeling… detached. From myself. From everything. And in many ways I have not minded for it has created the space I need to see what needs to be done. I have not minded because in my detachment I have found a sort of peace and a return to the simple ebb and flow of routine and domestic ritual, despite a sense that everything might just be about to crumble in to the stormy sea below me.
Tonight then. Some sort of allergic reaction to a new shampoo that has set my scalp crawling. The drip, drip, drip of rain on the windowsill. A real chill in my candlelit living room for the first time this Autumn and a cat demented by what I can only presume is a ghost as he bounces off the wall in giddy delirium. I talk about the cat a lot lately don’t I? It makes me feel silly. Trivial. Alone. Just an hour ago, I found myself arguing with a lady on the tele who announced she was one thing, when I know her to be quite another. Wandering in and out of the room as I chopped sweet potato into fat chunks while holding a debate with a cast of actors who cannot hear me. Arguing with the TV and talking about the cat as if he is my child? Hells bells this is a slippery slope if ever there was one!
It struck me this morning, as I lay curled up under my velvet quilt, that this is the first time in my life that I have ever been truly alone. That I went from my Mum and Dad, to Finn’s Dad, and then to years spent with my little shadow always at my side. That I have never known what it is to not have someone else to get up for. I lay listening to the rumble of the passing lorries shaking the lane, and I felt alone. A little scared of my own company. Claustrophobic in a house with too many memories crowding in on me like the yellow wallpaper of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s nightmares.
For I think this may be grief. Grief postponed. Last year I was so determined to survive, to prove that I could, to stay positive, to keep believing that I would move on and leave what had been lost behind, that I didn’t give myself a chance to acknowledge the trauma of being treated as if I had ceased to exist: as if the weight of all that we had created together was mine to carry alone. Forced to pretend that someone who mattered to me had died without the comfort of a funeral. I didn’t give myself opportunity to drown so totally in grief for the family I loved deeply. Someone I had sacrificed so much of myself for. I didn’t scream or rage or even really sob as I probably should have done because I was too busy exhausting myself with trying to understand. To empathise and excuse. So I didn’t beg. Or throw things. I just threw myself into my own Renaissance. and in the process created some of the best work of my life, but lost myself along the way.
I loved Stephen. I loved him fiercely. And love doesn’t just fizzle away. It lingers like so much black oil on the sands of time. Ugly and sticky and destructive. And I tried to run from it. To find in others what I was still grieving for. Dating and hurting people and never fully committing because my head wouldn’t let me. My head kept on saying, ah yes, but it isn’t him. As if a man who could hurt me so completely should in any way be my yardstick. For it is in his silence that I have treaded water. In the chaos he has created for me, that I am drowning. So this detachment: it is grief. And I have pretended it didn’t matter. But it does and I am finally allowing it to consume me. Just for a while. Just long enough to acknowledge that I didn’t deserve it. That I have lost everything I had, and I am set to lose more, because someone chose to take it from me and I can never have it back. Can never find solace in the kind of closure and support I should have been able to take for granted.
Tonight then. A brush ragged over and over again through my hair to soothe a scalp on fire, and another laundry room slug escorted off the premises. An argument (rapidly turning into a full scale war that may require intervention) with a door that will not stay shut and a potato cake slathered in salty butter for the sake of meeting my daily macros. What else? A tobacco candle burning on the windowsill and curtains still open on a night not yet raging against a much heralded storm. Dishes in the sink. A suppressed scream. A splash of elderflower cordial over icy soda water in a fancy glass. A man at the door telling me that he is not long out of prison and has a bag full of chamois leathers to sell me should I be so kind? But oh how to say, I’m so sorry I have given up kindness for now and I have quite forgotten how to trust. Away with you and your chamois leathers! Away with your rainbow feather dusters! Away with you, please.
And tomorrow? More of the same. Without Agnes or the chamois leathers. More silence between the noise of a head always so busy with ideas competing with emotion I am not ready for, plans I do not want to make. More sweet potatoes because I cannot get enough of them. More work, for nothing, oh but nothing else feeds me in quite the same way.
More of this self-imposed isolation as I mend and heal and set the embers of ambition, desire and determination burning all over again. So come, dear Agnes, and do your worst. For I cannot think of anything cosier, than a storm raging at the window as I sip tea and examine hope as if she were, for all the world, a long lost friend.