I know now that I’m turning into a sentimental idiot. Standing downstairs in the lounge, by that wide-eye window full of pale morning light and green leaf blades, I was hanging up laundry to dry; the radiator bleeds out a loving heart, one I was once so accustomed to that it burnt welts into my back and neck, from leaning up too close, to absorb some of that affection. Listening to the twins upstairs, warbling along to The Snowman with their mother, my eyes bled out too.
I didn’t ask for this pain, it just came over me.
That kind of life will never be mine. I haven’t the patience of my landlady, a tall and beautiful women, with the quiet dignity of one who has known much pain herself, and surmounted it. She cares for the twins alone. I will never forget that morning when she told me what had happened to their father. Our barriers had been lowered due to our mutual colds; we were feeling unnaturally talkative, and reaching out for affection, we bonded over our worlds of pain.
I have never quite understood a woman as much as I do her.
She has raised the twins in the capacity left to her, and it has been an admirable job. They are intelligent, kind, inquisitive little individuals. I’ve never really engaged with children before, except for my younger brother, who was much the same; he’d follow me around the back garden when we were little. Nine years apart but almost twins ourselves, in temperament and looks. More so now. Yet I hardly spoke to him over Christmas. We’ve both had so much happen this year, that our voices have been stilled. I couldn’t find it in my heart to reach out to him, as he couldn’t to me, to anyone.
I know this quiet inside won’t last, this pulling-away from the world. I don’t know if it’s the slow lake-heart of depression, or just a passing nimbus of mood. It has been present for some months, since everything finally slowed to allow me time to breathe. I love my little eyrie, where my heart and writing and independence have flourished. I certainly don’t have itchy feet anymore. There’s a garden and love downstairs, a wonderful dog who howls for the moon with the blood of ancestors lost to an ancient and frozen world. There’s a woman I can confide in – a rarity indeed. Men have always been my preference for friends, mostly platonic, except where our feelings fell through the floor and we followed. I’m the lowlife of the party.
They never last. I return to the light, to the reality of life, while abiding as some Manic Pixie Dream Girl in another’s memory. Three times the charm, this year. No blame.
These things happen, and my life has only ever come in compartments, train carriages of this and that, slamming the door behind and moving on. It’s not the destination that counts, it’s the journey. Blah blah.
Sentimental idiot. You cry for what can’t be, and still with the grim smile of one who knows that if it was your world, you’d be going spare. You who can’t keep still long enough to care for herself, let alone others; you who hasn’t the unselfish heart of a mother, who couldn’t give up that which you demand of others in this role, with that know-it-all attitude of one lacking experience and context. You saw what happened to your own mother, what is happening still. The guilt never leaves her, and it burnt your early life.
I wouldn’t foist that on any child, even if I could bear them. I love a storm, but I don’t love lightning.
Still, I can be their friend. For as long as I live here, I will be a whisper-confidante, passing messages and giggles from one room to the next. I’ve learned how to braid hair again. I sit with one child snuggled on either side, watching the kind of TV that used to make me gag, but now has a weird poignancy that I can’t explain. Maybe it’s because I see what is trying to be taught. I don’t know.
I’ve already learned more from these two than they could ever take from me.
My ex liked to tease me about getting broody. I’d only grin and reply that one child-heart can’t care for another. I still have a lot of catching up to do; at this rate, I might hit adulthood in my fifties. Right now, these are the teen years I never had.