Friday, April 19, 2013

Ophelia

It was some years ago when he decided he would call me Ophelia. He was delighted at the re-christening, shouting its significance over the loud music to our mutual friends: It's cockney-rhyming slang, you see: Eleanor, Elisnore, Hamlet, Ophelia. Little did he know I had chosen my own nickname for him, not that he ever knew it. For the purposes of my head and my phone he was John Lennon Guy and it was a name so committed that even now, I need to momentarily concentrate before I say his real name out loud.

There are little fragments of that friendship that sometimes return to me. How he would purposefully (yet secretly) request the Kinks so we could dance together or send me a text from across the room: Sorry Ophelia, I didn't recognise you with your new haircut. Wow, you look beautiful... There's a lot to be said for those youthful escapades when the most mild-mannered flirtation would be enough. Nights when you would spend the whole car ride home thinking of what it felt like when he kissed you goodbye on your eyelashes.

The modern-day encounter would be rare, but no less enjoyable. I'd order a mocha and listen, captivated as he'd teach me how psychiatrists establish credibility with their patients or else, how to land a Tigermoth aircraft. It would be rare that I would be able to teach him anything, however there was one occasion when I taught him about lenticular lenses and the meaning of the word, threnody. I also told him the story of Pennies, at which point he handed over a threepence from 1921, a coin I've now pinned to my wall in the traditional Plague style.

I most recently came across an email where I described our first meeting to a friend. I was thrilled that I had somehow managed to forget the drama that transpired. You had a brother?! I texted to him, alarmed. He remembered how it all went down and again, I marvelled in how incredibly unusual it was, to forget that what someone else had remembered. There is always a possibility that more moments have been lost, but I don't believe there is much more to recall that I can't recall already.

I suppose that I just like the innocence of those times. I like the idea of that Ophelia girl, especially now I don't think I'll ever be her again.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Accuracy

I'll admit, I harbour this unattractive tendency to remember everything. If that wasn't unattractive enough, I strive to remember everything more accurately than you do. I prefer to have that sort of information on hand, for if I'm ever challenged about the nature of a glance, gesture or suggestion, I can trump you and I will win. Because I can remember and you can't.

There would have been a time when I would have been upset by this notion. I would have been harpooned by the thought that it wasn't important enough for you to remember, whatever it was exactly. While I had endlessly rhapsodised about various plagues, you'd struggle to recall the scarcest detail of my existence. Once I would have been offended, now I don't particularly care.

It would have been fine except I recently realised that I'd convinced myself of personal truths that were fraught with factual defects. I don't know how but lust and intent became whitewashed with years of coffee-drinking, journal-writing and story-telling. I only realised when you admitted to remembering something: "Come on Elle, you know it was never like that!"

I've never had to account for the veracity of those personal truths, my stories on the Plague or otherwise. Even as I attempt to craft and create and honour those moments of consequence, even as I faithfully recall any number of phantom glances and gestures, the moral of any given memory is diluted by the fact that I refuse to face the truth. I refuse to admit what it was and why it hurt so much when I lost it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cracks

My Dad has this fear about Studley Park Road. Whether it be turning right into it or simply walking across it to reach the bus stop, the threat of getting rumbled by traffic gives my Dad the heebee-jeebees. It's gotten to the point where I'm challenged about it whenever I leave the house and it's always the same conversation. Don't run across Studley Park Road. Walk down to the lights. You're wearing black. Because I'm always wearing black, I always ask why wearing black is even relevant. Cars can't see you if you're wearing black. I always insist that black is not a cloak of invisibility. He claims it is... and then I leave the house, walk up the street and run across Studley Park Road.

On this recent occasion, as much as I wanted to, I could not run across Studley Park Road. It was peak hour. I stood tentatively by the gutter, waiting for a gap in traffic that could only be described as gapless. It just wasn't happening. After a couple of moments, I followed my Dad's advice and walked down to the lights, activating my RunKeeper app to ensure no distance went unrecorded. It was warm and I was happy, having spent the afternoon laughing with my writing friends. I wore a pink and cream dress and marvelled at my punctuality, it never used to be like me to make good time. It was half the reason I always chose to run for the bus.

Halfway down to the lights, I stopped, having spotted something in the concrete. It was neither a name or a paw print but a fragment of a poem by W.B. Yeats, recorded in slashed capital letters in the wet concrete:


We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart's grown brutal from the fare - W.B. Yeats.


At risk of missing my bus entirely, I felt compelled to read the faint markings over and over. I quickly decided to get out my phone to take a photograph of it, to later examine on my sunset ride to the city. I couldn't help but smile when I marvelled at its surreal relevance, how it seemed to touch upon the debilitating of side-effects of fantasy, of possibility and hope. It's strange when you realise that the chasm between what you want and what you can have is not really all that great. The prospect of having all you ever imagined becomes intoxicating. Dreaming of how it could all fall apart becomes exhausting.

I forwarded the image to my writing friends that night. My friend Anne replied with the full 1922 poem, The Stare's Nest by my Window. She wrote, I wondered what Yeats was about, thought it could have something to do with the occupation of Ireland by the English, but it seems that it was about the civil war in 1922, after Michael Collins signed a treaty with England for home rule, which ended up with the provence of Ulster staying in English hands... It all started coming back, Michael Collins and √Čamon de Valera. It all seemed so bitter, bloody and brutal and so totally removed from Studley Park.

I wonder who wrote it. I wonder what they could have meant by it.