How do I go on? It is a question that I find utterly baffling and audacious. It is one that I have asked myself many times before to be fair – when I’ve been ‘heartbroken’ over the untoward actions of some useless fool I had gotten myself involved with. Oh, how I contemptuously snort at that now! I didn’t even know what pain was back then. What a fool I was. I knew nothing. So now – now that I do have a legitimate reason to ask the question – how do I go on? I don’t have an answer, yet I do go on. It is utterly bizarre to me. I do, I do go on. I move through tasks, pressured to get things done. I stop and catch myself sometimes, amazed at the fact that my hands and feet are moving. It is truly fascinating what one is actually capable of achieving even in a state of grief.
But after all the questions with no answers, and all the tasks of the day are performed, the darkness comes again. Grief comes to claim me again. He knows the practicalities are meaningless. He knows he still holds all the power, and will continue to do so indefinitely.
Here darkness is mingled with vivid shapes of things once recognisable to me.
A hollowed out heart with nothing to give.
A little rowboat struggling to get somewhere.
A tower of solitude, standing alone, greeted by nothing but a dark horizon of nothingness.
It is true – I am abusing myself. I’m still smoking cigarettes, despite my best efforts to stop. Who could quit under these circumstances? I didn’t so much as touch one until mum died. It would be ridiculous to even attempt re-quitting now. But I am drinking too. And I’m taking the occasional Xanax. And all the while I am pregnant. I never thought this would happen to me. But it is. It is happening to me. I feel a heavy grey boulder of guilt looming at my avarice. But I must survive. Somehow I must survive. And numbing the pain is the only way I know how. I know I should be thinking of my child – of protecting my child. But if I don’t survive then neither does my child. It is my grossly unfair yet very real predicament. I know I should be strong enough to face it all without the cigarettes and the wine. But the pain is too acute. It is unlike anything I’ve ever known before. It is too rough, and too cruel and impending. It is constant and eternal. Enduring and consuming. Hot and freezing. Black and red.
Honestly, right now, I don’t know how anyone lives through it. I cannot see a path. I cannot see a way out. I cannot see the point in attempting to find one. And yet the child. I must think of the child. Despite all of this indecision and frustration, my body still swells – an unstoppable indication of the importance of surviving. Mum has left me no choice, the heinous bitch. There is not even the option of not surviving, damn it, and I’d at least like the bloody option! Oh my word, what kind of mother am I going to be with these thoughts? How am I going to be anything other than an empty shell of my former self? Joyless. Lifeless. Careless. I am so terrified. And she knew I was finding the whole idea of motherhood daunting in the first place, the thoughtless mole! Now she has left me to do it on my own … unthinkably cruel bitch.
If I had it my way I would sink into an unparalleled masochistic decline, involving unbelievable amounts of alcohol, sedatives, cigarettes, tears, self-harm and furious, grief-stricken, power infused artworks and writings. But I can’t because of the child! It is not fair. I am entitled to my grief – to my temporary decline and lapse in sanity. But I cannot have it. I thought at least I would have some time to cry and to think – to gather my strength for the long and arduous road ahead that is going to be my motherless motherhood. But I do not even have the luxury of that. My beloved grandfather’s death, a mere three weeks before my mother’s, has left me with yet another stunningly unfair predicament. My uncles need the money from my grandfather’s estate and they need it soon.
My gramps house is my home – not my real home obviously, but it is my true home. It’s my sanctuary. Mum and I spent so much time down there. Even after my gramps moved into a retirement home we went down to the little dilapidated house to stay, and to visit gramps and be with our family. We always planned to own it eventually – it means an unthinkable amount to both of us. Or I should say it meant a great amount to both of us. Now it’s just me … now she is gone. And it is all up to … me. My uncles – her brothers – need to sell it now. I cannot lose that house. If I lose that house I lose my home, my mind, and my sanity. It is the only thing I crave. My very salvation depends upon it. It is my one link to her. I need it. I need it with a desperate panging ache that burns.
And I cannot stay here. By here I mean our house in Perth, where I am right now. True it is home, and has been for twenty-five years. But it is too filled with her. It is suffocating in its Elliness. No, I cannot stay here. Staying here would mean the end of me. It would lead me into a madness that I could not escape from. I must move. I must use the money from the sale of this house to buy my gramps’ house. And I must do it all now. The predicament was presented to me the day after my mother’s funeral with urgency. My dad has since discussed it with Uncle John. Uncle Chris and Aunty Judi are still in Europe (having left the night of the funeral I might add), but John has assured me that they are both happy to sell the house to me. And so everything here in Perth has to be sorted and packed up. I must get this house ready to sell. Things are moving ahead. I am buying the little dilapidated house in Bunbury that will ensure my salvation. But it MUST ALL BE DONE RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE WITH NO TIME TO BREATHE OR GRIEVE.
I keep expecting her to walk through the door, demanding to know what we are doing with all her stuff. And by all her stuff and mean more stuff then you could ever imagine. Yes, Ellie could take the prize for the world’s best hoarder. I make no exaggeration. This house is huge, and it, and the accompanying horrendously large garage, is filled with mountains upon mountains of stuff. What do I keep and what do I throw away? I must sort through it all and decide. I don’t want to do this now. I’m not ready. But I have to move ahead if I want my sanctuary. It must be done. I cannot keep it all. I ruthlessly move through the piles. Emotion cannot come into it. The task must be completed. If I start to get emotional I will never stop. It will be an endless cry of agony.
I sort for hours – an indefinable amount of hours. I sift through piles of her things, trying to move objects around and decide what to keep. Maybe I should give up for a while and drink myself into a stupor. It’s what I want to do – roll around crying in fountains of grief laden wine. Let it all out – all the pain, frustration, anger, agony, fear … desperation. This sorting is making it all well up inside me. I can’t do this. I can’t sort through her belongings! I want to go mad; to let others stand aghast before me, not knowing what to do. And I want to not care. Just for the night. Not caring for the night. Letting others take care of me. Letting them witness it all – the unearthing of the shattered fragments of my tormented, blackened heart. I want to so badly. But I’m worried that I won’t come out of it. If I start that process I may not be able to escape from it. It will be enduring and everlasting. And because of the child, if I do decide to abandon reason for the night, then I have to be okay tomorrow. There is a time limit for my grief.
The other thing is that I’m scared of letting other people witness my madness. My darling Ross, the father of my child, is okay with my madness. He has seen me at my worst before – slashing into my wrists in fits of solitary insanity over things that in hindsight really didn’t matter. But my father and my stepmother are here looking after me too. And they have never seen me emotional. They probably think that they have, but they have NOT. Dad is not really an ‘emotionally equipped’ man, and he’d be the first to admit it. So I have always held my emotions in while I’m around him and Jane. I’ve become quite good at it over the years. But now, at this time, I really don’t know if I can hold them all in. I’m so scared of what they will think if I should let them out. And given the raw acuteness of my grief, the emotions they will likely witness will be the most terrifying experience humanely possible. And they won’t know what to do. There’s nothing they can do anyway. There’s nothing I can do for fuck’s sake. Except to go mad it would seem. Fuck it; now that I’m talking it over to myself it’s becoming more and more appealing and unavoidable. And I’m slowly slipping into that state anyway so I’m not even sure if it’s a choice anymore.
No, it is not a choice. I am blind drunk and completely mad with grief. It does indeed consume me whole, and I welcome it. At first it is relieving, but the time trickles away, and so does the wine, and it begins to become more insidious, and more unbearable. The truth of what I have lost is born into the night. She is never coming back. I am going to have this child without her. My son will never know her; he will never see her, never meet her, never be held by her, never play games with her. She will never make him laugh, never pick him up, never comfort him, never give him bad advice, never … love him … she will never get the chance to love him.
It’s not fair. I don’t accept it! I don’t accept any of this!!! I need something to change, something to be different, and something to cling to. No, what I need is for something to be ruined, broken, SMASHED! I will smash something. I will pick up these dying pot-plants and smash them. And I will rip all the plants from the garden and KILL them! The rage swells and I am on a mad rampage of timeless destruction. I cannot get my hands on enough things to destroy and break.
But then my father’s hand is suddenly holding my wrist. He is interrupting my momentum of fury … I will have to call an ambulance … I hear the words echo past me. What a ridiculous conclusion to draw! This is a perfectly normal display of grief you heartless bastard! Okay, if I can’t destroy then I need to paint. I need to get this shit out of me or its going to kill me! My step-mother procures me a canvass and paint. I make shapes on the white, but they don’t look right. It’s not coming out how I want it to! It doesn’t look right! Things are dropping from sight. I am loosing grip on reality. It is momentarily wonderful. I can’t feel anything …
The Unwanted Visitor in the Carport
Ellie and I had just been to the movies – one of our favourite pastimes. Ellie was engaged in manically dictating what she had found pleasing and annoying about the movie, as she drove her trashy pink Pysar home. I listened, somewhat inattentively, in the passenger seat. As always, Ellie spoke with great animation and velocity, which affected her driving speed. This always slightly irritated me. I found it fascinating to observe that she slowed down the speed of her car the faster and more excitedly she parroted. Clearly talking was the most important endeavour and it required her to accommodate for this priority in the speed of her vehicle. As such it had been a slow journey home.
Still chattering away cheerfully, Ellie pulled up far too quickly in the carport and began to turn the car off. I was in the process of pressing my seat-belt button when Ellie suddenly swung her entire body weight in my direction, her face white and mad with terror, as she simultaneously screeched in a high-pitched wail, ‘GET OUT! GET OUT NOW!!!’
Completely taken aback, I was momentarily paralysed by this sudden surge of mania, and I made the fatal mistake of hesitating for a second, as I recoiled back from my mother’s ominous frame. Ellie did not wait for action. Not even allowing a second for me to recover and remove myself from the car in an orderly fashion, Ellie, noting my hesitation with mounting terror, heaved her rather sturdy girth directly on top of me, as she scrambled to unleash herself from the restraint of her uncooperative seat-belt. Eyes wide with sheer desperation, she fumbled until she released herself, as her body weight came crashing down upon me.
Thoroughly winded, I yelled, ‘What the hell are you doing?!’ as I was crushed into the seat with brutal force. Instead of answering, Ellie fought her way over my problematically placed frame and rolled army-style out of the passenger door onto the floor of the carport. There she perched, heaving in exasperation for a second, before she, very turtle like, attempted to raise herself as quickly as possible. I watched, bamboozled, as she staggered frantically to the front door, fumbling with her car keys as she ran. She threw her weight against the door as she inserted the key, falling into the house and swiftly slamming the front door behind her.
I sat, dumbfounded, in the passenger seat, completely baffled by my mother’s strange antics. Then I happened to look over to the driver’s window. I instantly turned cold. A huge, ominous, most unwelcome huntsman spider had situated itself on the outside of Ellie’s window – its momentous, long, eerily furry legs splayed out across the width of the window. I comprehended this predicament. I then very slowly and methodically extracted myself from the vehicle, my eyes locked on the driver window, and, moving as quietly as possible so as to not anger the beast, who could without doubt easily spring across the roof at me, shimmied round the vehicle. Once safely out of jumping reach, I took one final look at the terrifying creature and backed away toward the house.
Mum’s behaviour was now completely understandable – she was deeply arachnophobic. It stemmed from her early childhood. Her mother, Hilda, was also arachnophobic, and had passed this on to Ellie. One day, when Ellie was a toddler, Hilda was doing some ironing in the sleep-out, while her daughter played happily upon the floor. That is until she caught sight of a huntsman creeping insidiously down the wall, an occurrence that made her scream in terror. She then mercilessly bashed the arachnid until its multiple limbs were ridden throughout opposing corners of the room, the effort of which made her faint. When she came to Ellie was eating one of the said limbs, causing Hilda to faint once more. And so had begun the generational fear of spiders. Hilda passed her phobia onto Ellie, and Ellie in turn passed it on to me, though to a slightly less severe degree. I certainly do not like large spiders, and cannot and will not abide them within the confines of my house or backyard, but they were not capable of causing the severity of reaction given by Ellie. It is true that Ellie was known to push her own tiny year two students out of the way to escape a huntsman invaded classroom. Ellie’s philosophy in regards to hairy spiders was every man for himself.