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Each time I write it is to get away from myself. Sometimes I take a new page, other times a whole new place. It never works of course. What an idiot I am. Spilling words out doesn’t get rid of their source within.

Today I received a gift from the gentlest, most sensitive person I have ever known. His skin is as thin as paper and his imagination flies alongside the birds, it leaps up to the stars. I don’t hold with the saying actions speak louder than words. My words have held a time, they have given love and they have lost it. They showed slivers of life, they spun flights of fancy. I see now that I am nothing without my words, they are my eyes to understand the world and I stand by all of them.

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I’m holding the fort again. Just a three day stint this time. I didn’t have to hide the clock, it stopped itself at twenty-nine minutes past seven on the first day. Perhaps it can sense how much I hate it and decided to keep quiet instead of being relegated to the back of the cupboard again.

Nine pills in a morning, three in the afternoon, four for the onslaught of night. The names on the packets read worse than disease, a periodic table of pharmaceutical redress, but the colours are pretty. I wonder how the drug companies decide on colour. My mother says, make sure my happy pill is in there and I feel as blue as the chalky little diamond I feed her.

It’s hard to bear, but I have to remind myself, how much harder it is for her. At the health center I’m called a carer when what I want to be, what I am, is a daughter. And in the early hours when I help her up I feel sick and ashamed and utterly helpless. This weight of a woman who once tripped through the night in high heels with green eyes and a wide smile is now a mountain of old flesh and sad-fish eyes. She is my mother –  I love her still, but when I see how the ravages of age and illness  have bent and deprived her body of strength and movement, I am terrified. I want to wind back time. Selfishly, not only for her but for me too. I am scared that my harum-scarum past will catch up with me. I want to scrub away the cigarettes and the late night abuses and start again. I want to be new. Like a sad aged rocker I cling to fresh habits in the hope of reinventing myself. I don’t know, perhaps it is too late, perhaps I am already a lost cause.

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‘Twas always thus. Isabelle lacks focusDaydreaming . Day dreamer.

Today I didn’t run red lights, today I idled at green with thoughts elsewhere. They drifted far afield to Cornwall, to Grenoble, to Hampshire, to Chicago. Synapses whizzed as stories whisked by, scudding like clouds while impatient traffic beeped behind me. I don’t like plain sailing. I like a bumpy ride, that’s what I was trying to say.

It took thirteen hours by bus from Dehli to Almora. It took three days of plane, boat, train from Manchester to Marrakesh. It has taken me twenty years to realise that his fingers are blind when my voice is silent, when my heart is a secret.

And always it seems my mind drifts back to the moors. A short drive, a hungry climb and I’m at the top of the world and almost in the sky. It’s thrum and throbbing up there, alive with a weighted thudding heat and a stillness that is loud in my ears.  Not deafening, rather a beautiful  intense quietness. I am glad to be away from the sleek world of people, from the places with shallow words and synthetic smiles. Be still and breath, that’s all you need to do.

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She sat down to read the latest of his letters, a poem too.

Her bones ached from digging, her knee was sore from running, but her heart was unbroken. She’d told him once and long ago that she thought herself incapable of love. Of course he would have non of it. She thought about him now, how he would still have non of it. She thought of his eyes, of his smile.

A line from a song came to mind, ‘but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie’ and she wanted him to hear the song straight away. She wanted to say, remember we began with words. We are mainly words. She knew he would counter that they were much more – that they were flesh and blood and heart. That they were love. And perhaps it was true, perhaps they were all those things.  But she was a charlatan, a chameleon. She wanted to remind him of all the others before him. How they too had fallen for her smoke and mirrors.

For as long as she could remember there was an untouchable piece inside her. She could not show it, she could not let it out. She imagined it as a small, hard seed. Sometimes she thought it could be made to grow, and sometimes it sprouted beautiful green shoots, but they never lasted long. And in that sense she was unknowable. It made her sick to her stomach that it was so. That in essence she was detached. That she was never in love since she never was the one who waited.

She wanted to say to him, I am a not a writer, not like you. I do not write from love, I write only as a way of explanation. She wished she could be different. That her heart could be broken. That she could be the one to wait for hours, for word, for confirmation. But it had never been so. Sometimes she dreamt that things would change. That a metaphorical knight in shining armor would appear, would sweep her onto his steed, that she would finally know what it meant to be taken. But it was always the same. The smoke, the mirrors, the endless games and then she found herself pitifully leaping the same old soubresaut to find herself back where she started.

She wanted to say. You are better than this. You are worth more than the pantomime I offer you. She wanted to be provocative and ask him, why is it better to last than to burn ?

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towards Black Hill , August 2013

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Coming back from an antique fair the sky was beautiful. Huge majestic clouds and startling rays of sunlight made everything else feel insubstantial. We were driving toward the beginnings of dusk into the end of an empyrean glory.

When we first met we called them God skies. They were real versions of Old Master paintings. It was easy to imagine a huge hand reaching down to rearrange us. I think all lovers love to create a private language, a shared way of describing the world.

Is there anything that could happen to make you believe in God ? I asked Peter.

As a young girl I prayed to God. I don’t know where this nightly ritual came from. My parents weren’t religious but I remember talking myself off to sleep with a silent internal mantra…….God bless my Mum and Dad, my Grandma and Grandad, my Aunty Ruth and Uncle Ken, my cousins, my Aunty Freda and Uncle Jack, my Aunty Sylvia……..and so it went on. I think this was the beginning of an internal storytelling, some childish attempt at making a history or mythology all to myself. A way of defining my place in the world. As I said each name I sealed their fate and they appeared in my mind’s eye, a parade (parody)  of relatives – loved, revered or sometimes hated.

From there it was a simple step to imagine the things I couldn’t see or didn’t know. Freda and Jack were exotic, childless and intimidating academics, their home was crammed with books. They were older and more formal than my parents. I was afraid of their dry quiet house and my Uncle Jack’s hair was strangely dense and shiny like wet velvet. I conjured up dark secrets for them; that they had given their children away or worse, killed them at birth. It didn’t occur to my childish mind that perhaps they couldn’t have children or even more extraordinary, didn’t want them. Aunty Sylvia and her sister, Susan were cast in opposite roles. They were my father’s wonderfully glamorous younger sisters and I revered their blue eye-lashes and high suede boots. I listened eagerly to their conversations about men and copied the way they nonchalantly stirred their coffee when they took me to cafes. They made me want to smoke. The lives I conjured for them were full of parties and laughter, of brilliant long haired boys with thin fingers and sad clever eyes.

We have driven this journey home countless times. It is often a place of God skies. Perhaps we have had this conversation hundreds of times too but like a child I never tire of talking and like a child,  I never tire of hearing.

No. Nothing. You know there isn’t. And before you say it, we can call them God skies without believing in God, he said.

I know that, but tell me why you don’t,  why you never will, I need to remember it the way you say it, so I can write it down.

Peter talked about linguistics. He talked about the future never being real. He talked about the metaphysical beauty of not needing an answer to everything, an explanation for every thing. He talked about God. I understood it all. I agreed with most of it. But sometimes I like to forget so that I can begin again.

Anew.

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In another time I would love you. I would lick your wounds, I would mend your bones. I would drink in your stories. I would believe in you. In another world I would say to you, come hold my hand, and that would be enough. I would take you up onto Wards Bank and show you the highest cricket ground in the world and you would look beyond it and see only heather and sky. You would fill your lungs and that would feel like the sweetest breath. In another life I would watch you write as I talked about nothing much until my silence came easily. In this perfect place the sky would be magnificent. I would knock off your edges and you would follow my train of thought like an uravelling ball of twine and laugh out to the sea. You would be astonished. We would throw pebbles at the ocean, we would be some kind of element. We would be just the right amount. In this other life you would not be alone.

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Love me with your words, then with your mouth, and then with your fingers , she had said, but don’t let me spill straight away. Save that for your cock.

They were in the smallest room of the cheapest hotel in the poorest part of the town but the location had no bearing on their desire, if anything it heightened it. He had collected the key from a man behind a grubby Formica counter as she had stood behind him, mute. The sky outside was cloudless, a perfect Yves blue. The streets were hot, unbearably so. She looked down at her feet and saw the orange dust between her toes and thought of cool water and his skin against hers. She hoped the fan above the bed worked.

How many times, she wondered,  had lovers fucked in this room. How many times had love been declared only to be lost when the skies clouded over, when the heat died back, when reality muscled in brutally between dream and anticipation.

Years later, he would visit this town again. With his wife and daughter. And in this version it would be clean and proper. It would be safe and regimented. With set meal times and a good nights sleep on cool, pressed sheets in a respectable hotel. A family apartment. There would be no skin slip and stick, no gorging on filthy words, no stumbling into a blaring afternoon for food as sustenance after hours of wet-hard oblivion.

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I love this time.

This after rain greening, this after heat growing. And the softening magic of dusk.

The fields are wet, the air cooler, the ground has been fed again. Work has been hard.

You’ve grafters hands, my mother says.

I look at them. She’s right. Broken nails, rough skin. I don’t mind too much. In my heart I’m a farm girl anyway. But I’m tired. It’s hard to stop and there’s always too much to do to stay afloat , to tread water.

I went to a gig the other night. I listened and I cried. That there are words and music so strong to force my tears is a miracle to me. I have no God to speak of but when that happens I believe in everything and nothing all at once.

I’m beginning to question my throw away attitude. I think of all the words I’ve killed. A massacre of words. Much bloodier than a murmuration of starlings or a story telling of rooks.  But they were too bound to my bone, too shot through with my blood. The trick has to be to write something from the outside and beyond , rather from the inside out. The trick is to forget oneself.

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reddo

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You’re bleeding,  he said
I know, it’s not as bad as it looks.
I am in the shower. He is brushing his teeth.
The blood blooms in the shower tray.

Afterwards in bed I curl on my side and put my head underneath his armpit. It feels safe. It could be perfect.
I am glad I am bleeding, the dull ache in the small of my back is another reminder that I am still here. Alive. That my body is working at its basest most beautiful level.
I think things over. Should I carry on running ?

To swim or to run. Like a child I have Googled my age plus  is it safe to begin running ? As if Google has the answer like a virtual Ouija board. Apparently if I take it slow and steady it is ok. But I cannot be slow or steady. At least not mentally so. Swimming is easier for me. It is a  mask to my inadequacies. It blurs my edges. It is sensory deprivation and in goggles and with earplugs I am forced to listen to my own breath and nothing else.
Under his armpit I think perhaps I should swim one day, run the next.

When I was younger I thought that by reading lots and by drinking lots and by loving lots I would be free. I don’t think this is the case anymore. To feel unencumbered by thoughts of death and unconstrained by thoughts of the future I have to immerse myself physically. I have to forget my thoughts. Reading doesn’t help with this. It flint starts a whole host of insecurities. Drinking doesn’t seem as appealing anymore. I am too old to drink to oblivion, it feels too much like death.

And so I must run and so I must swim.

His hand reaches up to take some of my hair between his fingers. Years ago, a life time ago I said we should never sleep apart. Literally. That some part of us should touch. It could be the merest ankle bone, the push of a thigh, the coil of hair about a finger. I wonder if he remembers this. I expect he does. He remembers everything while I struggle to forget.

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She was running on the empty half of nothing much when she fell, when he caught her. When he caught her he picked her up, he brushed her knees and held her on his lap. She sat on his lap, his hand between her legs. Between her legs she felt the thick flood of desire and it was something else. It was something else with his eyes upon hers. His eyes upon hers, that was important. It was important because as he spoke, as he whispered, he could watch her mouth, he could follow the thoughts across her face. Across her face and into her eyes. Her eyes were as full as they could be.They could be full each time he looked into them, full of everything he wanted. He wanted it all.

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