Full of Fire: Part 3

(Part 1Part 2)

She never regretted moving to this flat.  It was her bolt hole in this fast paced city, a place where she could flutter and eventually fly free of her parents, beloved though they were.  In fact, they were the reason why she had moved to the city.  She couldn’t quite face looking into their eyes once Robert had been to visit her at the parent’s house.  If they had known of all of the positions that they had made love in then her cheeks would be forever burnished, matching only those of rosy fresh apples.  No, much better that she had moved away to a swanky new flat with him instead, free to both explore their love and to allow their careers to take a foothold upon the employment ladder in their chosen fields.

The flat wasn’t really swanky in all honesty.  Sometimes, especially after a heated remark or two, it could feel like a shoe box and one that she yearned to escape.  It was at times like those that she felt she could happily return to her parent’s house, to become engulfed once again in their loving embrace.  But she realized that this would never happen again, she had flown the coop and would not return to live there in this lifetime.  She visited, from time to time, and had hosted her mother and father in her adopted city, but they would not meaningfully live side by side again.

Robert was her immediate family now, her lover and confidant, her romancer and family man.  Her father wrote often though, kept the familial bonds strong and she wrote back as often as she could, though writing was not her forte and clearly her path in life was not to follow her father.  She loved his letters though, decorated as they were with doodles on each page.  The notes on his latest writing project filled her with hope for her father and his health, as she often mistakenly equated the health of his imagination with the health of his ailing body.  Her mother sometimes added a page or two of notes as well, updated her on school crushes and old boyfriends.  It was these tidbits from her mother that she really enjoyed, kept her in the loop of small town life and let her feel guilt-free pangs of happiness.  In this raging city of 24/7 access, it was grounding to know that life continued as much as it ever had in other parts of the country, parts that the creeping suburbia of the city hadn’t yet reached.

The illness unhinged her for a while though, the images of her father spraying droplets of blood was not something that she wanted to think about, neither was the fact that her parents were indeed mortal and not immortal, as a childish version of her thought still.  Her foundation of independence had just become solidified yet it felt like even as she started to make her mark on the world, the world had started to shake the rock that she built her life upon.

In all honesty she tried not to think about the condition slowly taking over her father’s life.  To put death at a distance and to keep love close.  That was her motto, though she could never think of the words to articulate it, it was how she lived her live in the shadow of her parent’s slow, earthly demise.  Her father would probably be writing a poem at this very moment and she could just picture it, his pen gliding across the paper in what would seem to be a well-rehearsed manner.  The words would flow, the inconvertible truth that this man was born to give a voice to his generation would be undeniable.

In her darkest moments, sometimes the ones that followed the passionate lovemaking sessions with Robert where she lay in quiet repose resting, the thoughts would intrude into her mind like unbidden shards of shattered glass.  He would be remembered by the many, not by the few.

It would not be long now.

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Station Song

It’s 2am on an autumn day,
I’m laying in the grass thinking of you.

Forgive me if I think of you so often,
but I am tired, oh so tired.

We never did consummate our love by the bedside table, 
Instead we drank,
we laughed,
we cried…

Oh I had to leave,
had to leave you behind,

Those challenges that you were not home,
they did hurt me so…

But I knew that you would soon be back,
cradling your drink of choice.

Who by fire knew it wouldn’t last,
who could give it one more chance?

We never said goodbye properly,
I never tasted those lips one last time,

It was true that I knew it was over, though, by the ringing of the bell.
I had given my parting shot,
delivered it by look alone,

Even though we never mentioned it,
I could tell by the tone of your c
racked voice, that you wished we had not met.

We drank to our knowledge,
our new fledged independence,
Dalliances of old and… of experiences new.                                                                 Hidden by its absence was our tempted love,
in the station still,
we bid it farewell.

CNV00020

Photograph by author (B&W film).

Full of Fire: Part 2

(Part 1 – Part 3)

She had heard him coughing over his poem in the far off room, could no doubt imagine the fine spray of blood that was probably even now covering his crisp writing paper.  It would not be long now before he was too ill to write.  This was a period that she had been dreading, even as he sought to convey the full confection of his feelings for her in his short, often romantic, poems detailing their shared life together.

Today, however, was a different story.  She had already heard him earlier, muttering under his breath about the lines that had formed on his paper in the distinct rays of the morning sun.  Once or twice she thought she had even heard him growl in resigned and quiet anger.  Why didn’t he stop, rest and enjoy the short time that they had left?  Why hadn’t they eaten breakfast together the past few days, as they normally would have either in the light yellow breakfast room or in one of the cafes that proliferated the nearby shopping arcade?

She knew, of course, why he had been focusing on his writing, even more so in the autumn of his life, ever since that damn diagnosis.  It was to be a slow decline for the writer of such fiery youthful polemics, which had made him his name as an author in the country of his birth.  There was to be a steady lessening of his commands, a slow fire that would rise up from his belly and engulf his lungs so that in his last days he would feel as if he was drowning in flames.

They both faced this poetic decree by his doctor with solid stoicism, unmoved by his descriptions and livid features, the jowls that so willingly proclaimed the closing chapter of a life well lived.  She had swallowed hard that day, had pushed down that knot of fear, pushed it down so deep she had barely registered its original presence.  Yet it lingered, as the ghost of an early morning dream does to those that live the day believing that they are forgetting something fundamental in their routine.  Guilt mingled with the fear, the fear that, even if he were to pass as she was still undecided on this matter, she would remain in this house built for two alone.  Her coming winter was to be spent in silent reflection.

She had somehow forgotten of his ills, perhaps buried them once more, as she busied herself with the tasks of daily life.  Filtering the mail, answering calls, fielding journalists.  In truth this was a remote interaction with the world at large, her life with him had been steady, filled with the romance of every day love.  Gestures that Romero would never have a chance to show to his youthful Juliet that filled theirs instead. avec amour chaque devoir quotidien.

This day she had let him write alone and she thought he was progressing, writing further poems of truly requited love, the kind that beats across the decades and the kind that fills the marital bed with the warm glow of satisfaction.  Towards the drawing of the late summer sun she had heard that cough percolate throughout the house time and time again, shaking her core foundation and filling it with a silent dread.  She abandoned her tasks and rushed towards the sounds of his frail body, wracked as it was by coughing convulsions.  They embraced as one, his eyes holding hers.  A quick glance at his desk showed a poem, scribbled all over and dotted with the fine droplets of blood that he had indeed sprayed forth.

It would not be long now.

A Letter To Simone II

Porto,

Portugal

Friday 20th August

Dearest Simone,

Your latest letter breathes joy into my very frame.  Yes, yes, I am always too formal in my correspondence!  Still I am here, I have managed to escape the landlocked country of the Switz and I now face the great open Atlantic, I am coming Simone, I am coming!  I can almost hear the gentle lapping of the waves against the great southern continent that holds you, my dear friend, in its gentle and comfortable embrace.  I am safe here on the southern tip of the European continent, no one knows I am here and the country is morose and still, but it is safe and stable.  The language is the same as your host country so I will be well prepared to converse and drop into the background on the journey over.

My very bones feel rejuvenated here in Porto, as the morning sun cascades down the terracotta tiles of a thousand roofs.  We are safe, we are safe!  My European plain sensibilities are becoming swamped by the Hispanic love of life and of relaxation.  I feel that although we will always carry the guilt of the free, of the survivors, we may try yet again to live in this beautiful world.  In all honesty Simone I am surprised I feel this way but it is because of our escape and of the dangers that we have survived that I feel this way.  We must answer the boot of our oppressor with the scream of our freedom.

Yes, you know I am always reading!  I have managed to find a few different novels but nothing of serious importance, just some light novels and novellas that keep me going.  I am finding deep inspiration in the architecture and geography of this city, in watching the swaying hips of the beautiful women and the light steps of the children inevitably trailing in their wake.  Although the great spirit of this country is asleep at the moment, under this monotonous leader, I have no doubt it will wake up and bring great vitality to a united and friendly Europe.

But of course that may be some time off yet.

Ah yes my love life, you know Simone that I rarely talk of such passions openly.  But what can I say, this country is infecting the very marrow of my bones and I have indeed been meeting up with a few of the local ladies for dates.  Do not misread that though!  I keep my distance and act with discretion, but with my local cafes often being graced with my presence I have come to meet several women for short dates, nothing more than fanciful dalliances really.  My heart does flutter however whenever I have the opportunity to meet Roberta though.  I’ll haven’t the time or space to write about here though as this is just a short letter before I sail to Recife, my next letter will be full of details though!

As I said there have been no more poisonous letters and I am positive that we are now safe to continue on with our lives, to make them worthwhile once more.  I’m sending a small package with this letter, including a book of poetry which I will think you will love.  The Atlantic crossing will take some time but each morning I will wake and think of you.

Yours faithfully and with all of my love,

Sasha C.

Letter 1Letter 2

A Letter To Sasha

Recife

Brasil

Monday 14th July

Sasha,

You are always too formal!  I have your crinkled and yellowed letter by my side as I write to you now, though it has took some time to arrive to me here on the sunny coast of Recife (I think Brasilian mail is slow).  I trust that you are safe, whatever devil wrote that letter will surely be thrown from your trail once you moved.  In truth I have to believe that you are safe, you are my link, possibly my last link to what we once had in the old world.  But I will not speak like that because we are strong, we have always been strong!  Remember when we were children and we used to rings around Joseph in the school yard, how his little cheeks became red with the effort of his exertion as he tried to catch us whilst we floated on the air, always beating him.  We were always the fastest in the school races as well.

Do you believe that whoever sent you the letter also knew about me?

Recife life is good, I am liking it here although it is very different from the home country.  The coast and the countryside are beautiful (a lush verdant green contrasting with the colonial town facade), the sea is sparkling and the living is good.  I should say though that this city is not without it’s own problems of course.  There is a large population here, full of migrants and manual laborers from the surrounding countryside, and whilst there is a strong regional and local identity it would not do to compare it to the cities in the south!  I know you think it is odd my coming here, after all this is country that is directly opposite to ours in ideology and views, one that has harboured those that seek to banish, isolate and, ultimately, flay us off the face of this earth, but in truth Sasha it is also a vibrant mix of people, of identities and cultures.  I can, with a good tan and some local knowledge, slip into the crowds here and form myself a new skin; I am born anew.

Please do not say that I am betraying our homeland identity though.  We both know what it is like carrying around our secrets and hidden pasts (that heavy depressing weight) but we have to be careful, we always have to be careful.  In my heart I believe that this is the last place that I’ll be found in or hunted down in- I am living in the open, eating fresh fish and fruit and drinking the vitalising local drinks.  I feel free here Sasha!  More free than I have felt for so many years.  It is as if I can feel my wings spreading that little bit more each day, as if the very horizon widens that little bit more every morning.  I am even taking educational classes, learning the local language slowly but surely and helping to sell goods at a small local market.  I know it is nothing compared to our previous lives but I am slowly earning to live again.  I pray that you too are doing the same.  In fact I know you are, we could not be so close and not know one another’s thoughts, even with an ocean between our physical bodies.

I wake up on the cool mornings, with the air laced with the salt of the sea spray, the sun’s rays casting shadows on my walls and the calls of the street echoing in my room, and I give thanks that I wake up in this lovely place.  There is history here too, although not classical it is every bit as intriguing as anything Rome or Athens produced, and so recent too.  Did you know that the indigenous peoples raised their own republic here in the north not so long ago?  That they repelled the central government so many times that the main rebel city grew and prospered for decades?  In resistance there is hope.  We know this, we live this.  To be alive is to be against the laws of the very known universe, but to be alive means that we must push ourselves even when we think that we can no longer function as humans.  We must, we have to, or else our lives would be in vain.

Forgive me, I know you know this.  And do not joke, your bones are almost younger than mine!  I will see you yet in Brasil and we shall dance together in the street.  I know that you have to stay in Europe; I miss it every waking hour of my life but I need to be away from it.  I cannot yet go back, too fresh is the wound upon my body and being physically back would surely open re-open those wounds.  I fear that is something I could not recover from quickly, if I ever could.  No, I have a horrible feeling that it could be fatal.  No, I need to Stay away, I need that deep blue gap between between me and the land we once knew.

Tell me, my dear, what news of your love life?  What news of your latest historical fix?  I miss your knowledgeable ways, the pointing out of nicked buildings and little cultured asides on some-such street feature.  Are you reading at the moment?  I find that I have to, that before I go to bed on a night I must pick up a European classic and read a few pages or even just flick through some favourite passages of a few novels.  I need to remind myself that evil has not permeated every facet of European life, that it has not indelibly marked the pleasure of our country or another.  Maybe it is stupid, or daft, but I feel it is necessary.

Do not forget Sasha that we are all sons and daughters of some one.  We have our history, our culture, our people, running through our own veins right now, even as you read these very words remember that we are free.  Whilst we live so do they.  Do not give up hope, and do not give in to despair.  Fly while (and when) you can but soon we will be settled once again.  Keep that hope in your heart and enjoy your historical tours as I am sure only you can!

With deepest love for you my brother, my family.

Simone

Letter 1Letter 3

A Letter To Simone

Vieille Ville,

Geneva.

Thursday 26th May

Dear Simone,

Thank you for your latest letter Simone, it is much appreciated and much needed at this moment in my life.  It means the world to hear from such a dear friend.  I was extremely interested to hear of your tales and adventures in Brazil – it is a country I have yearned to visit for some years now, although I doubt my old bones will now make it across the cold Atlantic.  Maybe I will finally join you in the twilight years of my life?  We shall see old friend, we shall see!  In the meantime I find myself in Geneva, of all places.  It is nice here, warm in the summer sun.  Great chess boards too, where you often find yourself playing against old crooked masters.

At this moment I’m sitting in Vieille Ville, sure it is a tourist trap, but I am anonymous enough drinking my coffee in peace in this rich historic environment.  (You know as well as I do that I need history, not just coffee, to keep me going).  As a pleasant extra I am served by waitresses that have truly taken in the beauty of the landscape – they have must have gulped it down so candescent is their splendour and bosoms!  Enough of my chatter, let us get down to business and the reason why I write to you now.

Yesterday I received a letter from a person that neither I nor you know, yet they knew me intimately.  Although I have only been in Geneva a few weeks (and what glorious peaceful weeks they have been!) this person knew of my history and of our connection.   We both know what it is like to live but not to be alive, to merely survive, of constantly having to check who is behind you.  I do not want to do that again, I will not.  We are brother and sister me and you, not a family by shared blood but by shared experiences.  I know I can trust you and that is why I write to you now in deepest confidence.

The content of the letter was vicious, bloody, a real slap in the face of a warning.  I could make out a couple of sentences warning of retaliation for being what we are, for having the nerve to run when we did.  I am not sure, though, that the writer knew of our story in all of it’s grisly detail, just that we had escaped, ran across that fateful line that separated us from them.

When I close my eyes, when I try to sleep, just when I think I am at my most peaceful sitting by the lake, the scene is shattered irrevocably.  I see them still, caged like beasts whilst we ran for our lives, flying over torn up fields of green.  We both know that there was no chance of rescuing any of the others but that did not make the decision to leave any easier.  When I wake in the morning tears still stain my pillows, such is my desolation that I weep in my sleep.  I only hope that you, sister, fare better then me in such circumstances.  Indeed, in our way, we have swapped the turmoil in our souls for the beauty of landscapes that we each now inhabit.  As deep as we try to drink in the beauty of the world, we know of the deepest darkest recesses of the human mind that haunt us wherever we shall go.

But let me come back to the letter.  It was hand delivered to the door of my apartment in Geneva around the time the normal post came.  This realisation, that whoever dropped it off knew where I was living, came to me like a slap in the face.  It was as if I had been pulled from a deep peaceful coma and plunged into an ice bath.  Perhaps for too long had I been lulled into a false sense of security by the facade of history in the city.  Either way I knew I had to act quickly.

The letter did not state any direct actions that the writer would take but it did not need to – after all the very fact that they knew where I lived was a threat enough was it not?  I decided to pack my bag that instant, leaving the apartment within the hour.  I am hiding in plain sight at the moment but later I shall catch the train and escape this city altogether.  I do not feel safe here any more.  I knew of course that it was risky to stay here, but I will not abandon them, at least not until I know it is too late.

You know I cannot seem to escape Europe itself.  My roots are too deeply embedded in the landscape, my history present in the wind, the soil drenched in my blood.  I cannot leave here, nor will I.  As much as I would love to sit by your side on the white beaches of Rio I cannot.  Please have that extra drink for me and raise your glass when you do.  Think of me, but think of others left behind.  Only in our mind are we truly free.

So this letter is just a warning sister, please be on your guard as I am now on mine.

In this letter I have included a safe location for you to write to me.  For now I will deposit this letter at the railway station and ask an aide to post it later on today to make the 5pm post.

Please reply when it is safe, when you are able.

Yours sincerely,

Sasha C.

Letter 2 – Letter 3

Short Scenes

I love delving into new authors without really having much or any knowledge of their work or style.  Recently, on a trip to Newcastle, I had a bit of time to kill so I popped into a bookstore and browsed the shelves.  On one of the shelves I found When I Was Mortal, a recently published short story collection by Javier Marías.  I had heard of his name, indeed had looked at his novels before, but I had never read any of his work.  The front cover grabbed my attention with the beautiful photograph of the crow, elegant yet not too understated.

javier

I am fast becoming a fan of short story collections and folk tales.  Vonnegut showed me the way and Márquez taught me the value of them, Marías is now enticing me to know more.  The short story is a wonderful form, one that is much maligned in the modern printing world.  Of course how could it not be?  Where once it was a mainstay in helping the author to produce work and maintain an income whilst working on novels, it is now rare for authors to be able to earn a living from short stories as a sole main income.  Only stable authors have collections of short stories out in the shops.

Of course this is largely due to the internet and the relatively dying off of short story magazines in recent decades.  But where there is a will there is a way.  New independent magazines are appearing all the time online and in hard copy, and you can contribute to them, as I have done.  The Paperbook Collective is one such example: full of photography, poetry, reviews, short stories and short scenes.  I also got wind that another friend is looking to set up an interactive online magazine full of music, photography, poems, short pieces and essays.  It is something I look forward to contributing to.  Even now as I type ideas fizz and pop into my head, short scenes stolen from real life or dreamt up in fantasy.

In the meantime I heading back to the world of Mariás.  Keep on writing, keep on dreaming.  (But, perhaps most importantly for me, I must keep on editing!).

BRB

I won’t be posting here for a while as I’ve got to have some hospital surgery carried out, I head in tomorrow for blood tests and X-rays before the surgery on Wednesday.  However I have picked my reading wisely for the time I shall be bed bound, so here is a quick list of what I’m taking with me*:

  • Fracture: Adventures of  a Broken Body by Ann Oakley (a re-read).
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
  • The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov (a re-read).
  • Notes from the Underground and The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  • The Human Bone Manual by Tim White and Pieter Folkens.
  • Disability in Medieval History by Irina Metzler (if I can!).

I can’t help but feel I am missing a good travelogue or another novel I can get my teeth in, but The Road and Notes from the Underground are two books I have been meaning to read for quite some time.  Although the reading list does look decided depressing, I shall relish the hours lying down in bed adsorbed in the comfort of a good writer and lost in a world that they have created.  It is perhaps no surprise to see that at least two Russian authors have made the list, but with a new Stephen King novel out I may be doing some asking for that as a cheeky gift!   I have included a few re-reads in the list above, but we shall see if I get those read again.

I shall need to call upon my stoical strength again, but I look forward to writing back here once I am well enough.  Photography by author, taken with a Pentax S1a camera.

I shall need to call upon my stoical strength again, but I look forward to writing back here once I am well enough. Photography by author, taken with a Pentax S1a camera.

* I’ll also be taking a stack of CD’s with me because I am doggedly old fashioned, and, of course, a stack of paper to write letters to friends and to keep notes.

A Letter of Love

I have always firmly believed that if my house caught fire, and my family were safe, I would not hesitate in saving my batch of personal letters.   Let my other personal possessions burn, another guitar can be found, books can be sourced and CD’s can be hunted down, but personal letters are one of a kind.  A written statement from one individual to another, never read by anyone else, containing all the thoughts that that person felt at that one time, particular only to them and them alone; they are irreplaceable and irrevocable.  The two packet stuffed envelops, tape wrapped for safety, sitting in a drawer near my bed, are the collected letters I have received from family, friends and lovers, over a decade or so, sitting comfortably close to me.  I hold them dear to my heart.  Letters from friends I have not spoken to in some time, letters from lovers in different countries, and letters from friends in different continents.

The night before major surgery I sit and compose letters to my dear friends, a final farewell if the worst were to happen.  Solace found in the hand written word.  I often wonder what world my letters find themselves in, letters sent to Brazil, France and Germany, where the language the letters are written in is not the mother tongue.  I imagine my friends opening the letters, sent perhaps unexpected for arrival, their hands and eyes scanning the page, the pearl of a grin beginning on their lips.  For me the sound of the postman in the early afternoon and the sight caught of a personal letter is one of sheer joy.

There are a few hauntingly brilliant songs about letters and their contents, but for me the stand out is the song ‘Famous Blue Raincoat‘ by Leonard Cohen.  I will always remember composing a letter to a dear friend at 2am on a quiet winter night in my university flat whilst listening to Leonard.  It is a memory I will treasure always, of the little academic holed up in his cold flat.