Sunday, 27 March 2011

Shifting shapes

Long nights used to be my allies, my friends. Filled with wee epiphanies and heightened senses. Where they led me I would go and they always took me some place good and lucid. In fleeting moments I sometimes felt what I imagine was my soul and I breathed in whispers just in case it had a voice. By the time day light dripped in, I would sink down slowly into smoky pink clouds of sleep.
Those nights are past. In their place have arrived murky interlopers that bring with them despairing panic. I swat feverishly at my notebook and the air. Clear the way, clear the way! Don't keep me from myself, not a minute longer, please. But these nights are unyielding. When sleep comes it is wretched and feels like failure. And the days, I reject.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Loose Ends

Entuca is, by all accounts, an oddball. In a sea of noisy eight-year-olds, he is like a sudden plummeting silence. More distressing, though, is his order. He takes small bites of food, always has a perfectly square folded kerchief on hand and moves with such economy it makes you want to pop your knuckles. His expression is an orderly blank too. “It’s unnatural,” says one mother at the Meeting of The Mothers, “my Loki scribbled on all the pages of his art book last Thursday and he didn’t even react!” The other ladies shudder in sync. Keep away from that strange boy they tell their sons at night, god knows what his story is. One enterprising lady writes the principal asking that action be taken at once! “Pray what has he done?” the old man asks. “Nothing!” she cries, “and it’s making us all very uncomfortable!”

This is how it is with Entuca but he barely notices. His thoughts are filled with Kenmi. “Hello kitten!” she’ll say in her jaunty voice and he loves the way she says it. She’ll sit him down on her cardboard stool and give him her terrible herbal tea. When Kenmi found him eight years ago, at first she thought he was a cat (Kenmi thinks everyone’s a cat at first). After cooing from a distance incase Officer Mottle caught her, she threw him over her shoulder like a dish rag and walked out of there humming. That Kenmi, thought Mottle longingly as he watched her amble away, sad he had no reason to arrest her into being near him for a while. Since then, they’ve been together. Kenmi’s never taken care of or taught Entuca anything, she just lets him exist around her. Some might say that’s as good an education as any. Around her his smiles come pouring forth and they’re startling in their truth. To watch them is to feel suddenly frightened: will you ever feel happy like that? Just pray you don’t because everyone knows visceral smiles say only one thing: don’t even try to imagine what happened to me before this smile, don’t do that to yourself.

Kenmi though, she knows a thing or two about Pasts and how they should remain that way. Before she leaves for the night, she stands by the door, holding out the open envelope. Entuca will dip his face into it and laugh obediently, she will then lick the envelope shut, pat it and put it close to her heart. She’s been storing his laughter for years. “In case you need it one day, I can give it to you,” she always says. “In case I need it someday and you can’t give it to me.” Entuca doesn’t understand symbolism at all. The night swallows her whole and once more, he is alone.

In a house down the street, a kitchen light flickers scratchily. Pukpuk rocks back and forth slowly, shrouded in shadows. He is not cute, cheery or squat like his name suggests. I do not believe in names at all if you want to know, or I’d be beautiful and my husband, kind. Pukpuk is tall and lean and those eyes alone should be a criminal offence. He thrives on order too, just like Entuca. When he finds something he cannot understand, his world descends into chaos and doesn’t regain equilibrium till either the mystery unfolds or is obliterated. Mother Pukpuk spent all her nurse’s money buying little Pukpuk a new Scrabble board and buttons every time he torched the last one. As the last of the melted Xs and Ms would drop into the bin, she'd reflect on another disaster averted. Father Pukpuk had been right, she should have smothered the infant Pukpuk in his sleep.

They sit across from each other and the boy and man stare and stare. “Who are you? Why are you like this?” Pukpuk trembles. Entuca is silent, unblinking. He hasn’t moved since Pukpuk walked in, his eyes catch the glint off the steel wrapped inside his bony fingers. “Tell me what you know. You can see it all can’t you? You’re seeing it right now. Just tell me, that’s all. Tell me everything. ” But the child is a blank impasse. The man cannot stand it – no fear. Not even curiosity. The eyes regard him and wait.

The old principal lets the receiver limply fall to its cradle, Kenmi’s faraway voice had sounded barely conscious. The child’s grotesque silence is over, in its place there will pool common, porous absence of noise. He must phone and set the Mothers at ease.