Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Chaise Longue



The golden chaise longue wouldn’t fit through my door. It didn’t matter how often I uncoiled my tape measure or how many fags Hev smoked on the front step, it was too big - or my doorway was too small. I was stuck with an already paid for sofa in the hallway of my block of flats. Fellow tenants circled the chaise longue,  prodding it with fingers, offering up solutions, but we all knew the real answer: I had to get rid of it. 
     Hev and I had driven it over that morning; it stuck out like a giant banana from the back of Jo’s Grandma’s Estate car. This was meant to be my new start, the opening credits to my freshly arranged life. If I am not to move from my flat in the near future, I'd vowed, I shall beautify, brighten and spruce up what I already have – a tiny attic flat, and rudimentary, with blue office carpets and a kitchen the size of a shower cubicle. But my tiny flat has an extra-special bonus – it’s thirty seconds from the sea, from swimming that sends me shivering back through my flat’s doorway. And that’s enough to keep me here.      
     But the chaise longue wouldn’t fit. We propped it up in the hallway, and pushed the old one back up the three flights to my flat. It was like some poor old grandmother who refused to go back into the nursing home. Back inside my flat resembled a crime scene - furniture, cushions and rugs roughly thrown into various corners of my living room, my bedroom entrance blocked by an empty bookcase. Days earlier, I'd carefully arranged my books into sub-genres - now they trailed, sad, across the bathroom carpet. I sank down onto my living room floor with a cup of black tea (no milk; my fridge broke yesterday). Rain battered my windows. The chaise longue felt like a symbol for my life: a beautiful bright idea, but frankly, impossible.      
     A friend dragged me out for chocolate cake. When I returned, rain lashing at my legs, hands and face, the chaise longue was still standing in the hallway, gorgeous and golden and looking bigger than ever. I squelched past it up the stairs (Converse trainers soak up puddles like Kleenex) and upon entering my flat, saw I’d left my bedroom window open. Rain had gushed in all over my laptop and the precious items of Mum’s that I’d gathered in Wales and placed by my shrine. Notebooks, a lacquered box, her hand support brace, trinkets, letters, all sodden.     
     I'd like to think joy's around the corner. And that when it comes I will capture it in my palms and, after a while, set it free above the waves and pebbles. But the rains keep coming and little feels sacred anymore.     
    I have this memory. I’m on a hillside smothered in buttercups; the sky is cloudless and blue. Buttercups stretch as far as I can see. They merge with the sunlight that’s half-blinding me, that drops golden over distant treetops. I am dancing down this hillside. With each step I take I shed a year of my life. With each thrust of my hand I shed another. Years drop from me like dead skin. Under soft sunlight and between two fences and the horizon, all pain disappears. There’s no cancer. No lupus. No epilepsy. No Alzheimer’s. No stroke, coma, pneumonia. No death. No struggle. No loss. Only golden light and a sheep staring at me from over a wooden fence. Only me, dancing, momentarily a girl again, sweet, silly, captivated by a perfect moment.    
     There’s no way back to that hillside. So I move forward. Push chaise longues up steep flights of stairs. I work; write. I make absurd birthday presents out of ping pong balls for my friends. I put my flat back together again. I chase waves when they are big. I watch the clouds moving above my house. Wait for something golden to enter my life once again.   


3 comments:

Marta said...

There are places I loved and now they don´t exist. They have changed or have been destroyed. There is a boy that was my other I, my guiding light, and probably the next time that we see each other will be the last one. I miss my grandma. I miss my childhood, when all was easy and golden. Now I have more freedom, but then I was more free.
I miss that hillside too, Clare. But as long as I can remember, I know I have it.

Marta said...

There are places I loved and now they don´t exist. They have changed or have been destroyed. There is a boy that was my other I, my guiding light, and probably the next time that we see each other will be the last one. I miss my grandma. I miss my childhood, when all was easy and golden. Now I have more freedom, but then I was more free.
I miss that hillside too, Clare. But as long as I can remember, I know I have it.

clare said...

X for you, Marta