Friday, 16 April 2010

Mirror Portal - Friday Flash

A long involved telephone call. I’m seated on the bottom stair, handset cradled under my chin, giving Amy a draught of flesh top. Suzanne is plucking my arm, but soon takes cognizance of her place in the orchestration. I watch her storm off. Momentarily I hold the phone away from my ear, and pitch for the timpani of small armed percussive reparation. But none is forthcoming. Amy falls asleep and takes my pinioned arm with her. My distressed cabled confessant is chewing my ear off. Yet what rips out and bears aloft my heart, is the petrified image of my eldest daughter’s receding elfin form. Seeing as only empty space now resides in front of me, it’s as if she'd disappeared in a puff of disenchantment.

I wasn’t tracking her down, more trying to clear my head of phone tinnitus. Having decanted Amy from my arm into her cot, I wandered towards my bedroom. I must have glimpsed a dash of colour through the door crack, since I snapped myself back before the threshold. The hue displaced itself once again and unblocked the sliver of light that affords me witness. There she was, sat at my dressing table. In front of my hinged mirror triptych, that gateway to the source of identity. The family omphalos. For I too had sat in front of just such a mirror, a child seeking reassurance of my Mother’s continued existence, when confronting her temporary absence from the house. Jesus wept, suddenly even my pang had a pang of its own now!

My mother’s orderly bedroom with nothing out of place. Everything personal and messy having been buried behind sober, white wardrobe doors. Over the marital bed, fundament of my genesis, a neutral, passionless landscape with a tiny cottage at its heart. ‘I shouldn’t be in here, I shouldn’t be in here’ I inhaled pantingly. ‘I’ll get caught’ I exhaled.

But then my eyes alit on the dresser, with all those personal allures of womanhood. Whisked away by the faint scents and oily emulsions lingering in the air, held in the glass at the forge. The foundry. For all that was feminine. A place of creation, beauty and adornment. I knew I must not approach, to seat myself, to touch. For this was the portal to the forbidden world of boys and sex and once seduced, my soul might be whipped away from me. I would be discovered still sat in this grotto, dusted head to foot in incriminating powders. Guilt and shame battling it out with non-hormonal rouge for incontrovertible confession written upon my cheeks. But I felt the warmth surging through me anyway. Imagining for my mother, a divine trinity illuminated in those three mirrors. Ambrosias and honeys in hand, as she peers in towards the core of her central glass, fluently kindling the two vitreous handmaidens either side with her radiance. Thrice-enhanced, I felt myself equally ordained to enter the world inhabited by my mother and her mother before her. The nine of us stretching back towards infinity.

And now, admittedly at somewhat more of a precocious age, here was my daughter undergoing the very same private initiation. I did what any proud mother would do, I checked that the decor was fitting. I didn’t have such a big heavy dresser as my mother possessed, nor could not even recollect whence I had come by the picture above the bed. The unguents were not as dense as in my mother’s day, but for all their brittleness, I felt still presented a palpable patina with which you could almost gild the walls of the room.

What was she doing exactly? She was bobbing in front of the mirror. Instinctively I pressed my torso back from the door, as she herself cringed back from the purview of the lens. At present I couldn’t get her in focus. Since I’d sat there, both as mother and tremulous daughter, I knew I couldn’t reveal myself and expose her. Yet I had to know precisely what was happening. Fortunately she dipped forward into the dimension of the mirrors again and tugged my frame back to the buffer of the door. Several times we repeated this process as if we were attached by an elasticated umbilical. That we'd never shed the toddler reins.

I gleaned she was ducking in and out of the glass’s survey, as if it was a searchlight. Trawling for a breakout. For escapees and absconders. Fugitives from familiarity. If the beam didn’t sweep you up, it meant that you’d slipped away. If it conjured you in its field, you were held fast and atomised. My daughter was too discerning to want to convene the snarled trinity of me and my mother before me. For here she was, treating the triplicated lenses as if they were sited in a House of Fun. Distorting and reassembling. Distorting and reassembling. Whose genes does she see eyeballing her from within the scope of the looking glass? I just pray that it was only the sloughing of me and my mother that she craves after and not that of her own self. For mirror narcissism is bipolar and self-antipathy gilds one of those foci.

I took my leave. I went into Amy’s room, as if to confer with her that I wasn’t going to fail her as demonstrably I had with Suzanne. She was still in the land of nod. I stood there forlornly, trying to red eye my doting behind her shielded lids. I held there staring, just waiting to harvest the emanations of attachment, but my well seemed either dammed or dried up. Now I really was marooned. Already exiled from my own bedroom, I didn’t want to creep out of here, lest Suzanne hear me and then denounce me for being close enough for spying and yet too distant to be present with her. Something was ricocheting around between me and my daughters, but sure as hell it wasn’t love.

18 comments:

Marisa Birns said...

Ah, mothers and daughters...repeating the dance of distancing that is necessary and heart breaking.

Loved the use of the triptych as a vehicle to revisit the past and a present reminder of the here and now.

Beautiful words and imagery.

You understand the female so very well.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

"Something was ricocheting around between me and my daughters, but sure as hell it wasn’t love."

whoa, what a last line!

Very beautiful writing from an interesting perspective - you present women very well! Amazing piece!

I'm still loving the new site!

ganymeder said...

Nicely done.

Lily Mulholland said...

No objectionable content on this site? Feeling dissatisfied :D

The last line was a doozy. I also enjoyed the mirror/triptych device and thought you must have enjoyed exploring new words for 'three-way'.

Our parents have endless capacity to do us great damage. I feel that heavy burden every time I yell at my angels (when they're being devils).

Laurita said...

An insightful exploration of the mother-daughter dynamic, from the mother's side. It makes me feel that we don't cut our parents enough slack. Wonderful use of language, as always.

Benjamin Solah said...

The language was well done, though if I'm honest, it sometimes made it hard to work out the story.

I'm sure I'm missing part of this story though due to not ever being a daughter or a mother.

Aislinn O'Connor said...

Beautiful - found myself blushing at my own initiation into make-up, when I got carried away in front of my mother's mirror and accidentally ruined her new foundation... Excellent story!

Laura Eno said...

Your beautiful language pulls us into that world of bonding and breaking between mothers and daughters. Excellent!

PDAllen said...

A beautiful slice of life here, textured like an oil painting.

Eric J. Krause said...

Beautiful description in this one. A well-told tale for sure!

Skycycler said...

A feminine foundry, complete with a wonderfully reflective three part anvil with which to bend time. This is sensitive and fleeting yet solid stuff Marc. A voyeuristic right of passage. A seizing of power too.

Yes, this is fantastic.
Simon.

Lou Freshwater said...

You waded into the mother/daughter dynamics, and that is mighty brave of you -- but adding the woman's gaze/the mirror is downright crazy courageous. And I'll be darned if you didn't nail it. Lovely, luscious, details as well.

Linda said...

Great voice here, especially for a dude. You handled the quicksand of the mother-daughter relationship too well, scaringly well. That last line - whoa! That could win a contest. peace...

mazzz in Leeds said...

I too liked what you did with the triptych

Despite having been a daughter I never went through this particular rite of passage. Football and spaceships were more my thing. Didn;t really do make-up until I needed to put kohl around me eyes to make clear my musical affiliations :-)
All of which *delighted* my mother, I am sure

PJ said...

Interesting piece here, Marc. The language was fabulous but a bit overdone at times (IMHO). I like the honesty of the relationships - complex, real human relationships are hard to capture in such a short space and you've done a terrific job.

Jessica Rosen said...

Beautiful use of language. Such well developed relationships, including that of the narrator to the self, in such a short piece is remarkable. Nicely done.

Take care,
Jess

Gracie said...

Really excellent work. You have great insight for a gentleman. :)

Beautiful, deeply woven story.

Cathy Olliffe said...

My favourite part was the description of the mother's bedroom, the smells, the potions on the dresser. That's exactly how my mom's dressing table was. Brought back a flood of memories, thanks.