Saturday, 3 May 2008

Not In My Name (2)

Then they were all gone, as if in puff of enchanted smoke, though of course it were only Mushi’s jerky exhalation of reefer as he flew out laughing his head off. I slammed door behind them and partition walls shook. Mi world were caving in. I sunk into sofa and pressed temples hard gainst mi knuckles. I knew that no matter how brutally I bevelled and no matter the pain, I wouldn’t be able to forestall onslaught. I had kept it at bay fer so long now. But then no one had been callous enough to throw it i’mi face like it were ammonia. Bi time I’d finished sobbing, my eyes would feel like they’d been burned wi’ caustic agents fer real. I prostrated ma’sen before what happy memories I could interpose. Mi sister. My beautiful, bright, sensitive sister. Too sensitive for her own good. Too sensitive for this world that’s fer sure.

There were no sign of trouble in her childhood. She would indulge me, her little ankle-biting, infant brother trailing after her all time, wanting to be part of her wonderfully expanded childhood world of wonder. How she would hoick me up on to her own undersized lap and patiently meet all of my inquiries as to physical world’s workings. It were magical, as she seemed to have all answers I could possibly muster up questions for. Even more than that boardgame, one where model robot would miraculously point at correct answers to quiz questions wi’its wobbling metal pointer, which we could never seem to get to work properly. But there were no faults with Sis. If she weren’t drawing on actual knowledge, she used her free flowing imagination to stitch together seamless universe fer me. Endlessly forebearing, she even saw good in our Father, who never seemed to be around house, as he were off all hours little empire building.

It were only when she reached that developmental stage, of turning out to face wider world beyond domestic one, that things started to unravel. Then lurid expanse of her imagination rounded on her like ebola virus. And devoured her. She would watch TV news and internalise all its horrors. She would replay them endlessly on projector of her memory. Images of the bereaved and the bereft. People in shock, hands clutching sides of their heads, or clamped across their mouths, or clasped over their eyes, as they confront devestation of a bomb blast or military strike. She’d always viewed proverb of three wise monkeys as a quaint, whimsical homily. Now here were this humanity, unwittingly aping them, yet only evil had befallen. They didn’t have first idea what it were all for and neither did she. No longer could she explain these horrors away, to me or to herself. I would just move on elsewhere in house to potter, but she stayed rooted in place, trying to feed her endless craving fer understanding. Much less could she plot her place and future role of assistance in these events. She cracked, whereupon each detonation, each salvo, widened fissure and made her jump out of her skin as if she were experiencing shelling at first hand. All wind knocked out of her, lungs compressed by a grievous weight, barely able to raise themselves and muster breath. No one can tek that amount of punishment and anguish and so she capitulated. Took to her bed, not like John and Yoko fer Peace, but because it were sole safe haven from conflict all around. A rest from all the unrest in world. No lulls, truces, cease-fires or peace accords fer her though. More like hibernation wi’out end. Her firing neurons were decommissioned. Resonating tinnitus coopted her brainwaves. A permanent twilight colonised her grey matter.

Mam tended her. To best a’ her ability, initially lacking diagnosis, then experience from which to operate. When she couldn’t rouse her from bed, she would occasionally lose it big style and yell and scream. Try and lug her out but she were a dead weight, wi’Mam being too tiny to lift much of anything at all. Sis were carted off to psychiatrists. She were put on drug regimes. An external sovereign thrown into ferment, when already subjected to whole host of private tyrannies and feeble insurgencies. Her beautiful dark hair which she had taken to beading before her collapse, turned grey-white i’her twenties. Like she’d seen ghost. Or rather she had become one. Immured. I’d witnessed her turn turtle and her world shrink to diameter a’ her bed. Plain as mi nose that she were ill. But being ill, I told ma’sen, then she could also get better one day soon. Stayed blinkered right to bitter end, some ten year or so down line. Convenient, easy option that let me tek my shot at same developmental stage. Turned out ter face world, nobbut bi’ turning mi back on ‘em all in domestic realm. Like I said, got away from whole house bi burning it down. But only after we’d already interred Sis.

Wi’all mi comings and goings, I were fortunate in only ever once having misfortune of encountering sight of her ultimate zombification. Not outcome of a particularly high dosage of sedatives, rather more blunt form of voodoo. They administered ECT. Imagine that ! Attached electrodes to her temple and fried her brains. Elective torture on NHS. Like neuroscience had acquired no more sophisticated level of analysis, than positing that depression were caused by little black clouds inside her head, which they could blast into oblivion bi'lectrical charge. Her internal fuse box had overloaded and just needed some jump leads to reset her. Yeah, that’ll work. Further bombard someone already under constant siege. Her skin were positively grey when she came round from session. Sympathetically complementing her hair. Both colour a’ ashes.

None of us foresaw end when it came. How could we have anticipated surge of energy and supreme act of will it entailed of her ? In retrospect, maybe we could have gleaned summat were up, that Sunday afternoon before. I had just surfaced ma’sen, after an all-nighter in field near Hebden Bridge. Mam were trying to rouse her as normal, chivvying her that Dad were due back from a weekender himself, albeit of business trip kind. Couldn’t she see her way clear at least to getting up and having bath ? Make herself all spruce for Father’s return. Mam entreated my help to drag her from bed. I had hold a’ shoulders, while Mam tugged at her ankles. Being as she were still lying prone, my sister couldn’t see me behind crown of her head, unless she deliberately flicked her eyes upwards. But from where I were standing poised, I could see they had wholly receded back inside their sockets. They were cowering, as were her whole tremulous body. Expression of a six year old child, a terrified one at that, were firmly furrowed across her features. Her whole body were burrowing down into mattress. She were trying not only to shrink, but wholly to disappear. Mam, who were only filled by love and concern, somehow had taken on semblance of a fierce monster, so far had my sister dissociated into a land of persecutions and living nightmares. Multi-headed, horned, taloned, fire-breathing, we’ll never know. But that’s what were etched all over tension lines in her face. All you, or anyone, can do fer someone who has retreated so far from threshold of reality, is station yourself at that line, hold it still in place and put out your arms to embrace them once they cross back over it. You can’t even help nudge them over the verge, cos there simply is no connection their side of pale. Her Shrink had made me and my mother recognise this truth. We didn’t know it that Sunday afternoon, but she had no intention of converging with that line ever again.

We all took to our beds that night, save my father who had been inexplicably delayed and held up, or holed up overnight. And of course my sister, who had never vacated hers in first place. First we knew anything were up, when Mam took a phone call from Shrink just returned from his holiday, asking why she had not brought my sister in for her first thing Monday morning session. Mam cursed herself for oversleeping, presumably laid at door of emotional drain from previous afternoon’s exertions. She went to rouse my sister but were perplexed to find her bed empty. I were woken by scream from downstairs and hurdled stairs brace at a time, only to run into my mother’s arm outstretched across lintel of hallway that led on to doorless utilities room and kitchen beyond. I rebounded like a pinball. The phone were cordless one and she still had it clutched to her nightdress, when a tiny, but insistent canvassing dragged her out of her low-level maundering. Evidently Shrink were still on line and instructed her to hang up and call ambulance. She told me I were to remain exactly in place and under no circumstances were I to set foot across portal a’ utility room, let alone kitchen it’sen. She lurched off past me, unsteady on her legs and careening into walls. Still fuzzy-headed from not exiting sleep state on mi own terms, I hadn’t really apprehended what had occurred. Think I rather innocently raised my heavy head to stare through the two sets of door frames, just ter fix point in space to clear mi fog. I came to sharpish alreet.

Kitchen chair being out of place were what registered first. Since we never congregated together as family anymore, all four chairs ought to be housed flush at table. I tracked upwards and saw this figure clothed all in white, slumped back against kitchen chair that had been fetched apart from customary cradling. Head were bowed against top one a’ shoulders and just at the confluence here, dull hue had intruded upon scorching whiteness of cloth. I don’t know if it were distancing effect of observing from two rooms away, but whole scene looked unreal. Double doorframe perspective endowed it wi’filmic quality. Nowt colours seemed quite right. The skin, what little was exposed at margins a’ fabric seemed synthetic. Whole arrangement looked like life-sized doll or waxwork, certainly not mi sister. Why had Mam told me to stay here and bear witness to this ? Her white kameez gave me impression I were waiting for ghost to fully emerge. I looked down and saw discarded tie-dyed dupatta rucked up on floor. Wi’its intensity of colours and sinuous contours alternately breasting and arching above dull floor lino, in my teeming mind it took on form of a snake about to devour figure in white perched above it. Fuck, yer really don’t want to be confronting this sort of pother on a come down.

Fortunately Mam returned to barge me out way and back into some lucidity. “The ambulance is coming. I have to ring the good Doctor back to tell him what hospital they’re taking her to.” She looked at her watch. “Oh my God, your Father will be home any time. I’m going in the ambulance. You’ll have to clean the blood up off the floor. He doesn’t know yet ... Don’t look like that at me. Just for once do something to contribute to this family will you ?” I weren’t aware of frowning, even at prospect of pressing mi nose to blood. I were just bemused why she wanted to keep appearances normal for him. How were she planning to disguise fact that their daughter’d seriously lacerated herself ? Maybe she were right and dad wouldn’t notice.

Doorbell rang and though neither of us were exactly thinking straight at this point, we both factored that as dad had keys, it were likely to be ambulance. Mam indicated she were going upstairs to dress and scuttled off. So I went to open up. Two men stood there in civvies, one reaching in to his jacket pocket and flipping agape his warrant card. “We had a report that an ambulance has been called for a knife wound.” Knife wound ? Knife wound ? How had they construed Mam’s faltering words to be that ? Did they imagine Sis to be streetwalker having been slashed by her pimp ? Or casualty of squabble between two addicts over their fix perhaps ? Had she been caught up in affray spilling over from terraces, between Leeds Whites and Sheffield Blade Runners ? 9.00 am, Monday morn, in a residential road ? Nor were it a mere bloody domestic. This weren’t a wound, it were a virtual self-decapitation. A beheading. Wait a tick, how had they got here before bleeding WYMAS ? Where were big white taxi anyroad ? All this, in the smotheringly cacophonous interstice, of a blinking away of his warrant card. “Um what ? Sorry. Yes. Yes, my sister’s tried to top hersen, by cutting her throat. We’re waiting for ambulance now”. They seemed satisfied wi’this and murmured something about “if there were anything further” before trooping off. At that moment, I hated Police more than I’ve hated anything since. How could they have got things so awry ? Why didn’t they seem to care about situation that were confronting them, if they only bothered to put their noses round door ? I closed house on them as Mam came beetling down stairs. I shook my head and she motioned me towards cupboard under stairs, where cleaning gear were kept. “Wait til they’ve moved the body before you start”. “Body ?” It were first material confirmation she’d let slip. My sister had apparently been successful in excising her tortured existence.

In what fashion too. Not far removed from ritual slaughter of animal fer meat. How steady and unflinching must her hand have been ? She tried to fully sever that head so troubled by excruciating tribulation. To snap antennae of impailing broadcasts. No by your leave as she took hers. No suicide note or any message of farewell. No elucidation, from she who used to tek utmost pains to find it fer me. No words at all, hurtful or otherwise. Self-explanatory why she had to snuff out sen. When her Shrink later called round house to offer us his professional condolences, he had temerity to advance angle that since deed took place in home, it could be interpreted as explosive rejection of her family. I didn’t think of it at time, but mere fact she chose to wait til his return from holiday and were due for an appointment, might equally have been repudiation of his methods. Words carelessly cast out, by a so-called bleedin’ clinical word specialist. Hurtful words. Words that could bring you to yer knees, as images had felled the stout cypress that were my sister. Now it’s all been stirred up again by those three cocks also dabbling cheaply wi’words, ignorant of their true magnitude. Have they ever scrubbed family member’s blood off kitchen lino ? Have they fuck ! Only way I could manage it, were to dissociate reality of what it were, plasma and pith of my sister. Same stuff as I’m made from. Now doused in a gritty rag that were once shirt off dad’s back. Then wrung back out, into plastic bucket smeared wi’god knows what household dregs, shade and consistency of factory chimney. Wha’ever grimey shit were in it and no matter how diluted bi’bilge water, couldn’t disguise carmine hue a’ her blood. Lustrous, but no longer vibrant.

Once I’d scoured away main pool, I had to peer awfully hard to detect stray drops. Fer lino were a geometric pattern, constructed of thousands of small hexagonals of reds, browns and oranges. Beads of blood, once they’d been impacted pon floor, also resembled hexagons, wi’in that same spectrum of colour. I could only spur ma’sen on, by looking for the perfect superimposition of a blood speckle wholly contained wi’in a lino hexagon. I wouldn’t purge it clean, but rather let it be, so it might serve as a talismanic protection. Analgous to finding a four leaf clover, or apotropaic Hand of Fatima. But needless to say I didn’t locate one. All speckles overlay hexagonal boundaries. Six is more a Jewish significance than the five in Islam.

And I’ve had it wi’words.

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