January 24, 2006

Alice of Italy

The name Alice will be the name of my daughter, but yours is “Alichay”. I like it a lot. Its brainy and abrasive and it doesn’t remind me of ribbons or tea. Do you remember the day we drove to the beach? We shook to Shakira with the tops of our bodies all the way there, and I let go of the wheel while you taught me Latin hands. The sand was grey and laced with junk. I taught you the English for “Fag butt”. We put plastic bags over our hands and feet; we looked like toys and ran around with stiff arms and legs, howling at each other. That day we sifted sand for hours, till our limbs ached and we couldn’t bend them, but not in a funny way like before. When the sun went in you asked me for a story so I told you about The Woman of the Dunes to make us feel symbolic and beautiful. One day a radiant peasant girl fell into a hole in the desert and couldn’t climb out. She dug the sand for years and years to save herself from drowning in it but then one day, to her heart’s delight, someone came. A wandering insectologist in pursuit of a rare butterfly fell into the hole and they fell in love, because I knew you were waiting for that part. You said that might have been a metaphor, I think so too: once you’re in, you cant get out. The man was rich and important so people came to look for him and dragged him to the top, but when he reached down for his Zamina (I think that’s what I called her) a village guard ordered him back. They wouldn’t let her out because she was carrying the child of a great man and she was only a tribesman’s daughter. Now I think about it, a primitive civilisation and a modern scientist might not have lived at the same time but I’m not that good at history and you didn’t seem to mind). Besides her rejection could’ve been another metaphor, but we decided it was just real life. By that time we didn’t feel so beautiful any more, just sad. All the same I was glad I told a tragedy because all the best stories end badly.
We sat mourning on our bin bag hands for five grave minutes having established together, that she’d most probably have died, being on your own forever you would after all. I thought about drowning in desert, imagined the sand in my ears sticking to the wax inside, and on my eyeballs, scraping their coat, and in my crotch where its clammy or my mouth tearing down my wind pipe, making me die. I needed a drink. So we went to the beach hut which was shut. On the trudge to town I stub my flip-flop toe. When it starts to bleed and I can see my veins choked with sand, turning thick then gory brown like the mud in that song you sing on sloppy autumn walks “Mud, mud glorious mud nothing quite like it for cooling the….”I am sick in a bin. At lunch you chomp through both of our free burgers in the “Paradise Bar” where men say “welcome women” in English, which we think is funny because we’re young, then they say “I want to fuck you” in Serbian, which they think is funny because we can’t understand, but make a rapid get away anyway. I don’t know why you made up the story about out boyfriend’s waiting for us on the road, they only understood our faces, which said everything. Back in five o’clock city hum we run back to the beach like princesses fleeing ogreous foreigners, who aren’t really chasing us. Back at our patch, we witness the debris of family: a pooey nappy, a broken windbreaker, a lolly wrapper black with flies stuck to sugar-gloop. Children are disgusting. You yell your mouth out, I join in and when we’re done we run around and kick the sand at each other like baby-teens in a swimming pool. It feels a lot better, until I tread on a syringe and you limp me back to the car, dramatically.
“Time to go home” you sing-song, like the kind of mother you’d never become in a million years.
Driving back in the dark I’m poked awake by you telling me to “look, look quick a goat” but I only catch dirt track and scrub in the headlight before we shriek into a tree. The bonnet bends in the middle like child’s knees swinging towards the trunk of a rope swing tree to kick off again. But the car can’t move so you get out and have a look. I stay still in the passenger seat while you examine damage you know nothing about before climbing back in through the window, wordlessly, warily and proceed to extract our puckered lump from the undergrowth. I don’t speak after that, only gape at my grazed face in the splintered glass and at the crazed harpy next to me who is sorry I “didn’t get to see the goat”. Apparently you don’t get ‘wild’ animals in Padua. I think you mean “free”. I can’t sleep any more.
That night I’m too tired to dance. Instead I watch you under club light. You nearly killed us. I think about heaven. It looks a lot like this bliss of beams twitching across our skin, touching us up like men, and swimming through the bottle of Schweppes we’re sharing. You haven’t said anything real to me for a long time, not mentioned my car, which I know you can’t pay for. You won’t say sorry out loud. Because you are odd, not because you’re not. But next day when we’re squeezing each other goodbye you take those “insect chic” shades off your head for the first time since I met you and put them on me. I don’t cry. Until they smash on Gatwick tarmac five hours later. Memento. Must be an Italian word but I can’t ask you now.
Your name is Alichay.
You think goats are something to look at.
I do not.
But I like that a lot.

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