I came for conversation

An old man fell in my dream. He had been walking with his daughter and several others, friends and family, when he lost his footing and tripped on a gutter. Down he tumbled like a stack of cards, so unsteady his legs and joints, and to my horror half of his face fell off.

He had endured surgery I knew now for like Sigmund Freud and Lucy Grealy the old man’s face, which had earlier been eaten away by cancer, had been reconstructed.

A dream like this begins my day. Faceless and deformed the old man grabbed back at the bits that had fallen into the gutter and stuck them on haphazardly – rather like a jigsaw puzzle piece that does not fit in – and urged his daughter to take him home, home and out of sight.

I do not want to be interrupted by the detritus of my days or nights, but I cannot seize on more lofty thoughts until I have cleared my head of my most pressing ones. It is rare that I am without pressing thoughts.

For the next two weeks I will have more time to concentrate on my thesis but soon enough I will be back into the thrall of daily work and it will once more become difficult to get those chapters into shape. So many words to write.

‘Do I have a first draft?’ my friend asked me yesterday at lunch?
No, I do not. I have so much written, though, so much that could be cobbled together to form a draft, but it is not yet in place.

I will get there in time. I am determined. I must. And so to work…

But a little voice tells me to stay with this writing. Stay. It might yet lead somewhere. I am too riddled with conscious thoughts. Too much driven by the need to complete my thesis. Too unwilling to write about yesterday’s lunch. Yesterday’s lunch in an Indian restaurant on Burwood Road.

I arrived and realised I had brought next to no cash with me. I would need to use my card. My friend was late. He ordered immediately. He knew what he was about. He ordered two curries and some naan and then he sat back down. I stood and fumbled. This rich food in the middle of the day was too much for me, but to order anything else seemed difficult. I came for the company, anyhow. I did not come for the food.
I tried to speak softly to the girl at the counter.
‘I’ll have what he’s having.’ I selected curries that had some vague appeal, the eggplant and the mixed vegetable. Instead of naan, I chose rice, but I seemed to speak in a vacuum, as if I did not know what I was about.

I dragged out my card thinking this order must come to at least ten dollars but I was wrong. My friend stood up to offer to pay but I had five dollars left in my purse and the whole dreadful exchange with the young and pleasant Indian woman was over in an instant.

Conversation was what I came for,
‘You have been ill?’ I said to my friend, more as a question than as a statement. ‘Yes,’ he said, though he was not forthcoming. It seemed he did not want to talk about it.
‘I’m working two days a week,’ he said.
‘Do you prefer that?’
‘No. The writing is too slow.’
Momentarily, I thought about this from my own perspective, that in such circumstances I might enjoy more space for writing. He looked well enough.
‘No,’ he said again. ‘I write for a living, and it is very slow, too slow.’
It was clear then my friend did not want to discuss it further. And I dared not probe, but I joked instead about my own, now recovered, broken leg.

Although my friend, the one whom I mistakenly thought had abandoned our friendship, will talk to me about himself and his life in small doses, it seems he prefers to hear about my life, my goings on.

We had a whole year on which to catch up and I could tell him about my family reunion, my interminable thesis, my daughter’s marriage, but beyond that the conversation flagged. I had hoped it might fly. It might prove exhilarating. After an hour my friend needed to get back to his work and I felt a wash of relief.

Who would say it first during our goodbyes? I wondered.
‘We must not leave it a whole year next time,’ my friend said. And then I knew, most likely we would leave it a whole year. Most likely we would leave it for more than a year, unless I made contact again. But will I?
I do not want to foist myself on someone who finds time with me a chore, whose only pleasure derives from the odd witty thing I might say and from his curiosity about this odd woman.

I do not want a relationship that feels so one-sided as to leave me the needy and desperate one. I have made up my mind in this regard. I will not become a stalker, a desperado. I will not subject myself to the humiliation of unrequited love ever, ever again.

I shall not attempt to analyse my dream and the different voices that battle inside here, except in my head.

Some of the dream, to some of you here, may be self-evident: this old man who tumbles down, whose face is broken, whose life has changed becomes a metaphor for…

Stop now, I say.
It is time once more to do battle with my thesis.

Stalking and the Thirteenth Fairy

I am conscious when I write in my blog, that my spelling must look odd in some cases to my largely American audience of bloggers. Language is funny like that. Yet there is at least one Australian blogger who will take me to task if I fail to write in the so-called ‘King’s English’.

Suddenly I become self-conscious. What are these thoughts and why bother to write them down? Self-doubt, I tell myself, is the enemy of the written word. Self-doubt paralyses. Do not pay it any heed.

I emailed an old friend recently and he has not emailed back to me. It leaves me in a quandary. Do I send another email with the thought that he no longer wants to have anything to do with me? Do I persist in making contact with someone who presumably has better things to do with his time than waffle on to me?

I have written letters before the days of email that went unanswered. Unanswered letters always trouble me, especially the long letters, the ones I went to some trouble to write, the ones I filled with my deepest thoughts.

I think of these letters lying dusty and yellow on a post office floor somewhere, or worse still lying unopened in a rubbish bin, or destroyed by now because they did not reach their destination or because the person to whom I wrote did not want to hear from me.

I have been thinking about such attempts to reach a person who may or may not want to hear from me in the context of ‘stalking’. The word seems to me to be a relatively new one.

Stalking, the notion of following someone, intruding upon them unannounced and refusing to accept the first of many rejections. It is such an easy thing to slip into.

I sit here and agonise over whether another email to this friend who did not get back to me would be seen as an unwelcome advance and therefore how long before it becomes a case of stalking.

Stalkers to me are like clinging babies. The more a mother pushes her baby away the more the baby clings. For some people it seems it is the only way to have a passionate and meaningful contact, contact only with someone who does not want them.

The Internet is rife with opportunities for a type of stalking, made worse because so much of it can go undetected, and therefore seemingly made safe for the stalker.

These days we do not need to be told about a person from another we can simply Google said person and voila, we can find out all manner of things.

I Google people almost out of habit these days as if the Internet is my street directory, my address book and one that contains not only the location of a person but other details as well.

And people, some people it seems want to be stalked like this. They want others to ‘follow’ them, as in blogdom. They count the number of times someone has visited their site, their webpage, their blog.

Is this not a way of facilitating the process of stalking and all those unwelcome spam comments, all those visiting ‘trolls’, are they not like stalkers, too?

This reminds me of the Thirteenth Fairy. You know the story? A variation on Sleeping Beauty.

The king and queen for years had wanted a child but were unsuccessful. When finally the queen gave birth to her baby daughter they were overjoyed and decided to hold a party for the entire kingdom. They invited every single person in the kingdom, right down to the lowliest. They sent off courtiers throughout the kingdom to make sure that not a single guest remained uninvited.

During the celebrations, the fairies of the kingdom all stood up in turn to offer the baby their many gifts. The one offered health, the other happiness, another offered beauty, until finally the twelfth fairy rose and raised her wand in readiness to offer the baby her gift, when out of nowhere the Thirteenth Fairy appeared.

She was furious. Why had she not been invited? She leapt in front of the Twelfth Fairy and brandished her wand.
‘I wish the baby death.’
Then she disappeared as fast as she had arrived. The people were devastated. What could be done?

The Twelfth Fairy stepped forward again.
‘I have not the power to undo the damage inflicted by the Thirteenth Fairy but I can reduce its impact. Therefore, on her sixteenth birthday the princess will prick her finger on a spindle. She will not die but she will sleep for one hundred years and wake only to a prince’s kiss.’

No doubt you know the rest of the story, how it unfolds. What preoccupies me here, and what I have pondered often is the role of the Thirteenth Fairy. She would have been invited presumably had she not hid herself away.

Is she the one who represents envy? Is she a variation on the stalker, the one who attaches herself to others, only through malice.

But can this be? Stalking has to be different from envy.

Stalking derives from possessive or misguided love, love that is unrequited. To me stalking, as I said earlier, is more like the behaviour of a clinging baby. Envy is something else entirely, and something we all suffer from to varying degrees.

Could it be that the one who rejects is envious of the one who is open and welcoming in her approach, and the envious one cannot bear to be touched warmly therefore she pushes the other away.

I seem to be going around in circles here with such vague emotional constructs.

I think of them now in the context of my unmet email. How to proceed?

I shall stop blogging now and try one more time to contact my friend. I shall be sure I have the right address, and if I do not hear from him, I shall accept my lot and mourn the loss of another good friend.

For such is the nature of friendships, they come and go. And sometimes there is little we can do to stop the process for it involves another and we cannot get control over another person’s desires for us, however much we might try.