On a moist autumn day, long before the nicotine dressed his lungs in black for his funeral, my father severed the line with his pocketknife, set down his rod, and lit another cigarette. Mayfair from the newsagent: he had always been a man of quantity over quality. I traced the castoff line, limp in the water, back to the tree that had claimed it. Neither of us could fish, but fishing, maybe for reasons of primal origin, was seen to be one of those father-son bonding experiences. Well done, kid, you killed something. High five.
Certain stories are supposed to have certain endings. The die is cast. The storyline is set in stone. To not follow the plotline could almost be viewed as a sin, and to go off script oftentimes invites disaster. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and sometimes the flow can cause you to drown.
The day after Luke died, there was a puppy roaming in the driveway, maybe eight weeks old, but probably closer to six and just on the edge of being appropriately weaned. She was cute, as all puppies are, but there was a sadness about her. She had obviously been dumped upon us by someone who just didn’t want to be bothered anymore. Judging by how skinny she was, they most likely didn’t spend any money on dog food. I could envision her masters ripping apart the litter, separating the young and innocent from their mother as soon as possible, and putting their concerns behind them as they dumped their problems on to someone else.
April 8th, 1974. I’m setting this down on paper and placing it in a tin that I’ll be burying under one of the gooseberry bushes. If things don’t work out, I’d like there to be a proper record of what happened…
Strangely, the root cause of the fatality can be traced back to the fact that, back in the 1950s, there were two Rodger Ackroyds in Chapel Street Primary School. There was me, generally known as ‘Rodge.’ And there was him, generally known as ‘Big Ackie,’ a nasty piece of work, even when he was an eight year-old. Ackroyd isn’t an uncommon a name in the town – I remember another Rodger Ackroyd used to be the Clydesdale Bank manager in Sadlergate. But the teachers used to make lame, irritating jokes about us, and I expect that’s why Big Ackie took a particular dislike to me. All kids hate being singled (doubled in this case) out for attention, and Ackie mysteriously decided it was all my fault.
I do not have an earliest memory of my mother. Instead, I have a moment. A moment of her laughter. She tilts her head back slightly as she opens her mouth wide and lets out a sound. A wild, free sound that tinkles through the room, enters the people around her, and makes them smile. Infectious. Charming. Charismatic.
I am not a part of this moment. I am simply a spectator – watching her laugh, admiring her from a distance, waiting for her to notice me. She is wearing a saree, her trusted maroon lipstick, and a red bindi – her usual work attire. She is on her way to college, where she is an English teacher, no – lecturer, no – vice principle. Labels are important.
Music teaches us that love can be a lot of things. Love is a battlefield. Love is all around. Love is what I got. Love is my religion. Love is hard—but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 2007, Rob Sheffield published a book called Love Is A Mixtape and it was the worst. It’s not that the writing was bad or the story was tough to understand, but he appropriated a concept we all knew to be true and used it in the most dismal way imaginable. Love is a mixtape, all careful ordering and appropriating other people’s words and dissonant chords to make your own Frankenstein monster of kissing-in-thunderstorms and racing-through-airports and sex-in-dimly-lit-rooms. Even truer, a mixtape is love. It’s assembling the most personal collage of sound in the world, distilling the feelings from your head into some semblance of order so they can communicate a coherent idea, and maybe even a conception of love.
When the police call, you know it failed. You were the one to call, the one to cry, to scream, beg them to come. You’ve rehearsed the shock in the tone of your voice, exercised face muscles to sculpt a perfect panic expression. She told you the words you should use, what not to say; she told you what the police would be asking about. Instead, the detective tells you to rush.
Fingers curled around the steering wheel tremble when you navigate through the evening streets of New York. You should be rushing but you drive slow. Tonight you’re grateful for jammed intersections, streets packed with pedestrians, red traffic lights. They impose on you the time you need to think and you’ll use them as an excuse that it took you so long. Tonight, they work in your favour.
Thank you for your interest in Serenity Art Share Thursdays. Please read our FAQ before registering to attend.
Question: What is the Participant Comfort Mandate you mentioned in the event description?
Answer: Our Participant Comfort Mandate means that we create a womb-like environment, so comfortable and unchanging each participant feels as if they are floating, encased in amniotic fluid.
People think nurses get a special calling, like nuns’ or priests’ vocations. That wasn’t the case with me. After five years at boarding school in the convent, I knew I didn’t want to be a nun. I didn’t make the grade for teacher training college like my older sister, and I didn’t like the thought of working in a bank or at a desk in the civil service. There wasn’t much else for a girl to do in the late sixties, was there? I mean, I was never going to the factory. God no. Being a factory girl’d be even worse than being a nun. My mother would never have lived that down.
When I was little, I lived in the big tank, an enormous empty space with hundreds of other fish. The girls told me how to attract the customers. ‘Make yourself look pretty,’ they said. ‘You want to be chosen.’ I groomed my scales and fluffed up my tail. I perfected the art of flitting this way and that to show how streamlined I was. There was a particular place about halfway along the tank, where a spotlight hit it. That’s where I turned. I folded gracefully over myself, let my tail fan out and trail behind me, paused for a moment, gave a quick, shimmering pulse and darted away. I practised that move again and again. It worked. I was hired by a modelling agency. It was the happiest day of my life.