She was well now, though. Well and husbandless. Brotherless, and she had done her time. The kettle began to pipe and she lifted it from the flame.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” she asked the kettle.
Outside, in the cool air, Diane sipped her tea and watched the cat play with a small mouse in the grass. The little black lump huddled still and frightened, the cat stood by patiently, looked to her, looked to the herb garden, the broken pot where in the day it curled in the sun and slept. It looked with a look that forgot where it was and what it was doing, or as though the little mouse might have disappeared and could be there, anywhere. The mouse moved from its shadow, flashed moon blue along its oily little coat and Mr Winthrop’s cat leapt upon it afresh. It reminded her of the way she used to lay a penny down in front of her on the way to school, look away, then with all the bona fide emotions of finding a whole new penny, sweep down to claim it. Now she saw how primitive that was, but she had never seen it before.
In the upstairs window the white veil swelled, pregnant for a second before it receded soundlessly and Diane thought of the children asleep in their rooms. What had that noise been? Was it the window closing? She thought of her dream, and the weightless way of her gliding through the mirrors, the way the house felt familiar, almost arousing in its closeness to her—because she was inside it, exploring it, experiencing it.
“Yuck,” she thought, and shuddered the same way she would recalling a dream of incest. On the roof, two naked, ivy green eyes flashed at her. In the darkness the cat turned its face to a tile and began rubbing, rubbing incessantly.
“What’s it like to be depressed?” asked Genie. It was brisk and the air was wet. It smelled like the the sea, the sound, which she was sure was turmoil—a big wind had blown in the night before and lashed at the trees, the hedges, the shade cloths. The Freeman’s next door to Genie had the shingles on one side of their roof wiped clean off—the pottery lay scattered and broken all along their drive. Now they smelt the new, rich air—soil, detritus, electricity. Ozone she heard once, but she didn’t think it was that. It was all the little dirty spores and creatures clinging to the plants, the road, the branches, the clothes on the clothes lines, now released, now airborne and exisiting on another plane entirely—all the oils in the leaves and grass and coming up from the roots—or the roots of things, she thought—the smallest parts of things. And now they trod the gently gleaming, gently pittering pattering black road with their cardigans pulled in, chatting and noting with nods and eyes the things that had fallen—bunches of leaves on slender branches, a toy, a newspaper leaf—inhaling the air discreetly and waking as though each time for the first time to the life around them. And Genie had asked what it was like to be depressed. It surprised Diane because she thought Genie surely had been depressed herself one time, some time maybe in the past. Surely.
“Nothing is worth doing,” said Diane, pretending as though she had not planned in advance how to respond to such a question, as though she were really trying. She secretly relished dirtying someone with the obscene details, but only someone she could trust, someone who would not send her back to Undercliff. “If the world normally has colour—” she looked around at the colour, the glimpses of pale, bright blue sky between the gliding, sailing grey clouds. And listened to the chiming of the bell at the not-so-distant sound, where yachts were being dragged back to pier. “—Then there is no colour when you’re depressed. Everything seems useless, and besides you feel useless yourself. You want to be creative and happy and….” She genuinely searched for the word. “…Human. But you’re paralysed, like an object. Your spirit is gone, and you’re all flesh and blood and voices.”
“‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that. It’s no use. You’re awful, you’re lazy, you’re alone.’” Diane parroted. “It seems as though all the wealth and all the wonderful, fun things in the world are all the same—all on the same, low, ashy-grey, gross level—no detail, no accentuating features, nothing to distinguish one from the other, just undifferentiated sameness. So you can’t get out of bed. You can’t wash or tidy or read. You just lie there letting the thoughts eat you like worms forever. That’s how it feels.”
Genie listened attentively, gazing downward, and it pleased Diane and allowed her to continue despite the nagging.
“One time I was lying in my bed and I kept saying to God, ‘God I don’t want to be here, please take me out of here, please get me out, please take me away from here.’”
“From Undercliff?” asked Genie.
“No,” said Diane, “from life.”
Genie mimed an “Oh!” and brought herself in a little closer, as though contemplating a hug, but they kept walking.
“Anyway it’s dangerous.”
“Yes, it’s very dangerous. I remember one time as I was saying this, asking God to get me out, and more and more meaning it and imagining it and just…just hoping for it with all my might, I felt myself lifting—”
“From the bed?”
“Yes. From my own body. But I didn’t see anything. It was like an endless blackness had opened up and was all around me, and I felt myself disappearing into it.”
“Oh my God!”
“Yes, and that’s what I said, ‘Oh my God! No!’ and he quickly brought me back down like a balloon.”
In an astounding coincidence, or else perhaps Diane had cast her eye that way unknowingly and had been subliminally influenced, a single black balloon on a string was floating high up in the air, rocking and swaying, being buffeted by the winds. Genie pulled out her cigarettes and gave Diane one.
“Do you know what’s a fact?” she said.
“That both of us someday soon are going to meet two wonderful men, who will treat us right, and we’ll have wonderful homes filled with wonderful children, and there’ll be no reason for either of us to feel depressed or want to fly away like balloons—we’ll have everything we need, right there in our wonderful homes.”
“Yes,” said Diane, inhaling. “It’s a fact.” She touched Genie’s hand and she in turn gripped it firmly and winked the way only Genie would.
Diane thought though about another, smaller blackness that wasn’t like the awful void she had almost fallen into. It was one within her, not without, and it was a state of conscious, inanimate clarity and a freedom from any obligation of creative input—no thought, no opinion, no expectation of emotion; happy, sad, appalled, aroused. She wanted merely to be a creature, an insensate one, and to be dismissed from the affairs—the “great ballyhoo”—of this, her life, and the universe at large. And why was she so fatigued. It was a demon spirit like a current of electricity that arced between one day and another, between one moment and the next—she woke with it—not a weariness, a sense of subjectless drama, a happening, a comeless interminable orgasm that was always saying—“This is it! be warned!” and in a sense that hardly bore reflection—“Here! Look about you. Everything you see here, this experience you’re experiencing—it’s you! And one day the curtain will be drawn and there will be more of you, so much more than you can imagine.” In the dark speck that she speculated existed, if not inside her then somewhere alongside her, the whole of her would be reduced to a sigh, and she would be at rest. And it wasn’t—God forbid one would think it—that she wanted to be consoled; she wanted to be left alone, yet not alone with her thoughts, which tormented her, not alone like a beekeeper with his bees, or like a prisoner with his captor, on whom he’s dependent. That final, dense and singular kind of destitution and aloneness was what she wanted, and without the final curtain call. The feeling, as she imagined it would be like, of an explosion mid-sentence—yes the atom bomb—that stops everything, changes everything necessarily, not simply the elements, she thought, the analogy getting away from her—sand to glass, flesh and metal to carbon, black slag, sparks, scintillations, rainbows of disappearing matter—what changes besides is lives, and the empty stuff of lives in that moment, memories of loss for instance, for despair that a far greater loss, and numberless, has come into the world and all pursuits, small and great—she was thinking of the atom bomb—now utterly taken care of, denied and forgotten. As the sentence is cut short the words are forgotten, and the meanings of words, and the sounds themselves too—gone. There is just an advancing, unstoppable silence. And she recalled someone somewhere saying that heaven had an antechamber. It was an entire universe of a single solid colour, blue by this man’s account, a deep ocean inhabited by a single soul, and he lounging in the absolute centre surrounded by the height and depth of a supernatural contentment, the Agartha of eternity.
A car horn sounded behind them. Genie’s hand dropped.
Thanks for checking out this part of my project.
This is a work in progress, so I apologise in advance if summer becomes winter, or John become Joan—it's not the Mandela Effect, it's just me.
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