Photo from Pexels by Zack Jarosz
This morning I pinched an inch from nothingness. It came away in my hands. Like crackling from an over roasted pig. The mornings in my house open with such optimism, like the opening night of a new musical, yet unmauled by critics.
I dance around the breakfast table like a circus bear preparing bacon and eggs for me and her, cereal and bread for the kids, pretending not to hear the sharp whip of the bony aged man in the corner. The crazies in the eye of my beholder hang off my shoulders but the kids can’t see them. Nor can she with her lank eyes. But we all feel their presence in my trembling grins stretched over tea full mugs and strawberry painted toasts.
Just a skip and a jump to madness so close to this bright new school day.
The kids off to school pumped with milk and juice leaving me and her to cross our hearts and hope to die the hopscotch of our marriage spray legged like a year 5 frog poked and pawed until the very end in the bin with pencil shavings and chalk.
I’m not the man I used to breathe she says of me as I watch the last Cheerio float in an empty sea of milk like a child thrown life ring. I may drown in my mother’s predictions I think. I am now the man I always hoped to be I say mocking her tone.
True, I had left my job to make myself in stone. I had used our savings to buy the large block of Italian marble sitting unformed in our garden. Art pays for nothing she had said. And what does unhappiness pay for I had asked. The kids’ future she had replied. Don’t pretend to be a father if you’re not she added. A chisel that split lesser hearts than mine. I stormed out and sat in the rain watching my marble to see what was trying to get out. I thought I saw the profile of my own nose.
We got married beautifully 10 years beforehand. We both thought we were fully formed. Two serious people ready for 21st century adulthood. I worked in advertising. She worked on me from the word go to have kids. I wasn’t against it. I just didn’t see the rush. Kids were her answer to her mystery though. My mystery was now sitting out in the garden I believed.
She wouldn’t accept that there was anything in that piece of marble. Except our savings. She repeated numbers. How many TVs, how many cars, how many extensions. That marble is worth much more than that to me I said. Art is for the simple minded she shouted as she slammed the door on her way to the corner shop to buy chocolate chip biscuits to go with her cold glass of milk.
Art is the human mind made simple she could have said, and I agreed. Making the unknowable mystery of self, the subject, knowable, visible, through its transformation into an object. My own personal transfiguration. If I believed. And if I didn’t what then I asked. Intellectualising my sad mawkish soul in the stone of self-pity was my answer. Poor little losing it boy I hear her think on her way to the shop.
We are born from creation and we must create before our return I said on her return. I cannot continue to live surrounded by the creations of others; I must create my own. She looked at me with the power and the pity of a jailer for a newly arrived young inmate. Does she see the journey I am about to embark on? A journey towards a more pure meaninglessness no doubt I think. I hope I understand I must lose everything before I gain anything. And she thinks, is he prepared to give me and the kids up for this piece of marble? I wonder too. Is this a calling? But from whom?
I clear the breakfast away. She lights a cigarette and pours herself a cup of milk. She watches my skinny legs as I crisscross the black and white tiled floor placing unused knives back in their draw, loading jam smeared plates into the dishwasher, squeezing cold tea bags of their tea and putting them in the bin. I watch the last Cheerio disappear down the drain.
I turn and stare. She slowly lifts her face from my crotch to my face while sucking a milk-soaked biscuit. She sucks off the brown stains from her fingers.
So she says. So what I say. She drops her cigarette into her cup of chocolate stained milk with a ciz spreading a grey ash slick. I make a face of yuk. She shakes her you’re just like you’re mother head at me. I make my you’re just like your dad eyes back at her. Are you going to send that thing back she says. That thing I say is my future. No she says, me and the kids are your future. No, I say, the kids have their own future. And so do you. We all own our own futures. We must be flexible. You must get a job I say. She flicks the squint of an evil stare at me. No I won’t she says. I have a job looking after the kids. It’s time we swapped I say. This is the 21st century after all I add.
She stands up. I make a move for her soiled milk cup with the biscuit bits at the bottom. She grabs it before me. Leave it dirty she says. Why I ask. Just for once, leave it dirty for a while. Okay I say. I will wash it up after lunch. No she says. Leave it until after dinner she says. Until after dinner? I ask. She nods. I think about the ramifications of this ash tainted milk cup sitting on the table until past the kids bedtime. Okay I say. I can do that. She smiles at me as if patting me on the head from a great height. I am going for a shower she says. She leaves the cup on the table. I stare at the cup. I hold my urge in check. What kind of man can’t leave a dirty cup dirty I ask myself?
I turn and stare out of the window at the wet white marble block. My answers scream for the questions within that stone. That bony aged man is in there somewhere too, I guess. Those bony crazies are everywhere the bastards.
I grab the cup and wash it quickly and put it back on the table. I feel better. Ready for the stone almost. Ready to reveal the real myself within. Ready for my mystery. If I had one. Like everyone, I so hope I have one.