‘to give bit by bit a difficult joy, but it is called joy.’ Clarice Lispector
Notes in defence of the deceased
Why am I alive? What can I give? How best should I live?
If people had heard her- they didn’t but just supposing they had- they would have laughed out loud LOL! For they knew her life and the crises she got herself in. And it was generally thought that she wasn’t much good at living really. Or rather, she wasn’t much good at putting on an act and hiding herself away so that others didn’t see her. And she was constantly saying the wrong things to the wrong people.. and they never thought about the last statement, the people; her accusers I mean. They didn’t question who was the ‘wrong’ person and ‘why’ and whether that should be so. It never occurred to them, I mean who would? Life was too busy.
Oh that’s just Becky, they’d say; That’s just her, living life on the edge; being a bit wrong in the head.
Usually over something she’d done, or spoken out against- perhaps with someone at her workplace and so jeopardising her job-
She’ll get sacked, people would say. Then she’ll be crying.
And shook their heads. Or she spoke out if she felt her work colleagues were disrespectful, rude or became bullying with each other as the pressures of life over took them. And this was bothersome for everyone. Some of her work mates didn’t care about things like this-
This isn’t a real job, they’d say. This isn’t really my life, I only do this to pay the rent. Life isn’t here, so who cares?
But for Becky this was where life was – for where was it if it was not- and so she cared and caused trouble. But others were usually too busy on mobile phones anyway, off in some other world.
But people also disapproved because they felt she was a failure and this scared them, scared them for themselves. It bothered them she didn’t have a career and even worse didn’t have relationships or even sex. How could she be human?
For aren’t we being continually told by the media, by government and by artists that it is proper to love and have sex and have families eventually and if these natural life events aren’t occurring then how can you possibly be human? Everyone believed in these tabloid articles about marriage for example. It was believed that human beings only strived for sex and love if not directly then indirectly and increasingly in more and more perverted and virtual forms and if one was not…
So people secretly thought she was not human and Becky was made aware of this in many different ways.
Indifference was one. For some reason she endured a lack of eye contact from most people, especially if she was in a group. It could possibly have been because people didn’t find her attractive. So she became silent.
And then the little stares and cool looks from appraising women. If a sister decided she wasn’t a threat she was welcomed into the fold with open arms. But if she was she was treated with polite watchfulness. But then when they needed help, they pretended these women. Becoming animated and sharing their problems they’d talk to Becky and talk more when she just listened, filling in the gaps. And then Becky would try to help. But try as she might she just couldn’t seem to do it. This was her other failure she thought (she had a list with all the boxes ticked off, it was found next to her bed on the little bedside table) – friendship. She tried to ‘practically’ help people whilst all the time vaguely realising that people didn’t really want help or advice but warmth, feeling- love love love! to be reassured that despite what had happened or the nature of their problems, they were still loved, wanted and needed.
But for Becky for some reason, the ability to provide this was beyond her- through her a chill wind blew and it was noticed too. So whilst they accepted her words of advice and listened they secretly hated her, as one might a therapist sometimes; for not providing what they really really wanted- love.
So for Becky her exchanges ended up being based on false smiles and people agreeing with her words but as if they really didn’t know what she meant, and because she wasn’t significant enough- she thought anyway- they never bothered to contradict or challenge her.
She hugged trees more than she did people. She felt their psyches were far more open to her. And when her landlord threw her out because she didn’t talk enough to him it got worse.
Surely this was proof of her failure, she thought. Who ever heard of anyone being thrown out of anywhere because they didn’t talk much?
Approaching this final crisis of having no where to live she asked herself more and more- What can I do? Where can I go? How and where can I live?
But didn’t everyone have their own lives?
The chattering middle classes couldn’t do anything except chat amongst themselves.
Suddenly she found herself unable to provide for herself- she didn’t know what she wanted, who she was, where she was going so how could she possibly commit to living anywhere?
Becky’s mother enraged- Why can’t you find anywhere to live? Why don’t you have a better job?
Because it’s hard to find somewhere in London Mum.
And I can’t find a better job, no one will have me.
Well there must be something wrong with you then. Try harder.
However, as much as I’ve gone on about Becky’s problems, she was not as immersed in them as you might think. Yes she stormed the city in a violent rage sometimes wanting to rain down havoc on everything. But there were times when she stopped to consider others.
Like the man in Elephant who walked past her at the bus stop and shouted at her
If you look at me I’ll kick off, I’ll kick off man.
So of course she looked at him and he kicked off. Shouting and screaming and pulling lice ridden hair out in huge clumps in clenched fists. Banging his head onto the side of the bus stop and screaming. She tried to ask him why, what was wrong and then as he quietened;
It’s OK, don’t worry, do you want to talk?
But he smashed the glass with his head and ran off, blood spurting from his face.
You shouldn’t have spoken to him innit, said a woman picking fragments out of her shoe.
So this is how she went through life, working her two jobs; commuting to them, attempting friendships but finding understanding the nature of the exchanges elusive and difficult to navigate.
And so gradually she lost the ability to communicate. She stopped talking in the end.
Yes she was no good at life, some people said.
It was then she noticed her body began to disappear. She was sure she couldn’t see her feet anymore, they seemed to disappear into the quicksand of her mind. And they seemed oblivious to her mental pain. They were indifferent and she felt she had lost contact with them.
It happened just after she’d been with a friend and quite soon after she had been thrown out by her landlord.
The friend talked a lot about how they were feeling so ill all the time and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with them and that they hated working in the shoe department of the famous chain store in London’s West End because they thought the other assistants looked down on them and wouldn’t sit with them in the communal canteen at meal times so they were always on their own. Like being back at school, they said.
Becky felt sorry for them at this Zola esque state of affairs and tried to help- let’s look for a new job together, I’ll go to the doctors with you, everything will be fine etc.
But the friend rejected Becky’s words and she felt down.
Her friend no longer spoke and instead stared out of the window and it seemed to Becky that history was indeed cyclical and that one could hardly break out of the whirlpool one found oneself in.
Leaving the friend she had trudged back along the south bank. It was dark, a blanketed Winter’s night but the blue and white Christmas lights excited her and she felt she were in Van Gogh’s Starry Night. But as she approached Waterloo her mood changed. Everything seemed hard. The night sky’s glittering jewels were too cold, and there was something between the blackness and Jupiter, a sort of icy blank.
And the people around her with whom she had originally felt a communal togetherness suddenly seemed crude, loud and uncouth. There were pushy mums and dads dragging their kids, groups of men and youths drinking, girls out on a shopping spree, all pushing at her, or past, or out of the away. They weren’t welcoming and she wasn’t welcomed . She walked alone and had been spotted she felt.
On the bus it was worse when she realised her feet were starting to disappear. She looked down and they really didn’t seem to be there. They were and they weren’t. She knew that although they seemed to be there, they weren’t.
That night when she returned home the house was dark. She didn’t bother searching for any more places to live because she decided there was no point if she was disappearing. You see she couldn’t see her legs now. She could have sworn she had a birth mark on her right thigh- it had been there all her life she was sure- and now she couldn’t see it. She screwed up her eyes, tried psychic cleansing (you know, closing one’s eyes and rolling the eye balls up and down, left and right) and that didn’t work either. She couldn’t even feel the birthmark with her hand.
She attempted to eat something but found she couldn’t find her mouth. She put her hand up to her face and nothing! Just space. She was disappearing inside herself at a fast rate she thought, was it possible she might turn inside out?
A note here- was it possible Becky was so disappointed in life that she was unconsciously making herself disappear? Was she lost? Was she unhappy?
For herself the only definite was that she was disappearing. Have you ever been in a drowsy state and felt that a certain body part- your little finger for example- feels much larger than the rest of you? Or you put your hand out to your foot to scratch it quite forgetting you’d folded it under your right leg and your hand grabs nothing? It’s a shock isn’t it? Well that’s how Becky felt. She got up and looked in the mirror and realised she couldn’t even see her reflection.
Perhaps she should call someone? she thought.
So she didn’t but instead went to bed, wrapping the quilt around the fine line drawing of her empty body. She felt like she was a David Hockney lying in bed. She could no longer feel her internal organs.
Oh well, she thought.
In the morning when she awoke she realised she was no longer there. It was as if she had just floated above the bed, utterly formless.
At the funeral they had an empty coffin. There had been some argument as to whether a coffin should be used as there was nothing to put in it but someone pointed out its purpose was symbolic and therefore important. So a coffin was procured.
At the service it was noted that she had given, how though was a matter for speculation. Everyone was quite vague and wished that they’d listened more. At the nibbles afterwards everyone agreed they’d definitely miss her presence.
And that was that for what could be more?
Her existence had melted away and found all the other molecules in the vast sea of the wailing unconscious of unspeakable thoughts.