Wild Geese Calling – Abigail George

She talks of suicide. It is not the first time. I tell her to hold on. Tomorrow she’ll feel better. I get up and make French toast for breakfast. To be helpful, she mixes the cinnamon powder into sugar. She cries. I hold her. What else can I do? She’s the love of my life and she’s in pain so I make her something to eat. She tells me she doesn’t deserve me, that she can see she’s hurting me. I say she’ll feel better after she eats something. She tells me afterwards, in the evening while we’re watching television, what was she thinking, how can she do this to me. I tell her to forget all about it, like the first time she ever said she would take her own life, like I had never heard her reasons before or read her journal, like I had never driven her to the psychiatrist. Shrink’s crazier than me, she said. Never going back there.

At night, especially in winter, the pavements become rivers. The streets become streams lit by artificial light. Windows turn into mirrors that we can see our soul in. We argue but I still want to touch her, the story on her lips, the singing in her fingertips, the promise of her, the fine thread of her. I stand at the iron gate, waiting for her arrival. I want the weather forecast to delay snowfall. The independent winter-branch. Wild geese calling. The origin of her hair was an autumn forest, gold and volcanic-red and rust. I want to fall asleep in her arms and wake up to the sound of winter rain. Listen to her read sonnets to me. I want to tell her about my childhood cousins, my uncle’s swimming pool in Johannesburg, eating peaches, peach juice dripping down our chins.

Now all forgotten to adult-me. I want to touch her graceful neck, and each of her vertebrae. Her loneliness. Run my fingers up and down her spine. I want to sink into her country with absentminded blessing. I dream we will drive to the beach on lazy Sunday afternoons, walk on the warm sand hand-in-hand. Afterwards, we’ll eat picnic Halloumi cheese or hamburgers and drink pink milkshakes, watch the waves from the car. She smiles. She laughs. And I tell myself I know nothing yet of the heartbreak that will follow. She taught me we all need space and sex and nicotine. She will find me (if she’s looking after all these years) there at the end of this world, holding my breath under the water, scuba diving, a come-rain-or-shine attitude, or she will find decay as transparent as the circles found in the glories of mist.

I will not repent, lose hope to this agenda. These rituals of soil and water. Vapour. Instead I will smile through a veil-world of tears, balled up fists. Here are the instructions for finding the saviour, give or take a mansion of gathering light for her hair like silk. She’s my house. She’s my habitat. The authentic-saviour. The bonds of family. Her world a lotus. Exposed when found sunning itself. Vulnerable in rain, flood. Outside the windows, I spy a rose. The roses in her garden. I don’t go out there. There are memories, rain-crystals of life shiny like a mirror. With their trail of vulnerability, St Joseph’s lilies made of prophetic lace. I remember how she sunbathed listening to Joy Division.

Grand sap pinned in my hand where I’ve pulled the aloe apart, for my skin blotched from shaving. I try and isolate the sap in the garden. Wild flowers stalk me and the day is fluid. They seem to chant less on hot days. She’s probably lovelier now. Purer, enchanting in ways that I can only imagine in moonlight. She’s maturing cloth in my hands. In pictures she’s lovelier now to me than she was in childhood. I often think of her in moonlight, far away, with an older-woman’s face, still pretty. Still lovely. Still focused on seeing the anticipatory nostalgia around her in everything. The kitchen is warm and smells of soup. I have stories but I don’t have her. The cupboards are fading. Falling into silence. The roar of the sea is hidden from view. The dogs whine outside.

It is a summer’s day, a surfer’s parliament. Now it is raining and my feet in sandals are as cold as winter. Desperate rain spits. Soon the lights will come on in the house, neon-burning. Everything will be warm and alive. I will undress then and my volcanic bones will sink into the warm dreamtime-bathwater. Spaghetti-for-two will fade from memory fast or perhaps I will cook that tomorrow, flying solo. On guard for the open, competitive, flesh-made-vulnerable, mute hours. Warm tongue. Skin tanned and frame brown. She’s gone and I have to decide to live or fade away. I tell myself (I am good at making up stories) that two nights before she leaves, there is an aroma of a curry-pot in the kitchen. I find her cutting up red chillies, onions, layering warm spices mixed with fragrant oil in the steaming pot. Masala.

I make roti. She cuts her finger. Bursts into tears and turns to me to say me she can’t do this to me anymore. And I think to myself that the relationship will come to an end like the supernatural origin of spring. I don’t know yet that I will sit at the phone and wait to
hear it ring. Wait to hear her voice. I only know this, while she sleeps next to me in the dark: it will fill the entire fibre of my being with both pleasure and pain to hear her voice in our flat again. I will long for cold streets, cold winters, cold signs to get my cold hands, cold feet lost in. Now that she’s left, I stare into space. Sitting at the computer, my tea gone cold. Waiting for inspiration to kick-start my creativity and my imagination again. I’ll drink cups of tea until midnight. Think of Paris.

Long for her. We wanted to honeymoon in Paris. Don’t try and find me. I’m no good for you like this or for anyone else for that matter. She talked of suicide before she left. The letter said it, found on the pillow in the bedroom. Don’t try and find me. Don’t try and find me. Don’t try and find me. Don’t try and find me. In some way, I am still devoted to her, to her memory. I tell myself that maybe she’s with someone else right now. Maybe I will see her in a restaurant having a romantic dinner with someone who looks like me or someone who doesn’t look like me. Maybe she’s married with children. I wonder does she still like champagne, tea, eating outside at cafes like Hemingway? Wonder if she’s a wife, a lover, and a mother, and then I think of Paris.

Abigail George is a South African blogger, essayist, poet, and short story writer. She is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, one from the Centre for the Book in Cape Town, and another from ECPACC in East London. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg followed by a stint at a production company in Johannesburg. Her latest essay "Paradise" explores the themes of mental illness, despair, hardship, hospitalization, and depression.

Categories: Fiction, Short Story