Blue Moon…

Not wanting to repeat how I began my previous blog post, but it really has been awhile, and out of the three blogs (yes, my ambition to create the perfect blog has seen me creating yet another new blog), I’ve chosen this blog as, firstly, I know how to use WordPress and secondly, I know too many people who read the other blog. Can’t a lady get a bit of anonymity these days, hey?

I’ve really lost my way in writing so I thought the easiest way of getting back into it was to write about someone else’s work. Blue Jasmine, written and directed by Woody Allen has been playing on my mind for a while so what better place to start.

This film is in no way a show-stopper, it’s gentle and tender and like any good story, doesn’t give the audience any conclusive answers. Jasmine, who gave herself that name later in life as a way of her distancing herself from her past, is the protagonist who we are introduced as she attempts to recover from the breakdown of her entire life.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine beautifully; a mesmerising performance in which we see her desperately trying to claw back her high-society status which she so tragically lost when the FBI arrest her husband and she loses everything she owns, albeit Jasmine is the one who calls the police on her husband after learning of his numerous affairs.

Jasmine portrays a path chosen in life that so many people are forced to take; not everyone is bequeathed with pearls and fancy watches by their husbands while holidaying in the Hamptons, yet many people understandably take the path that will most progress their life, even if their true happiness is sacrificed.

The character of Jasmine is contrasted with that of her adopted sister (Jasmine was also adopted, but treated more favourably by their parents due to her appearance), in that her sister doesn’t have a great amount of money, but unlike Jasmine, she is content with her family and her loving boyfriend. Jasmine, however, continuously looks the other way as her husband has affairs and carries out fraudulent deals.

Should, as Jasmine’s step-son thinks, be blamed for her lack of questioning of how his father acquired his riches and be equivalent to an accomplice in his crime? No, I don’t think so.

Jasmine is the ultimate social-climber, and the pressure to progress is the pressure much of society faces. Her stubborn determination to ignore her husband’s fraudulent activities and affairs was the exchange she was forced to make in order to live a luxurious lifestyle in which she would be deemed to be successful. Sure she could have finished university as she keeps repeating that she should have done, but there was the offer of a rich husband; even in 2013, this route offers more security for a woman, particularly one coming from a turbulent up-bringing.

Woody Allen leaves us with the feeling that, as hard as it seems, true happiness can only be achieved if we forget how we’ll be perceived by others and live a life that may not be filled with Caribbean holidays, but is a truthful life. This is a particular poignant message in a society places greatest value on what we own and not who we are.

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Aspiring to be the best you can be

I haven’t blogged for a while. That’s kind of because I have another blog, I started this one just for my fiction but I’m now finding I don’t want to write truthful things on my other blog because there’s too many people I know who read it. So I’m using this one for my most truthful posts.

When I was growing up, my family were neither affluent nor were they what I would call middle-class. However, I always set my aspirations high. In all areas of my life really. I guess that’s partly because I was always deemed to be the most intelligent person in all my classes in school, which was recognised by most of my peers, parents and teachers. It gave me an innate feeling of anything is possible.

This feeling waned throughout my secondary school. I mixed with new kids who had similar levels of intelligence, though I was always in the tops sets. I still had that feeling I could do anything with my life; it never really left me. That is, until the past three years. I went to university, did postgraduate qualifications and landed the first job I applied for. However, I don’t feel like I’ve even slightly fulfilled any of my dreams.

I dreamed to work on a magazine; my shy, quiet self plucked up the courage to ask teachers at my school if myself and my friends could start our own magazine, which was met with dismay – they didn’t have time. I told the careers advisor at 16 that I wanted to work on a magazine which was also met with dismay.

The truth is I feel stuck. I look at people who I went to school with and feel stupid for having aspirations. My aspirations have got me into educational debt, and I can’t help feel it just wasn’t worth it. Growing up I would think people who are career-less and simply start a family are wasting their life. But isn’t it more stupid to have dreams that will never be fulfilled?

I can’t help but think of George Osbourne‘s recent speech in his budget announcement about creating an aspiration nation. I like hearing dreams, I think it’s good for people to work hard, but we’ve ultimately got to put limitations on our aspirations. Knowing what you want, but also knowing your limitations I feel will deliver true success. This is what needs to be taught in school.

Missing

Things I miss:

  1. Coming back from a holiday and talking people through my real, smudgeable, shiny holiday photos…and stumbling across them years later in a kitchen drawer.
  2. Being completely and utterly infatuated.
  3. Sharing the same views as my parents.
  4. Unimaginably long, hot summers.
  5. Spending the whole school summer holiday waking up to Saved By The Bell and Bug Juice; watching the fun American kids had at summer cap and thinking I’d have sooo much fun there.
  6. Thinking that everyone believed in love.
  7. Art, I stopped after school; I wouldn’t know where to start now.
  8. The time when clothes weren’t so expensive and we all just wore jeans and a t-shirt.
  9. Moira Stewart on the 6 o’clock news.
  10. Knowing most of my neighbours.

Is there anything you miss?

Mariela

The sun shoots through the shutters and rests upon his forehead, illuminating his face and particles of dust that are floating in the air. I should stroke his chest, try to wake him up, yet I cannot manage one step.

Looking at the space beside him on the bed, I see where I lay, one half of the scene, but now simply an intruder. Bottles clink on the street below as the street cleaners begin to erase the memories of last night’s party; the only sound to be heard in this early light. Although the sunlight dances upon areas of the room, there is a chill everywhere in the house, occasionally provoking a trickle of coldness to flutter up my arm.

The shadow of a smallish woman is approaching the door frame, my grandmother peers in at me and there is intensity in her eyes.

‘Mama, I will be down soon,’ I usher her away with my words of reassurance, but my grandmother’s persistent nature, that my mother became so tireless of, is prevailing today.

‘He’s your husband Mariela, he needs to know. I do not understand why you are being so silly about this. We can celebrate as soon as everyone knows!’ My grandmother has a tea towel in her hand as she talks to me. I think it is her weapon of choice. If she wants you to know her opinion, if she wants you to do something; she’ll point at you with her tea towel.

‘You know I needed some time Mama, just leave me to tell him…please,’ I give the door a push to retain some privacy. My grandmother is very different from my mother. My mother was very gentle and kind, she died when I was six. But I’ve been having reoccurring dreams about her, it’s not my mother though, I’m starting to forget what she looks like. All I remember from the dreams is that she is holding my hand and we are running along the beach together. That’s it, except we lie down at the end and sink our toes into the sand.

‘It’s still early, come back to bed Mariela,’ Sanchez folds back the duvet with one grasp and is looking at me with a slightly open eye while scratching his chest. As I perch on the bed he gazes up at me. My face betrays me; it always portrays my true thoughts, no matter how I try to conceal them.

‘No Sanchez, I…need to tell you something. I thought I might be…but I wasn’t certain…and then…’

‘Mariela,’ Sanchez grasps my arm and raises his eyebrows.

‘Well…erm…Sanchez, I’m pregnant.’ I speak the words to the chest of drawers and wait for the reaction. Sanchez’s arm comes round from behind me and he places his hand across my stomach.

‘You’re pregnant? I’m going to be a father? I’m going to be a father! Mariela!’ He kisses me as I sit still and allow his lips onto mine. I want to tear him off me and run out of the house, keep running until I can hear his voice no longer.

Now Sanchez is cocooning me in his arms. I am not some child’s bear but he squeezes me as if I were. I had thought he would be pleased with the news, but cannot stop thinking his smile must be fake. How can he be truly happy?

‘We will talk later Sanchez, when you are awake.’

‘How long have you known?’

‘I thought…but not sure. Well, maybe a few days only.’

‘Are you feeling…?’

‘Yes, I’m fine’

‘So do we need to go to the doctors?’

‘Yes, yes Sanchez. You need to get dressed. After work, we can talk more then.’

He is still holding me; my back teeth are clinched together and I take in a deep breath from my lungs, sucking in the smell of the bread- my grandmother is cooking. As he moves beside me on the bed, he places his head on my stomach.

‘I think I can hear him kick, my little footballer.’ Looking down I force a smile as the tobacco smoke that is secreted in his hair enters my nostrils. He promised to quit two weeks ago. As a child, my grandmother had advised me ‘not to ask questions of your husband’s business’, apparently a Mexican proverb.

Sanchez smooths down my shoulders, continuing along my upper arms whilst admiring the family picture our reflection conjures in the mirror.

‘I want to wait until we’re sure. So don’t tell anyone…not yet,’ I remove his hand from my shoulder as he tightens his boots and gives me one last smile before leaving for work.

I feel peaceful slamming the door behind him, even with my grandmother gossiping about Linda Constantine’s unholy behaviour, clanking the plates together as she washes up and informing me of what I should expect through pregnancy, I still feel calm.

I finally sit down at the table, the toast caves in when my fingers grab it, tearing a piece off with my teeth. Drinking my coffee, it tastes like drops of mercury as it flows down my throat, even more precious now the kitchen is still. The toast is gone, I must have eaten three slices and my stomach is heavy, but I feel safe.

The telephone rings, my grandmother is now sitting outside guarding the house, her main priority to observe the neighbours, secondly to watch the tourists passing on their way to the beach.

‘Mariela, the telephone Mariela!’ She shouts through the front door.

‘I heard Mama,’ she cannot bear to move from the front step until midday when the heat becomes unbearable, she is too concerned of missing anything before then.

I walk through the hallway, moving my bundle of curls across my shoulder and pick up the phone.

‘Lolita, Lolita! He is so angry with me!’ A quivering voice is rushing the words towards my ear.

‘May I ask who’s speaking?  I think you have the…’

‘You have to help me. Rafael, my husband, he threw a plate at me and now he’s gone and I’m frightened, I’m frightened when he gets back, I’ve never seen him this mad and…

‘Do you want me to call the police?’

‘No!’

‘But the police can help.’ My mind is overwhelmed with what I am hearing.

‘No! You don’t understand it’s…’

All I can hear are beeps on the line. I don’t even know her name. Why did she call me? I’m Mariela, why tell me she is frightened of her husband then simply hang up?

I try to find her number but it is withheld. I march along the hallway to tell my grandmother of the woman, I halt reaching the front door. My grandmother asks who called, but I cannot answer.

‘A wrong number Mama,’ I reach out to touch her hand and clasp her fingers in mine.

This small clasp of fingers is how we connect to each other. It’s only a little gesture but it helps, it helps a lot. I look out on the street which is still calm, only a few flaps of clothes drying in the bursts of wind and a cat crying in the distance. There is nothing I can do for the woman; I run her voice through my mind, the words I repeat to myself.

‘I’m going to Consuelo’s, Mama. Is Anita coming to go to town with you?’

‘Yes, yes, the old lady should be here in half an hour. I can look after myself Mariela, don’t worry about that.’ She is still facing the street when she talks to me, and readjusts her skirt on her knees to appear more composed.

‘Alright, I should be back at about three,’

I leave her on the front steps and begin striding over the cobbles that pave most of the streets leading down the hill to the town square.

The houses have flat fronts and are painted light green, pink, and blue. Ours is a dark pink. I never notice the colours that much, mainly because I pass these houses with their grandmothers on their front steps everyday on my way to work. The sunlight disguises their unique colours and makes them one long row, but each one is different, even the tiny different curve in the pattern of a veranda.

I realise the hand of the church clock is approaching closer to eleven so throw my arms back and forth, feeling my bag bounce against my back. Streams of people flow into the town square, some lie their back against the cushion of a bench, others taking shelter from the sun against a shop window.

I thrust open the door to Consuelo’s. Rosamaria and Elena are enthralled in a conversation as they rest their elbows on the bar. Rosamaria dramatically throws her head onto her palm, reacting to Elena’s news.

‘Hi girls,’ my eyes scan the tables checking what is left to do, pretending to be unaffected by their sudden silence.

‘Hi Mariela’, they slide down from their stools and walk through to the kitchen, Elena hurrying Rosamaria. I unroll my apron from my bag and wrap the straps around my waist, attempting to flatten the curve at the front. The kitchen staff have been working since early this morning and I hear them throwing pans onto the stove.

‘Mariela!’ As I turn around, Consuelo, the restaurant owner, is standing behind the bar. He has always reminded me of a Buddha, his smile reaches across his face and his stature is so small that he doesn’t bend down to the table when taking orders.

‘My Mariela!’ He opens his arms to me and I pull him close, patting his back gently. ‘And how is lovely Carlita this morning?’ Consuelo walks away to wipe down a table as he asks about my grandmother.

‘Just the usual, making sure everyone upholds her high standards. Consuelo…I shouldn’t tell you yet…but…well, I’m pregnant.’ A smile is unpreventable, I feel as if I’m telling my father and am waiting for him to be proud of me. But there is nothing.

‘Consuelo?’

‘That’s great news Mariela.’ He slowly turns around and puts his cloth on the bar, looking into my eyes.

‘You seem…less than happy,’ my breathing becomes heavier; I feel my hand aching to reach for a cigarette.

‘I’m happy, I’m happy,’ he wipes his forehead with the back of his hand, the small round eyes like that of a squirrel aren’t synchronised with his smiling mouth. ‘I’m happy for you…and Sanchez.’

I take a seat at the front of the restaurant, giving myself a view onto the square as I push a cigarette through my fingers.

‘What is it Consuelo? You know I trust you like my family…if there’s something to tell me.’ I light the cigarette and flicker it in my hand, waiting for a response.

‘It’s nothing.’ Consuelo attempts a cheerful facade again, but is covering his mouth too much to be truthful.

‘Is it about…what I suspected…?’

‘Hmm’

‘Is it a woman…? Is it? Is he having an affair? I’m having his baby Consuelo!’

‘Calm down. It’s just… Elena saw him last night. He was with someone; it could’ve been a friend Mariela.’

‘Cassandra? Was it Cassandra?!’ Consuelo shrugs his shoulders slightly then confirms what I thought.

The nights I had shut my eyes, blocking out the moon that hovered in the sky, knowing I could not sleep until Sanchez was home. I had told Consuelo about these nights, when the restaurant was closed, and then I would cry. At first a solitary tear rolling down my cheek, then when Consuelo had held me, I would feel unable to withhold my tears.

‘I need to go Consuelo.’ He gives me a simple nod.

I walk back up the hill; the doughnuts being sold on the street are making me feel sick. A couple come towards me, he has his arm tightly wrapped around her neck and I feel a throbbing pain begin the side of my head.

Approaching the house, I take slow steps inside. Sanchez is already home for lunch; he is sprawled across the lounger at the back of the house and listening to the radio. The music on the radio gets louder as I approach the kitchen and lean against the door. My foot begins to tap on each beat of music. It is not the tap that I was taught from my mother, a soft toe hitting the ground, followed by the ball of my foot. Instead I press my foot firmly down into the wood, my arms tucked inside each other.

‘Do you want a drink Sanchez?’

‘You’re home Mariela?’

‘Yes, I forget to do something this morning, then I’ll be gone.’

‘O.K, thanks a drink would be nice,’ Sanchez goes back to half-heartedly watching the sunbathers on the beach below, his t-shirt flung across the paving stones.

The phone rings again. I leave it to ring, continuing to prepare Sanchez a drink. One small plop and the tablet is in, it fizzes slightly then disintegrates.

I toe the plastic strip of the back door, scraping a fingernail down the door frame. I squeeze my eyes until they are just slits of colour and stare into the wayward hair of my husband.

‘Mariela?’ The reporter on the radio is blasting her monotone voice over my thoughts. ‘Why are you standing there? Take a seat for goodness sake!’ Slowly I slide my feet across the floor and sit down, curling my legs into myself. I place the drink in his hand. A single kiss on the cheek. A mixture of perfume and sweat swirl up at me, my stomach churns.

‘Thanks, Mariela.’

‘Enjoy.’

Let me tell you about my first love…

This piece was written for Elle magazine’s writing competition 2012, the prompt was ‘Let me tell you about my first love..’ in 900 words. Please let me know what you think, how would you have approached the brief?

Let me tell you about my first love. Let me recollect a hazy image of a time long passed.

But please, scan your eyes across the page, do not fully consume the words, for as much as I’d like to share this memory with you, a sickness in my stomach is yearning me to stop typing.

We’re often reminded that our memory isn’t accurate; that what we now perceive as happiness was once often fraught with anger and arguments. Perhaps I am a victim to memory’s vicious games, but is it better to search out the truth, scrape through the details buried in our mind, than to retain a partly constructed memory that is cherished like no other?

How do you know it’s love? It’s a feeling we take for granted in our youth. ‘Everyone will fall in love’ – is the truth imprinted on our consciousness. Our freedom from considering practicalities and an unrivalled eagerness to experience life makes our susceptibility to love greater.

And yet, years on from what can be described as my youth, there are notions that others dismiss as ludicrous that I still hold onto. I still firmly believe in love at first sight. That incomparable moment in which your limbs are immobilised and you drown in the eyes of a stranger. Foolish perhaps, but in my life of sensible decisions, it’s a belief I’m happy to be swept along with.

It wasn’t until months after we’d decided that we could no longer work as one unity. Things always happen at unexpected times. We were saying goodbye, and in that moment free of expectations and complete trust, I recognised the feeling as love.

And so, you’d probably expect that I’d be eager to commence a reunion. However, on that dark evening as the bus trundled forwards, I was overcome with calmness and an inner peace.

It’s part of my personality to quickly dismiss a task that I feel nonsensical or I just can’t complete, and on the other hand completely give myself over to something in which I can excel.  Looking back, this is possibly a flaw. I couldn’t see the relationship as completely succeeding so I let it go.

Winter faded away and throughout the spring we kept in touch through unexpected texts, phone calls sprinkled with laugher, and tales of important news. No longer tied up in relationship conventions, we had stopped taking each other for granted and were beginning to forge a friendship that was stronger than anything we’d previously had.

We could spend hours in each other’s company, eating up time in nonsensical chatter and, as lovers do, gazing into each other’s eyes.  The soft cusp of a hand around another could feel like the safest place in the world. Long after it was over, this is what I missed the most.

In the midst of love, when other people felt like mere blurs on our landscape, it would have been abhorrent to question whether my love was truly requited. It was an automatic assumption that he felt the same. However, in a state of reflection, doubts begin to impinge on my memory.

Could it be that, in addition to conveying a story I never wanted anyone to hear, I am also conveying a story based upon a person who didn’t even reciprocate my love? Surely it would be better to quickly swallow up my emotions; erase the words, and instead construct a story based upon my love towards an inanimate object, something that could never have loved me back and therefore not risk the horror that the love was all one-sided.

No one begins to love with the intention of being gratified by its return. It’s something we later hope for. My feelings cannot be altered or invalidated if they stand alone. I still felt love. It’s still mine.

The details of the rest of that summer pervade me, as if my mind is trying to trick me into believing that’s ‘THE END’, no more words and nothing else will have happened. Two lovers eternally trapped in one scene as Keats so desperately wanted in his Grecian Urn, or the scriptwriters of the Sex and the City Movie who perpetually retain Carrie and Big in their shared apartment, stuck in the movie, knowing there need be no sticky conclusion for now, who wants an end, an ‘it’s over’, goodbye folks and don’t let the cinema door hit you on the way out.

As it goes, there was a conclusion; I struggle to blame anyone but myself for smudging the picture that was being made. Being my usual melodramatic self, I remember overreacting to something; most likely because I was again becoming comfortable in our relationship, and with comfortableness sometimes means treating those closest to us in a lesser manner than we rightfully should.  As we were both too proud to admit our faults, nothing was resolved.

My main regret was not realising until it was too late, that in all the jovial comments about once more cementing the status of our relationship, while I was enjoying the freedom of our friendship, there was a truth and a need for reassurance in those words.

My first love will always hold me in its claws, whether it is the person or the purity of those feelings that grasps at my heart reins. In either instance, it is an experience for which I am eternally grateful. Can we, will we ever love in the same way again?  If we allow ourselves to do so, to give ourselves to someone completely, unconditionally, inexplicably…perhaps.