My period arrives. After every monthly pain I forget. I forget the backache. I forget the sickness and the shooting pains. Lying awake at night, a hand clamped over my constricting womb. That intense, crippling cramp in my stomach. This is the physical pain. Yet there is the tension in my head the week before, annoyance and snapping at trivialities, depressed and down and floating in the mundane. A time for suicidal and murderous thoughts. A time when I feel most horny and need to touch myself, relieve my tension through orgasms. Then a monthly concentration of pain on the first day. Blood seeps, drips, then rolls down my inner thighs; a concentration of agony. Sometimes the blood is so thick it is black. Sometimes bright, oxygenated red. It chafes, wet between my thighs and makes my skin sore. Then, the following days, the pain is dispersed. And the weeks in between, still nervousness, sadness, fear and anger. The neurosis is there, dispersed into fleeting clouds and transformations of mood. My emotions changeable, a microcosm of the fluxing skies above, changes of mood, moon and universe.
After every monthly pain I forget. I forget how I lie doubled-up and cursing. The anguish is sometimes almost too much to bear. I curse. I curse at this woman's curse. I ask myself, Why is life so hard? How can I carry on? For how many more years can I endure this pain? The pain of life, of the first concentration, agony. How can I endure life's agony? Is it all pain? Will it always be pain? If only I could desensitise myself just to carry on.
I lie doubled up and cursing. How dare men complain about their ills? How dare they complain at all? Like, ever. They can never feel, never understand this monthly torment. They only feel it when we lash out at them. How can they understand? They just think we are crazy. Society ignores the menstrual cycle. Ignores and disrespects our monthly pain. I am bleeding, wrapped up in a bubble, floating in menstrual consciousness and painkillers. This is a different level from ordinary, everyday consciousness, a female dimension. After every monthly pain we forget.
Days pass. Pain is dispersed yet Carly still feels cursed. Men have put a curse on her. Bad men. She sees faces of ex-lovers in the crowds. The kick boxer, his face appears in the city crowds. She sees him working behind a bar, driving a bus, and looking at her among the crowd. Aaron, she smells leather, sees him driving past in a pimpy car. The client that came to her door: now the sight of any bald-headed man sends a chill down her spine. The smell of massage oil, almond oil. Makes her sick to the stomach. It is a spell; a wicked spell.
Her father haunts her, taunts her. She sees him walking past her, hears echoes of his voice. She is mourning. She is grieving for the death of her parents; her previous perception of them. Usually a death means a death, the end. But not this kind of death. She is grieving for lots of things, most of them still alive. She knows that her father still lives. He still sits in the same armchair watching television.
There would still be a frown shielding the expression in his eyes. What was he thinking? Would there be a slap, a spark of anger next? Or would he want to play? She was eleven when it finally stopped. Then he hardly touched her at all. Apart from making up after a row. A hug. A kiss. And he would say, "You are just like me." At other times, like her mother, she would pull away. Like her sister, would walk from the room when she was left alone with him.
Now he is older. He is ill. The blood clot in his leg is back and threatening to travel up to the veins in his heart. Her mother does not stay with him for love. They are bound by their co-dependence; their low self-worth; her masochistic tendencies and his sadism. As the years have passed he has sapped her youth and vigour, until she is too weak, too guilty, too frightened to leave. Her mother gets older, thinner and tired whilst her father grows fatter and spoilt in a guilt-free comfort zone where he can get his clothes washed and his meals cooked. Carly has never seen her mother show affection towards her father, their marriage is dead of love. Yet her brother, her sister, could they not see that? She has not seen her brother since she drifted in the snow on the first day. When she drifted from her family, alone, in the cold.
She wants to forget her family, her childhood. They hurt too much. Hurt too much. In the night, humid clouds surround her bed. Loneliness. Bad memories. Anger. The unfairness of it all. Poor Carly.
I am wearing a long, light trench coat. It blows around in the wind. A wind so harsh that it burns my head. I am walking across grey, barren land towards a tree. Everything is grey except for the black tree that is leafless and stark as if it had been struck by lightening. Its branches are withered and twisted. There is a bird. A big black bird. A crow. It flies around the tree then lands upon a branch. I reach out my arm and the crow flutters then balances upon my hand, flaps its dark wings and sits upon my shoulder. My face is a scowl. There are lines on my face. I am bitter. No family, few friends. Instead, a wasteland. For many years I have been lonely.
Later, she lies, surrounded by newspaper, wishing for the storm to come. She draws circles, in blue biro, around the ads for suitable accommodation. She wants to run from this bad place. Run from these hauntings. Run from the clouds of condensed pain that float around this tiny, claustrophobic flat. Escape.
Carly feels like refugee, lying on the floor, washed up in an empty room, surrounded by her cargo. She is a survivor, a soldier, weary and battered. She fights each lover. In between fighting she is alone. Isolated from her family. Laura, the 'experiment' (when she was a child she thought that she must have been developed in a test tube) now has a family of her own. Carly has photographs of her nephew and niece, red-cheeked, laughing; her nephew running with a red flower in his hand.
Carly is a survivor, but at what cost? Bullets of anger have massacred her family. Among the wreckage lie family values, crushed, all respect broken up and splintered, the decrepit foundations of her parents' marriage exposed. In the aftermath of her accusation, fragments of blame flew dangerously and she choked on the particles of confusion. She fell, and her spirit was held, oppressed and weary beneath rocks of guilt. Her mother said that the family would never be the same again.
She opens her eyes. She has washed up on a bright place, a new place. A place to rest and heal. She listens to the big droplets of July rain on the skylight. A safe place, a shelter. She decorates the new flat with cushions, drapes, potpourri and vases. Carefully tapping into her savings to invest in her haven. Now, she savours her solitude. The skylight gives the impression of space in the small room; she can see the clouds passing beneath the stars.
She bathes. The colours of her snake tattoo, yellow eyes, red tongue, emphasised in the water. After a scented bath she massages luxuriant creamy lotion over her skin and across her tattoo until the colours shine. She wraps her smooth skin in a large, soft towelling dressing gown, makes a cup of black tea with milk and dips her favourite chocolate biscuits into the homely brew. She turns on the radio and sings in harmony to Nina Simone's 'Mood Indigo'. She sounds young, high and pure. A strange sense of well-being surrounds her. No fear, no past, no future, no regret, no grief.
They are sacrificing children in India for Kali. The newsreader's composed English accent informs her that the children are poor, unwanted, homeless. They are taken to a temple and sacrificed.
A flash of lightening. A low growl of thunder, followed by an unexpected clap of sound. Only one clap of thunder? As if in answer, there is another flash of light across the sky, a deceptive silence, followed by a low rumble then a climax like a bomb blast which makes her jump. The room shakes with the power of the storm. The raindrops sound like voices, whispering.
It is my turn to feel less lonely. I love storms. They make me feel alive. I survive. My heartbeat. My instincts. My self.