From the bog

I step into the loo and close the door, there is no lock.
I tussle with the drawstring on my ancient sports shorts. Without the string they would not stay up, but with the string they are almost equally impossible to get down. It’s a conundrum that amuses me a little, I think I need to get out more? But here’s the irony. Getting into the loo and shutting the door is the closest I can get to getting out more right now. Beyond that door is my immediate and extended family. I step into the bog not only for nature’s call but also for relief of a different kind. If I am lucky I will get more than thirty seconds of ‘peace’ before a small child (mine – so it’s kind of my own fault) will come and, at best, stand outside the door shouting “DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG” until I answer or, at worst, just burst straight in and leave the door open for all to see. Dignity is a concept for which my thresholds have been seriously compromised since having children. Now, in this current living arrangement, it has bled further into some kind of major-artery injury and I have none left at all.

So I close the door, sit down and stare at the floor. The stones sit politely next to one another in their immovable pattern. Separated only by a thin line of grout. The ultimate in being too close to your neighbour. There is a sense of peace and satisfaction in the way they are so strong and still and neatly lined up. I think of my life and wonder if being a floor tile might not have been a more superior choice. A great deal of certainty and an inability to fray at the edges, either literally or metaphorically.

In my mind I pretend I am in a country where living space is at an absolute premium. Perhaps Japan? And this loo is, actually, my micro-home. I plan out where my bed would be, the desk, storage, living ‘space’. Should Hello Kitty adorn any spare piece of wall? It is a game I’ve always enjoyed. Thinking about confined spaces and trying to fit more in. I wonder if it is a metaphor for something else in my life but then I get distracted by how to make best use of the location of the window. Does the sleeping area really need natural light?

In my mind I have slipped into the bed and feel enclosed and enveloped and loved by this space that is all mine and only mine when,

“DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG!!! AMMA!
AMMA KRISHNA BIT ME"

Suddenly I am back on the loo again. I haven’t even done a pee yet. It is fortunate that my dignity left me when I bled out after slitting my wrists because within three seconds the door will be flung open (it will almost whack my knees on its unstoppable path to whack the wall) and I will be on view to not only the two, small, protesting children but also to the rest of the people I am living with. I sigh. No point hurrying. Once peace has been made with the loss of dignity then you have all the time in the world.

We are not OK.

“She looks so peaceful.”

“SHAKE HER.”

“Stop pulling on her, go inside!”

I’ll remember each one of you, tiles.

This loo is different. The passing months have tired it considerably. They have tired me too. The coffee has long since been finished and my mind feels dulled in the sense of a dense, wet sponge filled with oil instead of water. A sort of sticky oil that permeates through everything and leaves a constant residue reminder.
As if my mind can no longer

just get going.

I wonder what the best thing to do is? Is anything possible anymore? I feel as though I am in limbo and teetering on the edge of a narrow plank across a deep chasm. Held in place not by my will but the situation’s unwillingness to be done with me. I’m not completely sure that I am ready for the chasm but I have certainly started to consider it much more lately. Although the loo is much safer than the chasm. The chasm looms dangerously in my mind. If I could only move a little. But my limbs feel as though the sticky oil has slipped along my veins and arteries and gummed them up.

I can hear voices. Or can I? Is it the tiles talking to me? Is that right? No, that cannot be right. It doesn’t make sense. Tiles cannot speak. Am I still on the plank? Or am I on the loo.

Suddenly it is all very confusing.

The gunk is thick and I feel it between my fingers. I look around the loo. The oil creeps over the flourescent lighting, dimming and redshifting it into a dark hue. I can’t have this feeling between my fingers. Gotta wash it off. I get off the toilet, walk across the teetering plank. I am moving so very slow. I turn on the faucet to wash my hands.

Slime flows out. I can’t wash my hands in this.

There are voices, but they don’t seem to be coming from the door. It’s not the floor tiles. They are gone. Or even from inside my head. Yammering voices, having conversations in another language, from behind the walls. Conversations that could care less about me.

Where did the floor tiles go? I want to know. The confusion is so heavy on my head now. I’m so confused.

“Why is this happening? Please tell me, I’m so confused.”

I don’t expect a response from the voices. They don’t care. But a response comes anyway.

“I’m here to help. Just relax. It will be over soon.”

I want to resign myself to the voice. Some help around here would be really nice. I breathe out and feel a sense of contraction in my chest. A heaviness. I consider if I need to breathe in again. It’s such a bother.

The oil is turning from red to black in the corner of my eyes. It’s flowing thick, and bulging. The tarry blackness crawls across the walls. It’s between my naked toes. I cannot feel them. Better than them being cold.

“Just relax. You don’t need to do anything. I’ve got you now. The world won’t hurt you anymore.”

Relaxing. That sounds great. Finally relaxing all this tension. I see something in the corner of my eye.

It’s me. In the mirror. The black tar is now crawling over me, tentacles embracing. Crawling over the mirror. Just a few more moments and it will be over my eyes and I won’t have to look at any of this anymore.

I look at my face in the mirror. My tar covered arms are holding on to the edge of the tar covered sink.

“Just lean back. Let yourself fall. Let it happen.”

My face is the face of numbness. And then… It changes. Becomes an old lady, someone’s mother, putting on a cheerful face, hiding a deep torrential sea of concern.

The words a like a hammer striking at emptiness. There is no one to be concerned about. Just an empty expanse of blackness. But there is still vibration, and something stirs.

I see my own face again. Numb and hopeless, but even numb and hopeless has a voice. A unique voice that may tell of orchid petals dipped in red paint and the shallow delights of eating cookies in therapists waiting rooms at 8 in the morning.

If I let go now, that voice will not come to expression. My lungs will remain as empty and unexpressive as they are now, and the world will not have what I need to still speak.

What I need to speak to my daughter. What I need to speak about filling more content into already confined spaces and the many unimportant things I have to say about this life.

I must breathe. Against the resistance I must breathe, for I must express. It hurts so bad, but I must breathe.

And I breathe in deep against the pain, and a face comes out of the blackness. It is rage and hunger. It chitters insect-like, and then it sees the inevitable, and resigns to its own undoing so that I may live.

And I scream. Scream from the top of my breath to the bottom, and the black void releases its grip around my lungs, and the gale blows away the ancient face of the demon, crumbling away sallow cheeks and bone and tissue. The oil flows away as if beset with purpose, suddenly viscous in its escape. At the bottom of my breath the intensity rises and my throat gives it everything. The mirror cracks. The demon returns to formlessness.

Back into the bog.

Sharpness returns to my mind. I have found myself. Dignity returns.

A knock from the door.

“Amma?”

I stand. Pulled up the shorts, pulled the string tight and took a deep breath.
I stretched my back and looked up. There was a large deadbolt latch at the top right hand corner of the door. Either, I had never noticed it for I rarely looked up to the ceiling in there, or someone had recently installed one. In an extended family, sometimes things slip past you. I looked closer, squinting at it. It didn’t look very new. I sighed.
“Amma?”
Her voice was quiet. My silence had managed to seep out. I imagined it that way. The little voice on the outside sounded tentative.
“Yes beta, I’m coming.”
I sighed again.
I could hear myself, the very thing I had tried not to become. Resigned, harassed woman, mother, wife. The dignity was short-lived. My sigh, the voice on the outside tiptoeing around the sound Amma. caused an avalanche of feeling. That dreaded heaviness in the pit of my stomach that told me this was my life. That motherhood was just one part of it. As large as my roles were, I was really just a small space. Nothing more than those definitions of myself as woman. That roof went with me wherever I went. To the office, to the market, to the post office, to the foreign lands I had always wanted to travel.