Fiction & History

‘Write something positive,’ she said—‘whether it’s fiction or not; something that makes you happy, even in these dark days.’ All I have is history and fiction; both are very difficult these days. I racked my brain for something positive to write. No, all history and fiction! Since Saturday the eleventh of June I have been in the most abysmal of moods. The Friday before had been a good day. Writing all week, I was turning over fifteen-hundred words a day and feeling good for it at my desk that looks out into the garden. On Friday evening I showed my family one of my favourite films—which only my mother enjoyed, although scarcely able to make out the Irish accent, without subtitles—and many times I teared-up at the sad scenes and felt emotion that, during these times, seems so rare. During the night it was as if a switch was flipped; I awoke in the most terrible of moods, with no discernible reason. The mood continued and writing ceased, exacerbating my mood and, in turn, making writing even more difficult
    ‘You’ll never get this time again,’ he says. All I have is time. I watch it go over the horizon, where the sea pulls away this morning’s tide like a bedsheet.
    Uncomfortable with speaking to my therapist within the house, I hole up in the car and take the call there. The car was parked in front of the house on a grey and drizzly Wednesday night. I sat in the backseat of a passenger-less automobile and looked at people going up and down the road. It was a good session, but having mentioned drinking coffee she pressed me further—
    ‘How much coffee do you drink?’
    I told her.
    ‘That’s a lot of coffee.’
    ‘Is that a problem? I don’t drink it after six  … Well, I might have an espresso after dinner  … around eight o’clock … on the odd occasion.’
    ‘Well, coffee can be a depressant.’
    ‘For fuck’s sake!’
   She laughed. She laughed a lot. She laughed more than when I told her my instagram account thinks I’m a woman, always targeting me with advertisements for dresses, lingerie, feminine hygiene products and woman-centric self-help courses. I like making her laugh; it must be such a bore to listen to me moan, so to provide her with some comic relief is a pleasure. She has a good laugh. The serenity from therapy is short-lived. I ignore her advice on the coffee—such is my addiction—and I note that if I do not pay attention to her then it may be to my detriment. Instead I change my routine at the weekend, and it makes no difference.
    On Sunday morning I am playing chess and behind me my mother and sister-in-law are talking about childhood, the former asking me about being disciplined. I say—‘I didn’t think much of it at the time but when I speak to other people my age and those who are your age I realise it was rare for kids to be hit so much, if at all.’
    ‘Okay then,’ says my mother—‘since you’re so against hitting kids, if you had your own, would you hit them?’
    ‘I don’t know. It’s inconceivable, the thought of me having kids. It’s like two plus two equals five. I can’t imagine it.’ This sticks in my mother’s craw, and she becomes embittered, making little comments at me for the rest of the day, to which I pay no mind. The next morning I am making a pot of coffee and she flinches next to me—‘I know you don’t like hugs, but … I’m sorry for hitting you so much when you were a kid.’
    I smile—‘That’s okay. I don’t hold it against you or anything … It’d be different if we were estranged or we weren’t so close, then you could be sorry about it. But I don’t think it really matters so much anymore.’
    ‘Do you think it’s affected you?’
    ‘I don’t think so. We’re really close. We’re a close family. I don’t think it matters much to me. I’m not haunted by it or anything.’
    Later, as I was washing my coffee pot—
    ‘I do love you,’ she said.
    ‘Thanks. I love you.’
    We watched old home videos. I laughed at some of it so much my sides hurt and I had tears running down my face.
    ‘Write something positive,’ she said—‘whether it’s fiction or not; something that makes you happy, even in these dark days.’ All I have is history and fiction; both hurt. ‘Even if you’re not thinking of her, you’re thinking of her.’ I am. Sometimes I think of her so much that I feel physically ill, that I might cry or faint. I find life too much of a struggle these days, the negatives outweighing any positives, and yet I am to write something positive! Eight-hundred-odd words in and flailing! When I see the news reports—which I often try to avoid—about how there will be a second spike worse than the first and how experts believe this will continue for months, possibly even years to come, I think of doing unspeakable things to myself. I shake myself out of it, as though from a nightmare, and try to regain some clarity and reason.
    There are many butterflies out. They flutter by me when out on a walk. There is a new route, and it affords me a different perspective on paths I have previously gone down. The grass is dry, dead summer yellow, murky. The woman in front of me has five dogs on leads around her like a maypole. One of them is the dog from my childhood. He is Sparky. I am quite certain it is Sparky. Sparky drowned, but here he was alive! I followed so closely that the woman must have been quite startled, but I had to look at Sparky. Sparky drowned when he was my favourite animal. I remember my father holding his dead wet body and how his hair looked and how he dripped and must have been so cold. Here was Sparky walking in the sunshine along the beach, his tail bobbing and quite the spring in his step. I began to weep all over my own smile. Then I quickened my pace and overtook him, turned and walked away.
    ‘Write something positive,’ she said—‘whether it’s fiction or not; something that makes you happy, even in these dark times.’ All I have is history and fiction; both need to be wearing a facemask whenever they are around me.