giorge thomas

KOOL-AID: things that go bump in the night

The last instalment of Kool-Aid…

It was last night. I can’t tell you what time, as I didn’t pause to check my phone. The sound so large, so near, it woke me from my sleep.

It was a car. Obviously a car, though the sound wasn’t that of a normal driving scenario. Too ragged, too, too… something. I leapt out of bed, to the window. Drew back the curtains. Normally sleep with them open. I like to watch the sway of the brambles by the moonlight. Helps me get to sleep. Yet it has been too cold of late.

There was nothing in my view but a stream of light, reflecting on the patch of ice on the road.

And then I saw it. And heard it. A car, engine revving as it sped past my view. A squelching of brakes indicated a sudden stop somewhere down the road. The slow turning of wheels. And then the stream of light. Widening as the sound of the engine grew. The car moved past my window at high speed. Out of view. A pause. A turn. Speeding past again.

On and on this went. On and on. Back and forth, back and forth.

Had not seen the car before. It wasn’t a new vehicle. Cripes, don’t ask me what type. As we have already established, am hopeless when it comes to cars. Looked like kind of thing James Bond would drive. Not Daniel Craig. Sean Connery.

Wasn’t really thinking anything as this was all going on. Was too peculiar for thought. Is strange, though; didn’t feel fear. I felt pained if anything.

And then came this bizarre realisation: as the car passed again it hit the patch of ice at speed. Time slowed. Enough that as the back tyres of the car slid sideways, I had a kind of psychic foresight, I suppose, that this is exactly what the drier of the vehicle had been hoping to do all along. Slip on the ice. Crash.

And so it happened. The car spun rapidly; a complete 360 degree turn, facing the way it had come. Yet it continued to slide, and soon was out of sight.

I wasn’t dressed for the cold, but it didn’t matter. Raced to the front door, feet bare, waiting to hear the inevitable screeching of metal as the car hit many of the targets in its path. Yet all I heard was a small, insignificant thump.

I raced outside, the cold stinging my feet as they slapped against the icy ground. The car was resting up ahead in a duvet by the side of the road.

The howling came before I reached the vehicle. Horrible, anguished sobs. I opened the door of he car. Landlord was slumped over the steering wheel, crying hysterically. In between the cries he asked himself over and over: why? Why? Why?

I said his name. Quietly. Did not wish to alarm him. He looked at me with strange, glassy eyes. Straightened in his seat. He extended an arm towards me, like he was a show-girl at a car expo. ‘And here she is! Come to rescue me!’

Very, very drunk.

Yesterday, it appears, was the anniversary of Mrs Landlord’s death.

I could hardly move him.

The incoherent mumbling. The change between laughing and crying, exuberance and sadness: getting Landlord from the car to the gatehouse was one of the most emotionally taxing experiences of my life. Have not really witnessed raw pain like that before.

I hand’t a clue what to do with him once we got inside. Could only think to get him warm. To get myself warm, too. My feet were numb. I got Landlord to the couch, where he slumped forward, his chin resting on his chest in apparent sleep.

I lit the fire, quickly, because I am quite the expert at it by now. I knew this would not be enough to keep Landlord warm, and so collected a blanket from my room. I covered him, and took off his shoes. I arranged the cushions so his head wasn’t at such an awkward angle.

As I turned to head to bed I felt his hand grasp at my leg. I looked back to him. Landlord was awake, his eyes searching.

‘Stay,’ he said.

He clutched at my leg, tight behind my knee. The force made me lose my balance, and I felt into him.

Suddenly, Landlord’s arms were everywhere. All over me, smoothing my arms, my legs, my back. Tracing my collar bone.

‘Stay with me.’

He nuzzled at my neck with warm, whisky breaths.

‘Stay with me.’

Light kisses began. He peppered my skin so lightly, goose pimples erupted, trailing down my spine.

I gave in for a moment. I did. I let his kisses circle my jaw from my ear to my chin. I pretended for a moment we were two normal people. That one of us was not drunk and confused, the other cold and bitter. I returned, if just for a moment, to that girl by the Thames, entwined with a handsome, healthy man. I let Landlord’s kisses reach my bottom lip which he gently plucked at with his own.

And then reality.

A man in pain. A man in mourning. Intoxicated. A man who had only just tried to recreate the accident which had his his wife after taking her from her lover. Her lover, who had also been mine.

‘Stay with me.’

Alarm bells sounded in my head. My body stiffened. Extricating myself from Landlord, I stood up.

‘Stay with me.’

I took a breath, starting down at my sad and lonely neighbour.

‘No.’

 

That can’t be it? You’re right. There’s more to the Kool-Aid story. Stay tuned to giorgethomas.com to learn how you can read the rest.

KOOL-AID: i saw him on the tv

Where do I start with this? And where do I start without giving self away? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

It was such an innocuous morning. The fire was going. The kitchen warm. Landlord and I were sitting together. He with his breakfast, me with my coffee. The TV, as per normal, was on. It is normally just background noise for me. I might give extra attention when talk turns to the weather, to see if we are going to be met with snow, perhaps even the elusive white Christmas. But nothing much else. It’s all talking to b-grade celebrities who appeared on a season of I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here and now have a makeup line or fitness video, or news stories on some politician who has fucked up in some way. I tune it out. I find it far more entertaining to look out the window. The view is still intoxicating for me. Wonder if it is the same for Landlord, even after all the years he’s been living here.

So was staring out the window this morning, sipping away at my coffee, when I heard his voice.

His voice.

I froze. Momentarily, I thought he was in the room with us. But he wouldn’t be sounding so jovial, would he?

Slowly, I turned to the TV. There he was. Older, still handsome, but with a harshness somehow. Smiling brightly at the camera in that way we’re all taught to do. Happy, happy, happy, because the church makes us sooo happy.

This wasn’t something which had been filmed in America. He’s here. As in, in the UK, here. He’s in the UK, appearing on morning television.

And I don’t know what to do with this information.

I guess I never imagined he’d come back here. He was so set in LA. Everyone from the church at his beck and call, the sunshine he always desired because where he grew up was grim and grey, and being surrounded by the celebrities he always wanted to be.

Why is he here? What does he have left here? He was always so above it all. American fame — however small — is always preferable to British fame.

No family. No friends. Does he need the money? Or does the church need him over here for good publicity? Is the church suffering?

Of course, it’s a coincidence that he’s here now. Of course it is. Has nothing to do with me. Nothing at all…

Landlord knew. He saw it on my face. He asked the question. Tried to comfort. But it all was done from a distance. He’s somewhere else today. His eyes are faraway. He’s sad, I think.

I pulled myself together pretty quickly. Landlord doesn’t need to take on any of my crap. He has enough of his own at the moment.

KOOL-AID: christmas is all around

It’s been a very Christmassy twenty-four hours, really.

Started with yesterday afternoon. Went for a walk just as was getting dark. Had planned it that way as fancied a walk through the village and don’t like doing that in daylight. The curtain twitching can be rather annoying. Feel like an alien at times. Honestly.

Just wanted something different on my walk, and quite enjoy walking past people’s homes. Always like to imagine what they’re doing. Who they are. How their lives are. People in England much more inclined to leave curtains open, even in winter, it seems. Is the central heating. So you always get a full-on show of folks sitting down in front of the telly, or sat around the kitchen table, drinking tea.

Yesterday, thought, there was the addition of Christmas trees. As the light outside darkened, trees in windows lit up like, well, Christmas trees. I could just mark out the wreaths on the door, and some folks have taken to wrapping thick red tulle around trees and gateposts. So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Cripes, do you think Yoko will come after me for copyright? I can’t afford it. Please, Yoko, please don’t come after me. She probably won’t. She’s into peace and love and all that. I remember back in the Myspace days (which were amazing! What the fuck happened to Myspace?) She was so active and if you messaged her she would tell you ‘I love you.’ Made my day.

Anyway. So it’s Christmas. But it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Why doesn’t it feel like Christmas? One word for you: cherries.

Yup. Those little red morsels are what we Australians associate with Christmas. The season happens just before and every Christmas table has a bowl of cherries. So being cherry-less does not feel Christmassy.

It’s weird when you grow up in one country and then move to another — holidays never really feel the same. Like for us Australians, Christmas means hot weather and being able to go for a walk in a t-shirt and shorts to look at the Christmas lights. Carols by Candle light are a relief more than anything else, because it’s nice being outside at night as the temperatures (only sometimes) start to cool.

I make it sound like my Christmases growing up were brilliant. They weren’t. They were shit. Properly shit. My dad would travel for work every Christmas and so Mum and I would have to go and be with him every year. Christmas isn’t the same when you’re not at home. And Christmas isn’t the same when you’re spending it in a hotel function room with twenty other families you have to pretend to like because your dad works with them. I didn’t like any of the buggers. Okay, that’s a lie, too. I liked some of them. Certainly didn’t like their kids. And that’s who I’d get lumped with; the kids. If you were the oldest of the ‘kids’ it was kind of your responsibility to look after the other ones while the parents all got ‘jovial’ at the adults table. I may not have been an adult but Mum always treated me like one so suddenly being forced to be a kid on Christmas day sucked big time.

Dad’s work would give out token gifts to the ‘kids’ and they never really thought about the age of kids. So I always got stupid plastic gifts which were not age appropriate. Because it was such a pain for Mum to take all of our presents with her, we didn’t really have a lot to open Christmas day, so it just didn’t feel like Christmas. Plus, the whole day was sooo regimented. We had to be up at a certain time. Had to be in the function room at a certain time. Had to eat the gob-shite food. Yup. Shit.

When Mum and I moved to London, there was a small improvement on Christmas. Well, a fast improvement, if truth be told. But then, it didn’t feel like it. Like the sensation of a dewy night after a hot day and that eucalyptus smell which always seemed to hang in the air at around Christmas time. The cherries, Watermelon and other such seasonal fruits which finished every year. The cold ham and cucumber sandwiches we would eat for the entire summer holidays until finally the only thing left of the ham was the bone. Pavlova. Prawns. BBQ’s. Christmas in London was traditional, and traditional freaked me the fuck out.

I suppose the other reason why it hans’t felt like Christmas at the moment is the lack of decorations. I mean, I could have ordered some on line but life is so in-between at the moment, I didn’t think there was any point.

But today, all of that changed.

Landlord arrived at my door this morning. Early. Had just got out the shower. Thankfully, was dressed. He didn’t come inside.

‘Get your coat on,’ he said to me.

‘Why.’

Rolled his eyes. ‘Just get your coat on.’

So, probably because have spent the last few years being told what to do, I complied. When I got outside, Wellies on, I noticed Landlord not in his usual vehicle. Was an older version of what he has. A much older version. Almost looked like an army tank. When I got in and he started the engine, I couldn’t believe how I hadn’t heard it when he arrived. The sound of it! Guess must have still been in the shower.

We drove back through the gates and only went half-way up the driveway before Landlord went off-road. We bumped along the fields with such severity a sports-bra would have been appropriate, until arriving at the crop of woods ‘west’ of the property. Landlord stopped the car and we got out. He went to the boot which was kind of open to the elements and pulled out a chainsaw.

A chainsaw.

I was all like, ‘ah, what’s going on?’

‘Christmas tree,’ he said bluntly.

Christmas tree? Fair enough then.

We trudged into the forest, our eyes searching for pine. Landlord saw a large one for his house he said he’s had his eye on all year. Too high for my little cottage with its low ceilings. I didn’t want anything too big. Would look ridiculous enough with an un-decorated tree in my house, let alone a large one. So found a small little fucker which had wonky branches — Landlord thought it not uniformed enough but I saw it as a bit of a metaphor.

Landlord got cutting. All very masculine, chain saws. Bicep-rippling kind of exercise. It looked pretty easy, mind. The trunks aren’t exactly thick. Landlord gave me a glove and together we dragged the trees (me the little one; he the big one) to the car. We lifted them with easy onto the back, one on top of the other. Would have put them side-by-side but there were several cardboard boxes in the way.

Which turned out to be Christmas decorations. Landlord drove us back to the gatehouse and without a word, we just set about decorating my tree. I made a cuppa for us both as Landlord popped the tree into the basin. I didn’t understand the whole process as have never, ever had a real tree in my life. Have had many a scented candle which tried to replicate the smell of a real-life Christmas tree but nothing, honestly, can compare.

I decorated rather sparingly as remembered we still had Landlord’s tree to do in the main house. But he was all like, no, is fine, we used to have three Christmas trees when I was a child, so I don’t need that many.

Three?

Yes, as it turns out. One in the entrance hall, which reached as high as the top of the stairs. Apparently you’d have to go up onto the balcony to put the star on it. The other would be in the drawing room, the third in the dining room. A shit load of work, when you think about it. But, ah, no. They had help for that kind of thing.

When we finished my tree Landlord asked me coyly if I wanted to help him with his. But of course! Because, to be frank, was thoroughly enjoying myself. Landlord’s ornaments are proper antiques and fascinating. Beautiful, traditional designs all seemingly hand-painted.

So it was in the car and up to the main house. Took us ages to debate where to put the tree. Decided on the drawing room because of the large windows there. It would be nice lit up at night. Pity no one one see it.

Landlord decided to make eggnog. Have never had eggnog before. Too eggy I always thought. Turns out, if you put enough alcohol in it, you can’t taste the eggyness. Also make you drunk. Very, very drunk.

Ended up with tinsel around my neck singing Christmas carols. You have to understand — wasn’t even lunch yet. Whether the eggnog made the say more entertaining or not, is hard to say. Did kind of end in a sad note when Landlord took out the Christmas stockings as he bent over the decoration box. He was just kind of crouched there, stockings in hand, frozen. Finally he looked at me and said, ‘ah, there’s not really much of a point, I think…’

I wondered why he had two. And then I realised. One of them belonged to his wife.

I had to think fast. Hard to do when you’re pissed (as in drunk, for you un-Australians.)

‘Um, well, I can have one,’ I said.

Landlord looked at me with wide eyes. They clouded over a bit in a misty way. And then he got all Hugh Grant on me. ‘Yes, well, that would do nicely. You can take it with you. Yes.’

‘Why don’t we just leave it here?’ I asked. Please rememvber. Was slightly drunk. ‘I am coming over Christmas day, yes?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘Good. Because didn’t fancy sitting in the gatehouse by myself while you and Policeman had a party up here.’

‘It’s never a party.’

Cripes. The bitterness in his voice.

‘Well, let’s make it one this year.’

The festive cheer wore off after that. Was time to go. Am not sure what it is but whenever things get too personal with Landlord I have to high-tail it out of there.

I declined his invitation for a lift back because, though cold, I fancied the walk. Landlord came with me to the door, opening it for me. His body stiffened.

‘It’s been a delightful day, _______, thank you.’

And yes, he really did say ‘delightful.’

‘Yes, I’ve enjoyed myself.’

And then, obviously quite uncomfortable with the act, Landlord bent down and kissed me on the cheek, very, very close to my lips. I could smell the eggnog on his breath as he probably could on mind. It was such a slow, measured gesture I froze momentarily afterwards.

And then, perhaps, became a little Hugh Grant myself. ‘Right-o then’ (have never used that phrase in my life until today) ‘yes. Thank you. Good day to you.’

I practically ran out of the door.

KOOL-AID: mania yes, happiness, no

When I was diagnosed as bi-polar, it was a bit of a shock. Firstly, I didn’t understand what it was. ‘Manic depressive,’ it was explained to me. Which makes you wonder why they insist on calling it bi-polar when everyone needs the explanation of ‘manic depressive’ to understand it.

I’ll tell you why. Because people with bi-polar don’t always experience mania.

Have never experienced happiness.

Even as a kid. Was understandable that I would disagree with the doctor who stated I had a condition which meant I should have experienced happiness — even in mania form — at some point of my life.

Yet was explained to me that mania didn’t always mean happiness. For me it meant aggression and weird compulsive spells of shopping.

Like, I would never wait for anything. If I wanted something, I had to go out and buy it straight away. When I was a teenager and had no real money to speak of, it’d be things like notebooks and nail polish. I remember at one stage I had over a hundred Moleskins. Which I suppose does add up to quite a bit of money. I wouldn’t even use the full notebook. Just the first few pages to write down whatever madness was filling my head before feeling like the notebook was spoiled, and then having to start another one.

I’d paint my nails a different colour every day, removing and starting again on the next. I gave my mum a headache, quite literally, with all the polish remover fumes.

I had over twenty Filofaxes. All different sizes because I could never make up my mind which size best suited my needs. I would never, ever, get through the year on the same organiser. But because of my manic tendencies I would then have to copy everything from my old diary out into the new one. Would quite literally spend half my life re-documenting it.

I, of course, didn’t know that these were manic tendencies at the time, just like I didn’t know my aggressive tendencies were manic, too.

And I mean aggressive. It’s a little embarrassing and shameful to admit to, but it’s probably one of the reasons why my parents split up.

I stabbed a kid in the neck with a pair of scissors. He was being a dick, saying some shit about my dad, and I just totally flipped out. We were at school, the scissors were in my hand, and I just did it.

I can’t even explain it. Wasn’t a conscious decision at all. I just remember being so mad, that it just happened.

My dad was mortified. He was so worried about what people would say about him. He with the psychotic daughter. He was awful to me. Mum, being a mental health nurse, she knew there was something more to the story than her daughter being a naughty psychotic child, and had me see a doctor. Hours and hours of therapy with no result. My diagnosis would come much later.

Maybe if there was a diagnosis my dad would have felt better with everything. He’d have something to blame at least. Something which wouldn’t put his parenting into question.

But my dad, he has pride, and he could never get over the humiliation of what I had done to him. Little did he know there was worse to come. Poor fucker.

Mum couldn’t bear the way my dad was treating me, and it drew a wedge in their marriage. That and his cheating.

So Mum and I went to live in London where I continued to live a confused life of unhappiness, buying shit compulsively.

I started a cigarette habit because we bi-polar folks always need a habit. I got into the occasional fight with chicks on the streets of Camden because, whether I knew it at the time or not, the imbalance in my brain caused blinding rage.

But most of all I was depressed. Cloud-heavy, always-seeing-the-negative, depressed. I felt like I was walking around with a weight around my neck and tar choking my lungs. I felt trapped, unable to see the way out of my unhappiness.

When I did finally go and see someone after all the shit that happened after Mum died, I was certain that would be my diagnosis: depression. I had just spent there months locked in a dark room writing all kinds of shit down on those various Moleskin notebooks, chain-smoking and not bathing. Surely the behaviour of a depressed person? But no. The behaviour of a bi-polar person.

I thought giving a name to what was wrong with me, giving an explanation of sorts, would help in some small way. It didn’t really. By then I’d made my bed. The decisions which would affect the rest of my life had already been made and no amount of lithium could stop it.

Cripes, why am I writing about this? Oh yes, that’s right, now I remember…

Was in the study with Landlord today, helping him again with his work. His mood today was far better than it has been of late, and so chatting has resumed. Comfort resumed. And was sitting there, across from Landlord, having a general chit-chat, and out of nowhere the thought came to me: I’m happy.

And not in a delicious, manic way. In a pleasant, isn’t-this-nice, content way. For the first time in a long, long while, I am at peace. I enjoy the status quo, and am not looking for anything more.

Which is very, very rare for me.

Without sex, without drugs, without some fucked-up church promising me the world — I am content.

KOOL-AID: a cult’s guide to cleaning

 

Didn’t even think about it. Windows were dirty. Normally would not care about this. Am not saying am a dirty person. No. I do like things clean. Is easy in the gatehouse. Not much stuff. Floors are wooden so a sweep and going-over with a damp cloth is enough.

Have not normally been concerned with windows. Not like Mum. She was nuts over them. Our flat was on the first floor and she damn near killed herself trying to clean the outside of those bloody windows. Yes, she could have paid someone. Think it was an Italian thing. Martyrdom. Wondered why she bothered. After all, we were living in London. It rains a lot. There’s a lot of cars. Windows would be washed (mum hanging out the window with me holding onto her legs) and an hour later it’d rain. By the end o the afternoon exhaust dust had stuck to the watermarks. Would drive mum (and me) insane.

So when she died, I didn’t clean the windows. And it never bothered me.

Yet have lovely outlook here at the gatehouse. Lovely cottage box windows looking out to green fields and oak trees out the front; lovely fenced paddocks out the back. Spend a lot of time looking out of windows. And windows; dirty.

Also — don’t have much else to do. Do not have a job, and Landlord not needing my help today. Time enough to clean windows.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking — is her life so boring she’s taken to writing blog posts about cleaning windows?

Well. Yes. But there is a purpose to this, I promise.

So am cleaning windows, actually enjoying self. That’s what my life has come to. Enjoying tasks like cleaning windows.

But then — disaster! Ran out of newspaper.

Which is understandable, because I only had a small stack of newspaper left by Landlord. Am supposed to be starting fires with them. Which I have been. Because do not get papers delivered, though, have now run out.

Thought to self — how the fuck am I going to clean windows now? Because cannot clean windows any other way. Window cleaning is done with newspaper. Is the only way. Well. According to church.

Then that weird mind-click thing happened. Like a clog in my brain jammed. Ex-cult members would know it well. The moment there is a system override when it all clicks and you realise you have been doing something cultish.

Like cleaning windows with fucking newspaper because creator of church was so egotistical he believed was best way to clean windows and wrote it down, thus becoming policy.

There are weird moments like that when you leave a cult. You spend your days questioning every single thing you think. Is this what I think, or is this what the church wants me to think? Do I like what am eating or is it only because have been conditioned to like it?

My mind is a weird jumble of lies and truth and for the most part cannot make head nor tail of it.

Was listening to a podcast the other day when presenter made reference to a friend who grew up in a strict religion. Apparently she has the same issues with her own thoughts — trying to weed out what are hers and what are those of the religion. Is worse for those who grew up in cults, I imagine. Only have ten years of pollution I need to clear out. Not a lifetime.

KOOL-AID: pathetic state of affairs

‘How was your weekend?’

Is it possible to ask that question in sarcastic tones? Because I think Landlord did. Was almost snarky. Cripes, after all this time referring to him as Landlord, do not want to have to change it to Snarky.

He was at the kitchen table when I came in. I have a key so I let myself in now. Saves time waiting in the cold for Landlord to come to the door.

Seriously, have never seen anyone look as proper as Landlord eating breakfast. It wasn’t really a thing in my house. Breakfast was a meal you ate on-the-go — if at all.

But Landlord, he does it in a proper 1950s way. Minus the round table, breakfast nook and tacky wallpaper.

The TV is always on. BBC news or some such. He sits facing the TV with a napkin (real-life ,fabric napkin) on his lap. His breakfast always consists of two courses. Fruit to start, sometimes with yogurt. If the whole scene wasn’t traditional enough, once I actually witnessed him eat half a grapefruit. Without sugar. Crazy.

Landlord’s second course varies. Is either toast and marmite, eggs scrambled or a soft boiled egg.

This morning; the egg. He was dunking his toast into it as I walked in. Turned to look at me before asking how my weekend was. In that tone.

Honestly, prefer Landlord with the wild beard and hair. At east he wasn’t as still.

At least this way I had the time to get self settled. To put all I had learned in the back of my mind. Easier not to feel sorry for Landlord when his behaviour towards me was cold. Goodness knows why. Suspect he’s the moody sort, is Landlord.

I made myself a coffee and faffed around the kitchen, making myself useful. As I cleared the plates landlord finished his egg and came to help me. He was moving a lot slower than normal. Hands shook with extra vigour. Wonder if it’s the weather.

We started around one another between sink and dishwasher until all was cleared. No words.

Automatically we headed off to the study so could help Landlord with his work. Which I normally enjoy. As I’ve said previously — is good to have a purpose. But today was excruciating. The silence just far too caustic. I even tried making small talk about the snow. All I got in return was, ‘yes, was quite substantial.’

At some point, just before lunch I think, Landlord let out an exaggerated sigh. Looked over to him — had been avoiding it — to see he had his face in his hands. I waited, because he was obviously dealing with something. He looked as if he could burst into tears at any moment.

Finally — sighing again — Landlord asked if we could give it a miss for today. Must have looked hurt, because after seeing my face he said: ‘it’s not a good time for me. Too much on my mind.’

The wife. Am wondering now if today is the anniversary of her death. Was not snakiness from Landlord. this morning, was melancholia.

His weekend must have been dreadful. Trapped by the snow in that big house he once shared with her. Cannot help but feel pity for him.

I couldn’t just leave without trying to convey something of comfort. I walked over to where Landlord was sitting and placed a hand his shoulder.

He looked up at me with an expression which plainly read he thought I was being peculiar.

Because I was, I suppose. Patted his shoulder and everything. Like an eejit. Like a fool who doesn’t know how to comfort another because somewhere along the line I have missed the compassion gene.

A rather pathetic state of affairs. If truth be told. But then — I am rather pathetic.

KOOL-AID: 7 stages of snow

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Ah, yes, I remember. This country goes slightly crazy when it shows. As if a natural occurrence in this climate is some kind of cataclysmic event.

It’s snow, folks, snow. Deal with it.

Having said that, am quite like the rest of the country when it snows It’s like the seven stages of grief.

You wake up in the morning, confused, trying to work out why the house is no bright. Then you see the snow and you go into that romantic phase. ‘Ah, isn’t it lovely.’ And it is. Place looks like a fondant sculpture.

You have your coffee (or, for you British weirdos, tea — though how you can start your day with anything other than coffee is beyond me) and you stare at the window, marvelling at the beauty of the snowy landscape. You wish you had thought to dress in a thick-knit jumper with one of those rolled necklines o you can better look the part.

Which is when you go through the whole fantasy stage. In the fantasy of snow you have this amazing wardrobe with Abercrombie Fitch ensembles which make you look cute, yet comfortable, and oh-so-warm. Your beanie actually looks good on you and your hair cascades underneath it in voluminous, soft shiny curls. Your skin is milky-white, like the snow and your lips are pearly red. There’s a slight flush to your cheeks from the cold and your eyes are bright and smiley.

But then — yep, you guessed it; reality. Your clothes make you look like the Michelin man. But you’re still cold. Your beanie looks like your mother’s tea cosy, flattening your heart an unattractive state. Your hair is frizzy and whips due to the moisture in the air. Your nose is red. Rudolph red. So are your cheeks. In fact, your entire face is blotchy. Your lips are dried and cracked — the only redness is the bloody seeping through. And your eyes are watering from the wind. Basically, you look like Jabba the Hutt if he’d spent the last six months crying. Then there’s the whole annoyance stage. You spent forever getting dressed in twenty different layers but hen most of your day is spent removing said layers whenever you walk inside, before having to put it all on again when leaving. You spend the entire day wet from the knee down.

If it’s a work day, you spend most of it frustrated. Traffic is horrendous, they haven’t gritted the roads and it took twenty minutes to try and de-ice your windscreen. Which, you know, makes you angry. And exhausted; going through all these emotions in one day. But we won’t mention exhaustion, because that would make it eight stages of snow, which wouldn’t really work.

To be honest I didn’t really go through that many of them yesterday. There was certainly a romantic, fantasy aspect to everything but given I spent the entire day inside, I wasn’t really affected by the other stages.

Haven’t seen Landlord all weekend. Am kind of apprehensive. After what I found out Saturday I’m worried I”ll find it hard to look him in the eye. To come face-to-face with him and not do the whole head-tilt ‘are you okay’ gesture. There’s also a concern I may hug him for absolutely no reason. Which would be weird for both of us because I’m not a hugger and Landlord would be wondering why am hugging him in the first place.

I guess I’ll find out soon. The moment I’m done here with this blog, my coffee and two more cigarettes, I’ll be heading up there.

Wish me luck.

KOOL-AID: because it’s policy

Why am I so worried about what the church will do? Because it’s policy. Attack enemies of the church. It’s in writing. When they say attack, what they mean is, aggressively attack. Do everything possible to bring down the enemy.

Private detectives are hired, dirt is found. You’ll be brought down, no matter what.

But who is an enemy of the church? Well. Anyone who speaks out about them, for one. Also — anyone who leaves.

Yup. You leave the church, you’re an enemy of the church. And enemies must be quashed.

Is the only way they can try and hang onto their congregation, really. In the same way that Christian religions talk about damnation and getting into heaven and all that, putting the fear of God (literally) in you so you stay, the church uses the threat of attack if you leave.

Basically, anyone who have any kind of independence, intelligence, you know, common-sense, then they are the enemy. Because god forbid you actually know how the world works.

And I’ve been seeing weird shit, too. Like former members of the church who used to be quite vocal in their opposition are suddenly all for the church again. Attacking people who are attacking the church. Obviously, the church has something on them. Whether it’s family, or secrets, who knows.

One of the reasons I’m scared is because they have my secrets. Of course they do. Your secrets are videotaped to be used against you. I guess I should be thankful they can’t hold my family against me. Because I don’t speak to my family.

It’s policy to bring people like me down. And it scares the shit out of me.

KOOL-AID: yes somebody died. but they weren’t murdered

For obvious reasons, did not get a lot of sleep last night. Stayed awake, wondering if they’d come for me in the middle of the night. Imagination went wild thinking of all the ways Landlord could have murdered someone. Wondered who it was. Wondered if was girl he has photo of in his bedroom. (But then, you know, would he really keep a photo of a chick he had murdered in his bedroom? Probably not.)

Wondered a lot of things. Like how maybe Parkinson’s was karma for murder. But then felt ashamed for thinking that. Then felt angry at self for feeling ashamed. Has all been terribly confusing.

Seriously, though, not a good night. Know am medicated now but the whole lack of sleep thing not good. Stress does cause episodes.

This morning, knew had to do something proactive. Couldn’t just sit around wondering.

So went to Policeman’s. He was the best bet. Less likely he was murderer as am sure murderers could not be police officers.

He was outside in chicken coop. Except wasn’t just chicken. Was turkey amongst them.

I hate turkeys. Believe they are evil animals. Dinosaur legs. Sinister eyes. Fuckers.

Though am carnivore, do have pang of guilt whenever I eat meat. Animals cute. With every steak I image those large doe eyes of a cow, with every lamp chop; the cute little fluffy sheep.

But never, ever feel guilt about eating turkey. Revel in it. Those fuckers deserve to be eaten.

Abruptly stopped walking when saw/heard turkey. Policeman, whose hand was all ready raised in greeting.

‘What’s wrong?’ he shouted over to me when he saw my look of concern.

‘Evil fucking turkey,’ I shouted back. Glad to be talking again. How on earth could I have signalled that. Sign of turkey hatred also evident in fact that I mentioned turkey before mentioning that Landlord is a murderer.

Policeman thought my turkey-hatred hilarious. Extracted himself from chicken slash turkey coop while I rambled on about all the things I hated about turkeys, imploring him to make sure was locked away so did not come and peck me to death in the middle of the night.

Told him I hoped he would be eating it soon.

‘You’ll have to wait a couple more weeks. Is for Christmas.’

Christmas. Had forgotten about that. Or maybe blocked it from memory. Knew it was coming. Was colder. People are talking about it on their blogs. But have put it from mind. Don’t really want to think about being alone at Christmas.

Then had a thought. Wished did not verbalise it. A reason for staying quiet for so long. Not knowing when to keep mouth closed. Said to policeman. ‘That’s a lot of bird for one person!.’

Just presumed he would be alone for Christmas. Like the three of us living this side of the village are lonesome folks bundled together in misery. For all I knew Policeman came from large family with a dozen sisters and brothers and twenty or so nieces and nephews. And they all came together Christmas day, a great swathe of red heads cramped around the dining table while Policeman carved the evil turkey.

Before Policeman could reply, apologised for presumption. He smiled at me in a very sad way but said was fine.

He looked back over at the turkey. ‘Suppose it is a bit much for two people but it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without the turkey.’

‘Who do you celebrate Christmas with?” Was curious. An adult child, maybe? There were no pictures in the house. No mention of one before.

‘Landlord.’

Of course, he didn’t say Landlord. He said his real name. Was floored.

‘But you hate each other.’

‘Mmm. Not really. It’s just that we remind each other of something terribly sad and so, if we can help it, we don’t like to be in each other’s company.’

‘Yet you spend Christmas together.’ Seemed very sad.

Policeman shrugged. ‘What causes us pain is also what links us.’

Was time to bring up the note. Had it with me. Evidence.

Policeman was very angry when he saw the note. Face red.

‘Those interfering—‘ He didn’t finish sentence.

wondered how he knew about church. I hadn’t told him. But maybe Landlord did? During period was in hospital?

But no. Was not referring to church. Was referring to village folk.

Policeman thought it a conversation which was better had over tea. Of course he did — he’s British. So followed him inside to the kettle and his kitchen table so he could tell me about the tragic past linking he and Landlord.

Cripes. Is all unimaginable. Is weird when you know about people’s history. Like, all of us, we all deal with shit in our lives. But we don’t wear our troubles pinned to the front of our shirts. And so we forget. We forget and start to think everyone is normal and that it’s just us who are dealing with pain.

But it’s not true. We all deal with pain.

And me, I’m sandwiched between two men with painful pasts. Two men linked by that pain.

And so the story goes…

Landlord and Policeman grew up together. Closer than brothers. Policeman’s father looked after the ‘estate.’ The farming and the gardens. Landlord and Policeman played together as children.

Landlord went off to boarding school. Policeman went to local school. In secondary school, Policeman met a local girl. Loved her. She was beautiful, apparently. Long dark hair, dark eyes, English rose skin.

When Landlord came home form school he, Policeman and the girl would drink together in the gatehouse.

And then Landlord’s mother died. The girl comforted him. Suddenly, she no longer loved Policeman. Was Landlord she loved.

Landlord and the girl were married. They lived somewhere else. London, I think. Was better for Policeman, them being gone. Didn’t have to face the girl he loved married to his best friend.

But then, Landlord’s father died. So Landlord came home to be lord of the manor. Policeman hated being close to the girl he loved. But then he didn’t. He and the girl (now woman, I suppose, but I will continue calling her the girl for continuity) started having an affair.

Landlord knew about it. Landlord knew his wife was unhappy, living away from the hustle and bustle of a city. He withdrew. Became distant.

Landlord then started to drink. Properly drink. Was turning into his father. (Policeman’s words, not mine.)

Landlord didn’t have much love from his father. Landlord senior was abusive. Mummy Landlord (because you just know he would have called her Mummy) was depressed, dulling herself with medication. So Landlord had never known proper love. He thought his wife had loved him.

One night, before Christmas, the girl was enjoying a night with Policeman. (Though am unsure whether he was a policeman at this stage.) Landlord was drunk. He drove drunk to pick up his wife from Landlord’s house. Which seems so aristocratic, reserved, not-airing-dirty-laundry way of going about things. Well, that and he was drunk.

So he goes to Policeman’s house to pick her up, and she goes willingly with him. Policeman regrets letting her go. Could see Landlord was drunk. (So maybe was a policeman at this stage.)

She got in the car, her drunk husband behind the wheel, and in that short distance from he farm to the manor gates, Landlord lost control of the vehicle.

Ice is common on the road just before the gatehouse. A camber in the slight bend. A trickle of water which always seems to be there.

The Policeman, perhaps, trying to give excuses. Trying to not put all the blame at Landlord’s door.

Landlord’s wife died in the accident. He has never forgiven himself. He has been a recluse ever since.

The village still gossips about it to this day; feeding off the pain of others. Some call it murder. Policeman saw it as a tragic accident.

Landlord went to prison, for three years, but Policeman says he is still paying the price. They both are. No matter how much he loved her, he says, he should never have had an affair. An affair which led Landlord to drink. Which led him to driving drunk with his wife next to him in the car.

And so every Christmas, despite the pain it causes them both, Landlord and Policeman come together in a silent tribute to the woman they both loved.

How tragic.

The anniversary of her death is soon. Policeman says am to watch out for Landlord. Apparently he often does something reckless this time of year. (!!)

Can you imagine it, though? Is terrible, terrible story. What I’ve been through is nothing in comparison. Need to suck it up. Seriously.

The only — only — positive out of this is that the note wasn’t from the church. No. Just a gossiping village who can’t let go of the past.

Don’t think Landlord can, either. I mean, now when I think about it, I see it in him every day. Saw it in him all those years ago by the Thames. There was something which immediately connected us back then. I just didn’t know it was misery.

So yes, somebody died. But they weren’t murdered.

KOOL-AID: checkmate

When I was young, my dad taught me how to play chess. In his usual style, though, he only explained half of what I needed to know before we launched into our first game. Whether out of impatience or because he wanted to win, am not sure. Any how, it wasn’t long before I was pawn-less, castle-less, down one bishop and both knights. A triumphant look spread across my father’s face and he moved his queen across the board, declaring, ‘check mate!’

Thought it weird. While overly Australian, my dad had never used the term ‘mate’ with me. Was reserved for his friends and associates. Remember having to listen to long-winded phone conversations pepped frequently with the word mate.

How’re ya doing mate, what’s going on mate, look, mate — that kind of thing. But to call his daughter mate? Never had happened before. Perhaps was his competitive nature coming out. Perhaps was his way of trying to man me up. He would have preferred, after all, if I had been a boy.

But no. Was a chess term. Revealed to me after much histrionics. Am pretty sure ‘checkmate’ is something which should have been revealed to me at the start of the game, no?

Checkmate. You win. You have your opponents king.

They have won. Because now am stuck.

They’ve done their usual thing. They know where I am and have back-checked everything. They know things I don’t. But they only want me to know part of it. They want to scare me.

Checkmate.

Yes, I’m talking about the church.

There is a reason for all of this. Came home today, opening my door to a folded note on the floor, slotted through the letterbox.

As soon as saw it; stomach dropped. Knew, just knew it would be something bad.

And it is.

Note was handwritten:

Your neighbour is a murderer.

My neighbour is a what-now? A murderer? Really? What. The. Fuck.

Quite frankly, am in shock. Obviously, because have smoked an entire packet of cigarettes. I mean, I enjoyed smoking the entire packet of cigarettes, but that is not the case.

Am on knife-edge.

Because — who the fuck are they talking about? Have two neighbours. Yes, have link to both of them. Cripes alive, have kissed both of them. Have shagged one of them.

But here’s the thing (and have had time to think rationally, which, to be honest, I have found amazing): it can’t possibly be policeman. Because can’t be policeman if is a murderer. Is something they check, is it not?

Which would mean is Landlord. The man I’ve been spending all my time with. Now there’s a scary thought.

Not that I’m scared. Okay, I am, but am trying, — trying — to be rational. Church could be lying. Could be, simply, a scare tactic.

But do, of course, have to think (rationally!) if is not a scare tactic. If is actually true.

Where does that put me? Am I at risk? And it just goes to show you don’t know, you just don’t know who people really are.

But if someone is a murderer, would they not be in jail? Have done quick Google search on the matter. According to Wikipedia (and let’s face it, I couldn’t be arsed reading the whole article) murderer’s don’t always get life in prison. Sometime’s are out in 12 years.

Now. Going on whole time-line of things — Landlord would have had to commit this act (hate thinking of him and the ‘m’ word) before I met him. The first time. Because otherwise would still be in prison. So this is something which would have to of happened in his twenties. Although, what the fuck does it matter when it happened?

I just, I just can’t get my head around it. Is so weird! The man is so reserved! Imagine he would be the type that when massive crisis happening, like house on fire, he’d walk in and go, ‘ah, yes, well. Luckily we have insurance. Let’s see if we can still pop the kettle on, then, yes?’ I mean, when all that shit was going on with me, is exactly what he did! Popped the kettle on. And now, when I think about it, when I came back from the hospital, he hasn’t mentioned my episode at all. Keep calm and carry on, as they say.

So to get worked up enough to kill someone? It just doesn’t fit him. It just doesn’t.

Maybe there’s another neighbour. Maybe refers to someone in the village. Would not be surprised. A cesspool of secrets, that place.

See? This is exactly what that fecking church wants me to be doing — going out of my mind with worry.

I could ask Gruff. He would know, surely, if something was up with Landlord? But then, he would never have let me come here if he did. And if I say anything, he’ll just worry. He’ll act all gruff and pretend he’s not worried, but he totally would. Honestly, I love that man.

Right. Here’s the plan. I’m not going to worry. I’m not going to do anything. Yet. Except maybe smoke another half pack of cigarettes. And sleep with a knife under my pillow.

The real worry, though? The church has found me.

Checkmate.

KOOL-AID: taking a stroll

Things are companionable between Landlord and I. And quiet. Like a magnet, am drawn to the house every day, sitting down to lunch in silence, returning home, and then back to the main house for dinner.

Am enjoying cooking. Is the freedom of it, I think. But also, feel as though am doing a proper good thing in cooking. Have been doing a lot of research on what’s best to eat when you have Parkinson’s, and have been incorporating these foods into the meals I cook.

On Monday I got my stitches out. Landlord’s doctor visited the house. Ruddy old man. Knows Landlord well. We talked a lot. Checking to see if am okay. If am doing well on the lithium. Told him I felt like living under water. He said that yes, it can feel a little bit like that. But is probably better under water than living on a tight rope. Yes. Quite.

Bought Landlord on electric razor online. Even with his tremors he can use it safely and keep his clean shaven appearance. Though he does admit to being warmer with the beard.

Every afternoon, before the light fades, Landlord takes a walk around the property. Even if it’s raining. Exercise is important for his condition. Yet by Landlord’s physique you can tell exercise has always been important to him.

Today I joined Landlord on his stroll. Had stayed in the house after lunch, helping Landlord with some of his work, when he asked if I wanted to join him.

Being around Landlord is no longer a concern. It isn’t awkward. It’s not really pleasant; it just is what it is. We hardly talk or converse, we’re just together. Think it’s all that has happened. Personal emotional stuff we’re both witnessed in the other. No longer a need to be embarrassed or uncomfortable — it’s all been laid bare.

Landlord took me to the west side of the property, a side I have not been before. Now when I say west, it probably isn’t west. Have no idea what actual direction it is. Just feel good saying ‘west’ as if know what I’m talking about. I don’t. Clearly. Any way, is the left side of the property.

A lot more trees on the west side. Almost like a full-on forrest. The air is thick with the scent of sodden leaves; musty and sweet. Landlord took me along the edge of the property, bordered by a tall stone fence. You can hear the sounds of traffic coming from the other side. Enough cars for it to be an A road.

We saw a lot of wildlife on our walk. Dozens of squirrels. Rabbits. A deer. Several pheasant-type birds. Not sure if are actual pheasants but are large and not chickens and therefore fall into the ‘pheasant-type’ family.

So we’re walking and it registers with me that this might be my life now. I might very well be spending the rest of my days walking around this vast estate, eating meals with a man I’m quietly comfortable with and not returning to the life I once lived in London. I would never have a career. I wouldn’t marry and have children. And I’ve had to ask myself if I’m okay with that. If this is it, if this is what my life will consist of, will that make me happy?

It’s a difficult thing to answer, yet the response has to be yes. I have to be content with this life because this time last year I was stuck in a life which was so terrible, so destructive, I thought the only way out of it was to not live at all. This time last year I was facing yet another dismal Christmas. It was celebrated in my church, yes. But when you lived on base, there wasn’t much of a celebration.

Not that I imagine I’ll have much of a celebration this Christmas, either. I expect Landlord and I will have a meal of some sort together — we do every other day. But then, might he want to be alone Christmas day? Leaving me, therefore, alone? It is a possibility. Maybe I should think about ordering a turkey roll for myself. And one lone Christmas cracker. Cripes, that’s sad.

KOOL-AID: it’s okay. am not dead

It was what I guess you would call “an episode.” Have read the two posts I made that day and can see may have been obvious to you folks reading this. The dribble!

It got a lot worse. Has been a long while since have been like this. Church will say is because they were helping me but in all honesty think was so depressed my manic side had no air to breathe.

Went to Policeman’s just as I said I would. He wasn’t home but took me a long time to figure that out. Knocking on glass kitchen door for ages, probably screaming out his name though I don’t remember. At some point the glass on his door broke and my hand was soon covered in blood but didn’t notice it — just saw it as a sign to leave.

Didn’t notice how wasn’t dressed for weather, either. Had gone to Landlord’s home and Policeman’s in a singlet.

When arrived back at the cottage Landlord was there; panicked. Saw my hand and panicked some more. Think I yelled and screamed at him. Okay. Know I did. He was trying to get me, the bloody mess, to go inside the cottage with him. I yelled it was just to get me inside to fuck me. Yup. I did that.

He managed to get me on the settee and wrapped a towel around my bleeding arm. Said he fancied a tea and went off to the kitchen to make one. Was gone ages. I lit a cigarette, not caring my landlord was in the house with me as I did so.

He’d made me coffee and brought our two cups in, setting them on the coffee table. Sat next to me. At which point I was like, ah, yeah, I’ll fuck you then, go on. I tried to kiss him. Greatly affronted when he turned me down. But then he said we’ll have our tea and coffee first and then we’ll have sex. Which I thought was fair enough.

And then, to my surprise, Policeman turns up. And you know, he and Landlord were perfectly cordial. Was weird. Apologised to Policeman for breaking his window. He said was fine. Asked to take a look at my arm, saying he thought I needed stitches. Landlord was in agreement.

‘Why don’t we just nip to the hospital and get it looked at?’ He said.

‘Oh, no,’ I told him, (and seriously, this is what I said) ‘after my coffee Landlord and I are going to fuck.’

Now. Think through all of this was actually calling Landlord, Landlord and Policeman, Policeman; instead of their actual, real-life names.

Anyway, the two of them exchange looks and Landlord tells me he’s happy to wait for when I come back.

And then I — the horrors — I say to Policeman, as I agree to leave with him, ‘Is fine, I’ll come with you to the hospital. Landlord probably can’t get it up anyway. He has Parkinson’s.’ Said all of this in a mock whisper.

Policeman looked at Landlord. Landlord nodded.

Was whisked away into police vehicle. After much demanding, he sounded the sirens for me.

Is about twenty minutes to nearest A&E. Good thing wasn’t dying.

Lovely young doctor; Indian, much, much dialogue about cricket. Am so racist, assuming every Indian is a cricket fan. Though this one was, luckily. Thing I regained tale of my crush on Sachin Tendulkar and how was convinced we would be married until realised there was a whole race/religion issue neither one of us could over come. Think I made it sound like we dated or something. FYI — we didn’t. But, you know, there was flirting.

Doctor put six neat little stitches in my arm. When he left another doctor turns up and I just knew, knew by the look of her what she was and I started screaming how it was against my religion to see a psychiatrist. The whole restraining thing happened, and like a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was given a big fat needle in my bum and everything went dark.

Was in hospital for three days. Dosed up on sedatives and lithium.

Guess am very lucky not to have been committed. Think Policeman had something to do with it.

Policeman visited me.

Landlord visited me.

Heck, even Gruff visited me. Landlord called him after I’d turned up at his house las Friday. Gruff gave him my history.

Was a risk for Gruff to come and see me, but, as he said, the church didn’t know was in hospital and then, wouldn’t know which.

Despite all that happened, no sympathy from Gruff. Not the sympathy kind. ‘Was expected, though, don’t you think? Would have been a fool if you thought you wouldn’t have another episode again.’

Yes, thank you, Gruff.

When was time to leave hospital, was Policeman who picked me up. He took me to Landlord’s. And again, very odd how cordial the two men were. Thought they hated one another but there they were, in the same room, Landlord asking Policeman if he would like tea, though was politely declined.

Stayed two days with Landlord. Policeman visited me there. We took a walk through the grounds — the terraces and fields at the back of the manor which I have not seen before.

Almost expected the conversation. Is weird — now that we can finally converse verbally, there’s no need to do it.

Policeman told me I was beautiful, lovely, etc, etc. But with what I had been through — not just this week, but the last few years — wasn’t right for me to be in a relationship.

Couldn’t be angry with him. Understood it. Am too much trouble to be with. And am not saying that to be down on self. Is just fact. Am complicated and, well, damaged. Have the sense by the way Policeman spoke that he’s had enough difficulty in his life. There’s a sadness I noticed that haven’t before.

When I said to Landlord I wanted to come home, he didn’t object.

Have done a lot of sleeping, but is normal after an episode. At present I just feel kind of numb. Am not sure if is the lithium — has been so long since have been on it.

Dear Landlord — am supposed to be looking after him but lately it’s been the opposite. Wonder if he regrets agreeing to have me stay. Have been nothing but trouble since I arrived.

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