Fiction: The Politics of Visibility

February 2016 Blog Challenge: Blog 3 of 29

Today’s blog is another piece of fiction, based on an imagined incident, expanded and patterned for my book trilogy. I’ve jumped from yesterday’s excerpt, which was written for book 1 and followed it through with a section for my 3rd book. They stand side by side here, as I’m working through a theme, which I will then weave throughout the whole series of books, once I sew all the words together, just like a giant patch work quilt… 

spotlight

The Politics of Visibility

Suddenly Ariel looked up at the clock and realised that she was late, again. It was time to leave for the Book Club. She had to get there, in good time and unflustered; for finally, after months of not coming to any meetings, Laurence had signed up again.

After over half a century on this planet, she felt she really should have mastered time management by now. But, as usual, it was a rush to get there on time. She had of course, meant to glam up and look gorgeous, but time, as always had failed her. She dashed out of the house, still with her glasses and scruffy old black jeans on, and pushed her car through the relentlessly heavy tea time traffic.

In the car, to mask her frustration with the slow traffic, she mused about “time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near” – a line from John Donne’s poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ which had just floated into her head. The lines were written many dusty centuries ago and designed to entice a woman in to the young poet’s bed. At times like these, Ariel would so have loved to use her own wings or indeed a wingèd chariot – just to get to where she wanted to go, and that included getting from A to B (which always seemed so hard these days), or even indeed in to someone else’s bed. This transient train of thought lifted her mood and she smiled through the rest of journey.

Laurence was already there when she arrived barely on time, though she didn’t recognise him at first. He was wearing glasses and scruffy old black jeans, just as she was… Then he saw her and said her name in greeting. “Well, he remembers me then…” she mused.

They crowded into the noisy pub, bought their drinks and then she selected the only free table in the place large enough to encompass them all. She sat down first and noted how first he went to the opposite end of the long table and then changed his mind and sat 2 seats away from her. With all the noise and laughter and kerfuffle, she couldn’t hear the conversation he was engaging in with 2 of their earnest companions, both mature married ladies, new to the group and full of questions. She noted though that he was engaging with them and gently answering them, even though she could not hear his uttered words.

Sitting at that table, with this crowd of people, she suddenly withdrew into her head and started to analyse her seeming separateness from them all. Still taking part in conversation, still seen, but seeing all too. Now eschewing an obvious timidity – after a life time of cloaking herself, there was, at this time in her life, no more teenage awkwardness or shy guile. Or rather, she pretended that there wasn’t…

She glanced at him, subtly and sideways… And she was reminded of a line from a song – “and when you talk, I just watch your mouth…”

She observed his body language, and the quiet quick glances he shot back at her. “It’s all in your imagination” she thought, but still, she decided that she would enjoy this deceptive sensation. She watched greedily and stealthily as he brushed his lips with his fingers. In all the body language books she had studied, this was a sign that he wanted to kiss / was feeling attraction… There were alternative interpretations of this simple movement of course, but she decided that she would just enjoy the premise, that she could live in this space of imagination, for this fleeting moment in time.

Now, after so many years of voluntary invisibility, may be it was time to step back into the spotlight and really be seen

As a frequent flier, she had had to learn and encompass how to be out of sight and out of mind nearly all her life. Although this secret skill seemed to keep her safe and made the ‘dim folk’ blind to her, still she always knew that she was solidly and squarely there – whether they saw her or not…

And moving beyond her sallies into the sky; invisibility had long been employed to keep her shielded and safe in all sorts of situations. At school she hid from the bullies, and as she moved through life in so many situations, she had stood back and observed the life going on around her – desperate to be in the happy thick of it, but instead not feeling part of it. So she stood on the edge and covered herself in a protective bleak blankness instead.

There were times in life when she had decided to stand out and stand in the spot light, but somehow she always seemed to fall off the stage, falling ignominiously and painfully to the dirty floor, only to pick herself up and slope back into the darkness, every single time.

So then she had hid, off and on again, throughout all her life. Sometimes putting her head above the parapet and sometimes burying herself underneath it. But in the close dark, still she smiled sometimes and she still hurt. Yet the long fury she had just flown through, was now nearly all spent.

It felt, in some senses like she’d kept her head down for so long, flown through the darkness and then landed in the middle of nowhere.

But still there was the voice which said that riding in the black had had its inherent, evil, power tripping thrills… They were short lived though. She had relished the revenge, briefly. But it was a bitter, transient sweetness and could not sustain or contain her any more.

But now, back to this table, this man, this feeling…

The conversations around the table ebbed and flowed. She took part, she shared; agreed, discussed and disagreed. She waived her hands along to the tempo of her words and made a pantomime of joining in and being funny and engaging, as she knew that he was watching her.

By stealth, every now and again, she took in his face, altered like hers, by his glasses, and underneath the dark heavy frames, was the gently handsome, shy face she remembered. Suddenly he looked directly at her then smiled and quickly turned back to his eager, erstwhile companions, continuing to engage with them. She lingered on that smile… It was lob sided, and self-conscious, so of course, secretly and incredibly sexy… Did he know that about himself?

She knew so little about him. He’d been divorced. Surely he was now attached / in a relationship. How could she find out? Couldn’t she just ask him, or find a reason to meet, one to one?

No.

She was still, after all these years, shy and stymied when it came to all of this…

Later, the two ladies Laurence was talking to left and he slid round the table, opposite to her. They started a new conversation, now in a threesome, with an older man of the group, who had to have nearly all responses explained to him several times over. Laurence turned to Ariel and recalled what she did for a living. Yes, he really did remember her… She didn’t know what most of the members of that group did outside of that group, but she knew what he did. She knew why he lived where he lived. She knew where he was from. But despite all her long honed observational skills, her uncertainty masked her conclusions and she still didn’t know if her sudden teenage style crush, was just that, or else based on some kind of mutual reality.

So they talked more and found out that they more things in common with each other. But the old man, the third wheel, did not notice the by play, and kept peppering their exchange with his own repeating questions. Patiently they both pampered to him, included him. And then, the conversation just ran dry. The words simply stopped as the old man steeped in his continued puzzlement. Wordless silences suddenly became self-conscious ones. Ariel and Laurence glanced at each other, then smiled awkwardly. “Oh my God” she thought, “it’s just like you’re a hopeless, tongue tied teenager all over again. Just say something!”

Suddenly he made his excuses and stood up to go. “Next time” he said, waving to everyone at the table and then he exited, out of his own spot light, stage left.

So now she could walk to the car park with him or she could remain anchored by feigned coolness to her chair. Being in this particular moment an over grown / old teenager, she let the fear of projected rejection and humiliation weigh her down in her seat and covered them instead with the guise of happy detachment.

She let him go. She knew how to contact him, but she just wouldn’t / couldn’t. She prayed instead that he would contact her. In fact, through the meddle of social media he ‘waved’ at her the following day, but that was it – he had disappeared back in to his own dark ether again.

As she reflected on this middle aged ‘teenage’ crisis over the next few days, she realised that she was slowly coming into the light again. That the darkness she had long flown through had been a form of death. What she was experiencing now, was not rebirth exactly, but it was a new start in her life.

By becoming visible, she could also see again. She couldn’t be sure that Laurence was part of this new start, but if he was the catalyst, then surely – her fear reasoned, that was enough.

And then another John Donne poem – ‘The Good Morrow’, came into Ariel’s mind:
“And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear”.
This poem was written when the poet was older, more circumspect and had met the love of his life.

Clearly, whatever the outcome – with Laurence, with another man, on her own – still; it really wasn’t time to be either scared, or invisible, any more.

~ Sandra Peachey

PS: Sign up for February’s daily blog posts and a free chapter of my book Peachey Letters, by dropping your details in here…

PPS: This blog post is a fiction and yet I also write about fact.  In fact a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, exploring all the facets of my ‘real’ life in all its’ badness, banality and beauty. This is love seen in every aspect of the life that I live.  In it you will find the dark and the light of love, in a way that will make you think, entertain you and let you know that you are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ by Sandra Peachey, from book websites any where in the world, including on Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

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