As a child, it struck me as odd that escalators had to be stopped in order to be repaired. You can imagine the child-adult conversation:
“Why have they stopped the escalator?”
“Because they are servicing it.”
“Yes, but why have they stopped it?”
Now, all these years later, I suppose my mind still operates in much the same way.
I can sing “What’s it all about, Alfie?” till the fictional cows come home, and yet, for reasons not yet clear to me, no one named Alfie is going to walk out of the ether and give me a coherent and comprehensive answer to that question.
Alfie might know why it was that I was rendered wordless about ten days after my beloved partner of almost thirty years died.
Normally, I have no shortage of words. In fact, there are usually too many of the jolly things about. They crowd my head and multiply and skitter off to that inter-lingual synonym exchange in the sky; they bounce off walls, and dance in the sunlight, and roll off my desk and my tongue like so many marbles falling out of the split in a worn cloth bag. Despite the crowding, the general tenor is one of happiness, or if not happiness, at least mild curiosity about the definition of the new words which have popped up or dropped in, or flopped down on the sofa.
There was no shortage of words at 3.00 am when I drafted the eulogy in Portuguese and then in English (by way of a close translation of the Portuguese original). There was no shortage of words when talking to people who paid their respects and extended sympathy. The ink flowed freely from my pen at all hours day and night in the weeks preceding the death of my best favourite human being.
Then, suddenly, there was nothing. If could not have been for want of gratitude for the profusion to which I have become accustomed, for I am always most grateful.
I tried to deny that the flow of words had stopped. I tried to force its hand. There I stood in my garden and commanded myself to “describe that tree and the grass beneath!” But nothing came out of my mouth. Not even the most rudimentary description; nothing. I mutely picked a ripe clementine from the tree in question. As I peeled it, and let the peels fall into the tall unruly grass beneath, I offered a barely audible “So be it” to the gentle spring breeze.
I ate the fruit as I peered at the progress of vegetable seedlings and pulled out a few weeds. And then, slowly the realisation came: I need a new narrative. The old narrative no longer fits and needs to stop. ‘We are’ has gone. ‘I am’ is here. The monologue, the story, the endless chatter, the dialogue: all have to change.
Who knows when the new narrative will be ready?
Alfie might know. But he is not telling.
©2017 Allison Wright
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