Thursday, December 04, 2008

Maybe there's a man under her skirt.

All quotes from 'The Bride Stripped Bare' by Nikki Gemmell

No one though, has any idea of the churn of a secret life. Your desire to crash catastrophe into your world is like a tugging at your skirt. But only sometimes, and then it’s gone. With the offer of a bath, or a cup of tea, or the dishes done.

She was a stranger to me in many ways and yet the person closest to me.

You're comfortable with him, you don't have to act too much, you can be, almost, yourself. No one else is allowed so close.

He's the only man you're attracted to whom you can talk to without a fear of silence, like an empty highway, right through the middle of the conversation.

You push his face toward you. He's surprised at the boldness, he wants his face back but you hold him firm for you're remembering walking down the aisle and looking ahead to him and you heart swelling with love like an old dried sponge that's been dropped into a bath. When your husband enfolds you in his arms it's a haven, a harbour, to rest from all the toss of the world. It's what you've always wanted, you have to admit, the place of refuge, the cliche.

There were the endless birthday nights and New Year's Eves of just you in your bed and no one else. There was the welling up at weddings, the glittery eye-prick, when all the couples would get up and dance. Sometimes it felt like your heart was crazed with cracks like your grandmother's old saucers. Sometimes the sight of a Saturday afternoon couple laughing in the park would splinter it completely. Young couples who'd been together for many years were intriguing, hateful, remote. What was their secret? You'd reached the stage where you couldn't imagine ever being in a loving partnership.

But there was a moment of invisibility when you tried on the wedding dress, as if you were disappearing into that swathe of ivory and tulle, being wiped away. It was only fleeting and it was worth it, of course, not to have the prickle behind the eyes of those Saturday afternoon couples again, the heart-crack.

He forced you to look, right at the start, he taught you to get close. He likes to direct your life, to guide it. You let him think he is.

Your dear, restless, vivid-hearted friend. Sometimes you feel a sharp envy at the sensuality of her home, all candles and wood and stone, her fluid working hours, weekly massages, Kelly bags. But you remind yourself that she isn't happy and probably never will be and it's a comfort, that. For no matter how much she achieves and acquires and out-dazzles everyone else, she never seems content. She's taught you that people who shine more lavishly than everyone else seem to be penalized by discontent, as if they're being punished for craving a brighter life. I've been knocked down so many times I can't remember the number plates, she said once.

All the noise of her personality is a mask and when it slips off, on the rare occasion, the vulnerability riddled through her is always a shock.

You lift your head to the low ochre-colored buildings around you and break from his grasp and swirl, gulping the sights, for you feel as if all of life's in this place.

You suspect you attract extreme people like her because you're so stable. She described you once as eerily content and for some this means unforgivably beige but for others you're an anchor, always there if needed, even on Sunday evenings, and birthdays, and Christmas Day.

The chief causes of the weak health of women are silence, stillness and stays, therefore learn to sing and dance, and never wear tight stays

Dance away with all your might

Every girl can dance and should learn to do it well

It is absolutely necessary to wash the armpits and hips every day

Putting damp sheets on a bed is a little short of murder

There are few who willfully injure their health, but many thoughtlessly destroy it

It cannot be rational enjoyment to go where you would not like to have your truest and best friend go with you

Every womanly woman, who truly realizes her mission, desires to be a pleasant object of vision for her fellow creatures

Some use pillows stuffed with hops, but the best preparation for sleep is honest hard work and a good conscience

"As it has been said: Love and a cough cannot be concealed. Even a small cough. Even a small love."
--Anne Sexton

You're not bored or angry but stopped; nothing engages, nothing interests, you're at a loss over what to do next, with the next hour and with all the days of your life.

It's the long, long nights that defeat you. When you are blown out like a candle.

You're good at cutting people off, it's always been a skill, a small one but effective; making things neat, moving on.

You always give in, have done it your whole life; where does it come from, this stubborn need to be liked?

You've never been voracious about partying. You're too good at blushing, and awkward silences, and saying something jarring and wrong. You're not very accomplished with big groups, have always been more comfortable with one on one, the small magic you can work is always dissipated in a crowd.

You redden in front of anyone you're attracted to and have never grown out of it, you body often lets you down.

You hate the feeling of entrapment you can get at parties, hate being reliant upon someone else for your means of escape.

And what did you do? You chose to sit, with your thudding heart. Nothing else. For that's always been your way, the retreat, the silence, and it's only later, much later, that you find the words you should have said. But they're never uttered in time, you're too careful of hurting even when hurt, and too cowardly, yes that.

A thrill plumes through you when couples split, a feeling that order's restored, that it's the way we're all meant to be, alone.

An emptiness rules at its core, a rottenness, a silence when one of you retires to bed without saying good night, when you eat together without conversation, when the phone's passed wordlessly to the other. An emptiness when every night you lie in a double bed, restlessly awake, astounded at how closely hate can nudge against love, can wind around it sinuously like a cat. An emptiness when you realize that the loneliest you've ever been is within a marriage, as a wife.

Love is attention and you're not getting any.

You think of the two types of aloneness you've known recently: this wonderful, sparkly, soul-refreshing type, and the despairing loneliness that sucks the breath from your life.

Maybe she's blissfully happy, darling. Maybe there's a man under her skirt.

I want to be the hand in the small of your back pushing you forward.

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