My cousin Rachel

There is a cosy little cinema tucked away from the main complexes in one of those alleys only locals wold seek. I even like its name – Lighthouse.

From time to time, when a promise of a good story coincides with a session only few people would attend, I treat myself to sitting for couple of hours or so in an almost empty theatre transported into whatever world opens before me.

I judge how good a movie was by the length of time it takes me to return to the world around me.

Which some might call the real world but to me ‘real’ has always been rather fluid notion.

Who is to say that the world we think of as ‘real’ simply because we can touch it –  is any more (or less) ‘real’ than those worlds we cannot touch – but are rather touched by?

It was with those thoughts, or some variation of them, that I went to see ‘My cousin Rachel’.

If I am to summon it in one sentence – I would say that it is a story of possibilities. It has been described as a mystery, a speculation, even a dark thriller … but to me none of those descriptors really fits.

To me the whole story – the one viewer is openly presented with as well as the one hidden and only hinted at, are the tales of possibilities. Probabilities, risks and chances, a woman determined to be a master of her own destiny is prepared to take in order to accomplish that goal.

When a wealthy but rather lonely country gentlemen (Ambrose) leaves his picturesque Cornish estate to travel to Italy to improve his health, leaving behind his young cousin (Phillip) who he has raised alone since the youngster was orphaned as an infant, the lives of them both are set to change forever.

In Italy, Ambrose meets and falls in love with Rachel, a beautiful and mysterious woman with, it is said, a somewhat excessive past. The letters Ambrose sends to his young cousin in England alternate between state of newlywed’s blissful happiness to cruel sufferings inflicted on him by his wife and his tormenter – Rachel. Some of the letters seem written in secret and haste beseeching Philip to come to Ambrose’s rescue as soon as he possibly could.

Confused and angry, Philip travels to Italy resolved to rescue his cousin from whatever evil has befallen him there.

But he is too late.

Ambrose is dead and Rachel is gone to an unknown destination.

Or so an elegant Italian lawyer tells him. He is the only one left behind to sort the dead man’s affairs.

Lawyer’s attempt to explain how very seek Ambrose was and how his illness caused him to hallucinate and even display violence towards his wife, are met with Philip’s deep suspicion and an open dislike.

Bereaved and outraged, Philip returns to England only to learn that despite all the suspicions – legal papers prove that Rachel did not benefit from the death of her husband. Not even a small living allowance had been provided for her as it was customary for a widow.

Philip’s conviction that Rachell caused his cousin’s death to inherit his wealth no longer holds any substance.

Were Ambrose’s frightened letters really just hallucinations of a man dying from a brain tumour?

But it will not be long until news of Rachel’s arrival to Cornwell estate stirs new theories.

Phillip’s determination to meet Rachel with nothing less than open hostility soon melts like a left-over snow under an early spring’s gaze.

Philip, a dewy-eyed youth whose experience with women do not extend further than a comfortable companionship of his wholesome childhood friend, a daughter of his godfather and guardian, who, by everyone’s account, he should one day marry, is bewitched and besotted by Rachel within days of her arrival.

Exotic, secretive, seductive Rachel.

Woman determined to live her own life on her own terms.

Woman who, in the 19th century England, refuses to explain or justify her actions to anyone, least of all a man.

When Phillip arranges for a generous allowance to be provided for Rachel – she is outraged.

When his guardian warns him of a significant overdraft she had rapidly amassed, Philip’s answers is to double the allowance to cover the overdraft.

When he gifts his late mother’s precious pearl neckless to Rachel for their first Christmas together, she returns them to his guardian to assuage his disapproval.

While Philip cannot wait to reach the age when he will be able to make his own decision, which for him means transferring the estate to Rachel who, he believes, should be its rightful owner after Ambrose’s death, not to mention a story of an unsigned will, Rachel describes Phillip as “a glorious puppy, miserable and wet-nosed, looking for its mother.” When she kisses him goodnight and tells him to “go to bed like a good boy” there is no escaping Oedipal reminder.

And still, once they become lovers, Philip is certain that they will marry soon.

It takes his wholesome childhood friend who is suffering silently while watching her beloved felling ever deeper under Rachel’s spell, to explain that Rachel is not likely to marry him since that would mean, by the provisions he made himself while arranging the estate’s transfer, that she will be answerable to him as her husband.

Philip, as any man of his time and no small number of contemporary men wold, found the idea that Rachel would value her freedom more than marriage astounding.

Still he brings her all the jewels he can lay his hands on in a scene that artfully portrays youthful extravagances born from the first passionate love.

It would be some time before Philip found that Rachel returned all the jewels to his lawyer.

Were they not to her liking? Or perhaps not opulent enough?

After all it is said that she is a woman of refine taste and unbridled excesses.

Is she really after the whole estate so to be as wealthy and therefore as independent as any man? So that she can do as she pleases including inviting her Italian lawyer friend to stay on the estate for as long as he wishes. Something, painfully jealous Philip would not allow.

When Philip starts suffering from the symptoms his dead cousin once did, while Rachel continue to brew bitter testing teas for him, it all points to one conclusion – Rachel is plotting Philip’s death in much the same way she did Ambrose’s. Only this time all the necessary legal papers are well in order.

On an early spring morning, as bright as bluebells growing in the nearby woods, Philip arranges for his wholesome friend to visit them and sends Rachel riding towards paths known to be treacherous at that time of year.

As soon as Rachel leaves the house, Philip and the young lady rush to search her room. But they could not find evidence of any wrong-doing.

All they found is the letter from Philip’s lawyer itemizing jewels Rachel returned to his safe-keeping.

And the letter she wrote to her Italian lawyer friend, who turned out to be gay, seeking his advice on whether to bring Philip to Italy with her.

Then there is a commotion in the yard outside and summons to hurry. Rachel has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff thrown off her horse on a path made slippery by the early spring.

Woman who seems to have heartlessly plotted to kill two men only to advance herself – dies while riding along the path suggested by the one of them.

Was it a chance?

Who is to blame?

Was she really poisoning Philip and Ambrose before him?

Or where they both so mesmerised by her unusual beauty, strength and independence, so rare in a woman of her time, that they eventually become ill from their futile attempts to rain her in? To conform to the world they know it as real.

In the last scene of the movie, Philip is seen sitting in his carriage on a bright summer day driving in a company of his wife – yes, his wholesome childhood friend and their two cherubic looking children.

His internal dialogue reveals he is still wondering whether or not Rachel was a poisoner?

And he still suffers from migraines.

Last credits drifted away, music stopped and the small theatre descended in complete darkness before I drag myself into the ‘real’ world – cold and wet winter night in Wellington.

Five Years

About two months ago, in mid-May, WordPress sent me an automated note to congratulate me on becoming a blogger five years ago.

I found my first blog post and read the date it was published – 20 May 2012.

It was my first solitary winter in Wellington.

I wrote few more posts since.

Some, arguably, better than the others, but all written to pierce small holes in silence left behind after my daughter left home. Which in our case simply meant living in the same house.

Where I can come into her room in the morning and inhale scent of my sleeping child.

In five years, I have not learned how not to long for it.

I fear I never will.

As I haven’t learned in more than forty how not to long for a shabby little house with an old-fashion wood burner in the kitchen corner and frost flowers on the window panes in winters.

I am a slow learner.

It took me a long time to learn how to string a few words together. By which to remember.

And by remembering hope to understand.

What happened to me.

All of which makes me somewhat of a writer but none of a blogger.

It is for that reason that light of the lantern is dimming.

On some nights, when winds are merciless, I stroke its old-fashioned, fragile glass gently and lower the feeble flame close to oblivion.  

In the everlasting darkness, we are both at peace.

Still mornings arrive;

Some are bouncy with urgency of getting to work, and

Some are those of Sundays,

A friend comes for a coffee bringing biscuits and pineapple in case I am sick, or

We go for a long drives along deserted winter beaches where even seagulls are too freighted to loiter while we eat greasy fish and chips in the overheated car balancing scalding parcels on our laps.

Few days later, in a small café above the central city’s only library where I am usually joined by the fine assortment of homeless, pensioners, students, refugees and parents with bored children, I would order a black coffee and try to recall those scenes to write them down.

But then I would get distracted …

By the two men sitting next to me who speak French and might be lovers, (story prompt – one of them is hiding a terrible secret from the other and is looking for a way out …)

A young woman with purple coloured hair and clownish looking stockings as she opens her book up-side-down and pretends to read, (story prompt – she escaped from an institution where she has been held against her will which dictates that she follows her calling as a street performer …)

While I (‘somewhat of a writer’) pretend to write.

 

And so, it goes.

Five years has passed in this fashion.

No ‘grand’ novel. Or even a ‘tiny’ one.

Only a story here and there.

Handful of poems.

Mostly about love and pain and loss,

In the time-honoured female tradition.

 

While winter storm is raging outside and

I imagine a lonely cabin standing in a deep southern snow.

 

Signs under the lantern.

 

An early autumn evening

Stilness of an early autumn evening is predatory,

Disguised inside small pockets of dozy, warm air,

Waiting.

For the first frost at dawn,

As fine as the fresh gauze over a new wound.

Barely touching.

But covering.

Before the rains expose the earth anew.

And there were some rains this year already.

Opening river banks and washing small settlements away.

Peoples and dogs swimming for each other.

And before that there was a summer without warmth.

It never arrived.

When my daughter returned from her travels abroad.

Where ‘abroad’ names any place outside our floating islands.

Otherwise you could say that she went to visit home country outside of which lays ‘abroad’.

It all depends on the name you give to horizon you see while standing with both feet planted in the soil.

We can only ever see one.

Unless you are a character in Murakami’s novels. Two moons might be handy.

It would certainly explain a lot.

Anyway, it was a slow summer and I was teaching myself to write poetry.

What a mess!

Silences stretched across summer nights like the elaborate tablecloths my dead grandmother made from the thin white cotton she called ‘konac’. They were heavy.

She would lay them across our wooden table to fully show their opulence.

While all I learned is that poetry is like a fickle lover; it tempts, it seduces, it intoxicates,

Only to turn away without a warning,

Or a word of comfort,

Or a word of hope.

And still one waits.

And hopes.

And loves.

Poetry.

In our times, they are serious people (and seriously trained for number of years) whose job is to name such state of affairs. They come up with such names as ‘psychosis’ or ‘disorder’. It helps rest of the population cope.

But I did learn other things too.

For instance – a man to whom I wrote a poem some four or so years ago invited me out.

He still remembers it.

I do too.

The poem.

Not him.

The trouble with people in poems is they take it for real.

Poetry is not real! No more than our souls and our hearts!

Otherwise what would be the point – you can hug your knees – they are real enough!

Still, I listen while my daughter talks.

She carefully pronounces names of streets in Zagreb she visited, people she spoke with, dishes she tasted.

She watches me carefully waiting for recognition.

I have none to offer.

The trouble with exiles is that everyone wants them romantic.

They are not.

Your memory makes a fool of you.

There is no square you swear on your mother’s grave was there once complete with flower sellers and an old man playing accordion in all weathers.

Your words desert you.

You say not what you want but what you can.

No language would have you.

And that surely is a death of any poet;

True or Imposter alike. 

We the People

The people have spoken and there is no escape from it.

Not even on my little island bathed in the fragrant rain of late spring.

While primroses and billy-bells are preparing to burst into new season.

Full of hope.

Not unlike people who voted for a man who some other people pronounced laughable.

And then proceed to employ never-before-seen heavy and well-oiled media artillery to defeat.

And lost.

Enter the utter disbelief.

Of those whose well-insulated worlds shield them so well from reality of many that they dismissed them as ‘undesirables’.

Clearly they have forgotten history lessons of their expensive educations.

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“!

Nothing unifies and ignites masses of ‘undesirables’ quicker and stronger than disdain of elite.

Any elite.

Anyone could have mobilized the sea of raw hurt in the same way.

Anyone who could convincingly promise to restore dignity.

When you offer a jobless man a job, even as a promise – you give him back his dignity, or at least a promise of one.

The man with funny hair and panache for provocative rhetoric happens to have both necessary qualities; a drive and a stomach for it. In addition to a completely clean slate when it comes to politics; a quality highly prized by those dismissed by the ruling elite. His long-standing friendship with his opponent and her family was of course conveniently overlooked as it always happens with inconvenient minor details.

It is questionable whether he himself was/is fully aware of what he has unleashed and/or how is he going to cope with it. Only time will tell.

While the woman with a severe face and highly-polished exterior continued to remain oblivious of the number and power of those she dismissed. After all they do not future in the world she knows and therefore they cannot possibly matter.

In doing so she, perhaps even unwittingly, sharpened the blade that divides her country to possibly dangerous degree. Still, the onslaught of hatred of those who brought her opponent into power continues everywhere.  Why? What is to be achieved by sawing seeds of hatred against large number of people who did nothing but voted for their preferred candidate?

Because this was not a vote for Trump against Hilary – this was the vote against elite and all it represents.

This was the vote that fervently wished to deliver one message and one message only – We the People will not be dismissed!

Whatever you choose to call us, and however ‘racist’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘islamophobiac’, ‘sexist’, etc. you think we are … we will be HEARD!

If that sounds familiar … because it is.

Not long ago voters of another western country shocked their elite by voting out of European Union. The basic motivation was/is the same – give us back our country, our jobs … our dignity!

While it is certainly not the first time in human history that the ruling elite first invents than proceed to believe in a ‘new and better human being’, existence of which would always benefits their interests, the reality of human nature continues to show itself for what it is – survival instinct first and foremost. And when those appear at risk … all is and will be possible.

To start with I have never cared much for either Trump or Hilary.

But all that changed on the day a woman in my office looked at me with such an open disdain that it was palpable. It was clear she thinks me not only a dimwit but beyond contempt. Because I tried to voice my concern over the clearly orchestrated media-onslaught of Trump during the election camping. I did not even say that I favour Tramp (because I don’t). Imagine if I did.

It was the day I learned first-hand how ‘undesirables’ feel.

And why Trump would win.

trump-hillary

 

 

Under the Pale Winter Sky

Sitting by a window in a shelter of an unnamed winter evening,

I solicit words.

But they are slow in coming.

Writing, like love, cannot survive neglect.

Absence maybe.

But not neglect,

Deliberate act of abandonment.

Lovers who hide from love in pain or fear, soon

See it perish.

As do writers who hide from words.

Shrivel and wilt, scorched by salts of sorrow.

 

And so I think I should sit here,

Until I have enough

Words to describe

Slow hum of town living below my balcony,

Brilliant colours of geranium’s flowers spilling from terracotta pots nestled against the rusty balustrade,

Smell of sea mist dissolving over dove coloured hills,

Shapes of travelling clouds touched on the edges by a rose brush,

Sound black and white can makes when passing softly under a naked tree,

Taste of loneliness.

 

I might be waiting for a long time,

A day, or

A lifetime.

 

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