Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: deeply personal (Page 1 of 97)

A Dream of a Beach

(A semi-true story. The feelings are real.)

I feel the pull back to familiarity. There is a soft, furry body lying alongside me. Early risers; those getting children to school or off early to miss the worst of the traffic slam car doors or call loudly from the street to someone still inside.

 

I keep my eyes closed, not ready to let go of the feelings of my dream even though the images are still to coalesce in my mind. Loss. Longing.

 

I dreamed of a beach.

 

I was on my way home, walking through familiar streets, totally confident that I knew the way. I greeted passers-by and smiled and waved. And then I took a different path between two pale and old buildings, following a kitten who had looked at me with recognition on its dirty ginger face.

 

Then I was staring at a beach.

 

I remember thinking in my dream that my street had been close to the sea, right up until a hundred years ago. Woodstock Beach had been filled with swimmers, fishermen and strollers. I remember seeing black and white photos suspended on metal wires in a trendy, retro craft gin store. And I remembered this in my dream. I remembered that I drive on Beach Road.

 

In my dream this was Woodstock Beach. Accessible only to me. I alone knew that it was right there, a few metres from home. Nobody in today’s world would ever find it. It was safe. Our secret.

 

Between the grey, crumbling dolosse birds had made nests. A white whale skeleton formed a ghost wedding arch in the sand. Gentle, pretty seaweed and crusty mussels grew in a rockpool. Another was filled with giant purple and ruby red gem stones. I looked down at my feet making soft dunes where I walked. At the water’s edge I turned around to look back. The city was a smouldering, crumbling urban monster. It was exploding in a disorganisation of more building, more development, more greed.

 

I saw an old woman wave at me from under the frame of a beach umbrella. She looked like she had always been there although I had only noticed her in that moment.

 

I wanted to stay. I started taking my clothes off to get into the water but up close the surface was densely packed with completely transparent plastic bottles.

 

“You can walk on it, but you can’t swim” yelled the woman. Now she was surrounded by crime tape, held by four estate agent boards. She stood up and I saw her police uniform.

 

I thought about leaving and my heart shuddered. If I left I would never find this secret Woodstock beach again. I started scooping the sand in my hand, the damp sand. Could I build a house here? There was nothing to make it with. A hole. I would dig a hole.

A Poem for My Gran and the World

My gran

A long Craven A cigarette with two centimetres of ash

Hanging, hands free, from her lip

Would say

“Too terrible”

When she would recount the hopeless relationships

In the soapies she followed.

“Too terrible” was also for the callers who phoned in

to talk shows with their incurable aches and pains.

My gran could relate.

She said “too terrible” about the food at the function

Which was mostly inedible – she had tried all the cakes to make sure.

And a special, drawn out “too terrible” was reserved

For the fashions of the day, worn by me

The first-born grandchild with “a mind of her own, mind you”.

“Too terrible” was for how she felt after a restless night,

Or how the Joburg summer heat made sweat bead on her upper lip

Or darken her silk neckline.

And it was “too terrible” the way people were treated,

Or the way others drove, or hooted, or slammed on brakes.

 

My gran, whose telephone voice

And jewellery box, and teiglach I miss

Managed to capture a helpless, hilarious, and most deep humanity

In those words, “too terrible”

It’s “too terrible for words”.

The Whiteness of Being

I don’t even know how to write this. I am going to piss off many who will say, “So what?” I am going to be the critical voice, the moaner, the killjoy, the maker of the mountain that shouldn’t even be a molehill. And still.

This afternoon two friends and I went to the Christ Church in Constantia for one of their monthly music concerts. They’re even called The Christ Church Concerts. I have never been before, but I am on the mailing list, and this one I really wanted to go to. Franz Liszt performed by Christopher Duigan. I have loved Liszt since I was a child, influenced by my father, who would play the rhapsodies loudly on our record player and I would dance.

Before I say anything else, I must say how lovely and beautiful and familiar and fun and delicious the music and the pianist were. Christopher Duigan is cute and charming and humble, and then he plays his heart out and his fingers fly. I loved it. And, that should be the point. Of course it should.

But something started niggling and I couldn’t let it go. My maths is shit, but I estimated that there were at least 350 of us there, in the lovely church. Tickets were an affordable R100. But there was not one, single person of colour amongst us. Not one.

What planet was I on? How was this possible? How could it be that I was in a crowd that size and there were only white people in the room? How was it possible that for all these people this was absolutely, totally normal? Whites only.

This is possible in Cape Town. No, this is accepted as normal in Cape Town. And it shook me to the core.

When we got up to leave we were some of the last; a recently divorced and well oiled lady was telling us more of her story. Then I noticed a team of coloured and black men enter the church. They had come to stack and move the chairs.

Megan to Cape Town. We have a problem.

Dog Love

An open letter in the form of a poem to two dogs who can’t read

Hot breath tells me you’re lying next to me

When I wake up and it’s cold and dark

Gentle snores comfort me

When thoughts of the world keep me awake

No greater joy than you, Linus, throwing your black head back

And bouncing away over the grass, still looking at me,

“Look Megan, look at my happiness now.”

No greater pride, Frieda, than you catching popcorn every time,

Chasing squirrels, and being all independent in public

But defining love in private as you slide up for a snuggle.

I love telling everyone who comments on your beauty

And softness and prettiness and kindness

How we found you at the SPCA and saved you, you being rescues.

But I always know it was you who did the saving

Of me.

where did that come from?

I joined a fun and informal writing group and then promptly missed two Mondays (I was away for one and working for the other).

Last night I went back for what I was hoping would be a jolly bit of relief after a relatively crap day – I reversed my car into an extended piece of pole that I couldn’t see and smashed in my rear windscreen, only to discover Outsurance wanted me to pay an excess of R1250 and take it to PG Glass who would charge them an additional R3000 for the job. This seemed like a terrible idea since I could get the glass from an SABS approved place, Commercial Auto Glass, for R1600 in total. I had to speak to Outsurance at least four times, first to find out about and then to cancel my claim. So, I worked out that I am paying Outsurance monthly, to not have insurance. I decided it was time to cancel my non insurance with them and got put through to the whatever department to speak to someone who would convince me not to cancel. Suddenly my excess for glass was reduced to R250 (not for this claim, but for a future one!). What a bunch of crooked chops. When I pointed out that THEY were in cahoots with a company that were ripping them off and that I could get them a better deal with another SABS approved company, they dismissed me. Their arrangement with PG Glass is a stinky quagmire of insurance corruption. Anyway. I needed distraction.

Our first exercise was a two word prompt to write for ten minutes. The words were acrimony and winter storm (I know, three words, but). This was my first story.

George threw the last piece of dry wood onto the fire. He had left it too late and stood, with his hands on his hips anticipating disappointment, expecting that the log wouldn’t take and then he would have another thing to feel bitter about.

 “Margaret. Is there more wood?” he half mumbled, but with energy. He absolutely knew that Margaret would hear his voice but not the words and he counted down. Five four three two one.

 “Sorry George, I heard your voice but not your goddamn fucking words.”

 She stood in the doorway with an unlit cigarette in her one hand and the special fire matches in the other. “I am going to stand on the stoep and smoke. There’s a storm coming, and I want to smoke before it rains.”

 “I don’t need an explanation for your idiotic behaviour.” he said to her retreating back, but he timed the words to coincide with the down beat of her expensive stilettoes. She wouldn’t hear, and he wouldn’t be brave enough to say that to her face.

 George turned his own face of disappointment to the fire grate and was irritated to see that the log had caught after all. A golden flame curled around the flaky bark and was making inroads into the hard, fragrant fig wood underneath.

 He heard the wind pick up and thought about Margaret outside, trying to light her cigarette with a match. He couldn’t help himself. He smiled. He reached for his wine glass and swirled the purple liquid around before sipping it. He felt like he was in a life insurance ad.

 The rain came, slashing hard against the lounge window. The loose, wooden frames rattled, and the curtains sighed even though the windows were shut. George went to look. He watched as a giant branch ripped free from the Elm and tore straight into Margaret’s head.

Not exactly cheerful stuff, but hey. I could blame the prompts.

Then, for our main exercise we were asked to write three questions on pieces of paper and to hand them out. We had to ‘answer’ the questions in our next piece of writing.

These were the three questions I received.

  1. Can you trust a liar?
  2. What did he/she take from the store?
  3. What is at the centre of Jupiter?

And here is what happened from my brain. Trigger warning. Violence against women and children.

Del walked along the road, dragging her feet and making tiny dust puffs behind her. The back of her white cotton dress had already picked up the red of the dust, looking like old blood, washed out but never totally removed. From the back she looked like a ten-year-old child, bored and lethargic in the summer holidays, with no plan, no urgency, no direction.

From the front she looked broken. Tear tracks ran into her neckline and smudged the dirt and her mother’s rouge on her cheeks. Her top lip was swollen, and the fine, black curls of her fringe were stuck down with sweat.

She repeated a line.  A marriage vow. “I will. I will. I will.” Over and over. Through thick swollen lip.

Suddenly she stood still. She heard the sound of a car. No, truck. She bent her head. Saw her bulging pocket. She remembered.

Del had gone to buy cigarettes for her mother. She was always buying cigarettes for her mother. When her mother needed her out of the flat, when she had to talk to some man. Sometimes a strange man. Sometimes a familiar man. Del went to buy cigarettes from the store exactly fifteen minutes away. Fifteen minutes there and fifteen minutes back.

Today Del had pushed open the shop door without thinking. Mr Kamaldien was bent over the counter and Del thought he was sleeping even though she had never seen him sleep before. His black hair was lying in blood. Without thinking Del had approached him and put a brown hand on his stripe shirted shoulder. “Mr Kamaldien.”

A skinny man boy had jumped over the counter and pressed a knife to her throat. He had pushed her against the cold drink fridge and smashed her head into the glass door before pulling down his pants and trying to do something to her, squeezing her and shoving his body between her legs in a sharp and breathless way. She had thought about Jupiter. A planet. A familiar man had said that if you went to the centre of Jupiter there would be space candy there. The kind that pops in your mouth.

The skinny man boy had shouted. It sounded like he had scored a goal. There was something wet and warm on her legs. The skinny man boy had said “I’ll kill you if you tell!” and ran. Del got up. She went behind the counter and filled her pocket with two packets of Styvesant Blue. Then she took two fizz pops. “I will pay you later Mr Kamaldien.”

“I will. I will. I will.”

This is the bleakest and most violent piece I have written and it has shaken me.

Finally I got to the lightness in our last warm-down exercise. It was another prompt one. This time our story had to move from one emotion to another. I got from jealousy to apathy.

Mrs Hartley watched as the silver Polo Vivo negotiated the tight parking space. Three manoeuvres and it was in. The car door popped open with no effort and Mrs Hartley was reminded of her own stiff Honda Civic 2007’s door. She breathed out a puff and the net curtains separating her from the outside gaze shivered.

Dale jumped out of the driver’s seat and then folded his body back in to fetch something. Mrs Hartley had a perfect view of his designer jeans wrapped snuggly around his taut thighs and bum and the blush of shame coloured her neck.

“Cara, he is here!” Her call rang out and floated upstairs. She hoped it sounded light, chatty, warm, friendly.

Dale made his way to the door, his face obscured by a bunch of almost opening St Joseph’s lilies. Mrs Hartley flushed again. They were her favourite. “Cara!”

Cara’s footsteps were muffled. She was still in her slippers. They shloop shlooped along the landing. Sponges sucking all energy out of the room. “Mom, please. Tell him to go away. Mom.”

Mrs Hartley’s smile fixed itself to her face as she opened the door. Dale, about to present the flowers, noticed it was her and pulled his arm back. Their eyebrows expressed individual shock, shame and confusion before settling into polite and friendly.

“Come in Dale. Come in, Cara is nearly ready.”

As the door shut behind him Dale felt the heaviness of the home come down and on him as Cara’s slow, disembodied voice dragged itself down the stairs.

“I do not want to go on another of your arranged dates Mom! I am a lesbian, mom. A lesbian. A LES. BE. YAN.”

I’d love to know what you think.

Pete

I had a full week of improv teaching and facilitating last week, including running 5 short 1 hour and ten minute sessions for a school celebrating 2 days of end of term Art Jam. I worked with groups of between 8 and 14 students and we played warm up games and they learned some improv basics in a fun and interactive way.

In my second session of my first day I encountered Pete. I could see (it was obvious) that he was out of the ordinary. He struggled with eye contact and found it difficult to do the fun and spontaneous silly stuff when we went around in a circle, but he seemed to have a spark of enjoyment about what we had done and that was great.

After a fifteen minute break I got ready to receive another group, who were coming from doing something else entirely. Who should join this group? Pete. This time he was bolder and more silly. When it came to the final game (an interview game with two players playing the talking characters hands) he volunteered, sat down, and when I asked for an expert he announced that he would be an expert in Soviet monkeys. And that is what he was; confidently, loudly and hilariously. The teacher who had joined this group told me afterwards how delighted he was that Pete had participated and spoken up – he never says anything in class.

Pete was one of the first kids to arrive the next morning for the first session. He was becoming an expert himself. Funny, clever, silly and totally committed, he had an absolute blast. And so did I, watching him. He tried to come to the last class too he but was hurried off to the session on his schedule. I don’t know if it was any good for him.

But I was so chuffed to have had him choose my improv sessions. I saw the deep magic of it in practice.

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