Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mumbai





The terrain wasn’t good on the road to Kathmandu. It had been a couple of weeks trekking and some rough nights in the cheap hostels along the way. The chill seemed to freeze the smells of cooking and dung in the air, the only movement the steady flutter of Lung ta prayer flags tied onto the eaves of the huts. But we’d made it.


My mother and I had planned this trip for nearly twenty years, and for last few months had been going on longer and longer treks into the mountains near Cape Town to prepare our muscle memory. We’d flown to Joburg to get used to some altitude, and had wheezed our way around the crags with amusement. We weren’t fit, just determined.


It had taken decades for me to save up the cash for this: our trek to Base Camp in the Sagarmatha National Park, a dream to gaze up on Mount Everest and imagine the aspirations won and lost that blew around its icy peaks.


Perhaps it was the legends of Mallory and Irvine, the climbers who vanished into the mountain’s mists in 1924 that inspired my mother’s obsession with Everest. It could have been the craggy New Zealander, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s riveting first ascent in the same year that Queen Elizabeth ll sat tentatively on the throne of England for the first time. That would have filled her imagination as a child, the little details – Norgay leaving some chocolates on the peak as an offering, Hillary a cross.


She’d read or collected every single book she’d come across about Mount Everest. I’d worked in a book shop and had been her enabler. “Have you seen this one, Mum?” I’d ask, and it would go onto her Christmas list.


She managed to convince me with her library. Books written by men and women of their battle through the Death Zone to conquer the mountain, tales of the ones who remained behind, frozen into the slopes of the hill that had conquered them.


So we planned to go there ourselves. To scoop up dal with a roti in a darkened room on the way. Feel the coarse yak fur blanket against our faces. Laugh with the village kids as they skidded about in the gravel and mud. Listen to the wind and the stray dogs howl and the ring of the singing bowls in the temples.


Only this never happened. She became ill with Alzheimer’s around the age of sixty and died five years later.


In my mind I make this trip with her. 


I book my flight to India and arrive in Mumbai with a rucksack, ready for the connecting flight to Nepal. Watch the kites slicing through the thin air like souls released by the scavenging birds of sky burials. I hike into eternity and beyond.


Mumbai.


Mum, bye.

*This is from a personal experience and is in no way meant to diminish the impact of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal experienced by the Nepalese people and the international climbing community.

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This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. SEVEN other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging “Mumbai” and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!



Click away on the names below:









Megan  

 


Cath

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tonight you’re mine, completely





It had taken the glaziers almost two days to install the massive mirror above Scott’s bed, but he thought the effect had been worth the wait. He was fastidious about details, and this one was the final item he needed to cross off his list. A train rattled in the distance, annoying him slightly. What was the point in choosing the perfect location if the location happened to be shared by a train?

He’d waited five years to complete the House of Mirrors. He’d observed as his hair had leaned towards that shade people called “silver fox”, but hadn’t accepted that. Imported hair colour treatments once a week saw his black locks kept in check.

Mostly it was quiet in the valley, and he liked that. The city was too crowded for him; the crowds of people unsettled him, but up here in the hills that rolled like sculpted breasts into the horizon he was content. 

The home gym was one of his favourite places to be, watching his taut muscles heave against the strain of the weights, a towel catching the runnels of sweat as they dripped down his slick chest. He preferred to push his body hard, and, in summer, would strip completely. His eyes fixed on his own mirrored eyes in silent communication.

He remembered the time as a teen that his parents had sent him for therapy. They’d been worried that he had no friends, but they didn’t know about the power of reflection. Narcissism: that was the word the psychiatrist had mentioned in his report. Scott had laughed, a laugh he had practised in the shower that very morning. A laugh that was scathing, derisive. His parents hadn’t asked him to do any repeat sessions.

They’d asked him once or twice about girls, but he’d never seen the point. His space was his own, and the thought that lace underwear would be left lying around in the bathroom along with balms, lotions and the general detritus of femininity was too much to contemplate. Scott kept the few Scandinavian toiletries that he had in one cupboard. They had very strict production controls in the Scandinavian countries.

He was still sweating after the workout, so he twisted the mother-of-pearl handles on the hot tub and sank into the foam, eyes closed. Every pore felt alive as he worked a straight razor across his chest and belly, slowly down to his legs, every hard contour. The hairs collected in a container that whirled in the water, keeping his body clean while he relaxed. After a half an hour, he rose, dried himself and walked to his bedroom, naked.

Scott thought back to the thoughts of girls again as he lay on his bed, looking up at the mirror on the ceiling. He sighed. The bottom left corner of the mirror was slightly lower than the top. He’d have to get the glazier back in. A low rumble signalled the last freight train of the evening. The vibrations travelled through the house, gently shaking the mirrors he’d placed on every wall.

The mirror above him made an odd grinding sound. It sagged down and he watched as the eight steel bolts slowly slid in unison out of the plaster.

As the mirrored Scott grew bigger in an instant, Scott smiled a wet smile of longing.

“Tonight you’re mine, completely” he thought.


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This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. EIGHT other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging “Tonight you're mine, completely” and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!

Click away on the names below:



Megan  
 
Cath

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ninety-nine





“Noli me tangere,” she thought as her lady-in-waiting came to cup her elbow. Touch me not. It was impudent of her to have interrupted the dance, anyway. Just when the violins had begun to swell and the harpsichord rippled out those fine arpeggios she adored. How could one’s feet stay still then? Waving away her servant, she pursed her lips and resigned herself to food.

Ah, what a day to be Queen. There were so many papers to sign, crowds of footmen in their stark white suits. She realised that she needed her court; as a child monarch she could hardly act independently, but their constant presence at her shoulder was a bore.

She giggled, suddenly. It must have seemed startling to those around her, but she couldn’t help herself. A thought: queens are good at dancing, and nodding their approval to the court musicians, but not that suitable for serious things like wars, treaties, that sort of thing. At least not she, Queen Beatrice, Child Queen of the Territories. She wasn’t even sure what the territories were, but they sounded dreadfully rough.

What hurt most about being this reluctant monarch was that her parents must have died when she was very young. So young, in fact, that not one recollection did she have of nursing at her mother’s breast or of being cast in the air and caught again by her father, the King. Imagine! Having to trust her instincts when it came to etiquette meant she often let her people down. She could tell – the disappointment would flicker across their faces.

They tried their best, though, poor, loyal courtiers. She smiled at them as she gathered her gown around her knees to sit in the Great Hall for the feast. She could still hear the music playing. It was gentle and it soothed her while her maid servant cut up her food for her. Music. Art. Those pleased her.

The art in the Great Hall wasn’t impressive. It looked like it had been filched from an infant's classroom somewhere in those primitive territories. Beatrice made a decision to commission better art after the, the, the eating was over.

Dinner seemed to come earlier and earlier these days, and she was glad of it. Living life exclusively in the castle had made her fret more about the unknown, the things outside. Long, grey shapes swooped down in the evenings and brought with them fears of dragons and bigs with teeth. Bigs. There must be another word, but Beatrice couldn’t pluck it out of the air. It was frustrating being only a child. She knew that the people wanted to help her but she felt reluctant to give in to them.

The tall helper in the white robes gave Beatrice a mouthful of eat. It was… it was… it was… soft. Smelled like old day. That one when FALLINGFALLINGFALLINGDON'TTOUCHME!

The orderlies looked up, startled at the sudden whimpering across the canteen. They sat back, relieved. “Don’t worry”, one shrugged at the other, “it’s just Bea again; poor old soul forgets she’s ninety-nine, some days”.

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This post was written as part of a tandem blogging experiment. EIGHT other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time as this. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Take a look at their creative efforts at blogging “Ninety-nine” and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read!

Click away on the names below:



Megan