Madness, with Wildflowers. A short story.
I’ve been writing teeny stories, poems and odd bits of fiction, awash with fact too on Instagram for a while – on and off for years. The stories are usually inspired by something I see, an image or a person say, a converstaion or a memory. I’m going to try slightly longer form here on the blog…
Madness, with Wildflowers
For the longest time, she believed she would go mad.
It was inevitable, just a matter of the flinty needles completing their mission across the clock face. Seconds and years following a meticulous course, and one day the floor would collapse around the door and the bad-luck winds and midnight demons their mother warned them against, would be waiting in the shadows to accompany her steps. She imagined it would arrive with the post (and so avoided the mailman), or be beaten out, like the single dandelion unravelling disgracefully at the hands of the wind, next to the wildflowers at the edge of the field. The dandelion, losing its shit in front of the neighbours.
Initially, she resisted, and rejected the scenes of what she thought played out at Town Hill and Valkenberg – deranged, darkly-circled eyes, red-rimmed like fish, with elastic mouths that could not hold saliva, or conversations. Or sympathy. She imagined the banging of shackles against metal gates, of keys tossed out windows by heartbroken families and the howling of throats long past raw. She saw the madness as a swift transition between a quiet, odd mind to pure, unadulterated lunacy. It flashed cruel-spirited as lightening, and set solid even faster.
You walked the earth undetected for thirty years, and then, in a timely New York minute: you were a madwoman. And madwomen rarely returned to any respect, and more so, to being left in peace. The nut jobs who moaned and cackled and showed their penises to strangers on the subway didn’t scare her as much as the loners did, those whose dark thoughts swirled like ink through a tumbler of water, until it turned a uniform blur. Then you moved from being merely like Aunty Saro with the loudspeaker mouth and the jumpy bird-eyes who no one could stand, but everyone smiled at, else they earn the wrath of her machete-hacking gossip skills that could hold a family ensnared for generations, so fantastical and devastating, it’s power. You left the safety of Aunty Saro and the good-for-nothings and became: truly mad. Cuckoo, a goner.
She prepared herself for it, somewhere at the periphery, her mind folding like the corners of dog-eared books at the dusty second-hand store on Grey Street. In lost moments, like when she stared at the television, not at, but through it to a world where John Malkovich lived on the mantlepiece, and the actors moved past each other like shrouded characters in a Charlie Chaplin film, she thought she’d greet it. Be polite. Hello, madness. Hallowed, be thy name.
Her mother had had bouts. Years of silence, followed by a handful of hysteria. There was uncertainty, there were accusations. And there were pills. Her mother became limp, sallow, a deflated cushion hanging on the side of the old couch. But she preferred the rebellion, and the discontent. If this was sanity, then she wanted none of it, she thought bitterly, blaming her father, blaming the doctors and their gunfire prescriptions. There was something in being mad, if it meant you got to keep it whole. Though, she knew, that wasn’t how it worked.
One day, she trampled through a bush of small wildflowers, before she noticed the trail she’d crushed with heavy boots. She bent down to examine, leaning stoutly on her haunches, and saw that she had severed a dandelion too. It’s head lay forlorn on the grass, broken just before the stalk. The wildflowers looked on with melancholy etched on their petals. She sneezed. Victory, she whispered!
That’s when the madness came, carried on her mother’s breath. She looked up, and her hair was whipping across her eyes, sand flung by the wind like the sensation of riding a motorcycle at high speed in the rain – microdermabrasion. She thought of a boyfriend she once had, a lifelong rider, and lover of the open road. Unpredictable, edgy, lean. His skin always smelled so clean, he could skip a day. Sometimes, he did. The sex, when it happened, was remarkable. She bought him a day-long ride on a vintage Fat Boy as a birthday present once, shaking as she swiped her credit card. He got on that bike that day and he never rode back, never kissed her, never said thank you, I love you, goodbye. He had once said that insanity was genetic; she thought it an odd comment at the time.
Her eyes filled with tears. She had waited so long.