Clouds In The Head


Missy sets forth
9 April, 2009, 7:46 pm
Filed under: Missy Sets Forth, travel versus unravel

Chapter 1. Missy finally had the bag packed and the husband buried. She was feeling a floating, burning, dizzy sensation – which Len would have described as Incipient Urethritis – but this wasn’t to be found near her groin but somewhere above her head, in the space through which she would soon be flying. Thrill, fear, catastrophe, desire, liberation.

Packing her brightest lightest clothes, plus a dark raincoat and rain-hat, she thought about debt and how confusing were her assets and liabilities.

She owed so much to Len, but not in the way everyone thought. And not as Len would have understood, either. The long illness, the everlasting illness, he’d called it, had reached a kind of penultimacy three months ago in the hospital. As they’d both predicted, the morphine was starting to overcome sense, and they were in Last Words territory, when he’d gestured to Missy to lean close. “In order to utter those utterances without which blah blah et cetera.” His breath was ragged in effort and rank in odour. The cancer was everywhere. He’d been hoping to sneak a final cigarette, and in fact she thought that he wanted her to ask a nurse in to smoke one in front of him.

But what he had to say, with all the profundity he could muster, was: “Love, after all this, you take that trip. Take the trip, go wherever, screw a young gigolo, hang out with rock stars, see all that world you wanted. You deserve it, love.”

Which of course missed the point. Not that Missy’s greatest desire wasn’t to see the world in all its ripe brilliance – but that Len thought that she deserved to travel because she had spent a year, no, two years, ministering to his dying throes. As ever It revolved around Him. What Len didn’t get was that she deserved to travel after not two but 22 years of being married to the king. Given to proclamations, always getting his way, controlling, busy, hard, and utterly passive aggressive, he had been Missy’s prison guard and prison. Thanks to him, she’d given up a career, adjusted her social set, become addicted to cryptic crosswords and stupid puns, and pretended so often to worship at his feet that in the end she couldn’t tell the difference.

She had lost herself in the deepest way. She’d done it willingly, chief accomplice in the demise of her self.

Consequently, her greatest fear, the dizziest of those flying sensations, was: that it would still be Len’s wife going overseas. She was terrified that there was no Lisa Twohill left to experience the world. In Paris she would see the Eiffel Tower and think of what Len might say. In Barcelona she’d be drinking wine and opining on its palate with a thesaurus of Len-isms. Marxist-Lenisms, probably.

But what choice did she have? It was what she’d always wanted to do. And she wasn’t going to let her dead husband deny her the chance by suggesting she take it. This would be her trip, her dream, her ticket.

She heard the taxi beeping, the mermaids singing (each to each), and checked in her purse for her passport one more time. It was a crisp new passport; it had arrived registered post, with an accompanying booklet of warnings and suggestions, which she’d read six times. It wasn’t Len’s fault he suffered from agoraphobia. But the effect was that Missy was now desperate to get to Greece and discover an agora for herself.

She wondered if she would ever see her little home again, its bricks, its rhododendrons, its photo albums, its memories. The sound of the click as she locked the door behind her suggested that the possibility of returning was there. So when she reached the cab with her shiny new wheeled luggage she dropped the key into the drain. There were spares, of course, but a little symbolism never hurt anyone, as Len used to say.

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