Vi

About this

Slight reworking of the vi story.

Vi

A short story by DeadSpiderEye

 

I’m not actually sure we were related but I always called her my auntie Vi, her summertime visits would be accompanied by a transition in the atmosphere at home. Mother would become prone to mirth, ribaldry even and the household privations would be temporarily assuaged by the bounty that followed in auntie Vi’s wake. There would be meat on the table, cake with our tea and even a bottle of gin on the mantelpiece, the gin would be labelled in Spanish, a fact I would later understand, indicated it was a form of contraband. The gin’s consumption over the days, [indicated] by successive drops in the level, no doubt offered some impetus for the laughter that would punctuate the evenings.

 

Mother would never take a holiday even on the occasion of auntie Vi’s visits, so as often as not me and my sister would arrive home from school to find our auntie painting her toenails, reading the paper or perhaps listening to the radio. On the occasions she wasn’t at home, she’d be out and about, in the park or the shop but she’d always return before mother. I’m not sure she noticed me much, I did my best to cultivate the art of being unnoticed at an early age. She would talk to us in the manner that adults do to when in the company of children, ‘Haven’t you grown… what did you learn at school today’. My sister was the one that shined in the light of auntie Vi’s attention, I think she aspired to be like her. I would play the role of subordinate male in the presence of female company, speak only when you have to, stay as far out of the way as you can but still, I felt the need to cast my eyes upon her.

 

Even now all these years later, uttering the words is hard but at the time it was impossible to think them let alone speak them; beautiful, pretty, nice, kind and the most dangerous of them all, love. Now I realise It was a void in my awareness that gave rise to my confusion, I felt things, emotions I suppose, that gave a fleeting sense of meaning to existence but couldn’t comprehend them. What was it about a floral print dress and the scent of perfume, peekaboo sandals and peroxide hair framed in the light of the kitchen window, a voice that was calm and never scalded, that made being in the presence of auntie Vi such bliss. I used to feel sorry for my sister, I could tell she didn’t experience the same. Sorry that is, until Auntie Vi left for the year, my sister would remain the effusive and lively child, I would hide the desolation, as I’d hidden the delight, for that emotion drew its share of  unwelcome attention too.

 

Auntie Vi would never say goodbye, she’d just be gone, I’d either wake to the absence or return home to find it indicated by the discarded blossoms that accompanied her visit. Mother hated flowers, even pictures of them but she’d tolerate them in the presence of auntie Vi; it never once occurred to me to question how those flowers made their way to the bin while mother was at work. The transition was less abrupt for those around me, mother and my sister would reminisce and ruminate on the event, life would settle into its routine with a smooth, if not a gentle transition. If it had been a particularly eventful visit, this period could last a few days, close to a week even, something I should’ve been grateful for I suppose.

 

Things became difficult when my sister started to grow, her preoccupation shifted gradually but mother was wary of the change from the first time one of my sister’s visiting friends was accompanied by her brother. The day it all changed was when my sister spent the pocket money auntie Vi had given her on a sweater instead of sweets or a toy. I can’t imagine the confusion the episode must’ve caused her, it’s not that she hadn’t seen mother like that, it’s that she been remote from its consequences. So remote that she couldn’t recognise it or mother, strange, it was if she were faced with something new, as if her mother had been replaced. It was painful to witness, my sister wiping the spit and her tears from that agonised ruddy face. Her child’s face made pulpy and ugly with the anguish of the newly orphaned, that’s when I understood why she could never look me in the eye.

 

Which of us came out childhood period the better I couldn’t say, in truth I don’t have my sister’s emotional capacity. There is no betrayal for me because there is no faith to betray but as a concept I saw it acted out in the love between mother and daughter. Isn’t an oasis made all the more beautiful by the uniform desolation of its context and beauty is something I could see, even if I couldn’t understand it. So there was a contraction in the aesthetic of my existence, their relationship had been an important vicarious supplement to my emotional life. Now it was gone, they would spend the rest of their short life together tolerating each other, that was all.

 

It was around that time that Maggie started to call in, someone mother knew from work. They’d sit at the table eating chips and turning Woodbines to ash for hours it seemed, the radio off or tuned to something talky with the volume turned down to a level where it became unintelligible. Mostly they’d be reading aloud salacious extracts from women’s periodicals, focusing with an unbecoming relish, upon the perils faced by young girls at the hands of callous men. Maggie would keep her heavy brown coat on while indoors and grasp, with both hands, the belt that strained to encompass her girth whenever she became impelled to offer judgement, ‘Disgusting… worse than animals… men!… I’d cut it off’. Her voice rasped breathlessly, her tongue mobile, like an exposed worm turning in its burrow. The meagre air liberated as she spoke, seemed tainted with a stain that it would bear forever. Even for mother it was hard to tolerate, she’d have to prompt her to leave, Maggie lacking any sense of when her presence became beyond appropriate. She’d leave behind her, a toxic humor that lingered long after the Woodbine smoke had dispelled.

 

Maggie’s interdiction was only for my benefit indirectly, It was my sister who was the real focus for this sublime instruction. I had in fact, started to draw some amusement from the situation; not sure why I found it so funny, maybe it was nascent sadism aroused by sister’s predicament or maybe just a mind warped by the inescapable madness of it all descending into hysteria. They got their wishes, fulfilled beyond all reasonable expectation. I didn’t panic when I found her, I went straight to her room, the letters were on her bed and there was a diary too; its pages were buckled but the words would remain legible for anyone who should want to decipher her script. The violation would come but at the behest of the county coroner and so it became known, that thanks to a fresh shilling in the meter my sister would keep her virtue intact—forever.

 

Just how intense the assault of those flowers were on the senses is hard to describe. Such a waxy beauty untrammelled by any modesty. What an affront it must’ve seemed to mother, that naked display, shameless and bereft of self consciousness. Petals trembled under the weight of the dew that bejewelled them, a few falling from blossoms to be witnessed scattered upon the grass. The snowy leavings of their passing shed in lieu of tears. This would be the last time I would ever meet auntie Vi and one of the last few times I’d clap eyes on mother as she had been. She’d discovered love in a bottle and I liked her better when she was drunk. Which was just as well, liquid affection had taken hold quickly and sobriety for her had become an agony of chills, rants and the clamour of intangible demons. Vi spoke to me after she’d got a little tired of being yelled at for being a slut, ‘Your poor mother… you have to be strong for her…’ blah blah blah. She didn’t realise she wasn’t speaking to that shadow inhabiting our home and I couldn’t muster enough of the memory of my affection for her to spare her the truth.

 

Finally some outrage from someone but where was it directed? At the truth of course, all crimes are forgivable if they’re committed under the pretence of virtue. The lie doesn’t even have to be that convincing, you just have to speak the words, ashes to ashes… in sure and certain hope…

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~ by deadspidereye on February 13, 2017.

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