“Shatter your illusions of love, and is it over now do you know how to pick up the pieces and go home?” ‘Gold dust woman’ Fleetwood Mac Rumours album
I slide my foot along the slick high tensile wire beneath me, gripping the wire between my big and second toe, grimly holding on. On the periphery of my vision I can see shards of broken alcohol bottles, used syringes, an occasional condom crumpled in a gelatinous heap, jagged rocks and ominous crevasses, their depths hidden, the light barely penetrating the gloom of the rim. My feet are bleeding but the pain has dulled to numbness from long association. I juggle brittle spheres in my hands. I am not very good at juggling yet I am terrified of dropping the objects circling my head. Each orb contains a child, in foetal position, pain, terror, loss and loneliness etched on each young face. My heart aches as I yearn to touch and comfort them but cannot reach them through the brittle glass of their cages and they in turn cannot know the comfort of my love through the barrier. A wind picks up and the tightrope begins to sway. A bead of sweat slides down my ribs and my hands grow sticky. My heart races, blood pounds in my temples; I am compelled to juggle the young lives in my hands. A sphere leaves my right hand, lifting high above my head following the path of the ones before. Light catches it at the pinnacle sending rainbow sparkles in all directions, then slowly it begins its descent and with horror I realise it has gone too far and I won’t be able to catch it without falling from the tightrope. I watch the orb drop toward its doom, frantically juggling.
Gasping, dehydrated mouth and throat desperately needing saliva, I lay still in the quiet night waiting for the nightmare fear to subside. My heat rate returns to normal as I slide my feet into my old runners and I do the regular night rounds. Tugging a blanket over a small chilled shoulder, folding shut a fallen book and slipping glasses off the sleeping face in the next room, checking in on the night owl still glued to the chat room. I suggest some sleep but know he will still chat until the birds start to sing. It is his way of escaping and he can be anyone he wants online. The kettle boils and I pour water over a tea bag. A box sits on the bench filled with broken pieces of porcelain dolls. I can’t bring myself to throw them out yet. They are the shattered remnants of a collection, one of the few luxuries I had allowed myself to indulge in. I had kept them carefully hidden away, packed in bubble wrap and boxes away from little hands. Nothing is hidden from inquisitive children with no social conditioning to stop them from prying. I lift a broken head, the hair in tattered stings and find myself lost in memories. I sigh and put the broken face back in the box with the other parts. I can’t replace them. I don’t have that sort of money anymore, but I knew when I took on caring for children that it would be a long time before I could afford unnecessary luxuries again.
I had a statuette once. It was of an urchin with a wickedly cheeky little face. About 20cm in height and made by an Italian sculptor. It was a delightful piece of artistry but when I found out at 18 I was pregnant with my first child I gave it as a gift to a man who I knew would never have children and who would appreciate the artistry and skill of that tiny waif. I gave away all my beautiful things. My diamond cut ruby glassware, my wine decanter with matching glasses, my paintings, everything that wasn’t durable. I knew even then that all my resources would need to be child resistant. I guess it was sheer folly to have bought the dolls. The insurance company wouldn’t replace them because they were broken by people I had “knowingly allowed in the house’. The agency I was with then didn’t have insurance “for that sort of thing”. I finally solved the breakage problem with those particular children by buying a box of second hand tiles and letting them break as many as they wanted so long as they helped put the broken bits in the bin afterwards. I remember hearing about a psychologist who suggested his client buy old crockery from second hand shops and smash some whenever the client felt out of control. I adopted that particular idea since my own way of losing control seemed to involve depriving the household of matching crockery. Once upon a time when I was still married and my spouse and I were both working, he and I arrived home late one night and he made the foolish mistake of saying “You could at least get the dishes done regularly”. In one wide swipe I sent every dish on the bench crashing to the floor with a resoundingly satisfying cacophony. Then stomping through the shards in bare feet I exclaimed “There! They are done!” Plastic gradually took a stranglehold on my kitchen cabinets. Plastic is, above all things, durable in the face of uncontrolled tempers.