Senior moments

I’m pretty sure I forgot things at other times in my life. Like when we’d been told to “get thing things you need for the beach” and I had to swim in my pants and vest, ignored by the other children. Or when I forgot my homework three days running. Or forgot to go to work, having woken next to golden skin of the boy I’d dreamed about, but had never believed would even notice me.

But now, after a certain age, all my forgettings seem forebodings [there’s another word, saying something more about this feeling, that I can’t reach – is this a senior moment or simply what happens all the time, only made visible in the lens of trying to write?]. I follow the google trail and find:

Dread (noun)
A sudden take-off and flight of a flock of gulls or other birds:
‘flocks of wood sandpiper, often excitable, noisy, and given to dreads’

Is that it? It’s new to me, ‘dread’ in this sense. I like it, but it’s not the word hiding behind the furniture of my thinking – I’ll stay on the look-out for that.

But someone, years, even centuries, ago understood something about how it feels to have one’s certainty take flight.

It can feel, the thing I can’t remember, when I venture nearer, somehow temporarily dismantled and chaotic. I reach for it – and, in an instant, all its constituent parts  take flight, assembled loosely, murmuring beyond grasp (“a hum, muttering, rushing,” probably from a PIE reduplicative base *mor-mor, of imitative origin cf. Sanskritmurmurah “crackling fire”). It fees dreadful, a huge and fluttering loss that circles and fades, its impact diminishing. Which is soothing.

At least it ends in consolation and the optimism of Beckett: I can’t go on, I’ll go on…

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Sandy liquid

My neck seizes. I cannot turn my head. Perhaps some tensions in daily life, the concerns of the day, gather in the trapeze and stop it swinging. So I go to swim.

Laps in the pool, avoiding children on the odd-numbered forward strokes towards the shallow end and watching the ceiling on the even numbers to make sure I don’t smack my head on the end wall, and make the pain and seizure worse. If I’m lucky, after twenty or thirty lengths, the nerve or tendon or muscle or whatever it is that’s stuck and sore will give a little. Something will let go, will ping or snap or crunch. I need that release. A “sandy liquid feeling”, said the girl in the gallery, when I told her why my head was leaning, why I hobbled like a babushka in an ancient newsreel.

Lap after lap, like a meditation, I hear my thoughts repeating, worrying the phrase, matching it to the experience. The graunch of tendon, bone and nerve. Body parts moving under the skin, seeming to come free and release a tangle of emotion, but stopping before the end, as if stuck on a slide.

A sandy liquid feeling. No, not sandy liquid. Like tequila riddled with fluttering flecks of gold leaf, that you imagine might stick to your tongue. Or fizzy pop at the seaside in 1964. A liquid sandy feeling, then? True, it can seem like quicksand, sand as fluid, but the combination is wrong, the combining doesn’t work. Perhaps a comma would help?

A sandy, liquid feeling?

Or a liquid, sandy feeling?

The feeling itself is neither sandy nor liquid. it’s both, but most of all, it’s a “feeling” that has no definition. Sandy and liquid help a bit, but they’re not the whole of it. It’s definitely not liquidy.

Finally, I suppose I can say that it was a sandy, liquid, feeling.


I have never before worried so much about where a comma went. Is this obsessive analysis and reconstruction of meaning a writerly concern? Or is it a product of memory failure, that I don’t know any more quite what I want to say, what I mean, how to tell my thoughts. I don’t really believe that this circularity still counts as thinking.

I wish my quicksilver mind would come back.