A new dance
Kylie had seen her mum dance at Xmas with her dad and they hadn’t looked any more clumsy or embarrassing than anyone else’s parents. But now her stepdad had run off with a lap dancer from Leighton Buzzard, and Kylie assumed she would never again have to cringe at her mother in public trying to wave her arms and wiggle her hips at the same time, just slightly off the beat. But Kylie was wrong.
“Oww. Oww ow ow”. Sally said the words out loud. And giggled. She felt silly, even though no-one could hear her. She glanced around but the car was travelling at 40 miles per hour through country lanes, so even if she screamed no-one would know.
Gripping the steering wheal tighter she tried again. “Owwwww!” This time it came out almost guteral, and she felt the tears burst through and her hands were shaking. Hastily, she pulled off the road onto a short track that led to a shut gate, shrouded by trees, the handbrake on, but still with the engine running.
“It hurts”. The words sounded like they came from a small child. Then in a sudden burst of anger: “Bloody Shamans. Why couldn’t they just mind their own business? Bloody Shamans.”
In her M & S floral print dress, Sally didn’t look like someone who hung around with Shamans. She didn’t even know what they were, till two of them came into the Funeral Parlour this morning wanting an Eco-coffin shaped like a wolf, for their deceased mother. Sally had attracted a ‘green burial’ clientele since inheriting her father’s funeral business, though she’d only taken it on to give her recently redundant husband John something to focus on since her miscarriage last Autumn.
“You have to do the pain” they had told her. Two sisters with big soft eyes and calm voices. After four weeks of counselling on the NHS, no-one had told Sally this piece of information before. She had been numbing herself with alcohol each night after Kylie went up to her room to interact with the world through MSN, and she was on the verge of accepting prescribed medication from the GP.
“The drugs will stop you doing the pain” the one with a giant green stone hanging round her throat had urgently explained. “You need to let it out. You need to feel it.”
“How?” Sally had asked, wondering how she had even got onto discussing her inability to deal with her husband leaving her to two complete strangers. At least the first husband had had the decency to die. But this one had just run away.
“Just say how it feels” came the reply. “Say ‘Ow!” Suggested the sister with the stone grey dreadlocks and an eagle tattooed onto her right forearm, which flew towards Sally as the woman’s hand gave her own a reassuring squeeze.
Well, Sally had said “Ow”, and now she was so chocked with emotion she could hardly breathe. “It hurts” she cried out again, and it really did. There was a pain in her chest, somewhere near where her heart used to be, before it got ripped out and thrown away by a man who was now shacked up with Sexy Sadie. Sally was glad her heart had gone because that meant no-one else could break it again – but she could feel the pain so intensely, like an amputee feels the agony of a missing limb.
A wave of fear gripped her and she knew a full-on panic attack was coming, so she followed the instructions on the internet for such occasions that she had unearthed one insomniac-ridden night, and forced herself to scream. “Bloody Shamans, bloody Shamans. Bloody bastard John you bastard it hurts meeeeeee…..”
She stopped suddenly, shocked by the intensity of her own emotions. Pain was not nice, but this feeling of letting out the pain, that was not a bad feeling. And she couldn’t stop now. Something was flowing through her. A river of some kind. Her eyes stung and felt like someone was punching them from the inside. Her rasping breathes swirled around hands inside her ribcage squeezing her lungs and pushing against her rib bones until that pain made her scream out again: “You hurt me! It hurts me. It hurts me. I hurt!” Now she could cry properly. Her nose ran and the tears gushed forth and she didn’t try to stop them.
Suddenly she was aware of the trees around her. The field before the gate. The quiet lane behind and the plume of exhaust puffing into the air and the throb of the engine. A peace began to descend, enveloping her. Yes. It’s true. She was hurting. She was in pain. How amazing. The acknowledgment felt like the most truthful, honest thing that had happened to her in a long time.
Sally turned off the engine, and did the pain. The betrayal. The leaving. The miscarriage. Her father’s death. Inheriting a funeral parlour business she hated. She let herself feel all of it. Even at the ceremony in the forest for the baby that never came fully into being, she had not felt such intense pain. At moments she thought she might stop breathing, at others that her eyes may pop out of their sockets and roll onto the floor and underneath the seat.
But within an hour, she had experienced the honesty of her own emotions for the first time, and wondered how she could have ever judged others for deceiving her, when she had never been truthful with herself. She also knew that her heart had somehow stayed trapped within it’s bony cage,and she was glad, because even though it hurt like fuck, it was still her heart, and it was still beating, and she knew for the first time in a very long time that she was going to be OK.
Kylie was cringing with embarrassment. She’d arrived early to meet up with her mum and the local Five Rhythms dance class was still in full swing. It sounded like a rave with a pounding wild beat but it was only 10 O’clock in the morning, and there was her mum, leaping and shaking her head and pounding the boards with her feat in a tribal dance that made the Ibiza ravers on You Tube look like they were at a tea dance at the Ritz. But as the music pounded and the bodies flew around the room with such power and grace she saw something in her mum she hadn’t seen before.
“So” Sally was still breathless despite the calming end to the dance session. “Did I look ridiculous?” “Yes” Kylie found her own honesty a bit shocking. “You are funny mum”. She added, as if that made it alright. Sally laughed and seemed to almost dance her way to the car, the large green stone around her neck swaying to and fro.
Kylie stood for a moment and watched her. “You’re ready now aren’t you?”
Sally stopped before getting into the car and eyed her, quizzically. “Ready for what darling?”
“Ready for the Box. I found it under the stairs. That weird present from those Rotary Club friends. ‘Divorce in a Box’ – what was that all about?”
“I’ve already been using it” exclaimed Sally proudly. “Funny how Eileen sent that to us all those months ago. She could see there was something wrong even before we did. Before John ran off… danced off with that girl.”
“Don’t say that mum”. Kylie looked suddenly younger her 14 years. “No-one knew he was going to do that.” I thought you weren’t ready to do the whole divorce thing? I mean John only left 6 months ago.”
“I read the first booklet” replied her mother. “I realised I needed to get out. Have fun. Feel safe with other people who aren’t grieving the death of a loved one. I needed to dance my darling. For the first time”.
They both climbed into the car and sat quietly for a moment. Kylie turned towards her mother, an old and serious expression spread across her young face.
“Just promise me one thing,” Kylie’s voice was quiet and firm, like when she was going to tell her mother off for wearing her blue trousers with a green blouse.
“What’s that?” Denise asked.
“Just promise me mum, please, promise me…”
“Promise you what darling?”
“Promise me you won’t get a tattoo?”
© suzy miller 2012