Emma is looking through a battered old album. Did her well proportioned figure, huge blue eyes and blond curls only appear in her photographs? How could she fail to see how beautiful she was? Her husband, Paul, looks invincible with a protective arm around Emma’s shoulders. This handsome, tall, broad shouldered man has always been by Emma’s side. People believe that they are a perfect match.
Only Paul and Emma know the demons that are hiding behind their smiling faces.
Are all living things hiding their vulnerable underbelly with everything they are; are living things an army protecting life; are they like Emma looking for an exit from confusion, fear and guilt? Is life just an obstacle race in which one must overtake in order to be? Emma was jumping and ducking all her life; she was making instant on the spot decisions without considering the consequences. There are always consequences. Emma is on the run from the destruction she caused. She decides to search for the evil that caused the awful chain of events. She needs to repair the past so her sins will not be revisited upon her children. She has to help her son, Simon, who was an unwilling and vulnerable participant in the choices she made. Did Simon become who he is because Emma made wrong turns when she did not know any better?
Emma has no right to demand answers from Simon now; she never took time to listen when he had things to ask her. She was busy keeping Paul happy; when Paul was not happy he made sure nobody else was. Paul had to come first. Simon was never first to anyone.
Right and wrong was never clear to Emma. What was right in one place was very wrong in the other; public right felt wrong in private; what seemed right to her was condemned by others. Right and wrong constantly changed as those in charge changed places.
Emma wanted to find a clear division between the good and the bad but she realised that she was not in charge and was destined to just follow the leader even when the leader changed his spots. Only the rich and the strong have a measure of freedom. They create laws that give them the freedom to be who they choose to be. The rest just toe the line to survive. Emma perched herself on the fence between right and wrong; she leaned now one way and then another in order not to fall. She tried to go with the flow but her swimming seemed all against the stream. Paul is a strong swimmer; Emma feels safe beside him but she wants to swim on her own, unassisted. Maybe it is too late to learn how to be a separate person; she is performing the best she knows how but she is never sure what Paul will say. Paul was always an all knowing adult while she remained an obedient child.
Everything seemed just right when Emma was in love with Janez; they were both young people of an equal value judgement. She soon realised though that the two of them had no chance of proving the righteousness of their love. They were not in charge. The law of the jungle prevailed and the stronger survived. The weak die or pine in the vulnerable underbelly.
Emma and Janez only knew that at that moment in time they were happy. Could they have perpetuated that happiness? Can one achieve an ultimate happiness and safeguard it for eternity? Does happiness evaporate or die or turn mouldy? How can one measure happiness? Can one become happier when one is already happy? Would greater wealth or love or loveliness provide greater happiness? Is love of the beautiful providing greater happiness than the love of the ugly? Can poor have as much happiness as the rich? Can common be as happy as precious?
Is safety and security the same as happiness?
Emma always did as she was told. Was obedience her duty or she obeyed in order to survive? Was obedience a virtue or a sign of weakness? Emma twisted through the maze in the hope that one day she will find the exit and start again. Her goal has always been to become a good person; she wants to know and accept herself before she can expose her life to a friend.
I beg you, Kim, talk to me.
I am not talking to paedophiles, Emma’s ex daughter in law announces to the crowd of the busy shopping mall. Emma looks around and the bulging eyes of strangers drill into her. Thank God nobody knows her.
Kim, Emma pleads, forgets that I am Simon’s mother. Let’s just do the right thing for our children.
Don’t ever come near my children again. Kim’s words are icicles breaking in the winter morning. New dawn has broken.
You know that I love your children. Let’s talk like mothers do.
Talk to your paedophile son, Kim’s words cut into Emma’s pain.
Don’t do anything in anger. You will see things more clearly in time, Emma tries to reason.
I will not be happy until your son is dead, says Kim grabbing the hands of her children pulling them away.
Emma wants to strangle Kim for wanting her son dead; her Simon who was so adored by everyone.
Simon loves you and the children. Talk to him. Emma lunges after the family she lost.
She wants to scoop Kim and her children into an enormous embrace; she wants to wrap them in a blanket of love until they all felt safe and warm and loved and a family again. Safe against the world.
Mia is eight and she shoots careful glances from Emma to mummy. She loved to cuddle in bed with Emma as she listened to the stories of long ago. Emma was a little afraid that Kim would be jealous because Mia loved to be with her.
Dean is twelve; his eyes are focused on his shoes, his arm has superficial cuts from the wrist up to his elbow; his lip is trembling. Poor babies; Emma wants to stop their pain.
Stop it, Kim; stop it before it is too late, Emma whispers after the disappearing children.
Kim has thrown Emma’s son Simon out of the house. After an argument she told the police that Simon yelled and threatened her. He has always been a control freak, said Kim. Children are scared; I am not going to put up with him.
Police had to make sure that children were safe. Simon had to get out of the house he has just finished building. Dean and Mia cried for daddy. Kim told everybody that Simon had a girlfriend on the internet so she packed his bags. She told the children that daddy does not love them.
Kim never mentioned abuse until after their divorce Simon applied for custody. Kim is a child abuse protection officer. She knows that nobody would grant custody to the man accused of any kind of child abuse.
Kim wants custody so she can take Simon’s house and money, says Paul. Women always invent stories to punish men. She wants to keep the children so Simon will have to pay for the rest of his life.
Emma is afraid; in her youth nobody heard of paedophiles. It just never happened. The bitch is telling lies, says Paul. This never happened where I come from.
How do you know, Emma asks, hoping that he is right and Simon is innocent.
Boys talk about these things and nobody ever heard about it. It just never happened, Paul assures Emma.
Sex never happened in the olden days; only sluts had sex, Emma remembers. Sexuality was only hinted at when a girl had been named a slut. Men boasted about their conquests while women had to guard their virginity. The names of the procreation organs were whispered because they were dirty swear words. For lovemaking men used the words that no decent girl should ever know. Coarse language was never heard of in Emma’s company. Nobody saw people kissing or touching.
Emma wonders if people are the only animal ashamed of sex. All societies are obsessed by sexual prohibitions.
Paul has never been a little girl. How would he know? Who would boast about abusing little girls? Or boys. Emma hopes that Paul is right. She prays to God with all her heart that Simon is not a pervert.
At the custody hearing Dean chooses to live with his father; the judge says that he is old enough to make his choice. Dean tells Emma that this is the happiest day of his life. Mia is to visit Simon at weekends. Mia also wants to stay with Dean and their father. Mia always wants what Dean has. She is fighting until she gets what she wants. Mia is a difficult child. She screams until her wishes are granted. She is determined to keep her family together.
Simon rents a room from a newly divorced friend Eva. Simon and Eva cry on each other’s shoulder because they miss the shoulder they used to cry on.
Mia hates the fact that her broken family no longer cuddles together. She runs away from her mother and comes crying to her father. She finds her dad in bed with Eva. Daddy is cuddling a stranger who took him away from her family. Mia runs away and hides in the shed. Simon and Eva search for her, they beg her to come back and they will explain. They promise her whatever she wants. Covered with an oily rug Mia crouches behind Simon’s tool-bench. She is holding her breath; she wants to punish them all for disrupting her life. She will make them pay.
Kim sends the police and they return Mia to her mother.
Mia tells her mum about dad’s woman and Kim tells her that daddy never loved them. He loves that slut woman. Did he touch you, did he rape you? Tell me how he touched you. Over and over until the story becomes a part of Mia’s memory.
Men are dangerous. Spiders. Did daddy show you his penis? Did he try to put it into you pee-pee? Did he touch your bottom?
Mia loved cuddling in bed with her parents but now she learned that her daddy is a spider under the rock. Daddies must not touch their children. Men are dangerous.
How is a little girl to tell which spider is dangerous? Little girls only know what people tell them.
Mia stays with Emma for a day. She has a pain in her stomach. Emma gently presses on Mia’s tummy to find out where it hurts. Emma suspects appendicitis so she tells Mia to ring her mother.
Kim collects Mia and tells her that Emma is also an abuser. Did she touch you? She has no right to touch your tummy.
Didn’t Emma wipe Mia’s bottom so many times? Didn’t Emma shower her and dress her? It never occurred to Emma that she had no right to touch her granddaughter. Are women also spiders?
The lessons of generations follow Emma. The whisperings of the old women are warnings for all little girls. Touching leads to sex. Sex is sin; sex was the forbidden fruit from the beginning. Eve seduced Adam. Women who have sex are dirty sluts. Men are hunters; men use women and discard them. Men only want one thing. Women are snakes who seduce men; women are home wreckers. All gods forbid sex and seduction. Cover up, hide, keep your knees together. Men are hunters, women are hunted.
Run, run little girl.
Emma always knew that the punishment was coming. It was only a matter of time for God to act. Emma ran to the end of the world but in her pocket she carries her sins with her hankie full of tears. In the other pocket are her dreams. Emma is leaning to the side where sins are pushing her down.
Emma has to pave the dirt road she walked and remove the obstacles that tangled themselves into nightmares. Emma has to confess; she must empty the bottle of mistakes she made as she walked into the unknown. She has to return and become a soft spring wood again so her dad could make a flute and play music on it.
It is a vicious cycle, people say, when a child of an alcoholic becomes a drunk. The judges are lenient to criminals who have been abused as children. Maybe even God will forgive.
Dean was five when Emma found him in the shower scrubbing his bottom. The red circles around his anus were burning him, he said.
What happened, Emma asked.
Nothing, said Dean moving away. Was he already aware that touching his bottom was not right?
Mark drew with red fluoro on my bottom, Dean finally admitted.
Mark’s family were Simon’s friends. They arrived together to spend a weekend with Paul and Emma. Mark was thirteen years old.
Don’t tell mum, said Emma to Dean. She did not want to worry children’s parents and spoil their holiday. She scrubbed the red colour and put Vaseline on the burning entrance to Dean’s anus. It never entered her mind that something sinister was happening. Boys will be boys. There is no danger for boys; they do not have to cover their knees. Why did Dean let Mark draw into his bottom? Emma wrapped the sweet little boy in a blanket and held him. He was trembling. He must have been cold.
Everybody told Emma to be a good girl, to obey and be grateful. Nobody ever told her to be careful; nobody told her that there are men who like to touch little girls. Nobody ever mentioned that boys can be in danger. Nobody ever mentioned sex. Keep your legs together and cover your knees. Cover it up, wash it away. It never happened.
When Mark recently came out as a homosexual, the memory of those red rings began to bother Emma. Where does play ends and sex begin? When does a loving embrace turn into a sinful filthy sex? When does a child begin to feel his sexuality?
Emma sits with her grandson Dean on the riverbank. She tries to find out what happened in her son’s family.
I am so sad that your father’s reputation has been tarnished. Your mum told everybody. Emma cannot even put into words what people are saying about Simon. She hopes Dean will tell her.
What about my reputation. Everybody knows, Dean whispers towards his shoes. His lips are trembling. The cuts on his wrists are slowly healing. Emma is afraid to look into Dean’s pain.
Did your father do anything bad to you, Emma asks looking at the river.
No. Dean’s eyes are turned away. Emma doesn’t dare put words into his mouth. She has no words for the unspeakable; she cannot ask if Simon raped his son.
Emma read in the newspaper that the high court judge was accused of looking for boys on the street. This respectable husband and father; this society’s role model who decides between good and evil, goes into the night to pay some street urchin who will satisfy his urges in some public toilet. What makes the judge risk his family, his job, his reputation? Are sexual urges the source of all evil? Are they stronger than the judge? Was the judge born like that; did he have no say in how he behaved? Are some people born bad by an accident of nature like people crippled in other ways? Is a psychopath to be pitied like a blind person or a homosexual born in the wrong body or a person born dumb? Where does badness begin? Is everybody born with the ability to choose bad or good? If one is not born bad, one must will oneself to be bad. Is it possible to act against self will? Is the will of the body stronger than the will of one’s mind? Is this irresistible will the original sin people are trying to overcome? Is the original sin the life force making one do things against one’s better judgement?
Are fear and guilt natural consequence for wanting to be somebody? Is Emma who she was born to be; is she acting according to god’s will or her own? Is she to be pitied or condemned?
Law is the safety net. As long as people act according to the law everybody knows where they stand, says Emma’s friend.
But law only protects one in public; it is god that sees what is done in the darkness. One cannot trust those who don’t believe in god. Emma knows that she did not act according to her faith; she would be excommunicated if people knew.
Emma knows that she is grasping for straws as she tries to find an excuse for her son’s behaviour. She hopes that Paul is right and Simon did nothing wrong.
Kim just wanted to get rid of Simon so she invented the accusations, says Paul. She never mentioned abuse during the divorce proceedings. She just wants Simon to pay for the children while they are under her control. She wants to punish Simon.
Watch your arse, Kim yelled after her son Dean as he went home with his father.
Why did Dean choose to live with his father if Simon abused him? Why did Mia want to live with her father if Simon was a spider?
How could Emma expect five years old Dean to know better than to let Mark draw circles into his anus? How many little boys and girls?
Emma blames herself; she should have known but nobody ever told her that men like to write on the virginal pages of a girl; men love young girls who don’t know. How young? How unknowing does a person have to be? Do they want untouched or untouchable. Are men afraid to be compared to those before them? Are they afraid that they are not good enough?
Everybody knows about sex these days. They get it from television, says Paul.
Do men try to snatch the girl’s unknowingness at ever younger, more vulnerable age? Are men trying to turn boys away from the girls who seduce?
People are afraid to be affectionate; touching children can be misinterpreted as abuse. Especially male teachers and fathers and stepfathers. Emma is sad for children whose bodies and souls are never touched; who feel that they cannot hug and laugh and cry because being who they are and feeling as they do may be inappropriate. The lines between abuse and love are invisible.
Emma used to pray for the evils to go away. Now she hears that even priests as God’s representatives are abusers. There is nowhere to run.
Everybody is on the lookout for child abuse. The law is very hard on child abusers so wives who want to get rid of their husbands invent stories of abuse. Children are gullible, says Paul.
It is good that children are finally liberated by the safety net of the law, says Emma.
The law will never stop the perverts, says Paul.
Emma became a bad girl, a bad wife, a bad mother. She smokes behind the shed. She doesn’t have friends because she does not dare share her shame. Secrets are bad. Life is a curtain slowly uncovering its secrets. Sex has nothing to do with love. Jesus loves us without sex. Sex turns you into a slut. Virgin Mary died a virgin. Do only virgins become saints? Are all men searching for virgins?
Suicide bombers kill because their leaders promise them virgins in heaven.
Mia does not come to visit Simon anymore. Will Emma ever see her again? What dirty secrets does she have to hide? Is there anybody who is not hiding secrets?
Is Simon like that judge searching for children on the street? Are Emma’s grandchildren paying the price for Emma’s sins?
Will Emma ever know about Simon’s sexuality? Will Emma ever know why this is happening?
Emma decides to face the retribution for her sins. To pay the price. To confess. To see what really happened.
How many generations will have to be punished for Emma’s sins?
How many times will Simon have to be punished? Whose sins is he paying for? She knows that she always abandoned him in his hour of need. She was scared that Paul would reveal her sins.
Emma wants to remove every blemish from her son.
She wants to expose the nightmares that keep her awake at night.
FAIRYTALES IN THE VALLEY OF TEARS
By education most have been misled, because they so were bred. The priest continues what the nurse began and thus the child imposes on the man
And they lived happily ever after, said Emma’s father most nights before her soul transcended into the playground of Happyeverafter. Her father’s fairy tales left a blueprint on the pages of her first awareness; the prince kissed a sleeping beauty and she blossomed and married him to live with him Happillyeverafter. The big bad wolf and the monster evil were destroyed in the end; the wicked witch lost her wand power and the good triumphant and lived happily Everafter.
Mum counterbalanced dad’s fairytales with a strong doze of Jesus and the saints who all waded through the valley of tears before they settled in the paradise forever. The lives of saints were recipes for desirable behaviour that led to Happyeverafter. The saints were heroic beautiful people who accepted their cross and carried it courageously; they never questioned the reasons for suffering; they trusted that God in his wisdom will eventually pay everybody according to their deeds. Mum reminded Emma that there are visible and invisible crosses for everyone to carry so one best accepts it and carries it. God apparently never gives you a cross you cannot carry. Mum and Emma sang hymns to the glory of God every day. Emma liked to comb and plat mum’s long hair while her mum spoke of the wonders God created for her. Mum promised that God will never stop loving Emma as long as she confessed her sins and promised not to sin again. Emma decided to become a saint to please God and her mother.
Emma believed that being good was the same as being obedient. Diligent and generous were extra contributions to obedient but obedient was the key. Obedient girl was always called a good girl. Children have to obey the grownups who provide for them and protect them against the evil. The evil was a part of every story Emma’s parents told her, but the evil never won in the end.
Emma is still waiting for the prince to kiss away the evil that turned her into a monster.
When Emma grazed the cows she imagined the Virgin Mary appearing to her like she did to those other shepherds in Fatima. She looked into the morning mist with the longing for the Virgin to visit her with an important message.
Mum read Fatima stories to Emma until she felt that she personally knew those innocent children seeing the virgin beyond the hills. Lourdes became Emma’s destination. Joan of Arc was her hero. Emma loved the purity and great sacrifices of the saints. She knew that there was the reward waiting for those who suffered. She thanked God every day for giving her a chance to serve him in preparation for the everlasting life in a paradise.
Emma wondered if the tree of knowledge with its shiny forbidden fruit is still in the paradise. Was it perhaps destroyed after it served its purpose? It was the reason people serve time in the valley of tears before they enter the Everafter and live in joy without shame or guilt. Is heaven beyond dirt and pain and sin and punishment?
James and Emma were five when James turned his eyes to Emma and said: Emma, I love you. They were holding hands as they strew petals in the procession of Corpus Christie. The fields were covered in spring, the sun shone on people’s faces. Hymns were sung; love was everywhere. God was holding them in the palm of his hand. Emma wanted to embrace the universe.
I love everybody, added James. Emma also loved everybody during that Corpus Christie procession. Everything seemed right, birds were nesting, bees were buzzing, flowers were blooming and children loved. That is all there is, the blossoming, the courting and the nurturing. Emma wonders if James still loves everybody. Maybe he doesn’t love at all. Maybe he was too generous with love. Maybe love like flowers dies a natural death. There are no boys like James now.
Emma once found the face of Jesus on the grain of wheat; she later saw him in the host of her first Holy Communion. Jesus was also looking down through the new growth of the tree branches covering the road. The spring sun created a golden crown on God’s head and the birds sang his glory as they busily procreated. Emma felt tears of gladness as she peered through the spring growth into heaven.
Ever since her first communion Emma became acutely aware of her every sin. She regularly confessed and repented to cleanse herself for Jesus who suffered because of her misbehaviour. Emma unburdened herself in that dark confessional so she could receive Jesus in the communion. She revealed to the priest her every evil thought because she knew that god already knew them all. The everlasting fires of hell scared her less than the pain she caused Jesus.
Emma made novenas for the happy last hour on earth which meant that she had a guarantee of receiving a holy communion before she died.
Jesus was the only sinless man and his virgin mother was the only woman not contaminated by sex. Emma adored both. Life was a preparation for the birth of Jesus who was later killed to take away her sins.
Emma was the fruit of her parent’s parenting so to speak; she knew nothing else. Her mission was to make them proud so she aimed to become at least a saint if not a princess. Emma actually felt destined to become a saint. Female saints were virgins or nuns or martyrs. No happy go lucky girl ever became a saint.
Emma was given a name of a saint who was an example of good life. Saint Emma was a countess who chose poverty for the love of Jesus. She was born rich but gave her possessions to the poor. Emma was nothing like her patron saint of course; she was born poor and was always too scared of poverty to give away things. It must be wonderful to give and make others happy but one must first have things before one can give them away. Poverty by itself does not bring popularity or sainthood. One must first have a name for their gift to mean something. Things are so much easier if one starts with the name because it could take a lifetime to make a name for oneself. Most people never do.
There are rich and those that want to be rich, said Paul after he made a shrewd business deal.
You think that people are greedy, said Emma.
Everybody is greedy, said Paul. Nobody is poor by design. The poor just cannot figure out how to get rich; they are either stupid or lazy. The poor are for sale; if I don’t buy them somebody else will.
There should be a law, Emma stammered.
The rich design the law to suit them, says Paul. The rich are on the A list, wanted and adored by those who would like to be rich.
Everybody knows how the rich became rich, argued Emma.
Of course they do but they still love them because they are who they are.
Emma still likes to dream of the Everafter before she wakes up into the valley of tears which one has to wade through. She remembers very few tangible events from her childhood and they probably were of no great historical value; like that time during the war when someone gave each one in her family a lolly. Mum only pretended to suck on hers. Days later she produced her almost un-sucked lolly and cut it into little crumbs for her children. Emma remembers the flowery smell of that boiled lolly. That was how mum was.
Once when mum was chopping the ingredients for the stew dad leaned over her and said: Life is pot of stew. We drop in everything we have then we stir it to extract the juices and blend the flavours.
Mum gave dad the wooden spoon to taste this life-stew and dad said that it was good.
Dad made toys and whistles from young spring wood; he played tunes and imitated birds’ calls. He sometimes made up stories in the dark of winter evenings and Emma listened, mesmerised by his words.
Close your eyes so you can see the magic land. Walk lightly into the world, said her father, because the world is constantly changing. The events will eventuate because of you and despite of you. Let them pass and change. Don’t be afraid when things go wrong because bad experiences make us enjoy the good ones.
Things changed in my lifetime beyond recognition, said dad and his voice seemed far away. They will change in yours even more. There is a reason for everything that happens; accept the reason and what happens. Change as the world changes, but hold onto the magic land within where your favourite blossoms are kept. Nobody can ever take your magic land away from you, dad said. Emma can still hear his voice as he lulled her away into the magic land of sleep.
Emma wonders if dad’s words follow anybody else as they follow her. Maybe he spoke them for Emma alone. Maybe he had nothing else to give her so he offered her the legacy of a magic land.
Emma’s childhood ended at the age of seven. After the war dad stopped telling stories and her mum did not sing anymore. Emma does not remember ever again speaking to her parents. Their silence separated them; she never knew them during her growing up and then she left for good.
Emma wonders what memories her children carry from their growing up. Who knows what their children will remember in the changed future. One only knows one’s own memory.
Emma knows nothing about things Mum and dad dreamed about; she was too busy with her own dreaming. She was that young sapling storing up the melodies of life. People impressed their knowledge and wisdom on Emma and she soaked new experiences like a sponge. The more Emma became like them the more people liked her. In the end Emma became just a tangled web of everybody’s ideas. She closes her eyes to recreate the images of people who loved her. She revisits what might have been before she falls asleep most nights. As Emma wakes up she tries to make sense of what is real and what is just the mixture of her other identities.
Is Emma’s real life an illusion? Is she only a reflection of people she travels with? Are her words only an echo of the words others speak? Is her life only a story others tell? Does she only live her real life in her magic land hidden under a smile?
Was Emma a part of God’s plan or just an inevitable outcome of her parent’s procreation activity? Who programmed her thoughts and feelings? Is there a divine element directing her life? Are people around her causing her sleepless nights or are they also sleepless as a response to the same changes in the cosmos?
Time is running out; somebody should invent banks to save time while waiting for the prince. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again, mum advised. Emma let the ugly sisters try to seduce her prince because she knows that in the end he will find her and know with unmistaken certainty that Emma is the one he has been waiting for.
Mum told Emma about the guardian angel; dad told her about the fairy Godmother; one of them is bound to rescue her and rejoice seeing her and her prince riding towards Everafter. In her enchanted kingdom Emma closes her eyes to see more vividly the vision of Jesus or of a prince or of her guardian angel. Or Janez.
She is still waiting for her prince to kiss her into being who she was meant to be. In the meantime Emma does what Emma has to do to keep the peace in her family. It is easier to dream about the prince that way. Wrong princes stopped with her on the way; they keep each other company while Emma waits for the magic of the real prince. It does not really matter who is there waiting with her.
Janez was the prince of Emma’s blossoming; he lives on the other side of the mountain, in the valley of tears on his own way to a paradise; he is passing through time until they will meet again. He is perpetually dreaming of their reunion. He is just a thought away ready to resume the only real loving they both ever knew. Emma rewrites the scenarios of their meeting. He is begging her to return and hopes to live with her happily Everafter. Whenever Emma wants him he is ready to follow with all of the romance they experienced when they were both seventeen. They would stare into each other’s eyes and time would stand still. They would look at the sky and see God light up the stars for them.
Emma doesn’t want Janez to come just yet; she first has to deal with the people who are waiting with her. She cannot afford to be rescued yet; she has to get rid of all the dirt and build a white road towards the sunset.
Janez and Emma parted prematurely; their romance is in suspense. Janez has no power to interfere with her waiting. Emma never has to wipe the dust from their shiny togetherness. Janez and Emma remained two children in a fairytale; their love can overcome obstacles of life and death. There is no urgency or fear; they are free of anger and jealousy; they live in love.
Emma always wanted to be special, picked first, applauded, ordained, and decorated. Just being there was never enough. Just being seemed an empty existence. Receiving a prize was never good enough; it had to be the first prize. Do all people long to be the chosen ones? Is everybody forever seeking recognition; does everybody longs to be picked first? Once someone said, that she was ambitious. His words stayed with her. Ambitious people never relax; they work harder; they ignore obstacles; their eyes are firmly on the first prize.
Is everybody always longing for the precious? Do they live in fear of losing whatever makes life worth living?
Emma wonders why is survival so important. Who is she surviving for? Does God want her to repeat the yesterdays and yesteryears until her energy runs out? Is her goal to reach an incredible high old age; does Emma really want everyone to become tired of her extended dying? Would anyone know if Emma missed out a day, a year or a lifetime?
Is someone glad that Emma is still surviving? Is she running for her own enjoyment? Does she enjoy the repetition? Is there a purpose in dusting and the wiping? Who is she shining her surfaces for? Who is she saving for? Is life a delusion? Are dreams real? Is Emma alive while she keeps sustaining her body or when her body retires and her soul wanders where it pleases? Is the person sleeping next to her more important than the one her soul plays with while her body sleeps? Is anything Emma does worth doing? Is anything worth thinking about?
People these days try to merge the idea of God within the idea of intelligent design; they long for God even when they believe in the evolution and the Big Bang. Who activated the Big Bang? Is there intelligence behind intelligence? Time before the beginning of time; is there time after the end of times? What can one see from the edge? What is beyond the black hole? Who created God? Emma can see the evidence for evolution but she also needs the mystery of God. As long as people need God they will keep creating him/her in their own image. God within is the only undisputable miracle maker. God is protecting people against the evils of sex and greed.
Emma has been running all her life hoping to come first. She is tired of running; she is no longer sure where she is running and what she wants to be; or if she wants to be anything at all.
The less loveable Emma becomes, the more she needs love.
So many things called love,
So many lovers
So few loved enough.
VOICES FROM THE PAST
Emil was a hero of Emma’s childhood. Ten years old barefooted boy seemed to Emma enormously big and brave and responsible when she was only six. The hay was stored for winter so the cattle could wander in the paddocks to graze the last growth of the grass before the winter set in.
The war ended and there was an air of excitement.
Emma followed Emil as the first sun-rays glistened, caught in the morning dew on the weeping willows along the river. The ground was still white from the first autumn frost. Her feet, bare, muddy and wet, trembled and her hands were blue from cold. Emil carried a tin with burning charcoal in it. The meagre smoky warmth blew in Emma’s face. Emil was going to make a fire so they could keep warm and roast chestnuts for breakfast. He gathered twigs from the nearby forest while Emma looked after their cattle. Emil and Emma blew into the red coals to keep them alive until the twigs dried and burst into flames. Their faces touched in the smoke that brought tears to their eyes. One morning Emil took her hands and rubbed them between his to warm them up. Emma remembers that moment because she suddenly felt changed and a uniquely separate person. That was the dawn of her self-awareness.
Emil told Emma that he had a dream of them being married. They didn’t know what to do with the dream so they left it untouched. Emil’s home was in the forest and he had to pass Emma’s house wherever he went. He whistled as he passed because he knew that Emma would be watching from somewhere; they were not allowed to speak because it was a well known fact that Emil was a bad boy; Emma’s parents ordered her to keep well away from Emil. He was poor and nobody respected his family. He often ran away from home and joined nearby gypsies in the bush; his mum called him from their home on the hill down into the valley so all the villagers could hear her. Emil, Emil! When he did not answer she called out Jurko, Jurko. Jurko was a Gypsy name and people laughed at Emil and his mother. Emil knew that Emma never laughed at him. Other boys were scared of Emil because their parents also warned them to keep away. Emma felt safe when Emil was near. Could love be recognised at this age? Is love what binds people so they feel protected against the world?
Are moments of love the only thing worth remembering? These tiny snippets of Emma’s life were unplanned and unexpected but they left memories while everything else was long forgotten. Emma remembers other painful moments, of course, but she pushes them into the subconscious.
In her secret places Emma hides the words that told her who she is; the words of love she listens to again and again and the words of hate visit her in her nightmares. Most words were spoken carelessly but they attached themselves to her and she cannot rub them out or paint them over. Emma is afraid that one day someone will discover her secret hiding places and think less of her.
Emma was too young to know why kids called her family chickens but she knew that ‘chickens’ was a call to war for her adored brother Rudi, who was old enough to fight for their family’s honour. Rudi began a feud with the children of a nearby village and when they came to fight him he ran home. The nickname chickens stuck to their family like dog-shit to a shoe. Emma was marked for life by the name some little boy gave her brother. Emil never called Emma chicken.
Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you, mum tried to reason. That was the biggest lie. Forget sticks and stones but words won’t let you sleep at night. Words will sing into your nightmares. The mud will stick. It will smudge the clean blueprint. Poor and stupid and weak carry the words of shame like a bag of manure around their necks throughout their lives. Until they end up in jail or hospital or grave. Most try to hide or escape. Some laugh it off with a hollow bravado while their hearts bleed. Shame can never be deleted. It can only be scattered around like manure. Or be buried under. Don’t lie about sticks and stones. Emma has no scars on her skin; they are well hidden in her secret places.
Mum’s brother, uncle Miha, was an embarrassment to Emma’s family. He dropped out of school to become a peasant farmer. He knew nothing about farming. He used to sing at night with Emil. Their voices full of longing floated over the valley under the starry sky. In her heart Emma was singing with them. The world was awesome and the future was promising.
Everybody laughed at Uncle Miha because he said that God and angels appeared to him. He made up songs and stories and that was not appropriate for a grown up peasant. This was unforgivable. How could the stupid man shame them so? Emma hated uncle Miha but she listened to his singing because there was magic in his words and in his voice in the silence of the night.
If Uncle Miha was rich he might have been called an eccentric or maybe even a clairvoyant but village people considered him mad. Not dangerously mad, of course, but just someone to laugh at. Emma hated being related to the man who had a knack for interpreting dreams but wasn’t able to provide a decent living for his family. Mum’s family was never good at making money.
Miha was to become a priest but he failed some exams; Emma asked him why he did not try again but he said that life is too short to repeat things. Emma never really knew her relations or why they did what they did. Emma loved uncle Miha best in some part of her but in the main part she was ashamed of him because he made her ashamed of herself.
Emma’s parents seemed all knowing, ordinary and necessary to her; they were like the air she breathed; it seemed natural that she had parents to feed and discipline her. Emma had nothing to compare her parents with until she started school in 1946; at school she learned that her parents were far from perfect; other children knew that; teachers and other parents knew it as well.
At twelve Emma left home to study in the city. Emil wrote her a letter but other kids snatched it from her hands and read it out aloud laughing at Emma. The words Emil wrote were not poetry and his writing was poor but Emma knew how they both felt. Emma did not answer his letter and never saw Emil again; she was ashamed of her misguided feelings for the bad boy.
Years later Emil killed a man in a fight; he ended in jail. Everybody was right, of course, Emil was a bad seed. Thank God nobody remembered that Emil and Emma loved each other. They were only children and that does not count. Loving without kissing and cuddling is not real love. Other boys tried to snatch a kiss and a cuddle with Emma but she only felt the fear of their violence.
Emma knew that city kids felt superior to the village kids. City people aspired to reach heights while a peasant only aimed to feed his family. Emma suspected that even Tito did not like stupid superstitious peasants who were clinging to the land ownership and to God. Tito, their supreme teacher, told students in no uncertain terms through their teachers not to listen to their superstitious parents because there really is no such thing as god. Any enlightened person knew that to believe in god was madness. Going to church was a no-no in the city. God was ever present inside Emma, of course, but in the city she had to hide him where her fear and her shame were hiding. Dogs smell fear. Kids are much like dogs. Kids were the enemies of Emma’s childhood.
Private property was a smelly sin hanging onto Emma’s new socialist skirt. Unbeknown to her peers Emma’s skirt actually came from American relations after the war. Having anyone in America meant that one was contaminated by the west and so a threat to the brotherhood and equality. Emma’s mum carefully unstitched the American dress; she washed and ironed the material before she made Emma’s socialist skirt.
In the city school was a boy Jake who played a violin; Emma admired him and envied him the opportunity to play. Someone said that Jake was belted by his father if he didn’t practice enough. Emma wished to become a musician; she would practice however long it would take. She imagined herself playing next to Jake; her parents would be so proud. The boy liked Emma but she did not feel good enough to be his friend so she admired him from the distance. Susan, Emma’s classmate, played a piano; she was as popular as Jake. One day they came to school red faced and changed. Everybody knew that they kissed. They became a couple. Emma kept a distance. Emma was definitely not good enough.
Emma was ashamed of her parents and ashamed of her shame; she felt tainted with an indelible mark of inferiority. On holidays in her village Emma marched to the village church in the shoes from her American aunt. Her dad cut the high heels so Emma could walk on the stony dirt road. Village boys who used to run after her to hurt her and pull down her pants now became shy and subtle and friendly; they brought flowers on Emma’s window at night and called her name. Everybody forgot about chickens. Emma heard mum whisper to her sister that boys are only after one thing. Sluts get used to it and can’t stop. Like a sow in the paddock of corn. They can’t be stopped.
There were whispers about Milena who was caught with a boy in the hay. She became pregnant and the long court case followed to determine the paternity. Pregnancy meant shame and poverty and sin. Milena became an outcast.
Emma became scared of the image of a sow not being able to stop eating corn; she would never become a slut. Sex meant sin and shame and poverty.
Emma overheard her aunt prepare her bride daughter for the married life. Keep your husband happy, she said. If the man is happy everybody is happy. Emma also heard people whisper that her cousin had to get married; she proved that she loved her boyfriend by letting him do it; she should be grateful that he still wanted to marry her.
Emma keeps on running. Run, run for your life; all people run for their lives. The hunters and the hunted run. Emma is not a strong runner but she runs, afraid to be left behind. Nobody seems afraid of Emma. Her claws are well hidden in her furry paws. People look at her fur and silk; the things Emma owns distract them from who she is. Money covers the dirt. Emma is the only one seeing what is underneath.
People remember hunger and poverty of the war but Emma only remember her shame.
The images appear unannounced to interrupt the time present with smells, sounds, and colours of time past. The memory does not care about chronology; it does not care who it hurts. Memory is a circle repeating itself. Dance, monkey, dance! Particles of atoms dance; the stars and the planets dance perpetually; the universe is in motion. There must be a reason and a purpose for it all. Emma is constantly rotating in her own orbit, judging the outside by the hot core of her being. The lava is looking for cracks in the surface to erupt with hot fires and destroy the tranquillity but Emma hold its poison in, so not to destroy what she cultivated on the surface.
Emma smiles a lot. People like her sunny disposition so Emma firmly maintains her fragile serenity. Some things are too dangerous to be exposed. It is exciting to skate on the thin ice but Emma has to step lightly.
The colours of the past are brushed on the canvas and the picture is emerging. Brush, brush on. Strangers apply their favourite colours on Emma’s canvas. The painting is almost complete; huge strokes cover the details best forgotten; one cannot take away a single layer without destroying what became her landscape.
Emma keeps repairing her tangled web. The spider and Emma are in constant motion. Worry, worry, mother spider! Weave, spider, weave.
Emma searches for happy memories. They are all connected to love. She decides that Janez was her only real love. They walked to school together and he opened the doors for her. He was proud to be seen with her. He wasn’t like village boys who wanted to pull down her pants to laugh at her. For the first time Emma felt respected.
Emma often thanks the Almighty for the universe and her life; she talks to the Almighty of no particular name or fixed address because she is afraid to thank the wrong God. Or to give the right God the wrong name. Emma always had a well hidden admiration for god. Are people like Olympians carrying a torch for a certain distance? The ultimate distance one’s mind can travel is from the beginning to the present; the ultimate place Emma can reach is here and now. The circle closes wherever Emma is. God sees and knows everything, said her mother. You cannot hide from God. Her childhood God is becoming ever more remote as Emma searches for him with suitcases full of wrongdoing.
When Emma feels small and alone she remembers that she is a minute part of something unimaginably awesomely times and endless. She has to play her tiny part in the enormous drama that goes on. She knows that every tiny part holds the whole together while changing through the will of one power. I am, she whispers to the stars. I am a significant particle of the Alpha and Omega which represents my wholeness.
Emma sometimes looks at the night sky and pretends that she is one of the infinite number of stars floating in the unknown.
Emma wonders if people are afraid of death or of the afterlife where there will be no place to hide? Is God going to tell everybody what Emma has done and how Emma was running and hiding in her earthly existence? Does god really knows how many hairs are on her head? Does the supreme power know everything she is? Will everybody’s fear and shame be out in the open? Will they all laugh at her until Emma burns into nothingness? Will Emma get a chance to defend herself in a place where God sees and knows everything? Will he reveal all her badness and weakness and fear to her enemies? Will there be enemies in heaven? Will Emma be ashamed in her nakedness? Can one be more ashamed than Emma was when people called her names and laughed at her?
Sticks and stones, my foot.
The splendour of Emma’s blossoming reappears with the few people who touched her on her way. They are the only real people. Millions of people dance every day on crowded streets without seeing each other. Nobody will notice when Emma finally passes on the flame and dance her last. The eternity will chug along without noticing that the torch changed hands. Nobody really comes first or last; the circle closes to make sense of itself. It makes no difference if one is the beginning or the end.
Time is the healer and death conquers all. RIP is an order nobody can ignore. Rest in peace, enjoy the freedom, the run is over, the trophy is waiting. Mistakes will be forgotten; sins will be rubbed out.