Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Design of My Life

Do our lives have a design? Do we sow the seeds when we are twelve years old staring out the window at school? Or bickering brothers and sisters in front of the television? Why do some of us leave and some of us stay put? Why do some cause calamity and pain and seem to ride freely, while others suffer and suffer?

I always knew I would run away. Initially, the cost was great. Massive waves of guilt flooded through me each day, when I was a skinny vegetarian clothes-stealing au pair in Paris who told her poor parents she wasn't coming home.

I was so stubborn. Cropped my hair and wore huge earrings and went to clubs I couldn't afford at night. Caught the first metro home and sunk into bed. Wrote my first forgettable novel in a turret above a sweatshop with the boiler whirring next to me and learned to ignore mice.

Then for a while a man softened all this. And child-bearing and arduous travel made me refocus and begin to travel beyond myself. There was more restlessness, ever more. Again I yearned to slip out of my life.

Now, years on, it seems that there was a design all along. Seeking exile in order to be centred, reproducing in order to release the burden of self, being alone on a higher plane in order to attempt what I hoped I was designed to do.

Long red hair now and no mice. And today I finished a fresh new story.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

the cherry orchard

The idea appeals. And I understand Chekov's tugged heart when his cherry orchard was chopped down. For it hurts to see a tree severed, its pale interior revealed.

But for a week now I have been dealing with cherries. Eating them by the gutful, hands like I've done an organ transplant, droplets on all my clothes and a smeared face. Cherry jam, cherry vodka, cherry grappa. They brings me bowls which I set on the outside table as the sunlight thins, after piano practice or I couldn't bear to watch my hands on the keys.

And I sit there pitting cherries, chucking the flesh into the pot, the stones into a bowl, looking at the corn growing in the field at the front, looking at my own trees inching upward, trying to think in a soothing way about the beauty of what I am doing when in truth I am wondering if anybody has ever invented a cherry-pitting machine, how much would it cost? could I model one myself?

Then the breeze hushes my thoughts and I think more roundly.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

after the rain

Though the rain was pelting the shutters early this morning and wind whipped the garden and trees, I curled up smiling under the covers. No angst, just delight. Wasafiri, a distinguished literary journal publishing writers I adore, has after a year or so of waiting, word cuts, more waiting, approval by the achingly intimidating Board (Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Ondaatje, Gordimer) finally recommended my story 'Infection' for publication!

I am more than thrilled. I was expecting the usual close-to-the-mark-but-not-for-us. But this, approval by the gods!

I don't know when it is coming out, but surely I will be renewing my subscription. (I also have 3 short stories coming out in The View from Here this month. Hoping to see them soon.)

The best is that 'Infection' was written several years ago, it is heavy with Ghanaian heat, with illness, with contrast and deep pain. It all started from the postcard of the Princestown fort I have framed over my bed, an old concrete bastion on the rough road to Cape Coast. Not a slave castle like Elmina and Cape Coast, but still a disturbing and redolent sign of the country's mottled colonial past. In the story the protagonist, Eugene, comes back from London to reckon with a domineering mother and a dying half-sister, 'from the world of glass to the world of tin.. a man with an elaborate, undeserved education.. '

How far away are those days of palms and saltiness. I still see us driving along the plains and through the hot tin villages, plantain on tables for sale, smoked grasscutters, Winneba pineapples, the ragged sea a breath away.