I could never find the guts to reply positively to this disgusting spew of insincerity. The sunrise the following day was quite ruined for me because of her ‘golden ball of fire’. You might say it doesn’t sound that bad – but it does, it does, it does! It sounds awful. Just read that paragraph above out loud in the most wistful voice you can muster, and the foundations of your life will shudder before you.

There is strain behind those words. There is horrible synthetic strain, bad acting, repetitions of painful clichés and an artificial endeavour to craft poetry. With these words my mother tried to create beauty and tried to share her genius with others.

The conceit! It drives me crazy, and not in a good way.

In the same way she tried to appreciate music. Vere always loved our grandparents’ old gramophone, and Dad had inherited crates of old records. I used to hear Wagner and Beethoven, eerie and passionate as the trembling notes echoed through the empty house in Douitchurch, and I used to enjoy the emotion that was let loose inside me at the music – or else the emotion already inside the music released through me.

Then for weeks there would be mum’s ‘pom-pom-ing’. I’m no musician, but I can appreciate when a melody is repeated in tune or not, and mum’s renditions of the geniuses’ masterpieces would wind my frustration like a clockwork dinosaur, clumsy and anticlimactic in its dry-toned terrorism.

She wanted so much to be an avid appreciator of beauty, and because she wasn’t one to start with, she began to imagine she was one. And she began to believe it.

It is not true and it will never be true. My parents were not born to be aesthetics. They are not artistic or creative, as they want to be. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that we do not complement each other, my parents and I.

What’s wrong is that that’s what they try to be.

They nurtured the idea of the artistic temperament until it ‘came into being’. At first those ‘symptoms’ were forced; they were deliberate; they did not truly exist outside their own falsity.

There was a girl I liked when she was younger – much younger, perhaps only nine or so. She was just so happy.

But she wasn’t like Shani. She was different. She made me really happy. She made me forget while I was with her and for hours afterward. She made me feel myself. She made me feel valued. She made me love her. She made me feel as if she loved me. She wanted to be a missionary nurse, and the darling of her hopes was to marry and have children.

I loved the idea. I just loved everything about her. I worshipped the air she breathed and the gravel her toes overturned.

After Vere died I forgot her; for a while that girl meant nothing to me. But as the initial shock faded and the ongoing pain set in, I began to notice that I was still watching her. My head still turned to see her more often than was necessary; my pelvis and shoulders were angled in her direction with a clarity painful to my grieving sentience. How could I be aware of my affection for this girl even after my sister was dead? It was inconceivable.

But it was there, and it was habit. I spent the remainder of my primary school days breaking this habit, and once I had done it, there was no affection left – only memory-degraded regard, the present wish not to revisit for fear of harming the self, and the earnest desire to move on. The passion had been conjured from my own imaginings; it was a mere ephemera; a passing love.

I don’t know if it’s time and heartbreak that distort one’s perceptions of different people. I don’t know if that girl’s happiness was really all so different from Shani’s. I only know that I loved that girl then, and I do not love Shani now. My romantic cravings live on satisfied self-vanity and an almost hopeless faith that Deanna Macpherson has not changed in the past two years from when I last met her.

Shani is so transparent of her immediate thoughts, too reflective of others’ emotions, too absorbent of her own – it is uncanny to me how she grieves for her parents divorce. She simply forgets, and it never seems to burden her or weigh her down. We are opposing forces, Shani and I – it is habit that keeps us together.

The End

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