Julianne Rediscovers her Father (and Herself)
A CERTAIN DARKNESS found its way into Nathan’s awareness — one which dreamed like a mattress filled with horsehair floating on a lake of poems and tears at the dead of night. He saw it from the corner of his eye yet it filled his vision in full panoramic technicolour.
On the other side of the restaurant, a woman sat alone. Gloweringly.
She was thirty-seven years old with ice-blue eyes, porcelain skin and an equally porcelain heart. If one was to strip away the gelled, exaggeratedly pulled-back hair and rigid gait, she was also very beautiful — not in the brash manner of a Summer rose but more like a Wisteria in late September. For although she wore a trouser-suit and hunched her back over the table, there was a wisp of frailty and delicacy which very few would discern and which she certainly did not want anyone to see. (If one could delve even further, one would also perceive elegance, dignity, wisdom, depth and hunger. But the size of microscope necessary for that magnification had not yet been invented). She was arguing with the waiter about his attitude.
“How dare you patronise me like that!” she said, her forehead furrowed, eyes narrowed, mouth twisted, fists clenched.
Her hawkish look of indignation and effrontery — like the painting of an Old Master in oils — was impossible to forget. His face, on the other hand, was a pallid mask of shock and fear. She was, to him, a formidable creature. He began to stammer a response.
“I’m sorry… I’m not patronising you. I’m just explaining the way that…”
Before he had a chance to finish, she fired another broadside.
“Don’t you argue with me! Who the hell do you think you are? Hello? You’re here to serve ME. You’re the waiter; I’m the diner! Remember?”
By now, the head waiter had emerged from behind his desk by the door. A customer was making a scene. How tedious. He stood next to her table and wrung his hands in front of his chest in a fulsome manner which was supposed to communicate concern and authority.
“Is there a problem, Madam?”
She opened her eyes wide and turned her head slowly and stiffly towards his, raising it upward, as if she had a whiplash injury — though in reality it was to exaggerate her fuming rage by making herself appear to be larger in size than she really was.
“Is there a problem?” she said, slowly, mimicking him sardonically, her voice going up and down in a mocking, derisory tone. “No. This isn’t a problem. It’s a disaster!”
A word came into the head waiter’s head but he couldn’t think what it was. He continued to rub his hands together anyway. The woman looked him up and down. ‘Why is it always a man?’ she thought. And as the word ‘man’ passed across her mind, a wave of nausea rolled over her shoreline, though she hadn’t consciously connected the two.
From across the room, Nathan was already processing the scene and realising why he had been sent to this last outpost of old world decadence. What was really happening? What was sparking this woman’s engine? For what was her anger a poor disguise? Everything about her seemed to be a mask. Her exaggerated facial expressions, her body language (which was multilingual) — even her words — were like something one would hold up on a stick at a masquerade.
By now tears had appeared in the eyes of the waiter — a sensitive young man paying his way through college by working in various part-time occupations. Every aspect of this incident rolled into one as Nathan solemnly rose to his feet: The verbal exchange. The broken atmosphere. The spilled blood. The tears. The flames. Every tiny particle (plus one inescapable temporarily-hidden other) melded into one before his inner gaze as he made his way across the room. He had heard her music. It all came into him now. He knew the name of the symphony: Number 0 in A sharp minor. Now he knew exactly what to say. He thrust himself between the woman and the waiter with firmly quiet authority and said in a low, almost-whispered voice:
“If I can help you find your father, will you promise to weep enough to make up for every year that you’ve never done so?”
Apart from the ersatz-jazz muzak playing softly over the speakers on the wall, a surrealistic silence fell over the restaurant. The woman, who had been seated until now, stood up slowly with a look of incredulity etched into her face. She put one hand on the back of the ornate chair to steady herself and became as pallid as the young waiter. She felt as if she had received a resuscitative slap in her being such as used to be administered to a newborn baby’s buttocks in the days before it became unfashionable. She was stuck somewhere between humiliation and insight — an alien desert where disenfranchised nomads lived before being housed. The direction she would take depended on how she responded to the moment. This watershed moment. This instant of decision. She knew what it was. She understood its significance. She looked at Nathan’s face which seemed to have a halo round it from the lighting on the wall behind his head. It was a face that she recognised but from where she knew not. The scent of destiny hung in the air between them like an invisible purple velvet cape. Nathan looked her directly in the eyes with such intensity that she could look nowhere else. She studied his face. Was it for a second or an hour? She couldn’t tell. [It was, in fact, for a microsecond]. As she struggled to make sense of her situation, Nathan sent a silent thought directly to her heart.
“This is what it feels like when life gets real.”
His mouth didn’t move. How could she hear what he said when no words were physically spoken? Why was she standing there saying nothing instead of exploding with her usual outsized indignation? What was happening?
Nathan considered those moments. Those rare, irrevocable moments when ‘life gets real’ are precious. The auditory impact of a car-crash. The microsecond of delightful insight after receiving a serious injury. The moment of arrest by the law after being a fugitive for years. The appointment with the doctor when one receives a diagnosis of terminal illness. The brief plummet to the ground in a crippled airplane. The instant before death of any kind. Those are the moments when we cease putting ourselves on the throne — when there is no turning back — when all we can do is yield to the hooded thrill of destiny, the outstretched hand of adventure, the call of the unknown.
With a long outward breath of resignation, Julianne Riswell (for that was her name, though she called herself Jules, as if she was a man, for she often felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body) stuttered some quivering words in a breathy, desperate whisper.
“How the hell did you know about that?”
Nathan put his hand on the side of her shoulder and gestured with his arm towards a table across the room.
“Please. Will you join me?”
Both waiters stood there looking first at him, then at her, their mouths slightly open in disbelief.
The muzak played on.
Pause. [No one knew for how long].
Julianne sighed through her teeth and began to walk in a robotlike, almost hypnotic state to that vacant table. She felt confused and undermined but knew there was a piece of jigsaw which she had to find — the piece which was so often missing in her childhood. It was just a vague idea dancing in her head but something needed to be pursued and in some way the man who now was walking by her side possessed the clues. Nathan gently touched her arm at the elbow as if to guide her along. He nipped in front of her and held back a chair for her to sit on. She slumped into it. She’d not allowed a man to do that for her for as long as she could remember; but this time she didn’t argue. In fact, to her awful surprise, she felt relieved. She also felt another quality which came from deep inside her bones. What was it? At first, she had no words to describe it. She was simply aware of something onomatopoeic in the form of the sound she’d uttered as she slumped into the chair. It was a long-forgotten nebulosity — a terrifying sensation which she had buried as deeply as possible in her soul. Then it hit her like a sledgehammer slamming into a wall: Weakness. That’s what it was. WEAKNESS! The very thought of it made her panic. She grabbed the edge of the table with both hands.
“What’s happening to me? Have I been drugged?” she said, in what seemed more like a child’s voice than the one which snarled at the waiter some minutes earlier.
Nathan pulled his chair close to hers and put his hand on her forearm.
“No. It’s not a drug. It’s simply you becoming who you’ve needed to be all these years. You’re experiencing things which you buried in your desert long ago.”
In that moment, everything he said to her made sense. She felt as if she was about to meet a long-lost friend. Then, suddenly, she looked at Nathan with hatred in her eyes and her whole face contorted into the mask that she had earlier worn for the waiter.
“Get away from me! You’re evil. I can sense it.”
Nathan did not flinch. He was expecting it.
“An evil person in your world is anyone who threatens that carefully constructed wall which you think protects your well-being. I am here because I care.”
She stood up abruptly and in doing so, nearly fainted. The weakness in her legs was overwhelming.
“Care? Men don’t care!” she said, with the accent on the word “don’t”. “They are manipulative predators, liars, cheaters, posers, deserters, puffed up with their own importance.” Pause. “Rapists!” Then, after a moment’s reflection, she added the words “Just like you!” in a tone which implied he was the perfect example of all those qualities.
Every one of those words was spat out of her mouth with the utmost venom.
Nathan’s face softened as he looked into her eyes. His voice reflected that softness.
“Dearest Julianne, today you can be a lady for the first time in your life.”
Then the volcano continued erupting.
“How DARE you call me a lady, you patronising bastard. And how do you know my name?”
That was true. How did he know her name? He even surprised himself. Then he remembered Livinia and he knew. She was there. If Julianne could have breathed fire, she would have. Instead, she pushed past him, thrusting him to one side and strode towards the door, her face like thunder out at sea.
“Is everything alright, sir?”
The head waiter was hovering again with his hands clasped in front of him.
“It will be soon,” said Nathan, as the man looked at him quizzically. “One needs infinite patience in situations like this. Can I have the bill please?”
“Certainly, sir. I’m very sorry about this.” He made a gesture to the chair Julianne had occupied. “Do you know the lady?”
“Yes and no”, said Nathan with an enigmatic expression. “We haven’t met before but I do know her and have done for as long as I can remember.”
For an instant, a light went on in the head waiter’s head but he immediately switched it off, as he always did when that particular light went on. Making no response to Nathan’s words, he merely said in a matter-of-fact tone “I’ll get your bill, sir,” and then hovered some more. Nathan understood.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pay hers too”. At which the waiter turned and walked away.
Nathan sat there with a look of quiet calm about him as he waited to pay. He knew that when he stepped outside the restaurant, Julianne would be waiting nearby, engulfed in the struggle to the death which had now been set in motion: Two distinct parts of her — one innate, the other needfully learned — fighting to gain the upper hand.
Meanwhile, the earth in all its splendour turned. For what had happened here so far was the equivalent of a spinning proton in an atom on a microbe on a flea on an elephant’s hide — a speck of dust which could be brushed off a jacket’s lapel with a single fleeting gesture before the sandstorm came to town.
He meditated on the speed at which the planet daily spun on its own axis. Every second we move through half a kilometre of space. ‘And yet we sit at ease,’ he thought, ‘and upside-downness is irrelevant’. His mind turned deeper still. ‘She rolls her hugeness silently and spins around the sun, while we, unconscious of the flow we’re in, pursue our lives and walk and sit and lie or run. How ignorant we are’, he mused. ‘How little do we know. The earth, the sun, electrically-flowing until to our senses we then come as death’s transition bulldozes electric fences we’ve erected vainly to avoid the inescapable. The deed is done’.
Then, when everything was paid, he took some breaths, braced himself in readiness, collected his quilted crimson coat and slipped into the iceberg night.
The contrast between the restaurant and the air outside hit him hard. Twenty-two inside and minus something out. His coat had hung above a radiator while it waited for him in the restaurant so it had retained some welcome warmth. The tops of the cars were white with frost from which tiny prismatic sparkles made him smile. He walked over the road and entered the park where he knew the encounter would continue. As he ventured further into the gloom, interspersed with lights which were far too inadequate for such a municipal facility, a figure jumped out from behind a tree as he was passing and he felt a huge blow to the side of his face which knocked him to the ground.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” said a deep and throaty woman’s voice in the dark.
Nathan groaned and chuckled with laughter and turned over to lie on his back in the hard-frozen mud. He could make out a figure standing over him.
“I’ve been expecting you,” he spluttered, blood welling in his mouth from where his tongue had been bitten as her fist had struck his face.
“I’m trained in self-defence, so don’t get any smart ideas,” said Julianne, with her arms bent in front of her in martial arts manner.
“Oh, I’m sure you are. That’s all part of it too. But I’m not here to fight you. Well, not physically.”
“What do you mean ‘I’m not here to bla-bla …?” It was me who followed you. I wasn’t gonna let you get away with the kind of stunt you pulled in the restaurant. You’re gonna pay for that bigtime.”
“Actually, it’s you who’s been paying bigtime for something which happened outside of your control starting nearly thirty years ago.”
“What? What are you? Some kind of stalker?”
“Actually, it’s you who is stalking me. I was simply walking through a park. Though I was waiting for the comeback from you. Hoping for it. I think you already know this has to happen. I’ve been sent here for you. There is much for you to do in your life that you haven’t even imagined yet. You see, we’re going to work together. But first you have to find your way back to your father. Until you do, you’re going to continue to be a lost little girl pretending to be a big tough man.”
As Nathan said those words the feeling she had struggled to make sense of in the restaurant suddenly returned. Nausea. Weakness. Her legs feeling like jelly. The weakness ran through her whole body, which began to shudder involuntarily, not least because of the cold. Behind Julianne’s head, as Nathan looked at her from his vantage point on the ground, the moon was shining brightly through the trees creating a diffuse halo effect around her head. It was as if light was flooding into her, which indeed it was. She fell to her knees as if in submission to a higher power.
“Why?” she moaned. Then, meekly continuing, “Why are you doing this? Please don’t. Please just stop. I can’t take this. Really, I can’t.”
In saying those words, her voice had changed from that of a big tough man to a lost little girl, a pleading little girl. A little girl pleading to be left alone on the one hand — pleading to be loved on the other. She had the feeling of being hurled down a long, dark tunnel to a place she didn’t want to be — a place she had avoided with meticulous precision throughout her life. Suddenly she began to say “Please don’t!” over and over again — only now it wasn’t to Nathan that she was talking.
“Please don’t, Daddy! Please don’t! I can’t do this. I can’t do it. Please stop.”
And with those words a silent scream welled up in her heart which she thought might burst into some zillion fragments across the Universe (a Universe which heard that scream, containing it, releasing it, absorbing it). She sobbed more deeply than Nathan had heard a woman sob before and as her body weakened she slumped into a heap on one side. She tucked her legs against her chest and covered her face with her hands. A hideous sound gurgled from her throat around a long drawn-out utterance of the word “Nooooooooo!” Nathan raised himself up and moved towards her. Kneeling next to her in the freezing darkness, he put one hand on her head and another on her hip, encouraging the flow of energy which was starting to move throughout her being. He closed his eyes and whispered “Let it come, dear Julianne. Just let it come”.
His words were like a beacon guiding her, giving her permission to remove the wall. And then it came. She went down that tunnel to the place she did not want to visit. Her whole being was spinning out of control.
“What’s happening? Am I dying?” she cried out.
“In a way, yes. Not all of you; just part of you. You’re unravelling. It’s a process. Keep going. Just let it come. You’re safe with me”.
She knew she was safe with him so she let it come. For years she had wanted to let it come but fought it every step of the way with her body, her words, her manner, the way she dressed, the way she spoke, the way she lived, the friends she chose, the men she froze.
Huge sobs now racked her body, contorting it and shaking it with an inhuman vengeance for all the wasted years.
Nathan lifted the upper half of her body and laid it on his chest, while holding her tightly to himself in a wave of love she’d never known but longed for through her life. A thought as vast as a mountain range flickered through her mind: If only her father had cradled her instead of raping her. (This was the inescapable, temporarily-hidden particle which had come at him earlier in the restaurant). For almost every night for eleven years of her young little life, the sweaty vampiric mass of her father’s bloated body huffed and puffed upon his daughter’s silent terror. Having gone down the time-tunnel to that place she hadn’t wanted to go, she vividly recalled not only the putrid odours associated with his unwelcome attentions but especially the sound of the horsehair mattress as each movement depressed its equine contents with pistonlike regularity.
It would be no exaggeration to say that it was her imagination that saved her. Thus, his grunts and snorts became those of a horse in her mind and the sound of the mattress morphed into the noise made as its hooves rode into the stubble of a newly-mown field. One night she had wept so much that pools of saline eye juice had gathered on the mattress either side of her face. “My lakerimae”, she called them, playing on the word “lake” and the Latin word for tears. Every night she would visit indescribable places in her flight from her Daddy’s unshaven face, his putrid breath and twisted manhood. By the time she was twelve, she was writing secret poetry daily in a set of flowery books she stored under the horsehair mattress which had been the scene of all her grief. As her father heaved, convulsing up above, she saw herself as floating on a sea of poems nullifying all her pain. All this and more had kept her sane, while her suppressed screams had twisted into an explosive internalised anger which had bubbled in her soul like a dormant volcano ever since.
During her teenage years she had often tried to be a lesbian. It seemed the logical path for her. But she had instead opted to make men’s lives a misery by befriending them and then destroying them — a feat at which she had become extremely adept. That way, she maintained control, an element she sorely lacked throughout most of the formative years of her life.
An unusually pretty girl, she had — while still a child — resolved to make herself as unattractive to men as she could. One day, at the age of ten, she had hacked off all her hair and ripped up all her dresses. Her father was unconcerned and only became irate when she began to disfigure her face, using his razor in the bathroom. It was the only time he had hit her, immediately afterward grasping her to his chest amidst his smells, telling her how much he loved her. From that day on, she never grew her hair again and wore trousers every day. For thirty-seven years she had barely smiled. In her work at the tax office, a smile was never a necessary attribute; and she took a sadistic delight in pursuing men for their financial misdemeanours.
Now, here in this forested park, in the dead of winter, at the age of thirty-seven, she had rediscovered the father who she lost and never had — the father who had died when she was eighteen, thus preventing them from ever being reconciled. All the terror and disgust which had acted like a dam to her true feelings and which had stifled the fullness of her womanhood, she now willingly allowed herself to experience again. As she did so, it somehow all dissolved and was replaced by a profound sense of love and compassion. She found a well of forgiveness in her heart which had been buried beyond reach and now she was able to go beyond the abhorrence and identify the damage in her father’s own soul. She recalled to mind how he had also been abused as a boy by his mother, who took a whip to him every day. She saw things which had been hidden to her previously: How her father’s mother had looked into his face when he was four years old and said “I HATE YOU!” with all the venom she could muster. She saw clearly how injury, malediction and molestation flow effortlessly down family lines like a mudslide down a mountainside, gathering more debris with each generation. All these insights and many more illuminated her mind with an incandescence she had fought for years.
Julianne Riswell opened her eyes and looked around her like a newborn baby. It was as if she was seeing the world for the first time. Everything looked clearer and colours more vivid. Even sounds surprised her with their clarity. Her face was soft and feminine in a grown-up matureful way that it hadn’t been before. She became aware of her situation and began to laugh. Nathan smiled at her with tears.
“I can’t believe this. I’m lying in the frozen mud on a winter’s night in the arms of a complete stranger, thinking and knowing things I’ve never known before but should have. Oh gosh! Oh my gosh! I can see so much now”.
“Yes, and you’ve got snot all over your face” said Nathan laughing.
“Have I? Do you know… I just don’t care!”
And then both of them started laughing profusely. Nathan wiped the phlegm from her face with his sleeve then stroked her cheek. “I’m sorry about your tongue”, said Julianne.
“Oh, that was nothing. I’m used to it. In any case, my coat matches the colour so it doesn’t show!”
“You’ve been so brave tonight. That takes real courage, Julianne”.
“I couldn’t have stopped it even if I’d wanted to. I felt like a fly going towards one of those blue-light flycatchers. I had to go there, even if it meant death.”
“The other night I sat down on my bed and cried out to I-don’t-know-who: ‘Please help me! Please take this curse from me!” Is this my answer?”
Nathan smiled to himself. “Yes. Those cries never go unheard” and he thought of Livinia (who was right there enveloping them in her Light).
“What is this all about? I don’t even know your name”.
“I’m sorry, yes, I’m Nathan Delver at your service. I was sent to you tonight.”
“Sent to me?” Then as she said the words, they suddenly made perfect sense. “Yes, you came for me. But who sent you?”
“I have much to share with you, Julianne. You’ve been unravelling tonight. There is a great unravelling taking place across the whole world. Unravelling of Light and unravelling of darkness. Truth is doing its work — its searing work of unravelment. For all will be revealed. Nothing can remain hidden now. The more unravelling the quicker this world will be transformed. Just as individual people have to be unravelled to be transformed for the better, so does the world as a whole. There are many of us involved in this — more every day. We are flowing. We are electrically-charged. We are dynamic powerhouses of change. Welcome to the party, Julianne!”
Previously, she had always corrected people who called her Julianne and insisted they called her Jules. But now, when Nathan had said her name, she felt a wave of relief and actually loved to hear it said. She said her name to herself inside her head and enjoyed it. She began to move herself somewhat shakily and Nathan helped her gradually to get to her feet. She actually loved the fact that he helped her, which earlier would have been anathema. No longer would she tough it out, pretending to need nothing and no one. No more would she find it demeaning to appear weak or vulnerable.
They stood there looking at each other and there was a tangible love and joy in the air around them. ‘Everything is my father”, she thought. “And my mother too” (for her birth mother had left the family when she was three, leaving her father to take sole responsibility in the home). Soon, she would have to visit her mother as she had her father and she relished the thought. She looked around her at the magically-moonlit woods and became profoundly aware of the interconnectedness of everything. The poet-child began to emerge in her again after two decades of extinction.
“This is all so weird and amazing! Like a wonderland waterfall. So what happens next?”
“We go back to that restaurant and have a damned good meal and natter. I’m freezing cold and starving and I bet you are too!”
They both laughed. Nathan offered her his arm, which she gleefully took and they waltzed off joined at the elbow like angel-twins.
© Alan Morrison, 2017