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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Excerpt from MANscapes by Manuela Cardiga

She lay on her bed hour after hour, day after day. To her hovering friends’ distress she withdrew, cutting herself off from humanity once again. Winston and Thomas and Fatimah, and even le docteur prodded helplessly at her melancholy with cheerfulness, or treats or gossip - according to their nature; but still she wallowed.

Clara was locked in, trapped. She had always been able to isolate herself, shut out the onslaught of the world, but could not escape the unreasoning irrational emotions welling up from her inner self.


Nothing she had endured of pain or desecration, or abuse at Bernardo’s hands had prepared her for this agony. She wept, and pummeled at her pillows in helpless rage. She alternated between anger and grief, and crushing guilt. An extravagant storm of sensation buffeted her - and, after years of disassociation - she was helpless before this flood. For two weeks she lay in her bed, knees scored with scarlet healing scars while her heart bled.

Then one day, Sylvine walked in. She pulled up a chair, sat and stared. Clara turned her head away sullenly, silently.

“So do you intend to die on this bed?” There was no sympathy in Sylvine’s voice. It was calm and curious. Clara did not answer.

“Oh, I see...Did you think you had endured all the injustice and pain that life could throw at you? Did you think that after all that you had been through it would all be roses? Violins?” A soft chuckle: “Oh Clara! You are such a child still! That, you see, is the one thing you have to learn. You must learn to live. Endurance requires strength, courage, resilience; and that you have. But living requires so much more! It requires skill, balance and a sense of humour. So grow up, Clara. You carry a child in your belly; you can’t afford this ridiculous display of adolescent petulance. You can’t afford to be a child anymore. It is time to grow up.”

Clara felt a fresh flood of hot tears well up.
“It’s not right. Why can’t it be fair, Sylvine? Why? Every time I think I reached a place in my life where everything is going to be finally - magically - right, everything falls apart!”

“Because it is life, Clara and not a story. Stories end: happy-ever-afters are pretend. Our stories go on, and so, of course something always goes wrong; or less right, if you are lucky. But they do go on. And so must we.” Sylvine’s long delicate fingers gripped Clara’s chin and raised her face so she could look into her swollen eyes. “The sad and bad parts of the stories are what add sweetness to the rest. And you still don’t know how it ends…” The dark eyes snapped with humour, “So now, Clara, take a chance. Get out of bed!”

“But it hurts!”

“True. Of course it hurts. Living hurts. We still do it anyway, out of hope. Because the alternative to this clean pain is despair. And let me tell you a secret, Clara, the worse part of despair is that it is utterly boring.”

For hours after Sylvine left, Clara wept. She wept for herself, mostly, she realised. She wept for her losses, her crushing disappointment, her thwarted hope. She had taken her courage in both hands and forged herself a new life, and it had gone wrong. She wept again. Walker: that wonderful affirmation of her healing; her rebirth as a whole woman was gone.


He was gone, but she was not. She was still here: in the place she had so longed to be, healed of Bernardo’s spite, in full possession of her own heart, owner of a talent she had as yet barely touched. Clara was grieving for herself. Sylvine was right it was time to grow up.

Oh but how difficult to let go of the crutch of familiar pain! It was so comforting, and so safe. This pain she knew intimately, its taste and its sting. Healing from this brought fresh dangers; hope brought new possibilities of new pains, ones she could not foresee and with no guarantees she would overcome them.

The enticing embracing despair that had kept her in stasis under Bernardo’s abuse for twenty-three years beckoned. It would be so easy to fall back, to yield to that poison kiss...

Then she felt within her the child move. The slightest butterfly flutter, and she knew she would not, and could not give in. Somehow she had to shed that hesitant unsure nineteen-year old frozen in the horror of violation.

Yes, Sylvine was right. It was time to grow up.

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