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Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

She lifted her head from the pillow, neck strained and eyes squinting – past 8 a.m. Tolerable. Fair enough. She sank back for a moment to sweet surrender then heaved herself upright. Tutu was right there under her chin in a flash, purring hard. “Yes, I’m here, I’m with you, it’s another day! Hello, I’m right here!”

She scooped the soft insistence away with a breast stroke and swam to the edge of the bed. Lingering over leaving. Bumping. Heavily. Down the spiral stairs and mumbling a greeting to Hagrid. She patted and petted in his general direction and made the morning sounds with as much gusto as she could muster. “Hello, hello, yes, it’s morning. Great isn’t it. Yes, good boy, thanks. Out you go.”

Hagrid bounded out the door and off, scattering small furries and dead leaves all about as he ricocheted down the path to the woodland brush.

“This is still beautiful, be present to it, be fucking grateful” she admonished herself bitterly. Wincing, pausing and remembering water. On a Friday night in the wild, with only the moon and the owls to sing along, shit goes down. Last night it has been the rustic, almost fortified red wine from the first grape harvest – of unknown potency and a gritty demeanour.

She lit the gas and sat down on the spiral stairs – gazing blankly into space, swimming in unfinished dreams and half-formed figuring outs. Once again she had dreamed of missing her flight, her connection, back to here. She was already here. Was she really here? Ouch. More water. Got to walk the dog.

The kettle shrieked pointlessly until she turned off the gas, pulled on her boots and jacket, and left it sitting there – steaming away, full of potential cups of tea.

Outside it was really trying to be day. The air was doing well at being warmer, and the birds and animals were all on cue and giving it plenty. The sun was still being hoisted from behind the hill, but had sent word ahead and so the landscape was lightening.

Hagrid boogied and bounced and flapped his ears about grinning wildly. So much joy without fail. What a gift. He simply thrived on the routines and rituals of their eday. The exact spot and the perfect moment for him to graze like a goat, just as she wanted to clip his lead on and set off. The precise minute that pools of sunlight migrated from the kitchen to the front patio, when he would summon Arielle to move his blanket. The stumbly night time piss and a good look and listen for wild boar when Orion topped the Persimmon tree. Groundhog Day is pure heaven for dogs.

Arielle could see how it was comforting, could understand that it was secure, but some deep nature in her longed to melt entirely and slip between the bars of time and space. How many days like this? How many more? In this lost paradise, this cul-de-sac. This bit on the side. This haven. This room inside her soul. This gateway to eternity. This unyielding moment. This eternal now. This everlong.

She recalled – as they huffed their way up the sandy, serpentine track that circumnavigated the farmhouse – a somnambulance of another kind. Seven years of soft, sweet and half-asleep love. Of real, kind, true and nurturing love. The way that decent people with good hearts and a sense of propriety love each other in their twenties. They had gone to farmers markets and on two week holidays, had a cat and enjoyed watching box sets together. The stage was set for a lifetime of loving each other kindly and doing the done things.

There’s nothing wrong with the done things, she mused, and there are reasons people do them, but not to ever question… Not to ever branch out… Arielle could not fit herself back into the box however she tried. Her spangly limbs and sticking up hair spilled out over the edges, and her blazing heart beat right through them. Still – out of one box and into another? Not this girl. Every job description, every relationship, every tick box and form to be filled simply enraged her.

Living outside the box. Living an edgeless and unboundaried life was no cakewalk either. She found herself perpetually face to face with a void or an abyss, or a flowing river of humanity, an amorphous field of feeling, a sea of souls. Everything was just part of it, and trying to sort one bit from another and explain how the two relate – the fundamental formats of human dialogue – had become very hard indeed at times.

She used her body and her brush to form the formless, voice the voiceless, show it how it was, touch hearts and souls with her own. “Just feel it… Just feel this… J just listen… Just watch me…” She would whisper in the ears of her lovers, trying to reach them in the dark.

Arielle arrived back in her body with a jolt just as Hagrid made a dive for a crystal clear pool of rainwater in the rocky gully alongside the path, yanking her arm at the socket and sending a ripple through her consciousness. “wha!…cchh… Hagrid. God. Go easy would you?”

She was grateful though, always grateful for the presence of this guy. Hagrid held a crucial structure of time and space, when her soul was trying to sneak out the side door of it. His bodily needs and his sense of rhythm and ritual grounded her in so many ways. He woke her each day, took her for a brisk walk, reminder her about food at least twice a day and water quite a few times. He would “check in” verbally with a single deep woof at various points during the day, bringing her present and alert to the moment and the life all around.

When she was too lost inside herself, he would sit before her and lay his head in her lap, or beat his tail playfully against her back, calling her out. When she broke down at the kitchen table feeling terribly alone and wondering if there was anyone out there holding space for her to fall apart like this, she looked across the room and there he stood. Solid, eyes focussed on her, alert, tail wagging slowly.” I’m here, I’m holding this space for you right now.” A wise angel in furs.

Arielle had a mind to eat breakfast that morning, but her body just smoked and juiced a half dozen of Spyro’s mandarins – lovingly hand picked and packaged prettily in blue plastic. “Surely the both of them balance out” she thought. She had not smoked a cigarette for some time, but yesterday – when she had stayed too long at the beach drinking in the dance of the sunlight on the sea – it had accidentally become half past four and Mama’s mini market had flung open its doors, arising from an afternoon slumber, and beckoned her in for tahini and tobacco.

That first sunset cigarette sealed the deal on her foray into Film Noir as a personal portrait. The lure of Lana Del Rey and long-lost lovers hung in the air with the smoke from her roll-up. All the unglamorous dramas and amorous yearnings of years gone by drenched her mind like the colours of the setting sun. A seductive ambience she couldn’t help but savour. “It’s alright” she said aloud to the night creatures “I’ll just paddle in it”.

Do mermaids paddle Arielle? And what goes well with a starlit cigarette? Is it green tea? Or is it blood red wine and peaty whisky? “Beware the thrills of the helter skelter” she mused. Smoking socially is one thing but smoking alone leads only to introspection and boozing, if not carefully watched. She knew herself and her habits, and watched them like a hawk watches baby rabbits, waiting to pounce if they get a bit bold and stray too far from the den.

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