Academic journal article Hecate

The New Tenant

Academic journal article Hecate

The New Tenant

Article excerpt

I have my Frida Kahlo posters on the wall: self-portraits with batwinged eyebrows staring down. I think, maybe a rug for the floor, a red and white one with fringes and a couple of cushions so I can sprawl there at night, turning the lamp down to the floor and read and... maybe, maybe a lover to lie with me and talk soft small talk and the comfort of his skin and warm real flesh and bones while the world stays outside, deceptive and uncaring. And I know that if I do have this longed-for lover, it would be a gift I little deserve.

I have grown used to walking past cafes and restaurants, watching some couples in there talking and laughing, while others stare into the distance, wishing to be somewhere else, with someone else, and that look in their eyes says it all-boredom, contempt, bitterness, despair.

How long did the human heart love? How much of it was imaginary and why was it usually one-sided? And when one thought one had found someone to share a mutual love, why did it splutter out so quickly-and then to find oneself scattered upon one's cushions like debris in a field of battle with the remnants of chips and cartons of ice-cream, and the living heart so tom and bloodied, it felt like one could never venture to love again.

Someone once remarked it was because I painted, like it was a curse. "Don't you know artists don't have stable lives? That's why you never meet anyone right for you," she said.

I wasn't quite sure how to receive that. I didn't want to put myself in the exalted category of an artist. I painted. That was enough for me. And I still wanted a normal relationship with a man who adored me. Just like some of the couples I saw.

I had a day job in an office, where I tried to talk about the things which interested other people, none of whom knew who Frida Kahlo was. Sometimes trying to jabber on as they did, I might feel pleasantly that I had succeeded sufficiently for them to think they knew me.

In the evenings with the lamp light turned on and most of the room in shadow, I did my yoga exercises and wondered what prompted Kahlo to kill herself-suspected overdose, wasn't it? It had to be a strong emotion. Her suffering must have been immense. Surely one couldn't kill oneself just because one's life consisted of a series of boring events. In the long hours alone in my apartment, I've contemplated the possibility, particularly when I am tired of my own thoughts. Nothing remotely approaching the fantastical or even romantic ever happens but I paint it into my pictures: there, in one comer like a small stain.

An aunt of mine had interesting stories to tell about her life, but she repeated the same stories so perhaps what happened in-between was not worth telling. Some people tell extremely uninteresting stories about the trivial events of their day-to-day life but drag out the story in detail... if only they would get to the point ... the filling in their sandwich, so to speak and oftentimes, literally... and then I'll realize there was no point-they merely wish to talk, fill up the silence, make sense of a life that began with an egg sandwich.

Knocking on my front door. I rise to open it. My neighbour from downstairs. I saw and spoke with her as I moved my belongings in a few weeks ago. Most but not all of my life has been unpacked and is now neatly and appropriately displayed.

"I came up to see if you wanted anything," she says.

"Come in," I say. I am not used to my neighbours being friendly; in other places I've stayed, I've gone months without seeing them.

I put the kettle on and rummage in the cupboard for a packet of lemon cream biscuits. When the tea was made ("just leave the teabag in," she says) and I had placed on the table my best tea set and a plate of biscuits, I ask her about herself. She lives with her husband, who doesn't like going out much, she says. "Watches TV and talks to the screen."

She sees the puzzlement on my face. "Oh, he likes to make comments on what he sees. …

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