Thursday, June 19, 2008

Intersection (ii)

I am riding along the bicycle path. I have just said goodbye to my one and only child, the child who was clutching his chest in pain and fear a couple of days ago, and who was fine only minutes later. He is riding across the oval to his school. I have only said goodbye for the day. I hope. No, I know.

I am riding along the bicycle path. As he rode away I put my Shuffle earpieces in my ears and switched on. Let's Dance to Joy Division started, loud and clear. I stopped, paused the music, and called this out to my boy, who laughed joyfully and started singing it aloud as he bumped over the grass. It's his favorite song. I started again and rode, hard, pumping my feet to the beat of the song. I feel the upbeat edge of the music, enjoy the damp misty coolness of the grey morning.

I reach where the bicycle path crosses the road, and the pedestrian lights are just about to change in my favour. There is a woman with a dog, about to take a chance against the traffic, not knowing that the lights are orange. I sweep past her in the middle of the road when something about the side of her face makes me glance back. It is someone I haven't seen for years, but have thought about constantly.

Across the road I stop and say her name. She looks at me properly and we recognise each other, happily. We stand off to one side of the path, and start to chat. Last time I saw her she had moved a long way north, about as north as you can go, almost. She was fast-tracked for success in the art world, with her amazing paintings. I ask her about her art, how it's going.

She answers blithely, telling me that she hasn't done much for about two years, how she's re-prioritising her life. I listen to her, and I know that she's trying not to say out loud what I already know -- that two years ago she lost her child at the moment of birth. I read it in the paper at the time, heard it from mutual friends, and didn't know how to get in touch with her. I cried then for her, couldn't imagine going through nine months of joy to end in such a way, wondered how to convey this to her, and then -- typical -- got caught up in my own life.

I can't let her struggle to find non-committal things to say. I tell her that I heard about her baby, and how sorry I am about it. Suddenly the bicycle path and everything on it disappears. We are in a bubble of relief, sorrow and truth. We swap stories about miscarriages, bastard doctors and helplessness. We tear up, we hug. I pat the dog, who looks as though she can listen compassionately forever.

The art has stopped. Time has stopped. She is gardening, all she can bring herself to do. Her partner, a very good man, suffers as well, but carries on. I can only guess he feels helpless and work keeps him on track. I tell her that I've had enough, I've drawn a line in the sand, that I've decided to disengage with my body and get on with stuff; she looks at me sadly and says that she's not quite ready for that yet. I can see that she has unfinished business, that she won't be free of it until she either gets resolution or someone else draws a line for her. All I can do is wish her peace, whichever way it goes.

We sense that much time has passed. We start making excuses; we don't make too many promises to catch up, but it's good to know we both exist now in the same city. We will see each other, and each time will be good and meaningful. It is hard to move away from her, I'm so there in the moment. But eventually I break out of the bubble, put the earpieces back in, and resume pedalling. Suddenly I don't feel the upbeat, it's the words that hit me.

Let's dance to Joy Division,
And celebrate the irony,
Everything is going wrong,
But we're so happy,
Let's dance to Joy Division,
And raise our glass to the ceiling,
'Cos this could all go so wrong,
But we're so happy,
Yeah we're so happy,
So happy,
Yeah we're so happy,
So happy,
Yeah we're so happy.

I turn it up, to drown out the thoughts, and ride.


lucy tartan said...

thank you

Anonymous said...


Zoe said...



fifi said...

now how can I paint?
My hidden bubble just rose up to the surface .

I am painting, I am painting all of that, because it is ten years, and I can,
and I celebrate every second of it.

and so will she.

Mindy said...

what Zoe said, hoping that the boss doesn't choose this moment to need something.

Anonymous said...

Lovely. Sad. Beautiful.


Ampersand Duck said...

You and me both, possums. It happened this morning on the way to work, so I'm a bit tight-throated today. Luckily I'm cloistered in a quiet room, printing, and nobody yet has asked me how I am...

Fifi, you put me in mind of Tanya Donnelly's song, 'Story High'. If you haven't heard it, download it and have a listen. That goes for all of you. It's not about this particular issue, just a fab girlie sad/celebratory song.

Miss Schlegel said...

Dash it all! I left quite a long comment but it seems not to have appeared.

Oh well. Basically I said:
1. I cried too. I cried a lot.
2. I know from the short but meaning-filled comment you left on my blog about these matters that you were THE BEST person she could have run in to.
3. Gardening is a good thing to do. It is nurturing, creative, you give things life and watch them die. It is good healing and I hope it will lead her back to art.
4. Thank you for telling us the story.

Denya! said...


i was floored by this post.

my throat got tight and my eyes leaked and i revelled in the sadness and simplicity and and the music and the beauty of your moments with her... and your wonderful words.

lauren said...

brilliant post &d!! absolutely phenomenal - that song, the bike, that moment, the words, the silence, that little dog..

we are so happy. we are so happy.

thank you!

Elsewhere007 said...

Amazing post. V beautifully written.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

oh my, big hugs, xxx

CelloBella said...

You know when you go to compile your ten best posts... make sure this one is in there.

thank you,

chosha said...

Sad, and wonderful, and beautifully written.

Martha said...

You write beautifully. Thank you for sharing this story.

Mindy said...

I'm still haunted by the idea that her loss of her baby was in the paper, so public.

Ampersand Duck said...

Actually Mindy, I should have phrased that better - it was in the birth notices (as a very poignant death/birth notice) of the Canberra Times, since most of their family and friends were here. It wasn't a news article, thank fook.

Ampersand Duck said...

And yes, I regularly read the birth notices :) mostly for daggy baby names, but you never know what you'll find...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I wish My daughter-In -Law had met you some where in the early days of her first loss. The words you wrote would have helped more than anything. She has carried the burden for so long and never come to grips with it.Also the way you approached the subject was a pure examble of the beautiful gifted person you are,all my love Aunty Lou

Deborah said...

Oh no. We were saved by a finger's breadth from such sadness ourselves. This is so very sad.