The Waiting Room
You are as bad with happiness as you are with money. It burns holes in hearts pocket till you want to use it all up and declare yourself spent. There is only so much happiness one person can take you see, until it has to be tested: poked at, scratched at, false fingernails dragged through it to see what this odd, peculiar emotion is really made of. You fear it because you do not know how to keep it. Barely trust yourself not to let it slip through your fingers.
It has rained through the night and the gravel in the front gardening is sparkling like so many rhinestones. The house smiles at you as you walk back from school and you let yourself in and drink white tea standing by the mantlepiece, hovering in your own house as if you are too polite to sit down. As if any moment now someone will call your name and give you the kind of purpose on which you must act. A waiting room, elaborately decorated with just a little too much of yourself.
Waiting. Yes. That is what you seem to be doing.
The weekend passed in a round of bliss and tears. Happiness strips bits of you away. The elaborate guard you have built between yourself and contentment. The junk you’ve kept as a reminder of the kind of yesterdays that pale in shabby comparison to the here and now. Reminders of your own foolishness, drunk out of daily. Memories, bits of nothing, stuffed into the back of cupboards and discovered by someone else. Someone who sits on the floor of your kitchen with you and wipes away crumbs in drawers and tears that spill for no reason at all. Someone making space for a better life for you.
Shame, wonder, happiness: you barely know the difference. You eat your tears and do not know what they taste of.
And now it is Monday and the washing machine is whistling for the third time this morning, and you are snuffly, a Summer cold bothering your head and a twitchy list of to-do’s piling up and going undone. It is that time of year again- when life starts to lose shape. When happiness becomes obligatory and sports days and end of term fancy dress parties upset the rythym of your days. The halls of the internet are empty and you clatter around your own blog a little bit lost. The kitchen, fresh from a trashing session that has left it cream and bare, is a haven and you want to hide in there and bake crumbles and cakes and stews so badly out of kilt with the season. Salad, even the kind strewed with pansies, won’t do today. (Happiness eats itself). The streets are stuffy, warm. The house cool and dusty. You can’t stop dancing. Spinning. She is your most secret self: this dancer. You play Elkie Brooks crazy loud, fake a croaky voice, mourn your lost youth and dance a Waltz with a pile of towels still warm from the dryer, then look up and see the oldest Postman in the world standing in your front garden, shaking an Amazon box at you and smiling the kind of wizened, gentle smile that says yep, there’s still joy to be found in this sorry old world.
And there is. For the third year running your son’s school report declares him a “joy to teach”. This morning you couldn’t wake him up and carried him down the stairs hunch backed, poking him, tickling his tummy and nearly dropping him when he wakes up startled and urgently asks you if you know Louie Spence from the Pineapple Dance Studio’s. The first things on his mind never cease to delight you. You drink tea together and he tells you about a little girl who give’s him a single crayon daily. A little bit of her childish heart for him to keep. Happiness is a box of crayons. You wonder how Mummies ever let their little boys go.
You wonder how long this will last: the terrible burden that is happiness. You are scared you have packed it in a box ready to sell at a car boot sale. In your little boy’s sketch pad there is a picture of your house with three little stick people standing in front of it. One with curly hair, the other much taller than than the two whose hand he holds. Me, Mummy and Richard, it says. And though it is perfect and lovely and all you could have hoped for, truth is it is enough to put the fear of God into you. You tell yourself fear is healthy and you know it is true. It serves to show us what is most precious. That which we must guard. It serves to remind us what matters most of all.
You pin the drawing on to the wall in a kitchen twinkly with love and pour yourself a cup of worry. Agree to go see Kath try on her Princess Gown in the Fancy dress shop. Fail to promise not to laugh. Beam love and ludicrous amounts of gratitude all the way into the heart of Liverpool and snaffle a pink olive stuffed with manchego from a fridge bare with possibility
Happiness eats itself.