The history of tickets

The history of tickets

are now all mine

they are manifested as
piles of railway stubs
covering miles,
torn cinema tickets
for the hours of dark hand-holding,
bound petrol receipts
for counties covered,
folded hotel bills
tell of city breaks,
theatre and concert programmes,
are lovingly filed
and restaurant till receipts
list anniversary locations
while plane travel vouchers
cry aloud
in a different tongue

these random pieces
of worn
card and paper records
are the pile of memories
that I keep
to remember
the way
we used to be.

The history of us.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2017

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Trump and the legitimisation of hate (Letter to America – No. 3 19/02/17)

Trump and the legitimisation of hate

(Letter to America – No. 3 19/02/17)

Under PoTUS #45 hate has been legitimised. Well, it has been allowed out from under the cover of white sheets, nighttime raids, and conservative Christianity and placed tenuously in the White House. The irony of the last President (Barack Obama) living in the White House (a house mostly built by the forced labour of enslaved people and immigrants) is now replaced by the horror of a TV presenter and brash businessman performing a comedy role as the new President of the United States, while having his strings pulled by the extremist factions of America.

This rise in fascism is reminiscent of the 1930s when prejudice and hatred were marginalised in western democracies after its defeat in 1945. PoTUS #45 and the GOP administration, like their European counterparts, are threatening the democracy and civil rights of the mainstream.

During the latest Presidential campaign, and for a several years before, the now-President has used his social media accounts, particularly Twitter, to agitate and motivate an uprising of semi-hidden hatred. Analysis of the history of his tweets from 2009 to date shows his most popular recurrent words are, ‘loser, dumb, dummy, terrible, stupid, weak, dishonest, boring, fool, pathetic, and moron’. His subjects for ridicule have included competitors in business, celebrities with whom he has disagreements, other TV personalities and politicians – particularly President Barack Obama.

PoTUS #45 continues to use a barrage of insults and comments to disparage people who he choses to attack. This uninhibited behaviour of open callousness and lack of cultural politeness made him attractive to the seam of hatred that had been simmering in America for decades.

In August 2016, when his campaign was floundering after the resignation of Paul Manafort – who was exposed for having financial ties to Russia – Trump took Stephen K Bannon into his campaign team. Bannon was formerly the executive chairman at Brietbart News, a right wing extremist website. At that time two prominent figures in the KKK (David Duke and Don Advo) commented, “So, something astonishing has happened. We appear to have taken over the Republican Party.” They knew that the appointment of Bannon as CEO of the presidential campaign had effectively given them control of the GOP and a chance to once again legitimise hatred in the United States of America.

Rex Huppke, writing for the Chicago Tribune in August 2016, stated that the hire of Bannon and the link with alt-right philosophy of hate promoted by Breitbart, meant that the Trump campaign had officially declared political bankruptcy. Trump himself had changed political affiliation five times between 1987 and 2012 when he rejoined the Republican Party: in that period (between 1987 and 2012) he had twice been Republican, once Democratic and twice Independent. It appears that he aligns himself to the party that best serves his current needs at any given time. Brietbart News and Bannon are vehicles for Trump to elevate himself and increase his public popularity, hence his connection with them in 2016 as part of the Presidential race. His campaign was heavily focused on an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and also an anti-establishment platform. Bannon, in 2014, said, “People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more.” This Brietbart philosophy of community separation and alienation became a unifying tenet of the Trump electoral campaign.

Brietbart News is the conservative, brash and unrestrained version of Fox News. It was founded to oppose the mainstream media, the institutional left and the Republican Party establishment. It adheres to the philosophy that political correctness is incorrect and liberal views need to be accounted for and altered. The extreme nature of the site increased after the death of the founder, Andrew Brietbart, in 2012; this was when Bannon took control of the news site. Brietbart News does not operate on any grounds of recognisable objectivity – just entrenched hatred. Their website does not offer balanced views, merely their one-sided extremists beliefs. Bannon, in 2012, confirmed that the site was engaged in a cultural and political war, and Angelo Carusone, executive vice president of the left-wing think tank Media Matters, predicted that what Brietbart News wanted next, in their ascendency was “a political opposition force that they can align with or consume to gain legitimacy.” In Britain, UKIP was that force; in America, the GOP is the current agency towards political legitimacy of extreme far-right hate.

The supporters of Brietbart News view it as the only legitimate news site in America; the reporters at Brietbart have labelled the majority of media outlets as “fake news”. Bannon was also the person to label the media as the “opposition party” in January 2017. This phrase has been repeated several times by the rest of the GOP administration team, especially PoTUS #45. The majority of the GOP have embraced the current trend of right-wing populism as they have regained political power in the USA.

Brietbart News is not alone in the rise of right-wing populism in America. Although this is a trend that is increasing throughout the world. In the UK, the right-wing group, UKIP – lead by Nigel Farage – spearheaded a campaign to call for Brexit: a separation of the UK from the rest of the European Union and a reduction in immigration being their main campaign slogans geared around the concept of ‘taking back control’ of the country. Farage admits that he ‘mislead’ the campaign with the use of false data relating to the NHS and immigration figures. However, despite the fact that he resigned from UKIP soon after the Brexit vote, he has stated that he does not regret his campaign and desire to increase the nationalistic state of the UK. This fascism, described by Farage as retaining a sovereign democracy, is aligned with the Bannon’s alt-right ideals. Farage has a history of affiliation with fascists’ ideals such as those held by Oswald Molsley, the National Front, and neo-Nazis (being openly anti-Jewish and racist).

Farage is not the only British person with links to neo-Nazis and the US President; the British-born Sebastian Gorka is now a senior advisor to PoTUS #45. Gorka has recently (Feb 2017) been forced to deny sympathies to neo-Nazi groups after wearing a medal associated with Hungarian fascism.

The rise in right-wing populism is the belief that the design of the government system, and the increase in globalisation, creates a disadvantage to ‘the ordinary people’. This is the notion that Bannon has utilised to mobilise the undercurrent of hatred from the section of society that feels that their values, beliefs and concerns do not matter to the decision makers in government. Bannon suggests that the seemingly marginalised people exist with the fear that the majority of what happens in the world is decided by a small, selective group of people – in the US, PoTUS #45 designated this group ‘the swamp’. The phrase, “drain the swamp” was used in the same political sense by President Ronald Reagan in 1983; both Reagan and Trump utilise the metaphor to indicate the desire to remove the bureaucracy in the federal government. Also, both Reagan and Trump had careers in television before entering the political arena.

The GOP administration team, ostensibly headed by PoTUS #45, but realistically manipulated by the sinister, almost publicly silent, figure of Bannon, is orchestrating hatred against a myriad of groups including black people, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT people, women, non-(white)Americans, and Democrats. The worse thing would be to think of the leaders of this hatred as unorganised and ineffective. They have planned this attack on democracy with care and precision. Bannon’s selection to the campaign and administration of PoTUS #45 has exploited the dual weaknesses of Trump: his showmanship and his parallel desire to keep ‘winning’ – at anything. Trump was facing another Chapter 11 in his business – bankruptcy was inevitable it seems; the Presidential campaign and subsequent election is an attempt to refinance his business and retain his position in the limelight as a leader. Trump has instigated a Chapter 11 a total of six times in his businesses. This alliance with Bannon and the GOP appears to be a desperate act to re-inject life and finance into his personal business by increasing his public profile. With this number of bankruptcies as a businessman it is difficult to envisage how Trump can successfully understand and run the political economy of the country, distributing both national income and wealth.

However, it is evident that Bannon and Trump have made a pact – it’s hard to know which one is the devil: they both could be. Their collaboration of skills as political puppet and political stage manager have created a live theatre of hatred that is gaining ground worldwide. Under the lead of PoTUS #45 and the GOP administration, democracy and civil rights are being threatened and marginalised while prejudice and hatred are becoming mainstream. Bannon, the chief strategist and senior advisor to PoTUS #45, is on record in 2014 as stating his plans to regain a global capitalist foothold on power, he said, “we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict … [a] center-right revolt [which] is really a global revolt; We’re [Brietbart News] backers of entrepreneurial capitalists”, Trump presented himself as the ideal candidate to be backed by this organisation constructed on hatred.

Evidence of the hatred encouraged by this alliance is shown in the dramatic rise of racist, homophobic, and sexist attacks (amongst other hate crimes). In the UK, after Brexit, the official figures state that hate crimes rose dramatically post vote. Ordinary citizens were once again subject to the prospect and actuality of living lives in the shadow of fear and intimidation fuelled by the legitimised hatred of UKIP. In September 2016, the National Police Chiefs’ Council released figures which showed the number of racially or religiously aggravated incidents rose by 58 per cent in the week following the vote to leave the EU. Galop, an anti-violence charity which supports victims of homophobic violence, said homophobic attacks rose by 147 per cent in the three months following the Brexit vote.

In America, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that 2016 was “a banner year for hate,” and cited the election of Trump as one of the typical reasons for that description, because it corresponded with the increase in reports of hate crimes – the largest increase, 197 per cent, was of anti-Muslim hate groups. The hate groups grew from 34 in 2015, to 101 in 2016; these represent a significant part of the trend of established hate groups that rose from 892 in 2015, to 917 in 2016. Interestingly, in February 2017 there are news reports that suggest that PoTUS #45 may revamp the Countering Violent Extremism program so that it focuses solely on Islamic terror threats, thus removing the White Supremacists (with whom Bannon has close links) from the list of terrorists in the USA.

The majority of people (i.e. the 48.2 percent (65,844,954) who voted Democrat in the 2016 US election – 2.9 million more than voted Republican(62,979,879 – 46.1 per cent)) who are witnessing this political and social change are resisting this hatred, there has been an increase of community groups collaborating, organising and mobilising against the destruction of democracy as dictated from the White House. Nevertheless, the obstinate GOP administration is considering the use of military force to implement its orders – as did Governor (later President) Reagan when he ordered the National Guard to act against protesters in1969; as did the Nazis who, upon obtaining power, began a system of comprehensive marginalisation against people not aligned with their model of nationalistic socialism, and implemented a regime of repressive measures against their political opposition.

History records the aftermath of the German Nazi regime: it continues to painfully echo through time.

It also records that dissent and resistance is the correct humanitarian action to take in these circumstances. So, it must be done. Educate. Organise and resist. Persistently.

©Marjorie H Morgan 19/02/17

2,024 words

Letter to America (No. 2) 16/02/17

Letter to America (No. 2) 16/02/17

16 years ago, in 2001, another President who lost the popular vote, George W Bush, took his place in the annals of history as the 43rd President of the United States. This year, in 2017, Donald J Trump, who also lost the popular election vote by around 3 million votes, has in the last month taken the office as 45th President of the United States. Both campaigns were run on the grounds of polarised politics. The campaigns and the initial weeks in office have similarities with both Republican Presidents then, as now; the country and the world watch in a state of shock as the current GOP administration implements divisive and appalling measures in the form of Executive Orders (EOs) and Presidential Memoranda (PMs).

This time the Republican Commander-in-Chief is a businessman and television host who has taken on a new role as PoTUS: as he has become the 45th President of the United States of America, a large portion of the global population is aware of his rise to the most powerful position in the Western world.

PoTUS #45 loves the attention that this new role has brought to him, he has garnered attention ever since he was a young man who inherited his father’s wealth from the family property business. What he does not like is the negative attention and people disagreeing with him and his status. It seems that PoTUS #45’s ego cannot abide criticism. However, from his first day in office PoTUS #45 has experienced volumes of opposition – the Women’s March on 21st January 2017 reportedly had larger crowds than at the previous day’s inauguration. The figures of the inaugural attendance – and the size of the election win – have remained sticking (and frequent talking points) for PoTUS #45 and his staff.

There is an abundance of criticism levelled at both PoTUS #45 and members of his cabinet and staff. Firstly PoTUS #45, does not appear to posses or have the ability to share any global political history or diplomacy facts. He has a limited vocabulary and appears unable to grasp the minutia of complex political relationships. Unlike Harry S Truman (33rd President) – initially an unknown quantity in the political arena – PoTUS #45 does not have any of the hallmarks of a potentially great but yet undiscovered President.

His rise and election continues to bewilder and baffle the majority of the country and the world. In his first month in office he has signed a large number of Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda, seemingly in an effort to stamp his authority on to the Office of President. This authoritarianism of the new PoTUS verges on the edge of being a dictatorship or fascism. PoTUS #45 does not appreciate any criticism of his government stance; he uses social media regularly to express his upset on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. James Madison, the father of the American system of government of the Constitution, said, ”Government begins with the recognition that men are born to disagree.”

A daily tracking Gallup poll shows that PoTUS #45 has the lowest job approval rating (currently -40%) of any modern President. Previous Presidents – Obama and Clinton had high +50s approval ratings during the earliest months of their administrations, even though they both had strong opposition to many of their policies and administrative actions. The job disapproval rate of PoTUS #45 has a high of +55%, according to the ongoing Gallup poll; these figures signify a growing dissatisfaction with the performance of the President and his administration.

There have been a swathe of disagreements between the GOP and its opposition that started on the campaign trail and have not ceased. The administration of PoTUS #45 has thus far been one of chaos, dysfunction and incompetence, with disagreements both within the party and from political observers. The first month has highlighted the inexperience of both the PoTUS and his inner circle as incoherent policies and badly managed political events have occurred on a regular basis; the first few weeks have seen a flurry of PMs and EOs being signed and issued.

One particular EOs (issued on 27th January 2017 – a week after the inauguration) has caused great public and legal outcry resulting in thousands of Americans taking to the streets to object to the content of the ban, and the affect that it has on refugees and green card holders alike; the implementation of this EO is seen as an erosion of citizens’ democratic rights and the claim that it is illegal has been upheld by the Department of Justice who have overturned the EO. Refugees who had undergone strict vetting over several years and were in transit were disembarked from their flights or returned to their original locations as the travel ban was clumsily rolled out across the country and the impact was felt throughout the world.

The Court of Appeals also denied the Government’s appeal to stay the ban, they stated, “We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.”

The response to this EO was the continuation of a non-violent rise of public dissent throughout the world; the tumultuous beginning of this political term within the White House has mobilised a community who are in opposition to many of the policies and comments arising from this nascent GOP administration.

These first twenty-five days have been riddled with divisions, controversies, ethics issues and deliberate distractions. The inept press office and personal advisors are a prime example of the turmoil that is the face of this administration. Many will be quick to note that all administrations have teething problems, and these are early days, however, this level of disorganisation and ineffective governance cannot be sustained either by the Government or the country. Washington and beyond are reeling from the chasms being created within the White House and rippling throughout the political world as decades of international relations are undone with many casual, uneducated statements and actions.

After a campaign run around drama and comments designed to incite passions on all sides of the political spectrum, PoTUS #45 has continued in the same mode now that he is in situ in the White House. He surrounds himself with family and friends – many of who have little or no political experience, and he refuses to acknowledge faults and errors that persist from himself and his team. Blame for any failing is placed squarely at the door of the media who continue to report the real-life tragicomedy that is occurring in the American political system.

Stephen Miller, a senior policy advisor to PoTUS #45 is on record as saying that the new President “has accomplished more in just a few weeks than many Presidents do in an entire administration”, also – with particular regard to the EO on immigration (27th January 2017), Miller states, “The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned.” This statement is symbolic of the face of the GOP administration under the lead of PoTUS #45, it is one that runs like an unstable dictatorship.

Since January 20th 2017, the revered office of PoTUS has been weaken to its foundations as incompetence and unsubstantiated information have become the overriding currency of the 45th President’s tenure.

©Marjorie H Morgan 16/02/17

My Letter to America 12/02/17 American Political Dissent in 2017

My Letter to America
12/02/17

American Political Dissent in 2017

Under the current American Republican government the people of the country, and the world, appear to have been motivated into a vocal and physical show of dissent, specifically and particularly, against the 45th President of the United States.

To dissent is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as to ‘hold or express opinions that are at variance with those commonly or officially held.’ Most dissenters lack political power and their persistence in vocalising their point of view, and calling for a change in the status quo, has often seen them labeled as unpatriotic. In the political arena, dissent is also categorised according to the party in power, and the origins of the dissenters.

Throughout the terms of different political parties in 21st century politics, dissent has variously been reported in the media as treason, obstruction, racist, or “the highest form of patriotism” – as noted in the presidential term of George W Bush.

Nonconformity and rebellion against the government is a means of resisting the control of established authority. Rebellion is seen negatively by those who desire to retain their positions of entrenched power, yet it is seen as justified and for the greater good by those engaging in the dissent. The right to dissent is the right of citizens throughout the world to meet up, organize themselves, and themselves heard in order to achieve political and social change and oppose government policies; legally citizens of America currently have this right to dissent without fear of impediment or reprisal. The 1964 case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, reinforced the law relating to modern-day dissent when it was stated that the First Amendment was a constitutional safeguard that “was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.”

The early seventeenth century English colonies of the Americas were founded on a tradition of dissent. In England there is a historical custom of organised dissent, particularly against the established church. From the 16th century onwards those who held different beliefs, opinions and views separated from the church and government and formed their own establishments and communities – some emigrated to America – also known as the ‘New World’. The historian, Ralph Young, noted in 2015, that we “need to recognize that dissent is American, that protest is patriotic. It is, in fact, one of the fundamental traits that define us.”

Rebellion is not just the property of the alienated, it can also be identified when unfair authority attempts to implement power structures that violate basic human rights; a contemporary example in shown in the behaviour of the 45th President of the United States, who continuously refuses to adhere to the norms and conventions of the office of PoTUS as he attempts to govern by social media and refuses to accept the power of other branches of government that disagree with his frequent edicts.

There appears to be a balance of irrational authority in the GOP administration that is focused on entrenching personal power and removing all obstacles that challenge the authority of the PoTUS.

There is a sense that the GOP administration is in institutional disarray and is guided by this irrational authority that seems to be based on the desire to retain undeserved privileges (promoting a family member’s product line from the White House), and unfair rights (breaching ethics laws), while entrenching structures of power to ensure the tyranny of abuse continues (granting privileged access to national security briefings to a confirmed political extremist).

It appears that the underlying motivation behind these actions from within the White House is to maintain and perpetuate unfair power balances where one group suffers and the other group continues to benefit and increase its position of strength. These actions indicate that the 45th President of the United States is experiencing the vulnerability of his position because he, like the rest of the USA and the world, are aware that his authority as PoTUS is not rational because he lacks any actual political skills or knowledge that should be employed for the benefit of those who lack these attributes.

While the 45th PoTUS appears to relish the public theatre of his new position, it appears he is trying to retain the control and behaviours of his previous jobs as a television reality show host and a business executive. However, the position and power of the PoTUS is regulated by the American Constitution (Article II, Sections 2 & 3), and is not merely ‘free-reign’ to manage public affairs as if the country were a business empire. As the head of the executive branch of government, all PoTUS’ are subjected to the constitutional duties which include ensuring all the nation’s laws are “faithfully exercised”; and important aspect of this fact is that legislation can only be enacted by Congress, it cannot be initiated solely by the PoTUS.

All new political administrations seek to make changes that reflect their particular standing, however, the current GOP administration is trying to implement actions that have been deemed unlawful by other branches of government. In the past three weeks many thousands of people have taken to the streets and to airports to demonstrate against the unfair partisan laws that the 45th PoTUS and his inner circle have tried to enforce without any factual basis.

There appears to be a plethora of unsubstantiated misinformation being shared from the press office, and the social media accounts of the current incumbents of the White House. This has reinforced the public’s determination to obtain truth and justice for all people, not just those in positions of power.

People generally object to a steam-roller type of administration – history shows that the tyranny of dictatorships are never accepted without resistance. The protests against this administration have been varied and frequent in nature, and the GOP administration has been openly hostile to any criticism of their plans and regularly address the press and general public with rancour. The First Amendment of the American Constitution prohibits Congress from passing a law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” it also protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” and their right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

However there is always hostility to dissent. Activists are frequently vilified and maligned for their opposing beliefs, however history often records them as heroes (Kirsten Gillibrand or Elizabeth Warren perhaps: the future will tell). Many people have united as communities of humanitarians against these unfair policies and unjustified legislation.

In April 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr wrote the following words from the jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was modelled on the tactics of previous dissenters and protesters. In a similar way, the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s used past protests to create their vision for a new future, founded in equality.

Henry David Thoreau – protesting a war with Mexico – also stated that when there is an unjust law, then it is the duty of every just man to break that law; a true patriot would not allow injustice to stand. As Thoreau wrote, “I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

If continued dissent and resistance is the correct humanitarian action to take in any circumstance, then it must be done. Organise and resist.

Persistently.

© Marjorie H Morgan 12th Feb 2017

Read on

A glance
is as informative
about a person’s life
as three torn pages
from a novel

but looking
takes time

for

constructed in the height of the eyebrows
you may find
a story yet untold

nestled in the space between the lips
is the birth of a kiss
just for you

resting in the depth of the eyes
is a dream
that stretches beyond
life and death

standing in the flare of the nostrils
are generations
of ancestor’s tales

held firmly in the jaw
is the tendency to act
with sensitivity
or stubbornness

simmering beneath the skin
is the
history
and
prophecy
of your health

each face ripples with information

your face is a monument to your history
my face glows with love,
yet is still full of guarded secrets

every face
is a mirror
to a different time
continually reflecting
the cache of stories
held within

read on,
read on.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2017

Eternity

Eternity is a long time
filled with slices of now
and today
which are
the spaces where
history is made
and
enormous things constantly happen

the future
is around every corner
and arrives
whether you are ready
or not

beautiful
and horrible
events
are equally as
impermanent as each other
the value
and affect
never diminishing
like an eternal
remembrance candle

© Marjorie H Morgan 2017

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The History of Ordinary People

The History of Ordinary People
(A short story by Marjorie H Morgan © 2017)

It was a day in April, nothing remarkable had happened on any of the other days in April so far, and Mish wasn’t expecting this Tuesday to be any different. That was the way she liked it, no surprises were the best presents she could every ask for.

When she first woke up that morning she did so only because of the insistence of her bladder penetrating through her sleep. At the time her alarm clock hadn’t yet gone off so she reluctantly opened her eyes as narrowly as possible, and shifted from the bed.

Broken sleep was something Mish had become afraid of in recent years because in those early hours of the day all sorts of thoughts and memories settled in her mind, and even with her eyes clamped firmly shut she was then unable to grasp sleep again. That’s why she liked routines. They gave her comfort, but most importantly, they gave her sleep, they closed her mind from conscious wandering.

Along with a fondness for routines, Mish also liked to dream, and she looked forward to time in bed and the pleasure of deep unbroken sleep. If she remembered her dreams when she woke up Mish would write them in her dream book that was always close at hand on the bedside table. What Mish did not like was thinking, and not being able to stop thinking, especially about the past. About when she was younger and the decisions that she made that had led her to a life settled in suburbia and middle age.

With semi-closed eyes she made her way back to her bed. The darkness that pervaded all the corners of house was confirmation that it was too early to get up, so with gratitude Mish crawled back under the duvet into the warm spot she had just left. She was as desperate to get back to sleep as a someone who was parched with thirst. Laying in bed with the duvet pulled around her back, she started to think about what time it could be. She hadn’t dared to open the curtains at all but there was a small gap at the top of them where a different shade of darkness had peered through. It was not night, but also not quite day. It was the kind of light that couldn’t make its mind up whether to be one thing or another. It was a comforting kind of dark light that assured Mish that there was still plenty of time to settle back into bed and maybe get back to her dream.

This time, sleep came again quickly and soon she breathed evenly as dreams caressed her mind.

The first alarm went off louder than usual. Well, it sounded louder but that was probably the alcohol increased sensitivity that was banging at her head.

As she made her way back from the bathroom for the second time that morning, she stopped by the window and gently pulled the curtains a few inches apart. The sky was still grey, although it was lighter than when she had got up a few hours ago.

Having that extra drink so close to the time she did eventually go to bed had been a really bad idea, she knew it at the time, but did it anyway, the way you do something that you know you are going to regret but carry on and enjoy the guilty pleasure of that moment. Now, in the early part of the morning when she knew she had to get moving, the regret was stronger than the momentary pleasure of the past evening. She made a mental note to stick to her routine in future. But somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that she would be having this reflective conversation with herself again sometime soon.

Glancing at the time on her phone, she saw the date and knew that she wouldn’t go back to sleep now that she had remembered, not that she could ever forget this date. There was now no chance of even five minutes of numb resting between the alarms. Clarity slapped her awake and she pulled the duvet even closer around her as she lay still with a fixed stare from her wide open eyes. Mish’s gaze held fast to the shaft of light fighting its way through the curtains onto the wall. Today was why she had the extra drink last night. It wasn’t a mystery, but it wasn’t something that she had purposely brought into the front of her mind. That glass of smooth merlot was her medicine to help her forget and sleep. Well, that’s what something in her said as she had poured herself that third large glass of wine. It didn’t work. It never did. With a sigh Mish threw back the duvet and pushed her feet into her slippers.

This day began the night before, when she was clearing up the kitchen before going up to bed. There was a tune on the radio that jolted her, she switched stations quickly and that’s when she reached for the wine that was sitting on the table.
Now the day began all over again, in the sombre grey light of the April morning.

It was the longest day of her life, every year the same thing. Just like the first time, when she was the same age as her son.

It was that thought, that stayed with her all day and caused her to raise her voice when she got home in the evening. Shouting and arguing were activities Mish didn’t like to partake in, especially since Jay had left; they left a sense of bitterness in her mouth and mind that even the sweetest glass of Ribena couldn’t displace.

It was later than usual when she eventually got home after work, and the shops had been full of indecisive people who didn’t know what they wanted to eat later.

“Shall we have pasta or a pizza?” The two women walking down the same aisle as her were asking each other for menu suggestions. The only thing was, they were doing it with their trolley – full of biscuits, packets and cans, positioned askew the aisle, so Mish couldn’t squeeze past the pallet that the store employees were unloading a little way ahead of them all; they had created a bottleneck. She didn’t want to back up and go all the way around, because she was sure that they would be at the other end of the aisle by the time she took the long route to the herbs and spices that were just beyond the shelf loads that were being slowly unpacked.

‘Pizza,’ she thought for them, ‘please choose pizza’. The pizza bases were on the shelf just to their right, she wanted to reach out and put a couple of packets into their basket just to get them out of the way. But they looked like they couldn’t be bothered to cook, they looked like they never cooked anything from scratch. ‘They’ll probably need the ready made pizza from the fresh food counter at the back of the shop,’ she thought as she took a second glance at their shopping.

‘Just move!’ Mish screamed inside her head. Then she said, “Excuse me,” in the politest tone she could muster. Her tone had a slight edge to it, despite her best efforts at calmness. They both jumped in surprise at her voice, she was inches away from the woman with dark brown hair peeking from under a maroon hat. Was she a woman or a young girl? Hard to tell from that angle and the clothes she was wearing, more like a shift than shapely clothes.

‘Younger than me by a long way’, Mish mused to herself, ‘should have more of a clue about food by now you’d think.’

“Oh, sorry,” the woman closest to her mumbled as she hastily pulled her trolley in to the side, banging into the shelves as she did so. “Oops!” she exclaimed to no one in particular.

As she walked past them Mish felt guilty for the way she had judged them on the content of their trolley. What did she know about them after all? Nothing. She knew nothing about them, the same amount they knew about her. But she did suddenly wish that there were rules for trolley behaviour in shops like the rules for using an escalator.

At the front door she nearly dropped the bags as she struggled with the shopping, her work bag and the keys. She really should have made two trips to the car, but she was reaching the point of exhaustion and just wanted to be indoors and sat down with a cup of tea.

As the door swung backwards into the hallway she stumbled a little and called out, “Josh? Josh? Where are you? Come and give me a hand, please.”

“Oh hi! Can it wait?” his voice trailed down the stairs from his room. “I’m busy watching something. I’ll be down in a bit. Alright?”

“Seriously?! Get down here now! I need your help.”

“Can’t it wait?”

“No. It can’t. How often do I ask you for help? Hardly ever. Please come and help me. Now, please!”

Angrily, he stomped out of his room and walked down the stairs where his mum was standing in the hallway.

The frustration between them collided in the air as they glared at each other.

‘This is so not on,’ Mish thought.

“When I was your age …” Mish could hear herself drifting off before she really began and when she knew that she needed to be focused and give a life lesson. But suddenly she didn’t care that she was getting distracted and that made her afraid. She needed to care. She knew that what she had started to say was important for her son to hear. Well, she had thought it was when she had started speaking, suddenly, she didn’t care about talking anymore and all she wanted to do was to wind back time and be in the bedsit in Surrey. All alone. All alone with nothing but her pain, her hopes, dreams, disappointments, and great unmade plans for the future.

The guilt that hit her when she realised what her thoughts meant made her face flush with embarrassment.

“Are you alright?” Suddenly, Josh was paying attention to his mum. Usually, when ‘she started’ as he liked to label the talks that she launched into with him – several times a day it seemed, he would put on that look that made it seem as if he was almost paying attention, but not too much otherwise she would know something was up.

“Yes, yes. I’m fine.” She lied.

He knew she had lied to him as he had read her face since he was a baby. Josh also knew that when his mum lied to him she got really sad for days after. What he didn’t know was that it was not the fact that she had lied that made her so sad, it was the reason behind the fact. That was a mystery that he had never been able to fathom. Once he had even searched in her room when she was out, to try to find out what her big secret was, trying to see if he could unlock the mystery to her infrequent withdrawals and repetitive playing of seven old records. But then he got bored with looking at her things that he thought were old and pointless. ‘These things would look great in an antique shop,’ he thought to himself as he sighed in frustration having not found anything worth a second look. If he had kept going for a few more minutes he would have uncovered the leather bound notebook, hidden in the drawer under the unused handkerchiefs. It was the perfect hiding place, because Josh, like so many other people, didn’t see the point in cloth handkerchiefs, especially the embroidered ones that his mum liked to collect, so he moved on with his half-hearted search before giving up and retreating to his room to watch something on TV. As he left her room, he looked over his shoulder to see if he had left it the same way as he had found it. Josh knew his mum loved having him in her room when he was in the mood to talk, but she hated it when he left things in a mess, especially in the kitchen. At night, when he was used to furrowing for food he was like a wild animal: he was too tired and didn’t care about the mess that he left. He knew that it annoyed her, but he also knew that he intended to clean it up later. Really, he did. Unfortunately, later never seemed to come before his mum blew her top and shouted at him to clean something or another up. It wasn’t really his fault that he was so busy. He wished she could understand what it was like to be him. But he didn’t ever say that. Instead he said, “I was just going to do that.”

But, being a teenager the time that the thing, whatever it was, would get done, never seemed to stay in his mind for longer than a few seconds. The truth was that he kept forgetting as there were more interesting things to look at, people to text and talk to, photos to post online and … well, life was more exciting that doing chores. Josh also had a failsafe fallback position because he knew that his mum hated mess and he could out-wait her. It was like a card game, he held the trump card which meant he never had to do anything if he didn’t want to. She would always give in first.

“When I was your age …” She started to speak again, and that’s when the dream journey into the past and a different future began.

‘When I was your age, I didn’t imagine that I would be here now, a parent, a home owner, an office worker. When I was your age … I had just left home and I was living in a bedsit, sharing a house with strangers, living hundreds of miles away from my family for the first time. I was working at a new job, in a new town doing something I wasn’t sure I could do. I had managed to convince my employers that I knew what I was talking about, I lived in a state of anxiety for years. I was sure that they would find out that I really didn’t have a clue and had blagged my way into the company by a series of unexpected turns of fortune.

There were many evenings when I would go back to my bedsit, doing my best to avoid all the other people in the house. I would furtively use the shared kitchen and bathroom when I knew they had all finished or were out somewhere. Sitting in my room, watching my portable TV or listening to the radio on a low volume, I was aware that my life was moving ahead of me in a direction I had only taken because I was too obstinate to accept the alternative. That’s another lie. I was afraid of the alternative. That’s the main reason that I had left home.

There I was, barely eighteen years old, living independently near the South coast, working in the head office of an insurance company. Why? Because I didn’t have any one to offer me an alternative. I didn’t have a cushy home life. I didn’t have a choice but to choose to survive and that was my best option. At the time, when I was your age, I felt like I was living on the moon, isolated and afraid.’

Instead of any of those thoughts she said, “I’d offer to help before I was asked, and I’d do things around the house when I was at home.”

“All I’m asking for now is a little help to put the shopping away. Is that too much to ask for? I’ve had a long, tiring day. Can’t you just help me?”

He just stood there looking at her. He made no effort to reach out and take any of the grocery bags from her. He was confused. He heard what she was saying but he couldn’t figure out what she wasn’t saying, and he was thinking about the film he was just watching too.

“What have you been doing while I’ve been out? Did you even …” Mish trailed off as she walked away from him and went into the kitchen. There she saw that the surfaces were still full of dirty dishes that he’d moved from his room the day before.

Spinning on her heels, she turned to Josh, “I thought …”

“I’m just about to do it.” He hurriedly said, walking past her and lazily moving a few items around the worktops. The truth was that he had forgotten about them, as usual.

“I’m done!” Mish dropped the three bags on the floor and walked out of the kitchen.

“Mum?” he called after her, but she didn’t stop. “Mum? What do you mean exactly when you say ‘done’?”

She ignored him, something she didn’t like to do but at that moment Mish was sure that any words that came out of her would hurt both of them.

With her hand on the bottom of the bannister Mish hesitated for a second, she really wanted to go back and take the frozen items out of the bag and put them into the freezer, but that would make her dramatic exit seem weak, so she carried on walking up the stairs and went into her bedroom. Closing the door behind her, she stood with her back against the dressing gown that hung on the brass hook at the back of the door. The warmth of the fleece-like material against the back of her head calmed her breathing for a few moments. She felt swaddled and stood still while her breathing returned to normal.

After a short while she could hear the freezer drawers opening in the kitchen, and the sound of frozen items being dropped into them.

‘That’s something,’ she thought wryly. ‘Why is everything such a big deal?’

She took a few steps and flopped onto her bed, Mish realised that she was still wearing her coat and started to cry. Not because of the coat. And she cried with silent tears, of course. She never cried so that Josh could hear her. Mish thought that he never knew, but the days when she had red eyes were also the days when he would surprise her with an unexpected kindness. It was a mutually agreed blindness to the truth, they both practised it without a word.

The house went quiet and she drifted off into a semi-conscious state where she was crying in her dreams. Some time later Mish heard the creak in the fifth step as Josh made his way upstairs. His hesitant footsteps reached outside her closed door. Then nothing for several seconds.

‘“Mother?” the simple word was accompanied by a knock at the door.
“Yes, Sweetie,” the tired automatic response came from the corner of her mouth.
“I’ve made you a cup of tea. Shall I bring it in?”
“Go on then,” Mish replied after she hastily wiped the remaining tears from her face and adjusted it to wear a tired smile.

Josh pushed the door open and lopped in.
“Where do you want it?”
“On the coaster, of course!”
“Of course!” he laughed his rich deep laughter and then sat on the end of the bed. He was staying for a moment. That was unusual.
There was a hint of nervousness around him even though he feigned the look of casual indifference.

He scanned her face while pretending not to look at her directly at all, that was something he was getting good at. He noticed the slight redness in her eyes, but didn’t say anything.
‘I thought she’d been crying,’ his internal dialogue started up and he assessed the state of his mum while deciding what to do. ‘I was right. Oh God! Not again. What is it this time? Ah well.
… Humour usually works,’ he thought. ‘I’ll give that a go, then I leave her be.’

“Why have you still got your coat on? Are you cold? Or are you having a ‘senior moment’?” He looked straight at her as he spoke. Again he laughed and the corners of his eyes crinkled up like a beautiful piece of linen.

Despite herself Mish smiled at him and pulled herself up, propping her back up against the huge colourful cushions that were strewn on the bed.

‘He really does care,’ she thought. ‘He is such a darling!’ Even though there were times she could cheerfully strangle him for being a brat, at that moment all she thought of was how wonderful he was.

Mish smiled involuntarily as she remembered the joy he gave her from the moment he was born. She remembered all her hopes and dreams for him as he lay in her arms, and now, looking at him sat on the end of her bed, Mish felt guilty all over again as she replayed the words in her mind as she reprimanded him for his laid back approach to life.
“When I was your age…”

And suddenly she was grateful that Josh was not having the same life experience that she had when she was his age. In the bedsit, all those years ago Mish would never have guessed that her real life’s purpose was not insurance but being his mother, especially as she had barely been mothered herself. It was in that same secluded room that she lay alone after she had just stopped the process of being a young mother herself by a simple hospital procedure: in and out. All done.

Shaking the memory from her mind she smiled at him. He was such a lovely boy.

That was his cue. He knew it was a real smile. Not one of those fake grins that she used to try to placate him when she couldn’t be bothered to talk anymore.

“Right, I’m going to my room,” he responded with a crooked grin. “The kitchen is tidy, too.”

“I should hope so! It’s about time.” Mish retorted and they both laughed.

“Sorry about the delay in service,” he said as he walked out.

(3,777 words)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2017

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