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Invasion of Privacy: A Short Story by Abigail George

The unknown is the greatest landscape in the world. Here nothing is unspeakable and extraordinary human endeavour is never sacrificed. There are zero moral possibilities, passions and there are only a multitude of poisons in the beginning that have to be got rid of subtly. At the end all that came before, that nourished you is destroyed and all that is destroyed is history. Soon everything that came before is forgotten with age, with wisdom and through hard-won perseverance. The world is not enough but it is promising. I wake up to the realisation that everything else pales in comparison. Boundaries, warriors, proactive radicals, the accused are removable; they can be erased with lightning speed, even if memories weren’t.

You have all met her – your match, the alpha female. You have all met her son. I was hilarious, amusing, I did not have to fight for attention that afternoon because I was the centre of it. Questioning stares and glances were thrown my way. Already his mother thinks my ideas are irrelevant.

The three of them, husband, father, wife, mother, son were intensely private, intensely attractive individuals. They all had the same eyes – beautiful, fluid, vacant and large. The pictures against the wall are inspiring, ethereal, beautiful, promising chilling territory over poverty. Their limbs made softly mechanical, slow, smooth movements enveloping the air around them in a bubble of graceful energy.

I was entranced by their mysterious nature. Their affairs are compelling, never following a formula, their relationships are complicated, and their lives are unconventional and curious. What did the hunt reveal? Everything in the house has a curious, inventive beauty. It has a novel, otherworldly or an old-fashioned significance. It sparks further investigation. It unleashes an imaginative stillness within me.

The father paints pictures, his mother is an invigorating sensualist and their son is a combination of them both. How dangerous and exhilarating men are. There always seems to be a paralytic symbiosis between the sexes of obsession and racing hysteria, trivia and fixation. But there aren’t any romantic delusions here. She doesn’t know why I am here. He hasn’t told his mother.

In the kitchen his mother cooks with an imaginative and descriptive flair. How lovely she looks with her face like that. She exhausts the history of turmeric, spices and vegetables with me. It struck home truths with me since I liked to cook and only really did so for my father, who was really appreciative of every kind thing I demonstrated. But what she wants me to do is leave. I am in the way. She hints around it. But as I am not funny, rather serious, I never tend to get jokes, I do not become uncomfortable, I do not get the hint and instead I warm to her. I think we are in some sought of sisterhood. Everything she tells me strikes a note of truth.

Her face is animated, a source of pleasure, of victory amidst the engagement with other people in the room as she hurts me. I pretend not to see any meaning and purpose behind her words. Yet I was still hypnotized as the three of them sat in the room like satellites spinning around each other. They each give the impression of a pure state of being.

I speak about how my emotional eating gets me happy. I fill the silences as best I can. I was caught up in a web of lies. I stared on in disbelief as the afternoon unfolded bizarrely around me. I will not deny that in the beginning there was the potential for tenderness, respect and fixed independence from this family. I want to confide in her so badly. I watch the pale smoke from her cigarette evaporate. She’s older and more sophisticated than I am. She couldn’t care less about my feelings. Her regard is for her son, his physical health and for his well-being.

I tried to suppress my fears in the chill of their embrace. My body feels like ice needles settling in a river in the dead clearing of winter. I do not think I will survive the afternoon. Her voice has become thin, reedy – she is corrupting me. Her words are watery, without any substance to back them up. My head begins to spin. Her lipstick oozes and stains the creases in her thin lips. Yet she still remained alluring. I feel sick, ill and in need of some assurance.  My face is drained of colour.

I refrain from confessing I have hyperthyroidism. Strangers hate confessions from other strangers even more than they do from the sick or manic-depressive. Every month I have to have my blood tested. This afternoon is becoming reminiscent of that. Something I do not cherish.

The blood spurts into the tube, hurtles through space, spilling its beautiful guts. It doesn’t sicken, disturb or frighten me anymore. It gives the impression of beautiful health, a clean bill of health like the trace of his mother’s lipstick. It only serves to give the impression that this charade won’t last forever. But I will have to have regular check-ups. I am deathly afraid of needles. They inspire an unbreakable and crushing anxiety within me. My demeanour is masked, unlovable, cold and unknown when I feel that electric pinprick of the needle as opposed to what I am thinking, outwardly displaying and feeling now. The tone of my voice is harmless, cheerful, light as I chat with his mother. My face is flushed now. I can leave at any time; I can make up an elegant excuse, yet I feel trapped.

My face is filled with traces of sadness in anticipation of the brisk nurse, as; no doubt as it is now as I search his mother’s face with an ignited, growing inborn frustration. In the temporary light I wish I were home reading. I wish I had never come and set this wheel, this friction in motion. I should never have telephoned. He should never have come over.

Recognition is shaping me to spot the missing diagnosis of the subtle dynamic of our relationship as we speak to each other.

All the signs were there. The air was hostile. I am left in no doubt both men recognised this while we spoke. I am left trailing in her wake, the outsider, haunted, hunted and pale while she remains in control and ingenious. She peels away, strips away all the protective layers I have sheltered myself within with consummate ease. She opens up intolerable but healing wounds again. Outwardly she reveals nothing. She has chipped into my armour. She has marked me. I am disgraced, unsuccessful and unhappy. I am almost close to tears and apologetic. The words, “I am so sorry to have taken up your busy time.” are on my lips.

The light has begun to dissolve outside and shadows begin to rise and fall. Down came a soothing afternoon shower of rain. Everything is so still and composed in the light. I am still and composed. Only I am not in love but perhaps all the signs were there and she meant to discourage me but I was not in love. I am bitter, brooding and everything I say has a mean, political edge. I feel devastated that the afternoon has been such a waste. I have made no impression on her but I have rediscovered painful truths about my past. I am uninvited.

She drives me home and I wave goodbye. I watch her car turn at the corner. The incident was distracting but it had lost its appeal quickly for reflection and it restored me spontaneously to my former glory as an outsider. I am happy to be an outsider, observing, watching and for now losing myself in popular forms of culture. It makes me a truly inspired original and unique. To outsiders the essence of humankind’s true beauty lies within the soul and kindred spirits.

In a flash she was gone, skilled, educated, not uniquely brilliant, or entirely corrupt. Her vices did not threaten me anymore. We would never meet again, I was certain of that. I am tired of the neuroses of women, the thinly disguised and professional veneer of scorn and malice. Women are all aging in the pursuit of personal happiness and of achieving the height of success but their lives seem incomplete without a stab of unsettling jealousy, tinged with fatal outbursts of emotional instability and hysteria.
It was the impossible that woke me up to loveliness that was not lost, inconceivable miracles, destinies fulfilled when moments in time seem to stand still and trigger a swift recovery. There was always relief coupled with a temporary shift from eternal brightness to suffering.

Some women seem to be on this planet to make work look easy, fashioning lame response after lame response, they marry men for money or they make too much money. The list never ends. Some bathe in the total freedom of the lack of intimacy.

Abigail George
Abigail George
South African Abigail George is a blogger, essayist, short story writer, screenwriter, novelist, and poet. She briefly studied film in Johannesburg. She has two film projects in development and is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre for the Book and another from ECPACC. Her publishers are Tendai Rinos Mwanaka (Zimbabwe, Mwanaka Media and Publishing or Mmap), Xavier Hennekinne (Australia/New Zealand, Gazebo Books), and Thanos Kalamidas (Finland, Ovi). Her literary representative is Morten Rand. She is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net nominated, and European Union Poetry Prize longlisted poet. Her poem “The Accident” was Identity Theory's Editor's Choice for Spring. Ink Sweat and Tears chose her poem “When light poured into me at the swimming pool” as a September Pick of the Month, and she recently made the shortlist of the Writing Ukraine Prize 2023. She is a poet/writer who believes in the transformative, restorative and healing powers of words. Her latest book is Letter To Petya Dubarova (Australia/New Zealand, Gazebo Books). Young Galaxies (a poetry book) was released in 2023 from Mmap and a memoir When Bad Mothers Happen is forthcoming. “Clarissa, Hector and Septimus Redefined” was recently published by Novelty Fiction in Kindle format.

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