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Shakespeare’s Meadowlands: Short fiction by Abigail George

Image: (c) via Flickr
Image: (c) via Flickr

I owe people money and I am writing again. I must tell you. I love you my darling. I hope that you are not lonely. I have to do collateral damage. Please do not be angry with me but I have to write this play to earn an extra income. I want to do right by you. You are everything to me and because you are everything to me, I will move heaven and earth to see to it that what I am writing will become a roaring success. I do miss you. Do you ever think of me sometimes? Man is flesh and bone, a violent creature, but a woman is something else. She can illuminate the world around her, dance around it surrounded by the things that love her the most, her children and her husband without lifting a finger. Glories lie aside; men take what they can get. They take to lovers but I am all yours.

I think of your beauty but you are beautiful in a myriad of ways. Even my daydreaming turns into transformations. In the dark, I am a floating body made up of God particles. I have a confession to make. I am crazy about you. I read books the way inexperienced girls take to lovers. All I have now are these glorious winter dreams about you. Not all the time but just sometimes. Whatever I was thinking and feeling before, the writer’s block is gone now. Thank heavens for that otherwise I would never have got out of this mess alive if you know what I mean. One day people will love you, sing your praises to the rooftops and the next if you owe them money it becomes dangerous to be alive. I want to be with you not just for appearances sake all the time when I am away from you. It is getting late. It is getting dark and I still have plenty of work to do.

Now that I have found you, I have found inspiration for every sonnet. I want you. I am haunted by you as I am by any woman’s lot in life. Just think of me. Think of my loneliness and my fear. The fear that I have that I will never be able to provide for you or the fear that I have that I will never write again. All I do is imagine you cooking up a feast and gardening. You are grand. You are grand. A lot of the time when I spend time with other playwrights, they ask what my secret is. You have to live and then they ask me, these playwrights who are just as successful as I am but who are or rather seem to be jealous out of their minds at how prolific I am ask me, well how do you live? Know your limits I say. Know your limits when it comes to drinking and know your limits when it comes to women but especially know your limits when it comes to borrowing money.

Do not forget that everything in life is a struggle when you are an adult. I live from hand to mouth but they just roll their eyes and scoff. Even when I was a child, life was difficult but I had a mother and a father who loved me and could explain the ins and the outs of the world to me poignantly, beautifully, wonderfully. Life was a zoo country. If I tell them that I write about myself mostly and as often as I can about the women who have stripped beauty from my heart and wonder from my life I know that they will not believe me. I write for the working classes. I write to emancipate myself from the class structure in London, England. They want to talk about leaving a legacy. Balderdash I say to that. Balderdash. They want to live forever and in wanting to live forever, they forget that they have to live now. Another thing that they fail to do is write all the time even when they do not feel inspired.

They wait for a woman to arrive on the scene so that they can admire her and love her to death inside of their heads of all places. This is the madness that I have to live with on a daily basis. None of these men really seem very sane at all to me. We are all in it together. Art. The art form of the play. We drink together. We live together. We inspire each other. Sometimes we bounce ideas off each other. We are fiercely competitive. It is in man’s nature to be fiercely competitive with each other. How do you do it repeatedly? How do you triumph when we fail to do so, they ask. Here in my room it is cold and drafty but all I have to do is think of you and everything is all right again in my world. Parachutes of winter light and cold air. I am hungry for the light. I find it difficult for the inspiration to kick in when I write by candlelight. The light to me is spiritual like the writer’s intuition.

The sunlight is honest because it reveals everything. Even a hideous man can become beautiful. Every soldier’s fissure has a psychological and a physiological framework. I am fortunately not a soldier. Do not have those terrible war scenes written on the blueprint of my mind. The horrors of war. I look at the young men who have survived. Who have come back and I cannot look into their eyes. There is no life there. Imagine if these young men were to marry, their young wives, and what if they brought children into the world what kind of household would that be. All women are elegant and sophisticated in their own way. Even an ugly woman. I will not talk about my childhood to you. I will not talk to you about children but what I will talk to you about is love and pleasure. Rather I will talk to you about insights, about courage and about the motivation to write.

I meet so many fools. Where are all the wise men I ask myself? They say for a man to be wise he has to have a wife. In the state I am in right now, all I do is stare blankly at the walls around me. Sure, I feel isolated. The thing is I do not need praise in order to write. Just a little bit of encouragement from the fools around me who keep on telling me that they can never write again because they have just lost the love of their life. The love of his life in question usually belongs to someone else in the first place. I will still be in love with the halo, and the crown of your head while intimacy will be a dying art form for millennial couples. So even shrouds burst into song or leaves of grass from time to time. Here forsaken will I be for a raging lunatic who has seen his dead father’s ghost.

Coming back to you. Half of my life’s work so far has been written in the vein of tragedy and when I have tried to write comedy. People laugh. They come to the theatre and they have a good time. They pay good money to have a swell time but the thing is I am always thinking of putting in a love story. Every play has to have a love story. If it does not then I know it will be a failure and then I would have failed too. It is like flirting with disaster. Walking, dancing on glass. I have not written about you to you enough in this letter. You my future wife are adored and admired by an eternal romantic. A ghost story, my Eve, a haunting postcard, a joyful sonnet in the hands of a scholar or poet discovering it for the first time, my future wife, and I am the one with all of this restless and frustrated energy. You are my poetry, the end of the history of violence, my familiar catalyst and my connection to reality.

What is reality anyway? All I can spell out is its unholy demise, ‘dismays and rainbows’. You can say that you love a woman and that she is perfect for you but what happens to all that sincerity when she gives birth. It blossoms, it flowers into something else and a tenderness opens in the floodgates of a man’s heart. How do you know that you are with the right woman? You are sensitive towards her when you are the insensitive brute amongst men. You just know that you care about her and love her in a jaded breakthrough, triumphant way. You leave your cynicism behind and reform. You are happy with your newfound hope and happily leave all despair and the costumes that people wore and did not wear, the people who let you down and disappointed you behind. You discover you are no longer restricted by writing.

Now you are also a family man and the expectation of that leaves a spell on you. I am writing to you about all of this because I think that you know me best. I do not know what you will make of it but know that it is written sincerely and with tenderness. History concentrates too much on heroes and not enough on the family man. There is so much focus on hell, madness and despair. There is so much war. Good men have died and I am certain that they have gone to heaven’s gates, knocked and were let in but I cannot understand is why we have sent these good men to war in the first place if the only reason was for them to lose their lives. All I know is that you have never injured me. Men injure men a great deal. Men insult men but the relationship between a man and a woman who are going to be husband and wife it is a little bit different.

Sometimes it is a bit depressing in my room and then I think of you and the sun comes out. Sometimes when it rains and the London streets are filled with mud all I can think of is the lotus flower. I hope I do not sound pompous or arrogant when I say these words. It is a gift. Writing is a gift and I am a gift to this world. When I write there is also detachment and I rather like using this as a shield when people (fools) want to make an engagement with me and ask me silly questions. Gobbledegook. These geese. Why do they not read more, these illiterates, I ask myself, instead of interrupting me from my work? It is not in the reading, it is in the meditating on what you are reading. It is concentrating on not feeling superior but they will not listen to me when I talk to them like this, which is a bit depressing. They have what is called ‘the ego’ and there is nothing that I can do for them.

One fellow was telling me about how he fell in love with a duchess who was older than he was. It sounded interesting but only, if only he had got around to writing down some of it. I listened to him. I know how important it is for any playwright just to be given an ear. He just spoke on and on and on and would not stop. Dramatic. It sounded pretty good though. There were parts that sounded phenomenal. I guffawed along with the rest of his entourage. I would even say he went as far to impress me. Yes, I would say that in all honesty. I love meeting new artists. Pity he did not get a head start on writing it. All this must bore you. What keeps you busy these days (besides thinking of me in my drafty room in London)? When it rains, I think of your tears. When I look at the River Thames, I think of you. A bouquet of baby’s breath, white lilies and roses in your hands.

When I see horses and carriages, I think of us finally being married in a church. Having said those vows and then I will put forth all the matters of my domestic life, I put it in your hands against the backdrop of Stratford-upon-Avon. I do not know how you feel about that word ‘ego’. Do you think that I have it within me not to be associated with that word? They call me an artist but I do not know what that word really means. They laugh and I think there is a part of their soul that is laughing at me. All artists are insecure. Anchors will snap. The solidity of the blue sky disappears with every sunset. I remember the long days and the even longer nights when loneliness, fear, vulnerability and negativity brushes up against my mental faculties killing me. Stopping me dead in my tracks. You are beautiful and I do not think I say it often enough.

A woman needs to hear it all the time from her beloved. I know that sometimes you feel you lose me to London. You lose me to the world of artists but most importantly, you have my heart. For whom am I keeping this self-preservation? For no one. For no one. I want to give you everything-everything. There will never be any real love in my life beside you. You, God, and that is it for me. I am lonelier than ever. In London, all those beautiful men and women can surround you but they are all too arrogant for words. They are shallow. You would not believe how mean-spirited some of them are. How highly they think of themselves but just try to have a conversation with one of them. Words will be coming out of their mouth with no rhyme or reason. London folk think they are brilliant. They do not really care about me very much then, I think to myself except when they want something to amuse themselves with.

I am a martyr. My blood twitching in my flesh, every bone, platelet and cell. I know my voice now. It is a claw. It will not let go of anything bright and illuminating. Anything that has a glare. I understand the identity, the psychological framework of the depressed now. Let me explain it to you like this. Let me tell you of the bitter truths that I cannot escape from in my life. A man who is envious as other men who are envious of him. I am that man. I hate them just as they hate me. We may drink together but that is where the story ends. I am a latecomer. I must still learn the rules of engagement. I want to tell them that I am a fraud. I want to tell them that I am a phony but then I heard the laughter after A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I felt elated. They were laughing with me all the way. The throat is all that it is. Blue sky is found yonder. Blue sky is found in the throat.

Sometimes I am that blue sky. It swallows me whole. It swallows my mental faculties’ whole. Its melancholia. There is a certain kind of terror that I have of falling, of failure, of never being able to fall in love with the female protagonist in a play again or find a muse. I think it has much to do with the weather this time of year. Perhaps that is why I find it so difficult to write. The roads are muddy. My boots are muddy. All I can feel is despair and hardship. You are my asset. You are my flame. That is what I call my intellect. That is what I call you. A woman goes by many names by her beloved. Oh, I feel so hopeless now that I wish I were back in your arms. Your breath is like a sphere, an atmosphere, a God particle and it completes me. You are my infinite landscape. You are my infinite swell. I have the body of a man but the hands of a poet. Sensitive hands. I have the swagger of a man and the eyes of a hopeless romantic.

Except when people want entertainment then they know who I am. At this very moment, I am contemplating the entire life of thaw, loss with its gut symmetries, the psychological and physiological fissures of the female protagonists in my plays. I have found a name for my hero. I think I will call him Romeo. Romeo, Romeo where art thou Romeo. Everything inspires me. I took a walk today. I watched the current in the river, mud on my boots, my coat hardly keeping me warm (but I had to get out) and lost myself in the pleasure of looking at it. There was something almost lyrical about it. The waves beat to their own drum and I took this portrait with me to my room, sat down at my desk, and began to write in earnest about life, the fire, thinking of you, love. I try not to think about insanity too much because when it comes it comes in waves. Lest it cross the threshold, I will turn into a shroud.

Now we would not want that to happen. I am happy if you are happy dearest. If you are sad then I am sad. I try not to cry too much. One day the millennial couples will call it a long distance relationship. Writers have three identities. One is always in the past, the other the present and the identity that is the most ongoing is the one that is born in the future. That one paralyses you in your waking moments. You can dream about your past. Your subconscious has an ongoing hold over you on that. I am better than sane, love. I am ecstatic. I am elated that you love me and that I love you. I think about every woman who is exploited on the streets of London, another born into aristocracy becomes a socialite and is forever throwing parties for her friends. For every woman who has ice in her lungs, glaciers in her eyes there is another with warmth in her eyes.

For every woman who is unmarried at the age of thirty another is a wife and a mother. Does not every woman want a cottage with a garden? Does she not want to serve fish pie to her husband? Go on trips with her children to the sea. Honeymoon in Brighton. Then there is the woman who is an innocent fool. I do not know how many bright women there are in the world today. I only know that perhaps you are the last remaining one of your kind. Do men really want an educated wife? A woman who is more of an intellectual than he is? I know our friendship matters to you just as much as our love does. Try not to remember the sad things. Know this. That you were pursued. In case I have never said this before I write to educate people. It should be written on my tombstone. William Shakespeare wrote to educate people.

Your hair falls across your face and I brush it away carelessly but with love. Always with love because I am your beloved. When we first met we were strangers but are people who fall in love with each at first sight ever strangers, is there nothing familiar perhaps about the arch of your back, your hands, a young girl’s bones, place, pace, time, judgement because do not the two people in question who have fallen for each other judge each other. Without you, I am in the desert and behind the sounds of silence there, you will find my intellect and my psyche. Love fills me with terror. It blends in with the dark waters in the rivers of London where drowning visitors and cats with their kittens have met their fate. I know I have everything to lose if I lost you to children and death. Staring down at you from an immense height fills me with terror.

You continue with your work as if nothing has changed in the world. Fists, violence are undreamt up but not you. You are a bird that plummets before beating its wings magically and being elevated to glory. All I have is your ghost alongside me in London. Your language has a body and I must translate it, dismantle it, and reassemble it into almosts. Sometimes all I know of the world is agony. I am a friend from England. In autumn, my lungs can freeze to death in this box of a room I stomp my boots on the floor. Giving, living, hoping is like the morning light. It reserves judgement. I love you. There I said it. I love you. You are mine to behold and adore. I look at every line on your face with a desperate curiosity. You can call me sentimental. I call it anticipatory nostalgia. There I said it and now I can never take it back again.


Image: (c) via Flickr

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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