Saturday, 5 June 2010

Background Details

I used to leave little messages to myself around the house, fiercely folded slips of paper I'd squeeze into skirting-board corners or stuff underneath the furniture. The idea was to forget about these notes, then discover them again at a later date. I was trying to get in touch my future self, I guess. Dear Jane, dear Jane: I've been thinking about you again; I've forgotten to tell you how beautiful you are; I've always known you would escape, see the world, fall in love.

One of my favourite hiding places, actually, was in old library books, in that envelope they used to have pasted inside to keep track of each copy (and which often housed the signatures of previous readers).

The climax to all of this was when I began tape recording the messages. I started burying cassettes in the backyard, wrapping them in waxpaper, before I finally dug them up again weeks perhaps even months afterwards. I would play them at night, on a blue walkman that only had three buttons: play, stop, and fast-forward. I can still feel the texture of those foam-insulated headphones. Always, I would shiver when I heard the sound of my voice so ghostly and warbled, telling secrets from the abyss. It made me a little nervous, a little like I was evesdropping on something off-limits.

The only thing, I think, that saved my sanity was when my parents suddenly divorced. I was eleven at the time. Shortly after that, I seem to recall my mother blaming me for ruining her azaleas. Even though I pleaded ignorance, she knew something was up. Maybe she had noticed a footprint in the flowerbed. Maybe she had come across one of my notes and became suspicious. I never found out--but the obsession ended. The notes were all retreived and unfolded, the tapes erased. My future self ceased to be a myserious object of interest.

But every once and awhile, my secret self haunts me. On cold nights when I feel like taking a walk, feel the urge for slipping away without anybody knowing, I hear that girl's voice again. Dear Jane, she says, over and over, before she is finally muffled by all those absent years left between sender and recipient.

Figures in the background of a wedding photograph from Norton Canes, 1937. The marriage of my great aunt and uncle, Ada and Harry Hesketh. My grandmother was a bridesmaind.

No comments:

Post a Comment