Doll tale 3: Leaving is living, Matilda
6 October 2014
She thought that she would never have the time to leave before he came back. The events of the previous day raced through her mind as colours that would clash at the bottom of a kaleidoscope. The more she thought of escaping, the more she felt petrified. It seemed to her that there was no way out and she felt like a piece of Emmenthal squeezed in a sandwich between the two hot plates of a toaster which inevitably would make her melt, doing away with her.
To leave, to leave, to leave. She brooded over the word to the exasperation of her mind that revolted against her incessant litanies, her tiresome indecision. To leave yes, but to leave without a quest, without the possibility of winning… What for? To leave, but how to leave and how to organize oneself, what to do? These thoughts incessantly ran through her mind like an infernal rondo making her feel dizzy.
Matilda was pacing in front of her car and could not bring herself to slip behind the wheel and take to her heels with her baby asleep in his baby seat. She suddenly stopped pacing, unbuckled her baby turned around and went back into the house. It would not do them any good to drive in her condition and she might as well take the train later she thought. She put the toddler back in his crib and he continued to sleep undisturbed. He had suckled his mother for so long that he was completely satisfied and had fallen into a deep, restful sleep. She stroked his cheek before heading down to the kitchen. Mechanically she took out the broom, vacuum, bucket and various liquids to clean floors and other household items and began to clean.
Everything was a victim of her zealous cleaning from the floor to the ceiling not forgetting the curtains, the dishes and the children’s toys littering the living room floor. She paused for a moment, realizing that she was stacking everything she was tidying into a pile of five. Today’s pain, for some reason, made her mind wander to the digit five.
Five. The five children she would have had if one of them did not fall following a ski accident the year before leaving the twin free to develop in her belly and if the first, a long time ago, had not come out without a sound. Five if that first one, as dead as her heart had not been ejected at five and a half months in a creepy delivery where death triumphed over life. Giving birth to death, trying to smother one’s five senses to keep no memory of that moment and yet having that memory forever etched in one’s mind and through the five senses so alive at that time: the pain of her flesh, the vision of the doctor, of the pale white ceiling, the smell of ammonia and that more characteristic medical scent of hospitals, the sound that did not come, deafening to the ear despite her knowing that no noise would be there and the words, irritatingly encouraging, oppressive, unnecessary of the midwife who kept asking to push again and again because it would soon be over.
She stood up angrily and ran down to the basement where she vented her grief. She felt that she should as if by patriotic inclination go to war against the cobwebs and dust bunnies she had left to accumulate in the basement of her house during the aftermath of her pregnancy. These grey and sad dirtballs that rose out of the basement when she shook the rugs made her think about the quirky songs of the past that her husband would mention to her and that, for her, were just as crass as those dust bunnies despite the fact that he thought they were funny and light jokes. She furiously shook the carpets which seemed to release a never ending trail of dirt in the air. How much dirt could these rugs still conceal she thought angrily.
She thought to herself that if she had known before she would have got rid of that gunk for it was not a light joke but a solid reality of today. Did he say a slight madness of yesterday? No, a reality of today, she thought banging the carpet she still held while her tears mingled freely with the particles of dirt coming out of the carpet and fell heavily to the ground or caused the dust to be again made prisoner of the carpet. This floor was really going to keep a very vivid trace of her battle she thought. Everything had been removed, dusted, polished and re-shelved.
She took a deep breath and walked towards the kitchen in a daze where she rinsed her hands and mechanically prepared three sandwiches for the children coming home from school hungry and their nanny who would accompany them home before she left for the day. She then turned towards the mop realizing she had forgotten to remove the water on the floor. As she seized the mop, she reached towards the refrigerator to try to close the door before falling on her back nursing her elbow from the electric shock. She had forgotten that there was still that bad contact problem that her husband had not taken care of and that she had been standing with bare feet in the middle of a pool of water. The current passing through her body had dazed her but had also stopped dead in its tracks her furious housewife’s urge. She stood up, gingerly feeling her heavy and painful hand and proceeded to finish drying the water to prevent one of the children having to endure the same incident.
She walked slowly down the stairs to the basement to see if she had forgotten something. The cardboard box she had left in the middle of the room not knowing if she should bring its content up or leave it down caught her eye. It was a box full of old vinyl albums and on the top of the pile there was an album of ABBA and something broke in her at the sight of this palindrome. ABBA made her think of ABC and she had missed the ABC of all the signs, the ABC of sniffing those clues of treachery was what she had missed out. She grabbed the disc as well as all the others inside the box and began methodically to break them into two.
She then proceeded to the cellar, opened the door with the key hanging on a nail in the wall to the left side of the handle and looked at the bottles that adorned the wall: the “grand cru” bordeaux for special occasions were rubbing shoulders with “côtes du Rhone”, “blanc de blanc”, bottles of champagne, a few rare costly burgundy wines among other cheaper wines. She did not drink but if there was an occasion to celebrate she thought bitterly, it was this one. How to solve this dilemma? She took the first bottle of overpriced Champagne that met her nervous fingers and that her husband had asked her not to open unless he gave her the permission to do so. “Yes, what a good idea”, she said to herself, “let us pop the cork of the champagne like in olden times slicing its top off” but she realized that the Samurai sword was in the bedroom so she resorted to the wall. She drank a few drops cutting herself at the edge of the lips in the process. She took another bottle, a Chateau Margaux with a deep robe that went crashing against the white wall of the wine cellar. Many other bottles suffered a similar fate as she continued her relentless task.
When she left the cellar, the brackish unsavoury pond that decorated its floor kept emitting bubbles that she left to tremble and burst in the dark by turning off the light. She closed the door behind her and leaned against it, rubbing her temples with her fingers that were numb from that mechanical task earlier. She heard above her head footsteps and laughter as the children came home from school with their nanny. She looked at herself in the mirror of the cabinet of the cellar and was shocked to see her livid face smeared with tears and soot. Slowly she walked towards the basin of the laundry room and began to clean her sticky face and hands. She then stripped off her soiled clothes, took a light dress which was folded in a basket of items to be ironed on top of the washing machine and slipped it on. She then climbed two by two the stairs that separated her from her children and rushed toward them with open arms. “Mom! ” they cried in chorus and she pressed them against her heart.
As always they had so much to tell her and she was always surprised and amazed that they could have so much to tell her each time they returned from school. Yet the day before she had listened to their stories and marveled at how different they were from the day before that. Every day they experienced exciting new events and every day, they like her marveled at being able to experience such interesting events.
In his room, their brother had just woken up from a deep sleep after his vigorous suckling at noon. He let out a long wail of one who is hungry again and Matilda and her children looked at each other with a knowing air. “You’ll have to feed again this greedy little boy,” said her daughter with a mischievous grin. Matilda smiled softly and extended a hand towards her. “Will you come and help me change him?” she asked her daughter. Her eldest son followed loudly proclaiming that he too wanted to take care of his brother and that changing babies was not a task reserved for women. All three climbed the stairs leading to the plaintive sound of the little greedy one who was claiming his own personal pantry on feet. In three, they were quick to change his diaper, then the two children watched their mother settle into the big chair and her eldest put the nursing pillow under her elbow while her daughter adjusted the blankets around her little brother.
Matilda gently stroked the baby’s cheek and the small mouth opened to grasp the nourishing nipple. And while life flowed in the gulps that her son took, Matilda felt life gently flow back again into her heart as she devised a plan to leave.