Ruth Carneson

The Spinster, the Mountain and the Traveller

I am strong, I endure quietly. On the surface I am busy, but underneath are layers of darkness and silence. I was born here and never left, it was only fragments of myself that were hacked off and carried in suitcases to other parts of the world. And now some of the fragments have returned to form a new layer of myself.
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Magdalene is my name, Maggie for short. I never married; the old fashioned word for me is Spinster, a woman who spins. Single, unloved, dry, left on the shelf, a maiden aunt, but not lonely, never lonely. I am safe in my solitude. I could have been a nun and gone into a convent and taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Poverty and chastity I can handle, but obedience goes against my nature and the choices I made.  The choice not to get married and not to measure myself against other peoples expectations and rules.
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I have been travelling for a long time, spinning around and around, as the earth spins around. I am homeless and restless. My family slipped through my fingers. Too much drinking, too much fighting. I wouldn’t recognise my children now. I have lived in a lot of cities with no connection to people or places. I survive quietly, slipping through the cracks. I know how to make myself invisible, how to blend in. I don’t look like a homeless person; I look like Mister Average. The only tell tale signs might be my eyes, women become uneasy when I look at them, but usually I wear dark glasses.

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Maggie can see me from her window. I am the reason she never gets lonely. She studies my moods; she knows me intimately. You might think she was my lover, the way she explores all my paths and hidden nooks and crannies. We have a marriage of sorts; ‘ till death do us part’ but Maggie will be gone from here long before me.

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Today is my birthday, as a gift to myself I will climb to the highest peak of my mountain. The spectacular view is always my favourite gift to myself. My mountain and me will spend the day together.
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A stranger has climbed up me, he has the energy of a ghost, there is nothing solid about him; it is almost as if he is no one. It is hard to tell where he is from, he is restless, disconnected. He has climbed up to the very top of me and is looking down into the city. He stands on a ledge, he might jump or fall, there is very little to stop him disappearing into the void.
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I am tired of wondering from place to place. I could settle in this city below me. By now my traces should be safely covered. I must put my guilt aside and reconstruct myself, forge a new identity, one that feels authentic. I have enough money to set myself up and live modestly. I made a killing, literally, but I must put that behind me. Too bad people had to die. Remorse and sleepless nights won’t bring them back to life. There is a strange woman walking towards me, she is alone, vulnerable. It would be easy to vanish on this mountain top without a trace.

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Some one has got to the peak before me; he will spoil my view and my birthday party. Why has this man come here?
I should push him off the ledge, he has ruined my solitude. I don’t like men climbing on my mountain, you can’t trust them.
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I watch Maggie looking at the man; I can see her muttering to herself. He looks back at her, he thinks she’s mad. Maggie has climbed up to the top of the peak. He smiles at her and doffs his cap; he is standing too close to her, she can’t see his eyes behind his dark glasses. He is saying something to her. He has a crisp white handkerchief neatly folded into a triangle in the top pocket of his jacket, he looks the perfect gentleman.
He slips his hand into his pocket, inside is something dangerous, sharp and shiny; I can see Maggie is uneasy. A body hurtles down my slope, followed by a fluttering white handkerchief. I can see Maggie. She is laughing to herself as she cuts her  birthday cake.

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