The tangles of kelp broke the sea’s surface like seal pelts, declining and surfacing. The beach’s dank smell announced seaweed rotting under the small buzz of sand flies. So many paths, she thought, led to this scene from this place, this balcony. So many paths that link all that is blessed.
Really? She had an acid mind, a query awaiting any easy pleasing generalization. All that is blessed? Then she let the sea smell work the memory switch. It allowed early seaside memories with parents and their friends. And their friends’ children with whom she and her sisters were told to ‘go and play’.
Play had been subsumed in miserable apprehension of parental discord. Absorbed in woes pulled down from father’s sad eyes, and mother’s abstraction, the shrill cries of other children on the beach deepened their loneliness. Only occasionally the sisters managed the childlike carefreeness that their parents expected of them.
All this became grist to the mill of the achieving ‘clever girl’ – that oxymoron that required rejection of the pleasures of life. Margaret and her sister turned their little backs on silliness: giggling was denied as trivial even wicked, over-feminine. They became sacrificial lambs, studiously taking that role as pathway to an unworldly joy – the reward for sacrifice.
But life moves on, as they say. In due course, the scent of her own children lifted her heart, smiled her eyes and sweetened life. The darling soft skins, the shining eyes, their wicked energy and their small heavens brought her the fragrance of bliss. That allowed, others crept in, making space for eros and play. Splinters appeared in the glassy expectation of right living.
The sounds of shards of glass giving way – under the need to work for money – restored her energy. New people made her laugh and she made them laugh, and laughing became a legitimate pursuit. She began to laugh at solemnity, especially her own. The splinters, uncomfortable, sharp, hard to integrate led unexpectedly to travel, and Margaret made friends with poor people and rough people, their smells and alleyways and rickshaws.
As the end nears, she notices the tangled patterns and no longer needs to pick them apart. The solemn child mirrors the current solitary age in which not much time remains. Work plays, play works. Like the kelp, the patterns please.