Alice

The clouds have moved in and they seem to be darkening before your eyes. You watch for a while from the door, outside enough to feel the thickening atmosphere, inside enough to stay dry when the inevitable happens: the clouds break open and the water cycle starts again. The thing with storms is not just the sounds and the feel of the rain. The greyblueblack light and the death of shadows. The air feels thicker, the smell of the water to come, the wind whips up the dead leaves, the litter in the park, and the clouds themselves. The moisture hangs heavy. And you, from your door way, insideoutside notice it all. As if you could feel the change in some primordial way, the way cattle are supposed to as your mother once told you they could. Even in the clear afternoon you told yourself that this was coming. There is a rumble in the distance and you smile to yourself. The hairs on the back of your hands stir a little. The clouds are pressing in like a horror move, like a room where the walls move in to crush the heroine pushed by a moustachioed villain bent on world domination. This is his storm and you are impotent in his presence, powerless to stop him. There are more rumbles. There is less light. The heavens, as they say, open, and you duck your head inside. The leaves and the litter are pushed back down and now rush along the street in streams to the gutters. Everything is under attack from machine gun droplets, snipers in the heavens. The world, it seems is on it’s knees hunkering down. The walls, the ceiling, move in. But at the same time you notice something else, something that the hairs on the back of your hand were really trying to tell you: you are alive. And the lightning flashes and you see the shapes of the clouds from underneath, their architecture; the shades of grey and white, the blue and almostgreen. Worms magically appear on the lawn, summoned by the beating of the earth as the drums of Africa bring life to the townships. Berries are washed and shaken onto the ground and you think of the blackbird, and the thunder rumbles once more but now the wind whistles, too. You look back inside and see the books and the records and the vegetables and the fireplace, the tree of your own life. You breath and smell the clean air, and notice that it feels less oppressive. A ray of light breaks through and shows up nothing in particular, but you notice it, of course.

The night had not been kind but you kind of knew it wouldn’t be. The excitement from the storm, the stress of the office, the beers you shouldn’t have drunk. You woke just too early after a bad dream, got up to pee and stubbed your toe. You had a thick head and were too hot as your body processed the alcohol whilst you slept. The dream was forgotten quickly but it certainly involved violence and the threat of more. You tried to sleep again but by then you were awake and you tossed and turned in increasingly frustrated movements before you gave it up. A jealous moon shone through the window as the Earth turned away from it and the shadows it made felt as if she had sent them purely to taunt you. The pile of clothes in the corner a reminder of your nightmare, the shape on the wall a metaphor for your head. Indigestion rumbled like the thunder of the day before making you as comfortable in your body as you were in your bed, as the litter in the rain. There would be so much to do tomorrow that you knew you’d be too tired to accomplish, and you felt worse. You just had to wait the too-early morning out. As you did the shadows retraced their steps back into the objects of your room and the moonlight gave way to a faint sun. The black gave way to a grey, silver, blue, pastelpeach. The dawn twilight calmed your tired eyes even as the headache closed in like the clouds, like the villain’s wall. You’d sleep soon enough, too late, but for now you watched as the peach became orange and a faint pink traced a poem across the sky; a poem of the world as it is: painful, beautiful.

There are two hands. There is a left hand and a right hand and they are attached to the arms, and therefore the body, of Alice. The hands want to tell you a story. The left hand gives it to us straight; there is oppression, grief, death. There are headaches, stubbed toes and bad dreams. There are bad realities. There are storms and struggles and there are wars and diseases, famines, horror. The left hand wants to grab us and force us to look at the harsh conditions of others and at the difficulties in our own lives. The left hand does not want to spoil us with sugar or pseudo-philosophies on the power of positive thinking. This stuff is going on and the left hand wants us to be aware, wants us to take control and in doing, take action. Not to depress us but to have us know so that we can do something about it. The left hand shows us with passionate anger, and with righteousness that to live is to experience this. The right hand nods. The right hand agrees with the left hand. But the right hand wants to show us something else too. The right hand wants us to see the sunrise and the ray of light, the worms sucking up the wet soil, the birds picking up berries, the smell of the storm. The right hand gives us the memories of our dead, the daydreams, hope, reconciliation. The right hand makes us smile, makes us cry with love. And the left hand nods. The left hand agrees with the right hand. And Alice, in between left and right, nods too.

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