Three Young Surrealist Women Holding in their Arms the Skins of an Orchestra – Dalí, 1936
Having always used her music as an instrument, a gift to stifle hurt in others, a searching for a niche into which she could stuff pansies or wallflowers, a grey to be drenched with peony or tangerine, she became pliable, perfectly responsive to circumstance, a kitten following its master, chase-and-nibble. At first she didn’t notice herself changing, so intent was she on pacifying with titbits the yawning jaw. Filling the jug of subjugation. Until she awoke in a boulder-desert, stone-faced, immaterial. Her life shrunk now to two needers who dominated: her mother and her daughter. Her music no more than a cipher, a distorted keyboard painted on a banner wrung out, flung out between her and the others, a mute offering. The godlike gift something less than animal or vegetable. A split skewed thing. And she, a rock-musician, no longer able to please anyone.
Attendant circumstances: the sun and the moon, in that order. Running home, no reason to think the house would not be as we’d left it. Mother wiping workaday hands on her stretchy pink overall. Father gulping down tea, talking to whoever was there, his soft-steel presence filling the house, so that we breathed in, moved carefully into corners. And my brother: thinning, staring, wandering off for longer and longer, forgetting to say where, just flushed cheeks and eyes shining like polythene. But the noise coiled through the windows and walls before we arrived—a wind of tangled voices sighing and soughing. The back door open. Mother not in the kitchen. Father, loitering. The next room quickly dark with cousins and uncles and Irish people, all here not there. On top of each other, two heads to each person. All the heads crying. And Mother by the fire, flanked by four aunts. Someone took us to a back room, away from the sobbing-wind sound, offered us sweets, as many as we liked, while day turned to night, in that order.
but my past was making it very difficult. Every time I would go to shake its hand, it put thumb to nose and wiggled its fingers. I tried cooking it a nice meal. All it did was make a fuss about the bones I'd left in the lamb tagine, to enhance the flavour. I tried Martinis: it didn't like olives; pavlova: it had a meringue allergy; after-dinner coffee: it couldn't have caffeine after 3pm. I started to wonder if it might have been easier to have remained enemies. Or better still, if I'd thought of it earlier, I could have poisoned the food and killed the past. But I knew one thing the past liked and that was a drink. So I slipped antifreeze into its Amaretto liqueur, and as we sat and drank, smoking Cuban cigars, listening to Andy Williams, I smiled to myself, knowing that any minute, the ethylene glycol would kick in. It was then the past turned to me and said: "I know I act mean, but I would like to make friends or peace or whatever you want to call it." I stumbled to the kitchen, where I added the remaining poison to my White Russian and downed it. Then we lay together, in each other's arms, until, at last, we were at peace.