Tales From The Machine, or, Embellishments on a Theme


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Her name was Katrina.
Did I love her because she was the girl next door and I was 6 years old, or did I love her because all I can recall of her now is dark hair and dark eyes.
We lived on the most idyllic street you could possibly imagine, all perfect suburban houses and happy neighbours, blue skies and leafy avenues. I lived next to her, and she lived next to an open expanse of grass and trees and childhood dreams. It wasn't a field; not a park nor a meadow. It was wilder than that. At first, your feet may find short grass, perhaps a forlorn looking sapling, but then the ground would dip and curve and you'd now tread ground more Mythago Wood than Enid Blyton. It was the strangest of feelings to be amongst those trees, knowing that you were in a neighborhood as far removed from danger or darkness as blood is from stone, yet to feel that creeping sense of unease that doesn't so much scare us as it fuels our imaginations. The stronger the memory of it grows within my mind, the more difficult it is for me to describe. Perhaps I will take a photograph of it one day, and then you will understand.
Katrina was from that place. Or at least, her spirit was. In streets littered with successful businessmen, gleaming cars and trophy wives, it was as if she existed there as part of a time left behind, something feral and free. We were close, I think. I can no longer tell the difference between what was real and what I choose, or hope, to have been real. But I have vivid images of her house, her family, the bathroom window I jumped from, almost breaking my ankle..........why I jumped I have no idea, but she always had a way of making me take paths I would never have chosen alone. Yes, we were close.
And then my family moved, and I was 16 when I saw her again. Her family had been ripped apart by a truck that jumped a traffic light, killing her two sisters and putting her in hospital for a month. Our mothers had kept in contact, and a week or so after Katrina was released from hospital, I accompanied my mother on a visit to their house (they had also since moved). Not having spoken to her for almost ten years, I know my reasons for going with were not as noble as they should have been. As badly as I felt for the tragedy that befell them, I went not to join in mourning, but to see whether she might match the young woman that I had seen her grow into, in my mind. And outwardly, she did. Lithe and jagged, even now I remember the flutter of nerves that passed through me at the sight of her. She was everything I had been told was beautiful. And I nurtured the ridiculous notion that the bond we had once shared would be conjured again the second we locked eyes. We talked, and talked well. I did glimpse the remnants of that bond, but it was never the right time for anything to happen between us. Her hair was still dark, but her eyes were no longer lit by irreverence, only by the fragments of sunlight seeping through the patio doors. Whether that irreverence had been tamed by age or by circumstance, mattered not. What mattered was that I missed it. And it made me wonder, was it her, or the peculiarity of that wooded playground that bled into my thoughts. I have never seen her since.
I think I've stumbled across the best way of describing that place and that time. One of the few other recollections I have from back then, is a dream I had. In the dream, I awoke in my bed, slowly pressed back the covers and examined my bedroom. Against a wall at the foot of the bed was a wooden toy box, and standing in front of the box at almost the same height, was a creature. I remember being neither awe struck, nor racked with fear, just confused as to whether I was still dreaming or not. The creature looked like something from a Maurice Sendak book, and though the thought only just occurs to me now, it looked as if it might well have lived in the woods next-door.
Now, I sit with a riddle that I doubt I will ever solve. Was there something inside me that those woods awoke, something that made me happier playing beneath grey skies rather than blue? Was I engineered with an affinity for the parts of life that tend to hide under rocks or scurry through puddles when the rain thunders down? Or do I gravitate toward the kinds of music and literature that I do, simply because it returns me to a time shot through with that elusive combination of yearning, hope and filigree.
I drove past our old house on Sunday morning. I left home earlier than I realised, and was left with a few minutes before the grocery store opened. The house is on the way, so I took a slight detour, and saw it for the first time in many years. I still can't believe how little anything has changed. We live in a country that has changed more in ten years than many nations do in 100, and yet certain suburbs remain untouched. I drove past the woods, half expecting to see something wild spying out from the cover of my frondescent memories.
And you know what? I think I just might have.


5 Responses to “Tales From The Machine, or, Embellishments on a Theme”

  1. Anonymous kyknoord 

    "Lithe and jagged" Love that.
    Disappointed that it wasn't about a squirrel, though.

  2. Anonymous forgottenmachine 

    Hey, I could have gone with Parenthesis suggestion. I'm sure that would have been far more disappointing.

    Still, the squirrel idea is growing on me.....

  3. Anonymous Lukewhatever 

    I fowt it wuz gonna be about a kiss ... :( but never mind, as always you manage to deliver. Dammit. :)

  4. Anonymous Patrick Hillman 

    I just happened across your site tonight via the "random blog" button. It's nearly 1:00 a.m., and I decided nearly a half hour ago that I was going to click and click until something came up that I admired. I'd nearly given up hope, to be honest -- but then your site appeared. I'm still unfamiliar with your site in general, but just wanted to comment on how beautifully written this particular entry was -- haunting, striking stuff. Too good for a blog, really. Funny how it reminded me of my own early childhood (which was likely far, far from the place you described). But, some experiences are simply universal. I hear that from others, from time to time. Anyway, I'll definitely be back when I have more time to explore your writing.

    Best regards,
    -PH

  5. Anonymous Parenthesis 

    Frondescent? I must say I like that. Nice one.
    As to the squirrel bit, my earlier suggestion refers.
    I'm in a squirrelly kind of mood.
    :-p
    [The exam was easy peasy in case you were wondering ....]

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