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Amber Paulen


Taken from The Body’s Long Madness, Draft 2, Part 2, Page 37-38

The bus stop is on the road near to the beach. There is an open airy feeling Valerie tries to let herself go into. The open feeling of unknown situations, of trusting someone else for her directions; she must not be anxious for it, pressuring it, deepening her dependence within it. To focus on it too fully gives disproportion. That open and airy feeling is there for her, there for a reason; beyond the din of the passing traffic are the rolling waves on the open sea; beyond the sea is more land, more experiences. Valerie has promised to let herself go, to take willingly what she is given. There is nothing nerve-racking about gentle John and his offer of a weekend; she’s never had such a weekend.

Tall headlights cut through the dark. The bus stops for her and Valerie climbs on. She reads the name she has written on her paper to the bus driver, who nods understandingly. Valerie picks an empty seat, half wondering if he knew, if he could read on her face what she was about to do.

The bus jerks haphazardly along the country road, dropping Lagos behind as soon as Valerie boarded. The flat, low-undulating hills can only be seen if Valerie pushes her face up against the glass, cupping her hands around her eyes to block out the harsh florescent lights. She wants to see where she is going; she wants to know where she has been. All is dark out there, for a split second Valerie wonders, ‘Where is John taking me?’ There are no houses, how could there be a bar out here, a hotel, whatever this place was. Pulling away from the window Valerie catches her reflection. She takes a double glance, out of curiosity. She hasn’t seen her reflection otherwise. She hasn’t been using mirrors for some time, since she started on her travels, she just can’t be bothered to care. What that reflection means to her and signifies is nothing. Sometimes she would prefer it if there was no physical reminder to remind her that she was there. She knows she is. What does that image do for me? What does she have to do with that reflection?

Disconnection. That’s as best as she can explain it. That’s not me and I’m not that. I’m this sitting here, moving forward to an unknown destination—not that predictable reflection, that common face cum body. Not that Valerie finds herself unattractive or otherwise repugnant, but that she just doesn’t care. A difficult sentiment to try and explain, especially to those types of women who learn from day one that that’s them, that that reflection is the best thing they’ve got. Maybe it’s all part due from our society, our image driven, flashing light motivated, society: always dead certain that the image and the look is all, always fully convincing that that look is the only real thing you will ever have. Period! Bullshit! Bullshit topped with bullshit. So Valerie gives up the image in the mirror, forgets she even has one half the time, so that eventually, she will be able to build up her own. It’s the only route left open for intelligent women, she supposes, either that or get sucked down into the mirror driven mass populations. No thanks! I am faceless, reflectionless, I don’t care if you judge me by this shadow I present because I am not that. I am more than you will ever wish to be. I am myself, strong-willed and independent, forward moving because in this forward motion I will discover the truths everyone else is convinced of being hidden. I will, I will, I will. . .and with all that effort, the reflection just falls away and the inner-being glows like a lightning bug on a moonlit night. . .like the oasis of glowing street lamps out the window. The bus driver gives a harsh yell and a firm motion to Valerie. She grabs her bag, this must be her stop.


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