I Have Never Seen a Star

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The gunmetal pallor of the tracing paper shoed no sign of the red and blue of England and the ocean.

The night was the flare of phosphor pooled between utter blackness, or in rain perhaps a glint of slate grey shining like the hide of a rhino at the water hole.

The registration of the jaguar at the end of our street was clear to my sister but a rectangle of vague mystery to me.

Leaves had no veins or patina. As plain as coloured paper fixed to the trees with gum. My glasses were those of an indian dentist from a silent movie. Coarse and round and pitted with the lacerations of my calamities. My mother’s skin was as smooth and unblemished as a baby, her silver hair as smooth as the pot where the pepper chicken and coarse rice boiled on the dirty black and grey stove.

The garage was either shadow or light. Half a lawn mower, bright green and red in the blade of sun through a cracked window, the rest obscure and lost in another fathomless shadow. Water in a lake or in the sea was solid like soup, unfathomable, terrifying. I would disappear under it’s surface never to be saved or seen. Clouds looked like towering mountains of inscrutable featureless snow. Bigger than Everest, overhanging the street. The black and white Alsatian dog that belonged to no one looked at me with pale yellow eyes more sightless than my own and challenged me to abide in his infinite sadness, a herald of the misery that awaited me down the track.

My cousins were the only girls I saw close up, so I loved them. They were my whole young woman world. They laughed and their eyes flashed and they did not burn my arms or twist my fingers or cut my clothes or steal my books or light my hair with matches or shred the tyres on my bike or paint ‘blind little cunt’ on my raincoat or put shit in my sports bag or write Mr Dougall is queer on my homework or come to me from the side and trip me on the stairs or punch me in the head or tie me to a tree in the park and tell me how stupid blind boys go to hell and I was going to hell and hold a knife at my throat and push me down into the dirty gold of the autumn sycamore leves and press my face into the sod with their heels and cut open my pants with their penknives. And all the time I laughed and fought and cried and lied and swore vengeance and wanted to run away and never ever go back.

I sit here now; placid, fully restored, no bitterness, no memories of the names or the faces of my tormentors. The blurred lines of sight have long gone. So now there is no light – but also there is no darkness. Only the absence of sight and my own imagination and and endless circus of dancing checkerboards and flares and swirls of silver iridescence that only sleep can banish. Every day is a movie of my own subconscious imagination. Every person has the endless capacity to be beautiful to me, or hideous to me. I try not to judge anyone. But my conscience and my ethics and my imagination conspire like a triumvarate of stern unyilding magistrates who listen, examine, evaluate, sum up and judge all those in my path. The blunt unkindness of good women who do not know they resemble the father they despise, the man still dragging his freedom like a heavy sack from the quagmire of his privilege, the woman who sees only the spectre of her oppressor and not the unfathomable fear love confusion and pleading in the eyes of children who have had all certainty, the greatest of all gifts of a secure childhood, removed., the young men hurtling away from their own youth, past the nearby stars of bondage -premature maturity, responsibility, debt farther and farther towards the distand galaxy of a cold bed and a slow divorce.

But everything and all this is being alive. And being alive is the ultimate prize. It’s the euromillions. Every one of us stumbles across the raging river, leaping with inadequate balance from each slippery shining rock to the next, losing ourfooting, wretching with fear as we look at the boiling surf swirling around our feet, often no sign of dry land. But it is not the endless, dreamless, shapeless alternative. For that we must be joyful. Like me, you can leap empty handed into the darkness with infinite and fearless trust.

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