Letter to a younger sister in the Czech Republic

I never had that kind of attention. I never received
that kind of loud applause. Never called love rapture, or,
passionate. We don’t talk anymore about the frog
hospital, me landing up there again, relapse after relapse.
You never called long distance about the war inside
my head, my inner torment, the clinical madness of
it all. Of stress, then burn out, then manic highs and
seduction theory after seduction theory, being low.
You become a parenthesis. But you don’t know the half
of anything. That you’re a watermelon midwife and
the blues in the middle of a road trip in the Kalahari.
There are days when I can’t seem to think. Can’t do
anything really. Everyone seems to be leaving. They want
to go to greener pastures. Find their purpose in life
there. If you find it there where you are, please tell me.
I have failed you all. I have let you down badly in the
past. But you don’t let me make it up to you. You don’t
click send. I have never felt discontent so alive before.
You’re a quiet place. You’re with your boyfriend. He’s
      an artist. You ignore my messages. I try and understand.
You. This bipolar life. The life that I’ve chosen to live now,
as novelist, and it’s as if we’re coming home from the
sea again, but we’re not. You’ve fled to Europe. I’m the
daughter that stayed put. Found her purpose in writing.
You’re the tenacity of this water flowing under the bridge
of this. You holding the structure up with arms made
of layers of steel and magnolia, prairies as if you
wandered there on your American experience in your
youth. You have legs made of iron in a machine-age.
You’re three, four, five poems. You’re a modern fever.
You believe that I’ve never lived. That I don’t know anything
about the price of swimming. That taking is for the
asking. You walk on a cloud floating down the universe.
You never ask about it. You never asked me about it.
In conversation it wouldn’t come up like a weather report.
I find my life derailed somehow without the great
marriage my parents had and the three children. I say
good morning, and the word reconciles life with death, weddings
      and funerals take the shape of the sea, the place of fake
mortality, the bleak outlook of the abnormal, the washed-
out neuroses playing itself out inside the reality of my head.
I put my hair in a scarf, go outside. Hear the sound of
glass breaking. I can’t take anything much anymore.
Everything sounds like glass breaking. You grow up
with it, it eventually becomes your entire life world. You
begin to crack up. To deaden and numb the pain you
take more pills. Sleeping pills, tranquillisers, anything.
More pain medication to dumb and dull what you’re
thinking, what you’re feeling, who you’re with, and the
people that you’re not with. You’re a million miles
away in thought in the middle of serious conversation.
Might as well be another planet. And everything feels
like death, but on good days everything feels splendid.
Feels well. Then you’re into this world. You want it all.
I am drowning. I am in the black water. The water is
as black as night. So, is this voyage into eternity.
      You want everything in it. You’re walking on a dream
that you’re holding in your palms. I take to my bed holding
onto to this dream of being the other daughter. The good one.
Whenever I think of our brother, I start to cry, take
to my bed, take more pharmaceuticals. This time I
have really lost my mind for good. I am not normal
anymore. I am crazy for sleep, insomniac that I am.
I thought he’d always stay. Now he wants to leave (with a girl)
all of us behind. Just. Like. You. The other daughter.
I can’t save myself anymore. My mind is gone, gone, gone.
They’re trying to erase me. They got it right. They got
it right. The monsters swimming outside my window
in the city lights at night have got it right. Tears drip
from my eyes like candlewax. All I want to do is rejoice
in the world, reinvent my life. Can’t. Can’t. I want my future
back, but years have gone by and I’m not fearless
anymore. You left, sibling. Gone for good to Rilke’s Europe.
I can’t rule the world anymore. My life is finished. It is
over. It is over. I wake up, all I want to do is sleep it off.
      Leave me now just like everyone else. The bipolar flame
is inside of me for good. Everlasting. And every year I relapse.
Nothing good for me in it. Except always this contrast
between nightfall and daybreak. This knowledge that
of course, I am not normal. I don’t fit into broader society, broader
society does not want, or, accept me. Inside I am dead
already. Can’t you see, can’t you see, I can see, I can
see. My life is over. It is gone. Farewell into the sun.
The sun has taken everything that has belonged to me,
eaten it up, turned every wound to fire, every hurt into
cackling women who chase me away from their homes.
I cannot accept sanity anymore. Only flashing lights,
strange dreams that come upon me. It could be the drugs
talking. There is a hell, just as sure as there is a heaven.
There is a paradise that I recall from reading novels. And
when I wasn’t having a relapse, they still locked me up in
high care. With the people who were there for professional
help. They wanted to do away with me, the monsters.
Those red furious beasts who want to see me having a
      bipolar life, for the rest of my life. So, I am writing to you
in the Czech Republic, and I am not writing to you. And I want to
call you my darling sibling. You call me nothing at all.
And I wish I had no shame. I wish I had only love.
But I can’t be with or without my madness personality, I’m
an ellipsis. I have no desire. When I am apart from the
teaching of the manic-depressive personality I am ignorant
of the abnormal. I say that like it is a good thing. I can’t
say anything. Anything at all. So, I push up dead daisies
around my body in sleep. They just grow from within me
root and plant and stem and all. Madness is the psychiatrist.
Madness is my shame. You can’t tell me anything about it,
Like the history of water in wild places in the wilderness.
Water found in lakes, in swimming pools, in the oceans wide.
I take holiday snapshots of my madness at the sea, it strikes
a pose in a bikini at the beach, and I worry for it, about it.
It will last me as long as this life. It is a lonely life a madness
life. You will lose everything. Gain absolutely nothing back
which you lost. People call you mad, black sheep. People call you
bizarre lunatic. They don’t return your calls. They pretend
they don’t know you in the street. That you never existed for them.
They forget your kindness. Your face. Erase your number.

Abigail George is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated South African essayist, poet, short story writer, and novelist.

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