I crashed. The internal injuries severe. Grazes, lacerations and bruises. I knew if I lost my footing and slipped any further into the yawning chasm so soon after – I would not return. Not this time. I picked up my phone, still resisting and dialed 1800 247 247. Pieta House.
I was holding on to a future, you see. But. On Friday 2nd September 2016, the Department of Social Protection said “No, sorry you can’t have the Back To Education Allowance” (despite agreeing to it in May).
On Monday 5th September 2016, assigned as the new beginning, I emailed the Course Director and told her I wouldn’t be carving out a new future (at least, not at the moment).
Pieta House staff overwhelmed me with the soft place they gave me to fall. And I did. They are catching me.
While I was choking on Nothing, my Kins rushed in and gifted me a holiday to a place where healing occurs. Torre del Lago, Puccini.
I met a woman from another country who knew a woman that went on a date with Elvis Presley. She told me that Gypsies train their children to steal from a very young age. She told me drug addicts were disgusting the way they littered the streets. She told me all Black Women were prostitutes. I wondered why she hated herself, so much.
I wondered too, how much resilience had I left in my cup.
I met the grandson of Puccini’s chauffeur and ate in a place that is owned by Andrea Bocelli’s cousin. They knew food was supposed to be a sensuous experience.
In Florence, I met a man from Morocco selling his paintings who told me I had a beautiful smile and painted a little picture for me. For free. Then. He asked me did I want to meet him for a drink in the evening. I didn’t think he’d understand Dyke. So, I took his painting and the compliment and said “Arrivederci”.
I had the capacity to absorb Artemisia’s (Gentileschi) painting Judith Slaying Holofernes – There is a lot of blood. I cried when I saw Botticelli’s’ Venus. I had capacity for Beauty too.
The woman who tidies left the key in the door of my room. When I returned it, they apologised and offered me dinner in a Michelin Star restaurant. I accepted.
I stepped into the sea and became a mermaid. I cycled and stopped at the Fruit & Veg shop, locking my bike with the casualness of a local. An everyday local.
I wrote two essays. Feminism: A Constipated State. And. How the Left Lean Right. I half wrote another. Framing Suffering for Public Consumption. I felt possessed.
I agreed with Roxane Gay reading her essay The Measure of Men (Bad Feminist) “if we are still having an incomprehensible debate about contraception and reproductive freedom, it becomes clear women are dealing with trickle-down misogyny."
When the waiters saw me drawing or writing they presented me with free Espressos and Limoncellos. I knew I shouldn’t be drinking in a state Others call crazy.
It felt like support. I needed support.
I drank a lot of water and the sun burnt my skin. The blades of thought slowed down like I was about to land. The gentle and respectful lady from Thailand asked if I wanted Reflexology. I said yes. Then. I slept for a year and watched the sun set.
I went on a boat trip. I wanted to see the Marshlands and the Birds.
The big wheels of her chair were decorated in flames. She could only speak with her eyes. She smiled at me. We danced. My heart danced. I told her I knew she was really an Angel masquerading as Human. Her mother cried. She didn’t speak English.
I met Federico who told me that only Beauty and Abstract Painting calmed his soul. He told me he used a palette knife, acrylic and the walls of his home as a canvass. He said I needed La Dolce, so he bought me a cream pastry and strawberries. He said I had a smile like a ‘Christmas morning baby’. I thought he might be a Kindred Spirit.
I saw a teaching job in Naples, advertised. I applied for it.
I packed my things and had a shower. I noticed I was standing. In the mirror I saw thorns rising up out of my skin. I thought that was interesting.
I remembered Puccini’s gun collection. I was glad I didn’t have one.
I had no change so the man on the bus let me travel for free. When I stepped off at the airport I said “Buona Giornata e Grazie mille”
My cup of resilience felt a little replenished. But I still didn’t know how much there was left.
The Department of Social Protection sent me another letter. They needed my help. They said they would value my feedback so they could improve their service. The data would be collected by W5, a company owned by a close friend of John Bruton. They assured me it would all be kept confidential.
I didn't know how much I had left in my cup. I thought I’d wait another few days before I decided to test it ;