Kathleen Rocksavage: Neophyte

Kathleen Rocksavage



Buzz does not convolute her life. She believes she has unshowy convictions. She paints herself in gentle brushstrokes, hardly completing the outline.  That is to say she means a lot to herself but is not concerned that she means little to anyone else. Indeed, she studiously doesn’t care  – she is the nucleus of her universe. She doesn’t get to express this much. She finds that usually in a public situation she talks listlessly and her accent changes – or wobbles wildly – without warning. But she likes feeling completely and solidly seperate through a wee haze. Especially today, on the wedding day every newspaper has felt the need to document for weeks. There is a sense of frenzy. Even the sun is an open burning eye of hyperbole. In its false light, the two characters involved grin religiously and Buzz has retreated to a safe place, inside, away from the seething populus. She ambles down her usual thoroughfares, thinks it out.
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She gains impetus by ironing, the engine shuuush of the machine galvanising her. Chores are a comfort. Her handling of the hot device, however inexpert, achieves warm, clean-looking results; she irons, therefore she is, that kind of thing. Och. She’s a strange fruit. She’s not blinkered, or unaware. She looks out on on the day and doesn’t transform it into glossy memory or heartache, just white-faced time and a series of electrons and gases. Space. Buzz finds that truly comforting. She is not comforted by much. Her job is mindless. She only sometimes notices just how inhuman the rules and punishments are – for lateness, for non-conformity. In general Buzz tries not to let her life only have one lyric, anyway life feels good enough to her and there are so many people that complain. Today, on the day that everyone has become mindlessly happy, however, Buzz says to the iron, the ironing board and her compact environment: What a fucking tactless pair of cunts. 
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She puts on a Joy Division record. Anything to deepen and otherwise complicate the glaringly superficial shallows that lap at the door. The very idea of going from commoner to princess seems to Buzz a hideous transformation – hundreds of years of theory and action and still the need for beauty from beast? Buzz too wants to better herself, but feels the weight of history bearing down on her and feels that everything is being done to compress space into a backward-looking red, white and blue cube of national stasis. Buzz looks down at her ironing. She smiles. She is ironing a Union Jack top that has a faded ‘Spice Girls’ logo across the chest. Rumbled. A youthful desire to be Ginger Spice, coupled with Buzz’s inability to throw things away and her belief that eventually all bands become retro and therefore cool, sits and stares at her, half-ironed. She feels relieved that the distant planet of meaning she keeps glimpsing remains, although part of her universe, light years away. Introspection, she thinks, is not a dominant theme of today’s event. Everything, she realises, is as it seems.
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Buzz has been reading Middlemarch, every afternoon she reads a page or two. She copies down quotes as if they might rub off on her, but do they? Buzz is a great believer in knowledge, but how to reach for “the fullest truth, the least partial good” without having coffers brimming with money and time to truly think? This is Buzz’s paltry excuse, and she tussles with it. The fullest truth seems so far from human comprehension on this barmy sunny April morning; but this is why Buzz has been shaken from her habitual shrugging-off of the wrongs that pass before her. The wedding also has a more prosaic significance for Buzz. She married a man. She wore a dress and a ring and never knew why. She did not invest thought into the situation, because thought was not part of the agreement. The agreement had been archaic, biblical, nonsensical. There is, of course, a more obscure connection: the wedding falls on the same day that skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan was born, in 1931. Buzz heard her first Lonnie song the day she left her husband, and still hears Lonnie’s voice on every triumphant anniversary. Buzz calls her ex-husband ‘The Sewer’. She hasn’t ironed that out yet.
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Like Dorothea Brooke, Buzz thought her marriage would make her “a neophyte about to enter on a higher grade of initiation”. “Did it fuck,” says her sister, “the only initiation he gave you was venereal disease”. Which is true. The Sewer had given her a medieval infection which seemed to leer strangely out of a past, less modern life she didn’t immediately recognise. She endured the tests, the embarassment of sharing a waiting room with a surprisingly large collection of diseased people who she ignored whilst a large television blasted kids TV. She had felt trapped by the television portal, consumed. Today, again, she feels trapped. In her universe of meaning, the royal wedding looms like a black hole. Stray too close, and there’s no turning back. It seems like a gas cloud that floats transparently over another, starker world of recession, poverty and discontent. Somewhere in this obscure zone, rootless and singular, Buzz inhabits a universe that most resembles a celestial book that writes its own stories. The gas cloud dissipates and loses meaning for Buzz, a champagne bubble. Middlemarch factors highly on Buzz’s interstate wanderings, it really seems to mean what it says. It is celestial. And anyway, she and Dorothea have a lot of things in common. Their marriages were not what they expected. .
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Buzz was sad when the Sewer left. Despite the STD and the detachment and his strange love of gossip magazines (especially that), Buzz was OK to continue. But he sort of sidled off, embarassed, and Buzz’s sister was incandescent with rage, which rubbed off on Buzz, and she didn’t stop him. Now, at the same time as rejoicing in her status as a glowing solitary rock in a firmament of stars, she imagines a Sewer-like being far away and nods benignly in his general direction. This, for Buzz, is as ‘over’ the Sewer as she ever needs to be. Now and then she models herself on an early Tertius Lydgate in Middlemarch – at least, she is acquainted with Fever, if only privately. She likes to sift through her things in the quiet hours of the night, but she too is often caught up in the mechanics of the day. She considers herself a quietly oscillating spare part amongst the ricocheting emails, the only result being that by the end of the month she has money in her bank. Her colleagues at work are more like Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice, or worse – the paranoid-bodied postmodern version steeped in wine. Buzz rushes home from work to get inside. She does all the usual things and her universe is magnificently endless.
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Like Lydgate, Buzz wants to “pierce the obscurity of those minute processes”, and like Lydgate Buzz is quite aware that this solitary action brings her an “agreeable afterglow of excitement when thought… seems, as it were, to throw itself on its back after vigorous swimming and float with the repose of unexhausted strength”. This, thinks Buzz, is where it’s at. She feels glorious, like summer. The street is full of people. Buzz cannot countenance their blindly imperial arrogance. Still, the flags and bunting come out. Buzz settles into her books, puts a blanket over the TV. Her firmament of atoms contracts and extends like a womb. The phone rings. She picks it up, regarding the receiver as if it had suddenly warped out of deep space. It is the Sewer: “Just thought I’d ring you on this special day! Isn’t it great?” She puts the phone down. Smiles. The time for the actions of fools is rife. It shouts like wedding bells in the public squares. No matter.
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Kathleen Rocksavage is a lover of books. She moves between Paris, the Cotswolds, Zagreb and the Scottish Highlands, where she writes, keeps goats and makes things out of wicker. 

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