It was so hot last night we sat out in the garden and watched the moon come up. The steamy warm breeze we call a Berg wind was blowing, similar to the Santa Ana, or a sirocco in Morocco. Every tiny mosquito, gnat, beetle buggy thing and insect that crawls on the earth and flies in the night or wriggles around and drops from trees, found my exposed tender skin and ate some of it. This morning I am covered in itchy bumps and red blotches. But the moon and balmy warmth was worth it.
A friend came over and said: ‘My new dog is driving me to drink.’
When some people say that, they mean they feel frazzled and they want to go and find the unopened gin bottle and get out a tot measure and shake loose a dozen dinky ice cubes, and then forget about the whole idea because they can’t find decent tonic in the house. When other people say that, they mean the dog is today’s excuse to fetch the half-bottle of vodka cunningly tucked away behind the fabric softener and pack of toilet rolls and then have to dash to the bottle store to get another bottle of voddies, a six-pack of beer and five litres of boxed wine for the evening. All the dog’s fault.
Whta my friend meant is that she has recently adopted her first dog, a mild-mannered basset. She thought a dog would be fun and a pleasure to have around.
‘He chews things,’ she said. ‘He acts if he is housetrained and then pisses in the hall just after I finish vacuuming the carpet. He barks for no reason at all. I don’t know that I am a dog-person.’
I averted my eyes from my own sweet dogs digging holes under a row of lavender bushes, slapped a mosquito probing my forehead and sympathised. We all have those days now and again.
And I notice that I can’t write the word ‘insect’ without writing ‘incest’ (just did it again) which makes me wonder if some things ever go away or if they just hang around bothering the Unconscious and keeping me awake in the small hours.
‘Did you have another bad dream about your father?’ the housemate asked the other morning. ‘I could hear you crying in your sleep.’
Recurring dreams are a tough one, the more so when the dreams have to do with the reality we would do anything to forget.
But sometimes it works to remind myself ‘That was then, this is now’ and write down the dream yet again to rob it of its sinister power, then make toast with slightly bitter marmalade and admire my large puppy chewing a rubber bone on the grass and looking sublimely happy and contented. Reminding myself that my life is made up of many layers, with the sediment of childhood trauma far far down, almost buried and forgettable. And then I go off to read Stanley Kunitz and write fiction.