"gradually I've come to realise that my house is haunted by the ghost of a dead astronaut"

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

36. Dark Therapy


"What was I looking at? What was this? At best, it was the first tangible connection I'd encountered between my experiences and the past of Mordan House. At worst, I felt the slow, insistent scratching of the basement of Mordan House down my back"

The files contain sorry tales. Tales of women abused at the hands of their partners to the point where an escape into the protective cocoon afforded by Mordan House became their preferred course of action. Identities hidden, yes. Faces concealed also. But these women walked through the front door of the house with their scars on show, or stitched into the fabric of their souls, and the files are the evidence of those scars let loose, screaming out into the house and the wilderness that surrounds it. The files hide nothing, it seems, and everything is heard and imprinted.

But, at the same time, there was so much that was delicious about being in the café this morning and looking over the files. I know it sounds mean-spirited, uncaring. But after the previous days terrors, it was consoling and reviving to be around people; to lean out of myself, as if out of the window of a fast car, and feel the energy of others invigorating me and, if I'm honest, normalising me. I sat at the café window with the hottest cup of coffee imaginable, looking out at the frozen world and its chilled inhabitants as they stumbled or tiptoed by on the icy pavements, and I found that I didn't think about the fact that the last time I was in the café I was waiting for James. No, I didn't think about it at all after the first 10 minutes and, thereafter, only when I heard the bell ring to announce that someone had entered. Yes, then, and only then, did I think about James standing me up. Oh yes, I can safely say that the time was taken up almost entirely with focusing on the problems of others!

Although the tales in the files are indeed sorry tales, they are coldly and analytically scribed by whoever had that job – there's a professional aloofness in the notes that allows for a level of detail that would be somewhat lost if sentiment had been allowed to play a part. You might find it curious, but I appreciate the dispassionate tone of much of these files. And I understand completely that I feel this way.  On the other hand, the examples of artwork, or art therapy, are full of conflicting emotions: love, fear, insecurity, shame, guilt and, most of all it seems to me, rage. I put aside the artwork as quickly as possible when reading each file. I didn't want to consider the emotions and the perspectives contained within them. They made my heart pound, and I felt flushed and nauseous. But when I felt this way, the various sounds of the café were there to imbibe me and bring me back to – dare I say it again? – normality.

"The examples of artwork, or art therapy, are full of conflicting emotions: love, fear, insecurity, shame, guilt and, most of all it seems to me, rage"

In total, I walked away with seven files from the archive room in the basement of Mordan House. Each file details the women's names, previous home addresses, the date of their arrival at the refuge, results from medical examinations, and opinions and quotes from interviews. The files also include the ages of the women and their doctors’ names, and some of the pieces of artwork contain scribbled comments on the backs or in margins. Only some of the papers are typed up from the initial scribbled hand – the refuge must have been significantly behind in its administration. The batch of files that I took were, incidentally, from the filing cabinet of people whose name started with the letter 'C' and spanned the years from 2006 to 2008. Where are these women now, I wondered? Two of the files are closed, but there is just a leaving date, no particulars about why they left or where they went. Once again, all cold and analytical. The women have gone – that is all the files care about. Bureaucratically speaking, one out and another one in. One file closed, another one opened.

"I stared at it. Feeling a connection that I didn't understand. Was I looking at an apparition that had dripped out of my head, wet like ink, and down onto this sketch? My heart was pounding"

All of a sudden I wondered what I was doing. Surely I shouldn't be reading the files at all! I'd started out reading them for clues that would connect my experiences to something about the past of the house, but I realised I was reading purely out of interest. Fascination. Nosiness. Intrusion. It was all  interesting history, but private history. As this thought hit home I found myself slamming shut the manila cover of the file I had been looking at and then watching as a piece of paper slipped from the folder and down onto the floor.

Now I was embarrassed by what I was doing, and the sight of the paper drifting down to the ground made me feel that everyone could see it and its contents. I moved quickly to recover it, looking round me at the reaction of the other faces in the café. Reaction? Of course, there was none.

Instead the reaction came from me when I glanced at the piece of paper I'd just picked up. It was a sketch, coloured in with pencils and felt-tipped pens, of planets and stars, but with an unexpected central image. The planets were amazing colours and all different sizes, some with rings and some with moons. At the centre, with black scribbled lines where the darkened visor should be, and with black lines emanating from the white-suited body as if symbolic of dark power, was a white image in the shape of a human. To my mind, unmistakeably, the shape of an astronaut.

I stared at it. Feeling a connection that I didn't understand. Was I looking at an apparition that had dripped out of my head, wet like ink, and down onto this sketch? My heart was pounding. I quickly put the picture back into the folder and started to go back through the paintings and sketches in the other folders, almost frantically searching. Yes, I was now desperately seeking out the very parts of the files that I'd been avoiding minutes before!

I found another one. This time with the astronaut image in the top left corner, the void around it brutally black. Then another in one of the other files. This one depicting an astronaut-like figure dragging a figure across space via black rays, the male figure looking pained and contorted as it seemed unable to resist. Three out of the six files contained such images. It crossed my mind briefly that Mordan House could actually have been some kind of cult, but it was so clear that these images were not a part of all the files and that it was the suffering of physical abuse that was the pervasive thread through all the women's files.

"This was a strange kind of art therapy that was being indulged in Mordan House. It was, to my mind, dark, dark therapy"

But what was I looking at? What was this? At best, it was the first tangible connection I'd encountered between my experiences and the past of Mordan House. At worst, I felt the slow, insistent scratching of the basement of Mordan House down my back. This was a strange kind of art therapy that was being indulged in Mordan House. It was, to my mind, dark, dark  therapy.

Looking at these images, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I supected that I'd cry, but then found that I was looking out of the window and giggling into my hand. But before I knew it, tears were also dripping down into my hand as I cried quietly, and as discreetly as possible, with something akin to the feeling of happiness. Take that, Philip! Take that!

The café bell rang to announce another customer entering. I quickly composed myself lest it should be James coming through the door. But it wasn't.

Looking at that interminable absence at the door of the café, the last feeling I recall was emptiness, tinged with tears and vaguely reverberating with the sound of my own departed laughter.

16 comments:

Nevine said...

And the plot thickens, and we come (maybe) closer to some understanding, as well. Women who are abused... and you sorting through the files while waiting for James... who seems to be standing you up... hmmm... I do think there's something very deep in the works, Steph.

Eva O'Dell said...

I find it intriguing that the women in the files were lost when they came to Mordan house, as you were. A strange connection possibly pulled you all there, or I am looking into it too much. But at minimum I do feel there is an emotional connection to you and the women. I felt it in the emotion you had from the files, with intrigue and embarrassment. Maybe it is why you enjoyed the distant notes with little feeling. You could observe the women from an outside manner, maybe like you wish you could see yourself. Maybe?

Eva O'Dell said...

You should stop by my screaming whispers blog. I have something for you there!

Stephanie Fey said...

Eva, I'm so absolutely thrilled to bits - and lord knows I'm in bits already! - to receive the 'Superior Scribbler' award from you! That was so very kind and unexpected. You are an absolute star and I can't thank you enough!

As for your comments about my place in Mordan House, you've got Kidman thinking. NEVER get Kidman thinking! But you'll find out in my next post.

Thanks again, lovely follower.

Steph Fey x

Winters Reaper said...

just stopped by to say hello and see what a award winning blooger looks like..

Nice

Stephanie Fey said...

Thank you very much, Mr Reaper!

I so wish your typo had said 'booger' rather than 'blooger' - I'd so LOVE to have an award-winning booger!

Huh, I'm one to talk though. I do typoos all the time!

I'll also stop by your award-winning booger soon and see what all the hullabaloo is about! You're a very popular Reaper, it seems.

Steph Fey x

DK said...

This is the first day a visit this blog, but I really like the idea of it... Escaping the ratrace.. Living in an old house... Finding something interesting and eerie at the same time... This is really nice...

Stephanie Fey said...

Hi DK,

Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by. I hope you're able to stick around. We serve liberal portions of fear, death and delusion! Just get in line.

Nice photo, by the way. Be careful though, if you lie that way too long then your arm will go into a nasty cramp! ;)

Steph Fey x

Dulce said...

Oh my- Steph... all I ve been missing!
Could you have a break? LOL

Lots of love my dearest
Thanks for your comment :)

Avalon said...

You have an awesome blog. I have been reading your posts and glad to have met you.

Stephanie Fey said...

Hi to Dulce and to Avalon, and a big thank you for stopping by Mordan House, even if in a virtual way.

Should I take a breather, Dulce? Well, I always have my inhaler and that certainly does the trick to keep me breathing.

Avalon, you're a wee kind thing. And, in this case, it's nice to know that someone's been silently peeking through the curtains. But if you're wearing a helmet then you can sod off! But I suspect you're wearing a delightful veil instead, an that's definitely cool by me! :)

Steph Fey x

Dulce said...

You are just a love
Thank you
;)

logankstewart said...

It's been a long wait to see what happens next. I keep waiting for 37. I do hope you've been careful in and around Mordan House.

Stephanie Fey said...

Number 37 - all for you. Hope you like it!

Steph x

IndigoWrath said...

I find myself curiously unsettled by this. And it's all in daylight. The astronaut, from the minds of many. Wow. Onwards.

Stephanie Fey said...

You've nearly caught up, Indigo! You're going great.

Sorry for unsettling you - uh, I do have that effect people! Bummer, huh.

Steph x