A Women’s Thing partnered with “Desperate Literature,” an international bookshop in Madrid, to publish stories from their Short Fiction Prize. Below, an excerpt from Georgia Hazelgrove’s shortlisted piece.
“What this country needs is another war!” Such is the insidious misery of tedium that you would rather be bombed, half-starved and conscripted than have nothing to do. Boredom is evolutionary, like the riddle, I have four legs in the morning, two at noon and three in the evening. As a child, ennui is animalistic and to be fought against. As an adult it is existential, to be written about, to be hated but accepted. In old age, it is a right and at its most raw. It makes you despise those who have not yet succumbed to it. Your boredom is by now so finely tuned that it makes you time travel. If only it were the case that we are newborns in the morning, adults by the afternoon and old people by the evening – it would leave no time for boredom. The riddle itself was part of a myth, told by a sphinx. I wonder if the sphinx ever grew bored, waiting for someone to come along so she could confuse them – the most exciting part of her day was eating the people who didn’t guess correctly. It was Oedipus who solved the riddle and we all know what happened to him, but he certainly wasn’t bored.
I once saw an old photograph of a small girl standing by a blackboard. She was born during a war. She had been asked to draw her home. She had taken the piece of chalk and swirled it around. The scribbles grew larger until they covered every corner of the board. The result was like a dark brain. I saw another photograph of an even earlier time. It was of a soldier with bright white and blue eyes, shining but empty – even in the monochrome, I could see that his eyes were blue. He was smiling, but it was frightening.
I am ambivalent about the eighties. I must rely on the recollections of others to form an opinion, but I don’t know who to believe. One half talks about the mullet haircuts, the high-waisted blue jeans, the blockbusters about intrepid kids and the synthesizer New Romantic music. The other half talks about the Billy Elliot stuff: miner strikes, angry young men, poverty, no council homes left affordable, Thatcher. It is all love-hate: too recent to miss and too long ago to genuinely love. It is hard to believe that it followed the seventies unless that time wasn’t so golden after all. Who to believe? Do we need to believe anyone? Could they both be right?
Sometimes I cannot tell the difference between something I know to be real and something I have dreamed. An instance of this is a mental picture of someone’s head appearing from out of the bushes in a public park, with me screaming in fright. If it did happen, it was at a time when I had no real need to form memories, being concerned only with immediate sensation. The image I have now of the head appearing is too indistinct to have really happened, but I cannot escape the feeling that I did see it. Is this what very old age is like? Are dreams and memories part of the same escape exit? I cannot help but wonder what I will find myself doubting when I am old. “Did I ever try contouring makeup,” I will ask myself, “Or I am just remembering someone else’s YouTube video? Such a shame you can’t get YouTube anymore, it’s so much better than what we have nowadays. People used to put work into those videos. Nowadays no one has to put work into anything.”
What I remember lies at the bottom of my head, like an invisible nest. What I have forgotten might as well have never existed. It disappears from the universe: how terrifying. I saw a charcoal drawing a few years ago of a fictional prison, with many rooms and alcoves and staircases but no doors. It made me think of how claustrophobic it must be inside a skull; so dark, so subterranean, so quiet. The turmoil is unreal. Our minds may appear noisy, clamoring like nuisance neighbors – but none of it truly exists. The insides of our heads are, in fact, the quietest places in the universe; Venus and Mars probably make more of a din. It is scentless and the blackest black, rarely, if ever, disturbed. We are walking relics and don’t even know it.
It is upsetting to contemplate the idea that life remains unintelligent. We need a response, or an embrace – we think it must be the case that someone is better than us and will care for the unenlightened. We have begun to doubt everyone and it is sickening to realize that things outside of us are flawed. I couldn’t read a clock until I was about seven, but I wore a little watch anyway because I liked the way it looked. So I know the feeling well, of pretending to know something and but being in the dark. People want to know who really knows. We miss being told what to do until we are told what to do and the dreaminess of an eternal childhood vanishes. If you wait for a pearl of wisdom, you wait forever.
I wish I knew for certain why childhood is so enviable. I cannot form an opinion because every memory is unclear, arranged into an overall impression rather than as individual scenes from the cutting room floor. Perhaps this is why people miss it. It is vague enough to be cinematic: sunny days, soft toys, easily pleased and easily annoyed, the odd sandy beach or two. It might as well be an advert for a travel agency. Now is just as good, most of the time. I imagine in a few years I will be sentimental about where I am sitting now. I will try to recreate it and become frustrated when I cannot. I will sink into the past as if it is hot water.
About the photographer:
Cristina Fontsaré studied Fine Arts and Landscape Architecture at the University of Barcelona, as well as in London and Paris. She’s living in the countryside of Catalonia, Spain.
Fontsaré’s photography is about the everyday life, her relationship with the community and the land she’s living in. Using Polaroids, an analog technique that used to be associated with an instant recording of the ordinary, she pairs her story of a visual diary with a sense of a family album.
Fontsaré’s work juxtaposes a paradox, recording what is not visible, and the magical and sensory universe of childhood. Blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction of a child’s perspective, this series is about staging dreams and their unlikelihood of fulfillment.