The Mansfield Story

BELOW IS A PART OF MY NOVEL CALLED THE MANSFIELD STORY.

IT IS ALSO DEVELOPED AS A SCREENPLAY.

HELP ME PUBLISH~ BECOME MY PATRON

 

CHAPTER 1

SHAMBHAVI’S POV

I am not going to pretend that I’m this master story teller, in fact I’m seriously beginning to question my choice of vocation as writer/ filmmaker. No HD has my film on it and the analogue era was before my time. I have made all these films, in my head. From script to post prod, I’ve created these monstrosities and they exist. Don’t know where, don’t know how, but they do. Mistakes are portals of discovery, right Joyce. Works every time, doesn’t it. But then you were seeking to be immortal, hence the elaborate subterfuge, but for me. I am the nothingness, the mistake. These films that I’ve made in my mind, over and over, lead me nowhere in the real world, for they don’t exist. Neither does she, but there she is, invading my senses, my ideas, my dreams.

I think of these bizarre stories and it’s not even that I write them, they write themselves. I’m just their victim. They laugh at me, they torment me, they wake me up at four in the morning in jest, they drive me insane tossing and turning in bed at night. They are my oppressors. Not always. There is a friendly angle to our relationship. It does exist.

To the world, I’m this depressed writer who types away for hours on end on her laptop, writing God knows what. I’m in the fraternity of paid-poorly writers who are paid next to nothing to develop content. That’s my day job, at night I’m batwoman! You wish right?

I write screenplays and then make my films over and over again. And then there are these surfeits I have to deal with, like my friends from these stories, they begin to cohabit with me. These characters, they decide to pop right out of the Final Draft document and strut their stuff in front of me. There’s a reason why I’m constipated. How do you drop the excrement off your body when someone is reciting to you, a fluke line out of Keats, or no Shelley, I think. The Romantics definitely. Or you have this beer bar dancer doing make up! She keeps wanting to know if she’s looking saxy, not sexy, but saxy.

How the fuck is someone to shit in peace? Then there’s this boxer, he’s got tuberculosis and I write about it. Bam! I develop this terrible cough and an unbearable pain in the chest. The next day, I go to clear my throat and the phlegm sitting in the basin has blood. What does the boxer do? He laughs at me.

Then there are these pregnant women. I don’t think I’ll get into that right now, but yes you guessed it right. My periods stopped coming. Who could be the father? There were three possible candidates, but no one I could discuss this with. Not like they were my live-in boyfriends. They were nothing, not even friends. I stared at the pregnancy stick, yes, two lines. It didn’t matter how many times I re-took that test, it was the same. Now I’m no fool, I use protection. So did it not work? Did the bloody condom burst? Am I… I don’t think I could bring myself to voice that word. PREGNANT!!! I was and I did what I had to.

Not only am I plagued by these people, but strangely the things I write come to pass. No don’t think of  it as some kind of gift, it’s a fucking curse actually. It might have been a gift if all I wrote about was unicorns and fairies, but here I sit in silence and type away. What do I see? The desperate situation we’re in, yes us humans. I see the pain, no I think it’s more like I am in pain. I suffer day and night, sometimes with reason, sometimes without. I’m just a sucker for pain and my heart is perpetually broken. These films that I make are extensions of my tragic self and the most persistent theme of them is suicide.

You can say that I have a morbid fascination for suicide. My mother committed suicide when I was four or five, her mother too killed herself and so did her father, so yes it kind of runs in the family. I’ve been subjected to hours and hours of counselling so I don’t jump off a high-rise or hang myself with a dupatta. Morons! As if those sessions helped.

You see to me suicide is an art-form. You’ve got to be an artist to kill yourself with grace. You’ve got to see the beauty in death and embrace it. You’ve got to worship the power you have, the power to decide when it’s over. There is no fucking God, there is just you and the choice is yours.

My mother named me Shambhavi, I have an abbreviated form that I’ve chosen- SHAM! Yes I’m a sham! I’m not artist, if I was then I’d have already created the master piece- my death! The suicide, but I am not an artist, just a writer.

There are these three projects that I’m working on- developing for filmmakers who are too lazy to write their own shit and need to hire morons like me. The boxer does tend to get on my nerves, otherwise I am actually pretty involved with the rest. They tell me what to write and I do. It seems to be working. Of course there are times when these directors feel the need to impose upon my feeble intellectuality and ask me to make corrections. Temper tantrums will be thrown, but somehow we manage. We don’t exist without each other. We need each other.

Then there are these turbulent characters that take birth from my mind. They wreak havoc on my life, depressed, suicidal, maniacal, it’s difficult to deal with them. There is no sense of closure, no sense of comfort with them, only angst is the best way I could describe the feeling.

I have also tried setting MSS on fire, but once they’ve been conceived of in my head, there is no annihilating them. They are a part of my life, actually these creatures are my life whether I like it or not. The only way I can get rid of them is to finally begin work on the masterpiece.

It was so strange, when I met her that night. She stood in front and for the life in me, I couldn’t fathom her identity. There was something so familiar about her. P.S- I don’t subscribe to God or reincarnation. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alive as I did when I saw her.

Don’t ask me how I landed up there, but I’ve had such strange and absurd situations happening to me recently that I just let go and watched her. She was tiny and her hairdo reminded me some old flick on Joan of Arc. Dressed in all black, there was this pendant around her neck, a spiral in jade and it looked like a fern would spring right out of it. Waist-upwards she had this sphinx like quality, her short crop was unkempt, her bangs fell on her forehead. She blinked her eyes through thick glasses as she looked at me. It had to be me, right. There was nobody else there, just a cat.

She lumbered across the vast living room. I could see her legs did not carry her well and she was stooping. There was a fire in her eyes which I could see even through those thick glasses. She sat right in front with a cuppa tea. I was not offered any. We sat like that for I don’t know how long. I was looking to say something. “Hello, I’m Sham,” “Hello, I’m a sham.” But I said nothing.

There was something that caught my eyes- an old calendar that screamed 1922.

Okay officially I have lost it, I know it to be 2017, not 1922. That made me look around. The deco was very vintage English, complete with Victorian furniture and then there were books. Quite a collection! I could happily bury myself in there for the rest of time and not bother about those people who live in my head or even the person in front with her sparkly eyes. She was not old, maybe thirty, but she looked much older. Her body was bent out of shape and her face showed signs of physical pain. I could tell she was sick and ailing. I looked on.

That belligerent and witty tongue could lash out at me, but it remained mute. It could raise a tempest but the waters remained still.

“You know I want to be like those ballerina’s of Dega, frozen in their graceful posture…” Those were the first words that came out of her mouth.

A reply, it came quite effortlessly. Then I bit my tongue. Crap! I sound like an idiot, I thought. “But those ballerinas are frozen, there is no life in them. They’re dead, like dolls…”

She threw her head back and laughed. That sound awakened a primal part of me and the ballerinas of Dega were right in front of me, suspended in space. There was this one figure of a ballerina and right next to her was this strange woman whose face you could not see, hidden by a hat in black attire and they both seemed to be waiting. It felt like us, that moment that time. I felt like the ballerina, massaging her foot in eager anticipation to perform and she was like the chaperon, waiting for that moment when I would set the stage on fire, pushing my body for fleeting moments of grace that would captivate one and all. I do that every day. I push my mind so I could come up with that work of art that would have entire generations enthralled, now you see what a SHAM I AM.

She wanted to be like those ballerinas. Why? Did she not feel their pain, their exhaustion? Did she want to be frozen in time?

“I never leave the house anymore and don’t like having servants,” She told me.

“T.B is painful and in 1920 it is incurable and you also have gonorrhoea, you must be in severe pain, most of the time.” I replied.

“You speak as if you come from some other world.” You can tell the gutsy woman she is.

“I come from the future…” I burst out laughing as I said it. “It sounded like some corny Sci-fi that no one would go to watch.

“You mean the motion picture…” She sounded interested, but then who is not interested in film.

“It’s very interesting that you would bring up the motion picture, because I have this story that I’m working on and the protagonist makes motion pictures, but from a feminine perspective, you know…”

I knew. “You want to explore the feminine angle? You seem content telling us stories through the male POV, Point of view…” I had to explain as she had no idea. Feminism, not one of her strong points.

But then what do you expect from her in 1910? Seems a bit bizarre, absurd if you ask me. I reach out in my pocket to stroke my I phone 6. The screen is cracked, just like my life.

You do not abandon your husband in 1920, you’re a woman and your place is right by his side. There are no other options, do not seek them. She seemed to know about real people, not some theoretical characters, but people of flesh and blood. That captivated me for years. How does a woman of her class and upbringing understand the human condition that well?

How does a marriage last only a day? There are no answers to such theoretical questions? Are writers really so crazy to get married to see what it feels like? Is this research? What is a marriage anyway? There was so much to talk about, but we sat silent.

 

CHAPTER 2

MANSFIELD’S POV

The tuberculosis has drained all my energy, the pelvic pain is getting worse, but my dream portrayal must continue, if anything today there is a seeing that I have felt. It’s not writing, it’s seeing. There are moments when I see all black before my eyes, need to sit down and gather myself, but the imaginative process never stops, it’s akin to breathing.

Much of my work remains unpublished and there are days when I lovingly gaze at them as a sign of acknowledgement and appreciation. Writing or rather seeing is a need and it must be done. In fact this sabbatical from my amorous lifestyle has given me time to write and I am thankful for it for all my stories come from the depths of my being.

Bliss and other Stories has just been published this year and it seems to be doing rather well. But there is suddenly a story inside me. I don’t even know what it is, suddenly I see Maata’s face and her breasts like a motion picture, a silent film and once again I’m back in the Hippodrome and I see the audience. Predictable! Their hands, their heads, their expressions.

I dreamt a story last night, every little detail etched in my mind, down to the smells and sounds and I was a part of it.

I see her eyes. A dark melancholia! An intense hankering for experience in the world of echoes and shadows. Who is she? She could be my alter ego. Her olive skin glows like logs burning at the fireplace, her long, dark hair is threaded like the negroes. Her mind is where she lives, the outside world has no fixity for her. I remember gazing at the audience, why not, I was a part of them. In this story I’m a part of both- I am her and I am the audience.

This story about her, this absurd protagonist who writes these films. Could it be that she makes them? Lumbering away with that heavy contraption of a camera? Who knows in the future there just maybe such women? I’d have loved to discover that platform.

Story-tellers tell stories, it doesn’t matter what the medium is. I have been told my writing is descriptive, just like the way they do it in the studios in America. I could have gone there, but travel for me is not a possibility. It’s why I cannot even go home- New Zealand!! Oh my pain and pleasure.

I’ve been criticized, compared to Chekov, snubbed for my hankering to be free, my will, my feisty nature, but people forget I’m just human. Where is the time? I’ve lost so much, I’ve gained so much. I have cried, I have laughed, I have lived and now I will die.

But this story, it wants to be written. Murray will surely publish most of my work even though I’ve told him not to. It sells, my writing and so shall its fate be, it’ll be sold! I need to sit down on days when the pain is bearable and write. I want to give my readers hope, yes everything is twisted, but there is hope. I was tired of reading every single thing out there from the perspective of a man, I mean how long is society going to ignore us? The fact that the women in my stories have decided to speak up shows me there is hope for us. Our voices need to be heard.

The Fourth way may just be my way, reading Gurdjeiff is a complicated process, yes it has opened up new portals to my experiencing life, but then there is so much left to be discovered and do I have time? Regret, don’t we all have a pinch of that with every sip of life we take. I for one, am swamped with regret. I regret my childhood, I regret the taunts and mocking because of my rather hilarious glasses, I regret not writing more often, I regret not supporting the women’s suffragette in the U.K, I regret not being vocal about it, I regret not telling Maata how much I loved her, I regret my obsession with Chekov. No I take that back, no regrets there. I regret my brother dying like that. I can still see him in uniform, bloody and dusty.

Although I have been quoted as saying that I do not regret anything. I have asked my readers to never regret, but that is only the half truth. Yes regret is an appalling waste of energy and nothing can be built on it, but it exists. I wish I could just erase it away. REGRET ERASED!

The Work must be done, it’s 1922 and here I am in colonial India, Calcutta to be precise, all alone. A sick white woman in the midst of all these natives.

Then I saw her, she was vibrant, her olive skin was smooth as it tasted the Sunlight which played on it and created so many hues that I just watched. I don’t know how she arrived right in front of me, definitely not dressed like the ordinary native girls or like an English lady. She had on trousers like men, I think they’re called denims. The road workers in America wear them as overhauls. I never expected a woman to dress in them and then her long, dark negro like hair. I thought she was a figment of my imagination, the medicines playing a trick on me. After all I was a sick woman. I waited for the apparition to disappear. But she sat there and just stared back. I think we briefly spoke, about Dega’s ballerina’s, but it made no sense.

Theosophy and Gurdjeiff! You know the three types of men or women found in this world- those that are centred in their physical bodies, then the ones centred in their emotional space and those that focus on their minds. What type am I? I have never been able to quantify myself in any one category, I’m indeed a mixture of all three. I have lived centred in the physical, more than not I have existed only in my emotions and then of course my mind is one of my favourite places to visit and spend some time. So yes, I’m a bit of all. All writers are as we have all these stories inside us where we become those people when we write them.

I remember alluding to this story of this woman who makes motion pictures, these dreamy silent films. I think she is my protagonist.

Right now, all I can think of is Van Gogh’s painting- the self portrait. I consider myself a writer/painter. I paint too like Van Gogh, I paint with words.

I just wish I had more time. I want to be healthy again, to experience a full, living-breathing life. I want to be with the Earth and see all the wondrous things- the sea and its infinite waves, the mellow Sunrise of a perfect morn.

I know I exist in this state of hypnotic waking sleep. I want to wake up and I’m willing to see if the Method will help. This story needs to be written. I need to find her again. That woman, no she’s more like a girl. I need to find her.

And then I see it, the Insect scuttles away and there are these strange voices that I can hear. Sounds like some Hindu chants. What is it?

Is my illness getting the better of me? I see myself, is it me or some other woman, no wait it’s her, dressed as Van Gogh, holding a gun to her face. She pulls the trigger!

I see a thick manuscript by the coffee table and note that’s its rather gloomy this afternoon, the wind shakes the trees so. Flashes trouble me- I think I see Lawrence. Murray tells me that THE LOST GIRL is modelled on me. I know, I know that my writing and me in person have had a significant influence on him, and he’s drawn parallels between me and some of his noteworthy characters, but why do I see him, in Colonial India?

My neighbour from Cornwall, my friend, the eminent D.H. LAWRENCE. I am his Albina and we both struggle everyday for our independence and outcasts we’ve become. We shared a number of things in common, I was a colonial outsider; he was from a working-class mining town. I am more like Lawrence than anybody. We are unthinkably alike, in fact. Four of us did form a peculiar brief and uneasy friendship in bleak Cornwall, yet, I treasure those days.

And now I find this letter from Murray. It does nothing for my mood right now, but leafing through it seems to be my only option. So I do it.

“You are all about me – I seem to breathe you, hear you, feel you in me and of me.” I actually wrote those lines for him and felt like I was home in his tent, sitting at his table. It seems far away, back here dreaming of silent films and Virginia Woolf.

There were times when I wanted to strangle my beloved Murray. I go back in my mind to one such incident. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I was cruel, we were verbally bashing one another, oblivious of who was present. I’d like to think it was tragedy that kept us together.

There’s nothing I want more than a cigarette. The curls of smoke rise up to meet their oblivion as I take a pull. It calms my frayed nerves and I take a sip of the tea. Darjeeling tea from the foothills of the Himalayas, a colonial addiction. Tea snobbery!

As I relax, she appears in front of me. Seated in a cluttered desk, she seemed to be looking at something. It looked like a boo, but a light emanated from it. She seemed to be typing like it was some sort of type writer. I couldn’t see properly, the smoke and mist clouded my vision.

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