At the end of the last post I was explaining how I had forgotten a crucial insight into my childhood hospital experience even when, eight years later, I retrieved the same insight under different circumstances.
‘It’s not quite as simple as that,’ I sense a silent groan around me as I speak. ‘Just recently I was reading in my 1976 diary that, in my Transactional Analysis group at the time, I’d re-enacted the moment of my second surgery, when it took half-a-dozen ward staff to hold me down. I wrote that it left me sobbing in the absolute clarity of the insight. Even the words of the life-script I wrote in my diary the day before the re-enactment – ‘I’ve only myself to rely on’ – are the very same ones that came like a bolt of light into my head in 1984 during the breathing meditation in Much Wenlock. OK, I can understand why I might not remember something that happened 40 years ago, even if it was important at the time. But to forget about something so significant in less than eight! Still, forget all about it was what I had done: I had no memory at all, not the faintest trace, that I’d used those words before. It came as a complete surprise.’
I knew I was labouring the point, but I could see the expression on their faces even before anyone else spoke.
‘Really?’ responded Pancake flatly. ‘How could you forget something so crucial?’ She has joined the incredulity clique.
‘It beats me. All I know is that I have learned many times over how fallible memory is: this is just one more example. More important for us now, is this. If I failed so dramatically to get full benefit from the first work I did, how could I be sure I’d clinched it the second time?’
The scepticism was still palpable on all their faces.
‘Yes, I admit I’ve been able to spot moments since, when the I’ve only myself to rely on script I’d discovered surfaces into consciousness, and I’ve then been able to stop myself acting it out. But that’s not the same as fully integrating the part of me which is still clinging to that script for dear life. Because my parents couldn’t stay with me in hospital in those days, I felt abandoned for the second time. We need to find out if that’s what she meant by betrayed.’
‘But how do we do that?’ Humfreeze asks the obvious question.
Mires has a possible answer. ‘It seems to me that this girl is listening to every word we say. We need to find a way of proving to her that we can be trusted. If she is convinced of that, then she will be more likely to explain what she means.’
Wordless spots the problem straightaway: ‘Just telling her she can trust us is not going to be enough to dispel decades of suspicion, is it?’
‘You’re right,’ Mires immediately admits.
Deep thought descends on all of us.
‘I’m not sure we can prove our trustworthiness to her at this point,’ I hesitantly share, aware that not everyone is fully behind me right now. ‘I think the best we can do – and in a way I am doing this now by saying this out loud since she can hear me – is to convey that we can only help her if she explains what she means. We can’t hurt her more if she tells us, than we can hurt her now if she doesn’t. We’re more likely though to carry on hurting her in our blindness, than we would do if we knew. We know she has suffered and we care. We don’t want her to be hurt anymore, if we can help it. And even more importantly, we will all benefit, not just her, from understanding her better. It’s in our interests to help. I’m not sure if that will convince her to share more, but it’s the best I can think of.’
‘I think I agree,’ Humfreeze replies. ‘I think we should give it our last shot now. Strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.’
‘Sorry! Can you repeat that, Chris? I never thought I’d live to hear you use that proverb as a guide to action!’ Pancake is only half-joking. Humfreeze just grins and say nothing.
Mires checks out if we all agree and we do.
We settle down into our séance positions. There is a long silence. Well, it feels long. I’ve no idea how long it really is.
Humfreeze’s chair creaks again. I open my eyes. The slender figure of a young girl stands on the lawn a few feet away. Everyone’s eyes are open by now. Mires goes to the table behind us to get another chair.
‘Please will you join us, my dear,’ Humfreeze says quietly and warmly.
She hesitates a moment before walking slowly to sit down beside him. There is no gown now that I can see, just a long dress that trails across the grass as she moves. Her hair and her eyes are dark, as he said they were. There are dark shadows beneath her eyes.
‘Welcome. You are so brave and we are so grateful to meet you,’ Humfreeze continues. ‘Are you all right to talk yet?’
She pauses. ‘Yes,’ is all she says softly.
‘Do you know all of us?’ asks Mires.
‘Are you ready to tell us who you are?’ Mires leans forward ever so slightly forward in his chair with a gentle smile on his face, the picture of reassurance.
‘My name is Indira.’ I wonder whether her friends would call her Indie for short, if she had any friends, that is.
‘Is that the only name you have?’ He is taking this very slowly and gently.
‘My second name is Pindance.’
‘Indira Pindance,’ Mires repeats. ‘Shall we call you Indira? Is that OK?’
‘Yes. For now.’
Humfreeze picks up the baton. ‘You told me that you had been betrayed. What did you mean by that?’
‘That man,’ she points towards me, ‘was right. My mum and my dad left me all alone there.’
‘In the hospital?’
‘Yes. I knew what was going to happen. They’d done it before.’
‘The surgeon’s team, you mean?’
‘Yes. There were too many of them. I couldn’t stop them killing me again.’ She begins to cry.
‘You don’t have to carry on if you don’t want to,’ Mires steps in gently. ‘This must be very hard.’
She is quiet for a moment, the tears running down her cheeks. She has stopped sobbing. Pancake passes her a handkerchief patterned with forget-me-nots. She whispers a thank you and wipes her eyes slowly.
‘I want to explain something,’ Pindance is calmer again for now.
‘We would love to hear anything you want to say. Please stop though if you get too upset.’ Wordless shows in his face how much he cares.
‘I was so hurt I hated my mum and dad. And so angry. They’d let me down. They left me there alone. They didn’t protect me or explain properly. I know now from what you say they couldn’t help it. But then I didn’t understand. I couldn’t trust them anymore. I couldn’t trust God either. I only had myself. No one else. So I tried to keep out of sight, to stay hidden, not to trust anyone. But I’ve been trying to teach you all the same message from behind the scenes, whispering it into your minds whenever I got the chance. I just knew you had to believe this is true, or you’d always get hurt. I’m not so sure now. ’
I am not the only one to notice that something very strange has been happening since she first walked towards us: she has grown noticeably older. Either that or the chair she is sitting on is shrinking.
No, it isn’t. The chairs are all still the same size.
Her hair remains the same length even though the shadows beneath her eyes are growing lighter. Her face is fuller and somehow more confident. She meets our gaze more fully now. She doesn’t seem so scared.
‘Indira, do you feel any different now you’ve had the courage to share this with us?’ Wordless seems slightly in awe of her.
‘Yes, yes, I do. Definitely. I feel bigger inside, stronger somehow. This is the first time in my whole life I don’t feel alone.’
‘It shows, my dear,’ Miles enthused. ‘You’ve grown up before our eyes.’
‘Can we call you, Indie?’ I ask. ‘It feels like we are becoming friends, maybe even family in a way.’
‘Indie! That sounds strange. Nice though, and friendly. Yes, call me Indie,’ Pindance agreed.
As I looked around me, I saw Emmie, Bill, Chris and Fred all close to tears as she spoke.
‘Do you think, Indie, that the reason we have all argued so much, is partly because of what you were whispering invisibly into our minds? Do you think that’s why we have never been able to work together on anything much till now?’ Emmie looks searchingly around her as she speaks, clearly wondering whether we have all been wondering the same thing.
I know as I listen that Pindance’s subliminal whisperings might have affected in some way how I deal with almost anyone who might get too close, not just within my Parliament of Selves. I’ll need to think about that more.
‘Of course,’ Indie answers. ‘That’s exactly what I wanted you to do. I wanted you to be as guarded and alone as I was. Partly because I thought it would keep you safe, but as I realise now, also because it made me feel less weird.’
‘Does this mean we can all work together better now? Find ways of helping each other instead of battling for our own way all the time?’ We can hear the same longing in Bill’s voice as we all feel.
‘Oh, I really do hope so,’ sighs Chris. ‘I’m so tired of fighting a lonely battle. We could all achieve so much more if we pulled together.’
‘Am I reading too much into this,’ I ask, ‘or does it mean that we really can sit down together and discuss how to reflect more effectively? Do we all see it can help us all?’
Fred nods emphatically. ‘I think we’re all on the same page at last. We can all see the point of what you want to do. We’re all behind you in our different ways. We’ll be happy to work out exactly how best to help.’
Even as he speaks, I can see the fence behind him showing through his ribs. I stare quickly round at everyone else, and all sides of the garden are showing through their bodies. Any moment now they will be gone. Indie smiles radiantly across at me as she becomes increasingly transparent.
‘Before you fade away completely, please tell me we can continue to work together!’ I shout.
They seem to be nodding as they leave, or it could just be that the wind tugging at the branches behind their heads makes it look that way.
‘It really feels like Christmas,’ Humfreeze shouts before he disappears.
I am alone now. Have they gone back to being invisible but separate, or are they now blended into my being and part of a more integrated self?
‘Time will tell!’ I find myself saying, as a particularly strong gust of wind in the chimes outside the front door charms me out of my sleep.