From shattered illusions to resilient determination,
Agnes's Broken Dreams reveals a tale of courage and redemption.
Agnes's Broken Dreams
by Judy King
Genre: Fictional Memoir
She is dreading the arrival. Since boarding the plane in London, like a dog pulling against a lead, she has felt she is going the wrong way – sucked back into a past she thought she had escaped forever. Freedom isn’t the price of a plane ticket, she thinks, as we take ourselves wherever we go. Her apprehension has no effect on the big Boeing that, landing with a thud, sways from side to side in a series of kangaroo hops before the mighty brakes tether the beast and bring it to heel. A spontaneous uproar of cheers and clapping explodes in the cabin as the sensation of rolling smoothly on terra firma signals the turbulent flight is at an end. The uproar is tempered when passengers are advised to remain in their seats. Two burly Bermuda-shorted men are enacting the Australian ritual of disinfecting the plane by moving through the aisles to spray the cabin from high-held aerosol cans. When the red-headed one pauses near her aisle seat, his freckly lower arms seem familiar. But, she realises, it is the odour of hair oil, fermented with alcohol-impregnated upper-body sweat, that is resurrecting her long-dead father. The father who holds her from the grave. Who traps her in troubled, hard, blue eyes –before vanishing.
A deep foreboding amplifies the resistance she is experiencing. All is then quickly swept into the noisy hubbub of movement and chatter that follows the signal to disembark. She is delayed by the act of searching under the seat for a book called ‘Families and How to Survive Them’. She has scoured it for clues during the long flight, in preparation for returning to the place where she was born and grew up.
The delay means that, when she finally gets to the overhead locker across the aisle, she sees a red-gloved hand at the end of a crane-like arm snatch her stashed duty-free bag and dash away with it through the cabin. She is left with a blurred image of a tall woman with curly auburn hair, merging like a film fade into the avalanche of disembarking passengers. The woman might have been wearing a grey track suit, but she cannot be sure. The red glove, however, sticks in her mind. She imagines herself screaming THIEF! THIEF! as she has seen in the movies but, instead, simply stands there in disbelief, opening and closing her mouth like a fish.
Conditioned from childhood not to make a fuss when it comes to anything untoward, she doesn’t react like other people. Subterfuge and evasion are old friends. Like a lizard changing colour, she feels safe blending into the background. She never screams. Not that she can remember anyway. Perhaps the potential was killed off in her before it got started. Once or twice, she has contemplated buying a battery-operated ‘screamer alarm’ for her handbag but, because so rarely conscious of her safety, the idea would waft away from her when the threat that provoked it abated.
All the carefully chosen presents during the stopover in Singapore gone! What can she do? The evidence is flimsy: tall woman, a mass of curly hair that could well be a wig, and an easily removed red glove. Even if she apprehends the thief, it would be no use as, by the time she spots her, the stolen goods would have been transferred and the plastic bag discarded in a convenient bin.
Agnes bites her lip. Tears sting the back of her eyes, then slither like sluggish raindrops down her cheeks. She is struggling to get a grip. After all you’ve been through in recent years this is a minor blip, she tells herself. For God’s sake just put it out of your mind. It’s not the end of the world.
A popular quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, and read in a magazine she browsed on the plane, sticks in her mind: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’ Her two marriages, and most of her romantic liaisons, had ended in similar fashion. On her knees and seriously out of pocket. If the Einstein quote was accurate, it was a definite confirmation of her insanity. But what is she repeating, over and over? What is it that she cannot see?
Anxiety caused by abuse in my early teenager years interfered with my concentration so profoundly, it resulted in amnesia and I lost the ability to read and write fluently. Devested of the power of language indelibly undermined my life. Unable to understand what was happening to me, I felt I had no defence against the judgement of the world which propelled me into a life-time search to discover what lay behind the lost memories.
Agnes’s Broken Dreams, written on the advice of a gifted psychiatrist, is a fictionalize account of my odyssey. Regaining concentration and with it the ability to develop as a writer has been the most miraculous gift of my life.
It is my greatest desire that this book will bring solace to other adult sufferers of childhood abuse.
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