Vivette (extract), by Andree

A hundred other mornings echoed, as my feet touched the kitchen floor. Moving from memory, I dumped cigarette ashes and washed empty wine bottles. The mess was easy to clean; it was the remnants of shallow conversations from fleeting relations that wouldn’t wash off. I opened the balcony doors for fresh air and fed the neighbor’s cat a small bowl of milk.

“Vivette, make coffee,” she grumbled from her bedroom.

I listened to them laughing. Little was missed through the thin walls of our small apartment. Moments later my mother staggered in wearing only a slip. “Pour me some of that” she said as she sat down at the table. It was hard not to admire the symmetry of her bold features. Her full lips came naturally in a deep red most women had to pay for. Her large brown eyes stared somewhere in the distance, as she ran her hand through her short thick auburn hair, it fell framing her face, as if it knew its job. Despite her beauty, it was bitterness that defined her. Life’s disappointments had left her hard. I regarded her disapprovingly, but like the wall that kept her detached, I was invisible. The toilet flushed.

“You’re up early.” I wasn’t used to seeing her on a Saturday morning.

She motioned her head towards the bathroom, “He has to work today,” she said lighting a cigarette. I didn’t want to know his name or what he did for a living; relationships were like jobs to my mother, frequent and self-defeating.

The smell of sour milk arrived before he did. “How about some of that coffee?” He seemed to think I was the regular waitress at the local café. I tried not to notice him sitting there immodestly in a worn t-shirt and pants he hadn’t bothered to fasten. The hairs from his armpits blended with the ones on his shoulders and chest. Like the primitives we’d been studying in biology, he hadn’t evolved far from his ancestors. He lit a cigarette with one hand and slid the other between my mother’s thighs.

“You have errands to do, no?” It wasn’t a question.
“I need some money.”

My mother looked at the man. “Give her money.”

“Why the hell do I have to give her …?” The look on my mother’s face was enough to stop Cro-Magnon from questioning any further.

I turned my head towards the windows, as if the warm rays offered an escape. I could hear my grandmother’s voice, “smile to the sun if your spirt ever needs lifting, of all the darkness we create, the sun never stops shining.”

“Yah all right, here.” He said throwing some money on the table “Bring back the change …”

“And don’t forget my pills,” she added.

As I left the apartment, she was leading him back to her bedroom.


Post Strike Exhaustion Disorder

PSED, or, Post Strike Exhaustion Disorder, may strike you today, be warned.

It is of two kinds, that as suffered by individuals without any pre-existing physical or mental health condition, and that suffered by those with pre-existing conditions.

Diagnostic Criteria of PSED

At least one of the following essential criteria needs to be met

Individual walked an excessive amount due to the tube strike
Individual suffered more than usual duress getting onto, and/or on, alternative methods of transport
In addition, 5 or more of the following must be experienced

Sore feet
Aching ankles and calves
Thighs that hurt upon crouching
Had to nap yesterday afternoon or evening
Wobbly feelings in the legs when attempting to walk today
Random attacks of rage when someone mentions tfl, tube strike, or tube drivers, or a tfl union
Overwhelming urge to lie down and sleep all day today
Headache from the pressure of walking on hard pavements
Feeling low and tearful today due to running on adrenaline for most of the past two days
Worry about making it into work the next few days
Obsessively checking tfl status updates, Twitter feeds etc
Rants on tfl’s Facebook page
Wishes they could claim compensation
Those with Eating Disorders, Mental Health conditions particularly those with a mood and anxiety component, heart conditions, Diabetes, Arthritis and Rheumatism are particularly vulnerable to this disorder, which typically has an acute presentation, but may be complicated where the health effects are long term, and/or the individual has a trauma history.

Complete bed rest is recommended, with plenty of fluids, and adequate nourishment encouraged for excessive calories burned [those with Eating Disorders may need encouragement with this.]
Any medication for stress may be helpful.
Safely expressing anger and other pent up feelings is also encouraged.

By Katie