This is Okha.
Or at least it was Okha until she bleached all her hair and died it candy floss pink, because, in her words, “YOLO and I work in a hairdressers!”. Now she looks the same, but more like a psychedelic trance fairy.
She is the kind of thing you would like to see if you were lost in a forest, metaphorical or real. You would know that all was well if you met her in a quest. She is playful and funny. She is reckless and passionate. She is self destructive and deliciously self indulgent. She is beautiful, inside and out, and she is really, truly going through the wringer at the moment.
Last week her birth father died of cancer. She didn’t know him. Rob is her father. She was three when she “found” Rob for me in a yoga centre and soon had him constructing elaborate islands and worlds out of yoga paraphernalia for her toy ponies. He brought her up, adopted her and loved her, so she had very little interest in any other father until recently, when she started to realise that she might like to meet this mysterious other dad, safe in the realisation that one love doesn’t preclude another: Rob could be her dad, and her birth father could be something too.
Timings were wrong though and after appearing to improve, Adrian went suddenly and almost without warning. Cancer. Now she is grieving for something that never was. On top of it all, I was away. It was August – Everyone was away. She found herself alone in London, grasping for a foothold as the world shock around her. She fought to stay standing, collapsed into old patterns of self harm and then somehow, miraculously dug herself out again.
She misses Rob terribly, more than all of us, as she invariably can’t make the visit and is frequently elsewhere when he calls. She doesn’t understand time. It is part of her dyslexia that she finds it very hard to quantify how long things will take or calculate backwards to avoid temporal disasters. The prison visiting structure is very unforgiving and so is the workplace, so she has only seen him once since May.
She missed out on the photo shoot for this blog for similar reasons: Pinning Okha down to a time and place is a frustrating endeavour. Her solution to her ghostly absence from the blog shot was to photoshop a picture of herself, very drunk cradling a rubber chicken, into the side of the image, but ultimately the technical know-how eluded her and so she remains missing.
She desperately needs Rob, and yet can’t quite seem to reach him. He was an anchor for her as a child. She had put up with me in my early twenties, still wild and, it has to be said, partially unhinged, but things were better with Rob. We got a dog, a house, a sister. Rob held me, so I could hold her. In recent months their relationship was strained by the clash between the chronic stress he was under during the trial, and her need to be a teenager and break every rule in the book, and now it is even harder to keep the connection alive.
I also struggle to reach him in the short sporadic phone calls or in the noisy public visiting hall. There seems to be no option but to detach a little and find a way to function independently of one another. This is new territory. We both worry about how to keep close. I write to him relentlessly, sometimes two or three times a day, and he is now starting to do the same. It’s old fashioned and feels how courting must have felt in the days before sexual liberation took over the world. It is sweet and tender; a lifeline that just might work.
Tala is away in France with her best friend. This once shy and retiring child is blossoming into life with a vengeance now. It is as if all the love that Rob gave her as a child, that used to be reflected back only at him, is now bursting out of her like an unfurling bud. She travels with me, makes connections and overcomes fears. She spends time with her Godmother who is beauty personified, and the closet terrestrial thing possible to a real fairy Godmother. As much as I miss her, and bless her, she is no trouble really, it is something of a relief to have the bed to myself and to take a few days respite from the constant requests for sustenance. She is growing like a weed, has the same size feet as her sister, and is almost impossible to satisfy.
It feels like the first time I have paused for breath since the sentencing. I have been running to keep ahead of the grief. Now that I sit here alone, I find that I was fleeing a mirage. What life is bringing is good. It is different to what I had expected, but good different. We will survive. I will go outwards into the world, and he must go inwards. Whatever the destination it is a relief to be moving forwards again instead of trying to slam on the breaks or hit reverse. What is done is done and there is no stopping this train.
Relationships can become stuck and stodgy through lack of resistance and comfort and co-dependence can stifle even the most creative individuals. Again it strikes me that the universe moves in mysterious ways. I do not want to be like a pair of old slippers, familiar and worn. I would still like to be the glass slippers that go to the ball, and ride in a pumpkin coach and even though I don’t believe in princes and fairytales anymore, I still believe that I have a path that I must walk, or preferably dance, so why not do it willingly, in silver sparkling slippers and leave comfort at the back of the wardrobe. Perhaps there is a Narnia awaiting.