This is a story of a madwoman. It is a story that has to be read only after the reader has bid sanity and normality goodbye at the door. Do not expect the ordinary. This is a story of a patch of skin on the flesh of my thigh. It is a story of my soul and the spirit that lives with it. I warn you, it is mad.
I do not know you. I do not know who you are or what your life is like. Therefore, it might be a little inappropriate of me to be making this request. What I do know however, is that there is a part of my body inside of you; a part of me that lives on, because of you. That means that I owe you, like you owe me. I would like to make two requests: Be happy, and please, make the most of your capabilities.
The writing was graceful and yet, it seemed hurried, urgent, like a pleading command.
My surgery was successful. A deceased old lady’s skin now covered my right thigh. It looked as if I had never been in a fire.
“This was not easy,” the wide-eyed doctor repeated. “Please, be discreet. I had to defy protocol, but well, it had to be done.” Looking at the letter she added, “When she made a request, it was not one you could refuse.”
“I see,” I said, smiling tentatively. “What was her name, again?”
“Anna Poirot. You know, the activist.”
My ignorance offended her. “You might want to look her up on your phone or something,” she said.
That… Well, that was a long time ago.
As I sit kneeling before her grave, I realise, it truly was incredible that I didn’t know her. Perhaps it was excusable. She was born in the same decade as my late grandma. Her accomplishments are vaguely remembered if at all. Yet, it is incredible still. It seems incredible now. What a different life I led.
Anna Poirot headed the fourth feminist movement. The one that shattered the gender binary once and for all. How can one gender be privileged and another oppressed if there is no clear distinction between the two – and if there aren’t two, but three, four, a dozen?
She had the one thing she despised: Privilege. She was born into extraordinary wealth. When she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, she flew to outer space – to see what the moon looked like without the advertisements. Then, she gave it all away.
There she was, requesting me to be happy and to make the most of myself. As long as I lived with her skin grafted on to my flesh, I mustn’t dare be ordinary.
Egoistic and thoughtful. Kind and self-centred. The only woman I have ever loved. I wouldn’t dare refuse.
Imagination. Tales. Stories. They are my elixir. When I embarked on the story of Anna Poirot, I couldn’t stop. It was too intriguing a tale to stop reading. I couldn’t hit the brakes. I spiralled out of control.
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I fell. Do not ask. It happened a long while ago, in a time far, far away.
She began appearing in my dreams. I couldn’t eat, think or bathe without her ghost surrounding me. She was everywhere – inside my mind, inside my room. Soon, I was writing letters – love letters. Hormone-driven, teenaged, embarrassing love letters. Lots of them:
It is as if your skin had your soul sewn onto it, Poirot. So that when it touched my flesh, it escaped into my body, entwining with my spirit. It must have driven me mad, for I am now, mad. I am in love with you beyond reason, beyond sanity. It is a love that must scribble its tales on the insides of my head. Once discovered, it will doom me to the entrails of a madhouse. I love you, I love you, I love you.
She would visit me in my dreams every night. My subconscious summoned her in crazed delirium. She appeared in black and white, wearing that one dress from the 2080s. I would sit there soaking her in with my gaze, wishing the impending dawn away. Never once did we touch, I wouldn’t dare.
She would smile and ask, “Are you absolutely sure you didn’t lose your head in the fire?”
“If I did, it was worth it.”
“I am old enough to have birthed your mother, you silly child,” she chided.
I shook my head. “Not here, you’re not. Not when we meet.”
“That’s the thing. You do know that we are not meeting, don’t you? This is an imaginary seance.”
“Let a madwoman dream, will you?”
As the hours passed by she would say, “I should have never written you that stupid letter. This is bizarre, blasphemous and destructive.”
“Well, I am happy. Isn’t that what you desired?”
She threw her head back and laughed as her red locks caressed her shoulders. “My darling, I didn’t foresee this. My imagination was sadly never as vivid as yours.”
I would smile as I anticipated her next question, and there it was, “If ghosts remember correctly, I think I had another request, didn’t I?”
“I am working on it.”
That winter, I began writing my first…well, I suppose I should call it a book. That is what the rest of the world called it.
I sat in my cabin till the end of time. Detached from reality, internally and externally. I watched the snow fall. I listened to that old, old song, ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song.’ I imagined Poirot singing it to me…in that 2080s dress. And I wrote.
That book was only the first of many. I couldn’t stop.
The series revolved around a woman, Elsa Poirot. Her protege… Her protege was the narrator – Aaliyah. A name strangely similar to the writer’s. Ha.
It did well. Anna Poirot would be satisfied. She is.
The money from the sales ensured that I never had to leave the cabin. I stayed in – away from everything sane, real and ordinary. I wrote Poirot. I dreamed Poirot. I drank wine, and…and the wine too was Poirot.
Every night, after I had finished, I’d close my eyes and dance with my arms crossed around myself. The music played, “I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. I think I made you up inside my head.” Poirot danced among the curtains. I dreamt of summer. Poirot on the grass. Me, in a yellow dress. Poirot was in black and white. I was in colour. Some strange force had ripped apart time, space and morality to stitch us onto the same frame. And it planted that bizarre picture in my head.
I visit her grave often. It is…Well, it is a little unacceptable I guess, that there are many roaming this earth with parts of Poirot within their bodies. Her liver, kidneys, eyes…heart. They roamed with the same instructions as I did. Were they haunted by them as I am? Are they haunted by her?
I wonder if any of them refused her instructions. I wonder if any, at all, do not know who Anna Poirot is. I wonder if the doctor failed to pass on the instructions to all of them. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance dooms one to the ordinary. I may be mad, but I am alive. That is my only defence.
I visit her grave often. I crave to have it dug up, and at death, have my body buried with her remains. But I wouldn’t dare. I do not possess the audacity that Heathcliff flaunted with such insolence. My Catherine is too precious, too deserving of reverence. I simply sit here and gaze. Here, the remains of Anna Poirot is the only thing that is real anymore. That, and the skin on my flesh. It is soft to the touch.
I’m an old woman now. A crazy, old woman. If you are reading this, it means that I am long gone. I hope I am buried like I arranged – in the grave closest to Poirot’s. I hope you enjoy your time at the cabin. Treat it well. It was my sanctuary.
Right now, you might be wondering how much you could sell this letter for. Do that – wealth is not overrated. It gets some to the moon. It gets some a grave they would die for. You can have my love letters too. They are buried beneath a loose floorboard under the bed. But please, be patient. First, I must ask you what I could never ask while I was alive. Hopefully, if ghosts are real – and I believe they are – I shall hear your answer.
What is it like to be sane? What is it like to never be haunted? Is it worth being sane when it confines you to the ordinary?