The Couch

Jack and Jill

Comments on Jack and Jill

Nexus
Senior Member
Avatar

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Nov 11, 2007
Location: UK *up north somewhere*

Total Topics: 63
Total Comments: 195
Avatar Nexus
Posted 09/14/12 - 9:41 PM:
Subject: Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill.


Jack and Jill, if they'd been asked - but of course they never were - would probably have said they were in love. Nearly two years of marriage had passed and they still felt quite excited about being with each other. Jill was only working part-time and would get back to their cosy semi and feel how secure they were now with their new mortgage and a house full of solid furniture and dependable gadgets. When she got home before her husband she would plunge into the cookbook and explore a new recipe, eager to convince Jack that she really was the perfect new wife, even more reliable than the shiny white washing machine in the fitted kitchen. She felt quite independent busying around the kitchen by herself, she loved it when he would sneak in on her unheard - though often she'd just pretend she hadn't heard him - and grab her around the waist.

"Oh Jack!"

"Pleased to see me darling?"

"I'm cooking something nice."

"I know, I can smell it. I can't wait."

Jack had watched a movie with his wife where a couple had made love on the linoleum. It had looked uncomfortable more than anything, he wondered whether people in real life really did such things. He sometimes wondered if they talked more than he and his new wife did. Jack and Jill had their little routines - they would touch and giggle and think about the bedroom later but it always seemed to flicker out fairly quickly and he would go to his newspaper and wait for food or spend some time pottering in the garage. He enjoyed eating with her, they would break away from eating to stare at each other at times, she still seemed something of a mystery to him as he did to her. Could she have been a princess in a castle with her prince, ruling kingdoms? Could he have been a tyrant, destroying lives and deflowering maidens at a whim? Such absurd notions often drifted in the quiet evening air into both of their minds, the house feeling curiously empty despite all the new purchases filling its rooms. There was a little worry far in the back of Jack's mind. He had been a Young Conservative once and had liked to debate, he worked in the civil service and had people under him and had no problem communicating at work. Would there always be this lapse into silence that words wouldn't fill at dinner? Jill worried less about this. Silence had always been part if what she was, although she didn't analyse this fact. That it had become something of a technique, a way of being in the world, were possibilities that also wouldn't have been appreciated by her. Both had been only children growing up and she had had an imaginary friend for a while. Instead of speaking more, breathing energy into her young brain cells by encompassing the world with thought through utterance, she fell back into a dreaminess where things weren't quite as they were. She sometimes imagined him tearing her clothes off on one of his secret approaches. Often it wasn't Jack she pictured in her mind but the greengrocer who seemed to be attracted to her - he'd often let her have vegetables for less than the value he had weighed.

If anyone had asked Jack or Jill - of course they wouldn't have - they'd have said they were still very happy together. However, both of them had started to fantasise more about what life might be like without the other when they were at work or alone. The world was gradually getting bigger for each of them and they were seeing more clearly that they were mere fragments in its workings. The awareness dripped into their perceptions like the leaking tap in the bathroom that Jack still hadn't repaired that could be heard from the bedroom at night. Yet so far they had repressed this growing sense well and the world outside was rarely talked about when they were together. Jack would talk about colleagues in a routine way. Jill, who very rarely talked about her job, had begun to find this repetitive. She'd started imagine another man now, perhaps the humorous greengrocer, delighting her with a parade of unexpected images. Yet a man like that probably wouldn't be as dependable as Jack who was so careful about paying bills on time, economising and being punctual. Jack in turn imagined a woman who would ask him more questions about work and perhaps encourage him generally in life in ways he couldn't quite envisage.

One day they started talking about children. On looking back at this moment neither knew who had been the first to bring the subject up. Without debate they had decided to start trying. Jill soon became pregnant and Jack felt very proud; his mother was living in a distant city now, he only spoke to her occasionally by phone, this new being that was growing inside the beautiful woman he had acquired was additional evidence that he was his own man and the old bag couldn't touch him anymore. He watched with amusement as Jill began to show, he'd put his head on her stomach to listen for kicks and they'd started to talk about changes that could be made to the house to make way for the child. The new event was like a gift offered to their relationship, they felt as lively and carefree as on their honeymoon. Every day brought them a little closer to the moment when the creature that would look a little like both of them and which would be pliable and wholly dependant upon them would break out miraculously into the world. Neither Jack nor Jill had had a serious thought about the child. They did not worry about what kind of parents they might turn out to be or the child's frailty.

They named her Katy, everybody - the nurse who'd delivered her, the couple down the road they occasionally went out with - said that she had her father's eyes. After they'd figured out how to feed, bath and change nappies the major issues seemed to be over with. Jack and Jill felt as though the child finally justified their relationship, it proved to the world that their marriage was worthwhile. That thinking the latter might be construed as a quite insecure reaction did not occur to them. It seemed natural to feel this way although neither of them ever talked about it. The world was always watching, in their minds, they had to keep up, make sure they weren't falling behind, they could not be perceived as failures. They had a nice house with nice things inside, Jack had a nice job and now there was a nice child to go with it. At the antenatal classes they had attended together they'd met another couple, Mike and Sarah, who they now kept in regular contact with. They'd had a little boy and bringing the two toddlers together provided grounds for conversation that might otherwise have been absent. Mike and Sarah were both teachers and had intellectual sides to them that made Jack and Jill feel slightly inadequate. However, the fact of the children and the vital shared interest they created seemed to override this slight problem. Rather than making Jack and Jill less sociable the arrival of Katy seemed to enlarge their previously quite feeble social reach. Mike and Sarah - though neither Jack nor Jill would ever have admitted this to each other - were interesting. This word seemed to represent something important to both of them but preferred not to go near it. The notion was slightly sacred, both could have built a little shrine to it had they abandoned themselves entirely, they would have worshipped at the shrine every night before bed but never want it in their lives together. There was something dangerous about this restless need to talk about diverse subjects, to worry and weigh up what was on your mind instead of hiding it away in a private place. Jack even started to bring back books he'd picked up in second hand shops after work. Now and again he'd start something difficult but give it up in favour of his usual spy thriller.

The child grew quickly and was quite independent. They watched her with a kind of amazement, somehow the two if them together had created this beautiful little girl that laughed, cried and recognised their faces and was soon treating them like Gods. They enjoyed the importance they held for her, they had never felt such focus on them before, between the two of them there was passion but no focus. The child needed them and soon demanded with words instead of just cries and tantrums. When the demands came in the form of words they were intrigued, the baby really was human and would soon bare all the hallmarks of a person. Then came the crazy questioning over everything.

"Can you get taller daddy? Why can't you fly mummy? Who made me daddy? What's in the sky mummy? Why is mummy a woman and you are a man daddy? What happens when I go to sleep?"

Television and toys and bedtime stories fed her sense of wonder; Katy had Jake, Mike and Sarah's little boy, to play with on weekends when the couples would meet up. There was also another little girl on the street. People generally paid them more notice; when Jill was out shopping with the child shopkeepers and people she barely knew came over to see how the child and mother were doing. They lived in a small town on a modern estate and despite the usual isolation that late twentieth century life could bring Jack and Jill felt as though they now had a kind of status in the community. Katy was a proud centre of life and would provide the entertainment that had begun to seem lacking before they'd decided to have a child.

Jack's job was relatively challenging and sometimes he found Katy could be a strain on his nerves after a long day's work. There was no great pressure to do overtime but it was extra money and an excuse to get home after the child had gone to sleep. She was four now and Jill seemed happy enough but he sensed she too found the child less of a diversion and more of a chore than she had been previously. They had to get up less at night to tend to her and they didn't have to change nappies any more but all that fuss had had a kind of rhythm to it and along with awe at the baby's rapid changes it had only seemed to do them both good. Now she had grown she was less of a novelty. Mike and Sarah made their excuses and visited less, Jack and Jill sensed they might have more interesting, challenging friends who lived nearby. Now Jack and Jill were just another young family struggling along through life. Jill was working part-time still, putting Katy in playgroup each morning. A shy girl she didn't gel well with other children and started getting nightmares and refusing to go. She had become a difficult child, this new development put pressure on the couple's relationship. Jill started to feel she was doing the lion's share in raising the girl while Jack would declare that 'somebody had to pay the bills'. Neither of them touched Katy much now or played with her with any great enthusiasm; they took her places and answered her questions, they helped her learn the time and start to read and felt some pride in these important moments. Jill even asked her mother about her own childhood and how she had been at that age. The daughter had entered motherhood believing that after a certain age children more or less ran themselves. Her mother explained that when she could be packed off to school all day Jack and Jill's relationship with the child would improve. She then proposed something that neither of the couple had considered. Another child would make Katy feel less lonely, the family would be a 'nice size', they could certainly afford it.

A year later Nathan appeared, the couple now knew what to expect but enjoyed all the fuss and disruption nonetheless. Katy was excited to have a brother and loved to hold the baby and play with it. The couple had found themselves - after the initial awe over their first arrival - a little irritated by the way the little girl had prevented them from spending as much time together as they would have liked. They forgot about this period of vague longing when Nathan arrived and plunged again into nappy changing, late night waking and all the activities that they'd coped so well with the first time round. When Nathan was still a toddler Katy started at school. She lost some of her shyness and started to make new friends and they didn't need to pay as much attention to her. Perhaps because Nathan was a boy they had imagined he would be less trouble than Katy. However, as soon as he was out of nappies he turned into a little terror, hardly giving his mother a moments rest. Instead of going back to work she stayed at home with him as the local playgroup found it impossible to cope with the child who tried to eat toys - a habit the couple had noticed at home - and attacked other children. Sometimes, he would even go for his sister. He seemed to realise the difference in ages made it difficult for her to defend herself, she would go to school with bruises and and at one point there was even a visit from the social worker because of this.

As home life became more and more chaotic Jack increased the amount of overtime he was working again. While he'd taken to coming home earlier after the second birth as soon as Nathan began to become a handful he'd claim work was calling again. The extra money would be important for the children's future and since Jill wasn't working somebody had to make up for the lost income. Jill's mother, Miriam, came to stay for a while to help her daughter out. Although she had never admitted it to anybody she didn't like Jack very much. She'd divorced her own husband - a philanderer and gambler - when Jill was eight, realising he was doing precious little to help raise her and the little girl would therefore survive without him. Jill missed what morsel of paternal affection she had been getting, however, her schooling suffered and for a long time she blamed Miriam for driving her father away. Jill's mother believed in offering only distant emotional support to her child and the occasional rushes of warmth Jill had been given by her wayward Pa had been a cherished part of her childhood.

Jill's mother helped restore some order to the war zone that the semi had become. Katy now avoided her brother like the plague and even had a plastic rod with a padded end to it that she had made entirely by herself to fend him off without causing harm. At three years old he was abnormally independent and could only be isolated in one room by a series of high gates that had been specially made by a carpenter. On the occasions that he got free he would clamber up the stair to his sister's room and try to destroy her toys and clothes and the cherished feminine objects that were symbolic of her emerging girlhood. At only eight years old Katy insisted a lock be put on her door to prevent the intrusions of her crazed sibling. The room became a haven; already she felt distant from her parents though felt some warmth for her grandmother who showed her reasonable amounts of affection. Miriam seemed to have found emotional resources that had been lacking the first time around; it became apparent to her that she'd done a poor job with her daughter. For years she'd hidden this reality from view blaming everything on her husband.

Although numerous child psychologists had been put on his case and drugs given him in an attempt to soften his violent mood swings nothing seemed to stop Nathan's destructiveness. Then, not long after his fourth birthday, he miraculously started to settle down and form a more equitable relationship with the world. Miriam was no longer needed to help keep the house together, they found a playgroup that Nathan hadn't yet been banned from and Jill found part-time work again. Jack had a neat way with dealing with problems when they arose - he blocked them out. He'd managed to develop a routine where he only needed to see the children for periods at weekends; he would drive the female attendants, Katy and his mad second born on trips to convince all he was still an involved family man. Otherwise there were various clubs and societies he was a member of that would neatly demand his time and allow him to slip out of the way when things were too noisy or hectic at home. He regretted Miriam's leaving and felt some anxiety over how the family structure would now function. Jill had been toughened by the experience with Nathan and had lost some of her passivity. One day, in a fit of autonomy, she announced Jack would now spend more time with the children, without her mother around she was unwilling to be their only source of attention. While she still had a certain respect for Jack and actually believed his commitment to work and the societies he was a member of were genuinely inspired by an orderly personality she told him he had become distracted and must focus more attention on life at home.

Katy missed her grandmother very much but accepted the change. Nathan had lost all interest in attacking her and she noticed that he'd even started to make overtures of a purely friendly nature toward her. Whatever odd genetic mishap had been playing itself out in the early stages of the child's life now well and truly seemed to be in the background. When Katy brought friends over he would be allowed to join in on their games and was now even permitted to come into her room. A bond at last began to form. Their parent's saw this and were pleased, all of a sudden the household found a steady rhythm and the couple went back to playing the lover's games, both in and outside the bedroom, that had once been a regular part of their life together but since the crisis with Nathan had become dull fucking and cool exchanges of information when they ran into each other around the house. Neither seemed to have been permanently scarred by the period of unrest. Everything was 'normal' again, the recent past all but forgotten, they continued. They began looking into each other's eyes during meal times again but this time there were less fantasies about other people or other lives. They thought about how they would enjoy each other when the children were in bed - they packed them off as early as seemed morally possible. Jack had taken to lecturing the children on manners, particularly around the table when eating. He would order them to straighten their backs and hold their cutlery properly, not to lean back on their chairs or put their elbows on the table. Jill thought him very orderly and even manly when he did this. She allowed herself one primary fantasy game now - that Jack would suddenly become more authoritarian with her and order her around like he'd started doing with the children. These images sometimes played in her mind in the bedroom where the 'Joy of Sex' was now seldom turned to. Jack seemed to think he'd learned all he needed to from the book. She would never have asked him to 'take on a character', she knew he wouldn't stand for it. He would get angry with her when she made gentle criticisms of his behaviour and she thought that asking him to be playful in that way would be perceived by him as a criticism of his normal self.

Twenty years later the couple were still in a similar routine, there were photo albums somewhere filled with pictures of the four of them together. At eighteen Katy had run away with a young man and never called home again. Nathan knew why she had done it and also began to question the silences and distances that had always been taken for granted at home. He had taken drugs to dull the pain and neglected his studies, he'd tried to find out where his sister had gone but she'd made sure she could not be found, that she, too, should be allowed to assume the same forgetful relationship with the past that her parents had allowed themselves. After a short time spent in a young offenders institution - the genetic oddity seemingly having returned - Nathan's parents did not seem enthusiastic about having him back. Over the years they'd developed a certain role in the community; they'd both been enthusiastic school governors and even after the children had grown still attended meetings and felt welcome. Jill now played an administrative role at a number of Jack's societies which began to form an important part of both their lives. It was up to the children to understand how they had lost their way and perhaps one day return to the fold. People were very understanding and could not work out how two children that had once been so well behaved had gone astray.

Nathan and Katy, however, eventually found each other again. He'd joined the navy and seen the world and righted himself while she had fallen out of love and lived alone, a single mother. He knocked on the door one day, the child was playing at a friend's and Katy had just got home from work. Nathan wore his uniform, she did not recognise him immediately. When she did there was only a feeling of confusion at first, when she'd thought of him in his absence it was usually of the manic toddler rather than the boy who she'd grown to love. He sat down in her modest living room and accepted the coffee she'd made looking lost and slightly stunned.

"I've got a child Nathan." she said.

"He's not.."

"You're going to say mad like you were aren't you?"

Neither laughed though there was a flash of recognition between them. He spilt some of the coffee on his perfectly laundered trousers and she quickly found a cloth and he made an awkward attempt to prevent a stain.

"You know, when I think about them now I always think about the nursery rhyme."

Katy smiled. "It's still popular you know, I sing it with my little boy, you can't help thinking about them when you sing it can you?"

"I makes it all less real, it's just a crazy story, they're always going up that hill and messing things up over and over."

"Such a strange story. It doesn't mean anything does it?"

"No, they never do do they?"













libertygrl
Administrator
Avatar

Usergroup: Administrators
Joined: Apr 16, 2005
Location: San Francisco

Total Topics: 425
Total Comments: 4672
Posted 10/03/12 - 1:39 PM:

As I was winding down toward the end, I was thinking to myself how much this one has such a pervasive air of existential angst. Even with the title as a clue, I honestly didn't anticipate Sysiphus would be showing his face at the end there. wink

Nicely done clap
Nexus
Senior Member
Avatar

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Nov 11, 2007
Location: UK *up north somewhere*

Total Topics: 63
Total Comments: 195
Avatar Nexus
Posted 10/03/12 - 3:38 PM:

Basically, Jack and Jill are my parents.

Anyone else get a strange feeling you'd 'seen/felt something like this...' maybe in your own or your friend's lives?

Rereading it's awkward in places and needs work but it was very much a 'close to my own heart' piece.

My situation was not a good one and now I've thankfully gained some objectivity on it after many years but there's still alot of repression and anger. The stubborn, silent, mediocrity of so many middle class upbringings. If there's some 'mind' in your parents - if they're teachers, doctors, if they have some kind of positive responsibility out there in the world, if they have made some attempt to work out there own suffering - your bringing up will have had more intelligibility perhaps. At least in working clas families you the repressions and frustration and ignorance would be on the surface for you to see and make sense of (and in many working class families I know things do work and love is available and they're often more of a success than middle class families whilst 'success' in the hypocritical world out there will evade you.)

That's in GB anyhow.

And then there are the middling middle-class families where Jack and Jill rule the roost. Unconsciousness is all.

Cheers.
libertygrl
Administrator
Avatar

Usergroup: Administrators
Joined: Apr 16, 2005
Location: San Francisco

Total Topics: 425
Total Comments: 4672
Posted 10/03/12 - 5:21 PM:

It's not a scenario I was too familiar with growing up, myself. Both of my parents grew up dirt poor and although they did manage to develop a modest middle-class existence for me and my sister, we were a military family and dealing largely with the trappings of post-war traumatic stress.

However, as an adult and living a much more comfortable life now than I grew up with, and especially now that I've recently been dating men who want to settle down and have a family, I recognized J&J's situation from the story as a potential path of least resistance for me. And in that sense, it resonated with me a lot. It sounds comfortable and dreadful at the same time. Have you seen the film "American Beauty"? I'm reminded a bit of that as well.

One of my exes wrote a short story about a middle class couple which this reminded me of. His story was also close to the heart; it was based on the relationship between him and his ex-wife. It talked about their struggles in creating a comfortable life for their kids and how ultimately it wasn't enough to keep them both happy.

Nexus wrote:
If there's some 'mind' in your parents - if they're teachers, doctors, if they have some kind of positive responsibility out there in the world, if they have made some attempt to work out there own suffering - your bringing up will have had more intelligibility perhaps.

Perhaps, but the odds seem to be against us as a whole. Those who have the desire to work out their suffering may not have the means of doing so, and those who can may choose to do otherwise. The few who manage to gain the intelligibility of which you speak seem very few and far between.

Good of you to write about it and bring that frustration to the surface, I imagine it's never easy under the best of circumstances.
Search thread for
Download thread as
  • 0/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5



Sorry, you don't have permission . Log in, or register if you haven't yet.



Acknowledgements:

Couch logo design by Midnight_Monk. The photo hanging above the couch was taken by Paul.

Powered by WSN Forum. Free smileys here.
Special thanks to Maria Cristina, Jesse , Echolist Directory, The Star Online,
Hosting Free Webs, and dmoz.org for referring visitors to this site!

Copyright notice:

Except where noted otherwise, copyright belongs to respective authors
for artwork, photography and text posted in this forum.