The White Kaleidoscope
Leilanie Stewart © 2016
I was fifteen years old when I was first struck with the desire to eat church candles. The notion swept over me as I slaved away at the till in the department store where I worked every Saturday for a paltry £1.50 an hour.
When I say church candles, I’m talking about a very specific breed. The big, thick, creamy, delicious kind that look like squat marzipan tree trunks. I’m not pregnant, nor deranged (at least the last time I psychoanalysed myself). I’ve always craved unusual objects. In fact, now that I think of it, my adventuresome palate has landed me in trouble once or twice in the past. Once, being when I masticated the yummy looking psychedelic balls of wool in the dusty classroom cupboard in my nursery school. Twice, being when I chewed my mum’s favourite pair of red leather stilettos. In hindsight, it’s a bit strange that my pleasant, straight-laced obey-all-the-rules mother had such incriminating shoes hidden in a brown paper bag in the cupboard in the first place.
But we’re straying from the issue. And I do have a point, believe me. What is it about society that preconditions people to think that only certain items may be deemed worthy enough to be slobbered over? Just think how wide the limited range of foodstuffs would become if we only thought them worthy enough to festoon our mouths with? It’s like Neanderthals. How can people possibly have a say about them, when they haven’t met any? You might think I’m being a tad unfair, of course we don’t all have time machines that we can just dive into at any given opportunity. But I don’t believe in the words ‘an educated guess’. What rubbish! How can you claim to understand the wider picture when you don’t gather all the data to make a fair judgement? It’s like saying that you understand white when you don’t even know the primary colours that make it up. Red, yellow and blue for that matter. That one I learned from my beat up old encyclopedia. Learned about Neanderthals in there too. Just before I partially digested the book.
I hope you don’t mind listening, because I don’t mind sitting here and letting the stream of consciousness take over me. Let’s get back to candles. I’ll tell you how this ‘fetish’ of mine started. There used to be a young married couple who lived several doors down from my parents house. They didn’t have any kids, so they bought two cats and fussed over them as though they were children. I remember how I used to love those cats. The feel of their soft fur and delicate bodies was soothing. I loved running my greasy little hands over them.
But I made the sorry mistake of trying to feed some salami to the neighbours’ cats one day and it didn’t go down well. Not my fault, I was only nine. Not old enough to know that they were on a special diet. The man, well, he was too placid anyway and said nothing about the matter. The woman, she got herself into a right old rage, that pug face of hers turned purple as she scolded me. From that day on, I didn’t bother with those cats, nor with the couple.
One day, my friend and I were out making candles in her back garden with a new candle making kit she’d gotten for her birthday, when one of them pesky cats came walking across the back fence. I tell you, an anger swept over me like it never has before and I lobbed a deformed candle through the air at the cat, knocking it off the fence. Well, they say cats have got nine lives, but I’m not so sure. Judging by the racket coming from the other side of the fence where the guard dog lived, I’d say that cat spent all nine in one.
I felt guilty for many years, especially when many a chewed slipper or half eaten tennis ball was hurled over the fence by exasperated guard-dog owners in the proceeding months. The candle lay at the bottom of the garden behind the shed until, consumed with guilt, I snatched it up, wiped it off and ate it whole.
Well, that started the ball rolling. I discovered I have a taste for wax and as a means of appeasing my guilt, I began my crusade of eating candles. The guilt only subsided after I had a nightmare about those cats. I dreamt that the pair of them were wearing tasselled hats, you know, like the ones graduates wear? And they were sat on a window ledge, ordering me to eat candles. And I did. I ate and I ate, ‘til I was sick. The cat’s voices were eerie, haunting. I can still remember, clear as day. The guilt subsided a bit after that. But the craving for candles didn’t. The opposite in fact. It progressed and developed into a love for fancier types by the time I was in my teens.
I guess what I learned is that we shouldn’t pretend to understand everything, nor should we discriminate against something without having all the knowledge to understand it. I’m not sure if that’s possible in only one lifetime. It’s like that white I mentioned before.
If you look closer at that white, if you train your eyes for even a moment, you can see the red in the spectrum. Maybe the red is guilt. Is it possible for guilt to extend back into a past lifetime? Sometimes I wonder, especially since I was born with the desire to ‘swallow’ my guilty passions.
And what of the blue? I say it represents the cyclical wheel of reincarnation. We all carry our foibles into another lifetime. Can you iron out your eccentricities in this life? Hell, I can’t!
Then yellow. I think this is the big one. The higher power overseeing us all. Binding it all together. The omnipotent force that interlocks all things. Or am I talking a bunch of Buddhist balderdash?
You decide for yourself. I won’t impose it upon you; I won’t force it down your throat. But think of the white. Just imagine the kaleidoscope. Like looking through a single lens.
As for me? Well, my story ends with the white alright. My desire to eat candles was quashed by none other than a cat. The poor little critter came across one of my fallen ‘comfort’ candles and started yakking on it. Oh the pain! The ironic misery! Only the trauma brought on by poetic justice could have halted my cravings. Croaked it there and then. And not only the cat.
‘The White Kaleidoscope’ – First published in Carillon Magazine Issue 27, July 2010.