Saturday, 30 January 2010


This came to me first in the night, later consolidated by a mid-day soak in the tub...

She had to run. She had to leave without shoes, the socks on her feet making her slide a little across the floor. She found herself crying in the next room because it was all too much. Not sad, mind you, but a relief, now, just to be standing there in the dark, in the quiet again. The room somehow enchanted, the streetlight glittering in her eyes. She wondered if anyone noticed that she had slipped away.

Music from the front room, her own music whispering down the hall. The sounds and the presence of the people she loved and whom she knew loved her equally, unconditionally, inexplicably. It was all too much. This play of love and light in the simplest of small gestures. She crouched down across her bed and hugged all their empty winter coats to her face, inhaling the wintry smell of outdoors. What to do, what to do with the knowledge that she could be bowled over by the slightest of shared things? What to do with the fact her heart trembled whenever anyone left her a handwritten note ('I came by, but you weren't in'; 'You and me: lunch, tommorrow. I've been experimenting with lentil soup'; 'Can I please, please, borrow your cat one day?'; 'Saw this in the jumble sale and thought of you.')?

She could hear laughter now, and dancing. She tried on a coat, Jeremiah's, with the hood, with the whale bone buttons she had, once upon a time, toyed with playfully until he realised what she was doing. She wrapped the coat heavily around herself. Then she went to the window and looked out on the street. She imagined herself slipping down the fire escape, becoming somebody else. A stranger. He would have an invitation in his pocket, something secondhand, her address scrawled there in green ink. He would buzz her front door and be let in by one of her gorgeous notegiving friends. Coming up the stairs, hearing the handful of voices, he would begin to feel slightly awkward, wondering if he should have taken this invitation seriously. Then he would remember the green ink and curiosity would get the better of him. Yes, he will continue the climb up to the fourth floor. He will have brought a present, a little cake bought from a pattisserie that had only just closed for the night but on whose door he had kept knocking, nervously, until the baker had let him in. He carries the cake openly in his hand as somebody, one of her friends, directs him to where he should leave his coat. Then he will apologise profusely, noticing that there is a girl standing there in the dark of the bedroom, maybe crying, maybe not. And he will say her name (all of it, first and last) for the first time. Her name as a question. And she will nod. And he will offer her that little cake, not as a sign of his love (of which he now perhaps feels a glimmer, a foreshadowing pang), but as a sign that he knows just how loved she truly is. Yes, if she were that person, this big-coated boy, she would have done just the same: held the door open, inviting herself back into the light again.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Gardening for Love

I met her, not at her front door, but in her back garden. That was the first thing she taught me: that people could meet like that. That you could get to know people, not in the usual, expected, pre-arranged ways, but spontaneously, creatively. With a sort of calm, summery patience too. I had rung her doorbell and, instead of inviting me in, her voice came hollering out, asking me to meet her around the back of the house. She already had a picnic blanket laid out. A book there, lying on its face. A cup of tea. A half-eaten bowl of salad. My heart was singing. Hello, I said.

She used to write to me, even after she finally invited me inside. Writing to me of all people, just a rather glum postgraduate in art history. I'd find these little epistles hiding around my apartment with my name on them and addressed to 'The Bookshelf, Right Hand Side, Between Van Gogh and Matisse' or 'Atop the Fridge, beside the Apples.' I used to love it, but because she never mentioned writing these letters to me, I never asked her about them. I just wanted her to keep them coming in their secret and furtive way. I wanted her to have a reason to come visit.

So, I never said a word: just collected whatever she wrote me inside an old shoebox, taking it out from time to time. Anyway, seeing her outside, writing with such intent, with such attention, I always felt so desirous of her. Turned on by the scenario. The sexiness of her absorbed in her work. As if she were very far away from me and this vision I was seeing was just some tantalizing dream. As if we were distant lovers with a whole ocean between us.

She would sometimes steal my jacket when I came to visit and slip into the garden again, even if it was raining--something, again, I never bothered to have her explain. It was just one more bizarre, surreal, lovely thing which stoked my desires for her. Only now I wonder if she wasn't actually trying to teach me something, the way she had that first time I met her. Her ongoing lesson. You see, looking back, picturing her there in her garden again, what I see is this startlingly young person aching, just aching for love. And perhaps this was what she was trying to get me, always, to realise. Maybe, this was what she was always trying to teach me...One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't just go out there with her, for god's sake, just throw open her french doors, and dance with her in the rain.

Ms Bronte

Courtesy of 19th Century Lit

What could they be attracted to, I wondered? I was tall and gangly, a plank rather than an hourglass. That I looked smart, not pretty, was something that had been beaten into my head early on. Precocious was the word everyone always used. As well as being that girl who was all but oblivious to the male gaze, I was also that starry-eyed specimen you sometimes found on trains, flipping through the scrappy pages of thin, second hand copies of Fran├žoise Sagan and Anais Nin. Yes, I was the girl who once answered ‘become a French Poet’ when her father asked her what she wanted to do once she graduated high school.

I look at my beaming, innocent face in photos from those years and want to slap it. Braininess was something I’d been told—without anyone actually ever telling me—that I had to live up to. I certainly wouldn’t have looks going for me. None that I could see. Gamine was not yet a word I thought applied. All I knew was that I still looked like a boy from certain angles. That these non-attributes should one day becomes the objects of anyone’s desire was, to me, unthinkable. Even when I started finally getting hips, I was still decided: one could either be well-endowed with boobs or with books, and I thought I knew which way God was prodding me.

Who knew my Bronte-obsessed bookishness could end up being what one boyfriend would later assure me was ‘sexy as fuck’?

Courtesy of Green Card, pt. 1

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Rom Com

She told him she didn't like pie, she liked cake, but he tried making her pie, getting all the ingredients wrong anyway, one rainy day, as a suprise. It was the measurements that got him. Too much of this, too little of that. It had gone downhill from there. He didn't work well against the clock. He felt like a mad scientist trying to get love and marriage and happiness just right. Waiting round crazily for that bolt of lightning. Too long, maybe. He ended up throwing the fruit of his efforts away in the rubbish outside before she had a chance to see it. Coming home, she looked around and asked him, 'is something burning?' Her clothes were damp and hanging, her poncho soaked and probably ruined, her face red, her hair in tangles. He wanted to say how pretty he thought she looked like that, but he thought it might upset her--she might take it the wrong way--especially now that she suspected him of burning things.

He was working in a cinema when he met her. She came out into the lobby to say that the picture wasn't in focus and they got talking. He didn't know it, but she still had the ticket from that film and sometimes she wondered why he never suggested, in a sentimental way, that they rent it out, watch it again, knowing it had brought them together. She imagined them wrapping up in a blanket and eating cake together, watching. Something inside of her wanted him to propose they do this together, but she never said so. Sometimes she wondered if he really loved her as much as he said he did. It had been a crap movie anyway.

She also wondered if his obsession with the early 1970s was, at least in part, an excuse to imagine himself in a time and place in which she didn't exist. For this reason, she bought herself a poncho one day--something straight off the cover of that Incredible String Band album he was always going on about, listening to while he cooked and fucking up the recipes because he would get too distracted. She started wearing the poncho as frequently as she could, hoping it would be her ticket into her husband's fantasies.

Image courtesy of Nicholas Haggard

He went to get her the big towel from the bathroom and, after helping her pull her favourite poncho off, he wrapped her up and sat her down in front of the oven (which was still warm from his ill-fated pie-making). As soon as he handed her the cup of tea, which he had already made--which he had managed, surprisingly, to time perfectly with her return home--there was a clap of lightning outside and the electricity in the house fizzled out. The Incredible String Band died out mid-song. He got down and wrapped his arm around her, and she threw the rest of her towel over his shoulder, so that now they could both be under it, beside the big warm oven. Then she started singing right where his music had left off, right where the album had stopped playing. And, very faintly, with yet another clap of lightning, he felt tears welling up in his eyes, making his vision dimly go out of focus, so moved was he that she knew the song by heart.

Won't you lay down dear sister,
Won't you lay and take your rest?
Won't you lay your head upon your saviour's breast?
And I love you, but Jesus loves you the best
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Folk Blues

Listening to Bert Jansch and The Incredible String Band and Vashti Bunyan a little too much lately perhaps. Fits of melancholy behind the mask. If I still smoked, I'd be doing so now, on the windowsill, and wishing there were a friend or two here to share my cigarette with. Pretending I was lighting up for them too.

My mother has me stuffing endless envelopes for dog and cat registrations in the county. Thousands, literally thousands. At one point, today I had to escape. So I went out in the on-again off-again drizzle to walk beside the rolling meadow beside the reservoir and have a chat with the deer...All scarved up, it felt a little lonely. But lush in between the breaks of rain. Peaceful. Eminently shareable. I'm glad I thought to take myself out there again.

What else? Lemonade (not the British kind, but organic, fresh-squeezed) is becoming a new habit of mine--this, I offer you, in the way of news...

Also a cat I saw was named Juicy...

Also a sudden desire to send and receive some post that doesn't involve pet licensing. Maybe a nice postcard just to say, take a breath, and that everything will be fine. A hand-squeeze or a knee-squeeze in handwritten ink.

The stony shore beside the restless reservoir (storm clouds rushing overhead) was completely empty of anyone. Even the birds weren't lingering. So I took the oppotunity to hum as many good old outdoor folk songs as I could remember, one or two more loudly than was necessary...One evening fair, as I took the air, by Blackwaterside...

Yellow roses may be all that he can bring you...

Before you go, back to London Town...

Letting my Anglophilia run rife. It looked a little like this, but without the horse. Then again, maybe he was there in spirit. Yes, I'd like to think so.

I'd definitely invite him, as I would you, anytime, around for tea, if I could. Or easily for lemonade. In my own room or rooms or flat or house somewhere, sometime in the hopefully very near future. Sparse furniture and teathings and having to make do with sitting on the floor, or course. I'd like that...Just to make this clear: I'm talking about you now, not the imaginary horse.

There's also a good chance I would put this amazing ISB song on quietly in the background, the first verse of which goes like this (ahem):

Baby come tell me 'bout your treehouse
And your candy-striped pet mouse
And your car that has feet
Hey, come tell me 'bout your eyebrows that meet
And, my baby, won't you tell me 'bout your chilblains
And your right eyeball's growing pains
And your purple tractor that sings
Hey come tell me all of those things