Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Webcam photos are good

I wrote a short story yesterday. It's just a first draft so probably mistake-ridden/not good and a bit weird I guess. 

I was early for work one morning. I am always early. Due to characteristic earliness I had almost planned in advance a trip to a café for some beans on toast. My God! I love beans on toast. I sat at a small, round table for one in the corner, by the window. I like to watch the people go by, you see. I’m a real people watcher. I barely even noticed anyone else at other tables; I was so absorbed in beautiful girls with legs like large-scale matchsticks, and myself.  The waitress brought over my tea, and distraction carried my gaze over to an elderly lady sat in the corner. She was nursing a teacake with slow, shaky, but measured precision. She had cream and butter, but no jam. It was all beige, and I imagined the mundane taste she would have in her mouth, all crumb and grease and fat in one undeterminable lump turned over and over, stealing all the moisture from her tongue. She wasn’t wearing any jewellery, and her clothes were made from textures of velvet, velour, and thick cotton. Watching her made my eyes droop and I wanted to let my head rest on the table, near to my steaming drink so that I would be warm when I slumbered. I kept watching her. When she felt preyed upon her eyes slowly rose to meet mine, and I half expected flies to creep out of her eyelids.

She and I became friends out of a necessity to lose ourselves in our own contexts. She was lonely and bored, I was a little frightened and alienated. These juxtaposing feelings worked against us, and a bond formed neither of us were prepared to break but that dragged us down daily. I was eager to be a part of the eras she had been kissed in, had danced in, I wanted to wear the dresses she laid on duvets lovingly to show me.  The records she would give me to play (for her hands were too knotted, twisted, and she couldn’t position the needle correctly herself). In the early days I longed for the time she might be close enough to me to unravel the plaited, regimented bun of hair positioned on the top of her head. I knew her hair would be long, untouched and silken in its silvery cascades, falling onto, and past, her shoulders.

I wanted to cry, hit, and kiss her. At the same time she repulsed me. That’s the worst thing about complicated emotions, they make no sense whatsoever and there’s nothing to stop the oddest urges strolling into your head like they always existed at the forefront of your thought processes. She had become so much more to me than I had imagined. Her recycled stories were beginning to bore me, and so I became more child-like in her presence, petulant. Any rebuffs aimed my way would dissolve me into tears and angry fist-balling.  This was because I knew I needed her to feel things vital to my ego. Youth, memory, and energy were things I knew she resented me for. Sometimes I would put on a record by someone like Ella Fitzgerald, or Wanda Jackson and dance slowly for her to watch how I could pull my arms, the shapes I could make. I would pretend I had somewhere to go after our meetings, and bring makeup and dresses to her house. She couldn’t take her eyes off me when I twisted my hair into chignons fixed at the nape of my neck.

‘YOU ROT MY PATIENCE’, she yelled at me, quite some time later. I think she meant it, but it’s so hard to be sure. I said nothing, and instead rooted through her larder for some Crackerbread I could dip into butter. I loved her food. It was simple and full of the things they never thought to remove for fear it would compromise the taste. I didn’t believe in such compromises either. I probably did rot her patience. I rotted lots of parts of her in those last years.  I never allowed her to be who she was in the 21st century. She was always twenty-one, and we were always in competition.  I had a lover, but then so did she. He was just dead, and she hadn’t seen him since 1958. He wrote her sonnets. I hated that.

Relief flooded my veins as I felt the pressure of a finger in the small of my back. We were like a psychedelic mating of play dough pushed and moulded together until our colours merged and bled together in the dim light of morning, I was not convinced that I was not still sleeping. Amongst other things, I felt something warm run down the back of my throat. I touched my nose, and it was bleeding. I said nothing, it was dark and the blood made me feel something I know not how to conjugate. I let it run over my hands, and dragged my finger over my stomach, chest and thighs, I could smell it in the air, and perhaps he could too? Where the red fern grows, time flowed horizontally and we could have been there two minutes or five hours, I couldn’t tell you. It went on, and when it ended I wanted everything else to too. I knew she was in the next room spreading marmite on crumpets. I didn’t let him turn the lights on, I asked him to leave.

‘Don’t just stand there, DO something!’ she said to me as I stood in front of her, brows furrowed. First, a forceful sigh, then, she thrust one, two, three, five, fifteen, thirty books at me. There were lamps and old dusty bird cages neatly left in the hallway. I couldn’t understand why she thought I’d want half of this crap. I wasn’t grateful. It was anxiety-inducing. Where would I put any of it? I steeled my jaw and kept silent. Why was she so angry that she had only me to leave every one of her possessions to? She could have done worse. I knew it was more than the task at hand which was making her so goddamn angry. She wouldn’t cry, but instead her bottom lip shook with fury and her nostrils flared intermittently. I had not the energy or care to detract myself from this scene. I wouldn’t be gracious enough to accept blame yet.

‘Don’t just stand there, DO something!’ I said. I can’t be sure that it was on purpose or by accident that I didn’t mean it. They did a few token things. Of course it was no good. They let me look her square in the face before they took her, and I could have sworn she was beautiful. Her eyes were flat and milky; they had lost the sharp narrowing I was accustomed to seeing. I thought about the process of putrefaction. The abdomen would swell with bacterial waste. Organs would begin to pop. Eventually, her body would collapse, deflate, and decompose. This was life and death as we would not yet recognise. I went home to watch my hamster climb horizontally across her three-tiered cage. I guess it does not matter how intricately our cages are wrought; we can stress our own freedoms but they are mini-triumphs, caught up in the mundane nature of the conventions we craft ourselves. I loved her until the end and all it did was ensure my three year-long stagnation of denial could go on forever as long as I could find someone else to share it with.

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