The way that I am

While I was busy pretending my cat could talk and answer the phone, and running from the Hulk, who lived in our hot press, I was losing control of a small, and once well-defined world to forces beyond my control.

I was making up stories and creating imaginary worlds and friends that I could hide inside. I would make myself remember moments because I thought they could steady my course. I thought I could cling to them, string them today and be held up by them. Standing in the kitchen chewing Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum, ‘I will remember this moment.’ And I did. I remembered all the moments: pretending to be a witch in the rain, my knee-high socks pulled down by the weight of water; burying the dead bird I found on the walk back from the swimming pool; sitting under a slide near a field that shouldn’t be crossed, picking flecks of scented orange nail polish from my fingernails. I remembered for a while. My eyes snapped shut, and I mouthed the words, ‘Remember this moment. Remember.’ Now, I can barely remember anything. Memories became too heavy to hold.

While I hid under the bed, eating Jammy Dodgers and rubbing the green stained patch of skin left by a beloved cheap pink flower-shaped ring I bought from the ice-cream man, everything was shifting and turning away and I would spend the rest of my life trying to catch up.

The world was being pulled apart, stretching and expanding, pushing me further away from me, until now. Now I sit in a well-worn chair in a room with half-full boxes of tissues, talking to a woman who looks like she likes pashminas about the way that I am.

Or the way I think I am.

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There’s a woman

There’s a woman who arranges her books based on colour. She had to buy more blue to create the perfect ombre. The violet of du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ makes her heart sing.

She wears red lipstick but doesn’t reapply it. By lunchtime a red outline remains while the colour wears off the best flesh. She looks like one of the dead women on TV. The women that are murdered by men hiding under beds, men secreted away in cars in underground garages, men who clench their fists while sleeping.

She reads the blogs of women who make austere jewellery with woven thread that wraps around a life to be captured, eaten up, PayPal-ed and now there’s a customs charge. Women who curate their lives. Women who take selfies with a bright flash that softens their face, that rubs away the lines that life has left.

She started making dresses but they were thin and hung from her bones like a sack. The sewing machine has pride of place in the study that’s full of books she’ll never read.

She rides a bicycle a man helped her pick and now he acts like she owes him. At the pub he breathes Scampi Fries onto her neck as he rattles in her ear about chainrings.

She buys mid-century modern furniture and talks about going on protests but never does and instead scours the internet for cats to adopt.

She wears white tights and picks off green nail polish that nestles between the ribs of the itchy wool. She wishes she had worn jeans but Instagrams the tights and the brown brogues.

Later she buys more brogues, these ones are red. She clicks ‘Next Day Delivery’ on the MacBook Pro she stole from the boyfriend who wanted to be a character in a book but the pages never turned.

She makes gnocchi and cold brews her own coffee.

She trawls eBay trying to find the right faux fur coat but the sleeves are all wrong so instead she buys some more shoes. She imagines wearing them on a dinner date with a fantastically entertaining man who will later pull her dress up.

Daddy stopped paying the mortgage so she cancels all her magazine subscriptions except the one with the cats in Japan, that’ll be a collector’s item someday.

She puts a record on and tries to remember why she bought it.

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Bus stories: Purple nails on the 42

She got off just after Aldgate.

What a badass.
She’s got purple nails, not Prince-purple. A flat lilac.
In her 70s. I think.
Shades. Her silver hair pulled back and it looks so soft.

She stands up as we pass the Tower of London.
I look to see.
She’s watching people plant ceramic poppies in the dry moat.
The bus jolts ahead and she sways, looking out until we pass by.
I wonder if she does pilates.

I don’t see her walking stick until I hear it fall and the guy with Mick Hucknall hair bends to pick it up for her.
A swan’s head. Warm wood.
She smiles and presses the red bell with her thumb.
As she walks off in her flip-flops I search for walking sticks on eBay.

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You waited for it to rain, you waited for it to stop.

‘We waited and waited. All of us. Didn’t the shrink know that waiting was one of the things that drove people crazy? People waited all their lives. They waited to live, they waited to die. They waited in line to buy toilet paper. They waited in line for money. And if they didn’t have any money they waited in longer lines. You waited to go to sleep and then you waited to awaken. You waited to get married and you waited to get divorced. You waited for it to rain, you waited for it to stop. You waited to eat and then you waited to eat again. You waited in a shrink’s office with a bunch of psychos and you wondered if you were one.’

― Charles Bukowski, Pulp

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Bus stories: A girl on the 63

She got off at St George’s Circus.

A girl on the 63 is sitting directly in front of me.
Ombre.
Split ends.
Fuzzy.
2 little bumps high up on her right cheekbone.
Unblended cream blusher. Pinky blue.
Clumpy mascara on uncurled lashes.
Ear pierced twice.
Dogtooth coat.
Tights in August.

No headphones.
She just looks out the window.
I track her gaze as it rises and falls.
And I love her.

The bells da-ding-dings.
I watch her as she goes, clinging to the yellow rail at the top of the stairs.
Her orangey-red nail polish has flaked away but looks right. Essie’s Fifth Avenue?
She’s clomping on the descent and I wonder about her shoes.
I look down to see her step out onto the street
but she turns the other way and
I can’t see her shoes.

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Ruin Porn

‘I love ruin porn.’

I’m staring at a photograph of a load of chairs shoved into an Art Deco swimming pool and pins and needles have started in my hand. The pulsing works its way into my arm and I clench and unclench my fists, hoping it doesn’t spread. Once I felt it in my face; I thought it was the end. It was in my tongue. I imagined a robot virus from the future but it had passed by the time the bus got to Elephant & Castle roundabout. I turned up the music in my headphones and dreamt I was in a film about something.

‘Don’t you love it?’

Little flecks of spittle collecting at the corner of her mouth. She’s standing too close, expectantly swaying on maroon high heeled brogues with thin little laces. Red lipstick that’s a bit too orange. I remember The Simpsons: ‘Toreador, oh, don’t spit on the floor. Please use the cuspidor, that’s what it’s for.’

The tips of my fingers are buzzing and all I can think about is lifting that framed photo from the wall. I imagine smashing it into every other photo in the endless white room. I wouldn’t care if my hands got cut to ribbons. I wouldn’t care if the blood dripped from my fingers and seeped into my brand new white Vans. I wouldn’t care.

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