Friday, 19 December 2014

Ask

He is telling everyone. He is at a funeral, and he tells them. He is at the gallery. He is at the video shop; they are watching the 2004 remake of the Stepford wives, and it’s terrible.

“I’m leaving,” he says.

They ask him all of the questions that are right to ask, and he answers honestly.

“I don’t know.” “I have no idea.” “It’ll work out.”

When he tells her this later, when they are curled respectively in differently-lit bedrooms, pawing at the screen that separates them, she laughs.

“It’s going to be easy,” she says.

What she means is: “I am going to be easy.”

The girl can barely believe it. The girl has spent years being the girl who never asks for anything. The one with shiny boots of pride lined up in her hall.

What she means is: “Do it. Oh do it. Drop everything for me.”

The girl has been reading Grimms’ fairy tales and trying to work out the morals.

She has been keeping a list of the things that people ask for: a golden bird, a little cottage, the wonderful stone, some honey, a piece of meat, the thousand pearls belonging to the king’s daughter, the king’s daughter, to be king. For the head of her slaughtered horse to be hung on the gates of the city. For a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur put together, to which every beast in the kingdom must give a part of his skin.

Next to them, the girl isn’t asking for much. Sometimes, she cannot tell if she is asking for anything at all.

The last time the girl led a boy to this city, things did not end well. The last boy was swallowed up by the dark winters and thick vowels, and what will the girl do if this happens again? She does not want to be swaddled in sorrow. She will not be lapped by the ox tongue of guilt once more.

So the girl refuses to ask too hard. She is still polishing those boots, she still refuses to say prove it where by it, if she said it, she would mean: your love.

She says, “Do what you want.”

(“Do it, do it, do it.”)

And yet, he is telling everyone.

They have never lived in the same city before and he has no idea what he is going to do and she is still afraid to ask for anything.

Still, she says, “It’s going to be easy.” She believes it.

Kiss me.
Bite the back of my shoulder.
Bring me coffee and morning notebooks.
Leave me alone, I’m writing.
How much?
Tell me how much.
Prove it. 
Be in the front row.
Hook my wrist to this bedpost.
Draw me.
Film me.
Harder.
Tell me again.
Drop everything for me.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Chair-oh-plane

Last night I dreamed of a girl with a pixie haircut, an Olympic-sized pool, and the chair-oh-plane. I dreamed no one would notice. I dreamed of you, touching the back of my neck, while those seats on chains flew around & around & around.

I was the only one in the swimming pool. And later, at the party, I could still smell the chlorine. I rubbed the skin behind my ears and pressed my palm to my lips. My fingertips against my nose. And every time I smelled it, I remembered that feeling of being sublimely alone.

It’s strange: I never thought that smells could slip through the gap between waking and dreaming. I wouldn’t have believed it. I think, perhaps, it was being surrounded by so many people. My subconscious wrapped a thick hand around my neck and whispered sniff.

But here I am explaining about the pool and the chairs, when I haven’t even mentioned Angie yet. She of the so-sweet and so-fearless. Of the nose piercing and stomach tattoos. She who always smells like throat lozenges, whose fingernails are always so dirty.

I’m sure it’s from operating the winch shaft on the chair-oh-plane. Or it’s from foraging for morels in the woods. Or it’s from all the places where her hands go when they’re not in mine.

Last night I dreamed that no one would notice. I dreamed of girls who don’t exist. I dreamed of the fair that comes once a year. I woke up terrified that these things would be forgotten. That no one would notice. I sat cross-legged by the radiator, in his cardigan, and wrote this down.

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Boy Princess

Excerpt from something recent. I'm totally back to finishing a short story a month, and it feels damn good.

Everywhere it is autumn, the leaves are capsizing, and yesterday I saw the boy princess in the woods. He was squatting beneath a stone bridge, throwing pebbles into the stream, while I watched from the other bank. I like to watch him balance. His thighs are sturdy—meaty, in fact—but I could see the muscles quivering underneath the skin. A pulse in the neck of a baby bird. His garter had began to unravel, and the dirty end of the lace was lapping in the stream.
    I didn’t want to disturb him. The boy princess is a paper sack of contradictions—part brittle sugar-glass, part thick, sure flesh. The pebbles made an empty thwack when they hit the water and I thought of wishes and wells. If I could be granted three true things by the wish master, what would they be?
    To be the stream, nuzzling at that grubby lace? No—
    To be the garter, quick against his thigh? No—
    To take the boy princess in my mouth and taste him, so sweet and slick he hurts my teeth. My rock candy.
    The wish master gave me none of these things. I left the boy princess to his pebbles and reflection, and climbed over the rocky banks towards home.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Jealous

I used to believe I was jealous. I called myself it repeatedly. “It’s a Scorpio thing,” I said. “The price you pay for all this intensity.” (I thought of myself as intense—don’t laugh. I’m a different beast behind closed doors, full of the sombre importance of the romantic act. No giggling and pratfalls.)

(I’m lying, of course.) I thought I was because the ones I latched myself to were: a pre-emptive strike. Or I didn’t just think—maybe I made myself. Maybe I trained my anxieties to fishhook beneath the skin of ex-loves, potential loves, and girls with cute hair.

It was confusing. Of course, I see what you see in them. Of course, if the opportunity arose I would slide with these women under cool laundered sheets on a balmy afternoon, I would tangle and taunt—we would play. Who wouldn’t? Of course, you’re thinking of it too.

Things are different, of course. But there are keen stalactites in a love with no room for subtlety. Slip into her arms and we’re irrevocably broken. We’ve agreed. Your kiss is a rejection. Your lust is a decision. Want is an OR gate. We can’t all get what we desire.

Sometimes love is a mirror and we fill in each other’s cracks. I made myself like these boys (they were always boys). I agreed. I trained the tigers in my belly to sharpen their claws and pad through the softness of my gut. I flinched. And yet, and yet…

After the last time, I quit. After the last boy’s, “It would make me sad, but I guess…” After the last, “Well, if it were girls…”

I have been thinking about jealousy on this sunny Berlin morning, perhaps because it is autumn and October and this time last year I fell into the arms of so many cuties, and the things that could have seemed irrevocable resolved in so much fine skin.

I have been thinking how much better things are since I gave up on the irrevocable. Although we’re all still dumb bears nudging blunt noses against the edges of the world, there’s also room for happiness for each others grins.

I have been thinking about the first time a boy ever told me, “I’m not like that, I just want you to be happy. You’re awesome” and how it felt like my every foundation dissolved beneath me. I was shored up by exhales and kisses on the 47th floor.

I begin to believe that jealous is a verb, not an adjective. I train myself to believe in choices. When the people I like tell me good things, I squeal. The secret is, it’s not a difficult happiness. I try it once and I start to understand my own skin.

Monday, 27 October 2014

cleaning

I clear the detritus.

I thought about doing it yesterday, but yesterday my bones were loose and my skin was a delicate net webbing holding all the toxic cat tongues inside.

I tended to myself gently. There were cheese boards, nap times and gif-based pornography; I amused myself with flash fiction and cartoons. Brief things, suited to my attention span of the day.

I asked for things from the ones who like me. Send me filth and affirmations in the mail, please. Come over here and drag me from this slippery hole. 

The far-away boy sent me adorations in caps lock. My butt, my skin, the cutest things. The closest boy came over and swept my floor. There were feathers everywhere, shed by glamorous beasts in the night. A glitter of broken glass.

We watched psychic reality shows and ate ripe brie, and I let myself fall and be caught. I trusted in the universe. Sometimes I am bruised and spent and slaggy, forgetting my chat of the night. Sometimes that’s okay.

“You are the cutest wreck,” he said. “Sit down,” he said. “Let me take care of this.”

I am not used to being taken care of. I protest, I stand up: “Let me be worthy of your attentions.”

I am trying to remind myself that I am. That this liking is sturdy, not fickle—none of it will dissolve in the night. I don’t need to prod and test these gums. The answer is yes. It always has been.

It is two days since the party and today I clear the detritus, wash the boys’ party dresses, and make myself pumpkin soup. I indulge in small kindnesses. I sweep the bathroom floor.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

SAND

You can find one of my poems in Issue 10 of SAND Journal, online here or at any of the fine bookshops of Berlin!

Friday, 24 October 2014

kicking leaves

I will go for a walk today and kick leaves. They're asking for it: these clumps of orange clouds who've given up on the trees. At least they have the decency to blush. So: I will go for a walk and kick things, and laugh at myself for being the girl that I am. I’ll go shopping. I will get drunk in the afternoon. Just a little: not so much that you'd notice. But still. I will leave the house behind, leave the worries about whether I am doing all of the right things. Which of us could ever keep up? I will have a daydream about a cute girl with a fat lip. I will promise myself fishnets. Oh and Sazeracs and laughing gas. I will give myself something good. Today, I will record church bells and play them back in the toilet. I will learn to wear earrings. Maybe I’ll just push paper clips through my lobes. Stationery is my heart's truest desire. Punctuation. Today, I will pretend the leaves are library books and I will borrow them from the parks and fill my bathtub. I will bathe in russet bubbles, which will stain my thighs. Leonard Cohen will be in the bathtub with me and we will talk about autumn and Leonard will ask me "Jane, is this your favourite time of year?" and I'll say "I think so, Leonard. But then again, I always do." He will pick up an armful of leaves and start lathering them into my hair and autumn will dissolve into a crackling amber froth. I will sigh into his fingers in my scalp. All my worries, all the things I have forgotten to do, will leak out into the bathtub. I will relax. Lying back between Leonard Cohen's thighs, I will concede that everything is right with the world. We will have squat tumblers of thick cut glass and Leonard will pour out two fingers of brandy—each—and we will raise them and clink. "Here's to the season," he'll say. "There's no need to worry at all."