Thursday, 7 January 2010


“Here was Chekhov telling us that, as we may have noticed, people often do terrible and irrevocable things for no good reason at all.”

Francine Prose on Volodya

I have been thinking about this a lot, winding it over and over in my mind. When we tell stories, we always try to aim for the kicker and the payoff. There is supposed to be a reason for the gun introduced and fired, we seek the clean course of motivation which sets things going in their terrible and irrevocable motion. Nothing just happens.

What if this isn't the way things really work? Children don't rip the wings off a fly to learn about the intricacies and wonder of flight.

Here I will confess: I have never been on the receiving end before. I am versed in breaking hearts and the best way to tug at the wings until the sinews and clear gum stretch out and snap, leaving a cold pus and useless socket. I never meant to hurt anyone. I killed the relationships which seemed like dying dogs howling, already half-spattered across the road, chewing at their paws to get free.

I don't believe this is like that. But perhaps that is what people say when they are on the receiving end.

There is no room for dignity. I howl and punch the walls and retch into a plastic bag, shivering and bent double. All that comes out is a thin bile. I am wearing nothing but a lace-trimmed pair of flourescent pink pants, and there is something horrifically shameful about this. I am heavy, wet meat, defeated.

He does not cry. I find this impossible to understand. I wonder how long he has known, although he tells me since yesterday only. The word is a thick lie like butter to smooth over cracks, but my cracks are hot and the foam turns rancid.

Scorpios are jealous. Always. But we are also right. She knew he was in love with me, he was destroying her with the useless truth that nothing had happened. I tried to be quieter, and bide my time. I waited while the jealousy feasted on my patience, thinking he had had his time with her, that what I was jealous of was not a future but a photobook of memories. I thought if I stayed quiet in the undergrowth I could wait this out, poised and breath held. I was wrong.

I could insist that when someone leaves you for their past it is particularly horrific, as it invalidates everything you had together. He says: what we had, it hasn't been all for nothing and I think no, it hasn't. It let you work out what you really feel for her. But any attempt to win points in some scoreboard of pain is disingenuous. In truth, all of this is wretched.

I keep coming back to Chekov, not the terrible, but the irrevocable. The things you can't take back. When I close my eyes people tumble out of skyscraper windows in grainy newsprint realities; they stopped believing what they had was worth something and the market collapsed. They stopped believing and everything they had plummeted in value until it was worth nothing. They were left with paper promises, impossible to trade for anything, not even magic beans.

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