Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Something to start this day

The sun is shining for the third day in a row. No, wait. That's a lie. The sun is shining for the first day in a row, but I'm sure it was also shining a couple of days before that. I'm sure spring is coming in increments and we'd be churlish to be too stuck on detail. Besides, yesterday I woke to the sound of hail and this bed was full of people, sweat, and giggles. Besides, there are bluetits in the trees. Besides, my own criteria for happiness has always been easily adjusted. Start again: the sun is shining and I am awake. What more do you people want from me?

This morning is for listening to rock & roll. Bo-Pete wants to know if you wanna have some fun, and your answer is: Fuck Yes Take Me. Take me up the rollercoaster and the river, ruffle my feather, ruche my skirt. Keep rubbing my feet. Bring me a soda pop. This morning I'm full of begs. All the things I would like. I'd like to go outside clutching a mug of diner coffee and stand on my own pavement, scattering seed for the birds.

Of course, the great secret is that I'm allowed. After a certain age, no one's going to stop you leaving the house with tablewear. You're allowed. Champagne flutes in the playpark. Forks on the street. A long silver-handled spoon you can walk around licking cream from the crevices. Of all the things we were promised: this one excites me. I can't believe I didn't have a single wicker-basket picnic last year. But then again, there are a lot of things I can't believe about last year. Last year, of all years, set a funny bar to follow.

And somehow February is already halfway through, and somehow holidays are coming, and somehow I said I'd write a whole load of stories this year and most of them aren't even started yet. If I don't finish something that I can hold between my teeth in the next sixteen days, I promised I'd give something up for a month. Give up cheese, give up kisses, give up dreaming of cowgirls. Give up the hours between two and eight, the funny coloured ones. Give up long dreamy inhales & cigarettes. Give up pouting. Give up all the Asian and Arabic spices from my rack. Give up morning rituals and mourning orgies. Give up on scattered seeds.

Not a fucking chance.

Of course, this is why I am dragged out of bed, eyes stiff and swollen. This is why I am making the effort. If I don't finish anything, I will have to give up looking myself in the eye or give up calling myself a writer or give up on believing in 68% of the things I believe in.

Still, all of my re-potted plants are doing excellently. Still, I can't afford a house boy to polish my shelves. All my dishes are clean enough and I am re-evaluating my relationship with pride. I am over it; I am done with stiff backs and solitude. I'm ready and willing to put myself on the line. Let's make a pact: if I stand up first and confess I am besotted by all of you and everything, will you follow me? Will you say it back? Can we all be the Spartacuses of communal crushing? Please?

The sun is shining and it is a Wednesday and I have only just dragged myself from the octopus embrace of the weekend. Unfold my stiff limbs and feel a gentle burn in all the places that have been crooked around necks. Eat the molten butter. Roll in small gratitudes. Tell everyone exactly what I think of them. Enjoy pictures of guinea pigs. Take the prize that was promised. Write my own fairy tales. Sit down at the desk. Do something, anything, to start this day.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The things we let consume us.

These are the things we let consume us.

This is the phrase that has been going round my head for an hour, as I tidy my kitchen, as I sweep the black and white tiles with a red and black brush, as I brush the cut ends of spring onions into the palms of my hands.

It is all about that let.

We talk about obsessions as if they were natural disasters, tidal waves sweeping over our barricades. Or at least, I do. We talk about obsessions as if they were not things we ourselves had invited, by making soft hinged entrances, by leaving crumbs by the door.

But I am forever opening myself to consumption. Or at least, I cannot refuse it when it shows up unasked.

I am thinking about compulsions and I am pulling molten emmental from jalepeno-topped toast and smudging it against my teeth. I am thinking about compulsions and I am staring at a low-lying yellow moon.

I am thinking about compulsions and I would like to give up on the things I invited in; I would like to stand firm at the door. This is how it works in fables and fairytales, always. You must issue the invitation. But.

What happens when you refuse to trade with things that dwell beneath bridges? What happens if you sew your lips shut and keep all the Bloody Marys sealed up inside?

I have been thinking about obsessions and I want to confess that of late I have let myself fall into them like a game of trust where you close your eyes, spread your arms wide, and collapse into the group’s waiting arms.

I did not mind if they let my skull split on the pavement because I was so tired of keeping my back straight that any alternative seemed worth a whirl.

I still. I still do not mind.

The yellow moon drifts behind darkness and I am thinking about obsessions and the rhythm of words. I would like to write everything down.

I would like to consume it. And I was lying a moment ago. I am prostrate and waiting for everything to come.

A small, purposeful extraction

We convince ourselves we are unimpeachable things, but sometimes we are still capable of running face-first into the wall.

The things that steep her in fury are so eternal, so common, she feels a fool to say them again. Stupid, thick-tongued wealth. Pure dumb privilege. Never—never—getting the strive.

And, then again, the things that steep her in fury are so intensely personal she can barely choke them up in her throat. This girl is sick of backbends, of being the bigger person. This girl would like to spit on all of your shoes.

They say that time is the great healer but sometimes time just hides the things that bile us, tucks them in pirate chests and wardrobes, squirrels them out of sight. And all of us, eventually, dig up our nuts.

We convince ourselves we are over it, as if it was a thing that stayed stable as a mountain, as if when you’d climbed it once you were free to slide. We forget that it keeps sprouting. Goddamn tendrils everywhere. Still.

Still. Here are three things that make this girl grin: a desk covered in the first daffodils of the season. Dolly Parton so very very loud. A small, purposeful extraction of this life from that.

Monday, 3 February 2014


Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving. None of the things that come out of your fingers may be right: keep moving. The internet may tell you that you are a fool: keep moving. The words you said to your friend or your lover or yourself or the world may be wrong: keep moving. Say more things. Make more art. Be an ever-wriggling man-of-war with tentacles all the way to the base of the sea. There is no backing out of this world and the only thing to do with the wrong thing is to bury it in all the new decisions. The ones that may or may not be right.

But listen, you say, I am afraid. I am terrified of all the things I did that weren't the right things. I want to apologise to the world. Here is your apology: moving. You know, I am proud of you and everything you set out on the surface like skimmed stones. I know you weren't ready for that one to sink. In your hand it seemed so perfect, so smooth, so round. Your wrist seemed so flicked. Who was to know that as soon as it skiffed the surface, it would turn out to be for naught?

This is okay. I know you are a creature of terror and nightshade. I know you smell so sweet in the mornings, when your warm breath falls on the pillow, slightly stale and full of twisted dreams. You do not need to always leap and chisel those things away. Your quest for perfection is a stub-armed dinosaur trying to pick quarters from the sidewalk. Your thighs are too big for the bend. Listen, sweetheart, you are doing better than you think you are. You’re doing well enough for me.


This story is from last spring. It's about loneliness and neediness and locksmiths and desperation. About trying to trick someone into being your lover, or at least your friend.

The smell of the locksmiths is wonderful: metallic and burnt and flat, a smell you can taste on the back of your tongue like blood. It is coming from the keys. There is a whole wall of them, floor to ceiling, every kind of key you could ever imagine, each dangling from its own personal hook. I imagine when the eastern wind blows, they flutter in it, tinkling like wind chimes. It must be so peaceful in this locksmiths in the spring.
    The man standing behind the counter is tall, and at first I think he could be dashing, but then he turns to face me and I see that his face is crumpled all the way down the left hand side, as if he has had a stroke, or maybe just got too close to the heat from which all these metal things are forged.
    “I need a key cut, any key,” I say, and the locksmith man does not bat an eyelid. I like this; crumple or no crumple, I like this. I think we are going to get on fine.
    “Any key,” he repeats.
    “Yes,” I say. And this is enough.
    The man turns slowly to his wall of keys. He is in no hurry. He moves like those Japanese monks that you hear of, the ones who spend decades practising the right movement to pour a simple cup of tea. He reaches for one, examines it, and hangs it up again. He runs his finger along the row, tapping one then the other with his fingernail. I can see the small shake of his head, feel the tut in the air. Of course. This man has spent his entire life picking the right key. A key whose purpose is to be any key requires just as much care as all the others.
    Then, right at the end of the row, he happens upon it. It is larger than the ones he touched before, with a long, thin cylinder and a jaunty oval hoop. A grey so dark it is almost navy. A metal square tooth waiting to be carved for its hole.
    The man takes the key to the dark, squat machine waiting in the corner, and looks to me one more time.
    “Any key?”
    “Yes,” I say. “Please.”

The Things They Don't Tell You About Fire

This story is about that time that me and Ericka and Jonathan were trapped in a burning building and nearly died. It starts with true things and ends with things I made up. As Amy Hempel says, “I exaggerated even before I began to exaggerate, because it's true — nothing is ever quite as bad as it could be.”

The light at the bottom of the swimming pool is not like the light anywhere else in the world. I could fly to Easter Island and commune with terrapins, I could leap out of an airplane in the spun New Zealand sky, and still I don’t think it could come close to this blue. This is an astringent blue, cleaner than a dozen bottles of bleach tipped into toilets. It’s unnatural. And there is nothing, nothing, I would rather feel on my skin.
    The first thing they don’t tell you about fire is that there is no paranoia sufficient in the world to avoid it. You can turn off the gas every time you are done cooking and you can snuff candles when you leave the room to pee and you can conduct regular technical checks on all of your white goods, but that will never, ever, be enough. One day, on a day like any other, you might accept an invite from a friend you’ve hardly seen all summer, a friend who lives with her husband on the fourth floor on a street that always seems to have broken fridges on the sidewalk. You will not know, until it is too late, that a woman who cannot remember to let her child back inside after playing lives downstairs, and that her kettle has a broken socket, and that if anything ever sparked and sizzled like potassium dropped in water, she would walk out without ever pressing all the buzzers, without ever yelling run, run, run.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


I also finished a story about not-kissing and monsters. It's a love letter to anticipation--to the time in relationships before you ever makeout, when you are still just friends full of electricity. Beginning excerpt:
For two years they didn’t kiss and Sermonette could spell his name with snakes in her sleep. Like a leather glove shaped like a hand even when the hand is not inside, her lips were shaped to his not-kissing them even when he was in another country, even when she was drunk and smeared with another person’s mouth across her own. Not-kissing was as big a part of her day as skin and footsteps and oxygen and moss.
    She couldn’t help it. They were drawn to each other because of the monsters...


I just finished a story about crushes and canal boats and witches and sloths and spells. Here: an excerpt.

    We walked to the docks and sat on a brick wall, our legs dangling over the water. I didn't know what to say. It didn't matter. She talked as if we were continuing a long conversation that one of us had started months ago and it was only moments that had kept us apart and now we were here. No introductions, no confessions, no opportunities for shame. She talked about the woman in the grocery store who looked like a cat. She told me that the wood supply on her boat was running low.
    “You have a boat?” I asked.
    She looked at me for a long beat, and continued her story about the wood.
    I understood immediately—that look was a pact that we wouldn’t be ordinary people with one another. We wouldn’t ask “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?” or any of the other things people use as crowbars to insinuate themselves in each others’ lives. I was almost sorry I knew her name.
    I shook off the responsibility of being a normal person and told her about an apple I had thrown through a greenhouse window when I was eight. I told it from the viewpoint of the pane of glass. I told her that pumpkins make me nervous. She told me that sometimes she dreamed about the plastic lane dividers from swimming pools and woke up smelling of red white blue and chlorine. I told her that I had never eaten frogs legs or snails but that whenever it came up in conversation, I pretended that I had. Even if the people I was talking to hadn't. Even if they weren't French.
    At some point, the rum was gone. The wall we were sitting on had started to sway back and forth, lapping with the motion of the waves. We needed to pee, and slid down the wall and squatted against it. We kept talking as we held up our skirts. Small clouds of steam billowed from the earth. When we were done she said, “I'll see you tomorrow.” She smoothed down her skirt and disappeared into the night.