poetry

Definition

THE DEFINITION OF
DRUNK IN LOVE:

I know you remember my
laughter as we drunkenly
cartwheeled down the silent
corridor of another nameless hotel.
You remember how my happiness echoed
all along the hallways. You remember
telling me to jump down that flight of
stairs, telling me to trust you, that
you’d catch me. And I did, and I did, and
you did. You remember how you promised me
you’d make me happy. And you did. You remember
how you promised me that you’d never let me go.
And you did.

4


Originally published on The Magic Black Book, April 2016

Advertisements
Standard
prosetry

Smiles

​I stepped outside and you were right there, ground to a halt at the zebra crossing, left hand gripping the wheel, right arm slung casually out of the open window. Our eyes met for a moth’s wing-beat of a moment and then my legs stopped working. My lungs seized within their ivory cage; my skin recoiled, terrified, clinging on to its muscle beneath, trying desperately to appear less on fire than it actually was. You were so close that I could touch you. You looked the same: as before, as always. I looked unusually good, even better than you’d remembered: this excellent coincidence confirmed my suspicion that God is female.

Instead of speeding off, you stayed put, and everything around me came to a standstill. I looked in every direction apart from yours and yet all I could see was you. Without even looking, your face was all that I could see. I fell in love with you with my eyes closed in the first place, after all. You were smiling at me; you were happy to see me. It wasn’t your old smile though, the one I have chalked on the wall of my skull. This smile was heavy, so fucking heavy, anchored down by heartbreak and regret and shame. For the first time in some months, we were breathing the same air as one another. But this air was hot and stale, saturated with the vicissitudes of nostalgia. The memories that we had so carefully created and curated fell from the open sky and smothered us, a fusillade of love and pain and love and hate and love and loss and love.

You were waiting for me to acknowledge you: with a wave, with a smile, with a middle finger, anything. And I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I ignored you but my heart was being fed through a paper shredder and I didn’t want you to see me suffer, or rather, see me still suffering because of you, tragic and dismissible like a half-mangled fox dying by the side of the road. It would’ve been kinder of you to run me over, to put me out of my misery. That would have hurt less than it did to see you smile.

I realise now after all these years that that smile you wore was saying “I’m sorry” but, back then, I didn’t want to hear it so it fell on deaf ears. Now I want to listen to all you have, to all you are, to all you have become without me. We are older but none the wiser. Love is love, no matter the style of our smiles.

Standard
prosetry

Fumar mata

It’s ten minutes to 7 and mordant sunlight is pissing through the gaps in the broken curtains. I can feel the gold light on my face and understand the meaning of the term ‘sun-drenched.’ I keep my eyes closed, letting my eyelids burn under the weight of the fulgent flood. I don’t want to be alive just yet. I am somewhere else.

I am back in Spain, at the villa, with you.

The sun woke us up every day, mid-morning, dancing through the net curtains, creeping up from the bottom of the bed in which we lay tangled and naked under white sheets, dozing, until I’d get up to smoke. I’d pull on your nearest t-shirt and go out onto the balcony, stretching like a cat, inhaling, exhaling, watching the ash fall slowly to the barren valley below, spotting lizards, gauging the temperature, watching the birds fly east towards the Med.

Then I’d sneak indoors, leaving you to sleep and start on breakfast. Cereal and a cooked full-English for you plus a mug of builder’s tea and fresh juice. Black coffee and a cigarette for me. We’d take breakfast outside on the veranda by the pool. I don’t know if it was apparent then that I had bigger dreams than you, but you were hungrier.

I had exams waiting for me back home so I tried to revise. I read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and The Italian, you watched ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and European football. We ate fresh swordfish and the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen.

We shared our first bubble bath, complete with champagne on ice. We’d only been together for 8 months and I’d been away at university for 7 of them, so this holiday cemented a lot of things for us. You and I, proving everybody wrong. The Dream Team. Us against the world. You probably don’t even remember it now.

We drove for miles along the coast following the contours of Spain’s face and everything around us was unbelievably perfect, the tiny white chapels shining against the orange cliffs and the deep aquamarine skipping alongside us. Windows down, music up, we wore smiles and suntan lotion and our faces ached.

We stopped in Benidorm, which is essentially a caricature of Britain abroad, but as we walked in the surf I was thrilled at the prospect of walking the same beach and seeing the same stretch of horizon that Sylvia did so many years ago. I told you that Plath and Hughes honeymooned in Benidorm. You didn’t know who they were. These things were warning signs at the time, for when things seem too good to be true they usually are, but I was blind to omens and had vetoed rational thought; I was young and in love and blinkered, all I could see was you and our perfect surroundings and our perfect love.

Before we left Spain I bought 200 Benson silvers as they were a quarter of the price that they were in the UK. The sign on all the packets said ‘Fumar mata.’ Smoking kills. But so does love. Love kills. God knows you almost killed me. And sadness kills, too, perhaps more often than smoking, more often than love. Falling in love should come with a government health warning. There are no billboards or pamphlets to warn us of the impending pain, the inevitable tears. Instead of printing photos of rotting lungs they should print a graphic image of a broken heart. Love kills. You always hated me smoking. You’ll kill me long before the cigarettes do, of that I am sure.

When I open my eyes I am not in Spain, at the villa, with you. I am sad, scared and alone. I hear sirens, a train, the builders working downstairs. A door slams. I am not in Spain. I realise that we were there exactly 4 years ago to the day. You won’t remember it, I’m sure. You have new important dates to carve on the walls of your skull now anyway.

But how lucky I was to be loved by you. I don’t know if the sun smothered me this morning in an attempt to mock me or save me but, wherever you are, at least we are both slaves to the same golden star. Fumar mata. Smoking kills. El amor mata. Love kills. And how lucky I was to have been loved by you, to have loved you and been loved by you in return. How lucky I was. How lucky…

Standard
prosetry

Man On The Moon

​On nights like this I often wonder where you are. I never had to wonder this before because I always knew where you were. But the fact that I don’t know where you are anymore means that I shouldn’t be wondering about you in the first place.

Tonight the air is still and the city is still and I still miss you. Love and hate share the same propinquity that our bodies once did. But I think that even if you were here next to me, you’d feel a million miles away. You always were my man on the moon.

But you are not here with me tonight and this truth serves as a painful reminder to me. Your absence should remind me not to waste my wondering, wandering, wonderful mind on futile thoughts of you.

I don’t want to wonder about you, about your new life without me, but it’s so hard – the memories that are the easiest to remember are the hardest to forget, they’re the hardest to erase. Why should I wonder about you? After all, you don’t wonder about me on nights like this. You probably do not wonder about me at all.

I no longer occupy your heart and yet you still occupy my late-night mind. That is the greatest injustice in my private universe. And yet still I wonder if, secretly, you still wonder about me on nights like this.

Standard
prosetry

A Different Kind of Heartbreak

I’ve said it to my girls before and they’ve said it to me, too:

You’ve lived without him before so you can certainly live without him now.”

You know the spiel, I’m sure you’ve rattled off the same tired cliches to your friends when they’ve found themselves suddenly single after the break-up of a long-term relationship. And it is true – you survived perfectly well for all those years before you met him, so you can sure as hell live without him now.

But this is different. I have never lived without him, not once, not even for a second. He was in my life before I’d even been born. 8595 days we lived together. If we weren’t under the same roof or in the same town or on the same continent, we were still together – just a heartbeat, phone call or telepathic thought away.

But it’s over now. I am alive and he is not. I am living and he is somewhere that I can’t reach. I can’t see him. He left. He left me. I’m not angry, I’m just sad. I’m heartbroken. But not the type of heartbroken that I’ve been before.

The abrupt ending of this lifelong friendship cannot be fixed by a gallon of ice-cream and a girls night out.

Nor can I replace him with someone else for there is no-one better, there is nobody who could ever come close.

I can’t shake this off with a radical new hairstyle or by moving to a new town.

There is no app for this, I can’t swipe right for a new father, and getting drunk makes the pain worse sometimes.

I can’t throw money at this heartbreak; I don’t want a gym membership or a designer handbag or a fancy holiday.

Beyoncé does not know what this pain feels like, nor does Jesus Christ because neither of them have ever experienced it.

I don’t know how to live without him and I don’t want to live without him.

It’s a lot of the same symptoms though:

checking your phone every hour to see if he’s texted you,

hearing a song that reminds you of him and feeling like you’re suffocating,

driving past a place that you always used to go to together and fighting back tears,

seeing something in a shop and picking it up to buy it for him and then remembering and hastily putting it back on the shelf,

not knowing what to say when someone mentions him or asks you about him,

realising that his smell on his jumper has faded and having a breakdown because you feel like that’s the most tangible memory you had left,

not sleeping, not eating, sleeping too much, eating too much,

feeling like you’re drowning when four, five, six times a day you remember, “Everything has changed and I am alone.”

But where I dread the prospect of bumping into an ex-boyfriend in the supermarket or at the pub, I would do anything to see my dad again. And there’s a strange sense of guilt that I feel whenever I catch myself “functioning like a normal adult.” Like washing the dishes and singing along to the radio, and then thinking WOAH why am I okay? I just didn’t think about him for a while, what’s wrong with me, am I forgetting him already? Of course, rationally, I know I’m not. But when I’m laughing at a stupid comedy show or making pina coladas with little paper umbrellas, I feel guilty anyway. This is stupid because my dad WANTS (wanted?) me to crack on and enjoy life. He would hate for me to mope about. I just panic when I realise that I am living without him. It doesn’t feel right.

I’m scared that my memory will fail me

and that I’ll forget his wisdom

or his voice

or how he’d squeeze my hand and wink at me whenever he thought I needed support

or how when I washed his hair the long strands of silver would get caught in my rings

or how he’d shout “GEOMETRY, GIRL! It’s all about the angles!” before I took a tricky shot in pool

or how we’d get super stoned and watch The Ruttles

or how he nicknamed my last boyfriend Lanky Streak of Piss and even abbreviated it to LSP

or the little red notebook in which he wrote the title and author of every book as he read them and then tallied up the total at the end of the year (2008 was a good year)

or how he’d cut interesting bits out of the newspaper for me and post them to me when I was away at university

or how he had phases of being obsessed with certain foods for a few months and then never eating them again (coleslaw, garlic bread, crabsticks, spring rolls, chocolate raisins)

or how the first four lines of Auguries of Innocence were so beautiful to him that he wished he’d written it himself.

I wonder if people can see it: the blood pouring from my eyes as I write this in a pub on the Holloway Road (where he worked once upon a time), the red tears streaming and pooling on my white shirt, I think that everyone can see the grief on my face, but no-one dares to reach out, no-one dares, and my God does this fucking hurt.

You’ve lived without him before so you can certainly live without him now.”

Half of that sentence is untrue. We’ll have to wait and see about the other half.

Standard
prosetry

w/r/i/s/t/s

He grabs my tiny wrists and I wince.

His eyes are still blue and I am reminded of the intimidating blue flame of the blowtorch he’d use to light my cigarettes, a last resort when I’d run out of matches. That blue flame was bewitching, almost translucent like imperfect ice, making you want to touch it, to dance your fingers through it to see if it burns you even though you know that it will.

I hear the coquettish shriek I’d make as he brought the flame close to my face. I was always scared he’d accidentally set my hair on fire. Now, as he brings the twin flames of his blowtorch eyes close to my face, I want to scream. I am scared that he’ll accidentally set my world on fire, the world I’d painstakingly built for myself in his absence, my brave new world, a world without him in it.

He slowly peels his fingers from my tissue paper skin and holds my forearms in his palms, turning them over, inspecting them. My hands are trembling but he doesn’t need to mention this because he knows me.

The welts are raised and range from the faintest candyfloss pink to an aggressive merlot colour.

They are all of equal width but the lines fly at odd angles from the base of my palm up towards my elbow.

Clusters of purple dots stain my skin like dappled sunlight, and the bones of my wrists are green and grey.

I knew it,” he says, and abruptly drops my arms.

I drag my sleeves down over my knuckles. I stare down at the ugly carpet. I don’t say anything.

I don’t want to speak to him about why I still hurt myself and why I’m still sad and why I can’t cope. I don’t want him to be worried about me. I don’t want him to remember that I am a mess.

And I don’t want to hear his misplaced optimism, “Well, snapping an elastic band is better than slashing with a razor blade,” and “At least rubber bands won’t leave a scar…” and I don’t want his pity or his fucking sympathy. I want his attention but not like this.

I can’t even look at him. I don’t want him to think that I’m not okay without him.

Fuck.

My pain is none of his business anymore. Even if he’s the sole cause of it.

A smile shatters his face and he reaches for his beer.

I knew it. I knew you’d let other guys tie you up.

“Sorry, what?”

Your wrists. Rope burns. You naughty girl.

I say nothing. He drains his dregs and jumps off the bar stool.

Right, I’m offski. See you later.

He winks at me and disappears.

“Prick,” I mutter under my breath, and leave through the emergency exit.

Offski. I always hated that.

Standard