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…

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poetry, prosetry

Sometimes

Sometimes, things come back.
Things come back to me sometimes.
Not things, as such, but rather memories.
Memories come back to me sometimes.
Only sometimes, though.
Like that fancy bra poking out from my blood-stained white blouse,
running down the hill at 3 o’clock on Christmas morning.
Prison Break, Breaking Bad, breaking up.
Yellow flowers, always yellow flowers.
Lighting my cigarettes with a blowtorch.
Bike rides along the sea wall.
Inhalers and cat allergies.
Cheese and cucumber sandwiches at cricket.
Teaching me to drive the van.
Micky Flanagan and the £8 slice of pizza.
Never drinking the final third of your Peroni.
“Babyface” and squeezing the pus out of your knee.
Spain, swordfish, sunset.
Bunk up on the bunk beds under Manchester United duvet covers.
Me throwing up in Wayne Bridge’s toilet while you fixed his cooker.
The Best Nachos in the World.
Henry VIII and Henrietta.
Freezing under floodlights.
A firework display because I wanted one.
The realisation that you’re going to prison.
Apple crumble and custard.
The decision that I’d wait for you while you were inside.
Cutting 40 onions.
The jubilation when you were found not guilty.
Glass table-top on the roof.
Coaxing the gerbils out from under the wardrobe.
Sex in a hot tub in Sherwood Forest in the middle of December.
The diamond ring and fancy watch that I can’t bring myself to sell.
Your face when the test was negative.
Your face when the test was negative again.
Your face.
Your fucking face,
the face I know off-by-heart,
the face I can still feel beneath my fingertips,
the face that I know better than my own.
Your fucking face.
Sometimes, things come back.
You didn’t.


[Featured image source here]
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prosetry

More Chronicles of Us

Read the first part here: The Chronicles of Us

FOUR.
I walked past your old flat on Eversholt Street and remembered that night we put the world to wrongs, sitting side by side on the cold kitchen floor, drinking Johnnie Walker Black Label out of teacups and discussing the pros and cons of freedom. The cons of being free have stayed with me, even though you didn’t.

FIVE.
When we finally went outside we discovered that Spring had happened while we slept. The only time that red and pink ever look good together is when the cherry blossom trees have erupted outside the fire station. I wonder what else we missed as we slept away those unwanted hours. Later, as we were eating cereal for dinner, we realised that nobody missed us.

SIX.
Out on the patio you read Le Petit Prince aloud while I shaved your head, only pausing to look at the drawings. I had to rush though once I knew that you were dangerously close to the part that reads, “Vous êtes belles mais vous êtes vides.” It’s one of my favourite parts of the story but I could not bear to hear your voice saying that I am beautiful but empty, that one could not die for me, because it is true and because I would die for you.

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prosetry

Party & Bullshit

I had a flashback of this house party that I went to a few years ago, where I was sitting in the kitchen sink drinking lukewarm vodka out of a Sports Direct mug and talking to a guy who had a portrait of Jack Kerouac tattooed on his right pec and he was gorgeous but a total arsehole, much like Kerouac himself, but this guy looked like a member of the Riot Club, all upper-class-pretending-to-be-middle-class and floppy hair and perfect teeth and skiing holidays and bonkers opinions, and we were arguing about a popular quotation that he thought was Bukowski but I knew it was misattributed and I wanted to punch him in the face but instead he lifted me out of the sink and carried me

through to the front room where everyone was rolling spliffs and fixing CK lines, that’s a mix of cocaine and ketamine that goes up your nose and makes a thousand tiny holes in your brain but it feels like one massive hole right behind your eyes, so we had uno lino por favor and were attempting to speak Old and Middle English to each other because nobody else knew it and it was like our secret but we only knew words like meadhall and shield and protector and riverside and jewels so it wasn’t much

of a conversation, and then the person whose house it was took this big, ugly urn off the mantelpiece and opened it and said, “This is my nan” and he poured out some of her cremated remains onto the table and got a credit card and made a line out of her and fucking snorted her ashes saying that he wants to feel close to her, and we said well, do you? do you feel close to her now? and he yes, yes I do and then this crazy

girl, the kind of girl who looks like she isn’t actually alive because there is so little blood in her drugstream, she weighs about the same as an Argos catalogue and she sold her soul to a man who rapes and beats her in exchange for a gram of speed, like if she were a cartoon she’d have black crosses where her eyes should be, that kind of crazy girl decided to snort some of his grandmother and then some other girl licked her finger and dabbed it in the pile of grandmother and rubbed her bone fragments and burnt skin onto her gums and when she smiled her teeth were greyer than they were before and then suddenly this bloke was racking up lines of his fucking grandmother and people were rolling up notes and receipts and snorting her and it was fucked up even by my standards, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some fucked up shit but this

was too far even for me, and then I noticed that the blind guy was missing and I hadn’t seen him for a while and I knew he’d dropped a load of acid and drunk 2 bottles of red wine in the space of an hour and had been boring everyone to tears banging on about the Byzantine empire and I know he’s a fucking accident waiting to happen because he lived in my building and once he drank a bottle of bleach and the mental health team asked me to keep an eye on him because I’m chronically suicidal so we had “something in common” which was literally like the blind leading the blind but still I felt obliged as a human being to find him, plus I didn’t really want a death on my hands, and besides nobody else gave a flying fuck where he was so I looked for him in every room and noticed that the front door was wide fucking open and I found him lying out in the street, a few doors down, rolling around in the snow and he said to me, “This is what heaven must be like” and I told him to come back inside but he wouldn’t because he thought I was Mary Magdalene and he didn’t trust Christian figures so I said, fine, fucking freeze to death and decided that I wanted

to fuck the Riot Club guy because fucking him would be the closest thing I’d ever get to fucking Jack Kerouac which is one of my many unachievable dreams so off we went but I had to fuck him with my left hand over his left pec the whole time because tattooed on his left pec was a portrait of Edgar Allen fucking Poe who, as much as I admire his writing, I definitely did not want to fuck because he sort of scares me and not in a risky kinky way but in a creepy uncomfortable way because whenever I think of him I think of him as a dead man and I see him as a corpse, sort of like the crazy girl who was downstairs snorting some guy’s nan’s ashes and screaming I CAN TASTE YOUR NAN AT THE BACK OF MY THROAT!

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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.

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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.

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poetry, prosetry

Blind

I held a staring competition
with the Sun
in a bid to kill my sight:
a romantic way
to become blind,
cleaner than acid,
tidier than gouging,
a funny story to relay
to the masses
when they say
“What happened, lady?
What happened to your sight?”

She was beating me 2-0
when I realised that even if I
blackened and burnt my soulless eyes
I would forever see
in my mangled, broken mind
you
you
you in that bed
and your tired chest
as it rose and fell
for your final breath
and your yellow lids
half-open
half-shut
snug
over your familiar soft-boiled eyes,
once expressive,
now blind
to my tears and my heartbreak,
to the world that you loved
and loathed with all of your might

I could be blind
but I’d still see
everything inside
my head;
I cannot unsee
Death holding out his hand
for me
to take
to shake
but you grabbing it instead
and leaving me there
so painfully awake
so painfully alive

Even if my sight had died
I know that I’d
still miss you every time
I blink
and if I
threw my pretty
empty eyes away,
chucked them into
the kitchen sink,
washed them down
the nearest drain
I’d see it all again
and again
projected in technicolor
on the walls of my brain

(and the Sun won the battle
against my sight
anyway,
I gave up at 4-0
in favour of getting
blind drunk,
the tried and tested
fail-safe way)

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