prosetry

Soup

I had spent the week in the same way, lying in bed, flat on my back, arms straight by my sides, staring out of the window, watching the ash trees slow-dancing and the gangs of birds loitering with intent and the city skyline lurching woozily in the heat, listening to the rattle of spray cans from the garage downstairs and the mistakes made by the bell-ringers during their weekly practise peal.

On the third day, West London was on fire and the smoke was rolling in vertical waves: I didn’t think it would ever cease. And still, I lay in bed, useless, like a wildly unconvincing Frida impersonator, spitting words about inside my head, words that have already been said, already been read, counting magpies and missing dragonflies, thinking of names for the children that I’ll never have, tearing the skin around my fingernails, peeling ’til they’re bleeding, and waiting, just waiting.

In the mornings I lay waiting for nightfall. In the evenings I lay waiting for the sun. I lay waiting for sleep, for help, for silence, for affirmation, for you, for life, for a sign, for God, for answers, for revolution, for the tide to turn, for Godot, for death, for change, for justice, for love, for me, for reprieve, for miracles, for time, for everything, for anything, for nothing in particular.

Five days into my self-imposed bed rest, he phoned me up to talk about nothing in particular. He checked if I was still alive. I said that I was, that I am. I heard him smile down the phone but could not mirror the sentiment.

He told me about his brother receiving a big compo cheque for his motorbike crash. He asked me if I wanted to go to Dublin with him for a few days next month and I said “I’d love to but don’t think I could manage it.” He said that he’d picked up his neighbour’s cat off their garden wall and taken it indoors with him because it was a nice cat and he wanted to hang out with it for a while, but he wasn’t sure if that was called “kidnapping” or “catnapping” and what did I think? I said “borrowing.” He invited me to a party on Sunday night, I said, “Absolutely not.”

He told me about how Islington Council are chasing him for library fines. He said he’s lost the book somewhere in his house before he’s even read it, and that the overdue charges fine is now so huge that he could’ve bought the book brand new four times over and still have enough money left over for a bag of chips.

I asked what book it was and he said, “It was Book 5 of My Struggle, I can’t even remember what it’s fucking called.” He asked me what I was reading and I said Fireworks – short stories are easier for my broken brain to comprehend. Then he said, “I’m coming round to your place soon, I need you to I Ching me,” to which I replied, “Ooh, kinky.” He reminded me to eat and to pay my rent and to stay alive.

One day before Bed Rest I had made a huge vat of my special tramadol, tequila and tomato soup. It means that when I’m tired of being conscious I can drink some and quickly go to sleep for a few hours: when it’s cold it’s just a More Bloody Mary but is equally knockout. If I could sell this soup at the Farmer’s Market I would be a millionaire. The Grenfell death toll was creeping up and I was ready to go back to unconsciousness.

As I was crawling along the floor from my bed to the kitchen I spotted it in one of the stacks of books that line every wall of my flat. “Some Rain Must Fall: My Struggle Book 5 by Karl Ove Knausgaard.” I only ever bought Books 1 + 2. I grabbed it and opened it. Sure enough, inside there was a stamp from Islington Central Library and a few sticky barcodes on the back.

“Fuck,” I thought. “That man will do anything to get me out of bed.”

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prosetry

Other Girls

Once, during the summer of our confusion, you told me that you loved me because I wasn’t like other girls. I found that phrase to be repulsively hackneyed then, and still think it’s insultingly trite when men say it now, but because it was you I let you say so. I would’ve let you say anything.

I did ask you what made me different, though. And I remember you said, “You’re the kind of girl that would return to the scene of the crime.” I didn’t say anything else because I didn’t want you to know what kind of girl I actually was. Then you said in a cloud of smoke, “Through brazen curiosity, though, not stupidity,” and I still didn’t say anything and you didn’t expand on your thought any more, even though now I wish more than anything that you had, that you’d told me who I was, that you’d explained me to me.

That one thought that you almost certainly don’t remember now could have defined me. Perhaps it did, because here I am, standing at the scene of the crime and thinking about your thought while you don’t think of me at all anymore.

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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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poetry, prosetry

Paramour

He saw a photograph of me in a magazine and said, “I have to know her.

We met by chance in a dark room some months later.

He said, “I’m so pleased that you look nothing like you do in that picture.

*

We spoke about the Silva Method; Vingt-Quatre on the Fulham Road; old ladies with cartilage piercings and dolphin tattoos; Hanni El Khatib; Bristol; how you can tell a lot about a person by the state of their butter; John Cooper Clarke; the perfect way to die.

He knew things about me that I’d long forgotten.

*

I only realised that my nose was bleeding when the champagne in my glass turned pink without the aid of Chambord. He said it suited me.

*

He saved my number in his phone under the name ‘Amber Chimera‘ — the colour of my eyes, and a much-hoped-for fantasy that is impossible to achieve.

You know a Chimera is also a fire-breathing female monster?

I do.

*

Later I discovered that the sensation of his lit cigarette burying its face in the pale crook of my arm would be the closest that I’d ever get to touching the sun.

And thus the parameters of our unbounding love were set.

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prosetry

The Chronicles of Us

ONE.
Sometimes I don’t talk at all. Mostimes I tell you interesting facts about ketchup and painters and space and Japan and coins and pregnant giraffes. But sometimes I don’t speak at all. Still you wait and wait, still, with the patience of a saint, until I come back and tell you that the man who invented Pringles was buried in a Pringles can and then I burst into tears because it would’ve been a much better story if he’d been buried in a tube of Smarties instead.

TWO.
I come home one day to find you reading a book that was written about me. It has an ugly cover. It was written by some doctors who have never met me and it attempts to explain why I am the way I am. By the look on your face I can see that it doesn’t help you to see me spread across the pages like that, dismembered into chapters, chunks of me dissected into symptoms and statistics, my soul turned into science by strangers. You’ve made notes. Lots and lots of notes. I pick them out of your hands and off the floor and set them on fire. You are impressed and annoyed all at once but mostly you are in love. You tell me that you’re never going to leave me, even if let you, even if I tell you to. I ask you if the textbook told you to say that. The smoke alarm begins shrieking. You say no and pick a piece of burnt note out of my hair.

THREE.
We always drink a bottle of champagne before bed, sometimes two– I think it reminds us that we’re not quite dead yet. We always drink a bottle of champagne before bed– we worry about those who don’t: those who don’t drink a bottle of champagne before bed, and those who don’t worry.

[Featured image source]
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fiction, prosetry

Part 2 – The Scarecrow

[READ PART 1 HERE]

 

The field did not know how to survive without the farmer. She tried to remember all of the things that the farmer had taught her but she was worried that she wasn’t remembering his words quite right or that she’d make a mistake and let the farmer down. She tried desperately to absorb the constant rain, to turn it into something good, to use it to nurture any good thoughts of hers but it flooded her instead. She thought that she might drown in her own tears.

But there was somebody who wanted to help the field, to blow all of the clouds away, to look after her and encourage her to be brilliant again. This somebody had admired the field from afar for a while and he had lost his own farmer too, a couple of years back. This somebody was a scarecrow. He knew how to survive without a farmer and explained to the field that he wanted to protect her. The scarecrow thought that she was very special and beautiful, and told the field that she didn’t have to feel alone anymore.

The field wasn’t too sure about this scarecrow: he told her that he had never looked after a field as magical as her before, but that he was “big and ugly enough to take care of the both of them.” And since he was named after her farmer’s favourite musician, the field took this as a good omen and agreed to let the scarecrow help her.

And he did help the field. He helped her every way that he could.

When it rained, the scarecrow would run around the field putting out buckets and pots and pans and opening up hundreds of colourful umbrellas so that the field would be dry. But this meant that the scarecrow got wet and his straw was all damp. Who was there to protect him? Perhaps this job isn’t as easy as the scarecrow had first thought. But he grew to love the field more with each passing day and so he stayed, through rain and shine, through pain and light.

But just as the field started getting better, then came the rodents. They hid around the field, gnawing away at whatever goodness that the field produced. The scarecrow chased lots of them away, but the field was still hurt, covered in bite marks. The scarecrow kissed her wounds but the field didn’t think that she deserved his kisses because she felt so sad and useless and ugly.

Then one afternoon a gang of vultures began circling the field. The field was scared. She told the vultures to go away, that she didn’t want them around her, that she had nothing left to give them, that they had picked away at all of the remaining confidence and hope that she had secretly stored away in her head. But they swooped down into the field, searching for the snakes that the farmer’s wife had released and any rodents that the scarecrow hadn’t managed to chase away.

The field was so frightened, she screamed and screamed for the scarecrow. But the scarecrow didn’t see why the field was so upset. He couldn’t see any vultures. The field was bleeding but the scarecrow could not understand how or why. The sky was clear, no birds, no clouds, no lightning and yet the field was destroyed – how could this be?

He had never had to look after a field this dangerous or difficult before. He loved the field very much but how could he protect her from something that he couldn’t even see?

A few weeks later, the field had healed. But she still lived in fear of the vultures returning. She no longer expected the scarecrow to protect her although she liked having him around. It was nice to have somebody to share the odd chunk of sunshine with. And the scarecrow didn’t seem to mind too much because once the rain had stopped, his clothes and straw would always dry out under the warmth of the field’s golden heart.

But the field had a secret. She knew that there was an unexploded landmine under the ground right between her heart and the spot where the scarecrow stood. She knew that she should tell the scarecrow to run away to somewhere safe. But she was scared to be alone again.

Every time he ran around the field trying to save her from rain and rodents and snakes and lightning, she held her breath. Each time she tried to pluck up the courage to tell him about the bomb, she remembered how he hadn’t believed her about the vultures trying to kill her, so why would he believe her about the bomb that might kill the both of them? And anyway, she didn’t want him to worry about their future for no good reason.

On the days where the field felt so sad and lonely, and felt that she couldn’t live without the farmer, she thought about the bomb in her belly and knew that if she wanted to she could make all of the rain stop once and for all. But that would mean hurting the scarecrow too, and the farmer would be angry and disappointed in the field for giving up.

Oh, she wished more than ever that she could ask the farmer what to do. She smiled at the kind and loving scarecrow and knew that she was very lucky to have him. And then she saw the pack of vultures overhead…


Featured image: Fracture/Fractura by Lia Cruz [source]
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