Half-birthdays

Betty didn’t throw parties. Didn’t know as soon as Megan did about the other identities, which were honest, which was your birthright, and when your actual birthday was or is because you’re not dead and even when you are it’ll still get celebrated, accidentally by secretaries, children, ex-lovers you told everything to in place of telling wives, friends if the people you work with are really that – friends – and not interested in talents, only, but also mistakes, scars, details, style, your politics if you share that. Some people don’t.

This is a trick you’ll play forever, updating, and the latest you will lose interest in her. She’ll leave work and your new secretary, women at parties (not yours, you’re not having more), in bars, at business meetings, in restaurants, friends’ wives, will want what you are although you’re not defined and you’re not a sellable truth, a containable story, a tellable joke, easy-to-understand, historically accurate, a plottable film or an edible meal. You’re an appetiser. Some people prefer those. Some people don’t order mains or desserts, they just want to pick and, if so, you’re perfect for that.

You leave when you want – work or family gatherings. You drink in the mornings. You sleep better than you did a decade ago. The people who knew you, closest, are dead now. You weren’t quick enough or self-less enough to save them. Your suits are cut to your frame which is almost the same as it was in the fifties, sixties. You’re an inch more maybe, and observers think that’s just an illusion, that actually, you’re not filling out as expectations would have you. You’re levelling off, millimetres from the perfect, so close to the ideal. But everything degenerates, even this, and you’re sitting in the moment it starts, trying to prolong it, not ready to take yourself out of the oven, because every cake you were ever a part of sunk in the centre.

Is This Like That Movie ‘A Walk to Remember’?

People judge. Your congregation think they have an obligation to help you make right decisions, to regret wrong ones, to tell you which are the right and which are the wrong ones, because short-sightedness is not just a medical term. It seeps like badly fixed sinks or cheap bin bags, letting moisture through until your life’s wet and you’ve ticked wrong boxes on multiple choice tests, you’ve married people in error.

But this is not an error. At least, I hope that it’s not. I might be wearing a football jersey and you a high-street dress with the tags left in in case you need to return it, supposing no-one spills drinks over you (this is a party), but I chose what I chose because you bought it. Jack asks, “Why do you need to surprise people? Why are you trying to shock us?” But this isn’t a shock for us and it shouldn’t be for you, if you’d been paying attention. Some things you can calculate like a comet’s orbit or inflation. And you should’ve guessed this.

Never Met Me

We play a father-daughter relationship out. I ignore you, resent you for stopping my suicide, we bicker about dead family members, camp rules: who should have guns, who can fire one, where we should sleep supposing anyone sleeps anymore anyway? There’s nothing unbroken including my eight hours, Donald Trump’s four, and it’s like birthing babies, staying up with them, stopping them screaming; I’d need sedation if I gave birth here, for me, my offspring, group members sure that baby’s screams were drawing the infected closer like errant helicopters, gunshots, whispering. I know longevity’s a thing of the past, an option I pass up through default than any actual want or un-want, but in the other world, the before one, if your wife left, we might have ended up in bars playing out entirely different scenarios with other dynamics, which would’ve led us to rooms rather than tents, and we’d have enjoyed telling each other what to do, then.

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23 Reasons You Can’t Marry Him

It seems like a good idea now but get yourself a box set, see the sorts of problems these people have, reconsider. You may think an ultimatum like, “I’ll stop stripping if we get married,” is a win, an endgame, altering sentence, the sort TV royalty might say, but imagine Don Draper, think that Mary-Louise Parker character in Weeds. They couldn’t give a shit if you stripped or didn’t and rightly so. Who considers changing careers when a man asks? Anymore.

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Dead By Now

What you don’t want are men unaware of how weapons work, people so pretty they’re not sure what scars are.

You’ve dropped enough hints how you’re going to hell, who you’ll see there: you’ve bought drinks in advance of it, offered seats, you’re saving them, because people you’ve met are going there too. Redemption’s a primary school fable, a fairytale for network TV.

You sacrifice yourself easily, like Tom Cruise but without hesitation. You’ve not got wives to consider. Your face isn’t, well, his. But I still like it.

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Your Heart Breaks on the Street

You are not phased by incisions, operations involving skin removal, additions, alterations, serious changes which make people into other people. And what you don’t condone you do anyway because you’re paid for it and being a wish granter means your sleep’s unbroken, has been since 2004.

Then Lexie left and it’s a long line of women until her and after, and eating lunch you catch glimpses of eyelids and fringes and you think, “I thought she was on the East Coast, but maybe she came back,” but she didn’t and eventually you catch the person’s jaw, ears, fingernails, know it’s not her. She is an accurate study in photographic memory, remembered alongside pages from textbooks and pornography and it’s untrue, the adage that says what you put in your brain stays there. Usually you forget faces quicker than character’s surnames, addresses of friends, phone numbers of relatives. Hers is the only and in dreams she’s herself, never in another body like some people, and she tells you you did wrong over and forgives you over and you take ibuprofen when you wake up, but only coffee cures headaches, and your teeth are ground down like filed nails and when you call she doesn’t pick up and when you add her as a friend your request disappears and there is no follow up and it’s the open-ended-ness of the situation that’s the absolute finish of it.

My Own Hand

I learnt to let go, un-wedge axes
from skulls, how to pull knives out of muscle without damage to both parties. One party’s pretty damaged already and this is deciphering time, deciding if we’re just as fucked as they are. You can’t control cancers over lifetimes, and the research is gone that kept viruses, ills away. None of us are terminal and we all are. On foot was the option, wrong decision. You can’t run for nights, but hours only.

I execute each stab with movie precision like it’s impossible to miss twice. I’m waiting for saviours or alternatives. Now, the world shows its hierarchy which is always a patriarchy which we didn’t fix when we thought we did. We used to think everything was fine when it wasn’t and some prioritise wrong, think that laundry is an end times’ concern, that dishes are. But blood stains don’t wash out and when they do I have to wonder, “How long did you spend scrubbing, how many washes, rewashes were there? Did you waste bleach on white shirts, Y-fronts? Shouldn’t you have saved it for dissolving flesh, for drinking when there’s only you left?”

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Twice

Not intentional. Not nearly. Almost always not.

You don’t know what to do with tarragon. Could make an incision in a man’s brain to see his decision making. Reshape people’s faces for a living.

Say you’ll wait ’til after, so you’ve eaten the steak, paella, lasagne. But you blurt it out like an answer in class, put on the spot by a teacher sure you don’t know answers. But you know some, knew some.

Wish everyone understood action’s aren’t meaningful, defy definitions, and the clean cut life they’re all after is a thing of the past, the fifties, and even then, most times, was a lie: case in point, Betty Draper.

Better Than You Were Before

Stop fucking with me. Either age gaps matter or they don’t. Have you pumped somebody’s stomach once they’ve drunk a vat of vodka, crushed a tablet into it? Wouldn’t think you’d have to, that the body knows what to digest and what it should eliminate immediately. But not always. We don’t make decisions with precision like uniformed bodies, funders, parents, best friends with best friend necklaces.

I’ve compiled clips, mostly in my head, but some committed to film, my iPhone, the webcam running on my computer when you don’t know, and what I can’t figure is, why you left last time? You said you weren’t ready for kids, commitment, but you never had a shirt fit you like I do, or a shoe. I buckle to bad heels, leave room for bunions, am in tune to insteps, the requirements of insoles: I’ll work on your posture if you want me to. I want to.

So stop fucking with me. Age gaps matter, don’t. I’ve pumped stomachs, felt my way around them with a finger, sewn tears up, kept a heart beating with hands. I’m all for matching jewellery or have you forgotten the offer I made with Jack in the picture, when Alex was there? I’ll never stop asking. Forget who I slept with between, it’s not a calendar. Forget the break-up dates, arguments in waiting rooms. Remember which song was playing.

I’ll Marry You

It may not be for right reasons. Ordinarily, I’d ask you out or wait for you to ask. But there’s not time and the doctors here and the boards that meet to decide fates of insurance-less patients, strangers without real ties to afford them the benefits and extras that friendship or sex can provide (when it’s with a surgeon, anyway) are disconnected like teachers, trying to imagine you’re inanimate, not the person I see that you are.

I don’t presume to know you. We’ve barely spoken and the first thing you said was, “I’m proposing,” and it was to someone else and I told you good luck like luck comes into it but apparently it does because she said no. I cradled you. You told me, “Expect the worst,” and if paperless charts are the best, what you expect from people you sleep with, yours certainly were not. I told my boss he’d have done more if my name was different, if I’d worked here longer. He smelt law suits and stand offs and sick days, said he’d see what he can do.

There’s nothing to be done, and my suggestion is it for you. At home you’re waiting to die. I have spare drawers. I’ve barely moved into my place. I recognise you from TV. I’d have married you at sixteen (younger if the laws had allowed it).