I want your life, this moment, wish it could swallow me like a gobstopper. After the initial choke I’d dissolve into it. You wouldn’t even notice me there. I do a killer chair impression. I once pretended for fifteen minutes, only moving my arms twice. I’ve missed a trick, could’ve been a successful performance artist, do you think?
I don’t do what you do but there are similar seconds. There are almosts and that’s okay. I came to terms with my hip juts and my big toes years ago and I’m looking to improve furniture now, to upgrade, add on, acquire appendages, not that I lack anything just more is more is more is more is.
One day I’ll understand why I did it, reverted to the life I had, pretended I’d wanted it, that there weren’t pieces of me previously – my shirt buttons, shoes, elastic and stitching – that were all after you, ready to pinch you, shrink you in hot washes, seal you in packets and watch your breath collect as condensation in droplets at the bottom of bags. You made me forget the world ended as it ended around us and I never called your authority or questioned you having it and we didn’t need escape plans: I practiced balance with my yoga daily and I stretched you out on sleeping bags as my child slept and you said you’d play a part, you’d be a person I might need and you’d touch me when I asked and you’d have a flashlight handy and you’d walk me in the middle of the night when I needed a piss and you’d hold my unwashed hand on the way back, ready to own every inch as god watched. You’re dead now.
This is sorry. Before the bad things happen. Because if I knew the man I picked would end you easily on rescue missions or resource runs, I’d have hesitated. There might’ve been hesitation, the sort you sense in Blockbuster. Instead, I defaulted.
Before he says what happened, tells me like I’m a priest capable of curing all ill (lol, jk, I’m a woman, right?) I picture you marrying trees, hiding beneath bodies, hoping for lulls in traffic. But there are always more coming and I allow for the possibility, I accept there’s a 45% chance you’re gone or you’re one of them. When he says, “I killed him. I had to end him. I couldn’t stand him being around,” I wait for sick but we’ve not eaten in days – the last meal I had, you were opposite, holding your plate close to your face, ready to lick it if no-one was watching. I was though, watching, wondering if you can extinguish flames with words, because words out loud are after all breath, and air can both fan or put out fire, and I wasn’t sure what my sentence meant. I’d have been discreet saying, “The arms at my side are dead weight and his heart keeps me awake beating like life’s the same, like constant’s are okay, and his skin’s sullen and I’m supposed to be okay with that?”
This is denial. This is thick denial, the sort the actors on Jeremy Kyle have, the ones on Jerry Springer. I’ve been lathering it for weeks, it’s my camouflage, because connections aren’t fragile but futile and poison in some mouths and I’ve seen our families murder each other, justify it with a Bible verse. I’ve watched the world convert people, simply, quickly; Hershel stood firm and shot the heads of people he’d met, of ones he might’ve saved, days ago. Faith can catch like silk, and when you see it in light, it’s a puckered, nonreturnable mess.
I won’t spell it out. That’s not how dialogue works. Six episodes into next season we’ll kiss, and soon we’ll probably die. There’s nothing to miss and temporary emotions are easily lost calories, morsels of memories we won’t feel the loss of.
Jack says, “I’ll meet you on the Empire State,” meaning the top, at a prescribed time, carrying flowers.
“What for?” I ask him, sure we’re past grand gestures which are essentially superficial moves with ulterior motives. We’ve had sex, what more could he want?
“There can be romance in anniversary, in marking pasts, futures, constructing events that mean nothing to people who aren’t us, enacting movies we’ve not seen and ones that we have, sure that our lives are more Tom Hanks Castaway, than Meg Ryan New York. But we’ll try, suggest places in cities spread out on classroom maps, flat, inaccurate. And we won’t make most of them, don’t have the cash or stamina to see the settings of movies, aren’t actors with wages enough to get flowers each time we fuck up. But this, the first, give me it. Meet me. Pretend we think this will last.”
“Okay,” I say but I’m minutes late and he leaves and I list what I’ve stolen in life, from whom, and I figure how to give it back. Starting with Ira.
You wouldn’t pick you to represent anything other than sarcasm, maybe. You don’t like blanket terms or sweeping generalisations about who people are and choices they make at weekends. You like picnic blankets and sweeping motions and the men doing them, whether that’s shining shoes or pushing laptops off desks to throw you on to them. You like anything that might happen in a Reese Witherspoon movie although you’ll always be the sidekick asking inappropriate questions. At some points offensive is comic.
You don’t have fake ID, only need it at opportune moments, and generally, when you couldn’t care about being sent home by blancmange-eyed bouncers, they don’t ask you for it. You’ve spent nights in places that would shock older women alive. You’d rather be home than necking men to whom you’re backup.
He might notice. Buying coffee’s a good way to imply like, and so is faking interest in music you have no idea about. When I was trying the same thing in the nineties we didn’t have Google, the resources you have, so if you fail, it’s a lack of research, only lazy trying.
And if he doesn’t, you have mementoes, saved up shoe box remnants of almosts and nearlys, and how much do you care anyway? How many men should you really know before you’re gone? How many’s an adequate number?
I couldn’t give a shit who you are to each other. I like lines like, “You had me at hello,” and, “Of course I love you, dummy,” but this is not a situation for any or all best lines you might come up with in life. Save them. If you’ve seen Titanic you’ll know dialogue’s wasted breath, sometimes. Convenient revelations like, “I loved you all along, Erin,” don’t stack up when you’ve spent seasons toying with ideas of not being, or being together.
“You’ve been sharpening nails on me like I’m a scratching post and I’m the idea of us and your nails are thrashing out if we’d be a perfect couple like your parents who hate each other and you. Your logic is screwed,” is what you should say. Instead you run down the street, get strangers to wind down windows so you proclaim what we knew you felt but struggled to care that you did.
Meanwhile, Catherine Tate’s in the office warming your seat, killing time until the next job hits, the one that finally breaks her in to the new life, and this stint is just a joyride, but don’t comment – you’re a part of your own catastrophe.
Movies are misleading, make it seem like there’s a point in everyone’s life they sleep with a friend, that they end up together, that this problem in general fills the space of a ninety minute film, which converts to six months real time, unless it’s Linklater, Allen, or Burns.
Even if we’re allowed discretions and I have it on authority we are – forgiveness is a sorry away – life’s more awkward than Natalie Portman, not polished like Timberlake. We’re not attractive and slick yet unlucky in love. We’re just unlucky. We don’t compulsively fuck who we know because they told an awesome joke once, they notice us lose weight. Or when we do we call it ‘mistake’.