IV

Jack wants reinvention slick like Lana, lip fatteners like Angelina and a new nose too. I say my experience isn’t change and fix but dwell and muster.

“I want that Tom Cruise change thing,” Jack says. “You almost don’t see it happen because there’s never a lull. It’s the consistency of him, full like Coke bottles in the eighties, that’s the clue giver, tells you he did something, changed it. But you’ll never guess and you’re not meant to. He’s the ultimate reinvention because there’s no Gaga circus about it. And for all the paparazzi following, someone should’ve captured it but they haven’t.”

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Thomas

It was a double-take eye catch. I almost missed you. But, instead, I bravely made the kiss move, to European greet you, and you reciprocated. We said a wow and are you busy? And you weren’t, despite history. So we left the DVD shop I don’t think you’d be in really. What were you, buying one of your own Blu-rays or something?

Next was a series of saves, legendary dolphin Jesus moves, which only princes in movies make. And to wake was the disappointment of truth-telling Santa, 50p tooth fairy pieces in my mother’s hands, the pillow puff-crease next to me.

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So Casually Cruel In The Name Of Being Honest

We’re referred to the insurance department. He tells us his name but I instantly forget. Something like Matthew or Mark or John or Luke, any number of ex-boyfriends. He doesn’t stand, but his office box lingers with yesterday’s Axe, usually reserved for hotel lifts and bus upper decks and school toilets.

He says, “I don’t do what Jim does – fixing finances for you in annual reviews.” We already know what he does but the next paragraph from his mouth is a lengthy vow he makes daily. I only know prayers better, and lose words from those, unwittingly, for each new Taylor Swift lyric I learn. Osmosis. Brute force. Or failure.

“Life insurance works,” he starts, “But only if you go outside after this and get hit by a bus. Then you have your family pay-out, lump sum, but for you, now, meaningless. Nothing. If you’re out of work long term, what benefits do you get?”

Under scrutiny we’re no longer ‘we’ but singles, trying to convey connections unnecessarily. They’re interested, only, if it leads to our autographs.

Jack says, “Six months full, six months half.”

And insurance man is quick to chat back, “Well, how long have you been there? Because usually, less than 5 years somewhere, and you’re lucky for a lunch break.” Jack details the time, adding the months and days on. It’s an increments-’til-my-birthday moment. Then insurance man turns to me. “What do you do?” he asks.

“Self-employed,” I say, and he turns back to Jack before my sound stops. It’s a party shun in the nineties; boys giggling indiscriminately, as any girl walks in.

“Consider this,” a bold start, “one of you is sick, terminally, critically ill, can’t work, can you survive on one person’s salary? Heart attack, cancer, stroke, touch wood, what would you both do? Paint a picture. Imagine Amy’s sick, Jack. At home all day. Do you really want to work full time while she’s stuck? What would you do if this happened? God forbid, of course.”

“Ask our parents, I guess,” Jack says and insurance man is an underhand sneer, a status-grab in high school.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to do that. Would you really want to ask your parents for help? You’re paying rent, you can’t move back in with them. Be a burden.”

Jack says they’d want to help us and insurance man uses this twice as the conversation wraps up, thinks he’s joking when he says, “Well, I guess we could all ask your mum and dad, couldn’t we?” But this isn’t where he loses me.

If it wasn’t the interim moment between walking in and sitting down, or when he received a tweet on his iPhone as we sat there, it was the word cancer falling from his mouth like lies on Saturday nights to bar girls and drunk girls and men after 2 am, said as only by someone inexperienced in it, with it. And the “Picture this” script, exposing him as less than a visionary, missionary, psychic predicator, the UV light instead showing ill-wisher, grave chaser, digger, casing with bribes and scaremongering. And the smell of him. We didn’t buy anything.

Bit Bitter

You can’t give a shit about this dream. Another turned sediment in year-old vodka and that one, the one, was seventh sneer, a forgetting, betting on the wrong X Factor member for the win. Because what should is a very slim and what did is a rim straddler. Success, is every best-friend picked boy over head bands, pleats and horoscope compatibility and Spice Girls’ CDs, cemented in the nineties when we had promise. But promise, no. Ant and Dec had promise then, too; boy band hairstyles fooling no-one.

Craigslist Joe

What you did was brave because I wouldn’t rely on the kindness of people I know to keep me safe except for maybe family, but they’re obligated, so it’s not the same.

You’re a fortune cookie, splendid, Joe, pressing the elevator button yourself and sure, even at 4 o’clock in the morning, someone will pick you. They always picked.

My bank manager’s out for blood and freebies. And the people on the street domino me and I guess I should try what you did because I haven’t had a network since middle school and even they disowned me because I wouldn’t say who I fancied, out loud.

“Is it Kerry or John or George or Paul or Peter or Emma or Matt?”

It was none of them. And you found better friends on the internet.

Twin Fire Signs

There is no perfect point, only a cross-pathed mess of near grabs, almost hads and overs. We’ll see, late, we were a time waste, hoping for a moment to strike, a Biblical revelation, movie-like regeneration, collage scrap fitting an exact left space when, really, life’s a crapshoot, and we’ll be dead soon wishing we’d taken the other when we could’ve except, when you’re dead, there aren’t wishes any more or regrets and any statement of what there is which I could make would be an arrogant stamp, smug snatch at a concept I’m uncomfortable with. But, we should’ve kissed.

This One Time, At Revenge Camp

Not ruling out

Considering

Family

and flinching

Selotape crease

Granules and meltlets

brand name

Spare bed

Beach front green screen

consultants

Insurance salesman

Lines like, “Heart attack, cancer, or death,”

resounding, “Yes.”

How To Be Brave

Saying never is an asking-for-it move and your vows were, “Never you, not you, no,” but me now. And me.

What we bill split I’ll receipt tick and box keep with every egg shell breakfast, cinema stub, left sock, under my bed.

Going back and over what’s said is satisfying when forever can be coddled again. Our always might just be on tap.