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?
You date him because one day he will date Jennifer Aniston. You sense this like month’s coming, movie reviews, the heat of food at friend’s houses. And you can’t help yourself. Or you help yourself to bigger than you should’ve portions at picnics, beach barbeques, youth group. You overdo every time, and I don’t think I just mean food but I don’t know and I wouldn’t want to insinuate something that wasn’t at least a little grounded in reality, didn’t have some truth to it, because we all know what gossip at school was like. Some of us started it.
Once you’ve dated him you wonder what the fuss is. You concoct plans to keep him, that might’ve kept him, and you go about altering every mistake you consciously made thinking it was the best choice at the time. But there are no best choices just best guesses and anyone who thought they had the hold on a situation may as well sign up to a religion sold to them for money.
You buy the shampoos, perfumes, clothes’ ranges, endorsements, water. You watch the nineties back like it’s re-creatable and chances are it will be, at least by 2023, and your kids will ask you for tie-dye, heat changing shirts, faded cut-offs, Adidas canvas trainers, and you consider the point of the past, fashions selected yearly, when the cheap and the sensible thing would’ve been to stick it out in your fluorescent pinks and luminous yellows and leg warmers. Back then, even Angelina Jolie wasn’t noxious.
Once, I held a pillow in a hospital bed and I thought she might come back and I would move in again and I thought about mothers behind curtains in communal rooms cradling their just washed babies and I knew I’d never own anything and that societal standards aren’t guarantees you’re born with and why would they be? Synthetics buckle to wrists and grips and arms that lifted weights once at the gym but fabric is not skin and pillows are not people (although you can marry them in some countries).
When it rains it’s good to have umbrellas, jackets and waterproofed shoes. Jack would tell you, “Boots. You need Wellingtons,” and, “If it rains, if it starts raining, stop camping, don’t chance it.” Some people resent authority so Jack is not saying any of this to you exactly. The sorts of advice we can offer is weather-based and totally optional, like sunscreen or underwear.
If you set up camp in a pit, be aware of the problems you may encounter. Nothing is definite or fixed the way books make you think. In fact, everything spirals. Think of a Radiohead song. But it’s good to be sure of what to expect in any given situation, if you’re able to suspend your beliefs for a second and assert ‘sure’ as a workable concept.
1. There will be other people. There always are.
2. Fabric wears. A sixty quid tent will unravel like designer clothes you can find on the high street: simply, and within a few months.
3. Food struggles in sand but some months the ground’s cold enough to fridge things. You’re close to cryogenic.
4. You’ll hear traffic. You’ll remember house sounds and slip them in the landscape. You’ll ache for footsteps on the synthetic roof, traffic coming into earshot and going again, instead of swirling.
5. Pity is hard to come by in certain financial climates.
6. There’s no rent if the land’s fair game and no electricity either.
7. Your ex-girlfriend won’t care like she should or she might or you’d expect in a romantic comedy.
8. You’ll have a lot of floor space. Jack says, “That’s site-specific.”
We start a new show, one we’ve heard a lot about but the hype of which is subtle enough we’re not turned off before we watch it. We’ve not even seen the New Girl pilot.
“Remember we watched Glee before it broadcast here and we saw something unique in it, that it turned out everyone thought was unique, and it staggered past the half-way series cliffhanger? Well I don’t want that happening again. I’d rather hold off, wait, know if I really like it, check it’s not been cancelled before I commit.”
“Sure,” Jack replies. “And you’d rather watch a show in which people fall into pits, throw rubbish in it, petition it’s something better then desecrate it.”
“Exactly,” I reply. It’s enthusiasm I don’t understand, enthusiasm I can’t live with.