nevergoingtochange (said like it’s one word)

I phone you back because we’re never done, especially when we say we are, which is why every goodbye’s thirty minutes long; it’s impossible to package us neatly up, like a suctioned haggis, metal ties on the end to keep fresh.

I can’t compile us like an essay collection or tea set for the charity. As a Collected Works we’d maybe make sense, and we’re not nonsensical now, only, there’s always more, especially when we out loud state there won’t be.

We plan Thanksgiving in September, though you hate celebration as much as existentialism, which you hardly hate at all, just you’re not a fan of the quivering limbo it tram seat sits you in, and you can’t get off between stops. Uncertainty’s the kicker.

You text me back when the call’s missed and the call ends more than once, and four hours feels like six minutes, and I know it’s never over: I know it never is.

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If you could predict what you’d contract, would you?

She asks would I want to know? I was pre-disposed, would end up with an auto-immune inevitably, a blunt knife best at scraping the cheese slice off its plastic wrapper when it’s stuck, but never getting all.

She says, “Shouldn’t you, like, for your kids’ sake, the ones you don’t have or you do?” I tell her no but it’s not enough, like a one size fits 50 Bible verse supposed to quash doubts about all the stuff that seems alright but every voice in church says WRONG.

I explain that life’s lucky dip-ness is the only thing going for it, that without a Poundland surprise, someone buying drinks you didn’t ask for, a person changing everything, inexplicably, sort of mind-blowingly at a worst time possible, days would outright suck.

But her, she wants to know, wants the test, result, an indication upfront of what she’ll be at 40. But I’ve lived limbo. I barely loved a second. But I don’t need to know I’ll get a detrimental brain disease anymore than whether I’ll know you next week or in August. The things I picked out for your birthday? You can have them. I’ve got what I’ve got forever. And you’re an appendix.

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Capital Phoenix

I ask Jack what wrong is. Can he quantify it? This is a man whose answers are too specific for pub quiz questions: like the star signs of each of the Spice Girls, how often Matt Damon washes his hands.

Jack says, “I can’t tell you which choice to make, or even label every choice that’s on the table. I can tell you what I want, what I think you want, but then it’s getting into speculation; even Perez Hilton’s not right every single time. And me neither.”

But at church there were such clear rights and wrongs I fell asleep sorry for something, every morning a flu-like guilt squeezing my stomach like a stress-ball in the shape of a heart sure that the pumping action was helping. Then there was only purge, purge, purge.1 in the dark

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.

Partners

You laugh at your jokes and his because he’s new and the man that’s playing your fiancé, you laugh when the script calls for it and you groan on cue and you’re used to saccharin breakfasts, a steadfast lunch, and decades with the people you divorce and you marry and you’ve cultivated, exclusively, all family dealings on sets, in outfits, so that your life’s an exquisite blur, an impossible figure, so you took the furtherest offer. You were after an out. But this start could falter before fall stops. And that dude was Superman, or did you forget?

Penn Badgley

You know what turns you off when you see it. Before that, the delicious unknown swirl, the way his hair sticks to his head nonchalantly, like it’s better not to wash now, will make you heady, and you’ll sleep with your stomach elevated, your aesophagus threatening to slide right out of your mouth.

You remember what dating without talking was like – like a movie – and the familiarity of films, which makes you remember sidewalks and stores you’ve never been to, means you hanker for other, simpler men, who haven’t an opinion on Damien Hirst, don’t know who Tracey Emin is.

His fault wasn’t trying, writing, dressing, kissing, wasn’t what he said the first morning or what he’ll say the last. Some renovations you can’t make. The sheer energy in wood-sanding, carpet stapling is a full time job, and your career goals of princess, pop star, don’t leave room for almost men, slight ones, men growing their hair to pretend they’re Jeff Buckley, the sort of extinguishable genius that knowing is like touching a Ouija board. You saw The Exorcist when you were fifteen and have waited for transformation since.

For Me To Tell You

We will be that cliche. That’s how we’ll understand each other, and the world us, and we’ll know what we’re doing, which actions fit us exactly: rain kissing, foot popping, candlelit proposals, Tiffany rings, devotion that won’t end, belief that can’t stop.

And when we’re sick, when we have pneumonia, and arthritis means we’re not limber like we were, and we’re paranoid matches start fires which kill us, and we’ve stopped thinking anything is unending, that there’s such thing as ultimate, that the concept of forever exists, we’ll still match our hands, find leg space, lay down, and I’ll follow your neck like it’s sermon and you’ll recite whispered prayers like repetition gets anything but comfort, which it doesn’t get now, but the smell of your washing power I have in place of a compass and your ring on your wrong hand is my Inception, reminder, my Leo DiCaprio.

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Who I’m Supposed To Be

If we’re ever in the same place, let’s be ourselves, not the people we’re paid to be. Let’s learn lyrics to songs and sing crowd karaoke. We’ll drunk dial Lucas, mass text Peyton, pretend we’re still friends with Chad Michael Murray.

We know what came first and we know who we follow and we know what we’ve lost and gimmicks won’t work and we’ve already killed off long-standing cast members this season so don’t expect shocks. No surprises.

Let’s flash forward to kids, to friends with kids. Let’s wait out weather and stockpile. Let’s learn to be realistic. Then stick to the script.
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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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There’s Something You Should Know About Me

I won’t waver. Change, you sense like strangers’ star signs, like the contents of meals in restaurants, spice slipped.

Once, we got drunk together. We forget it happened, won’t mention imprints the other left.

I’ve been alone, often, and in six years you’re the only. In bed your legs look like Alicia Silverstone’s on the cover of Clueless and don’t just say that’s a viewpoint. I’ve seen you standing up too.

I like your back best, shirts skimming shoulder bones, unkempt weight. We’re not even programmed to remember what we’ve seen most, necessarily. I worked at Subway for six years and all that’s left is the smell, lingering in pits of cotton.

I watch my trailer door, even when you’re not coming. I want you to come, believe I’m not the 2006 version. That was years and so much has changed, that I know you feel in contours, cards. I’ve read your blog. And if James Van Der Beek’s due a revival, why not me?