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.
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.
You pick me when I’m not me – when you think I’m someone else completely. And I always pick you.
The problem is, who you fuck alters timelines, and you fucked in the wrong order. Her first.
You don’t know what I’ve given to god and the times I’ve given it up and how many times I’ve sworn to stop something for good. But I never do. And the mere promise of it – quitting – is enough to keep me conducting for my whole life which, if I’m lucky, lasts ’til 2062.
I’m an uneasy clasp and you’re a herb-avoider, and we’re an unlikely pair and we’re respective losses, respect each other’s losses, because we’ve accidentally left precious organs and keepsakes and cash in carrier bags which people mistook for trash and the reluctance to touch tongues is a high-school seventh heaven humiliation in a full changing room of half-dressed girls coaxed to strip by gym teachers who understand hierarchies better than history teachers. They paid their way through college with a retail-job-string, know that sentences are misleading, that there’s no greater nihilism than high-street fashion, and once you’ve sold a sweat shop jumper to somebody’s husband, there’s only one other challenge and that’s a simple button path to a treasure spot on a map Emma drew at 12 when she said, “Fuck people so they like you.” But it never worked for her really. And I’m a nervous undresser, and I imagine one day you’ll be a George Clooney-type, in your own entirely, and I’ll sew curtain hems until the fabric fits windows perfectly. I’m the girl that once seemed more than her worth; a cup of rice feeding a village for 20 cents.
One day you will be stupider than I would’ve thought possible. You’ll surprise yourself, while not surprising, because every bold-seeming move is a somewhat pre-figured one on your part, an off-kilter step you knew you’d take when needing to force your skin.
But I will stand by you. If it’s illegal, in question, unwise or simple, I’ll take the risks you need to take with you. I’ll die if that’s the route you’re on, if there’s little leg room or leeway.
Once I was stupider than you’d allowed for and you let me be it and told me I was and I wasn’t and played every action to its finish, conclusion. You really love board games and card games and video games and sex games and word play and squash court banter.
I name this cocktail after you knowing what Darwin had in mind with that thesis, the one he tried to retract when he realised what it did to religion. But there aren’t take backs. Take backs are a plethora of swear words that you only need to know that I’m thinking.
I have no idea if the men we met in chatrooms when it was the thing to go in there – this was the nineties – were really men or the age they said they were.
We had conversations on age gaps with our parents, and they themselves had gaps, had dated people with bigger gaps, had questioned their parents about what’s too much and what’s legal.
But the internet’s the leveler. An equalizer. The alternative way to date, where you’re only as powerful as your search engine. Remember when we used Ask Jeeves for our homework and he almost always knew nothing. And neither did the men or the chat rooms.
Message boards ended it for us, created the archaic forms of communication we thought the internet extinguished, and once one had your address it was difficult to sleep, picturing outlines and outfits in pitch dark, and we wished Emma never said our patio doors were like the Scream house, or that it was remote enough for truth.
One day you will be me but you will be better. Teachers expected you to excel but I’ll take time where they didn’t. I’ll put answers in your mouth, destroy relationships you start, make it impossible for you to work other places.
One day you’ll wonder why you worked for so little: cash, enjoyment, satisfaction. Why you let it be enough at the time, when it wasn’t enough at all, isn’t, yet you’re hammering at it like you’ve just discovered tools for the first time and you’re curious about them the way you once were sex, films, pizza. Now, pizza almost always bores you.
One day you’ll ignore mirrors the way I ignore them and you’ll think of me every time you do it, keeping your eyes on the tap or your fingers when you’re in bathrooms, buying clothes without trying them first even though your size is not a standard, fits all in every shop one.
One day you’ll be me, but better. The recipe improved by TV chefs in two hundred years, ready in seconds. Someone else’s skin. False eyes. Elastic shoes. Nothing pioneering about that particularly, apart from I’m dead.
If you’re planning to absolve people, don’t when I’m here. I don’t want to see it. Every action should be tangible, not about an almost feeling, and I may be heathen for saying it – I’ve read the verses I know you’ll refer to – but it’s not a crime to like concrete. To imagine a time before phone signals and airwaves and radio frequency.
You say absolution’s important and I don’t disagree aloud because I don’t know who’s listening and I don’t want to give the impression I’m only into absolutes, that there isn’t room for grey matter. I think I mean grey area.
I used to hope for resolution, ultimates, ultimatums, endings to take pride in. Instead, it all peters unexpectedly and hope’s quashed like mashed squash, potato, and the seasons you’d hoped to see after are entities which exist in imagination only.