Sunday, 26 May 2013

60. I've been expecting it for a while

The crash has come. I've been expecting it for a while.

I didn't start taking my medication, because I started seeing Chris instead and I wanted to have sex with him. The prescription was still pinned to my bulletin board at 9am this morning. I'm still ill.

And I dumped Chris.

I'm not allowed to dump people. I'm also not allowed to turn them down. It says so in the corner of my mind where I store the rules, my rules. The rules say I need to have a boyfriend. The rules say that I am ugly and I don't have an attractive personality, so if someone's deluded enough to fancy me for 10 seconds I need to grab on to that with both hands and stay hanging on to him no matter what. The rules say if I don't do that, I've screwed up one of the few chances I will ever have to con other people into believing I'm a functioning and normal member of society. If I turn someone down or dump them I am refusing to take what is on offer, and that means I deserve to be punished for my own bad attitude. I ought to be grateful for any crumbs of attention.

I also know, on another level, that Chris was using me (being used is better than being single and celibate) that he was no good for me (better than nothing) that things were not going to change (I should have changed my attitude and been what he wanted and maybe he would have loved me)

I called in sick to work today and I am cowering under the duvet on the sofa, intermittently drinking tequila. Tequila - while not a solution - is at least a distraction. I have cashed in the prescription and taken the first of my pills. The symptoms will get worse for about 10 days, and then they'll start getting better. Hopefully.


Good morning to you too, Matthew.


I'd rather be alone for the rest of my life than with someone I don't love who doesn't love me.


I'm not pretending anything to anyone. If I really am a vile worthless piece of crap, people will just have to fucking deal with it. This is the twenty-first century and a woman can be anything she wants.


I know you are, but what am I?

At this point Matthew falls silent. He generally does when I manage to laugh at him.

Evil doesn't have a sense of humour. It can't. It can mock others, it can imitate, it can laugh at misfortune, but true laughter and joy is beyond it. To me, evil - real evil - is a grim, humourless, unquestioning certainty of being completely in the right and completely entitled. You see it in terrorists, racists, Christians holding sandwich boards saying gay people are going to hell, the colleague who righteously tells you about the affair so and so is having with the regional manager not because it's a hilarious piece of gossip but because People Ought to Know, and people who throw red paint at women attending abortion clinics. Among others.

Evil is fanaticism - of any description, about anything, and it utterly lacks a sense of humour. Evil does not allow questions, or reasonable doubt, or innocent until proven guilty, or bad cover versions, or jokes at its own expense. Evil laughs at others, but never at itself.

I vaguely recall something to that effect being said during my brief teenage flirtation with Christianity; laugh at the devil and he disappears. If you laugh at someone, you're refusing to engage; refusing to play. You're not just levelling the playing field, you're destroying it.

This works. Sometimes it is the only thing that works, although it often makes people of this type very angry because evil needs, must, has to be taken seriously; for example, rapists don't rape because they want sex. Rape has very little to do with anything a normal person would understand as sex.

Rapists rape because they want power. They want to be scary. They want to be able to feel that they are powerful enough to take whatever they want, whenever they want it. That's the point. That's what turns them on and that's what gets them off. Feeling like they own their victims. Seeing, in a pair of terrified eyes, that they're taken seriously.

I try and laugh at Matthew whenever I can.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

59. You have to specifically identify what you want

Sally and I are star-gazing.

Sally's flat is near a large cemetery. Sometimes when it's warm we picnic there, taking care to stay in the end among the Victorian tombs so we don't bother people who are mourning. At that end it doesn't need to be kept mathematically pristine in case of complaints and nature is allowed to proceed largely unbothered by humanity. It is wild and overgrown, full of tiny blue butterflies and lichen on weathered headstones, and in the spring there are carpets of primroses and bluebells. It's one of my dreams that I will be able to buy myself a plot in this part of the cemetery. I can't think of anywhere more beautiful to decay.

In the summer, we spread out Sally's gingham picnic rug under our favourite beech tree and drink white wine. We eat tiny cucumber sandwiches Sally has cut into hearts and stars, and follow them with lavender and rose macaron. We drink white wine and watch the bees getting in the columbine and buttercups. The ants pick up our sandwich crumbs and stagger around with them. Because people still retain a superstition about cemeteries and the mourners are all at the other end, we can go three or four hours without seeing another person.

On clear nights it's one of the few places in the city where it's dark enough to allow you to look at stars. At this time of year, the gates are shut and locked at half past four, but obviously this does not bother me and Sally. There are gaps in the fence if you know where to look, made by tramps and teenagers and couples looking for an al fresco shag.

"Perseus," says Sally, pointing. The stars dust the sky like sugar. They always seem clearer when it's cold.

My phone beeps. The message is from Chris. I open it.

- I'm really hurt that you would cut me off like this by voicemail and then ignore me at work. It's stressed me out and I'm having a difficult time anyway because of some personal stuff. You could have tried to talk to me about this.

I stare at the text message, frowning. I'm not sure how to respond.

When someone says to you "I feel hurt by this," that statement is all very well in itself to convey a state of mind. But it is not a tremendous amount of use when it comes to resolving the issue, because for resolution to happen it's necessary to specify the way in which the hurt is manifesting. Do you feel...betrayed? ignored? not valued? used? This is also true of feelings which one is trying to negotiate as an individual. It can't be fixed until you know exactly what's wrong.

In the same way, you have to specifically identify what you want before setting goals. "I want to get a new job," doesn't work as a goal. Where do you want to work? What do you hope to achieve by changing jobs? What's your time-frame? Where's the best place to look?

Of course, this may just be because I negotiate life best when I have a system of clear rules and objectives. Spontaneous behaviour scares me deeply, because I don't like unpredictable people. You have no way of knowing what might suddenly come into their heads as a good idea. I'm going to quit my job! I'm going to go to the beach! I'm going to stay out all night! I'm going to rape you! It's the same problem I have with people on any drugs harder than weed and MDMA; you're dealing with someone who is not thinking about things logically and in the case of drugs like coke or speed they're powered-up; augmented, if you like. They might, at any time, decide to erupt. If I'm honest, I don't really like drunk or stoned people for the same reason, but since I'm often very drunk or stoned myself it feels hypocritical.

I like people who have routines. Who get up at the same time every day, and don't mind going to the same pub at the same time every week for drinks. Who plan their parties and job exits and trips to the beach and off-their-face all-nighters at least a week in advance.

The message suddenly irritates me. It is a baited fish-hook; the expectation all the way through it is that I will text or call back and apologise to him. It's aggressive, designed to make me back-pedal and second-guess myself. He hasn't even asked me a question or asked me to meet him; it's a series of statements designed to hurt.

I delete it without replying.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

58. It suddenly looks inedible

Chris is standing in the cafeteria queue, staring at me and Martin having lunch. When I turn to look at him, he narrows his eyes and holds my stare. He has not replied to my voicemail dumping him.

I turn back to my tuna melt but it suddenly looks inedible. I look at the pile of food on my plate and can't imagine it all in my stomach.

"He's still doing it," says Martin, nervously.

"I know," I say.

Martin begins taking his BLT apart to remove the tomato.

"I thought the tomato was integral to a BLT," I say. "Without it, it's just a BL."

"I don't like tomato," says Martin. He has disassembled his sandwich completely and it is taking up rather more than his share of the table. He makes a small tower of tomato slices and then begins to carefully re-layer the bacon and lettuce.

"Can I have the tomato?" I say. Martin hands it to me silently.

He takes a sip of his Coke.

"He's still doing it," he says.

I shrug.

"I don't know why you went out with that guy anyway," says Martin. "Everyone thinks he's a cock."

"Do they?" I'm genuinely surprised by this, but then since we were dating it's unlikely anyone will tell me they think Chris is a cock. But if Martin knows this is what people think then it must be a universally acknowledged topic of discussion, because Martin doesn't really talk to anyone very much.

"Yup. They do."


"Because he's in a junior job but he tries to tell people how to do theirs. Because he gets angry about everything, like if the photocopier is left switched on, and then finds who did it and tells them off like in a way which suggests they are an inadequate human being."

He looks down at his BL, stifles a cough with his hand.

"And he's always...chasing girls."

"Chasing girls?"

"Yup. All the attractive girls."

Out of nowhere, a huge wave of feeling washes over me. I feel stupid. I feel used. The intensity of my jealousy and despair shocks me. I don't want Chris any more, but I wanted him to want me.

Inside me a voice quietly tells me that of course that was the case, of course you were one of many, I doubt he even liked you very much, why would he, you're not attractive. You're just easy to fool.

But I know this is wrong. I'm not easy to fool.

When I'm in love, I adore to the point of insanity. Makes sense, really. I'm intense about everything from my brand of perfume to my friends to my clothes to my music to what I spread on my toast (Marmite or Nutella only. You can fuck off with your peanut butters and honeys and marmalades and whatever. Get lost) so naturally one would expect that I would be intense about my romantic relationships.

However, in order to be happy, I need to know that the other person is also in love, that we are equally in it together. And - unfortunately - while I'm rather too good at intense emotion, self-deception is not my forte. It doesn't matter how much I love someone, I can't delude myself when I know they don't feel the same.

I knew Chris didn't feel the same.

I take a deep breath and shut the voice off. We'll talk later, at home, in private, over a glass of wine. I know this voice is not right about me but I also know that now is not the time to argue with it.

"He's a prince among men," says Martin. He crunches a crisp, staring me straight in the eye.

"OK, I'm sorry!" I say. "He was a mistake! We all make mistakes. What about you and Tina?"

As this sentence leaves my lips, I realise I have made a tactical error. Martin does not like to talk about Tina, who did not so much break his heart as put it through the blender.

(and at the same moment, on another level, I realise it wasn't an error; Martin just hurt me, so I wanted to hurt him back. But this thought is too distressing for me to acknowledge fully)

Tina worked here for a year. She pursued Martin, got him, he fell in love, she got bored, he got dumped. Happens to everyone, but he took it very badly. I feel this is partly because he's shy. He doesn't approach women, he waits for them to approach him. This does not happen often because Martin is not talkative and lacks the immediate physical impact of the Chrises of this world. Womankind in general is indifferent to Martin's existence.

Chris's cheekbones, his air of the glamorous, tortured intellectual, would more accurately reflect Martin's personality. If Chris's face had been on Martin and Martin's on Chris, both products would be more as advertised. But the world's unfair like that.

"He's gone," says Martin.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

57. Blood, cocaine, MDMA

Amanda picks me up in her car. She is playing some music which sounds as if someone recorded the Sisters of Mercy being attacked by a swarm of robot bees, speeded the result up until it hit 400 beats a minute, and then played it backwards.
"What's this?" I ask.
"Aggrotech. Or maybe it's EBM. I get confused with genre definitions. Cool, no?"
"It sounds like Satan being sick," I say.
Amanda is offended. "I can put on The Beautiful South if you fucking want."
I sit down on the front seat and sling my bag into the back. "I didn't say that was a bad thing."

Amanda pulls smoothly away from the kerb. She glances sideways at me.
"So how'd he take it?" she asks.
I shift slightly. The seat suddenly feels uncomfortable.
"Um...ok? I think?"
The truth is I'm not sure how Chris took it. He didn't reply to my text, so I rang him. He didn't take my call or get back to me. Three hours later I was losing my nerve and knew it had to be done one way or the other. I rang back and left him an answering machine message. That was two days ago and I have not yet had a response. At work, I've avoided those places I know he's likely to be and I haven't bumped into him accidentally.

I am aware dumping someone by voicemail is a social crime and I don't really want to admit I've done this to Amanda. But I tell her anyway, because I tell Amanda everything. She shrugs and says: "Whatever. It's not like he was making any effort."

The car moves me through the winter day. I feel safe. Cocooned, here in the front of Amanda's car, watching the world through glass. I see an old man inching along on a zimmer frame, a plaid scarf wrapped round his neck. I see a squirrel bouncing along the path like a toy someone has thrown.

Chris is slipping smoothly from my mind, through my fingers. He's over.

I've always been this way. When things are over I forget them. Sometimes when I think back over my life I realise how many people have moved in and out of it, how many people I have met who are no longer part of my world. Best friends, boyfriends, people I loved at the time. Some moved to London, some I lost touch with, some died. All forgotten, except for that once in a while when I rifle through dusty old memories as if I'm looking through a photo album.

Mostly, though, I have no use for the past. You can't change it, after all. All it is is reference; a guide to doing the future better.

The song changes. Amanda chants along with the music: "Blood, cocaine, MDMA." Some of her hair has come loose from her blue polka-dot headscarf. "After party fornicate, cut and drink with XP8."

Paradigm shifts can happen to individuals as well as societies, and frequently do. I have had some myself. You think one way for a long time, and then something changes and your thoughts flip and the world is different.

Or it's not; the truth is the world is exactly the same. Your friends are the same, your job's the same, your partner's the same. They are all doing the same things in the same way.

But it's all different, because you're different. Because you see it all through different eyes. It's an internal revolution, or a metamorphosis. It transforms you forever. I was in love with Chris, or I thought I was. Now I'm not in love with him any more. And just like I couldn't imagine not being in love with him when I was, now I'm not in love any more I can't remember or imagine what it felt like.

It's a minor metamorphosis compared with some I've had, but it has the same effect. First I am one thing, then another. 

We pull up outside Gin's house. She is standing by the kerb, looking impatient. She has a large brown bag slung over one shoulder. She is wearing a knee-length red leather coat and oversized sunglasses.

Amanda pulls up. Gin climbs into the back seat. She smells of Chanel and cigarette smoke.