***Sorry. That was a bit longer than I expected. However, we should hopefully be getting back to normal now.***
Amanda's sudden obsession with industrial and EBM has infected me.
I went round to her flat on Friday night, and she played nothing else all evening. Yesterday I downloaded Timewave Zero Ltd by Grendel, who I had never even heard of a week ago. I have played nothing else all day.
The sound reminds me of a lot of all the techno I used to listen to obsessively in the 90s, but with liberal dollops of metal goodness. It's the kind of music Hollywood directors choose to soundtrack either gruesome sex murders or science-fiction nightmares. I am fully in love with it.
I am listening to Chemicals and Circuitry as I brush parrot-green eyeshadow over my left eyelid. I am late for work. Again. This is less important than getting the corner of my eye exactly right.
My eyes are chestnut brown. The ring around the iris - the limbal ring - is nearly black. I don't like looking into my own eyes in the mirror.
I line the eye with black liquid eyeliner.
Today I have a meeting with Derek. He's scheduled it over lunch and wants to take me out to lunch. There is a hard knot in my stomach at the thought. The last time we had lunch he put his hand on my arm, just casually, for a moment too long. I was looking into his round eyes at the time and I saw his pupils dilate when he touched me.
I make curls in my hair with the straightening irons. You can do this if you hold them at a certain angle. My hairdresser showed me how. At first it was really hard, but now it's second nature.
It suddenly occurs to me that Derek sees me every day, and he knows that I make a special effort with my appearance when I have meetings or lunch with him. I haven't previously thought of this. I wonder what he sees when he looks into my eyes in return. Pupil dilation is a response to intense emotion, not specific to sexual arousal. It also occurs when the subject is in shock or afraid. He might see my pupils dilating too. Does he think I fancy him? Or - an even worse thought - does he realise that my clothes are my armour?
The way you dress, the makeup you wear, you can blend in or stand out. Everyone notices the girl at the bus stop with the pretty clothes and the glossy hair and the perfect makeup, looking like a composite of every starlet for the last 10 years, but could you describe her ten seconds after you pass her? What do you imagine she thinks? What does she like?
Well, one imagines that, because she looks conventional, she thinks conventional things. That she likes reality TV and EastEnders. That her Facebook posts are about how gorgeous Mark and Rachel's wedding was and how lovely her boyfriend is and how many miles she has run that day. One describes her as "attractive" but individual features don't come into it. Men automatically whistle at her in the street but she never stuns them into silence.
One does not think about her, really, at all; her sheer ordinariness means the onlooker can put her into a box, can make assumptions, and that means no-one's curious. Of course she has a joky crush on Robbie Williams. Of course she does. When she says she does, one doesn't question it.
It never even crosses anyone's mind that she might be lying.
That she might spend the evenings she is not at the gym, or shopping, or out with the girls drinking vodka and cutting herself, or masturbating to lesbian porn, or learning Cantonese for fun, or reading Rilke. Her inner life is assumed to be non-existent.
Women like her, like me, are considered to be generic. This is not such a bad thing when you want to be left alone. It's one of my favourite disguises. When you look right, you only need to make the occasional comment about cocktails or Kim Kardashian and people automatically accept you're an airhead and don't bother to waste time scrutinising you or your motives. How could either possibly be interesting?
Incidentally, manipulating people's assumptions and looking generic is how a number of serial killers got away with it for so long.
However, it suddenly occurs to me that this approach doesn't work on Derek. He already knows that I'm not what I seem. He's already interested. He's already watching me.
I put down the liquid eyeliner and stare at myself in the mirror. I'm scared.