Sunday, 28 September 2014

90. Black suede peep-toe stilettos

It makes me look like a cow,” Gin complains, turning in front of the cheval mirror.

The beautiful navy dress ties with a satin ribbon. It runs under her breasts and round to her back, where it ties in a large bow. She is wearing black suede peep-toe stilettos, slightly scuffed at the back, and I notice her thin, pretty feet are starting to look veiny. We are all getting old.

Gin tries to catch the tag to see how much the dress is, but it's tied to the zipper in the back of the dress and she ends up going in circles like a cat chasing its tail. Finally she gets hold of it and pulls it towards her face, craning to see the price.

Not worth it just for six months,” she says.

It's not just a maternity dress,” Amanda points out. “You're not showing much yet, and it still looks nice.”

The beauty of this dress is that its softly pleated front has room to expand with a burgeoning pregnancy, and the long length of the ribbon under the bust means Gin will be able to wear it as easily at nine months pregnant as she does today.

Don't forget the baby weight. You'll have that for a while,” says Amanda.

Gin disappears into the changing room. Her voice floats back: “We are not mentioning weight gain ever again.”

As you may be able to tell, Gin currently faces an uncertain future. She has made what some people might think is a rash decision.

Do I think it's a rash decision? I don't know. If Chris had accidentally got me pregnant, what would I have done? I don't know. I picture a tiny newborn, a cuddly toddler, a five-year-old coming home from school with finger-painting to put on the fridge door. First steps, first words, home-made pine cone decorations for the Christmas tree. For a second my entire body aches with love and need but children aren't for me so I put that to one side. I can't even take care of myself properly; any child I brought up would end up in therapy for years. Or possibly a serial killer.

Anyway, it would have Chris for a father. I would have to tell him. I'd never get rid of the fucker then.

It's going to be bloody hard for Gin. I'm terrified for her. All of us find it hard enough to survive in David Cameron's Britain even without a helpless newborn in tow. Babies cost money, and lots of it, and Gin is currently refusing to discuss any of the practicalities.

I understand why. If she thinks about the practicalities for too long, she will have to admit that what she is doing is going to be near impossible and it is still not too late. Physically, I mean. Mentally it was too late on the day she found out.

Gin is trying on a short pink dress with long full sleeves and tight cuffs.

Very Mad Men,” says Amanda, appreciatively. “You look like you belong in The Shirelles.”

Gin twirls in front of the mirror. She likes this one. I'm tempted to say that she should save the money for the baby, but she will run out of money in seconds flat anyway. There's no way she will have enough money to live on. She has debt, no savings, no home of her own, and her job doesn't pay enough to afford childcare. This is going to be rocky, to say the least.

At least this way she will have a decent wardrobe to see her through. And something to sell on eBay when the two of them can't afford to eat.

Can you sound Jena out about the 25th?”she says. “For my baby shower. Find out whether it's good for her?”

That feels like a sharp knife to the ribcage. Jena isn't answering my texts or calls, and I know that she doesn't want to hear from me, and sooner or later Amanda and Gin will have to know. It doesn't seem fair to have to drag them into it. Well, I will have to email Jena and copy Gin in; at least then she will have to decline herself.

I hope she'll decline, anyway. Getting given the cold shoulder at my best friend's baby shower will be more than I can bear. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

89. Someone you will eventually have to leave

Lately I have been preoccupied with escape. I'm not sure what I want to escape but it's impossible to mistake the tendency in my imagination.

When I watch thrillers, or read books about people in peril, when I see news stories about women captured and kept prisoner, I find myself imagining how I'd escape, and how I'd disappear, and how I'd stay disappeared.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a good example. If I was Ana, how would I escape from Christian? Because, eventually, she's going to have to. Anyone who gives you a mobile phone, uses it to clandestinely track your movements, and then swoops in to confront you when you are doing an activity they have unilaterally “forbidden”, is someone you will eventually have to leave. It doesn't matter how much you love them. And this man, this man will not take that well. She'll be lucky if she doesn't end up stuffed on display in the Red Room.

So, the sadistic billionaire with all his Master of the Universe power and money at his disposal is obsessed with keeping your prisoner. How would you escape?

Like everything else, you can type “how to disappear” into Google and get a lot of hits. I'm clearly not the only one who wants to do it.

If you really wanted to vanish there are manuals, whole websites. The first thing you need to do is close your bank accounts and use cash for your travels and expenses. Cards are trackable, so cut them up. Use public transport, not cars. Cut your hair. Dye your hair. If you're a man, grow a beard. If you are a woman, get contact lenses if you wear glasses and plain non-prescription glasses if your eyesight's good. Wear a bright jacket or headscarf when you're getting your money out or buying tickets. Sounds a bit odd, I know, but if someone later asks for a description people will remember the colour, not your face. Avoid anything which will leave a paper or computer trail. Delete all your social networks and email addresses. Get casual cash in hand work.

..But I don't want to disappear! Not completely. I want Amanda and Gin. I want Sally. I want Rammstein, how could I take Rammstein on the run? It would be cruel to him, and I couldn't give him to anyone else; he might end up abandoned, tipped out of a car onto a motorway shoulder and left cold and hungry to fend for himself. What about all my plants, who'd take care of them? I want to be able to buy my morning latte from the cafe on the way to work. I want to drink margaritas in the sunshiny garden of my favourite cocktail bar. I want to see Martin DJ again. I want my life.

I guess it comes down to a basic psychological fact – just like the rest of humanity in general, I want all the things I want and not the things I don't want.

But it's not possible to live a life which is made up entirely of things you want. Not even if you have enough money to give up work and build walls, all the alarm systems and doormen and first-rate security and barrages of lawyers.

Sometimes things you think you want, things you welcome into your life, turn into things you absolutely don't want. For example, my relationship - or whatever it is - with Chris. It's too late now. I wished for Chris, I wished for him with all my heart, and the universe gave him to me, and now I have to live with however my wish plays out.

It would be so sterile. A life without other people. So lonely. We aren't meant to live that way, but the deal is that other people are unpredictable, they all have their own opinions and obsessions and madnesses, and by accepting them into our lives we have to accept a lack of control over what they bring with them and sometimes it would be so nice not to have to do that.

My phone pings. It's Amanda. As if to reinforce the point, it simply says: CUNT!

It's hard to tell what brought this expletive on without more information, but my guess would be a shop assistant has just been rude to her. Either that, or she's telepathically sensed my mood and is attempting to bring me back down to earth. Or it was meant for someone else. Who knows?

There was another bunch of roses outside the door this morning. Bright yellow, with red blushing through the petals. Beautiful. A blank card again.

I wish I had enough money to move. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

88. Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die

The design I've chosen as a tattoo cover-up is ready. I'm waiting for the tattooist so we can go through it.

The first time I got tattooed was in the late 90s. That was the rose I have on my big toe. The tattooist was an almost completely silent skin-head in a Jack Daniels branded vest, operating out of one room. He had covered the walls with yellowing, taped-on paper stencil designs, and you just walked in and pointed to the one you wanted.

They were the kind of tattoos you hardly see any more; skeletons riding flaming motorbikes, chained-up naked girls, the Devil swigging whisky, blood and crossed pistols. Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die. Kind of like the over-the-top covers of 80s rock vinyl; the tattoos you would expect Spinal Tap to have.

People are too clever for those tattoos now. Even if they have something like that, they have to give it an ironic twist, or theme it round 50s retro, or something like that. After all, you wouldn't want to be taking it seriously. I hardly noticed they had gone, but I miss them. I wonder, briefly, about getting some proper old-school outlaw rock biker tattoos. It might be cool. I've had enough of being clever.

Tattoo studios have clearly changed too. This is a complex of rooms like an upmarket beauty salon, with pale wooden floors and walls covered in framed pictures of vintage tattoos. You can still pick a design, but the stencils are kept in leather folders on the reclaimed wood coffee table. There is an orchid on the reception desk. There's a reception desk. I don't like upmarket beauty salons.

There are three other people waiting; a blonde in a floral dress clutching a vintage handbag, who I hate on sight. A guy in a white vest and a bowler hat who looks like he is probably the bass player in a terrible indie band. A n overweight 40ish guy in a charcoal pinstripe suit, who has floppy blond hair like Boris Johnson's.

However, there is a white-board on the wall in the staff area behind the desk, presumably for messages. Someone has neatly written “Please do not draw dicks on here as clients can see this board” in green marker, and under that someone else has drawn a very detailed cock, complete with hairy balls. That makes me feel a bit more at home.

The girl working here looks a bit like Kat Von D. I watch her covertly, studying her style. The moment I get out of here I am going shopping to buy a red Bardot top and a black velvet choker. And I am definitely getting more tattoos. I wish I had waist-length black hair.

Alice, you can admire the tattoo-studio receptionist without trying to turn into her, I think. I've tried having black hair before and it doesn't suit me. But the Bardot top is happening.

I wonder what the others are getting done. Boris Johnson looks like a middle-manager at an insurance firm. I really hope he's getting an dick piercing, or some roses tattooed on his bum. That would be awesome. The band guy is probably getting a simple square of black ink, or a lightbulb, or an ironic Tweety Pie, or some other hipster-by-numbers bollocks.

The blonde...well now, that's interesting. She doesn't look like the kind of girl who would go for body modification, or even the kind who stays up past 10pm drinking. And I would have expected her to have brought a friend or her boyfriend, and she hasn't, she's on her own, so she's obviously getting something done just for herself. Maybe I don't hate her after all.

I want her to be getting a huge industrial tattoo, an armful of gleaming Terminator steel. She's so girly that it would be a great contrast, but looking at her pretty tan Mary Jane shoes I would imagine it's probably flowers or butterflies, or possibly even a fucking cupcake. Oh well, you can't have everything.

At this point the tattooist arrives with my design. I asked for something abstract with the following elements; spiderwebs, skulls, black lace, blue orchid flowers. She's done a great job. It will be much bigger; extending up on to my shoulder and rolling down to my bicep. It's going to hurt like fuck. It will be worth it to cover up Matthew. I don't want a permanent reminder of him on my skin. I can't remember why I ever thought that was a good idea.