She is travelling on the Megabus, knowing that she is going to leave him…
My story, The Megabus, has been included in Papaya Press’s WHAT SHE KNEW ZINE, which is a collection of responses to the work of Lydia Davis.
This January I had a residency in Desperate Literature, a bookshop in Madrid. I did a reading and produced a little book with some of my poems. Send me an email if you would like a copy, or stop in at the shop if you are in Madrid.
This letter was originally written for the LUNAR Project screening of films by Jennifer Reeder, THE YOUNG-GIRL IS NOT ALWAYS YOUNG, AND NOT ALWAYS A GIRL
Dear Cat Madden,
I’m sorry I’ve overlooked you for so many years, but I am close to the child, she is easier to understand and I find you hard to pin down and embarrassing. I have wondered why you never learn to play the guitar, choosing instead to grow your nails long and paint their tips white with a little pen you have read about in a magazine and buy from Boots. I don’t know why you scrape your hair back like that and still fancy the boy who burnt your arm with a lighter. I hate those scraggly hair extensions that you click-in on the night you’re sick at a club opening your friend’s uncle took you to, after two drinks. He is annoyed, but later turns out to be a paedophile. That is your fault. And why do you just stand there smoking when the two men talk about how tight it would be if they fucked you in the arse? I suppose you do tut, and not to be underestimated is the excitement of a stranger wanting to fuck you.
I do things that you can only dream of on a lonely weekend: I have my clitoris licked, I sit under a duvet watching TV with somebody who loves me a lot. These things are more boring than you think.
I don’t think people think I’m as clever as you, and I’m not as well read in comparison to my peers. I don’t masturbate as successfully as you who have a free and easy mind, to spend all morning thinking about a woman with no personality touching me up in a shop’s changing room. Infeasible now when I feel guilty for not craving sex for weeks.
I don’t smoke any more. You started so that you wouldn’t look so young and that boys would like you.I don’t look old, but my tits are bigger.
I suppose you are just as pure as the sad little girl you tried to give the slip, just as vital, an overly optimistic oracle of un-tired sexuality. Come and sit with me and we can talk about things you’ve read, poetry by men, after all you are one of the mothers of my woman.
Whenever you release one of your volumes some animal part of me, think a rat, scans it
for buried reference to myself…
My poem ‘A Rat’ is in the second issue of Letters to Barnacle. Yup, you can buy it on Etsy.
Both these stories were published in separate issues of You Stumble Into A Room Full of Poets in 2012. It doesn’t have an online presence but it was reviewed by Structo magazine.
She used to have a husband and they would do all sorts of things like read poetry, contemplate their own mortality, and have sex in the missionary position.
When that marriage fizzled out she wondered why she had entered into it in the first place. She’d liked her husband’s companionship: he was a lovely man and always gave her dinner, but she wanted to go out alone at night and she wanted to be stroked by all kinds of different people.
After her husband moved out she quit her job because it made her too tired. Instead, she stayed at home and lounged, not eating anything and certainly not thinking about much. At night she’d eat lots of fatty food and leap around because she could do what she liked now.
She began seeing a man but he was difficult. He seemed to want attention at busy times such as when she was having a small afternoon nap. Also, he wanted them to have a shower together which was out of the question. She would have run away sooner but she liked his big warm hand on her thin back and the way his eyes creased at the side when he looked at her.
After him, she stopped washing in the usual way and in her carefree afternoons would fantasise about how delicious it would be to lick her own vagina. It was summer now and she liked the dusk which she spent walking up and down her road trying to rub on people. Now, in the days she’d bask in the sun outside her front door.
One day she was dozing in this way when a man came up her front path. He only had hair on his head and she recognised her husband.
“Hello pretty.” He said. “I’ve heard about your behaviour since I’ve been gone.” He smoothed her hair.
“Don’t be like that, I’ve brought some of your books which I took by accident.”
“I don’t think I read books.” She stretched out her body and knew she looked magnificent.
“You should probably re-read this one.”
It was Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
“What are you trying to imply” she hissed and scratched his stupid face.
People had warned her that a literature degree would lead to little serious consequence. She had believed them giggling and nodding earnestly. She thought herself an exception, however; there was something special about her that the realists didn’t know. Now she had finished with an unexceptional mark and had forgotten what the special thing was that had once calmed her. Perhaps something concerning the writing of brilliant poems bound for recognition, but there was less talk of that now and all her degree had perceivably caused her was a lack of imagination and a sense of intellectual inferiority. All she wrote about now was herself, badly and from different perspectives. There were not plots.
In an attempt to find some plots she went to the British Library. She researched ‘The Universe’ in the hope of writing the story of her from the point of view of a fictional astrophysician boyfriend. Wouldn’t he find her silly? Her research led to some conclusions.
Speaking to her boyfriend she said, “ I’ve decided I’m not going to bother learning about things because you can never know what’s the truth.”
“What, because all knowledge is caught up in power systems?”
“Yeah, maybe but also because all we have to go by is our own experience. So in the universe anything could happen because in order for anything to be anything it must be in the universe. So there’s no point worrying.”
He laughed. “How very Post-Modern of you.”
“Really? Is it? I’ve never bothered learning what Post-Modernism is.”
This was a lie, she’s tried and was unsure if she’s succeeded.
“Well”, he said, “That’s one of the criticisms of Post-Modernism if you take it to its logical conclusion, why bother even saying anything.”
He was very clever and she laughed, “I’m going to use this dialogue in a story I write.”
“Are you going to be a Post-Modern writer?”
“I don’t know.”
It’s set on a bridge.
In real life, they were leaving a cinema. The film was Soviet and the baddies were American. This confirmed a few things but she didn’t know what to do about it.
She re-reads Jean Rhys and decides her life is boring, so going to the pub she puts on a lot of make-up. She has decided to concentrate on her looks now. She’s pleased about this, she has nice lips. In the seat next to her, her boyfriend explains astrophysics or something to another man. He shuffles nervously in his seat whenever he makes some sort of concrete statement. She wishes she was him, clever and with a nice lipped girlfriend.
This is a piece of flash fiction I had published in 3:AM Magazine.
The Cheap Flat
We negotiated the rent down with the landlords on the understanding that they would provide everything we needed in the flat, but nothing that we wanted. They clarified this by providing a quote from Wikipedia, which they stencilled on the ceiling above the bed.
‘Needs are distinguished from wants because a deficiency would cause a clear negative outcome.’
This made our sex life more efficient.
We found ourselves talking in these terms to each other.
“We need a new fridge because this one freezes the mushrooms.”
“Yes, but is pouring boiling water over mushrooms clearly negative?”
“I need you not to get drunk every night.”
“I want you.”
What we wanted became privatised, a luxury.
When I became unemployed, we were told that one small income could cover all our needs, We laughed at that familiar word but then we were hungry.
So we wrote:
We need to not pay rent until our financial situation improves.’
‘With regards to your recent request, please provide the details of the clear negative outcome a deficiency of “not paying the rent” would cause.’
We wrote back straight away, “Death by starvation.”
Then we waited, ten working days.
When the answer finally came, we realised our negotiations had been hollow all along and that they didn’t care about our needs or lives.
Thus, abandoning our binary we lay under the redundant stencilled letters and gave each other what we wanted, which at least made us happy, for a bit.