this is an updating investigation…
I’m on Lower Marshes with Amy and Tom. Lower Marshes is a very special place for me and Amy and Tom are special people. We’re in Marie’s Cafe (once Jamie and I tried to come in here but it was too busy and we didn’t)
Us three are having a wandering type of day with no plans. I like that, it helps me relax. They have come to London to get Amy’s passport before they go on holiday to Mexico. I am off work. It’s a weekday. These are perfect variables for a wander and a relax. The day is also crisp which is important. A crisp day in November in London.
Amy and Tom are served Jasmine tea. She says, “Oh, look, it’s proper Jasmine Tea.”
I like the little cups they come in, white with a blue rim, a blue stripe lengthways on the handle, and little painted flowers with blue petals. I like these little cups because my mum had a set when I was a child and I have inherited one of them, which is in the flat I live in now.
I don’t express all this, I just say, “I have a cup like this.”
Tom and I have a Pad Thai. Amy has a massaman curry. After this we carry on walking.
We go to The Southbank Centre because Amy needs a wee. When we get there Tom says that he has to go as well. I look in one of the gift shops while I’m waiting. I see a coaster that says, Being Calm isn’t Not Expecting Bad Things To Happen But Instead Knowing that Suffering Can Be Endured. I apply this salve to the little knot at the top of my stomach, which flattens it for a bit. I look up and Amy and Tom are outside the shop, they’ve finished in the toilet.
Tom is sulky with Amy for some reason I haven’t quite grasped. It started at the Thai Cafe and it’s continued. I try to keep away from this mood, it distresses me. Amy keeps saying sorry. I don’t know if Tom wanted to come to the Southbank.
It has been six months since Jamie left me and earlier on when Fairytale of New York was playing in a pub, my first thought was, will I be alone forever now? Dramatic.
We walk to where they are selling books under the bridge. I pull out the books I’ve already read to look at. When I am ready to go Amy and Tom are still looking, especially Tom, so I walk over to see the river. The water and the sky are grey but I don’t feel miserable. I turn to look for the others and I see that they have walked away from the books and are kissing. Just one kiss, but long and open-mouthed. I am pleased for them.
“Hey!” I run over. “I saw you kissing, does that mean you’re friends now?”
“Yes,” They say quietly, looking embarrassed.
At the Tate Modern we look in another gift shop. I see a card that says, You Make Me Happy. I sigh then, with the simplicity of it.
This is a recording of me reading Letters- which is also written below.
Do you still think about me and want to hear my voice saying hello and OK but
you’d have to get down on your knees and beg me?
why would you?
You think of other things Next things and Previous people
but never me!
never us together how we were
spring coming cliche and the incense you
DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW ME NOW you
were never that delighted by the
engineers in my family or listened I
was never allowed to call him
daddy, you’ve been on my mind
Where did it all actually go, C-? did you put it in the german homework?
Dear, write it, C, redacted,
Why don’t you love me? Is it because I don’t fit into the family? Was I an in-between mistake again? I remember before I was born you thought I was funny – I’m glad the replacement’s funny, you said.
I had a red beret, then. Now, I have a blue one. Get it? I don’t want anyone else but you. Not properly. I want to own a plant with you and let you see the bottom of my foot.
Do you hate me now? You never really knew my stories anyway. When I spoke your eyes emptied backwards and I sat on your knee.
(I wasn’t allowed to call him daddy I think of this in the morning when I sauce my sausages)
Did you pretend to be the same as me? To like Corrinna…
..Corrina, girl where have you been?
Answer: in the suburbs and when you come to the city you hide from me? In London Bridge, Walthamstow and Penge?
Is your arm still long? Are you beautiful? Do you wear a big coat? I’m mad mad for you doing things without me and I suppose you’re not alone
HANDSOME MEN NEVER ARE
Careful or you’ll end up in my novel-
Looking down at my feet, which I hate, I think about how they look like my Bella’s, wide and each toe a little bit shorter than the last one. I’m pleased with them then, that I’ve been out with them doing great things and now I am home brushing my teeth and looking at my feet. It’s authentic.
Earlier I was walking down one of the side streets to my road and as I passed the primary school there I remembered an incident I had with Princess a few months ago. We were both drunk and I pleaded with her by the gates to tell me something so she said fine, I had a sex dream about you and your writing, at least it was you at first but then you turned into Henry.
Tonight I noticed that ever since this happened I remembered it whenever I saw the school, and especially her long, dark hair in the rain. I thought this was interesting and then that reminded me of when I’d get driven down Queen’s Road remembering things. In particular, Jenny and I running around the bus garage on New Year’s Eve trying to find the bus to Herne Hill. In the end, we got a taxi and she produced a lovely pre-mixed can of gin and tonic called an Alfie. Further up towards the post office I think of Danielle, who turned to me so tall and handsome but blushing and said do you want to do this again sometime? and triumph then and hair flung in the wind.
Then, years before when I was drunk and got the bus from New Cross to kiss Teddy so hard we made a mattress deflate while I thought, Bad Review, Bad Review by Half Man Half Biscuit.
Now, I’m in bed reading Armistead Maupin and thinking of Kiaran, when they were younger going into every secondhand bookshop in Brighton to find Tales of the City: dreamy.
What I want
Just your brown eyes looking at me while you tell me about when you were a little boy with your mum on the bus, holding your piss in a McDonald’s cup. Or how you really fancied your ex-girlfriends even though they were not that bright.
I want you to really fancy me, not for my personality, or at least not for a good part of it, not anything nice. I want you to fancy me because I’m loud and scary and, yeah, not that bright.
I want to be the woman in the story you told me, who you fucked in a car, I don’t want us to worry that I’m not going to like it, I want to like it. I want to be like the women in all the stories who like it, who like what they can get. I want to like what I can get, which let’s face it, is more than most people.
I thought you’d want to fuck me after you told me your dad died I wanted to come and find you in the night and when I shut the door to your room you’d take me all in, my little waist under my winter clothes, and say that I was beautiful with your mouth and that I understood you with your eyes. Then you might finally kiss me properly before we’d have sex slowly as I thought, oh god, oh no, I really like him, with my hand holding yours above my head.
I should be over all this now, I should be over sex, or if I’m not then I should know what I want and what I want should not be boys, and especially not boys that play the guitar. I’ve had sex with boys that play the guitar before and they stick around for years fiddling with it until you scream.
Max, don’t worry, I really don’t want you to worry. Take comfort, because I’m pretending although I actually don’t know about which bit anymore.
Of course, it was when she went to him, telling him that there was someone else, another man, that she began to love him again. His jumper looked like one you’d wear at primary school and it was the way he pulled the sleeve of it over his hand to wipe his eyes. She realised they hadn’t been alone together for months and then his body seemed to ooze with untouched warmth. His eyes were brown, his hair was brown and he was lovely (later that evening her new boyfriend, now allowed, would seem too angular in comparison and his pale skin grotesque). He placed his hands on the table in between them and said that he’d make her a cup of tea, but that after that they couldn’t speak anymore. His hands were like his dick, admirable, and she wanted to shout out that she was joking, that she really loved him while letting herself back into his musty, grey-marl arms. A less careful person would have done that.
Afterwards, she recounted the story of the visit to a colleague, who didn’t know him, and in a slight click of empathic understanding the colleague said,
- Don’t you wish you could have two boyfriends?
Although she’s never even asked.
One winter, a few years after this, he is part of a gang that comes to visit her in the new home she shares with her boyfriend. They live in a cabin up a snowy mountain.
Some things happen on this holiday like:
- she is ashamed that she wants to sit next to him, talk to him and walk with him over wanting to do these things with her boyfriend.
- she notices that he laughs at a lot of her jokes (does she laugh at his? -yes!)
- she notices that he makes a little sympathetic noise whenever she does something cute. She makes eye contact with him, then notices that her boyfriend has made the same noise on the other side of the circle of people (men that love/d her think that she is cute).
- Once she touches the top of his arm with her hand when they are going up the escalator in the underground station (yes, by the mountains, whatever). It seems a fairly non-sexual touch through his t-shirt, shirt, hoodie and thick denim jacket, but she feels daring and something twitches in her cunt. His eyes twinkle as the light changes from the false, blue underground one to the three pm winter city outside. Luxurious.
I remember how you didn’t think you were sexy how when we first had sex and I said, not quite naturally, you’re so hot you thought I meant temperature.
I remember you who told me that once as a little boy you took the stuffing out of
two different toys so that you could swap their insides but then realised you’d destroyed them both how you woke up one morning and your mother wasn’t there how you cried when I wrote a poem about you and said you’d never loved anyone more I remember all that and despair that my love is demanded to be so absolute so yes or no, one person or the other.
this secret medal no use to anyone
Since the year began I
have carried you, darling,
through all my days with
your face that does
deserve to be somebody’s darling
So now your childhood
sadness, your matching hair and
eyes, your long hands and
soft chest stay while I walk
through rain on streets back
to a man.