Sunday, 28 April 2013

Second Love

I've created something inside my head; a fraction of a seed, a growing thing. I can feel it there, defined by its surroundings, despite its miniscule size. I am terrified of where this is all leading; I am holding onto the past by a thread. I wear a dress I've had since I was eighteen, the shape of my adult self, but barely anything more. Back when the world was made of the sky and hundreds of pairs of eyes cast adrift on the endless night-time. I try to define myself by who I used to be, but now there are silvery fine lines around my eyes, the valleys carved by smiles, and I am less certain. Less certain; more knowing.

I married him in spring, on a day that smelled like cut grass and hops. The wind was blowing north-west up from the brewery across the river and I came to equate the smell of hops with happiness. Later on, after I found out about his affair, when they ought to have meant a broken heart, they still smelled like happiness to me. Funny how things work out.

It's been four years since I signed the papers and cast myself gloriously, painfully adrift from him. It's been four years since I looked at anything closely at all: my life, trundling along like a one-speed bike; my reflection, growing greyer and fuzzier around the edges; my friendships, founded on nostalgia and getting left behind. The wine I drink on a Friday night is the same kind I've been buying for the last ten years. It tastes the same. Everything tastes the same.

But now. I don't know what happened. One minute I was walking home with a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk. The next I was lying on the pavement. Next thing I knew, I was being driven home in your estate car, the window open and my eyes unable to focus on anything, the wind flowing through the car, in between our bodies, the faint smell of hops on the breeze. When you pulled up in front of my house, you handed me your embossed business card and said if I needed anything, to call. The world seemed grey and the sky heavy; your eyes were a kind, grey-green, and, for some reason, I thought about colour schemes. I thought about the lack of colour in my world and my faded upholstery.

You ended up coming in and having a cup of strong coffee.

This thing that I created in my head, I think it was created by me. But I think, perhaps, it was half because of you. Half because of you; the other half because of me. And now it's there it won't go away. And when I close my eyes I can see it, And now when you call me after work, and now when we walk through the park on quiet summer weeknights, I can feel it.

It's there, on the breeze. And I am greying, and I am different.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Jam Jar

I live in the past. The past is located nowhere; I keep it in a jam jar on my bedside table. The jam jar contained jam once, but now it is full of air and specks of nothing. I stare at it before bed, I talk a little in its direction, quietly, and then when I sleep I am inside it, staring out at the world of my bedroom, smiling a tremendous smile.

When I am thirsty I can go and turn the tap on, hold a glass under it, switch the tap off and gulp the water down in five seconds flat. When I am hungry I can put some bread in the toaster, wait for it to pop up and then eat it dry from a cracked plate until I think I might choke. Whatever I require, I can have.

I take this to mean that the thing I need the most I will one day get. The thing that I need, in every possible way, not just physically, is not here, but one day, somehow, it will return.

So I keep the idea of you in a jam jar, to remind me what is coming one day. I watch the specks of nothing intently, thinking that they may be specks of you in the past, or perhaps in the present, somewhere. I think about parallel universes; the specks of nothing may be something somewhere else; the nowhere may be somewhere. Nobody knows the answers. Nobody has ventured that far. I intend to.

So when I reach the summit, it is with the jam jar. I am on the very top of the world. My blood is the texture of porridge, apparently. My lungs are slow. I would very much like to eat a boiled egg. The sky is everywhere, including at my feet. I know that now. I know that everything is there, right there, where I can touch it. As I fall, I hear you saying "I love you" and I say that I love you too. I do. I do.

One day, I will be back. If I am needed, I will return.

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Coastal Path

I take off along the coastal path in my worn-out running shoes, shorts and a red windbreaker. The sun is visible but fuzzy through the clouds and the wind whips my hair up and around. I walk-jog over the hard-packed sand, pock-marked with thousands of vague feet outlines, and I think about how many years people have walked this path and the places they may have been headed. I don't know where I am headed. Possibly nowhere; possibly everywhere at once. Insights such as these can only transpire with hindsight; I am unable to squint into the future the way some people seem to be able to. When I try to, I feel blinded, as though driving into the sun just before dusk. The most beautiful time of day. The clouds whirl lightly above me and it's as though there is a gentle current flowing through the sky; I think that perhaps if I made myself dizzy enough, I would be unable to tell the sky from the sea. I often feel upside-down that way.

When I was a kid, I would lie on my bed backwards, with my head hanging upside-down off the end. When my mother asked what I was doing, I told her that I was simply looking at things from a different perspective. My room looked completely different the wrong way up. I thought that perhaps everything would, if you looked differently. It made me wonder if all the things that seemed so familiar really were so. It made me wonder if I could change my entire world with a movement or a turn of my head. The possibilities in the world seemed endless this way, and my wonder at it become insatiable.

About a mile down the coastal path, I speed from a walk-jog into a run, a sprint, and I listen to my breathing, short and sharp, and I run until I cannot carry on. I stop beside a huddle of rocks that are sheltered from the wind beside a tree, and I sit and watch the fuzzy sun move imperceptibly across the sky like the minute hand on a clock when it is half four on a Friday. I stretch my legs out in front of me and tense them, watching the muscles change and transform. Suddenly, the wind drops and the world becomes bright and bleached by the sun. The sea fades on the horizon. Everything is quiet.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Notes Under the Doorway

At 7:02am it was completely dark; by 7:08am it was completely light, sun high and buoyant. The time on the clock hovered, changed and blurred. My eyes felt strange. I felt heavy, like I'd woken at 6am but it was actually 6pm and I'd slept the day away. But it wasn't 6pm. It was 7:08am. I was confused.

I rode my bicycle to work, squinting at shapes as though I was new in the world.

In the evening, I decided to cycle home a different way from work. I cycled through a car park that led to a busy street full of restaurants. I could smell curry and a sweet, heavy scent that seemed to invade the air and stand there, unmoving, while I cycled through it, my legs spinning and straining against its weight. There were men sitting on the chairs that crowded the pavement, talking loudly, drinking tiny cups of coffee. A cat sat in a window, watching. There were children running, holding brightly coloured ice-cream cones. The sky was orange, then purple. I cycled past a hospital I'd never seen before.

I was hopelessly lost. The sky turned from purple to grey, and, as I cycled, night fell down around me like a heavy curtain. I panicked. Eventually I found my way and cycled back through the car park, no lights on my bike, unable to see the ground in front of me. I felt fear rise up inside me until I could taste it.

Then a tiny voice in the darkness.

When I got home, I found a note from you under the doorway. It was a blue cartoon comic strip featuring superheroes and villians. You wrote eloquently and informally of formal matters; I didn't understand your tone or your intention. I was late, but I wrote you back a letter full of bad handwriting and clumsy phrasing. I told you about the car park and the darkness. I walked to your doorway on the floor above mine and slid my note under the little gap by the floor. I could see the light from your room pooling out to the hallway, but it stopped just before it could illuminate my feet.

I walked back down to my room and looked at the clock. Outside the night pushed into the windows but didn't get in. Inside, by the light of a lamp, I lay and thought about the orange-purple sky and your blue superhero, until about half an hour had passed, and I heard the little shuffling sound of a note being pushed under my door.

Thursday, 31 January 2013


It felt like spring today. The air was lighter and smelt different, a bit like laundry on the line after a fabric softener spin cycle. It wasn't completely dark at 5pm, the street lights were only just coming on, cars were slowly creeping along, birds were flying low, so strange in the city. I saw a spider on an external wall. My shadow under the fluorescent supermarket sign was dark, but I knew that I was really covered in light: the light in my eyes, the spark in my brain, the hint of a flame growing in my heart.

I breathed in and it was like everything was new, like a window had been opened and fresh air let in. I thought about the staleness of the grey stagnant air before; the cold, but not-cold-enough heavy days with their rain and their clouds and their stillness. Now the wind had come and blown everything around, upside down and inside-out. I felt inside-out, like you could see what I was thinking. And I don't know what I was thinking, or even who I was, turned into confusion by a 25mph gust of westerly wind. Eventually I became someone else, someone new, someone fading in the half-light in between the sun and the moon.

On days like today, the earth reaches with silent fingers, offering up its treasures. A certain way of looking; the angle of a beam of light. The sound of the spring coming; a sound like jostling or whistling or taking things apart or putting things back together. The sound of a clock pushed forward. The lightness of the air. The breath that keeps on coming, the breath that is taken away.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

There is no synonym for life;
exhaustive yet incomplete by nature,
full and empty almost simultaneously;
forever diminishing
And like tea from a cup, I'm drinking it up.

Monday, 16 July 2012


I grow up in a city with low, loaded skies that make it difficult to grow up.

Most of the time it is safest to stay close to the ground, to walk where you need to go quickly and without making any noise; to help with what needs doing around the house without complaining; to comb and plait your hair neatly; hang out the washing; take the rain; tuck yourself up in clean, bristly sheets; dream small dreams.

When the sun does comes out, as it occasionally has to, we sit for an afternoon in the garden, my mother and I, eyes closed, speaking only when it's time for the tea run, moving only when it's time for tea. Then we boil up the potatoes, cut up the onions, melt the butter, and eat silently in the garden when my father comes home from work, the shadows getting longer and longer as time marches into night.

When the light eventually gets pushed out, I go to bed but not to sleep. I sit by the window watching the stars slowly appear, as though someone is switching them on. I feel small, but not pushed down. In those moments, I feel like I'm floating up, up, growing, and life is amplified, unravelling, but beautiful, and slipping through my fingers like vapour.

My mother says dreaming is pointless and that looking upwards only makes you trip over things. Marry a man with a job, get a house, have kids. Sorted.

I turn 16. It rains for 60 days straight. I get a job in a chicken factory. I work there for 2 years; thousands of chickens come in alive and leave dead. Something in me dies. I meet a man 3 years my senior. I don't know if I love him. We marry. I am crystallised, or fossilised, or crushed into tiny pieces.

The sky moves forever, regardless. I get pregnant. I sleep and dream of a sky that is forever churning, thickening like cream becoming butter, pinning me to the ground.

My son is born on a sunny day in May and I am instantly in love. That night, after my husband has gone to bed, I open the curtains in the living room, stare at the moon full and low, my son sleeping in my arms, his breath low and new, and I am floating, buoyant with love, but anchored, and grounded, at last.