Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Everything I have ever done is a mistake.
I see that now, now that I am in this room.
I’ve taken trains out, to Leicester and Saffron Walden, and back in. The wrong ticket, or the wrong platform. Met the wrong woman, at the wrong time. For the wrong reasons.
Once I said “OK” to a doctor. He gave me those pills. I took them, five times a day, for five days, until they were finished. I abstained from drinking. I abstained from you, because you didn’t want me anymore after you found out. It was the wrong pill, the wrong diagnosis. The wrong “yes.”
But hey, you know, baby, don’t you? I know how to say no. I’ve said no before. That one BIG no, it left skid marks on my life. I drop-kicked opportunity, right on through the goal posts, didn’t I? Why would I say yes to that request to work abroad, if you were here, here, here? I plugged it up with T-N-T, burned that bridge, and look, up there—you can see, all around the room, the brackish, high-water marks of the flood, the deluge that NO left behind.
“It’s as if we’re tracing some familiar fault line,” Jonatha sings. Faults, all the marks of this past year, they aren’t dissolving sugar in tea. They scar you. “Remember Christine?” some shithead said to me at a party one night, as if you were just a girl in my Maths class or something. “Christine was such a nice girl.”
Christine, I remember, yes. “Christine wanted to be with me,” I laughed and laughed. He didn’t think it was that funny. He walked away while I laughed, glancing back over his shoulder, the way people do, outside this room.
Remember Christine, what you said? “Henry. Just tell me the truth. I can handle it. I don’t mind. Unless you lie to me. I just want the truth.”
I knew Christine didn’t mind anything. She was so easy. So I told her, “Hey, I love you. You know, Christine.”
It was the truth anyway, but it was still another mistake. I wanted to erase the words from that speech balloon, hanging over my head, once I said them. Because I saw her face. Your face. I saw your face, Christine. I knew what words meant when you twisted them round, and what they didn’t mean, to me.
I “X”ed her out, but not very well. She still showed herself, wiggled around the marks. She was slow and hard and cruel, like the doctor who insisted I stop smoking. I did it, I cut it out, and it cut me back. It screeched across me, like a deep gauge in the Earth. Who knew that dirt could be so fucking comfortable? I moved into that shallow grave, hunkered down and wallowed there, for that black time.
For two weeks, once, all I wanted to do was eat marshmallows, smoke and make paper airplanes out of junk mail. I went to the library, because I was bored making that same model I learned in year one. Got a book on paper airplanes in that musty building, and also a volume—not checked out since 2001—on origami.
I ran out of take-away menus and estate agent offers, so I borrowed the neighbours’ mail. I opened it. I folded it into jets and tropical birds, then and shoved them through their mail slots. It would have been fine, except that Tuesday I smoked dope and the marshmallows didn’t sit so well and I puked on Mr. Pilar’s doormat. He complained to the porter and the porter complained to the police and they… well. Who says there is no such thing as debtor’s prison anymore?
The first time I saw Christine again, after everything fell down, was at the video store where she worked. She had grown her fingernails really long and painted them mint green. Also, she had purple hair. I still wanted to fuck her, but after I saw her like that, something made me want to smack her hard, knock that gum out of her mouth. After I started shouting, that tall-tall manager asked me to leave and I never did get to rent “Shaun of the Dead.” I just went home and watched old Dr. Who reruns. Another mistake.
All during that time I was wearing the ankle bracelet, I tried to sort through that box of shit, all those magazines and papers and dock-U-ments from HIS house. They smelled like that vanilla bean lotion his was always spreading on his hands, goddamn. It was a mistake, especially while I was confined. Every line of every piece of paper kept speaking to me, in HIS voice. That voice that always told me to pull up my socks—New Statesmen, credit card offers, insurance documents, utility bills, all of it booming at me: “Henry! Monthly Payment Plan: Save £12 a year and stay in control.” I dreamt over and over, for a week, that I wore HIS bowler hat, and the zippered cardigan he wore every Saturday, and nothing else. My cock flopped everywhere, while I gardened, cycled to work, fucked Christine, went to the pub, went to meetings. And I smelled vanilla everywhere. I never smelled anything in a dream before, or since.
You keep writing to me. All through this year, in this room. I don’t want to see you. Not your face, not your hand—fuck!—either, and least of all your soul, all the pinprick details of your life all inked out in black and white. As if I could hold any of it, any of you again. I crossed you OUT, you know. I made an ‘X’ in you, but what do you do? You keep pecking at me, an old, dried-up corpse. I’m carrion, remember? I tried Tippex, permanent marking pen, battery acid and I don’t know what—what will convince you?!
I can’t decide what really is more of a mistake—saying yes to you, or, later, saying no, Christine. I have put myself inside here. I closed the lid on it—this lovely white room. It should be still. It should be peaceful. But CLANG CLANG CLANG who is sprawling themselves—!
No. I stop. I’ve wanted this— What … No…
I have no words for it.
Remember Christine, that Sunday in February? We slept late. When we finally looked out, the entire world was carpeted in snow, thick and heavy: across the garden, across the streets, blotting out the steel, the wrought iron, the cement and brick. I walked away, reached for the remote control, but you stopped me. I opened my mouth to protest, but you stopped that too; you put that short, stubby finger over my lips and held it there while we looked at each other.
Then you walked over pushed the window open wide.
The cold air rushed in, like an impatient friend who’d been waiting to be let in. Snow fell off the sill onto our toes, but we didn’t jump or yelp. You leaned out into the grey morning, pulled me out beside you, pressing your hands into the frozen wetness. The wind blew, and we watched.
Nothing moved—no branch, no wire, no form stirred in the solid, city garden.
I inhaled and held it. There was no sound, except the wind, hollow and thin, touching the top of the new snow. The whiteness enfolded everything, holding it—down? No, I don’t think so. Maybe it was just holding it. The whiteness embraced the world, and everything lay unmoving, unrestrained, but still.
Finally, I exhaled. My breath fogged the scene. Christine, you pulled back, retracted into the day. It did not last. But again, and again, you know, it does, Christine.
In the space here, between the black marks, I can still see the white, the stillness. It holds me down.
I like you silent, Christine. The blankness seems so much bigger everyday. White expands, marshmallow through my fingers.
Shhh now. Mistakes are underneath me.
I am taking it all apart.