Published by Pennetta House, London, 28 December 2015
Copyright © 2015 by Andrew Goldspink
All rights reserved
The right of Andrew Goldspink to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Cover design © 2015 by Pennetta House
AND OTHER STORIES
P E N N E T T A
MEMORIES OF LOVE
145 BLUE SHIRT
PORTRAIT OF KARIN
They spent the evening at her aunt’s house in Kensington, discussing the Margaret Howell shop on Old Nichol Street, which had just opened.
Sitting on the bed, she told him about the designer, born in Surrey in 1946, who had risen to prominence selling men’s shirts from her South London flat, and whose quality utilitarian designs had led to success in Japan and a CBE for services to the industry.
As she spoke she stared off to the side, as if taking her cues from the wall. Then she looked up at him.
He asked where the shirt came from. She said,
‘Someone I know bought it for me.’
They met in summer, at a housewarming – he’d watched the light, promising it, begin to dim over the garden . . . hours earlier he would have wanted to go, but he was tired, so he called his friends to ask if they could do it another time.
He drove the Transit up to the front of the house, through the gravel, acknowledging the seconds he had to himself, as he parked up.
He stared through the windshield.
When he went in he would have to provide a convincing human portrait, one of a person that could be engaged with and was not tending a sort of theological ash.
The smell of the van irritated him, the feeling he was at work.
When they heard him out there they walked across from the side, they were far back – she was barefoot on the grass – and hugged him tightly.
He was given a tour around the newly renovated farmhouse, a listed building with blackened oak beams and a small lobby that smelt of laundry, the dim hall decorated with sticks of cinnamon and slivers of dried orange hung from twine. In the living room a wood burner tossed debris around its glowing embers, a separate world he observed for ten seconds, before he was taken upstairs through the hall, to the children’s nursery, where his thoughts turned to suicide.
I can leave all this behind, he thought. I don’t have to be here.
They drank Rioja and Budweiser into the night.
An older couple with two under-five daughters stayed for an hour, and he played with the girls and their Sylvanian Families, masking his strong feeling of depression.
The girls were sweet and careful, so imaginative as they played, and as he looked at them it occurred to him that he should feel something, but he had only one feeling, which was that his eyes no longer showed him anything worth looking at.
By eleven o’clock everyone had gone and the three of them were at the kitchen table, iTunes open on someone’s MacBook – Heather, his friend’s wife, put on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – talking about work, warming themselves by the Aga.
Heather gave a speech about the importance of teaching, said that making a living was different to what she had expected when she was younger, and that the new tuition fees could cause the government to lose money in the long run.
Her husband said that it was their plan to discourage their children from going to university, but it was intended as an oblique private joke, as he was grinning silently at her, waiting for her to react.
My friend took me into a utility room by the side of the kitchen.
‘What’s happened to you?’ he asked.
I paused. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘You kept exhaling,’ he said. ‘Quite loudly, all the way through my wife’s speech. You kept sighing.’ He looked at me. ‘Are you okay?’
He pressed his palm against the tumble dryer.
As we smoked he looked out onto his friend’s garden . . . in the darkness, a grey, rickety hedge, fields behind. He could see almost nothing. It calmed him, the thought of cars nearby, the life going on, but he felt nothing, and felt like he could be anywhere.
He forgot where he was, looking at the grey grass.
‘It’s funny,’ his friend said.
He paused, as if struggling with a complex thought that he then found redundant.
x found himself almost fighting back tears at the fact that his friend couldn’t think of anything to say to him.
The night, now they were drunk, had the grey, scratchy quality of a film. The full force of the present moment was pressing from every real smell in the trees.
A pang of desire and horror became apparent as he reflected on the normality his friend had achieved. Their world appeared inaccessible. A schmaltzy, childhood dream seemed to have died in him, in his drunkenness.
Thinking this, he imagined driving home, through the dark and fascinating country. But he could not make himself happy. It was as if he had been denied it. He was not able to be happy this time. Although he was distantly interested in the thought of driving home, he was concerned that he would not care enough to stop himself having an accident.
‘I’m really worried,’ he said to his friend. And then mumbled, so it was barely audible: ‘Oh God. No, I dunno.’
He was thinking, There’s no meaning in the world. There’s really no meaning – which had a breathless, lightheaded character to it.
His friend squeezed his shoulder for a second and then hugged him.
Three hours later he was outside the house by his van, smoking, listening to the paths of oncoming cars, their headlights through the hedge occasionally, over the field.
When he returned to the house, opening the back door with the key, his friends had gone to sleep, and he found the house more empty than any other in recent memory.
He wanted what they had.
Walking into the living room the sight of a silver clock, there, caused a feeling of terror, and then immense loneliness, as if his reading of its presence – that he was the only one experiencing time – were enough to conclude he had lost control, had never been in control of his mind, which made him alone.
Thinking of them upstairs, feeling desolate, he lay in front of the fire, on the sheepskin rug, and did the same.
Upon waking he pulled at the yellowed fronds of the rug, listening to Heather as she prepared breakfast before her commute to work.
Over the clatter a young woman’s voice – unfamiliar, eager to laugh – rose across the house.
He listened to them talk and fuss over the dog, the cutlery loud against their china plates, the china bitch farmarughsh.
Her voice altered in the shape of the hall; her lisp gained clarity as she walked towards him.
She entered the room, carrying a plate of bacon and eggs and a mug of coffee, dressed in a white wool smock and black tights. Her hair was a Venetian, coppery blonde and she wore it in a low ponytail over her shoulder.
She asked if he wanted anything to eat, glancing at him.
‘No,’ he told her, twisting the rug’s tufts on the floor. ‘I’m fine.’
He looked at her openly as she sat on the leather sofa to eat.
She was pale, her eyes blue-grey in the line of cold light that spread from the window across the oak floor.
They introduced themselves.
‘So, how do you know them?’ she asked, gesturing with her fork to the kitchen.
‘Since school,’ he said. ‘They’ve always been . . .’
‘What school did you go to?’ she asked.
‘What did you do there?’ she asked. ‘What did you mean?’
‘What do you mean?’ he asked.
‘What did you study?’
I . . . I . . . Incarcer – a . . . tion ‘Carpentry,’ he said. ‘Later on. I did an apprenticeship at Harlow College. I’m a home renovator, or painter decorator.’
She nodded. ‘Is the work goose? Good. At the moment?’ she asked.
‘Yeah, there’s work,’ he said. ‘Yourself?’
‘I write for Vogue,’ she said, nodding. She raised a finger. Her hand twitched slightly. They were small, bitten hands. ‘But my proudest achievement is being a failed model.’
‘Really?’ he asked. ‘What happened? Did you fall off the catwalk?’
She laughed through gritted teeth.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I got into it too late. I was twenty-one – . . . I won this competition with Garnier and then it just – just fizzled out, really.’
At six last night’s fog had lifted and the carpenter’s mood was light. He offered to drive her home.
As they made their way into the city, in the bleakly dead country, he was convinced by her already.
He indicated: she watched him; to her the orange seemed pretty in the dim light. She laughed at what he had to say, which was: ‘Sometimes I feel like Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled.’
They talked about film and Claire brought up Pialat’s À nos amours and used the word oneiric.
There was something in the air that made the journey seem longer, as if her presence had raised the stakes.
‘My generation has it so bad,’ she said at one point, to herself.
They drove in silence. As they entered the city a tunnel, which reminded him of a time he had taken a coach to Stansted, confirmed the reality of what they were going through. She watched the white concrete out the window, light on her face.
‘Why were you there in the morning?’ he asked her.
He had his fingers in her hair.
‘I’d slept through the whole day,’ she said, smiling.
‘You were asleep in Heather’s bed?’
He dropped her off outside the Brunel University library. She mentioned the brutalist architecture as she stepped from the van.
‘I was supposed to meet my friend yesterday,’ she said.
The air was cold and crisp.
He kissed her.
He moved his hands to her hair and she moved hers to his arms and then his chest.
They broke apart, their heads close together.
He watched her slide her bitten fingers over his phone, kissing her forehead.
They kissed again; she smiled at him, shook her head, then turned and walked towards the library.
He headed home, driving safely and letting everyone in.
He felt not only that he was very lucky, but more, that the possibility of his being happy, and subsequently his memory of it, had been restored.
That Friday they went to a restaurant in Knightsbridge on Claire’s recommendation. They sat in a dark corner. She wore a black silk dress and a rose gold Repossi ear cuff that made her lobe appear pierced all the way along. Her makeup was altered slightly, smokier around the eyes and she appeared too beautiful. It was a quality that reminded him of other people.
She explained that her grandfather had been a jeweller, and then a ladies’ tailor with his own firm in Pall Mall, and that he was now deceased.
Glancing at her cleavage he noticed a gold necklace, hung over her collarbones, offset by her pale skin.
She described in nostalgic terms images of the shop he owned, which she had seen from genealogical research her great aunt had recently carried out.
He kept asking questions about her history.
As she talked he realised he had oppressed her into giving him his role as interviewer.
‘So what do you do Andrew, my good darling, when you’re not carpenting?’
He furrowed his brow.
She gave him a smile.
He told her that he was a writer, that he wanted to be published, and described to her what sounded like a vanity press. He told her she was only the third person he had told about this dream.
In response she began talking about publishing in general, the death of print and the possibilities of digital. But even as she was saying it she found it too formal or hard a topic, she wasn’t interesting or enjoying herself in talking about it, but it was not, she realised, out of any nervousness towards him but from a difficulty in understanding what she could give him, what exactly she could talk to him about, what he wanted from her, how much she wanted to reveal about herself.
‘That’s what Alexandra says. She likes people to step out of their comfort zone. Photographers shooting a story you wouldn’t expect –’
‘She’s the editor, isn’t she?’
‘Yes,’ she said, smiling so he could see a jutting tooth that he considered cute and thought made her look young. ‘Have you been reading up?’
She said it in an accusatory way that meant she wanted to come across warmly that evening, that she was interested.
‘Oh no, I know all about Vogue,’ he said, with a concerned brow that he found often made his jokes connect. ‘I get it every week.’
‘It’s published monthly,’ she said, smiling.
‘So how do you know about this place?’ he asked eventually. ‘Do you come here often?’
There was almost a shriek in her face of ironic embarrassment, but it was without conviction.
‘I’ve come here a few times,’ she said.
He couldn’t believe someone so beautiful was right there, engaged in his life. There was a tactile quality to her presence itself; he could reach out and touch her lip if he wanted to. Reality was making quite an impression that night.
They talked about what it was like to live in the city, then went back on themselves after the conversation faltered and she began to tell him about her mother, the split, growing up in a small house in Bournemouth with her dad and sister, but still saw her mum regularly and looked upon her as an important feminist influence – ‘almost mentor,’ she said. ‘She introduced me to Angela Carter. The Company of Wolves, have you seen it? It’s my favourite film.’ She paused. ‘What’s your favourite film?’
‘My f – favourite film’s – eh ur . . . Caddyshack,’ he said.
He considered the atmosphere he had created in saying this almost objectively, with interest: how it had disrupted the flow of their conversation, and how, in this break in flow, he could hear the tinkling chat of others around them more clearly.
They drank a bottle of Montrachet between them; he bought whatever he thought she wanted, knowing he couldn’t afford it, said he had money saved up, inherited it, family was quite rich on his mother’s side, made it all up –
‘That’s your paedo sip,’ she said, referring to the way he sipped his wine, with his tongue before his lips.
He lifted her up on his thigh as he fucked her.
It was like worshipping a little angel,
watching a little angel suck his cock, through the condom, tenderly. It made him feel moved, that he had achieved this.
There was something so pretty and cute about her that he couldn’t believe she’d let him fuck her.
All he could hear when she spent the night at his flat in Havering was her breath – the way it changed as she almost came.
She lay there in the light, the sheet at her stomach, as he admired the faint translucent hairs at the bone of her wrist, her pale shoulders against the white sheets, as he raised himself up and kissed her. She told him he kissed like a girl.
Her phone produced a different kind of white light when she unlocked it, rectangular, brighter, suddenly on her face and the wall around her head and shoulders.
She showed him images of herself, from her flickr, from when she was seventeen, which had impressed Alexandra Shulman at Vogue and had lead to the internship she was in now.
They were shots taken outside the Brunel University main building; she was wearing kilts and black knitwear, black skirts, her hair in a tight blonde bun that curled behind her ears in little rs. He recognised the structure of plinths.
That night, as she slept beside him, he dreamt of boules, which they were setting up to play against three men speaking a surreal, muted language. He watched her stand in a long white skirt, adjusting the steel balls in the sand.
He became aware of the gaze of the men, Spaniards, and the look of the fir trees around them.
He had a feeling that it would be good if only they were not there.
It rained heavily as the year progressed, making the streets of Holland Park black under their white houses.
They spent the evening at her aunt’s house, discussing the Margaret Howell shop on Old Nichol Street, which had just opened.
She stretched against the pillow, as if trying to get to a place where she could not be judged.
‘Just someone I know.’
She sat in an alcove, the dim evening light spilling through the window, taking off her watch. She was crying.
‘Before you said you’d slept with fourteen people and now you’ve changed it to fifteen,’ he said. ‘But that can’t have included me because you told me that after we had sex.’
‘Fifteen including you,’ she almost shouted, clutching her fringe.
He gave her a look of dismayed hatred.
She caught it and began to cry.
‘Is that why I was dropping you, at Brunel?’ he continued. ‘Oh my God that’s where he goes.’
Claire shuddered out a sigh. Then she sniffed and shook her head. ‘I thought you would have cheated on me,’ she almost shouted. ‘I honestly didn’t think we were that serious.’
‘Does this mean fucking nothing, to you,’ he stated, as he tore into a lampshade.
They stayed in their positions – he by the kitchen door, she by the window, leaning her head forward, very young, silent. It seemed sinful that he had made such a beautiful girl cry. She seemed locked in a disdainful, bitter thought, dwelling on it, repeating it to herself, as if to make herself more angry, or as if she wanted anger.
This girl, he thought, what we have done and what she has told me, has been the most intricate thing life has offered so far.
There was an openness to her sobbing, as if she were focussing on being a watched statue.
Then she moved and the shirt’s cuff fell down her arm.
She was wearing a white shirt, black waistcoat, a pair of cream poplin shorts and black heeled boots, her leg raised to the coving below the bay window. She was positioned on the hardwood floor of what had once been my studio.
She was backlit. In the light her hair took on a bright blonde, chestnutty quality; a line of light traced along her nose. She was beautiful in every conceivable way.
I first met her at Oxford, during what was called formal hall, or evening dinner.
I remember the light glimmering from the chandeliers and behind us in sconces as we filed in, stood for recital and were seated in a temperature that reminded me of a rural church.
I was visiting a friend – Gary Steinbleckernecker – who had had an accident, part of his oesophagus glittering in the darkness. An old friend from Farlests. It was he from whom I had borrowed a gown.
In his halls I had lent in and spoke in hushed, excited tones about the Oxonian atmosphere and the beauty of the prevalence of Christianity, its iconography and history, how exciting it was to be a part of this You could not sleep at night, I had imagined pleading to him, as an Oxford student, which I was not, on the train over, for fear that you might cause a rupture in history.
I did not know she was going to be there. It was an horrific feeling, one of the very worst and best happening at once, as if you had seen an old cousin, or something hideous you had tried to forget, from another, better life.
At thirty-five she looked as beautiful as ever, more or less exactly the same as she had in her twenties, any blemishes not objects of sight.
Around that time Emma was enjoying the fruits of considerable box office for her critically acclaimed role as a vivacious young mother in Richard Linklater’s Da Motha Fucka, perhaps the first film to make extensive use of Zanderpuss, a custom shader that applies procedural generation to human hair and skin as if it were terrain, conferring the CGI counterparts a level of realism not before seen. It was an undeniably controversial film, drawing criticism from the many high-profile thessers championing traditional acting at the time but nonetheless set a gold standardized standard for photorealistic animation in the mid-twenties, just as it became the industry’s modus operandi.
The actors would wear something that resembled a wetsuit covered in sequins during the motion capture stage, moving their hands and fingers infinitesimally to teach the software how to process habitual movements algorithmically, rigging their models with imperfect gestural details, the necessity of which was put under question by a series of neural networks measuring hardware and staffing costs against predicted revenue, but Linklater remained unfaltering in his commitment to accuracy and beauty, and Da Motha Funker would go on to be seen as one of the greatest films of all time.
The lighting was even handled by a primitive volumetric light scattering model based rather sweetly on the relative position of a virtual sun, its magnitude and ecliptic adjustable in realtime, making perfect lighting conditions a keystroke away, the golden hour eternally accessible!
The Ebert bot may have considered it “one of the most beautiful and profound portraits of human life ever committed to film” and “untouchable by moral concerns” but Linklater’s 531-minute epic was to find itself at the center of perhaps the most notorious personality rights scandal in recent history after a group of former IBM employees known as “the Clangers” identifying as “an advanced breed of machinimators” pilfered Emma’s CGI model and injected her with a network of biologically plausible learning models, teaching her, over time, to speak at the level of a twelve-year-old, dance and hum rudimentary tunes.
I remember downloading the software, and taking a look at her, I’m not ashamed to say. The technology had allowed for an almost eerily perfect rendition of an Emma that had never existed, a hard-eyed crystal perfection about her, There was almost a steamy quality, a romantic light detectable in the ngons, as if she could be embellished, drawn with precision, the shading simpler and more beautiful than real life, and when it moved it appeared to have meaning, a personality, reality, but it was just data.
As we all know she was then commandeered by stinking pornographers, who set about building a rudimentary fork so that anyone could feature the model in their own yucky scene, many examples of which are still available from the legion fanporn sites of the deep web.
But personally I never had much time for such things, working on my books.
I had been writing my little books for some time before I met her again, for the interview, on that warm June day in my Dagenham studio.
My little books were based on real life with permission from the subject: at first my friends, then celebrities later. I would conduct a little interview with them, ask them to tell a story from their life, then fictionalise it.
They were little books, like Beatrix Potter, pretty little hardback books, bound in that way, and like Mrs Potter I self-published.
I dun a good lil one of Judi Dench!
I remember how uncomfortable it felt when culture began slipping away, in the days before universal public content, everything the twentieth century had organized itself around dismantled by the brutal clarity of the twenty-first, in a way that seemed effortless, unnerving and inevitable.
We really only needed science and technology – art had come to be seen as a vain, trivial pursuit; mastering unwanted emotions as easy as taking a 0.5mg pill of troxedelyne; falling in love regarded as an unnecessary experience that got in the way of work.
And we hated the famous! That was one thing. They weren’t gods anymore, which is why anyone, from any walk of life, typically saw fame as superficial and were happy when people failed, their careers cut short, their dreams destroyed.
We headed out of my studio into summery London, life’s smell on the breeze, she was with me, she would never be without me, I could never see a new part of her that did not devolve its power to me, the strings literally swelled in the olive trees, I was crying, this was the best I would have, the diamond glass in offices, everything coming home, a feeling I was not alone, not without God, my heart rate soaring next to her, our hands meeting, the city behind her head, the swarming life, the feeling of the present, being with her in the park, her white dress, the familiarity, a life in motion, two people together, a feeling I could die, a twirling vertigo at life’s challenges, endless mysteries, the new feeling that we were there together, a feeling of a life coming out, playing out as a child, love, death,
her skin, her hair, her breath –
Oneohtrix Point Never . . .
It can’t have been for nothing, all these images, flickering – I can’t have died. Something in me can’t have died, Not fully died It will have meant something after all after all is said and done, it will have meant something, something wonderful,
but there is no wonder, nothing is real, all comes pissing down, we’re all going to die, I’m dying, the universe is meaningless, there will be something, there will be something good after all there must be, I know there is . . . There can’t be nothing, after all, after all I felt, after all I was, there has to be something, it can’t all be all nothing, there must be something childhood FUCK I must be FUCK Everything has to be real after all, it must have been real, I can’t have only loved my parents for dust, every girlfriend, every love, every day I breathed into the crust cold frosty air, walking to school, everything I’ve done to burn meaning into nothing, there must be SOMETHING, there must be SOMETHING REAL IN THIS HOUSE I’m screaming alone in this house, at night, I cannot be alone, I can’t be nothing, I can’t be alone, this can’t have been for nothing
I met Gary in the pub, not far from where I had been with her all those years ago.
‘But you never went to Oxford,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you sure this happened? How many years ago was this?’
‘About twenty,’ I replied.
‘Twenty? But we would have been in our thirties then.’
It seemed, to me, then, that he was lying to me. I was not fifty, or whatever he was saying. I was in my thirties still now.
‘Are you sure it wasn’t something you looked at?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘Are you sure it wasn’t something virtual? One of those sex missions you used to go on for months.’
Before he had finished talking I had already begun to float, with the kind of shockless levitation thrust upon you after hearing someone has passed away . . . . It all came back to me with the horrid insistence of a forgotten nightmare, my being a sick perverted loser, and back again as I realised I was not actually concerned with what he had said and assimilated it, in the same way I imagined a serial killer would in court, a simple lapse back into characterlessness.
‘Sex missions,’ I said, smiling with a narcotised smile, staring into space. ‘Yes, I remember.’
Then Gary smashed his glass against the table and began cutting at his throat as I stared in horror.
‘Is that a new emoji?’ I asked.
In the house I saw light where she was standing, by the French windows. She held her hand up to it, and I watched as the light broke over her skin and fluctuated, warming the colour of her hand.
The colour of her grey eyes against the sheets, her freckled nose and white shirt, her glasses and grey-green eyes, her small, freckled nose – which looked good against the sheets – these qualities, against the fact of their billowing, flickering, cast doubt, made memory
From the patio dusk was situated in a way that it dimmed, like a dream, the atmosphere, or moment, outside; we could see from the lounge a dim, pervasive, light, faint glow, the timelessness of an individual moment barely assert itself, the grown-up trellis leading to a small forest at the back flickered.
It’s a narcissistic flight, the decision to be young that makes the young, to do the thing that sounds like fun
light flickering over the hill, light flickering on a long drive from the car window
They spent the night at her house.
‘I made a girl pregnant at university,’ I confessed to her suddenly.
‘Oh yeah? What did . . .’ She shook her head shyly and burst out laughing.
She reminded me of someone I used to know as a child, hung fireflies, dim, house party corners
This is what has happened to me, it occurred to me, I’m in bed with her, with this girl, this is happening now.
‘I don’t know what I mean.’
‘. . .’
‘Hur hur,’ she giggled with a grinding, ingratiating cuteness.
‘God, this reminds me so much of this time . . . this time when I was . . . I was in a room. Er is it okay – I was in a room. Uh um, I was in a room with these girls my mum knew, she knew their mums . . .’
I paused, all of a sudden nervous of every significant detail. I inhaled, almost shocked and impressed at the memory, which had formed itself so clearly and generously, lit a small lightbulb, a small wad of light in the meaninglessness of my brain.
‘We used to go round there,’ I tried tentatively, ‘and play Goosebumps: Escape to Horrorland’ – ‘on the PC.’
She giggled in slight, polite recognition.
‘God tit was perfect. That’s one of the clearest memories . . . I’d love to get there, to geT. That.’
I was gently strangling something small and invisible, pumping it like a stress toy, crushing, making a movement like I was pinching something, crushing a ball of paper.
‘It was a party, or we were all there. There were a lot of parties . . . I have so many memories . . . of these things . . . that’s so dreamlike. It feels exactly like it didn’t happen – not like it happened in another life but like it happened in the life. You know? It’s that significant. Every day is just a placebo, or something . . . . Or like a stopgap . . . from . . . dreams. That was where it all happened. How could we forget? It’s so important. You know?’
She was staring at the ceiling.
‘I wish my mum was alive,’ she said.
I saw immediately the care I could only ever feel for her in saying that, like she had brought a revelation, which in real life she had. But I leant out to stroke her hair from her forehead; it was as if she had shown me, like kindness, something more important than what I had been talking about as a kind of pure supreme light shining at the end of an ancient tunnel, underground, as a kind of teamwork.
She had been laughing silently at something. Then she sighed. ‘Ahh. This is nice,’ she said.
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘It’s a nice nice. Nicey . . . . Thing.’ And then I twitched my nose.
My eyesight was beginning to flutter with a not entirely pleasant queasiness, an insistent, incorrect pleasure, like arousal in a public space.
Then, I said, after a pause: ‘Have you got anything . . . You’d like to say?’
‘Um –.’ She thought for a second. ‘I’m not sure.’ She sighed. ‘God, I love this music.’
‘I know, it’s good isn’t it.’ I said after a while.
‘God,’ She was looking at me. ‘Andy, it’s so beautiful.’
‘I know,’ I said. ‘It’s like heaven’ – ‘or’ – ‘harps –.’
Then we began touching each other, we were both coming up, I remember the feeling of her beige cardigan sleeve, which I hadn’t realised she was wearing, hugging her arm tightly, the sleeve was, tight to her arm, seeming intensely, incredibly at the edge of beauty that was some distant appreciation of softened fabric, hair and also her, her skin and the smell of her lips and neck, the general spatial awareness of her lips, their wetness, the wetness of her breath, the dryness of her wrists and the cluttered, complex, thrown-togetherness of her.
I felt relaxed by the knowledge I was loved by someone inside and out.
I analysed how I had attempted to establish a cinematic environment by kissing her at the end of a sentence, to stress what I imagined to be mutually understood as the importance of what we were doing as observed by our conviction that what we were doing had worth to outsiders, whatever stood in place of God, a sentient camera, the fact of the story coming together, which I analysed, but it did work, and I did lose myself.
A house at night has a silence that is irreplaceable.
in the day
all the houses,
all those tripped times through corridors, all those women, men you chose to sleep with but did not fall in love with, all those glistening memories, the mysteries that never really die, they never die,
When she was wearing nothing I spent a lot of time looking at her, and at her hair, which was light brown, and fell to the side of her face
She began talking.
‘I like being in this hotel [room] (/kb.) with you,’ she said.
‘It’s not a hotel,’ I said. ‘It’s your house.’
She raised her hand to her mouth and gasped. ‘I didn’t say that did I? Oh, God . . .’
She started to get slightly nervous, raised her hand to her chest.
‘It’s okay Alice,’ I said.
I had her lie down and gave her a massage. Her shoulders felt thin, her bones small in my hands. The experience was . . . vivid.
‘That’s good, keep doing that,’ she said. ‘Don’t ever stop doing that.
Then she laughed at herself.
‘The NHS,’ she whispered.
When I was lying on top of her, looking at her hair, my mouth pressed against it,
‘Did she get rid of that baby?’
‘Yeah,’ I said.
Exhaling blissfully and touching her wet red cunt, rolling around the sheets in frustrated happiness. ‘I want to fuck,’ she said. ‘I really want to fuck.’ her face was red, glowing with childish enjoyment. ‘I’m nothing! Fuck me!’
I laughed. It was very amusing.
But she was staring jaggedly.
She went into my boxers and found me not just limp but nonexistent.
‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Oh dear . . . . Oh dear oh dear.’
‘I’ve got – this is a bit weird – but I’ve got some Jimmy Raiser in my bag, if you like.’ She was breathing heavily. ‘Of course we don’t have to, but I –’ – ‘– I just really want to fuck.’ She exhaled the last five words.
She skipped across the laminate floor to go to the toilet.
We were having sex; it was that feeling you always knew it would be like, warm, in the way you imagine heroin to be, a very real form of contact. A throbbing, most agreeable pulse that feels like the insistent colour swarm of orange sunlight behind your closed eyelids
I said, ‘Is it good, Do you like that, you fucking real person, Is it good? Do you like that?’ talking to her in a juvenile way, with downward inflections as if she were a child. ‘You like to be pretty but you like to be fucked. Is that it? You pretty thing.’ – ‘I could barely rape –, oh, you fucking beauty. I can see the angels.’
she said, ‘Fuck me. Fuck me, choke me –,’ – ‘I love you, I’m so in love with you, I’ve always been in love with myself. God, fuck me in the arse. God, God, God! Fuck, this is so real!’
Her anus was incredibly tight and clenched around my finger. ‘Please choke me,’ she said, with real, crushed emotion, on tenterhooks, as I slipped my finger into her
, which she responded to with a kind of numbed
enjoyment on her face
I flipped her over and choked her gently with my thumb.
‘Choke me,’ she said, grinding her teeth and looking at me, her face warm from having been choked.
This is real, I thought. This is life. This is my life.
Her lips had been a mauve colour, but that had mostly come off now.
against the white sheets I was aware she was really naked, the gradation of flat, pale skin towards her mound of hair, she was really fucking naked and good, natural, pretty as a painting. I couldn’t believe she would let me do this to her, it seemed so generous
Shocking, you almost gasp when you hear it, that light
I was in love generally, and didn’t want it to end – it convinced me it would not end. It would only change into a harboured thought more profound than what it had felt like to be in love.
But it did happen.
It changed, and I felt
It couldn’t be believed that the life we happened to be living at that minute presented such quintessential goodness or beauty, or that the house moved you because you saw the way things could be, you saw, for example, cherry tree orchards drifting . . . it was the calmest love . . . the most beautiful, hurtful bit of emotion
It was like we had already taken a piss, we were so calm
We were convinced this was what beauty was, that life had no pain, that pain was, finally, an invention of others. Everything was profound and nothing mattered, not even this sentence.
We got in the car and already, as I started the engine and first gear, removing it from neutral, the sun began to nudge me, the gilded light battling and flashing around me,
I missed the sheets, looking back from the car I expected to see them, their covering the rear windshield.
‘I don’t know if I can do it,’ I said.
‘It’s foggy outside.’
The fog outside the house had spread like wildfire, the crisp cold nothingness, white gauze in the distance like half-loaded Silent Hill mist.
‘Pure bliss,’ she kept saying. ‘Pure bliss,’ in the fog, she called out to me, ‘There’s nothing here!’ She was ecstatic.
Then we found each other in the fog and embraced for a few seconds
The faint hiss outside the window, in time, reminds me of this feeling I have that time is always hissing. When I fall back onto the bed I find you are always behind me. Your arms come in around me, as if I am filming myself falling –
The sheets are white . . . and dim where the shadow falters in the light from the window. A thought from outside makes me think of an object that is black, out of the corner of my eye. The black object – like an anvil – seems to correspond to work.
Your hands hold my neck and you place them against my skin as if you are measuring my face. Your clenched hand is placed over my throat in a way that reminds me of when I asked you to choke me . . . a vague memory . . . like a fossil, or glissando . . .
You are speaking in a hushed voice about what sounds like Putane, Putane. ‘They’re all made out of Putane.’ I am not sure whether you are still asleep, talking in your sleep.
You were staring at me.
I know you mean the Calor gas canisters that line the streets of Holland Park. Somehow I know this is my job, that all I do is ounce, announcemmmmMm –
‘Oh, do I really have to do all that?’ I ask. ‘God, I wish I were asleep.’
I had that feeling you have when you wake up: Is this really something I do for work? Is this me?
I thought vaguely of the men’s gloves I would have to wear in touching the burnt umber of the cylinders, something I would have to do . . . in this deserted city . . .
By the window seat the light looked beautiful. I sat in it and pulled the lace of my skirt to my knees and looked at my legs. My skin looked so white. There was something about being white.
The light was always so bright in that room, but it dimmed in the corner, where the leather seating was under the frames of our casement window. Like the clerestory windows of a church the light spilt, and was split down the middle, onto the seat and across into the room.
Later he was laughing, picking up and knocking in his cricket bat, throwing his ball against it, bouncing on the cut grass softly. ‘Don’t you have to go to work?’ he kept asking. Every time he said it a jolt – like when you have taken too much of a certain drug – surged through me. A jolt of nerves. He was making me so nervous. Perhaps I was in love after all, or perhaps it was work, or the thought of work rearing up at me like a friend, so torrid and tawdry, so much a repetition it made me die, to think of everything I’d done.
It made me think of a dead, fried granny head at the window as you were trying to get to sleep.
I was a dead horse, its eyes bald with the satisfaction of death, its hidden world, or the other world, the untraveled country.
I’m only sixteen.
The world is wishing me asleep.
Lying in bed,
the real opens like a flower –
Running round the house in black French knickers I realised I would never have you. There was something dramatically above you in you, which was beyond me
‘I’m obsessed with ((/)/np. /. np.) That arse,’ he said. He rose from the chair and spanked her, grabbed her bottom from behind. ‘I’m fucking obsessed with it.’
There was something in him that was so incredibly turned on by the fact she was small, and white, so bijou. Her face was fragile and he could barely fit in her. He liked watching his cum hit her white skin, watching it appear on the white, freckled skin of her back. But it was also not just because of this, it was because she was rich, because she was a daddy’s little rich girl, and he wanted to fuck her because she was cute, sweet, beautiful, but cold at heart, which made it (()somehow()) even better.
‘I have to go to work,’ she said. ‘I work at Waitrose.’
She was too young. She was far too young. What the hell was he doing?
What the hell am I doing? he thought.
There was something there.
He liked brittle, fragile girls. He liked models. His sister had tried to be a model, and he took her round the agencies, but she probably wasn’t quite beautiful enough, or the agencies were racist. Probably a bit of both.
He met a girl there, in the waiting room, her name was Gantz, she was fifteen. He didn’t see her after he found out she was underage, although he had wanted to.
He went out on a date with her, she was so pretty, dancing around . . . Then they got to talking about school – this was a year ago, he was eighteen – and he said he’d better wait, but he kissed her anyway – he couldn’t help it, he had to – it would have to end there, he’d better wait, he didn’t want to lead her on, he’d enjoyed himself. But he had to kiss her. It was a good kiss.
He could feel her heart beating as he kissed her, like a little mouse, and couldn’t help wondering how it felt to be her.
1 Pronounce klɛ’rɛstəri
In my life, over the past few years, the days have come by with suggestibility, and then, at the end of each day, with weak suggestibility, certain things have been right. As I studied, meeting new people, and then letting them drift away into nothingness, and through nothingness myself, I felt the blonde hair of the day against my face, and in my eyes.
MEMORIES OF LOVE
The first time I loved, although it may not have been the first time, and when you really look at the concept of love it seems – or feels – superfluous, tumbling prettily in the calculatory properties of your mind, that you don’t think you can finish it, you don’t think you can actually decide on it.
The emblazoned marf of Middletown grownzed down on the sunny Aztec buildings of arghpleshneshnesh. ‘Mother, I have to be Aoki’s eyes. Do you understand?’
‘Cochi, I will never not understand understanding itself.’
‘Let the wind be your guide and the mallow’s heaven launch your soul into your next-door neighbour’s garden . . . .’ She turned to her: ‘If you feel his love then your own love will be under the mattress. Do you understand?’
‘Mother, a long time ago a man came to our village and expected us not to know so many things about the spirit lake and the age of the great willow. This discrepancy allows me to be at one with the spirit of the new lord, the wolf, the outside of the palace.’
‘I understand. Put the small pygmy made of bone china in your pinafore and meet me at the lounge lizard expectation party.’
‘Okay, I will. I love you, Mother. In case anything happens, I want you to know that I love you.’
‘Godspeed, little one.’
Cochi was well-known in the city as an expert in brass fluting around the palace gates, brass tacks, and breasts in summer. She was practical and prudent, and longed for everything to be broken down and elucidated in the clearest possible language. These were her sensibilities. She frantically wanked on Tuesdays wearing elegant white Ralph Lauren gowns on crisp white sheets and asked her mother to bring her frothy milk to drink afterwards. Then she would gorge herself on spit-roasted chickens and own-brand crisps, and it has been said she was sated for another week.
She never expected men to look at her in a sordid manner, and expected the same negation of expectation from them. As long as she could indulge her fantasies, with calm, svelte haste in her room, there was no need to, and she could focus on her intellectual pursuits, and her city’s needs.
Dozer, her wiffle, was waiting for her by the gates of Iceland, outside Snowy Street, Snowson, in the snow and sun area, where they lived. As arghpleshneshnesh’s goddess, she was understood by the public to be sexy, but kind-hearted. Dozer was very pretty, just introverted, a thin, coppery white horse with gold eyes and a massive juggernaut of a drill – pneumatic, black – coming out of her . . . Like a feminine version of Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
On Tuesdays they went to visit their grandparents in Liltford. The Lilt Ladies reigned over them, but they, in turn, abstractly reigned over the Lilt Ladies.
‘Make way for the Byzantine biscuits!’ Tone1 said, helping to place a giant ten-metre Nice biscuit down on the truck’s two-fold argument about generic spacing and arbitrary palatial . . .
Duck-duck was the crown-prince of Adam, the Church’s highest member, a giant ten-metre duck. European, he was known throughout Europe as a sexy old tot, the one duck who could fuck himself through a brick wall, or concrete partition, and carry on fucking the other side.
Ringlets of pale blond fell down against Cochi’s face in the crisp white light of the morning. She was Korean, Finnish, and English; her appearance was pale with freckles, like Katie Chang, whitish, but her grandmother and her ancestors had been travelling forest wungs, and so there was a flicker of oriental nuance, finesse and the importance of various complex translucent airy vague spiritual beliefs even she didn’t fully understand, she was sure even her mother, her mother’s mother, and all the subsequent mothers didn’t understand, finally, after all.
Her breasts looked pale in the light. Her glittering, golden bedroom in the stark, off-white marble corridors of the palace, which glistened like a CGI model of a palace before rendered and completed, entirely reflective, like an unbegotten level of Myst.
But it was a basic palace: it did exist, so it was a bit like the Taj Mahal but then it was a bit like . . . you couldn’t predict what was going to come up in it. So it was a bit like a game in that respect, but there was a big library, and shining, shiny floors, the fl – floors were shiny.
‘My liege, we were found in the blouragh woods of Nanana. The crisp snow graced our infirmaries.’
‘My dick’s hard,’ the Queen said. Then she grinned with hard, wood-like teeth. ‘Eeehhh. Dic-dic.’
‘My Queen, are we able to snow down the woods of the ancient Elias? The wood’s army is perhaps too periable.’
‘With your specious attitudes I’ll be surprised if I don’t drink myself into an early grave.’
‘Jones, bring out the pork –’
The girls were over by the precious white hung linen sheets, against dry mud and other medieval foliage, drinking from the fountain: eighteen, nineteen and fifteen.
‘I feel so free when I’m naked,’ the first said, naked, giggling, ducking into a white canvas tent.
‘I heard the same about Quentin, QuenShaal’s brother,’ said the eldest. ‘’Twas a shame his metal didn’t measure the same length as his general parlance or ability to elicit positive e – emotions in his victimes!’
‘If only his brawn were as good as his philosophy,’ the youngest moaned thoughtfully, staring into the middle distance.
‘You’re so precious, Lilywhite,’ the first said, emerging from the tent.
The men at the camp were doing arbitrarily manly things, playing with a sunken brown leather ball, starting play fights with each other as if they were being filmed.
The women watched them, with a washerwoman-based arbitrary points-based system of general recognition between each other, moved up or down, on a slider, as to whether one said something good, or more relevant than the other.
Precious, pretty, hurtfully gorgeous, out of reach, subtly heavenly and precious, faintly pretty white Cochi and her mother watched from the distance, against a backdrop of green oak leaves and other rich green heatherland, hinterlands of dry oaky leaves and fluctuating lighting, a clearing . . . of funk.
‘In our time,’ her mother began, ‘women are interested in what they thought they were not interested in before. They want to be surprised by muddy men of all races, appearing at them in the night with medieval dress, Egyptian dress, linen dress, and more muscles than they expected they would want. This is what they want, now. They will want something different later. A little Korean businessman. Well it was good enough for your father, my mother, but now the time has come to put away anything other than blunt statements of men, statements of survival, statements of arbitrary sexiness, or at least to work nine-to-five and put away everything and save it for the hibernation period that is all free time.’
Cochi was shocked and embarrassed at how lucid what her mother said had been. It was almost as if she had stepped out into the open of language and was now engaging with it almost sexily, on a complexly white, primal level; she had seen it as translucid and perfectly navigable. Silly bitch.
Cochi became angry:
‘Mother, not only can I dismantle what you’ve said I can and will tread on it. Feministical gangles are a treat, when I look at my boyfriend’s head I can see the snot in his sinuses, the pure boundless blood of his cleansed white head. He can change anything, or everything, depending on what he wants.’
‘Poor, pious pettiness,’ her mother said.
And for five years, their relationship was broken up and all buggered.
Princess Cara Penny of Harlow, however, had a very strong relationship with her mum, and she went off, struck along Liverpool Street in a marl grey hoodie and jeans, pearl grey panties, pretty, looking almost like a cat, her thoughts like a Pollock painting, it was always like she had cat ears the way her hair fell, sweetly going off somewhere, with bags, up so early it could be a school trip, comfortably dressed in a little grey hoodie. What a sweetheart.
‘OFF TA KILL THA WUNGS,’ she said into a navy Nokia 3310, the default fascia, in a gremliny voice, but she was joking, that wasn’t her normal voice. It was really cute actually.
They marched through the dilly dally doodlemop-copses round the spinney in one single dream-minute, from London Euston. The tickets were £73.60.
When they were on the train one of her henchmen – who was bench – held a gold nugget and realised that the line of her back, a back which was so thin, sporty, looked so creamy and white from under her hoodie, which peeped up when she leant to get her bag.
‘Do you really need this many baggins mammins?’ he asked, out of spite towards his erection.
‘Yes’ she replied with patience, looking out the window, her brown hair coppery in the light.
The fields of dead wungs past the Oucr(e) were so littered with human tragedy and ruined lives, the mildewy porn of corpses, dead bods, composition, little boys’ cadavers on cress, working men’s livers slopped onto rabbit hutches blown to smithereens, single ribs attached to a cracked Arca album, ribcages stapled to Evening Standards, ablist in the bitter, beautiful calm evening glow of arghpleshneshnesh’s rotten corpse section.
A little hen cried.
‘Weeah. Weeah. Weeah.’
It was a little hen, like an actual chicken.
Cara was so covered in the blood of innocent people that she refused to shower, merely picked off a lil scab from her ninny knee.
‘My liege, please let me pick tha clit,’ asked henchy.
She chopped ’is ’ead off.
He had meant to say scab.
When the morning light prickled and dappled, variegated from under the silverbirch at Princess Cara’s face, she was reminded, not of the baby lambs they had slaughtered, and the baby newborn elves smiling in the lake under the waterfall they had hacked into the necks of, nor the tabby kitten they had blessed by pouring Angel Delight over its head, nor the orange boy, how he sucked himself into his own world, t’ night before, but the face of her villainess, Princess, now Queen, muf(h)uckin’ Cochi.
‘Bitch.’ she said under her breath.
For Cochi was all that remained of the wilted brothers, and St Peter was the proudest, / . . . in the dandelion knicker-lids / of the holy sunlit quads / of Duck-duck, / the dandelion knicker-print of the blessed girl, / the lily cities and pretty panties hangin’ from leaves . . . of funk.
The Princesses Cochi and Cara had in fact long ago been best friends; Cara as a young princess had been doting, kind, full of affection for her friend, and they had always slept over at each other’s palaces. Each kingly slave was beaten to a pulp in light of the necessity of the other’s serviciage; they lay on a big mat and were pushed the farts out of by a big white matronly meat-roller, female, rolling it out of them like a rolling-pin, at Cochi’s, and partied with a spider at the back of the hedge at Cara’s.
The glinting gold against the fact that Cara wore a lot of black left her steaming with modern hatred, lust, glinty hazel eyes and general perfection, little gold earrings, small American hoops. She often wore black bikinis but she was pale, from Essex, grew up in Harlow, had one of those lovely, small dentate faces that just squeal with the amount they trigger a nurturing response in adults.
She was very petite, had an angular, flat face, a large mouth and eyes, looked like a little pretty creature, a koala or some kind of unidentified, pretty animal, or the best friend you ever had . . . Or the best friend of the girl you were really into that then revealed herself – when it was too late – to have a richer personality, was funnier, warmer, more generous. She was just smaller and sweeter and not as immediately elegant, but elegant in her smallness rather than the longer-necked, regal, timelessly unfathomable classical beauty of the other, blonder, lighter-skinned Asian beauty – think Marissa is to Summer, from the O.C., what Cochi is to Cara, although they looked nothing like these beauties, were much paler, more exotic and elegant, and they both had English accents. But they didn’t have no boyfriends, so that was cool.
Cochi had always dreamt of becoming queen, raking her hairbrush up and down her white, coruscating lingerie, spreading money over herself, those bloody Benjamins, the glittering femenence apparent in its gilded address to itself, being luxury fabric cut open, glittering like the skin of smoked salmon, only white like crinkly crackly plastic paper for babies.
Out the window a man bored his way into her soul and they were standing outside a newly washed car, Dozer, her wiffle, standing there proudly neighing and wanking into an £8,408 Robbe & Berking Art Deco cutlery set polished by rococo sand miners, the ornately white and silver contents of a classily pricey upper-class picnic, white linen origamied into the formation of turkeys, swans and fleurs-de-lis, babies bristling from a former insult, the feathered whiskers of an old woman’s dreams (upper-lip) collected like cobwebs heaped in corners of flaxen £5,000,000 London townhouses, seen through a prism of glass displaying light, plaintive pale sun-girl with flat chest wishing under the trees at Hyde Park for silent bronze playing of Isn’t Anything, for the Secession remit form, sponsored by umami, trailed by the flickering filter of Nabokovian midges, daybreak, the promise of the road, Krakatoa, the end of summer, moths butting antlers with the dreams of babies in kicking sleep, paleatonic trouts, gasping into the open air of God’s hair and the naked promise of that one youthful day you could never forget.
Andrew – the Baron of afreul-doshniplsh – was walking to the shops when he met a MERCHANT:
‘Dost thou have a light?’ she asked him, in the dim, historical dark.
Her face was all plumed in the buttery marshy hairs that swank out of her porous face, bit witchy.
Andrew farted with a slight hiss sound. ‘Yes,’ he said.
He gave her the light and she lit her cigarillios.com.
‘Buy t’ gold. I give you cheap.’
She scrazzled a sugget of gold shackles in his tit-face. It was bright and pretty in the light. A necklace, or summink.
‘Nah,’ he said. He didn’t buy off her.
But he should have done.
Because she was the local merchant.
And very important.
The Res Evil merchant,
from Resident Evil 4,
AND THE NECKLACE HAD ONCE BELONGED TO PRINCESS CARA PENNY OF HARLOW
‘Yes, I will help you kill Queen Cochi, our queen, the good butterscotch slut. And the Goddess of the Rich Tea.’
It was a sniper she was talking to, an arrower, a henchwoman par excellence, mercenary, bilgey, a hitwoman suffering from no grandiose dreams, reliable as the Benjamins in her bumperpack. (She called it her bumperpack but it was a bumbag, or fanny pack.) The sniper, who knew, was the younger sister of, the bodkins babe, a legendary slut in all of Hedgeworth who had cracked the loins of the finest fisherman in Beckham and sucked cock with SOPHIE, rubbing conditioner down the dicks, she went by the name – she was blonde – of simply Strangeways, Here We Come, or Sheepskull, and she wore a gold fake lamé princess dress and carried a sheep’s skull over her face at all times, for anonymity.
‘I grew up around these harves,’ the sniper continued, ‘and I have great respect for whatever the opposite of wungs is; you see I’ve always related more to the taste of choc-chip digestives than rich tea. In fact I fucking hate rich tea. That’s what you represent isn’t it? The opposite.’
She curtseyed, holding the skull in place.
‘In fact I can kill the Lady of the Rich Tea for 50% off if you’ll allow me the chance. I think she’s in the same general bracket –’
‘Hmm.’ Cara sweetly touched her chin. ‘I’ll pay you 15 – o – or –’ – she stuttered – ‘35% of the PCoD fee if you off that ethereal Rich bitch Tea – sorry, Rich Tea bitch.’
‘How about 1%,’ Cara immediately countered.
‘35%,’ said the sniper.
‘1%,’ said Cara.
‘It’s a deal,’ said a naked man two-hundred metres away at the end of the field, shouting at them and waving a twig he had inserted into his pee-hole.
He was the headmaster of the local school.
‘M’lady. The Bourbonicus cometh.’
The court jester, wrapped in a towel, with his cockie poking out along the seam, which had been decorated, like an egg, with helixes of red and dull grey-silver poster paint wrapped around, brought forth a sterling silver sparkling stainless steel tray of Bourbon biscuits, laid out equidistantly, two by six, parallel to the tray.
Of which the lady did partake. (Queen Cochi.) She munched, crunched.
‘My x, these Bourbonicuses,’ she said, twirling her hand pretentiously as she ate, ‘are these fit for purpose, who makes them?’
‘A lad up in churchtree, his eyes are made of milk.’
‘Excellent, well have him send up one thousand per person. We simply must put Princess Cara Penny’s’ – she said it scowlingly – ‘biscuit companies out of business. I will not see another choc-chip digestive crushed into the carpet of my kingdom for as long as I live, so help me God, as my reign shalt last, very long, very good. Is that understood?’
‘Yes Queen Cochi, Your Majesty.’ They all bowed obsequiously.
One of them was playing with his balls in the shadows at the back of the church.
Cochi had pushed down the stairs the prev queen, or rather she had assigned a servant in her employ to push her down the stairs, who was instantly beheaded by Cochi for an act of treason as part of Operation DUNAMO (TittyFlex), as her reign had begun immediately, but the old queen only got a bump on the noggy and a dream about a baddy.
But Cochi was largely forgiven, because she gave so much to charity, the little orphan girls by the river, digging for moss and seaweed to eat. The poor creatures.
She gave them all pork pie hats.
The Lady of the Rich Tea was out sunning herself on an antique sun lounger . . .
And Strangeways just shot her dead.
‘Princess Cochi of Dagenham, ruler of arghpleshneshnesh, I present to thee the finest trinity . . . of hats – hates.’
Cochi blushed, leant on her hand, and stared into the distance.
‘. . . and sacrificial cow of Kingston, presided over by the Lilt Ladies.’
One of the Lilt Ladies gave a high-wristed, dainty granny wave.
‘Arpeggio of the Yamaha keyboard, wank-bait to Botticelli, wilt thou permit me to play a Yamaha keyboard demo?’
Cochi nodded, as was her will.
The royal sounder pressed play.
In the bushes, those halcyon, marbled, funky bushes, Sheepskull was fully armed-up and ready to juice, with her little pencil case of arrows over her shoulder, her sight trained on the face of Once Princess Cochi, now blossoming into something quite hideous, staunchly, just marched her own temper into it, that of coppery blonde, so angry, hot-tempered, like the other queen she expunged, Queenie, from Blackadder.
’Twas clear to see, from Strangeways’s point, that Cochi in her reign had become rather like the Queen before her in her reign. But Sheepskull could not fling the pencils out of her pencil case at QC (via bow), could nary do da bad fing to the girl she still thought of as a beautiful princess, for she had grown up with her, watched her grow, they had all grown up with her, watched her grow, watched her go from a tiny breast girl to a love woman, on the telly – she was a bit like Diana, it was that level of . . . like, furore.
Cara was ambling around the local town looking in gift shops. She had already bought a seashell and a gold necklace, unconsciously replacing the gold one Cochi had given to her when they were fifteen, gold.
In the hall outside Cochi’s chamber one of the guards, stood in the white, elfin, medieval light near the tomb, was having a daydream about Cochi’s mother, and the gnarled shack of time she had shacked up with.
Then he thought of Duck-duck hammering his dick into thin air.
As Cochi was watching some kind of complex performance piece involving the obligatory hobgoblinly troll in white lingerie, wriggling over Once Princess Cochi’s feet on worms, slugs, snails and other British wildlife, pissing and shitting into her face, she remembered the advice given to her by her mother:
‘Put the porcelain goat in the armoury.’
She put the porcelain goat in the armoury.
‘Go and see the Dogtor.’
She went and saw the Dogtor.
It was a Jack Russell in a white lab coat with a lil dic, spraying cum up the walls.
‘Put the small pygmy made of bone china in your pinafore . . .’
She put the small pygmy made of bone china in her pinafore.
‘. . . and meet me at the lounge lizard expectation party.’
Cara received a text from Sheepskull on the way home from the gift shop.
She navigated the green LCD screen of the Nokia to open the little nearly square envelope, arguably the earliest commonly used metacommunicative pictorial representation of the telecommunications age. ’Twas a hieroglyph!
dint kill her soz xx tb
Cara texted back:
dats okiiee i kill er 2nite! :) luv u xxx
The whittling, profultory, duggins, mimmy night before the party was the China ball, where the pre-drinks happened.
The day broke over the hills, crepuscular sunlight broke down over the lily hills, dimly, through the clouds, where a farmer was banging one of his ewes.
For sure, it was the night of the lounge . . . lizard . . . expectation . . . party. Where all the nugs in nugingdon would be browning their peppers in expectation, tucked up in bed.
Cochi was over by the drinking fountain wondering why her mother would get her to come here. She turned to her companion, the Baron of hayes:
‘I don’t know why my mother would get me to come here and not even show.’
Cara, alone, approached the door of the little old school hall.
When she entered the hall Cara saw her by the drinks fountain, Cochi, discussing with long-term boyfriend the Baron of hayes the qualitative merits of easiness through artistic preference, she assumed, wearing a lemony-peach ivory ball gown, and looked really pretty.
Cochi saw her from the distance.
There was a wiggin beacon of light from the grilled, shatterproof windows that reminded her of school.
It made her feel bitter as she ran towards her.
She was almost crying, and then she was crying.
‘God, you good girl,’ Cochi said to her, looking up at her, feeling a warmth in that Cara knew her tears were hitting her dress.
145 BLUE SHIRT
She took a photo, holding the camera up to her eyes, looking through the viewfinder. She had grey eyes.
She was wearing a blue shirt. He thought, She’s at work. This is her work shirt.
He smiled, thinking of her at work, watching her work, at work.
Her skin was pale and he knew that when she asked the models to move to a certain location she was more beautiful than them.
She had thick eyebrows and was very beautiful. After the shoot they walked alongside each other and she said, ‘What, you don’t like watching me work at work? What do you think of watching me work?’ – ‘Has it shown a new side to me that you didn’t know. I’m wondering.’
She spoke, he thought, as if she had edited what she would say in her head to make it appear as pretty as possible, so that it would look good on the page. She behaved as if she were already a character. She was one of those people, he was convinced, that consider themselves part of a narrative and believe they are being watched. He found this immensely attractive. He had never encountered it in a woman with the same intensity before.
‘I wanna burger,’ she said.
At the café, on Great Titchfield Street, his arm was gripped by a man in the queue, who whispered in his ear, pressing hard on the centre of his wrist.
‘I feel so awful here,’ he said, when they were over by the window.
‘What do you mean?’ she asked.
He sighed. ‘It’s just I went to cafés once with this girl, and she showed me a really really new way of life, really new and with so much promise. Everyone was wearing blue. It was wonderful. I know I shouldn’t be talking about this with you.’
‘What was so good about it?’ she said. ‘What was the element you thought about when you knew about the sheepskin coat of that boy?’ – ‘Why did you go around years later, buying clothes you thought she would like?’
‘I’m nothing,’ he said, deflating into his seat and sighing. ‘Sometimes.’
‘You’re not nothing to me.’
She laughed haltingly through her nose. ‘You’re strange,’ she said aggressively.
He believed she had not understood something essential.
‘I do love you,’ he said, ‘but there’s so much’ – he spazzed out, twitched his head violently – ‘slightness in the wor – or – orld.’
‘That means nothing. When will you get to something that means something?’
‘You’re unreal. You were real but you’ve become unreal. When were you so beautiful. Why aren’t you like that now?’
‘I can’t cut myself,’ she said.
‘I know,’ he said. ‘I know that. I don’t want you to . . . go off the rails, or whatever.’
‘But you can’t even please me!’ she said. ‘You can’t even make me any way I want to be!’
Her voice distorted, he heard her oesophagus hit the back of her throat.
‘Let’s calm down,’ he said. ‘We can go to a movie later.’
He was overcome by the rush of the thought that he could spend time with her whenever he wanted, with the right prior orchestration.
She sighed, stared at the table for a moment, and looked up at him with a defeated smile.
In the cinema the light, grainy, beamed down on them, and he felt warm, comfortable, happy to be in a public space where to not speak was considered normal by all around them. He had the same feeling of calm when entering a library, perhaps because both buildings had very clear purposes, were functional public spaces, and there was a kind of beauty in the simple anthropological fact that they were there, of their being there, and how they had come to be there.
He was silently, calmly looking at the screen, holding her hand.
He followed the plot of the film, and for a long while he was able to suspend his disbelief, to forget with great effort that this was a large production that had come together, through the efforts of a company, to the extent that the film was like watching a company itself at work with set designers, actors, a director, a production team, a script someone had written, source material, months of planning and evaluation, a finance team, a campaign, discussions about which way the franchise was heading, likely box office, the amount of views the trailer got on YouTube, whether there was engagement in the young urban demographic, how this fed into the film, which, less like art than a machine, a thematic, human machine made up of human decisions and influence, had come to visit this screen in a digital format, completely automated, playing from the top, behind, lighting the dust where they sat, calculating, always calculating, how they wanted to make him feel with this fiction, how he did feel, the difference between the two, the likely feelings of the audience, the moral precedent argued by the film, the observable response, the communal atmosphere of a cinema, the sense that it will soon be gone, but that at present cinema was a considerable revenue generator, and it could be for a long time, the money, up on the screen, that had been spent to ensure that what he was seeing accorded to what they expected he would like to see, and what he expected to see, that it would please him, how the script itself had gone through so many hands it appeared bolstered, like ballast on a train track, so checked it was like a collective administrative decision at work, at his work, at anyone’s work, totally agreeable, impossible, by design, to disagree with, for a purpose, to achieve a purpose . . .
He couldn’t help ruminating on all this, all this nonsense, imagining what she was thinking next to him, so obviously pretty, clenching, tightening her grip on his hand as if in communication to what they had just seen on the screen, not that it was scary, or even particularly emotional, the story, about robots, set in a barren, tinted landscape cluttered with CGI, but more as an involuntary reaction to thematic content, but he still loved her and loved her movements, feeling them through his hand. He was reminded of when they went to see Saw IV in 2007, when he used to work here, at this very cinema, in fact, they saw it once he had clocked off, around Halloween was it, or in the winter, and she had yelped and been obsequiously girly, and he had very much enjoyed her legs up on the seat, and on his legs, he loved it, he loved her being like that, perhaps it was how girls should be, he thought, to a certain extent.
It was not long before he began to consider work, however, the idea of it, what he would do at work on Monday morning, the repetitiveness of life without children to look after. But when imagining himself in a position where he could compare the two, a life with and without children, he discerned, with a rush of something like revelation or false insight, that he would feel relief, and was therefore relieved, and then began to consider her, again, as a prospective vessel for carrying his children.
They could have children to look after already, he considered, as if attempting to force himself to believe they did in fact have children, or as if by imagining it forcefully, with enough conviction, they would have children; he was filled with wonder, again, at the diversity of computations of the human brain, his imagination, and the endless joys of exploring every nook and cranny of it – he could pretend, for the rest of the week, that they had children and think through every situation as if they did have children, design the children, it would be his little secret. They would end up being better than the children they did have, and then he would look back and say, Oh God, if only they were like those children I spent so long imagining; everything seemed possible in the dark.
Another thing he liked about being in the cinema with your friends, or in this case, your girlfriend, was that you had them there, but were not currently playing with them. You were not only not alone but in rich, subtle communication with them, saving them for later. You were guarding each other, just as you would have done as early hominids.
He often thought about the bliss of having a child. They would be yours. You could play with them the next day. They would say new things, make new hand gestures, their hair would move differently outside and every tiny fragment of time and experience would be a blissfully complex swirl of colour meaningful hurt; the cinema also allowed for a certain melodrama.
But he only ever pictured his children as six to twelve-year-olds, never as babies. He found babies inelegant, embarrassing, animalistic. An older child knew enough to appreciate beauty. He was being painterly about it, his false memory, he was really enjoying himself. This is what he was born to do, to write and think about everything, but he already knew that.
She could be Mia-Francesca with blonde hair and green eyes and freckles, Charcoal-boy with a brown bowl cut and brown eyes, or just smooshy, he could never think of something as good as . . . reality, what would come. It was quite exciting, really. Being alive.
That was what the cinema reminded him of: that we are all living within stories that are of great significance to us, personally.
When you come out of the cinema and the light has changed
They spent the evening at her house
on the rocks
He saw her and
held her hand, hugged her
The wedding was
Iranian public hanging, the air racy with qisas.
Excited, looking things up on her phone
They had established an ironic distance from it over the week; he said to her,
‘I’ve never felt this guilty and excited at the same time.’
The wedding was cherished by her parents,
she looked so pretty and pearl‑like It reminded them of the best elements of Argentine girls
The man dropped
They wanted to see the world.
He told her the world was becoming more racist and it was worth giving up on it
slipped a finger inside her anus as she breathed out
The breath had a percussive element to it, like a human drum
He once suffocated a mouse in his house, and it lost its fur and became brain‑damaged and wouldn’t eat anything
It was not interested in eating anything, it just wanted to die.
It climbed under his microwavable dinner tray to die, like a dog, so it could not be looked at.
It was on its fucking way out –
Her hair trickled against his hand
They both had wedding rings now.
Such pretty gold on human skin, his with hair, hers without
Before she gave birth they decided to name the child Anna
She had blonde hair and wanted to be a princess and behaved as a princess
Few of the other kids in the school were white like she was
When she was five she liked looking at bugs on the internet
She liked looking down the stairs at them.
Life does not paint a nice story, it is very boring.
But she turned her head when she walked to school,
in her school jumper, against the fir trees at the front of the school, and you realised she was young and yours, you could live again with her, the pines –
She turned her head and looked at you
In the art corridor she turned her head to look at you,
she turned her head to look exactly at you
Her eyes were glimmering in the blonde light of the class
she had an intense complexity, which you enjoyed
She looked like your wife.
You crucially loved being with her, with both your girls, and then you had a boy.
But there was no meaning in the world, and your organs began to fail, one bright frosty day
PORTRAIT OF KARIN
I met her at a pub, somewhere in Hertfordshire.
I was unhappy that night, feeling detached from my life and the concept of friends and of enjoyment, so I hadn’t been expecting much.
Sunlight shone through the dirt on the windshield, the sun fading.
That evening the town looked terrific, but I couldn’t see it.
I couldn’t see candlelit pubs, the mystery of a suburban area breaking into fields, copses, dim to darkening yellow wasteland, scrubland, pretty.
My two German friends x and Laura were there; x had brought along his fiancée Laura, from Sweden, who I knew quite well actually, and she in turn had brought her sister, Karin.
Slowly withdrawing and removing oneself from the previous life, I had thought and written the next morning, entering a new era of self-sufficiency, inspired by your friends instead of hammered, the possibility of intellectual discussion, finding new people, anywhere, with interesting opinions, being alone, discussing being alone with people in a pub, how right it feels, the colours of the pub, the festive, dark brown colours, the red, the deep dark green, the gold of lights out of the corner of your eye, the feeling of being here, of change approaching, but far away, a slow movement into something else, if necessary, but broadly a feeling that things are right now
I’d been to clubs in Oslo and knocked over my drink in front of the girls I had been talking to. They were so beautiful. But it was not just their beauty – it was their expectations: What do you do? How could you fit into my life? What can you offer? Where are you on the ladder, the latter, do you have property? Are you developing, did you ever develop or are you just pondlife, are you an amoeba, do you have a spine. How far have you demanded you be allowed to climb? How aggressive are you and how aggressive have you been, but also how human are you also?
Because of the internet modern people interrogated each other in clubs and bars with the flashlight of language, and with a knowledge of how everyone should be behaving, which had enabled them to seek out the filth of their lives and eradicate it.
but it was nice to be in my hometown, it was always nice, almost painfully nice, its ever-changing, never-changing, crystallised dome of school and commuters, pretty sunlight and shops, small pubs, girls endlessly beckoning themselves into their own youthful day, on the expensive white concrete steps outside large houses, falling into their own complex feeling in the playground, the small, perfect troubles of school, the endlessly perfect and beautiful.
It was nice to meet someone like me, trapped in work.
Karin had been a journalist for five years five years ago in Sweden, working for StyleBy magazine alongside Columbine Smille, and was now working as a data entry clerk over the summer whilst preparing to finish her PhD in entomology, the study of insects.
z was also there, who always unnerved me because he had a greater understanding of technology than I did, but he was a nice guy.
And but so then she talked with longing about her childhood under Skogskyrkogården, walking with long summers with her dad, who was himself an academic, looking under tree bark for centipedes and whatever else was likely to reside in the temperate climates of the woods, but not under Skogskyrkogården, because that’s a cemetery, but out in the country.
She discussed, with intellectual conviction, her field, which is to say the field near her dad’s cabin and also entomology, and I was left with the impression that the world was huge, that everyone has family, that they can all be met, that they might even be interesting. I was not so in love with nature, but I began to love that my friends were in love with it, taking mushrooms in the Cotswolds and the Lake District, waxing lyrical about sap and grass and the prehistoric nature of all things, flat, anthropological meanderings that left me quite inspired. Looking out over the lake, in the grass, I remember feeling incredibly playful, and reflecting on my thoughts as they were, rampant and out of time, held up a piece of bark and somehow encouraged everyone to make-believe it was a form of currency, and we began to barter for different natural objects we had claimed ownership over, rocks and co., a bit of shell by the river, where we climbed a tree.
But Karin interpreted something complex in my simple game, immensely put off by the idea of there being any value structure involved in this moment, these moments, she was just lapping her fingers in the water, telling us she was looking for minnows.
I remember the colour of her pale skin, translucent but pinkish in the water, and wanted to tell her she reminded me of a Tove Jansson illustration I’d seen, of a very lithe, slim, tall white Nordic interpretation of Alice, but I couldn’t remember the artist’s name, and it seemed racially insensitive, a cliché, I suppose, on reflection, it would have been a cliché to talk about Lewis Carroll on mushrooms, or maybe appropriate, who knows.
She was a good person.
It was all she could do to work her guts out, seemingly, for whomever she was working
She looked out at ____ from ____, the x ying in the light through the panel windows of her office on ground floor. The frosted beige wash of light reminded her of a Turner painting, not any in particular.
She was allowing her brain to vaguely concoct an idea of beauty that abstractly related to the colour yellow, to the extent that ears of corn were beautiful, and blonde hair, and where that met the appearance of light itself, what it did to make them appear beautiful.
On her computer screen was a picture of Perez Hilton eating a burger. She closed down the tab.
The next along was an instance of TweetDeck logged into the StyleBy Twitter, which was scrolling rapidly through updates from the 1,567/8 people they were currently following, a lot of celebrities they probably didn’t need to be following.
She stared vaguely at the flat aluminium of the iMac, then put her finger against it. She felt the Apple logo, the change in texture from hard and cold to smooth, before shaking her head and opening a new tab. She looked at the notes Elin had given her to fact check a story about a Swedish fashion designer she had never heard of, and began arbitrarily typing in names.
The day rolled on in much the same way, with the girls in the StyleBy office typing balletically, without effort, as if their lives depended on it yet with a measured composure, tilting to drink coffee.
Whenever anyone had to make a phone call it was done with a contrasting indulgence, slowly, with humanity, personable curiosity, involuntary elfin smiles, and the benefit of years of professional contact.
Elin Kling held her phone to her head, and said, in English,
‘I’m wearing . . . Gucci . . . and these little earrings I got from – Tate Gallery, you know?’ – ‘Yes, the suit.’ – ‘Ha-ha! Tell him. Okay.’ – ‘Yes, we’re on deadline here.’
Karin thought she heard the word vesihiisi, Finnish for water nymph.
‘Ha-ha! Okay.’ – ‘I hope so. Okay, okay.’ – ‘Bye.’
‘I think the best thing with the university is – the lack of hierarchical structures it’s – it’s very easy to’ – ‘find people to collaborate with and there are no like inherent – mechanisms preventing you from collaborating you can easily just compact the research an a – a – at another faculty or in another discipline it’s very easy to start collaboration projects I think that is probably the best thing with the university,’ Karin was telling me, back in Hertfordshire.
Her eyebrows twisted inwards as if she were questioning herself.
‘So you collaborate a lot then?’ I asked.
‘Yes we’ve mainly been focussing on insect pollinator conservation,’ she said, ‘quantifying the effects of pollinator decline on wild plants and other wildlife –.’
Her sister sat down and gave her her drink, they smiled at each other and resumed another conversation. A couple who were friends with z sat down, I introduced myself, rolled one of them a cigarette, and they headed to the bar.
‘So what made you change to entomology from fashion, then?’ I asked, in an attempt to resume our conversation.
Work itself became to seem as a kind of substance to her, a kind of bland, savoury thing to be done, it could be eaten in chunks, which when put together would create a bland feast. It was food, in the same way that time was food, or any expense of effort. It was all energy.
Even if it was pointless work it was easy to see that time and effort had been put into it, someone’s time, working like a cog in a machine, or a crumb of wood in paper, these were the words she sometimes put it to herself in, unclear or lacking nuance perhaps to some, but nonetheless her thoughts, her daily thoughts and very clear to her by now.
She wondered if everyone had a repetitive thought process throughout the working day.
When she was writing the process was almost that of a non-process, her brain shutting down to allow for the unimpeded flow of her thoughts.
She would listen to Fleetwood Mac on the train home. She liked Rumours and especially Tango in the Night.
Most of the job consisted of surfing the web and making decisions at high speeds.
It was a faux pas not to come into the office with ideas.
She would call fashion houses for permission
So much of her personal internet usage was by accident, triggered and controlled by a part of her brain over which she felt she had no agency, trusting this mode to provide the goods, to do something worthy while she was almost entirely absent.
She was a workaholic in a sense, consistently putting herself down for others, picking up the pieces, a silent but valuable member of the team, performing an almost medical role, a healer, INFP on the Myers-Briggs scale perhaps.
For ten percent of the working week she ached for a boyfriend, but sometimes she walked the streets of Stockholm and sometimes she felt so bad. Her feet hurt, she’d been up until four working and didn’t know what anything meant anymore. She had lost a sense of self. She wanted to cry on the street, she felt really bad.
‘Have you ever felt that you really didn’t know what your life was for anymore?’ she said to herself, looking at the train, her nose stinging. ‘Have you ever felt like you didn’t know who you are?’
Miriam and Edward
She lives in South East London and has two children: Miriam, born 1978, and Edward, 1981.
Mum, can we play with you? She faded into him in the car. I feel so happy.
he said from the front of the car.
‘Are you?’ She laughed into herself.
‘Miriam says we . . . That we’re going that way,’ her son said, playing with her hair, or she felt him playing with her breasts, or tumbling, falling over her, as if he were playing with her hair. It was pretty, the day.
She looked out ahead.
The convertible was white, and steamed through the day. ‘My pork! My pork, it’s my pork transplants,’ Edward said.
‘My desire is such that . . .’ she began. ‘Fuck off! Shut up!’ She slammed her head against the backseat of the car and forward. She was whispering, shouting quickly to herself: ‘My desire is to get these children their . . . lost force . . . get the children, to uhk, uhk . . . ck ck’ she was stuttering, spluttering as she spoke, ‘Get them to fall in love – with the fucking . . . BANK. Oh Marian, get the suitcases, get out, we’re getting out.’ They got out of the car. She got out of the car and they began to follow her.
She was breathing heavily.
She had stopped the car abruptly. The LA shine darkened her pupils and made her want to throw up on the sidewalk. She was doubled over. ‘This is not it,’ she wailed, ‘This is not life.’ – ‘. . . There’s no way out. There’s no way out.’
‘Mum, are you going to go to that fashion show you wanted to go to?’ her son asked, Edward, clambering over the seats.
She stared at him; she could not yet understand who it was, it was just a little baby with a dark eye, crawling over the seats, coming to get her.
We understood him as her son.
A man overcomes depression when he falls for a Vogue writer; an artificially intelligent CG model of Emma Watson changes a middle-aged man's career; a 16-year-old girl ruminates on her experience of life, and two princesses who were once best friends wage war in an attempt to drive each other's biscuit companies out of business. WEB http://andrewgoldspink.com/whiteshirt PDF http://www.mediafire.com/download/3x6amdugfvaasdg/Andrew+Goldspink+-+White+Shirt+and+Other+Stories.pdf