Posts tagged scarlettcayford
Posts tagged scarlettcayford
I didn’t want the pie. I’ve eaten enough pie, in fact
I’ve made myself sick on pie. I could throw up all the pie, I could
Fill a sink with pie.
I could fill a world with pie, I could:
I could never eat pie again. There, I said it.
I was pretty sure, that I was done with pie. I had a round hard ball of
Pie, inside me. A pie in the oven,
No pie in the hand and I wasn’t going into the bush, not ever, not ever again.
There are different kinds of pie. I ate all kinds of pie.
There might be a waitress who would recommend, who would say, try another pie. There are all different kinds of pie, she might say. She might say,
Try another pie. Try another pie. Try another kind of pie you’ll
Never know until you try it.
But I did know. I do know. I have a little round ball of pie, I could
Fill a sky with pie.
I didn’t want the pie. Or:
I didn’t want to eat the pie. But I could look at the pie.
I could – I did, I will – smell the pie. There are all different kinds of pie, you
Might say, and you might say, the proof is in the pudding,
But the truth is not in the pie.
I didn’t want the pie. I’ve eaten enough pie, and enough is enough until:
You’ve sunk your teeth into the pie. The pie is a little round ball inside you and
(there are all different kinds of pie)
you took my pie and ate it, too.
You could believe in the ocean but they didn’t make it easy for you to believe in the
Could put it down to the cold in the air that
Fooled you into thinking it was stolen from the caps of old waves; you could
Think the salt was the salt of smoke, and sweat, and the sticks of meat and skin they
barbequed in the shop fronts.
They wanted you to see the canal. It was beautiful and black and reflected
The lanterns, the iron heads bowed in worship
Of order and the black lines of water that lead the roads through the town. The black
lines of water and the black lines of roads, with the lights of iron eyes, and iron heads,
bowed and dipped.
The warehouses bore witness to the straight lines, and stood, straight-backed in brick.
They weren’t filled with anything anymore but
They might be, again, when something needed a somewhere. They were soldiers,
shoulder to shoulder.
You could stop at the warehouses, and put your back to the brick, and watch the water behaving like anything but water. You could bow your iron head.
She was standing in the corner and she was wearing a cheerleading costume. He was willing to be that she was thirty – they all were – thirty, or more, because although something about the Japanese genetic code meant that everybody looked eighteen until they were forty, the ones who hung out in bars like these were always thirty. You could see it in their faces if you looked, if you knew what to look for. There was a particular grit to their mouths, as though the thin edges at the tops of their front teeth were being ground down against each other, as if every now and then they gulped down powdery mouthfuls of their own bone.
And the eyes, of course, but the eyes were distracting.
He didn’t understand, would never understand, the fake eyelash thing. He hated it. It annoyed him. They had such beautiful eyes, the Japanese women, he thought, to the one. They were round and dark and they weren’t like foreign eyes. They didn’t give away anything, didn’t give you anything over and above what they were saying. Looking into them was like upending a shot glass of malt liquor. It was warm. But they draped them about with synthetic black curtains, and you couldn’t see into them, goddamnit. He wanted to see. He wanted to upend them.
His collar itched.
She was standing in the corner and she was wearing a cheerleading costume. It was tight and pink, with the flirty skirt, and she clutched two little pompoms in one fist, because her other hand held one of those plastic cups of beer.
She was talking to him, and not to him, and that was why his collar itched. It was hot, so fucking hot. Winter was coming. It crept in through the edges of the buildings, pressing up against the windows palpably, seeped, and filled all the spaces between the people. Japanese people hated the cold, so they made sure all the spaces were already filled with something thicker, and heavier, that cottony air that he was inhaling right now, that was soaking up the liquor in his mouth and throat and resting in his stomach like a living sponge.
What was she even doing right now? Not the cheerleader, because she was hunting, like they all were, but was she hunting? Not the cheerleader, the other one.
She didn’t look the same as the rest of the women he was resting his eyes on. She had this face, this odd face, perfectly round and almost flat, and so pale. She was a moon really, wasn’t she, or a cracker, but probably a moon, because she was so pale she glowed. And she had those eyes, those same eyes, and she liked to wear the synthetic curtains too, but she let him look through them. She’d let him do more than that, if he was honest. She’d let him put his fingers in that hair, and it had felt just as black as it had looked. And he’d put his hands on her, hadn’t he, he’d been careful to make sure at each stage that it was okay, but she’d moved into his movements, like it was something they’d already practiced, pressing back against his fingers wherever he put them. She’d let him in alright. He’d never been one to watch a girl sleep, after, Usually he rolled over, if he was honest. Most girls were tiring, made you work harder than you really wanted to, as if their orgasm was a prize that you should desperately want to win, but she’d been so soft against his fingers, and she’d pressed into him, and he could feel the tight press of her muscles and then it was done, and then she fell asleep, and he hadn’t even finished, but it felt like he had.
Where she lay, the moonlight sought her out, lighting that perfectly round face. He’d pushed down the blanket just a little, not so she’d be cold, but so he could watched her breathe. Other guys did it, he knew, watched their faces, it wasn’t weird, but he’d always rolled over. But her face was so round, and there had been so much perfect light.
She was married, but he hadn’t thought that that really mattered. She had two children, as well, and she talked about them a lot, and that didn’t seem to matter much either. He never met them, but he could picture them well from her fractured English descriptions. The girl was three years old, liked pink, cried a lot, which sounded like any other three year old girl he’d ever met. Apparently she liked to count every grain of rice she ate, a fact which made him suspicious, because how high could three year olds actually count, and how many grains of rice did it take to fill up a three year old? But he let it slide, the rice comment, because engaging with those kinds of conversations made them longer, and that meant less moonlight, less breathing. She talked about her son too, but she talked about him in the same voice that she talked about her husband, and that was harder to ignore. He was eight, and difficult. He hit children at school, and refused to wash his face, and all of these things made her love him more.
She loved her husband. But he didn’t even know the guys name – she never said it – so she couldn’t love him that much. When you love something you give it back to itself as often, and as deliberately, as you can. A name is something real, something you pass backwards and forwards, not like a football, exactly, but that was the idea. You gift, and re-gift, pressing the presence back into the world, back into the mold. Don’t you?
His pants were too tight. The band at the waist was cutting into him, and he was very aware of the soft fold of gut that was gently lipping at his belt buckle. Everyone put on weight when they moved to Japan, it was just a fact. And besides, Japanese women didn’t care about a little extra weight on their foreign men, it just made them bigger, warmer, more foreign. That’s why they dated them, that’s why they chose them over the tall thin men they were genetically matched with.
He sat up a little straighter. She had chosen him. The fact that she was gone now… well, if he was honest, it was a relief. That son of his, he was no good. He was dangerous. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to be in the same house as him anymore, at nights especially.
The girl – woman, but she looked like a girl – was talking to the tall foreigner now, talking to him with her whole body. It wasn’t obvious to most, he thought, but he could see it in the way she was standing, with her pelvis tilted forward and up, and her chin back and down, so all he saw was her downy demure parting and the gentle slope of her belly down to the pleated skirt.
It was sour, the taste in his mouth, the old beer, the wasted moonlight. Where was she now? In bed with her husband, probably, flopping like a fish between his thin little legs, those bony knees that her son wore, so proudly smeared with mud.
There was another beer in his hand. Someone must have given it to him, he supposed, or maybe he had stood and got it himself, or maybe he’d never finished the one he’d been drinking. What’s your costume someone had asked, and he’d said Groom and they’d laughed, goddamnit. To be honest, they probably hadn’t understood him, because they all pretended that their English was better than it was, all that nodding they did. It had fooled him at first, but not anymore. Now, he made them repeat what he’d said back to him. He wanted communication, that was all he wanted, and you had to fight for it in this country.
The plastic of the cup cracked between his fingers gave a little, with a warning crack, and he sat it down next to him and regarded the room. The dance floor was full now, packed with little writhing bodies with black hair, and the occasional ginger head sticking up, bobbing with the music. He looked at them, he watched the heads bob and tilt, he watched the eyelashes fanning at the air, propelling the heads that held them higher, he watched them levitate, he watched them fly away.
If the sky wasn’t blue, she wouldn’t mind so much, she thought, but it was. Wasn’t that always the way? That you could see just exactly what little thing could change, to make everything ok, to make all the shit bits turn and twist and disappear, but that was all you could do: see it. It was never the small things that mattered, because those were the things you could change, and then it would be easy. And if it were easy then everyone would do it, but weren’t they? All of this, this fight, this thing we were doing, it all came down to one thing that we were all doing all the time – living. Which seemed like it ought to be a piece of cake, really, not even a particularly big one, because biology took care of most of the difficult bits, and all you really had to do was make sure that you didn’t walk in front of trucks, or under falling pianos, or into manholes. And you had to eat at least one green thing every day, and maybe as few blue things as you could realistically manage, and if someone standing in front of you looked like they might be about to sneeze, you might want to turn your head, just slightly, just as if it was something you meant to do all along, because nobody can help a sneeze. No one can! You can feel them coming, and you can think pretty hard about those tunnels in your nose, and where precisely the problem was stemming from, and you could think and think and think, and you could hold your breath and close your eyes, and you might even think you’d won, but then it would come. And people next to you, the ones in the path of the sneeze, they might slide you a gooey look from the red corners of their little eyes, because they knew what you’d done, you with the germs, and they might think I would have held it in or You did that on purpose but no one can hold in a sneeze.
And you can’t change the colour of the sky, even if you might want to, which she did. It seemed unfair really. It had been so very grey of late, so very grey. Every morning, she’d crack first one eyelid and then the other, and she had those curtains, the cheap ones, the ones that might as well not even be there, that barely filtered any of the light at all, so she’d know immediately what the weather was like, even with just the crack in one eyelid not even totally opened, just a crack. And because it was autumn, or maybe it was winter, or it could have been spring, but because of all those things, it was always cloudy. Not even interesting clouds, not even huge brimming ones, that looked like you might sponge your face with them, not ones that looked heavy enough to fall to earth in a splatter-whack of grey-wet mousse; but just that general wispy-whatever, that wasn’t offensive, exactly, because it wouldn’t spit softly and fuck up your fringe, and it wouldn’t accidentally release and flood the universe, but was just so bland as to really piss you off, as if the weather was deliberately giving you nothing to talk about with the little old lady next to you on the bus. It did that all the time!
It was weather that nobody really learned how to dress for, because when you were six, and the sky looked like that, like someone had taken a big tongue to the heavens and licked it clean of anything that looked like it might taste good, your mother never told you to take a sweater, and nobody carried an umbrella, and you could wear your jellies, even if your toes might get a bit cold. So how was anyone supposed to learn? It was the kind of day where you could put on a woolly hat, and a scarf, and boots, because grey looks cold, but then the man sitting next to you on the subway might be wearing sunglasses and cargo shorts, because grey looks mild, and then you’d give each other uneasy glances because one of you was wrong but nobody knew who. Everyday that you live you should be better at guessing weather, because everyday you get a little bit more practice, whether you want to or not, and there’s a pun in there somewhere, but it might be too obvious. And nobody does get better. Because grey is not a colour and it doesn’t have anything behind it, and you could argue sun moon stars rain in iambic pentameter all you wanted but the fact of the matter was that there might be one and there might be all and you wouldn’t know until you were under it, in it.
It was the kind of day where you might put a cardigan in your bag. And maybe a change of shoes. It was the kind of day that might weigh on you with its very lack of substance, and you could pack everything you owned, but there was no predicting it and then you’d have a sore shoulder and what if you wanted to go for drinks after work and wouldn’t it be annoying to be carrying so much stuff around, particularly if there was dancing, and there was usually dancing.
Just bring a cardigan. Bring a cardigan, that was the rule.
But this blue! It was too much. It was painful. She’d thought that the grey was the worst it could be, a backdrop of boredom to anything she felt like doing, and she didn’t feel like doing fucking anything. So what she’d done to fill the time was: she’d dyed her hair. It was the best she’d been able to think of, on an afternoon that had felt endless, like a rip towing her out to sea, out from anywhere. The packets always made the hair look so lustrous, and it seemed like a good idea. Like, complaining was fine, she did that plenty, she had no problem with moaning as a means to an endless, but if everything was going to insist on being as grey as all that then that was what she could do: bring some colour. It seemed vaguely altruistic, especially since she didn’t really have the skin tone to pull off Red Passion, whatever that was, who named these dyes anyway, everybody knew that the colour of passion was gold gold gold. And it wasn’t bad either, the colour, on her hair at least. It made her ears look like she’d pressed irons to each side of her face, and she’d left a giant slurp of vermillion up the white wall in the bathroom that might have been a piece of dramatic art called Suicide or something equally as dramatic, but her hair was redredred, and shiny, and it smelled good.
A good decision for a grey day, but today it was blue, and today she looked like she was part of a living canvas entitled “Fourth of July” or something Equally as American, and when she’d started interpreting everything as art she didn’t know, it seemed vaguely pretentious for someone who’d studied law, but there it was.
It was so blue, like you could dive into it, or swill it round your teeth. Like you could tear off wide, wide strips of it and wrap them round yourself and dance like a ribbon, like a blue ribbon, like a cut ribbon. And she wanted to, because there’d been so much grey, and it hurt her eyes, all that grey. Some people thought it was mild, that gentle weather, that soft start to winter, or was it spring, or had it been summer? But there was nothing mild about grey. It was a non-something, an empty promise, because who in their right mind would take a space that big and fill with something that was so completely nothing-ish?
So she’d dyed her hair red and now the world was blue, and it hurt her eyes and she could see the strands, always, flickering at the corners of her vision like neon, and passing across her face like cat scratches, and it was shiny and redredred and one day, one day soon, it would be grey.
Emma stood there as he counted them and weighed her options. There weren’t many of them. She’d already tried to leave, twice, but both times he’d noticed her slow retreat, her fingers fumbling in the handbag that hung at her side for the keys to her car, and barked at her with such vitriol that she’d now become too afraid to try again. She could probably outrun him, she thought, but there were at least two closed doors between her and the driveway, and he might have locked them, and even if he hadn’t her hands were shaking so much that she knew he’d probably have his hands on her before she managed to turn even the first door knob. Even as she thought about it, she flexed the fingers of her right arm, and judged from the pain that sparked from the tips of her fingers and ground like teeth into her elbow that something was broken, that something had broken when he’d forced her hand from her handbag the second time, clenched his fist about her groping fingers and squeezed with strength that she knew he had, but had never had turned on her before. Not like this, anyway.
He didn’t look like he had it in him. He was tall, but thin, shaped, she’d always thought - not unattractively - like a hand, which didn’t sound attractive at all, but which had drawn her to him nonetheless. She was short, and round and blonde, and the way he looked, the total opposite to her, was appealing. He towered over her. And when they had sex, the alignment of pelvis to pelvis meant that her face pressed into his chest, into the warm concave space between his nipples, where no hair grew. She liked the anonymity of sex with him, their faces far apart. So many men liked the intimacy of eyes during intercourse, but Emma hated it, that tight focus. And quite apart from the pure awkwardness of eye-contact while you writhed and thrust, there was the issue of athleticism, when certain maneuvers inevitably meant collisions between noses, and chins, and Emma was self-conscious enough about her chin which was, she thought, alarmingly similar to that of all cartoon depictions of the man in the moon.
The tendons in his neck were standing tight against his skin. He was tan, as she’d expected he would be. He’d only returned to the southern hemisphere that morning, after all, so the stamp of a northern summer was still on him. It contrasted starkly with the white of his shirt, a crisp button-down of the type he always wore, the same make, the same size. His closet was full of them, lined up on hangers, at least 15, purchased exactly three months apart, one after the other, since he’d been refused tenure and decided that one of his cost-cutting actions would be the fostering of a wardrobe that required very little upkeep and nothing in the way of accessory. He rotated them on a strict schedule, so they wore evenly. It was one of the reasons he’d noticed her, he’d said, in the beginning, the colors and fabrics that she wore, velvet over cord, paired with lace and leather, the color and the clash of her. She looked exciting, he said.
She’d liked the picture that it painted of her, at odds with how she always imagined herself. It made her seem intriguing, original, haphazard, when really all of her outfits were carefully planned, hours spent leafing through magazines, trying on and discarding and purchasing until the right combination was found. That he’d believed her careful fiction had made her open to him, in a way she’d never imagined being when he’d first approached her, all those months ago.
He was doing it deliberately now, drawing it out. He already knew that one was gone.
His voice had a real edge to it, a manufactured blade. It wasn’t broken, like glass, but honed. He wasn’t looking at her, his hands and eyes equally carefully focused on the dishes he held.
He stacked them carefully, sliding them into each other, the grainy grind of china on china. They looked dull in the cooling light of the afternoon, but Emma knew how they looked in the sun. They were white in the centre, with only the distinctive imperfection of the handmade, rimmed in vermillion and finished with a gold band. They were beautiful.
He handled them like a human heart, the same perfect delicacy, the balance between care and pressure that ensured that would never fall. Probably, thought Emma, actually he would handle a human heart with rather less care. There were many more where they came from, after all, and they were weren’t perfect. And they weren’t part of a set. He liked sets.
Emma heard a car pull up in the driveway and suddenly felt the rise and rush of her own heart, beating frantically outwards, responding to the sounds of the engine. She heard footsteps, and then she heard a pounding at the door. Jane, she thought with relief, Jane was here, finally. She heard her try to open the front door, find it locked, pound at the door again. She heard her own name through the thick mahogany of two closed doors. Jane, calling her name, with the desperate edge to her voice that meant she had read the text message, that she had put it all together, that she knew what she might be finding.
He must have heard her. He was not young any more, true, but even a deaf person would have felt the reverberations from the vigor of the knock. He didn’t falter, though, continuing to rhythmically stack the plates, moving them from one pile to the other as he counted. Emma kept her eyes on his face. She didn’t dare move towards the sound of her rescue. And she was rigid, so rigid, her entire body clenched like a fist, so that the bruises on her hand and the broken fingers tingled with pain, but she didn’t move.
Jane was still at the door, calling her name. She wouldn’t stay there for long, though, Emma thought, soon she would pace around the side of the house and look for another way in, and soon she would see Emma, frozen on the dark wood floors in a pale square of sunlight. The room was barely walled in from the outside world at all, with huge white-framed windows letting in as much as possible of the awesome view of the harbor that he’d paid so much for.
‘Nine’ he said quietly, and clacked the last red plate into the single stack on the counter.
‘Nine’ he said again, as he slid his fingers free of the last red plate, and swiveled his body round to face her.
‘Nine’, he said, and then he shouted ‘NINE’ and then he was close to her, so close that she could see the red rims of his eyes like the red rims of his plates and his teeth, turning brown at the margins where they met.
‘Where is it?’ he asked, and his voice was calm and smooth and flat as porcelain.
Emma couldn’t have answered if she’d wanted to, if she’d known the answer. His skin was so brown and she could see the grey at his temples, and the loosening of flesh at his neck.
‘You broke it’ he said flatly, and she was facing his chest, that hollow patch between his nipples where she’d lain so many nights.
There was a flash of color at the corner of her vision and she knew without turning that it was Jane, her Jane, coming up the back steps in the yellow sweater she always wore to the gym. She knew, though she didn’t dare turn her head enough to look properly, that her blonde hair would be scraped and tied comically high on her head, and that she would have on her blue Nike trainers, and that her cheeks would have the high spots of color that they both got when they exercised, which Jane loved and Emma hated. She heard, rather than saw, Jane bang the flat of her palms against the glass of the door, then try the locked handle, then bang her palms again, and knew that she could see her, standing in the patch of light, with him high over her, and maybe she could see the unnatural twist of her wrist at her side, and her car keys lying, only ten centimeters, maybe, from her left foot.
He didn’t turn, either, though he could hear her. ‘You broke it’ he intoned, one more time, and Emma couldn’t even move her mouth to defend herself, even though she hadn’t broken it, had barely looked at them, had touched them only that one time, had trod so lightly around the cabinet where they were kept that she left only toe prints on the polished wood floors.
‘Bitch’ he said softly, and he seemed to move away, and she relaxed for almost a moment, and then his hand was at her head, and his fingers twined, sensuously through her blonde hair, and he was dragging her, with a strength you wouldn’t guess, though she knew he had. He pulled her backwards, almost made her fall, and it was only the fear of further injuring her hand that kept her on her feet, kept her legs under her, as he jerked her backwards, around the kitchen counter and towards the sink.
Emma couldn’t see her anymore, not even out of the corner of her eye, flooded now with the pain of her hair, but she heard Jane shout out, again, an agonized sound, and probably, thought Emma dully, probably she could almost feel it, because they’d always been a bit like that, and she heard her redouble her efforts, but there was nothing for her to use on the thick panes, reinforced against the coastal weather, but her hands and she had such small hands, they both did, of course.
And then he pushed her forwards, roughly, against the counter, his hand on the small of her back, and she thought for a minute that he was going to rape her, and she almost relaxed again, because he still wanted her, that meant, still wanted her around, but then he increased the pressure on the back of her head where his fingers were wound so deeply in her yellow hair, and she saw the plug in the sink through the calm water.
It was the old china that sold it to most people. There was a recession, or something; something which meant that you knew you ought to cook up enough dinner that you have leftovers to spare for lunch the next three days running, rather than going to the café down the road to pay for something fresh and healthy that didn’t taste like the smell of what you’d been excavating when you first woke up on the last two mornings.
Even if you were being paid exactly the same as you’d been paid the last few years, and even if the groceries hadn’t really gone up in price in any way you particularly noticed – at least, Tim Tams cost the same as they always did, and that was the most important thing, really, because who buys apples anyway - and even if you hadn’t been able to afford a car, ever, so the fact that the price of petrol was being pushed in your face now didn’t really register: even then, the serious faces on TV made it pretty clear that you ought to be penny pinching - which sounded a bit unnecessary, at best, and abusive, at worst - otherwise you were, beyond all doubt, the worst kind of spend-thrift, and the government was shaking a fat, heavy finger at you, somewhere.
The thing is, everything felt the same, but everyone everywhere was saying that it was different, and who were you to really know? You studied Classics at university, for fucks sake, so if someone wanted you to positively identify the painter of a particular volute krater, or pinpoint exactly in which books in The Odyssey Odysseus fucks his wife, then you were the go-to, the authority, but as for the graphs on television, and the old grey-beards dolefully casting their eyes downwards, and this dollar compared to that dollar compared to the price of a fucking grapefruit: not an area of expertise.
Or interest, really. Because, the riots in Egypt and Syria and anywhere else were a long fucking way away. And, yeah, the riots in London struck a little bit closer to home because the hoodlum carrying the laptop stacked on top of the camera and still managing to raise a hand to flip off the camera-man walked just like that best friend of your little brother, but still. New Zealand was ten different shitty things but it was isolated. And sparsely populated. And any riot mentality that Twitter or Facebook, or whatever medium you chose through which to look at topless photos of 17 year olds, could inspire still wouldn’t manage to raise the hackles of more than a few thousand angry teenagers at any one time because there were only a thousand of them there and most of them were busy looking at topless photos of 17 year olds anyway.
Things fell apart all the time, and this was nothing but the truth even if it sounded like an exaggeration because there were pictures and stories everywhere illustrating the very fact of the falling and you could see the tsunami in real-time with your own two blue eyes, if you wanted to, except that tonight was the night that you had specifically put aside to try nail art for the first time, and you can’t properly follow an internet tutorial with one eye on a wave eating thousands of people because nails are fucking small, as a canvas, and you didn’t want to fuck it up because you already promised that you’d post it on your blog as soon as it was done, and backing out on promises like that was not the way to gain new followers.
Things fell apart all the time, but there was something in the fabric of the universe that kept the pieces close, it seemed, so that they didn’t get swept away, or buried, but just remained, most of the time, mimicking their own fracture until someone new came along and put them back together, glued along the joins just so, and then it was fine again, until it wasn’t again, but there was always someone new, just coming along, just in a minute, shortly.
Things would never be fixed, though, exactly, because just as sure as there was a fixer coming along was the certainty of a breaker, someone tall and blonde with a gun and a political purpose, shooting everything twice to make sure it was good and dead, and that was just one of the breakers, there were millions of them, weren’t there? The equal and opposite of the fixer, because no one ever made a yin without a yang, there was never a protagonist unless there was an antagonist, because you couldn’t have one without the other, because there wouldn’t be a point, and there’s never anything quite as bad as not having a purpose, and anyone with a degree in Classics and an affinity for the volute krater knows that, through and through.
Just as there were breakers because there were fixers, accompanying the recession had to be a concession, a concession to the fact that maybe things were falling apart, again, like they did the last time, but didn’t we all survive it the last time, and the concession that you would make, as far as you were concerned, was the eating of the little sweet things on the old china.
Because it was the fact of the old china: you could drink your coffee, or your Japanese lime green tea out of any old thick brown china mug, the same as all the cafes had, any old time, knowing, but forgetting, just how many thick lips and wet tongues had been pressed to the same rims, and how many dirty fingers had crept around the inner edge, sweeping out the last residues of foam, sweetness, bitterness. You could do that without the feeling of reward, and pleasure, because it was just another thing you needed because, we’re 70% water, or whatever it is, except that you never see the water. There’s only the blood, or the snot, or the piss, or all the other liquids that you spill, accidentally, the cup just being too damn full to hold steady, day to day. The body holds onto its water, guards it like a jealous secret, even though you’d think, being 70% comprised thereof, you’d have a little to spare, but isn’t it always the most wealthy people who chase up the change, and pinch their pennies, no matter how much it hurts?
The concession was that because the little cakes, and the little sandwiches, and the little scones were served on the thin old china, it was something special. It was a treat. You could sip the tea, steeped through the old, dead leaves, and because your lips met on something older, older than you, and older than the leaves, that made this concession something sweeter.
And, because, you paid through the nose for it, more than you’d ever considered paying when you popped in for a coffee and a sandwich in between writing another thousand words on another piece of buried clay, another shard of something shattered, one of the things that never came back together, it tasted sweeter, that cucumber sliced like a dissection, so that you could peer through it, greenly, if you wanted to, but you didn’t because this was English, dammit, this was proper, the Queen did it, daily, and so you put the white bread and the green vegetable into your mouth, and ignored the fact that it was more or less the same texture and taste of sucking on moss; because of that, you enjoyed it more than it deserved.
It could have been the shame, or the daringness, of paying $30 dollars for something you could have made yourself for less than a bus fare, when the world was falling apart, and the tall black man with the handsome face stood in front of the cameras everyday looking thinner, and greyer, with the pure exhaustion of being the fixer where everyone else is backing the breaker; but mostly it was the old china.
The thing was, that in a world where people spend years of their lives digging things up that were buried for a reason, and analyzing things that were, in the end, nothing more than a vessel for something more important, it had survived. So many things break. Everything breaks. But you could hold it in your hands, and the flowers were painted with the thinnest brush, a brush you couldn’t even hold between fingers clenched and clawed from typing ‘topless 17 year olds’ into whatever search engine that had a verb named after it most recently, and they were gold and pink and red, and you knew exactly how tiring it must have been to paint those flowers because painting a leopard print on every nail of your ten fingers had taken nearly two hours, and then you’d smudged two of them anyway because your flat-mate wouldn’t undo the fly of your jeans for you to go to the toilet because of that one time, and you were drunk anyway, but she hadn’t forgotten, and a plate was surely an easier surface than a finger nail, but: they were so perfect. And it wasn’t just a plate, but a saucer, and a cup, and they were matched, of a set, and no one had ever broken any of them, and if that wasn’t a miracle in the order of loaves and fishes – in the order of dishes, haha – then what was?
You could believe in the existence of fixers, when you held the cup by its tiny handle, pinched awkwardly between a thumb and forefinger, with your pinky extended because that’s how the Queen did it, godammit, and even if William was gone, there was still Harry, which meant that there was still hope of a tiara, and why didn’t Kate ever wear a tiara, because you would wear one every day if it didn’t look so weird to wear a tiara on a bus, even if it was one of those new ones that ran off electricity?
The point is this: you have to eat. You have to drink. You’re 70% water, but you won’t be indefinitely.
You’re not part of a matched set, exactly, but the guy next to you on the bus has the same weirdly pointed forefinger, and your sister has exactly the same way of moving her nose when she’s confused, and so if we’re not a matched set, exactly, then we’re certainly part of one of those Venn diagrams you never understood in biology at school, where parts overlap, and share color, and parts stay true in and of themselves, and so that’s worth sustaining, isn’t it? That’s worth drinking to.
And if you have to drink, if you have to water this thing to watch it grow, then by far the best way of doing it is to do it out of a cup that was made fifty, one hundred, however many years ago, because if you could drop it on the floor, and break it, if it were as simple as all that to ruin something that had never, ever been ruined before, then it was worth paying that little extra – or that lot extra, because cucumbers don’t even taste like anything, and are scones always this dry? – to make something of it, a to-do, to fashion something of a celebration of the simple act of sustenance, because if it could last, that matched set, then you might last, then there might be hope for that whole desperate collection of us who aren’t fixers, exactly, and who only occasionally fall prey to the instinct to break.
Rose propped herself up on her elbow and regarded Jack with some distaste. He was still asleep, which wasn’t unusual – he drank a lot these days, which led to a deep, wet kind of slumber from which he was almost impossible to wake. His chin was pressed to his chest and he snored hollowly. There wasn’t much of the boy left in him now; ten years of hard living in the slums of New York has stolen much of the enthusiasm that had drawn her to him in the first place. There was a new softness around his face, but he still had that hair, that perfect golden flop across the forehead, and his eyes, when they were focused, retained the old nomadic glee.
She levered herself up and clambered awkwardly over him, stepping lightly to avoid waking the twins. She walked into the bathroom and swore as she noticed that he’d covered the walls and mirror again with more of his ‘art’. Hands, he was always drawing those damn hands. Angrily, she tugged a few of them free and let them drift to the tiled floor, remembering how his little pencil sketches had enthralled her, then stopped as she caught sight of herself in the mirror.
‘Reflection’s changed a bit’ she thought, remembering the face that used to look back at her. A tooth was missing at the bottom left of her jaw, loosened originally by that bastard Cal, and tugged free by the nurse who lived downstairs when it’d started to blacken and ache. Her hair still held its color, thank god, but she’d cut it only a few days after leaving the ship, a symbolic nod to her new freedom, and it had never really grown back properly. She ran some water into the chipped sink and washed her face, relishing the early morning moments of privacy that were so few and far between.
There was a sudden sound of footsteps and the door was pushed open. A thin Italian man walked in, naked, idly scratching his chest hair.
‘Fabrizio!’ she exclaimed. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Rose!’ he said, cupping his hands to his genitals. ‘I’m’a sorry! My wife kicked me out again… Jack said it were okay for me to stay’.
She sighed. ‘It’s fine’. She pushed past him, through the doorway, feeling as she did so him run one hand lightly across her bottom.
She walked back into the bedroom, where Jack was sitting at the edge of his bed with his head in his hands.
‘Are you alright?’ Rose asked, trying to turn the edge of impatience in her voice into something resembling concern.
‘Oh, yeah’ he mumbled to his knees. ‘Just drank like a man last night, that’s all’. She chuckled lightly at the old joke.
‘Are you going into work today?’ she asked.
‘No’ said Jack, looking at her for the first time. ‘I promised the boys that I’d…’
‘Oh Jack’, interjected Rose. ‘Not the cards. Not again’.
He stood and put his hands on her waist. ‘Come on, Rose. I’m a lucky guy. Remember how I came to be on the boat? A lucky hand of poker. I’m lucky. You’ll see. It’s just been a bad patch’. He put a hand to his mouth and stifled a burp that smelt of old beer.
Rose resisted leaning away from him, and tried to stop herself thinking the same thoughts that came back to her again and again – that maybe he should never have won, should never have been on the boat, never met her. She wouldn’t have jumped, really. Probably.
Jack ran his hands up her waist, across her back. ‘I’ll come back early tonight. We’ll put the twins to bed and have a night in, just me and you, okay?’ He smiled rakishly. ‘And maybe I’ll draw you. Like one of my French girls’.
She smiled faintly, wondering exactly how many French girls there had been in the last few years. ‘That sounds nice’.
He bent over, and she heard the faint sound of a fart escaping as he jerked up his trousers. ‘I tell ya Rose, I’m a lucky man. It’ll all come together. I’ve got a house, wonderful children…’ Fabrizio peered in through the doorway and gave a mock salute, one hand still covering his crotch, ‘…. great friends, and a beautiful woman’. He grabbed her again and pressed himself against her, pinching the roll of fat at her abdomen that she’d found so impossible to shift after the birth of the twins. ‘A perfect woman, still good enough to draw naked, even after all these years. So many women let themselves go, you know, but not you Rose. Yep, I’m a lucky man’. He planted a kiss on her cheek and sauntered into the bathroom.
Rose stood where she was, still feeling the pressure of his hands on her, sucking in her stomach. She spoke softly to herself.
‘I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go’.
N: Hi! Can I help you? You look like you could do with a helping hand!
L: I’m fine. Go away.
N: Are you sure? I have a flashlight!
L: Please go away.
N: Oh, I appreciate that you can do things for yourself. Girls can do anything! It’s just that… I have this flashlight, see? And it looks like you’ve been shot. Twice. In the head. I deduced that from the fact that you’re bleeding rather a lot. From the head. Also, I suspect you may have been buried alive. You’re very dirty. I think it entirely possible that someone tried to kill you. Perhaps your father. Or your brother. Or both! I’m very intuitive… I’m a sleuth, you know. An amateur sleuth! I have a lilac cardigan that you can borrow if you like? Only, you’d have to try not to bleed on it. Hannah bought it for me. She’s very kind. You’d fit it. You’re very thin. Boys like thin girls, that’s why I’m always trying to convince Bess to diet. You know…
L: (glares) Please, just fuck off.
N: You know, you really should remove those bullets. And maybe, you know, try wearing your hair in a different style. My hair is titian. Your hair looks like it might be red, under the dye. But that might be the blood.
L: Fuck off.
N: I would, I really would… Only, I’m trying to solve a mystery. And you look like you might be able to help me!
L: I really don’t think I can.
N: You haven’t seen a hidden staircase have you?
N: Or an hollow oak?
N: How about a brass-bound trunk?
N: An ivory charm? A crumbling wall? A moss-covered mansion? Well, have you seen Ned? He’s my boyfriend. He’s tall. And handsome. And athletic. I can’t seem to find him or George. And she’s always been jealous of me… You’re sure?
L: Just fuck o – actually, can I borrow your computer?
N: Oh, I don’t own a computer. I prefer just to use my brain. And this flashlight. Are you sure you don’t need my help? I can drive. Cars AND boats. I can cook. I speak French. I swim like a fish. Plus, I’m really good looking, like my father. I have titian hair. See?
(She shines the flashlight into her own face, temporarily blinding herself. Lisbeth moves to walk away)
N: Wait! Have you seen the girl with the dragon tattoo? Or the girl who kicked the hornest’s nest? Or the girl who played with fire?
L: Are they all the same person?
N: I think so. But I’m not sure. I’m solving the mystery, finding clues. You know. With my flashlight (smiles, flashes dimples)
L: She sounds stupid. That girl.
N: Yes, perhaps. But I suspect she’s not. I suspect she is merely misunderstood. I have a knack for things like that. You know, I think you might die. Soon. Would you like me to perform brain surgery? I’m pretty sure I could do it. I do have a flashlight, you know.
L: No, thank you. Goodbye.
(Starts walking away)
N: Goodbye! Good luck with the bleeding! Let me know if you see some disappearing diamonds! Or a vanishing veil! Or an elusive heiress!
Scarlett 3:55 PM
m losing you!
Like last time
I’ve lost you again
Call Ended2 minutes 22 seconds
s.a.r.howell 4:01 PM
Come back. It will work now.
Heathcliff and Dick are walking along a wharf on a warm summer’s day
D: I say, old chap! Jolly nice weather we’re having! I hope you’ve got your bathing costume on under your clothes, the waves are just super today!
H: The clouds are dark and filled with her dark image! The waves whisper her name like the wind through the branches of trees in the night… I cannot walk along this beach, but that I see her face before me – in the sand, in the water, in the very air I breathe!
D: Don’t worry, old boy. A dip will sort you out soon enough! Whoops!
Dick pushes Heathcliff off the wharf and into the water
H: Cur! Evil son of swine! How could thou lay one hand upon me, when my soul, the very deepest places of me are torn, and tossed in the gathering winds of the moor…
Dick dunks him under
H: Dog! Son of a dog! Cursed heir of Hareton, thou art nothing but a wretch, an evil apparition sent to keep me from her!
Dick dunks him under again, laughing
H: Curse you! Curse those demons that drive you! I hear the ghosts calling for me, whispering her name out of the shadows… I am tormented! Tormented!
Heathcliff swallows a mouthful of seawater
H: TORMENTED! How can I live, when she lives not to speak my name? How can I recognize my own face in the glass when mine – so foreign to my weeping eyes – is the very same face that she knew, that she loved? Oh, let me die! Let me die, that I might see her face again! That I might touch her lips! The lips of a thousand earthly souls shall not compare to the caress of hers that once knew my name! Oh! Cathy!
Heathcliff gives up his struggles to stay afloat and sinks beneath the surface. Dick pulls him back up with a fistful of his hair.
D: Goodness! You are feeling dramatic today aren’t you? Don’t forget, George is my cousin, so I know all about these tantrums that girls like you throw!
H: (briefly distracted) Did you just call me a woman, you impertinent young swine?
D: You’re just like George! With your curly hair and your shorts and your tantrums! I tell her, and I’ll tell you, you can dress just however you like, but girls will never be as good as boys, however hard they try. But buck up, old girl. Anne’s been at the oven all day, and I’m just panting at the thought of her scones. Come on, then, I’ll race you to the house. Hurry, won’t you, or Julian will eat them all, pig that he is.
Heathcliff stumbles out of the shallows and follows Dick up the beach, coughing
H: Cathy! Oh Cathy, my heart, my love, my mirrored soul… Wait, did you say scones? Do you have jam? Wait!