In the diner there are 5 booths, 3 on the longer side of the room and 2 on the other. Because it’s deep winter and just began blizzarding outside, everyone has hung up their wet coats which are dripping and making puddles on the floor. All the coats are hung on long poles which are attached to the side of the booths. With a hat set at the top and a jacket hanging below they form the shape of a man, looming over each table. A mirage of guards. Of haunting protectors.
The blizzard outside was getting progressively worse while Amabel had a chicken noodle soup and a milkshake. She came here every day as it was the last remaining relic of the neighborhood as it had been before. It smelled warmly stale and old inside, large pots of soup bubbling over and getting thicker. Every now and then the waitress would walk over to the stove with a mug of warm water and pour it into the soup to thin it out. The waitress was older, in her late 40’s, but wore a small sexy outfit. A dress and apron which could have come from a costume shop. It was worn thin and the apron particularly was covered in muted colorful smears of icing from the cakes sitting moist on the counter top.
Outside the diner the snow was building steadily. Amabel thought of a winter before, when she’d been in London during the whitest Christmas of the decade, and slept with the windows of the attic open so that the room filled with snow. At that time she’d been in love with the man who’d forced her to come to England, and then forced her out to the countryside, where it was completely still and nothing ever happened. She lived in front of a small courtyard, which several other buildings looked onto as well. She rarely saw another human entering or exiting the other flats. She herself left seldom. Although it was uncommon for England to receive so much snow, that winter they had been heavily covered. In her occasional, tepid attempts to leave, the snow would be piled up so high outside of her front door that she could not get out. She dreamed that the man who’d brought her here was in control of the weather, had demanded the snow to come so that she couldn’t leave. Although she began to hate him she figured she wasn’t missing out on much that was going on in the outside world and so came to terms with being stuck in the room.
The man visited her rarely. She stayed in the attic and wrote slow, strange stories which were very long but went nowhere. She had a neat pile of all the writing she’d done on the desk, one story atop the last until the papers altogether reached nearly a meter into the air. The man had left very good quality paper in the room - so heavy it felt almost like cardstock - and so the tower did not so much as sway even when the snow and wind came in through the windows.
Amabel stopped daydreaming briefly and returned to the diner. She could see that the park was now nearly completely covered in white. She did not know how easily she could get home at this point, and so ordered another bowl of chicken noodle soup to delay her trip.
One morning the man came home, acting as though he’d been there all along. He walked in the front door holding a family sized blue top milk carton and some cereal. I walked down to the kitchen in a pair of old boxers and a large t-shirt with a sweater underneath. The house was cold because I had never figured out how the heating worked. I wore thick socks that allowed me to slide smoothly down the stairs from the attic to the rest of the house. Everything was carpeted in oatmeal colored rug. When I arrived at the door of the kitchen the man looked at me first quizzically, then with delayed admiration, as though he’d forgotten I was there but was, afterall, glad to have this unannounced guest.
“And how are we this morning?”
The man had a tendency to come off as extremely camp on occasion. It was something I’d originally found endearing, and had aided in my falling in love with him. I was naively attracted by seeing a man flirt with his feminine side, a trait so unknown to me. Yet now it irked me and seemed almost disgusting. The twangy high pitched tone of his voice, his physicality toying with over embellished womanliness. And here I was locked in the tower like a modern day Rapunzel in a shitty little town. Ha ha. My prince was a fraud.
Having been alone for so long I had nearly forgotten how to speak. I would hum to myself in the attic, whistle little symphonies sometimes to pass the time, but talk to myself? No, I had not yet crossed that threshold of loneliness.
I made an attempt to say hello which came out more like a gurgling noise. The man laughed, looked at me with his head cocked and pouted a little, how cute I was, like a child - cooing. As it was clear I would not be the leader of this conversation he took over.
“I’ve just been down by the water, where we had lunch last summer when the old drunk man came up to us and said you looked delicious, and you were scared because you thought he could do something to you since it was just the three of us up on that big empty field.” I nodded, I remembered. The drunk man had been strange and frothy at the mouth from all the beer bubbling back up from his belly. My man had engaged in conversation with him for a significant amount of time. I sat between the two of them and pulled weird faces while eating Wotsits. Nothing would make the drunk man go away so I just left them both there and went for a walk on my own. I don’t remember what happened after that.
This is how a lot of my memories end nowadays. They finish abruptly, often with myself walking away into something indescribable simply because it is insignificant. I walk into a road, and a new memory of something else begins - unlinked to the previous. I walk out towards the field, and something happens in which the drunk man and my man are no longer involved. All my memories unlinked from each other, no continuity. Time like a soup.
He was home very briefly, in fact, only exactly as long as it took him to finish the milk. When he left, I sat in the garden for a while, it was cold but the sun shined harshly for the latter half of the day.
One night when I was living in that house, I decided to go out. It had been a mild week and no new snow had fallen. There had even been a day or two of that winter kind of sun that is persistent and melts everything away. On a Friday night I put some real clothing on and slipped out of the front door and onto the single road which led through the entire town. It was the main road, the alley ways, back and side streets combined for it was the only road at all. The town had been constructed this way long ago and it had produced a very odd and unfamiliar societal structure. It was something about the directness of the place, of not being able to avoid walking past something, of having your options taken away. When people came to visit the town they found it endearing and juvenile. However the people from here find it very difficult to go to cities with more than one road and so the people from here don’t leave.
On this night Amabel walked down the road towards where the club was. It was called the Stereo Box Club and it had a big light up sign on the outside which was always guarded by a middle aged bouncer from Puerto Rico. He was one of the very few foreigners who lived permanently in the town. Amabel couldn’t remember how far along the main road the Stereo Box Club was but since you could not possibly get lost in this town she just kept going for a very long time in the dark until she saw the foreigner at the door bathed in a purple orange fluorescent light and stopped.
“Who’s playing tonight?”
Her voice came out strained from lack of use but sounded cool still and she was reminded momentarily of her life before all this. The thought was fleeting and nearly unconscious, she had mostly just felt a quick bolt of pleasure from hearing herself speak and thinking that at least her voice was not un-sexy. She looked at the bouncers face and then could not look away. She looked for a million years. Standing underneath the Stereo Box Club neon sign the bouncer and Amabel stayed soaked in orange looking at each other for eternity.
I wake up to both of George’s hands on my back, planted on the sides of my ribcage ready to make a dramatic crack. My spine, runny wonky down the middle is his guideline, while the fleshier parts around my skeleton are what he holds on to in preparation. His goal is to bring both of my shoulder blades as close together as possible until the center splits and spills something out which might finally satisfy him. Because George doesn't sleep it doesn’t matter what time it is when this is happening.
One night he tells me that when I go to sleep he walks around the periphery of my room in smaller and smaller circles towards the middle touching every object in the space until nothing has been left unturned. His insomnia sounds boring and torturous to me. His idleness unproductive. Focused in on the wrong things. If I had double the hours in the day I’d be the smartest person in every room.
I think about kissing you upside down. Fat top of tongue against fat top of tongue. You look
with that bit of snot dripping from your nose like a sick puppy or a young boy. The love I feel for you is like the love you feel for someone else’s kid, someone you babysit every once in a while and see growing in strange sudden jumps and so they remind you especially of how time goes and what 3 versus 5 versus 8 looks like in an innocent but frightening way.
Anyway, we’re walking.
London is so blue.
Today there’s some red in the sky as well - behind us where the sun is setting the city is soaked in it. Next to me on the bench your face and the sky change together.
By the time we leave it’s nearly dark and I say “Now you’re all purple and blue, like a bruise.”
We go back home and that night I dream of punching a woman in a bathroom stall.
I wake up sticky, cold sweats from sleeping in your bed and feeling unfamiliar there. The skyline outside your bedroom window feels very different to how I imagined this city would look from afar. Being here breaks my deja-vu mornings. My bathroom smells like the zoo, like animal shit and wet hay. Your bathroom smells like coconut hair gel. I’m having a cigarette on the balcony and thinking still that the skyline here isn’t right. A little crooked and that building there just doesn’t exist, yet from up on top of the hill you live on it does. A fabricated horizon. A magic one. Animated suddenly, buildings and bridges come and go as they please. The London Eye unravels cat like and takes a walk, returning to the shore by the evening and curling up again to do its job.
My mother in the sweat soaked state of her menopausal heat waves used to embarrass me but not anymore. It’s impressive to watch a body expel so much, and so suddenly. I have not seen other women sweat as my mother does, and while I’m sure it happens - as all women go through this aggressive reverse puberty - I suspect they do it more shyly or quietly than she does.
My mother’s side of the family sweats and stares with enthusiasm. They do it without any sense of holding back, the way most people with ‘manners’ do - making some attempt to keep their staring hidden, discrete, selective. This family stares ruthlessly, in all directions, at everything. Sweating is the same - they drip incessantly. Pearls build up on the skin above their brows, small salty domes, and are wiped away intermittently by a damp blue rag (always this). The skin stays matte for a moment, then quickly some new wetness percolates through their pores and appears again in sparkling dewy drops. It’s piggish I guess, as if they’ve always just finished a labouring job. To have a body in a constant state of wetness is something rare and reminiscent of island heat and summer. But when taken out of this context it is stranger, potentially dirty - yet isn’t. It seems at times almost especially healthy, for the sodium content of your body to be released and replenished so frequently. Flushed out. Ultimately more pure than the others - who tend to hold it all in.
I am disturbed by very little but when you pull at my eyelids making my entire eyeball visible, anatomically circular and set within the bone socket of my face I am admittedly unsettled. It must be something about how standard and dead I look - a complete loss of identity at seeing my insides so clearly (and them looking so much like everyone else's!)
I am 14 and my mother is sweating a lot in the middle of winter. I get home and she’s in the bath, which is a place we can be where there is no distinction between body and water. Her eyes are closed and she is very very still.
Man says to wife - I’ve met someone and I need you to let me have a love affair with her. It will be short, only a few months, but I will come out better by having gone through being in love with this woman. I love you still, and always. That is why I’m being as forwards as possible about this. I will fall in love, with your permission, for 3-4 months. When it is over I will be only slightly heartbroken. I will be more considerate, wiser, and understanding of you from going through it. I will allow myself to fall fully in love only if you allow it. If you say no, which is your choice entirely, I will either stay away from the other woman - or kill her. I may remain slightly altered by the experience, and by not having fulfilled this affair, but our lives will continue as they are right now. What do you think of this plan?
On the one hand I am thinking of the very small pulsating throb of your penis - which I can feel ever so slightly on the inside walls of my vaginal canal when you finish inside of me. On the other hand, I am thinking of nothing at all. Outside the window of the train carriage very little is going on. I am constantly looking at the same scenery until I go slightly mad and have to move again. Somehow I always end up back here though, where the gray takes over entirely and I am filled with all sorts of jams and doughs and made swollen by them. I am tripping all the time. I make a joke about it and trip as I am making the joke. The force of my foot hitting the thing I am tripping over and my body jolting forwards makes me throw up in my mouth a bit. But I am on a date and so I swallow it and keep chatting.
My mother remains in the bath until dinner time. I am a good child but I do not know how to feed myself. My mother comes out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her body. She is thinner that I’ll ever be. She stands and looks at me sitting at the table for a while, dripping puddles of warmish water onto the floor. Finally, she says, “you look good, healthy” after some consideration.
She knots the corner of her towel and tucks it in around her chest so that she can cook without getting dressed. Her bare feet smack against the linoleum and pick up crumbs as she moves around the kitchen. A million years ago I told her that I liked scallops and so now we have them for dinner every night. She fries them in butter and olive oil and serves them in a sweet white sauce.
The city is green hot in a gross way. Everyone loves it here but the sun is mean.