They come crashing into my mind at the strangest of times. A solitary pair, a phrase, a sentence. Often complete in themselves but crying out for a backstory. They excite me, these words. They fill me with a longing to spend days at a battered old desk overlooking the sea, filling in the gaps with more words. The warmest, fluffiest socks, copious amounts of coffee and ink scratching onto paper as the waves beat and crash against the shore. But these words also fill me with an ineffable sadness. I never have, never had the confidence. Never believed in myself enough to even try to make something more out of them. And so they are left to rattle about in my mind, like someone’s lost property, unforgotten and never quite finding the ending to their story.
These faces, these many faces were created when she was young. She curated them with such precision, picking just the right one depending on the circumstance and the environment. It was never about deceit or manipulation but simply a survival mechanism that she had learned to hone and perfect so that she could avoid the toxic effluent that schoolgirls can be so expert at flinging. So that she could be the dutiful daughter or the brilliant student, the obliging friend. So that she could fight this unsettling feeling that followed her wherever she went; she never really fit in anywhere because she was the missing piece from a puzzle that she would never find.
Years later, when she looks back on her life she will realise that she never really had the chance to just live. She had never learnt, and never been taught, to shrug off her imperfections and say ‘well stuff them if they don’t like me’. She never really knew how to take off these faces, these masks, and smash them to the ground, obliterating them into so many, tiny, little pieces, so that only one true face was left and she could just be herself.
Recycled from my paranoidpromqueen days, written November 2004
He looks up expectantly and when he realises she isn’t there checks his watch; it’s not yet ten to nine. He gets back to work and the next time he looks up she is standing there in front of him. As is the way every morning she looks a little flustered and and her eyes flit around never quite settling on him. She seems a little nervy so he smiles at her. He thinks that there is some sort of unspoken connection between them, that if the universe ever saw fit to bring them together for a proper chat they would find so much to talk about and they wouldn’t stop. He wonders if she ever thinks of him and if a proper chat is at all likely. Probably not. Still, she is here now so he flashes his best smile at her, ignores his other customers and hands the cup straight to her, ‘Semi-skimmed latte?’ As she takes the cup her fingers brush past his ever so slightly, and she looks him in the eye. They are both aware of the tiny, fleeting frisson hanging in the air between them. ‘Thank you’ she says, smiling at him, and off she goes to start her day.
Recently, those little fractures that she had almost forgotten about have been letting the darkness in more and more.
Perhaps she shouldn’t have left them to fate, perhaps it was wrong of her to let what minute amount of optimism she had take over her and let her believe that they would fix themselves. Everyone knows that a puncture repair kit is only temporary after all.
He left on a Sunday as families tucked into their roast dinners, sheep grazed in their fields and the world continued to revolve slowly on its axis. After a perfect weekend of coffee in cafes and arm-in-arm walks she was blissfully blinded. So when he said ‘I love you but I can’t be with you anymore, it’s not fair’, it was the last thing she had expected. He was leaving her to chase the dream of a woman he had loved before her, a woman who had left him to travel half way around the world in search of adventure because their life together had been lacking. ‘I really believe you can love two people at once’ he said, was this some scant effort at making her feel better she wondered as the hot tears began to roll down her cheeks. He couldn’t bear to see her cry so he did what came to him instinctively, he put his arms around her and held her tight and one thing lead to another. Later as he got dressed and packed his things the sun began to set, sending shards of pinks and purples crashing silently into the cotswolds. And while the world carried on she sat in bed clinging to her duvet, trying to wring some comfort from it as she watched him leave for the last time.
Slumping down in her chair exhausted and fed up she wonders how she will conjure up the effort to do this assignment. As her account details appear on the screen, a message flashes before her eyes, you have new mail. She clicks the icon and reads the message, hello my sweet girl from Timbuctoo, I can see you from where I’m sitting, you make me smile. Momentarily she remembers a scene from a film that she loves; a girl at a computer, the image of her crush appearing in front of her, the crush standing up and smiling. These things only happen in the movies don’t they? She looks around furtively to see who has written this heart-fluttering message and she sees him sat not two or three rows away from her. Fred. The sweetest boy at uni. Fred with the heart-melting smile and the eyes that crinkle up at the corners when he laughs. Fred whose eyes dance whenever she walks into the room. She waves a small wave and beams a smile at him. Then she slumps back into her chair and heaves a silent sigh – risk is not a game she likes to play. If only she were free to find out if he felt about her, the way she did about him.
Lately, she’s been aware that things have seemed different. She doesn’t feel the darkness bearing on her anymore, the mass that threatened at times to smother her. Instead she knows what it is to feel the weightlessness that a child feels when she is skipping along without a care in the world, floating as if on clouds. It’s not all rose tinted spectacles and cotton candy though…sometimes, on one of those days, she comes across little fractures in her life that let an insidious amount of the darkness seep through. It is then that she is acutely aware of the sensation of time rushing away from her, like treacle dripping through her fingers, and she wonders if it is something that she can ever stop.