Thursday, 23 August 2012

But I Have No Garden

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      23rd July 2012

Dear Charlie,  
As you know, I no longer feel elated when your ‘boyfriend’ scratches on my door, and today was no exception.
I thought it was just easier to send you an email rather than text you anything.
HE comes up, and is moaning about the smoke this time, because he’s now sleeping in the upstairs bedroom because you’re away and busying himself trying to open windows, one of which is painted shut (on the outside, it turns out). He asks for a knife (he always does that) and sets himself to thrusting through the painted-shut window frame in the hall, which, after I’d say quite a lot of effort and after he nearly shoved his hand through the stained glass, does succeed in opening, in triumph. I clapped. Then he decided to change a light bulb (I provided the light bulb) and that worked too. You can see he’s going up in my estimation, because I only need to watch basic symbolism unfurl before me such as a light bulb going on and filling the world with radiance to feel that the person who did it must equally be full of radiance. (This is one of the reasons I don’t go out, because I am so easily influenced by trite acts that nonetheless describe bliss, and exactly why I had my heart and mind broken to smithereens so many times before and why I am so grateful for your protection, and value things like you weeping over my not perhaps coming to the wedding and writing me nice notes, all of which your boyfriend is entirely indifferent to). Then he sets to on what’s wrong with my flat and how it needs cleaning, and things throwing away, and I say I can’t cope and have started to have bad dreams, about stabbing myself to death, and he says he’s not surprised and it’s a shame to see me this way and I need to go outside, and go to the park and ‘read your book there (he pronounces it as if remembering a strange habit that ‘foreigners’ do) and I say I did that yesterday and he doesn’t hear me, and then he says he himself felt a bit bad last week and I say he’s too banal to feel unhappy, and he says he didn’t come here to be abused and his telling me to tidy my flat or sit in the park or get a leg-wax isn’t abusive but calling him facile IS and OF COURSE he is a creature of depth and I am NOT ALLOWED to ‘float that word banal’ at him because it’s NOT TRUE and yes he might be a little frivolous on occasion but ‘...but that’s what keeps you buoyant. Yes, Daniel,’ I said. ‘I used to believe that superficiality was just a convenient facade hiding an aching quivering soul of tragic sensibility that no one understood and I alone was uniquely available to a profundity everyone else ignored’ (including your long-suffering girlfriend, who has been much maligned by this cheap posturing, by the way), ‘but I don’t think that any more. My opinion has changed.’ Irreversibly. He went bustling down the stairs being bright and happy and blond and sweet - ‘I am not cross,’ he fluted - leaving me feeling mean. 
Then he came back up again to ask to borrow a ladder. We had a conference about this because I actually had a free-standing ladder (‘it has to be FREE-STANDING, it can’t just LEAN UP against the WALL, like the one YOU have’) in the corner that was tall enough for the job, and eventually he wrested this from its hiding place, cloaked in dust, there were puffs of it arising as he turfed the clothes onto a chair, and then I had to use my brains to work out how to get it down the stairs, an optical illusion that I’m capable of being an artist, and good at visio-spatial ratios etc, and a good thing I am because he was just about to do something ridiculous like throw it out of the window or scrape the walls in frustration or bang it over the stair rail because he has no foresight. Then he changed another light bulb (using another one of my light bulbs, a screw-in rather than a bayonet - of course he said, ‘can I have a SCREW this time,’ making me feel doleful - you have to talk to him about his language) and I had to hold the ladder because he’d otherwise fall off, and again I thought he was marvellous, like a weird, manipulated slave who can only stand and watch and cheer. Like a cheerleader in fact. Then he told me to clean the ladder - ‘GET a J Cloth and a bucket’ - so I went upstairs and filled a bowl with washing up liquid and started sponging. The ladder is so old and rickety that I got a splinter - ‘Ow!’ - and he was unsympathetic and told me to just get on with it. He was on the phone now, having cheery conversations, this time with someone called ‘Steve’. The light was flooding through the windows - he left your flat door open - and also from the front of the house, now he’d opened both doors, and I continued my dreary task, getting into a trance about it as the ladder belonged to my ex-boyfriend (the heroin addict one, who doesn’t count), just as the other ladder (the UN-free-standing one) belonged to my other ex-boyfriend (if we can call Mendel that, which we can’t, so who also doesn’t count), and I started to wonder why do the men in my life - once they have actually arrived in my life, and stayed, for several years, rather than run away day one - give me ladders, unlike other girls who get nice things like orange skirts from Marc Jacobs and diamond rings (hint). More sorrow.  
I went and got a pair of tweezers and removed the splinter, in a tiny dot of sunshine outside that I found and went and sat in - and then I finished off cleaning the ladder. I nearly fell off it as well, but no one was there to catch me because no one cares. I even sung a little song while I was doing it:  
Nobody loves me, everybody hates me
I’m going down the garden to eat worms  
but no one heard me.  
Then I looked at the knife, which was all twisted, and I tried to bend the blade back and couldn’t so I thought He might be able to, and went down with it - ‘it was already bent’ - ‘YES! YES! Because YOU bent it breaking into your own flat in the winter using the very same technique!’ - ‘I don’t remember’ - he never remembers anything - and ended up having to hold the ladder, again, while he changed more light bulbs, again, this time in the bedroom, and then (continuing the theme of light), after I was checking the shelves in the drawing room for MY books, he managed to break the foot off your desk - ‘why did you try to move it’ - ‘because the lamp was unplugged’ - so we had to spend a while holding it up off the floor and pushing the broken foot under it - ‘Charlie has crap old furniture’ - ‘yes, you need my haut-boy. But that looks as if it’s been mended before’ - and then putting the lantern back on it and making it look pretty again after everything had fallen off it, and I then collected a few of my books because he never reads them - ‘where are the Coovers?’ - no reply - and disappeared upstairs. 
I then read the bit about the enucleation of Celia, the little girl in the Kevin book, which reminds me of another book I keep trying to persuade you both to read which also involves enucleation, which is the only reason why I know the word (Asylum). Daniel issued instructions: go to the park, draw a picture, tidy the flat, dust - he sounds like the lists I write myself - but I have to say he’s won me over again, which just goes to show how weak and tractable I am. I can’t work out whether he’s a curse or a river of bright promise; what do you think? He doesn’t understand me, however.
And I don’t think I really understand him, either. I said, when I was holding the ladder (which he broke, he smashed a rung) that I couldn’t hang around doing this all day because my depression was missing me and I had to get back to it; I could feel it getting lonely without me. This is just Serbo-Croat to Daniel, and also to his flat, which has no depression in it AT ALL. I know depression isn’t the same as depth, but all the same.  
Now you’ve phoned, also setting me tasks but ones I equally can’t fulfil because I need to know the date of return from Edinburgh to Stanstead, and also if you even want to return to Stanstead because you may prefer Gatwick, or maybe it doesn’t matter, and also what time you want to get into Edinburgh from Stanstead and what day.
I hate my flat. Just five minutes in the bounty and beauty downstairs has made me never want to set foot in my own place ever again. It is dark and dusty and full of shivering creatures that bleat and moan whenever I try and walk anywhere because they start crying as I crush them, and if I try to pick anything up they cling and act bruised and betrayed, and I can’t bear their pain. (‘Er, yes, Daniel, I do KNOW about hoarding, yes I am aware that it’s a psychological as well as a physical problem, yes. I am attached.’ ‘Well get DIS-attached.’) Unfortunately I have to stay here because Tescos is delivering between 4 and 6, and I doubt I’ll have gathered myself together to leave and then come back before 4, so all this park business will have to happen after 6, or 4, and I’ll just stare at the dust in the meantime.  

P. S. Daniel hid my Tarot cards. That is not tidying up, that is just making things worse. I had to phone him to find out where he’d put them. He also put a lot of boxes on the floor and told me to fill them.    

P. P. S. He thanked me for helping him with The Best Man’s Speech: ‘Yes, I heard it went well; Charlie said it was brilliant’ (giving him an opportunity to say ‘yes, only because you encouraged me to cut the Vietnam bit and sorted out the most ludicrous, rudimentary errors of grammar and figures of speech and turns of phrase, or I’d have sounded like a right moron’, but Not A Chance). ‘You can’t teach literacy to the masses’ he said, ‘and the masses is what I deal with’, which just makes me despair; on the other hand, I don’t think I’m in the business of teaching anything to the masses or even communicating with them. I don’t think I like the masses and I don’t think they like me. But he agreed with me about the twins (‘they are macabre,’ he said, after having encouraged me to ring them. He met them in the street. ‘Sometimes, Daniel, I get rid of people not because I’m mad or morose or an isolation addict but because I am exercising good judgement’), and The Alchemist (NOT the one by Jonson), which I wasn’t expecting. ‘It’s not alchemy, it’s shoplifting,’ I said. ‘He pinched the entire story from some old Polish fairy tale I happen to have read, and he is not some important spiritual thinker, he is a capitalist thug who just pretends to be mystical and makes the rest of us pay.’ Daniel mumbled on about Brazilians which was not the point, though on that subject he was pleased I’d got my legs waxed: ‘I hope you got your beaver done too,’ he said with refreshing zeal. That is the kind of comment that freezes me to the floor, so I just stayed there, stuck, until he started demanding things (knives, light bulbs, ladders). This is a boring note to end on, even though it was actually the beginning of the story in terms of chronology, so I shall try to be more exciting, but... I just... can’t. There is no food in the house and I am starving. I’ve also run out of coffee. But, to conclude:  
I am terrified of your boyfriend and just do anything he says and the sooner you come home the better or he’ll have me involved in endless domestic chores and further and further away from my life of woe and miscellany. I explained to him he was too trivial to ever suffer disaffection and leached away my copy of The Waste Land but I don’t think anything daunts his joyful purpose in the world, which is honestly something because there are a lot of sinister people about and he’s at least not that. He hasn’t returned my ladder though, and I think he’s just going to throw it away, so I am going to spend the rest of the day crying in my pink bikini on my own.
Love from Jessica  

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