#61

I haven’t found it yet
But there is a tunnel in our garden
That leads to your flat in Brighton near the Lanes
Near the special sausage shop
Near the retro-vintage warehouse and the piers,
Old and new, and that restaurant
Designed to look like opera boxes
All these things are within my reach.
The cat could even come with me.

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List the places you liked to hide as a child

Mostly under the covers, an obvious place
Alongside ridiculously oversized cuddlies
They all had names
One was a long flat dog with long flat ears that lay alongside me on my top bunk
Can’t remember what he was called
We did all sorts under the covers, when we were small
Met friends
Told stories
Mostly to scare each other
Discussed what bodies we had
Enrolled in thousands of careers and areas of expertise
Solved the world’s problems
Conspired on how to ignore our grown-ups’ flaws

On Female Friendships

My friendships with women have evolved over the years, and are still evolving. I am incredibly grateful for what they are becoming, not least because they have been shaky at times. I had a series of ‘unfortunate’ friends whom I may have mentioned before; the people who I found myself closest to in my new schools, who bullied me in ways both crass and complex.

At college I found myself in the unique position of being ready to finally say, “Fuck you” to one of these friends who was treating me poorly, and got to trot off and choose myself a whole new bunch of friends who excited me and cheerlead(? Past tense…) me, and began a whole new chapter of experience in my life.

Throughout university I struggled to find people I connected with on a fundamental level. I flew the nest in the biggest way I could imagine at the time and left home comforts far behind me. I regret that sometimes. The small northern town and the very small northern campus I ended up at did not yield the open-minded liberal microcosm I had hoped for. I spent these years quite lonely.

Following graduation I formed the most intense friendships I had had for years. Living in each other’s pockets, we literally co-habited, ate almost every meal together and made creative work together, and shared dayjobs. That inevitably burned out.

Since then, I have felt slightly adrift, having invested every energy in this insular dynamic and finding myself now without a permanent home, a best friend I have known all my life whom I talk to every day. This seems to be something everyone has – a default, a backup, a safe bet.

When everyone you know is having children and getting married, you feel this all the more. Guest lists really drive things home.

I don’t always have the tools to honour my friendships properly. I have found myself on the end of a few very one-sided friendships over the past few years that have ultimately fallen apart. It was frustrating thinking I was giving all I could, using my years of focus on communication, and still not finding a compromise that worked. Which really shows how little these friendships were meant to be.

However, I’ve been looking around me recently and noticing that I have a pretty super support network of women who are respectful, loving and accepting, who make the effort to maintain our friendship. I can’t express how much it stands out to find these types of people in your life – people who actively listen, who tell you openly that you are worth their time and that they’re happy to see you, who regularly get up out of the house with no excuse for meeting other than enjoying each other’s company. There’s no need for themed events or activities.

Maybe the others could have been saved with some kind of mutual nurturing practice. I joined feminist newsletter Lenny Letter yesterday and the first email they sent me included this article. It’s about exercising timed conversations as a way of developing your listening skills and making space for both people in a relationship to speak and be heard. It’s used in couples counselling as well as by friends, and it’s a really valuable tool for anyone wanting to better their relationships, or indeed even just to further their own communication skills. I highly recommend it.

It’s ever-more important to value and celebrate our female friendships in this time of violence and oppression, to raise up women’s voices, to ‘build each other up’. Write a postcard to your female friends today. Start a group chat. Share the love. Keep it up.

‘James’: a portrait poem

Bouncing Scandinavian curls
Fabulous
Fabulous, fabulous James.
Clear, refreshing, clean blue eyes
and intelligent good intentions
Patience in bated breath, generous, selfless pauses
followed by slow-release laughter, chuckles, sometimes taking him by surprise and doubling over, rolling on.
Fox-like, gentlemanly habits,
He glides and strides like a perfect dancer,
enveloped in scarves that women are drawn to,
chasing playfully down foreign streets.
His every sentence uttered, every assembly of words, is thoughtful and considered, a trait that I am always impressed by.
That biting point of bated breath upon ready loose laughter is what I know most in him, what I strive towards in our every interaction.
A like mind that I find I can tickle, to my great self-satisfaction.

‘Cat’: a portrait poem

Direct, assertive, perfectly formed stories at the ready, should she bump into you
Eyes locking solidly onto yours
Shocking, outstanding, unbelievable
everyday tales
all elevated to what is now
a hobby of mine
stopping on the stairs on my way up to bed from late shifts on a bar,
to listen intently, interestedly, though tiredly and begrudgingly,
to her honed storytelling set.
Pronounced, pursed lips posing like cautious, fastidious serfs to her determined teeth,
delivering vital gossip and anecdotes
Hair pulled behind her ear frequently, and with such superior precision that I can almost hear the hair pass gratingly over her fingernail, her teeth gritted, showing through her mouth and cheeks,
she almost rolls her eyes.
Something in the way she eats:
Food is fast, perfunctory, never relished or enjoyed.
Almost painful.
She champs quickly, rushing every meal out of her way,
like an impatient impression of a horse.
She fiddles also; assembles intricate pieces of feminine adornment
with quirk and delicacy,
but functionally,
with the same studiously poised skin and opinionated fingers – she knows the best way to do it,
and she won’t watch you struggle for long.

Back in the Habit #3 : Aurelia

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The constant dusk of Christmas-time. That was where she came from. Originated out of the spirited ether, like any other fairy. I believe she had wishes, but she never voiced them to me. She wanted me to share my thoughts. She elevated me, made me vital. Her being was not important to her. Only mine was.

She used to charge the railing across the footbridge with static energy, and I watched her, distracted from our conversation, feeling it build inside my own hands, despite not touching either her or the metal. She was not affected.

We would marvel at the sporadic floods, the surprising things that happened in the half-lit evenings. This was the best time of year for the curious and the young. Those with nothing to lose and nothing to work towards. Endless summers of Christmas.

“Do you think you’d like to spend some time with Aurelia tonight?” My mother brought her into my social life, encouraging enterprise and acceptance. Willing me to be a better person in the future, or at least do her part in enlightening me, should there be any depth to me at all. I believe she doubted that, and subsequently, herself.

I found Aurelia interesting; captivating at least. I used to watch her. She didn’t need anyone in particular for company; she required no response. She mused happily as long as you were looking, smiling, or something. Some kind of acknowledgement. She did appreciate that much, like anyone would. Perhaps she did teach me some manners.

She trickled down the steps at the far end and waited for me, flickering a bit of thread in her fingers. She folded in two as a bike came out of the tunnel and into her stomach.

I don’t remember feeling protective over her. I remember arriving at the bike, tugging it out of the way, discarding the rider’s excuses. A little blood showed on her lips as she looked up at me and caught me looking back. She was grateful, and I embraced her.

This was not supposed to happen to fairies.

——————-

Written in response to the brief on the 330 Words blog – one of my new favourite games!

Hellos and Goodbyes: How we just can’t get enough of each other


Walking home tonight, I sampled some more of York’s showcase of human horror, (remind me to tell you about the lunger) this time in town, outside the famous Betty’s. An overweight, underdressed girl was surrounded by four men, all picking at her and her unforgiving dress, offering her a fag if she’d “just pop one out”. I dared to cop an eyefull of what was going on, as I am more likely to do these days in case I might have to recount the details with solid conviction that what I thought I saw was actually what I saw. In this instance, it appeared that it was.

A good new friend of mine is leaving soon. In fact, now. It’s crept up on me, and although I can’t say I’d have done much differently if I’d been watching the clock, (he is a very new friend, one that’s pre-assumption, pre-comfort, pre-regularity, pre-demands, so there was no chance we would be hanging out every night in order to ‘make the most of our time’) I am very sad to think that I have missed that boat. There are probably several people that I’ve met in my life, whom, without being romantic or naive, I would have really been grateful to have more time with. To at least know each other enough to talk about. To sing their praises, know who else would like them and why. Know their favourite things. That’s what friends do, isn’t it? Tot up a checklist of ‘things’ we know about each other? Those usually being things we can relate to other people, of course.

One of my closest, probably the closest, friend I had at university, put forward a rather sad theory to us one day that every relationship has an expiry date. Not just romantic relationships; friendships too, any kind of repeat interaction, a formative history of your shared moments (See ‘See Friendship’ on the drop-down menu on any of your friends’ Facebook profile pages.) He firmly believed – though I know he was always hoping to be proved wrong – that no one can retain their impressions forever, no one can put up with anyone else for that long. It will inevitably wither and… Well, expire. For the record, we are no longer in touch. Something and nothing happened, and we no longer make that effort. I used to see him pretty much every day. Out of choice; we had no lessons together.

I’d like to believe this was merely a cynical and incomplete take on the idea of the ‘honeymoon period’, and that things may change, grow, fade or strengthen, but ultimately ‘everything will run its course’ is an open statement, because the course of some things may last on past even the time when both of you are dead; and then, what is there to analyse, really? Does any of it matter or exist after that? Surely his thesis had no science to it, no consideration for anomales and timelines, uncontrollable variables. And being wrong. He didn’t account for that.

I may have brought this theory up before; it is something that has plagued me a bit since hearing it, probably moreso the conviction with which it was spoken than its possibility of truth or value. To me, that was the clincher. That someone might believe that, and make it his self-fulfilling prophesy. I hereby establish the opposite. That our business together is never done. We may take hiatus from each other, but there is always the freedom to come back. To expand, to explain, to answer questions. And no, enigma is not important now. I know you can’t follow everyone around and regularly upkeep friendships and relationships throughout all your changing circumstances and changing selves, but we can at least acknowledge that we found something worthwhile in each other at this point in time, and take no shame in the desire, the need to rekindle that flame. Ten years down the line, when I haven’t heard from you for as long and you turn up at my door with a flower and request my company once more, I will not turn you away. I have been waiting for you. Hello, old friend.