Art by Alan Turnbull
I want to know, he said, did you court him? Have you been courting him the whole time?
What are you talking about “courts”? Who courts anymore?
You tell me.
No I didn’t court him. He came of his own volition.
Who has “volition” these days?
He does. I do.
I don’t. I can’t come and go according to my own whim.
Well that’s a problem you need to work out.
Don’t leave me.
What is Special About Me?
Look at this slide says Miss X and imagine the ancient remains are your unconscious. You are the tourist wandering around. High tide is an unbidden memory.
I drive and park but don’t turn off the car radio. It’s talking physics and optics and those are my favourite topics on a Tuesday morning. Were there prejudices against you because you were a woman? No. But I felt special. So what’s it like to win a Nobel Prize? I’m not a sociologist. How should I know how to measure these things? The rain covers the windscreen. I get out, lock the car, cross the road to the bank. The girl with the long eyelashes is there. I move five hundred from one account to another. I put a hundred into my secret savings. How many more hundreds till I’m independent? The girl with the eyelashes won’t read my palm.
Next, the supermarket. I wear my winter hat all round the shop. It will protect me from the over-expensive leeks and bread. The camera captures everything. They’ll ridicule my hat but what can I do about it? The checkout guy wears a little headpiece – microphone and earpiece – like pop stars used to. Sad to see it in such a small town. While scanning he comments on the chocolate: Well done you! and then tries to push cut flowers. Daffodils, Madam? Thanks I have some already. He remains cheerful despite the situation. I leave and feel almost elated. The bread gets wet in the rain because I insist on holding it like a Parisian – in the manner of one.
Back in the car the programme has changed. Mahler’s wife is having an affair; physically passionate but cooling. Mahler dies. The love dwindles – because it wasn’t love was it, but secrecy, which drew their mouths together. Even in dreams illicit love fades fast.
Indoors, the sun comes out. I analyse a photo of a tattooed man: letters round his neck; American eagle on his chest. Before him: a coke; an ashtray; a packet of cigarettes. Waist up he wears nothing but ink and a wristwatch. His hair seems very healthy.
Four days of imaginings: Hey wait! I shout in each version. I’ve written the wrong town! I forgot I was this side of the river. In the second or even third state I strike through the first dedication and sign again correctly. In the fourth state I’ve erased the whole thing. That’s what April was like this year. Very torn up.
The Wine Taster
We get a lot of writers in here, he said, spitting in the bowl.