To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die…
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure – the pleasure is all mine.
He lifted her out of the bath. He liked the way she felt. Her bones were so light they felt hollow, as if she stored everything inside them, hid it all away inside her very frame so that nothing would break the surface of her face. Her ash blonde hair was thick and heavy with the water; it looked darker now, dark and obscene and sad. She looked drowned, her face so pale, blueish eyelids closed and that dirty brown looking hair in a dripping rope pulling her head back. He thought that it must be heavier than the rest of her body parts all put together. A pale collection of wasted muscles and wasted youth under a head of hair borrowed from Gabriel. She sparked the poetry in him, the man as a boy, all that dandyish word-spinning he’d done before he realised people prefer simplicity and what appeared to be honesty.
He laid those pale hollow bones on the bed. He didn’t mind she was wet; the sheets she lay on and bled water into weren’t his. He stood over her in her nudity, watching the water from her hair spread across the pillow, making the shadow of her halo appear around her head. He pulled the cover up to her chin, the mound of her presence underneath hardly making a crease. He was always surprised at how small she could make herself: she had made him believe in many things, the possibility of invisibility being one.
He hadn’t noticed her for months. She had apparently attended every one of his classes, apparently completed every one of his assignments, assignments he had apparently even read and marked and praised. He didn’t remember. A hundred faces with a hundred different names over what felt like a hundred years had passed his gaze, some had stood out, some had been beautiful or elegant or sexy or easy, and some had not. Some he had even been tempted to get to know further, especially when he had been younger, nearer their ages. He never had done; he’d had his wife and although she wasn’t as exciting or as forward or as brashly cleavaged as some of those students, he knew she was a good, clever, kind woman and he wouldn’t have purposely hurt her for a hard little nipple in a tank top.
It must have been the subtlety of Emilia that had slowly surprised him. It was like some kind of silky net made of ash blonde hair, a net but also a curtain that was brushed aside to show him the potential of this girl, lying there naked and innocent like a new whore. Her potential was huge, it overtook her, drowned her, dressed her four sizes too big. She couldn’t fit her youthful potential in that little body, so she made her bones thin and hollow to allow more room. The possibilities of her made his chest hurt. She was a talented writer, sure, but nothing very special. In his years and years of lecturing he’d seen plenty better, some utterly outstanding, better than him even. She was nowhere near that. It was how she was wasting it all that captivated him, how one human being could be that arrogant, that self-centred, to ruin all that youth and that beauty. How she had seen Life and all that it had gifted her free of charge and had rejected it without taking a breath. That decision had ultimately ruined her, because Life wasn’t going to give someone that good away without at least bargaining first. Instead it had sent potential to suffocate her, to make those anaemic bones fizz with the energy she should have been spending up, young and pretty and bright as she was. It was that dormant energy and its subtle, slow revelation that had caught him.
And now she lay, cold and wet and white, in his spare bed, leaking damp bathwater into his sheets. Much had passed since he first realised what kind of creature this girl was, that she wasn’t just another campus anorexic using his Creative Writing class as some kind of alternative therapy. Of course she was all of those things too, but whatever lurked in her empty skeleton gave her something more than just disordered eating patterns and bottomless self-absorption. It made her delicious, almost. It gave her the air of a piece of fruit that wasn’t ripe yet, promise and disappointment and an almost edible sensual subtlety. A hard peach, refusing to ripen, to soften, to yield. A hollow apple.
This firm peach – complete with down and an acidic scent – had come to him one afternoon after an hour’s class. She seemed to emerge from the back of the room; it was as if she was coming into focus, as if previously she had just been the blurred edge of someone else’s photograph. She was wearing the thinnest dress he’d ever seen; it reminded him of something a frightened bride would shiver in, or a shroud. Round her neck was wound two or three scarves, altogether it made her look as though she wanted to separate her head and her body, her brain and her heart, her thoughts and her passions. The ash blonde hair was plaited like a cord behind her back. She looked like she had been born in the wrong era; that dandy deep in his past placed her as an artist’s model dipped in dirty water and laudanum, thin because of a tuberculoid Victorian poverty, dressed in her underclothes. She had come up to him, out of the past, and kissed him on the mouth.
It had been like the kiss of a daughter, and dry, and emotionless. It had felt like she was trying it out, like she had a list of things to do and had no passionate interest in any of them. It felt as though he was placed somewhere between brush teeth and buy cigarettes in her tasks for the day. Brush teeth, embrace teacher, buy cigarettes. He had never experienced a kiss with such a lack of energy.
It may have been emotionless to her, but it brought a rainbow to this middle aged writing teacher. Every week she turned up as usual, slightly late, but instead of being invisible she was sharply outlined, almost so bright as to cause him migraines. He noticed every little thing about her in his first thirsty glance – whether her hair was up or down, her face made up a little or a lot, the thickness of the fabric covering her skeletal frame, the height of her boot heels. He could barely read the work she gave him without wanting to trace the words and imagine them being formed in her brain, being borne from her fingertips. There was never a word about that dry, childish kiss. She spoke no more than before, applied herself no more to the lessons, interacted no more with the other students. He found himself irritated with anyone else turning up. The ones who before he’d almost enjoyed talking to, debating with, he found pretentious and stupid – too engaged for their own good. He wanted to tell them to shut the fuck up, in ten years’ time they’ll all know none of this will matter, not one word spoken in that room will even register itself into your consciousness. It seemed only Emilia and he knew anything about the true nature of life, he irretrievably involved in the whole messy business, her choosing (wisely, now!) to stay out of it all.
Weeks went by, class after class. He felt like his feet were slipping, like every day brought him slightly closer to a straitjacket. Cornflakes mushed tastelessly in his mouth, his wife’s wet, warm kisses from her red lipsticked mouth seemed obscene, like she’d become some kind of used up streetwalker. The more she tried to claw back his attention with her secretary nails, the less he paid her. He wanted the girl’s restraint, her hollow kiss like a peck from a skull. He wanted something with a bottomless pit of potential stored up from conception; he wanted an empty vessel, a Madonna.
He had made his move sitting in front of her assignment piece. The content was pretty standard, nothing special. He marked it with the heart rate of a hummingbird, paying each word much more attention than it deserved from a literary point of view. At the end of the page his pen hesitated, he hovered above the paper. He wrote down his address, a date, a time, all in little capital letters. With a panicked flourish he circled his details and put her work in an envelope.
His wife had her book club that evening. She was a writer too, a real one. She wrote delicate funny little short stories for magazines, making a delicate funny amount of money doing so. The woman herself was also delicate and funny, witty, dynamic. She had more friends that he had students, more hobbies than he had classes. He often believed her writing wasn’t her job at all, it was her social life that gave her days meaning and made her work hard. He liked her, a lot. She was nice.
His wife had her book club that evening. She had driven away; it was a Friday night, she would drink wine (not too much, not to get drunk) and be too cautious to drive back, she would stay where she was. She did it so often she wouldn’t even call anymore. He didn’t mind. He sat on the bottom step of his staircase, his knees hunched up to his chest like a little boy. The varnished wood of the banister cooled his forehead, he closed his eyes and leant his temples against it – he felt too sick, he needed something solid, emotionless, permanent against him to remind him he even existed on the right plane anymore. He was a fool for writing that note to her, she would never come, she had probably reported him by now. He imagined himself been led away to a police car, blue lights illuminating that ash blonde hair watching him get driven away to some pervert’s prison cell. It was what he deserved, after all. He was finding it difficult to swallow.
A hollow tap sounded on the front door. If he hadn’t have been sitting on the stairs, he doubted he would even have heard it. The house was silent, so silent it was almost as though the building itself – the bricks and the tiles and the cushion covers his wife had made – was waiting for her to arrive. She was slightly late.
He opened the front door with hands that didn’t feel like his own, standing on legs that didn’t feel like his own. He looked at her hair with eyes that didn’t feel like his own. Later, as she lay naked underneath him, the white invisibility of her skin coming to life under pink blooms, his entire body didn’t feel like his own. He didn’t even feel younger. He had never felt so out of control of his own limbs in his youth, even during his most awkward and inexperienced times. He felt as though his strings were being pulled by a puppet master, his actions and decisions being forced upon him by the endless void of power and potential this girl seemed to hold.
After it all, after it had finished and he lay sweating and feeling like a sad and disgraced old man, she wordlessly walked away towards the bathroom. He heard the bath being run, the deep sploosh of a body lowering itself in, and occasional rushing waves as she changed position. He didn’t move once until hours later, when he realised he’d fallen asleep and it was now dark in the house, and cold, and there was a silence as if the building that had waited for her was as spent as he had been.
It was at this point he had found her lying in the bath, sleeping. She was colder than he thought a human could ever be, as if there was a cold held inside her bones that was now seeping out into his house, freezing his hands. He lifted her, carefully, like she was a bag of broken glass, and placed her in the bed.
It wasn’t until the morning, until he went with a tray of breakfast and the sheepish air of a Valentine, that he realised she was dead.
Sorry guys it gets a bit shitty and rushed from now on. I’ve started panicking 😛
Tarianna lived in her circular room now. She had a window that looked over the sea. It couldn’t be opened by Tarianna. It has stone walls that ran round and round. On the wall above her iron cot hung a rug that her mother had made for her. All of the other girls in all of the other towers had their rugs made by their sisters, taught by their mothers, rugs upon rugs, covering the walls, the floors, the ceilings. It was forbidden to depict women, so the rugs showed men: men walking, fishing, sailing, farming, learning, reading, and – most popularly – turning metal into gold. They showed animals and plants and the sun and the moon and – most popularly – the sea. Tarianna had just one, a rug her mother made her showing a man standing in a field of the yellowest wheat. Tarianna had no sisters, had no brothers. She was an only child. Her mother cried for five days and five nights with relief when Tarianna was not an ugly girl. Her mother cried for a further five days and five nights when Tarianna started getting older, her hair golder, her face prettier. At 13, when Tarianna awoke in her bed at home with sticky brown mess on her sheets and the inside of her legs, her mother cried for a final five days and five nights. Tarianna was not just pretty, she was the prettiest girl in the Top. Her hair, waist-length and thick and as gold as her father’s wheat, made her mother cry for one of the days, her eyes, another, her lips, one more, her pretty little nose, yet another, and her figure, her perfectly proportioned figure (long legs, straight back, slender bones) the final day and night. Tarianna was perfect. Tarianna was her father’s only livelihood, with no more daughters to rely upon and no sons to marry well and keep the farm. Her beauty could secure her the best suitor with the strongest arms and the broadest back and the eyes that smiled the most, and her mother cried for five days and five nights that, thankfully, the prettiness of all the daughters she should have had (for it was not her that couldn’t have children, her husband – the wheat farmer – never waited until he was inside her before he came) was concentrated in the slender bones and the golden hair of one girl. One girl in one room in one tower.
Tarianna lived in her circular room now. As well as her iron bed, her cuffs, her harp and her mother’s rug, she had a bedpan, a wash basin, a pair of heavy curtains, a wardrobe full of heavy dresses and heavy shoes and heavy hats, a rocking chair in which she was able to sit and think, and in which visitors sat, and a door without a key. Only her visitors, her mother and Tutorette M, had a key. It was a heavy door, and it closed with a heavy thud and left the air in the room heavy. Even the harp sounded heavy in a circular room made of heavy stone filled with heavy things. Tarianna felt heavy.
At the age of 18, her mother came to visit and to change the bedpan and to uncuff Tarianna from her iron cot. Her mother looked heavy, heavy with clothing and with fat and with sadness.
“Tarianna, a suitor came over the sea for you.”
Tarianna felt an electric jump in the bottom of her stomach. A suitor came over the sea for her. A suitor. She imagined him golden haired and golden clothed, standing like an angel or a hero in a field of golden wheat, like the man in the rug above her bed that walked her dreams at night. A suitor that would save her from a life in a circular room and a life chained to a bed. A new life with a suitor in a square room, tied to a bed, with daughters and food and the weaving of new rugs.
“Tarianna, your suitor died.”
In the town at the Top, the law is as follows:
At birth, a female is betrothed to a male offspring of a neighbour, after all appropriate lineage checks are undertaken by clerk assigned to said neighbourhood. If lineage checks are suitable, female and male are legally betrothed.
When young female comes of age, she is installed in her adolescent holding room until her training for womanhood is complete, and she has learnt all necessary tools for being a successful wife and daughter-bearer, inc. some but not all of these skills: music, craft, art (watercolour not oil, domestic scenes not history), calligraphy, song, beauty (the proper and virtuous application of make up, clothing, hair design, footwear, appropriate dress for appropriate occasion), poise, dance, etiquette.
During adolescent training, the male remains situated in the town at the Top, and undergoes similar vocational and practical training administered by his father and/or appropriate male members of the town establishment, depending on proposed career and by law including basic male training including personal fitness, strength, building and sailing. When this is complete, he sails along the Top Shore from Bay A to Bay B (the bay situated nearest to the adolescent holding room site) and becomes an official suitor. He may then make a formal plea to the mother of the female, and the window of the holding room will be opened, enabling official suitor to enter the room and end terms of initial betrothal.
By law, the female adolescent is not to be informed of these details, whereas the male adolescent is to be minutely briefed and required to sign a copy of the betrothal contract and appropriate legal documents at age 18.
If either betrothed dies before betrothal is complete, the remaining surviving partner must be assigned to a new betrothed (can include spare offspring – same or different family depending on lineage checks – widowed betrothed, widowed married) as soon as possible, following appropriate lineage checks. If no new betrothed is to be found, remaining surviving partner must be considered for new career. If no new career is to be found, remaining surviving partner must be considered for exile.
The terms in this document are official and legally binding.
The Chief of the Top
The Chief was not a lawyer. He was not even a politician. He didn’t seem to realise only doctors and apprentices of doctors and those who remembered before could read. He didn’t seem to realise that his pages and pages of ‘legal binding contract documents’ written in words he thought contracts were written in, with phrases he thought lawyers would use, with a quill pen he felt like a lawyer using, were read by no-one except himself and the men he kept around him in his mansion laboratory, nodding head yes men who had to remind him to wash and eat and dress. The Chief didn’t realise anything aside from the fact he didn’t believe turning metal into gold was possible, he knew it. With a brain addled through long exposure to mercury, it is amazing his invented rules and traditions and laws managed to pass into society at the Top. But pass they did, and the people obeyed. Tarianna’s suitor had died, and her parents needed to find her a new one as soon as possible. The only alternative career for a single woman of 18 was at the Bottom.
Please bear in mind this is unedited and I haven’t actually even got a plan for this novel. I just started writing it on the 1st and am seeing where I go with it. I’m going to use December to edit it and actually make it a coherent story with a plot or whatever these novels have these days. Here goes!
I always wondered if when a dog starts running beside me, it’ll confuse me for its owner and think I’m taking it for a walk. I always wonder that if it ever did, how long it’d be until it realised who I am. How long until it loved me too?
I wanted a house with a kitchen, just so I could have hung waxed leaves up over the doorway in autumn, and have a bowl of fruit that looks waxed but isn’t. Oranges and lemons in summer, even though they’ll be brought from the warmer towns across the sea and cost so much.
My name is Mima and I live at the Bottom.
Tarianna looks through the harp. The world behind is split open, behind bars. And she, Tarianna, sits looking in at the world. The world looks out at Tarianna.
“Again, please.” Her tutorette sits behind her, a solemn little face looking out of vast swathes of black robe. Two tiny white hands sit primly on her knee, crossed, immovable. To think they once played across a harp on a stage, for money (endless amounts of money, she had a car once. A car! A car and a big bed with navy blue sheets and a man who loved her and the way her hands played across a harp, across a body), was impossible. They had always sat on her knee, immovable. Tutorette M was old.
Tarianna did as she was bid, and played again. She played over and over, until she didn’t stop at the end but went straight back to the start without missing a beat, after one deep breath she started again and did so all afternoon, over and over. Tutorette M didn’t move, her hands didn’t move, her face didn’t move. Her face couldn’t move, really. It was too smooth now. Her hands showed how old she really was. It was a shame Tarianna had no love of music. M could see she had no passion, no talent. M’s eyes moved around the room in her taut little eyelids. She was hot in this cloak, hot and uncomfortable and bored. Her faced showed no emotion. It was too smooth now.
Tarianna played the harp whilst Tutorette M fell asleep with her eyes open, and dreamt of her husband when he was twenty six.
At night Tarianna slept with her hands handcuffed to the side of the cot. All unmarried women sleep this way, they said. Each hand was cuffed to each side, and Tarianna lay on her back. They all sleep like this, it’s for the posture, they said, it’s so your back grows straight and your legs grow long. Each night the women and the girls would come and cuff her in and put a hot brick at the end of her bed, to keep her feet warm in the tower. All unmarried women sleep in their towers, they said. The whole cliff was lined with towers, looking out over the sea and the rocky beaches and the empty air, full of their unmarried women. A line of towers like lighthouses, bringing men from overseas following their instincts, over rocky beaches and empty air to the lighthouses of unmarried women, sleeping happily chained in their warm cots. Beautiful women, because ugly girls had a lot of different accidents. Some fell down stairs they weren’t even allowed to walk, some drowned in the sea they weren’t even allowed to swim, some disappeared, some threw away their virtue and went to live at the Bottom. Girls in towers growing like flowers. If a family started building themselves a tower, the father held a feast in the foundations. Each tower should be ready by the time the girl first bleeds. She lies on her cot listening to the sea with her hands cuffed to the sides.
I am an ugly girl. My father decided this when I was 14. He decided that, although it is prudent and wise to be patient with a daughter, my nose is too big and my nose will forever be too big. He said that, although it is definitely more fruitful to wait for your daughter to blossom, he had waited long enough for me and he knew, although it is not humble to suggest he always knew, that I would never be pretty. The tower was done and waiting for me, and he said, although it is vain to say he is bothered by the judgments of others, that instead of taking it down as he was supposed to, he’d keep it and give it to my sister, whose nose is small and pretty. After all, being careful with money is akin to being careful with virtue, and virtue is what we all strive for, isn’t it?
So this is who I am. I am an ugly girl. They could die, or move to the Bottom. I was 14, and scared of death. Surely death would be as unkind to an ugly girl as life was. So I walked to the Bottom, by myself, and never saw my father again. Apparently my sister got the tower, and everyone has forgotten my father – my prudent, wise, fruitful, humble, careful father – broke the rules and gave one girl’s tower to another. They forgot me entirely.
My name is Mima.
A lot of people who chose to live in the Bottom, or ended up living in the Bottom, or were sent to live in the Bottom, remembered before. The brothel Madamettes, the Barbers, the Butchers, the craggy drunks, the aging whores, the opium addicts sitting black-eyed in their attics, the ugly girls. A lot of them remembered before, and those who remembered told stories in the downstairs of the brothels under swinging lampshades and thumping ceilings. In the Top, the land of virtue and beauty and the girls in towers, nobody mentioned before. Nobody mentioned it, and nobody learnt of it. Even the older people, the Tutorettes and the bearded grandfathers and, far off, the Chief in his mansion laboratory turning metal into gold, who remembered before never said a word, pretended it had always been this way. The young, pretty girls and their strong armed suitors who came over the sea believed that this was all it had ever been, all it will ever be.
A lot of people who chose to live in the Bottom, or ended up living in the Bottom, or were sent to live in the Bottom, were nameless. The brothel Madamettes lost their names when they turned from aging whores with fake names from before, like Crystal and Brandi and Bunny, the Barbers were Barbers, the Butchers, Butchers, the craggy drunks and the opium addicts sitting black-eyed in their attics had forgotten their names gradually as they cried in gutters and sweated in bathrooms.
I walked to the Bottom, by myself, with more than I have now. I had a bag of dresses, two pairs of shoes, two tiny bottles of Shampoo stolen from the store my mother made for the towers, a name.
I walked to the Bottom, by myself, at the age of 14, and the first thing I saw was the bloated corpse of a drunk with no name.
My name was Mima.
I love Bad Science. I truly do. In all honesty, it’s probably one of my favourite books of the year. I also love what you’re trying to achieve and agree with almost all of the sentiments behind your book, especially regarding the emancipation of the public regarding their healthcare and the drive to inform people about hacks and quack and charlatans. I love that, really.
However, there was just one teeny tiny part of your book that I didn’t agree with. In the chapter about some media journalists and their complete misuse and misunderstanding of science, medicine and how to present this information responsibly, you often a) assumed all bad journalists were/are humanities graduates, and b) a large number of humanities graduates are, frankly, rubbish at understanding or even trying to understand ‘science’. I found this part a little bit mean. I myself am a ‘humanities graduate’. I know a large number of ‘humanities graduates’, or at least people who will soon be ‘humanities graduates’. A lot of these wordy, gullible and slow ex-students who apparently mystify, distort and misunderstand the facts and theories pumped out by more worthy ‘science graduates’ are very interested in the world of science and medicine, are very self-aware, very knowledgable, and – most importantly – very willing to discover more, learn more and are in possession of curious and critical minds not just limited to med students. In actual fact, a ‘humanities graduate’ bought this book for me, another ‘humanities graduate’. Some of the people I know who are most interested in debunking myths of science created by the scare-mongerers are ‘humanities graduates’, and some of the most gullible and easily led by tales of cancer cures and sure deaths and amazing breakthroughs and Gillian McKeiths are, surprisingly, ‘science graduates’. Being a ‘humanities student’ or a ‘humanities graduate’ does not mean that we are all automatically going to slip into shoddy journalism, belief in ‘words’ over ‘statistics’ and subsequent gullibility, nor does being a ‘science graduate’ mean that you automatically have a sharp, inquiring and inquisitive mind capable of seeing past media science scams. People are people, it doesn’t matter what degree they have done, but instead how their personality reflects how critical they are about the world around them and the information presented to them by alleged authorities.
Also, please stop using the terms journalist and humanities graduate interchangeably.
P.S. Despite this I really am not in the humanities vs. science, BA vs BSc rivalry camp. I think both types of degrees should be thought of as equally important, equally useful and completely stripped of their respective stereotypes. I have great friends and admire a large number of people from both sections. I also can’t express how much I actually did love your book. It’s very refreshing to finally have meat to flesh out the bones of my ‘MMR and autism really can’t be linked…’ suspicion. Thanks for this, at least.
P.P.S. When you challenged the reader to find someone in the room who knew the difference between mean, mode and median it was me. And I was right. So much for a humanities graduate, hey? (And they don’t teach us that in Art History lectures, promise).
P.P.P.S. Please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood anything. It’s very possible I have!
The night before last I camped rough beside a fast-moving stream. We built a fire pit out of the rocks that had tumbled down the hill face behind us, collected dry wood that had been dropped by the tree – we didn’t break a branch and still had enough for hours of warmth – and sat around playing cards, drinking some cheap acrid cider that C. had picked up from the shop as he left me in the tent catching the breeze, reading. Dinner was noodles, again, with smoky cheese from the factory and chorizo, ate as the bread for the morning toasted on sharpened sticks over the fire. We chatted about us, how we met, how silly we were, how It all happened, and how glad we were It did. The night before we’d lay with our heads sticking out of the tent door, wrapped in sleeping bags, and saw the Milky Way in an impossibly clear sky. I’d never seen so many stars – the longer I stared at a patch the more stars I could see, going back and back and back until there was more light than dark and I felt too dizzy to look any longer.C. taught me how to find North, and I taught him how to use the word diminutive properly. We’d skipped dinner that night, instead I ate biscuits and he drank whisky and him, his best friend and I chatted until we got turfed out of the hotel about neuroscience and politics and linguistics and other stuff.
One of the days of walking we did, we ended up in this tiny, weird pub where the Coke and the beer was warm and the barman looked like something from 1920s Cambridge and the door to their home kitchen with an Aga and a rocking chair and a book about birds or flowers or something was wide open. Later that day we waded through nettles and ferns with the National Trust people, one of whom had had a tic in his leg earlier I think: the blood was dribbling down his leg, but he didn’t mind at all.
And then yesterday, to come back to Birmingham on a warm, sweaty coach with a broken toilet to see groups of boys vaulting the wall into a car park, throwing bricks at a police van, to have the transport people hurrying people onto the buses out of town, even if it meant letting them on for free. As soon as the coach stopped, three police motorbikes whizzed past and I saw men and women in riot gear treading slowly down the main street, as two guys with scarves around their faces pointed out to each other the plan of where to hit next and a man with a van welded steel to the windows of the pricier places. I guess I was pretty scared. I don’t know when it’s going to be right again.
I feel pretty gross. I thought it was sickness or migraine or hangover by proxy from the sorry state of my household right now (I’m poor, I’m just finished with university, I’m not really entirely interested in partying any more – fast forward to the image of me sitting in bed watching art documentaries whilst the rest of my family are out with the sole intention of getting drunk). I think it’s instead a body shock from my change in diet: in Brighton I’m practically vegetarian, eat well over my 5-a-day, don’t snack, drink loads of water, get 8 hours of sleep a night. Here I eat what I’m presented with, and yesterday it was two takeaways (my parents are divorced – if they both choose the same Saturday to treat me I am in no place to argue). I don’t have a great sleep pattern now, I have an abundance* of snacky junky food + hours of boredom, my mum doesn’t buy fruit unless on my request (I know, I know – and yesterday she was proclaiming her shock at the diet of those in the US). Bleh, I shouldn’t moan because it’s a lifesaver to be able to live here for free right now and I love my family endlessly, but wow I feel a hundred times weaker than I did a month ago.
On Wednesday I graduate. I’m quite underwhelmed by the whole experience. It’s sad that my parents couldn’t come for a variety of reasons (one of them being my insistence on going to university 150 miles away from home) and it was a surprisingly expensive event and to be totally honest, I’m not really a very ‘pomp & circumstance’ person. I hope the ceremony and the ball and the alleged emotion of it all will hit me when I’m there and take my breath away and prove me wrong. I really hope this.
* The word ‘abundance’ always reminds me of The Impossible Quiz and a cartoon image of a muffin with a ballerina’s legs. A-bun-dance.
The saddest thing about finishing my degree is realising how out of practice I am with writing stuff down. I found a couple of notebooks with little story bits and lists and journal entries all scrawled down in my handwriting alongside opticians appts etc.; I remember at the time thinking how awful they were, how pretentious, how I could be so bad at something I spent so many torturous hours thinking up and dreaming about and pretending I was good at. Turns out the fact that I used to pretend I was good at it meant I actually almost was – I guess it was a fulfilment of the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ mantra. I was so very nearly on the cusp of Something so many times, and reading it back made me irritated with the Lucy of the past (not even very long ago in the past – I only stopped writing convulsively and habitually when studying engulfed my entire personality in January) for not pushing through and actually finishing what I’d started (always and forever a problem). Instead I concentrated on pictures, on pictures of nude, Victorian women as Andromeda, as early porn ‘stars’, as imaginary myth-women of unnatural, disproportionate beauty. On pictures of death, of Death, of bones smiling on the windows of Mexican panaderias, of altars covered in marigolds and fruit and tequila and icons of the Virgin and female skeletons in wide-brimmed hats to remind us that we all die, even if we are good Catholics (but also that it doesn’t really matter when we do). And my spare time was also pictures, of pin up women, and tattoos, and zombies, and blood, and flowers, and birds, and of myself (naturally…). Things I felt were far removed from my degree, but really aren’t at all.
So in balance – and in response to the peer pressure of my more literate, dedicated, and ultimately more interesting friends – I’m going to try to record all of the thoughts in my head again and carry on back down that road of self-invention. Someone needs to uphold the terrible use of punctuation in personal blogs after all. Titling my posts, however, is for another day 😉