Greasy and hung-over on a South Eastern train
I busted out of London’s smog-cocoon, where
I had once again reached
the full limit of myself.
I bought instant coffee from a man with eyes
as cloudy as semen. He blinked his ugly DNA
and I blinked back and told him, if he wanted to,
he could have my heart in a bowl
and rip it into confetti,
but he never replied.
Like foldaway furniture
I packed up my hope of companionship.
I walked through Beach Alley, where I realised
there are two types of people: those who think
too much about dying, and those who’d rather die
than think about death.
I only fear death when I’m in love, part of
a diaphanous whole.
I scratched a pebble with a shell and the shell broke.
Existence is beautiful, but it’s never whole,
with a fist full of seawater I wiped away
the last of his Atrazine love that trickled down my
thigh from time to time.
Somewhere along the harbour I decided: I’m going to be fine.
My heart may be laced with the gentle deaths of one-night stands but
I’m young enough to laugh it off and I laughed so loud I heaved my
liver out onto romance novels in the 95p bookshop.
The wanting is what I fear the most
April 1, 2013 at 10:59am
This Exploding Girl
I exploded in his flat
banged my head on a mountain bike
a bruise the shape of my country
grew across my cheek. It was funny
but I wish I saw the warning
in that purple stain
he colonized my brain
and I thought we’d be laughing
I’ve exploded since then
in more troubling ways
my heart spews a black toxin
that makes me run along the Piccadilly line
hopping platforms, looking for a sign
but I’m turning my back on that story
so here’s another:
One night I kissed a tuxedoed stranger on the 139
because he told me I was pretty, and in that moment
I felt my body reach its outline – but what happens
in the space between? In between the bus and the club
and that square in Hackney, where I did the exact same thing:
peeking between the lips of strange men, to see if I exist.
I exploded today, again, but this time on purpose
to enlarge myself like a projection, a vision so vast
that I encompass the world. My heart, a maw to the human
race. I am no stranger to love: as I try to walk off
its latest disaster - it will break down my door
like a drunken father
but I can take it all
I can take you and your desperate looking bow-tie
and me, ruined in a twelve year-old’s dress
because one day he will be nothing
but a name, a word, with a built-in echo
and a built-in ache
that fills the gap between my hands
where his body once took place.
And it’s okay, because I created something out of this mess,
something tangible that I can hold up to the light and say
you fucked me up but I made this. I can destroy it.
I will be volatile for a while, I will abandon it all
and jump backwards into a swimming pool in my nicest dress.
With no one to impress
I might stay in the water all day and drown out the sound
of me and him and everything.
February 12, 2013 at 11:00am
Typing heartbreak into Google
Girl walks into a bar
red dress flares up in the corner of his eye
I-I-I the stammer of a pick-up line.
You wanna be the pathogen?
I’ll be the leukocyte.
We were infected, our love spread
like a common cold coughing up
luminous doughnuts we placed
above our heads.
Together we shone brighter than a sex shop
sign that promises everything we already have
but multiplied: girls girl girls open all night
a brightness that blinds, tricked by our own
ectoplasm, a hoax, a smoke screen until
we slipped into silence.
Two days after you broke up with me:
I asked Google a question:
Will heartbreak kill me?
Google told me it might.
There’s a hole deep down in my throat, it’s swallowed my voice
like that space under the seat of your car where everything disappears
oyster cards, theatre tickets, love letters.
Your car –
the one you carried me into, after you
refused to sleep in my bed and I spent the night
running round Brent Cross like a stray dog.
It was midnight and I felt the cracks
in the pavement for traces of love
the same place I once looked for witches and bogeymen.
A year’s worth of memories startle the seas
of my abdomen like a school of fish and
I want to vomit, to vomit you. I hate you, I hate you.
But I also hope, maybe for some fortuitous meeting
on the district line, in a bar, on Leicester Square
and I’ll dive back into the wet of your kisses
but then I remind myself that this
and us ending is as certain as the death of a star
our compound is unbound, helium and hydrogen
have burnt out leaving dust.
If Neruda is right
and love is a journey
our fuel has run out.
To the girl
in the bar
in the red dress,
Place the mask
over your nose and mouth
Young Female Poets
This is a junkyard of voices
a scrap heap raised like a stage for
poetry’s five-minute meltdowns
and those who hope to melt us down
before we press record.
The first girl reads a poem on love, a celebration I think
but it’s boring, I’m bored. My mind skips across unconsciousness like
stones over water. My boyfriend hates poetry and I know hers
does too as she pulls a metaphor out of patches of mould that
bloom in her room. And I remember another version of this:
a man who fell for my profile pic, my online presence but
not the thing – the me – made of blood, snot and vomit after we
ate chop suey in the real world. Stay with her, stay awake.
Beneath black lace I spot an arm full of scars. White lines zigzag to
her neck like a tree carved by ex lovers. Why are poets such
tragic clichés? Did she write in that awful way on purpose or –
Her voice rises. She knows there is a risk
that her words will drop to the ground and we’ll
tread on them on our way out like smacking
skulls on London’s concrete.
Next is a girl who will have her own TV show.
She wears a bandanna in her hair and she’s so
excited about what she has to say. Pissed up,
pissed off and proud to be a woman as long as we
don’t back down - never back down - beads of sweat trickle
through hairs above her lip
she spits her words
they stream out her nose
and through gaps between her teeth.
I start to feel something
but it’s too much like she’s
hammering herself out
I never gave her permission.
The last girl speaks softly, she’s difficult to hear.
She doesn’t take off her coat or her backpack. We
clap but we don’t know what for: maybe for
the fact that she came up here and survived or
maybe when she speaks in that careful quiet
way my organs rotate, stirring up ghosts that live
inside my rib cage.
How does your art work?
Why do I feel all lullabied
dreaming with the window
I look at her and almost plead:
take me in the pleat of your paper,
and fold me again, flat out, packed in tight
so I am unable to ask you any questions.
Chapter Five: Matthew
Matt leans against the outside wall of his flat, more awkward and annoyed than Armani model. Rain trickles down the side of his face and his tailored leather jacket isn’t keeping him warm. He wonders if he should go back inside and call Hugo with an excuse: the Novo virus, a broken toe but just as he gets his key out of his pocket a black Bentley pulls over.
Matt My Man! Get in, it’s pissing it down.
Matt slides into the backseat, straight into a Hugo hug: one-armed, one notch too tight.
I thought you said you’d rung me a cab?
Hugo unfolds himself and stretches his arms along the back seat.
A cab? I can’t BEAR cabs these days. The drivers are wankers and they think it’s okay to talk to you. I mean if they spruced their cars up a bit, with iPads and better upholstery I might give them a shot. I’ve got my own cars these days BOY. I’m moving up.
The best thing about Hugo is that he’ll never ask you how you are which was always going to be a lot worse than him. Hugo went to school with Matt and is now a twenty five year old millionaire who, with a small investment from his family, opened up club after club in London. He brings the hipsters into Chelsea and the trust fund kids into Shoreditch. He is a self-proclaimed nightlife philanthropist.
The jet black Bentley tears through the silent South London streets like a dentist’s drill. Drops of rain braid the car window and London lights flicker like faraway airplanes into the dark leather interior. Matt has run out of things to say. Going out was a bad idea.
How’s that girl of yours? Marjorie?
Madeline. No, we’re not…no.
Well she –
We don’t need that bitch.
No I guess –
She’s just like all the rest of them. Fuck the lot. They’re here for one thing and one thing only: the legacy, they pass on our legacy. That’s it. Fuck Marjorie, you’ll find some other bitch to impregnate.
Madeline was all right you know. I screwed it up myself.
No you didn’t. I’m not having that, not in my car. Women are evil. You know that don’t you? Women are divided into two categories: mothers and whores. We have no business screwing our mothers so what are we lift with? Whores.
Yeah well –
Remember Freddy Bannerman?
Sort of, yeah. Miss Eaton’s English right?
Yeah, maybe. Well Freddy’s a bit of a hot DJ at the moment. He was on the desks at Kate and Will’s reception. Can you believe that? And now he’s been playing at my clubs. He’s an absolute legend. Anyway he has a great line about women. What was it again? I see a woman…No. When I. Yeah. That’s it, got it. When Freddy sees a fit girl walking down the street he thinks: I’m sure it would feel great to treat her well, make her feel special, introduce her to the parents but then …Wait, fuck I’ve forgotten the second part. Shit, it’s so great you’ve got to hear it. You’ve got to.
I’ll ask him whenever I see him.
He’s playing a set tonight. You got to ask him about his line. It’s fucking legend.
The car comes to a stop. Matt is confused:
I thought your club was in May Fair?
Hugo drops his head and rolls it from side to side.
Dude, come ON. May Fair is like a long-term girlfriend. My hot affair is Waterloo.
The boys get out. Matt looks up at a giant arch that frames a full dark mass. They approach the arch and a door appears and a long queue of people and a tall figure on stilts. The figure is dressed up as a pirate; with a large wizard like cane he delegates the line of glittery people that snake in front of him. Hugo walks straight up to the pirate giant and gives him an envelope. They pass the queue. Matt feels something dragging his shoulder down, an achy weight and he turns round and sees that it’s a girl, hanging onto him; acrylic nails digging into his neck. Two bouncers peel her off and walk her out into the night before Matt has a chance to look at her face.
People will do anything to get in.
After Hugo, Matt steps inside.
Darkness has made way for a lighter shade of black but not quite grey, with laser beams outlining silhouettes in front of the bar. This is the biggest club Matt has been to; he is unable to see where it ends.
Hugo broadens his chest like a gorilla:
BIENVENUE CHEZ MOI CASA
And a few surrounding revellers applaud him.
The club is extremely packed, the heat emanating from all the sweaty bodies creates a vertiginous wave that suddenly hits Matt and makes him feel like he has just jumped into a warm ocean. Blue lights reflect from the Freddy’s DJ booth and swim through the air until they bounce off a wall or head or a pole and project into another direction like a school of fish. Matt turns to congratulate Hugo on his club but Hugo is nowhere in sight.
Maybe it’s the location or being around Hugo and his ever-increasing misogyny but suddenly Matt remembers a monologue he performed in drama school. It was an excerpt from Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho.
I was simply imitating reality, a rough resemblance of a human being, with only a dim corner of my mind functioning.
Was this what it was like to be Patrick Bateman? Standing in the middle of a club, a club filled with potential, the potential to connect, putting a piece of your flesh into someone else like a plug into a socket yet Matt never felt so completely detached. The feeling was inconvenient because this is what he needed. This is what he needed to get over Madeline but it felt cliché, like a worn out idea. It didn’t feel right.
A girl pops up in his line of sight, like a firework on a dark night in March. She is wearing a see-through top and a garland of flowers around her hair. She looks out of place, like she was running around a field, fell through the rabbit hole and ended up in this place.
Want a drink?
Matt takes the drink she is holding. Like a fairy with pixie dust she rubs her thumb and index finger over his glass. A dull alarm bell sounds at the back of his head. Matt doesn’t do drugs. It’s not part of his psyche; there’s too much control to be lost but this girl, her eyes, the garland it just all flowed from one into another and he takes the glass to his lips and swallows the fizzing liquid.
He expects some immediate change but nothing dramatic stirs inside him. A change in beat accompanied by the confidence of just having taken drugs, WOAH, urges him to be free and just enjoy himself. He could be one of those guys. One of those guys that did drugs, why not? Madeleine hated drugs and together they took an anti-drug stance but she was gone and Matt was on his own, his own person. He could be that person that does drugs. EEEasy.
Matt wants to dance, even though he can’t. Apart from a year of movement studies in drama school he could never move his body in the way others could so he channels what he knew, what he’d learned from his class. His shoulders go up then down, he stretches out his fingers. He organizes his body into shapes and patterns, a systematic approach. He flings his back forward, then slowly rolls down and up again, clicking his spine into shape. He looks at the girl, is she impressed? The girl is gone.
He bends back down, feels his hair brush along the night club floor. He stretches one arm over his chest and rolls his head up slowly. In front of him there’s a flash of face. It’s Madeline. Maddy. Another flash, the face is gone. Then suddenly like flying over a lit up cityscape after hours of black ocean Madeleine’s face appears all around him. Her smile, her blue glow in the dark eyes. Then the drone like base emanating from the DJ booth echoes: Mad-de-line Mad-de-line like the rain sometimes does or the printer or the washing machine. Mad-de-line Mad-de-line. This can’t be real, she can’t be here. She’s in Scotland; she’s with someone else, she is not here and if she was there wouldn’t be this many, there couldn’t possibly be –
Like a cartoon character he shakes the many Madelines from his mind and stumbles back to the bar. To someone, to no one, he shouts for a J&D and coke. The girl behind the bar is busy with another order. Matt shouts again.
J&D and coke.
The girl ignores him.
Hey! Can’t you hear me? I want to order!
Nothing. Rage. Matt feels rage.
This is the problem with you, you know that don’t you? You’re all the same. You don’t listen. SHE didn’t listen. She meant everything to me, I tried to tell her but she chose not to hear me. She just ignored me. And I told her so many times but she wouldn’t take it in and it pushed me away. It was so fucking unfair. She pushed me so far that I became the person who she accused of me of being in the beginning. How fucked up is that? She made me do it. She made me!
The girl looks up at him. She blinks her big anime eyes.
Matt gives up on his drink and turns around to face the infinite sea of people. The girl with the flower garland is back. She is standing about six people away from him. He approaches her, swimming through the crowd only to get there and see she has her tongue right inside another girl’s throat.
The tongue recipient shouts at him. Matt shouts back.
Why are you staring at us?
Are you turned on by this?
IS THIS TURNING YOU ON?
WELL THEN FUCK OFF.
Matt storms out of the club, no he runs. Hugo’s words echo through his head like a distress call: all.women.whores, all.women.whores. Matt runs further down the street, running off his rage until he can feel it shed but not completely, like taking off a wet coat and still feeling the damp beneath. Matt catches his breath and notices a big pearly white smile in front of him: Andrew and the MixMax chocolate advertisement. Matt unzips his jeans and aims his piss right inside Andrew’s mouth. He zips up and walks on into the night.
He crosses the bridge, walking back towards the other half of the city but it seems so meaningless, there won’t be anything there for him. A room filled with stuff. What is stuff? An ache erupts in his chest, he recognizes it as loneliness the kind he has only seen in a Wim Wenders films where there’s one man and nothing but a great vast American landscape of nothingness. London past midnight, with vomiting bodies for cactuses, is a lot like nothingness.
December 14, 2012 at 6:55pm
A christmas carol, kind of.
Our Christmas is
like the long quiet
after a joke, that hollow
space where dad pours wine
till his glass overflows
staining the carpet like a
Mum stays in bed without
a calendar of cats
can’t make her smile
not even April cat that wears sunglasses
not even June cat that swims in a bowl.
I can tell already that you think I’m too sad
that I’m being too much like me.
You told me so on a bone white night
when I rubbed my wrists on a brick wall
to stop all the buildings from burning
I learned that
it’s not fair, to keep your home within someone else
and with this distance
I can tell you about Christmas
I am silenced
absence in my mother’s eyes
my sister’s ethereal smile
relieves our dead-weight doom
but only momentarily.
I lean in and whisper:
Annie, our room, it won’t be ours for much longer
four walls that contained us when we drunk
together and threw knickers out the window
that window won’t be ours -
She pushes my head and
straps her hair into knotted
works of art.
Nothing troubles me more
than having a family
that I don’t understand.
We double booked our trees
both martian green, standing
like pylons that guard our sad
little cult. I try to unleash
conversation that I trapped
from last year
If only they could see
they are warm
they will make us happy.
After the news I paint my toes
in Christmas shades, not our Christmas
but Christmas you see on TV.
Clumpy drops of water make
vertiginous waves of my Rudolph Red
because this year, even our roof
won’t stop crying.
Are you still listening?
Is this too sad?
Why don’t you pull on your end of the cracker
and snap us in two
whilst I wish, hard
to remake our story
I can put my voice into
without weight or ruin or –
Outside I hear
the house next door
where cheeks glow red not raw
I see grass-green silk – the mother’s dress
fingers link like fairy lights, I bob my head
to the beat of their togetherness
my palms out-stretched
catching debris from the winter sun
I dance a dance
for the Christmas outcasts.
November 23, 2012 at 1:25pm
It began with a drink
and nowhere to go
me and my footloose
perched on the Left Bank
where I’d never seen that
kind of green in a glass
Drink up pal!
It’s just Kool-Aid with a hard-on.
She forgot again
that I’m not American
and those little green bubbles
gnashed through my mind.
Could I reinvent
as a number
I awoke in a bed
where Ginsberg once slept and
she told me a story
We came awfully close, but he was afraid of me you see
My cheeks bloomed pudenda pink
when she described their debauchery
on the road but I matched hers
with a tale of some place I’d never been
- a surreptitious trading of lies
to which she smiled, the way
you do at your child when the
dog has died.
We spent my last euros on the Louvre
I spoke behind me in the queue
her face was made of glass
a reflection, tongue out
I wanted to eat her
put her into something more
Gotcha, didn’t I?
The Guide lost us in
the Egyptian wing
I was tired and
she loved keeping the
exit a secret
and another Kerouac story
and another trick question
Where do you belong?
I said, at home in London where I was born
People aren’t trees; they lie when they speak of roots.
I wished, once again that we hadn’t met
no matter how she excites
like a kick in the eye
that ends with a plunge into
the sound-swallowing lake
where my copy of
On The Road
I dried myself
on the fur of her coat
and I felt an urge
What do we call the looseness around our hearts?
She laughed at me
but then grew soft
At least this line was not made in Taiwan
this line was made by a poet.
Love Story by Florian Habicht
I wanted to go to the movies, but I stayed on the train because of this girl.
Florian Habicht is a 37 year old filmmaker from New Zeeland. His film, Love Story, was born out of a failed artist residency in New York City. Originally he was in the city to create a work of fiction for which he was writing the script. He (thankfully for us) abandoned the project and instead created this improvised gem of a love story.
With Love Story, Habicht blurs the boundary between both documentary and fiction and director and subject. He begins the film by following a statuesque girl called Masha, with short black hair and an eye catching orange frock. The girl is parading through New York, successful balancing a large slice of red velvet cake on a paper plate. Florian approaches the girl and she responds flirtatiously, telling him to get on the train again, to disembark on the following stop and if they run into each other then they can spend the rest of the day together. It may not have been Florian’s intention but this exchange is a nod to the Kate Beckinsale rom-com Serendipity, also set in NYC but Florian’s rom-com is not scripted. What happens next is frustrating; he does not see the girl and the first part of the movie has him roaming around Coney Island, weaving in and out of rollercoasters, candyfloss and colourful New Yorkers. Florian puts up flyers asking for the girl with the cake to get into contact with him. She does and the two meet up in Florian’s local haunt: The Mars Bar. At this point the love story truly beings. After each “scene” Florian consults a street reveller on how to continue on with his story. He jumps into cabs and approaches psychics, drug addicts and drama students. The audience gets a beautiful taste of those who inhabit the world’s greatest city. These inhabitants also happen to suggest crazy plot developments from having a taxi driving over the girl’s foot to an erectile problem in the bedroom.
Although at times the film appears self-indulgent, leaving you to question what the point is to all this running around New York because the extraordinarily beautiful Masha is only ever acting, she clearly does not share Florian’s true feelings. The film does however do something unique and exciting with genre. After watching Catfish I have been very interested in to what extent fiction and documentary can be blurred and Love Story blurs these lines very well in a subtle manner, it is no wonder it won the top award at last year’s New Zealand film festival. After the film was over audience members were eager to find out what was real and what wasn’t but it seemed like everything was in fact truly improvised (many scenes with the public involve a quick shot of them signing release forms). There is a Skype call with an old veteran. Florian sits in his bath tub and dials a random number. The older gentleman on the phone shares with Florian that he has lost his legs, putting Florian’s dilemma of love and lust into perspective. After the screening at the BFI Florian explained that although this conversation was great for the film, what they didn’t show was the entire day that had been wasted cold calling numbers on Skype, numbers of people who didn’t pick up. The film tricks you into thinking Florian’s haphazard filmmaking techniques are easy and lazy but a lot of work has gone into it.
Another great aspect of the film is what it tells us about modern Romantic Comedies. How silly they are and how they are making us as audience members desensitized to a simple story of love and friendship. Instead we want death and all sorts of other extremities. Many of the New Yorkers suggest Florian finds out that his girl is actually a man.
Beyond this love story between two people, the film works even better as a love story, or even a ménage a trois between Masha, Florian and the people of New York. A few years ago the star-studded “New York I Love You” largely disappointed me. I feel Florian’s tribute to the city is much more real, warm and filled with the crazy human spirit that roams the East Village, Brooklyn, Coney Island and Washington Square Park.
The film won’t satisfy the average cinemagoer but if you’re a filmmaker or someone who appreciates the art of making films or even someone with a crush on one of the best cities in the world. I suggest you give it a go.
Florian also informed the audience he is looking for a distributor, so if any distributors are out there, give Florian a call!
Chapter Two: Matthew
Matthew opens his eyes. Matthew opens his laptop. Human and machine wake up simultaneously. He logs onto Facebook. There are fifteen notifications; mostly from events he has promised to attend and group alerts he does not care about. There is one new message occupying his inbox, sent at 03:00 am from the girl he met on the night bus.
Hey You ☺ x
Matthew ignores the message but decides to give the girl a chance and he glances over her profile. She was relatively attractive on the bus, all the goods were there but the rain and the harsh lighting and blurred alcoholic vision made it appear as if she had put herself through a car wash. Her Facebook page contains a lot of over-exposed photos of birds in the sky, trees in bloom. Her profile picture does not do anything for her. The flash makes her skin look tangerine, her eyes look demonic and she is pictured licking the frosting off a gigantic cupcake. Matthew is bored of this girl.
He types a new name into the search bar: Madeline Wade. Matthew and Madeline are not Facebook friends anymore but for some reason he still has full access to her profile. He clicks on the same photo album that he has clicked on every day for the past year: Ibiza 2010 – Girlz On Tour!!! He scrolls through hundreds of snap shots; big jugs of cocktails, Madeline and her friends on a banana boat, Madeline’s friend Izzie singing karaoke in a pink afro and then he finds the photo. Matthew’s dirty little secret photo. He was not there when it was made, he had not taken it, it was not meant for him in anyway but it always sent a wave of hormonal lust from his brain to his gut and straight down to his penis.
Madeline was lying on a rock in the sea; she wore an emerald green bikini. The pose was slightly bizarre, it looked uncomfortable: one arm hanging over the rock face, the other draped across her toned stomach but resting accidently against her bikini bottom. The title of the photo said: Wannabe Vogue. There were about ten “likes”, all from mutual friends or guys Matthew had not heard of. But that did not matter; what matters are her hand resting just above the bikini brief. What matters are her nipples poking through the triangles that covered her breasts. What matters are her legs and how they are spread, ever so slightly apart and because Matthew had seen what was between those legs his imagination was accurate and vivid. He could make out the mounds and curves if he just looked close enough.
Matthew’s hand moves beneath his stripy pajama bottoms. His penis is insanely hard. Harder than the time he slept with Sarah Fraser, a fellow thespian from his course with beautiful sunlight blonde hair but terrible vegan breath and much harder than the time he slept with his best-friend Susan. A 4:00am calculated mistake that had not yet ruined their friendship, luckily, but now his penis throbbed and he proceeded to move his hand up and down it, slowly at first, then much faster, almost violently whilst focusing hard on Madeline. Madeline on the rocks. Then, as if orchestrated a loud bang at the door erupted as come squirted across his lap.
Shit. Today was Sunday and he had completely forgotten. His leisurely plan of videogames and masturbation was going to have to be put on hold.
“Matthew! Open up!”
“Yes, coming mum!”
Matthew darts up right and in a quick succession of movements shut his laptop, slithers out of his stained pajamas and puts on jeans and a white t-shirt that smell sort of clean.
“Yes, I’m right there”
He runs out of the bedroom, shuts the door and runs through the corridor. A snappy inhale. A quick exhale. He opens the door to welcome his mother and cousin Billy.
“What took you so long!”
“Sorry, I was just tidying the place a bit”
“We all know that’s a lie”
Claire walks into the flat like a detective entering a fresh crime scene; she carries out her usual inspection, the mildew on the walls and the dust along the banister. Matthew lives with one other boy, a music technician who landed himself a job at Sony so he is rarely at home these days. Matthew’s mother drops by once a week and carries out sole cleaning duties.
“Right Billy, hopefully when you get to Matt’s age you’ll take better care of the place you’re living in”
Billy does not reply. He is taking it all in, this bachelor’s paradise: the Manchester United rug, the boob mug and the ashtrays. Matthew does not feel particularly close to Billy, six years stands in between them but Billy is an aspiring actor and since Matthew had graduated from a prominent drama school he sees him as a bit of a role model. Matthew feels uncomfortable with the teenager’s adoration, mainly because he had not booked a job in months.
“You alright Billy?”
Claire returns from her bathroom inspection.
“Well I would ask if anyone wants a cup of tea but knowing you there aren’t any clean mugs. I think we should go out, get you some fresh air Matthew. You boys can grab lunch and I’ll do a few errands.”
Matthew felt relief; she had skipped his bedroom.
“Let’s do it”
Mathew lives in an ex council flat in Southfields, London. His parents reside in a five-bedroom house just a few minutes away in Richmond. They had insisted on buying him a nicer flat, more central, less moldy but Matthew wanted some responsibility in his life and he was happy to pay the rent from a few waiting stints and a commercial for a credit card company in Japan. However money was diminishing like quick sand and Matthew knew it would not be long before he would have to ask his dad for some extra cash.
Claire drives the boys to Wimbledon shopping centre and drops them off so she can park the car and buy a new coffee machine. Matthew and Billy walk up to the food court and order themselves some fries, chicken wings and large cups of coke. They sit silently as barbecue sauce covers Billy’s lips like gooey lipstick. He attempts to lick most of it off and gargles his coke. Matthew feels nauseous.
“So, how do I get into drama school?”
“Well, you apply, then you see what their requirements are audition wise, what they want you to bring in, how many monologues, what kind etc. Then you prepare and do your best on the day”
“But that’s what everyone does. There must be something more, something that will really set me apart, like is there a certain monologue they just go crazy for, will it help if I work out before? Should I come in costume?”
Matthew could not be bothered with these questions. He still could not quite believe that he had made it through drama school himself. He had done some acting as a child, starred in a few BBC period dramas but he knew his acting was not spectacular. His face was. His sixth form drama teacher raved about his raven black hair and chiseled jaw line. “Your face has been carved out of a Greek sculpture. There’s something Hellenistic about your cheekbones, so historical.” Madeleine used to nickname him “Moviestar”, she would send texts like: Hey Moviestar, what you up to? But this appraisal led to Matthew often waking up in the dead of the night by an alarming thought, what if everything he had achieved was purely down to the structure of his face, his hazelnut eyes and dark hair? What if there was nothing else to him? No substance, no intelligence. What if he was nothing but a pretty packaging? Matthew stirs these thoughts away with his straw.
“Look, it’s been awhile since I auditioned for drama school. I’ll ask around to see if the game has changed a little bit. Your best bet is to keep it simple but practice your speeches until they become second nature to you, also – ”
A tall presence casts a shadow over the Formica table.
Andrew Marvin. Coincidentally Matthew had gone to drama school with Andrew but Andrew, unlike Matthew had gotten an agent, a good one that supplies actors to big television shows and Hollywood films. They last saw each other at an audition for MixMax chocolate. Andrew, of course had gotten the part and his face was splashed all over the London transport system.
“How are you man?”
“Good. Congrats on MixMax dude. You’re everywhere”
“I know right? They’ve sold the rights to America so hopefully once people get to know my face I’ll be able to go out there and head for the hills.”
“That’s great news man”
“How are you? I saw you chatting at the audition with that chick, what was her name again…Daisy?”
“Yeah, yeah we hit it off. She’s a lovely girl”
“Oh I bet she is. Whose your friend?”
“This is my cousin Billy. We’re just talking about drama schools. Billy’s applying next year.”
Andrew’s face seems to cave in on itself, like he swallowed a fart. He was thinking what Matthew had been trying to suppress every since Billy had announced he wanted to become an actor. Billy is ugly.
“Look mate, I’ve got to run. Let’s have a proper catch up with some beers soon yeah”
Andrew turns to Billy and put his hand on his shoulder.
“Good luck with your auditions. Just be yourself. Later dudes”
And with an athletic pivot Andrew was out of the food court and up the escalator. Billy slams his coke on the table.
“I knew it was him! I knew I recognized his face from those ads. What a cool guy”
“Yeah he’s alright”
The boy’s lunch proceeded without any further interruptions. Mathew managed to advise Billy that he should wear blacks to the audition, not a costume and definitely not a wig. Claire soon returned carrying a coffee machine under her arm that looked more like a military tank. She drives them home and drops Matthew off, as Billy has to get to his tap dancing lessons. Once back in the confines of his bedroom, Matthew gets his laptop out. To his horror Madeline’s picture is still up there and he quickly clicks her away. He has a one-a-day policy, no more else it would be…too much. Matthew logs into his email. There was not much left of today, he will probably spend the evening on Fifa maybe watch that that porn film he had downloaded about the slutty robot seducing astronauts on Mars but before he embarks on his evening alone he begins to write an email, an email that he has been putting off for a long while:
A waning heart drifts
over London’s peaks
sleepy concrete that
makes me remember
a boy, crazier than me
and how I shrugged him off
like an ill-fitting blouse.
At three in the morning
in a Turkish café
he turned to me to say:
“my biggest mistake was being born”
I dismissed it
with a kiss just
to stop him from
I didn’t acknowledge the
depth of his feeling because
I couldn’t believe anyone
went deeper than me:
a selfish teenager with skin
made of silk, delicately woven
from inexperience. Not knowing
how bodies can bind together
without minds, without futures
The last cab ride to Brighton
he put on a tie and I slid
into my mother’s heels
his eyes were alight
like a nightclub on fire
and I was in there, somewhere
and still am
and I’m sorry I left to go home
and I’m sorry he kept on into the night
leaving a trail of smoke and cinders
for some other girl
to pick up