Persy: Drapes

The thing about Aiden is- he always gets what he wants and he gets it by doing nothing. Honestly. One time we had a decade-long argument about the drapes in the front room. He insisted they were peach. I said they were salmon. He said it probably didn’t matter anyway, but he was sure that I was wrong. So I said-

‘If it doesn’t matter, then why bring it up?’

‘I don’t know, Persy.’ He replied, ‘I just thought you cared about that stuff.’

I should probably provide some context. Our living room, at the time, had a colour scheme which had been mostly informed by the drapes.  The drapes had come from the old house, a house that had never needed drapes but was filled to the brim with them. At one point, we had drapes disguised as throws, as rugs, as table cloths. Drapes on drapes on drapes, even. It had been a little joke of ours since our old, old house had been so- I suppose desolate is the only nice way to describe it- that we had made a pact to go ridiculously over the top decorating the next one.

There were many houses between that house and the very last one. And by then the drapes had completely lost their jovial, light-hearted warmth. They were instead a reminder of a place that we were both slowly realising we could never go back to. They went up with no joy. They filled the room with no love. We never walked past it and prodded the other, saying-

‘Drapes on drapes on drapes, eh?’

We just didn’t talk about it.

Didn’t talk to each other at all. Aiden had work. I had work. We had split the domestic duties so that he got the kids and I got the house and there was no overlap. No reason to interject while the other was sinking further and further into the empty nothingness of modern day life.

Until the drapes.

I can’t remember what he opened with. or how he closed. I just couldn’t get the thought that all my work had come to nothing. That something was wrong in our showroom home. It was my job. It was one of my only jobs. And somehow, without me realising, it had changed colour with no warning and no prompting. Or had it?

If I had been looking at it objectively, and I can never look anything objectively when Aiden is around, I would have been able to decipher his coded message. For clearly, what he had wanted to say was-

‘I can’t bear to look at those drapes every day, Persy. I can’t comprehend how much has changed since we lived in Florence, and Marrakech, and Constantinople and Carthage. I know in the beginning it was bad, sitting on uncomfortable stone thrones, sleeping on a wooden bed that was too small. Your mother would visit and make you cry. You couldn’t get anything to grow down in Hades. But somehow, now, I think it was good. Am I crazy, or do you see it too? We thought we had nothing, but, in fact, we had everything. We had each other. We sacrificed so much to have the chance to grow together and it seems growing has actually torn us apart. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d never taken you with me all those years ago.’

Something like that.

But Gods forbid he actually say it. Actually do something.

So he left the thought with me. Left it to me to destroy what was left of our marriage. Because I heard a different message in the following silence. I heard-

‘Take it down and start again.’

And I knew the minute it settled in my head that I could not start again. Not again. Couldn’t repeat the pause and reset combination again. I was spent. I was overdrawn.

There comes a time in every 2000 year old’s life when she must make peace with the fact that some things, some obstacles are insurmountable. That patience and love and understanding are not a fountain, but a well and the well will run dry if you dip in too much and too often. Being married to a man who is scared of his own voice is a sure fire way to turn that well into a cavernous abyss. And the abyss will start within you and then move between you. And then swallow one of you whole.

Aiden got what he wanted. I took the drapes down. I took the drapes with me, and I left. For good. The thing about me is- I never get what I want. But I’m very good at tricking myself into thinking I do.

 

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Hunger of the Pine

Getting off a person is a lot like getting off a drug. There are ups and downs of varying lengths and triggers that you never expect will hit you with such force.

From day to day, your feelings about the situation change. You don’t care about him anymore. You never cared about him. You just liked the idea of him. You liked the way he made you feel, and not necessarily how he did it. You don’t trust him, you can’t trust him and this, all of it, cutting him off, cutting him out of your story, is for the best.

But you love him. Or at least, it feels like you do. You’ve felt things like this before, but not to the same degree. Not in this overwhelming, painfully raw way. You loved being with him. That is true. You loved what he smelt like and his smile, his smile-

His smile was a lie. Everything he ever did, or said, was a lie. Those things were nothing to him, he would tell anyone. There was nothing special about you.

But he made you feel special. He saw you. He spoke to you in a way that got you to feel safe, for the first time, with someone other than yourself. And that’s important. That means something. That there’s someone out there for you. That maybe he could be that someone-

He left. He left. And every time you meet up, he leaves you all over again. Reopening the wound over and over, not giving you room to recover. Maybe, he likes you like this. On the edge of your seat, drinking him in. Aching. Pining. Someone to come back to when his confidence is low. Someone to reassure him that he is loved, liked at least. So he comes back, he seduces you, you start to fall and before you can catch yourself, he’s gone. Left you behind while he continues his life without you in it. Writes you out, like this is his story. Is that what you do to someone you love? Someone you care about? Is that that the kind of relationship you want?

But he’s only human and humans make mistakes. Maybe he’s as confused as you are. Maybe he’s just as insecure. Maybe hunkering down and letting this blow over, ignoring all these messy feelings, is how he protects himself. Just like you.

And that makes him a coward. You can’t build a life with two coward. You deserve more than that. You want more than that. You are deluding yourself if you think you can make something with a person who isn’t strong enough to know what they want. What you want. Who isn’t strong enough to make it happen.

But do you know what you want?

You want him. You want him always. To speak to him always, hear him always. Look at him, touch him-

It’s not healthy. It’s not rewarding. There is nothing glorious about this, nothing here to crave. Relationships require two people. Two. And at the moment, there is only one. There is only you. And by that logic, there is no relationship. There is nothing to mourn. You miss him and that’s fine. That’s allowed. He was your friend. But what you think you’re missing, this great life the two of you could have had, never was. He never was. Never was yours. You started to build, wanted to build and keep on trying to build, an alter. Some great shrine to this pure and perfect love, even though the foundations are on sand. Worse than sand, dust. Worse than dust, nothing. Air. A vacuum.  It’s a thing that you do and have done and are doing right now. But you must focus on what’s real: He wasn’t for you. He was close to it, but he was never going to be yours.

That’s what real. The life, the prospect, the dream, the cusp of something, was all just that- Abstract nouns. In real life, there was nothing. Is nothing. And that’s what hurts. That you feel so strongly about something that isn’t tangible, never was. It’s okay to dream, but you lost your way and thought the dream was real. The dream was happening, taking shape before your eyes. And now you’re both mad at him and mad at yourself for not being more present. More careful. Smarter. You do know what’s real and what is not, but you thought, maybe this time, fantasy might trump reality. Because, in reality, you’re bored. You’re lonely. And he looked like he could take you away from that. But here you are. Here you always were.

So now, back to the lull. The silence. You don’t ache anymore. You feel nothing. And there’s a kind of relief in that. You have pressed reset. Your mind stops buzzing and plaguing you with fanciful thoughts and all you’re left with is you. You look at yourself for the first time in a while. See yourself for what you are. Who you are. What you want, what you need. You can spell it out, you can touch it. You can make a choice to either grow or regress. It’s entirely in your hands. You’re in control again.

So close your eyes. Properly this time. Face the darkness, the unknown. Tomorrow will come, and maybe you will get answers or opportunities and maybe you won’t. But that sadness, that desperation, that displacement – it will dull, get duller until you think of him with polite indifference again. Like when you first met. Reset.

 Oh, him? You’ll say. Yeah, he was my friend. Just a guy who used to be my friend.

Be You

I attended a careers fair recently, and during one of the panels the main pieces of advice they gave us was: BE YOU.

And it got me thinking. What the hell does that even mean? Should I walk into an interview and tell them about my daddy issues? I’m not sure how or why that would get me employed, but it does in fact make me who I am. So I should let the tears flow, right?

The truth is: I don’t know how you’re supposed to market internal things.

For example, I think too much about television. It’s borderline obsessive. And I’m not exaggerating. I have stills and sound bites that play over and over in my head. Betty shooting at the birds in Mad Men. Don throwing money at Peggy in Mad Men. Joan finding Lane Pryce’s body in Mad Men. Most of Mad Men, actually. Do I put that on my CV? Or do I wait till the interviewer asks me about myself to say ‘The thing that made Don and Peggy’s relationship so special was the fact that it transcended ideals of friendship. It was a mishmash of love, and respect and envy and pride. Shame. It was pure. It was nurturing. It was both ugly and honest. Also I was born in London.’

I have very particular compendiums of knowledge. I’ve been told that makes me ‘quirky’. But quirky is another word I don’t understand. How is quirky a skill that’s necessary in an accountancy? I can tell you so far it has not proved useful at all. In fact it alienates a lot of people and sometimes even offends. So what am I to do with the stuff I know? What job could possibly need someone who knows about men’s shoes, Nollywood, Ancient Greek Drama, taking out tracks of weave quickly and efficiently, 90’s hip hop, Latin Language, Kings of Leon, Harold Pinter, Marlon Brando, true crime, coat styles and casseroles? And do the things that I know make me who I am, or is it the person that I am that makes me interested in these things?

The phrase ‘BE YOU’ is so complex, it’s like being left in sea of words without a life jacket.

Does it mean how I respond to situations?  My dry humour? Should I enter the room and immediately start mocking the interview or should I wait until they offer me the job?

And I’m not funny all the time, or in an accessible way all the time. Sometimes I can be painfully serious. Sometimes I can be dangerously absent minded. Sometimes I switch on my computer and think: This is it. This is my life for the next forty years, and it makes me want to scream and or quit. Is that a professional trait or should I keep that one tucked away.

I can be disinterested, easily bored and highly irreverent. During these times, I have been known to make a mountain out of a mole hill, just to entertain myself. I wrote a film about such a situation, where a guy loses his mug and goes on a mini epic quest to discover its whereabouts. I have the ability to be that guy, and also to be the person observing that guy and thinking: what a loser.

I know a lot about current affairs, but it doesn’t interest me nearly as much as reading articles on Vulture. I have no stake in the  Kesha/Dr Luke drama, but it doesn’t stop me scoring the page for updates. What am I going to do with this information? Nothing probably. But it’s a thing I do. Just because I can.

I’m passionate about a lot of things.  A LOT OF THINGS. I don’t know how you could be a writer and not want to consume as much information with as much fervour as possible, but I can see how ‘broad general knowledge’ could read as ‘generic words to fill up blank space on empty CV. Disregard.’

I find emotions messy and distracting, so I cannot describe myself as ‘trusting’ or ‘tempestuous’ or ‘happy’ like other people might. Bubbly, I am never. Hopeful, even less. But if you put a problem in front of me, I’ll solve it. I might not do it record time, but I’ll sort it in the easiest, least painful way possible. I’m hyper logical, I see things in parts and then as a whole, which means I’m good at finding needles in haystacks. Or at least I would be, if I wasn’t visually impaired.

I’ve never had time for small talk. I don’t see the point in it, and I never feel more wasted than I do asking people I don’t know about weekend plans I won’t remember. But I love talking about big things, broad things, lofty things. Things that might seem silly, or insane, or personal or inappropriate, because that’s how ideas form. I’ve never puzzled over a conversation that’s started ‘Terrible weather’. But some of my favourite bits have come from deliciously absurd thoughts like ‘How do I know  if you can actually read, though?’ (You had to be there.)

I’m an organised, well presented whole made up of misshapen, bordering on contradictory parts, and it has taken me a long time to mould all the above into a person that can walk and talk and hold conversation. Even hold attention at times, if I may brag. I don’t really like the idea of deconstructing it and reducing myself to a cliché phrase like ‘I’m a graduate, passionate about TV and eager to make my mark in this highly competitive industry’.

Unless, of course I can get away with an addition:  I’m a graduate, but then aren’t we all? Madly in love with TV, because TV has never read my text and then not replied. Eager to make my mark in this highly competitive industry, where everyone wants to be famous and hardly anyone wants to be interesting.