Look at her sidle in. Almost appearing from thin air. Ready to
answer whatever is asked of her with precision of a safe cracker.
It started with another relationship petering out. Thrilling
expectations left smelling like a butt ridden ashtray. 'We don't really
fit together any more', he said. 'Oh I see. You mean like kitchen units
or something'. He made a nasty little laughing sound, his lip curling
up over his teeth. Fucking cupboard.
'We're not the people we were. We've moved on'. She hadn't got a clue
what those words meant. Realised that she was counting his eyelashes -
she never would have thought that many. That was it. She was crabby for
weeks. Friends rang. 'What]s the matter? You're not yourself these
days'. She told them to ring again when their expressions of concern
had a spark of originality about them. But the triteness continued.
'Pull yourself together'. She put the phone down and pondered the
statement. It was a big thing to ask. She didn't really know where to
She'd always been a bit of a tricky customer to pin down. Listened to
heavy metal and two tone when she was younger. Leather jacket and jerky
dancing. Couldn't study what she wanted because the timetable clashed.
Far From The Madding Phosphorus.
She never allied herself strongly enough to one single trend. That was
a mistake of course. Darted around like a midge on the water. You
should specialise. Mine a narrow seam. Look yourself in the eye and say
'That]s me. I take photographs of dogs'.
Politics helped. A connection with the outside world that allied her to
a core of principles from which she could begin to analyse her
attitudes, codify her behaviour. Watching the police follow them
through the back window as they headed to the pit. But then even that
disappeared somehow. Became twisted into cynicism and then just fell
off of her like stale ash. She doesn't quite understand why. She's
still reeling from it in some ways.
When her mother rang last month to tell her to go and get her
cholesterol checked because her second cousin had suffered a heart
attack she looked through old photo albums trying to get a sense of
heritage. A history of ear design. A shaping of the nose that would
validate the idea that her character was merely a series of preordained
impulses mapped over many generations. A toaster with several
But she looked at the way she swings her arms when she walks, the way
she smokes and the expressions that she uses. And she imagined herself
walking down a long busy street, people she had known and loved and
admired vanishing from her existence with every step, each taking back
the little thing of them that she had assimilated, like a woollen
jumper picking up smells. She knew that by the end of the street she
would look and sound very different. A sculpture moving back into
Perhaps she'd only be able to describe herself when it was all over.
The obituary game. Seeing how the wax formed. Following it's chaotic
design - it's shift and stasis.
And every night as she closed her eyes she would see the tall blonde
haired woman in the bright green apron who stood just out of vision as
the dentist leaned over her. The woman is taking down the information
that is being casually tossed into the air. Upper Left 8 Present, 7
Present, 6, 5, 4, 3 D/O Cavity, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4 Absent Space Closed, 5
Present, 6 M/O, 7 Absent Space Open, 8 Present before looking up to the
dentist with a sad and worried look. That woman's teeth are so fucked
up we're going to have to take her mouth out.
And then a shopping survey came through the post. Hundreds of little
boxes waiting to be ticked. And she decided to sit down and apply
herself to this task. No she didn't collect die-cast scale models, but
yes she did agree with the statement 'I want to look younger than my
age so I will fight wrinkles for as long as I can'.
And as she chewed her biro and mulled over whether she, or anybody in
her family, would consider buying shrubs through the mail she could
feel herself coming into sharper focus. Tightening up.
What better way could there be of defining herself? They're asking
questions that she would never have considered if it wasn't for their
insight. Tapping the answers into a database, survey scientists
standing round rubbing their hands as a figure begins to take shape on
the screen, her surrogate self, it's head slowly rotating and a
staccato voice revealing her existential core as expressed through the
language of product.
Eating Out. Roll on.
She should ring them up and ask them what to do when that happens
again. When he leaves. When he kicks her in the stomach, throws the
lamp across the room and spits cheese all over her. Please tell me what
is the best way to react given my consumer profile?
They should let you know if there's anybody out there with identical
input so that you can get it together and procreate and produce
offspring that are genetically coded to be a member of the National
Trust and drive between five and six thousand miles a year and go to
the cinema at least once a month, preferring romantic comedies to films
with excessive levels of violence.
She runs to the door now when she hears the postman to see what further
information, offers and questions she will receive, giving her clues,
letting her character solidify.
And ater she has read the celebrity questionnaires and written her own
answers over the top, she walks into the city centre. And she hunts out
these women with clip boards who skulk around in small groups like
hooligans poised to gently step out in front of your path.
She waits until there's nobody else around and walks past them very
very slowly, eyes agog. And if they ignore her she walks back again,
winking or something. It nearly always works. She's only had to beg a
couple of times.
She loves it. She's really pulling herself together.