hagiography

the autogeography of a no/body

Oct 8

Bakelite – V2

The last time they’d fucked, as she lay on her back, while he was inside her, he looked right into her face and asked ‘What colour eyes do you think our kids will have?’. It wasn’t such a funny question, between them they had the full range, one his being green, the other blue and both of hers being brown. Afterwards, when he’d gone, she curled herself foetal; and under the duvet, where it was hot, she fevered away, forgetting how to breathe.

It was late. She and a new he sat in the lounge, watching television, rolling spliffs. On the coffee table there was an unremarkable paperback, it’s spine broken. Around them the detritus of a lazy day, scattered across the floor and crumbled into the carpet. She was slouched in her pyjamas, eyes on stalks, hair all over the place, smiling, laughing, at new him, as he sat shoeless, legs stretched out on the sofa, right hand tucked into the waistband of his jeans. Outside it was raining. Inside the cat was curled on their unmade bed.

A knock at the back door called their attention. She stopped, mid three-skinner. He rose, long legs, big feet, a loping gait, and she watched his skinny backside disappear into the kitchen; she heard the door rattle against its frame, some mumbling, and then he came back into the lounge, his hand no longer in his waistband, instead it was passing through his hair and she could see his forehead and his frown.

‘It’s for you,’ he said.

‘Who is it?’

He didn’t look her in the face.

It was her turn to rise. She was barefoot. Her pyjama bottoms hung around her as if they were too tired to make the effort to cling. In the kitchen, right next to the door, stood the man who was still inside her. He held out a small package, something lumpy contained within a brown, manilla envelope. She took it.

‘What is it?’

He was crying.

‘What are you doing here?’

‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,’ was all he could say.

But she had heard it all before. The first time she thought it was an aberration. She didn’t understand. He explained. It didn’t help. The second time his father told her off and she felt like it was all her fault. The third time it frightened her, because he was so high, so massively high, and vital, full of adrenaline; he scared her.

She fought to remain impassive, the lumpy brown envelope in her hand.

He hunched his shoulders and turned away, opening the door into a flurry of rain, and she realised those hadn’t been tears on his face.

‘Goodbye.’

She stared after him, immobilised, trying to find focus, her gaze shifting from the wet footprints on the linoleum to the round handle of the back door. It was a strange maroon colour, too dark to be red, too light to be nearly black. She had bled once. With concrete feet she walked into the lounge. ‘They used to make plastic like that,’ she said, ‘brittle.’

New he was bent over the coffee table, licking another cigarette loose. ‘Yeah, out of formaldehyde, same stuff they pickle body parts in.’ He dislodged the tobacco from its paper case.

‘Why would anyone want to keep part of their body in a pickle jar?’ she said.

He looked up just as he twiddled the end into a perfect cone, ‘Because some things you can’t throw away’.

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Oct 7

Bakelite

It was late. They sat in the lounge, watching television, rolling spliffs. On the coffee table: a book (paperback novel, unremarkable), two cups of stale tea, an empty packet (crisps? biscuits? cigarettes? condoms?); and the carpet needed vacuuming, and she was slouched in her pyjamas, eyes on stalks, hair all over the place, smiling, laughing, at him, as he sat shoeless, legs stretched out on the sofa, right hand tucked into the waistband of his jeans. Sunday. It was raining. The cat was curled on their unmade bed.

A knock at the door called their attention, their back door, their kitchen door. No one came through the front door, not ever, because the front door actually opened into a bedroom, a student bedroom, because this was a student house, deep in the depths of student house land, where all the walls were decorated with posters and all the gardens were a mess

She stopped, mid three-skinner. He rose, long legs, big feet, a loping gait, and she watched his skinny backside disappear into the kitchen; she heard the back door rattle against its frame, some mumbling, and then he came back into the lounge, his hand no longer in his waistband, instead it was passing through his hair and she could see his forehead and his frown and …

‘It’s for you,’ he said.

‘Who is it?’

He didn’t look her in the eye.

It was her turn to rise. She was barefoot. Her pyjama bottoms hung around her as if they were too tired to make the effort to cling. In the kitchen, right next to the door, stood a man she recognised but had given up trying to know. He held out a small package, something lumpy contained within a brown, manilla envelope. She took it.

‘What is it?’

He was crying.

‘What are you doing here?’

‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,’ was all he could say.

But she had heard it all before. The first time she thought it was an aberration. She didn’t understand. He explained. She still didn’t understand. The second time his father told her off and she felt like it was all her fault. The third time it frightened her, because he was so high, so massively high, and vital, full of adrenaline; he scared her. The fourth, fifth, sixth and sixtieth times, ‘Well, it’s amazing what you can get used to,’ she told her friend over a coffee one day.

She remained impassive, the lumpy brown envelope in her hand.

‘Aren’t you going to open it?’ he asked.

And she realised those weren’t tears on his face. It was still raining outside. ‘I don’t know,’ she said.

‘It’s a present.’

‘I don’t think so. I think it’s just something else you want me to have,’ she said.

‘Open it, you’ll understand.’

‘I don’t need to any more.’ She handed the package back to him. ‘I’d like you to leave.’

He left. For a long time afterwards she stared at the round handle on the back door. It was a strange maroon colour, too dark to be red, too light to be nearly black. She went into the lounge. ‘They used to make plastic like that,’ she said, ‘brittle.’

‘Yeah, out of formaldehyde, same stuff they pickle body parts in.’

‘Why would anyone want to keep part of their body in a pickle jar?’ she said.

‘Because it’s difficult to know how to throw some things away.’

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