Wednesday, 22 April 2015

If you walk in the crowd you won't leave any trace.

Let me tell you the worst thing you can possibly say to me about my tattoos.

I have this one tattoo. Black across my lillywhite gypsy skin. Down my forearm, that reads “this is not for you”. If you're interested, it's the opening lines of the first book I was given by the first boy who can say he had my heart. The first book that blew apart all the previous rules of writing. My own and otherwise. To say this sacred tome has haunted my life since is an understatement. It's the one book I keep passing on, giving away, falling over, being spooked back too. I currently have two copies, one that I consciously remember buying, the other that came to me I don't know how; and the oddest thing is that when I got this tattoo I became even more of a collector of it's stories. This book, THE book, it has a life of it's own. Someone was in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, and it fell through the remote front door, cover ripped off. Someone else regained their fear of the dark after reading it. Another guy....well it goes on. You get the idea.

These days I to hold onto my faith in the general public. I try to brush off their strange remarks as nervous attempts at banter, but when you point at my tattoo and say “aren't you going to be alone forever?”, this is a button pressed. Especially when it's three minutes after the train home was supposed to arrive to the calm of my sky-palace sanctuary and my little black cat. So, I hit back, facetious, maybe I want to be alone forever. I don't, but I'm an angry child thrust in the face of a stupid question, my sass and sarcasm the last shields I throw up when I'm knocked off key.

It's just, I'm frustrated. I've been sick forever, in so many senses of the word. Sore-throat sick, soul-sick, body wants a baby sick, Saturn's return sick,; that I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep. Possibly in someone's arms, although that last part is optional. I probably need some Erythromycin and an Uncrossing Spell, but who doesn't these days? I'm on the platform at Shepherds Bush and the crowd is growing thicker and thicker and the train is getting later and later, so when the train arrives my conscious mind is off in the liminal space I reserve for storytelling and vivid-dream premonitions.

And the train is rammed. Instantly, I'm squashed up against four bald men, all fairy-tale giant ginormuos. Every single one of these men has seen me thirty seconds earlier get accidentally punched in the tit by a yammering lawyer, so they shuffle their feet and lean back politely. I'm grateful for the extra space, because I can feel four types of material unwillingly pressed against lower parts of my body; it's just that busy. The dawning summer brings thundering with it a muggy sense of urgency, one that's transformed in the Overground carriage to thick air. Nose-neck thick, hot-body sex thick, Mardi Gras thick, meat-sweat, cat-breath thick. Echoing through the whole train. This many people this close, the air conditioning might as well save it's sweet time and join the hot-air party. There's one, only one advantage to a train packed this close. No-one's gonna steal your stuff at least. No-one can even move. Let alone make a bid for your phone. Basic rush-hour logic, and I guess at least the men are being kind. I guess.

By the time this train gets moving, everyone's off in their own special place. This is how they deal with the chaos of the packed train. Music, books, diving into WhatsApp, each small little versions of their own private nirvana. No-one is really all the way there, but we all have the rush hour to deal with. When most of the passengers drop off at the next stop, our aching communal heart takes one harsh beat, pressing itself against our paper-thin chests in one clear air gasp. Clean god-damn air. It'll be the last for a while, but we don't know that yet.

I have this moment where I'm staring at the fresh air come crashing through the doors with this knowledge I need to get off. In life, but mostly of this train. Whilst I'm negotiating the impulse the door swooshes close and I have one clear thought break my rush-hour mantra. Oh. Oh well.

Then the train pulls off. Speeds up. A little faster than usual, but we are late. I'm off somewhere else in my head, swaying in the soporific lullaby arms that it hits my body first. Like I've been punched in the stomach, a cramp, it staples my stomach together with a sobering jolt. How many stations have we passed? Sometimes I phase out for what seems hours and it's just seconds, and I'm god-damn sure it's just that, right? But there's still that feeling in my stomach, like a cigarette burn through my oesophagus, an unknown stab. Maybe it's just stress. Maybe it's just cramp. Maybe I kicked the wall in the night and pulled a muscle I didn't even know I had...or maybe it's something esoteric I haven't worked out, or codeine withdrawal. It could be that. My options, I'm cycling through like a bullet train when someone further down the car realises before me.

“Is he gonna stop?”

I crane my head around to see the screen. Blank. I sigh. Stare out the window, warp-speed blurs of nature's beauty all star bursts of lines, and a station goes past.

Goes past.


We're on the Overground, aren't we?

For those of you that aren't keeping up, the Overground stops at every station.

I catch the gaze of this Chinese dude. I say dude because I didn't catch the gender. On the verge of asking for help, headphones twisted in hands like claws. Burning confusion, but unsure. As though they're not too sure their question is valid, cautionary innocent weakness. So I start the conversation.

“Is he gonna stop?”

By now I'm not the only person wondering. My new-found confidant catches the name of the next station to shudder by in a blur so unrecognisable that the concept of passing another station vanishes like smoke in my consciousness, and the swallow is so audible that I'm sure they can hear it at the other end of the world.

“Hampstead Heath?”

The panic spreads like an STD. This guy ain't stopping. No way. There's a small group of mild-mannered men in suits debating the emergency stop alarm, arguing the semantics of a train driver hell-bent for leather on driving us into the fiery abyss at the end of the line. As the panic waves lash harsh on the few people who haven't quite caught on yet the more vigilant of the suits makes a good point; the emergency stop requires the dybbuk-possesed monster now driving our train to certain defeat to act on the signal, to pull the break. This guy already turned off all the screens and some of the lights, he probably wouldn't, he proposes, act in our favour.

To say were fucked would be an understatement. The panic of being entirely at the mercy of our ghost-possessed driver saturates limbs, shaking hands, furrowed foreheads. Little scratches too hard down forearms and angry red-faced fat little ancient ladies yammering into ancient mobile phone relics. The unspoken fear the train might have been hijacked binds us strange situation fellows. My Chinese friend has gone from banging on the doors to staring at me with a wide, vacant look in their face, expression begging “help!”. Another woman with waist length white hair and a Stevie Nicks coat asks me if I know what's happening, giggling quickly to herself. These faces, staring at me. Well, I have to say SOMETHING, right? All the while our metal cage speeds and speeds and speeds and sparks through more stations, past blurs and blurs and blurs of pink and brown and yellow and green and orange we once called people.

“I guess the track's got to run out at some point?”

Maybe I should have thought of something better to say, but it works. The train pulls into Gospel Oak. Doors slide back knife-edge swipe. The crowd moves as one angry herd, I'm swept up in the current of the welcome escape. I've seen kids run slower from illegal raves. Safety and the chance to grab the soon-to-be-departed next train back in the other direction leave Gospel Oak a sea of thundering footsteps too large to think through and this time, I trust my instinct and stop to read the screen everyone else has ignored.

I've amassed a bunch of followers who obviously think my Zen translates to navigating public transport. What fools. The train on the other platform pulls off as half the travellers realise they're off in the wrong direction. Pandemonium rattles on the door, my little army of the Chinese dude and Stevie, a nurse and a few faceless stragglers thanks me for stopping them jumping on the wrong train.

“Are you going back in the other direction?” says the nurse. “Can I just...follow you?”

Together, we navigate our journey down the hidden stairs. Together, we stop for complaint forms for Stevie and the Nurse and for a few seconds I think I've lost the Chinese dude, but they turn back up as we're all, all ten of us, climbing the platform to the train in the right direction. Together we board the right train. The Nurse likes my hair. Stevie lives near my house. We stand, bound together in a group of otherwise ignorant 6pm commuters, strange friends as we make our weary way home.

Just before I get off at my stop the Nurse thumbs her form.

“You gonna complain?”

“Nah.” I say. “Makes for a good story. I'm going to go home and write it down...”

Monday, 5 January 2015

MirMento Mania

MirMento Mori is taking shape. The world is against me, my keyboard and it's replacement fell victim to some terrible accidents but the story is still in here, these women, the fake ones that I've made my family are screaming to get out no matter how hard it is to do it. Right now I've thought myself into the brain of a 20s Salome veil dancer and I kinda want a hug and someone to tell me they love me because ouch.

It's been a good ten years since a novel possessed me like this. The more of it I write the more important it becomes to me. It's not just the rampant need to solidify my place on this planet, it's the lack of female mainstream transgression and I want to change that. Honestly. I want to make writing rock and roll again.

Enough talking. I know I'm posting disjointed little parts, but that's because the whole text is a sprawling, pulsing, breathing monster that I have to attack from more than one side but it's all starting to come together. Like magic. Like all the pieces of the puzzle. Oof,

Lemme give you some context here. I have all these accounts of these women, linked  by their unfortunate needs for ECT at various points in their lives. Therefore it's about female hysteria, overreacting or a way of controlling wild women or what? Maybe it even crosses into feminism but I don't know enough feminist theory to talk about that properly. I don't want to answer those questions, at least not directly, I just want to bring them out so the reader makes their own choice about so called female madness.

So we have Miranda. The main character, sort of falling through a semi-dream-hallucination-seizure in her own treatment, who links them all. She was the hardest to write, but she's done now. I wanted to portray the confusion of the dream world as happy because we often have potential nightmare situations in art that are terrible, and I wanted to subvert the nasty things I'm gonna have to do to the rest of the women in this book to make my damn point with something warm and happy and maybe even preferable to reality??

ANYWAY. This is the part where Miranda, who has found the love of her life there with her along the journey to meet all these electrocuted women in her bloodline, has to say goodbye. I like it. I also think I've talked way too much. Maybe the text should have done the speaking for itself.