Poem to Start the Week #12: He Tells Her

He tells her that the Earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

 

Wendy Cope

Alone With Everybody

If you must know, I am most definitely not depressed.

But you know what? There are days for writing, and then there are days for reading Bukowski.

*

Alone With Everybody

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
much
and nobody finds the
one
but keep
looking
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than
flesh.

Charles Bukowski

Days, Dissected

Thursday. Michelle comes over with this brown Marks & Spencer box large enough to fit a microwave oven. Open it, she giggles, and sets it smack in the middle of my desk, completely messing up the delicate Feng-Shui of my keyboard, hand cream and half eaten salad. Several Look, no water! slogans printed in green curly writing all over the box and I think, these people must be crazy, who’s ever heard of kitchen appliances being delivered with water on the side anyway.

It’s flowers. A bouquet half my size as thanks for helping her out with a project I’ve already forgotten about. You’re crazy, I say, and she smiles. People come over to smell the roses. Some comment on how far science has come. Waterless, can you imagine, soon we’ll be using time machines to go back fifty years and hit on Marilyn Monroe. All I can think about is that I’ll have to carry that tree of flowers home somehow, and strangers on the street will think it’s my birthday or something, and I’ll feel like I have to smile and look super duper happy, so that everyone can then look forward to their own birthdays, and perfect happinesses just like mine.

I leave the flowers under my desk in a Guinness pint filled with tap water, hardly trusting this waterless business. I’ll have to take them home tomorrow, V. and I have plans for the evening. We’re traveling to Sutton to walk the streets of what might or might not be the place where we’ll be buying a flat soon, and I don’t want to be doing it arms full of roses and a dumb, fake birthday-girl grin on my face.

On Thursday afternoons, Sutton looks deserted. V is late. I walk along the streets, past closed shops and packs of shrieking teenagers killing time. I go inside the local Morrisons, and slowly make my way along every aisle, looking at canned beans and fresh pastries. I buy a strawberry scented candle in a large lidded jar, and an Ideal Home magazine. I know I shouldn’t, I mean, I’ve already got a stack of them at home, hopelessly losing their shine and gathering dust on my nightstand. But one of the few things I find comforting these days is to spend my evenings scribbling little hearts next to pieces of furniture I like in the pages of interior design magazines. It’s the closest I get to feeling like I’m working on a home of our own.

V finally gets here and together we head towards the flat development, to have another look at the walls and the windows from the outside. It’s getting dark. He’s tired and doesn’t want to look at a million horrible-in-every-possible-way homes anymore, so he’s decided this is the one, and unless the ever advertised end of the world hits us in the next couple of weeks, we’ll just sign the papers and be done with this craziness already. I’m not convinced, and I say it often. Whenever I do, he looks at me with this heartbroken look and all I can think about is that I actually found myself a man to love, to really love, and somehow I can’t help making him unhappy.

*

Friday. If my mother knew this she’d pretty much disown me, but I don’t own a vase in this country. I have to improvise one out of a tall glass, and set the unstable flower contraption straight on the living room floor, leaning against one of my book shelves. They do brighten up the room, I realise, and vow to get a vase soon and who knows, maybe a bunch of freshly cut daffodils every once in a while from now on.

Once I’m done taking a couple dozen phone photos of the off-handed flower arrangement, I change out of my t-shirt and jeans work combo and into something slightly more dinner date appropriate, and run to meet V for a bite to eat at a nearby Persian restaurant. We’ve been eating out a lot lately which has put my grandiose diet plans on hold, but we’ve been way too tired to even consider opening the fridge in the evenings, never mind turning the hob on and actually attempting any semblance of dinner making normalcy.

The place is packed and we’re sat next to a bunch of heavily made up girls on a hen night out. I’m hardly hungry but V insists on ordering this huge, mixed grill platter for two we’ve never been brave enough to get before, as it looks like it could easily feed a family of four for a couple of weeks at least. We eat slowly, intimidated by the sheer quantity of grilled meats and rice, talking anything but money, houses and baby making, which leaves crazy silly things to chat about, like The Walking Dead, our friends’ innumerable flaws, and the shade of my nail polish.

We barely manage to make a dent in the food mountain, so we ask for a doggy bag. (Nope, we’re not embarrassed to do that, are you kidding me? We’re talking about enough food to last us for the rest of the month here!) The waiter comes back with a couple of empty plastic containers which he leaves in the middle of the table for the two of us to pour our leftovers in. I look at V, he looks back, and we both burst into laughter. Yet another thing we’ll be relieved to talk about from now on, when we don’t feel like discussing our scary future: super duper, do it yourself doggy bag etiquette.

*

Saturday. I’m off to meet M for lunch in Oxford Circus. We got in touch through my blog and it’s the first time we see each other, so as I tread along Oxford Street, silently cursing my way through the endless outpour of weekend shoppers, I wish I had the time to straighten my hair properly and retouch my nail polish. This matters to me for some reason, that I appear somewhat normal on the outside though my inside life is an utter mess these days.

I doubt I’ve ever talked about myself for so long. It scares me, really, that there are people out there who share my anxieties. It makes them feel more real somehow, my fears, more difficult to push to the back of my mind. Leaning over our plates, we talk things over. Unpleasant things, the likes of which V and I try so hard to avoid touching upon, out of a silly sense of relationship preservation. But this particular relationship is only just beginning, it’s good to get the nasty stuff out of the way first. And then we’ll go ahead and build a friendship on top of lipstick brands and celebrity gossip centered conversations. Hard work, this making friends business.

Three hours and a fair amount of giggling later (we’re the kind who laugh in the face of scary stuff, who would have thought), we part in front of Bond Street station. A million disoriented people and all their friends and relatives are still dragging their carrier bags from shop to shop, bumping into each other at every step, as though walking down Oxford Street functions by a totally different set of rules than walking down any other street, and it’s really my fault for not knowing that, and insisting not to disrupt the normal flow of pedestrian traffic. Normally I find it impossible not to absolutely loathe humanity when stuck for ages on a cramped sidewalk, but today is different. I’m actually feeling hopeful for some reason, and when the one inch a minute crowd pushes me past the doors of a Waterstones bookshop, I break free. Just one book, I promise myself, something to remember this day by.

I buy a collection of poetry by Billy Collins, something to keep on my nightstand for months and turn to at times of no new Ideal Home magazines in sight.

*

Sunday. 

Carry

I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.

Just this morning on the shore,
I could hear two people talking quietly in a row
boat on the far side of the lake.

They were talking about fishing,
then one changed the subject,
and, I swear, they began talking about you.

Billy Collins

Things We Fight About When We Fight About Things

Yesterday we met Victor for a quick bite in Soho and a London Web talk on Software Architecture at the Radisson Blu Hotel. A couple of hours later, V. and I were sitting in a half empty tube car on our way home, centimeters apart but absolutely not touching and clearly hating each other’s guts, our frowns conveniently hidden behind our Kindles. We didn’t talk or make eye contact for the entire trip, and though we became somewhat civil later on, there was tension in the air throughout the rest of the evening, and he was still far from my favourite person in the morning.

Why, you ask, was our relationship suddenly on the verge of destruction, and on the super duper International Day of Happiness of all days? Well, behold the very mature, extra valid reason for our near separation.

We owed Victor fifty pounds for a couple of tickets he’d gotten us for another tech conference. As soon as we met him yesterday, I was bugging V. to give him the fifty pounds back, knowing we’d be forgetting about it. On our way to the restaurant, I was interrupting their conversation with I’m sure super duper loveable fifty-pounds shrieks. I was snoozed, of course. We’d settle the business when we got somewhere warm, V. said. So I waited until we got our table at the restaurant, safely out of the rain, faces buried in burrito guts. Fifty pounds, I dared suggest again, sputtering rice everywhere like a proper lady. Oh shush, they said. We’d take care of it later, once we reached the talk venue. Several burrito pounds and a run through the rain later, we were sitting in comfy chairs in one of Radisson’s function rooms, giddy with excitement at the prospect of becoming the best Software Architects on the planet. Do you think the darn fifty pounds finally exchanged hands? Sure, I dutifully remembered about them. Too bad V. and I were already on the tube on our way home when that happened, having parted with Victor fifteen fateful minutes before.

So of course I turned my evil witch mode on, and ripped V.’s guts (Discreetly, mind you. I never yell on the tube, I’m classy that way.) about how he never listens to me, how I’m always right and how he’s always wrong, how none of our friends will want to hang out with us once Victor tells them the stolen fifty pounds story, yes, STOLEN, we’re thieves now, V. just made us thieves, was he happy about that? For some reason, my very reasonable arguments made him think I was crazy. Then he couldn’t hold it in any longer and blurted it out. You know you’re crazy, right? Which is when I decided he was no longer worth talking to and I got my Kindle out. Classy, I tell you.

On my way to work this morning, still hating him a little bit and still very much convinced I was NOT crazy, I found myself wondering if this is the sort of thing they mean by irreconcilable differences. Are V. and I slowly piling up the grounds for a Hollywood style divorce? I mean, I’m all in favour of having stuff in common with Jennifer Lopez, you know, but did she really dump Marc Anthony because of an unsettled fifty buck debt? And if she did, by the way, she was most definitely not crazy, OK? (I had to google famous celebrity divorces to even come up with a broken celebrity couple by the way. I’m that lame.)

You’ll be relieved to know that V. and I are not parting ways just yet. It was not an easy decision to make. I mean, I had to admit, out loud, that I am slightly crazy. He in turn admitted that most times he just assumes I’m crazy and simply ignores half of what I say, usually by zoning out and fantasizing about cars, or buckets of Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. For some reason, I don’t feel like I’ve won this fight. Our irreconcilable differences may have been reconciled for now, if reluctantly on my side, but we’ve still got a million other things to fight about, and my time will come.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the rest of our life together. Sure, we’ll spend a good part of it bickering about how I leave my hairpins everywhere, how he leaves his everything-but-hairpins everywhere, how I never do the vacuuming, how he never does the dishes, how there’s no more cookie dough in the cookie dough ice cream, how I always feel like having some cookie dough when he’s just laboriously picked and chomped it all, and left me some weird looking, cookie dough free, melting goo behind, how he’s always late and how I always want to get early everywhere, how I don’t want to live on pizza for the rest of my twenties, how he despises all vegetables unless they’re part of a pizza topping, how I’m crazy, how I’m absolutely not crazy and he’s an idiot. It’s always good to be in a healthy relationship.

I’m now heading off to a lovely, relationshipy weekend of badminton violence and savage flat hunting, with hopefully no divorcing business in the process. And if I’ve been fighting throughout the Day of Happiness, I’ll be so much better behaved today, and since it happens to be World Poetry Day, I’ll leave you with a lovely poem about fruit and feelings and stuff. 🙂

The Orange

By Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.