Very much just another blog

By the silver birch tree

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A man has moved into the garden, set up camp by the silver birch tree. I don’t know when he got here or how long it took him to walk. His boots are torn and his clothes are ripped and his hair is shaggy and dark.

The man has a silver radio which he listens to most of the time. His lips move when the news talks out and he cranes close, head tilted to the sound of the voice. He likes to listen to orchestras, the strings and the bass and the drums. Often he talks to the squirrels and sometimes he takes off his boots. He stands in the earth of the flower beds and whistles and moves to the tune. Some nights I go out to talk to him, take him some milk and some bread. He tells me stories that make me smile and we smoke and later we drink. One day I guess he will leave me, or the garden, of course, I meant. But at least I have what he told me: that sometimes we must mark out new journeys, though we’ll lose some things that we loved. And lost love can break hearts to pieces, but new love will gather them up.

Are you still on your journey, I ask.

Yes, my darling, I am.

Is your heart broken or mended?

My heart is broken apart.

How long have you been walking?

Nearly a year to the day.

When will your journey be over?

Soon, he said in a murmur, as soon as the next spring has passed.


Written by elikafm

November 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm

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It is in the space in between that the stories grow. When he is far from her and there has been no call and she checks the time to map his day, or at least the shape she imagines it to be, she wonders whether he is thinking of her. Or whether, at the moment she contrives the scene, within it he is living, in warmth and love and harmony. She plots the conversation to arrange the party he will attend or the words on the way there and back, or those after a row or over supper or now. She has made a picture from clues and fear, shaded with a fragile faith and a need and hope that he will appear. She can smell him on her fingers and, with his words locked tight underneath her skin, she places blocks to build her life and leaves a space for him. In twists of strength and weakness questions loom large and loud: will you have a baby; will the noise die down? She sways, in the echo of the conversation, the one she stands outside, reciting his promise to keep it loud, remembering the pledge he made.

It is in the space in between that the stories grow, grow like beanstalks, twisting at your skin. And you can let them live there or not she thinks. And she sets her head down and runs.

Written by elikafm

November 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

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Undress redress undress

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Part one.

I pull off my sweater and my hair moves light in the static: lifts, falls chaotic. I slide my left toe under the edge of my right sock, bend and wiggle it off. Next the left.

I pull my fingers through my hair, twist it against the back of my head and secure it in place. I wipe over my eyes, cheeks, chin, throat removing make up, leaving my skin clean and damp. In the mirror I look back at myself, and then turn and walk bare-footed to the bedroom.

I watch your chest rise and fall in the low glow of the lamp and your hand has let go of your book, your index finger moving from the marked spot and the last words you read before sleep came. How loud your head has been. I swear I can hear it now, a dark growl underneath your skin, behind your eyes. Here you sleep finally, trapped in the sheets, between all the things you love and need and are. Here you sleep finally, leaving things and finding things, walking through your dreams. Your body is heavy from your journey, and aching at the prospect of further to go. But I have felt your body electric. I have seen your eyes turn green from blue and heard your laughter delirious and true. I have tasted your happiness, new, unexpected, rattling from inside you and finding a shape and the voice that has been quiet but has always been the essence of you.

I undress, leave my clothes where they fall. I slide against you, wrap my arms around your body, kiss your growling head. You move me in, half sleeping still you murmur: I was dreaming we were in some woods, it was dark and we were scared. I curl deeper over you and you say, with half of you still in the woods and the other touching every part of me: but we made it into a game and it stopped being frightening. We’re safe, I whisper into you. Safe. See?  You can sleep; I’ll come with you. And our skin is clammy as we move through dreaming and run through woods and then run faster and then out and then open and then breathing hard and we are OK. More: we are laughing, and we are elated and we are new.

Part two.

I pull off my sweater and my hair moves light in the static: lifts, falls chaotic. I slide my left toe under the edge of my right sock, bend and wiggle it off. Next the left.

I pull my fingers through my hair, twist it against the back of my head and secure it in place. I wipe over my eyes, cheeks, chin, throat removing make up, leaving my skin clean and damp. In the mirror I look back at myself, and then turn and walk bare-footed to the bedroom.

On the right side of the bed is the space where you slept, and at the tilt of the pillow and the folds of the unmade sheets, I can see the shape you made as you were dreaming. You are sleeping elsewhere. You are dreaming away from me and the happiness and the hurt I bring.

I undress, slide into the place that you had taken. Move my arm up and my leg back; it looks as though I am running. In this position I sleep; in this position I dream of you. As I wonder past trees and over shafts of light as they fall quiet through branches and leaves still clinging tight even as the breeze disturbs them, I can hear your voice: we’re safe, you whisper into me. Safe. See?  You can sleep; I’ll come with you. We walk, our fingers locked together; the moon is getting brighter and the trees are growing further apart. With each step we are lighter. As we pass through darkness our hands grip tighter, and as the wood begins to end, we are moving faster. I love you, we are shouting. I love you! And morning is coming and we are waking and we are beginning again.

Written by elikafm

November 13, 2010 at 1:50 am

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The Loyalty Card

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There are many things that influence my decision-making process throughout the day: do I walk the south bank in the morning or snooze on the train? Well that depends on when I go to bed or, more importantly, how quickly I can lever myself out of it when the alarm bell goes. Tomorrow I reckon I’ll snooze. Sometimes my decisions can be more important: do I stay in on Friday night so I can get the cleaning done and have time over the weekend to see my sister, who needs people around just now; or do I go and see my father’s concert rather than sit in elasticated clothes eating ice cream out of the tub and believing that I could win X Factor, if only I’d known when the auditions were (I couldn’t. When I sing I sound like a cat who is drunk. And also on crack). Then there are the decisions in between: they begin on the way to work and are governed almost entirely by the Loyalty Card.

The Loyalty Card, friends, is a weird and wonderful thing. If you have read previous posts you will know that I do not have faith of the religious kind, preferring instead to make sense of what I encounter with science and song, love, my friends and my family. It’s not a sure fire thing but then neither’s God, as far as I can work out, so here I remain on an even footing. I do, however, remain faithful to a loyalty card. It’s been a long term monogamous relationship in which, I have just realised, I am a doormat; but a doormat with points and with excellently moisturised skin.

My first Loyalty Card touch point is on the way into work at Caffe Nero. There is one just down from my office and the people who work there are fast and friendly. They remember what you like, can keep seventy thousand orders in their head at once, and they always stamp your loyalty card. I could, at my train station, buy a tea with skimmed milk, which is my preferred morning beverage, for nearly half the price. And I could easily, having skipped that and waited to get to Caffe Nero, hang on a bit longer and make a cup of tea at work. But no one at work stamps my Loyalty Card and that, I feel, is an oversight. There are nine spots on the Cafe Nero card and once it is filled you get your next cup for free. It’s the most ridiculous non saving event ever. If I was sensible about money the options I have already mentioned would be the obvious avenue. But where, friends, where would be the fun in that; where would be the anticipation? I swear I buy the tea for the stamp not because when I sip it I think it’s the best damn tea in London. It’s not. It’s just tea. With the Loyalty Card, however, it is a tiny adventure; it is, somehow, an achievement. And, at any rate, I am comforted by the fact that in the queue is every sort of person: whether they appear to have slid in on the Rich List or from the soup kitchen ’round the corner, each is clutching a Loyalty Card. At least, I think, at least we are all suckers.

Even as I write this I’m beginning to feel a bit bleak about my position. I work in marketing, I know the deal. But I’m a regular woman, too, and it is this part of me that leads me to the behaviour I am about to reveal. I am leading you to the Boots Advantage Card and my slavery to it.

The Boots Advantage Card is the mother of all loyalty cards. It is the thing that has the most impact on any cosmetic or toiletry buying decision I ever make. I will take you through my last shopping spree in Boots. Last week I was sent, as I am regularly sent, a DM of tokens and offers, all generously providing me with lots of extra points each time I spent £40 or £50. Next time you spend £50, it sang, we will give you 350 points FOR FREE. That’s awesome, I thought: that’s £3.50 that I can spend IN BOOTS. I check the expiry date and plan my trip. Obviously this is a stocking up trip so I will be allowed to go mental. And, also, I will HAVE to go mental because I only need a toothbrush and that will not get me to my target spending goal. When I arrive in Boots everything, EVERYTHING is on a three for two offer. I roll up my sleeves and get to work. There’s something pleasing about purchasing in threes. Here is what I buy:

Number 7 skincare products: everything that says it will prevent the inevitable day when my face falls to my knees as my body realises just how much I have drunk, smoked and partied in the comparatively short length of time I have walked on this world.

Shampoo and conditioner: one of the former, two of the latter, and a combination of which will make my hair thick, glossy and under control. My hair is none of these things; these products are essential.

Toothpaste: Three. Fuckit.

Johnson and Johnson moisturising shower gel. Three. I have two in my ever growing stockpile at home. But a stockpile needs stock. I am good at this game.

Johnson and Johnson facewipe cleansery options: superb. I get through these ultra fast. Talking of which;

No 7 make up: I need the bronzing balls, Velvet Kiss lipstick and something else to bring me to three.

Palmers products. I only need the oil but if I buy one more I get the third free. And Palmers – look – gets rid of stretch marks and makes you beautiful. I don’t have stretch marks but I reckon that’s the sort of thing that creeps up on you. Best to be prepared.

Miscellaneous: Optrex (this one will brighten my eyes, ensuring I look beautiful at all times), Touch éclat. Essential: they should make a full body one. Bad Lash Benefit mascara. Essential. Tampax. Never leave Boots without it. Tissues. Lip balm. Black eye liner. I have three in my handbag alone but it feels comforting to know that I will never run out. Vitamins. I will, obviously, only take these for a week but it’s three for two so as long as I find the right place to keep them I am making a saving and, in many ways, STORING health. Well done me.

I heave my basket to the checkout and extract my tokens from my bag. D’you know, I can’t think of anywhere else I would bother with a token, but I am powerless to Boots and, yes, I’m about to get a points hit, a heavenly points hit. The Boots staff are trained for people like me. I have spent well over fifty pounds but, with a careful approach to paying: doing it in chunks, the man helps me use three tokens. That’s, like, nearly a million points. I’m grinning like a fool now. You’ve got £44.79 on your card he tells me. Wicked! I reply, I’m going to buy perfume with it.

My perfume costs £50. In the time it has taken me to accrue £44.79 I have spent three million pounds. I could clearly just have bought it, I’d even have got points. But that is NOT the point. The point is that I want to buy it with my Advantage Card. I want to feel that I can reward my careful purchasing decisions with the prize of perfume. I am a screaming buffoon. I have A level maths, I have a degree, I can tie my own shoe laces. I’m still a blithering fucknut.

As I leave the store I wonder which group my name sits in when Boots curate their mail out. I’ve handed them all the information they need: my favourite products, my determination to reach a spending target. I bet there are women who are offered the same points for a smaller spend. Perhaps I should write to them and beg for mercy, or maybe a tweet will invoke compassion. It won’t, actually; they don’t operate in social spaces which is a shame and missed opportunity for them really: I can think of a million friendly connections, experiences to share and enticing timely offers which would ensure my complete captivity to the brand. Ha! Hear that Boots: I am nearly almost a free woman.

Having cast my eyes over this meandering tale I have realised that the relationship I have described to you is the longest committed relationship I have ever been in, eclipsing even seven years with the writer. Oh no. Smoking. I’ve been smoking for-fucking-ever. It’s OK, though; I bought some cream for that.

Written by elikafm

November 11, 2010 at 1:21 am

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Dear friend

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Dear Friend,

I am writing to you a line from home. Not a line on paper, ink or graphite or pixels on a page, but a line – a line a million miles long, over seas and sands, familiar and unfamiliar places – just a line, from here to there.

These words, placed one after the other, stretch out from where you sleep to where she lies, and I tie an end to your finger and the other her’s. This is the line to find your way home.

If you watch the line closely; if you hold your breath and crouch so that your eye is level, you will see the low pulse pulse of your hearts in time. You will see the tiny rise rise of your bodies as they breathe. You will hear the quiet hum hum of your brains as they whir towards each other.

This, friend, is the line that connects you to her. This is the line that will guide you back home.

Written by elikafm

October 31, 2010 at 12:39 am

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The plant

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There is a plant in my garden that you bought years ago and which we placed proudly by our door as a sign of our domesticity and because we were laying down roots. When our life together ended I carried it here and it continued to grow: light green leaves jabbing out like a baby’s fist from its fat little body. I was pleased to see this, never having had green fingers: if we could get a tub of basil from the supermarket to the car before it died we considered it a major achievement. How we used to joke.

This summer the plant stopped growing. I don’t know why because there was so much rain and it didn’t look sick to me; it didn’t look anything but fine and as it had always been. But suddenly the leaves seemed to lose their moisture, turned brown and were crisp to touch. I fluttered about with a watering can and imagined you coming by and I would put on a white jacket and say: I’m sorry,  I did everything I could.

Last night when I went outside past midnight to smoke, the plant was glowing pink. Its dry leaves were vibrating softly into the halo. I watched it or a while, until my cigarette had burned down and I lit another and that burned down too. Then I went inside and wrote this for you, to tell you that the plant is pink and I don’t know what that means but it is and I look at it when I smoke.

Written by elikafm

October 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm

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The path

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Imagine this:

I am walking a long straight road. To the side of me, behind the white picket fence, is a family. I watch them talk; I watch the father grab a falling line and steady a branch that waves out of reach, lower it to grasping fingers stretched out to hold. Oh the smiles, the love. I should stop to talk and hear how that post was knocked sideways in the wind or how the babies grow but, though my pace does slow, I find my truth and of course I don’t want to know.

How can it be, I wonder, that on a path so straight I should need a map or a note to say: you can endure the things which will befall you. Or rather it would mark the tree, the one in the stories, with a box beneath and inside packed tight the gold and answers and magic beans that fuel a traveler like me. Instead white fence may as well be glass. I watch the family taste the things I would like to taste, but taste them together and I swear I heard the man say, with his eye on me: I will be there. I press my palm white and flat and look right back, but how this breaks me, how this hurts.

Days slowly become nights and nights turn softly to days. In the small hours, when I fall asleep, I stretch my shoulders out to make more mass so a hand can’t pass through, so that I will be bigger, so that my flesh will be heavier and my heart will beat louder and my blood will rush faster. And, yes, I see the night, but I can make it through.

The sun always rises, as I was promised it would. The earth spins and the earth rocks and the planets are faithful to time and space and orbit line. The things that will hurt loom large. I set my body and run.

Written by elikafm

October 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm

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