Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Desire Lines

I used to count how many cities I had visited since he'd left. I last counted nine, but I know there have been many more since then. Perhaps when I got to 10, 15 or 20 cities, I would lose that compulsion to report to him. I would no longer stumble over those various reminders that'd compel me to reach out, swooning with some references that only he would understand. Perhaps, then, I might have seen enough to convince me that there was more to life than that love.

The on-road associations used to rattle in my chest until I communicated them to him. It was the same even when we knew each other, I'd rush to tell him all I had seen in Stockholm or Budapest, all the neon, the cheap vinyl and all the model buildings, poorly constructed in balsa wood. It'd all be filtered through his tastes and persuasions, because I had lovingly retained all that he told me. All reports would be met with the same remark: "That's awesome! I wish I could have been there with you!"

He used to say that a lot to me. In fact, he used to say it every day. It started when he declined going to Tower of London with me. Instead, I went alone, quietly resigned to the dynamic that would always exist between us. He would always decline any prospect of a tacky adventure, citing lack of time and logistical difficulties. I would always go forth unbegrudgingly, earphones in place, prepared to tell him every detail of the day's mission when we reconvened that night. It was an operation that was on his terms, but then I was always prepared to accept whatever was offered to me.

In our last conversation, I detected a tone that almost resembled rage: "Look, if there was anybody in the world that I could spend time with, it'd be you, OK? But I just don't have the time." It's perhaps one of the most familiar components of any friendship I've ever had, this ambiguous sense of unrequitedness. It carries on from the first friends I ever had, refusing to come with me to Scienceworks to Laur's handwritten letter, explaining she doesn't want to go out with me on weekends because she's more of a "stay-at-home kinda girl". When Gav flaked out on going to a Smiths night at Ding Dong, my disappointment overshadowed any joy that had preceded it. My hope managed to fracture the love I would historically value most.

I tend to forget those days when they relented: they went out, they actually did what I wanted, the things I had dreamt of. There are three particular days which seem eerily similar to one another, even though they happened in 2006, 2012 and 2016. On two out of the three occasions, they would scald me for being "unable to walk down street properly". On each of the occasions, we would eat at a cafe and they would openly yearn for some other girl. They'd be distant and distracted, irritable and pissed off. As we walked down High Holborn on the third occasion, the familiarity of it overcame me. I choked out that had to leave and for the first time ever, I volunteered to be alone.

The friends that remain want to shake me, they want to rid of my desire to make associations, to create reports for these people who simply don't care. They want to rid me of a plague that consumes me, that occupies my heart in lieu of any functional attachment. When I'm challenged on the subject, I say that the difficulty is that he never actually mistreated me, the greatest brutality was his silence. I begrudge others for so much less, but in this instance, he's left with me with enough evidence to suggest that he would have wanted to have been here, he would have wanted to hear all about it, still. I suppose it's up to me to choose how to reconcile those proclamations alongside the fundamental truth that he could have been here if he wanted to be.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Ross and I posed for the photograph at reception, holding defaced playing cards to our fringes. It was the night that the party suddenly relocated to reception and then they explained: "We didn't want you to miss out!" As the night rolled on, we sat together, attempting to deduce whatever was scrawled in pencil on our cards. We often failed to retain whatever clues we had just been given and so the game drew on endlessly with exasperated cries of frustration from those who knew the answer was LIME. It was one of those loud games I'd only ever watch in silence, looking up at the kitchen's security camera but that night, I was pulled in and included.

I saw that photograph again last night. Alex had sent it to me during the night but it was a photograph of a print. He typed across it: "You made my wall :D" Last winter, he had spent his nights with me, sitting up, discussing music, writing, politics, love and grief. We spent some time in the daylight too, walking around Primrose Hill and Regent's Park, recalling how we had once been loved. We agonised how we wish those that we loved would reach out, how we wish they'd somehow change their minds. I reiterated all the stilted advice I had been given, all the advice that I could never really accept. I said that despite everything, we would even yearn for this very moment in time. But much like my stilted advice, I'm not sure if he ever really believed me.

I don't own a desk here but I often find myself falling asleep and dreaming of them in fantastical settings. I've often yearned for a place to be alone, a place where I can sit and research and write without anyone asking why I am writing anything down. It never seems to be a particularly popular pastime, to think and reflect. This morning, I was reminded of my own desk and how much I missed my wall with all its photographs and emblems of love and loss. Everything from John Lennon Guy's threepence to a photochrom of Chillon Castle in Vevey. I had thought so much of the physicality of desk that I forgot what it meant to look up from it, to think and to miss.

I have recreated a similar sort of space next to my bed in the rave cave. I can't properly write there but each day I look up and see the 7" inch record of John Leyton's Johnny Remember Me. There's Kalyn's drawing of a sleeping fox on grid paper and Laur's blueprint of the Tokyo Disneyland Castle. There is a scrap of paper featuring handwritten Kaseva lyrics, lovingly translated from Finnish to English by Olli, the night-time successor of Alex. I get emotional whenever I think of the mere gesture: the handwriting, how the lyrics squarely reflect my grief, the pain caused by the physicality of love lost.

One of the greatest pains of existing as a sentimentalist is that regardless of any advice to the contrary, you live with this perpetual feeling of unrequitedness. You insist that you care more because you write and remember and reach out. Yet I have carelessly discarded those who have been reckless with my heart, I have establised a willingness to overwrite memories, to freely destroy the legacy of music held fast in time. I recently wrote that "I am in this conflict of wanting to remember and wanting to forget, wanting to reveal and wanting to obscure". I want to write for you constantly, but I am troubled by the thought that you don't write for me.

I try to adopt a gracious and grateful mindset. I am moved to learn that I am remembered, that my friends wish to look up from their desks and see me. I am moved that they relocate their parties and transcribe lyrics, they draw foxes that screech in the night streets of Bloomsbury and they make me food most nights, in the knowledge that I don't bother with that sort of stuff anymore. They make it clear to me that this is not an unrequited friendship. They make it known that they love and remember, in the same way that I love and remember.