When I was a teenager, I did a stupid, albeit romantic, thing. I quit university for a woman. How could I do that? Well, she had quit her course, for whatever reason, and I quit to be with her.
But I was stunned when soon after, she signed up for a different course. Still, I tried to understand why she had betrayed me. It seems weird now, but I lived a long way from her, and we didn't see each other for the summer after I quit. I went to Reading to see her in the first week of the new university year though.
I remember meeting her vividly, although I can't quite picture where it was. She wouldn't see me during the day and I didn't understand why. But we met up in a quad, or a car park, somewhere concreted and open.
I had bought her a necklace and I gave it to her when she walked up. She straight away handed it back and dumped me without any further ado. She wouldn't even go for a drink. She had arranged to do something with her new friends.
I didn't know what to feel. I didn't understand and I still don't. I don't know how people can be the way they are. What had I done to make her stop loving me? How had I displeased her? Of course, in hindsight, I can see that I was no longer the bright fellow student who she had been going out with. I was a loser dropout. I had nothing to offer her.
I never understand when people change, because I don't. I only shift in my feelings when I'm compelled to. As anyone who converses with me knows, I am mostly reactive. I respond to others, but I don't make things happen. It makes me discontent to be like that, but I don't know how to change it. It's making it hard to move on with my life, because I can see clearly how thngs can be good but I can't control or, it seems, even influence them. Others choose, just as A did back in the day, and they choose to hurt me more often than not. I am left wondering what I did that made them stop wanting me, stop loving me, stop needing me, when it seemed to me that I didn't change. I feel like I have a lot to give, but it's never right, never enough, never any good.
A never explained. She obviously didn't even think it was worth bothering. I accepted it and went to another university. My problem is that I find it hard to recognise that she did something very wrong to me. Because that would be grossly unjust, and I find it difficult to accept that my life should not be just, I had to believe I had deserved it. I couldn't accept that she was just a selfish bitch, who had strung me along when it suited, and then binned me once she had something better. She probably found another boyfriend who was richer/better looking/better suited to her.
I feel like I have a lot to give, but no one wants it. It is killing me, because I am constituted to serve others, and not having someone I can be of service to is profoundly painful to me. If I am not increasing someone's happiness, I feel cast down. It's very hard for me to feel good about myself in that circumstance.
I could list the ways that I have been made to feel worthless recently, but what's the point? I know that none of the people -- all women, of course -- who did it meant me to feel that way. They just didn't think I had any worth.
So I did the poetry reading again last night and each time it has gone better. A couple of people even whooped when I read On a train, so that felt good. I wrote a new poem specially, but I rushed through it. I couldn't help thinking that all I wanted to do was whisper it to the person I wrote it for.
I have a lot of things that I have to grit my teeth and bear at the moment, and it's one of the lesser things, all in all, that she doesn't, won't ever, want me to do that, but being unwanted is a feature of my life. I have to take care that I don't allow it to become part of who I am, that each time someone kicks me in the balls and says that that is how they intend to care for me, I don't believe that this is something about me. For years I did, but I was sick. Now I'm feeling well and have to believe that even if I do seem to face a mountain, I will roll my rock to the top of it somehow and it will not roll back and crush me again.
I wish it meant something. I wish I had some way of making myself mean something. But I am just a quiet, soft person, the kind of person who sits at the fringes wishing that someone would look at him, the kind of person no one gets much moved by, the kind of person you take or leave like that. I'm trying to be okay with it. Sisyphus was cheerful and I will be too.
So the Lady Jane won't even get up to 110 on Stein Rd. But I'm always tired in the eyes, so I blink and my wheels are in the dirt, and I wake up sharply.
And she's saying, we need to take the editing up a level. And I'm a bit wtf, I am going to need to see these errors your daughter thinks I made.
So she's like, this, this and this, they're all things the client will get arsey about. And I'm like, yeah okay, but these are disimprovements to the copy, so we're not really going up a level. Maybe sideways.
You know, wtf. If you want to hire some person because she's a friend of your daughter's and you want to show off your munificence some, stiffing me on the work you promised me, don't bullshit me about her background in "instructional design". I see her work. I know what kind of writer she is.
So I'm listening to her criticise my handling of abbreviations, and I'm like, no, do you not remember, we had an exchange of emails about abbreviations. I followed what you asked for to the letter. The rug. Whoosh. She knows I do that. And she knows I have the email.
So that brings the meeting to a smart ending, and that's good because this is the kind of meeting where she says, we're just having a discussion, and I say, no, in a discussion both people talk.
Here's a thing for you grammar fiends. She goes:
"Whether a person is eligible depends on his or her service"
is difficult to understand and learners would have to read it five times. It's "instructional design", she says. She wants:
"A person's eligibility depends on his or her service"
which has a slightly different meaning, so no editor is ever substituting it. So I'm like, yeah but I have studied textual analysis and in fact sentences with nouns are less comprehensible than sentences with verbs. Which is true but she goes, you're more difficult to meet with in person than you are in email.
I'd say I'm about the same. I'm polite but I'm a professional. I do it pretty straight up. She prefers a yes man, but editors bow to style guides not position titles. Hard to understand? Her course writer will not write an active sentence if there is any way known to man to make it passive. She doesn't read over her work even once, as a professional would, and sometimes writes things that so badly need a verb, they wake up in the night crying for it.
But that's her problem. Mine is to have to imagine an alternative to erm all right, so that that doesn't seem like the only thing I ever have to say.
Just for my own interest and so I can find it, I am making a list of the fiction I have posted on this blog. I don't mind if you want to read it, of course, but I'm posting this purely so I can find the stuff myself.
I think that's it. I'm probably going to read the second and third from last at the next poetry reading because they work as prose poems imo (they're meant to) and they will make a change from the more romantic poetry I've been reading.
Sometimes I feel I have been playing timid for too long, because really, I do have balls. So I went to the poetry open mic again at the Inspire tonight and I felt much more confident about doing it. I had practised reading my work with A -- she stayed up late into her night to help me and I can't help feeling lucky to have someone who is willing to be bored witless by me blathering about poker, poetry and shit because she knew how nervous I was about it.
I read Unadorned, which is long and only really quasi poetry, but it was well received; Lamorna beach; and a poem I wrote today for Sh, who has, in her own idiom, encouraged me to regrow my nads and man up. I reproduce it below because I am pretty pleased with it.
It's hard to read my poetry out loud, because it seems to me to be the sort of thing you would whisper across a pillow. Poetry, when it is good, is the sound of your inner voice speaking to your reader's inner self, trying to find a way to move the part of a person that they keep from view. My inner voice is gentle and cannot shout.
Epiphanies of love
sometimes we have epiphanies of love an understanding that we do not have to hate or fear each other
it does not last and we sink back into the sucking mire that we are calling home because we never feel at home with one another
sometimes I see sunlight on your face a smile that I have never seen you smile before and I realise I have never known you at all.
Box of noodles in sauce, slice of cheese, glass of coke. I eat intermittently but I never get thinner.
Feel my shoulders. Skin and bone. The less I eat, the more misshapen I get.
And Mrs Zen says, are you okay? No, ofc I'm not okay. I'm dying and it's unpleasant.
Roll up the shirt, the needle barely hurts. The injections aren't working. Life is still shit. Perhaps I need more.
Give me a cuddy Naughtyman, but he won't, and when the others are getting into the car, he's hiding in his bedroom, under the covers. I don't know what it means.
I don't know what any of it means.
Transferring the database is harder than it seems it needs to be. I have no expertise.
When people ask you, what are your interests? I smile and say, I'm not interested in life at all. It's passed me by and what else am I going to do?
I read something about a Chinese child chained to a lamp post. People steal children. They do various things with them.
And it's hard to have faith in us when that is what we do but I only want to love my neighbour, so what can I do?
Zenita's teacher goes, tell us when you know how you're fixed. Because the kids need reassuring. I say, we don't have anything settled yet. By which I mean, that fat lazy bitch is settled but I'm stuck in limbo. And how can I possibly know what's better? My sister says, won't she consider living in the UK for a while? Because that is so clearly the right thing to do, ofc S thinks that. She's a stickler for doing the right thing, without being a huge PITA about it.
No, I say, she won't consider anything. She won't even talk. Sometimes I email her and she'll say, I have lots to say but I'm not saying it.
I know I shouldn't call her a fat lazy bitch. I know it's right to try to retain some fondness for her. I know what is right. You get sick of doing it for no reward though. I mean, yeah, you could judge me harshly but I tend to see things as wholes, and on the whole...
There is a soft voice on the other end of the line and I'm surprised. It is Ae, a Chilean woman I have been messaging. It is nice to hear a woman's voice that isn't Mrs Zen's. K used to ring me from time to time but she has not for a while. She has decided we should try to be cooler than that.
I am not good at cool. I am not good at anything. It's unfortunate: I had the ability to be good at just about anything I chose, but I could not, failed to, choose.
I don't know what to say to her. I don't have anything to say about anything. I don't even have an opinion on the chained Chinese child or Haiti or the Dalai Lama or anything at all.
I think you will hear more about Ae. We will meet once and she will decide never to see me again. Maybe twice. Certainly no more than that. It's what happens. I have society in small snatches, and I'm left bewildered by their choices because I feel like I was good to be with, but obv. not good enough to bother with again.
In the car today, I was singing, belting out the songs I love, and you couldn't stop me.
It cannot last. They did not make a drug to make me whole. But I know I can live if I can just get high on B12 and the dreams I have.
Zenita is skipping to and fro. I say, we have to wait for Zenella, I'm sorry. And she says, it's okay, I'll skip up and turn around, then skip down.
I do not want to drown in resentment. I have only ever wanted someone to love.
Sometimes I look at myself and think, he is old and helpless, how could anyone love him? When Naughtyman says, I wanted Mummy to pick us up, I don't even know what to feel. I feel cored like an apple. I want to say, I am sweet, but he has found my flesh dusty.
When I realise that she will have them forever, I do not know what to feel. It is like I see oblivion eye to eye. It is like dying and your body forgets to die.
I do not want to drown in resentment. I want to find a way to blame myself.
I want someone to say, he is sweet; he is not dusty. I want to be judged kindly. It's not that I don't know I've done wrong. I just do not want it to be all there is to say about me.
I want not to have died.
It's funny. We all know that when we get high, we are going to get low. And we never even stop to think. We take it, because the slightest joy is worth it.
I am holding Zenita and we are playing loose and tight. She says loose and I am tight. She is laughing and saying, no Daddy, when I say tight, go tight. And she says tight, and I go loose.
And we laugh.
That's all I have to say. I'm sorry it's not topical.
Today, I'd like to contrast two views from two elderly men. One shows love for his fellow humans; the other not so much. One makes a gentle, heartfelt plea to extend dignity and compassion to humans in suffering; the other a complaint that my home nation extends tolerance to a section of the community that he disapproves of.
Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's and will decline as he ages, losing the wit and vivacity that define him. I'm not a huge fan of his books but their gentle humanism has surely done no harm to the many people who have read them. He is an outspoken supporter of the right to assisted suicide, and has made a suggestion that resolves many of the difficulties with this approach to terminal illness. It's a genuine concern that many have that were we to permit euthanasia, the elderly would be pressured into it, killed off by relatives greedy for their estate or tired of caring for a sick parent, perhaps unsure what they were agreeing to. A tribunal that decided whether the person was making the decision with reason and sound mind is a fine idea.
We are not lumps of meat. We should not treat ourselves as though we are. Life in itself is not valuable--living is. It's a distinction that I think is valuable. Of course it is difficult to decide whether someone is truly living: many people have a quality of life that we would not accept for ourselves but we find difficult to judge whether it is sufficient for them. I read the other day of a young woman who had contracted severe ME, and could not speak or move. She wished only to die. It is a tragedy that a life should be cut short, but in my view, a greater one that it should be prolonged only so the person should suffer.
I formed my view when my beloved granddad was dying in Arrowe Park hospital. He had lung cancer and was destined to die in the bed he lay in. He was in a lot of pain and wanted only to die. His life had ended; there is no other way to think of it. He had no enjoyment of it. The things he liked to do he could no longer do. Yes, it would distress his wife for him to be allowed to die, but she was concerned only for herself. Of course I believe that is understandable: she had loved him for many years and I know what a wrench it can be to lose a partner that has been part of your life for a long time. She did not want what was true to be true.
My granddad begged to die. He was too weak to find a way to kill himself. Nobody should have to do that. I do not care what your religion says about life; I do not care how sacred you think life is. Living is what counts. I have never forgiven myself for lacking the courage to help him.
I don't know what the Pope's illness is but more and more, this horrible reactionary old man fashions himself into a figurehead of intolerance and hatred. Catholicism is not alone among religions as being a tool for horrible reactionary old men to hate other people with, but you cannot help but feel that it's a pity. In the Bible, Jesus is quite clear that we should love each other unreservedly. There is no codicil stating "except for teh gays". Catholicism could be a force for good in the world (I'm sure in some ways it is). After all, its believers are mostly unreflective, adopting the religion because they were indoctrinated as children, and many adhere to whatever moral strictures are doled out to them by Pope and priest. Sadly, those strictures do not generally focus on loving thy neighbour, but more on petty matters of sexual morality, which are a peculiar focus of a group of celibate men for reasons we need not speculate on.
One has to remind oneself that when the Pope claims that the UK is restricting the "freedom of religious belief" that that belief is that gays are hateful and should be hated. Why anyone even listens to an ancient womanhating clown is beyond me. The guy has no idea how people live. He's never even been married. Indeed, he's never even had sex, as far as I know, so what would he know about the feelings we share for each other. He's spent years whipping his out of himself.
Sometimes I feel I have been thrown into a hole and can't climb out. And sometimes I wish someone would care enough to lower down a rope ladder and pull me out, and other times I get my pitons and say fuck it and climb a few more inches up. Sometimes a piton springs out and I fall back down a few more feet, and I curse myself for how weak I am, as though I could somehow have flown if only, if only.
I am not going to die down here because I am determined that my last three seconds I will not spend crying.
I feel tired of feeling that everyone is entitled to judge me, to weigh me in scales of their own devising and discard me because I don't measure up. And none of the people marking me down has done anything to deserve the privilege. I realise, when I think about it, that having a good heart is the quickest route to getting that heart broken, but I don't want to be a coldhearted arbiter of others, enforcing my black and white view of how it should be.
Because what good did that ever do us? To break each other on the wheel of our whatever. What I need is a friend who cares more about me than they do about how much they care about me. It is not too much to ask that someone finds something golden in me because I have something golden in me. I do not believe you if you say I don't. I will not love you for harsh judgements. What good did that ever do us? I do not judge you harshly.
Here's something really good from Beach House. I am dedicating it to Mrs Zen because I don't think she has ever known that I loved her truly and she burned it for petty jealousy. For something I don't even feel, so alien was that to me. To punish me for liking someone. If I had ever had the chance to make account for myself, I would have explained that having a heart big enough to love her meant having one big enough for others. But she wanted something wizened and small like her own, and I didn't get that chance: she destroyed our marriage instead. Still, she deserves something this good--everyone does, and I feel bad about not expressing that I did, do, love her:
When I meet people, I know that it will be them who decide. I will try to find ways I can like them, and they will weigh me in a balance and, it seems, mostly find me wanting. I think it is a virtue to be want to find something in a person to like, even if it's not always possible. But it means I am always the one battered at the end of the night, a week later, when it breaks down.
It feels painful to be putting myself on the line, always saying "like me" to strangers. I don't mean I put on an act. I wouldn't even know how. I just quietly hope someone will.
This next is from JJ's new album. This is for K. It's hard to pick something for her because our tastes do not coincide. But here's the thing. They don't have to. I am lost in a world where people feel you have to have a shitload in common before you can like each other, but in fact, you can just like each other and the rest of it takes care of itself. So I hope she likes it, but if she doesn't, I'll like it twice as much for her:
Sometimes I wish I was somebody completely different, that I wasn't lame, ugly, stupid, whatever. Then I stop and realise, no, I just want to be loved for who I am and most of the lameness, ugliness and stupidity is just accretions, and if you know that, you will not need me to change.
Here's something from Four Tet's excellent new album. It's for anyone who wants it: