***

An unwillingness to inflict violence on anyone but also an inability to contain it.

 

***

At first, we actually don’t know each other. We smoke. He remarks on the fact that I keep using the word non-committal. There is a lot of forgiveness in our relationship, he says.

He is showing me how his legs are actually not that hairy at all. No one does the dishes. He asks if I do any yoga. I ignore the texts about a genuine family emergency and overperform a handstand after drinking two bottles of wine and some amount of gin and fall flat on my face.

 

***

Oh my god you’ve got a carpet burn. He is virtually cry-laughing.

Hold on, you’re bleeding a little. Stay still, I’ll wipe it for you. It is radiant. It is sore. You’re swelling all over. Fuck, you look hot. Can I taste you.

Aha.

Oh my god, oh my god.

After, he just says: well, hello there.

 

***

Donald Barthelme writes, the zip runs from the neckhole to the arsehole. Donald Barthelme is aware that the neckhole belongs to the anatomy of a dress, and the arsehole, to the anatomy of a girl.

But are they so different really.

 

***

 

A girl?

 

***

The next day I take the bus back. It’s running ads for Terminator: Dark Fate.

Dark Fate. It’s what I deserve.

 

***

 I make some effort to plead guilty to current best friend but only succeed in downplaying the situation.

‘I’ve had some sad news from home + since coming here have already managed to commit a serious (?) moral blunder… I’ll tell you more when I am able to see the situ more clearly (sight obscured via hangover / guilt).’

‘Oh no! Don’t tell me I know what you did, you touched a fruit from someone else’s tree… in a biblical sense haha – the devil offered you an apple and you took a bite ;p’

 

***

The family emergency turns out fine. For context, it was a car accident. No one got hurt but not having been there for them feels awful. I have this sinking feeling like someone is doing laundry in my stomach. Wringing everything out, in no hurry, but with dedication. My guts are dripping and I am officially deficient in some key way like maybe a vital organ got shrunk in the wash.

 

***

The next day, I get a text from my childhood best friend who is now a prison psychologist. It’s about my first boyfriend. He died of an overdose. RIP anything self-edifying.

 

***

I wake up from a dream of something horrible being done to me by someone I know but can’t remember who.

 

***

The fallout from the carpet burn is pretty volcanic considering the surface nature of actual injury. It lends my face a deranged aspect. I feel compelled to explain to everyone that it’s not a cold sore.

 

***

In Double Vies, Juliette Binoche says, so what if he’s cheating? Thanks to that he loves me even more. He’s feeling guilty, he’s scared he’ll lose me, which brings him closer to me again.

A more or less unidentified silver screen classic I just made up. The lead says, cheating after ten years together? I am shocked you could even be bothered.

But childhood best friend says, you wouldn’t want anyone to act that way towards you. Would you?

 

***

After some weeks of silence, he invites me for a lavish weekend in the country with everything paid for. It is a test. I say yes.

Not saying no as a rule is what got me into all this trouble in the first place.

There will be like twenty other people there. I earnestly commit not to get mixed up in things.

 

***

Early evening on the first day he finds me in this or that corner.

I know we haven’t spoken about it but I just wanted to make sure everything is okay after what happened when we last saw each other.

Yes, I think so. I’m happy we can be here together, and everything is normal. And you? How do you feel about it?

So so. It would have been different if she had been there. If it had been the three of us.

For sure. Have you told her about it?

Voices coming from the kitchen. It’s her talking to giggly Dave.

Not to the extent it happened.

I get it. That’s really difficult.

No, no. It’s fine.

So, you’re saying, it’s not going to happen again.

Current best friend says, he is the one in the relationship.

You’re the one in the relationship.

I want to kiss you. Can I kiss you?

I think better not, and definitely not now, but I say, okay, and so, now.

 

***

His wife’s hand, I hold it.

 

***

Don’t get me wrong, she has a great personality. But she’s no ten.

Giggly Dave doesn’t say anything. I don’t say anything.

 

***

I am losing queer credibility by the minute.

 

***

Do you know what I feel like?

No…?

A lollipop.

Mhm.

Do you know what that is?

No…?

 

***

But really get in there, deep inside there with your fingers.

 

***

I have this theory about Libras.

Basically, resistance is futile.

Also, it is his birthday.

 

***

Lines on the glass table. We lean back in the chairs.

What are you most scared of about growing old, Dizzy? Do you fear losing your looks? Wrinkles, saggy tits?

Other people are looking at us.

It’s not like you have much a of a personality to make up for it once things start to slip…

I say, my boobs have been sagging since I was thirteen. Nothing to fear there.

 

***

Back in my room. I decide to refrain from wanking and picture a prospective sleepwalking towards this powerful pheromonal aerial.

 

***

Current best friend gives me a monthly pass to hot yoga for my birthday. I sign up. Other than an excruciating headache for the first few days, the sessions make me feel sweet and edgeless.

 

***

A dream about my ex. I see his body as entirely neutral, rid of any and all quality. Neutralised until his dick appears like a wad of old ten-pound notes. Making a beeline to one of the major placements.

 

***

The hot yoga gives me cramps. I walk about in a haze, I speak through cottonmouth. I wonder if a wank would actually sort this, like push all the bad blood down or something.

 

***

I sort of explode honey in a microwave. The melted plastic and caramelised sugar fallout is pretty extensive. My boss pretends not to notice for about an hour.

 

***

I stop at a few orgasms instead of the usual 17+.

Surely this would count as self-discipline.

The cramps do let off a bit.

 

***

I need to interview to keep my job for another year. The entire city is flooded and I have to wade waist-deep through dirt to get there. I resent this situation hugely.

An older guy I didn’t want to have sex with as a teenager once told me I have an attitude problem.

I guess that still holds.

 

***

I’m on some sort of urban quest when I feel myself leaking. I check myself out in the car window. Too dark to see.

 

***

The weird thing was I went there for free, it was his treat. I stood out, younger than everyone, unfamiliar to most, not seriously invested in speaking to anyone, and as such it transpired that I had a function there, a special way of participating in the celebrations in his name.

 

***

I’m in the mouth of the subway, flyering for Labour. But really I'm there for my cramps, for the campaigning endorphins.

 

***

It’s election night. I drip some blood onto my houseplants.

I campaign too, but with much less zeal now.

 

***

Upon looking up the election results I book in for a self-punishing leg wax and cancel it almost immediately.

 

***

The hets explain yourselves Instagram account somewhat renews my will to live.

 

***

My blood vessels sort of suck themselves in. There is no heating anywhere in the city and my fingers fade from red to yellow. I have fifteen minutes to warm up before my shift. I flip my head to the right and read, SunTrap. The bell clangs as I walk in

Hi. Do you have UVB beds.

Do we have what sorry? The teenager at the desk has no time for this.

Beds with UVB rays.

We just have normal beds.

I take my clothes off. I don’t actually get warm.

How was that for you?

It was fine. I got a bit dazzled by the facial lamp.

But you can turn it down.

I didn’t know how.

Well you could have asked me to show you. I thought you knew all about the beds because you were asking these questions about UVB.

I just know about that because I researched it.

You only had to ask.

But I only found out about this once I got in already.

Well you shouldn’t be using the beds if you don’t know how to use them.

I’ve been in one before. Just not for a while.

She eyes me suspiciously. That’s what they always say about service workers in novels: she eyed me suspiciously.

 

***

I read up on this on the work computer.

Although UVB rays penetrate less deeply under the skin, they do in fact cause long-term skin damage and premature aging. The teenager was right and I’m officially a nutter.

After shift I run to hot yoga. The minute I get to class my brainstem kicks in and I feel this precog burn like sometimes when I lean against the heater for too long. I raise my shirt and sure enough, pink blotchy welts run all along my belly. My own private sunset.

 

***

 

Next thing, it’s the lip. At first, I can’t quite believe it. I run to the pharmacy on my lunch break and explain that I’ve never had a cold sore before and that it is probably an allergic reaction from splashing detergent over my lip. The pharmacist, a middle-aged Indian man, agrees. I thank him profusely. It tingles. I go back to work and rub organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother) into my lip until it burns just a little. It swells.

 

***

I have an oral fixation.

Me too.

All the best people do.

 

***

After shift I go to another pharmacy. The queue is very long and I am late for my date with someone to whom I need to explain I met someone else. We go to a Russian café and she is offended by the service. She tells me she’ll miss Chinese New Year because she spontaneously booked a solo city break to Copenhagen. I tell her about that time I was there with my ex and he drugged his friend so we would get some space. She is not impressed. Afterwards she walks me back to where my bike is, tilts her head to the side, and says, you know what, let’s keep in touch.

 

***

I get the usual haircut and almost die of dysphoria.

 

***

I form new habits, among them working on my knees because the AUX cable doesn’t stretch all the way to the table. Blood oozes away and I can’t feel my legs. I crawl to reach the kettle. There is all sorts of smears and textures on this carpet.

 

***

duvet: photo of search results on the work computer duvet: who’s got herpes? sweetheart: Who doesn’t! duvet: Me sweetheart: Well you haven’t lived the professional: As if oral gonorrhoea is better banana: Lol that’s probably me. You can’t shame me In all honesty I am convinced I got it from some crustie in the shop A cup must have slipped through the cracks of our meticulous dishwashing But it’s cleared now thank u very much The gonorrhoea search is not me tho the professional: Have to be careful of touching anything in that shop, madness. Shall start to bring my own dishes, cups and cutlery banana: xD duvet: At least it’s not aids the professional: I was always wondering if you can get an STD by sitting on the toilet seat in the shop Safer to go outside

banana: Well I cannot attest to that but I fear you’re right @honeybadger has been on it all this time doublewashing everything before using… I should have faith and followed suit honeybadger: xD the professional: thumbs up honeybadger: Yep I rinse everything I use with boiling water before using in the shop. To be fair it was more of a precaution against the rats running about but good guard against the herpes too ;) goblin: wonderful (gif)

 

***

I work double shifts. I drain abscesses. I cut myself on salt crystals. I get gout in my finger. I bathe in vinegar.

 

***

In my bed at night with this issue, my body. It is there. I can’t help but use the word turgid. I imagine that the body is made entirely of clay. I give it a name. It is Gina. The clay is wet. It has cold feet and some sort of virus. It wraps me up in itself and turns leatherhard. I don’t know what to say of this body with arms folded.

 

***

I get my blood taken. As the nurse pulls out the syringe, I feel this pain in my forearm.

It’s funny how I’m actually feeling pain in another part of my arm then where the needle went in.

Oh yes, that is funny, the senior nurse says. But not in the way like she was actually amused or concerned for my health but in this tone you would use to humour a pre-schooler. I’m obviously being stupid so I don’t say anything else.

 

***

It is after lunch and I am still in my bathrobe.

My high school roommate died from a blood clot in her leg like this.

 

***

Can I tell you something in secret, this is so embarrassing actually, I think I might die?

How come? Amused.

I tell the story. Entertaining mode.

Well, you shouldn’t worry – if you had a blood clot there would be a lot of swelling and redness, it would be quite apparent. You would really be in a lot of pain.

Okay, if you say so.

My friend from the gallery used to work in photocopier diagnostics.

On a scale from one to ten, with ten being in a lot of pain and zero no pain at all, how severe is the pain?

Mmmm, I would say two?

Laughs.

Funny.

 

***

You do look pale, my flatmate says.

Oh do I.

I’ve got this training session now, then work at three.

If I were you I would call both of those things off.

I attend to my phone.

 

***

banana: Hello, just woke up feeling quite ill and can’t really hear my own voice… I don’t want to get worse and also give this to everyone in the shop. could anyone take my 3-11 tonight? Or even just swap it banana: Uhh okay, maybe I’ll be fine with it… will just try not to spray at anyone sweaty chocie cake: xD react  pellets: im visiting the fam or I would have soweeeeeeeeee x banana: That’s okay you enjoy that Lukey… I’m going to try to be a ‘big girl’ pellets: haha, theres time yet, but aye x pellets: youtube link to You’re a big girl now by Bob Dylan banana: <3 react the professional sets the nickname for banana to big girl

 

***

I wait 24 minutes to get on the line to NHS 24.

Can you describe the pain. I’m trying to avoid the word tearing because I can’t remember the best way to pronounce it.

It’s like there is a blood clot trying to scab over that I keep ripping off like a band aid or something, that’s the sort of pain it is.

So is it a piercing pain? The phone operator is probably in a warehouse just outside of Glasgow but I don’t feel hard enough to affect a Scottish accent so I channel my flatmate. It’s a tearing pain.

Sorry, I didn’t get that. Can you say again?

Tearing. Like, imagine, you tear up a sheet of paper.

I’m sorry, the line is really bad I can’t hear you.

Tearing. Like being ripped apart. T-E-A-R. I am actually tearing up at this point. Still deeply conflicted about my accent.

Okay, a tearing pain.

Yes.

How long have you had the pain?

Seven days.

And is it getting worse?

Yes.

How long has it been getting worse?

Five days? And it’s spreading further into my forearm, the locus is becoming larger.

 

***

I listen to Hold the Line by Toto.

 

***

 

That other time, which is what originally spun me out of balance I think, I distinctly remember realising what’s happening and, in a flash, deciding that it is in fact worth it to stack the bones in my knees back together and run.

The only thing is that I immediately forgot what my attacker looked like, and I couldn’t leave the bar because the only people I knew in that city were outside fighting. Besides it was a lock-in and I had already exhausted any sense of momentum I had had that night.

And so I was stuck there with all these gropers, my attacker, and a friend of a friend who was having their own troubles pretending to be straight in a room full of ‘men’ and dealing with a racist cunt of a bartender on top of that. They nonetheless did save me on a pretty significant level.

 

***

big girl sets the nickname for big girl to big person

 

***

The one vaguely appealing person in this bar full of creeps has a sort of a skater look. His t-shirt looks very new, like it’s starched or something. I consider medicating lust with lust but resist taking immediate action. We dance, his hand on my ass.

On a last-ditch drunk confidence surge I promise to add him on Facebook and meet up the next day. The characters of his name number in tens, many with unfamiliar accents. I commit them to memory as they swirl in front of my eyes.

 

***

Love isn’t always on time is giving it too much credit.

A hand grenade crawls into my palm.

Sue me.

 

***

mildly sexual goblin: I’ll pour lapsang on you and drink it out of your belly button pellets: how can we bring the teashop classic microwaved flapjack into this fantasy? mildly sexual goblin: Tittie wank and use the melted flapjack as lubricant sweaty choice cake: xD react big person: <3 react mildly sexual goblin: Can be eaten afterwards too but you’ll need yoghurt for that sweaty chocie cake: You been drinking all the tulsi tonight hen?  Ruth makes everything shiny: Someone come and saaaaaave me from her! mildly sexual goblin: Just the sage and chamomile. Is tulsi also an aphrodisiac? mildly sexual goblin: It’s the full moon vibes guys  mildly sexual goblin started a video chat Ruth makes everything shiny joined the video chat  do I work here joined the video chat sweaty chocie cake joined the video chat pellets: I’m sitting with my mum and step dad and am terrified of all of you big person: I’m trying to erotically eat a pak choi to get on the same wave with y’all but you keep interrupting with the video chat mildly sexual goblin: I want to see that

 

***

 I still have a carpet burn scar clearly visible just beside the dip on my upper lip.

It fuels an incendiary fantasy in which I fan the flames of the confessional and all this burns, burns, burns with some sort of urgent shame or combatant sincerity.

Drawing by Jessie Whiteley

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