The permadusk
of snow
wandering through the grey
on grey
outlined in charcoal
stark sentinel trees
tramlines firework
in the illuminated gloom
of the careful stepping
muffled shuffling
quieted city

hush hour.


When I gave you that hug
and you hugged me gently back
and I was hiding sobs in your dirty top
I thought I’d lost you to the sand
time would steal you from my hands
your forgetting me would be the mercy shot
and all the wise faces they pried
and they tried
to put me right
like you were wrongly ordered
and I could get some more
said I was out of order, thinking
that you would be mine
but I never thought that
I only thought
that I was yours.

My darling when you woke crying in the night
I knew it wasn’t me you cried for
and I never ever cared
that you were never ever mine
because it doesn’t matter at all
because I’m yours.

You know your father’s kind of beauty
is magnified in you
and you see your mother’s grace,
you have it too.
Now you’re so fine and grown
all our histories are known
and all the battles and the shames are washed to grey
I’m so grateful you still know me
didn’t slice me out and only
leave me fading, just a photo and a name
because knowing you is the summer of my life.
You can’t replace the leaves of summer once they fall
so there’s no reason to ever want
somebody to be mine
because as long as you still want me
I’ll be yours.

My darling when you woke crying in the night
I knew it wasn’t me you cried for
and I never ever cared
that you were never ever mine
because it doesn’t matter at all
because I’m yours.

People are people (even if they’re small).

I don’t have children (except for two great young people I had the pleasure and privilege of stepmothering), and I’m not going to, either. Some people assume that it’s because I don’t like children. I think that’s a ridiculous assumption, but only as ridiculous as the idea that you should like children. What for? Some of them aren’t very likeable. Some of them are lovely, just like there are lovely adults and much less lovely ones. Should I take a position on whether I like or dislike adults?

When we “love kids”, we’re pretty much saying that regardless of their personalities, their primary attribute is their child status, and we like or dislike them based on that. Even worse, when we love them just because they’re children, we’re giving them love based on an attribute that they can never expect to hold on to. Maybe we like the feeling of being needed that we get when we’re around people too young to be independent, but that doesn’t sound all that noble when you put it plainly – in fact it sounds a lot like a power thing. Luckily, there are many many adults out here loving their young family members for who they are .. but those people don’t usually ask me about why I “don’t like kids”.

(For the record, I like a lot of people who are currently children, and expect to continue liking them when they’re not.)

Young man in a railway station café.

Glances flick around the noisy room: noisy both in sound and vision, the bustle and hiss of the people and the coffee machines in the ears, the visual disarray of bags, tables, suitcases and chairs, and amid it all, a well of calm, he sits there, not fiddling with anything. Every pair of eyes, sending darting looks around alighting on the scribblers, the internet junkies tap-tapping on their tablets, the parents wearily calming tired toddlers: every restless gaze lands on him and pauses, at least, before flicking on. His earthy red hair, half-tamed into directed disorder, the lightly freckled pale of his early summer skin, the youthful angularity of his profile silhouetted by the early morning sun, all offer no reason to look away, but it was his grace, his contentment to just sit and be.. that was what kept you looking, risking the awkwardness of being noticed noticing.  Plenty of pairs of roaming eyes coursed the public space  looking for a safe place to land and stopped on him, and when he inevitably looked back, it wasn’t a look of pride in his attraction or of hostility in defence of his privacy; more of curiosity. Like he’d just answered the door.



I stood there, smiling that incongruous smile that you do when you’re not ok, where all the muscles do the right things (or at least, they do if you’re good at it) but you know with the certainty of having seen it many times in others, that the eyes are not going to lie for you. Lips are slick liars. Put your lips around the shapes that make phrases like “Get home safe” and “Was good to see you” and they will do it with all the nonchalance of “Move along now” and “Nothing to see here”, but you can’t stop your eyes just going on and on and on with the pitiful “Don’t go” and “But I still want you.”

Like I want him to see any of that. I don’t. So I blinked and looked away and made goodbye a blunted moment of brief and forced good cheer, one that still felt like an age of peeling and splitting painted-on bravado.

I played music in the car, stuff I know so well that I sing along without thinking; upbeat stuff that doesn’t let you sink into any long outbreaths.

At home, feeling like I’d made it, cleared the danger point and ready to push forward in some new direction. Maybe a couple of drinks with some friends, maybe do some work, straighten up the flat, maybe sort out some of these things lying around.
These things. Things you just somehow hold on to, not noticing for ages that you’re holding on, until you realise how hard it is to let go of them. Like the presence that’s just wrapped itself around me: the scent he left in my clothes that he wore, now lying limp in my hands, in my arms and against my cheek: rocking with me from side to side, an invisible man materialising inside my empty clothes, here in my empty arms, giving me hollow consolation for the vacancy he left in me.

Different boxes.

It’s a matter of closing or opening a circuit.  Or maybe a box. Knowing a thing, closing the loop and moving on, or not knowing it, and feeling the way the leaking mental energy continues to dripfeed you the question from its uncauterised bleeding edges.

It’s why I fail, constantly, to remember my to-do list (and I don’t mean remember what’s on it, I mean just remember it at all), my appointments, the things I have to take with me to complete my day.  I feel the nagging unfinishedness of each point, and it holds me in a defocused state of divided attention, so I close it down. Tie the ends together.  Maybe I put a reminder in some kind of system, maybe I just make a choice and tell myself it’s an answer.  Maybe I just forget.  One way or another I close it down. Why would I allow my attention to be sapped, dragged down by a thousand Lilliputian concerns? I need all of my energy to notice how his smile draws his top lip flat against his teeth, and how the azure of his eyes is cobalt at the spot where a windowful of blue sky is reflected.  How could I hold onto payment plan details and fuel price comparisons in the face of such fleeting detail? I can’t ever check up the acid sweetness of wild autumn fruit in any file or website, and no amount of knowing the best route and keeping all my appointments could ever compensate me for one intense second of my small, seven-year-old’s fingers on the deliciously prickly stubble of my stepdad’s face as he carried me on his shoulders. How the wind tried to knock us over, pulling my hair in all directions and robbing the breath from my mouth as I laughed. I know I felt it, completely. I probably didn’t think to practice my handwriting that day though, and my teacher probably continued to be unhappy with my writing. She definitely continued to report that I needed to focus more.

So I don’t know the registration number of my own car.  I’ve closed the loop, with good reason or none, I’ve shut the box. I still know, though, how my first lover used to rock us to sleep, how weird was the greyish taste of fear in my mouth when I fell out of a tree far enough from home to know no-one would come if I was hurt, and how surprised I was to find that in my solitude I had forgotten to cry out my fear and hurt to the dusk-lit trees. These boxes are open, leaking sense and feeling all over my mental landscape.

I know others choose differently. I see them, and on some days I envy their retention of the useful and applicable facts and data that smooth their paths in life. Some of them seem to have all the right boxes open. One friend knows the tram times, the conjugations and the exchange rates, but also the right tartness for a lemon curd and the smell of his daughter’s hair. I admire him. I love to visit him and wonder at his capabilities, and the wonder adds to my collection of moments I’ve lived. If everyone were like that then I could settle contentedly into my role of happy loser, cosy at the foot of the pile, but there are those far unluckier than me. Those who can’t handle the constant tugging any more than I can, but who started big, closing boxes starting not with “Where are my pencils?” but with “How should I live?” They talk about their certainties, their convictions and how they know the way things really are: they tell me who made the world, they tell me about men and women, rich and poor, and about The Way Things Are, and I ask them “Isn’t it a matter of perspective?”, and they tell me that no, I just need to open my eyes, that my wishy-washy bleeding-heart is not for The Real World.

I wonder if they’ve noticed how they close the distance between us as they say these things, how they throw their standing shadow tall and long over my seated form. If they will remember how my smile surrendered and reluctantly evacuated, leaving a face protectively expressionless. If they have seen how the low autumn sun has silhouetted my downturned head as I gave up on eye contact and shielded myself with disconnection.  Probably not.


I read a lot of stuff on the internet, partly because there are lots of interesting things to read, and partly because I’m easily distracted, which seems to be the primary function of Web 2.0 – to distract us from the things we could have been doing In Real Life (frequently shortened to IRL, but I’m wasting enough of my Real Life reading disposable internet opinions without electively shortening it as well).  Ooh look, a cat in a box.  Sorry.  Where was I?

Some of the time I comment, because I, like every other commenter, think that I’m the one who sees these things clearly, unlike the massed mindless drones of commenters flaunting their wrongness in forums across the wide e-universe.  It’s like traffic jams, queues for the Christmas post and the table seats on trains across the let’s-call-it-civilised world: they’re populated by people who wish the crowd would bugger off, not counting themselves as part of it.  This is the phenomenon of seeing oneself as separate from all the others chasing similar incentives under similar conditions, and I find it vaguely annoying, as does probably every other irritated individual in the altogether annoying crowd. The opposing phenomenon, however, is one I find more than vaguely annoying.

The inverse of the I’m-not-part-of-this illusion is the I-speak-for-all-of-us illusion.  Commenters reply to articles with “we”, implying a spokesperson’s mandate, partners tell waiting staff “we’re fine”, not knowing if it’s true or not and politicians spout more “we” than an overwatered toddler, all of which makes me wish I knew how to grind my teeth. I can wiggle my ears, and raise one eyebrow, but the teeth are..  ooh look, a cat falling off a shelf.

So.  Yeah.  Anyway. People forgetting that they don’t have a mandate to speak for all of X-, Y- or Z-kind. Dear people-who-are-not-British, please don’t listen to “What the british think about (insert group here)”, it’s probably just what the writer thinks and we all disagree with his/her opinion. I know this because I speak for all people who are not that writer. Dear generation-other-than-mine, please disregard the assurances given to you in articles claiming that my generation either despises or venerates you, it’s all tosh, we haven’t even noticed you as are we’re the selfish generation who just want to cut-throat our way into a job at some point so we can live a life of luxury and one day own our own hovel.  I know this because I speak for my entire generation. Dear Men: I wouldn’t know what to make of it either.  If I collected all of the “What women really want” articles and posts created on the basis of one writer’s personal wishes, supported by having asked a couple of mates if they agree, I’d have a very very big pile of annoying rubbish. If men are expected to treat us as individuals (which they are by me, although who knows what the other, obviously wrong, commenters think about it) then I think it’s making the job unfairly hard to tell them we all want the same thing.  Maybe the same problem exists with “What men really want” articles – I wouldn’t know, I’m too busy trying to combine being myself, avoiding clinginess, showing vulnerability, not letting him lose face and showing him I need him with .. ooh look, a cat on a skateboard.

All those people writing their blogs, thinking their opinion matters.  They don’t speak for us.  That’s not what we want – we don’t want someone to stand up and speak for us, we want to be listened to as we are.  We don’t want to be categorised and labelled, we want to be accepted as individuals.  All of us want that.  Exactly that and nothing else.  I know this because I speak for all of us, and I am, unlike every other driver, post office queuer, train passenger and internet commenter, not wrong. I speak for all of us, because I .. ooh look, a dancing cat.



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