She asked me to read her a poem. I told her that I didn’t know any. She didn’t believe me. She said ‘every day I see you holding a book of poems’ to which I could only reply ‘I don’t read them’. It might have been a lie but a lie that I was willing to hold on to till she stopped asking such things. Why would she need me to read her a poem when she could read one herself? I’ll never understand the appeal of having to hear something in someone else’s voice for it to make sense to you. I can’t listen to a poem and hear it for what it’s worth. I get the lost in the lilt and inherent rhythm that the reader has placed on it and wonder if that was actually how it was meant to sound. I can’t focus on the words and I want to focus on the words and find the meaning of the words and find my meaning in the words. In the end I had to tell her that the only poems that I could remember were ones that I remember having read.
She said that would do. But even those I could only remember in parts and not the whole thing. She said that was enough so I started quoting randomly from what I remembered. By the end I was shouting about where the carnival passes as you sleep and about my face, turned towards the palms of strangers hands. And she giggled. Over and over until the noise rushed over me and I thought that I was going to be sick but I wasn’t sick so that was ok. She said she wasn’t giggling because it was funny. I said she only ever giggled because it was funny but she was sure that that wasn’t the reason this time. But she wouldn't tell me the actual reason why she was giggling so much. She said ‘I love you’ but I’m not sure that I agree.
She said it again and again but it entwined with the giggling and I felt like I was 12 years old sat up a tree watching the world burn again. Of course the world wasn’t burning I was just watching bonfires. But I didn’t know that at the time. I genuinely feared for my safety more than once that night. My parents couldn’t find me and searched for hours until they had to call the police. The lights danced through the neighbourhood like two drunks picking a fight until they found me. Scared out of my wits sat in a tree watching the world burn. The policemen were very nice about the whole situation and got me home safely and just told me not to do it again. My parents were not so happy about it. As you can imagine. I still have the scars from that night perched on my belly and I still have a twig from that night perched on my shelf.
She stopped giggling when I told her that story and asked me to show her my scars. I told her that I couldn’t and she knew that and she understood that. But she asked again and again but I won’t show my scars I refuse to show my scars she will never see my scars. I showed her a smile and the way to the shower instead.
I watched the water roll down the back of her neck for a couple of minutes until the heat drove me back to reality and I had to leave. I made my curt goodbyes and I left. I told her that I had to be somewhere but I would be back later and not to forget me while I was gone because I have one of those faces that you can forget.
I got in my car and I drove to the supermarket and couldn’t remember quite why I was there. I was deafened by the roar of the neon lights as I entered and the rows upon rows of canned goods that I had no idea about what they were or what they might be. I stood dumb at the border of this beautiful land of plenty and I was almost sick. I couldn’t understand what I was meant to do or where I was meant to go. If I was meant to follow any of the signs or listen to any of the coded announcements. Every word was lost on me and the strangers seemed to be getting a little worried and that made me more worried which made them more worried. Until a security guard had to approach me and ask me if I was ok. And I genuinely didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure if I was ok or how he meant it or whether he wanted me to get out of his store before I caused any trouble. I wasn’t there to cause any trouble. I think. I mean I was definitely there but I don’t think that I was there to cause trouble. I agreed that maybe I needed some fresh air so I stepped back outside and opened my packet of cigarettes to find that I only had one left. That’s obviously why I’d been in the supermarket in the first place I had run out of cigarettes.
I walked calmly back into the supermarket and went straight to the cigarette kiosk and asked for some cigarettes. The nice lady behind the counter gave me my cigarettes and we both carried on with our days.
I got back in my car and lit a cigarette. I’d usually roll down the window and let the smoke billow out like a dragon dying. But not today. It wasn’t too cold or anything I just didn’t want to let the world know that I was in. I wanted to curl up in my car and let the world pass me by as my car started becoming a rotting hulk and I too. I just want the jungle to take me back and let my teeth be a shining beacon to the hyenas. Do hyenas live in the jungle? I don’t think that they do but if they do then they will come from miles.
The smoke soon filled the car and I started to feel a little bit more normal. A few strong doses of nicotine tend to do that to me these days. It clears my head and let’s me watch the horizon to spot any possible danger if there might be any. After I had finished my cigarettes I rolled down the window and let the smoke dissipate. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion by sitting alone in my car smoking with the windows rolled up. Even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong this felt like one of those situations where it could easily be misconstrued as me doing something wrong. And I don’t want to be accused of doing something that I wasn’t doing so I calmly drove off.
I wasn’t sure where to go so I went back to her house and knocked politely on the door. Apparently she wasn’t happy that I’d left during a romantic shower and hadn't come back for a while. She wondered what I could’ve been doing in that time and she has one hell of an imagination. I bet that she couldn’t have imagined that I was sat in a supermarket car park scared out of my mind chain smoking cigarettes hoping not to catch the eye of anyone passing in case they thought that I was up to something anything dodgy. So now I have to play the waiting game and I’m running out of cigarettes again and this is becoming an expensive habit that i'm not sure that I can sustain. I can’t keep paying for the petrol to keep me coming back to her every time that she wants me to. Or every time that I think that she wants me to think that I want to come back to her. But here I am waiting patiently smoking watching the world go by while she sits inside until it’s that time that I’m allowed to crawl back in like something that the cat has dragged in wearing my dogged grin and puppy dog eyes and then everything settles back in the way that we wanted it to play out. Beautiful.
She’d run a bath and had been laying there since I left. She’d become pruned but I don’t think she minded. Even the cold water was something that she wanted. She had her book with her that she’d long given up on but insisted that she was going to finish one day anyway. She wasn’t of course. That’s just plainly ridiculous. But it was just one of those games that we’d play to make it seem like we were doing something.
By the time she’d got out the bath I didn’t really want to be there and I was hungry. Which never puts me in the best of moods. But I was willing to listen to her tell me why I was a bastard this time. This was a particularly long and illustrious rant that concerned all of my past failings and even some that might just happen to pop up sometime in the future. These were numerous. I didn’t bother trying to calm her down because that only makes her worse and no one wants that really. I told her that I could read her some poems if she wanted. She said that she only wanted to hear them if they weren’t mine. So I quoted Ted Hughes for hours and she never got bored. She said that she preferred the female poets and I said that was just sexism talking and that writing is sexless and that she shouldn’t judge a writer by their genitals. She said the only bit she really liked from crow was the bit about things looking like falling apart. I don’t think that she was listening to a word I said.
She started giggling again and I told her that wasn’t going to end well as it hadn’t ended well at all the first time. She said, in the middle of fits of giggles, ‘I love you’. I believed her this time. There has always been some underlying beauty in our relationship that I’ve never managed to understand nor do I want to. She said that she knows but she’ll never tell. I tell her that I know that she knows but I want the secret to stay a secret so I’ll never ask her to ever tell me. She said that she likes it just fine this way but will tell me one day anyway. But she won’t tell me when she is going to tell me but if it isn’t on her deathbed then I will kill her myself. Or on my deathbed I presume because I’d hate to outlive her. Not that I think she’d last long without me.
So we sat and talked for a while and I’m pretty sure that everything is ok these days and ok is utterly blissful to me. I don’t need to sit in trees worrying about the end of the world anymore I’ve got someone to sit with me and wonder why someone would want to burn such a beautiful village anyway. And when we die they’ll plant our bodies under the yew trees in the forest and we’ll become part of that. I don’t need to be part of a machine anymore I want to be part of nature as terrible as that sounds. I haven’t found my soul mate but I’ve found someone to watch the burning which I think might actually be the same thing in the end.
Just before we go to bed I ask her if she wants to hear any more of my poems and she says that she already knows all of them. I’m surprised by this because I didn’t think that she was even listening. I ask her what her favourite is and she replies ‘it’s the one about where the dreams and the dogs meet’.