Tag Archives: relationships

Love & the Sea

It’s a funny thing. Nature, the sea, makes other things seem small. Diminutive. The waves smashing on a windy day, stealth creeping up the beach and catching you out. Water over the rims of wellies. And then rushing back out leaving behind just the dusk light. The beach shines and gleams, vivid pink & orange & blue & indigo in mackerel patterns on the dowdy sand.

If you look down and walk forward through the shallows as they rush in and then back out you feel drunk and disorientated. Like the world is travelling in a different direction to you. It is.

There’s a certain enjoyment in this anxiety. In this chaos of being. In this turbulent crisscrossing of moving things. Because you can stop any time. You can look up at a stable horizon which moves only imperceptibly. The handrail in a Fun House which steadies you when the fun gets too much.

You are the steady thing I crave in my life. An even constant that will tell the same self-deprecating jokes. And hold things up. And make things function – a wood-burner, a roasting chicken, or the part of me that can change from grumpy to cheerful at the drop of a hat.

The sand sinks beneath my feet as the waters rush in. The gulls spill across the air above the shallows, twirling and intertwining their flights with one another. Calling out stories of good fish and hidden roosts. The north-east wind is cold on my legs, defeating damp jeans or woollen tights. Large raindrops splish unexpectedly in my face despite sparse clouds. Moments later they are gone.

The sea has its own rain. Its own pace of life that is peaceful and enraged all at once. It has the raw passion of brush on canvas, of teeth on bones, of a lover calling late at night in desperation to just hear that voice before they resign themselves to sleep. I want love to make me feel how nature does.

The sound of flames licking the roof of a wood burner merge with the coastal wind outside and the occasional rumble of passing traffic on a narrow street. Everything inside is driftwood and leather and old suitcases with rusted clasps. Nautical stripes draw cotton fabrics and wool. Minimal sketches of warm clothes and layers of bedding that surround us. Swallowing us as we sink and disappear into afternoon sleeps induced by the sea air. Soggy socks and gloves dry near the fire, despondent. Every source of heat is special and loved in a climate of icy winds and persistent wet.

Here we are beyond the clouds. We have left all things behind and run entirely on adrenaline. Our bones aching from ageless woes. The cold. The storm. The storm is internal.

Love & loneliness wreak havoc on the people we forgot we were trying to be. We lose ourselves in books and movies because they say things we’re unable to articulate. If we stare at enough of them we will learn to string a sentence together. To really speak to one another. To communicate emotions and feelings that lie dormant or latent in our beings.

The truth is a dribble of cold tea on the side of a mug as it’s placed back on the coffee table. It’s a small reality that nonetheless matters for a little while to someone. But the moment passes. The pot must be stirred and the potatoes tossed in hot fat. The practical busies our hands so that they don’t idle in existential doubts indefinitely.

© Kirsty Fox 2016

Two Awkward Mannequins

The grass was green where we stepped. Changing underfoot from the straw of midsummer’s empty gasp to the green of hesitant optimism. We laughed and talked of things bigger than us. Bigger than the world. But however small and meaningless we were, it was meaningful to me. Tentative steps towards a joint future. A something. I really wanted that something. I still do.

But the grass stopped turning green underfoot. The silences grew longer. For all our talk of worldly things and existence, we couldn’t talk about you. About why you’d never meet an admiring gaze. About why you didn’t want this in solid form. The initial sketch of us was fine. It was just pints and sex and music and TV. But I couldn’t flesh us out. I couldn’t add shadow or definition. I couldn’t harden those outlines to a couple. Rather than the vague suggestion of a couple.

We stood on the corner in the cold. Awkwardly. Two awkward mannequins not knowing what to say. I was dizzy & light-headed from a lack of sugar or a sense of fatigue. Eventually, I hugged you and you hugged back like the world was about to end. The grass is concrete and the picture begins to fade. First to monochrome, then to mere lines. Finally a blank page.

© Kirsty Fox 2015

Frank City Film Club – Episode Twelve

Brian Snuff – Platonic Superstar

I opened Nikita’s fridge in search of milk. All I could think to do was make her a cup of tea. There were eight rolls of camera film, one beer, half a bottle of wine and a lonely scrap of cheddar. My kind of girl. Except tea would’ve been good right now.

Being the trust-able male friend I’ve seen many women cry, but not Nikita. Not before now. Her face had fallen so suddenly, or a shadow had fallen over her face.

SNUFTY: What can I do to make it okay?

A tear sat close to the tip of her nose.

NIKITA: Churn out some cliches about him not being the right one, it not being the right time. That I’ll meet someone else when I least expect it and forget I ever felt this way.

No mention of an empathy shag. Probably for the best.

SNUFTY: Well all these things are cliches because they’re true.

Pause.

NIKITA: Do you think I use you as a substitute boyfriend?

Well you did fall asleep in my arms the other night. In fairness though, it was me that asked for a hug.

SNUFTY: Maybe we both do that.

NIKITA: (EYEBROW CROOKED) You treat me as a substitute boyfriend?

SNUFTY: You know what I mean.

Another pause.

SNUFTY: Shall I go and get us takeaway or something?

She shook her head.

NIKITA: No, let’s get smashed and have adventures.

Nikita’s idea of adventures seems to be getting in fights with men.

SNUFTY: Are you going to get me in a fight?

She isn’t listening. She’s dashed off to fix smeared mascara and put on a skirt.

Her phone is ringing. It’s Leon. Leon the heartbreaker.

I almost press Ignore, but instead I answer.

SNUFTY: Hi Leon. It’s Brian.

I imagine the camera cuts to him. He is stood in the doorway of the flats where he lives. Traffic humming somewhere nearby. He is tearful too. For an emotional retard, he cries pretty easily. He looks surprised and annoyed that I answered.

LEON: Oh.

But he’d never act annoyed or fazed. Why should anything faze him? He’s a cool mother fucker.

LEON: Hi Snufty, where’s Niki?

SNUFTY: She’s getting changed, we’re going out.

LEON: Oh.

SNUFTY: You want me to pass you over?

Nikita is back in the room. Sensing him like a cat. Her face is hardened like sculpted bone.

LEON: No, it doesn’t matter.

The line goes dead.

Earlier episodes of Frank City Film Club

Frank City Film Club – Episode Eleven

Brian Snuff – A Potted History of Hardcore

I go through phases with smoke & alcohol. Like an emotional history that ebbs with the tide. Like how some days listening to Autechre is life-affirming and other days it makes me feel like I’m trapped in a cellar full of zombies.

I push the window out and open on the nighttime and then light my roll-up. I can see the reflection of my lighter sparking to life and disappearing again close to my face. I lean out a little.  The air is cooling on my face but the back of my neck is still weirdly warm from catching the spring sun.

NIKITA: Snufty…?

SNUFTY: Yep.

I have a wary tone. I don’t know why.

NIKITA: You know that thing that you said you’d do?

I take a long drag, searching the clouds for stars.

SNUFTY: Yep.

NIKITA: I don’t know whether you should…

JEANIE: What thing?

They’re both sat on my bed, cross-legged. I can’t sit like that anymore. I’m only 29. How did that happen?

SNUFTY: One of those things that women ask men to do. Even feminists apparently.

JEANIE: Get rid of spiders?

SNUFTY: Don’t bring me spiders. Scuttley fuckers.

JEANIE: Are you a feminist?

I’m not sure whether she’s asking me or Niki. Niki doesn’t answer, neither do I. Or maybe Niki nodded but I didn’t see.

JEANIE: Is it a sex thing?

SNUFTY: Yes. She asked me to never ever have sex with her.

NIKITA: He’s joking.

I sometimes think she underestimates Jeanie’s ability to pick up on my sarcasm.

SNUFTY: Oh, but you did. With your eyes.

I remember the first time I kissed her in a moment of drunken bravery. No tongues. Nothing to write home about. I ran away straight after, or at least walked away quickly. I didn’t wait to see her face. I wasn’t ready for the knowing apologetic smile. I’m sorry I made you infatuated with me. It was an accident. I was just being me. I don’t regret it for a moment. I’m so rarely brave.

NIKITA: Did you watch that film?

She pointed to her copy of Upstream Colour which was sat on the table.

SNUFTY: Yeah. You were right. I have a new affinity with pigs.

I stubbed my rollie out on the ledge and pulled the window shut.

JEANIE: You’re changing the subject.

Nikita smirked, her eyes flashing with bewitching secrets.

NIKITA: You don’t know what the subject is.

I’m only obsessed because you won’t leave me be.

I don’t think of you all the time but you’re never far from my thoughts. As though the air is part gas, part moisture, part you. As though my brain is part creative, part logical, part diseased. As though my life is part real, part dream, part delusion.

You seem contained inside images and everyday objects. Artificial faces, door jars, underneath bushes.  You seem not aware of this. You seem not aware of anything but I know this isn’t right. You are shrewd. Not like a liar, like a master of ceremonies. You know how this whole thing will end. These are the things I notice when I daren’t look at you too much.

And the jokes you once told return to my head like songs that catch in my ear canal. Yet the jokes somehow mock me, because I remember them and they weren’t that funny. It’s your intonation, the crafted slant of an eyebrow, the fact that you always smell so good. A bundle of pheromones drifting like the free spirit that my denial isn’t.

The rotisserie of unrequited love. I can guarantee you’re not that fussed, yet your friend is stepping up, ready for slaughter. He feels about me exactly how I feel about you. We make the same dumb jokes to try to make our propositions more casual. There is nothing casual about the future I try to wish you into, push you into with an imperceptible shove. But you’re stronger than me. You’re a lone wolf by choice not by default. Able to rejoin the pack anytime you please because you’re quietly confident. Not a stumble of tangled limbs. Yapping at unseen enemies as though that will drive them away.

So, I’m sorry for hanging around you like the ghost of hope. I’m sorry for ruining the friendship that was. I’m sorry for not taking a hint when I should. But I’m only obsessed because you won’t leave me be.

The Wind Cries Barney

No melting hearts today in the blue snows. Just the aftermath of the winds. The kind of winds that re-enlighten your belief in the coming apocalypse. A troll stomping over rooftops and chasing down to you in the damp street. He bellows in your ear leaving a damp splattering of spittle quickly iced by the cold air. Stray twigs torn from trees crunch under foot. You step around them until they become too many, filling the pavement and road in piles and piles of insignificant broken limbs.

“Did you laugh together more than you argued together? And if not do you know why?”

Mazzy flipped the record to it’s forth side and teetered among the clutter in the tiny flat. Immunity by Jon Hopkins. Something stronger was needed to block out the catcall of teenagers in the street.

“We always laughed. We were always stupid. That’s why it lasted so long. I don’t know how to be any other way anymore. All that bickering about things that don’t fucking matter. The most efficient way to load the dishwasher? Nah.”

A quick shake of her head and eyes that strayed into a distance that wasn’t visible beyond woodchip and the first feint patterns of damp. I was persistent though. I knew how he could be.

“But the moods. The dark moods. How did you cope?”

Mazzy looked puzzled. She picked up a mug of tea which had turned tepid. A softer wind was tapping the window. If yesterday he was an angry troll today he was mischievous sprite.

“There’s a tiny bit in the middle of this bit of the record which reminds me of Diamond Mine, just a few bars. Do you know what I mean?”

I waited. Knowing she would settle and answer my question when she’d dispelled these important thoughts.

“I don’t notice them. I didn’t.” A shrug. “You know my family, if nobody’s hitting the roof you enjoy the peace. It’s just grumps with him. I could still make him laugh, that’s the difference.”

Mazzy settled in a beanbag and looked at her tea disappointedly. “What about you, now? Do you get lonely?”

I faltered at the question and rubbed my forehead, trying to work out the creases. It seemed a stupid question. I nodded.

“Everyone does. Don’t they? We’re all alone.”

“But you’re really alone.”

“Like a troll.” I tugged at troll hair which seemed to sprout like dune grasses.

“This bit.” Mazzy pointed to the record spinning on an axis of melodic refrain.

“What?” I’d zoned out of the music. She’s better at multi-tasking than me.

“Reminds me of…”

I nodded.

The scene dissolves in history like all others before it. The young march on into the morning. They know all will not be well, but there’s nothing to do but evolve, grow, be something society didn’t expect it was capable of. You are your own hero, your own catastrophe. Failure doesn’t lie in your bed. You only fail when you hold others back with your backwards mindset and bullying ways. Your poison is malice and you drink it straight from the bottle.

Back to the whispering hum of the dehumidifier removing tears and mould from stained walls. No music or the voice of Mazzy to break its hum drum sound. The lack of television keeps the brainwashed society at bay. Adverts and pop music filtered out. Shelves stacked with more books, music and films than they can hold. Stuff that has fucking meaning. Stuff that draws a portrait of a life before it’s lived. Brain supplements to keep the rot at bay. To help us keep writing. Because writing is all we can do to survive our own minds.

I tear open a letter from Mazzy, out in the Hebrides. I saved it two days because I knew I would need it today.

‘Dear Barney,

Although you are not dear.’ She begins….

Frank City Film Club – Episode Nine

Brian Snuff – Regurgitating yesterday’s troubles for the benefit of future generations

Imagine how a conversation between me and Jeanie might go. Two people who drift between thought lines like two lost clouds searching for their own meaning, yet easily distracted by cat memes. (I didn’t know what a ‘meme’ was until Jeanie told me. This made me feel a) a bit past-it and b) wondering why they bothered to give such a thing, such a name.)

We were mask-building for the Steppenwolf Ball (the novel, not the band). Jeanie is particularly skilled in the papier-mache department. She’s also good with face paint and make-up. We talked as we worked and I let myself get lost in her nonsense, something I’m usually to self-conscious to do in front of the others.

JEANIE: What does being hypnotised feel like?

She is doing some particularly intricate eye-work on the mask, I steal glances a little jealously. She does have tiny fingers.

SNUFTY: I don’t think anyone knows.

JEANIE: Why…?

SNUFTY: They were in a trance at the time. I think they usually have no memory of it.

JEANIE: Oh. It’s not like mushrooms then.

SNUFTY: I don’t think so. But I haven’t tried either, to-be-fair.

She looks up at me like I’m odd.

SNUFTY: Have you never noticed I’m a bit of a control freak? I mean. I’m not that bad. Just a bit. At least, I hope so…

JEANIE: But everything is chaos. Isn’t it?

I gulped.

SNUFTY: I don’t really like to think of it that way. And even so, why add chaos to chaos? Why relinquish what little control you have on your thoughts?

JEANIE: It’s just like love, really.

She is adding false eyelashes to her mask. I’m trying to make mine’s nose look less broken. I decide maybe it adds character anyway.

SNUFTY (WARILY): What do you mean?

JEANIE: Adding chaos to chaos.

She sets this mask aside to dry and starts another one from scratch. Her tiny nails are covered in glue and grey smears of wet newspaper.

JEANIE: What does love feel like?

I’m concerned about either deteriorating into a soppy heap, or saying something like Slavoj Zizek – painfully, cruelly bitter. Either route will make a squashed papier-mache heap of me on the studio floor. Down-trodden Snufty. Unlucky in love and not very good at making masks either.

SNUFTY: What do you think it feels like?

JEANIE: I’m not sure I’ve ever been in love.

SNUFTY: But you were with that cocksure Neanderthal for three years? The one who used to call you ‘Humpty Numpty’ and leave you locked in his flat with only drugs for company while he was out on the razz, possibly cheating on you?

JEANIE: Yeah, I was weirdly addicted to him. He was in a band though.

SNUFTY: That’s love. A mixture of stupidity, fawning respect for frankly terrible musicianship, addictive tendencies and low self-esteem. I’m not saying all love is like that. But when your rational brain says ‘this is shit’ and you’re heart says ‘but, but, but’, that’s love.

JEANIE: But what does it feel like to you?

I think of Nikita and all the above is virtually true, if you replace ‘terrible musicianship’ with ‘skilled sarcasm’. But then also…

SNUFTY: It’s like you scratch away at your image of this person with a coin and the more you scratch the brighter they become, until it’s so vivid you can barely see anyone else. And you can’t shake it off. It follows you through your dreams and your waking life, like some hungry stray dog.

JEANIE: See. Mushrooms and hypnotism don’t last very long.

SNUFTY: But at least I have a choice with not…

The door swings open and Bane steps in, his masculine presence filling the room. Leon follows, occupied with his phone, chewing on his lip the way he does, as though constantly in the middle of a life-shattering decision.

BANE: Don’t stop on my account. What you nuts rabbiting about?

SNUFTY (QUICKLY): Chaos.

BANE: Fucks sake.

LEON: The spiral?

SNUFTY: What?

LEON: The spiral of chaos?

He points to a dried mask that Jeanie made yesterday. It reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth. There is a black spiral on the forehead.

Leon leans oppressively close and presses his thumb to my forehead as though testing something.

LEON: It’s right there Snufty, you can’t control it…