Not drowning

I have walked around the park 100 times and I know each feather of the four ducklings that survived that bad start to spring. Each morning I take five big swallows of bad coffee to remind myself I am awake. You are familiar like a bad dream and like a hug; it is possible to love and hate in alternating strides. 

London has abandonment issues. How do you know the right moment to leave a sinking ship? For example, have you cheated your way onto a lifeboat by stealing a baby, or

Are you filling your cold blood with alcohol, clinging to an alternate outcome? 

Staying to the end means being there for the miracle. I am waving to my fellow survivors, not drowning.

Driving Lessons

I am learning to drive which on London roads is the same as learning to be OK with eventually dying. My instructor is a kind man named Shamim,

He has three children, none of whom I will recognise when I turn up to the funeral, in disguise, to hide the fact that I was the one who stamped on the accelerator instead of the brake at the roundabout at 8am, and launched us both into the side of an 18-wheeler. 

Shamim has put his life in my hands nine times. On the fourth lesson, he didn’t touch the wheel once. Sometimes my job is stressful 

But I won’t die if someone fucks up, unless the person who manufactured my mouse accidentally programmed it to explode the millionth time it was depressed. 

It will eventually break: this is what they call manufactured obsolescence, which is a nice way to look at your own mortality, and a lot of syllables for two words. Lana Del Rey told us ten years ago that we were born to die, but I was a decade more beautiful then, and the phrase made me dance. 

Shamim stopped giving lessons during lockdown because the government recognised how dangerous I was to him, but I had known it all along.

12 Weeks

I just keep buying tins of sweetcorn. I don’t know how to be a practical human being,

My plants are laughing at my attempts to keep us both alive, and this is spring. This is supposed to be the easy part. 

I have a new husband to take care of; he is mostly able to take care of himself, but who will we both blame for the bits that fall apart? I’d blame me,

I’d blame the soft human nature of it all, the dry suffering of lungs reliant on plastic snaked down wet pink tubes to do the act of breathing, as if that isn’t exactly what they’re there for. 

We are the same battery hens we’ve kept on plucking, and eating, and sucking the eggs from. 

 

If Mother Nature has any sense she is drunk right now. Her laughter is all the daffodils  and every piece of cherry blossom that won’t drift down into your cup, as you sit in the park on your jacket and eat olives out of greasy plastic. Think of Te Fiti from Moana if you don’t know who to picture, all thick rock thighs and flower crowns and wrath. 

 

There have always been some of us who are resistant to blackouts, but there is nothing brave about the way you’re pressing on. The Blitz spirit is something that only applies to sugar restrictions, and isn’t something you can say when you go outside and dig your elbow briefly into a stranger. You have always hated the warm press of strangers; the way they sway with the motion of the train carriage is frankly sexual and unnecessary. Just hold the bar tighter, for fuck’s sake. Stop reading your newspaper. Don’t even look at me. 

 

You are a goldfish on a hamster wheel, the hamster drowning in the goldfish bowl. Your lungs don’t work anymore. Or maybe they do, prove it, say it with me: I regret forever the time I laughed over your meal, I regret shaking hands with the stranger, with the devil, with my own mother. I remember every instance of skin. 

 

I have killed the plants that were on the windowsill, forgive me, they were so brown, and so over-watered. We’re cutting up lemons and freezing them, for our 6pm sense-of-normalcy drinks that have started to creep earlier, stronger, whoops, but there are no rules. Boris Johnson’s white knuckles straining against his pink skin are the only things keeping the crowds at bay – they want to break through your new glass windows, like zombies feverish with scent, to touch you. Oh my god, you feel so good. 

 

I have been going to the shop every day to stand in line with people who fear me. I am loaded down with sweetcorn, and toilet paper, and Lindt bars, don’t breathe on me, there is literally nothing I can do about it. Being a human is reduced to faces pixelated on laptop screens, freezing and echoing with the effort of forcing themselves down the wires. 

 

I have killed myself with corn, my roots have come undone, I have forgotten who I am, I have wiped away all recognisable vestiges of myself. I am outside your door hammering at the wood, and you are looking through the peephole at a mad woman. Unfortunately, I only recognise myself when you tell me who I am.