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Writing by Victoria MacKintosh. Illustration by Polly Burnay.

Matthew wanted to be a plant. I have been aching to type these words. Of all the things I could write about, all the sentences I could start with, I have chosen this. Matthew wanted to be a plant. He said something about basking in the sunlight, burying his roots in the earth or something, running into the forest and tearing his clothes off. Escaping. Becoming nothing. Annihilating every atom of his being. She could have been a wall to him; no features no skin, he couldn’t remember her name, he didn’t care. She needed to know that; she needed to know he didn’t care, that he couldn’t remember, that it was all one and the same to him. He was indifferent, he was furious, he was furiously indifferent. He wanted to humiliate her, publicly, with everyone watching, just like she had humiliated him, with no one watching. No one to care. I was fascinated; lapping up every word, I just wish I could have written it all down. I am missing some fundamental facts about what it is he wants to be, or doesn’t want to be. I think it’s the Henry Miller, it’s intoxicating the way he writes - he writes with his eyes and ears, every perception, every thought and impression is there, stark naked, inedited. There he was, manically twirling that frail little champagne glass overbrimming with red wine; a Viking with a china plate, hairs bursting out of his chest, his shirt torn open like he was already halfway to the forest he talked about. I won’t edit this time. I edit everything, curate every detail, I go running with concealer on. Just a faint touch to hide the rashes, no one will notice, it’s the blonde hair that distracts them, I think. I can feel them looking, eating me up as my ponytail swings playfully behind me, wondering if it does that when I sit on top of them and fuck them. Their eyes are like voices telling me to run faster, sway my hips for their benefit, grab my shoulders and stretch while I slow down catching my breath, lips slightly parted. I live in a giant panopticon and observe myself at all moments. I am outside and inside, like Nick in Gatsby, like Gatsby himself. I reach for the green light at the other side of the lake, on and off, up and down, push ups and sit ups and now he’s seen me. I circle around him like a dog or a tank or a race horse exploding out of the bushes like some sort of wild animal, my ponytail swinging. He looks up after a bit, when he’s ready. It’s always about when they’re ready and I’m always ready and waiting, waiting to be disappointed, ready to wait to be disappointed again. It’s exhausting, the waiting. I never know when the moment will arrive and I hate to be caught unprepared. The solution is early showers, clean hair and a ready-made excuse as to why I’m in the area, why I’m available. Funny, I was unavailable only moments before, you caught me unprepared, so unprepared I’ve been ready since noon and I’ve barely written two lines of my essay because I was waiting to be interrupted and got distracted waiting. It’s a relief to see that I am insane. That I am part of that elite circle who furiously vomit words across the screen. A page would be sexier but who writes by hand nowadays? Writers. But I am not a writer. I am a tourist. I am the tourist par excellence. Any native will spot that. I am a mise en scène. I am a con. I am a con artist. I dance in front of my bathroom mirror sometimes and watch myself watching myself. The panopticon. The bathroom mirror. The anxious glances at the door fearing someone will enter, wanting someone to barge in and see me make a fool of myself in front of the bathroom mirror.

I think it’s the Henry Miller. There’s something fascinating about reading the word “cunt”, it has such a harsh sound to it. East, that was the play. The one where all anyone seems to say is cunt. Old cunt, rich cunt, fat cunt, sharp cunt. It’s all about the cunt. It’s always about the cunt and its synonyms, its pseudonyms, its diminutives. Today I learnt about the stream of consciousness technique, there are two forms in writing: narrated stream of consciousness and interior monologue, which Joyce is most famous for. The eighteenth chapter of Ulysses is probably the most famous example of interior monologue in English Literature – forty or so pages of it. Incredible really, that anyone would bother to read it, to try and follow, to keep up. My father once told me life is too short to read Ulysses. Then again, I’ve stopped taking what my father says too seriously, it was ruining my life. Overdramatic – I have a tendency for that. The pity of strangers. That’s what Blanche used to look for. One and a half pages and all I’ve written about is a man who wants to be a plant, my swinging ponytail and things I’ve read and can’t really remember but that have somehow left an impression. And, of course, the bathroom mirror.

His eyes immediately made an impression. They’re so dark they glimmer like tiny galaxies or liquid pools of night. They look brighter in the natural light, less dangerous. His hair is really dark too; almost Dylan bible black. Names sprout up like flowers to be regurgitated at dinner tables and first dates – I love to read, I hope to write a novel someday. Looks down, averts his gaze, a faint smile twitching on her lips. I know it’s unrealistic, maybe I’ll try journalism in the meantime. It’s so fucking adorable that she doesn’t know what she’ll do, it makes them think she can do anything. Probably crazy in the bedroom too. I genuinely think people don’t think half as much about sex as I think they do. It’s probably a defence mechanism, a way to deflect from the all-consuming nothingness. The dead time, that’s the worst. Those hours after lunch where I’m scared I won’t be able to do anything and just wish I could be the sort of person who feels comfortable doing nothing, at least in the hours after lunch. Those are valid hours to do nothing. I think it’s the time of day – the harrowing illusion that something could happen; the fear that nothing will. I make peace with the idea around six p.m. I can start my countdown to tomorrow then, or impetuously turn today around – the best things happen unexpectedly. Wednesdays are the best for surprises.

I always expect a surprise on a Wednesday. Sundays are the worst, and August, August is the Sunday of the year.It’s always slightly surprising that he still wants to see me. That the expiry date has not been reached yet, and that I didn’t somehow fuck it up last time with a sweet word too many or that slight, tentative note of despair which always sends them running for the hills. I cover it up with layers of perfume and foundation and je ne sais quois; hooded eyes, knowing smiles; the sway of the hips when I walk to the toilette, like a nymph skimming on heavy restaurant air. The other night he told me I looked unreal, like an angel. I was giving him a blow job at the time. I don’t think angels do that, or maybe the fallen ones do. He doesn’t like it when I suggest I am a figment of his imagination, I can see it genuinely perturbs him. I like that about him, that he fears he is capable of creating a girl out of the grey matter of his craziness. If he were crazy he would be one of those mellow ones who stare peacefully out of windows while wars rage inside them. I like to think that I would be one of those crazy people who has a good time of it – kicking and screaming and tearing at my hair and having to be restrained and lobotomized. They don’t do that anymore, I was born in the wrong century for my kind of crazy.

The light in his living room hits differently. It’s pale silver and blue and when I look down at my naked body I feel like a phantom. I wish I could make myself paler for him, I wish I could make myself porcelain white or snow white or ultra-violence milk white. A crazy man on a tram in Berlin told me he knows seventeen different shades of white, I still haven’t figured out if this had anything to do with cocaine. He had these blue, tribal stripes painted on his cheeks and this malicious, twinkling fire in his eye which scared the living crap out of me. Scarier still was how attractive he was. I wonder what became of him, where he ended up with that supermarket trolley and parasol and all that craziness. Maybe it’s inside me. Maybe he was a figment of my imagination. Blonde girl on tram fearing non-existent man with blue tribal stripes and supermarket trolley.

My first time in Berlin. Technically not the first: that was on a school trip when I was fifteen. The Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, Tiergarten, the Holocaust Memorial, Sachsenhausen. Treading on gravel and ghosts, silence unrivalled, the violence of the past reigned inviolate. I had terrible stomach pains, I think I was coming down with some sort of intestinal flu. It felt blasphemous to think about my cramps in such a place.

Then the second first time. Spring awakening – it was March, my awakening came in March, the blossoming of my depraved perversion to liberate myself from all that was not depraved. I took a duffel bag bursting with black clothes, to fit in, you see, you must wear their uniform, conform and camouflage with inconspicuous black door frames and dark tunnels – a deformed human centipede burrowing deeper and deeper into the earth, into subterranean tectonic plates of vibrating dance floors and filthy bathrooms. They were so beautifully filthy, those bathrooms. And the mirrors. There were no mirrors. If there were, they were covered in multicoloured stickers like filthy jigsaw puzzles pregnant with lost reflections of drug-induced euphoria. No come down if you can’t see yourself coming down. Multicoloured stickers to pillow the crash. I saw an oak tree with huge blue eyes, a natural high. The oak is old and wise, I was young and naïve. As I grow older I grow closer to the oak tree, maybe we’ll meet again someday in some nocturne tram, covered in blue tribal tattoos, discussing different shades of white.

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