The Duke

People from the past are mythical beasts: you don’t see them any more; your recall of them is patchy; they’re frozen in the tableau of their time.

The mirage of one such caricature, Dan, popped into my head this week-end.

On a desk in the far corner of the third floor of Edinburgh University’s main library is carved an unambiguous message: ‘Fuck off home, Ya’s‘- presumably at the hand of a minority indigenous student overwhelmed by the influx of southern jessies romping around the local Ceilidh bars in wine-coloured cords and brogues.

The composition of the flat share allocated to my boyfriend, Rupert, in his first year, was a fair reflection of this: 4 Englishmen in a 4-bedroom flat, the slight twist being that Rupert wasn’t a Rupert, but a stocky Yorkshire farmer with a beard- an impressive and worldly 21 years to our 18.

Rupert’s flatmates, by contrast, were bonafide Ruperts: a brooding Wagner enthusiast (later to become boyfriend number 2); a boy (Walter?) with the spectacles, clothes, and intellect of a Bletchley Park code-breaker, who hung oil paintings on his wall; and Dan.

Dan was the apotheosis of the inept public schoolboy, possibly due in part, sadly, to the absence of a mother in his life. A rarefied soul, it was quite possible he’d never been exposed to sunlight, or the general public. He was tall, platinum blonde, very thin, and very white, so Rupert called him The Duke.

The Duke was the first person in my life to objectively classify my mediocrity, wearily declaring one day that I was ‘so middle class’, with the emphasis on the ‘so’ to clarify I was in no danger of troubling the upper end of the spectrum. While he may not emerge from this anecdote a hero, then, still he was no fool.

Rupert found the Duke to be an endless source of fascination and amusement, though he never went to town on it in a cruel way. He was genuinely stupefied that such a creature was in existence, and living in his midst. We’re talking here about a young man with mud under his fingernails rooming alongside one who had spent the past 10 years engorging his brain with books, from the hard bed and cold showers environment of a drafty elite boarding school- one who said things to taxi drivers, such as ‘How many sovs will that be then, Guv?’

Three events (unfairly?) define The Duke for me. It’s a shame, because imagine how many more there must have been! The regaling of them was immeasurably improved by Rupert’s filter, equal parts incredulity and laughter.

1: Potato-gate

Flat communal meal night. Everyone’s given a dish to prepare. The Duke is given the simplest, as it’s doubtful he’s prepared anything more involved than a Ginsters sausage roll, since he’s arrived. Everyone sits down, ready to tuck in. The Duke’s potato salad looks good. Miniature baby potatoes with salad cream and maybe even some herbs: the boy done good. Until, wait: ‘Jesus Christ, Dan. You know you have to cook the potatoes, first?’

2: T.V.-gate

The boys are watching some day-time. Urgent knock on the door. ‘Guys, watch out. T.V licence people are in the building.’ Rupert gets up and turns off the T.V. He’s thinking about where to hide it in the flat, when The Duke yanks the plug out of the wall, wraps his skinny frame around the bulky T.V., and charges out of the front door to take it to another flat. Which he succeeds in doing, thanks to the licensing hounds stepping to one side so he can bundle past them up the stairs, red in the face and panting under the weight of the contraband set.

3 Water-gate

Rupert is in his room. After a while, he clocks the sound of running water that isn’t subsiding. He investigates, to find The Duke standing in the kitchen running both taps full blast. ‘What are you doing, Dan?’ he asks, already suspecting the answer’s not going to help. ‘Fuck the water authorities,’ says the Duke. ‘Just fuck them.’

Ah, Dan. Where are you now?

 

*

 

 

 

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Chess Megafinals

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You are having a nightmare. You’ve done something very bad and have been sent to Hell. Worse, you have to drive yourself and two children there at 8.30am on a Saturday morning.

Welcome to the Hertfordshire leg of the under 7s Chess Megafinals, a 9am-6pm torture marathon designed to redress the karmic balance of tiger parents.

Rufus and his retro-gaming chum are in a state of pre-match nerves. They are worried that mini Kasparovs lurk therein, blissfully unaware that a pulse and a self-harming mother in a car were the qualification criteria.

We have been up since before 7.30am, a goal that has never knowingly troubled my Bank Holiday weekend wish list. I’ve been trying to pep talk both contestants all the way up the M1: get your Knights and Bishops out sharpish; behave like you’re winning; take modest sips of beer between moves.

A helping of traffic, weird car park directions, and a G-force of doom impede our punctuality, so that we arrive in the school gymnasium panting and wild of hair.

But no order there awaits. Large, confused groups mill in random motion with panic in their eyes, like lost scenes from Towering InfernoWhat do the lists mean? How many lashes for a stalemate? Are we black, or white? (Sorry, M. Jackson; that DOES matter here.)

70 chess sets anticipate their 140 pint-sized strategists, as an intellectual hum settles. Immediately, I know these 6 and 7 year olds could take me in a pub quiz, even without their side-partings and bow ties. They’ll grow up to cure diseases and unravel Hawking. I wonder if I might persuade one of them to handle my accounting spreadsheets, for a lollipop.

Boys and girls are split. Attempts to gain feedback on the reason for this fall at the first furlong, though presumably the girls get to play on pinker boards, shifting around My Little Pony horses.

Presiding over the welcome trestle table at the front is a bearded organiser, who has enjoyed a bumpy route to chess, having passed through Ant Collecting along the way and found it too flustering. Today his agitation is betrayed by a large red patch on his ancient-fleece-flanked neck. Seems a cruel God gifted him 2 flat tyres enroute to the venue, forcing him to take a taxi. Safe to say, this man hasn’t used a cab service, or been late, since 1962. Now his clockwork-efficient championships are half an hour in arrears, and he’s near imploding with the unjustness of his destiny.

Kick-off is close. Board game pheromones and competitive genes crowd the air; if the room came to life it would be Tom Cruise.

Time now for the rules, the best of which is encouragement not to thrust your hand out repeatedly between moves to offer a draw. Apparently, this could land you in a harassment lawsuit, the upside of which is preparation for your awaiting career at Goldman Sachs.

Parents are asked to bugger off. Parents won’t bugger off. Parents are asked to bugger off. I’m unsure how long this plays out because I’m hotfooting to Harpenden Town on a desperate junkie-style mission for espresso, leaving behind a sea of players in uniform concentration, stop clocks being tap-tap-tapped, like so many pesky mosquitoes.

On my return, Round 1 is wrapping up, and the emotional vista of the next 7 hours clears miserably. Two tots are choking back sobs while their opponents air pump excitedly. As a rule of thumb, the sort of people who play a game to win are also the sort of people who don’t like to lose, which will present a problem for roughly 70 children per round. Multiplied by 6 rounds, that’s 420 apple-sized hearts due to be broken in one extra-curricular day near St. Alban’s. You’d have to go to a Latymer School entrance exam, or steal the take-home bags of the entire guest list of 21 average birthday parties to replicate that sort of angst; so, on that front, it’s impressive.

Results just in, and it turns out Rufus mis-stepped by offering a draw whilst in possession of a functioning Queen. Meanwhile, his friend was an air pumper. This means my cohort have dodged the first heartbreak ball, and number one of a series of snacks delivering ever-diminishing nutritional returns can commence.

Many have come to witness their treasures reassuringly dis-engaged from an X-Box for 8 hours. All I hope for are some venal, pushy parents to satirise. But, for all the world, I can’t sniff them out. The crew are a mite too amiable, camping out jovially with their instant coffees and packed lunches in the school hall foyer, like refugees glad to have fled a natural disaster- indeed, casting a not unfavourable glow on the dead-eyed karate folk at Cheam gradings who make you re-assess the redeeming features of solitary confinement.

Ding- ding-ding Round 2, 3, 4, 5- it all becomes a blur.

A helper- with the looks and persona of Michael Mcintyre’s weaker twin- patrols to resolve disputes, rarely having to restrain hands behind backs with a rope. (That said, you do NOT want to mess with a 6 yr old who believes his Rook’s been swiped by foul play.)

Highs and lows ensue within a predictable paradigm; there are no nail-biting wet tyre changes in chess.

I pass into a zone of institutionalised apathy, like Dustin Hoffman at the end of Papillon feeding his chickens. Resigned to quaffing polystyrene tea on school chairs, from which I mete out lukewarm trickles of praise and commiseration, I find there’s scant fight left in me. Round 3, 33, 3,333: I’m in a place no league tables can reach.

The tykes are hanging in there. Buoyed by bouts of hide-and-seek and fruit pastilles, they’ve got the prize in sight- the one where we are all released to go home, rather than the one where they win.

In fact, the only thing I know at this point is that neither of my little buddies must qualify for the next-round Gigafinals; nothing at all has ever been clearer. It’s as if my whole life has been leading up to this moment, where I must mid-wife convincing failure.

Rufus’ friend suffers some setbacks. I manage a sad face by thinking about rain and Donald Trump. Now I need to break Rufus. He’s met with losses, too, but not quite enough, and a ball of fear is gathering in my gut. Luckily, he’s in tune (‘would I have to do another day like this?’) so I only need nurture a ‘cooler’ vibe and jazz up their attention spans with Walkers and Fruit Shoots.

Round 6 folds. The long-haul flight has landed. The kids are spent, the adults hollow and resentful. Dare I wait for the results? Do we have to stay for prize giving? Will I have a parking ticket?

Sweet Mary and Joseph, Rufus lost. So, the boys break even, and the buck stops here.

Now it’s me who’s air pumping and gathering the kids close, ready to tackle the motorway home: ‘Guys, there’s this amazing new video game, you’re gonna love it, 2,000 levels…’

*

 

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Four Seasons At A Funeral- a short story

seasons

Joey has died.

No one has kept in real touch with him (or each other) over the last 10 years, but he was a significant crew member back then. He dated most of the girls in his set. Four were seasonal: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.

Joey was James’ best mate by default because Joey was sociable, whereas James is not a people’s person. He waits at the funeral for the others to arrive. Will they have changed? Grown into themselves?

They were easy-going when he was young; you just hung out with them for different reasons. If two turned up at the same time, you could have an unexpected sort of night out. But you never noticed them. You never said to yourself, ‘Wow, I’m hanging out with Summer. Hope she sticks around a while longer.’

James operates outside of traditional signifiers. He dislikes ‘limiting constructs’. He eats lamb, and cream eggs, in August. He wore shorts in Reykjavik at his cousin’s stag do.

He sees a figure coming towards him through the church door wearing Russell & Bromley flats and dark glasses. Winter. She’s aged. 

‘Joey’s gone. It’s unbelievable.’

‘Well, he was ill for ages.’

‘I feel devastated.’

‘When did you last speak to him?’ asks James.

‘Graduation,’ replies Winter.

They sit there a few minutes.

‘I would have visited him, only I don’t like to leave the house much. I do all my shopping in Westfield, straight from car to store. I’d shop online, if they weren’t spying on me.’

She pops a pill in her mouth, nervously. James thinks better than to ask. No more fondue habit, he notes.

‘Now, here’s a pair of reprobates.’ It’s Autumn, recherché in smudged red lipstick and a camel coat, buttons deliberately misaligned.

‘Death makes angels of us all,’ she offers wearily to no-one in particular, seating herself next to Winter who turns to James, undelighted. He pulls an I-thought-you-were-friends expression.

‘She’s two-faced. And changeable. In Pinter’s pocket one minute. Then Frostrup’s. I don’t trust her.’

A heaviness settles on James. They’re an intense presence, these women. Light on laughs. Where’s Spring? he wonders. Suddenly, he’s desperate to see her rosy cheeks, her curls. 

And here she is. She’s more petite, and plainer, than he remembers.

But it’s such a relief to have her around, James finds everything she says jollier than he knows it to be.

‘I’ve bought a starter home in Milton Keynes,’ she stage-whispers to the threesome.

Autumn and Winter stare at her, waiting for better news.

‘Brian’s been promoted, and we’ve got one of these on the way.’ She pats her tidy bump.

James hears Winter make a sound like a sneeze.

Autumn peers through her prescription-less, horn-rimmed glasses. ‘Sounds very…’ she searches for the right word, ‘…hopeful.’

The congregation settles. Thoughts turn to Joey. The first hymn strikes up.

But James can hear something inbetween the organist’s chords. An insistent ‘psst’ sound, coming from the end of the pew. He looks over. Summer. Beckoning at him wildly, her spidery blue mascara lashes reaching out their legs. That isn’t… is that… a jump-suit?

Summer has broken her ankle and wants James to help her to the pew, even though that’s presumably the role of the crutches he’s now carrying. She squeezes her way in, leaning excitedly to micro-wave at the others. James sees she enjoys an easy relationship with her cosmetic dentist.

‘I’ve had a TERRIBLE decade, guys’, she shouts over Jerusalem. ‘It’s been non-stop. You have no idea what I’ve been through.’

Autumn, Winter, and Spring now gawp at her, as at a Towie star who has crashed the funeral. Autumn re-folds her hair into its vintage clip. Winter turns the collar up on her wool coat. Spring crouches to poke around for a Jacob’s cracker in her faded Next handbag. 

‘Bitches,’ seethes Summer to James, shifting her weight onto the good leg. ‘Let’s you and me drink Aperol Spritzes afterwards.’

The service wraps.

James pays his respects to Joey’s family. Skips the wake. Slinks home.

In line with the run-up to all reunions, he’d been worried he wouldn’t measure up. 

But, in line with their playing out, he concludes he’s doing life better than everybody else.

In fact, he’s never felt more anti-social, a-sexual, and a-seasonal, in all his days.

*

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The Why’s I dig you, Playdough Gentleman


You allow fork support directly into your back. And it’s not that you’re weak, or morally wanting. Your hat’s just so damn fine: it has weight. A hat like that would make any man fold in on himself.

And you’re a-racial. Crazy times, Dough Guy. Blacks and whites and shites all over, and you’re just walking by giving it pink- not mild piggy-Caucasian inverted commas pink, no. Full-frontal neon business that’s front-footed, man. Refreshing. Global ad deals, for real.

Your hat + jeans. Jaunty lean. Turned up creps. I’m human- would look enormous on your arm- might even pulverise you on a date in a very final way…But I SEE you.

You’re ‘built’. Pretty cheeky for a playdough mec, ’cause I’m pretty sure Virgin don’t do deals for your kind. So tiny you could scoot under the turnstiles un-clocked (how RAD would it be to catch you doing that?! ‘Did you… have you… that little guy…?’) And then where to? Class? Running machine only good for mushing you up. No swimming, NO. No doubt you can lift stuff. Strong, you know it. Go, Guy!

The whole point of you. There IS no point. You don’t need to exist, but you don’t give a fuck: you do. You brought it on, nonchalant, in colour blocks. Happy to lie down on a plate, not bothered one way or the other, prop-me-for-a-selfie. ‘Yeah whatever’, you’re like. Channeling some kind of Bruno Mars plasticine vibe. Elastic. Smooth. Thumb-worn.

Your cool bins to shield the sun. Or you’re partially-sighted and who helped you pull your outfit off? Matching tie to smile- Ryan’s bud in L L Land. Am I jumping to jazz conclusions? Am I wrong?

Time to go, fly Guy.

Dismantle.

Roll out.

Keep smiling.

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Unisex & Disabled

Today, we went to a restaurant called Portland for lunch to celebrate Geth’s birthday.

‘I wonder why it’s called Portland,’ I mused, questioning, whimsical.

‘Because it’s on Great Portland Street. They’ve also got one called Clipstone. That’s on Clipstone street. ‘

At half time I went to the toilets downstairs.

There were 3 cubicles.

One read Ladies, one read Gentlemen, and on the third was this:

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Apart from disabled people and impatient people*, for whom is this cubicle intended?

People who are both genders. But wouldn’t this need to say Hermaphrodite & Disabled?

People who are neither gender. Is this actually possible? Scarlett Johansson had this sort of thing going on in Under the Skin, but she was an alien. Do aliens go for lunch on Great Portland Street? Maybe. But would they get bogged down in toilet terminology? Bogged down. Maybe.

Some other possibilities that might make this option clearer: No-sex & Disabled. Sexless & Disabled. Gender Free & Disabled. Genderless & Disabled. None of these work.

People who are transitioning between genders. But don’t they identify with one gender, or other, regardless?

People who might expect, or wish for, the inside of the toilet to be partisan to neither sex. No pink loo roll dollies. No copies of What Car?

People who don’t like to be defined by gender. But would the way they use the toilet be any different to the way they’d use one of the ones that had different signs on the door? (Same argument here for what is the point of having signs on individual doors at all.) Maybe not, but the option is a mark of respect for their choices.

But is the fact that some people dislike gender labels that sensitive of a subject on a generalised level that it needs to be reflected in toilet signs? There aren’t meat apologies on the menu to vegetarians. Or political disclaimers at the bottom of the wine list. And so on.

People who are disabled AND fit into one of the categories above. This is really quite niche. I’m not sure this is about emptying bladders at this point. This is now about agenda.

Why do Unisex & Disabled go together? Why can’t Unisex run alongside Ladies or Gentlemen, in a similar way, seeing as only one usage is intended to be accommodated at any one time?

Would disabled people (if you could group them together in such a way, which you can’t, which is surely somewhere in the ballpark of why a unisex option has been created in the first place) feel annoyed if they saw someone unisex coming out of what is traditionally, primarily their toilet, even though they knew they didn’t have the right specifically, seeing as this sign designates that particular cubicle for dual usage. Would they even know if the person coming out was unisex? Would they wonder what they had in common with them such that this group of people had been given a shared billing? Because I don’t think it’s an overclaim to say that disabled people are, generally, ‘Ladies’ or ‘Gentlemen’. Which is to say not that they fit into some sort of 3rd gender category, simply that they require better access/ more room/ different facilities etc.

Why would Unisex require any of the extenuating features (exampled above) demanded by disabled toilets, anyway? Might it not be more accurate to offer the title share to sub-sections of people who could benefit from the extras? Groups Of Drug Users & Disabled. Generously-Built People & Disabled. And so on.

Would disabled people feel that Unisex had been added to their cubicle in a minority dumping ground gesture? As if everything that comes under ‘Other’ can go in their cubicle, because the perfect primary male/ female differentiator can’t be messed with in any sense. I mean, purr-lease.

If the person leaving the Unisex & Disabled cubicle actually was both unisex (by any of the definitions above) AND disabled (a niche combo, we’ve established, but not impossible), would the disabled person suddenly feel like they had less of a right to go into the cubicle, or would they just be charmed by the absolute appropriateness, on this rare occasion, of the exiting person using this very specifically-labelled cubicle?

Might they even be moved to challenge them. ‘I say- cheeky- but I can see that you’re disabled. Are you also unisex?’ ‘Take a hike! Lots of women wear slacks these days.’ (That would be rude, because the person asking was just trying to alight upon something neat and very random- not only an irresistible combination, but one you don’t get much of in life.)

Of course, they might not be this rude at all. They might say, ‘Yes, I am. Thank you for noticing. But go ahead and use that toilet without feeling like it’s any the less for you. You’re totally welcome in that cubicle. I’ll wait here, so we can figure out together how to get back up these non-disabled access stairs.’ (The Unisex & Disabled toilet was downstairs, if you were wondering if that was just a tasteless joke.)

Would children come down and think, ‘I don’t feel well represented here’? 

Babies would surely feel that, especially when they find out there is no changing bed thing for them in Ladies, Gentlemen, OR Unisex & Disabled. How bloody marginalised can you get, they’d think.

Anyway, the bathroom sinks were communal and had lovely Aesop hand wash and hand cream in I-trust-you restraint-free holders.

And the meal was really delicious.

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*People who are impatient (ie. any gender) and (separately) disabled people. Gender matters not. Ah, yes. This is the one. Sweet irony…

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November 25, 2016 · 11:02 pm

In Defence of Obsession


c-butts-detail

Two men present at the gates of Heaven.

The first tells God he’s in a relationship; has a stable job; plays sport twice a week; sees friends; does some cultural stuff; quaffs a few beers (max) at the week-ends.

The second says he is obsessed by a woman with whom he can’t have a relationship, spending hours at a time lying on a bed where he once slept with her, usually in an alcoholic fog, rolling a ruler she has touched around his mouth, to the detriment of his business.

Assuming he’s not doing one of his hmm-it’s-not-what-you’d-expect-parable-things, we think we know who God’s going to wave through, don’t we?

It’s going to be the well-balanced, healthy-living chap with the wide social circle and the almost-finished inspirational TED talk on his side table, isn’t it? It’s not going to be the lone wolf weirdo fetish guy.

This is the belief called into question by Orhan Pamuk’s engrossing novel, The Museum of Innocence, which scrutinizes the all-consuming love of guy 2, Kemal Basmaci, 30, for a shopgirl-turned-thwarted-actress, Füsun Keskin. He steals her 18 yr old virginity lightheartedly while engaged to an aristocratic beauty, only to lose himself heavily in her thrall, alone, for the rest of his 32 years.

The neat device of the story is that Kemal creates a museum of  Füsun-infused artefacts- her hair barettes, photographs, coffee cups, 4,213 cigarette stubs- that exists in the real world, at Firuzağa, Dalgıç Sk. No:2, Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

Not simply a personal collection, it is also a chronicle of political, economic, and social life in the city in and around the 1970s. (A selection of it visited Somerset House quite recently, too.)

Interwoven in the tale are themes of romantic love, familial love, companionship, recollection, personal narrative, status, suffering, and success.

But it is the value/ affliction of obsession that lingers most powerfully, as Kemal exhorts his ghost writer (Pamuk) to close this 728 page opus with one prevailing message: ‘Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life’, leaving us as readers to decide whether we would agree with him.

Is this the story of a delusional saddo, rendered beautiful by interpretation? Or, does it relate a valid and true-hearted (if unconventional) experience?

Can obsession be worthy?

Obsession is a preoccupation: if you’re in medicinal research, this is a good thing; if you’re chasing Eckhart Tolle’s wild goose of receptive consciousness, it isn’t.

We allow for romantic love as long as there are two people involved, and it is bookmarked within a reasonable time-frame; that’s OK, we think: you focus on me, and I focus on you until we’re both familiar with the view, and can start talking bin-liners.

When one person alone takes the plunge, it feels limiting, or (worse) futile. All that intense channeling, to the exclusion of all else, carries with it the implication that ‘all else’ might offer an opportunity for reciprocation that will, necessarily, be missed.

But, is it such a crisis to be in primary relationship with oneself, or with one’s passions?

Given that we all react to how we feel about things rather than the things themselves, anyway, isn’t there an honesty in indulging wholeheartedly with that communion itself? (Woody Allen’s Annie Hall masturbation quip springs to mind: ‘It’s sex with someone that I love.’)

In collecting items attached to his beloved, Kemal finds a creative expression for his obsession- indeed, the creativity becomes one with it.

He manifests memories, and makes emotions material. He curates his love artfully, processing his urges aesthetically. This means of therapy in coping with his estrangement from Füsun may prevent him from finding a cure; but, if he were to find one, where is the evidence to suggest another ‘illness’ wouldn’t simply take its place?

In fetishizing, anatomizing, projecting, and fantasizing over his amour, he gains more satisfaction, arguably, than he would from interacting with her human imperfection and unpredictability. The sacrifice, certainly, is that he fails to grow from the learning that only input from another can invite. He turns in on himself, becoming as much obsessed with himself obsessing as on his object of desire. But, in another sense, he has conquered the quest to conquer: he ‘owns’ her already.

If it seems tragic Kemal cannot enact his dreams, we might turn to his friends in Turkish society to ask how their ‘real life’ fulfillment compares. In their empty visits to brothels, and false notions of traditionalism and status, their self-realisation holds little by way of contrasting appeal; the novel’s parting snapshot of wronged ex Sibel’s rabidly functioning marriage, replete with two beautiful rugrat daughters, is surely enough to send even the skeptic racing to fondle Füsun’s cheese grater.

Ostracized from this outwardly respectable crew, Kemal finds a meeting of minds in the rubbish dens and hoardings of his fellow obsessives. Restless, and stripped of his reputation, he has, nevertheless, found a way of ordering and memorializing his proclivities in a way that speaks uniquely to him, and speaks to him uniquely.

Though driven by his desire to be in true relationship with Füsun, Kemal experiences as many blissful moments reflecting on his concept of her as he does moments of acute pain at her flesh-and-blood hands.

I think this is the dark reason obsession deserves a screwy break in the midst of its insularity: it allows for the exercise of control over intent; it gives imagination license to do its best thing: run wild in service to our joy.

It becomes a fiercer, bolder attempt to sustain happiness no more absurd than any others we undertake.

And, if we seek a sign from our beloved that we’re not alone in suffering for our desires (hoping at least to connect in our misery), obsession short-circuits this neediness by declining to reach out in the first place.

Just as a fire results from the intense boring of the sun onto dry matter in the right conditions, so obsession powers an emotional energy to life by brute will. It eschews temperance and abstinence and apathy, knocking aside the faint of heart, to put a stake in the ground.

It’s a cousin of addiction, of ecstasy, of ill-advised box set marathons.

It’s not a Cath Kidston pinnie, or a member of the gang, or a good idea.

It’s an outsider with a strong point of view that doesn’t give a flying fuck for opinion. (Yet, it will eat you up with your own saliva, too.)

Like many habits that thrill and vivify, obsession is wanting in virtue.

But, for as long as we are slaves to our cravings, it may be just another pleasurable road to hell.

*

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Songs For The Deaf: Flume- Never Be Like You

So you’re a guy, and your heart aches. Your woman has done you wrong with a new man. And she’s your woman. But she’s done you wrong.

It’s the wine-bread-cheese eternal triangle of your heart, but you’ve heard that the new cheese was indigestible: he’s history.

It’s summer. It’s the parody of a summer day. Your skin feels alive. There’s pollen in the air. A butterfly lands on your hand, and you feel open and emotional, but exhausted.

You lie down on the grass, and you close your eyes, and there she is. You can feel the sun behind her.

She sounds like smoke. As real as oak. She’s raw, and hitting you deep in the chest. And she’s sorry. She’s so sorry.

She is remorse. She is self-hatred. She loves fake, shiny things. She’s a fool. She uses strong language; it sounds nice.

Inbetween the sorries, she sneaks in a refrain, ‘He’ll never be like you’.

It’s different to the body of what she’s saying. She hopes it will enter you like a subliminal message. It’s an insistent feminine whisper.  It makes her sound desperate. It’s full of her breath, and it’s breathless.

And you can’t deny that you need to hear it.

Then something else comes into the summer softness, and it’s not a butterfly, or stray bunting on the wind.

It’s a powerful, great, thwumping shot of mixed emotions.

A heavy, resonating beat set that stirs you up.

With it, she’s reminding you of the sex, and the shouts, and the disappointments. It’s when she put her head on your lap on the plane. And the shame you shared with her. And the cups of tea. And the laughing. Her scarf. Your energy.

It’s all flooding in and mixing with her justification, her pleads for reassurance.

And there are different flavours in this emotion she’s stirring up behind her words. Rhythmical. Grounding. Skittish. They converge in your veins. You feel warm.

At 1.23 she pushes a bruise, and it’s a beautiful pain. It’s a discordant memory- something a bit off, or bittersweet, that you don’t want to remember. But you’d hate to not remember.

And she’s missing you. She made a mistake. She’s human. Can you feel that? Are you buying it? Is she getting through?

With this heat, and these deep, resonating flashes of her eyes, and this betrayal.

Then, she freezes the powerful memories to concentrate.

This is it. This is the pitch.

Just her, haloed in the sun, with her hands tight around your heart.

‘I’m falling on my knees, forgive me, I’m a fuckin’ fool.

I’m beggin’ darlin’, please, absolve me of my sins, won’t you?’

She’s making you God, with the power to forgive. A sad, little boyfriend God she knocked down.

And only you can raise yourself, with her words echoing around in your broken head.

Winding down.

But back first with the powerful jolts behind her plaintive voice. Don’t forget the first breakfast I made you. Remember the taste of me.

Not as words, but as beats of memory.

(‘HE’LL NEVER BE LIKE YOU.’)

Time now to open up the cause: the past, the breeze, the people playing catch nearby.

All things coming together to press on your soul.

Don’t let her go- your flawed, full, smokey, oak love.

Then a tiny crash, as she disappears. A broken pane.

And you’re sitting back up in the luminous day, with no thing pressing on your senses.

Just the heat of the rays on the green under your fingers.

No more flooding, by the rivers of feeling.

And she’s your woman, but she done you wrong.

And you’re on the grass in the summer, on your stony own.

 

 

 

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