How many more Jades will tell me they need me and say they want to see me exclusively? How many more Jades will use me to feel safe and have second thoughts on exclusivity within 72 hours? Two in one year is as excessive as it is bizarre.
I vividly remember twelve days ago, sitting in what she said was the oldest wine bar in the world when, all of a sudden, unprovoked she started saying something irrelevantly mean about me. Like the conversation, my reaction was slow, which gave her an opportunity to divert what she was about to say in a different direction.
My eyes that warned her she was about to hurt me, saw her tongue briefly being held in hesitation. There's always a reason if someone chooses not to save face. In this case, it felt like she wanted to test out hurting me, to see how uncomfortable it would make her feel. As the unveiled insult was consciously pushed into my silence, my train of thought was conducted away from the situation, towards the carriages that would take me away from the city. They weren't due to depart Euston until the next day.
Over the next 24 hours, we didn't leave each other's side, as arranged. At one point we had sex that threw the hotel room's phone across the floor. In the cold light of day, she ended too many sentences calling me “baby”. Optimistically, I hoped she was doing it to remind herself why we were there in the first place. Cynically, I feared it was a tactic to keep me around despite the way she was treating me. I'm pretty sure there's some truth in both explanations, but in any case, the obvious insincerity made my skin crawl.
Opposite my faux leather office chair, there's a block of flats guarded day and night by a thick metal door. Residents passing through rarely linger long in its frame, sometimes standing so to stop it swinging shut whilst they beckon in a companion or takeaway. Based on evidence gathered from my first floor vantage point, I would have postulated that the door was conventional, but there's a caretaker who'd disagree.
The caretaker, evidently a man of diligence, won't go through it without peering closely at the closing trajectory. Once closed, he'll often open it again gently, closely leaning in towards the fastening mechanism. After repeating a couple of times he'll go on his way with a deeply furrowed brow. He never tries to fix it. He is just fixated by it.
Even in preoccupation the door haunts him. Whilst briskly marching through the frame, the door comes slowly to a close behind him. He's probably on the way to take care of another part of the building. I watch eagerly as I know that in a climactic flash his head will always swivel around at just the right moment to see if the latch attaches the catch. I don't think he'll ever fix, avoid or understand this troubling door. Nor do I know why it's happened like this.
I sit, in my faux leather office chair, watching things like caretakers and fingertips that float across the alphabet on my keyboard. I swivel, in my faux leather office chair, often towards the kitchen, forgetting about making a cup of tea until I remember to. By which time, it's almost been made and affairs of some kind have been mentioned. I don't know why it happens like that.
You can catch me blinking in the hallway or saying definitely nothing to an elsebody. The line between thinking and speaking is usually connected, like the passing thoughts I have about you. Thinking without saying's vice versa is tantamount to throwing eyeballs at walls, where they become part of the paintwork. My self assurance has grown dangerously. If we liaised online soon, I could perform to you what has become of my poise. Sometimes people ask me if I want to go back to the office. I'm ambivalent.
I've found the closure of pubs and restaurants to be somewhat liberating because it's given me free time to explore Manchester by bike. On sunny weekdays I'll be spontaneous after work, deciding a destination once already on the road. At weekends I might bike further with a picnic and partner in crime (I mean 'crime' literally because she's from another household and 'partner' figuratively because of commitment reluctance). If you ate the compass of Manchester, it would taste a little like what you're about to read.
On the steep journey towards Manchester's highest point, a cordoned-off observatory called The Temple, Manchester's small handful of skyscrapers disappeared behind us as we transitioned past sleeping bougie bars, then bustling international shops and Synagogues. The destination bench looked out further north past two thick forests that were like opened theatre curtains revealing a green stage miles deep. It provided a moment of sitty dwelling to forget about my city dwelling. The moment was brief because the chaotic escapism of everyone else was within earshot.
One Friday night destination was Sportcity, an area made from stadiums and concrete. We took full advantage of its abandonment by riding down a long bridge at speed onto the empty perimeter of the Etihad Stadium. We did this twice and took pictures. I felt like I was living the life of a young person because in those moments I wasn't doing much else.
The busiest bus corridor in Europe has a dedicated cycle lane from which I almost feel like I can tour my impending trajectory. The University campus is prominent but quickly behind me and before and long I'm passing suburbs each seemingly inhabited by those a decade older than in the one before. Before my eyes, the houses detach from each other, birthing between them impeccable hedged barriers which one day I might spend my time attending. I sigh at the predictability, shudder at the privilege, but look forward to the kitchen space.
A lot of the main roads coming from the centre tend to incline themselves upwards. We were so pleased at discovering the flat canals as an alternative, we accidently cycled to Wigan and, another time, Warrington. As casual cyclists our trips haven't been about covering distance or planning efficient routes. They're more about eating meal deals and showing appreciation of the empty path and day ahead by saying something like
I love the contrast of abandoned spaces that show abundant signs of life. When I worked in a cafe, I'd often be alone after closing time, cleaning down silent surfaces and humbling humming machines with the flick of a switch. The purpose of everything around me, from the coffee machine to the marked walkways, would sit dormant and lifeless. Object outlines dominated the concourse, but their meaning faded without the people who gave them life. I'd pad softly across the resting floor, no longer observing the energy of the day, but feeling it all around. I felt similarly the Saturday night I took my bike past the pubs and restaurants that had been ordered to close that day to prevent the spread of covid-19.
The evening streets would normally be full of taxis unloading frivolity into seas that vibrantly flowed between drinking destinations. I'd be there amongst them, wearing jeans. That night I wore joggers as the usual commotion was replaced with only the motion of my nosy commuter bike. The would-be crowds were compartmentalised into suburbs and inner city flats, leaving me to peruse the hush they left behind. Like the peace I found in the cafe, the quiet was made beautiful by its close proximity to life. That night I viscerally felt the busyness that belonged there.
But as lockdown continues, the city seems less on pause, and more like it's crawling painfully by, as my romanticism fades. The streets move just enough to feign function and the missing bustle has become more like a fantasy than a memory. There's a sad litter-to-person ratio and the buses carry only their drivers. Posters show signs their lifespan has been exceeded by their tattiness and because they advertise mass gathering events, which are now illegal. Across Manchester, the side of some bus shelters have the big words Let's Get Together across a backdrop of a crowd of travellers. It's an advertisement for the very same train company that now frequently tweets: please avoid travelling by train unless it’s your only option. Those waiting for the bus don't look amused by the irony, they just look alone.
When I was twenty-four or one of the other ages when some say you should choose who you are, again or for the first time, I was walking home with thoughts that went a little like this:
Wintered into action, sprung into flower. Passion for a season, lust for an hour. Hunger for a reason, but with every must I cower. No one is seeking me out to
Ask me how I am. The contradiction in description would be fiction not fire. Not tiny metal canisters saw my moonlight desire. I'm wild like a flame, but by twelve just a lier. Rested on request from empty streets I tire. I confess I forget to ask how you are...
I drag a mouse all day to meet an end found in the heads of boys who are paid like men to get up from bed with work that's just some made up free time. I went to work for nine then did more at home till when the phone's clock still in my coat said it's a new day since thoughts of rest were had as if it could be done.
The foetus months felt like only days. Incubation seemed so vividly memorable, until outside took its toll. I've seen old photographs and made new ones with all my camera phones. Snap snap. My time with no direction has given me seeds of natural selection. A warm welcome to the brood of years to come.
Acres of vapid humdrum spout wispy nothings and creeping misfortunes. In desolation, nature doesn't stop feeding itself. Elsewhere the silent air hangs mightier. Stirred not yet ignited. Wincing, trapped in comfort. Degrading but dying to feel. I've looked after my body with cookies, and my tumbling mind with a song.
Naked and sweating, bathing charmed for an hour. Now I'm clothed and blogging. It's funny how we, conversation and snoozing machines, choose to be entertained. Haha! Either we hurt each other because we hate ourselves, or my perceptiveness is a little off-kilter. Is my receptiveness a little too filtered? I'll receive a fuckton of Christmas. So please, let's enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.