Metamorphosis ELEVEN

Posted on 12th May, 2019

Day 11


Quarterlife Crisis : Kelly Niven


I'm nowhere near the woman I thought I'd be –
stagnating and subsisting,
watching the window fill up with flies,
their corpses carpeting the sill.
Dreaming but never ever doing,
procrastinating my Olympic sport. 

An image of myself, a dead future,
scars the backs of my eyelids.
She's confident. Inexplicably beautiful.
Her hair never frizzes, skin never breaks out.
Her third book's out in the spring.
People are drawn to her like moths,
unbidden and utterly charmed,
before she chokes and dies on falsities. 

I haven't even changed out of my pyjamas,
Karl and Susan bicker in the background
and my pencil refuses to budge.
The scarlet letter I wear is an F,
marking me as an oxygen waster.
Cut me down for society efficiency.
I call it my quarterlife crisis,
the next three quarters mapped out in blood –
a repetitive doom punctuated with rejection letters. 

A route I need to rewrite,
darlings I must put out of their misery. 
I can't be that fictional glamazon,
but there's someone else I have still to find. 






The Hammering : Brindley Hallam Dennis


I knew him as soon as he walked in, though he showed no sign of recognition. 

A neighbour had told me about him. You need Robbie, she’d said. Who? He’d fixed all sorts of little jobs at her place; the jobs that get put off because to begin with they’re too small to worry about, and then in the end because they’re too many to face. Houses crumble slowly over the years. I’d reeled off a list of half a dozen little jobs to her, and she’d said, you need Robbie, and she’d slowly read out his phone number while I tapped it into my contacts.

I didn’t recognise his voice on the phone. It was just an ordinary voice. There was a hint of a local accent, though not a strong one, but people might say as much about me after all these years. We all pick up a hint of a local accent if we stay somewhere long enough and don’t hold ourselves separate. Other than that it was just the voice of an anonymous middle-aged man, well, late middle-age, and with the name Robbie.

But I knew him when I saw him. That is, I knew I knew him. The funny thing was, I couldn’t remember where I’d met him, and I couldn’t remember knowing anyone called Robbie, though I’d known a couple of Roberts over the years. He wasn’t either of them. But I did know him. There was something about his face, not something vague. Something in my memory went click into place as soon as I saw him. It was instantaneous, definitive. 

And so was the decision not to speak the words that instinctively came to me. I know you from somewhere. 

I went back through all the places I’d worked, all the different jobs, the colleagues, the clients, the inmates; residents we called them sometimes. I pictured the liaison officers, the beat bobbies, the plain clothes detectives and the drugs squad, but I couldn’t fit his face to any of those either. I trawled back further, sifting the faces of the ones I’d worked with, the ones I’d worked for, the ones who had worked for me.

Through here, I said, and I took him into the room where the work needed doing and I pointed out the little jobs, not all six. Let’s see how he gets on with two or three, I’d thought, before we go the whole hog. And there he was, with his back to me, staring up at the wall, sucking his teeth, the way they do, weighing up the job. With his back to me I realised that it was only his face that was familiar. There was nothing in the tilt of his head, no echo in the set of his shoulders, the way he stood, legs slightly apart as if he were bracing himself against the wind or on a deck, nothing that struck a chord. When he turned round and started explaining to me what needed doing, I found myself avoiding his gaze, turning my own head slightly away, pretending to be following the details of his words up there on the wall where the plaster was cracking.

That sounds fine, I said, still not looking at him. And then, have you got everything you need? Yes, he said, and I said, well, I’ll let you get on then, and I left him to it and went into the next room and stood in the bay window looking out, as if I might see him there, coming towards me over the fields, bringing the past with him like the corpses of hunted animals.

It’s not as if I haven’t remembered people, all sorts of people, from all sorts of places in the past. It’s not as if I haven’t remembered incidents, conversations, impulsive moments that in hindsight might have been better avoided. And I’ve often wondered what the people in those memories might say if I ran into them again. I’ve wondered what their memories of the same events would be, in comparison. But I can honestly say that his face had never come into my mind from whenever it was that I last saw him to the moment I opened the door to him.

What was unsettling, and perhaps this is something to do with it all being so long ago, or age, was that I didn’t even know if he was someone I would have liked to meet again, or someone I would have feared to. And I could hear the sound of an electric drill, heavier and lower pitched than the whine of a dentist’s drill, gnawing its way into the fabric of the house.

There are so many people, in the past, when you get to this sort of age, who might have thought about what they would say or even do if ever they should run into you again; people who might have forgotten all about what was said or what went on or was done by them or by you, or to them. And they, like you, might have spent years turning over in their minds the details of little incidents that at the time might have seemed perfectly normal or at least not uncommon, or at best the follies of youth; people who might not even recognise you after all those years, at least not right away, the way I had recognised him even before I’d let him step across the threshold. They might not ever recognise you unless, unknowingly, you made some face that you always used to make without even realising it, in some particular circumstances, or some little smile or grimace or raising of the eyebrows by which you’d communicate your agreement or disagreement or amusement, or contempt.

And I could hear him through the wall. He’d got a hammer out now and perhaps a chisel. Yes, it must have been a chisel. And I could feel the vibration each time he drove it against the brickwork with a heavy, slow thump. And I wondered about going back through to the room where he was working, just to look at his face again, just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken.





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