Saturday, 8 December 2012

A-Fictionelle, a new genre

This is  like  a journalist's column, drawn from life but not realistic. Imagine Suzanne Moore but not on hallucinogenic teabags.

Or perhaps it is. In any event, let's not get drawn in by de tails and de tours  such as the truth and people's  private lives, let me tell you  a story. Just as much of the story that won't get my ass sued by your expensive and  shark-like lawyers, who eat little defenseless columnists, sorry, A-Fictionelle writers like me, for breakfast.

Nothing like being in the arms of an old lover, I am thinking, while I hack away at an article for an Indian newspaper which has passed its sell by date and its deadline (they pay enough for a packet of crisps). When  a brown manila envelope is delivered by courier to my office  I am thinking what fresh hell has landed on me, now? It was a week of, well, enough. The debacle with the most recent ex ( I should categorize them  like specimens, perhaps an indexed file box filled with little white note cards under the headings:  "keeper," "loser,"  "forgettable" and "I did what?") has descended into a farce with him writing perhaps the second most boring column ever  superseded only  by last week's which was about tea cakes and train stations and how he lives to get pissed and do drugs. Lovely.

I stare at said  brown envelope and  the handwriting on the front and I don't recognize it. Cautiously I open it, half wincing, one eye closed. Good news and nice presents rarely come wrapped in brown paper.

It's a first class ticket to Paris on the Eurostar and an itinerary , two nights in a bijou boutique hotel next to the Tuilleries. I check to make sure the date has not passed, no, it's for Friday. Today is Wednesday. I think of all the reasons that I can't go. I tell myself I am going, this was the 'romance - interrupted,' by  the love affair of the last five months, we won't call him Low Life, we will call him henceforth Pond Life, because this is where he ranks in my esteem today.

I call the ex, a lovely academic. An intelligent and gentle soul who reads The Guardian and has snowy white hair and eyes like glaciers, as deep and penetrating. He has other parts that are as penetrating but I don't want to be censored by God@Google so I won't go there.

This morning, waking up in his arms,  there's a pleasant familiarity, none of the fake joviality Pond Life tried to exude with his "morningmorningmorning" and attempts to maul me before I was   fully awake. I don't do mornings well, I don't empathise with people who do. I need caffeine intravenously, face cream and to meditate before I am decent to talk to. Pond Life only woke up early at my home,  face creased like a piece of crumpled copy paper,  eyes all buggy and breath stinking like  a dog's bollocks (his words, not mine) but never at his mother's in Devon where he squats, because  he can't maintain a residence of his own. We spoke about getting a place together in St Ives, I thank my lucky stars and the Celtic and Norse Goddesses we didn't do anything too permanent. Among other things which infuriated me, Pond Life has an aversion to changing his underwear. He regularly has skid marks, so much so that he admitted to owning only 2 pairs. I bought him  some designer ones (Pringle or Hugo Boss, I can't remember)  from the House of  Fraser  one day sale event which doubled the his worldly quota of underwear but half of those are still at my home  so he exists in this reduced paradigm of reversing his underwear. I thought only teenage boys did that.

"You have lost a lot of weight," remarks the lovely academic, basking in the cold early morning sunshine of a Paris morning.

"Ah yes, terrible flu, got it off a man who got it in a plane travelling back from Brasil. Laid me up for five days, I couldn't get out of bed." That and the Pond Life Stress Diet of shifting sands, anxiety and smoke and mirrors.

"Did he come and look after you, the flu-giver?" asks nice academic who loves his mother but doesn't live with her and is training to be a counselor. I feel the onset of an analysis into Pond Life's indescribable behavior ahead.

"Um - no. He went back to Devon then flew to St Barthes for  a travel piece. But he e mailed that time."  Only because I nagged him after he had been radio silent during the week long Brasil  jaunt and said if he did it again, he could find new London lodgings. I wanted more than his communicable diseases.  I wonder why I am making excuses for a man I find risible and whose existence on this planet is so meaningless, by his own account, he might as well be dead.

"Jesus. Why didn't you call me?"

I mumble an excuse about how someone came and made fresh soup everyday and the Chinese Doctor in Kentish Town prepared a special potion of antivirals and antibiotics which finally killed the Pond Life affliction. It dawns on me that Pond Life couldn't really like women, any women. The whole saga of the relationship suddenly refreshes in context, as if someone has repeatedly pushed F5 and I realise why we were so doomed.

All those stories, poor Claudia, Cowgirl, the hippy he tried to date who was so repelled by him she decided to go off in search of her inner goddess, one night stands and one night hopefuls,  me, this litany of women like a morning register,  he has fucked and trussed up and written about, he couldn't like them because he hates his mother. Audrey, he explained to me, was a social upstart, thus betraying his solid lower middle class roots. She is a Hyacinth Bouquet  de nos jours. Born working class Essex, she married Pond Life's father, a bank clerk alcoholic (think genetics eugenics) and they moved into larger properties eventually owning the 9 bedroom mansion in Devon they turned into an old people's home. All the residents are dead, only Pond Life and Mummy live there now.   She never looked after him, she never told him she loved him when he was a child.

He said he couldn't wait to leave the house every time he returned and coming to London, to stay with me, was his sanctuary. But I didn't want to be an escape plan. He was quite horrible about her. All the women he was ever with were absolutely horrible to him. I used to feel sorry for him, thinking, "Poor Jeremy  he just needs the love of a good woman," but that wasn't quite the truth. His theory of love was that women who showed any kind of affection or vulnerability towards him were "stupid." He was unlovable, so there had to be something inherently flawed in anyone who loved him. Either that, or they were not up to scratch.  Do you see a pattern emerging? I can't say I wasn't warned . At last two of his ex lovers told me he was an emotional cripple. He told me himself. But he said he wanted to change. More fool me, for believing Pond Life's frog spawn of lies.

I remove the crumb of croissant from the lovely academic's chin, where it has fallen and he nestles back into bed, his long body settling along the horizontal, ready to sleep again. I look at the swoop of his elegant body, the  curve of  his spine and the way his head rests on the pillow and I am overcome with relief.  I cover him with the duvet and put on my coat to brace Paris chill and Christmas shopping.

This is what good men feel like.

I slip the ticket back in the envelope from the ex - interrupted.

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