Relatability #1: entering the week with all these grandiose ideas about how productive you’ll be but then never following through on any of them.

I follow all the self improvement sub-reddits. The ones that make you gasp and ‘gosh’ at all these humans around the world who wake up at 5am, go for a run, do some yoga and contribute more to the world before their Cheerios than you do in a full day.

Yes, I’ll say, this is my week. This is when I’ll finally write a poem every day, meditate for an hour, and work out every other day. I’ll get up and go for a jog just as dawn creeps in, and I’ll then whip up something green and nutritious in my Nutribullet before journalling like I’m fucking Ernest Hemingway.

I’ll sit at my desk and tap away at emails, words cascading down my fingers like children on water slides. I’ll break for lunch and not feel guilty about fucking off for half an hour to eat some beans on toast and maybe watch The Office. I’ll log back on and do my work and boss that meeting I’ve been so terrified about for weeks (the one where I’ll have to speak and sell our services with a honey-laced voice that only grows so sickly sweet when speaking to clients).

I’ll log off at 5.30pm and not feel guilty about not staying online for another three hours like that other girl, her icon a stubborn Shrek shade of green. It’s like a fucking challenge to find out who can stay online the longest, and who’s the most dedicated to this really-not-so-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things job. But instead I’ll shut the lid and forget about all the nothingness, and I’ll banish tomorrow’s meeting and next week’s presentation and the following month’s review from my brain as though they were cat hairs that met their end at the hands of a lint roller.

I’ll turn to YouTube for a workout that gives me electric thighs, Barbie doll arms and calves as juicy as hamburgers within a matter of weeks. I’ll see the poundage drop like Deliveroo groceries on a pandemic doorstep and I’ll finally feel chiseled and strong. Then I’ll take myself off for a shower and get in while the water’s running cold (I’ll do this three times a week to boost my immune system and tell everyone I know about it so they’re aware of how incredibly awesome I am).

I’ll apply skincare products as part of a rigorous routine to make my face porelessly porcelain. I’ll coat my hair with a masque that makes it smell like the inside of Victoria’s Secret or the Playboy Mansion. I’ll then read five thousand pages of a book, shunning Netflix for Sylvia Plath because I can learn much more through books than I can from Michael Scott obviously.

In fact, I grow so ambivalent towards Netflix that I cancel my subscription altogether. I sign out and tell my stepdad ‘no, I won’t be leeching off your account anymore’ and I bid adieu to Pam and Jim and all the others.

I’ll read a thousand books in a year. I’ll start studying beginners’ Arabic and take the GCSE in Russian I’ve been considering for a while. I’ll speak to pen-pals in unusual corners of the world and once I’m proficient in Russian and Arabic, I’ll apply to MI5 and become the next James Bond.

Oh the things I could do, if I could just get off my sodding arse.

Happy yawns

I never write when I’m happy

Except for now, while I’m bursting

at the seams with gratitude.

It’s overpowering

like water running through the pipes of the soul.

I sat on the carpet beneath the Christmas tree

and soaked up the flickering of the lights,

brushed the lukewarm, balmy carpet

with my fingers

and felt comfort envelop me,

cradle me,

shower me with its kisses.

Past experiences will always remain,

the future will always feel foggy,

I’ll always grapple with the present.

I may look upon it all fondly,

but that doesn’t mean I need it.

Notes 29/8

I don’t think it’s crazy to yearn for that dalliance

Me who always shunned settling

Forgot about the ecstasy lining the stomach

Of that faded firework

Burning brightly, licked like a lolly

The sleepover invitation

Fibbing to the folks

Getting dressed up at the step mum’s pad

Lies that taste sweet as Pink Ladies

Guilt tripping me over, loosening my laces

It’s just but it’s loathsome

Difficult to pin down

The in between time, the shuttling back from dating alley of lover’s beach

The eternal guessing game

That clips my wings and stunts my feelings

That hamster wheel forever rolling, stuck in its mindless mesh

And what if I want to get off?

What if I’ve had enough?

Thudding to a stop, wheel burns a mark in the pavement

And what if I want to get back on?

Stepping back into this scrambled wheel yet again.

Coca Cola fantasy

Beer-soaked bellies tend to bash my chair

as they rumble past, making me jolt,

drink spilling, temper flaring.

Gazing at my caramel concoction,

a tooth-fairy blend of Coke

and sickly-sweet, candy-cane Malibu.

“I’d rather just have the Coke,” I say

And the whole room chuckles

because a spiritless double or gin-less tonic

is just crazy, apparently.

Minor occasions

I’m sorry I didn’t ask you how you were

As we tumbled down the stairs

Like soldiers in formation

I’m sorry for not tapping on your shoulder

And saying howdy how’s it going

Instead of staying silent

Humming like a torch’s bulb.

You see my hair was sticking to my cheeks

Stuck something silly like a tangled mess of hay

And my face was clogged with sweat

From the day’s struggle and strife

I’d picked at my fringe and prodded it sideways

Toppling over my eggy forehead

In a bid to reduce what I saw in the mirror

A ghost, a thief, a terrifying mirage

That burned holes in my outer shell

And poured its poison through them.

You see I wasn’t in a fit state to speak to you

I didn’t want your first impression to be

A slippery, oily mess of a girl

So I left you to glide down the stairs amid a sea of strangers

While I stayed back, coolly

Deranged and broken.

When you realise he’s maybe just not that into you and everything slows to a snail’s pace and you start tearing your hair out and balling your eyes out.

The journey has come to a screeching halt

From pedal to floor

I heard its thunderous roar

As it stopped dead in its tracks.

Panic ensued

Anxiety came

Asking myself “what is this game?”

Because we’ve started shuffling cards, dealing hands

And I’m no longer chugging along sands

Of limp, moth-eaten metal

No carriage to rest or settle

Just an abrupt shove into a passerby

Flung from my seat with emotions awry

Buckle up babe it’s going to be a bumpy ride

From here on out

With this particular duvet-lipped guy.

The week after

The week after, I’ve been left with flaming wreckage. A plane engulfed by biting fire and yapping sparks has been laid at the foot of my bed like a weak old party balloon.

“Is this what courting is?” I find myself saying. Sounding strangely like a grandmother with clotted cream hair and purple eyelids.

Is it supposed to be buried beneath a flurry of sexualised messages, dirty whispers and cyber seduction? Is this how dating goes in the modern world?

These otherworldly, devilish letters and icons lead me through a maze where the end point looks to be a thick fluffy duvet and steady breathing, moaning. Crumbs lurking beneath writhing derrieres, squashed by midnight blues and swollen purples, beg for mercy.

Where’s the inane chat? The everyday tube dilemmas? The tepid English air making you croak out messages of discontent and strife?

The ‘whatcha been up tos’, the ‘how’s your day goings’ – those have frittered away in the sweat-saddled heat, morphing into ‘i want you nows’ and ‘talk dirty to mes’ and that’s where the courting feels alien. Messages sent from another planet from a little green man with an erect penis.

 

It takes a great deal out of me

I had lengthy midnight cyber kisses with a boy who looks like Jim Morrison.

The conversation grew on feeble, fecund words about sports and television. We reeled off quotes like a game of table tennis and peculiar deep self talk.

You asked me to describe myself as if I were in an interview. And after my thumbs clicked and words harpooned themselves onto my message bar (the word “typing” forever appearing) I knew I’d become stuck in the treacle-like web that is lusting after somebody I’d never met before.

It’s a sticky mess of pink and grey – a stark contrast between what you think you know and what you actually do.

He’s the Jim to my Pam. He’s the waffle I want to wake up to. The whipped cream I want to guzzle. The song I’d like to keep on repeat.

Or is he?

Maybe he’s vacuous and selfish. Artistically-driven but pretentiously-inclined. Beneath his beard are lies and beneath his eyelids are sadness and maybe he’s not what I think he is.

Still, those midnight cyber kisses prevailed. I felt my eyes become doused in fiery fatigue, begging to close, but unwilling to do so while the conversation flowed like melted chocolate.

He said I was attractive and that’s when I fell to my knees. Too busy relishing in the idea that somebody liked me, too caught up in this fleeting feeling of self-worth that I found it hard once the medicine had worn off… to be pleased with myself.

Because if I can act like that – like a slippery, giggly schoolgirl whose self-esteem bar has only just begun to lift off the ground, then I’m further back than I thought. Further down the gym rope than I’d anticipated. Further back on my journey of tube stops to Self Confidence Street or Extoverted Alley.

Eventually we said farewell. I left my phone off airplane mode, longing to hear that chipper buzz in the small hours… a sign you were thinking of me.

And then I wrestle with my duvet and push my face into my pillow and scream.

Because I don’t even know you, Jim.

 

 

Hangovers

We swigged

And I suffered through a glass of tepid, flat prosecco

(Complimentary so failure to chug was not an option)

Then the glass turned bottle-shaped

And bubbles pierced my lips and throat

And I’m pretty sure my teeth groaned after being sugar-slapped.

After three glasses each (or two?) the bottle was empty

Like an abandoned alcoholic barnyard

Snatched off our table by a server who brought us pizza too late

And our bill too soon.

I’m sitting there swigging fizz and swallowing bubbles

And then I’m quaffing double vodkas

Served in cups which are too small

The spirit explodes in my mouth like a bomb made of fiery gasoline

Meant for cars not people surely

But dancing helps, and I soon forget I’m sipping burning sludge

And it’s onto the next, and then a shot

(Because why not?)

The hangover is awful and obscene and my tongue feels like a bristly rug

That’s been soaked in alcohol and doused in fuel

My brain is fried and my lips are chapped

All this for a boogie?

I can’t tell if it’s worth it or not.

Commuter daze

We’ve simply swapped newspapers for phones. Eye contact was never there. It never had (or has) a place on whirring locomotives filled with desperate commuters trying not to fall into a piping hot well of small talk and inane conversations. Shuffling feet, iPlayer booming, podcasts streaming, face blushing from the sticky air of the 9-to-5 grind. Days of meetings, handshakes, coffee runs and espresso-coloured panics await us all. There are newspapers flirting with the grimy floors but when the train shudders to a stop and an announcement informs of a fatality, phones become second limbs. Messages spurting out from every medium and endless scrolling keeps the ennui at bay.