I'm sorry for my silence. I'm working on Something. I'm not talking about it here, not because it's a big secret or anything, but because talking about things that I am doing and pretending that is the same as actually doing them is the number-one most-fucking-annoying character trait I have to endure in myself.
Yesterday I sat at my desk trying to think about The Something in the broadest way I've so far managed, stepped-back and fact-matterish, not matter-of-factish, and paper and books and fragments of envelope and plates with toast crumbs and parts of maps and photographs pooled outward, ripple ripple like one of those cheesy hotel posters with the high-speed photograph of the droplet hitting the water. I spread things out on the floor. Piles accumulated around the edges of my postage-stamp desk, seaweed on the tideline, until they got dumped off the edges and replaced by new piles. I shoved at the things that had come off the desk to get at the first-generation things on the floor until I was shoving at the tenth-generation seaweed to get at the fourth-generation stuff from ten minutes ago and also where the hell is my pencil no not that one the other one and then it hit me that I needed A Wall.
You know The Wall. Like Sherlock has, or like all the cop shows have, or like any conspiracy theorist or obsessed my-parents/wife/children-were-murdered shut-in ever committed to film ever, with index cards and mugshots and photographs and newspaper clippings and maps and pins and notes on yellow legal pad paper and red felt-tip circles around things or possibly faces in photographs with big black Xs on them and some important question marks on sticky notes and the all-important pink string connecting all the dots.
I want one of those walls. I need one. It shall be mine. The living room wall has a date with destiny.
I have a shopping list. Rolls of poster paper. Pastel index cards. String. Postcards with the right pictures on them. Eight kinds of washi tape with stripes and spots, because reasons.
I possibly need a mugshot for texture. Also, I found out that there is a tumblr for the crazy wall. Because of course there is. Good job, internet.
Sometimes the trouble is that the words don't come, or they stand wide-eyed in the headlights of intention as though they might be run over if they dare to express something. Sometimes you sit and you sit and you sit and the words look at you complacently from under the couch. Sometimes words pour out of you like a little lion-faced fountain with a circulating pump and later you look at them and go buh?
But actually that's not the problem right now. Or it might be, if I bothered to find out, and I could wear the weary-but-charming face of The Writer Who Cannot but instead I am throwing a tantrum of world-crushing proportions. STOMP STOMP STOMP, XtinKaiju.
The One True Tantrum. The koan of I-don't-wanna. The laser-beam eyes of fuck-you that you turn on the unopened mail, the unanswered text, the dinner that's supposed to be organised by now, the trip that's powering anxiety nightmares that awaken you with the taste of metal behind your teeth.
I thumb the pages of my passport, dog-eared in spite of itself, with a kink in the top where I clip the UK residence permit to the back cover. There is a slightly glittery smudge on it from some eyeshadow it got tangled with once in my handbag in Germany. A photo of me from nearly ten years ago. A teeny-tiny rendition of my signature. I turn it over in my hands and try to make it into the small booklet of micro-printed paper that it really is. But no. I cannot defeat it, gently thrumming emblem of my elsewhereness. I put it back where it goes.
I had meant to tell you about my walk to Logan's Meadow on Saturday, a scant muddy handful of nature reserve on the Cam riverbank, opposite the Cambridge Museum of Technology, which used to be Cambridge's sewage pumping station. There's a flat grassy bit with joggers and this bonkers swift nesting tower which is inspired by the African sun. The Ombre Roundel. I made that up. Not the part about the African sun. That part is totally true. Anyway, behind the featureless jogger-dog-turdy bit, there is a wonderful tangle of dead trees and ponds and birches and small soft new cow parsley at your ankles like salad leaves and baby nettles and celandine and its greeny-grey hearts creeping about the twiggy bits and and moor hens skrawking in the mud and an enormous, lusty choir of tits and robins and chaffinches, nonchalant city ones, not like the shy rustics at Bradfield Wood who followed us like an FBI tail, covert and yelling alarm calls into their cuffs. Three robins are singing for their invisible fences, throats as wide as if to swallow their opponents whole, ear-splitting riffs right into my face, for heaven knows, perhaps I've designs on this tree too. Blue tits bounce in the still-bare trees, tee-CHAR, spare me half a glance, perhaps the slightest tilt of the cap. Squashed catkins in the paths like discarded bits of Nutkin.
Two boys drink and bicker on the farthest fishing platform, knees crooked proprietorially over their fallen cycles as if they might rope them like calves at a rodeo. Well, that's what you said to me, says the one in the yellow hoodie with matching baseball cap, lacing everything with eighteen more inflections than seems possible. Eyeroll, says the one in red with the matching baseball cap. They are like cards lost from a UNO deck. I don't suppose either of them have ever seen a UNO deck.
I walk home by the riverside path with mud on my boots and my binoculars magnifying the lint in my pocket, past the runners and the buggies and the families wearing ironed shirts, past the postbox wearing a spiked hat like a bit of iron-maiden salvage, past the toddlers feeding swans and the narrow boats with for sale signs and the crackle of coxboxes, past the picnics on the common. Back at the little house there is bread for toast.
Oh, man. These last few days I have felt so revoltingly embodied. This weird you live in. This bewilderingly armed sine qua non with legs. Squishy shapes that you have to clothe and corral with tools only approximately fit for purpose. Things that hurt. Hormones. Brain. Glitchy, dickish, anxiety-riven brain. Unpredictable insides that might bork out and kill you at any moment. And still with the blood. Seems like it was only last month that ... oh.
A doctor said to me while he palpated my upper left quadrant, 'I'm so grateful I'm a man'.
Because blood doesn't exit your uterus? Inter motherfucking alia, Dr Douchecopter.
Bradfield wood, eight hundred years of coppicing, mud and tyre tracks, spring spilling over the footprint-edges, wild strawberries and garlic, blackthorn exploded snow, coal tit, shy woodland robins fleet into the undergrowth, oak and birch, great and blue tits cosseted by long winter ash-and-hazel silence shouting grumpily from everywhere-eyeshot, two voles I don't see, a dog. Another dog, a man in a green fleece, stacks of fireword, pea-sticks, wattle-and-daub sticks, hedge-stakes neatly pointed like so many oversize Buffy props, humming with massed-wood magicks, the bare ash overhead rattle together. Like rigging, says Pluvialis. The good ship, nuthatch piping from the tops'l.
Sometimes you look up words because you think there might be good stories in their etymology and there often are but sometimes the dictionary doesn't know anything about that.
Today jizz, which is the flash of collected things that makes you able to identify something in the field, because there is a thing I need to tell you about the sparrows and dunnocks in my apple tree and how once I knew how to tell them apart from the dunnocks' pretty slate heads and tiny watchmaker beaks but now I know them backlit at three times the distance just because they are dunnocks and sparrows.
Actually there are a million things I need to tell you about watching and seeing and getting the jizz and what happens to you when there comes to be a flitting, fleeting, glimpsed constellation of things alive in the world which you once succeeded in identifying with the glee of being at the foot of the Master Namer and now they are simply there, themselves, perfectly themselves, arisen in a blink with their names duly attached and eventually you draw a blank in the place where once you could describe how you know them. Passer domesticus. House sparrow. Passer, sparrow. Domesticus, house, the most deeply implausible transparency in a Latin name ever to never happen again.
The dictionary lives forever with the Master Namer and reminds you that what things mean can be taken apart, until they can't. After a while its efforts are too much and its orderly pretendings that the tacit is audible too sad, and you lay your cheek on the cool pages and listen to the words whispering syntax, nonsense, syntax, nonsense like crystals forming and dissolving on the edge of solute saturation.
Sideways from my Vol A--M perch I watch very early pigeon fledglings in the maple. There are white doves at Kings and a wonderful wee gang of town-pigeon-dove mashup chicks have washed up in the little garden, two thoroughly splattered with white dove-emulsion and the other wearing only the most ordinary pigeon livery with a neat white superhero hat.
A blackbird alarm call. Capped pigeon launches and reveals a spray of pure white primaries. For what is a superhero without her cape?
Do you know what Pluvialis said today? You have done some big thinkings. No more thinking today. You should have a hot bath and read a trashy novel.
This was shameless enabling, because she knows I'm tired and scared. She also knows that you have to do it in spite of being tired and scared because otherwise you'll die of old age before anything happens, but enabling is for too many donuts and expensive handbags and ill-advised romantic hookups and hot baths when you should really be getting your goddamned shit together.