Saturday 22 February 2014

Still Life: an interior monologue

Thank God, a break, a click in the back...a long...stretch, mmm. I long for a breath of fresh air but I am met with stale paint fumes and dust. What is it with artists and mess? Do we think we can get away with it? 

‘Do you want tea?’

Tea, of course I want tea, my poor dry mouth. Yes, Joey. Thanks, Joey. He looks disheveled as he walks to the kitchen. From the back, he could still be that same fresh-faced whirlwind I met decades ago. Still wearing that patchwork jacket we picked up in Camden Market, still with that awful hair, long and straw-like, unable to keep still. 


Oh Jesus, why does he have to ask every time?

‘Yes Joe, two! I should get it tattooed to my bloody forehead so you won’t have to ask again!’

He always has been up in the clouds. The Free Spirit, The Political Activist, The Dope Smoker, The Starving Artist- all these labels that he wears with such conviction. Such a cliché, but I love him for it. We are soul mates, I suppose. Except we never ruined it by getting married, or having a relationship, or going on dates. The sex, though, that was good. Oh yes, I remember snippets and it’s enough to warm me up. I’d almost forgotten those two hazy months in Morocco. The sun, to go back to the sun, the dust, the sweaty limbs, the deserted mountains, the dirty knees. Funny what can happen with a change of temperature. 
I better put my jumper back on. I feel awkward sitting here in my bra, my stomach fat folding itself neatly above my skirt. I wonder why Joey asked me to sit for him today. I’ve done it countless times before, yes, but back when I had tight skin and a poor student’s physique. He especially enjoyed painting my breasts, I remember that.

The traffic whines and fades in and out, the ebb and flow of four o’clock. Out the window, birds fly. It looks romantic out there, pastel pink and blue socks, baby mitten colours. People are leaving work, back home to their families. I’m jealous. Is my home a home? What is a home? Family? Yes, that christmassy vibe of warmth, spice racks, knick knacks on bookshelves. I wish I could go back to toys and stains, but instead my home is empty. Bare walls scream failure at me. I am on the edge, staring into future’s vacant plan. Everything crumbles. I mustn’t indulge in these poisonous thoughts, damn it, what use are these binges of self pity?

‘Here you go my lovely.’

What a sight, this is home. Joey standing there with two chipped mugs, a puppy dog slant to his eyebrows- pathetic, adorable.

‘Cheers, Joe.’

I wonder if he can tell that I want to cry, he must. But on he goes, the laid back bastard, rolling a cigarette, his feet on the table- I can smell them from here- as he whistles nonsense. 

‘Can I see it?’ 

I don’t know why I ask, he never says yes.

‘Sorry, how many sugars do you have?’

Ha, ha. A giggle melts me slightly. My worry lines are far too ingrained now, my past seems to be etched on my face, and I wish I wish I wish there was remedy. I should move to the sun and never turn back so my face is always warm. Instead I shiver, here in this damp room.
Back in the chair I go, halogen heater by my feet, assume the position. Joey fumbles with his paintbrushes and I suck in tears. Hardened old hag. This chair is uncomfortable, I feel achey and restless. Back in my college years, I would spend hours in the studio, until three in the morning sometimes. God knows why they let me, God knows why I stayed. I was never that good at painting but I loved being alone with the radio on in those spacious rooms, my oversized lumberjack shirt soaking up paint, which I secretly liked, it branded me an artist. I wonder why they hung out with me then, Joey and Dave and that lot, I was so shy and serious. Or should I say this lot, we haven’t moved on much in thirty years. Still hanging around the same old haunts, floating like ghosts of our youth. I wish we could grow up.
It’s getting dark outside, no birds anymore. London rooftops remind me of that scene in Mary Poppins. I always saw myself in a seaside cottage, mother earth with her teething cherub, watching Mary Poppins as he cooks spaghetti. He. Where is he?

I can feel Joey scrutinising, I am just a picture to him now. I should try not to frown, although my eyes might give me away. People will look and see sadness in paint.

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