Wednesday, September 18

The Flat You Wouldn’t Believe in

THE ESTATE AGENT who showed me around was, she told me, suffering an almost debilitating migraine, so she conducted the flowery sales pitch using only her bottom. Her bottom was quite the stand-in; it spoke perfect English and cleared its throat not even once; an attractive and shapely bottom that could have sold ice to the Inuit. I told the bottom that I would take the flat. The bottom and I shook hands. It was a sunny day and I felt good about my decision.
Admittedly the studio flat was small, expensive, but light & airy. Its double-height space was watched over by a tall window, entering through it a pale wintry daylight; enough for me to live by. I moved in on a Tuesday. I carried in the boxes of my possessions one by one until I had trouble seeing through the window. Beyond the window the railways ran—eight, side by side—but I could only hear them, not see them. The trains passed and I was tempted to look at them although I could not on account of all the boxes of my possessions stacked high in front.
Finally I got around to unpacking everything, setting my possessions out to make the most of my space and to make me feel at ease. I sat there in my chair, beholding everything, a tremendous stirring in my veins and feeling good about things that I really had no control over like the date or love.
Cooking filled the place with a delicious smell. ‘Even to me,’ I thought—‘this smells delicious and I think I will eat every bit of it.’ I turned around to admire my new abode—‘And the place seems so much more spacious!’
After my first day back at work, I walked in the modest front door—marked with ‘125’ in a serif and faded type—and thought that the place was actually very spacious, almost too much for me on my own and that soon I would need a flatmate, one I would find most agreeable and friendly.
Winter blew stronger onto the land; trees’ leaves wept with rain; the puddles pulsed in their patch from one day to the next. My good mood maintained. My studio flat was growing bigger and bigger. In the evenings I sat down and wrote and my studio flat kept me company so that I felt as though I were a walnut in its shell. It now took me almost two minutes to walk from one side of my flat to the other, such was its growth.
One night I met a girl who had a whole series of names for herself. She came back to mine. She said to me—‘This place is massive.’ I was very startled myself and replied that—‘Yes, it is big. I swear it’s got even bigger since I left this morning.’ ‘Left for work?’ she asked. ‘Yes.’ I replied—‘I have to work really hard to keep this place.’ She was delightful company, opening a wine bottle in one swift motion—so that I had to ask how she did it—and smiling up thunderstorms which my studio was big enough to contain. In the morning she, too, swore that the place had got bigger. It was a mystery, so I made us a pot of coffee and we considered it together, naked and small.
I passed many evenings with this girl of many names. Privacy was not an issue. Every time the studio flat grew we made love in the new space, peppering the place with the swim of our fucking.
There were a number of plastic plants I had bought to liven the room up a bit, but the flat had grown to such a size that now trees and bushes were in there; they had been planted in the streets by London Borough Council and were now entirely mine because they grew in my flat. Trains had to bypass the inexplicable expansion, causing appalling delays and costing the train companies a lot of money. My love and I sat there at the window, watching the train customers get angrier and angrier. In the distance we could see France. That was all we had and wanted.
At some point my love left me, but another came along. Sometimes the flat grew, sometimes it shrunk; whenever it shrunk, it never shrunk much. I would finger the leaves of the trees and the bushes and the wonderful landscape that I held in my studio flat and I watched the wild birds flutter underneath the ceiling and I thought I never had it so good. My love cooks spaghetti in the nude. When we make love, the pedestrians that pass through cheer us on. When I am alone I sit at the window and look out; it is enough to have everything around me because I know that it is colourful and once it wasn’t.
My most recent love is my strongest yet; she makes me smile the most, she fucks me the hardest, she is the greatest song I have ever heard and when she is not with me she is marvelous enough for me to remember and not be sad. So that is that. We spend much of our time in the flat, which I have come to regard as a friend that swells around me and warms my bones. Things are better now than they once were but I struggle to remember those times; it is as though they were another life that I broke out of. The trains have stopped running. I can no longer hear them.
My love is purring on my bedsheets.
The trees around my writing desk are exhaling softly and the birds within them are rustling to sleep; so I shall go.

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