Saturday, May 31

Response To An Anonymous Love-letter Addressed To Someone Else

THE PAST COUPLE of days I have been losing the hearing in my right ear. My right ear is the ear on your left if you were to look at me; that is what I would say to someone standing opposite me. They would take a brief moment – recalling a childhood game – to gather their left and their right, then they would frown with mild concern at my ailment. I don’t know why the hearing in my right ear is going, but I should bid it farewell. As a child, swimming underwater in the glossy swimming pool of my uncle’s garden, it was not unusual for me take an earful of the water home with me. The water was cold and clear because he would often clean the pool, gradually working his way up and down the length of it, the device bubbling away, pinned to the bottom as if my uncle himself were attempting to push along a gondola. At times he did not clean it – for some reason too unimportant to reveal – and so the water would discolour turquoise, a teardrop of the Mediterranean. We, my brothers and I, under the bikini’d eye of my mother, would play and the water did find its way into our ear canals; lodging itself firmly and numbing all sound on its way in. It was most irritating. One would bash the side of one’s head, for nothing; then, hours later, lying in bed, the water would drip out – warm as melted wax – onto my pillow and the thrill sparkling down my spine at the sensation was enough to send me into a fit of joy.
No such meniscus victory awaits me tonight. My hearing is going.
(My right ear; your left.)
She works in a drinkers’ pub that sits on a main road against a stack of grey pavement. The air sits still in there. There is no television set, but a jukebox is regularly fingered; people tap their feet, dance alone or ignore it altogether. A pink man with a white beard is sat on a table alone with the light on him; his is the middle-distance; his watery eyes sway in the musk. He gets up to use the telephone on the wall, then he sits back down again. A very large mirror punches a hole through the middle of a wall, and across it in large letters is the advertisement for a brewery. Married couples have a few drinks before dinner to catch up with friends, exchanging laughter and rounds. Hateful white men lean at the ends, in Grecian poses, coughing racist bile on to their coasters. A barmaid is elongated, stretching for a top-shelf. Three men fresh from the bookies are talking about their day and taking it in turns. The windows hang high, wearing a skirt of lace that trembles not in the breeze from the door but in the flutter of lips.
People passing the time.
I, on my way home, stop in to pass the time, too. When I leave, I am struck by how bright the evening seems, though the sun is hidden and the traffic is buzzing. My head is all strange from the drink.
At night I am filled with dreams that make no sense. I am sitting in front of a TV personality and he tears apart my writing; another involves me learning about a bestselling novelist until the point I am insane with anger and envy. I wake up and the day is broken, filling my flat with the cool grey of morning.
Eleven songs. She made me a mix of eleven songs, describing, through the words of others, her love. In the shower, I wash myself and sing the songs. I slap my thighs as if they are drums and soap flies onto the tiled walls around me. When I walk to the tube station, I listen to it, over and over, but my right ear – your left – is going deaf, and I feel as though I am underwater.

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