Monday, December 3

The 332 Breaks Bones

There are some things you will only see once or twice in your life and there are some things you will never see, some things you want to see and some things you don’t. There are some things you see and you didn’t believe they existed, but they do! and then there are things you see that are only a tiny bit different from what you have seen before but they strike you and, o, you have never seen that before. I never saw my father cry until he was watching super-8 footage of his dead dad and his dead dad was playing with me in a garden and the colours were all magic flickering dull and beautiful where the TV bloomed in history. All the lights in the room were off and I looked over and saw his cheeks wet; my cheeks wet; should have told him it’s all right to cry. Wet surfaces are highlighted in darkened rooms.
Or you will see something that no one else is around to see. On holiday I would go down to the pool before everyone else was awake. My coffee smelled strong and the sunshine rose wet turf and chlorine to the nostrils. A squirrel came down and began nervously pecking at a discarded burger bun. Hmm, maybe it was nothing (no, not something) but I sat there and watched the squirrel get breakfast. There was no one else about, so I enjoyed the sound of the water, my cigarette, coffee, the squirrel and their breakfast.
For the last two months or so, my ex and I have been talking.
As a person of so few friends it is strange to have her returned, so strange to hear from her again, as we talk like we did before we shared a bed. It has been three-and-a-half years, which is time enough for things to change; for both of us to sink into our thirties, that terrible decade of expectation and weight. Our in-jokes remain. I note the way she has changed and no doubt she notes the same of me. It is not good to go back. One must always go forward. But to speak to someone who was your best friend, who inspired love in you, who saw you at your worst and made you your best, it is quite the unusual thing to encounter them again years later. Some days we will attempt to console the other, give advice, or we will lie in our respective beds on a Saturday morning and speak nonsense. Indeed my thoughts for her are confused and I struggle at times, but I suppose it is good to hear from old friends no matter what and one need only to confront whether or not they want to hear from them.
My school had an iron climbing-frame that we were only allowed to use in the summer. The smell of iron made it on to your hands and the smell of sweat there too. One day I saw a slug on the climbing frame, but it was bright and colourful and had hairs poking out of it and I had never seen a slug like that before, nor have I seen once since. Some things you only see once in your life. In the afternoons I would sit in class and smell the iron on my hands while staring out of the window.
I have seen her in so many ways. I saw her when she was falling for me as I fell for her. I saw her unconscious and I saw her crying. I saw her gripped by night terrors and I saw her laughing so hard that tears ran down her face. I saw her strolling down the Kings Rd and the way she stared at fireworks. I saw her before statues and sleeping, smiling at puppets and the way she bent down to closer evaluate antiques. Perhaps that is all it is with love: seeing someone how no one else sees them. Maybe you take photographs of them, so you have that to go back to when one’s memory is foggy. Photographs of them above the London skyline, lying on grass, photographs of them with family members you have known your whole life and how everything, if only for a moment, seems ordered and less frantic. Perhaps they are astonishing moments, perhaps they aren’t. You smile sweetly because the photographs of them during sex share the same roll as them reading a book or having a bath.
There are some ways I have not seen her. That time we were at the hospital and the nurse went at her with a speculum and she wept while I cowered behind the curtain, weeping silently at her pain, like my father in front of the super-8. Of course there are other ways I haven’t seen her. Some people have views that are simply not meant for seeing.
The bus driver braked suddenly as a child stepped out in front. Everyone went flying. ‘I’m at hospital… my hand is swollen and I can’t move my pinkie.’
She sent me a photograph of her hands, both of them, taken by a friendly nurse; the left was swollen. There is much going on in the anatomy of hands. There is much to go wrong. I asked if she was okay—
Fingers crossed it’s just a sprain. No—‘Hopefully it’s just a sprain.’
In February I met a beautiful woman but she had unattractive hands and I could not quite deny that all of that beauty had been let down by such an apparently trivial feature. She was so beautiful that I, perhaps somewhat unfairly, sought to find fault. I remember a girlfriend who, when we were apart, would ask me to send photos of my hands and she would masturbate to them and tell me how hard she came over my hands. It was strange, although it made me chuckle. Hands are quite important. My ex had outstanding hands. Against magnolia paint and linoleum, the kind that wraps up the edge of the wall, she held her hands out while the nurse took a photograph.
An hour later I received a photograph. It was an x-ray of her left hand. Her small metacarpal was broken, sliced through at an angle, but neatly, as though it were a root vegetable on a chopping board. She had shown me the intimate of intimates. I had never seen the inside of her body before. There were the bones of her hand. The bones were emphasised. Between the bones were gaps where the ligaments, cartilage and sinew kept it together. For a moment I imagined all the actions I ever saw her hands perform, and over the memories I lay the x-ray of her bones, flowing and pulsed, dancing in black and white. I saw where the bone was thickest and where the marrow was and that is where she made her blood, in a billion tiny factories. Maybe some of the blood I saw in her underwear or in her hair years ago was made in those hands. Every seven years you have a new set of bones; for sure, those bones had made that blood. Even amongst the bones she showed me were tiny other bones that I am sure would eventually evolve away, but not in her body.
So that was the window. That was the thing I shall only see once. How interesting to stare at the inside of a former lover, at the bones of a friend, cloudy with muscle and tissue, spread painfully for examination and then presented for show. I doubt I shall see that again. Downwards extended the ulna and radius, out of shot, where they left me.

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