I had never been involved in group sex. My curiosity was always overruled by the fear of entering into a twilight world, where bored swingers, back-rubs and Michael Fassbender’s character in Shame hung around twitching in a side-street sauna. But this felt different.
Turning oneself into a financial asset through the transformative power of a screen is little more than a simulacrum of past modes of accruing status; and yet increasingly, this is the sole method of operating within the modern media.
My grandfather once told me that he heard the word ‘Paki’ at work so often he thought it was the name of a co-worker. This was in his first job, as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport, and he told me as passing comment, made while flicking through the channels on Sky TV – it landed deep.
While some cities do better jobs than others of encouraging that salad to be fully mixed, in many cities we see fragmented communities segregated down lines of culture and interest, operating alone in the same space.
The Stoodley Pike monument has stood on the ridge of the Pennines above the Calder Valley towns of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge since 1856, a thick finger of gritstone pushed from the moorland into the wind like a finger dipped into a cooling stream.
A few years ago, I briefly dated a man whose recent ex-girlfriend was the stuff of nightmares: an ethereal giantess and beauty, an artist and musician. He was telling me about one of their arguments. “And then came the baby voice,” he finished. Wait. What? What?
At the edge of a ploughed field sits a burned-out Smart car. Its squat dimensions make it appear as if compacted in a Thames Estuary wrecker’s yard, prior to being set alight. The carcinogenic hulk against a pastoral backdrop is a particularly Essexian sight, as is the detritus scattered around it: a chalky, transparent baggie and a discarded Durex packet — Es and sex.
Brexit happened". A text from Ulijona via iMessage. "I hope you changed your pounds to dollars early". I didn't. I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to. I’d hoped it was a bad dream. “omg”, is all I can reply.
In the video for her song Criminal, I watch Fiona Apple’s body and wait for it to tell me how I should feel about her, or towards her, and in this video, the messages are mixed.
I cast around for literature, words to find myself – ourselves – in. I need to get my head around the weirdness of sharing my body with another and my changing sense of self. Pregnancy books discuss the physical changes, but fall silent on the mental and emotional experience of becoming an ‘us’, no longer a ‘me’.