Things I Wanted To Tell Tracey Emin
I saw Tracey Emin in a pub once. It was in Spitalfields in London. She was standing by the bar, sipping red wine and surveying the room, her head rotating at irregular intervals like a broken lighthouse beacon. I remember she was drinking out of a very small glass. She was talking to the landlady of the pub, who is considered something of an institution, but who I find rude and slightly mad. Maybe it’s me. I wanted to approach Tracey and tell her how much I love her work, especially her neons, but she didn’t look very approachable. The famous Emin mouth was twitching slightly as she drank, as if it hadn’t quite made its mind up whether to spit vitriol or warmth (or wine).
I wanted to tell her that she was the first and only artist I ever really ‘got’. I wanted to tell her, her words, scribbled and immortalised in glass and illuminated by running an electric current through a noble gas, had made me cry, as Rothko had her. Words were the only thing she had at one point. The neon reminded her of Margate, a dirty word in my house as a child. We were more Broadstairs. I wanted to tell her, “When I go to sleep I dream of you inside of me” was the most erotic thing I’d ever heard. I wanted to tell her I’d misread the ‘need to’ in “People like you need to fuck people like me” as ‘should’, and that ‘need’ had a whole host of other connotations.
I wanted to tell her we share a birthday, July 3rd, and ask whether she too routinely felt a little sad at the onset of summer. I wanted to ask her whether she thought we were both biological freaks and that sunlight has an opposite effect on the chemical reactions inside our bodies, or whether it was just the light at dusk at that time of year that triggered these feelings. I figured she’s an artist, so she knows about light. I wanted to tell her Tom Cruise was born on July 3rd too, even though she may already have known this. I wanted her to imagine what we’d be like as a trio out on the town.
I wanted to tell her how much fun she looks on the cover of Tracey Emin Works 1963-2006 and how well the black swimsuit fits her. I wanted to ask if she still has it – the swimsuit, that is. I wanted to tell her she looked happy at that moment the picture was taken. I wanted to ask her whether it’s possible to be a certain kind of happy without alcohol. I wanted to tell her I bought that book for someone I was deeply in love with and when that person held it close to her chest and told me I was great at buying presents, I felt like a sun god. I wanted to tell her the relationship didn’t last. I wanted to tell her I wasn’t surprised.
I wanted to tell her it’s not “just a fucking bed”. I wanted to tell her I used to smoke in bed, too. I wanted to tell her I spent most of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 in bed, sniffing trainer cleaner and was out of my mind when the bomb went off. I wanted to tell her that I used to think it was “just a fucking bed” until I bought ‘that’ book and that I was ashamed. I wanted to tell her I’d fantasised about having sex with her. I wanted to ask her if she’d ever had sex with Russell Brand. I wanted to tell her the model’s arse on the cover of Love is What You Want is too perfect in a bad way, but that I was glad it wasn’t her wrapped in the Union Jack, as she always looked pretty uncomfortable wrapped in a Union Jack and it made me cringe.
I wanted to tell her I was disappointed when she talked about taking drugs in Strangeland, as she had put cocaine into Room 101 when she appeared on the TV show. She lied to Paul Merton. I wanted to tell her I wasn’t a Tory. I wanted to ask her if she ever did Bowie impressions when she was with Bowie and whether he did, too. I wanted to ask her whether she planned to die in Margate. I wanted to ask her for a cigarette. I wanted her to draw me a picture of a cock and balls on a napkin and sign it. I wanted her to draw spunk coming out of it, as a favour. I wanted to tell her that she is too honest sometimes.
I wanted to tell Tracey Emin that she draws a great nude, akin to Schiele. I wanted to tell her the way she depicts pubic hair reminds me of Schiele’s head hair. I wanted to tell her I hate dogs. I wanted to hear her singing voice. I wanted to ask her if she liked pickled eggs, because I assumed she would (which is not an insult). I wanted to tell her she was brave, funny, vicious, talented, wasteful, tender, contradictory, arrogant, needy and normal. I wanted to tell her it had to be 10 adjectives, as odd numbers made me feel unsettled. I wanted to tell her that was another story.
I saw you in a pub once, I wanted to tell her. But I didn’t, I just left.
Photograph by Creative Commons