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Entries in nathan jolly (10)

Thursday
Apr252013

In Which She Is All Cool And Cheekbones

The One

by NATHAN JOLLY

I can smell vomit. This is a worry, considering I am on my way to meet up with Penelope — a girl I have been in love with for far too long  and I don’t know the exact location of the scent. Is it my hair, is it my jeans or is it just the world around me, illuminated with lights and love and a tangy vomit smell? It could also be blood and bones fertilizer. I have always thought the police should be able to be called around to investigate an olfactory complaint much in the same way they are forced to break up parties full of life and love and cheer, all ended prematurely due to a Thrills record being blasted too loud. Nose pollution. Considering, scientifically speaking, that scent is the sense most intrinsically linked to memory, these people who insist on pouring death upon their garden beds should be judged much more harshly, as they are messing with makeshift moments that shouldn’t be triggered in latter years simply by passing a Steggles factory or an overzealously fertilized lawn.

Either way, I can smell vomit, and it’s making me uneasy, although I have had this stomach-churning feeling for days now. The Penelope situation was starting to unsettle me more than it did all those months ago when I first decided she was The One. I spent the week after first meeting her stuck in a dumb daze: handing my bank card to the librarian; planning dubious ways to see her; replaying conversations that must be misremembered because it was all such a sudden skidding rush; paying no attention to work or traffic; scripting words she was yet to speak  I sketched fairly hopefully in that first week. The reality of her boyfriend as an Actual Entity soon thudded into play, refusing to be shushed into submission.

I thought I could shake her from my mind easily enough by staying away and keeping busy, but every time I find myself with half an excuse to be around her, I make sure I rehearse the other half until it sounds convincing  even to myself. After a month or so we’d stopped awkwardly wrapping our evenings around mutual friend’s picnics or parties or graffiti hung in galleries. By then we were meeting in bars for no other reason but to meet in bars.

I would have happily stayed single for as long as it took me to wrestle Penelope from her boyfriend, except a girl called Mickey made it too easy for me to fall lazily into a casual-but-romantic-but-casual thing. A big part of it was, I’m afraid to say, that she did all the chasing: I wasn’t even aware I was in her sights until she had pulled the trigger and dragged me back to her house, kissing me at the train station in the early hours of the morning, all pixie-dust and pills. This occurred a number of similar ways over a number of similar nights, until we were leaving jumpers at each other’s houses, and calling at four to find out: “What’s happening this evening?” It’s a nice feeling, and Mickey is smart, excitable, sweet  and well out of my league. She leaves me funny phone messages: rhythms borrowed from books, beats plundered from sitcoms. It was fun, and easy, and unearned. And I hated myself for going along with it all so calmly. I liked how Mickey made me feel, which is a terrible reason to be with somebody. With her around I was less restless, less anxious, less insular, less reckless. I liked how Mickey could make me feel less.

I slide into Coopers and sit at the best people-watching booth I can find (so we can either laugh at people or admire their clothes), cornered and cozy. I didn’t tell Mickey about tonight; I never tell Mickey. I never would, because why would I? And anyway how innocent and easy could I make it sound if I was ever caught out?  because a) I never bring Penelope up around Mickey, and b) on paper it is all, sadly, still officially innocent. 

Penelope was 15 minutes late. Penelope was often 15 minutes late, sometimes half an hour late. It was okay, I am the same, and she never minds so I never mind. I aim to be annoyingly early, but always wander down the wrong street, or lose my keys, or slop peanut butter or something down my shirt a minute before planning to leave. Deodorant is also an issue. If you spray it on the minute before you leave the house, you may have overdosed, and you’ll be dripping two dark pools that will make you look like an overweight I.T worker who just lost a bundle at the races. So, you need to apply, wait, assess, then leave the house. All of this takes time, and when added to the minefield that is hair placement, shirt-selection and shaving without bleeding like a bullet-riddled banshee, it can leave me running frantically late to an event that I had been dreaming down the hours ‘til for the entire tired day.

Oh, there she is! All cool and cheekbones. Smiling, holding the street press, making some vague drinking motion towards the bar, that I imagine means "Want a drink?" I nod, she comes over, hugs me, kisses me sloppily on the cheek  leaving a lipstick smear that I can feel drying and tightening but leave anyway, and asks me what I want to drink. It’s already cute to me. It’s always cute. I wonder if other people see it. They must. It’s an immovable feast, an undeniable fact, a simple truth. Oh god, she must get attention from guys all day. Every day. Would that be tiring or flattering? Am I just another guy who finds her adorable and fills the loose moments in her life that aren’t taken up by her actual life? Am I a placeholder, a stilted conversation at a bus-stop, a midday movie you watch half of before hopping a bus to the actual movies? This is killing me. What if she finally decides to jump ship, but not to me, to one of the many, many guys that must hit on her every single second of her cute life?

painting by will martyr

She bought a vodka sunrise. That is cute. She has bought me the beer I wanted, yet put three straws in it. That is cute and funny. She does cute things all the time, and if I can see them, everyone can see them and she must have a string of superior potential-suitors miles long, with hordes of terrible, muscle-men strewn throughout like a red-and-khaki war scene. Tonight has to be the night. Tonight I need to stake my claim, lock this deal down, tonight, tonight. What about Mickey, though? I knew "what" about Mickey already. I had long decided what about Mickey. It’s terrible. I am terrible. I know this, but I still have the "not willing to settle" card so my conscience sits clean, albeit a cloudy kind of clean. Tonight is the night. Everything else is mere detail, to be forgotten and re-ordered and shuffled and softened. It all fits nicely under the banner of "romantic". It’s a future story for our future children, and in the future this will be as all nostalgia is: life with the bad bits cut out.

Tonight wasn’t the night. Slumped in my bed I recall the many moments of the evening ­ plotted, planned, decoded and relived in glorious, agonizing slowmo what-if-o-vision  and resolutely promise myself over and over that I am going to make this happen, and that it is just a matter of time, so therefore there is no need to rush. Things are going well, there’s no need to overthink it. Of course, I have no choice. Four in the morning is the dead of the night. Without houselights I could be in the deepest, darkest cave, or the saddest Victorian bedsit this side of consumption and rickets. It could be 1890 or 2090. Things matter more at four in the morning, and are able to be mentally resolved, but not actually resolved until the world starts up again in the morning. It’s a nice, peaceful feeling once you have trawled through your fears, decided upon a solution and can now lie under the whirling, purring fan knowing that you have the ways and means to fix this mess, to make your world perfect, and all you need to do now is fall asleep and let the construction begin in the morning…

Mickey wakes me up at 7am, standing over my bed, looking gorgeous in my room. I am annoyed. I am a terrible person, there is nothing that isn’t intrinsically perfect about this scenario, except I am tired and hungover and not chirpy and not a good person. Mickey doesn’t have a key, but I realized long ago that I have a habit of leaving the front door unlocked when I stumble home at all hours. Mickey has the day off, it seems, and thought she would surprise me with this news, and take me to breakfast. It’s so sweet. It’s too sweet. It’s too early; surprises in the morning tend to throw my entire day off track. It’s like a bucket of cold water being thrown on you, and it’s hard to recover from the feeling that someone else is piloting you through the day. All this is running through my head while I flirt and dress and pretend I’m excited and thrilled at the prospect of sitting in the sharp sunshine feigning the ability to digest food this early. It’s all getting to be a heavy weight. Mickey was meant to be a distraction from my depression, not a reminder. Eggs and bacon and coffee, it seems so American. Breakfast eaten anywhere but at home in either pajamas or in a crumpled rush-buttoned shirt and birds-nest hair seems so American to me, pulled from the wrong kind of sitcom.

What Are We Going To Do With Our Day? I wanted to crawl under a blanket and die for a few hours, then roll down a pre-prepared ramp into a bathtub conveniently placed next to my bed, then in turns blast too-cold and too-hot water into it for the rest of the day, adjusting the temperature at the merest whim. Trashy magazine, wine, hot chips, Boy Meets World, glorious recovery, post-hangover high. But there were plans to make, and places to walk to, and Mickey’s boring work friend David to run into and go for coffee with and pretend to know about computers with.

As I quickly blocked out David’s ones and zeroes, the thought struck me that I actually could not think of a way in which I could practically break up with Mickey. I usually forced these things by starting a niggling fight, which elevated into a Serious Fight with yelling and accusations and non-compatibility issues and an end result where a break up occurs in that blurred way where "things just came to a head". Mickey wouldn’t have any of this. I honestly don’t think she can yell, and I don’t think I could be any kind of cruel towards her without wanting to stop and hug her and kiss her and protect her. If I ever saw her beautiful face crumple or her panda eyes tear up I think I would feel sick to my bones. It was soft and sharp: the awful thought that I might actually be falling in love with Mickey.

+

As the sun went down on that punishing, pointless day, we ended up ducking into one of the many new small bars that pop up like picture books along this street. In this particular one, like most of them, you are somehow always in the way. It was like someone had tried to turn the twisting, narrow corridors of a disused hospital into a hip night spot, and because there was a tacky tiki motif pushing gracelessly against the sterile surrounds, everyone excused the fact that you couldn’t lift your elbows without sloshing a drink over someone, or mildly assaulting a stranger.

Over the past year these small bars have taken over every nook in the city that wasn’t already an art gallery. The state’s strict liquor laws had finally given in to the perpetual march of young people, and this newly-relaxed, divorced-dad manner has now turned Sydney into a painted playground, full of C.S Lewis-like doors, through which you could push and enter (or stumble down three dangerously dark concrete stairs into) a Southern saloon, or a New York speakeasy. This whole strip of the city was heritage listed a decade or so ago, which means that nobody can breach the exterior design of these buildings; necessity had therefore bred these pokey, two-story-high federation fronts which mask hidden worlds. There was even a bar called Dive Bar, which purposefully mirrored some of the shittier ex-bikie bars on forgotten corners ten minutes walk away that sit stagnant while people pay $8 for imported beer in a lazy approximation. It was like setting up one of those Japanese wave-making machines next to Bondi Beach and charging thirty dollars to queue and body-surf on some warm jets and plastic sheeting. I enjoy watching these bars take over and slowly change the city into what it wants to be. It’s a revolution, a daisy chain. But after about an hour of lifting my arms and contouring my torso to let a constant wash of people push past every which way in the vain hope of trying to find a warm corner to settle into, I extracted myself from Mickey and two of her second-rung friends, and left to conquer other lands  or at least find a world at the top of the tree in which I could happily stay, should the world turn.

I spent that evening drunk as death at The Union, a pub that is comforting or depressing on any given night, depending on whether I feel old. Tonight I was a fiddler, a box-car jumper, a charmer, a drifter. I didn’t know anybody there. I don’t really know anyone anywhere, although on this side of the city I’m forever bumping into people who seem to know my face. Tonight I was walking along the side of the highway in the dead of night, willing the cars to swerve and hit me or slow and pick me up and drive me to California, to Calcutta, to the Caribbean, to wherever I can land and wash my hands and start anew. There are no bad decisions that you cannot whitewash with a fresh start. What about Mickey? What about Penelope? It’s a large city. There’s a lot of large cities. So many people could be the one.

Nathan Jolly is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Sydney. He last wrote in these pages about a greater power. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

Paintings by Will Martyr

 

 painting by will martyr

"Last Chance" - Honor by August (mp3)

"Already Yours" - Honor by August (mp3)

Wednesday
Mar132013

In Which If We Close Our Eyes Maybe They Can't See Us

Greater Power

by NATHAN JOLLY

Recently I have been coming up with different ways for Steve to die. The first sees him wander, drunk on some overpriced local beer, in front of an ambulance. It is instant and public, voyeurs spilling onto the sidewalk, a few strangers crying from the terrible, sudden shock of it all. The second involves him crumpling his car into a power line, coming in from the west side of the city on a wet night. All the deaths involve traffic accidents: this form of death being both realistic and instant. I have always been aware that at any moment a car could come veering over the sidewalk and engulf me, so this completely reasonable fear entered into all my scenarios. I bet it doesn’t hurt a bit; you would pass out the minute you heard yourself scraping across the road. One flash and you are erased.

Steve is Penelope’s lumbering, hulking, philandering [citation pending] boyfriend. A mere footnote in her dating life prior to her seeing through the ruse. He enters my life far too often; first as a leech attached to Penelope at the traffic lights near King Street  which threw me to the extent that I literally hid behind a poster pole for a minute like the little cartoon character that I feel like whenever he is around  then in odd, impossible places, sneaking up on me like a phantom: in the line at the post office, standing on the corner outside Coopers (where fantasy death number one is set in my head; the blocking getting more and more precise as time goes on), even in a fucking pet store! It is always unsettling, like being caught readjusting yourself, and I am always hyperaware of how robotic my moments are during these brief windows when I can feel his eyes burning through my body, mockingly. He doesn’t know I exist. I know this. I imagine Penelope loosely refers to hanging out with ‘friends’ when she arranges to meet me; the illicit thrill I get from the knowledge that she keeps me hidden, and the implied meaning behind this, makes me feel like I have a greater level of power than I do on paper.

Penelope was different from all the other girls. For one, I didn't need to try. She was a whirlwind of non-sequiturs, questions to which she was interested in finding the answers, witty, straight-faced jokes and a superb stream of pop culture references that made me fall in love with her almost instantly. Not real love, mind  rather, a form of giddy infatuation that had me marching her down the aisle in my head and learning how to cook to impress her. And of course, she had a boyfriend, a fact she dropped in at the start of every conversation as a brief disclaimer, before launching into a flirtatious diatribe that made me wish terrible things: that Steve would cheat on her, grab her wrist too hard one evening when she went to walk away from him after some fight that started because he was insensitive and she was “mouthy”. She was all porcelain and lace, and I bet she easily bruises when he pushes her against the door.

+

Sydney is secretly aware it is the cultural center of the world and that once everyone else catches on, this era will be inundated with forensic journalists combing for revisionist rubbish until everything is stripped to its basic elements. Style matters, looks matter, but documenting it all matters more. Street press matters. Photographs matter. Records matter. We are kids at bars: California in the ‘50s, London in ’66, New York in ’77 – only geography gracelessly sloshed us half a world away. Sydney is full of girls who hide their self-consciousness in a multitude of ways: by brash heels and red lips; by jokes and sass; by miniskirts and Cosby sweaters. But sometimes the guards go to sleep, and the comments ring too true. I must admit I am drawn to these scared/swaggering Sydney girls, because they are always the most interesting.

Charlotte was one of these. Stripped to the bone within a week of knowing her, she had told me all her secrets, through cryptic asides, through her record collection, through her refusal to let me watch her get dressed after we first slept together, and through a number of other day-to-day rituals and comments that would go unnoticed by anybody who wasn't momentarily entranced by her. But as we slid out of courtship (if you call it courtship, life’s like a Bronte novel, you see?) and into an easy friendship I realized I was collecting postcards of Charlotte rather than actually relishing spending any real romantic time with her. Charlotte’s appeal was better understood in shoebox-photos of her dressed like a junkie Mickey Mouse Club kid; in videos of us at the pub waiting in the front room for the terrible bands to stop playing in the back room; in that stoned conversation we taped on my Dictaphone one evening in a townhouse that had never seen bed frames. Charlotte always dressed up in case somebody took her photo.

+

When me and Penelope collide on evenings like this, I feel that this is romance as it is meant to be played out. Not a chance meeting in a group of friends, where boredom and proximity pairs people off in a male, female, male, female march, but rather a table, a bottle of wine (each) and the knowledge that whatever twisted web we have weaved ourselves into with other lovers  who we love because we have woken up to find another year has passed and the clock now says this is a long-term, Serious Relationship with joint invitations, the meeting of mothers, and the melding of social groups until it all becomes such a blur that you can't even think of climbing out of without feeing the weight of it all  this here, with a table and a jukebox and a bottle of wine (each), is how things are meant to be, and how things Are Right Now. All the rest is just a full-time distraction, the formalities and paperwork of life, the boxes that need to be ticked in order to shuffle through your twenties.

Now is the age where you are meant to get serious about things; even if the ducks aren't all in a row, there is a loud ticking that can quite easily accent the sound of slowly-closing doors which, up until you actually thought about it, seemed wide open. All these things run through my mind, and yet, I have never actually met Steve, the subject of her hasty disclaimer (this time tossed into a rudimentary sentence surrounded by a jumble of jokes and nonsense), never seen their interplay. I don’t exist in his world. He is a major character in mine. I try hard not to watch her lips as she speaks, as I am aware this is distracting. Luckily she is leaning far too close to notice.

We shared a seat in a crowded bar one evening. I was seeing “a girl named Charlotte” as I referred to her to my friends in the months before she had become intrinsically linked to each of them. She wasn’t out the evening I first meet Penelope, because by this stage it had become apparent that we’d rather watch Wonder Years in bed than do anything else. We were sliding out of a warm drug into a warm hug. So I was out with my friends and open to any possibility  in retrospect at least. I was seated a good meter or two from Penelope at first, but as our respective friends bordered the table, starting at each end and slowly marching closer as others came in off the street, we were soon the intimately-squashed meeting point, where the forest meets the sea. From that moment on, our friends were mere auxiliary brackets, adding to the buzz, buzz, buzz of voices and glasses, the background din to Penelope’s thousand-mile-an-hour dialogue and my gin-soaked smile and attempt to keep afloat.

I love that feeling that comes when you sense you are hurtling unchecked towards someone or something. Running to something, as opposed to away from it. I had never scrambled to keep up before; I usually edit the obscurities and extremities out of most conversations, a thesaurus turning over and over in my brain, a red pen sub-editing my thoughts until I realise I am limboing too low and hop over the bar, burn the winners sash and catch a late night bus home, alone. A giddy rush or a tragic crush  it’s all the same. Falling for someone can be such a relief, despite the mess that floats around it. If we close our eyes, maybe they can’t see us.

Nathan Jolly is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Sydney. He last wrote in these pages about a box without a bow. He tumbls here and twitters here.

Images by Andrew Stevovich.

"The Radio" - Pamela Hute (mp3)

"Running Away" - Pamela Hute (mp3)

Thursday
Jan242013

In Which The City Has A Short Memory

A Box Without A Bow

by NATHAN JOLLY

Susan didn’t look like a Susan. She deserved a more exotic name, as she looked vaguely Hawaiian and windswept, the type of person who suits every cut and color of clothing, although the circumstances of her life couldn’t have been more mundane and Susan-y. A box without a bow. She worked part-time in an office that gave vague job titles and vaguer tasks, and my eyes glazed over the minute she started to veer into the minutiae of her working day. Thankfully she didn’t do this often, as she was well aware of the effect this had on most people, even though the retelling was infinitely less boring that the actual day-to-day reality of it all.

Everyone I know has worked in an office like this, where hours go slowly yet years rush by. White walls, white desks, motivational talks given by unmotivated bosses to unmotivated staff members, chipped coffee cups, passive aggressive labels on Chinese containers and Tupperware, half hearted attempts at adding color to cubicles, jokes about Mondays, photos of family members that only make the distance between the office and home come crashing into focus, blu-tack stains, people you refer to as ‘mate’ even though you’ve never said ‘mate’ before in your life, office acronyms you laugh at then start to use, 5pm crawling into view so slowly that you just want to live inside anyone else’s head because you have lived inside your own for far too long. The type of office that breeds alcoholism- not out of any real unhappiness, just due to plain old-fashioned boredom and the strong desire to fill the time with something, anything more rewarding. To feel a sense of life and warmth. To get the taste of instant coffee out of your mouth as you rush for the 5:16 train, loosen your tie and realize “I am one of those people who loosens their tie, in a business shirt, with a folded paper, on a packed train, breathing in someone else’s exhaled air, and I promised myself I would never turn out to be one of those people.

This is my air now, and this is no longer a stopgap, it is the headline, the three word title that boring, vapid people ask about at parties that I am dragged along to because I ‘never go anywhere anymore’, and because ‘they are your friends too’ – all blonde and bland, paired up with matching stories about people I don’t care to ever get to know well enough to miss when I leave – if I leave.”

Susan and I had collided one night in a pub and had settled into an informal arrangement that, should somebody hold a gun or a Sale Of The Century board-game card to my head and demand a one-word description, I would offer up meekly and with the shruggiest of shrugs as ‘dating’. In truth, at first I was more interested in her friend: a blonde fringe-y girl who had lips like Patti Boyd and who I haven’t seen since that initial evening, but as the night wore on and my pop culture references and dubious charm kept falling flat, I realized Susan was responding to me in a way I found confusing and flattering, and although I maintain that I am, on the whole, a romantic sort: it was late, I was loosened by wine and marijuana, and sometimes being lonely and being alone seem to be rather interchangeable, especially when there are so many taxicabs, bus rinks and ring roads and so, so few evenings left in which to leave a permanent mark on somebody you may one day fall in love with.

+

She looked about sixteen, swimming in an oversized jumper, and asked so sweetly for some change. I fished around in my jean pocket, but before I could act Susan cut the girl down with an angry ‘no’, which startled me with its ferocity. I involuntarily shook, like there was a ghost in my machinery. Susan didn’t notice, and I shuffled slightly out of step with her, so our footsteps were a split second out of phase, resulting in a nice percussive delay. We were on our way to the movies, she was annoyed at something else so very vague, and I pretended not to notice. I could defuse all of my past girlfriends with a series of jokes, but this just made Susan angry. “You don’t take anything seriously,” she once said, and it bothered me in an annoyingly unspecific way.

Susan hated to queue so I stood in line while she went into the bathroom. I regarded waiting in line for a movie as a vital part of the experience, for I had seen it in television shows when young, and deduced that a lot of the romance was in the anticipation of going in: the queue shuffling slowly; the smell of overpriced popcorn; the rushed chatter of others - all creating an sensory backdrop that added infinitely to the excitement of seeing a film. I never feel like going to the movies these days; it seems like a chore, but once I am there I enjoy the ritual. For me, the actual film is always secondary to all these other silly things that sound lessened when said out loud. Movie theatres hold a romance not unlike record stores or libraries. These are never sad, lonely, hollow places, in the way that a pub or a train station or a church can be, nor are they sterile like a supermarket or a hospital.

This city has a short memory. Most of the sins of the night before can be swept away by garbage trucks and cleaning crews – the bigger the city, the shorter the memory. Movie theatres are not so quick to forget: an ever-marching army of first dates and friendly outings, of laughter and tears and brushing hands on shared arm-rests. It’s relentless emotion. Susan came out of the bathroom with a huff and a hunch: “You always let people push in.”

I sat silently through the movie, holding Susan’s hand, though with all the affection that someone would apply to the clasping of a grocery bag. I was watching the moving images, but the story washed over me and the words were mere phonetics - swimming syllables without meaning. For I was thinking about that girl, all sweet and sixteen. I thought about the phrasing of her request. How it was a request, not a demand like  the junkies that cornered you and made it seem like you were looking down on them by swaggering past and not meeting their eyes - thrusting out a greedy hand as if they were a troll and you owed a golden toll. Even her grey hood, framing her face with tufts of hair peeking out from the sides made her seem younger than she probably was. A Dickens character sitting outside a Woolworths. I wondered how she came to be out there on that cement stoop at such a young age. Maybe her parents were alcoholics or the type that would up and leave without a second thought. Maybe they had died, and she was looking after her kid sister and brother all by herself. Maybe they had a home, but she went out every night, pan in hand, begging for enough to scrape together a meal for the three of them. When it doesn’t stretch, she goes without. Maybe her little brother was sick and she needed to buy medicine - although she didn’t look scared or desperate, just resigned. These things surely, surely didn’t happen in this day and age, everything is too well documented, and bills need to be paid. People can’t just die and leave a litter of kittens behind without someone in some fluorescent office somewhere noticing, can they?

Susan’s hand was cold and limp, and I realized that she had a glazed look in her eyes, as if she seemed insulted by this film. Twenty million dollars and years of passion poured into every nuance, and she turned her nose up at it. In fact, I realized, Susan didn’t even really enjoy movies. I don’t think I had ever tried to speak to her during a film only to get no response because she was that engrossed in it. She probably thought people that cried or sighed during movies were sentimental idiots, able to be brainwashed by simple storytelling techniques. She whined about her meal earlier, too, picked from a laminated menu in a Chinese restaurant near her house. She complained loudly about the food stains on the menu, and the filthy cloth used to wipe down the tables.

As we shuffled out of the cinema and into the street where the cars streamed by, the couples skipped with easy laughter, and the orange glow of lounge room lights and variety television and bedtime stories and ice cream for dessert beamed happily from behind each door, I engineered a fight about something (by now this was easy, as I was an accidental master of igniting her anger) which turned into a conversation with all the hallmarks of a breakup: different paths, different ideals, different goals, different, different, different, and while I kept my end up – cutting close to the bone with easy measured words, designed to trigger and keep up the momentum – I feigned anger at some small point that I neither acknowledged the truth of, nor even remotely cared about.

This carried on until I had made it so personal that she couldn’t do anything but seethe and spit and swear. I didn’t mean these things – or rather I did, but the passion with which they were unleashed was far beyond my natural capacity for anger. It was a fine performance, and as she broke up with me “for good” on the side of the road, I remembered that the shirt I wanted to wear to work tomorrow was still on the line, and it had been drizzling earlier. I walked home past the orange lights and the cute couples and suddenly felt an aching urge to fast forward to forty, when I had already found the love of my life, courted and sparked and tumbled down the aisle, already scoured real estate listings, and marveled at ultrasounds and held her hand through the births of each of our children – to whom I’d already read all my favorite childhood books, and taught to choose John over Paul over Ringo over George.

I had never once referred to Susan as my girlfriend, I was very careful in these matters. She never seemed like a girlfriend, that term was too cute and youthful for somebody who complained about the quality of Chinese food menus. Girlfriends tease you and make up stupid songs about stupid things and wear your t-shirts and love to watch you watch their favorite movies, and try really hard to make you call in sick just because they want you around. I half considered going past where the sixteen-year-old girl was sitting earlier, but I was kind of scared she still would still be there. I remembered my shirt on the line, and walked home, alone.

Nathan Jolly is a contributor to This Recording. He last wrote in these pages about lovely inscriptions. He is a writer living in Sydney. He tumbls here and twitters here.

"Time Will Tell" - Hospital (mp3)

"Secret Place" - Hospital (mp3)