Not meant to meet anyone from outside the household, emphasised in a Government ad on TV.
Went for walk in the woods, saw a fair few people out. Among them a guy in a grey hoody, stood, quite still, off the path, just staring out at nothing. I find that, as a population, the sometimes pathological levels of politeness come in handy now, as we were basically observing the two meter distancing anyway. Now there’s just the added dance, where I have to jump off a ledge to avoid an old couple.
Two days passed, I was treading water, tiring myself out. I couldn’t free myself, I was obsessed – Anne was going to trash our existence. I didn’t go looking for Salil, he reassured me and gave me happiness and I didn’t want that. I just collapsed into questioning myself with impossible questions, remembering the days before, fearing the days that would come. It was so hot – my room was shadowed, my shutters closed, but that wasn’t enough to drain away the heaviness, the stickiness in the air. It was unbearable. I stayed on my bed, head thrown back, eyes on the ceiling, barely moving and then only to find a bit of cold sheet. I didn’t really sleep, I put the digital radio on at the foot of the bed, found a synthwave channel, where they were playing their slow records, almost melody free, just a kind of beautiful rhythm. I smoked a lot, it was decadent, and I liked it. But all this playing couldn’t distract me, I was sad and disoriented.
It’s all over, we’re being let out! The virus magically disappeared overnight!
Early start today, walking in the woods. It was going to be a ‘teacher start’ which is a bit like – shall we just do a couple of the circuits of the woods at 4:30am. But I convinced my friend that we could have a bit more of a sane meeting time. Of course I’m exaggerating – I’m lazy. We did 9:00am.
Fried eggs on crumpets for breakfast with fresh coffee. Mum had thrown some seeds for the small birds onto the mossy lawn, but immediately the industrial cleanup team arrives, and spend about half an hour proceeding to methodically hoover it all up. Two mated woodpigeons, very beautiful but absolutely tactless.
The problem with a generation declaring literature to be basically over is that it deprives the following generations of the thought that their lives and thoughts might be worth novelising. It results in the experience I’ve had with Ben Lerner, Luke Kennard, Sally Rooney, suddenly recognising myself in the books, thinking – ah, so this is how novels shore us up. But then on the back cover of The Topeka School I read Sally Rooney’s comment – “To the extent that we can speak of a future at present, I think that the future of the novel is here”. And I feel strange. Does each modern novel writer think they are entourage to the last writers? Do they always feel the door shutting after them?
The extravagance of poetry is this contention that it deserves the amount of space it takes up. If done unconsciously, it can underwhelm, but with great confidence it shines. Like a single acorn sat in the centre of an small warehouse.
I imagine a solid gold maze hung from invisible wires in a large room, undulating under the diffuse light. Although for some it is not a luxury, poetry is luxurious speech.
Intermission Montage Soundtrack – Sal sailing around the coast trying to catch a glimpse of her, partying with his friends, thinking about being with another girl who he knows, then turning away at her memory. Her lying on her bed losing her mind. The sun, the sun everywhere.
The clarity of my memories from that point onwards is really surprising. I took on a greater consciousness of others, of myself, I paid attention. Before that I was always quite spontaneous, in a selfish way – it was a luxury that came naturally to me, but those few days were problematic enough that I had to start thinking, had to watch myself live. I went through all this incredible pain of thinking my life, and still didn’t end up any more relaxed about my situation. This feeling, I thought, this feeling about Anne is stupid and simple, like this need to separate her from my dad is intense. But, in the end, why judge myself? I didn’t have to do anything, I was just me, I was just free to experience whatever happened. For the first time in my life, this ‘me’, my self, seemed split in two, and the existence of this two-facedness was a massive surprise. I found excuses, whispered them to myself, feeling sincere, only to have this other ‘me’ exploding my own arguments, crying to me that I was fooling myself, even though they looked true at first glance. But wasn’t it really this other ‘me’ who tricked me? Wasn’t this obvious response really the worst mistake? Sat in my room I debated for hours whether this fear, this anger that Anne made me feel was justified, or whether I was just a selfish little girl, spoiled, just lucky to have had a false independence.
Get up too late and miss the news on the morning radio. I’m not going to go looking for news right now, so that’s that!
I get up late and have coffee and breakfast in the living room since my family are already up and working in the dining room.
I do my skipping in the morning, but I overdo it, doing about three hundred skips all at once, and end up seeing stars in he shower. Tens of little pinpricks of light that zip smoothly along random paths in the edges of my vision. I have them from time to time, like when I hit my head. I can’t find a description of this phenomenon among the pages I read on phosphenes, which are visual hallucinations of light, and can be caused by various things. I rarely have asthma attacks, and they’re always mild, but this one is quite bad and I have to lie down for a while. I end up feeling odd for the rest of the day, probably due to the steroids in the inhaler making me trip out. I watch nuclear weapons test videos on youtube to calm down, which, I think later, is just the sort of thing a character in a Luke Kennard or Ben Lerner novel would do. Something about their regulated framing, with the VHS timings in the corner and multiple views, and then the absolute difference and unthinkable power of the explosion, how it draws the earth into the air as if gravity itself suddenly gave up or reversed. I find out for the first time about the outer atmosphere tests that were conducted, resulting in incredible footage of spherical blasts in the rarified air at the edge of space. Apparently they were seeing whether they could create a radioactive layer of the atmosphere to cause nuclear missiles to malfunction. If they’d succeeded, or it had behaved in a way different to their expectations, we might have never been able to use satellites, or launch rockets without even more layers of heavy protection. People can be very stupid.
The following morning was painful. I woke up sprawled across my bed, in the darkness, mouth dry, limbs lost in sweaty sheets. A ray of sun seeped in between the slats of the blind, and dust particles floated up through it in tiny constellations. I couldn’t decide which was worse – staying in bed or trying to move. I wondered whether Elsa had come by yet, how Anne and my father would approach this morning. I tried to use them as motivation to get up, but it didn’t work. Eventually I managed, finding myself stood on the cool tiles of the room, dizzy and emotional. The mirror showed a sad reflection, and I leant my head on it. My pupils were massive, my mouth swollen. My own face looked like a complete stranger. I was suddenly struck with the thought that, since I was so weak and cowardly, it must have been down to my body, the horrible, random definition of my lips. The thought surprised me with its clearness among the wreck of my headache and myself in general. I morbidly entertained myself by hating my face. The bruise, and the shadowed eyes in the darkness reminded me of a Venetian carnevale mask, wrinkled and creased from debauchery. I began to repeat the word ‘debauched’, heavily, looking myself in the eyes, and I straightaway began to smile. All it was was a few evil drinks, a smack in the face and some tears. I cleaned my teeth and went downstairs.