Escape from Prison Island: The Skeleton's Holiday
For this month's column Ella looks through the fables we tell as she goes to the office, takes a late night run and raises the dead.
what are days for
coming down the road with the buses yawning into life.
big red and yellow juddering sighs
and everyone like a philip larkin poem going down the long slide
and all the headlights pinpricks in the bleary heaven light, darts in its soft egg blue white pelt
at the office tinned music
i think of last night and the google man talking about soundwaves hitting ears and the point at which information becomes self
and when you look at one person, that’s a chain of other things
i’m in myrrh and soap to move boxes around a screen and read
being in an office feels ridiculous. it’s like being high. i notice the girls on reception downstairs jerk slightly after dealing with me, like animals in pain. it’s hardly perceptible but it’s there after those draining false pleasantries, like the full stop to a sentence i can’t read. being there is being in the folds of rules and i think again about this casting of self as i read a review of a book which says the book has certain tendencies which means that the reviewer has certain tendencies.
after lunch the windows are casting wobbly pools of light on the road
by the end of the day i’m glazed. and feeling a certain dispirited hostility at having tried so hard to break my mind and now here i am and it’s going to be scotch taped together again by this place with its High Windows and applause
I’m not saying it but I’m talking about coming back
The Night Run
I tried to get drunk enough to break a week long streak of going for a run at around 2am but I only ended up going running at around 2am shitfaced and enjoying it. Running during the day is pretty boring. Foot foot move. Hi how are you arms fast to the side and all that.
But at 2am there’s no one to see you throwing those arms up as your skin slides off. There is the keening pain: there is being wild on concrete. There is joy and black abandon. In the dark dark street in the dark dark night.
Super Technirama 70 Widescreen Process
I read the book Bertie recommends and hate it. Even when I’m pouring something in the sink without taking my eyes off the page or when i realise Spotify stopped hours ago and I’ve read 120 pages since breakfast instead of sending the pitch I promised or the fresh round of soon to be long overdue emails because I am still making sure I do not enjoy this book which is Sleeping Beauty for millennials.
I get irate when my phone chirrups instead of the usual junk thrill and I don’t put the book down.
I’ve been reading this book since I was a teenager. Idolizing whichever French ice queen I’d last seen or heard drowning in her own eye make-up. So cool for indulging so relentlessly in her misery. And then I became all that stuff. I found a real piece of shit prince charming to tell me I was worthless with his hands wound round my neck and that I would never amount to anything and I got in that bed and pulled up the covers and lay in it for five years, glamorously waiting to die until I almost did and then I got up.
No one turned up on horseback to kiss me out of it either. Just my mother at the airport like Demeter, holding her hand out for me to spit pomegranate seeds into.
I’m so tired of all that I tell my most uninhibitedly joyful friend. You gotta get a dude that likes your brawlic side he says. Or go back to sleep for a hundred years covered in thorns.
Someone else’s boyfriend tells me I’m like a character in a Bernadette Corporation novel and then gets cagey when I tell him his open relationship is full of the kind of shit I don’t eat anymore. What did he expect me to say? Then my boss at the poison shop tells me I’m not a writer I’m a doer. In his yeasty Irish accent he uses the same voice that opens portals to tell me I’m the kind of girl other people write about, not someone who writes. “Some writers can do both, good writers. Hunter S. Thompson could do both”. Lol. Tells me to “drop the pc shit” when I use the word universe too. This guy needs brainrinse, I think. But I don’t say so. Because I do know what kind of asshole I am and it’s not the kind that tells people who they could be.
I’m sat in front of Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection with a wedge of £1 Penguin Classics from the shop because the only notebooks available are insultingly expensive and shitty. I choose Leonora Carrington for farce and turn to the blank pages at the back.
I don’t know what to tell you that you don’t already know. It’s pretty and naïve and the wall caption suggests that the artist saw divinity everywhere and translated it from mythos into his own world with care and childish wonder and something more familiar than reverence. But you know all that if you look at the work. A print used to hang in my Religious Studies classroom on the floor below Classics with Miss Madams and I’d much rather resurrect my favourite teacher here than think about art for you. If she ever saw any of us neatly rattled girls at Big Tescos (which was the only place we had to go at that age) she would turn her clinking trolley around sighing to trail away down the aisle rather than bother with politely empty hellos. She used plotlines from Hollyoaks to explain The Odyssey and Sugababes lyrics to add texture to Medea’s bottomless feminine fury. She had big fusilli curls and never wallowed in anything. Then her boyfriend hung himself in the woods outside our school and texted her to come outside. That story ripped a hole in me.
(Appearing in a dragon-drawn chariot on the rooftop with the bodies in her arms)
Why are you shaking the doors and trying to force them open,
to find the bodies and me the perpetrator?
This is how women are, she’d said. Borne aloft by dragons, she’d said.
I sit in front of the painting and look again. The figures are there, the dusty muted tones. But all I see are people beyond the frame and Ariadne’s threads winding their way home through all of them. Skeletons on holiday just like me.
ELLA PLEVIN is a writer and contributing editor for Spike based in London. A new installment of her online column "Escape from Prison Island" will be published every last Wednesday of the month. For her August column last month she went night bus top deck Fassbinder.