Catharsis

I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. Lina was right about us drinking too much. There is a lot of free wine in the art world and it’s easy to slip into semi-alcoholism. Not to mention the middle class vice of drinking wine because your boss stresses you out. “We should drink juice more often,” I said to Lina as she woke. She smiled. “I’m going to dump Paul,” she said, “wish me luck.”

I couldn’t help feeling that I might have forced her decision. I’d used my evil mind powers to break up their reltionship. What if he was the one. Just a bit slow to commit…

She reached for her phone. “Paul, where are you today, we should meet for lunch,”

I could only hear a mumble of what Paul was saying,

“LA, when did you go to LA?” asked Lina,

There was an awkward pause. I could see Lina getting angry.

“I don’t think this is working,” she said,

“No, I don’t want to talk when you get back, because I never know when that will be,”

“I guess,”

I could hear him still shouting on the other end. She snapped the phone shut. Connie who had been woken by the row put her arms round Lina. “It’s for the best,” she said.

“I know,” said Lina, and began to cry. “I really miss him,” she said. Which was stupid because she’d only just dumped him. But then again, he had been absent for much of their relationship. I think she was lonelier than she had let on. “I feel sick,” she said, curling up in a foetal position on the bed.

We spent the morning at a female-only yoga class. I could see tears running down Lina’s cheeks as she moved. I was thinking about the Celtic hero Guleesh. Selflessly brave. His gruff exterior hiding a pure, warm heart. Born long before male-neurosis, long before the wheels of industry began to turn, long before The Man, The Man who turned everything, including love, into a commodity to be bought and sold, perhaps before war itself was even invented. Born in a primordial time. A template.

Often, girls have no voice. Guleesh’s beloved was a girl cursed mute by the fairies. After carrying her to safety, he tested on himself the dangerous Elixir of Speech, before giving it to her as a cure.

The next day Paul sent Lina flowers, for the first time ever.

Seeking Arrangements

A few days later, Lina and I went to the MAC makeup store. She was doing some publicity with them, so she got lots of freebies. They had a beautiful creamy foundation, like liquid skin in a pot. Since I moved to the city my face has been a mass of blotches and pustules. I am forever on a mission to find cover-up and cream and face-masks.

“Try this Cara,” said Lina, handing me a pot the exact shade of my skin,

The assistant bustled over to me, and lifting my face to the light, began to paint my face in sweeping strokes with a big soft brush. A pale oval, smooth and radiant. “We use this in all out shoots,” said Lina, “the camera loves it.”

It was five o’clock. We walked to Connie’s, picking up food and juice on the way. “We need to detox,” said Lina. “You Brits drink like fishes, you are a bad influence on me.”

We sat at Connie’s watching YouTube videos of Brandon Wade being interviewed on different tv shows. Wade runs a couple of dating websites where rich men can meet pretty girls.

“He’s oddly likeable,” said Lina,

“Yes, kind of harmless and geeky,” I said,

Connie was annoyed. “He’s an e-pimp,” she said.

There was an openness about Wade’s operation, and the way he spoke. In several of the interviews he was directly accused of encouraging prostitution. He calmly denies this, explaining that they are romantic relationships rather than just sexual encounters.

“The trouble is,” said Lina, “that the couples agree in advance an allowance for the woman,”

“That’s what married couples used to do – housekeeping money,” I said.

“Marriage is just another form of prostitution,” said Connie, “a way of being owned by a man.”

I could tell she was angry with me for not being angry. “Brandon Wade is an insidious bastard,” she said, “the government should be working on closing the pay gap, not legalising prostitution.” She was almost spitting as she said this.

“Don’t patronise me,” I said, trying to stay calm. I love Connie, but sometimes her intensity is hard to be around. “It’s not that simple,” I said, thinking about some of the girls I’d known who had married rich men. “There are a lot of guys out there who’ve done well in business, and want some TLC from a trophy wife, and there are a lot of girls out there who are pretty, but lack the aggression to do well in business. For some people that sort of relationship can work. If no one feels they are being exploited, leave them to it I say.” This sounded flawed as I was saying it, but I felt Connie was wrong to view the world in such black and white terms.

Lina looked uncomfortable. “Yasmin said she saw Katy at the gym,” she ventured, by way of changing the subject.

“Bollocks,” said Connie, “Katy can’t afford to go to the same gym as Yasmin.”

“I think we should stop talking about Katy,” I said. More because I was bored with the gossip about her than out of respect.

Connie made us hot chocolate, and we curled up on her bed listening to The Doors. “I’m sorry I shouted at you,” she said. “I just get so cross about men.”

“Me too,” said Lina. “It isn’t working with Paul.”

“That’s because he’s a horrible vain man who doesn’t deserve you,” I said, knowing that Lina might be hurt, but in the long run, it was kindest to just say it.

Connie fell asleep, curled up like a child. She’d left all her piercings in, but she looked vulnerable.

Image: Girl by Connie

July 13th

Another scanned page from Katy’s diary. I’m not really sure what to make of the comment about her mum (who was / is a Valium addict). Either Katy was truly trying to sort her life out and had gone anti-drugs. Or she was just being hypocritical.

July 12th

This is a page from Katy’s diary, the handwriting is ok, so I thought I’d scan it rather than transcribing. The thing that always haunts me is that she seems a bit like a little girl. Which I suppose she was.

Beauty

Lina spends a lot of time and money on her appearance. She is a sweet-natured and generous person, so it would be wrong to describe her as vain. Maybe polished would be a better word.

She goes to a salon on 47th street where she gets her hair done in a pretty but natural style, and buys products there which are made by a Japanese brand. Her shampoo smells a bit like honeydew melons. She has a great wardrobe, partly freebies from her PR job, and partly her own purchases. Her outfits always match, and are always creative. She has recently bought a selection of silk Liberty print dresses, and knitwear from Rodarte. She has a facial every two weeks with a woman named Ling, who comes to her apartment. She got into laser hair removal while it was still unheard of, and has manicures and pedicures once a week. She goes to the gym every other day, and drinks lots of water. She has a small closet of cosmetics, which she organises by colour and type. Nude lipsticks, rouge lipsticks, blushers, creams, brown mascaras, black mascaras. She works with a couple of shoe brands, who pay her to wear their pumps around town.

Lina got really sick with a summer cold, and spent a few days slobbing around her apartment. I brought her muffins and fresh coffee one Saturday morning. “Ling will be here in a bit to do my facial,” she said, showing me in, “maybe she could do you as well.”

I felt like I was being initiated into a secret society. I would be touched by the hands of the celebrated Ling, facialist to the great and the beautiful.

I could hear the heavy sound of a man thumping around the apartment. “Paul’s come over to collect his Charles Mingus LP,” she said.

He emerged through an archway and acknowledged me with a nod. “You look a mess babe,” he said to Lina. She was wearing yoga kit and no make up. Her hair scraped back into a messy bun. Her skin was a bit peaky, but other than that she looked cute. She shrugged and let Paul kiss her on the cheek as he left.

“I can’t win with him, he teases me if I spend so much as a minute or a dime on my appearance, but then if I have a duvet day, suddenly I’m queen of the slobs,” she said.

Ling arrived, a sassy petite Chinese-American woman, with the most beautiful skin I have ever seen. She carried a huge Louis Vuitton leather bag full of her lotions, and bade us both lie down on the recliners in the lounge. “I met your friend the other day,” she said, as she cleansed my city-worn face. “English girl called Katy, said she knew you-two.”

Ling’s hands felt amazing, “I’m glad Katy is ok,” I murmured, “…I should drink more water.” My skin was like a parchment stretched over the bones, tired and telling.

“This is like religion,” said Lina, from behind a ginger scented face mask. “I can feel my skin finally coming back to life.”

“That’s why people like facials,” Ling said. “It’s the only excuse for stillness in the city.” She laughed, “I don’t really buy into that woo-woo crap that some beauticians do, but I know that in the non-dualist sects of ancient India, anything can be your religion. Sleeping is holy, brushing your hair is holy, eating is holy. All atoms are part of God. Everything we do is part of God.”

I don’t know if I was really taking in what she was saying. Or just listening to the rhythm of her voice.

Marbles

It was around this time that Connie became obsessed with finding the perfect marble. She would spend hours trawling the toy stores, picking up each glass boule and examining for flaws. “I need it to be spherical, truly spherical,” she said. Rummaging through a box of glass orbs. Like tiny planets fallen to Earth and gathered up for children’s amusement.

“I had a huge bag of cats-eye marbles when I was a child,” I told her, “perhaps I could ask papa to send them,”

They were still somewhere in the house in Devon, probably on a windowsill staring out across the moor.

“The city is so square,” said Connie, “everything at right-angles, I find it oppressive.”

Spoilt children ran around us, picking out toys, and demanding treats. Frazzled mothers and over-indulgent fathers complied, seeking the quiet life. Connie held up a blue glass marble, “almost perfect,” she said, noticing a slight elongation, the hint of an egg-shape.

“You know there is no such thing as a sphere,” I said, “they’re described in mathematics, but they never occur in real life, you never get a true, perfect sphere.”

Connie thought about this. Then continued looking, holding up marbles one by one to the light. I ran my hand through one of the boxes of marbles, feeling the heaviness of the glass, and the greasy sound they made as they knocked against each other.

“What will you do when you find the perfect marble?” I asked,

“I want to roll it down the gallery of the Guggenheim Museum,” she said, as if it were obvious. The Guggenheim Museum is built as a gentle spiral, which guests walk up and down as they view the artworks.

“I like marbles,” I said, “they are one of the few gender-neutral toys we have left.”

“I’d not thought of that,” said Connie.

She looked sad. “None of these are quite right,” she said, looking at the box of marbles. “I’m not going to find it today, I can tell.”

We left the shop and walked across the park, the living sun high in the sky. Throwing mottled shadows through the tress, and gently baking the walkers in the park, skin turning slowly brown, freckles appearing, and beads of sweat forming on brows.

“Everyone is different,” I said, looking at the medley of people in the park. “But really close up, or really far away, everyone looks the same.”

Image: Marblescollage by Connie

Last night’s dress

I saw Rupert again. He took me on the ferry to Staten Island. “I want to go somewhere out of the way,” I told him. So he took me to an Italian bistro I’d never heard of. It was cheap and delicious. We went for a walk along the jetty. “I like the night air,” I said. “It’s cold and I can feel the salt.”

“You’re very pretty,” he told me.

“I don’t want you to like me in that way,” I said, “because I won’t always look like this.”

I find the sea hypnotic. I guess it’s the closest thing I have to religion, standing on the end of a pier watching the ripples as they flow under me, until I become dizzy and forget who I am.

I slept over at Rupert’s. I don’t really know why. I was woken by his alarm clock, and the sun coming in through curtains we’d forgotten to close. My mouth was dry, so I thought about putting it under the kitchen tap. Un-ladylike. But he can accept me how I am or not at all.

Putting on last night’s dress, “I won’t stay for breakfast,” I said. Fastening on my gold earrings. Heavy orbs. My hair still big with lacquer. He pulled me to him, in front of the large fridge and tried to kiss me. In truth I am hungry but would rather eat breakfast alone. I wonder if I can get away with this dress for the office. Hmm. But I have a shawl in my bag and a pair of flat shoes in my desk draw, that will seem casual enough. 

“Why are you being like this babe?” asked Rupert,

“Like what?” I snapped,

I felt claustrophobic in the apartment. I don’t think I want this, I don’t want to be the girl he calls when he has nothing to do on Wednesday night.

“You’re running away,” he said,

“No, I have to get to work,”

“Call me later,” he said.

I walked to the metro thinking about the lady-sculptress in California who had built an installation out of six billion grains of salt. Taking grains out every day for the people who had died, and putting some in for the people who had been born. We’re all just made of salt, I thought. What is all this really about.

Image: Seashells print, by Connie