Florets #10: I refuse to engage
by Emma Dawson
I step out of my building and onto the common and do a little leap to avoid the dog shit that’s been so thoughtfully left for me. I thank I don’t who, maybe myself, for the wonder of seeing this offering before I put my foot right in it. It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. I used to walk into electricity boxes as a teenager, but special shoes, you remain untainted and that’s an achievement in itself. Ooo. Cute springer. It looks just like Lela’s new dog, W. G. Snuffy Walden. Lela picks the best dog names. If I ever get one, she’ll have to name it, but what if Snuffles is a one hit wonder? I’ll have to think about that. If the situation arises. There’s the restaurant that made me sign their visitor’s book every time, until I stopped going because I was out of positive feedback and I’d started making things up. I love this road. It buzzes. I feel part of it somehow, I don’t how the belonging came about. Grateful.
Fuck! I didn’t move that meeting. I’ll have to do it when I get home – remember, remember, remember. I can’t stop wondering what people from school would say if they saw me. On the way. Haven’t called Mum in a while. And I know she needs me. I still want to punch her boss, I thought I might’ve calmed a bit, I’ve been made redundant, but not the same, it wasn’t after thirty-six years at the same company. She’s petrified that she won’t get another job, nothing I say is helpful and I wasn’t trying to patronise her. That café’s where I found out I got my job. I was so relieved I cried like the world was ending and the lovely barista came and asked me if there was anything they could do. Snorted snot on them. Couldn’t quite get the words out either, so eventually they went away. I can’t believe now that I cried. Sick joke.
Was I right to wear this dress? It shrunk a bit in the wash, or my breasts grew for no reason, and now the buttons don’t hold the material together fully. Freja insisted you couldn’t see my chest through the gap, I made her look at me from different angles and with me sitting and standing. But now I feel like I’m showing off something that I don’t want to show. I remember being a teenager, a middle-aged man staring, didn’t like the feel of that look. I covered myself. From different angles. Well, she said her favourite colour was emerald green. Move on. Why Friends is unrealistic about twenty-somethings. One. They’re literal babies. In the profile pic, there was a Germanic Castle and. No. Ummmmm.
These shoes make a tap. I like the trees and wish the leaves weren’t falling. You can see the flats opposite now from my window. And the traffic. Tree’s almost gone. But next Summer, it’ll be back. And I won’t see people going places. When I fainted after giving blood, I watched the cars from my bed. I fell through a tunnel lit up by neon lines deep deep down and then I came to and realised that I was still on the train, looking up at the adverts, and there were all these people in my face, shrieking, “Are you okay?” What would they say if they could see where I’m heading? That’s stupid. I don’t care. I don’t.
I came out. Sixteen. The worst. Put back in the closet. Hurts so much I can’t even think of the details after all this time. People would say for fuck’s sakes, get over things. They’re wrong. But I want to erase it. Sometimes I want to destroy. I have no clue how I managed to delete some of it when I remember the most trivial shit all the time, but part of that memory has gone somewhere else. I’m grateful. Labradoodle! I was on Gylly Beach and a lady asked me if I wanted to hug her massive labradoodle. She’d seen me staring, with longing, and he was called Mocha and he came over and sat right on top of me and I felt so so loved. I’ve always wanted to be cuddled. Like falling into a fluffy warm rug.
I’m five minutes away. Maybe I look fine, but what if I say the wrong thing? I should cancel. I’m sick. Been sick. If I’m not ready to get through this, it would be best. No. Awkwardness is painful, but never having done this because I’m afraid, that’s worse. I think. I was never any good at this anyway. I have no idea how I got beyond that stage, but somehow it previously happened and when I was in a relationship with Yan, I found myself catapulted into seriousness without a clue how I arrived and I thought, thank fuck, I’m never going to have to do first dates and then, before I blinked, I’m here and again I don’t 100% understand how. He was very confusing. At the time, I thought it was my fault. Now, I think, what the fuckedy fucking fuck? It’s only six months since the end of five years. Still processing. That’ll keep going for a while, I suspect. Like when I was diagnosed with dyspraxia. That one’s still whirring around my brain and the reverberations sometimes feel a bit too momentous for my liking. I’m trying.
At the restaurant. Italian, she picked it. Loads of wood thingys hanging from the rafters, gives me the creeps. But she couldn’t know. That’s inner soul stuff. We’re meeting in seven and I put my lip balm on in the window, making sure to brush it off my cupid’s bow because whichever teen mag told me to make it shiny was talking out their arse. I never mastered make up. I refuse to engage now. If anybody can’t stand me without my face covered in stuff, then they’re not for me, I tell myself that, even as I think – please don’t think I’m ugly. I want to squish it. That’s normal. Of course, I’m deeply offended at the idea of anyone thinking that I’m just my body, when I don’t define myself much by it. Get my hair off my neck, where it tickles. Tie the bow on my dress a little tighter.
She’s coming down the street. Three minutes early. It stresses me. It’s perfect. Pretend not to see her. Stare at “article” on phone and be ready to look up and try to be yourself, but also limit yourself – there’s time for letting all of you blast, but for now, let’s be the, oh, what am I saying? Is this self-hatred or good advice? Would I want anybody to answer that? No! There’s an obvious answer.
You could tell her that it’s your first?