Olivia made her second blog entry of the day.
October 12th 2010
Places I have visited this year in order of enjoyment (excluding work trips).
Leeds – breathless I ran for the last train home. I hadn’t realised I’d lost so much breath over the years. Where has it all gone?
Edinburgh – I couldn’t swallow when, at sunset, I crossed the bridge and saw the castle and all the light falling about it.
Liege – I ate waffles because Julia ate waffles.
Liverpool – we walked between the two cathedrals as a laser of light cut up into the night.
Douglas, Isle of Man – my father was interned here.
Brief stopover in Geneva – because I couldn’t stay too long. I kept thinking of the Large Hadron Collider humming beneath the streets. A beast asleep.
Montevideo – I ate bad beef and got terrible food poisoning. I danced with a man called Ezio.
Norwich – everyone was so young and had such lovely hair.
Pendle – home again, even if mother wasn’t there.
Each of her blog entries formed a list. She could never think of any other way to write and in truth it had become an obsession. For a while now she had completely forgotten the purpose of her blog and had written nothing but list after list of things like foods she wished she had eaten instead of the actually foods she had eaten. Once, in a fit of sleepless stupidity, she listed the men she wished she had never slept with and then the next day she listed how those men had failed to pleasure her.
She looked at the picture she had put up on the blog of herself. In it she was at least five years younger and it was summer. She was sitting on the grass in front of a caravan with a long dress, her legs crossed. She was at a folk festival in Somerset, surrounded by wildflowers and wild people. She had a wreath of daisies on her head. She thought she looked waif-like, quite pretty.
She closed the laptop and went to her dressing table. Without looking at herself she took off her earrings and rings. Then she undressed, quickly. She could feel the folds of her skin, the new fat, the new layers, the new bits of herself. They were still alien, she had not quite gotten used to them. She ran her hand beneath her chin and felt its thickness. This was the surest sign to her that she was changing. She had always had a thin, almost bony neck, taut. But now it was like a loin of pork, a great fat loin of pork with the rind left on.
Olivia slept naked despite her changed body. She folded down the bed sheets and knew she should do something, read, anything to take her mind from her changes. Her hand was on her stomach, she moved it down beneath her stomach. She closed her eyes and almost immediately, defeated, she was asleep, her hand still on the crease beneath her stomach.
When you see yourself and know that you are not meant to be there then you know things have gone wrong.
Uli saw himself in a café on Oxford Road in Manchester on one of those typically freezing Mancunian nights of sheeny pavements and drab fog. He had come down from the station. The metal staircase had been icy and difficult. The streets had a thin layer of ice on them and cars were crawling cautiously out of the city.
The café was on the corner, opposite the BBC. Two young men stood outside smoking and Uli, standing across the street from the café, saw himself immediately.
He was sitting drinking a beer, a slice of pizza on a plate in front of him. There was a woman with him. She was a fat woman and she wore a dress that was far too tight for her. Her breasts were fighting to escape the prison of cotton. This other Uli sipped from his beer and then, putting the beer down, he leaned towards the fat woman and kissed her, passionately, putting his hand on her waist. The woman seemed incapable of resisting and the first Uli felt a lurching in his stomach. It was then that he saw the third Uli.
This Uli was a mess. He was wearing the same suit and overcoat as the first two but the overcoat was covered in dirt and a pocket was torn and hanging. He had lost his tie and his hair wasn’t slicked into a side parting, it was wild, pushed back and up as if in shock. The third Uli came right to the café window, staggering towards the misty glass. He knocked past one of the smoking men and almost fell against the window.
The first Uli held his breath and his hand went instinctively into the pocket of his overcoat. This was the pocket which was torn on the third Uli’s coat. He waited for the second Uli to notice what was going on outside but that Uli was now groping the fat woman’s breasts. No one in the café seemed to care. The Lebanese waitress was cleaning a coffee machine and the only other customer was a student reading, her head down and concentrating on the book. The third Uli was crying at the window.
A light sleet began to fall. A taxi slowed down beside the café and the first Uli watched as the taxi door opened. This was the fourth and final Uli, or rather truly the first Uli in terms of that strange and inconstant line of time but the fourth to arrive on that scene. The first Uli, watching from the side of the BBC, could not remember this moment but he knew it must have happened in the past, his past.
This fourth Uli was too young, far too young, he was younger than the first Uli could remember being. He shot out of the taxi and pulled the third Uli away from the window. The fourth Uli was wearing a tracksuit and his hair was so black, not a fleck of grey. Both men fell back into the taxi and then it was gone, a shadow vanishing in the winter night.
The first Uli took his hand from his pocket and crossed the street. He stood in the exact spot that the third Uli had stood in and the two smoking men looked at him, trying to register what was so unusual about what they saw.
Uli watched through the window as his other-self kissed and groped and felt the fat woman. The fat woman’s eyes were closed. She looked like she might have been pretty once, not beautiful, just pretty. Now she wore heavy eye-liner and a deep red lipstick that was smeared and had transferred to Uli’s lips, his neck.
The first Uli felt the two men watching him and as he turned he saw their attention change to the second Uli in the restaurant. Uli liked this part of it all, these tiny revelations and he raised a finger to his lips.
“Quiet,” he said to them and both men dropped their cigarettes and hastily moved away.
At that point Uli put his hand in his pocket and felt past the cold object to the piece of paper. He took it out and unfolded it. It was a list he had printed from a blog.
October 13th 2012
Men who failed to pleasure me and why.
David Carlisle, 1987 – all wet lips like a slug sneaking beneath my door. Like a sweaty sea lion mounting me.
Andy Winscote, 1991 – too rough, I don’t even remember how this one happened, but he made love like a drill without a bit. Is it in? Is it out?
Ted Rank, 1999 – New Year’s Eve, did it in a toilet against a crooked painting of a beahc, seagulls and a fisherman smoking. Found out later he was married.
Uli Snorrasson, October 2010 – At first he was repulsed by me, couldn’t even touch me. We got very drunk on Belgian Beers but when I tried to talk about Belgian, about Brussels and Bruges, he looked away. When I finally saw ‘it’ he had the smallest one ever and I couldn’t help but laugh.
Mark from work, all of February 2011 – better than Uli, but not by much. Bigger than me, a heavy man. Like cement being poured onto my foundations.
The first Uli pushed the piece of paper up against the window. The window was wet from the sleet and the paper stuck there as he moved his hand away, the words facing inwards.
The second Uli was lifting the fat woman’s skirt with his free hand as his other hand held on to her thin, straw like hair. She had much too high a hair line for a woman. The Lebanese waitress had stopped cleaning the coffee machine and was watching Uli and the fat woman, entranced, repulsed, not sure whether to make them stop or let their grotesque show continue.
Later, the first Uli found an empty seat on the train. It was packed because of the football match and people with light blue football shirts talked excitedly around him. He could hardly make out their words he was so exhausted. He closed his eyes and he felt someone sit down beside him. He tried to focus on the idea of sleep, of a deep sleep. The train’s engine started painfully and he could smell stale alcohol and fried food. Distracted he opened his eyes. The man next to him had a Big Mac in his hands and was trying hard to focus on eating it, his eyes glazed, a program from the match on his lap. Uli closed his eyes again, the smell of the Big Mac filling his nostrils, the confused voices of the football fans becoming distorted and mixed with the sound of the engine, of a whistle, of doors beeping before closing. There was a jolt and Uli fell into a deep immediate sleep. There was a tunnel, a series of branching tunnels and after that the suburbs. In the tunnels there were odd hollows along the walls and occasionally what looked like a small office had been built into those hollows. There would be a window, a door, your own reflection and then the oppressive weight of silence.