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I can hear everything inside my little heart // 17 Sep 2014

She held the pen precisely, with force, control. Her left hand is spread, holding down her diary’s fiddly, springy pages with their golden edges, fingerprints pushing on a well trodden spot. There were words above where she hovered, crossings-out, capitals, not cursive. Thoughts, perhaps, or more accurately, memories. Small pieces of a past that was slithering out of her grasp, ripping from her fingertips and running, fast, fast, faster than she could keep up with, away from the bulb. The anti-moths. They started slowly, borrowing words and replacing them on the wrong shelves. There’s a swarm now, stealing letters, the fronts of words, the sense of language. Still she gripped the biro, her nails whitening, her eyes searching.

K

k…

k.

He’s put his knife and fork down now, the bloody steak too heavy to go with this weightlessness of sadness, of realisation. Understanding that now, her alphabet is being harvested, preyed upon. Mine is too much, too. Lamb shank sits on its bone, hugging its lifelong, final ride.

Kicking K, he says, reverting to something stupid, something that worked with their babies more than thirty years ago. She slowly, carefully, draws a C.

It comes. K!

So silly.

I, I say.

Here arrives an A, O. Oh, I.

The unmoths are getting away with Ks and Is. Ts and Vs. They’ve got away with much more than that already.

I can hear everything inside my little heart, she says, an oily squiggle of salty eye makeup running down and over her jawbone, still strong, loveliness not a far away thing. Too lovely for this. But the thieves won’t listen. Every day, they plunge further from the light, their snatched loot leaving a hovering pen with holes left to write.

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Beauty map, part 1 // 4 April 2012

The plastic surgeon who gives his 16-year-old daughter and her friends boob jobs, Botox and lip fillers. The New Jersey parents who spent $45,000 on their son’s first birthday. The woman who lost 500lbs. The 45-year-old who claims that every time she has plastic surgery, she gets a promotion at her Wall Street job. The manorexia, celebrity adoptions, diet fads and sardonically ubiquitous therapy. I wrote about all of them.

I’m pondering my nine months in New York City. Not long enough, to be sure, to really understand a country, but more than enough time to be struck by jarring differences in approaches, culture and consciousness.

Where is America (though they are by no means alone) going wrong – economy and food systems aside – to produce such a heady cocktail of image-obsessed insecurity when it comes to ideas of beauty? In certain lights, celebrity, fame, money and everything in between come together under the guise of opportunity and to the obfuscation of so much that really matters.

Nine months is all it took to feel bombarded to the point of frustration by the lemming-like procession of identikit politicos, the carbon copy TV anchors, the whitened teeth, blow-out hairstyles and the very same pout, nose and chin shape – ‘God’s gifts’ – adorning a frighteningly large number of prominent women… and, more often, men.

But what’s caused this freakish take on beauty?

It’s a huge enough topic to warrant (another) book unto itself. And, for now, a mind splurge over a drink… More to come.

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These hands // 26 March 2012

I’m en route from Manhattan to Bondi via Zermatt, Melksham and Dubai. As ever, I’m taking commissions, writing features and working on ditties and projects along the way.

//

My hands look old today. My wicks are curled and that scar from a freezing November astroturf collision is brighter pink than usual. The skin is translucent, milky in areas, folding, like a crust on drying mud, as it rolls over chicken bone fingers and sinews.

But it’s strong: the pillowy muscles and meandering puffy veins push between tendons as they rise to meet the flow of force from the authoritative arm.

I mean to have manicures, I do. But a meal, a drink with friends, a run in cool rain on a clatteringly alive bridge across the East River wins, time and time again. It chips, anyway.

They’re the same hands that wrap around the yellow poles on the 328, gripping as we lurch on the bend to the Great Western Road. They’re the same hands that wobblingly held a mascara wand, aged 12, coating lashes too young to understand for whom the paint was directed. They’ve cooked mezze feasts – spreads of love and hungoverly high ambitions – and swung bats. They’ve gingerly pinched rolled notes and furiously attempted to unpick, bash and then wallop down locked doors.

They’ve tenderly stroked, lingered on that part of the neck where the softest down merges into the hairline and they’ve tightened, rubbed and naively wandered… and wondered. They’ve punctured rolling domes of fresh powder and pricked needles through resistant belly skin, sliding into the buttery flesh below.

They’ve been lifted from sweetly swinging motion – coated above by layers of wool and waxed cottonĀ  – and they’ve been taken into yours, and held.

A burn mark and two red knicks into the surface of the right. A pink gold serpent ring, a speck of dirt under a nail to the left. And those tiny, marching, riverine wrinkles.

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Deli on West Broadway // 01 December 2011

The Puerto Ricans behind the hot foods counter don’t talk to the sushi guy to their right. He silently tends to his sweet bundles, shining black skins and powdery dollops of mint green, not looking left.

But the Puerto Ricans talk to each other. In muffled, joking Spanish, they throw home-town comments away from the glass-topped, scalloped cream cheese bowls and towards the bank of steel microwaves. It’s dirty humour, harmless wry perviness about the girl who comes in, asking for a vegetables wrap, no cheese, every second day. She hates too much the mozarella, they say, enveloping each soft consonant with cavelike, bear shoulders. But she’s too skinny. Flakita!

The Chinese ladies at the till don’t speak English, save for numbers. One apple? One dorrar. They too don’t speak to the sushi guy on their left but they bark, unsmilingly at their clients, tout droite.

The sushi guy, meditative and coy, checks the free miso urn. A stir unsettles the proteins into a rolling cloud flurry like a snowglobe, flecks of seaweed caught in its currents. The Puerto Ricans stole the only block of tofu. He blinks, the steam has turned his glasses to blind light. He’s thinking of his daughter’s birthday, tomorrow. She will be six. He nods at the girl as she walks past with her wrap. She smiles. Always walks past, he wonders.

The suited man – thin, black necktie and sharply white shirt – orders a New York Hero. The whirring meat-cutting blade makes its way through a giant, red-centred hunk of beef. The sushi guy’s gaze turns to the bloody meat and the shining, plastic wrapped hands and brown arms gripping its deadweight. Candles, he remembers.

Seven tirty, the till woman tells the girl, her free hand holding a daffodil yellow umbrella. No, she says, no bag to carry her lunch, thank you. Next!

Elephantine roses, $4 a pop. Lily stems a metre tall. Curling petals and brash pink chrysanthemums crowd the door. Rain’s coming down now and the red awning shelters the oversized blooms outside the worldly little shop of horrors. The Chinese women stare out the splashes thrown onto the pavement by passing cars, a sports car sits empty outside the Grand, opposite.

A limousine pulls over in front of the expensive hotel and a bell-boy runs, black umbrella aloft, to meet the opening back right door. He glances to his left, a crescent of springtime yellow catching his eye as it disappears round the corner.

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