Sometimes I will write short stories and publish them online for all my former creative writing professors to cringe at. Here are some of them.
The sound of aeroplanes makes me nervous. Our house flooded the day before 9/11 and I remember watching the news report in our front room, squatting on the arm of our ruined purple paisley sofa like a child doing a poo in the woods. I figured the flood was punishment for decorating an entire room purple, like a plague on bad taste.
We had been sent home from school the day of 9/11. I didn’t understand the logic, given that we lived 3,000 miles away from Manhattan, but I was twelve and guiltless and happy to be skipping double physics. It occurred to me years later that we’d probably been sent home to mourn – mourn for the people whose survival instinct told them to throw themselves out of the tallest buildings in the world, mourn for the loss of psychological equilibrium of those who had to watch, mourn for the irrational stupidity of the human race, which had, biblically, just celebrated it’s two-thousandth birthday.
But I was still dealing with the havoc the water damage had wreaked on my VHS collection. In school the next day, my teachers reinforce that I shouldn’t talk to strangers.
They can’t be trusted, can they, planes? A big hunk of metal doesn’t belong in mid-air, with miles and miles of blank space both above and beneath. We’re talking about material that people dug out of the ground, then melted and bashed and transformed into an idea, and then sent that idea roaring into the air with loads of people inside it, relying on forces of nature – intangible concepts – to keep them safe. You can’t trust an idea with your life, for Christ’s sake. And did you know that one in three people are obese?
The survival of commercial flight relies on the suspension of disbelief. For a few hours, we take pleasure in plastic cutlery. We applaud like children, the tiny chemistry-lesson cups and bread rolls that come in a packet. A bread roll should never come in a packet. Could it be because, even here, in this self-contained society, we don’t trust people not to spit in our food?
“Would you like a drink?” someone in bright clothing asks you, smiling too much. You say yes, because the bottles are smaller than they are 35,000ft below. The person next to you thinks they’ll have one too, and the woman in the row behind has convinced her partner to have sex in the bathroom. She won’t come though. No woman has ever come near a toilet. Novelty tends to supersede logic when you’re in a 900,000-pound balloon floating miles above civilisation and you can still watch Netflix.
Your entire existence relies on the plane not fucking up, and it couldn’t care less. The plane keeps on purring through the atmosphere, leaving cocaine trails behind it as it goes. The plane probably thinks you’re an idiot. The forces of nature will do what they will irrespective of it all. Surrounded by complete strangers, you use a plastic knife to spread single-serve butter over a single-wrapped Jacob’s cracker, as if to say, “I understand.”
Joy was beautiful and uncomfortable in her own body, which only made her more attractive to closet sociopaths, who are the worst kind of sociopaths if you think about it. She didn’t invite many men into her bedroom, but tonight was an exception to the rule. His name was Max and she didn’t feel threatened by him at all. The top button of his shirt was always done up, the hairs on his arms barely visible. He was the kind of person whose mother loved too much.
After meeting at a university mixer they arranged to go out for drinks at a badly lit bar nearby that served food on wooden chopping boards. They bonded over a shared passion for the Carry On franchise and kissed without tongues.
Standing at the foot of her bed, unbuttoning his shirt from the bottom up, Max asked, “Do you know what the most common cause of house fires is?”
Joy looked at him, terrified that this was a rhetorical question that she was expected to answer with a coy glance before he roared “FRICTION” and ripped off his trousers, which would turn out to be largely made of Velcro, and the whole thing would end up on RedTube.
“Phone chargers”, Max said, bending down and unplugging her Blackberry charger from the wall socket next to the bedside table, never taking his eyes off her once.
They didn’t have sex that night, or ever. A year or so later she learned he had been a virgin.
It’s Friday night. It’s Friday night, and I am half-cut. It’s Friday night, and I am half-cut, and I am using my boyfriend’s laptop to take pictures of my naked arse. Even I can identify this as strange behaviour, and between the ages of 7 and 9 I would only accept a drink of water if I could lap it from a bowl like a cat.
When I’m following squat workout tutorials on YouTube, I throw a t-shirt over the webcam lens in case someone decides to hack into it and can see me, red-faced and bobbing up and down like an upset baby, joints cracking in a way that probably indicates arthritis later in life. Why anybody would want to see that, I don’t know. The world is full of weirdos.
Incidentally, I have my own cat now, and she will only drink water from a pint glass.