Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

A Letter To The Girl From 365 Days Ago

Hello beautiful,

You’re not dead, yet, and that’s a good thing. You also haven’t wished for it in a long time, and that’s also a good thing. Would you like to know why?

I’ll tell you, in time, but first, we have some other matters to discuss.

We’ll start with January. It is just about to start for you, and it begins the way that December ended, in lockdown. You are bored of all this pandemic business, as is everyone else, and as I write to you, I regret to inform you that it is not over yet. We aren’t quite in lockdown, but it might happen. The upside is, you are no longer afraid of it.

The thing you feared the most about the lockdown was that your boyfriend would go wandering and forget about you, and during the first lockdown, that did happen, but you manage to grab another one pretty quickly, just in time for the next lockdown, and the worrying began again, but this time you won’t be afraid of that. Not because you have found an intensely loyal man, or because you grew as a person and stopped being so insecure, but because you grew as a person and addressed why a man slipping through your fingers scared you so badly.

Oh, you are as impatient as ever. I was going to tell you about everything else first, but I suppose you deserve to know.

This was the year that you accepted the truth. You know exactly what I’m talking about, and I know for a fact that as you read this, you have a racing heart and a tight throat. It’s the same mix of guilt, panic and shame you feel when you think about that girl from school, or that girl you wrote White Wine about. It’s the same shame you feel when you watch the Scottish Affairs Committee (not giving any further context there, if you know, you know). It’s the same way you feel every time your family asked about your love life and the same way you felt when you were fifteen, writing (admittedly, quite good) poems about Carol Ann Duffy.

You know what I’m about to say, and you are staring at this letter, trying to rearrange the words or shove them back into my pen, but you can’t (primarily because I typed them lmao). I’d go back to the girl you were two years ago, or five, but I know they couldn’t take it. I know that they weren’t strong enough to take this journey, and if I’m honest, I don’t think you are, but I know that I was not strong enough for you not to.

You have been carrying this alone since you were a child, but it’s over now. I know that you know what I’m about to tell you, and I know that you are hoping that I won’t. The funniest thing is that your dearest friend in the world is just like you, and you have loved him, just the way he was, but for so long, you couldn’t love yourself in the same way. You accepted him, genuinely but you saw yourself as a freak. I guess it was less acceptable if it was two girls, to you? You celebrated him, but you kept yourself a secret, because you thought you were different, something shameful and terrifying, but much like the angel in the nativity, I come to you and I say “Do not be afraid, because we have missed out on so much life already, and we don’t have time to be afraid anymore.” Perhaps the angel of the lord wasn’t so abrupt, but you know me, I’m no angel.

It all started on a date with a man. He was crazy about you, and you thought you could do what you always do, act crazy about him and hope that he married you and gave you the child that you had always wanted. He probably would have, had he not guessed what you were. I still don’t know how he did, mind you. He asked you, directly to your face, and you felt like you were going to die on the spot.

“Are you a lesbian?”

It seemed like an unfair question. You had been willing to give him what he wanted. You would have been loyal. He would have been happy. He just didn’t need to ask questions. It was a good deal, really, but I suppose he couldn’t take it, because he knew it wasn’t what it appeared to be.

Truthfully, it wouldn’t have been a good deal, after a while. You’d get burnout from having to get through the sex, just like you had before and you’d start recoiling at his touch, he’d feel rejected, you’d get depressed. It would be the same as it always is. You’d cling to it desperately, because you wanted to be anything but what you actually are and it would slip away from you, because as it all turns out, men are not stupid, and they can usually tell when their partner doesn’t want them.

You told him that you weren’t “like that…” but you knew that you couldn’t hide much longer. You also knew that nobody was buying your “Shy bisexual” persona either. It was starting to become really obvious that you were just not built to be with a man. If a man who was a stranger could figure it out, then there was no more hope of deceiving everyone else.

I tried to pretend I was just thinking about it, like it was something I was considering for the first time but I had always known, and eventually, after several years of keeping it a secret, I told the truth for the first time. I wrote a bunch of angsty poems to tell the audience and I recorded an angsty voice note to tell the family. As it all turns out, lots of people apparently knew and were just waiting for me to say it, on my own terms, so… you really have nothing to worry about. You could do it, today, if you want. It makes no difference to the people that love you. Your mother still loves you, I promise.

Now that’s over with, we can talk about some other news. As I mentioned, Covid-19 is still very much a thing. You are very bored of it now, mainly because the British government is making a mess of preventing another wave and you long for the safety and competency of a Nicola Sturgeon or a Mark Drakeford, but, alas, you only have Boris Johnson to rely on.

Speaking of all of those people, you finally launched the politics segment of your podcast into its own podcast and you’re having a lot of fun doing it. It does your mental health a lot of good to pretend to be Emily Maitlis once a week.

Your birthday absolutely sucked because you spent it in lockdown and you were really sad, all day. That is why it was important for you to treasure your 28th birthday, but, noooo, you didn’t want to listen… I can’t tell you how the next one will be, because it hasn’t happened yet and nobody knows what the British government will do from one day to the next, but I hope it will be better. God willing, I would like to go to Toby Carvery for your next birthday, but we will see what happens with restrictions.

You will write a lot of things that you love this year, but your favourite is a song called Widow, that you released to raise money for Terrence Higgins Trust. You’ll be donating the royalties every year from now on and I can’t wait for the many years of fundraising ahead.

You currently have a duolingo streak of 506 days. You finally opened up and tried to make friends outside of the internet. You’ve written songs that have been played around the world. You went on a date with a girl, on purpose, in public and you didn’t bail on her or insist on it being a secret. You hit a million streams on Spotify. It’s been a much better year than you are expecting, and I’m proud of you.

You spent a lot of the year being confused and scared. Scared of the virus, scared of your secret, but as I write to you, on New Year’s Eve, staring down the barrel of 2022, I am so happy to tell you that the fear has less of a grip on you now.

I don’t know if it will ever go away entirely, but we’re getting closer to living with it, day by day, and for once, I am actually excited to stay up until midnight and say goodbye to a year full of difficult but necessary lessons.

I wish you all the best for 2022, and not just because I have an interest in what happens to you, but because at last, I am ready to accept that you deserve it. You deserve the absolute best, and you’re going to get it.

Love forever,
J x

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

The World’s Greatest Amateur Actress

I tried to tell her that I was sorry,
but she was distracted,
her eyes glittering as she gazed in silent awe at my jewellery.
My mouth was dry,
no matter how many overpriced cocktails I put on my credit card.
I saw her eye the packet of cigarettes that was peeking from my open handbag,
and I instinctively tutted,
like a heartsick mother with only her wayward child left to lose.

She seemed to adore all the superficial things about me,
all the things I most despised, but clung to,
in some misguided attempt to keep myself interesting.
She was interested,
I could tell.
She spoke to me that same way I used to speak to my “elders and betters”,
that wilted affectation that gets a little stunted after a few drinks,
when hiding your past is no longer a priority.

I hated that about her.
I hated that she couldn’t hold herself in higher esteem,
how she couldn’t see that she was the child of a good woman,
a woman who did her best,
and that this wretched child was the best of her,
so she had nothing to be intimidated by,
but she always shrank when she started to share her ideas,
making herself so small,
so she could fit into a small world.
I snapped my fingers in her face,
and I shouted
“You will be the universe. Fuck the world.”

She was shocked.
I tried to make amends, but both of us knew that she was broken before she walked into the bar,
so it didn’t matter if I shouted,
not really,
because the damage had been done long before,
and I couldn’t face the first girl.

The first girl,
the fawn,
with her hopeful eyes and her hoity-toity ideals.
She never comes by anymore.
She used to.
She’d just stand in the doorway,
not quite beaten by imposter syndrome.
Standing with a withering stare, far beyond her years,
asking what I had done with her life.
I won’t see her.
I told her not to come.

I just want to see the one who still believes a little,
but has lowered her expectations.
Sweet sixteen,
vibing to the Beach Boys on her broken iPod,
eating it up every time when I exaggerate about how things turned out.

I tell her that I’m a singer now,
but I don’t tell her that my songs only earn a cent a stream,
and that I still dream of Vegas in the bedroom of a house share.

I tell her that I have heard audiences cry my name,
but I don’t tell her that I don’t love it in the way she expected,
and that I dread the din of applause because it means I have to tear myself apart,
six nights a week to get it.

I tell her that I lost my virginity,
but I don’t tell her that it was to the wrong kind of person,
and that I’m haunted by his paw prints over a decade later.

She asks me if I’m happy.
I tell her that I am,
because I know that she needs it,
and I needed it too.
I needed to know that no matter the stage,
I am still the world’s greatest amateur actress.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

I Will Not Grow Old, I Will Become A Ghost

Soft, swirling curls in a knot,
jotting down the world around me from my back garden,
as autumn’s chill beckons to winter,
and the sunset spills across my freckled face, at four PM.
This is what I will do, when I am old (if I get there).

I look at my grandmother,
and I know that nobody could love me as long as she has been loved.
I simply know that I’ll be alone,
but I will have my words to keep me warm,
and the promise of pushing myself off the cliffs of Dover when I tire of trying to make it through the day.

I will have Grandchildren who don’t want to visit,
because I am a mean drunk since my woman walked away (either by choice or by death, she never stays when I imagine my future),
and I lock them in the living room,
reliving my glory days,
done up like Baby Jane Hudson,
struggling through a verse of Swipe Forever before collapsing into the chasm of my misery.

My Son stops by, without the babies,
begging for me back,
a ghost he remembers from his bedroom, back in the old house,
a spirit who told him stories and sung him lullabies,
but I simply tell him that the Ouija board is broken,
and so am I.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Forecast

The leaves are threatening to fall again,

dreich days replace the summer haze that I barely noticed until it was all I needed,

and then, suddenly, the sun was nowhere to be seen,

and the leaves leapt from the trees.

This does not bode well.