I Feel As If I Might Be Vanishing

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[DOWN BY THE RIVER – TWO GIRLS SPEAKING ON A BENCH]

A I felt like it was Summer today, the sky, I guess, I had that feeling of it all starting again – like I had BBQs and festivals and lanes and trees to look forward to… The brightness. Probably because I was so hot from all the jumpers against the cold, and it looked like the last leaves were the first.

A You know?

L I dunno. Sort of. I thought I may have actually slept the day away this morning, it was so dark. Early, for some reason. I had a dream that looked like this –

[IMAGES OF LARGE SPACES]

A The thing is, what does that mean? It stays with you, doesn’t it? Like you have been given a challenge, a question…

L And you can’t even work out the question, let alone the answer.

A Yeah. I was thinking that it felt like we are on the edge of our civilisation here – like over there is just a backdrop, that nothing actually is there, that it goes over the edge. We just have to believe in our own little bit of the town, or our life – the rest of it may as well not exist.

L What’s the time?

A And I think the dreams are a bit like that – like the computer rendering the scene as you turn to look at it – when you are not looking, its not there. Move your head – quick! You might catch it appearing.

L That shop near me…

A Nope – too quick, the universal microprocessor. Better than my laptop anyway – sorry, what was that?

L I was standing in that hardware shop near me, trying to buy some nails to put up my pictures, and I was at the till for about five minutes before the woman served me – she kept coming over, wandering off, picking stuff up and moving it – I could see her on the CCTV cameras – and could see myself standing there, from the back.

A That’s a bit…

L And every now and then a picture of my face would flash up on the screen. I started counting down from 20, going to leave at zero, but I went lower when it came, and was at minus 18 before she came.

A Did she say anything? “Sorry about that!”

L No, she looked at the nails in my hand, tutted, like I wasn’t buying enough, typed the price into the till, and I had to look at the little green digits to find out how much they were. She didn’t say it.

A How much?

L Well, 60p, so it was pretty cheap, at least. You have to buy 500 or something at B&Q. I will never need that many in my life.

A Shall we walk? What pictures do you have?

L The picture of a neighbourhood in Reykjavik is my favourite. It looks so…

[DESCRIBE PICTURE OVER INDUSTRIAL IMAGE]

____________

A What do you think went wrong there?

L I don’t know – its like it looks fine on the surface, like he seems nice, when we are out, and holidays, and its like, it should technically be OK. We look good together, sort of match, but when back at home, he just sits and stares, I feel like I’ve got to do something – like this isn’t how its meant to be. Like we should be… I don’t know… You know, like those ads you used to see for Orange or something – all playing guitar in the park, resting your head on his leg – sunny, warm, fresh air…

A Mmm. But –

L But it was never like that. The flat was freezing because he was too cheap to turn the boiler on, and the wall went mouldy. The fridge was fucked and there was no space. I could go in the other room, and it just felt like we we sitting back to back, like on a pair of Kappa trousers, but with a plasterboard wall in-between.

A I had something like that once, it was hard, but you have to –

L He would then come in and stand in the doorway, looking at me, like, is this it?

A How long had this been –

L From the start, almost. He looked accusatory. It was like I’d let him down somehow. Well, we –

A Had let each other down?

L From what? There’s no promise, no way its meant to be… but I suppose its not meant to be like that. He’d get bored then, and start arguing over nothing, like us not going out enough, or going out too much, or hating the flat, or which fucking cheese I had bought, or how the soup was too smooth, or should have chunks – fuckin dickhead. It just didn’t work, but we looked good, people…

A We all thought you looked great together.

L And so did we – it was like we had let down that image. One time we were walking to the theatre in Greenwich, and some guy said “Wow! You really look good together! Meant to be!”

A Ha! What did you say?

L Thanks, I think. And smiled.

A Weird thing to say. Nice though.

L Yeah, that’s it. It was nice. But its like so much shit went on, that the entire thing sank. And not even bad stuff. Just silence.

A I like silence.

L Not this type.

A No, I was going to say – that awkward, cold one is not good. Its nice when you can find someone who you can share silence with, and it feels right, and warm. Like your thoughts intermingle in the air between.

L He was trying to start an argument one night – anything but that silence, but I was so tired I really couldn’t be bothered, so I went through to the sofa bed next door. He came in about 5 minutes later, turns the lights on and stands in the doorway – looking.

A What a…

L I just jumped up, asking what the fuck?! It was like some sort of interrogation. He’d bought this sideboard thing, which I hated and he loved, it was fucking horrible veneer thing, and I just looked around the room for a second, looked at him, and while my eyes were still locked on him, smashed my hand through its glass window –

A No!

L And it slashed my hand to ribbons, and he goes mental about the floor, the fucking laminate, demanding I get newspapers to clear it up. I’m bleeding all over Boris Johnson’s twat face and he’s standing over me.

A For fuck’s sake.

L And I just barge past and lock myself in the bathroom, washing my blood down the drain, he goes away after that, and I don’t… I can’t really remember what happened then…

A How do you mean?

L It was a while ago… well, I was working at the cafe at the time. I just next remember my hand when it had those blue plasters on it and I was washing up in boiling water, millions of coffee cups…

[L SHOWS A LITTLE SCARS ON HER HAND]

L Its good to see you, you know. I was just thinking that on the way here.

A Good to see you too.

L I feel like I don’t know anyone else anymore, like they’re drifting off, or I’m drifting off, and out here… You see that stuff in the river…

[IMAGE OF DRIFTWOOD, LITTER IN CURRENTS IN RIVER]

L The woman in the hardware shop was my first contact today, and she didn’t even see me. I feel as if I might be vanishing.

[IMAGE OF EMPTY BENCH]

A Ha! I can see you, you’re always around, you –

L But I don’t feel as if I’m there. Like at work – they speak to a shell, it knows the lines, I’ve been there so long, says them, walks on. In the core there somewhere, I’m there, thinking – what next? What do I need to do?

A Something bold, exciting, extravagant and now!

L Like?

A Err… well, we can’t be different, feel different if we do the same things. You know that voice inside that sometimes says stuff like “Jump in the river!”

L I’m glad you think that too!

A Well, maybe follow what it says sometimes – not that’ of course, but sometimes we must completely change our lives. Du must dein leben andern.

L What’s that?

A You must change your life.

L [SINGS] “Thank you for the flowers!”

[A SMILES, DELIGHTED]

L [SINGS] “I threw them in the fire!”

[A SWITCHES TO JOKE-SHOCKED]

A What about this, I don’t know, if this is the same, but last week I went to the shed, my garden shed, and I had all of my letters, and postcards and everything from… past relationships, and erm, there’d been a leak in the roof, and most of them, most of them were wrecked, and erm, and I went through them, and erm, and it felt a bit like clearing out after someone had died, clearing out all the stuff of somebody who had died, and erm, and erm, I was sad for about ten minutes, and then I felt absolutely liberated as I took all these erm, love letters, you know, that I’d hung onto, you know, love letters that I’d hung onto as physical evidence, you know, that some beautiful boy had once loved me, and you know, and then and then watching it disintegrate, you know, because of all the shit that had gone on it, and thinking, and then putting it in the bin, and thinking, “actually, I don’t feel any less loved now they’re in the bin, than I did…” but it was, it was like hiding, like hiding this evidence of you know “I must have meant something to someone, surely surely!” and I just dumped them all in – and I survived.

____________

A How is the flat coming along?

L Lets move on – my hands are too cold, and I need some food.

A OK. Get something at that cafe we saw from the train the other day.

L I’ve been eating a lot more recently. I cooked on my new oven for the first time last night. It was installed two months ago, and last night was the first proper meal I’ve cooked. I had to peel some of that blue translucent plastic off the front of it first. I had a large pan of pasta, and garlic bread.

A Dee-lish!

L No – I was looking at the curtain breathing in the draught, it had got me into a sort of trance, then there was a smell I could taste – burnt. Bastard burnt. Some of the plastic left had melted too.

A Oh no!

L The pasta was bleached white, fell apart as I poured it into a bowl, trying to hold the water back. I stirred in some of the sauce – you know the one, the one with the caricature of an Italian man on the jar.

A Yeah, Dolmio? Classy!

L Yes. He looked so happy it struck me somewhere, I felt his wide eyes empty my soul.

A Trying to hold back the tears. I mean, yes, I know what you mean. I had this carton of apple juice and the little apple man on it looked so happy it made me sad. For him, for me. Can the world be as sad as it seems?

L There are ceiling tiles in my kitchen – a grid of panels and fluorescent light strips. The plastic white strips have little joins in them, they lead to the magnolia of the wall margin, and map out a grid.

A When are you painting the walls? I can help!

L Soon, when I can work out what colour I want them. I don’t want to paint the place in the mood of 9:38 on Wednesday 26th November or something, and then get bored of it or hate it every other time, for ever.

A Any ideas though?

L The ocean. I felt like I was on a boat in there the other day, on that bouncy chair. I lean backwards, loll my head behind me, and feel like the ceiling tiles spread out in squares below me, trapping in the squares that have the neon lights in them, seeing a tiny thin reflection of myself in their reflectors, see the green and yellow wires twisted behind. I start to feel a bit sick, then, and my head feels like its expanding and floating off.

A Floating off?

L Yeah, do you ever get that?

A Not really…

L Its like it has just decided to go for a bit – you sort of relax your mind and stop thinking and as you feel it float away, don’t think or mind about it, or it will snap back into position. Let it go.

A Actually, I do know what you mean – although its one of those things that seems weird and particular to you – so you feel as if you are going mad or having a heart attack, and don’t want to mention them in case someone thinks you are mad!

L Exactly!

A But its so nice to hear that others feel the same way. I always feel as if everyone else is always alright and knows what they are up to. Well, they do tell me stories about when they are not well – quite a lot, actually – in fact, I feel alright in comparison! But its hard to feel compassion when –

L When its your head floating off!

A Ha! Yes, we forget we are the same. You seem like you can tell about them well.

L Well, not really, not everything…

A Some things. Those things. You know, the stuff they make me do at work, and I just do it, I want to be nice, to be good, and I shake with the pressure of them all, like when you try to put a heavy suitcase on top of an old cupboard – tremulous. Then back to work again. Put away the summer, the holiday. That summer was when I last felt alright. Was it? God, maybe… Why am I like this? Why are you?

L Human… I think.

____________

L It felt as if my life was leading up to that moment, and that everything after was going to be different.

L It was. It just wasn’t there anymore.

A Why didn’t you say?

L I didn’t want anyone knowing, not even me. I ended up drinking like mad then, taking so many Es, just constantly going on and on, non stop, work-out-work-out-work, never a second to think, and that’s how I had to have it, because, if –

A But it can help! Just to mention something takes it out of your head, makes it stop whirling round –

L I wouldn’t want to bother anyone. Is it raining?

A It would not be a bother! God! The only way we can work out things like that is wth others! No wonder you were such a state then!

L Its just not me to say these things…

A Was that what you were trying to tell me at Fabric?

L I don’t know – what time? I can’t remember, really…

A It was hard to hear… shall we go home, warm?

L No, I like it here. It feels good. Clean. Look at that.

A But you are feeling a bit better now? Apart from –

L Y – err. Yes. I think – I mean, its not perfect…

A But nothing is.

L And I don’t feel like I am where I want to be, but I can sort of see how to get there. Thing is I don’t know if that even is what I want anymore. We set up our dreams and ideas and ways to deal with the world when we are 16 or 17 and don’t update them. No wonder its hard to reconcile with what goes on. I was shaking giving that presentation the other day. Felt like a little girl, like everyone else there knew why they were there, and were automatically good at it all, and I was, just, like an imposter.

A No! You do so many good things there! You should realise this!

L You don’t realise that about your work! You are always saying –

A Well, I suppose so – but we have got to realise that we take up a place on Earth, and we have a right to it, we have a right to live, to love, to work, to play, to sleep and to be seen!

L OK, yes, but is there enough space for us all? She is gone. He is gone. Where do they all go?

A Off to do something, something else. I don’t know. You can go too.

L That fucking phrase – “You can do anything!” it fills me with fear, because then I think I have to, and it has to be bloody good. What is good? Is this job not enough? Do I have to have a family? Invent something? Come up with a great novel, a great idea, a new way of the whole fucking world living in total harmony and peace?

A No, just be happy with what you have – you have your place, your work, you have me…

L Mmm.

A And I want to hold your hand in mine, with its little warm pads!

[A TAKES L’S HAND BETWEEN HER TWO HANDS TO WARM IT]

A Look at that guy over there! Hello! Hello!

L Hello! Love you!

A Ha! He looked!

A Lets sing!

L What song?

A Err…

[A AND L START THE SONG TOGETHER – SHOT LOOKING AT RIVER]

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
but heaven knows I’m miserable now
I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
and heaven knows I’m miserable now

In my life
why do I give valuable time
to people who don’t care if I live or die

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
but heaven knows I’m miserable now
“You’ve been the house too long” she said
and I naturally fled

[A SINGS THE LAST FOUR LINES ALONE – SHOT MOVES BACKWARDS – SHE IS ALONE ON THE BENCH]

____________

[MONOLOGUE BACKLIT BY BRIGHT WHITE SKY]

L I can smile at you now. Did you notice that? I can smile, and I can feel it. It feels warm in my face. I feel like I can feel my friends smiling at me too. I can see their eyes, the crinkled lines around them, long to feel their hand, the little warm pads, squeezed for reassurance. Their voices dance like music in my head, and I think I can do this. Lets look out the window – what do you see? Snow, trees, buildings in progress [sneeze] someone [sneeze] someone on their own journey (I wave and he waves back). And my reflection. My breath in a cloud, a thought bubble drawn on the window. I’m going to do this, talk to people, try my best to record what I feel, where I’ve been, because, maybe, maybe someone else has felt one of these things. And maybe, why not, I could go back to one of those songs, teach those lyrics to someone else, someone new. Fucking hell. Life is bright.

[EXIT MUSIC – “HEAVEN KNOWS I’M MISERABLE NOW.” TITLE: “I FEEL AS IF __ MIGHT BE VANISHING” DISPLAYED]

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