Seething since 2000*
I’ve been meaning to write for ages. So many times I started off, barely reaching the end of my ‘salutation’ before giving up: “Dear Yo-” and so on. I wore the delete key thin with my maniacal backspacing, back-treading; I resorted to a global ‘find-and-replace’ to get rid of the last traces of you but still no luck.
I forwarded all of my emails to a really obscure (though free) Russian account I had set up, I think it was:
I even set myself a really difficult password prompt – what is your favourite number? I looked away while I banged the numbers in, just to be sure I’d never, ever remember it. Then I logged out, cleared my cache, underwent hypnotism and hung upside down for a few days, just to be sure no trace of a clue remained as to how to access the account, or you.
Not that you cared. If you ever even thought of me, I’m sure the only thing you would have thought was: why go to such ridiculous extremes when the contents of the emails themselves are burned on the back of your earlobes anyway, causing them to redden every time you think of me, which isn’t often – but often enough to fuck me up for good?
But all of this is probably yawn-inducing for you. Fair enough. It’s the story of my life, after all – not yours. From the moment we met I knew you would never feel about me the way I wanted you to. You would never reply to my emails, my texts and poems filled with cryptic messages for you to decipher.
I started attending spoken word events miles from my home just to have an opportunity to read those awful poems to an uncomprehending audience, and also I guess in the vain hope that you too had developed a taste for poetry performed in semi-rural venues.
That bit was wrong, at least, though I did get a good response from one of the venue’s owners, who immediately offered me a job on the late shift. I need someone like you to help me close up, he said. All you have to do is read out some of your poems at about 1am. Once the place is empty, you can help me clean up. Let’s face it, at $10 an hour, I was never going to get a better offer. Not from you, anyway.
You said you didn’t understand poetry. I’ve heard that cop-out so many times before. What’s not to understand? I love you, like I said in each and every one of those poems, and devastating as it was to see their effect on the late-night clientele of the sad-sack mountain tavern, that was nothing when compared with your brutal lack of recognition.
It was like I wasn’t even there screaming the words at you, like the poem itself was just hanging in the air, or else piped from a set of invisible speakers just above street level, that day you ran for the tram rather than stand and talk with me.
Do I have AIDS? What would you care! You and your homophobic friends, who needs you anyway! Because you know what? In my mind I do things to you that you might think were illegal, and you’d probably be right, if we were living in Saudi Arabia.
The things I do to you in my mind make those poems I screamed at you like I was throwing daggers at the back of your head sound like a fumbling teen romance. And the funny thing is that in my mind you’re begging for it. You can’t get enough of me. You’re the innocent one, shocked by my advances, devastated by my eventual rejection.
In desperation, you enrol in a CAE creative writing workshop, just to find the right words to throw back at me. But of course, in this scenario, I’ve stacked the class with bitter bush poets, and they tear your pathetic verses to pieces.
You respond by storming out of the class, hoping to catch the last train to a semi-rural tavern where you know of a small performance poetry reading, the open section of which you might just be lucky enough to catch.
I remain, of course, two thousand steps ahead of you, having contrived to cause the metropolitan transit authority’s service level to deteriorate so badly that no trains are running at all, anywhere. It’s all right, though. Just as you despair of ever getting home, I come along in my dream car and offer you a lift. You’re so happy to see me that you accept my proposition immediately.
Now that I have you where I want you, it almost seems unnecessary to write this letter after all. I mean, where once you dismissed me as a clinging and pathological no-hoper, now you’re all ears. You’re offering constructive and thoughtful feedback, and shyly showing me your delicate (though childish) haiku. It’s cute, it’s endearing.
You’re devouring the canon, immersed in erotic poetry. I’m spoon-feeding you Sappho, you’re swallowing the Aeniad whole. We come up for air once every week or so to attend a poetry reading, randomly selected from the thousands of events that seem to have been organised just so we could ignore them.
Just so we could say that we were attending and then cancel at the last minute, without telling anybody.
Does this sound familiar? In a sense it is. It’s the sound of what you could have had. It’s the sound of your right hand snapping off as a result of excessive self-stimulation. It’s the sound of a keyboard tapping away in an empty internet cafe. It’s the sound of all the poems you never wrote, the words you never emoted.
It’s the sound of an unrequited love letter being delivered to a house you left long ago, without so much as a forwarding address. Now I’m slipping through the mail slot to land on the floor of a hallway littered with newspapers and pizza delivery menus. It’s kind of peaceful. I think I might just stay here for a while.
Or maybe just forever.