Something from the Editors Pt 1 - 'Recipe for Blackouts' by Kayleigh Cutforth
Here, a first-floor apartment that burns in summer, so hot you saturate the towels under the cold tap and lay them over the mattress to keep cool. No vents to let the fresh air in. You fling the bedroom windows wide and wonder when they will climb up the red brick and violate you. Not tonight, his borrowed car is parked on the curb outside. You’d probably enjoy it he says brushing coarse fingertips over your nipples. You climb on. Eyes heavy, chest arrested each time you remember. A noise, a soft rustling shakes you from the edges of sleep, did you top the meter up?
Sounds like a recipe for blackouts, he says.
The candles are under the sink with the camping light that you never used, it needs four AA batteries and a string for hanging. The acid green tepee is in the shed growing mould along with the sleeping bag that feels like wet cling film, an empty bag of giant marshmallows from when you both pretended around the campfire with the kids, a red Frisby, and the demijohn you use for sloe gin every year. There is no sleep with this body strewn next to yours, perfectly diagonal, feet touching, clicking tiny plastic collar bones between its fingers. And now you can’t move the bed in case you find the pieces of curled plastic all scattered under the mattress, twisted, and discarded.
Here, a galley kitchen with a serving hatch, a coffee machine - not as good as his but an incentive to stay over now – a speaker of the correct size, two matching china mugs you bought three years ago on Valentine’s Day, one chipped around the rim (you like to run your tongue over it’s rough edges), a cupboard full of unused pots and pans that bursts on every opening, can we talk about the cupboard? he asks, and why so much milk in the tea?
A bin with a broken lid, a corner shop text, fresh milk, bread, toilet rolls…
You offer him money on arrival, some extra for the petrol now his toddler sessions are waning and the discos are drying up, he says there’s no need, that the wealthy do-gooders from the farm have stumped up again finally, which means he won’t have to check his account every few hours. He doesn’t stop smiling as he spoons the leftover chilli con carne into four Tupperware boxes, takes £6.78 in coins from the cash tin in the car (the only thing left when the engine caught fire), leaves it in a pile on the kitchen worktop. ‘For your services, Miss,’ he says with a grin, and just bend over the sink there, remember that time in the Christmas cottage?
Come with me to the bathroom, three toothbrushes, his used infrequently but a comfort sat next to yours, a fresh bathmat not stuck to the floor, a toilet seat hanging by a single hinge, (nobody has offered to fix it), a pile of washing straddling two baskets, no unused towels, an old wall heater that wails. Under the mirror there, a half-empty tub of coconut oil used simultaneously for greasing bodies and frying pans.
A shrill ping, a vibration, a text asking if you’ve played with yourself today, how much he enjoys the thought, an unreciprocated I love you, you can’t force him to say it, he just doesn’t want you to be like her.
Here is a picture, fallen down the side of the coffee table, accumulating a thick layer of bluish dust, two neat haircuts and two pairs of eyes watching the sunset but brimming with fear. A festival, a bar made of pallets called the Jesus Arms, in the middle of a field somewhere in Leicestershire, half a pear cider because it doesn’t matter right? It’s not staying. A bottle of single malt whisky that fits neatly in his pocket to help him dance. You tell him if it’s got digits, it’s staying put.
He wants you he says, but definitely not that.
You remind him of the first cottage in the Peak District, the pile of presents in front of the fire, that first summer in the park, the long yellow grass, the blue dress hitched up to your waist, cherry kisses, the song that he never got round to writing…it’s just a bunch of cells he says. He drops you off outside the clinic the following Wednesday but doesn’t stay as he’s working and got the kids all day, he’ll pick up two boneless banquets on the way.
Here, a hotel room on a back street of Cambridge, a bottle of spiced rum and a litre of diet Coke. The glass is waiting on the dressing table when you arrive, he tells you to down it, then another and another, no coat necessary despite the deluge, hair and clothes sodden as you totter across the iron bridge, mascara running as black as the river beneath you, a blue room full of vibrations, a guest list, his brother standing by the bar with a pint, says we look drenched, he says she’s always wet before you can mouth hello, a double vodka to numb it, ends in blackness somewhere in the middle of the dancefloor. A bathroom covered in vomit, arms that can’t find the door, a clumsy stumble onto the bed. He returns to wipe up the two neat puddles on the bedside table then goes back out again, we might not be married he says, but we’re a team baby. Midnight. Awoken by his body deep inside yours, curtains still wide open, intermittent blackness, an orange gloom, a sixty-nine, it was a compliment baby…and you should be proud.
Your birthday. You don’t ask if he’s coming-
Instead, a recorded message at 7.37am, a video, a semi covered in saliva, a quick happy birthday to finish, pizza with the parents’ making excuses, the sofa bed is so uncomfortable, the early start on Thursdays, the petrol money...
Now, a final shopping trip punctuated with six-year-old meltdowns, pick your own present, (but it must be leather boots), and not the cheap shit you usually buy, two freshly printed photographs in frames, one above the TV and a smaller one on the bedside table, so he can see you when he wakes up, the ninth I love You in four and a half years, scrawled in blue biro inside a blank card, a half-hearted attempt at coming together-
ends softly and abruptly.
All Rights. Kayleigh Cutforth.