Anna liked her Skittles. She once made a dress out of them, took it into town. But she got peckish on the way; and that is how we met. She stood there in her pants with chocolate stains around her thighs and face. I walked her home; it turned out we lived on the same street.
We were both unemployed at the time. And so we both got jobs at Downfall Dictionary, where we had to condense the world’s greatest novels down into haiku. For example:
Some stuff happens in
Dublin. Lots of shit and wank.
At night we worked on our joint dissertation – ‘Metasmoking in the Postmodern Underbelly’ – before disappearing to the ashtrays of our rooms.
However, she was not without her sorrows. She liked to juggle, but sometimes I’d hear the compressed thump of multi-coloured balls accompanied by the quiet metronome, like a buried memory, of her tears. I’d linger like the touch of an ex outside her door, before choosing to say not a word.
One day we had a concert. Anna played a selection of her own compositions on a broken piano. (In a moment of desperation she’d sold the plug to a local kid for a pack of Liquorice Allsorts.) She hummed the notes between sweets and gulps of whiskey. I clapped like a child who’d just been given a drum.
We bought a variety of cigarettes by way of research, and spent the rest of the evening coughing until our lungs felt like burning villages.
A hooded guy on a scooter arrived with a delivery of white chocolate mice, and we ate them along with a tercet of ketchup sandwiches whilst writing poems about smoking on the table in ash.
“Juggling is like the fear of being alone,” I said, but Anna had passed out underneath the piano, gargling ‘Plug In Baby’ in her sleep.
I covered her with a duvet like butter on toast and left.
Downfall Dictionary sacked me for being too wordy. The letter informing me was simply a sealed envelope. I went to see Anna to moan and eat Curly-Wurly’s, but found her house as empty as a celebrity biography. The bare room, quiet and settled as dust, existed with complete indifference.
A note she left informed me she had gone to join the circus. As a mode of expression, she said, haiku’s simply too limiting. I remember an argument we had about how life rages like an explosion regardless.
“That’s why,” I’d said, “we need to impose form: to cage off and enclose our own little patch.
“No,” she’d scowled. “I go wherever I go, the wind blows like a sprawling piece of free-verse and I follow, I’m there, my eyes like throats swallowing all it has to say.”
Evidently one of the windows had been left open. A gust like a knockout punch shook the house, and one of her juggling balls performed a solitary dance down the stairs. It hit the floor in the hall and rolled for a second.
I went upstairs and closed the errant window.
Six weeks have passed. I’m yet to hear a word.