Monday, 16 May 2016

Jazz Poetry for Brutalist

There was this girl at school. We were fifteen and I wished my life was as simple as hers. We weren't close, no more than a smile and hello but I think my admiration began in the changing rooms after PE. She still wore a vest when most of the other girls wore bras. Out of school she always wore black and her vest, once white, looked like it'd gone through the black wash every time. I had the ambition of only ever wearing black but I kept getting distracted by day-glo pink leopard print, yellow hounds tooth check and turquoise squiggles. She didn't wear make-up either or dye her long dark hair; because I was ginger my bleached streaks were yellow which I tried to turn blue by dipping my fringe in a bucket of Dylon. That did work but I envied how she could be happy in plimsolls while I was training my feet to smile in stilettoes. She was a Cure fan and I wished my life could be as simple. She had a best friend with the same name as her who had short spikey hair; one girl was monochrome the other full colour and I never saw them with boys.

I used to get off with this boy every week at the under 18s disco, we didn't ever date. He was a grammar school boy with long curly hair, our faces hidden in his curls and mine while we exchanged saliva. It was a status symbol to have a grammar school boyfriend, their uniform was a black suit, white shirt and black and red striped tie, and why would any kid want to rebel against that? Grammar school boys were allowed to grow their hair, dye it and even wear make-up. My comprehensive was the one where kids who'd been expelled from every other school ended up and the uniform was strict. I'd been out with a few boys already, what I had going on with this one was only me standing between his legs while he sat on the window ledge, our tongues in each other's mouths for more than a 12'' club mix, pulling away for some deep breathing then on each other again. He was good looking, one night he said, 'I'm going to take you outside and fuck you till you bleed.'

A few years later when I was in my 20s I cropped my hair, dyed it deep pink and got into wearing girls PE kit with DMs, I thought a grammar school tie would finish my look just right. I had an ex-grammar school friend and when I asked if I could wear his old tie he looked at me shocked and upset, said no and turned away.
There was a multi-storey carpark in town with a market underneath. It was still in use even though it had great big cracks and had been declared unsafe. I spent my Saturday job breaks in the staff room staring out at the multi-storey. Sometimes the emergency services would crowd the pavement so there must be someone up there wanting to jump. Sometimes after hours two people in big uniforms would walk from the multi-storey with a very small almost invisible figure between them, I never saw anyone jump. The shadow that carpark cast across the square was almost as dense as concrete, it drank up the sunlight and from my staff room looked like a sponge dipped in flint grey with angles gouged through.

I was seeing how far I could pull at the lead and somehow knew later in life I'd be glad I came from somewhere I had to escape from. But as I get older my default paradise is being near buildings like my multi-storey.

One evening before sunset me and my best mate were walking away from its shadow and a boy with a posh voice said I had amazing legs. I was in my favourite outfit - a black mini-skirt with buckles on one side, fishnets, a bat-wing top I'd bleached to the colours of the very heart of a dying fire, a chain belt round my hips. He looked like a student and probably had good taste in music.

The best I can liken my memories of the multi-storey to is an anvil away from the hammer, that visible sound that never leaves an object capable of such volume it's silent presence is almost erotic. I couldn't say I was aware or unaware of it, I still hear it so I guess I am just of it. A low ceiling of cloud seemed to pressure the corners of the carpark distorting the internal structure and causing vibrations only audible to the adolescent. I wondered if the suicide who waited up there too long would dissolve into the clouds. In autumn rust stains would only show on the walls after rain and sun tarnish on evening clouds made a foil back-drop.

Winter came round again and Strawberry Switchblade were in Smash Hits. Me and my best mate used to get dressed up to spend evenings walking round town. It wasn't worth going to a pub, without older boys we'd get thrown out, usually just after we'd paid for a drink. One night when the cold had drained the power out of the streets two boys started chatting us up. They both had the same name, one was a painter and decorator and his van was parked in the multi-storey. There was no room in the back so me with my boy on top took the passenger seat, my friend with her boy on top were in the driver's seat. We didn't bother with any more information than names, we'd shape-shifted into urban fox youth attracted to body heat. It was a kind of pure unselfconscious lust I hadn't encountered before. My boy was the male equivalent of my thinness, he wasn't too heavy even as he pressed down, sliding sometimes to feel as close to me as he could. We kept our leather jackets on, it was December. For a moment I turned to check my friend wasn't in trouble. She didn't notice, her eyes were shut, good, I didn't want us to get out of this van and get away from this boy until later.

The multi-storey had a force-field of anti-drama that just let it happen; a street wise dead muscle or steady platform the living could stand on and decide if they wanted more life. As solid to the average eye not seeing foundation damage as it was silent to ears trained not to hear hearts racing so fast beats overlap then repel into safety, the tight volume telling us to believe in death, while a lifetime of engine ghost memory rested. If my skin touched the wall and stayed there with boy spasm acceleration grime on my back, my white shape printed there as another suicide who didn't feel able to judge their audience.

The only thing I lost was an earring; I was sorry as it was real silver but I hadn't worn it long enough to care any more than that.