Who are you?
'All foreign languages are sexy,' said Oded, after the film when they sat round a crate on the floor drinking tea out of mugs with animal handles, the three of them divided by only one or two feet of air. They had biscuits with Nutella. Oded was trying not to eat; he felt fat, although he did not say this then, in front of his lover, Ben, who was slender with a v-shaped torso and fine hands.
When Oded undressed, Sarah saw his body for the first time. Hair fanned from his collar-bone like radiator fins; the skin was white.
They lay on the bed. It was 1.30am. Overhead light bathed the room, unnatural for the hour. Ben was on his side, hands folded paw-like before his face. Sarah lay opposite, but Ben was really sleeping and she was not. He moaned, she opened her eyes. She wanted to stay - to sleep with them inside the lemon bed.
In the cinema, Oded had held her hand. He took it three-quarters of the way through the film, possibly out of kindness.
'Who are you?' he said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
'I don’t know... I am always changing,' she replied.
Sarah felt afraid because she could not be the person Oded had met and liked. She wanted him to like her - it was very important - but his question made her feel as if she was no longer there, or at least not in any recognizable form.
(First published by Normblog, 2006)
She learns philosophy in HebrewIn the
white fluorescent room there were biscuits on a small table in the corner,
except it wasn't really a room it was a corner-made-space, where coats might
hang, and there must have been fifteen of us in there, drinking mint tea from
paper cups, squashed in.
up over the beautiful Russian girlfriend of the boy with the black tangled
curls. She had transluscent skin and blue eyes, with ash hair pulled back in a
Chinese bun. When she spoke I looked down into her eyes. I felt the fluorescent
light would make me worn; she was alabaster.
She told me
that learning made her young. She was studying philosophy at the university;
she wanted to learn a new language as well - Spanish, perhaps.
class when we heard the bells she sat, upright back, breasts small. Her profile
was smooth; the line of her nose made me stop and look, it was a perfect curve
as she heard. Next to her, the boy with the matt-black curls rounded his back,
ducked his head, and seemed thin. He did not wear comfortable clothes.
from Russia. She came here when she was six. She learned philosophy in Hebrew, spoke Russian at home.
I thought about their children: would they bear her cautious
grace or take his ill-fitting, southern skin?
Nita will agree
wants to take pictures of herself to send to the family back home. Home
is across the sea and 10 years away. Nita has no kids.
It takes a few minutes with the camera, only minutes and already a picture has been made.
‘I’ve never done photography before.’
makes pictures of the flowers. Close up, the flowers have white sun
patches and often seem to speak. We will print them for her room. She’s
hoping to get some clothes today as well. She heard they give clothes
‘I’ll just get a cup of
tea,’ Nita says when I look the other way. She carries eight chocolate
Bourbons in her hands. I want her to use the camera so I fetch a plate.
take pictures of Nita laughing in the sun. She takes pictures of Shelly
sitting on the step. Nita is happy. She forgets the Bourbons and takes
the camera inside.
‘Look, I took pictures of Shelly.’ She holds out the camera.
‘Maybe you can take pictures of things you like and send them to your family too.’
Nita agrees. Nita will agree with whatever suggestion you make.
old is Nita? I can not tell. I know that when I sit very close she does
not move away, and when she weeps and I touch the blade beneath her
cherry shirt she does not flinch.
has pink shoes. She loves her shoes. They’re from the market - £1, but
someone said they’re like shoes from a proper shop. We take pictures of
her shoes. And her cherry shirt. Her friend gave it to her
- it’s the colour that she likes, or maybe it’s the cat on the front.
Nita has an album. We gave it to her. It’s got her name on it. It is hers. She stuffs her photographs between the leaves.
in profile laughing. Did we make her laugh? How old is Nita? I can not
tell. Her breasts hang low beneath her shirt, her skin is not that old.
Nita in profile laughing.
Shelly on the step.
Tracked bruised bloodied arms. Black shadow eyes.
in profile laughing up on the pinboard. Nita wants her picture there.
She pins it up. She could have chosen any one of her pictures – the
flowers or her shoes – but what Nita wants is herself up laughing. Her
name in thick black pen.
Her family says she shouldn’t be so unhappy.
Nita laughing on the board for everyone to see.
Interview at The Chain Letters
Ink, Sweat and Tears
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