Definitely worth your time.
This image from Peru is by Sebastían Liste
It's a really nice short series of photoessays from different places around the world
Definitely worth your time.
This image from Peru is by Sebastían Liste
The heat of the afternoon did not intrude into the shade of William’s bedroom, though it glowed in streaks of theravada orange through the drapes drawn back toward the glassed doors by the breeze. The same lazy air conveyed the smell of long grass, working in gentle concert with the sound of running water to excavate her from the depths of repose. Sunlight slanted downward from the hole in the ceiling overhead, dropping a dusty, golden shape onto the floorboards that dimmed slowly with the passing of clouds. Susan lay on her stomach in the midst of the enormous mattress beside a welter of bedclothes almost the same size as her body. It was cool and shaded beneath the canopy and she was not inclined to move, except to slowly advance a leg across the sheet to discover if she was alone. From the door the curtain billowed in and brushed the sole of her foot where it hung from the edge of the bed. The ticking of avian tread upon the boards mentioned the pheasant stalking beneath the bed frame on an inquisitive foray.
The tilt of the mattress roused her a second time, the structures in William's shoulders hissing faintly as they rotated, allowing him to bend and press his lips to either of the half-moon dimples in the small of her back. He lay down on top of her, setting his head in the crook of her neck.
“Get off me or I'll wet the fucking bed.” she groaned, unwilling to relinquish her pellucid monopoly. “My arse feels like a mashed banana.”
He moved his hips against the afflicted region, enjoying its tempting, cushioned amplitude.
"Seems perfectly normal.” he smiled. Susan rolled over beneath him, though she kept her pillow to her face to exclude all possibility of daylight, complaining when he pushed it back over her forehead with his nose. Her dark eyes wore a smoky margin of fugitive mascara. She squeezed them shut, pressing her lips together to contain a smile while he licked her chin.
“You’re not allowed to look at me til half past ten.”
"It’s half past two.”
Glancing at him finally, she reached back for her pillow, sighing through it.
“Why don’t you look all seedy and hungover?”
“I thought that’s how I always looked.”
“You look like a virgin... baby... daisy.” she told him wearily, lifting handfuls of his hair over his head, daylight falling through it in glowing, rose-red fractions. “What are you going to do now there's no icecream on the horizon?” He replied with an indolent kiss, drawing on her tongue then sliding back onto his knees, his mouth dwelling on her breasts, either side of her ribcage and navel in a descent that concluded between her thighs, which lay in careless dissociation.
“I think it starts with C.”
"It should start with F for fatal, because I'm going to have a heart attack if you do that one more time..." She sucked in a breath, feet curling tightly on the sheets as she covered her face with her hands and then lapsed into inertia, his attentions possessing both the private comforts of her own hand and a stranger's unimagined expertise. It took a long while for a distant noise to distract her, intruding intermittently between her whispered exclamations until she opened her eyes. “William..." she murmured. "Something’s overflowing.”
He turned his face against her leg and listened, pondering her enigmatic statement before rising to his feet and hurrying back to the bathtub that had begun to disgorge water onto the white floor tiles.
“Stay in there.” she called, lifting her arms together and laying them back on the mattress as she listened to his immersion, the aqueous notes rippling along the ceiling like reflected sunlight and tipping the balance against her boneless sloth. Slowly she rolled to the edge of the bed, groaning all the way, a quick survey of the floor reminding her that she had left her best underwear in the Japanese garden.
The bathtub barely contained his louche entirety, its water threatening the lip of the enamel; Susan grimaced at her own reflection in the cabinet mirror, sitting down on the edge of the bath at his insistence and warning him sternly against temptation though the water flew up over the tiled wall and slopped onto the floor as the caution was disregarded.
"It's freezing!" she shrieked.
"I know." he laughed, winding his arms about her until she swore softly and grew still, forget-me-not blue bleeding from her hair into the water. Its cool acceptance of her weight began to ease the grainiest aspects of her hangover, and silence settled, her body warming a shallow gradient around her, the surface rising and falling slowly with her breathing. William touched his toe to the spout to prevent the drip intruding on the hollow, peaceful rhythm until she turned to lie with her face against his neck, closing her eyes. "Christabel..." he said quietly, after an interval. "How do you like strange?"
"It's alright." she murmured. Her fingers found and followed the figures on his back, the water an intimate liaison, allowing a new appreciation of the work that was so strange a marriage of art and living flesh. "It tastes nice." she added, contemplative. He felt a question move her before she had drawn the breath to ask it.
“My name is Sachiin.” he confided, smiling at the sound of it in her mouth as she lifted her head, her inability to correctly direct the sinuous vowels drawing her gaze to his and soliciting guidance. “Two syllables is perfectly alright.”
Susan spoke both of his names twice over.
"Which one should I call you?"
"Ça m'est égal. I'm used to both."
"I think you're still William to me." she confessed, growing still again. The pheasant peered through the doorway and strutted over the tiles to sip from the puddle at the foot of the tub, tipping back its head to swallow. "How do you like normal?"
"That wasn't really the word I was thinking of..." he smiled, sucking in a breath as she bit his neck. "It's magnificent..." he added swiftly, squeaking tautly when she reached between his legs.
Chuckling, Susan wrinkled her nose at the sight of the skin puckering the ends of her fingers and tapped her toes against his shins, signaling an impatience that eventually hauled her free of the tub. With a towel tucked around her waist she stood before the basin, pulling out its single drawer and rifling its contents, finding a bundle of strange, pale, withered roots, a bar of clove soap, a silver veterinary implement and a heavy-bladed knife, selecting the first item and holding it beneath her nose.
“Licorice roots.” His reply did nothing to mitigate their mystery. “For cleaning your teeth.” He mimed the action to clarify their mystery. “You chew them.”
William pulled a reluctant face, and she waited, examining the implement herself.
“Orthodontic pliers.” She shuddered and returned them to the drawer. He slid beneath the water briefly, looking back to her as he re-emerged with eyes swept by the action of their glassy haws.
“There's that thing... god, that’s well creepy...” she observed as she bent down at the side of the bath and scrutinized him with a conflicted fascination. His fingers emerged from the water and slid up over the edge to touch her chin in his peculiarly affecting way, a hundred words enfolded in the gesture. "You do look like a Sachiin." she sighed, letting the word slide through her teeth. “And you can start teaching me the rest of it. I hate not knowing when to butt in.”
“You don’t want to go round talking like a hillbilly snakeface Christabel, believe me. We don’t win popularity contests.”
“Really? A lot of people seem to want to do things to you.”
“It’s not the same thing.”
“Well...” she sighed again, looking around. “I can’t deal with the sight of myself for much longer so I think I’ll go back to my room and have a bloody lie in.”
“I’ll come up later and help you move your stuff.”
“Move my stuff where?”
“Here. I’m moving you down here, in there, with me." She set her hands on her hips, and William shrugged. “You just bought the cow, cloudcheeks. You fucked me, now you have to marry me. It’s in the bible... Colostomy ten, verse sixty nine.”
Susan laughed and leant against the door frame.
"I was sort of thinking that I might just want to um... use you for sex?” she suggested. “You only want me down here so I’ll clean up after you.”
“I’ll hire a maid. Know anyone hot?” He laughed at his own drollery. "Poupée... I can do monogamy. I've been practising."
"Monogamy reminds me of mahogany which reminds me of sideboards which reminds me of shrimp paste sandwiches and lollies stuck together in a bowl." she smiled. "And promising never to have sex with anything else ever again is the easiest thing in the world after fucking your brains out for twelve solid hours... my brains are as fucked as the rest of me, and yours probably are too, so it's not really the time to be talking about it."
"You're not... into exclusivity?"
She folded her arms in reply to his diffidence.
"William, you're a slapper. I don't actually mind that... it's sort of part of your charm, and I don't want to be the girl who bottles you in nightclubs because you've got your tongue stuck in something else."
"I think we should keep it biblical." he asserted, examining a thumbnail.
"How about don't ask, don't tell?"
"Biblical. For now. We'll review the policy going forward." She rolled around the doorframe into the bedroom. “You’re losing precious packing time.” he called after her. Susan marched to the bed and flung herself down, dragging the sheet over her head.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
I think of it as a restorative tonic, really; there's nothing better when you're cold, low, sick or run down.
The foundational vegetables make this stew both nourishing and relatively easy to digest, so it's a great relief for the bloated and liverish. We have mixed vegetable fortunes here in New Zealand; our zucchinis, onions, garlic, lemons and cauliflower are great, generally speaking; the eggplants are m'kay but our commercial maincrop tomatoes are usually shite. So while this dish might look hopelessly seasonal, we end up making it for most of the year thanks to the cheaty magic of tinned tomatoes and home-grown frozen zucchinis. I love the superior and persistent texture of the old ribbed varieties like Costata Romansesco; after four months sliced in the freezer they're still a thousand times better than the overpriced winter supermarket version. If you really can't get hold of some decent firm zucchini you could perhaps try one of the blander dry pumpkins as a replacement.
If you're too fucking lazy to make your own harissa either substitute a commercial version or just throw in a teaspoon each of the following: whole cumin, whole coriander, salt, chopped/mashed garlic with fresh or dried chili to taste. While we personally find the lemon indispensable we have been caught short and forced to continue on without it; the results were perfectly edible, so you can theoretically eliminate this flavour if you're not a fan.
This stew makes the most of cheaper fish species like Monkfish, Moki, Red Cod or any similar MOR white variety; Mackerel is great too. We've got Gurnard today since it was on special. It's also delicious with chunks of leftover roast lamb or mutton (add some lamb fat if you've got it), leftover meatballs or either plain or Moroccan-style sausages. Make sure you add the cooked meat at the end and allow sufficient time for it to heat through in the stew.
The recipe serves two adults. By a handful of the chopped vegetables, I mean roughly one cup, but precision isn't really important. Cube the veg into largish chunks rather than thin slices. Poach a couple of eggs in the stew in lieu of meat for a vegetarian version. You could even toss in a couple of shelled hard boiled eggs at the end for a protein hit.
Once they're softened up, throw in the cauliflower, then the zucchini and chickpeas. (Just chuck the cauli and zuc in together if you're using fresh vegetables, but save the chickpeas til last if they're canned). Break up any frozen clumps and keep it all moving over a brisk high heat to prevent the watery sogs setting in. Once it's starting to lose that raw virgin crispness, add the rest of the harissa and stir well.
Bring to the boil and let it go for about 2 minutes. Watch it closely; you just want everything acquainted at this point rather than disintegrating into an indistinguishable Brundlefly mash.
You can chop the fish into chunks if it's gobby (i.e. Monkfish) rather than flaky, but Gurnard will come apart nicely so we place the fillets in poaching position on top of the stew and spoon some over them. Keep the heat high very briefly (about a minute) then turn it off (in the case of ceramic tops) or go low (for gas) and let the whole lot simmer with the lid on. Don't be tempted to poke or fuck around with it; leave the damn fish alone. If you're using leftover cooked meat, you just want to bring it up to a safe temperature- don't boil the shit out of it. Vegetarians: keep the heat a little bit higher and drop a couple of eggs into wells in the stew at this point- poach them to your desired texture.
Ebaneezer, lemon squeezer... I'll spare you the full verse but I got three-quarters of the way into a not-haiku before dignity intervened. There will be a Kitchen Bitch thing coming at you this week- one of our personal high-rotation favourites and hopefully a help to all you greige-faced shitty-livered nutrient-dodgers out there who need a hard fucking kick in the nutritional pants. With something that doesn't taste like arse.
Cultural appropriation, eh? It may have been getting a shit tonne of attention lately but it was not invented by frothing Tumblrite fanatics and in my capacity as a socially-conscious person, subcultural adherent and admirer of Other Peoples Shit, I've been giving it thought for some twenty five years.
As a coherent, drivable hypothesis, cultural appropriation has big- I suspect insoluble- problems centred around definition and intent. Fucking define cultural appropriation in a way that does not negate the concept right into the ground, for one thing. You can't really do it; in one way or another, everyone alive is 'appropriating' virtually everything in their lives. It could be successfully argued that I'm appropriating the term 'cultural appropriation', for fuck's sake. That doesn't mean the core concept does not have legitimacy or merit.
Let's take the uncommon sense approach. What is the fundamental objection at the heart of the CA concept? That a group or individual is uplifting the (usually) material expression of an unrelated person or entity without consent, and is using that expression in a way that profits the usurper and denigrates both the material and its original proponents. That usage is exacerbated by any privilege the appropriator might enjoy, obviously. But we can boil that down to a simple question everyone can ask, both of themselves and of others.
Am I being tacky and exploitative?
Those considerations can dissolve away most of the crusty bullshit that obfuscates the central theme of cultural appropriation and neatly closes all those bus-size holes that plague its popular idiom. Because the spirit of the concept extends beyond traditional notions of 'culture' and into taste and respect per se. Why not try this at home?
Was Marc Jacobs being tacky and exploitative with his raver loc shit the other day? Yes. But cases like this are where pedantic, half-baked Social Justice Warrior ideas about CA fall over.
Dreads aren't and never have been an exclusively African-American (or even African) thing, so the people citing that aspect were mostly wrong. The underlying point re black Americans being criticised for wearing their hair naturally whilst Jacobs' models are rewarded for working dreads is absolutely valid but that's more a straight-up racist thing than the theft of an exclusive expression. Not sure racism needs another fancy euphemism, to be honest.
IMO, Jacobs was being tacky and exploitative, no contest. Fashion dicks might not like it, but dreads still are- intrinsically and traditionally- an expression of defiance against the socio-economic principles their particularly disgusting business model relies upon. No one wears them to look more corporate or materially affluent. By sticking them on fucking Kendal Jenner et al, Jacobs trivialises their social context for profit. If he gave a shit about any of that he wouldn't have done it. So fuck him.
The same applies to Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Katey Perry and every other arsehole who's jacked something wholesale for nothing more than the narcissistic jööjing of their own commercialised spectacle. It's absolutely possible to incorporate aspects of a culture or aesthetic you admire without being a ruthless and/or clueless cunt about it. You just have to care enough to bother. Next.
Here in New Zealand there is debate about the use of Maori iconography by non-Maori; we'll narrow it down here to ta moko- tattoos- for the sake of brevity and because you international types have probably seen what I'm talking about. While race or ethnicity should never restrict anyone's appreciation of or identification with another culture's aesthetic, applying sacred moko to oneself without respect for its significance is tacky and exploitative. Unfortunately, covering oneself in nasty, bastardised, nominally Maori 'tribal' tattoos with zero clues about their cultural context is a practise beloved by New Zealanders of all ethnicities, including plenty of Maori.
So it's demonstrably possible for someone to 'appropriate' their own culture, especially when we're observing the despotically conservative racial=cultural affinity model that spawned this contemporary understanding of appropriation in the fucking first place. Which is surely a reductio ad absurdum moment that should chasten its most strident internet advocates.
I feel absolutely comfortable with a house full of objects sourced from other cultures, in my adoption of non-traditional Pakeha dress and in my attribution of other languages and ethnicities to the fictional characters in my writing. Probably because I spend most of my life attempting to inform myself about extrinsic experience and the practises that inspired them. I worry that this appropriation hysteria will only feed the kind of parochialism and incuriosity that is already blighting this infant century. But I support other peoples' right to wear a First Nation war bonnet to a fucking festival because it's better for everyone when thoughtless arseclowns self-identify succinctly and expeditiously.
If you have enough empathy to worry about the tenor of your own conduct here's all you need to ask yourself anent that shit. Am I being tacky and exploitative? Am I perpetuating an ignorant perception of a group/culture in an attempt to garner attention or profit for myself?
No? You're probably alright, then.
Half-doubtful, Susan watched William sort through the ring of heavy, varied keys in the shadow of the tall red gateway, glancing upward at the features of the terracotta dragon hunched upon its tiled eave. After a moment with the lock he eased the gate forward and admitted her to the walled enclosure beyond.
“I’m not even going to ask how you can do this.” she sighed.
“You buy the keys... a good collection's fucking pricy, but I like to think it’s worth every cent Ed paid for it." He flipped through the various clavicles, reminded of their corresponding venues. "He’s got everything... Lichfield Arboretum, the Merchant Theatre, Modern Art basement access, the Weaver Building, the old library... et voilá, bot gardens...” he added, smiling around himself. “They’ve got a great kaiyu-shiki.”
She stood in the middle of the pebble lane with a bottle hanging from her right hand. The pearly, polished gravel glowed cooly white and clicked softly beneath her feet as she slipped off her shoes. The pale path swept away into an elderly stand of Amur cherries and tiered azaleas, but before them a black pond reposed around a strange, gnarled omphalum of planted stones, occupying the low ground at the foot of a bank of sloping velvet green. A maple stretched its spotted limbs over the grass like blown smoke; its leaves adorned the bank, minikin stellae in flat lacquer red arranged like the night sky that lay in cold, inverse perfection on the water of the pond. Susan stepped over the edge of the path onto the slope, tucking her dress beneath her and sitting down, loosely cross-legged. She handed the bottle to him when he joined her, shedding his jacket and reaching down to pluck the laces from his shoes so that he could shuck his feet free of their detested confines.
“It’s like going to the dentist every fucking day." he admitted.
"God... look at them..." she laughed, leaning over to examine his toes; grimacing, she picked up a little stick, then set it down in a concession to his dignity. “Why don’t you wear... I don’t know... really thick comfortable socks, or something?” She laughed again at the stroke of visible dread the suggestion inspired. William shuddered and took a long draught from the bottle and for a brief empathic moment she experienced the sense of fibrous stricture that so appalled him. “Everything must be so strange to you. Why do you live? You must get so sick of people... we’re everywhere.”
“I do get sick of myself. But... life is only given to you once, at least I always thought that, and I suppose it’s true for most of us... to live is to thank the fairies for all those things they left under the tree for you. When some miserable prick complains about their life we say so thii siith savih is’e... remember how you came by it. Not that it ever shuts anyone up.”
“So many questions.”
“You could at least be flattered that I’ve taken an interest in you.”
“Christabel... your interest is not something I take lightly, and in fact I’m well aware that it’s curiosity more than anything that gets you into my car alone at night, but there’s just something about your questions that makes me feel like I'm the stupidest débile ever to walk around Eurasia with their head up their arse in the last two thousand years.”
“Are you?” she chuckled, raising the bottle to her lips again.
“Why ask me?" he laughed. "One free shot. Come on.”
“What’s the most pr...”
“Merchant of Venice.”
Susan spluttered and wiped at the vodka that disappeared into the neck of her dress.
“Don’t be a dick. Just listen. What I want to know is... what is the most... profound, amazing thing you’ve learnt? About yourself.”
Lying back on the grass, William crossed his arms behind his head, clasping each pointed elbow and regarding the distant stars with a sigh.
“I’ve learnt that I’m a slow learner.” he confessed, turning his head to watch her chuckle at the admission, her hair falling in tendrils over her forehead to curl back toward her nose. Her dress puckered across her belly as she planted an elbow on her knee and rested her chin on her hand, arranging leaves into a circle on the grass before her.
“Do you have a birthday?” He shook his head against the ground. “Do you want one?” Stretching out his arms, he left them on the grass with palms upturned and she smiled at the subtle, persuasive disarmament implicit in their repose. “You can share mine if you like... if you don’t mind being an Aries.”
“I thought you were a Gemini.”
“I lied on the form.”
Susan leant forward and tucked up her dress, rising unsteadily to her feet and walking in a slow ellipse around him with the bottle under her arm, glancing down at his face as she negotiated the deceptive slope. Exhausting her circumscribed route she stepped over him and sat down on his stomach, leaning back against his knees as he drew them up for her. He watched her fumble with the buttons over his navel.
“What's an Aries?” he frowned.
“The ram. Don't ask to be a unicorn."
"I want to be an elephant."
"They never forget."
"I’m glad you have a belly button because I forgot to check." she laughed, tongue tucked into the corner of her mouth as she applied herself to the remainder of his shirt front, opening his collar and laying each half of the garment aside, sitting back to satisfy her gaze, then her desire for all that it enjoyed, her hands passing slowly from his neck to the bright skin of his stomach. “You could be an evil spirit... how do I even know this is your body? You should be much fatter." she sighed. "It's not fair..."
“I keep it tight with lots of booze and cigarettes and three hours of no pilates every day, no excuses.” he assured her. She attempted to work the garment from his arms until she gave it up and leant sideways to kick off her underwear, tossing it away over the grass, supporting herself on both elbows as she toured the peculiar symmetry of his features with her lips and fingers.
“What will I do if I can’t go back to my own kind?”
“You won't need to.”
She shook her head down at his smile.
“You'll regret that when I’m throwing chairs at you and pushing your new slapper down the stairs.” The length of his arms almost frustrated her second attempt to divest them of his shirt, but she tugged it from his wrists and passed her hands over his shoulders, delighted by their acquisition. “I don't have the faintest idea what you like...”
“I like everything.” he sighed, drawing the zip down the back of her dress, the panels falling away from the warmth of her body; she reached up to pull the pins from her hair, the small ruby leaves pressed to her arms where they had lain against the grass. He stroked the pliant length of her spine and the soft width of her hips while she opened his trousers, throwing his belt in the direction taken by her underwear, then bent to kiss him, but he turned his face toward the grass. "Susan... you can't fuck me until you trust me."
“William... that’s not even your name. And I trust you." she promised, leaning her hands on his chest as she availed herself of him slowly, descending into a breathless, senseless pleasure that redoubled as the same submersive luxury enclosed him, pressing his naked back into the grass and closing his eyes. From it he rose and folded his legs beneath her as she closed her own around him, her dress heaped like the smooth pelt of some shape she had discarded in her lap. She looked down into that plain within his gaze on which the secrets roamed, luminous and defiant in their liberty, and closed her arms about his neck. "If you tell me what you’re really called, will I have power over you?”
“I think that horse has bolted.”
Shaw killed the narrow jet of water in his left hand and stowed the pistol in his right, walking the garden hose back to the corner of the house. Taking the torch from between his teeth he played it over the wet drive and into the trees on the far side of the road, scanning them carefully. The sensor in his pocket sounded a discreet warning as a car drove by its station; crossing back over the grass, he unlocked the gate and walked back the panels, watching Edward's sedan slide by him without slowing.
By the time the Jaguar rolled in, the garden birds had already begun to chime from dripping branches in the heron-blue gloom. Shaw remained beneath the elms while William got back into his car and allowed it to ghost further down the drive. Sitting in his lap, Susan kissed him intemperately between smothered laughter, her dress hanging inside out from both elbows; he pushed open the door and pitched forward with her onto the lawn where she exclaimed at the dampness of the grass, cackling as he bore her to the porch. Struggling with the keys while she murmured against his ear, he abandoned the task, returning his mouth to hers and his hands to her body, their embrace once more overtaken by heat and urgency. They left the door ajar behind them in their immodest haste.
Having secured the gates Shaw leant over his torch in a last inspection of the driveway cobbles. The water had soaked away into the lawn, leaving them clean and gleaming and revealing a tangled hank of blonde hair snagged in one of the dark clefts. He took a pen from the pocket of his suit and teased it out from between the stones. A little piece of scalp and glistening fragment of bone caused it to swing from the end of the ball point.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Because Satan rides a Flaming Mars Bar: all the Bad Shit no one ever told you about Losing Weight. I drop the dime like it was burning my fingers.
What's it like to ditch the chunk as a middle aged person? Do you know, because I bloody well didn't and a lot of what occurred has deviated somewhat from standard media assurances of instant sexual chocolate and general sylph-like infallibility. No one warns you that your nipples will turn purple- that was a complete shocker. Even though I'm just fucking with you about the nipple thing, the newly-shrunk, including myself, often wank on about the incredible benefits of being smaller whilst neglecting to elucidate the negative aspects of getting and staying there. Some shit went downhill on the way out of fattyland. Let's take a head to toe, no punches pulled approach because the downside is deserving of consideration by anyone thinking of reforming their own habits.
THE BAD NEWS
Hormonal & Psychological Fluctuations: I'm female, just into my forties at the time and for me these physiological changes were nothing short of horrific. Body fat produces oestrogen and god only knows what else; when you start to shed it, your endocrine situation can go pretty batshit. Oestrogen can affect everything from period pain to skin texture to energy levels and nobody tells you that. I found out the hard way and it wasn't fun.
Hormones also party hard with your psychological and emotional fluctuations and can greatly amplify any fucked up tendencies you might already exhibit. My weight loss was entangled with chronic depression, a midlife crisis and repressed complex grief, and holy shit that kaleidoscopic psycho-physiological cocktail was one of the worst times of my life. Crying, rage, intense gloom, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, whiplash temper- it wasn't pretty and I wasn't even perimenopausal yet. I had genuine self-harm and suicidal ideation for the first time in about 15 years. It lasted about a year and a half and was almost intolerable for the first twelve months. I didn't seek professional help, but I should have. Smoking the odd joint helped relieve the worst mood swings/darkest thoughts. Be warned: if you have any chronic psychological issues, they could well leap into acute mode when you downsize. It's not all hearts and fucking flowers. You may not recognise it until it's too late, so warn a partner, friend, parent or healthcare provider and ask them to keep an eye on you. If you take one thing away from this ramble, let it be that single recommendation.
Also: being smaller and dedicated to regular exercise (like it or not) cuts into your slothful creative time. If you're a writer or any kind of artist engaged in projects that require extended periods of quiet contemplation, you may find your ability to summon and prolong this important mental state is impaired. My concentration is nothing like it used to be, which sucks arse.
Dysmorphia: Modern humans are inherently delusional. We lie to ourselves about all sorts of bollocks and our shape and size are often just particles in our personal haze of ambient bullshit. I knew I was fat but studiously avoided quantifying that state so as not to upset myself unduly. Which led into not really knowing what I looked like when I was losing weight. I still don't really know what I look like now, in any objective sense. Getting smaller doesn't guarantee you will be able to automatically appreciate and enjoy the results of all that hard work. Let's throw in the salient fact that there's always one (at the very least) cunty observer who thinks you could still stand to be thinner anyway, and probably won't hesitate to tell you that.
I have days when I think myself three sizes larger than I am and that can be unsettling, to say the least. I don't know which clothes I'm going to fit into or what I should wear now; that's exacerbated by the whole hitting-forty thing and having to let some looks go, but still... the dysmorphia is a constant battle. My recommendation: skip the scales and just measure the shit out of yourself right from the start to combat the mad mental business that can keep you from recognising and being rewarded by your own progression.
Hair Loss: Ever wonder why fat chicks go for a pixie cut once they start dropping sizes? Your fucking hair starts falling out, yo. No one tells you it will probably happen as a result of caloric restriction and stress which sends a good portion of your follicles into 'drop and sleep' mode, but it's incredibly common. Mine started shedding like a fucking Labrador around 3 months into a 1000 calorie/day regime and I probably lost about 15% in total. After clogging the shower drain for 6 months, my hair has more or less recovered but I had to cut it short.
Benign Positional Vertigo: I started getting briefly dizzy from lying down, sitting up and turning/angling my head too quickly. I narrowed it down to BPV, which is a condition caused by shifting of crystals in the inner ear, affecting balance. Anecdotal evidence suggests it's moderately common amongst people who lose a lot of weight, I suspect because of altered fat deposits in your face, skull and neck etc, so it makes sense that minute, stasis-dependant stuff gets slightly out of whack. It resolved after a few months.
Wrinkles: My skin was so much better when I was fat. No contest, no equivocation. Virtually zit-free, soft, dewy, plump and unlined. There is a lot to be said for truckloads of gloopy mischievous oestrogen and a layer of subcutaneous blubber; you have little idea how much of your bloom consists of those two fickle bastards until they are whittled away. Now I have an awesome set of crows' feet, more upper lip lines than I personally care for, more and juicer pimples and my T-zone is greasier. That's my 40s talking too, but it was definitely linked to weight loss. Still have minor rosacea and photosensitivity. Shape-wise, I now have a more angular oval face, which I consider an improvement- luckily, because whatever emerged was going to be a surprise. You do need to brace yourself for facial change. It sounds like a superficial consideration, but believe me, alterations to this most fundamental personal register can be disturbing to an already overtaxed self-image. By the way; all that expensive and carefully-curated makeup you wore when you were fat? Most of it no longer suits you.
I managed to dodge the all-over droopy-dog excess skin thing, but only through a combination of stupid luck, slow-paced reduction, good nutrition and replacement muscle mass through the boring toil of protracted physical exertion. Others are not so fortunate.
Teeth: I suspect caloric restriction was instrumental in one of my rear molars cracking. You need to watch that shit, especially if you've got smoking/drinking/addiction issues or low bone density/incipient osteoporosis etc.
Breasts: They are unpredictable beasts at the best of times and a lot of people will tell you losing weight isn't the best thing you can do for your knockers. I would argue that it reduces your chances of having to get cancerous boobies excised, but you probably won't give a shit about that if getting smaller has snatched all the fun out of your funbags. Some bootylicious Celtiberian ancestor is responsible for my personal bustiness rather than just plain excess adipose, so I'm still a DD. Crazily, they seem a little perkier to me after dropping the poundage. They also swell more painfully during my cycle at my present weight, and finding bras made for women with large, morphologically distinct breasts instead of just contiguous fatness in that general area is seemingly impossible.
Arms: Fat arms and big boobs tend to go together and thusly I was blessed with both. Oddly, my upper arms have been the most stubborn holdouts as far as reduction is concerned although I tend to minimise this mentally; thanks, dysmorphia. Went through a phase of rather unsightly underarm looseness (bingo flaps) that seems to be slowly resolving despite my being no spring chicken. It's taking a year longer than everything else, though. Caveat: I did jack shit as far as dedicated upper body work goes. There's also the small matter of hand-shrink; none of my rings fit very well any more and I have to swap them to my largest digits.
Gut: Changing your diet, especially if you're heading away from regular ingestion of processed carbs, alters the composition of your gut flora and therefore tampers with your entire fucking biology in ways we are only beginning to understand. The transition can be unpleasant with bloating, discomfort, hunger pangs, headaches, low energy, poor absorption, shitty sleep and poopy disruption- you name it. You may need to white-knuckle a month of internal discomfort while your commensal situation adapts to your new inputs.
Tail bone: Ye olde coccyx isn't something we normally think about... until it's malfunctioning. If you are the owner of a formerly capacious caboose, you're possibly not aware of the extent to which your arseal padding is cosseting that obscure part of the spine. Your tailbone is like a lazy nun taking a three-hour lunch break from doing fuck-all anyway in a cloister made of pillowy arse fat. It doesn't care for being suddenly required to support your remaining mass without warning; I lost a lot of junk from the hips, lower back and bum and once I was down to a size 16 (UK/NZ), sitting still, even on a nice sofa in an impeccably upright position, was painful to the extent that I would have to stand up after around 10 minutes. Like someone was twisting my finger backwards or grinding out a cigarette behind my poopchute sort of pain. Which may excite some of you. Sadly, excruciating arseplay was not on my wishlist and there was no safeword. Sitting up in bed and sometimes even lying on my side was almost impossible. This hardcore discomfort level continued for about a year. Honestly, it was second only to the hormonal/emotional swings as far as detriment was concerned. My effete, sequestered tailbone has hardened the fuck up and I rarely get sitting pain these days, but it took a year of standing around strangely like I was coming off one too many speed tabs.
General Joint & Skeletal: The frame remains the same. Losing weight won't magic your mighty thicksetedness into daintyhood. If you're in the upper proportional percentile, sleeves will still end two inches from your wrists and people will still ask you to lift heavy stuff for them even though you're thinner. I don't feel more conventionally, acceptably feminine but then that doesn't really bother me personally.
Shit moves around, loosens out and tightens up when you're shedding significant weight. Downsizing is a state of flux, obviously. I had a host of minor tectonic-style alignment and adaptive issues- back, hips, knees, tendons etc- but they all resolved without treatment. Glad I didn't panic and have anything 'treated'.
Feet: After making them carry my fat arse around for so many years I thought they were fairly inured to whatever life could throw at them but the hard walking regime I adopted was still a big shock to their sedentary comfort. I got a shifting cascade of moderate sesamoid, arch and heel pain as the bones and tendons cried a plaintive WTF and tried to duck their new responsibilities. Nothing bad enough to put me on the bench, so I just toughed it out and that seems to have been the right thing to do. My feet took a full year of daily walking to really adapt and that process sucked.
From starting out walking in Chucks I progressed through a number of fancy sports shoes. There's fuck-all difference between cheap and high-end shoes as far as 'performance' is concerned; they're going to make your feet look like hideous loaves of sporty bread and shit themselves in six months to a year, no matter what you spend. I always try to pick them up second hand. Which leads me to...
Shoe size & Wardrobe: I've gone down around half a conventional UK shoe size and a full boot size. The fit of any footwear style that goes above the ankle is heavily influenced by the size of your lower leg and my fat calves forced my feet to sit forward in Docs et al. They've thinned out substantially and now the UK10s are too fucking long. Which is an annoying and expensive problem to remediate.
But not as annoying and expensive as having to abandon and heavily remodel my entire fucking wardrobe. Depending on your personal style and how materially pedantic you are, going down a lot of sizes can involve some fucking horrible sartorial bereavement. I collect vintage garments, make a lot of my own from really nice hard-to-get fabrics and was not happy about having to give them up. Losing weight meant a lot of my treasured pieces just didn't work any more, no matter how many times I altered them and even though I sew, larger, less defined body shapes are relatively easy to dress in comparison with my new emphatic hourglass- possibly the worst shape to try to buy or construct for. For the fastidious dresser, that loss of personal autonomy can be horribly demoralising and at a time when you really do not need the extra drama.
Prepare to part with some of your best gear. For maybe having to construct an entirely new exterior expression right in the middle of your fucking adult life. And for the hideous trauma of possibly having to wear the same basic shit that other people are wearing whilst formulating your new look. The prospect of spending money on those tragicomic high-street items should give anyone with an eye and a conscience sweaty nightmares; I would advise the (smarter than I was) punter to limit investment to a few stretchy staples and maybe a cool belt (for cinching older pieces) to tide you over rather than running out and panic-buying/making a whole new kit for your mid-stage self. Ride it out until you're at your preferred size.
I'll talk about the special and entirely separate hell of other peoples' reactions next time.
We were watching MitGoGaE that same day all unknowingly and were once more humbled by and grateful for her cask-strength, double-wide and somehow still soignée elegance. She stomped Eastwood's bumfuck direction right into the ground, transcending the patronising tone to become the only indispensable element in the whole fucking thing. And as someone who would have looked like confused luncheon sausage in that blue sequinned cocktail business despite being born with ovaries, I give respect where it is due. That bitch snatched all the fucking deportment and left none for the rest of us; we would have fucked it up anyway, so I'm not bitter.
Go wherever you please, Ms Lady.
In better news, my Aloe burhii is going to flower for the first time: SERIOUS YAY.
Despite all the scuzzy worldly shit that's been happening of late I'm in a consistently goodish mood, perhaps because writing the second book has been going relatively well after a very fucking slow start. It can be incredibly difficult switching between short form for the blog and then trying to wade back out into the extended trance state you need for fucked-up fiction and I've been struggling to attain that elusive flexibility for a couple of years now. I don't know why it's so hard to recognise when one is flowing and the other isn't, and to prioritise accordingly, but it bloody is sometimes. Fingers crossed this current equilibrium will stick.
Don't know what's coming at you this week: t'will be workload dependant.
Sometimes I think BLT is the perfect song and no one else should bother, even though New Order have always been more of a booty call than an actual thing for me, musically speaking. Bless Bernard for never bothering to learn to sing; his breezy roadkill stylings are a timeless objet de vertu in the manner of Aphrodite's girdle. Or Peaches.
Shaw met Josephine at the chained gates and flashed the beam from his torch into her face as he worked the lock. Her hair was still damp from the shower and sent an occasional bead of water down the back of her sweatshirt. She handed him a pair of surgical gloves and cuffed bags to slide on over his shoes.
“You got some kind of theory?” he inquired, walking with her down the drive when he had complied with her precautions. The warmth of the day sat in the still air over the grass, not yet displaced by the breeze that left the hills and swept down toward the city around midnight. Josephine found it difficult to reconcile the view from their customary vantage with the actual expanse of house and garden that greeted her in the darkness. Two pairs of boots and a tyre iron lay about the edge of the porch. She stepped over them carefully.
“I was called into a metro lycanthrope census a few years back... so many counters were getting intercepted it was threatening the data. Turned out to be scent recognition of the deuce gear... that's what was tipping them off, so we set up a new protocol. Cold showers prior to dust-off, civilian gear only... you get a thirty minute window before you start to lay down a solid scent trail. The scrubs buy you an hour.” she told him, flexing her hands further into her gloves.
It was only after she had been led along the darkness of the entrance hall, with its beetle-riven oak and the faded tang of lanolin rising from nomad textiles that she gained an appreciation of the atmosphere implied by the building's exterior. They stood in the door of the drawing room while Shaw flipped the lightswitch on and off, looking back at her.
“It’s like that all the way through. No lights, no power. No goddamn chairs, no tables, no TV...” Josephine turned to follow his manual directions. “The housekeeper's in the attic... that’s got juice, but not much else does. So right off the bat there’s a problem trying to keep up with ingress and exits, who’s here, who’s not...” He paused in his dissertation and climbed slowly to the landing where she stood awaiting him. “You smell that?”
"I guess. Something... dopey.” She stared up into the complicated darkness of the second floor, regretting the rustle of her plastic accoutrement. “You sure you counted everyone out?” Shaw gave her a grim smile.
“If that was One or Two they would have been on us in the driveway. The callgirl loves her pharmaceuticals.”
“Maybe One’s keeping her strung out.” she suggested. He shook his head.
"When they’re not in direct conflict, they’re interfacing.” At the head of the stairs they stood and gazed down the hall in both directions, his reference to their subjects’ private proclivities painting deep shades of aversion onto her expression.
“Xenophilia, to me, is... it’s unethical, irresponsible... biologically it's hazardous... I can’t believe anyone would seriously go there.”
“Different strokes. There’s One, and then there’s Two.” he said, indicating the direction of both rooms.
Josephine was first overwhelmed, and then appalled by the confusion of shapes and colour that passed beneath the beam of her companion’s torch inside William’s bedchamber, the room like the tomb of a heretic pharaoh, the air thick with the sweet, spectral scent of incense and petal-dripping lilies, burnt hashish and the final, half-spent notes of womens’ perfume. She fought the urge to place some part of her clothing over her mouth and nose to physically exclude an atmosphere so charged with degenerate opulence, producing a slim camera and taking four frames before retreating, more than happy to exchange it for the unlit hall. Shaw followed her, checking his watch. The glass eyes shining in the heavy beast heads on the ivy-coloured wall reflected her face as a mottled sliver of white. Josephine preceded him to the door of Edward’s rooms, urging him closer.
“Feels shady.” she whispered against the side of his head. He waved her away along the hall, tapping a knock on the door in question before pushing it inward and admitting himself. The time that elapsed while he cleared the room raised the volume of her misgivings; she dropped slowly to one knee to slide the small pistol from her ankle holster, listening closely, but Shaw returned to the doorway and beckoned to her.
An unconscious woman lay on a bed clothed in blood red silk, the bare skin of her legs and midriff glowing dilute blue in the light falling from the window, the deathly shade in keeping with the attitude of senselessness that pinned her right arm beneath her body and doubled her left wrist against the counterpane. Her mouth had taken on a leaden cast, as though some dark fruit had stained her lips. Though Josephine knew her from the surveillance pictures she was surprised to see how little Lilian Frost resembled her stolen likeness. She went immediately to the window and pulled the curtain closed, turning back toward the scene with her camera.
“Hypoxic.” Shaw said quietly, chancing a measure of the woman’s pulse at the back of her ankle. “Opiates.”
“Breathing?” He shrugged. Josephine was careful not to brush Lilian's feet as she bent over her in the darkness, unwinding a narrow sheet of print-lifting adhesive from the roll in her pocket. “If she was cold we could evac the body for an exam... ” she whispered, almost to herself. They looked to one another across the subject of their speculation, standing with hands on hips.
“Her colour’s bad... if you called it in, there’s a good chance she’ll flatline by the time they get here.”
Shaw frowned, unconvinced, and leant out to spread a hand before Lilian’s mouth and nose.
“I don’t like her for a DOA. She’s moving too much air.” He was surprised to see the small compliment of sampling tools that Josephine drew out of her pockets. She backed up and took a full-length shot of Lilian as she lay, stepping away into the bathroom when it caught her attention. The wall cabinet and bath were recorded quickly, as was the contents of the bin beneath the pedestal basin, tipped onto the white tiles and kicked into a small radius. Lilian's contraceptive and menstrual supplies provided little information beyond the obvious; she swept them back into the waste bin and replaced it carefully. On her return to the bedroom she stood beside the woman's legs and readied a silver spatulate instrument, picking up a hand and using it to scrape beneath its fingernails.
"You can't turn that in..." he warned her, the sight of Josephine's purposive efficiency redoubling his misgivings as she clipped a narrow swatch of hair from her subject's head. She glanced up at him, but said nothing, pushing a syringe from its plastic bubble and looking for a suitable site to introduce it. "Jones... I said you can't turn any of this in, so w..."
"I can run it myself." she assured him. "What is it about this that One can't get enough of?" she murmured, pausing in another moment of narrow, critical study of the unconscious stranger. "We watch this sub for four years... it never taps the same girl twice, is rigorous about paying for it, then suddenly..." Her gaze shifted back to Shaw. "Are you sure there's a bond?"
"They're tight. You can't get near her without him being on you like that." he told her, frowning as his attention was called toward the distance. Josephine bent and touched a finger to the back of Lilian's knee, prospecting her veins. "Jones..." he whispered. She did not look up. He hissed her name again, and then a loud, brittle sound turned her back toward him in dismay. Both intruders dropped into a crouch and remained unmoving as it was repeated, two and then three times, its damning volume almost gratuitous.
“What the hell is that?” she hissed in a silent interval. He shook his head at the floorboards, and then lifted his dark eyes to her.
Rachelle shoved the twin partitions inward to the full extent of their heavy chain, both hands wrapped around the iron. Swinging them once more toward herself, she stumbled backward, tripping over her own heels and the gritty surface of the road. A thick, bubbling litany of accusations rang out around the empty cul de sac as she staggered to her feet and kicked at her forgotten handbag, spreading its contents in a tinkling half-circle. Embracing herself, she screamed William’s name three times into the garden through the bars, choking on her own ragged throat. She wore a skin tight, gold-lettered T-shirt and jeans distressed far beyond their original intent, spotted with dark liquid spills and the remains of her last meal; her phone beeped a battery warning and she shuffled over to it, hunting out its silver form and punching autodial repeatedly. The face of the device dazzled her eyes with a charge of reflected brilliance and she looked up into the headlights of a taxi that slowed and rolled to a halt at a discreet distance.
Petrouchka tipped the driver when he wheeled her scarlet suitcase to her side, accepting it from him and directing her gaze along the streak of scorned belongings littering the road to Rachelle’s feet. The taxi receded into a long reverse, leaving them alone together. With her case trundling behind her the vampyre walked toward the gate and took the key to the padlock from the thick plush of her coat. Rachelle's advance was checked by her sudden glance.
“Don’t you know fur is murder?” the wide-eyed woman demanded. “You think you're moving in here? He can’t just do that like I don’t have any fucking rights... I don’t care who you are... he’s going to shit on you like he does... like he does to everybody! That's what you are, don’t you get it? You’re the fucking rebound! I’m the one!”
Her remarks failed to register in the grey gaze of the stranger, who stood looking at her from a latent immobility that reached slowly toward Rachelle and tapped her on the cheek, drawing her closer as though desiring to impart a secret. Bending from the hip, she looked hard into the glossy stare with its curving ring of sable lashes, the black holes in their centres the luring object of her witless quest. When the vampyre spoke, it was with vicious gutturals, and a slick flash of her teeth.
“Go away, piz'da, before something bad happen to you.”
Petrouchka took her time about the gates, locking them again behind herself while the blonde woman uttered belated, incoherent insults. Rachelle watched the vampyre tote her case along the drive and turned back toward the road, her cries of outrage devolving once more into the screaming of William’s name. Her voice rolled out across the seal, past the scarp of wilding trees at the edge of the road and away into the plantation. As if in answer, two huge, bone-coloured moths ghosted out of the branches into the torpid streetlight and began to float in slow, unheeded circles over her head.
The vampyre left her case at the foot of the stairs and shrugged off her coat as she ascended, draping it over her elbow. She peered into each doorway, taking an excursion into Edward’s studio and lifting her smiling white face to the ceiling, before returning to the hallway and traipsing onward, beyond a bank of windows to the little case of wooden steps.
She had not stopped to look into the suite where Lilian lay once more alone in her brumous stupor. For a while she had drifted in the pixelated, cloud-coloured space lying just beneath the surface of awareness, hearing sounds conveyed through air as well as those transmitted by the mattress, discomfort standing on the verge of firing movement through her body. But in her stomach active compounds still bled from jewel-green capsules and turned the slow recovery into a dim false dawn, turning her over in a darkness that was ordered into shape and setting her down upon her feet.
Around them and beneath the coppice wood of leafless, black-boled trees, the first snow lay in low, crisp drifts, glittering like milled salt. When she considered its perfection she regretted the drag of her hooded mantle, though with her companion she tracked a ragged precedent between the coppiced stands that had churned the white to sepia mud and left the smell of stale clothes and sweating desperation in its wake. Her companion took the large, vaguely lunar length of black wood from his back, drawing it over his shoulder. He slid twisted rawhide from his belt and strung the span, transforming the nameless instrument in an act of silent alchemy into the graceful recurved bow that he had carried since his service in the Eastern steppe. Thus configured, it was two thirds as tall as he; she reached out and took it from him, finding herself barely able to draw it from the stiff line it described between the two siyah, her fingers burning with the effort. He selected seven arrows and set them head-first in the snow.
Like a cowhand in a yard stocked with beasts accustomed to her presence, Opal made her way between the ranks of bared and semi-celebrated shoulders, past the shrieking dresses that fought so violently with the drab favoured by midlife creatives, who were themselves strictly demarcated from their younger contemporaries, the latter boneless and scrawny in their entropic knitwear. Their disregard was nectar to her ruling animus, if not quite so gratifying to that portion nourished by supplication. Edward appeared to have slipped the noose she had fashioned from the person of Leighton Sotherby-Aldrich; she found him in a distant corner beneath one of his own monolithic works, standing like a polar animal inside the clothing of the people it had devoured, thrown into blatant contrast by the indifference with which he regarded his own cursory impersonation.
Her bee-line was abruptly severed by Siobhan’s fanged and intersecting smirk as the latter lurched in front of her, dragging Leighton Sotherby-Aldrich toward the ladies’ room by her wrist and cackling like a pantomime witch. Opal turned to scan the crowd again as she stood alongside Edward, their association flagged explicitly by the black, descending strokes of the graphic overhead.
“I think we can do this here.” she began without looking up at him. “I’ve negotiated an offer with the Prague contingent. The first, and last." Anticipating an objection, she tossed her head at the gatecrashers that had flouted what security remained and suffused through the invited guests like an infective agent. "Look at these idiots. Half of them would stab each other before they came at me. None of them would thank you for siding with them if you turned the local reservoir to bourbon for your second miracle.” Opal cracked a smile at a pair of passing benefactors. “In return for your active assistance in implementing domestic policy, you'll receive tithing rights over your local precinct... needless to say, any declarable income will exhibit a robust respectability. I don’t have to tell you about their impeccable track record with snuffling bureaucrats. When you want to stretch your legs I think you’ll find the local hahdris will meet your recreational needs... that kind of acreage is wasted under tin-licking alujha and they won’t be needing howling room where they’re going.” On the other side of the room, a resounding crash set off a ripple of discord, though they could not perceive the nature of the incident from their position against the wall. “Your immediate household will be black-stamped against shrinkage, so you won’t need to fret when your sweetheart wanders away in her underwear. In fact, her days of wandering anywhere without your approval will come to a blessed conclusion... they provide intensive supervision of all junior family members.” Her head turned toward him, though her unblinking gaze remained upon her guests. “Before you convince yourself you’re far too principled to accept, you may as well know you won’t be answering to me, darling. You’ll be directly responsible.” Her anger at the refusal told in his every element proved difficult to conceal, though she held onto it grimly, the effort pinching her face laterally. “Don’t try selling me your not caring either way about your nasty princess. You didn’t keep her home because you like the sound of angry whore. I could go on like a Bond villain about what happens when you sit in your room like a spoilt brat, but if you can’t work it out for yourself, at least you’ll recognize the body parts in your mail box, once they start coming.”
Edward saw the bottle in the hands of the dark-haired witch who had pushed through the crowd toward them and made no move to avoid it as she loosed it at them, his eyes remaining on hers as it crashed into the wall by Opal’s head. Oily red sloe gin ran down the plaster while the dissident spat on the vampyre’s dress, including Edward in her denouncement with the vehemence of her stare.
“E vin yet naat affri ya vech.” she snarled, the words white hot against their skin. Caleb appeared at her shoulder and drew her back into the knot of piping socialites while Edward looked to Opal in his grasp of the ancient anathema.
“She said may you die with your gold still upon you.” he told her. “Pass that on for me.”
Josephine wiped back hair from her face and glanced down at her watch again. Beside her, in the double darkness beneath the elms, Shaw nodded an acknowledgement of her grievance and folded his arms. The long grass stroked their crouching legs, growing damp as the night cooled.
“She’s not going anywhere, she’s high as a kite. Put me out over the wall... my ride’s half a click down the road.”
He shook his head emphatically.
“She’s going to see you and talk about it. She’s winding down. Give it another five.”
“I say you walk me out right past her... I’m your girlfriend, whatever. She's too far gone to care anyway.”
“She’s too damn vocal. She’ll raise hell, and whatever just went in there will come back out again...”
They both hung their heads as Rachelle recommenced her wailing, pressed to the bars of the gate, the keening pitch of her voice carrying it past them into the rear garden.
“Okay... your way.” Shaw conceded. She caught his arm.
“Jesus, did you see that?”
Josephine's gaze returned to the gates and the silhouette of the figure still demonstrating against them, the scene drawn in black and orange.
“There it is... top of the gate, go across the street, come up half a foot... right over her head. Retinal flash.” Shaw saw nothing remarkable until a tiny catch of brighter colour sparked amid the darkness of the trees hunched on the far side of the road. She seized his arm. "It's green. We need to fall back.”
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Something nice to end the week.
A piece in the G about European natives hosting people who've fled the conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
"Linnea Tell, a single mother and librarian, hosts Syrian artist, Alqumit Alhamad, who is now thriving in Malmö. Alhamad, 24, fled Raqqah in northern Syria in 2012 when Islamic State made the city their headquarters. Friends were tortured by Islamic State militants and many homosexuals were thrown off buildings in his home town. Alhamad moved in with her in May 2016. ‘I can’t tell you how much my life changed and how free I feel. Every day I wake up and say, “Oh my God, I am in Sweden”. It’s magical.’"
Words with the images written by Nadine Alfa Photograph: Aubrey Wade/UNHCR
Yu isn't the bluest of the blue pinks I've encountered by any stretch, but that coolish quality is definitely there and cannot be wished away if you have trouble with it. Perhaps the only people who can do genuine justice to this pink are those at the extreme ends of the complexion spectrum; if you are super dark or pale with cool to neutral undertones, this shade can be the jewel in your facial crown. I've also seen it look the absolute shizniz against some Indian tonalities (there is a famous shade of sari silk that's an almost spot-on match*) but I'd think twice if I were very warm-to-golden. The rest of us just end up looking like sadly misguided and/or slutty clowns. Ha ha- too bad, world! I'd never let that prospect prevent me from wearing a colour I enjoy, and neither should you. Slap that shit on. Life is too short to be regretting stuff you didn't do.
Yu does the same on the average mouth, lifting less-than-perfect lippage. It can interact a bit strangely with your tooth colour, though; blue-pinks should be kind and whitening but I find it weirdly amplifies some of the funkier tones afflicting my fangs. Again- not enough to stop me wearing it. It doesn't bleed or suffer any noticeable formula fails.
There are a few tricks you can use to shorten any eww factor in Yu. I like to match my skin's sheen level to that of any difficult lipstick I'm attempting- in this case, low satin. I then try to eliminate most of the competing pinks from my face i.e. rosacea blotches and the blueish-lavender in capillaries, eyebags etc., with a thorough concealer effort. Keeping Yu slightly sheer helps its tones adapt to your own, and finally I've found it's important to blur out the edge rather than maintain a hard line, especially on a mature face, so leave the liner pencil in the bag. Works for me.
* Gulabi is the Hindi word for pink but I'm not sure if it's the specific term I was looking for. Incidentally- respect for the Gulabi Gang, a group of Indian activists who publicly shame and punish perpetrators of violence against women.
L2R MAC Russian Red, Bite Corvina, MAC Quick Sizzle, Nars Yu, MAC Flat Out Fabulous, MAC All Fired Up, MAC Rebel. indoor & outdoor natural light, no flash
Jamie Mina Mountain Hare
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Her coven of murderous cock-dodgers, or (last but not least, and be still my heart) Roxy's angry dancing? I don't want to know, and I'm not really sorry.
What is Basic Instinct, after all this time? Is it precisely what it superficially seems i.e. a greasy pool of Michael Douglas-scented garbage water, or some sort of slinky postmodern pro-lesbian cleverness artefact? I'll use the moist towelette of historical context to clear my vision.
If allowed to speak for itself, his oeuvre says consistently rapey and developmentally delayed. But then it gave birth to Catherine Tramell with two Ls. Watching her pegging a room full of sweaty male gelatine with her nasty-arse intellect, blithely exploiting the superior firepower of peekaboo pussy and making those shitlords drive her home afterwards puts hearts right in my eyes. And really, the film smacks down the male gaze sniffing so avidly at its knickers with so many references to androgenic deficiency that I wonder how the average gonadal unit could raise a semi in its honour. Catherine's stabby bitches just do bumps off their coke guy in white swing coats and stirrup pants while not telling us why they did it and not caring if we're mad.
But all good things must come to an end, and like so much else upon this accursed plane, Basic Instinct nosedives into a bucket of pre-cummy pandering and outright disappointment.
Roxy bites the big one trying to mow down her rival which is highly implausible given that she's butch and therefore practically born to drive at speed. Bicurious Beth is made to apologise for any historic muffdiving before it threatens her access to the correctly male object of her real obsession, and she has the fucking nerve to pout after he actually grants her the heavenly 20 seconds of nonconsensual dicking she so clearly needed. Ungrateful bitch. Then Catherine goes and breaks my heart by consoling herself with drunk midlife policeman cock and spray-tanned turkey wattles as dangled by Michael soupy retch Douglas like shaved balls on a sticky afternoon. All while Roxy is still wiping body fluids off her Cuban heels in that shadowy afterlife reserved for the most presumptuous of lesbians.
I went to see BI at the cinema when it was released and remember all the public outrage attending it, some of which turned pretty fucking real in the uni bars on friday nights after warring Womens Studies factions got into the $3 rum and cokes. Lady-loving ladies have many valid points about being coopted by hostile forces. However, I'm bi- the worst sexual, found the straight characters more objectionable than the queer ones and the rest of it too wretchedly stupid to warrant most of that hot fuss. Is that my trifling ambidextrous hoo-ha talking or have I just been bewitched by Verhoeven's stupid, slutty, caramel-tinted vision?
In researching the flick I discovered two related factoids. A: Sharon Stone supposedly never gave permission to be upskirted in lieu of panties during the interrogation scene, and B: claims she would have kept it in the movie, had she been the director. Which... confuses me. Not that I understand the tittering around that infamous alleged reveal anyway since the male hysterics insisting on its flagrance are clearly (and unsurprisingly) confused in regard to feminine anatomy. These days you're subjected to more unsolicited pudenda whilst minding your own business on the bus into town, whether you bloody like it or not.
"You didn't feel anything for him, you just had sex with him for your book?"
Ha ha ha! Next question.
Sweat trickled down the side of Josephine’s neck and behind her ears, heat and blood gathering in the crown of her skull. She hung from the ceiling in the hall of her apartment, arms rolling slowly down as she exhaled, making fists with her toes in their padded black suspension boots. Her midriff twitched, stressed by the vigour of her exertion but she hung a while longer before reaching for the phone on the wall beside her and speed dialing, swinging gently as she caught her breath. Her gaze drifted toward the thrice-deadlocked door at the end of the pale hall.
“Hey, Shaw.” she murmured. "What's up?"
His tone reflected enthusiasm for any interruption to the boredom of his station.
"Not a lot. They took off a while back, so I got the place to myself."
She rolled up and unhooked her boots from the railing.
"Did you get into the house yet?"
"Negative. One's still withholding permission, and I don't want to push it."
She shook her head to herself.
"I don't know how down I'd be with no access. Not with everything we're supposed to be coming back with."
"I never said I was down with it." he replied, holding the phone to his shoulder while he bent to reset one of the monitor units at the foot of the wall.
“Thought you liked the programme.”
“I like it fine when it doesn't kick me out in front of any cross hairs.”
Wiping the sweat from her neck with her towel, Josephine considered his reply for an interval that ran long enough to disperse the smack of impropriety.
“They don't call O’Connor the Expender because he gives a damn.”
“He’s called that?”
“No one told you that before you signed on?” she smirked, pushing the advantage. "You said the house and grounds are clear..." He said nothing, though she could hear him rise and press the phone back to his ear. "Ever thought about black-bagging it?"
"Yeah, I thought about it, but I get mugged at just for sticking to the script around here and..."
"Hey, forget I called. Probably better I fly solo anyway." she interjected.
"They'll pick up any entry..."
"It always looks that way when you don't have too many intrudes under your belt. Like I said, forget I called." Josephine glanced down the hall again while another silence worked its hidden levers.
Shaw looked back at the huge white house.
"You'll need to make it out here in under thirty."
Unused to the single-minded steering wheel, Susan wrestled the Jaguar with both hands into the darkness of a corner parking space, riding the accelerator and edging its nose into a row of bushes before William jerked the handbrake and sat quietly, swallowing a smile.
“Did anybody die?” she demanded; he wisely reserved his response. The expansive carpark was generously-proportioned but poorly lit, the pale blue globes atop their silver poles casting a glow that barely troubled the tarmac. From patting at her hair in the rear view mirror she gazed across the acre of grounds laid out around the gallery complex, clothed in supine vegetation in the two shades of oily grey-green specified by an architect rightly concerned by any vertical challenge to his structural child. “Are you sure this is the right place? It looks like the tinned fruit factory on the way to my Nana’s.”
He chuckled at her observation and sniffed at the breeze.
"Well, I smell brain farts and ulcerating insecurity so we can't be too far off." They turned a frown to one another, possessed of a coinciding disinclination. Susan brushed a spiderweb from his shoulder, then climbed onto her knees, leaning over the console to kiss him again with less haste and more venturesome enterprise, standing her hands on his legs. The sound of footfalls on the tarmac, like deer hooves trotting over ice, caused her to look past him at a face resolving in the darkness over the passenger door.
"Privet, milaya moya. Don’t worry, darlinks. I wait.” it said. The remark was languid and feminine, but its Slavic accent cut the English consonants and tumbled the snarling letter. William leant out to allow the creature to press her lips to each side of his face.
“Susan, Petrouchka Belyaev..." he sighed. "Strange but not a stranger."
The diminutive intruder leant against the vehicle in a high-collared coat of dense red fox, examining Susan with stone-coloured doll’s eyes in a face of startling, dead-white delicacy. Her hair draped her shoulders in heavy, bitter chocolate falls from a part on her right brow; it would have formed a luxurious adjunct to an extraordinary beauty had not some process scoured life from its materials and dosed her grey gaze with nightmarish, autonomic avidity, its staring pupils fixed in that dilated state of her decease. Susan was strangely moved by the sight of such expired loveliness, a counterpoint unto itself in its repulsive allure.
“Ahh... I see... he write to me of you... you are the vila of his every dream, this Susan he fall so much in love with...” Susan’s blush came as much from the creature’s unblinking scrutiny as from the nature of her declaration. Strings of amber lurking about the latter's neck clicked together softly when she moved, the vampyre reading her in an instant. "I would delight to be once more so foolish.”
William shook his head at Susan’s silent inquiry.
“Never tell a five hundred year old devushka anything private.”
“I think your child bride is very well inform.” Petrouchka observed, extending a glove toward him and rolling her fingers expectantly. “You have key? Perhaps... you have car for me?”
“Just the house. You can’t drive it into a river.”
She turned back to Susan.
“You give yourself to monster, in a place for motor vehicle? What did your mother tell you?” William stared at her pointedly, and she stared back, batting her silky lashes and leaning both elbows on the door. “Do you know, kotik, that in his land, the young men are train for century by priestess to please a woman? They don’t teach that at the Sorbonne. Make him take you somewhere nice.”
“You can’t have the car, but I’ve cleared you staying, so as long as you mow some lawns everything should be okay.” Secreting the keys he gave her in her coat, she smirked and slid her hands after them into her unseen pockets. “There is a guard and er... Ed’s cranky concubine.” William counselled.
“Your brother? He have girlfriend? Ni khuya sebe! No, I don’t believe.”
“Believe. And I wouldn’t breathe too hard in her direction... just... don't. There’s a room at the end of the attic. And Pet, there’s some surveillance, so keep it low.”
She clicked her fingers in irritation.
"Vse zayebalo... even here there is trouble?"
As though offering to demonstrate, a long black vintage ambulance roared into the car park in an arc that lurched to a halt nearby, the colour dying in its staring headlights. The rear doors were kicked apart to disgorge a scarcely creditable density of passengers, some already bickering and shoving at each other as their shoes hit the tarmac, complaining as they lit their cigarettes. In the dim light Susan glanced back at Petrouchka, comparing her blank, undifferentiated pallor to that of the new arrivals. The driver slid down from the running board in a vivid fuchsia evening gown that drooped under the weight of its aurora borealis beading and became entangled in its heels, forcing the wearer to double over and hoist the hem, exposing crooked, goatish legs and orange fishnets. The glittering apparition changed course toward the Jaguar upon espying it. Petrouchka turned to examine Siobhan with an air of acute distaste.
“I don’t like this country. Too many troll, not enough bridge.” she muttered.
“There’d be room aplenny if it weren’t fer th’ weight a fuckin paynim trash slidin off a tuna boat ten tahmes a fuckin night... if it aint the spics it’s the fuckin chinks, an if it aint them it’s beet-suckin Russ’in cooter.” The volume of Siobhan’s assertions grew with the creature’s proximity and it nodded from Petrouchka toward William. “Him an ol’ Happy Face don’t need nobody cumberin ‘em on the way t’ flushin the rest a us down the shitter with th’ help a that Opal cunt.” the vampyre urged, leaning over the door to glare at him and then offer a clammy hand to Susan. She made no move to reciprocate. “Huh... ahm espyin fe-male but ah kint hear a fuckin word outta it... ye gotta tell meh what ye do t’git em lahk that, cause mah way hurts th’ fuckin resale value.”
Petrouchka excluded Siobhan from her farewell and disappeared into the darkness that had purveyed her. The impatient mass that spilled from the back of the ambulance dissipated in an analogous manner, setting off across the carpark in their spangled, ironic evening wear, clutching ratted furs, tiaras and bedazzled handbags, save for a few that remained with the vehicle. Siobhan took to leering across the car at Susan once more, then rolling its little black eyes down at William.
“Ah got eyes fer a tight piece a tail... if that’s what they handin round jest fer puttin on th’ fuckin uniform, mebbe ah oughta sign up an take th’ fuckin week off.”
“What’s all this?” William inquired. Siobhan hoiked and looked back over its shoulder; a male passenger in jeans and a red-checked rodeo shirt re-emerged from the vehicle with something long and pale in his right hand, walking past the lamp post toward another bank of cars; Susan recognized him from the bollchu party.
“Mess of us got t’thinkin we might git along t’ Ed’s hoe-wrangle, git ol’ Opal squittin red bubbles heh heh heh. That there’s Caleb...” it told Susan. “He aint too fuckin smart, but ye don’t need Yale fer this shit.” Perceiving Siobhan's commentary, Caleb called in their direction while William returned his brief salute.
"Yeah, I heard that, y' dirty neckfucker. I'll get to you later." the lycanthrope promised.
He strode along the line of vehicles ensconced beneath the down lights, paused before a racing green Mercedes and swung the baseball bat in both hands into its windscreen, stepping back from the car into the darkness at the edge of the vacant bays. The screaming alarm attracted two security guards from the margins of the gallery; they conferred beneath the silver awning for a moment before setting off toward the car park.
"Er, maybe... something about discretion being the better part of something else..." William ventured, exchanging seats with Susan at her behest. She slid down beside the door, peering over it almost unwillingly; behind the guards who stared at the perplexing damage to the Mercedes three figures precipitated from the shadow as though constructed of its motile darkness, each one grasping a long, blunt weapon. She was, for once, entirely grateful for the velocity of their departure.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
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