Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Only Thing I Turn-On In Bed

My sugar levels are 'up' enough as it is (had to give-up drink last year – border-line diabetes), but in bed this morning, I suffered a sudden German sugar-shock. The day had started normally: did my pull-ups, inhaled some chalk and lightly sandpapered rough calluses off my hands whilst I made coffee. Yesterday I’d found Georges Perec’s novella The Exeter Text in a secondhand bookshop, so I couldn’t wait to get back into bed with it. Years ago I read Perec’s other lipogrammatic novel A Void; a full-length detective novel containing not a single letter e. But all the e’s Perec saved (he wrote under a very strict set of rules) didn’t go to waste: where A Void avoids all and any words containing the commonest letter of the alphabet, The Exeter Text uses none of the vowels except e.

I jump into bed and turn on the hairdryer; but as I open The Exeter Text, a sachet of sugar (German in origin) falls out and lands on my pillow. The sachet is like a miniature pillow – perfect puffiness and size for the head of a mouse or a frog: and though European pillows (and duvets) always feel plumper than our own, imagine trying to sleep on a pillowcase decorated with an illustration like this!

German sugar in a book full of e’s - I study the disturbing illustration: it’s the hairdryerness of his hand – like he’s blow-drying his beard over a plate of food – like he’s got a hairdryer for a hand; a hand-dryer - Helmut Hairdryer Hands

I’ve been dealt a worse hand than Bermuda, or that advert for Alpro soya (see: No Smoke Without Soya, 14/11/09).

There’s a hairdryer on my pillow, there’s a hairdryer on my sugar, and my sugar is like a tiny pillow, and my novel has no vowels except e. I get out of bed and search for a drawing I once so nearly turned into a photograph; but in the process of trying to do so, frightened the life out of a woman I'd only known for a fortnight. 
I was working late and she’d gone to bed. I went into the bedroom for something and noticed that she’d fallen asleep on her side, with her mouth wide-open and her face pushed into the pillow – she looked like she was gripped with pillow-biting angst. But far from it: she was deep asleep, breathing gently. On the bedside table two black bound notebooks lay flat, one on top of the other, spines aimed into the pillow - like the end of a double-barrel shotgun. Why didn’t I just photograph it like I saw it? Why did I have to start meddling? Isn’t fact stranger than fiction? But meddle I did. I tiptoed over and gently nudged the books towards the pillow, mindful not to disturb their gun-like composition, and aimed them so that they appeared to shoot more directly into her mouth. Then I went and fetched my camera. Crouched over the sleeper, like a burglar, I composed the suicidal image in the viewfinder. 

Why didn’t I just press the button? I could have secured Weegeesque photograph there and then; I could have prolonged – hell, might still be in - a very meaningful relationship: Why did I go back into the sitting room and go through a sleeping woman’s handbag? I’ll tell you why: I needed lipstick. Her mouth was still open as I smeared rouge over the pillow - a little bit of blood goes a long way: but I went too far. She opened her eyes, focused on a blood-splattered pillow and screamed and screamed and screamed. Next thing; she jolts herself up, sees me looming there, armed with lipstick and a long lens. By now, her eyes are open wider than her mouth, but I'm first to speak: “ It’s all right, it’s only lipstick -  your own lipstick”. I wave her own rouge in front of her nose - like some quack-hypnotist. This only makes matters worse: “What in God’s name do you think you are doing”, she shrieks. Then she starts hitting me with the pillow (a ‘real’ if somewhat one-sided, pillow fight). I get lipstick all over my face; but I don’t say anything because I don’t notice it until after she’s gone. Nor did I think it was the time or the place to tell her she’d just ruined a shot of herself being shot.  After she’d stopped screaming; after she’d dressed; after she said “The hairdryer’s the only thing you turn-on in bed”; after she’d left the flat; I dashed this off this drawing. Actually, I did a few drawings – drew the same drawing again and again - until daybreak. I posted her one by way of explanation. No reply; but time’s a great healer (and lipstick’s thicker than blood).

This all happened years ago. But I recently tried to recreate that photograph that never got to become a photograph (using myself as the model, sans lipstick – even though I’ve still got the lipstick - all I've got left of her – she never requested its return). I don't know whether to send it to her - it's been a long time. I think I’ll sleep on it.

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