The feeling of aloneness strikes you over and over as you move around London, so abruptly and physically that you’re often winded and gasping as you exit stations or traipse between jobs. The feeling is different to loneliness, characterised not by lack of human interaction which you are surrounded by and never want for, but by the inability of human interaction, for the first time, to comfort you. You are much more physical here than you were in Dublin, where your body and life had settled, where you slotted in easily and navigated the city by foot and without thought - moving as automatically as a character in a videogame clearing obstacles.
Now every journey is laboured and dictated by the moving blue dot on your phone which is you, you watch yourself move around the screen of the city and grow more aware of dragging a body around all the time, of having to guide it. For the first time in years you’re not hungry for regular meals, the stomach too nervous to tolerate intervention. Although you are not doing this purposefully or for aesthetic reasons, you are reminded of how you once loved to feel the thin acids of hunger circulate. You loved it more than anything, to feel cleaned and soured by them, as though being boiled sterile from the inside out. Back then your body was no longer sweaty and bloody and warm. You did such good work that instead of flesh and sinew you were made of cords and rope and muslin. You were beyond body, the insides clean of mess, the veins filled with hardening concrete. You felt strong and inhuman and read compulsively of dissection, of marrow and pus and disaster. You bought books about autopsies and memorised the phenomena which occur depending on the method of death.
You read about the messy corpse of a man who had thrown himself off a building. A witness had reported that without fuss or warning, he neatly dipped forwards, as though having merely dropped something beneath a table and was attempting to retrieve it 2. When a doctor arrives, he must check as a matter of course that the heart has stopped, and using a stethoscope hears and then feels a strange crackling sensation throughout the man's chest. It sounds like Rice Krispies when you first pour the milk on. The man's lungs have exploded upon impact, and all the pockets of air normally contained within them are now travelling around the body at speed, trying to settle.
Lungs are light as spirit because their tissue is so thin and delicate; the membranes within them arranged so as to maximise exposure to breath much as the leaves on deciduous trees maximise exposure to air.
The fragility of lungs leads you to consider infant death, your dad’s family, large Irish Catholic broods of the 1950’s who seemed to often lose a child in its first few weeks for no good reason. The tissue of organs is always terrifyingly unresisting, pliable, susceptible, right into adulthood. But a baby's organs are made of such ephemeral gauze that infection passes through like a dream through a head; glibly, smoothly. The baby gets a bladder infection on day 7 and by day 21 the bacteria has comprehensively swam through every available organ until the brain is on fire and, just like that, no more baby, better luck next time. I think of these things when you ask me, not infrequently, if you are going to die and I laugh and say never, never.
You are never going to die.
There are tears in my eyes as I bang this old Dell keyboard now, in the middle of a dismal Monday dawn, thinking of your body and how alive it is and how far from me, tears just thinking about how good and strong and beautiful you are. From the first time we slept together your body was an object of pure devotion, was a place I could come to be quiet with myself.
Do you think I am unaware of calling you a place, a thing? Do you think I am unaware of what it is to praise you like this?
There is something mortifying about speaking of a man’s body. What do I know about a man’s body? And do they need any more praising? I always liked that you were so open about your need to be physically perfect, so few people are vain and still lovable but you are.
I want to write to your body and leave you out of it because we have done nothing but talk for the best part of a year and I’m tired and I never say what I mean because what I mean is too much, too ugly, and is finally without hope. So I’ll think instead of how much time I spent exploring your limbs, foraging around in the morning trying to inhale before I had to share you with the world, you swatting me away for spending too long nudging my nose into your ears while you tried to sleep. But that’s not enough- how to talk about what it is to regard you from bed? I mean, when I am inside it and you are above, mobile. You are looking back at me, waiting to join me in the evening; or already up in the morning, stretching so far you brush the ceiling, anxious to begin living.
That winter I was stagnating and scared of being stuck forever, and I tried to forget it by looking at you instead. You were so beautiful that I could have looked at you forever and never made a decision if you’d have let me. And then we left one another, over and over again, and the hours and minutes between seeing you all had the low thrum whine of a perpetual Sunday night. I was waiting for something to happen. I was waiting to disappear.
What I wanted was always to be having sex and always to be sleeping beside you and for there to be no life in the middle of these things. I wanted there to be no moment where I was alone and would be reminded that I exist.
I should end by regretting all that, by being wise and retrospective but I don’t blame myself even now, the sharp intake of breath I can hear beneath your ribs when I lie with my head there and my hands everywhere and we laugh and laugh and laugh.