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velvet

 petals

i should probably explain myself...

I write to explain myself. Why? I’m not yet sure.

I sit here on my bed writing, with the stillness of London’s blue-grey skies painted across the window frames ahead of me, an aeroplane’s tail dissipating from the top right corner towards the bottom left. The white of morning daylight fills my bedroom, coated with the smell of rich black coffee, a tiny tea light candle lit among books and myriad half-scrawled notebooks scattered on my bedside tables.

 

I am a singer songwriter in my books coffee candlelit room

            (first person singular)

 

précis: My album first person singular is one that is in some ways autobiographical and self-indulgent. It is in other ways abstracted from my self, using symbolism, tropes and metaphor to gloss over specific aspects of my self that are perhaps idiosyncratic, hiding within something more general, vague and perhaps banal. I portray my self through motifs of being, making it accessible in generalised abstractions and shared feelings.

 

Sarah Kofman: “writing appears when one writes no more to demonstrate something or to say something. One writes at a distance from oneself, with a sort of irony and jubilation departing from certain words”.

 

A friend of a friend – though previously that second friend was himself a friend of a friend so really I mean ‘a friend of a friend of a friend’ if I’m being genealogical, (note to self: my father is a genealogist) – really likes Sarah Kofman.

 

Ella Freeman Sharpe: “to an artist forgotten experience seems accessible in some way so that it can be utilized although there may be no conscious awareness that past knowledge is part of his creative imagination.

 

I’ve intellectualized and thought through the lyrical content and aesthetic decisions that determined the shape, feel and form of first person singular during the year or so it took to make the album. There were many walks and daydreams full of introspection that focused on the relationship between my life history, sense of identity and the musical and lyrical content on the album and so on.

 

This friend of a friend – now a friend – gave an analysis of my album that was at points invigorating. It’s normal, I think[1], for an artist to want their ego massaged by attention, attention to the finer details of their art. It was also revealing in respect to where his thoughts and analyses corroborated with mine, where they didn’t, and where they shone new light on things I hadn’t previously considered.

 

He scratched at the skin of my being qua music, my artistic projection of self – the tropes, lyricism, musical panache and metaphor uncovered – exposing my previously mystified persona.

 

This was everything I had wanted – someone to connect with the obsessive expressive detail of my art – and yet there lie a trace of the memories and feelings, forgotten and remembered, beneath it.

 

A book like a tome down here

Lofty and dumb in the deep of a well

Still chasing a trace already gone

A dance for our lost deed

            (ribbon around a bomb)

 

Yeats: I, being poor, have only my dreams;

            Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams.

 

Sharpe: The significance of the dream was thus immediately clear. They were a love gift to the analyst. Their significance is still more detailed, for the inference is that the dreams are on the floor, and must be trodden on very softly. The child’s mess on the floor may as easily mean a fight as an assault, “Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams”.

 

I’m lost in a life elsewhere, a velvet petal fallen upon the floor

            (life elsewhere)

 

When Patti Smith saw Robert Mapplethorpe towards the end of his life, as he was dying of AIDS, she said that he resembled a ‘velvet petal’.

 

“He would be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal. It was not the thought but the shape of the thought that tormented him. It entered him like a horrific spirit and caused his heart to pound so hard, so irregularly, that his skin vibrated and he felt as if he were beneath a lurid mask, sensual yet suffocating him”.

 

Patti’s memoirs of her relationship with Mapplethorpe in Just Kids will always carry pertinence for me. My own failed relationship with a girl, my first boyfriend, and the relationship(s?) with another friend – these are relationships that all ebb and flow through my music, my history, my self.

 

My current partner – long-term partner too – I do not associate so much with Just Kids. We’ve formed our own tapestry of references and associations separate from it. Perhaps my music will always carry its influence though, from a period of my life where past, present and future coagulated then dispersed...

 

A velvet petal fallen upon the floor - my own dreams, daydreams and memories and forgotten memories; my projection of self onto a Mapplethorpe character with Hatti, onto a Smith-like muse thereafter.

 

My new friend – I think I can call him that – treads carefully upon them, my petals from a life elsewhere – lost and found.

 

I write to explain myself – but ‘to explain’ is a verb like ‘to write’. Perhaps I’d be better of saying ‘I am writing as a way of explaining my self’ – the explanation is in the act of explaining, explanation as a process in the present.

 

For whom? Most likely, myself.

 

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a memory from back then

 

My dark blue overcoat, red lining and green collared, slathers my bed sheets, dank rain lingering droplets clinging to it, damp Murakami weighing down its left-side pocket.

 

I trawled Soho for cafes – mind consumed with the rebar, bricks and pots of an Ai Wei Wei exhibition. I sit and read in three establishments.

 

Café one is La Polentaria, lit with dim orange lights in the mid-afternoon, it reminds me of a cocktail bar in Berlin called Green Door.

 

The second is a juice bar – I can’t recall its name. I was downstairs, looking at an attractive boy over the cover of my Murakami when three middle-aged men sit down. The centre of attention – it is immediately apparent the other two have come to see him – bemoans his reaction to a batch of antibiotics and recalls some newly found allergies. Their chitchat slowly makes way to business. The centre of attention – a wholesaler – talks glowingly about his new import from China. The wholesaler lifts his bag upon the table and opens it to show the others his samples. The trio pass between them black, transparent and tan coloured dildoes, double-endeds, butt plugs and douches – the wholesaler is a dildo-salesman. The other two – adult storeowners – show off their expertise, sniffing them, grasping them assuredly. The dildo-salesman assures them that the sweet smell wears off. The dildo-salesman and the two adult store owners then flitter around numbers before bemoaning how Amazon will put an end to the sex store industry – “people will go into a store to have a look and a feel, but they’ll then go buy them on Amazon, it’s cheaper!” The dildo-salesman says he’s going to be hiring an account manager to work in Amazon for him. The Amazon-whore coughs up the money for the trio’s coffees and they leave.

 

The third café is lit romantically with antique lamps, French jazz and house music crudely interchanging, waitresses wearing pithy French maid costumes. I drink a red wine here – it seems appropriate, myself befitting the trope. I read Murakami but try to steal a glance at what an old bedraggled lonely man is reading opposite me. He reads a short introduction to Kant. I finish my wine, go to the cinema with my friend; we eat bibimbap and then return home.

 

I am now sat on my bed, ready to read Murakami. Patti hadn’t read Murakami before reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I’m currently reading this.

 

I read Norwegian Wood soon after finishing university. Having been wrapt in revision for my finals, it was my first non-philosophy book since Patti’s Just Kids. I had been given Just Kids by my ex-girlfriend Hatti who herself had been given it by her art student friend Hannah from Goldsmiths. She had given it to her because of the similarity between the ends of Patti’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and Hatti’s relationship with me - two relationships that unravel due to sexuality, repression, identities; two loves blossomed in the wrong clothes.

 

You’re a wolf in sweet sheep’s woollen clothes

I think I bit off more than I can chew

(clichés and idioms)

 

I read Norwegian Wood in my childhood bedroom in Woking, a suburban town where I went to primary school, slept in a crib, learnt to play guitar. I was then unemployed, unsure of what was next, lonely having recently ended things with Hatti. All I did during that that week in my old childhood bedroom was read Norwegian Wood, watch old Twin Peaks episodes, and play my guitar with reverb so strong that my bedroom became a mediaeval church.

 

I read Murakami’s 1Q84 trilogy 6 months later, flicking through pages on tube journeys and in my sunless alcove in Finsbury Park. I lodged above a bakery with Jimmy, a dirty old Irish man swearing incomprehensibly about the same banal things everyday, and Armin, a quiet Armenian with a devilish 90s goatee. My room was stuffy with the heat of a portable heater, given to me out of pity by my parents when they saw the little box of my room. With piles of rugs atop my dust-covered duvet, snow shimmering the roads outside, I lay underneath with the flu, playing vinyls – lots of early Aphex Twin – as I read the trilogy in that tiny stuffy room, without Wi-Fi, lodging above stale loafs. I was soon to meet a friend who’d change my life.

 

This copy of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – my third Murakami – I read in Old Street. Strange coincidences in my life now pile. This friend, who I bonded with initially over a shared appreciation for Patti, gave me this. He had given me Patti’s M Train just previously. Patti reads The Wind-up Bird Chronicle in M Train.

 

I did buy a copy of Just Kids some time after reading it. I bought it for my first boyfriend, who was also Armenian, and still is I’m sure. We also talked a lot about Patti Smith.

 

He was my second ever valentine after Hatti. We went to the Tate Modern and saw the Mapplethorpe photo exhibition there. He’d never read Just Kids but loved her music. He didn’t buy me anything but did make me a little candle pot – teal, greenish blue clay, mossy like sea foam – with our names inscribed on it. He was an artist. I think the pot eventually broke into pieces.

 

I’m lost in a life elsewhere

A velvet petal fallen upon the floor

(life elsewhere)

 

Before meeting my boyfriend on that day I opened up Just Kids to the first page of the last chapter. This page made me cry the first time I read it.

 

Patti describes her thinking about Robert for the first time in a long long time, their closeness submerged beneath the heavy sands of time. I cried at the thought of the same thing happening with me and Hatti – my becoming merely a memory to her, a photo in a box, a voice faintly recalled.

 

Time having passed all I feel is inevitably drawn. The antique memory box on my windowsill contains a letter she wrote to me when our relationship was ending, her heart laid bare upon paper. One day I will read that letter again.

 

I read that chapter in the Tate Modern as I awaited his arrival for the exhibition. Robert was soon to call Patti, his voice immediately recognisable to her, ringing the present from the past. Robert tells her he has contracted the disease from which he was going to die.

 

The disease grips Robert and Patti writes:

 

“He would be a smothering cloak, a velvet petal. It was not the thought but the shape of the thought that tormented him. It entered him like a horrific spirit and caused his heart to pound so hard, so irregularly, that his skin vibrated and he felt as if he were beneath a lurid mask, sensual yet suffocating him”.

 

There I was sitting in the Tate Modern, that big echo of a room, waiting for Hatti’s successor, my first boyfriend, lost in thought, reflecting.

 

That page has turned. Maybe he still has that book. The last time I saw him as we bumped into each other by Brick Lane, our conversation was stilted and awkward. A man of few words was now a man of fewer. Hatti’s letter still sits in my box.

 

The plants on my windowsill have wilted, I have not watered them for weeks. I need to hang my coat up. I’ve had too much coffee; I’m not yet ready to sleep. I’m lost in thought, in the heaviness of the past. Murakami soggily waits.

 

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[1] Therefore I am normal