All We Want: Neighbours to the Rescue

We don’t always like ourselves. We don’t always feel good about who we are. We don’t always wake up in the morning and think: Nice. We don’t always look forward to the day. There are times when we would rather not have any more days. Or nights. We are not always fans of existing. We don’t always like having to get through another week. We have friends, but we don’t always tell them the details of our lives, our private lives, the secrets of our unbearable existence. They try to cheer us up. Friends do that. Friends who try to cheer us up are a good thing to have, especially if they’ ve learnt what it takes to cheer us up. On the whole, we are cheered up by things that are easy to do. Flowers cheers us up. Chocolate does, too. Especially expensive chocolate. We like Montezuma chocolate at the moment. Some of us used to like Cadbury’s more than anything else, but we have changed. We no longer yearn for a Crunchie or a slab of Dairy Milk.

At the beginning of the day, when we do get out of bed –  there are days when, just out of inertia, we are up and at it as soon as the alarm goes off – we are hopeful. We’ve forgotten that only a week ago we considered killing ourselves. Suicide as a way to let people know they could have helped, could have done something, that we didn’t kill ourselves solely as a cry for help but as a way of saying: Why the fuck didn’t you do anything while I was around? Weren’t you listening? We wake up with a degree of hope because we’ve forgotten that only a few days ago we’d thought of disappearing. We’d thought of taking our passports, emptying out the cash still available in our overdrawn accounts, and cycling to Spain, or France. We had this fantasy – we did – in which wrote an email to everyone and told them this is the last email they’ll receive from us. Consider me dead, we wrote.

We struggled through our twenties, but never imagined the struggle would continue into our thirties, and beyond? Isn’t the nature of pain, we thought, to subside? Eventually. But some pain is chronic.

We don’t always like ourselves, and then we meet a man and we like him. There is a lot to like about him. If it were possible, we would put all our liking into him. This man would be the focus of all the love we have to give. He is beautiful and slim and he plays the piano, or the guitar, or he sings really well, or he is good at business – yes, he’s a consultant, travelling the world, working for some oil company in the North Sea.

“That’s very butch,” we joke.

And he says something like: “It can be.” Or he says: “It has its moments.”

We are so happy to meet someone like him and we don’t spend too much time pondering whether we do actually like him. Are we bothered that he’s a bit sissyphobic, that he makes some odd remark about our earrings, our tattoos? We like him. We like him and we want him to like us. We want him to like us more than we’ll ever be able to like ourselves. We lie in bed naked with him and we want nothing more in our lives than for this moment to stretch on into eternity. If he does want to get up, if he does need to go to work, well, then, we’ll keep lying here naked until he comes home to us in the evening.

But by the time we get to the end of the day, things are worse. We haven’t done much work. We haven’t written or painted or sold anything. Late afternoon, we texted some other man who liked us a lot and he texted us back – immediately, yes, right away – with some inane response, devoid of genuine enthusiasm. So we ask ourselves if we’re just being paranoid, but we know deep down that we’re not, that we’ve encountered this before, men who’ve been enthusiastic at the outset, because we’re good in bed, we know how to fuck and kiss and make them feel special, but then they cool off. And to be honest, we’re not really sure why. Can they tell we’re needy? Can they tell we don’t really like ourselves? Do they get tired of being the centre of our attention, the subject of our curiosity, the reason for our existence, our source of oxygen. Do they need some space to hate themselves?

Sometimes we ask ourselves rhetorical questions.

We try to keep it light. We try not to wallow. We go out. We leave the house and go out for sex. We’re not feeling desirable, but we figure that if we can find someone to touch us, we’ll feel much better. Human contact helps. We come home disappointed. In a city that is usually very generous in providing us with men who are happy to get naked, we have returned empty-handed. Yet, as we’re opening the door to our building, trying to manoeuver our bicycle up the stair to lock it in the little room, one of our neighbours comes home – she is returning from the Brit Awards, smelling wonderfully of alcohol and perfume, beautiful in a black dress and black tights and black high-heeled shoes and a new haircut that makes her look even younger, even more glamorous than she usually looks, and she asks how our day has been and we say fine and she says are you sure?

“I’ve had better days,” we say, because what else can we say?

And we stand there in the entrance to our building, the neighbour and us, and we talk about the Awards and about her job (she’s a banker) and about the price we pay for the paths we choose.

“What’s wrong,” we say to her, “with selling your soul to the devil? At least you have money in the bank and go on holidays to warm places.”

We have no doubts whatsoever that we would so sell our souls to the devil for those two things.

We talk for ten minutes, fifteen perhaps, about her new boyfriend, about the maintenance that needs to be done in the building, about the other people in the block, the old hippies and the new hippies, and how nothing will ever get done with them around. Then we lean in and hug each other, kiss each other on the cheek. We are worlds apart but for that moment there is nothing separating us. All we want is for the other to have a good night and a good day and be happy.

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