The work below is by Ines Platten as part of our MA Creative Writers takeover.
In a dream I find myself in the lobby of some student accommodation building. The social occasion is actually happening here, in front of the lifts. The walls are cardinal red, the carpeted floor some shades darker. In the corner, there’s an armchair with almost the same colour. People materialise in the time that it takes me to notice my surroundings, but I know I wasn’t alone before. I know these people, they’re familiar, in the brute sense, but I couldn’t tell you who they were exactly. The talking feels like it never actually began, it’s like I just tuned into it happening. I look down… am I naked right now? The air starts thinning and the walls swell and sweat hot, sick acidity. Drowning, demented screeching from another room. A saxophone, maybe? I don’t remember what’s being said. Whenever I look at someone speaking, they’re completely detached, their speech becomes shapes that hypnotise them. I try to scamper away but every time someone different catches me. I realise that they are all moving around me like clockwork, vaguely intrigued, laughing.
I’m in the shower for the second time today. I feel around for swollen lymph nodes, but then the chemically treated water starts to envelop me in its journey downwards, the rushing sound extinguishing everything in the world.
The street lights turn on and he opens the door, and stops.
“You know, I wouldn’t even mind if you put on a bit of weight. If you trained your glutes as well, you’d look amazing.”
I don’t know how I would exist if my brain didn’t know to chronically anaesthetize me. I don’t know how people exist with emotion. Being numb is tiring but it’s kind of okay in the end. Life at a distance isn’t living but it works. Living here would kill me.
“So, do you think you’ll do it?”
“Babe, I can’t talk about this right now.”
“No, of course. It’s just that you have the perfect frame, just if you ever wanted to do fitness modelling or something.”
Being a doll is just the little price I pay for not really being here.
My brother Stan and I spend the afternoon in a cafe. He’s got a fresh trim for this party later tonight and he’s wearing his favourite faux fur Palace jacket. He laughs when he tells me how he queued up for 5 hours for these limited edition Nikes. He knows it’s absurd but it’s the also most important thing there is.
For context, I’m wearing the same hoodie I’ve been wearing for the past 3 days.
I struggle “getting it up” for life, I tell him. That numbness functions like a kind of erectile dysfunction, that while I’m not depressed anymore, the usual stimulus doesn’t do anything for me. Nothing gets me there.
“Just focus on getting those little semis, man. That’s all you’ve got to do.”
In the park, I’m slightly desperate to make something of today, if only with a short walk. It’s a small park, essentially a row of benches and a pond. An old man chucks crumbs at the ducks. I sit down on one of the four benches and look at the water, glazed. I see myself from above with my arms crossed and I feel a sudden, fundamental repulsion towards this thankless bullshit attitude. I actually can’t live like this.
I get up and rip bits off the croissant I brought with me, offering it to the mallards. The old guy looks up and gives me a nod and I nod back.
Another dream. I’m in a church, a romanesque church, with a white interior. Walls unadorned, soft perforations of meridian light. Long haired, learned men fill the pews. I can smell frankincense but nothing is burning here and there is no priest. Someone is going down the aisle. It looks like me but it could also be someone else – her hair is darker than mine, and it goes all the way down to her waist. She’s naked, calm. I become her, and very slowly I walk past the men who have their heads bowed. On the altar is a silver chest with fine, fragile engravings; it has been around for a long time but only now is it fit for purpose. When I open it, I see that it is full of water. I turn around, only to see the old guy I saw yesterday look up and smile. Disinterested love. I get in, closing the lid. The darkness is whole and I hear only my breath.