It doesn’t seem to matter how many times you look into your reflection, there’s always that feeling of surprise, that you are seeing something you hadn’t expected. Even when you prepare for that, it’s never quite the right preparation. Another space opens up in your skin, or an altered gaze loops out of one of your eyes at a precise moment that immediately escapes memory. Curiously, sometimes it’s possible to look into someone else’s face and to see the bits that elude them. Sometimes you can imagine, with startling accuracy, the younger face of a stranger, the particular beauty that they yearn for. The ghost of the younger body reveals its form only to those who don’t care and never knew. Those who are familiar have to live with the experience of repeated disappointment, right here, right now. Once or twice, I’ve watched the gaze of a stranger on my younger form and, moments later, that look of pity.
you told me you know that charisma is a favour from God and Africa has a personality and Europe has an identity and Asia has a heart and the MPLA is socialist and Maria Miller is a witch and the Grand National isn’t cruel any more and you’re only as young as you feel and Walthamstow is 80% muslim and Halliburton provides employment and Afghans are voting and the ICRC has never been involved in transporting weapons in war-torn countries and war-torn does have real meaning and you have to be stupid to be a decent jockey and attractive women make crap journalists and coconut oil is bad for your skin and carpets reduce asthma and most NGOs in their own back yards don’t behave democratically at all and all children like candy floss and women who return to work after having a baby suffer appalling discrimination and diesel is good for you and Wolfie keeps the best onions for his favourite customers and marriage is progressive and an act of faith in God and people with personalities never get hitched because it robs them of their identity and breaks their heart which is why they are socialists and witches and cruel and elderly and non-believers and dependent on the state and politically apathetic and fake pacifists and meaningless and stupid because they hate hunting and don’t read the papers and have dry legs and varnished floor boards and never give to charity and refuse to have kids and because they eat junk food and don’t want to work anyway and
all this time worrying about how to fill all those pages, worrying about the importance of fuzzying, the importance of nuance, the importance of doubt, the importance of contradiction, of confusion, of untruths, non-truths, half-truths and no truths, of faulty memory, real trauma, imagined trauma and imagination, of avoiding certainty because there is none, of avoiding definitive accounts, of refusal to state the facts because there are none or there are too many or there are some but they don’t really make that much sense anyway… all this time, and now she’s told she’s got to sum it up in one sentence or perhaps a paragraph or, if she’s really lucky, five paragraphs, because if she doesn’t do that bit no one will buy it… in producing what she calls the sales pitch, she is forced to unravel all those years of rewiring her brain (in order to avoid the false truths she’d been trained to produce)… so what was the point of all that? the horror! the horror! after all that, you have to sell the product in precisely the tooled-up terms that you had run from, screaming that you’d never ever do it again, because, she’s told, that’s the only way anyone will be persuaded to buy the bloody thing.