‘getting really angry and not knowing why’ is one of the three prelude pieces directly connected to Loss 6. It contains found sounds from Düsseldorf and a found title, which was fluttering on a piece of transparency plastic near my house in London. This started out life as a piece called Act V, which featured my voice. The spoken word piece started life as part of the an unfinished novel, and was re-written in July 2009 and again in March 2012 to include references to the current Loss story. Like with all parts of this story, it is for you to decide where it fits, if anywhere. The film was shot in and around the creek near my childhood in Sydney, Australia, with additional footage shot here in London. The music piece has been remixed and an entirely new vocal track added. It was a one take improvised performance, with all the natural imperfections left in. I think it sounds incredibly natural and quite personal. A lovely, sublime performance. The actor was NoScamParents.
There are a number of recurring motifs in Loss. Black ribbons, dirty scars, sour umeboshi and bright flames. They represent hiding places, consequences, sensations and redemptions, and not in that order, and perhaps not what they seem. Each piece has its own momentum and sense of motion, a contrast between the reflective narration of the characters and the need to move on, forget and get on with life.
Preludes: getting really angry and not knowing why
I stopped at a small park bench, set a bit back into the bush, just before the path straightened and broke away from the high ground snaking off around the headland. It was cold, with storm clouds bubbling over the horizon just queuing up to dump their payloads and run to higher ground. I am sure he had been sitting here, perhaps a few hours ago. I am not sure why. Maybe it was just me connected to my past by another trail of brittle blackened ribbon, like an echo on an old cassette tape. I hope this doesn’t turn into another long script about me pining for what I had once enjoyed. That kind of characterisation does me no favours, nor does make it any better. But then the sense of loss, the sense of small pieces of my skin flaking away in the breeze liked cracked pain washed over me again. And so that was how it started…a sprawling narrative that all at once seemed pathetic and necessary, told to no one in particular. Except you.
I’d just moved out of my flat and was waiting for the paint to dry on the next. Mum and dad only just about held back their excitement when I had announced that I would like to stay with them for a few weeks. My arrival was greeted with the subtle, unquestionable assumption that I would be sleeping in my old, unchanged room. There was a large bunch of flowers from the supermarket and the smell of Mr Sheen on the bedside table and fabric softener on the curtains.
Not that I think that I was much of an imposition. My father tried to hide the fact that he was quite chuffed at having his little girl back home by grumbling about having to share the TV at night. My mother wanted to know if I would be needing new pillows, if there was enough cupboard space and quite oddly was curious if I had developed any new food allergies in the ten years I been living away. I have to admit it did feel nice to be spoilt again after all those years of living away from parental attention, even though I was worried about falling back to more juvenile habits and attitudes.
It had been nearly ten years since I had lived in that house. The bed was new, as were the sheets and quilt, both replaced in the infamous Boxing Day sales of five years previous. I had lived in that little room for 15 years, tacking posters of Duran Duran and Human League to every empty space; except for the dark time that was 1982, when every poster was replaced by pin-ups of Mike Score, the lead keytar player from ‘A Flock of Seagulls’. It was my first crush, and one that I repeated on many stars of Neighbours over the years. Being in that room was both a comforting and alarming trip into nostalgic paralysis.
That first night mum and dad went to bed early, leaving me to the silences of a house twice as big as I remember and many times larger than they needed. I went over and switched on dad’s old wood panelled TV, which came to life with the warm blip of a cathode ray tube bursting with energy. Dad had never really come to grips with DVD, so the rest of the artificially teak finished TV storage unit was filled with row after row of haphazardly taped late night classics on video cassette, replete with infomercials and cheaply made ads for organ and piano warehouses. The DVD player I had got them for Christmas was connected to the TV but clearly had never been used. The remote still had that protective plastic sleeve covering its buttons.
In amongst the action thrillers, ‘carry on’ films and war epics that dad was so fond of, I found a 1940’s period tear-jerker called ‘Lost Horizon’. He must have either taped it for mum to watch later or had confused it with a John Wayne film of a similar (although more than likely completely different) name. I dropped the film into the faithful old JVC and retreated to the couch, wrapped up in my quilt, which also smelt of fabric softener. Lost Horizon was the standard retreading of a standard love story. You know the one;
…girl meets boy,
…boy doesn’t realise girl loves him,
…girl commits a variety of stupid acts in order to appear not too eager,
…boy flirts with another, less attractive but clearly evil girl
…they both realise that they are the only girl/boy for the other,
…girl pines for lost chance with boy,
…before boy runs into her arms right at the last moment, just before girl joins the nuns or something like that.
The hero, who had an unnaturally full set of lips that curled at every emotionally charged line of dialogue or pained stare into the middle distance spent most of the film wandering (with purpose but not point) around a decaying and crumbling sandstone manor, in some fog bound corner of the Yorkshire moors. The dry stone walls were tattooed a dark green as the persistent foggy rain had supported the overgrowth of moss and lichen. You could hear church bells pealing in the near-distance. The camera panned back towards the huge entry palisade at the end of a stoned drive, where a crowd of extras had been gathered and were smiling and chatting amiably with each other. Generic period costumes were dotted with enhanced décolletages, tightly wound ribbons controlling wayward hair and male legs covered in velvet breeches that seemed both impractical and yet kind of alluring. Our hero was standing by himself, as lonely heroes tend to do. His costume was far more detailed; a starched collar, an off-white ruffle around his neck and black velvet pants that left little to the cinematic imagination. There may have been a wind doing its standard sweeping job on his hair. His gaze was entirely focused on something in the mid-distance that was apparently hard to see but impossible to ignore.
The film cut to inside the church itself and the camera followed the hero down the aisle to a pew about half way down. He had not changed the depth of his impenetrable stare. His hardened features were impassive, reflecting little more than emotional depth or wooden acting. The plot became clearer as I started to watch the film more closely. The man was attending this church to observe a wedding. It was a wedding that he didn’t want to be at but chose to attend alone. Inwardly, it was breaking him apart, like little tears in paper each time the conversation started up around him or the bride and groom took another holy vow. The plot, the characters and the action continued on around his poise and resolve to deny all around him his true feelings. But his eyes betrayed him. There was unformed and growing jealousy; a darkness that was seeping from the corners and each iris like liquid under pressure. However much it hurt, he had to maintain the disdain and gaze of an officer, despite some immutable pain that he could never share. Whilst realising the truly melodramatic circumstances that this film was constructing, I could not help myself but to burst into tears, ably assisted by the last of my dad’s sherry decanter. And his whiskey.
After he left me, drowning in my own blood in New York, things had not been what you might call normal. Fling after fling at the pub on Friday nights had left me charred and wanting more but finding less, even if only in small fractions of warmth. I had careered around the world, one vicarious experience after another, none leading to anything more than empty introspection and another round of tequila. Perhaps, I was missing the same thing that our hero was looking for in the mid-distance. My head cradled on another person’s stomach, their heart ticking beneath, me safe in the knowledge that they will be there tomorrow morning, and not represented by a simple thin slick trail of come. The worst part was that I knew I was strong enough to break out of this pitying spiral of self-flagellation. I just didn’t want to.
So I cried. The nausea was so strong it made me dizzy. Between each sob I was patently aware that come the morning, this whole night would seem so stupid and pathetic and that any resolution I might make that night, any desire for change that I would enact or any promise I solemnly imparted to improve myself would fade in the orange glow of a very late dawn. What does a girl do when she knows her own failings so intimately that they turn back on themselves and become truth? She pours herself another glass of Scotch and writes a whole lot of shit down. I grabbed a pen and paper and I wrote a story. It felt kind of awkward talking to and creating characters. Partially because they were telling their story of me, but mainly because I couldn’t recognise the me they were talking about anymore.
I placed the main actress in a pub. It was a dark and sweaty non-descript bar, somewhere this side of 4th Street. Not sure why I was back in New York…or maybe it was Tokyo, in that alley near Shibuya. Either way, she was dressed entirely unlike me; black skirt, fishnet tights and black blouse, cut low enough to show the full scope of her necklace. In the far corner of the bar was a low stage, lit by four red lights. There was a singer strumming a black acoustic guitar sitting on a stool, watched by no-one. It was sad music, the singer weeping soft nylon tears. Everyone there was holding hands. It was a dramatic twist, quite unrealistic in the real world. It would be a lie to say that the next two pages of the story moved the story along. That they fleshed out the characters and made you feel something. In fact, they were quite purple descriptions about the different way each couple held hands. There was the casual hand hold, the romantic clench, as if to say ‘I’m never letting you go’, the fingers running lightly along the smooth skin on the top of the hand, tracing the path of the bones, the interlocking fingers of the active lovers, hoping that each will stay as close as the other. You get the idea. So, I will cut to the chase. It was really about the couple standing right in front of our brave but tragic actor. The blocked her view of the emotive singer, leaving her seeing on the edges of her blonde hair and the headstock of her guitar.
The guy was this boorish oaf, reeking of Old Spice and lager. His girlfriend clearly didn’t want to be there, talking loudly through each quiet song, pausing only to applaud wanly and wait for the start of the next tune. Our actor wanted nothing more than lose herself in the music, to run away briefly from whatever guy related problems that she had, perhaps some arsehole that cheated on her with mistress wearing seamed stockings and fuck me heels. Each time she focused enough to set the room spinning away and the song filling the void, the couple locked lips in that way that just makes everyone around them feel uncomfortable.
And that was the point of the story. The story of the actor; watching a singer whose words captured and spat back out the crushing annoyance of being left for this year’s model. Alone. Caught flash hard in the glinting projections of a movie made for others but talking directly to her. And having the people around her think that she had simply succumbed to a weakness. That she should have been stronger and not so reliant on what this guy or other people said or did. That she should have been empowered enough to live her life not guided by the feelings of others, but by the soft, four chord strum of her tune. Bollocks.
Broken relationships, fractured trusts and empty deceptions were all meaningless in the face of someone else problems. The story ended with the writer downing the last of the Scotch and the actor watching the final song, a solo piece sung by the singer, alone with no accompaniment, through the locked lips and dancing tongues of the couple. It was a stop motion frame through which she had to observe a raw emotion laid bare by a haunted singer. I wrote it as a contrast that she felt unable to handle. Did she rise up and punch the fuckers? Did she stand tall and defend the singer? At this point, the pen trailed off, my eyes lolled and rolled and I fell into stupor driven kind of sleep.
I woke up in the morning, the pad held tight against my chest and the pen down near my feet. I read the prose and that inevitable, post-sleep wave of embarrassment came over me. Aside from the prosaic prose and kind of stereotyped characterisation, it was a pretty pathetic telling of the stories of me. It had changed nothing. The damage he had done was still raw and bitter. That wasn’t going away after a night’s sleep. The ability to incinerate my feelings and keep the scars fresh and tender allowed me to get on with the time honoured practice of hiding the reality from everyone including those who could probably correct the obvious flaws in my narrative. It was not a good idea to come home. It had thrown me into a backwards spiral of dark reflection. One in which the guitar lines were fed backwards and strung out from the speakers like leaking water. Confession time over girl.