Lucia Albright had lived in London for seven years. After a period of financial struggle pursuing her MA in Creative Writing and Renaissance Literature (which was really all about religious and political pamphlets) and of extreme isolation and a tendency to wander London’s streets late at night sitting at bus stops and crying, she finally found her niche in a nice Bohemian community south of the river. She was a slight girl with mousy hair and an open face, she held a part time job editing an online university journal to which she rarely contributed and had a job in a theatre and was considered nice by everyone, in the sense that she was nice because, unless her friends needed her for something, she was quite passive and often ignored. But she was nice, not that she herself ever considered this as a fact, she didn’t sit at home at the end of the day and pat herself on the back for how nice she might have been- in fact, if anyone could open Lucia’s head and see what was really going on they would have found her preoccupied with self deprecation, self hate, guilt, metaphorical self flagellation. Her friends would have been bemused, they had no idea how carefully she, with her limited intelligence, tried to weigh up each and every word before she spoke it, how she exhausted herself trying to see things from different points of view, often despite the passion raging in her.
But there was a problem with Lucia, or at least others found it a problem.
What are you doing with your life? asked her friends. You’re supposed to be a writer but you’re not writing, you have dead end jobs all the time…
Lucia was perplexed. She had no instinct for self preservation, that was the problem. She was, as her lecturers often commented dully amongst themselves at the school, a victim. And the characters in her writings were victims, Lucia made them- often women- into victims. ..the idea that men and women were human first was not in fashion. Lucia was aware of their feelings and it could have been why she stopped writing. Instead she spent her free time visiting friends, talking to them, listening to their woes and trying to help. She was learning to sing and sang every night in her room, entertaining her housemates with free music, everywhere she went she espoused a joyful energy.
I’m so glad you’re my friend, people said to her.
Lucia though, was starting to feel unwell. At a recent party she noticed everyone was just talking about themselves and their recent achievements. When someone turned and asked her
Well, what do you do?
it was on the tip of her tongue to say,
but she could not bring herself to say so. So instead she sat alone in the corner by the fire, feeling embarrassed by the strange stares being levelled at her. She was fast disappearing, sitting in the corner, even her shadow seemed to submerge in the half darkness she collated around her. She sat there blushing.
Not the kind of woman you may expect, someone commented. And her own writing’s not much kop either. Have you read it? Defo not 21st Century woman.
Lucia left the party without a word when she heard this. As she walked by someone sang,
I’m so lonely, I’m so lonely, though the person was not looking at Lucia.
Was it her fault that others couldn’t see people as human beings but could only discriminate against them because of their sex? Lucia thought ordinary people could be cruel in ordinary and banal ways sometimes.
Hey, can I talk to you? asked a friend as soon Lucia reached home.
Lucia sat on the bed and the friend pretended not to see the droopy mouth, the turn of her body away from her, the longing glance she threw the bottle of wine on the table.
Just how should one live?
You know, I really went to a nice place today, said the friend. I wish you could have seen it, it was so nice, nice people, the streets were clean you know, I felt so peaceful, and the sun came out and I went to a nice cafe and drank hot chocolate by the river. It was so nice.
Sure, good, said Lucia. She wasn’t interested in nice cafes by rivers and drinking hot chocolate.
There was a pause.
Yeah so, said the friend, looking at the wine. You know I like to keep a clear mind and face things openly and for myself, you know. I like to be clear minded.
But Lucia felt unable to speak, she looked at her friend’s face and realised this kind of conversation, where people spoke but didn’t really communicate, happened time and time again, she felt one day was just a repetition of the next. When her friend closed the door and disappeared she imagined 1,000s of rooms like her’s with 1,000s of women sat in their chairs like her and rocking to and fro and wondering about how they should live whilst watching the advent of a fruit fly zoom across the room.
But of course it wasn’t like that. Lots of women weren’t like this but it wasn’t enough for Lucia to be who she was.
Why, said her friends, couldn’t she take a lover, have a career? Why didn’t she have sex like everyone else?
Lucia wondered that they didn’t give her a magic wand and help her wish them into place.
And you are always alone in this room, said her friends, fingering her possessions, looking at her books, taking quick glances at her underwear laid out to dry on the radiators.
Even the underwear needed analysis- were they clean enough? Lucia wondered. Were they the right design, were they spiritual enough? Can underwear denote spiritualism?
It seemed to Lucia that existence was totally mad. In order to be an adult and not a child one must have a career, must have a lover (any lover babes), had to have a pretend future and a false independence from the machinations of the world of work, before the onslaught of old age, of spittle dribbling down the chin and shitting on the bedroom floor with a look of naughty bewilderment on one’s face whilst gazing at the carer and the domestic (not born yet) who had to clean it up.
Tick the boxes Lucia, she thought, tick the boxes.
All night long, drunk on wine and feeling the lump in her breast but no longer caring, Lucia tried to gain a sense of self amidst all this chaos and failed. Out there people were living- one must live! Out there beyond the bed and the dark edge of it people lived, breathed, shouted, whispered, farted, belched, fucked etc and scratched their genitals. Her friends echoed the sentiments in a Wesker play.
But, she thought, puzzled, I thought I was living. What is it about the way I am living that is so wrong for you all?
There was a sense of dismissiveness in the air, it hovered on the hill where she lived. Luica found that when she sent texts and emails they weren’t really returned. She found herself back in her former state, wandering the parks and streets longing even to cut the edge of her thumb in order to feel pain. And she did, taking the scissors she drew long lines across her lower arms forcing her to wear long sleeves at work to hide her little graphs and copies of Mondrians.
We still compare the good and the bad women, she thought.
Still she sought people’s approval didn’t she? Didn’t she want heads to turn when she walked into a room, didn’t she want to be talked about glowingly, to be liked on facebook and retweeted on twitter, because after all, this meant she existed and was of importance.
Still in her bedroom at night, she watched over the dark hours until the dawn and the first pink pink of the blackbird.
Is it for tonight the suicide? the postman uttered at her bedraggled state when she opened the door for him.
She realised she did not cut a sympathetic figure, but after all she thought, I am not after sympathy. She just dreaded the oncoming catastrophe and to prevent it she decided she did need to take a lover. She thought of a man who could be gentle, quiet and kind, yet angry, passionate, headstrong, running headlong into things as it were. She imagined how he might be, tall but not taller than her, squat, lithe, capable- allowing her to come to him as a woman, a reflection in the brown of his eye. He would definitely hold his hands out blindly like a little boy. She was sure she had seen him somewhere.
Gosh, illusion had more value than substance. Sometimes.
It was with this sense of illusion and the warm fuzz against the morning rain after the party the night before, that she armed herself with when she boarded the 68 to Euston and, at Elephant and Castle, not concentrating and thinking about how to find him, she flew majestically and soaringly through the air as the vehicle made a violent and abrupt emergency stop and smashed through the glass on the upper deck, bouncing onto and then off the tarmac below.
This is how I am going to die then, she thought as she flew.
This fear had been in her since she was a child and you just couldn’t argue with it like you could most other things. This fear of fear itself and being alone with it soaring through the air to your final end. But even as she flew she cut a ridiculous figure, like someone afloat in a painting by Chagall on a wall in a gallery. Nothing was real she decided and if you weren’t screaming, crying with passion and fighting how were you living?