I walk the dog every evening, whatever the weather, on the tatty oval of grass at the end of the street. A plastic bag crumpled in my pocket with which I will scoop up the dogís meaty shit and carry it home again to dispose of carefully. If nothing else I am a responsible dog owner. I let her off the lead, and she shuffles away, pig like, snouting the ground with the moist black of her nose. She is accustomed to these transient moments of freedom and is no longer fooled by the lack of a tether, her tail swiping, staying close by.
Street lights define the perimeter of the park, but the centre remains dark, enticing and probably infested with rapists, crack heads and muggers. It is restrained by the peculiar London silence in its unlit isolation, intense and just out of range of human hearing. The murmur of history babbling to itself, with no warning given about the inevitable recurrence of human failings.
I have run out of money. Literally. At one point I was doing quite well and then suddenly, it had gone. I had four lovers, each one entirely different yet utterly the same, all had cocks, and all loved them sucked. It is simple really, for one man to keep me, it would be quite an undertaking, but split the cost and there you are, living the life of Riley and not one of the lovers suspecting they were out of pocket. If I needed a cash injection I would fall pregnant, arrange the termination and get them all to pay for it individually. Simple and profitable, two grand up for an afternoon of discomfort and the use of an inherent biological function; of course that strategy could only be used rarely and on a first name basis. But then one by one I lost them, not sure why or how, but they stopped coming round, perhaps they sensed I wasnít in it for love or even sex.
I am out of luck. This morning the washing machine packed up, right in the middle of the spin cycle. Magpies crowded on the roof of the flats across the street, the sign for secrets never to be told, I bought shoes for my last lover, which you should never do because they only use them to walk away from you, and I am afraid I brought cherry blossom into the house. My motherís conditions for luck orbited the fortunes of our family. She is dead yet I still hear her warnings from her place on the sideboard, reduced to cinders in a cheap box, her messages confused by the magnetic resonance from the mobile phone mast. The mirror swallows the room in its flat gape, and amplifies my motherís whisper and the chewed over warbles from the locals. Half my trouble stems for unresolved mother-love or lack of or not even. All I am able to deduce from my half understanding of myself is I never again want to own just one pair of shoes and I really need to have a least one bottle of champagne in the fridge.
Now there is only a jar of Fortnum and Masonís Wild Mushroom Sauce and a tube of Canesten Once cooling in the fridge. I am plagued with thrush lately, the inflamed perimeter of my darkening sex warding off any overtures from a future benefactor. The gig is up, cancelled, over. I am finished and hungry; though that isnít such a bother, I still have a pack of cigarettes to dull my appetite. Itís the dog I am worried about, how am I going to feed her? There is only so much credit the local shop will give and four hundred quid owed on fags and dog food alone is surely taking the piss.
I usually sit on the bench in memory of Violet George-Coppins (Beloved) and smoke while the dog shuffles about and defecates, but Violet isnít offering her usual sanctuary, the bench seems colder, harder this evening and the dog has wandered further into the black this evening than usual. A girl like me ought to get more exercise than I do anyway, so I follow the dog across the rained-in grass, the city-blunt blades attempting a weak slash at my ankles. Benign and ineffectual, the park and itís simulacrum of nature is under the thumb of the lonely park keeper and his YTS boy, the subjugated violence of blood and soil barely concealed by the geraniums in the flower beds and the fettered limbs of the ornamental apple trees; it glowers at me, snarls in its guise as a junky hide out.
I have what I suppose some would call a dreadful sense of foreboding, but I guess all things considered I feel quite excited about what comes next. Nothing is unknown; nothing unseen, all things fit finally and it really shouldnít be a surprise. But how much it hurts takes me aback and the intimacy, the wretched intimacy Ė beyond that of a treasured lover or the stale sacrifice of motherhood. He sees me, looks at me and I can smell him, his adrenalin, his testosterone, his kebab supper and cheap cigarettes.
He didnít even grab me from behind the cheeky bastard, just stepped in front of me, his teeth reflecting the light, young and pale, coins rattling in his jeans pocket. I told him he was out of luck if he wanted money and that was that. I am not so naÔve as to underestimate the mercantile nature of all relationships, even one so fleeting as this. So fleeting as this, I think in all we spent five minutes together, yet this will be the most profound relationship I have ever had; the one that will define my entire thirty- five years; will eclipse my small achievements and my gross inadequacies. In this I am lucky, I will be ennobled by this tragedy, elevated and made pure by my tacky little murder.
He didnít even touch me up, no quick grope; no fumble not even a slimy kiss. I have truly lost all my charms, not even my murderer wanted a quick jump. Iíve been swindled, denied a final tribute to my beauty. At least a smear of semen on my corpse would give me some semblance of desirability. I look at him, he looks at me. We breathe. I am alone in a small torment. He sticks his dreary knife in my stomach and ripped my guts. My lovely shoes, more expensive than his entire outfit, ruined forever by the gush and leak of my blood and stomach contents; beautiful shoes, a subtle shade of pink suede with 3 inch heels utterly ruined.
He stifled my half-hearted attempt at a squeal with the shit bag I had in my pocket, pushing it to the back of my throat. Snuggled up to me, he doesnít even give me the dignity of distance; I canít hide my fear or the smell of my own faeces. Every breath I take sucks the plastic bag further into my oesophagus. He is calm, just watching me die. Time fragments around us like music. My familiar breathing pattern reverberates from the past and feels oddly present. I try to maintain the old rhythms. I am taking forever to die, which seems stupid considering I am not unwilling.
How dull this is, how mundane; I havenít screamed, the dog doesnít leap to a toothy defence; there are no histrionics to fasten me to the fabric of reality. I am caught between atoms and the void, where god exists in my memory, where certainty is as sure as water and sensation is only imagined.
Young men are always the enemy; they were the enemy when I was a stripper earning money to keep my ex-husband in guitar strings. Aggressive, confident and predatory, they were tight fisted with the tips and unapologetic when they slipped a finger between your flesh and your g-string. The old men on the other hand were as sweet as you like, perfidious old bastards but at least they were grateful and apologetic about ejaculating on your shoes. Oddly stupid, the things you do for love. Protect your sensitive little man from the rigours of a job so as not to crush the paper-like construct of his genius. Wash his clothes and incubate his diseases for him. Then sit and cry when he leaves you alone with broken guitar strings vibrating with his feeble music. Bitterness seems inevitable and not a choice.
My killer is young. His facial hair still grows in isolated patches, his chin an archipelago of bristles; fat pimples lodge around his nose. He has turned and walked away, wiping his hands. I get the awful sense that I was a disappointment to him; that I wasnít quite what he expected. I worry that I have let the side down, but am not clear as to whose side I am on. The dog finally shuffles over and sits impassively by my ruined shoes, hardly my loyal protector. These, my last two relationships, with my dog and my murderer, stink of failure. My mother was right, I didnít amount to much. I subside, and the dog and I wait with me till I am discovered.