the evening party ︎︎︎ a collection of writings, poems and photographs by the anonymous author ︎︎︎  2019—present ︎︎︎ Index of entries ︎︎︎ Email ︎︎︎ Instagram ︎︎︎ ‘Ah, we’re an ungrateful race! When I look at my hand upon the window sill and think what pleasure I’ve had in it, how it’s touched silk and pottery and hot walls, laid itself flat upon wet grass or sun-baked, let the atlantic spurt through its fingers, snapped blue bells and daffodils, plucked ripe plums, never for a second since I was born ceased to tell me of hot and cold, damp or dryness, I’m amazed that I should use this wonderful composition of flesh and nerve to write the abuse of life. Yet that’s what we do. Come to think of it, literature is the record of our discontent.’ —The Evening Party, Virginia Woolf

Kronenbourg

The best thing that happened to me today took place in a cornershop refrigerator. There is not much more to say than that, but, you see, I must. Who knows what compels me to elaborate and, after it all, leave language here to rust, yet I continue because what else about the sixth of August is there to be said? When the day comes to an end, so rarely do I have anything to say—such are these conditions!—but tonight, as I have stated, I feel I must. You are looking at me and sighing, as if you mean for me to get on with it. That is okay, I do not write for your pleasure; I barely write for my own. I write to lend the sixth of August, this year, 20—, some importance. If I may endow it with the smallest modicum of weight, of emotional epiphany or significance, then, pray, I might sleep better.
    She says I bottle everything up, or that I repress it; I cannot remember her exact words. It used to be that I was exceptional at remembering words—paragraphs, stanzas, entire songs—but now not so much. She says I need to learn to talk to people more and that when they ask how I am I should believe that they care, and I should tell them. As it was, I had an attack of some sort on Sunday evening. How unfortunate that it should happen while I was on the toilet. The floor looked so cool, I thought I might have to lie down on it; but then what if I died and should be discovered with no pants and smeared with feaces? I did not want to die like that. Once it had subsided and my vision returned to normal, I turned the handle to cold and stood underneath the shower for some time. ‘Did you talk to anyone about all this? … Did you talk to anyone about any of it?’ No, I told her, who would I talk to? I even volunteered for extra chores that day so that I would not have to confront my own feelings; it was only when getting ready for bed on Sunday evening that it all caught up with me at once and I was overwhelmed.
    There is much to say about the rest of that episode, but I shall leave it for now.
    I came downstairs and said good morning to my mother, who was in the living room, drinking coffee and looking at recipes on her phone. As I made a cup of my own, she told me about a recipe she had found and was excited to make. I made some noises then went into the garden to smoke my first cigarette. I did not feel like looking at my phone, so instead I sat there and slumped on the warm furniture. Consequently, all the ash dropped on me and I knew that should I try to brush it away then it would only crumble into little grey clouds. Best let the wind blow it away, but so feeble was the breeze that it only ruffled the dust into the folds and seams of my jeans. My mother came outside to water the lawn. I believe that she enjoys watering the lawn: the rushing sprinkler and its steady back & forth, pulling it along the grass, making sure—using a timer—that each blade gets the right amount of water. Briefly it sparkles in green. It must be therapeutic to her, I suppose. She was halfway untangling the hose when she walked over to me and asked if I were okay.
    ‘Yeah.’
    ‘I can see that you’re not.’
    ‘—I’ll be okay.’
    ‘Do you want to talk about it?’
    ‘I’ve been told I should…’
    ‘Is that what your therapist says?’
    ‘Yeah, but I dunno if she means first thing in the morning.’
    ‘I do care about you. I do want to know how you are, but I know you don’t like to talk about it.’ She was mistaken, even after all these years. It pains me to volunteer how I am feeling, to approach someone and come out with it. I need to be pushed, to be strapped down and prodded with hot irons before, like a confession, I give it all away in one long, dribbling mess. I had not been looking at her; I turned away further still and sensed the tears begin to come. I felt like I might cry, blubbering, so made a considerable effort to hold it back, not to let it all come out. I regained my breath and my strength and said—
    ‘I’ll be okay.’
    Pause.
    ‘Is it tiredness or something in particular?’
    ‘It’s tiredness, … and something in particular.’
    She stared at me. I avoided her gaze as much as I could, but then was obligated to return it whenever I could, just to assure her that things were better than they felt. ‘What if it’s not tiredness? What if all this is just who you are?’
    I hung my head. I could feel the tears coming and those knots of phlegm collecting in the back of the throat that makes it hard for one to talk or utter even a single word. If only I could have said what was wrong, but it would have been too much! It hurt me so that she had not once, in over four months, asked me about the one thing that broke my heart. And still it broke my heart that I had not mentioned it, that I had let it tear me apart and send me insane. It would not do for a morning, not the morning of the sixth of August 20—.
    ‘I get that you don’t want to talk about it now, so I’ll ask you about it later.’ She smiled.
    I smiled—‘Okay.’
    She did not ask about it later. There were times when I anticipated that she might, but she did not. I had hoped she would; I sat there at my makeshift desk in the kitchen where I work, waiting, the perfect chances coming & going in mutual silence. Maybe she would mention it now—or then—but she did not.
It was such a hot day. My mother repeatedly warned me not to go out for my usual afternoon walk. As I left, she called me a fool. ‘What else is there?’ I asked and strode off into the baking sun. Even for the coast it was hot; not the typical sea-wind of relief, just a furious sun overhead and blinding. There was a front garden with a cardboard box in it. The lid of the box read—APPLES. FREE. I regarded the apples with skepticism. They did not look appetising; they looked like they had been picked too soon; they were quite small. Do apples get bigger if permitted, snubbed by some plucking hand, to ripen on the branch? I imagined they tasted sharp or even sour. On the other side of the road was a sign that read—TO CHEER YOU UP. MY ART GALLERY. PLEASE TAKE A LOOK. A woman had a painting in the window mounted within an ornate gold frame. A lone painting in the window behind—or in front of—curtains closed against the furious sun. The painting was of the sea and a boat. It was unremarkable and, at the same time, a tremendous study of blue and turquoise—bravo! It did not cheer me up, but I stared at it hoping that it might. How long did I have to stand there, staring? If it were too long she, the artist, might emerge from the shade of her garden shed, mistake me for a collector or curator, and set upon me with enthusiasm. I would probably have to remove my headphones as she approached. ‘What do you think? … I’ve been painting since I was a little girl, I remember my grandfather buying me a set of watercolours for my eleventh birthday and encouraging me to paint the sea, since he lived in F—n and I’d often visit him … Do you paint? … Ah, yes, the figure drawings! I do those at the C—n art classes … You should come along. The tutor—Michael, his name is—very good, really helped me with my proportions and line. But still I love painting the sea, because of my grandfather. He’s dead now.’ She would probably mention at least one person who had died; old people usually do. And once they begin talking, it is difficult to get them to stop unless they hear their kettle boiling or an asteroid is heading towards the earth. She would probably talk to me for ages and tell me about her grandchildren. I shuddered at the thought. Best be on my way. I had seen the woman’s work before. She used to put out life sketches and quick paintings of nudes at the end of her driveway; they were something I preferred. The curvature of some life model’s thigh, the swell of her pubis, or the tumult of the ocean? There was no competition! Sometime into the walk my eyes began to sting from the perspiration that dripped down from my forehead. My favourite game was when the beads of water clung to my eyebrows and I could see them, bulbous and saturated, waiting for them to fall into my lashes. It was amazing how close such a spectacle could be admired! There was always a tissue with me on those walks, to mop up my sweat, but by then it was incapable of soaking up anything. As much as I tried, it served only to push the perspiration into my eyes and blurring all my vision and painful.
    You are probably wondering when I will get to the cornershop refrigerator; it has been some time now and I have not written what I set out to. Such is my mind these evenings. The cornershop is at the bottom of a slight hill, and, in going there, I must travel back on myself—but it is all step-count and exercise. The front door was open. It is usually closed, except for in the hottest weather. The owners are Sri Lankan and I suspect they might be quite used to heat, although they probably have some qualms with the fluorescent lighting. There is no one else inside; that sort of thing is important. For a moment, looking at the refrigerator, I begin to panic because there are no cans left of my preferred beer. It is a popular beer—most likely because it has lots of alcohol and is cheap—but above the neon card pricetag, there seems to be nothing left. Undeterred, I lean down and look further, into the back of the shelf, like a doctor peering into an ear. Ah! There, in the recesses of the refrigerator are four cans (the people around here only purchase in even numbers), so I hastily grab them all and hold them in my arms, shaking, until I am at the till. Finally, I grab some cherry coke for the return journey.
    I walk down the street, guzzling the cherry coke so that I choke on the bubbles and spill it in my beard and down my t-shirt. The people in passing cars shake their heads at me. I attempt to apologise, although it is a real feat of coordination to walk and drink from a can without stumbling on the many uneven paving slabs with weeds between, stones and broken glass.
    I get back and sit down, sniffing myself. There is a fetid smell coming from my groin. I surmise that the little fellow must be rotting. A tragedy! No! says my mother, my jeans always give off a terrible smell. Ah, of course, she is right. It would be a catastrophe if that appendage—over all others—took upon itself to die. A relief, surely. I grasp it, crush my empty can of cherry coke and sigh. It is too hot to do anything. By the time I had finished working, my parents had already got stuck into a bottle of white wine and I figured, like the genius I am, it would be an ideal time to have a beer. There was a video conference at work about black lives mattering. I tried to join, but after ten minutes of waiting I guessed that either it was not taking place or my support of the cause was being spurned. A great shame, but the organiser has family in Beirut and was most likely dealing with that. (Her cousin had been out celebrating her birthday; she came home to find her apartment in ruins, and all her neighbours dead. It is not something I can imagine, despite seeing the photographs, with everything in ruins and her walls brown, her possessions gone, the people next door no longer living, the horror and the luck.) I gripped the beer. It was cold. The beer was so cold that I could feel it cooling the litres of blood that flowed around my hand and swum about my body. That, I thought, is the back of the cornershop refrigerator. The back of the refrigerator is much colder than the front. And, would you believe it, the cold beer from the back of the cornershop refrigerator felt so good in my hands—which have often been used to record my discontent—it was as though I held something greater than, something perfect, something holy, something more than the sixth of August truly deserved.

Mark