last tuesday club

"She believed the world had begun last Tuesday. January the twelfth, to be precise. When I asked her how she came up with the idea, she just shrugged, before looking at me as though it were obvious." – Charlotte Amelia Poe.

Category: Last Tuesday Club

She used to tell me she would die if she slept – apnoea. She walked with the bags of her fatigue underneath her sea grey eyes, purple bruises against pale, milk skin. I would find her curled up on armchairs, knees drawn up, eyelids drooping against the world, and I could imagine that itchy dry desperate sleep clawing away at her, begging her to just let go, to surrender. Her limbs held a nervous energy, a certainty, that this was a battle she would win, at any cost. She was a new born colt on high heels, skittering rather than walking, swaying slightly and masking it as intentional. You could hardly tell that her swings from overt to introvert weren’t chemical in nature, that they weren’t caused by anything more than a deep weariness.

I suppose she did sleep, but damned if I ever saw her do it. I wondered what she dreamt about though, and whether her breathing really did hitch and her chest flatten and stay flat, deflated and yearning, empty.

I wonder whether she ever died, just for a second, and what that was like for her. Did she wake, gasping for air, bolt upright like every bad movie nightmare ever? Or did she drift to consciousness, a barely there thing, before shifting and curling in on herself once more, almost entirely unaware that she’d breathed her last and was breathing anew all over again?

How many times had she died?

I wonder how many times you can die before you stop caring. If you die every night, under stars and sky, do you lose count? Is it an acceptance, and did that explain her?

Was her public battle a front? Did she treat death with the same ambivalence she treated life? Did she dress for the occasion, the nicest cream and white lace slip, or did she face it in ratty pyjama bottoms and an oversized t-shirt, stolen from an old lover?

I never asked her, because how can you ask someone – do you like to die? Does it bother you? She would have answered yes. To which question though, I’m not sure. I flip a coin in my head, and sometimes, she cares. Sometimes, she doesn’t.

So, a tired ghost dances in the corner to music only she can hear, the pub television blaring some football game. But drink in hand, sloshing the liquid over garments too good for a place like this, she dances, she rages, and no, she does not sleep.

“You know you’ll never fuck me, right?” She says carefully, her tone light but her face serious.

“I never – ” I begin.

“I know, you never thought about it. It’s what every boy says. But I wanted you to know. Because people – people don’t always understand. They have an idea in their head, of me, of what I am and what I do. And I need you to know, I don’t do that. I don’t fuck around with people,” she’s serious now, every ‘fuck’ rolling off her tongue like a blunt instrument falling to the ground.

“I wouldn’t,” I say.

“Wouldn’t you?” She smiles slightly, sadly.

“Never,” I say, lying through my teeth. Of course I would, in a second, yes, I would, if only she liked me the way I liked her.

“Don’t make a liar of yourself. It’s a sad way to live a life,” she says.

“Then don’t ask me impossible questions,” I say.

“Isn’t that what I’m here for?” She asks, and I begin to wonder if she’s not entirely right about that.

Afterwards, I found her at the bar. I didn’t want to approach, I just wanted to observe. She sat there, in her messy splendour, one finger swirling the contents of her drink, moving the ice cubes back and forth in the glass, before lifting that same finger to her ruby red lips and sucking it clean. I looked around and it seemed as though everyone else was equally drawn to that simple movement, and that she was utterly unaware of it. She returned her hand to the glass, and fished out an ice cube, popped it between her lips, her eyes widening at the cold of it, before crunching down hard. She smiled, and I felt half the bar wince. So, she did know.

She started a club – of course she did. A collection of people connected by an invisible string that bound them together. She called it the Last Tuesday Club, though actually believing that the world began on the most recent Tuesday wasn’t a prerequisite for joining, more of a guideline. All theories were accepted there – and argued over in low tones and sometimes more heated debates. She’d collected a bunch of people who otherwise would go days without saying a word, and had given them a forum to speak in front of. I asked her, did she really believe it, that the world had begun last Tuesday?

“It’s not last Tuesday any more. It’s Tuesday, the twelfth of January, 2016. And yes.”

“But isn’t that a bit ridiculous? All the fossil records, everything historians have ever recorded, are you saying all that’s wrong?”

“No, not at all!” She said excitedly. “You don’t understand. Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it isn’t brand new. The same way people paint new furniture, to make it cracked and peeling, the same way our universe is still in its infancy, all jumbled together and confused. That’s why nothing makes sense.”

“But lots of things do make sense.”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps there is more than we can imagine, and we’re just struggling along, half blind, trying to make sense of it all. Everything still happened, in a way, after a fashion, it just happened more recently, and all at once.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. How can you believe that?”

“You can believe anything if you want to.”

She sings with a voice too high for the song she’s chosen, breaking at the chorus. Instead of sounding foolish though, it sounds brave, and more sincere still than it would have done had she hit all the right notes. She holds the microphone with both hands, like a prayer, the harsh intake of her breath resonating around the small bar as she forces the lyrics out of her small body. She is not the greatest singer, nor a particularly good one, but she feels the song, and her body sways with the emotion of it, all nervous energy and deep, deep caring swept up into one unconscious action. She is beautiful on the stage, and as the song ends, she apologises, and steps down, her hands out as though steadying herself, and though I watch her, she still disappears into the crowd.

She danced as if everyone was watching, every movement calculated to maximum effect, yet somehow seamless, practised and precise. To an outsider, it looked careless, the way she ran her hands through her hair or down the sides of her dress, but to me, I could tell when one routine merged into the next, from the way her eyes flicked from person to person, to the way her head dropped backwards and her eyes closed completely, as though consumed by the music. It was all a beautiful act. But what wasn’t, with her?

And just as suddenly, she disappeared. The videos, the blog updates, everything just stopped. It was as if she had ceased to exist, and for all intents and purposes she had – I could no longer follow her actions or commentate on her life from a distance. It sounds wrong, to say it like that, but it’s how it felt – she’d cut me out, cut us all out – all of those who’d followed her halfway across the world as she’d skipped town and fled, running from demons only she could see.

She made disappearing beautiful, but also frustrating.

I longed to see her again, a photo, a video, a hastily recorded song – half finished and with ugly, unpolished chords, anything, just to prove to myself that she was okay.

And I realised, not for the first time, that I didn’t really know her. I couldn’t contact her family, her friends, I couldn’t ask anyone if she was okay. All I had was the impotent knowledge that she was somewhere in New York, living and breathing in a city that chews people up and spits them out, and she was there without anybody, living with a kind of freedom which is both dangerous and inspiring.

And I missed her. Oh god, how I missed her.

But I was angry at her too. How could she just leave? Leave me, to trudge through my mundane life, only imagining her adventures? How could she be so cruel? And would she return, her makeup perfect, her voice pitched just so, a smile on her face a little too bright, explaining the wonders she’d seen and the people she’d met?

Or would she stay vanished this time for good, just another lost soul in the city that never sleeps?

“I think you like it, you know,” I said, throwing it back in her face.

“How could I possibly like this, being this way?” She asked, furious.

“I think you get off on it. The poor, misunderstood little girl, who never has to grow up, never has to face the real world. Everyone dances around you, makes allowances for you, don’t they? And you let them. You never stand up for yourself, you always have someone to do it for you. It’s ridiculous. Nobody sees it, but I do. You treat them like puppets, these slaves you have to your lifestyle. All because you can’t face the big bad world. Well, guess what, Sophia, one of these days they’re going to realise what you’ve done to them, all the lies you’ve told, and you’ll be left with nothing, nobody. And I hope you’ll remember today, remember this. And I hope you’ll remember that I told you so,” I ranted. Her face changed, closed down in front of my very eyes. She went from seeming soft at the edges, to suddenly very hard.

“Fuck you,” she bit out. “Fuck. You. You think I want this, for a second? You think I enjoy living this way? I hate it. Every minute of it. I wish I had the courage to step off a bridge and into the swirling tide, I really do. But I’m a coward. I don’t use people, don’t you see? You treat me like I’m using you because you can’t face the truth – that you allow yourself to be used. From the day you met me, you’ve chased me, fallen at my heels, desperate for my attention. Because I’m an idea to you, this unobtainable, magical girl, who, through her quirks, can cure your own ailments. Well, I’m sorry, but real life isn’t like that. Real life is me having to take my medication every day or risk losing the fragile grip I have. Real life is watching the world go by from my window on the days I can’t bear to leave the house. Real life is pretending to smile when all I want to do is cry. Real life is you, screaming at me, because you can’t bear that my illness is more of me than you would like. I’m sorry, no, that’s wrong, I’m not sorry that I’m not your dream girl, not in the least bit. I can’t imagine anything worse than having to live up to your standards twenty four hours of the day, fearing what you might say if I stepped out of line. You’ve built me up in your head for so long you don’t even see me anymore. I’m an idea to you, nothing more.”

“You’re wrong,” I said, certain.

“The thing is though, is that I’m not. I’ve met you before, dozens of times. And each one of you thought you could mould me into this perfect girl. And none of you saw the truth of it – I am me, already, not perfect, perhaps, but me, unconditionally and unapologetically. And believe me, I apologise for nothing.”

 

The first time I saw her, she was standing in the cleared out area we called the stage, her dirty blonde hair piled on top of her head like a cheap Amy Winehouse impersonator. Unlike Amy though, her eyes were ringed with golds and browns, and her lips shone red as coral. She fidgeted with the microphone, bouncing on the heels of her feet, pulling at the hem of her sequinned dress with one hand, before clearing her throat to begin.