Joy, from the rock band The Carburettors, appears to be a real rock chick. Yes, she looks the part with her neon pink curly hair that can only be described as dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards-scruffy, black kohl eyeliner, cleavage-revealing vest top, a biker jacket several sizes too large and actually ancient rather than artfully so, a barely there black skirt and tights with runs that speak of hard and long use rather than attacked with a kitchen knife. She is all that a fan would want and more.
Sadly for her band mates though, her heart isn’t really in it, not any more. She’s had enough of groupies and drugs and sex – always the wrong kind of fans, always the saddest of sex. She wants, at the grand old age of 27, to write the Great American Novel. She reads them all, any time she gets the chance and has even been known to read Allen Ginsberg over a hairy shoulder whilst the latest enthusiastic almost-twenty-something guy is doing his best to protract his painfully sweaty three minute performance into something more meaningful and long-lasting, man.
And then she meets the bartender from Seattle. She is stunning, Amazonian, and knows exactly who she is and where she’s at. Disturbingly and more importantly, she has the measure of Joy in moments. She plays her far better than Joy plays her electric guitar, which to be fair, is certainly saying something.
Joy knows she is in thrall to this woman. She knows that if she lets go completely, her Great American Novel will just become another shattered Great American Dream. She has to get away, and fast. But it takes months – hardly fast, at all. Because, unlike most people of her background, she doesn’t own a car, never had. She’d run away to the band at the tender age of 14, before her doting parents could fund her teenage future and her rite of passage of Drivers’ Ed and all that goes with it could grant her freedom. So, she learns to drive, painfully slowly. And all the while, her lover locks all the doors, pins her down and makes Joy hers. Completely.
Joy is 29 now. Still in the band. Still aching to write. Still nothing more than the words ‘Chapter One’ at the front of her notebook. Still in thrall to sex and luv and come to bed eyes.
Ex Oh. Ex Oh-what the fuck…
I told her not to come back. I told her – this is exactly what I said – “You must never come back here.” That’s what I told her. I didn’t feel safe.
I was terrified. I changed the locks. I checked the windows each night and every morning, just to be on the safe side, you know? I barricaded myself in. I changed my schedule, stopped walking the same way to work. I made everything different. Or rather, I tried to make it that way.
You see, there were things I couldn’t change.
I couldn’t stop what she did, how she behaved. She used to tell me that, all the time. She would say it just like that – “You can’t control me Chloe. You can’t put me in a box. You can’t file me away.” That’s what she would say.
She wasn’t neat and tidy, not like me. She was too noisy, too messy, too untidy. She scent-marked everything, like a dog.
I like order. It’s how my life works, how it makes sense. I like the quietness of everything in place. It keeps me calm, makes me feel safe. I like things to be clean. I like peace.
I wasn’t safe when she was around. She was always here, in every room at once. Nowhere belonged any more.
I told her not to come back, do you understand. I told her, just like that – “You must never come back here.”
She didn’t listen. She insisted on doing what she wanted to do, just like she always had done. I was very, very clear.
Now, she’s made even more of a mess. She made me. She made me make a mess. Just look, everywhere. Broken glass, shattered plates, wine, pasta, in all the wrong places.
All that mess, all that noise, all that disorder, oh it hurts so badly, it makes me cry.
I was so afraid. So, so afraid.
It hurts. It makes me cry.
That’s what she said – yes, these are the words she said to me, and she was crying too – “Look. Chloe, you’ve hurt me, you’ve really, really hurt me. It hurts so badly. Make it stop.”
That’s what she said.
I did what I was told. I’m so good at following rules and orders. I made it stop.
I made it stop.
I like things to be neat and tidy. I washed it, put it back in the drawer, in just the right place.
Everything is silent now. I shut the door to the kitchen. If I can’t see it, it isn’t there, that’s right, isn’t it? That’s what she used to tell me, when I got really stressed, when she made another mess – “Shut the door. You can’t see it. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see it.”
I’ve shut the door. She was right.
I can’t see her any more.
She won’t come back.
It’s so quiet.
Now, I am safe.