I’m not good at what I do. But what I do is good. Does that make sense? When I was a photographer, everyone said my pictures were much, much pretty; but I hated actually taking them. I hated arranging shoots with models and whatnot; setting up the lights, and just the general business of actually doing the thing. I loved the editing, however. The Photoshopping and the cropping. Possibly because I could do it in solitude. Put a bit of Pink Floyd on. Wank myself ragged over the busty 18 year old who’d just spent two hours on my studio floor in her underpants. But, I digress.
Writing is kind of like that with me. I understand that the thing I produce; the end product, is something that people appreciate. I never get tired of hearing praise and compliments about it. But I fucking hate motivating myself to do it; it doesn’t flow naturally from the start, and every day I have to re-convince myself that I’m actually a good writer, and that there’s a point to all of it. It’s a massive fucking pain in the arse, and if I didn’t have my wanking to fall back on, well…
‘The train now approaching Platform 2 does not stop here. Please stand clear of the platform edge.’
And so on. Anyway, here is a passage from my Mommy Porn book. It’s a non-sex bit, where I actually develop the character a little bit, and give you a break from rubbing your bean purse so much that it’s started to look like someone cleaned raw burgers with a Brillo pad.
(It’s a first draft, so it might be full of errors, but you’re getting it while the iron is hot. Or something.)
Work was going incredibly slow. Running your own business is supposed to be a stressful affair; and, for the most part, it was. But sometimes I’d just end up sitting in the office, replying to emails which Belinda had forwarded to me, or going over figures which the accounts department had already dealt with. Belinda was the sort of P.A. who made your own job seem rather redundant; that was why I loved her though. I could have done most of the work from home, but I liked to make a point of always being in the building, so that my claims of ‘my door is always open’ and ‘don’t be afraid to come to me’ wouldn’t just be empty words. My door was never literally open, of course. But they could always knock.
‘Starbucks, Poll?’ It was she, the aforementioned personal assistant; the only one there who would ever call me by my first name; let alone a shortening of it.
‘Oh, yes please, Bel. And can you get me one of those brownie things? If they have them.’ I didn’t have to remind her of what coffee I had; she’d picked me up a double-tall, skinny, wet latte so many times in the last four years that she’d probably have been capable of hopping over the counter and making it herself, if the baristas in the place across the street had allowed her to.
‘Sure, no probs. And if they haven’t?’ She was a striking looking girl. She dressed very London; muted colours, fitted skirts, real leather boots. Her face was one of those ones it takes a while to get used to. Not especially feminine, and not conventionally pretty. She had a strong nose and an even stronger chin; but they suited her face. I imagined a lot of men were quite taken with her, although she never really talked about things like that.
‘Erm, a granola bar… I guess.’ I scrunched my face a little to let her know that I didn’t actually mean it. I avoided healthier snacks whenever I could. Otherwise, it wasn’t really a treat.
‘I’ll get you a brownie.’ She smiled, which suited her face too.
‘Laters.’ She was gone.
Matt had stayed and chatted for a bit, and I’d felt he was being especially nice to me. Possibly to compensate for the roughness of that second time. I liked that he’d taken the time to do that, instead of just rushing out the door afterwards. We didn’t know each other that well, so it made me extra comfortable, that little bit of TLC after we’d been so… wanton. He’d texted me on his way home, to tell me how much he’d enjoyed ‘meeting’ me. He was going to phone me the next day, he said, ‘if that’s okay’. It was more than okay. I wasn’t finished with him by a long chalk, and was secretly delighted he seemed to feel the same.
That had been after midnight, and it was coming up to 2.PM. My mobile hadn’t rung yet, but he hadn’t given me a precise time, or even a rough idea. I checked it again, to make sure it wasn’t on mute. I looked at the bars to see if we had coverage in that part of the building. Of course we had; the office was right in the heart of the city. I needed to stop obsessing; he’d call, eventually. I was surfing the web to kill time until he did, but it wasn’t distracting me as much as I wanted it to. I checked my email account; all my email accounts. There were notifications about private messages I’d received on the dating site, but none of them were from him. That website seemed wildly uninteresting at the present moment; I didn’t want to have to wade through paragraphs and paragraphs of sleazy idiots who thought they were attractive enough to get into my pants; so attractive, in fact, that they seldom bothered to write anything more elaborate than ‘Alright, Darling?’ or even worse ‘You wanna suck my cock?’ Men on dating sites were like a whole new species of twat. It was needles from haystacks, diamonds from rough, twenty-four-seven. There was nothing of interest on any of my social networking pages either; or it just seemed to be that way. My head was all Matt and there was nothing I could do about it.
I scrolled through the contacts to his number, as if looking at it might somehow magically make it ring. It wasn’t working. The computer made a plink noise to tell me there was a new mail. Sylvia, over at Inroads. Belinda could deal with that one, it was probably nothing important. It was usually nothing important. So much of working in media was just dealing with hot air and guff. Press releases which overblew every facet of some terrible docu-drama which would probably never take off; or invites to some launch in Soho, where the main focuses were the free booze and the schmoozing. East London was just a hive of middle class guys and girls with useless media degrees, kidding themselves that their jobs were of some worth, and deluding themselves that they were self-made people; rather than fortunate sods whose social standing had given them a leg-up in the job market. I didn’t know anyone who did anything approaching real work, but we were all in it together, so it was fine.
Belinda brought their drinks in on a cardboard tray, balancing her phone between ear and shoulder. She popped my cardboard cup and my brownie down on the desk, and took her own back out with her; not breaking once from the conversation, other than to give me a quick wink and a conspiratorial eye-roll at whatever Hooray Henry she had on the other end. Belinda, she had a real job; but only because she dealt with all the crap with which I couldn’t be arsed.
I typed ‘matt’ into the Search Email box on my non-work account. About twenty mails came up. We’d been messaging over the dating website for a while, but we’d switched to mails because the site had annoying habit of letting people know each time you logged in; often people whom you’d rather didn’t have such information. Sometimes people whom you’d rather see take a long walk off a short cliff. There was always the block feature of course, but I often forgot that you could do that.
He had been charming and funny from the off. Being a woman on one of those sites was very tricky. I didn’t know how it was for men, but for us, if you put anything even vaguely approaching a ‘sexy’ shot in your pictures, you were inundated with hundreds of humourless, one-line messages which varied from the mundane to the spectacularly vulgar. And not vulgar in the good way. Most single men on the internet’s command of high end erotic prose is sketchy at best. I was no prude, but just firing blunt, impersonal and badly phrased sexual rants at me over the internet wasn’t the correct way to woo a fair maiden, in my book. It was the cyberspace equivalent of being called by a Heavy Breather. There must have been women out there on whom the technique worked though, because by God these guys were persistent. And many.
Matt’s approach was more of the gently ribbing kind. I preferred that. Someone just messaging you to tell you how ‘gorgeous’ you are was all very well, and good for the ego; but it left you nowhere to go, in reality. What did you say to that, except maybe ‘Thanks’? Even if the feeling is mutual, now you were just two people who agreed that they found each other physically attractive. Where was the wooing? Where was the chase?
His first message simply said: ‘That is one amazing pair of shoes you have on. And the rest of you isn’t that bad either. Feet look a bit big though. You know what they say about people with big feet, don’t you? I’m a size 14, btw. 14 Wide. Love, Matt.’
That was perfect, as far as I was concerned. Funny, not too complimentary, and a little bit sexual, if indirectly so. It made me want to message him back. Of course, if his pictures had been of a forty stone guy in a Star Trek t-shirt, I might have just filed him under ‘Oh well, what a pity, never mind.’ What was the use of an internet dating site if you didn’t allow yourself to be a little superficial? And that wasn’t even taking into account the amount of men using pictures of themselves which were clearly taken in the 80s, when they looked like the young Adam Ant. I often wondered how those people explained themselves when they actually met a date face to face. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they just got on with the murdering.
We’d messaged back and forth a lot on the first day. I’d have spoken to him even more, but I was trying to give the impression that I was a busy woman. In reality, I’d been in the office with my feet on the desk; recovering from too much sun at a festival the weekend before. He didn’t talk about what he did for a living. He mainly asked me about myself, made little jokes, or dropped subtle references to sex into the most innocuous conversations. He was very good at that; not a lot of men are. He was interesting, without ever mentioning anything that he was interested in. He was definitely interested in me, and I in him. That day seemed to fly. Belinda had to practically unglue me from the computer terminal at 6PM, or I’d have still been there in the morning when the cleaners came in.