Thursday, 13 February 2014

I really do -I'm insane and I write love stories about toenails

© Ben Westwood

I hate your toes and your toenails, I swear, I really do. I think about your toenails and how confrontational they are -you know I was never one to shy away from confrontations but this... They are crooked, hard and layered in a ridiculously grotesque way over your rough skin the way a dirty roof hosts a dying family and I hear myself scream internally -yes, they have won. They stomp on the edge of my long vaporous dress and I see myself recoil at the ferocious grunts coming from the corners of the room, the coarse and husky sighs of your footsteps accompanying me into my retreat.

The day my lemon tree died your toes were carefully wrapped in a hideous russet blanket and I hate myself for remembering these details but I know I was thinking about the colour grey because your dirty feet always looked out of place on our grey carpet. I really hate your toes and your toenails, I really do, and I swear that day, I almost asked you to leave the house because it really seemed inconceivable that you and I could live together, that something so warm and visceral could be capable of anything else other than carefully managed violence. Your toenails make my chest heavy and my breathing shallow and I know these are signs of anxiety, yes before you asked I researched it and yes, I still hate the way your toes look even hidden beneath an old mustard sock.

It took me a long time to forget about your feet when I was in the same room as you, I never told you, but that was the reason I bought the lemon tree. I thought it would distract me from the plain sight of your naked, warm feet walking all over me as you left pieces of yourself all over the house, just like a cat, and I was right -it did, for a while. You shuffle from room to room, carpet to carpet, from bright, vivid lights to the dim lamp on my bedside and your toes, your ugly toes, they follow me into the warm spot in the bed and they make me touch you and them, and then you again -at times like this I think of the lemon tree and how powerful beings need powerful roots; I play hide and seek but there really is no one seeking me. Tense as wires, the muscles in my back finally gave in after a couple of months, and now the assault of my senses feels more like a tender caress that I cannot help but approve of.

I still hate your toes and your toenails, I swear, I really do. Only now there is something rather tender about the way they look when emerging from the white duvet or when solidly tangled in the grey carpet. In the morning I look at them and I still hate them.... but with crushing tenderness. Beneath the sheets I hear you murmur something incomprehensible and slowly, then suddenly, an elusive sense of belonging that is neither here nor there submerges me. It's peculiar how tenderness works its way into your body, like a new habit slowly drowning into an old one. The art of feeling at home whenever I glance at your ugly toenails feels like an ironic, absurd romance I cannot help but court in spite of all the warnings...

No, really, I hate your toes and your toenails, I swear I really do.

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