I'm Afraid I Haven't Been Honest With You
I’m Afraid I Haven’t Been Honest With You
I was thinking about my new friend and the stories of his various ex boyfriends. The famous soap actor boyfriend, 17 years his senior, who gave him a poodle on only their second meeting. The poodle outlived their relationship and became a burden, passed around the family, staying on with them until doggie decrepitude. I was thinking about this poodle’s hair, left unkempt and wiry, a living symbol of neglect. I was thinking about his most recent ex too, the tattoo artist who covered all the remaining space left on his already decorated arms with inked doodles and then just disappeared after leaving these stains. I was thinking about the heirlooms from my own relationships.
I was thinking about swimming, thinking while swimming, admiring all the OAPs in their bionic swim gear and wondering how to teach the visiting friend to swim front crawl. I remembered the image my old swimming coach had used to explain a good technique. I should imagine myself threaded on a skewer coach had said, running between my legs up through my body and out the top of my head. In the pool I should think of myself gently rotating on my skewer from side to side gliding along as streamlined as possible. I was thinking what a violent and constrictive image that is, especially one to give to a child, but reimagining it going down the length of the lido I was feeling oddly satisfied on my spit.
I was thinking about going crazy, just thinking about it. Singing on my bike, flirting with it. I was thinking about drinking alone. I was thinking is that weird? I was thinking I was thinking, and thinking about how much time I had to think in this oddly well-manicured town.
I was thinking about town planning, how obvious it was there. The imposing fascist architecture painted in pacifying pastels. I was imagining the well-healed architects of this town and their sinister hands. I was thinking about protests and how one would never happen there. I was thinking about markets in London, the one on East Street near the studio, and how something that had smells like that would never happen there either.
I was thinking about the text I received opening with the line ‘I’m afraid I haven’t been honest with you’ and how that was a good title and a good fuck you for me to appropriate these words. I was thinking about art as revenge and how pathetic it was but it still being the only type of comeuppance that actually feels good.
I was thinking about my own dishonesty, about telling lies and telling stories and how maybe they are the same thing. I was thinking about how much happier we’d be if we just abandoned the expectation of honesty. If we all just realised we’re living, upholding our stories, our lies and allowed each other the freedom to change track when our chosen narrative wasn’t working out.
I kept on thinking about dishonesty, and the Clemente Susini anatomical wax works in Bologna and Florence ostensibly made to educate medical students and moralise the masses but really just thinly veiled necrophilia porn.
I was thinking about the tour guide who took us around the waxwork collection at La Specola, who the keen American had asked why the women were modelled as full reclining figures and the men as just truncated torsos. I was thinking about why the guide answered ‘out of respect’ and about why she felt the need to continue to peddle this line, especially as a woman.
I was thinking about the Italo Calvino essay about Dr Spitner’s Anatomical Wax Museum. How he found the complete flayed human skin the most friendly and comforting of the exhibits, a relief amidst the rest of the gory models. How he liked being able to see the entire surface. How this skin, devoid of any thickness, held no hidden intentions. I was thinking about cutting open Susini’s models, holding out their waxen skin and shaking out all his ulterior motives.
I was thinking about the Margiela exhibition and the flayed trench coat and how clothing was like skin and could be opened up, flattened, pressed like a flower. I was thinking about the see-through clothing in the Margiela show too and how you could see through all the layers, the shirt creasing into the trousers, all the way through to the knickers beneath, like an x-ray. I was thinking about being a child and drawing myself like that, with the knickers on the outside, not yet realising what I could feel closest to my skin couldn’t be seen by everyone. I was thinking about these different transparencies of skin and clothing and confusing the layers, mixing booted feet with bare writhing limbs.
I was thinking about thigh high boots and crazy golf. Thigh high crazy golf. And being drunk the night before and falling off my bike and grazing my leg and not really being able to put one foot in front of another.
Back in London and I was thinking about the title of the show and the bear baiting jugs at the Ashmolean that inspired it and about how weird is was to ornamentalise such a brutal blood sport. Thinking about how one of these jugs would feel in my hands: the rough abrasion of the shredded clay fur while twisting the neck to unfurl the tea service from the decapitated head.
I was thinking that I wanted to string up the town planner in the same sadomasochistic chains but keep him in his polite ribbed polo neck at the same time. Making him faceless, hairless, all orifices for leakiness removed. The head unplugged from the neck even loosing its head-ness, looking like a buoy ready to go out to sea.
I was thinking about Olga Tokarczuk’s description of buoys in Flights, that it is the task of buoys to break up the water’s monopoly on vastness, making it measurable, giving a false impression of control. A false impression of control, I was thinking, like writing about ideas and pretending you have a grip on them. Legitimising the half-reality of the idea by writing about it, quantifying, summarising these loose drifts in words. I
was thinking about the closing clause of The Pumpkin Eaters and how it couldn’t more perfectly summarise what I was thinking:
I have tried to be honest with you, although I suppose that you would really have been more interested in my not being honest. Some of these things happened, and some were dreams. They are all true, as I understood truth. They are all real, as I understood reality.