Zoë Dutton is a writer, artist and jewellery-maker living in Edinburgh.
This is hell. Black fucking bootlegs and a black plastic shirt and a stifled city summer
with which to glue it to the back of my neck. I started here and I’ve been yanked so violently back to walk under heavy sun of halfway suburbia. A pilgrimage of humiliation, stations of shame down a highstreet I would have happily left to history. And so stifling with them watching me. Fuck! The indignity of sweating in a terrible outfit. Children apparently tricycling our shared streets gawp at me, and I wonder what a decade has done except make me want to grab them by their stunted necks and tell them to back the fuck off and stop staring at me from those enormous sockets gouged ever larger by time. Oh how I’ve grown.
A man this evening slips his hand around my waist, two fingers finding their way
through the belt loop, and says, if anyone tries to touch you, you just let me know, yeah? He says, I own you, darling, and I’m keeping you all for myself. And he’d be right. Those boys in black surround me, braying down. Today’s brief authority and suddenly I seem to give off the impression that I’ve never come across a plate before, silly girl that I am. I gaze back silently with glass eyes, contemplating their stupidity; leaning in to their impression of mine. But I don’t know any of their names and so I leave to find a cubicle, to sit on a toilet, rest my elbows on my legs and my head on my palms and cry.
I cry then, from this and for everything, until it loses its meaning. As if I were staring at
the ceiling to say the same word again and again. My jaw aches against the effort of keeping a heaving lungs as silent as publicity demands. And then I just gasp, in and out, from the pit of a bubbly chest. I bow my head to stare down at my shoes, knocking their edges together to flick off dried food. I breathe slowly now, blinking itching eyes against fluorescence, and wait for the aching on each side of my windpipe to subside.
Sticking my toes behind each heel, one and then the other, I flick off each shoe entirely
and wriggle out socked feet. I stand to yank the door open so as to squeeze around it and pad out to the sinks. I am met with me opposite: anonymous and incredibly ugly. My hair yanked tight, up and back, greasy ridges popping up in parallel, my forehead dry and lined, and my crusted under-eyes heavy. I stare myself down for a minute or so, watching as the brown under my eyes warps and deepens. I become a man and then a lifetime older and then I blink, and I’m just dull.
I leave myself to walk back out into the pit—a ragged screaming white bowl of
sound—and traverse across it. Black socks squelching into ex edible lumps on a blue flecked linoleum floor, soaking in meat puddles collected around drains. I exit through double doors and into where the bass booms deep across a padded party hangar. Disco lights flash rainbow on a middle tax bracket satin dress for Christmas party season, catching the curves of happier times. I’m here to join in. I walk with a purpose, methodically ripping each pin from my hair and dropping it to the carpeted floor. I pause for a second to pull out my pony tail, throw my head forward and shake out a tension headache. At the bottom of the stairs, stopping to peel off each wet sock, I flick them over onto the dancefloor. Black painted plywood now as I mount the stage, the mic right there in the middle. The orgy continues blissfully as I approach front and centre, whipped up, whipped up and whipped up. I reach it and tap its head with my nail, the sound coughing out and cutting through disco. And so, as they halt in wasted, repulsive revelry and turn to look, I am granted an audience. My kings! Those constant yellow white lights, those cutting through the jerks of the coloured, burn hot on my retina, and I close my eyes to relish their heat, taking a second to breathe in the moment. The music still blares, but so hollow now without its competitors. I lean forward and smile, lips grazing the soft metal lattice, as I breathe out through my nose—a sound echoed deep enough to bounce off black fabric walls and come right back to me. I run my tongue smooth and slowly over my top teeth, whetting.
Zoë Dutton is a student, writer and sometimes illustrator living in Edinburgh. She runs a small jewellery business @slinkstore.