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#7 london diaries pt 2
in and out of cold water
I have coffee at 10:30am with my friend’s mom who is a painter. She asks for good shade so we walk to a café at the edge of the neighborhood.
I ask what to do, and she tells me to go see Cornelia Parker at the Tate Britain.
And then she says she’ll move back to Amsterdam if Priti Patel ever wins Prime Minister.
II. Choose Love
I decide I miss my mother. I call her and she is in San Francisco wearing a shirt that says ‘choose love’ in big block capitals. “People love my shirt here,” she says. “Great message.”
My friend was at a wedding recently where a girl took her hand and clasped it to a man’s. So the three of them stood there, briefly holding hands before the third walked away in the hopes that my friend would stay, holding hands with this man.
But my friend ran away to the bar instead.
And the man went home with somebody else.
IV. The ponds
I’m in the Ladies’ pond when I hear Cornelia Parker’s name again. The lifeguard is telling another swimmer how she once got in a fight with Cornelia because she refused to leave the ponds.
She just wanted to keep swimming.
V. Cornelia Parker
I wake up and walk straight to the Tate Britain. In the third room, Cornelia asked the British Army to explode a garden shed. “We watch explosions daily, in action films, documentaries, and on the news in never-ending reports of conflict,” she explains. “I wanted to create a real explosion, not a representation.”
I look closer at all the things. Sweatshirts, children’s toys, old books and rubber boots. Another home that blew up.
A woman steps too close and a bell goes off. A loud ring, telling her to step back from the explosion.
I walk to the next room, and the bell goes off again.
I sit in the dark and decide I prefer to see art, alone. I remember the last exhibition I saw with a man I used to see. We were done seeing each other by the time we went to the gallery.
I don’t remember the show, but I remember the story he told me, about a trash can of dead bunnies he opened as a child, and how I hugged him outside by his car.
I wonder what it would look like, to walk into a room of all the things I’ve lost.
My phone dies on Marsham Street and I make my way up to Westminster where I fall into a pub.
I order a gin and tonic and watch Priti Patel and Grant Schapps pull out of the race for Conservative leader. I wonder if my friend’s mom feels any relief.
I am on the bus thinking about the three pairs of hands at the wedding. I make a list of all the thirds in relationships. There’s always the friend who introduced you, but what about the friend who stopped calling once you started dating? Or the friend you both get along with? Or what about the sister, the one who disapproves?
In Real Estate, Deborah Levy describes a friend sleeping with a married friend of hers. When the author calls the woman, she tells her not to worry. “All night he spoke to me about his wife. Believe me, Nadia was raining all over us in the bedroom.”
X. More ponds
The longer I stay in London, the more I understand why Cornelia didn’t want to leave the ponds.
XI. Swiss Cottage
I meet my friend in the village for a coffee. He asks if we want to walk by my old flat on our way to the tube. I tell him about Cornelia Parker’s garden shed and the bell.
We walk by the Freud museum instead.
XII Just more ponds
I go swimming again with a friend who works in the forest. She convinces me to cancel my day so we can sit on Swain’s Lane and eat focaccia sandwiches with mozzarella and sun-kissed tomatoes and thin strands of rocket.
“I know you can do more,” she says. “But can you do less?”