Anthony Winter was the first person I made love to. We did it above a newspaper shop in Burnley, England. I was 14. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Afterwards, we played Nintendo, ate Monster Munch and smoked Berkeley Reds. It was remarkably unremarkable. I thought he was experienced, but a few months later, his brother told me that Anthony had been a virgin too. His brother later got sent to prison on paedophilia charges. Anthony’s mother, like mine, died in childbirth.
Birthdays don’t trouble me. Tomorrow I will be 31. I am sat outside a Café, on Avenue Something, Saint-Maxime, waiting for my ex-husband, Statton. He is a member of the English aristocracy and is notoriously unpunctual. We met in Hawaii in 1997 when I was 17. He was 33, and had set up a London-based publishing company with a school friend. He was photographing the ‘dark side’ of Hawaii in Downtown Honolulu for his first publication, a style magazine called UGLY. I was working in a bar and we fell in love instantly. Statton photographed me grinning on the beach, naked but for my tampon string. The image was in stark black and white contrast, save the tampon string, which he picked out in fluorescent yellow. It made the cover of UGLY #1. Apparently this photograph is now referred to as ‘iconic’ and ‘era-defining’. After he took the photograph, Statton and I made love on a rocky outcrop, which was deeply uncomfortable. On my lower vertebrae, I still bear the scar.
Carburettors blend the air and fuel in an internal combustion engine. Karl Benz invented the carburettor around 1885 and it was patented in 1887. It works on Bernoulli's principle: the faster air moves, the lower its static pressure, and the higher its dynamic pressure. Carburettors were the usual fuel delivery method for almost all petrol engines up until the late 1980s, when fuel injection became the norm. My father taught me about the carburettor. He taught me everything he knew about cars. It staggers me to think of how much I remember considering that I haven’t played with an engine for years. The last car I fixed up was my friend Patti’s Ford Escort in 1998. The valves were sticking. Patti stood talking to me whilst I worked. We shared a whole packet of Garibaldis.
Disaster struck when my father died. He fell off the roof of the garage. That put an end to my career as a car mechanic. I was 14 and went to live with Bunicuţă, my Romanian grandmother. She lived at Mocha Parade, in Salford. I called her Buni. She had fled to England during the war with my grandfather, Nicolai Dragomir. They were both aged 13 and desperately in love. Buni kept a silver locket with a photograph of Nicolai in it, which she would kiss ceremoniously saying ‘Good morning husband’ or ‘Good night my dearest’ before each kiss. We lived together for three wonderful, carefree years. Buni taught me how to cook mămăliga and before every meal, she would say ‘dragostea trece prin stomac’ which means ‘love passes through the stomach.’ Before she died, she made me swear I’d travel extensively. She thought it was the best education.
Education, for me, began when she died. I was 17 and completely alone. I stayed on at Buni’s flat for a couple of months but then sold everything except for the silver locket and a 1950s biscuit tin. On the tin was a picture of a beautiful hoola girl on a beach, playing the ukulele. She was surrounded by flowers. I thought that looked like a good place to start my education so I bought a plane ticket to Hawaii. My plan was to stay there for a couple of months and then travel through America. As it happened, I met Statton. I’d only been there for three weeks when he came into ‘the bar with 101 different rums’, Rum Fire.
‘Fire in My Heart’ by the Super Furry Animals is, apparently, about me. I don’t know if this is true but I secretly like to think so. Gruff Rhys and I met at a party in a Welsh castle, sometime in 1998. By that time, Statton and I weren’t speaking. He had decided to pursue his ‘gay side’ was fucking every willing male model on the London ‘scene.’ He had always been open about his bi-sexuality: his view was that cheating was okay as long as it was with a member of the same sex. Looking back, I guess I thought this was ‘cool.’ Perhaps it was. After a while though, I got sick of it. I got sick of Statton and how easy and pointless his life seemed to be. He had been to the best schools and travelled the world but nothing seemed to hold any meaning for him. He was constantly bored. He didn’t care about becoming a better person. Nothing like Gruff.
Gruff approached me at the party. I was sat against a Monkey Puzzle tree in the grounds of the castle, playing my ukulele and humming.
Hummingbirds are the only known-species of bird that can fly backwards. Whilst in flight, they have the highest metabolism of all animals, except insects. Their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute. They also consume more than their own weight in nectar each day, and to do so they visit hundreds of flowers daily. Hummingbirds are continuously hours away from starving to death, and are able to store just enough energy to survive overnight. I wonder if it’s possible to see the same hummingbird twice?
Iceland was where I went when Statton and I divorced. It was January 1999 and I was feeling very low. I felt cold and figured I may as well go to Iceland. It wasn’t as cold as I imagined. For six months I lived in Hafnarfjörður a town outside Reykjavík. I worked in an Irish bar called Paddy’s. An Icelandic woman called Dögg and her husband (Paddy) owned the bar. They had terrific rows. One night she bust his lip open with a heavy glass ashtray. Dögg was a violent woman but I liked her. She was fond of me too. The night before I left Iceland I gave her a painting of a hummingbird I had done. She cried. We made love, quite violently, in the bar after closing time. Dögg kept screaming ‘já! já! já!’
Jalapeño peppers and/or anchovies improve virtually ever meal. This much I know.
Knowledge is like a drug. The more you get, the more you want but mostly it feels like you haven’t got any. That’s how I felt when I returned to England. I wanted to write but it never felt like the right time. I thought I should probably make a load of mistakes instead. Statton was the first. The second was Lando.
Lando was named after the Star Wars character, Lando Calrissian. He was a Californian mentalist. We met on New Year’s Eve, 1999/2000. I was wearing one of my father’s old shirts, with Buni’s locket and a pair of banana yellow stilettos. Lando was a sculptor, exhibiting in Stockholm and London. Our affair ended when I told him I was pregnant and he battered me to a pulp outside a Turkish restaurant in Dalston. I came round in hospital, having woken myself up by whimpering. I lay there in pain, watching the death throes of a kamikaze moth.
Motherhood perhaps wasn’t to be. No?
November came and I broke down. I was disturbed by what had happened with Lando. Statton heard about it, and was very kind. I stayed at his family home in Somerset and helped run the estate for a while. It was pleasant and I felt thankful and sentimental about our relationship. Any potential mawkishness was instantly erased however, when Statton used his contacts in the art world to completely sabotage Lando’s career, which I felt was an unnecessarily bitchy gesture. I left, angrily, on the eve of my big 2-0.
Otto Preminger, my favourite film-director, inspired the next move. Buni got me into Preminger. She had all his movies on VHS, which we used to watch, sometimes two or three back to back in the living room with the curtains drawn. I found his biography in a charity shop and Christmas 2000, headed to Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York to visit his grave. Other notable burials include, Herman Melville, Joseph Pulitzer, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin and Franklin Winfield Woolworth. I loved and still do love New York. My life really got going there. I got a job in a Romanian bakery called Nita’s and I started writing properly. New York is also where I met Vincenzo. We met in Nita’s and became good friends before we started dating. I can still remember the first time I saw him: he was wearing a black T-shirt and his dark hair was long, down to his chin. He had, and still has, beautiful hands. He was twisting something round in his fingers – a spark plug.
‘Plug Hole Babies’ was the title of my first book. The New York Times called it ‘an incendiary neo-feminist polemic against the biologization of technology.’ I find that barely decipherable. It was just a story about a woman who was hopeless with computers. It did well though, which was lucky for me. I dedicated it to my mother, father and Buni and I made enough money to buy a brownstone in Sunnyside, Queens.
Queens is great and I still visit Nita almost every day. She treats me like family. I’ve told her all about Buni and Nicolai and she has seen the biscuit tin with the hoola girl on it. It was Nita’s constant nagging that got me writing. She has kept all my press cuttings, including the crazy New York Times review.
Reviews don’t bother me at all. This was not always the case. My third novel, from the Hole Trilogy, ‘K-Hole Rape’ received a scathing critique from a writer at The Daily Telegraph. Statton emailed it to me with a post-script that read ‘Ignore this silly little bitch Jessyka darling, she can’t suck cock for toffee.’ Bloody Statton. He is becoming increasingly vile and senescent.
Scent is the main factor when it comes to attraction. Vinnie is my favourite smell. Even in a morning, when he has drunk too much the night before or after he has been playing what he calls ‘soccer’, I have been known to lick the sweat from his chest. He moved into my apartment in Summer 2003 and we made love several times a day for many weeks. We have since been making love several times a week for many years. I’d like to keep it that way. Vinnie’s full name is Vincenzo Lombardi and he is a talented furniture designer. His first gift to me was a writing desk he made from a piece of English Oak. My first gift to him was a miniature football shirt on a keyring. It was that of his favourite player, Francesco Totti.
Time is running out for Statton. I have been waiting for an hour. He wants to talk about the film rights to ‘Plug Hole Babies’. He’s going to make me an offer. I have smoked three cigarettes since I arrived. With the end of one, I draw a horseshoe in the ashtray. A dirty, grey U.
U-turns characterise Statton. He involves himself in projects and then instantly retreats. Luckily, he is rich enough to leave the cash intact and usually has secured someone with more brains and less money at the helm. UGLY is still going as is his publishing house-cum-production company. His salacity keeps him in the British tabloids but I think he has settled down somewhat. Last time we spoke, he was living at Somerset in ménage- à -trois with the actress Samantha Dance and her husband, Calvin.
Vinnie is flying to France tomorrow. We are going to meet in Paris and then take the Trans-Siberian Express from St Petersburg to Beijing. I still travel, a month of each year, to honour Buni’s wish. Usually I go alone but this time Vinnie is accompanying me, which will be great. I hate going without sex.
Xavier, the waiter, brings me another coffee. I shall give Statton 15 minutes. Lighting a cigarette I see that Xavier is giving me ‘the eye.’
Years have passed since Lando kicked that baby out of me. He made such a bloody mess I assumed the incident left me infertile. I’ve missed a period though and this morning I vomited into the hotel sink. I think I’m pregnant. Vinnie doesn’t know yet. I won’t mention it until I’m certain. I don’t want to get his hopes up. This cigarette is making me dizzy.
Zylina Dragomir. My marvellous Bunicuţă. If I have a girl, I will name her after you.
piece of crap
5 years ago