Voicemail – 18/12/2015

Today was a beautiful day, for today I learned that my voicemails automatically delete themselves after a month.

For reasons inexplicable to me, I can not delete the voicemail notification on my phone without listening to my voicemail. I can delete all other notifications but this one. Which is particularly aggravating as I don’t like to listen to my voicemail. In fact, I have recently completely refused to do so, because any normally adjusted person would text me instead, any normally adjusted person would shirk the hassle of a voice to voice exchange at the first opportunity. As such, I can only deduce the voicemails are from cold callers, drunks, or, at the very least, from people I would not get along with – the sort of person who would pause in a public doorway – and therefore not something I should concern myself with. So, as you can imagine, this one obnoxious alert has been an unhealing wound in my technological landscape… until today.

Until today I had seven voicemails, all from numbers I do not recognise. But then, earlier today, I received a message from my service provider, ‘You have an unheard voicemail from 18/11/2015 which will be automatically deleted in 24 hours.’ Oh, true beauty! The unknown which haunts me is soon to disappear completely, and I may one day be free of both the psychological burden of mystery voicemail and the petulant symbol living in my icon bar. In twenty-four hours only six of my ghosts will remain. In two weeks they should all be gone! Oh boy. In the wake of this enlightenment I immediately wrapped Christmas lights around my tripod (in lieu of a tree) with glee (because it is almost Christmas). But, little did I know, darkness loomed.

In a cruel skirmish with fate, and shortly after the text from my service provider, I got a new voicemail. I. Got. A. New. Fucking. Voicemail. The month-long timer has been reset. Of course, the burden has been lessened, the albatross around my neck is more of a manageable sparrow now that I know this new voicemail will one day be eradicated like all those which came before it. Still, the notification mocks me. The notification mocks me as I google ‘ELI5 Boston Tea Party’, ‘Asda opening times’ and ‘condom challenge deaths’.

It mocks me even as I write this. The bastard.

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Foreskin

The first time I saw a foreskin (I think I just plagiarised that opening line from Dickens) I was in a big tree. Now, before you get too aroused at all these titillating details, I’ll point out that I was eight years old. Also the foreskin was probably about seven, but it’s hard to tell with those because they’re born old. Foreskins and scrotums are the Benjamin Buttons of the body (only they don’t get younger… so not at all like Benjamin Button). I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out that the foreskin was attached to a body. Luke’s body. Specifically it was attached to Luke’s penis.

A brief round up before we continue: As a child, I was in a big tree when I saw the safe, clean, anatomically correct, atheist foreskin of another child.

It was all consensual and unrelated to anything sexy. We had been building a den when Luke said, ‘Do you want to see something I can do?’ and I said, ‘What can you do?’ and he dropped his trousers, pulled something out of his pants, and squeezed just below the end of it. At this point in my life, I’m aware I saw the head of his flaccid penis come peeping out through his foreskin. But at the time I saw a mesh of garbled flesh, as though Luke had been in an accident, and whilst he had healed from the accident, he had healed poorly and misshapen. So I said, ‘Oh yeah,’ and we got back to building.

Scared While Playing Dead

My parents’ house has those little windows above the bedroom doors. Instead of normal, nice thick wall between door and ceiling, there’s glass. This utterly redundant window provided a prime viewing area for ghosts and monsters to watch me sleeping as a kid. I would stare at that window from my bed, gazing into the darkness of the hallway beyond, and all-but-know there was a shadowy face grinning down at me.

My mum eventually put a translucent floral decal on the window, but by this point I was eighteen and the monsters had transferred their voyeuristic tendencies to younger kids in the neighbourhood. Fourteen years too late, Mum.

Anyway. One day, when I was somewhere between the ages of five and nine, I was alone in my bedroom pretending to be dead. I’d turned my rocking horse onto its side and draped myself over it, eyes closed, dead. After cycling through a few different death positions, all involving the rocking horse (some, more elaborate deaths involving stretching between the upturned horse and my bed), I looked up from a particularly dramatic pose to see a face in the window. I screamed.

My father had stood on the laundry basket to spy on me in my room through the bastard window. The fear of seeing a face watching me, through glass, from eight feet high only barely masked my embarrassment at getting caught dying. Neither of us ever mentioned it.

People I’ve Known #1

In 2012 (probably) I worked as a video editor in Hackney. Our office was next to an adorable little river which you could see from the window. The river was adorned with quirky retro cafes, constantly had men in thin jeans riding fixed gear bikes along its banks, and famously floated the detached head of a murdered ex-EastEnders cast member. Truly a London delight.

My most prominent memory from this specific foray into employment has nothing to do with the job or location, but my workmates. Which is a term they would never use. These people were like the cast of Silicon Valley without the intentional comedy. By this I mean it was probably the most comedic six months of my life, but all my laughter had to be stifled.

As this was a tech start up there were only eight of us in the office, which also meant that everyone other than myself was a tech whiz. The most tech whizziest of all my co-workers exhibited only two prominent characteristics to his personality. The first characteristic was a very militant arguing style when discussing the inevitability of technological singularity. And the second… well, the second was a need to always have four single-serving cartons of Ribena on his desk at any time. If anyone asked for one of his Ribenas, he would pointedly refuse to relinquish the grape. “BUY YOUR OWN RIBENA, THERE IS A SHOP DOWN THE RIVER!” he would say, nasally. It became a daily ritual for the others to try and obtain the mythical juice. No one ever succeeded.

Also, I once accidentally deleted everything on my computer and sat under my desk for twenty minutes.

Mum

I think one of my earliest memories of my mum, which hasn’t come about because of home video or photographs, is of her teaching me maths. I was a daddy’s girl until the age of thirteen, this might explain it.

I remember us sitting at the top of the stairs, which is almost definitely wrong, why the fuck would we be sitting at the top of the stairs? We’ve got a whole house. Unless maybe we were, because I was four and sometimes four year olds just like to chill places, and sometimes mums want an easy life. Maybe the way to get me to do maths was to do it at the top of the stairs.

Anyway, I remember my mum teaching me about percentages at the top of the stairs and her being really pleased about how quickly I could do them in my head. That said, she shouldn’t have been surprised, because when I was still in nappies a lady came to our house to make sure I had a normal brain. After performing some basic tests, like drawing a face in a circle, the lady said she was very impressed because a lot of toddlers draw the face outside the circle. Her tests were not very rigorous, but I was clearly a genius. Side note: who was that lady? Is that a typical occurrence? Was I almost kidnapped?

Essentially, I think mum had taught me all the maths she knew by the time I was five, but it’s definitely because of her that I did really well in school. Thanks, Mum.

Also, Mum? Sorry I never tried very hard as a teenager, and I didn’t get my name written in gold on that special achievements board in high school like you always dreamed. Although I would like to point out that the guy who did get his name written in gold on the special board tried really, really hard and put a lot of work in to get those results, so does it really even count? Yes? Oh. I mean sure, that’s one perspective.

Also, also… Mum? Sorry I stopped wanting to be an accountant when I was fourteen and decided I wanted to go to Art School. That must have been incredibly disappointing. Really they shouldn’t let teenagers make that decision for themselves.

Also, also, also… Mum? Sorry that I quit Art School because I didn’t feel like I was learning anything in order to go to University, but then studied for a degree in Film. That was probably a roller-coaster of hope and disappointment. I bet that circle-face drawing lady who tried to kidnap me is turning in her grave. She’s probably not dead. She might be. Who really knows when anyone dies if you don’t know them at all.