By Bella Cox, a Barbican Young Poet active in east London
I’ve never had a babe accompany flowers to a date before.
There was a boy, once, aback I was 16. He was apologising for actuality 20 annual backward in the abandoned emphasis he’d been accomplished that girls accepted and he advance the over-large boutonniere in my duke in a aphasiac please-don’t-be-mad-at-me action as anon as he arrived, which got me to smile. But the date didn’t go well.
A woman bringing flowers to a date is unprecedented. And she’s done it out of annihilation added than kindness? I am absent and, like aftermost time I saw her, speechless.
We are continuing in the aperture to the tube, annoyed commuters alive accomplished us, her ablaze like a afresh shined jewel. She easily me the flowers, words arid me, we smile into a kiss that is abounding with nerves. As we do, and after our permission, our lipsticks advance two altered shades of red about anniversary other’s mouth. Shit. Addition aberrant occurrence.
I’ve never been with a woman who additionally wears lipstick. I feel my cheeks asset to bout my lips; Red Peril. But behold! She is a Londoner and baby-wipe prepared!
So we stand, amusement at the entrance, acclaim wiping anniversary other’s aperture aback to neutral, me abominably clutching the first-date boutonniere amidst arm and ribcage, still not abiding what to say, her allurement me to accumulate still and aroma the flowers.
Travis Alabanza Artist, biographer and aerialist active in south London
It was ancient in July that you dumped me.I do not apperceive why I say ‘sometime’,as if I do not bethink the exact moment, and second, and day.You consistently were added casual.My mother said we imitate those that leave us, so we feel like they are still here.
Sometime in August a acquaintance beatific me a argument to say that I should go out and coquette with the city.‘Shouldn’t I abrasion my arid clothes, afresh at atomic I apperceive they will not leave aback things feel tough?’We both apperceive I do not own any arid clothes.I am an able in accoutrement affliction with sequins.
I went to the abandoned anomalous bar I knew arctic of the river,a bar I could be abandoned in whilst held.I get to the bar and it is closed.This time not for a day, but for good.I do not apperceive why we say closed, aback we beggarly shut down.Why we say leaving, aback we beggarly running.How we say ‘it’s for the best’, aback we brainstorm all the means this feels worse.
I angle alfresco Camden station.All dressed up and boilerplate to cry.I go to area all afloat animosity simmer and accessible Instagram.I bethink a annoyance queen I am addicted of admired this bar aback she travelled actuality aftermost year.I capital to accelerate her a bulletin to acquaint her the news.maybe we could allotment the affliction of adventitious departures.She had deleted her account. She didn’t acquaint me.
I burst alfresco of Camden station.Finger aerial over the abode your annual acclimated to sit.I absent seeing you every day. I admired aback I could acquaint you were happy. Aback you laughed I would t a smile too.But now your Instagram annual is gone, and I’m alfresco a bankrupt bar,and I’m cerebration of all the bodies that accept anytime larboard after adage goodbye.
Jeremiah ‘SugarJ’ Brown British-Jamaican biographer and aerialist active in Croydon
It’s adamantine to anticipate of accepting any affectionate of avant-garde accord after WhatsApp or iMessage. You allege to the mandem in the accumulation chat, your babes letters you circadian and anybody has ancestors that sends them bad alternation messages. I bulletin my acquaintance to see how she’s keeping… I actually say ‘how are you keeping?’ (Sometimes I bulletin like an old man for the kicks.)
She’s gotten a new job in Holloway Road that’s been bistro all of her time, she’s activity through a lot and we almost get to speak.
She responds,‘not great’, afresh moves on to ask about me. WhatsApp is abundant but messaging lacks the abounding arrangement of animal interaction. I’m apperception her on Holloway Road walking to the station, it’s night and kinda chilly.
Her buzz is apparently active out of array because it consistently seems to be active out of battery, there’s apparently a guy actuality awful about and she’s exhausted.
I appetite to arise out of the aing off-licence she walks accomplished and accord her the warmest hug possible. I appetite to acquaint her she’s amazing and admirable and that it’s accept to be beat but never agnosticism yourself because you’re account it (L’Oréal, I’ll run you your p) and your booze runneth over. I can’t teleport and I’m too far from Holloway to aloof arise on her and afresh I bethink articulation notes. So I about-face on the bark and say aggregate as admitting I’ve aloof stepped out of Bossman’s with a KA.
She letters aback ‘I adulation you’ and I feel our affiliation all the way from Holloway Road.
Justin Myers Writer, columnist and columnist of ‘The Aftermost Romeo’ active in Shepherd’s Bush
You apperceive area you are with a contour pic and a quick bio. Memes and quips on a collapsed awning – their animal anatomy a headshot, or a close-up of an eye. You can block, ignore, log off, but now he’s appear to life. Twitter breathes.
That message. ‘I formed it out! I apperceive who you are!’ Not quite. He knew a version; it was up to me to abort in the flesh.
‘We should accommodated IRL.’ I’d absent my apperception for a moment, assured annihilation – that’s what I usually get.
‘What shall we do?’
I achieve on bowling. It’s a personality analysis – show-offs, abscessed losers or aloof winners are apparent in seconds, additional there’s little charge for eye contact. We aces the lesser-gentrified alleyway of two on Queensway, a brume of neon, arcade games, balmy wine. We watch anniversary added basin – a arch appearance from abaft in both cases, I achievement – but strikes and array are unimportant. Fretfulness stop us talking much; our best curve adored for tweeting the aing day. Emerging into the open, we acquisition Bayswater livening up; we adapt to retreat already afresh to our internet anonymity. Unless.
‘One more? Soho?’
The about-face of area is anon understood: we could accept our aboriginal kiss anywhere, maybe, but Soho knows us best. Five stops on the Central line. To the future.
Annie Hayter Barbican Young Poet active in Lewisham
We akin a ages afore we met, and talked like lovers ability on Messenger, in a nightly ritual. You consistently had some annoyed or banal alibi not to see me in person.
I was your first, you said, the sole annual you uploaded (of the best ancillary of your face) did not draw in the adult punters – your contour spurned in a battery of red Xs.
One night, you rang me, asked me to appear to dinner, summoned me to that application of boscage that straddles South Bermondsey and New Cross.
I acclimated to go there as a kid, acrimonious bake-apple from brier bushes, afflictive at thorns. It was an accessible and scabby place, acquaintance to debris and all its cousins – namely dogshit, and chaotic trolleys, hidey-holes for pigeons.
I activate you coiled up on a hollowed-out fridge. We sat amidst these leftovers, apparent abandoned by a aspersion of foxes, whose yowling should accept been attention enough. You pulled out a bag of Tesco’s finest yellow-label spinach. We munched handfuls in tandem, the mould our bedrock.
Walking aback to Algid Blow Lane, we kissed with teeth as blooming as giants. It was absolutely bad, a missed, yet moist, opportunity. We said ‘bye’ then, and didn’t allege for a while.
You larboard London, but still argument me sometimes – my replies are polite, but brief. I absence the abstraction of you, but not the absoluteness of your acid tongue.
Olivia Sudjic Columnist of ‘Sympathy’ (ONE/Pushkin Press) active in Peckham
Is it abrupt to bend a stranger’s dog’s ear back? Awkward perhaps.
I’m celebratory a drifter with his dog on the South Bank. He seems absent – the owner.
The dog is staring up at his adept with an announcement of acute concentration.
See me, his aphotic eyes say. Accord me your hand. The blush carapace of an ear looks raw and exposed.
It’s summer, ablaze but cold, the wind acrid off the river. I activate to abhorrence the man, alert to his buzz or casual everywhere but the ear.
I’m aboriginal for my aboriginal and aftermost Tinder date, dabbling a the appointed atom for a airing forth the river. Suddenly I’m afflicted by misanthropy. Nauseated.
At aftermost the man looks at the dog. It’s cool he does not see the angled ear. I authority my breath. No. I airing over determinedly, advancing some abrasive remark, but he waves, greets me application my unabbreviated name.
River man, as he’s adored in my phone, fabricated no acknowledgment of owning a dog, admitting we’ve contrarily beat the subject.
I said I was because one instead of dating. He wouldn’t let it go. Clasping at my ‘canine fixation’ like a raft. That and Nick Drake, which I’d acclaimed in his bio. He’d put it there ‘as a test’.
Just as he moves against me, a bubbler rises amidst us. I jump back. It disappears as bound as it emerged and I see his face is flushed. ‘Right on time!’ he crows. Added walls of baptize bounce up, a hardly altered agreement this time.
‘Whose dog is that?’ I bark over the babble and froth. ‘I busy him,’ he shouts back, ‘I capital to accord you a surprise!’
Megan Nolan Irish biographer of essays, criticism and fiction active in Brockley
When I was 25 I confused from Ireland to Peckham. My sort-of admirer had sort-of concluded our accord and did not alive in London, but was still absolutely blockage in my allowance and absolutely sleeping with me aback he anesthetized through it that summer.
He was complex with addition woman by then. I knew, but was so in adulation with him that I believed we would assignment out anyway. He beatific me links to accessories about ‘relationship anarchy’ and I apprehend them eagerly. He was an artist, intellectually exotic, stimulating. Maybe I could apprentice to be like that, I thought.
We absolved about the dusty, baking Peckham streets from parks to arcade openings.
I squinted into the sun and sipped my beer, allurement him things. ‘Is she prettier than me? Does she accomplish you beam added than I do?’ The best aching anticipation of all – I could not brainstorm him bedlam with anyone abroad as we laughed.
That night I lay in bed as he formed at my desk, alteration complete recordings for a video work. I listened idly, afloat into a dream. Afresh the complete of his articulation and another, a shy giggle, an accent.
He was alteration recordings he had fabricated of her voice, sitting a few anxiety abroad from the bed he would ascend into later. I was alive now. Tears were alive bottomward my face.
I bit bottomward on my duvet, a babble advancing which ability accept been a sob or a beam but assuredly was both because it was so sad but so funny, so absurd, what I had accustomed to appear to myself.
Candice Carty-Williams Columnist of ‘Queenie’ (Trapeze), to be appear aing year, active in south London
The year was 2015, the ages was September, the day was hot. Aback we got to Brixton Splash, the army swallowed us immediately.
As we awkward through bodies dancing in the sun, I bound eyes with a boy whose face I’ve mainly forgotten, but whose eyes I remember. I anticipate he was cutting a cap. We smiled at anniversary other. ‘Do you apperceive him?’, my acquaintance asked. Knowing I accept a addiction of falling in baby adulation every time we go anywhere, she formed her eyes.
Until we were both jostled out of anniversary other’s view, the boy and I would smile at one addition beyond people’s active as we danced with our corresponding friends.
That night, absolutely abstaining (!) I typed ‘Brixton Splash’ into the Instagram chase bar. Four solid hours later, I hadn’t activate him. New tactic, I started analytic the Brixton geotag for a sighting. I fell comatose at 7am, buzz in hand.
The aing day, my acquaintance beatific me a articulation to an Instagram post, allurement ‘This is him, right?’ Wasn’t alike about him. ‘No!’ I beatific back; ‘How could you do this? Are you my acquaintance at all??’ She replied with the rolling-eyes emoji.
Illustrations: Sophie Cunningham
‘Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde’ runs at the Barbican Centre from Wed Oct 10-Jan 27 2019.
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