Children with Matches

In honour of Imogen’s first post on the Mongolian Steppes, I unearthed one from the archives. A strange, not-particularly-autobiographical snapshot into two idiotically young lives at one frozen moment in time.

Children with Matches.

They liked to document their moments together in film. To look at these neatly arranged, fiercely coloured pictures was to see perfect, crystallised moments of shining hair and wide camera-smiles. If you looked closer you could see the shadows in their eyes, the brittle laughter behind that gleaming softness.

She had done it again; managed to portray that curious mixture of the virgin whore. A gratuitous act of heavy-eyed blushing and strategic phrasing that seemed so ghastly flamboyant, so grotesquely obvious to her she was astounded by their wilful blindness. The truth was that sometimes she revelled in it, this power, this spell; the dip in her voice that made listeners lean in, the twitch in her body that made their eyes linger, rake away her clothes: make her naked pulsing flesh.

But in the quiet moments it made her loathe herself. Damage control was her morphine, hiding was her survival instinct. Like a lizard without her tail. That dull burn would always come after, later: now.

She always got herself into these situations. In Her place She would fuck the boy. Make him want her with her oozing, boyish sexuality, her radiation of free and pliant flesh. Yet she needed too; that love of being loved, of being wanted, desired, of watching eyes that stripped to the bones and the bleeding ache. It made Her hate her for the ability to indulge in her wants, to sink into another’s being, to permeate them, to claim a piece of them for herself. But each pound of flesh comes with a price that She half gleefully watches her pay time and time again. In between the changing bodies She scornfully watches her wither her prejudiced, caged body.

She has flames for hair that makes Her blonde feel like winter.

What bound them was dependency. The need to understand, to acknowledge that hunger for satisfaction and denial. That need to comfort, to believe that there is something more, was something more and will be again.

That’s why they take their pictures. Their admirable, charming pictures of frozen, unmoving, beautific flesh. Then they can smile on them and mimic, share that camera-smile until they burn into one.

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Bandipur, Nepal

Bandipur street view

Bandipur stretches like a scarf along the top of a ridge where three hills converge with nothing but sky and mountains to encircle it.

We climbed above the cloud cover on out ‘cheap cheap’ local bus onto a vast expanse of forest-clad hills, steep ledges of farmland and lime-green rice paddies. The bus lurched to a halt in front of a narrow, cobbled street lined with exquisite wooden houses, each with ornate balconies covered in cascades of pink bougainvillea and strung with lanterns. A teenager on the bus leaned towards me with a grin and a: “Welcome to Bandipur.”

Walking around the tiny central square with its tangles of cobbled side-streets and the renovated guest houses with wooden shutters, Bandipur seems like the forgotten holiday home of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – its colonial splendour left to crumble.

Bandipur street view

Along the side streets the town has picked up a Portuguese flavour, with teal and tangerine painted doors and orange peel drying in the sultry mid-afternoon sun.

Bandipur doorway

Yet, Bandipur retains a distinctive Nepalese character: children flock around visitors asking for sweets, power cuts occur daily for 12 hours at a time and farm animals and stray dogs roam free throughout the town.