Last exit to Luton
He’s a real man, you can tell, all plushy skunk and a dog you’d do well
to avoid. Aaron’s twenty-three; says he could wear my moony face
as a pendant, calls me tweety-bird. I hang around his neck and Aaron drives.
He’s taking me out to get buzzed at a club. I’m wearing white denim, spotless
as a chorister, and we are sculling the druggy gale between the tyre shop
and the roundabout; we’re leaving these scutty streets, with their pawned gold
and thawed meat, far behind us. We’re away up the town, gone for the gavelled
abandon of smashed out me ’ead, for fighting squib with binge, and living for the weekend.
Aaron is not like the boys at home, dimbulb chinless wonders who only
want to trap you in the maundering bondage of marriage like their mothers.
Aaron’s got other ideas, got big ideas, and vodka, and jellies, and he understands.
I’m mature, need more than pliant writhing in a narrow bed that howls
like a chimney. He says you’re better than them, and he’s right. I refuse to end up
like that, like the girls at the camp, lank slags currying love and desperate quaking
from spousal apathy; to be one of life’s pale remainders, scrubbing my sink and trudging
to church, burnt out on a soused downer again. I don’t want to be tied to the site,
to the tribe, to the old men, their tournaments and sorceries; to a fist in the face. I am
special. I am rare. I want gilt and spree and perfect hair and endless fucking diamonds.
He will take me away, I know it. In the club we are spinning until my vision
breaks into dizzy splinters; his kisses determine directionality. I’m lipping
limoncello, lisping citronella, reeling round my handbag like a wasp around
a bin. I see myself in the mirrored ceiling, well impressed with the brittle shimmy
of me. Aaron is grinning, and I am watching the weaponised swag of my nails, rinsed
in warm red light and raving in front of my face, my own face, big as billboard. All is
love, and there is God, shining like a migraine!
He will take me away, he says, but not today. Tonight it is back to his flat
by flickering inches, and then to bed, this mad cabbagey firmament, where I
am rummaged and squirreled by turns. Aaron is smoking, the smoke hangs
in the air like a spookhouse special effect. His back is baroque with spots,
a constellated mire. He does not tell me that he loves me, he tells me I am old
for my age, and I smile. I smile at his Jesus tattoo, pink and coy as a bearded
lady. Jesus is smiling too. I have no plans. I don’t want to go home. I have
school in the morning. You know what they say about gypsy girls: our life is either a circus or a zoo.

Editor's Note: 'Last exit to Luton' won third prize in the National Poetry Competition 2014.