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Life is a series of interconnected holes. My hands feel like Muppet hands, all furry.

patrick boo

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Laura and Helen are drunk on Smirnoff and memory. They lay down on the bed together and held hands when they were fifteen; when they got up again to face the world they were twenty-five. Those little white hands with exquisite English fingers, teacup fingers, entwined in understanding - an iron-deficient latticework with brilliant white satin finish, tipped with those little rosebud nails, lacquer patina black cherry and electric blue respectively. What a pretty pretty pattern.

Fifteen years old and the world seemed so small they could get it into their schoolbags, eyeliner and glitter and a half bottle of voddy and Dog Man Star and The Holy Bible. Getting changed in the public lavvies and sneaking off to pretend to be 19 in pubs, leaving in time to get the last bus. Now at 25 theyre still pretending to be 19 in pubs, only the world wont fit into a schoolbag anymore its leaked and its all over the floor. One thing has changed though, they can climb into a shiny black cab and slide around in glossy skirts on the smooth leatherette seats long after chucking out. Like big stars on the back seat, like skeletons everso pretty

In the quarter-light they stare up at the stars through the ceiling, surrounded by the ephemera of their lives, the stuff that leaked out; its not what we do that defines us, its what we have. Stuff.

Black eyeliner, casing cracked by a gold shoe with Tequila splashed on the toe.

Spineless copy of Anais Nins Delta Of Venus, folded open against the floor. Large convex mirror with chipped silver frame which Laura bought yesterday because its like the one Dirk Bogarde was polishing in The Servant. The price is sticker is still on the glass - 4.50 from The Marie Curie shop.

One of those postcards of a girl that winks at you if you move, stained with a clumsy coffee ring.

Records Francoise Hardy Sings About Love and Funhouse by The Stooges, placed on the carpet in a strategically casual fashion to impress a new male acquaintance.

Tigerstriped hatbox sans hat but overflowing with bits lipstick, eyeshadow and nailvarnish in fifty shades of undress, bracelets, brooches, narcotically discarded earrings, packets of home hair-dye, false eyelashes, hairpieces, hairbands, wristbands, necklaces these stupid things that we do

And the stars stare back through the ceiling at them, pinned and mounted delicately amongst stuff, instillation still life anthropological study entitled English Roses With Stuff. On first glance we know art but we dont know what we like, and this isnt art. What do these lives have to do with anything at all? We move on, perhaps discuss the flogged horse in formaldehyde; what daring use of space and unexpected scale but something pulls us back we were too busy looking at the bigger picture to notice the details. See, there, for instance - look at Helens forearm, the raised criss-cross pattern of livid scar tissue, tiny lines that enlace, like a map of the city where she vanished when Laura went to Italy with her parents.

At first it was just to see if she could. The first incision was the hardest as the skin scratched apart like a torn hem she bit her lip on a sharp intake of breath. She tensed and her midriff rode up - she reigned herself in, cursed Freud and licked the point of the compass before pushing it deeper on the second pass.

Once she was underway it was the colours that fascinated her most, the spectrum of her insides on their way out; deepening angry scarlet chink at the epicentre, rising into rusting seams, already coagulating at the raised edge of the miniature furrow. Then a healthy pink giving way to a callow border intersected with the rough, canvas white of old wounds. All those lovely colours - She is a work of art after all a very exclusive piece, with selected viewings.

Laura has marks too, two of them. Theyre more refined though, scars made by a more intent blade. Theres one thin white sliver on her left cheek which carries on, if she holds it in the right position, onto the palm of her right hand - a souvenir of the blade Gavin took with him the night he went away and didnt come back.

Gavin was a small-time dealer who used to get them dope and speed and acid and let himself get carried away with ideas above his station. Trouble is, Laura got carried away too. Frequent freebies and the life of a full-time hedonista were the reasoned trade-off for the occasional fumble with a suspiciously short but tolerable enough cicisbeo; a certain lysergic haziness coupled with a belief in an imbalance of sexual power in her favour may have clouded this somewhat.

Helen had got the tip-off from a friend of a friend of her brother who was in the force. They were onto Gavin - the midget Howard Marks, they were coming to take the house apart piece by piece and if they didnt find anything they would make sure they did anyway She called Laura and warned her to get away from there and come home right away, which she was trying to do, only Gavins state of mind was snarling paranoia and eight thousand calamitous scenarios were playing out in his head all at once, each of them leading to one conclusion betrayal. Helen and Laura, the Siamese twins, he had prised them apart at last, and this was how he was to be repaid?

Laura hid in the airing cupboard, stoned and alone, whilst the rabid paramour clumsily stomped around the musty mid-terrace finding bags of chemistry to empty down the U-bend. He found her coincidentally, hallucinating in the warm cubby hole, as she was crouched beside a large jar of semi-dried mushrooms. He backed her into the kitchen where he swiped at her with a knife still stained from the tomatoes bludgeoned for last nights dinner, chicken thing with tomatoes and rice. She put her hand up to protect herself but only partially deflected the blow. Her first thought was, how funny, he had to reach up to do that like he was slaying a giant or something. Her second was thankfully one of fuzzy self-preservation, and in one movement she opened the back door and let herself out, retrieving the key as she did so and locking him in.

Turned out just fine in the end Gavin ended up getting away before they got to the house and was last heard of in Spain. Laura managed to get away with a clean scar, a decent sized jiffy of uncut speed and two dozen microdots uncomfortably stashed down her knickers. Helen got her flatmate back, and half of a lost weekend fuelled by a large jiffy of uncut speed and two dozen microdots But thats another story, another haze of memory, another life lived whilst the other world sleeps. Its written in the tatty notebook on the bedside table serving as a makeshift coaster to a chipped yellow coffee mug. Its on the third page, some spidery scrawl about circles and holes which doesnt make sense, but did at the time. Pages one and two have accounts of dreams about snakes and painful tattoos she never asked for Helens phase of writing down her dreams for inspiration lasted just a fortnight in the Summer. Page four has the e-mail address and mobile number of the singer in a band she thought she might have wanted to sleep with until she spent an hour in his company. The other pages are blank.

Stories dont need to be written though. Theyre trapped like flies in amber amongst the stuff. Theyre in the laddered tights, the cracked picture frame, the old movie magazine with Hedy Lamarr on the cover, the hat that stinks of woodsmoke, the videotape with 13 painted on it in yellow nailvarnish, the empty bottle of Ouzo with a dusty red candle wedged in the neck, the Japanese toy robot This is all that we are, all what we are. We are the words that dont reach the page. We are the stuff, the beautiful stuff.

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This is definitely his favourite part, the part that makes him feel best inside. He feels all at once prouder and harder than walking around at the gig hand in hand with her earlier, knowing everyone was looking at them, envying at least one of them if not both of them. They looked good anyway, but people are always secretly jealous of couples. He feels warmer and buzzier inside than ever, forever, after when something triggers her to reach slowly and tenderly back and place the palm of her hand on his thigh, and he reaches over and cups her tiny, virtuous cream tea breast in his hand, and it all leads....

Now is the best time, the time when that big word love becomes tangible and physical because everything it means is here. It's in the syrupy amber glow of surrogate moonlight from the street lamps which filters through the raindrops on the windowpane and paints her silhouette in treacle as she undresses. It's in the sounds, tiny imperceptible sounds which shouldn't exist but are there, airborne and lascivious. Sounds such as the electric swish of soft skin against soft skin, her schoolboy arms against her own body as she moves across the room to the bed, where he lays poised, ready, waiting, like a badly posed photo.

It's a tiny single bed, which most of the time they don't mind, although it can get very hot and sticky in the Summer as the sun shines in on them early in the morning. Their favourite position is with her on her left side, back to him, facing the wall. He will lie spooned against her, a physical echo, two as one, clinging like fetal twins. This is the best bit.

Sex, yes, sex is a good thing - a very good thing, but not now. Sex is best on long languid afternoons, when it feels like they are the only ones in the world doing it, as if the world depended on it, on a bed, in a bed when one should not be in a bed. Sex. Not 'making love' . That sounds so pedestrian. When you're in love you don't need to make love. You already have love.

But not now. Oh, all right then, now. But tomorrow afternoon? Good. We can get up and clean the house and feel all rosy and wholesome and self-satisfied, and then, and then, and then.....and afterwards a bath as dusk settles like dust. Another beautiful day wasted beautifully away, elegantly wasted. He feels invincible in the world they have here, their little terraced Anderson shelter in the war of Summertime lust in a teenage town. As long as he doesn't let her out of his sight when the bombs are falling around them they'll get through it intact.

He hates sleeping alone now; it just doesn't work. He'll climb into a cold hard bed and grasp and clutch for something that isn't there, gathering up folds of dirty sheet, unable to find a

comfortable resting position. He won't hear the faint sounds which comfort him so such as her breathing, smooth and sibilant, sometimes irregular and staccato when she is dreaming. Sleeping with her is fitful but content; he awakens every couple of hours or so and checks she's still there, perhaps kissing her forehead lightly but carefully so as not to stir her.

What is she dreaming of? He often gazes at her as her eyelids twitch and flutter, wondering what her unconscious mind does to exercise, what it throws out with the rubbish.

Shes locked in the bathroom. It's not her bathroom, but a great imposing room decorated with black marble and weathered brass. Above the door - she doesn't know why - is a gigantic brass plaque, engraved in cursive script with the word 'BURLESQUE'. She's in the bath, naked and wet, shiny and exposed, and she can't get out. She seems pinned down, unable to move her arms or legs. There's steam everywhere and she can't see a thing. The water is becoming cold and she is beginning to get a little uncomfortable, clammy, and a bit scared. She's been having a lot of similar dreams like this lately.

What he loves about her is that she is so good to sleep with. His last girlfriend would fidget and flap and probably end up edging him so he was hanging out of the bed, clinging for dear life. He can put his arms around her and hold her like the world is ending and she wont move an inch the whole night. Not an inch.

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