The (Little) Death of the Author
How many times, aged thirteen or so, did you send a text
saying I’m in the bath…
in reply to a boy you liked
asking you what you were up to?
And how many boys made you blush,
rosy and excited, by replying ...can I join you?
A triumph. You had succeeded, you
had made them think of you naked — the text
simple, factual. The image of your body’s hot-water blush
suddenly the only thing they could focus on; the bath
or the idea of the bath incredibly steamy, allowing them to
say what they would like
to do, or at least, what they wanted you to think they’d like.
You were never in the bath, you
were always having dinner or trying to
finish homework. Text
and context are two different things. The bath
was a vessel into which you placed the idea of your blushing
body, (sent it across; innocent). And his excitement, his blush
was on him. He didn’t have to reply if he didn’t like.
How clever you were! That ellipsis after bath...
an invitation to fill the gap… you…
All, of course, existing solely within the text.
There was no way for him to
come over, it was nine pm — too
late to have friends round – let alone boys (you blush
at the thought). No – any act was purely subtext.
When he asked to join you, he was asking if you liked
him: he sees your nakedness and raises you
lowering himself into the metaphorical bath.
In your mind it was a luxurious roll-top bath
no doubt. And to him your body was closer to
the women in films than a child’s body. And you
had superimposed the penis you saw on a bus once, blushing
at the thought of it on him. Or maybe it wasn’t like
that. Maybe the important part was the nakedness of the text,
which is a text I continue to send: Reader, I’m in the bath…
Nothing more to say than that. And if you like
you can join me. I’m blushing, are you?
From Shine, Darling (Offord Road Books, 2020)