Girls With Plastic Names
by Rhys Leyshon Evans
The post brought the envelope that revealed your relationship had ended. You read the letter and sighed. At his too-neat handwriting. At his endless references to fictional couples in recent novels he had read. You laughed to yourself, and cried, and felt alone. The only company in your already sparse apartment was provided by the austere spines of numerous foreign language dictionaries and phrase guides. Germany, landlocked and suspicious, sniffed at your delicate tears which steadfastly tried to skewer your light foundation. France, thoughtful and brittle, empathised but offered little else.
The letter was short.
It ran on a tangential stream, flitting this way and that, like an erratic lily pad. The only consistency that appeared on the pages was a failure to explain why the break-up should come at this very moment. Sure there was the distance. Sure there was your shared youth. Sure there was…
You remembered the last few months of the relationship and how private moments of introspection and tenderness had become a public act that was performed in a deluge of restaurants and cafes neither of you could afford. At first the production was enjoyable. The relationship seemed to work on that particular level. You would look into his eyes and see fear and confidence jostling for attention like a pair of young siblings. You would chide his soft-core pornography collection, which you found one morning after making love. Girls with plastic names and stripped to their knickers talked about threesomes they couldn’t spell and dildos so expensive they surely needed a loan to buy. These girls did not have periods and never not wanted sex and always cleaned their house naked even though such girls always appeared to still live with their parents. He would blush and you would continue tickling him linguistically until coffee was ordered amongst other young couples who dressed similarly and talked of the same nights out and the same friend circles and the same mundane fears that twenty-somethings felt the need to have.
The array of cafes and restaurants were a stage and offered an audience that confirmed you were a couple, broadcasting the evidence to prove that you were in love and in a relationship. Gradually, he would become overdramatic about his everyday existence and your production became distracted by the windows which acted like an inconsiderate audience member tapping away on their mobile phone. He would talk over-theoretically about his need for order and rationality and you would grow bored. Bored at his ad-hoc missives about the offspring of divorced parents: according to him, there were two types. There were the ones who spent their lives endlessly trying to recreate the nuclear family they never had, or those that simply felt so alienated from marriage and commitment and glided through life with only their health to care for. You would regularly zone out and gaze at the bustling Wednesday rush-hour, or the narcotic mellow of Sunday morning. You would watch strangers and project whole back-stories onto their surface appearances. Why did that woman wear a silk scarf? Was it for style, or health? You would watch theatre students take pictures of homeless men and ask questions and wonder amongst themselves, ‘Is this dramatic enough?’ You were never sure if he noticed your detachment. Most likely not. He was devoted to the sound of his own voice so much so that it would have made an opera singer blush.
This past winter, you’re body filled with terror when the multitude of voices and hot drinks fogged up the window, condensation conspired to block out your view of the outside world. You would panic and have no choice but to engage with him and his immature views on love which were not actually his opinions, but ideas gleaned from the aforementioned books he read about love, fiction and non-fiction, memoir and historical biographies. On the rare occasion he went off script and scrambled for improvised lines, you would pull down your sleeve and pat away moisture and form a hybrid peephole to the world outside.
And once the performances began to lose their charm and a demanding audience went elsewhere for giggles and respite, there was distance and there were letters. It was Spring and the rain danced regularly on the window pane and annoyed you just like the overused exclamation marks he would include in those letters. Letters where he would talk about how he missed your smile and how no photograph hastily packaged in an envelope could do your facial muscles justice. On one scribbled page, he likened your smile to the brightness of a teacher’s favourite pupil. Despite the sentiment, such a description grated. Was your smile that bright? You never really cared for your lips, or your face for that matter, and wasn’t the teacher’s favourite pupil often infuriating with their self-determined importance and aloof nature? Wasn’t the teacher’s favourite pupil often reduced to precociousness and a sense that they had peaked too soon?
The letters were merely adverts for your intelligence and his desire to joke all the time.
The letters simply over-drafted emotions and rendered them prosaic, industrial.
Like using a mathematical equation to define what love was and was not.
Yet, like the dalliances in public where you fretted about the appropriate tip to leave, the letters were one of the few things that confirmed the discarded relationship that lay on the ground after a drunken fall.
A visual and physical certification that you had once both been a couple.
And there was his laugh, sharp like an ankle.
You feared that years had been wasted on nothing memories.
Memories constructed as the overtly melodramatic stage-play that constituted your relationship, poorly acted and executed.
Despite your frustration at him and his laugh and his senseless and purposeless jokes, you found solace in crying and turning your eyes a biblical red. You cried not because you were upset but simply that you felt so removed from the situation. You were meant to feel something. You had convinced yourself that this was supposed to be the case. You were young and ‘in touch’ and supposed to care about life and all the footnotes that accompanied it. Yet all you could feel was relief. Relief that you hadn’t had to break up with him. Relief that you were not depressed and in need of alcohol to guide you to a better place.
He was thirty miles away and you wondered if the rain was distracting him as much.
And then you thought about a tale your grandfather often spun fuelled by whiskey and dreams and sorrow. You would listen to the story of a medieval couple who could only meet across a river and never touch or kiss because of disease and aristocratic tinkering. You often considered the melancholy of never being able to touch and feel the one you loved, of relying solely on the person’s presence and image to sustain the courtship. And after considering this sobering thought for hours, you realised that maybe, just maybe, they got the
Rhys Leyshon Evans is 23 and originally from just north of London. He has spent the last number of years studying in Dublin, as well as working in New York City for two summers. Rhys is currently completing his first novel; a surreal satire concerning youth culture. His work has appeared in Oh Francis magazine and the Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies. Rhys also edits the fledgling online magazine how to hug your ex.
Art by Margarita Korol.