An Experiment in Things that Come Out of Nowhere by Ophira Gottlieb

An Experiment in Things that Come Out of Nowhere

I guess they must’ve crawled their way in through that gap where the window shakes in its frame. Either that, or they’ve always been here, born in the pocket fluff of some forgotten jumper. They would dive head-first into pans while I cooked like those Japanese Kamikaze pilots, and later at dinner we’d pick their wings out our teeth and they looked like the speckled shells of pink peppercorns you get in your fancy drinks. I lined them up round the edge of my plate, and counted their scorching spots.

A seven-spotted ladybird secretes blood from its leg joints upon perceiving a threat. I informed you of this one night, putting on that daft southern accent we do when we quote off Wikipedia or the BBC. You in reply had asked why, and I, having not read that far, had told you that we all do things that don’t make sense when we’re frightened. You started wearing pants to bed in case one of the beasties tried to crawl up inside you. And what about me? I’d ask, rubbing you through the polyester, and you’d kiss me so as not to reply. You’ve always had this way of making it seem like sex was something I did to you.

It had been you that demanded that I kill the spiders, the long and spindly kind that floated about the room, and even those rarer types that sulked in corners and looked like they’d been dipped in wax. When the moths arrived, you cheered me on as I chased them about with a folded magazine. We dealt with these visitors the usual way, all clapping and whacking and stamping of feet like those rugby players from New Zealand, I did all the dirty work and in return once a week you’d scrub the walls of insect gunk and mush and legs and wings. I remember you woke me up in the wee hours of the night, and ordered me to take out a mosquito that had been biting the bits of you that stuck out from under the duvet as you slept. I had chased it naked round the room for a quarter of an hour, and when I finally whacked it, a tiny purple droplet was left smeared across the wallpaper. I came back to bed and you noticed my guilt and you laughed: don’t be daft, mosquitos don’t bleed – that’s only my blood – and when I closed my eyes that speck of life you and the insect shared that night lay smeared across the inside of my eyelids.

It was only when the ladybirds arrived that you suddenly insisted we call a ceasefire. They were beautiful, you told me, red and black like sleepless eyes, yellow and black like dirty, nicotine-stained fingernails. When Gareth and Alice came round for dinner we served Mexican food peppered with seven-spotted corpses, and they ate every one of them out of politeness, licking and smacking their lips and grinning with bits of wing flaking their gums. Delicious! they cried out between crawling mouthfuls, Where on earth did you get them? and you answered that we didn’t get them at all, that they had just come into the house out of nowhere.

A lot of things can come out of nowhere, you informed us, at any moment of the day. Cocks can come out of nowhere. You look down at your phone and there’s a cock where your screen was. It can happen at any moment of the day. You never see good old-fashioned flashers anymore, jumping out of alleyways or bushes in the park. Nowadays flashers come out of nowhere, and suddenly their cock is in the palm of your hand. Gareth and Alice had nodded enthusiastically at this and bared their teeth like wet gravestones.

So then I said that I Love Yous can come out of nowhere, and that, while you had never really told me that you loved me, you had once said that sometimes when we kissed it felt like you were being electrocuted by a soup warmer, and that you should know because you had really been electrocuted by a soup warmer once during a catering gig at one of those pink hotels made of shipping containers and corrugated iron. You had always suffered from Chronic Palm Perspiration, and while you were serving a customer the ladle had slipped from your hand and drowned in the lumpy wet broth, and when you went to pick it out, the soup had spilled over the cables and a bolt had shot up your arm and it felt like you were being squeezed very tightly from behind. When I finish saying this you look at me with something I interpret as betrayal, and I wonder if I shouldn’t have mentioned the Chronic Palm Perspiration, or perhaps the electric shock, as you’ve never liked any of our friends knowing that you were capable of feeling pain. For the rest of the night you make a point of treating me as if you find me just a little disgusting.

I can quite easily picture you coming home one day with another man. When you see me sulking in the corner, you point at me and scream, and the man that you are with rolls up a newspaper and rhythmically batters me to death with it. After I have been killed and the man that killed me stands over my pulpy, gushing corpse, you laugh and place a comforting hand on his shoulder. Don’t be daft, Charlie doesn’t bleed you croon, and it’s your blood that runs hot out of my ears and stains the carpet. I wonder if I came into your life out of nowhere, and whether one day I’ll go back there. You’ve always had this way of making me feel like I only exist when you’re looking right at me.

Ophira Gottlieb is an emerging writer and poet from Glasgow, Scotland. She currently studies Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, and is working on her first poetry collection. 


Art: rawpixel CC0 ALT photo of a wet ladybird


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