by Roz Weaver

I let the dust settle on the second-hand TV table,
donated by a rich old woman over Freecycle
for the first flat my childhood sweetheart and I had
on the second floor of a tower block near Birkenhead Central
with a circle view of the car park drug deals.
He’d spend every mealtime staring at the 30 inch flat screen,
blaring Manchester United chants to block out the sound
of police sirens and the drunk couple screaming in the stairwell
to a backdrop of pastel painted walls stained with dried up eggshells
and the scent of stale cannabis. After I left him
I vowed never again to forfeit my safe space
for a man who couldn’t wipe his own piss off the toilet seat.
I gave away the TV for free, keeping the table
as a decorative item, proudly displaying my single set of keys.

I find my spare set of keys in the bottom bedside drawer,
buried under plastic folders filled with paper evidence of my identity
and leftover holiday money
in a combination of florins and euros and dollars.
A collection of items rarely considered necessary,
along with the fake Ray Bans with the cracked lens
or the spare passport photo long past its expiry date.
It stares back at me with a more youthful, paler complexion
and six more facial piercings.
Somehow, it feels too valuable to throw away.
I remind myself to never again cut my own fringe
or misplace the placement of my beauty spots,
marked as coordinates on contoured cheeks,
which I play dot-to-dot with when I wash them twice a day.

I clear the dead hair from the plug of the bathtub.
Like me, it is time for a final scrub clean
before moving on to waters new.
Four and a half years using the same bathroom
and my neural pathways have settled into a lazy routine
of unchanging skincare products and repetitive moisturising regimes
and still I haven’t learned to listen to my body’s needs.
Instead I smooth out the creases by covering them with creams
as a temporary fix for our complicated relationship,
like putting a plaster on an arterial bleed.
I’m reminded of an article in an online magazine
about how sleeping naked helps your body feel more familiar
and I wonder how many men are more familiar with my body
in my bed than I am.

I strip the bedsheets off my queen size mattress,
hiding the bondage restraints discreetly in a cardboard box
I will tape shut before the removal company turn up
so I don’t accidentally share my bedroom antics with strangers.
The linen still smells of lavender fabric softener –
a dose of comfort for my insomnia
and mornings after nights of sexual pleasure.
Of all the rooms in my flat, I will miss this one the most,
although the couple who live straight downstairs probably won’t miss me.
It’s the landlord’s fault for not adequately sound-proofing the walls,
but if I was loud enough to put a complaint in then
maybe in my ignorance, I owe them an apology.
I’d like to end on good terms,
so I mail them a bunch of lilacs from Interflora.

I gather up the junk mail as the panic sets in –
I didn’t check if Dominos will still deliver at my new address.
To someone else this might be a small difficulty
compared to everything involved in buying your first property
but after a long day at work, there’s nothing better than a takeaway pizza
topped with extra cheese, garlic spread
and finished with overpriced Ben and Jerry’s,
although my stomach will probably thank me.
Maybe I should order just the one more,
a possible final farewell to the best hangover cure
and since I’ve already packed away most of the kitchen
a vegetable pizza has more nutritional value
than a pot noodle.
Is that the delivery driver buzzing at the door?

I wipe the crumbs from the kitchen surfaces,
Reminisce about the baking skills I’ve tested here –
how the courgette-and-mushroom bread recipe looked simple
but it’s something I’m not well practiced with.
The plates of food shared here between friends,
or with my ex-boyfriend over breakfast –
his pancakes and cups of coffee in bed,
presented with a garnish of gentle kisses on my neck,
though it was always me who had to clean up his mess
and then he bought me a whisk for our first Christmas
because ‘that’s what you buy a feminist’.
I wonder who he’ll make pancakes for next,
will they also come with a side dressing of his fingertips
slowly stroking up another woman’s undressed legs?

I watch the sun rays pass over my legs, stretched out
on the beige two seater sofa following an afternoon nap.
To my right, the view from my first floor flat window
is of a group of teenage boys on bicycles,
hanging out by the Premier shop, shelves stocked half with junk food
and half alcohol. To my left is the village pub,
The Commercial, where every Wednesday night
a fish-and-chips van parks outside
next to the pink and purple striped mobile library.
When I sit quietly, I begin
to hear the birds in the nature reserve just behind me
chirping constantly, they always sound so friendly,
promptly waking daily at 4.30am
any household with an open window.

I pick the hardened candle wax from the window sill,
lingering scents of citrus under my nails
where the once melted wax has chipped the paint
and left vaguely noticeable off-white stains.
I try and bleach the area with toothpaste
before accepting its new colour
and the likely deduction from my rental deposit,
or if not spotted at final inspection,
then it’s left as something for the next tenants
to remember me by. I would like them
to see it as a sign
of how Number 3 was a home to me,
most nights spent reading in the corner by candlelight
with a cup of camomile tea.

I rinse the tea leaves out of the teapot
before wrapping it in sheets of newspaper
and then into a box marked ‘Fragile’,
reminding the removal company
to treat with care the internal contents of my life
in the two mile journey up the road.
My friend jokes that I already live
so far out of central Leeds
that he might as well be visiting the Outer Hebrides,
but I like that the distance means
less chance of unplanned visitors.
I tell him I could never move closer to the city,
with all the traffic and noise
and tamed greenery.

I water the peace lily sitting on my mantelpiece,
wonder which south-facing window in the new place
will give it the best level of sunshine
to balance out how terrible I am
at keeping plants alive.
So far it’s third time lucky –
RIP the Crassula and the Monstera Obliqua Monkey Leaf.
Each one was a gift, but I hate the responsibility
because I forget they need regular attention
and before I even notice
they shrivel up and die.
Next time, someone needs to buy me a cactus,
since I’m a natural
at creating the driest of environments.

I fold the dry laundry, still warm from lying across the radiators
in early summer, when the nights remain cold enough
to justify a hot water bottle, because I sleep alone and
my skin is the only familiar touch I know.
I pile my freshly cleaned clothes into rows,
divided by whether to keep them or donate to charity,
since moving home is the perfect opportunity
for learning to pack lightly
and cut down on the shit I own,
like the lacy red dress with the tear in the armpit.
One of many items I pretend I am confident enough to wear
when I always end up in jeans and trainers,
keeping the red dress for steamy dates
between just me and the mirror.

I polish the glass of the bedroom mirror,
looking into the reflection of my asymmetrical face
with blue green eyes and teeth
made straight by braces as a teenager.
I check Facebook and scan the photos of my sisters
to search for any similar features
but instead it reinforces the belief I’ve had since childhood
that I was adopted. I’m the youngest sibling
and the last to become a homeowner,
so it’s not an achievement my parents will celebrate.
Growing up, their conditional praise
led to so much sibling rivalry between us
and after 28 years I still wouldn’t say we are close.
I don’t think my middle sister ever forgave me
for purposefully being sick on her bedroom carpet.

I vacuum up the carpet in a final once over,
changing to a hand-held nozzle to reach underneath
the wardrobe, its rich mahogany sheen still looks like new
even though it’s always lived with me.
A man called Wayne contacts me through Gumtree,
says he’s interested in taking my old washing machine
and what do I want for it? I reply saying that if it’s collected
he can have it for free and we arrange to meet on Friday.
It feels like the exchange goes smoothly
until later that evening,
when he starts sending sexual messages,
asking why ‘such a cutie doesn’t have a bloke lol’.
I tell him to fuck off and report him over the company app,
then tell my landlord it was him who scraped the paintwork on the landing.

I prepare the paint for the charcoal grey bathroom wall,
where I made a dent in the plaster near the sink
after throwing my phone from the bathtub
in the middle of an argument.
Now, from one angry reaction
the whole room needs redecorating
to rectify the accidental blemish.
It makes me laugh to think about it
but I also feel a sense of nostalgia.
I don’t want to lose these memories
or forget the people who made them with me.
It’s time to make it a home well lived in.
My contract allows for ‘general wear and tear’
so I decide to leave the mark there.

I vowed never again to forfeit my safe space.
Somehow, it feels like a part of me too valuable to throw away
and still I haven’t learned to listen to my body’s needs.
Maybe in my ignorance, I owe them an apology.
To someone else this might be a small difficulty
but it’s something I’m not well practiced with.
When I sit quietly, I begin
to see it as a sign
to treat with care the internal contents of my life
because I forget they need regular attention.
My skin is the only familiar touch I know
and after 28 years I still wouldn’t say we are close
even though it’s always lived with me.
It’s time to make it a home well lived in.

Roz Weaver | @weaverroz (Instagram) |
Roz is a spoken word performer and internationally published poet living in West Yorkshire. She has been published in a number of journals, zines and anthologies. Her work has been on exhibit with Chicago based Awakenings Art Gallery and London Design Festival, and she has performed at Leeds International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her first poetry collection comes out with Yellow Arrow Publishing this summer.

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