I pour collagen powder into my pumpkin soup. My grey hair makes me look old but my mild acne and small breasts make me look young. I don’t care about pleasure. My inflammatory illness makes me look old, but my Furby backpack makes me look young.
“Excuse me, do you realise your skin looks bad?” a supermarket cashier says to me. “Your skin is discoloured, you look sick,” she says, “I just thought you should know in case you weren’t aware.” I stare at the turkey breast I wanted to buy. “Thanks, yes, I’m aware,” I say, and walk away without getting my change.
I can see my ex-boyfriend is listening to jazz fusion right now, according to his online music profile. I feel nostalgic for the time he came with me to the emergency department when I couldn’t walk. We weren’t dating then but when I was coming out of anaesthetic, I told the nurse that despite our difficulties, I was so glad he was there with me right now.
I can’t reply to my messages yet because I’m anaemic. The manager appeared at the office wearing tight lycra bike shorts and began to talk to me at length about croissants. I tried not to look at the bike shorts. He went to his office. I started making phone calls. I could hear him cackling loudly at something. I wanted to ask what was so funny but we don’t have that kind of relationship. He’s begun signing off group emails with an out of focus picture of wheat.
There must be more to life than who to blame. I felt calm when I saw a picture of grass growing through a blanket. I felt calm for the first time this year. The blanket was beige and looked like sand.
I got fired from the nanny job because I fell asleep on their sofa for five minutes. I fell asleep because I was depressed. The girl didn’t even notice, she only knew because when I woke up I said, “Oh I think I might have just fallen asleep.” When I’d offered to buy her a hot chocolate on way home from school she said “Don’t waste your money, you can’t afford it.” I called my mum to tell her I felt hopeless because I couldn’t even keep a nannying job and she started talking about an article she’d read on fire danger, and how it takes 45 seconds before it’s too late to get out once a fire starts. I want skinned knees right now. Now I want scabs on my knees.
JUNE 7TH, 2021 / POETRY
More from Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle
Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle is a writer from Auckland, NZ. She is the author of Autobiography of a Marguerite (Hue & Cry Press, 2014). Her book, Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life, is forthcoming from Giramondo Publishing in August 2021 and can be pre-ordered here.