Venue is one of UEA’s prized on campus publications. In January 2018 I had a piece of creative non-fiction included as part of CONTRAST, the 2018 Arts and Creative Writing supplement.
– It’s a nice way to say – today’s the day, we’re getting paid.
Poets’ Day 25th October 2014. I remember the date because we’d just got the floor done: carpets up, laminate down. I’d always wanted a wood-look floor. In my imagination, my perfect room was just that way; medium dark wood under foot – something like mahogany; a Persian rug patterned with red and the colours of wine, and on top of those, loops upon loops of black rubber cables. I thought of the recording studios of those introverted geniuses, the ones in all the black and white photographs I’ve collected my whole life. High contrast, with really black black. When I think about Keith Richards, in that big house in France hunched over the piano, where Gram Parsons wrote Wild Horses – I imagine this holy trinity of grain, hatches and swirls.
Unusually for a terraced house, we had high ceilings and between those and the new hard floor it created a kind of a sound tunnel along the length of the hallway. It seemed to amplify the sounds of keys scraping through the lock or a cough on the doorstep outside. The squeak of the letter-box flap pulled backward on its hinges and the ruffle of something papery being pushed through against swishing brushes; could be heard clearly from upstairs. In the gloomy, sunken middle hours of the day, those high frequencies had real cut.
I heard the unmistakable song of a C6 envelope drop and slide down the inside of the front door and fall onto one of its short edges, before flattening itself softly on the doormat. There was a postscript; its thin plastic window rippling a little with the impact, and finally settling itself.
I had been left alone in the house, maybe for days. Sometimes it puts me in silly mood. I came running down the stairs at the sound of the post dropping, the sparkle of gently contorting paper. I was clenching my fists. I squeezed my eyes until they were almost closed, taking each step of the stairs with a variation on muscle memory – shouting out loud – ‘be a cheque, be a cheque, be a cheque, BE A CHEQUE! I knew it would almost certainly be a bill, or a parking ticket or a request to purchase a television licence…
Once I was sent a letter that had been typed with a manual typewriter. The mistakes had been diligently pasted over with sharp white tipp-ex even though the letter had been was typed on blue note-paper. It had been dressed in an envelope that matched and sent to meet me on the morning of my twenty-seventh birthday. The first and only love-letter ever sent to me, is still upstairs in a box my grandfather made; from mahogany.
At the end of the hall, I tear open the paper with my thumb leaving the top edges ragged in its wake. Inside is a small piece of paper with numbers hastily written in black biro. The fives wear hats while the ones are undecorated. I have a draw full of them. I don’t understand really the numbers. That’s the sideshow. It’s the sister enclosure that’s the real beauty; the shimmery, uncreased, ivory 95gsm, prick-your-fingers-with-the-corners, sexy and robust in equal measure, paper of a royalty cheque.
The next day I wished for tipp-ex and blue paper.