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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol

 

Trouble

By Lizzie Annis

The character is female, 23 - lively and sharp. Staging is minimal. Opening song is ee-zeh by Kasabian.

Physical theatre/ creative movement should be experimented with throughout.

 

God, you know that moment when you realise you forgot to put deodorant on? I really hate that. Feel like every time you move you release a new little waft. It’s, for me, especially when I’m stressed. And then basically I stress about the absence of sweat protection and inevitably produce more unprotected sweat so-

 

It’s pretty fucking degrading, really, and I just don’t think I’m in the mood for that today.

 

The stupid thing is that they’ve left me alone in the room with both the yum-yums and the bottle of Rosé. And I don’t know about you, but I’d have said that separating shoplifter and stolen goods would be priority number one in this scenario.

 

Also I’m really hungry. I’ve got the nervous rumble. Awful. Used to get it in exams all the time, everyone thought it was a strange sort of vocal growl - it was all very distracting.

 

Feel a bit like I’m in an exam now actually. Think it’s all the anticipation. There’s even one of those ticky plastic clocks.

 

Personally, I thought the wine between the boobs was a stroke of genius, but it turns out they will actually search you there if push comes to shove.

 

God, you know what a glass of wine would just really do me right now. Yeah.

 

But that really would be taking the piss wouldn’t it. And I do sort of feel like if I’m going to be a criminal, I’m not going to be a dick about it?

 

It’s a really funny thing isn’t it? Anger. Being angry. I wouldn’t consider myself an especially angry person, I don’t think.

 

But, actually - oh but you know the one thing that really does get me is milk. Like, when you wake up half an hour after your housemate and you’re genuinely pumped for cereal but all they’ve left you is a shitty courtesy dribble just that adds insult to injury and won’t even colour a cup of tea. I rage.

 

I’m definitely a worrier though. Absolutely a worrier - which, I’ll admit, seems strange in light of recent events.

 

It’s not that I worry about the big things per-say. Well obviously I do - I worry about Trump and climate change and homemade bombs on the tube and North Korea and all the normal things, but not, you know, in an excessive way. Not really.

 

Mostly I worry what things say about me. It’s completely narcissistic and gross but I worry about how I measure up to how I should be feeling. I worry that I don’t have the right level of distain for reality TV or the right amount of emotional depth to understand Radiohead albums. I worry that I don’t have the right amount of flippancy when it comes to sex, or even the right amount of carpe diem when it comes to late nights in general.

 

I worry that I can’t explain how I feel. But that’s beside the point.

 

Actually, the yum-yums are the point. The cause.

 

(She opens the packet, takes out a yum-yum and starts eating it)

 

I do think it’s very unfair that they pump that freshly baked smell out at you the minute you step in the doorway now. It’s all a bit perverse isn’t it really. You can smell but you can’t steal. Slutty bakery aisle.

 

Stupid, but sometimes I wonder whether anyone would ever call me a slut. Like, in earnest I mean. I wonder whether it would make me angry. Because, aside from being devastatingly ironic it would also be a real turnout for the books. I think it’s because people don’t like to equate disability with sex generally, in any form, wild or vanilla.  It’s just not what we do.

 

I saw it, actually - in two different forms on my way in to town this afternoon. There was - earlier there was this pregnant woman outside Costa - I reckon she’d been for one of those yummy mummy debriefings- and we sort of clocked eyes in that incidental but intentional way that sometimes happens, and she glanced down at my legs and then back up at me and at first she looked kind of sad and then just a bit frightened, and suddenly I was filled with a sense that she hadn’t actually seen me at all.

 

And then, actually, at the top of the high-street I ended up doing one of those ridiculous this-way-that-way-which-way-who-knows shuffles with this guy.  And he was around my age and what my mum would be tempted to call ‘a bit of a dish’.  And because I’d washed my hair and changed my jeans this morning I was looking pretty fresh - (this was before all the sweating started) - and the guy sort of gave me the side smize? It’s the one that’s somewhere between an eye smile and an eyebrow challenge delivered coyly on one side of the face - very tricky but deadly when mastered. But after having I suppose spied the controversial limbs he sort of looked troubled. And then looked up and kind of tried to half smize again but then crumbled into confusion and went on his way. Funny really.

 

Sometimes little kids ask me if it hurts and I always say no even when it does. I don’t know why really. I think it’s that I don’t want them to worry. They shouldn’t start that young, really. Worrying - I mean.

 

But they do say it’s all relative don’t they. Pain. That really gets me because how can anyone ever know what another person’s pain is? How can we tot up a feeling to a number when the two things are the proverbial chalk and cheese?

 

Sometimes I think a noise would be better - more primal somehow. You can say a lot with a noise - you can give pain a character with noise.

 

 I had a spectacular collision with the pavement earlier and I’ve been trying to give it a sound. The pain, I mean. I reckon it would probably be like one of those jazzy scats that crop up every now and then in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, you know - when something whimsical or unrealistic or just thoroughly 80s happens? It’s a sort of Chica-chickaaaah, isn’t it? If you’ve seen it.

 

The guy from earlier was a bit of a Ferris, actually. He didn’t look like the actor or anything, he just had the swagger, you know?

 

And the thing is, he wouldn’t have seen it happen if he hadn’t looked back. If I hadn’t smiled at him in the first place, risked making the connection, he wouldn’t have looked back and seen me fall. And if he hadn’t looked back, he wouldn’t have had to turn away again to spare me the embarrassment.

 

And turned the corner and escaped, I thought how it’s actually really strange that anger is often considered a noisy emotion. Because most of the time it’s hidden and as quiet as can be. For me it’s as quiet as can be. Like gas left running on the hob or a bottle of Coke gone flat in a hot car.

 

When I got here, about an hour ago, the world was pretty raucous.

 

It’s the after-work dinner-time rush, isn’t it? The five-thirty scramble. Men in suits picking up ready-made paellas and bottles of pino and thigh-high kids demanding potato smilies of worn-out working mothers. Self-service check-out machines wailing away, trollies rattling down isles, woolly tannoy announcements about Craig please returning to till number four.

 

And then, on the corner of the cheese/yogurt intersection, I noticed this face. One of those faces from your childhood that’s at once totally forgotten and deeply familiar. A supply teacher I had for three weeks in primary school. Mrs…?

 

She was one of those old school eccentrics who had retired at 50 to keep terrapins and make jam, but got dragged up from the bottom of the temps list once in a blue moon when the teachers at our school really had no other option.

 

And there was this one time with her in a maths lesson.

 

It was algebra and she was halfway through explaining how to expand the brackets to find x - when suddenly she stopped, and looked up at me, and asked whether I wanted to leave the lesson to go and play games in the playground with my friend Lucy.  And at first, I thought I was in trouble. I thought that this was a weird reverse-psychology punishment for whispering to Jessica about my new grape scented gel pen, so I shook my head. But then after she insisted a second time with this sort of tense bright smile - I suddenly realised what she was getting at.

 

Basically what she was saying was that maths was just a bit too tricky for people like me so why not spare the struggle and have a nice game of throw and catch instead. I could even get changed outside in the playground - if that would be easier for me?

 

And I sat my ground for a few seconds, but when she asked again I had to slip out the back of the classroom because my face was starting to get so hot it might melt off, and Lucy followed me out baffled into the hallway to escape the world’s most awkward five minutes. I went to the loo and decided I wouldn’t tell my mum when I got home.  Then Lucy sat with me in the playground and we were both quiet for a while.

 

And so today - here she was, fourteen years on, older, browsing the Activia options.

 

That must mean she’s constipated. Ha. Good.

 

When she turned in my direction there was a moment where I was absolutely convinced I was going to say something to her - but then I just turned around and escaped in the opposite direction and ended up at the wine.

 

Taking it off the shelf and hiding it was… well, it was fine. Sort of like regular shopping with fewer moral qualms.

 

I just wanted to try it. I just wanted to see whether it would make me feel like I’d actually done something about things for once. And I think I was expecting some kind of big emotional pay-off from the act itself. Liberation from the social…something (!) But instead it was sort of like I was fourteen again - finally trying a cigarette for the first time only to feel nauseous and silly and a bit like I’d swallowed exhaust fumes for no reason.

 

It’s funny isn’t it. I remember really clearly James Conway punching Luke Brady in year nine for tackling him on a penalty, and him going around school telling everyone that ‘the worst thing about punching someone is that it hurts your hand’, and everyone crowding round to see his bruised knuckles.

 

I think I regretted it today even as I watched it happen.

 

And, the guard - he could see it in my face, I’m sure. Because by that point I’d forgotten what the hell I was even doing there, and he knew it.  Thirty seconds of noise and nails and kerfuffle at the security scanner and it was over and done with.

 

But now it’s kind of like…

 

I really -  I feel like I’ve hit pretty much fucking rock bottom in my own estimations, and it’s sort of like someone’s craved out my insides with a hot ice-cream scoop and I actually feel a little bit like being sick or a lot like shouting or going to sleep or maybe just having a cry, and I don’t think it’s just about today anymore, I think it’s about most days with me in them and really I’m not sure I can ignore it for much longer.

 

Is this how you’re supposed to feel, do you reckon?

 

There are these times, sometimes, when I wish I could have a full blown tantrum about the injustice of things. You know what, fuck it, I really do. Full blown, on the floor, kicking and screaming, and let it ring the hell out. Wouldn’t it be glorious? But it’s kind of crap because you can’t really do that when you’re 23 and have bills and dental floss and social inhibitions and stuff. It’s the paradox of the privileged and dissatisfied, I suppose.

 

That was really wanky, sorry.

 

Twenty past, nearly. Twenty five past? Christ.

 

I think what I mean is - what I mean is that it just really is the stupidest thing isn’t it? The things we do. And the truth is - he was trying to be nice. The security guard. He really was. I hit him because he was trying to let me off the hook. He clocked it, and I’m free to leave on the grounds of enough already going on.

 

But the problem is - the problem is, is that excused isn’t what I want. Excuse me for saying so but it’s just not. Presumed victim of troubles isn’t what I want today - because actually trouble is what I want today and guilty is what I want today, and as fucked up as it sounds I want to be the trouble itself and take all the shitty disappointed blame and not the sympathy and really be truly bad, you know?

 

Perhaps not.

 

But here we are, either way.

 

God, and it’s actually all just a bit embarrassing now, isn’t it? It is, really. I feel a bit like a child whose wet themselves at a party and left a suspicious patch on the carpet.

 

Sorry. 

 

The thing is, it’s not even that bad, you know. Not at all - not really. I mean, of course it’s not, for God’s sake. In the grand scheme it’s actually very fucking lucky. It’s a lovely life full of lovely people and sometimes I am a selfish person.

 

(.)

 

It’s gone quiet now. I think a verdict’s been reached… Good. Is this a community service situation, do we think? I’d be surprised. Maybe. Maybe they’ll put me on one of those courses instead. ‘Anger Management for Repressed Shoppers’. It might be fun.

 

Half past, nearly now. And I’ve stopped counting the ticks. 

 

(Listens)

 

I think I’ve sort of tuned them out — you know, when you can do that?

 

(Re-hears)

 

Oh wait…

They heard me. Yep.

 

(Silently counts the ticks. Smiles)

 

But I think we’re getting used to each other now, so that’s good.

 

(.)

 

You know when it gets so quiet you can actually hear the air humming? Just -

 

I think I’d quite like that. 

 

 

End.

Closing song is ‘Trouble’ by Iggy Azelia and Jennifer Huds