Rose, An Epithet – Jane Copland

Normally I don’t stand here and wonder what to write when someone tags me into a conversation with all of you. The anecdotes that would be good in the garden under the blankets and winter coats with friends I met far enough into my thirties that our decade-old fights look painfully childish, stories I’d tell around the fire pit because even though it’s May, it’s England: all those stories are no good. They cloy here, like I’d be trying to impress. I have never wanted to impress you, or live the life you thought I should, caked in misery and regret so as to better mirror your own.

If I speak to you, I’ll mean it.

It’s England. I still live here. Twelve years. A childhood. Burgeoning adolescence. I will keep growing into my British skin. You jointly crowed and spat at my decision like it was made of someone else’s hiccoughed bile when you found out I was leaving for England. I am not even American; leaving a country in which I was also an immigrant should not have been as outrageous and you made it out to be.

It’s too simplistic to put your reaction down to jealousy. Jealousy is flat, easy, collapsed paper mache, a cartoon rendition of human failure. Yours was full-throated, vengeful and blind: so blind that it made no attempt to correct its hypocrisies or gauge its contradictions with invented nuance. Yours was arrogant and nameless, too raw to unpick the absurdity of calling me an alcoholic through the bottom of several bottles of your own. I don’t want to be your friend, so when I’m tempted to reply to a conversation in which someone has unwittingly tagged all of us, instead I find an eyebrow awkwardly arched above the glasses I now wear, fingers splayed on the keyboard and battery counting down 10, 9, 8 percent, like it’s imploring me to hurry in making a decision to say nothing. What would I say? I was days from turning twenty-five, leaving my husband in a snowstorm, crippled by flu, rendered emotionally sterile by five years of eggshells underfoot, terrified of his guns, paralysed by the collision of anxiety and opportunity. You called me a whore. I emigrated; you told me not to come back. I raised a glass with a friend; you called me a drunk. I saved myself; you were sorry I survived.

We are meant to be civil, to tweet to each other about how we’re still young and beautiful, how we meet men who assume that we’re our children’s au pairs because we’re still made of desperate, rosy youth. How no time has passed, how the squinting corners of our eyes behind the glasses are still round and full and eyelashes batting, how time deletes. How we are still stilettoed in Vegas, hoping that men who hate us more than we hate each other will pay us the most attention; that they will love us more than we ever loved ourselves.