Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Carbon Dating Agency



Here’s hoping ... A lickety-split inspection to ensure I haven’t tucked the back of my dress into my knicks, or anything classy like that. A sharp intake of freshly minted breath. A crisp confirmatory nod bestowed in the direction of my selfhood -

’My name is ...’ That’s all it says on the tag. Precisely that. Dot, dot, dot. (Dash, dash, dash/ dot, dot, dot, has also, strangely been omitted). No name and no pack drill. Nor have I been awarded the order of the twin purplish hearts that everyone else here seems to sport. Where seemingly, some thoughtful soul has limned two interlocking hearts on the cardboard, (pink tinging purple as the hues dissociate along its ply). Just in case one should look down at one’s adapted, office-soiled, visitor’s pass and momentarily become fuddled as to where one was. A carbon life form dating society. With the emphasis on form. For we, all of us here tonight, are being recycled. A job lot of pre-laminates obviously. The badges I mean. Even though every one in attendance, prays to be bonded and have the past overlaid. First name terms only, rather than those of divorce settlements. Or no terms at all, in my case. A dearth of self-advocacy. For no one at the door had a pen and my eye liner pencil was just too chubby to cut the mustard.

Folded into this sterilised lucky dip, I have been shorn of my cover. In this unsanctified chapel of love, I have been de-christened. All because it was a bit of a rush. At the last minute, some faint-heart ducked out and I, at the head of the reserve list, was requisitioned. Pinned on and hemlined up. Pitter-patter, pitter-patter. Be still my fluttering heart. Leave that to the eyelashes. Oh well, you know what they say. In for a penny, in for a pound. Never has my stock been so low.

Still, it does present somewhat of a problem, as to how I tender myself to these fellow travelling love contractors. How I dovetail with these hawkers of the heart. The natural icebreaker of having my name stamped and barcoded plainly for all to perceive, is in dry dock hock. Champagne aplenty has been flung at this prospective maiden relaunch. Frangible confidence shattered, my bottle long gone. The strangers in this flow, do not pass me like ships in the night. They just proceed to give me, with my nebulous flag of inconvenience, a wide berth.

Save for the ketch with the bottle-thick spectacles. He who heaves to, at each and every bobbing prow, has now sidled into my Chanel wake. Pitching so close into my bosom as to leave a vaporous spume on my nameplate, while he tries to focus his magnified sextant. For my part, I am acquainted with the unmagnificent sex of his balding crown. Unable to pinpoint my heavenly being, he hoists up his specs so that they breast his forehead, in a myopic attempt to pierce my anonymity. Now, even he prepares to cast off, shaking his head foggily, which serves only to bring his glasses scything down on to the bridge of his nose. My escort scuttled before I got out of port.

Scanning the room, I see hands wrapped around tumblers of (cheap) (warm) bubbly, indexing fingers freed up so as to point at the swirls and loops on each other’s badges. I can mark them trying out the sound of one another’s handles. Sipping at them with their lips. Ingesting the consonants and swilling the vowels around inside their cheeks. Showering the palate with the blend, of conjoining the name with that of their own. Contemplating whether to imbibe or expectorate the vintage before them. You begin to see my problem. My unwritten invisibility. My underwritten contract still awaiting its signature. Seems I am to be the undesignated driver for tonight. As they all give rip to their avid ferment, I am reduced to smoothing a crinkle in my bodice, where the badge’s safety pin has rucked up the chiffon beneath.

Okay then, so I’m thrown back on my own resources. I have to be myself. But who am I ? I have no accreditation ... while my compact’s in my bag and I cannot feasibly apply any more emulsion on my face. I feel contrived enough. No wait. Go with it. Use it to my advantage. Here goes nothing. “I know, these badges ! The bubbly in hand is the only indication that this couldn’t be an AA meeting. No, not the breakdown service”. I don’t know though ...

That went well I thought. An icebreaker like the one applied to loosen up Leon Trotsky. This perishing no-name badge will be the dea(r)th of me. If first it can cede me any life amongst these lovelorn wraiths. I fluffed my line, for these could not be recovering alcoholics, since they at least are possessed of some spirit. This lot’s more akin to a convention of call-centre operators. ‘Hello, Archie speaking. What may I ask, is the nature of your inquiry ?’ Maybe I just imagined I heard that for a chat-up line. Or perhaps they could pass for a group of personnel officers on a motivation course. ‘Well, downsizing one’s ambitions, is an occupational hazard at this stage in life’. If only the stakes weren’t so great. How much more personnel could it get, than those two interlaced hearts, lovingly felt-tipped by some romantically deluded secretary from Cupidity Corp ?

Thinking about it, as I was so a late an insertion, had my badge actually been attended to, it would probably have been after the secretary had knocked off for home. In readiness for an evening of pre-packaged ready-meal, Mills and Boon pre-cooked intimacy and a re-corked bottle of Blue Nun. With an imitation carnation in her table vase. No, my heart’s design would indubitably have been coined by the Hostess-Panderer herself. And more than likely it would have resembled a walnut. She’s a busy lady after all. To judge by watching her crossing the room, as she trifles with the most dirigible men here. But she fails to strike me as much of a miracle worker.

Even my posy’s wilted now. It’s not fair. While they’ve all moved on to the getting to know you stage. The apparel beyond the name. The flesh beneath the clothes. Sizing up the genes, imagining the look of mutually engendered babies. They’ve stopped nodding fascinated assent to their partner’s self-justifications. Too distorting of glances slyly thrown towards the calculus of curvature and honedness. My prospects here have been completely stunted by this one scandalous circumstance. Perhaps I should demand a refund. No, more than likely they’ll stake me another bulk permutation date instead. And even appropriately sanctioned, I think I’d rather share an evening round the dinner table of their secretary. Swapping overblown notions about love. I’d bring the wine though.

The only sparks I’m generating in here, are those of static electricity, as my dress buffs up the wall. My mother always told me not to slouch. The agency never should have vouchered appellation for announcing ourselves. Just let us fashion our own. Keep with the heart motif, only not so presumptious of a successful pairing. Dispense with the eight-page questionnaire. Rather, enjoin each of us to encapsulate ourselves, through the depiction of our own tickers. Those hale and hearty. Those achey-breaky. Those pierced through with an arrow. Those by a crossbow bolt. And those wholly riddled. Or those excised all of a piece, bloody and raw, with the brutal finesse of an Aztec sky pilot. Those liberal and those sclerotic. Those bypassed and those entangled, be it merely once, twice or thrice trysted. Those nicotine tarred. And those feathered. Those stout, those oaked and those soaked (and those pickled). Those put upon and those set upon. Those lost and those merely taken. Those strung, those stricken and ... nope, now I’m out of Country and Western songs. But, with identities writ so large, we would assuredly have no need of denomination.

And what arresting cardiac image might I plump for ? Oh hold on a tick. Not exactly what one might deem as breezing over, in this tightly controlled, air-conditioned atmosphere; but does my champers-moistened finger in the air, not discern the zephyred, inching inclination towards me, of a fellow wallflower of the opposite sex ? More wisp than willow. Never mind, who am I to cavil ? No one’s signed my petition all evening. Steady as she goes. Just stay true to yourself. “Of course, I’m not really a lonely heart. Not in the classic sense, if there is such a thing of course. I’ve two gorgeous children who fill my life, of course. Just not my adult long- ... ging”. Off course. Oh. Did someone open a window ? Don’t bring up the kids then. Just stay true to myself. Just stay true.

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