Brian moved his head to one side and took a breath. Oliver felt himself ingested on those sweet winds and too late noticed the bubbling slime rising to meet him, to dissolve him. Brian hocked this massive spit – a huge lump of salivary, watery, gooey mess onto the side of the road where a discombobulated dream-Oliver splattered in viscous clumps on the asphalt. His shattered perspectives saw himself over the road raise a super-disgusted, grossed-out, j’accuse face, and then when Brian was close, this voice (“seriously – cannot be my voice!”) shouted, “Urgh Brian. That’s how AIDs gets spread!” Then, these two tawdry things were capped with a third as the vision vanished in a star-wipe.

Oliver was stunned as he put the dolls back in the drawer. He was still stunned as he took them out of the drawer and dropped them in the bin. He was becoming less stunned by his second cup of tea, and a little food seemed to help too. At some point he found himself watching television, but switched it off in order to have a little appraisal of the day.

Firstly, those were his dad’s words, instantly recognisable from his childhood. The man would always spit and blow his nose out of car windows, but this AIDs comment was nevertheless one of his well worn phrases. It seemed offensive on several levels and Oliver knew he had said it then, in the future, more because he was angry at Brian for being out of contact, than for spitting (although being part of the spit may have added to the affront – being gobbed -like being gobbed at- was a pretty devastating rejection).

Secondly, in trying to evaluate his opinion of Brian in light of the incident, he found himself at a loss. He felt that Brian, as an object, was beautiful or at least aesthetically pleasing but as romantic-prey? Oliver was suddenly unconvinced by the prospect. He was positive that in meeting Brian, being embraced by that easy physicality, by his social confidence and by that confusion that comes from talking to a sexy man, Oliver would metaphorically want his babies; but sat on a sofa and surprisingly clear-headed given the time of night, and the day he’d just had, Oliver was warmed by a feeling of ambivalence (something – like patience – he’d judged an ‘other people’ sort of emotion).

Short of gargling ketchup and then spitting that, Brian had done the most unromantic thing Oliver could think of. His prospects as romantic prey were gone – he was just another man at the waterhole. All the planned futures, those spiralling constructions, had been built around someone else. They didn’t collapse, didn’t even wobble. They simply stood and waited, as Oliver supposed they always had, for a new fantasy man to occupy them.

He felt genuinely elated. When he would see Brian spit in four weeks time, he would still scowl and shout his dad’s words at the guy – because it is disgusting – but after that, with all the romance out of the way, perhaps they would be friends.

Written by Sam Ball

The ceremony should have gone some way to making Brian get in touch but instead Oliver was four weeks away and further than ever: he was burning up treasures at a prodigious rate but didn’t care, as four weeks of anticipation would be utterly crippling. If he did wait, anaesthetised himself somehow or slipped into an exact fou- week coma, and that chance meeting didn’t pan out, didn’t end in lifelong partnership – what then?! It would have to be suicide. Surely the human brain can’t cope with the negation of such vast expectations. He’d have to suicide just to prevent living as a vegetable after his brain fried from disappointment. The towering edifices of his fantasy would collapse and bury him, and after the avalanche of trips into his humiliating past he felt fairly strongly that this might be a good thing.

One thing that had been clarified was sex. Oliver had previously felt he’d kind of got all that dealt with between the ages of four and eighteen: a spot of transvestism and frottage with his childminder’s children, the watersports, mutilation and total submission to Stephen, the obsessive controlling urge that had lead to breaking and entering when Simon was away… somehow re-living
these events made them seem childish, most were childish: being the sweater that the naked pre-pubescent Oliver had bundled on his head as he pretended to be a Russian lady, was a unique experience – loaded with innocent youthful playfulness, but also a dangerous awareness of what the act was mimicking. Sympathetic magic could be powerful stuff.

But actual sex? Adult sex? Had that ever featured? Promiscuous and uninhibited men didn’t appear on his gaydar – that sort of behaviour he’d associate with the childish forays, an immature outlook, the adolescent mind in an adult body – seeking willy because it was funny and weird and felt good. The Oliver now is grown up and those things belong in the toy box (albeit a toy box that no child should be allowed near!) The mature Oliver wants what all proper adults want: a relationship; the miraculous alchemical relationship that would turn obsession and sex into acts of devotion and compassion. Oliver is no sexual predator; he is a romance predator. If that one relationship happens

he will be a romantic – the predatory instinct restrained, the insecurities secured by this magical, transformational concept of ‘relationship.’ And if he was to see this wonderful thing begin to happen with Brian, Oliver could die happy right now. That was romantic. To die with a smile now, knowing that in four weeks it would have happened… if you weren’t dead.

Yet what chance that now? Oliver gaped at the clear carpet. Every totem burnt. The low dirty candle and its six doll sentinels alone. The blinking red eye of singed carpet fizzling out. So that was that?

He went to the bathroom contemplating suicide, but desperate to empty his bladder first. His face in the mirror was that of a black and white minstrel, the glasses smudged and greasy but unable to stop the candle-soot from bleeding up the creases around the eyes. He washed his face and suddenly felt the violence of a dishwasher working him all over inside and out – it was a dirty way to be made clean, and just like the wine glass he channelled – he couldn’t raise a tear.

Picturing a final desperate act of self-immolation he returned to the living room and spotted something out of place. With eerie foreboding he pincered up the receipt: He checked the date twice, although he didn’t need to; being sensitive to such things he knew it was from the future, months in the future, six months in the future, where… he knew he was with Brian as he bought
something. Happy days! There was a future after all! What kind of future remained to be seen, had to be seen – it remained and had to be seen now!

The receipt burst into flame.

The vision was clearer and his vision self freer than before – able to glide and soar but too intent on the scene below to be frivolous. His physical self was apparently spellbound by Brian, who, even with his superior eyesight had not observed his observer. Oliver braced against the vision’s dissipation, steeled his will to resist transportation to another irrelevant episode, and focussed every particle of his being to take in every and any tiny detail. He was too focused.

BRIAN – Work that juju Guest edited by Sam Ball

The transition was more confused this time: He felt himself being pulled gently forward. Images appeared: greyed and incomplete things as if enveloped in dense fog. He recognised a bridge, the bridge by the bread memorial, the street from the future as before… and three figures approaching a fourth. Then the lot was yanked away, folded in on itself and sent hurtling – no: he was sent hurtling. Back. Months. And then slammed with a tinkle into a tooth.

The moon was in the third quarter and Oliver sat on the living room floor, surrounded by totems. Photos from Facebook, printed and pressed against each other – hundreds of Hims each vying to be on top. The thought was distracting – even pixelated to a blocky blotch His friendly, cheeky, sexy smile was warming. Oliver lingered over a Polaroid, stroking a finger across the sheen and then placed it back among others. These were the impersonal personals: mere representations of Him, but powerful juju nonetheless.

The rest of the room looked like a memory had exploded – there were more photos and flyers, and magazines, receipts, half a packet of chewing gum, pens, scraps of cloth, sweet wrappers, a sock, wine bottles, beer bottles, beer cans, mess, mess and more mess in piles and drifts and landslides, and at the epicentre, Oliver: placing four effigies around a mobile phone and a fifth.

He dipped a hair into the candle flame and that’s when things got weird.

Oliver was suddenly walking down a wet road four weeks in the future. He knew it was four weeks without needing to check because it felt like four weeks and Oliver was sensitive to that kind of thing. He could see Katie and Ellie were with him but he was surprised by the third voice that joined theirs – “I definitely don’t sound like that!”

Oliver started to walk, vertically, upwards until he could look down on Katie and Ellie and his own unfortunately polished-looking head: He was obviously holding forth, chiding their slowness and eager to duck out of the rain. Oliver’s vision-self could vaguely sense the rain too, a feeling like being swabbed with thousands of damp cotton wool buds – more unnerving than unpleasant. Another thing he sensed was that this moment is important, vital to both to his vision-self and future-self below. No sooner was this sensed than with a pop the world vanished.

Stumbling to a window he threw it open and threw himself half out, gasping for breath. The thick choking smoke lumbered out, down and past him; a pungent duvet that held him and hung over his shoulders until it was ripped to wispy threads by a sudden gust of wind. Behind him the room regained clarity with the same startling speed. He blinked at the needling candle light, now burning clear and clean. Had his models moved? It seemed one had turned away from the central focus. Breathless and dry-heaving on the windowsill, the candle’s corona seemed to exclude Oliver, caressing the five in a private glow. Ungrateful. The lot of them. That much was established. How had they been immune to his charms?

One principal of sympathetic magic is that an effect resembles its cause; the relationship between similar objects is a powerful one and even the mediocre effigies should have exerted some pull on their targets. Oliver’s magic was even grander in scope than that: a whole show, a year, maybe two year’s work that legitimised the gathering of these five man-objects. And, say he preferred one more than the others? Say he liked Brian? Friendly, flirty Brian. Brian with his tiny frame and post-apocalyptic clothes. Say he liked Brian so much, that he could have done the whole project just for him? All for Brian? Effigies and dolls are all very well, but why use those when four similar men are close at hand…

But somehow things hadn’t gone to plan.

Oliver sucked his finger where the burning hair had raced from the flame and tattooed a white line across its tip. He had meant to see something, of that he was sure. There was no question of waiting four whole weeks. Patience was a virtue he did not possess – the anxiety and second guessing would kill him. He had to get back to that moment four weeks hence, now. He took another deep breath, closed the window and resumed his position at the candle. A sock was closest to hand.

Oliver blinked away the moisture – definitely tears, but whether from a fantasy long-term relationship with a wine bottle (how very droll!) or from the smoke, he couldn’t say. Odd that the hair had near-choked him but the sock… the sock had burned in such a way that it filled the air with a fine chalky-white smoke, and odder still, a pine-needle, new-car fragrance. It was beautiful, like the inside of a catholic church in a film, but without all the gaudy wealth and monstrous cardinals.

He picked up the Brian doll and scrutinised it. Then he gathered a sixth doll out of a drawer. He didn’t like the word ‘doll’ in this context and ‘effigy’ always seems technically accurate but gruesome and over the top for these home-spun handicraft things. ‘Poppet’ was another viable option but the word made Oliver uncomfortable, perhaps due to vague and un-dwelt-upon images conjured by the extension ‘pop it in.’ His own converted action-man doll would not be into that sort of thing, and ostensibly neither was he. The Brian and Oliver dolls were placed back in the centre, facing each other, bathed in the candle glow and flanked by the other four ‘new friends’. It looked like a pagan wedding, or looked as similar to a pagan wedding from a hammer horror film, as six dolls and a candle in a smoky Glaswegian flat could. It was time for something stronger he thought, as he raised a picture to the flame.

Over the next hour Oliver cleared the flat’s floor of Brian’s totems. Five minutes saw him replace the ashtrays he had gathered with a small bowl of water to douse any embers and the kitchen bin, to sluice the ash slush into. Over the hour, he had lived several lifetimes of himself, catching tantalising glimpses of the ‘what-will-be-near-the-bridge-by-the-bread-memorial’, but invariably being thrown into other times and objects and people with a cavalier disrespect for laws of physics. He knew now that the fourth figure, crossing the road, was Brian; knew that his physical self had recognised, and was watching Brian cross, the rain entirely forgotten. The rest was conjecture. He contemplated a million potential futures where Brian ran across the road hugged him and swore undying love. He contemplated others, where Oliver ran to Brian, or they ran to each other, or Brian ran to him and somehow inexplicably raped him in a loving fashion, or he to Brian, or each to the other, and so on – all ending with long-term idealised relationships. For a time, the dim spectre of a removals van impinged on these dreams, where he envisioned it picking up pace and slamming into Brian – but even this was silver-lined as he nursed Brian back to health, in a hospital bed, in the lighter imaginings or in a Cathy Bates, Misery-style house in others.

The past selves he spied on were dull by comparison: even moments he thought he’d forgot had a
touch of the familiar and hearing himself speak and think was especially tormenting. The fictional
futures he invented were filled with beautiful things, and even at their most despondent were
flooded with romance: Stalking was not invasion of privacy but an expression of interest. Rape was
not a violation but an expression of love.

The whole project could have been born out of love for this beautiful-faced, beautiful-bodied and
beautiful-personalitied boy; The whole ceremony – voodoo, enchantment, call it what you will
– was born out of frustration that despite his beautiful personality, Brian had not seen Oliver, had
not been in contact with Oliver for another span of months. The frustration had turned to anger
when he learnt Brian had changed his number, and turned to something like rage when friends
informed him, “that’s just what he’s like.” Nobody should be like that in Oliver’s opinion; nobody
should be allowed to be like that or think it’s ‘ok’ to be like that. The Brian doll had been inches from
incineration when Oliver found out.

The transition was more confused this time: He felt himself being pulled gently forward. Images appeared: greyed and incomplete things as if enveloped in dense fog. He recognised a bridge, the bridge by the bread memorial, the street from the future as before… and three figures approaching a fourth. Then the lot was yanked away, folded in on itself and sent hurtling – no: he was sent hurtling. Back. Months. And then slammed with a tinkle into a tooth.

“There’s no way that’s my voice!” thought the vision-Oliver, but the evidence was there booming into him as he was again raised to those tombstone teeth and rubbery red lips. The laugh made him want to shatter, to smash this incarnation as a wine glass as vulgarly and violently as it begun. That desire was strengthened by the rude rimming he received, as he was upended, the Merlot drained out of him and a questing slimy nub of flesh licked and teased his lip. “Am I a bad kisser?” both Olivers thought at once. It seemed that not only was he doomed to sit out this vision as a wine glass but he would do it with added consciousness of his earlier self’s neuroses.

His other self’s gesticulations allowed the wine glass to survey the room: It was an opening he’d been to last year. Twinned waves of déjà vu crashed into him as he was carried over to a trestle table, the first because he had been there – was evidently there now – and the second, alienating wave, as he had been there but not as a wine glass. He was lowered to the table and his consciousness dimmed.

He came to; full, nearly to the brim of red wine- he wanted to burble with pleasure. He was a new glass now, his vision-self apparently leaping into whatever his previous self touched. He tried to will it to touch a man. Was that why he was here? To jump into Brian? To jump into Brian and make Brian get in touch – make Brian replace all the other phone numbers in his mobile with Oliver’s to make sure he gets in touch? Or make him propose maybe? Cut out the middle men? Oliver was unsure he could ‘make’ the wine glass do anything, so what hope those mercurial beasts, men? In fact he was positive Brian had not been there or here or whatever. Its resentment building, the wine glass realised that at this point, as at present, he had not seen Brian for months. Calls and emails had got no response. Brian simply was not there.

Half an hour at an opening can be slow going, but try it as three separate wine glasses with two of your inner monologues running: It felt terribly like a decade. And pointless too: Oliver could not understand why the burnt sock had chosen to show him this. His self loathing was reaching dizzying new heights as his former-self thought exactly what vision-self knew he thought then. “How cliché,
how unoriginal” he thought, over and over again, but only because he thought those same thoughts first. “Perhaps the sock is trying to tell me not to drink? Well lesson learnt; I certainly don’t like being drunk - at least, drunk from. So can I go home now?”

There was no shifting. The vision did not spiral away. The people continued to mingle. Rather bored wine glasses were returned to the table until they ran out and he was then roughly, rapingly, refilled and chipped by the bottle. Song came up to talk to them and the glass heard his other self think “he probably wants to fuck me.”

WOAH WHAT?! The glass nearly spilled in surprise. The thought was familiar –was his –was what he thought when Song – wild, honest, straight and married Song – asked if he’d like to work on a collaboration on ‘Ambivalence’. He’d forgotten, or got the thought into perspective by now, but its immediacy – sheer knee-jerk effrontery – threw him. “It is a default thought for Oliver,” thought wine-glass-Oliver trying to relish the distancing effect of being inanimate, but ironically aware that the wine bottle was dying to have another crack at him. “But it’s not what I want,” thought the wine glass, “I don’t want to just fuck about. I want a relationship. I want to go to restaurants and galleries and films and go for long walks in the rain with that wine bottle. I want to grow old with that wine bottle.” The wine glass tried to cry as the bottle thudded into a bin, but it was empty too and was set down, dry and unemotional as the consciousness fled out of it.

Oh I'd love to. I'm so— proud of you . Would you sign it for me?

I can't. I—I don't think I have a pen.

Oliver reached into his pocket. Don't worry, I'm always prepared.

Brian smirked and uncapped the biro.

Can you write I will always love you?, asked Oliver. Then Brian. And then a kiss.

Brian exhaled. Sure. Sure. Smiling his smile, he scrawled the words quickly. There you go. He took a few steps from the pallet. They're replacing the windows in my flat next week. So I'm going back to my family's. Still, when I get back, we should definitely try and meet up.

Well I am coming to Edinburgh, aren't I? He wafted the flyer back and forth.

Brian stared sheepishly at his autograph. Of course, he said. Of course .

They hugged and then Oliver was lost again. In a warm, frustrating, post-friend daze, he wandered along past continental lagers, past eggs and bags flour, until he found himself at the foot of a Pot Noodle pyramid. It was there he felt a tap on his shoulder.



Do you mind if I take that card back. It's just that the dates are all wrong.

The dates. He looked down. He held it in his hand.

Brian took it without asking again. I'll make sure that you get another one. I just don't want people to see it. With all the wrong stuff on it. You know?

Oh sure. That's fine.

Thanks Ol. I'll see you. He folded it twice and stuffed it in his pocket. Take care.

This time they didn't stop to hug.

Written by Stephen O'Toole

They stood by a massive pallet of Irn Bru. The orange from inside caught the light from the ceiling and it shone on them like a broken heatlamp.

It's a healthy looking colour for us.

I know! It's mad that it's so popular here, isn't it?

They had ones inside video shops, where my old flatmate used to live.

Oliver creased his forehead. What? Irn Bru?

No: tanning beds.

They took a few seconds to recover from this in silence. Oliver examined the side of Brian's head. Is that a new piercing?

Brian stroked his earlobe. Oh no. I've had this for ages. Funny, though. When I had done, they'd left this extra lump of skin about a centimetre long on my ear and a doctor had to send me to hospital. To cut it off, you know. They covered me in white sheets completely. With just this one ear sticking out.

Oliver clasped his hands over his heart. Oh Brian, that's so beautiful.

He paused as Brian smiled his odd calm smile.

Did you keep it?

Keep what?

The bit of skin from your ear. You should have kept it and worn round your neck.

Brian took a tiny step backwards and bumped into a bottle of Irn Bru. Oh, he said. Well I'm not sure that I was that attached to it.

You know Paddy?, asked Oliver.

Brian shook his head.

Well never mind, but Paddy, anyway, at one point he swallowed a tooth and then, when he shit it out, he wrapped it in his beard hair and gave it to his girlfriend as a necklace. Isn't that so romantic?

Not really, laughed Brian. I'd just always be thinking about him rummaging through his own shit.

Oh no. I disagree. I'd love to own something that had passed through my boyfriend's digestive system and that he had scraped through his muck to get to.

Brian cleared his throat and picked at the pallet.

You smell quite nice, said Brian.

Thanks. I haven't smoked for three days. He paused. And you smell lovely too, of course. He did a deep sniff. You smell like holidays.

It's coconut. My coconut shower gel. I get in here actually. He waved his hand vaguely about and then checked the time on his phone. I suppose I better get going. I'm meeting some—friends. But listen, I've got this play coming up. In Edinburgh. I helped design some sets for it. He reached into rucksack and pulled out a neat looking flyer. Here. You should come.

BRIAN Guest edited by Stephen O'Toole

It was a Sunday afternoon so Oliver got lost. On the quiet streets behind Great Western Road. He liked it there. So rarely would you see a moving car. There were just too many frustrations for the would-be rat-runner. Bollards and road blocks and cobbles; one way signs and no right turns and fenced-off patches of grass. The pedestrian, therefore, could stroll straight down the middle of the road, untroubled.

In the near windows of the old council flats, he could see the lonely people. Lights on at three in the afternoon, still not dressed and the day seeming almost over. Their Sunday laundry steamed on the drying rack. Higher up, across the street, in the huge North Kelvinside townhouses, he could just about make out the ceilings of dark rooms, the dim shapes of full bookshelves and foreign ornaments.

He'd always preferred to stare in through windows than to look at the streets around him. Dark orange leaves rain-pasted to the pavement. The odd bird. Handsome young couples in new coats. Who cares? Above him, the sky greyed gradually, until it reached a pensionable age and retired with the Sun to the southern hemisphere.

Soon, he found himself inside the big Tesco, with its endless possibilities for distraction. Row upon row of televisions, showing Shrek eerily in sync. The warm smell of fresh bread and cinnamon. Squid, greyish pink, hiding in a tray of crushed ice. Once he'd went there at four am and heard hard trance from the warehouse. They were having a stock room rave. He saw a cashier, with his shirt unbuttoned, squatting and rocking by the escalator, his eyes half closed.

He wandered with no purpose through the continents of the Tesco planet. When he reached the Antarctic he saw Brian, peering at some frozen pizzas. They hugged, not for the warmth, Oliver hoped, but because after all these months of meetings, they were close enough now to just want to be close.

Shall we go and get a drink?, Brian asked.

Oh, I'm working tomorrow, said Oliver. But sure. Why not. Let's do it.

Brian smiled curiously. I meant, shall we walk over there. He waved towards the fruit juice aisle. It's freezing here.

He was wearing little trousers that stopped above his ankles, a tight green hoodie, and a t-shirt with the neck cut off. It wasn't suitable clothing for this climate.

You look like the last man alive, Brian. Oliver risked touching his arm. Oh you're shivering. You poor thing.


We end up talking about drugs again and again I feel embarrassed about using certain words to describe cannabis. I can tell he knows this and he’s trying to tease me, using words like doobie and Mary Jane.

I tell him that chemicals really scare me. But that’s not completely true. What really scares me is the face of Leah Betts rising up in my mind. From school assembly in the 1990’s when all across England teachers showed students her face, as an example of the horrors of chemicals. It’s the face of Leah Betts that makes me think twice, doubled by the fact that she’s the spitting image of my flatmate.

We talk about using drugs to escape boredom, and using them to escape from working; like drinking or smoking when you have a deadline. You think it’s going to help, but mostly you wreck your work or stare at it for ages, zoning out. There are times, when I’m really high, that I have amazing ideas and inspirational visions but a lot of the time it’s self-sabotaging.

Tonight is a prime example, I get so stoned so quickly I can barely focus on Brian and he has to pull up a chair for me to prop my feet on, whilst I slop over the sofa. I try to look relaxed but probably have a double chin and a lazy eye, the latter always occurring when I’m too far gone.


We spent the evening questioning each other’s life choices.

He’d gone to medical school when he was 19 but spent a whole year smoking and drinking. He failed his first year and had to re-sit his exams. He did the same thing in second year, but still failed his re- sits. He left and decided to become an artist instead. He says when he’s making things he doesn’t think about anything else. I said I found this overly idyllic. Or maybe I’m jealous that I can’t ever seem to focus my mind in this way. I’m just so full of nervous energy. Sometimes I feel like I could stop making things and just never think about art again. It means I live life constantly worrying that I’ve made the wrong choice. But I’m also too scared to stop.

He grew up on a farm with his parents and two sisters. His parents got divorced when he was eleven and he lived with his Mum who really sheltered him. He asked about my family and I told him about how I had grown up as an only child until I was eleven and I discovered my Dad had a second family, with five other children.

He told me he’d been trying not to smoke and had taken up running. He wanted a body to be proud of, he indicates this to mean in a sexual situation. I told him I didn’t really believe in sex. I said I know it exists. I don’t know why I told him this, apart from to keep safe.

He asked why I always wanted other people to do things for me, why I didn’t want to be independent. It’s something I’ve been questioning a lot myself.

He kept telling me how he perceived me. He felt I was very honest and that I said things other people didn’t say. But instead of taking it as a compliment, it made me very conscious of not trying to live up to this. I didn’t want him to think our exchange was simply performing to his assessment of my character.



Tonight for my dinner with Brian I’d been up since 8 o’clock cleaning and baking a pie. It’s a stilton and mushroom pie with a shortcrust base and a puff pastry lid, served with potatoes slow roasted in honey. The food’s cooking, the person’s coming. I’m washed, I’m waiting.

I try to prepare a line of speech. I used to do this when iI was younger, pre-script my whole evening. But it makes me unhappy; I end up not being able to cope when the person is real and so inevitably deviates from the script I’d imagined. I might plant something in the room for them to notice and ask me questions about; but then it goes unnoticed. Instead the person notices something I haven’t even prepared for.

Last time Brian came to my flat he talked a lot about the tower blocks you can see from my window. A.J. says he loves scenes of urban decay. Only these tower blocks aren’t decaying, instead they have a striking geometric pattern across the sides.

I calm myself by drinking two bottles of lager really fast. As Brian is climbing the stairs I force the second one down and try to cook the vegetables. I’m running around like I’m on Falty Towers.

He takes his shoes off and tells me that is what he expects when people come to his. This probably rules out me ever being able to go to his house, Ellie tells me when I take my trainers off the flat smells like sour milk.

He asks if we can change the music that I had selected and puts an album on that he has from his memory stick. It’s called Panesian Nights by CFCF. After it plays three times he demands I make a selection. My music paranoia makes me select The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky, which obviously isn’t what he was expecting.

The first time I met Brian I was at an opening; I had a bright yellow Kappa jacket on. We were talking and smiling and I tried to get him to come to the CCA with my friends. He had to go to a different opening. But if I’d gone with him I probably would have met his girlfriend much earlier on. My experiences of men are so two dimensional.

He told me that having dinner with me felt a lot like grooming. I decide that if you think that and you still go anyway there must be something reciprocal happening.

Maybe the dinner was too elaborate? A homemade pie, honey roast potatoes, vegetables, a crème brulee, chocolate sponge and strawberries.

Every time I’m working in the museum someone comes up to me asks me where the Rembrandt and the Rodin are. I take them to see the Rodin. They are always bowled over. But to me it’s just another object. You can buy a copy of the Rodin sculpture in the shop which seems to me to be the exact same thing. They are the same size. I don’t understand how people can be wowed by something they’ve seen so many times before in reproduction. It seems the same as seeing an amazing advert in a magazine, and then needing to go to the bus stop to see a bigger version of the print – although maybe people do this.

I told him I wanted to spend more time hearing about his work and he said to call him in the week and we could meet up. He asked me how I started making art. I told him that when I was 13 I used to be into drama. My drama teacher had been worried about me going to the high school. She thought I was ‘too fey’. I thought ‘fey’ meant psychic. She actually meant camp, I think. And when I did get to high school I was ‘too fey’ and so felt safer in the art room. I didn’t want him to think camp was synonymous for me with homosexuality. I explained I thought it meant failed seriousness. I also didn’t mean to imply that homosexuals were synonymous with failed seriousness, or that they were ‘fey’ or in touch with their ‘selves’.

I also talked about embarrassment and how I try to embrace it as a positive, unifying emotion. I allow myself to enjoy things without having to feel guilty or ashamed about them, or I try. But embarrassment also makes me feel human and in touch with feeling. He said a lot of people aren’t very true or honest about what they’re doing and how that meant they could never make good work.

I asked if he went to ‘Tranny Night’ at the art school. I said I didn’t really agree with the idea of people going somewhere to have fun based on the idea of wearing clothes they assume are made for the opposite gender. People can just wear things whenever. Clothes don’t have penises or vaginas attached to them. I imagine there are transsexual people out in the world who didn’t find their transition a constant source of amusement to begin with. I guess I imagine it’s hard and emotional.

I told him about these mad theories I’d had when I was stoned, about how American’s born after 1979 were less optimistic. And then to expand I offered this theory I’d had, based on All About Eve and The Devil Wears Prada. I’ve never seen All About Eve and I’ve only seen bits of The Devil Wears Prada, so it’s a difficult theory to prove. What I imagine happens in All About Eve is that a girl wants to be famous and manages to claw her way to the top. She has a wild time and doesn’t regret anything she does to get there. In The Devil Wears Prada what I think happens is a girl works her way up in the magazine industry. She wins the respect of her colleagues but at the end decides to give it up for a satisfying but simple life. She realises the dream isn’t really worth it. I say I think it could represent how post 1979 American’s have embraced the idea of failure of the dream and rationalised it into their lives.

When he was leaving he asked me how I thought you should be an artist. I said what you had to do was to work out what you wanted to do most, or what you could bring best to the world and then combine it with what you think needs to happen or be thought about the most in the world right now. I probably said something about optimism.

I think the stalker metaphor is useful. There is something about Stalkers that embodies a certain kind of optimism. Always living with hope and going all out to fulfil their fantasy. It also demonstrates perfectly the antagonism that optimistic passion can create. Stalkers want things to happen in a way that’s immediate despite general consensus. When they don’t achieve this initially they just keep on going. I wonder if these qualities are part of an aesthetic of optimism – just keep going, just keep trying. Perseverance. The two things I think potentially exemplify an aesthetic of optimism are perseverance and immediatism.


I feel guilty writing this. I’m supposed to be at Rosemary’s leaving party. I’ll probably never see her again. I just had a really good face-to-face encounter with Brian.

He was supposed to drop off weed to my house for the last two days. He’s quite weird with texting, but he ended up coming over this evening for an hour. I had coffee and he had camomile. He gave me half an eighth. We had a really embarrassing conversation about drugs. I admitted to him that I was embarrassed and we talked about how embarrassing it is to talk about drugs. I was cringing during the whole conversation.

He asked me to show him around the house and I kept apologising for it being so dirty. But I knew it was completely clean and tidy. I apologised for the kitchen being untidy when there was just one cup left out on the side. I showed him my room and apologised for not vacuuming for the last three days. He was scared to walk on the rug. He asked if he should take off his shoes. I’m so secretly messy. When his bike was left in the hall I said, ‘don’t worry I can paint over the mark tomorrow’. I was a mental housewife, accentuated by the big vase of lilies and gladioli on the dining table and the sunflower in the kitchen.

I can’t believe how beautiful Brian’s eyes are. Even with his pierced nose and ears. I’m trying to be positive about it.

We sat down and I made a spliff. I sat on the beige chair and he sat on the sofa, but he asked if I wasn’t going to sit with him. I think he was saying it out of politeness or to demonstrate he’s okay with two men sitting together. I thought it would be as if we were sat in a cinema or on a bus.

He talked about how his parents got divorced when he was eleven. He said he had lived quite a sheltered life. He didn’t start drinking until he was seventeen . We began to talk about the idea of ‘finding your self’. I said I don’t really believe in the self, or at least the idea that the self is inside you next to your heart or something. You can’t physically locate it. I was being my self right then, just talking to him. And I said that I’d still be my self later on the computer. I’d just be having different experiences, with different sets of reactions.

I said I am always embarrassed when I hear someone has been on a gap year to ‘find their self’ in Thailand. I could see his face change slightly. It was still a smile but moving towards a grimace. ‘Brian, did you go on a gap year to Thailand’. I expected him to say no and even when he was telling me about his gap year in Thailand I kept expecting him to tell me he was joking. Apparently he went there quite sheltered and by the end of it, in his own words, ‘he was shagging and smoking heroin’.

His Mum is actually a psychologist. He said she spent quite a lot of time sheltering him or questioning him. We talked about stealing, I can’t really remember why. I told him a story about how my friend Nancy was arrested in ASDA and how she’d had to spend the night in a cell but ultimately got out of trouble by drawing on her GCSE Drama skills.

He asked me what artists I liked. I told him Goshka Macuga, BANK, Peter Land, Yayoi Kusama, Ayling and Conroy. I also mentioned John Cage. I felt bad about John Cage because really I only like the writings about his work by Jonathan Katz.

Brian said he didn’t feel like his own work was very thought out at the minute. His old teacher at school was very traditional and just liked artists such as Van Gogh. I can’t imagine saying I like Van Gogh. I wonder if that’s really bad? With a lot of famous artists I just wonder if you can ever look at the work and feel excited, in a way that it might trigger a reaction off in you that makes you want to be better. Or do people say they like Van Gogh because they feel as if they should. I’m sure there are genuine Van Gogh fanatics. But there must also be another set of people who say they like it without any real feeling of commitment.


Brian was late by a little bit.

When I met him he’d taken his nose ring out, which is nice, even if he’s just replaced it with a stud.

He looks a lot older than he does in his photo. I think it’s because he has a beard. Maybe it’s because he broke up with his girlfriend.

He was eating an apple and we shook hands the wrong way, which I do now without even thinking. I wasn’t ever thinking about it, but I always go to shake people with the left hand recently. He obliged me, but apparently I may have ended up with a slightly ‘apple-y’ hand. It’s fine.

Brian drank some red wine and ate some pizza. He is beautifully polite and has a lovely soft northern accent. I think he’s from near Blackpool.

Both his parents are doctors and he studied to be a doctor for two years in Liverpool, before quitting and coming to art school. I kept saying that he was like a movie, ‘that movie, you know that movie’, but he didn’t. I meant to say I was describing Steve from Shameless, but I was too embarrassed to bring up a pop cultural reference in case he sneered at me.

He’s my age. He’s quite hard to get other information out of. He talked less than the other boys I’ve met. A.J. told me a few things about him, because they’ve been friends for ages. A.J. loves a little gossip. Apparently Brian’s Mum is a psychoanalyst and analysed him from a young age. A.J. said Brian was her project. Who knows if this is just A.J. being dramatic? It’s the kind of thing I’d probably say without really thinking about it first.

Brian had to leave early because he was showing people around the Mackintosh building. Again A.J. says he always invents reasons to leave places early, or always goes to everything with a reason why he can only be there for a limited time.

He’s a printmaker, but at the minute is designing a stage set for something in Edinburgh which I’d really like to see. It’s like getting blood out of a stone, trying to get Brian to talk about his work. I was trying to get him to make poses like the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats but he was a bit slack. He looks a bit stoned in the pictures I took of him. He seems to be even more embarrassed about things than me, but I think it would be better if we spent some one-on-one time so he could become accustomed to me.

Apart from building the stage set, he seems to most like working for the art school. He poured wine at the director’s house party and he always pours wine at the school gallery openings. He really gets on with the technicians in the workshops too. Perhaps it’s because he always comes across as friendly and nice. I wonder if that’s real. Maybe that’s the kind of thing that his Mum would wonder too. Imagine if you were born just naturally really happy and carefree and then your Mum just wouldn’t believe it, and kept trying to get you to say you weren’t or psychoanalyse it.

A.J. reckons what Brian really wants to be is a technician at the school. It would be good, in that it would pay the bills, but imagine. I can’t comprehend that is all that someone would aspire to be, even though it is very practical. Usually I’m very scared of technicians, because they are usually men who know what they are doing. Every time I’ve ever been in art school I’ve always tried as hard as possible to avoid doing anything that involved workshops and technicians. Being so scared of these men shaped the way I had to work as an artist, often meaning I made stuff out of cardboard rather than approach a workshop.

I need to find ways of connecting with him individually. I know he’s into smoking weed. I think I can try to get him to come over and smoke with me, or try and buy some off him – to give us some common ground.