The act of naming oneself.
April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
You know how I have come to name myself, to break from my former life, heavy at first, like a swan rising into flight. I live with three other artists, some of whose names are equally self forged and odd. I am only using their chosen pseudonyms here, not their birth names obviously, to protect their identities. Jette Le Red was, I am quite sure, named neither Jette nor Le Red at her birth. She has dyed her hair a very bright red, as though her mind is on fire, and wears a lot of ripped things. She covers herself in silver jewellery, bracelets and rings – she has so many extraordinary rings! Most are set with semi-precious stones, big ovals of moonstone and jade, garnet and amethyst, so that her hands are those of a queen.
She comes from a comfortable family, I think, and went to a good school, a bearding school, where the pupils sleep over in dormitories and have midnight feasts and play tricks on teachers and other things I have read about in a book called Mallory Towers. She sings and plays the guitar very well, and designs her own clothes. I think people know this when they see her, because she could not have bought them anywhere. She is kind underneath but can seem arrogant and cold, she has a lot of boyfriends but they don’t last very long. She is the one who brings home the flyers to cool underground music places and modern galleries that only show video and installations. She likes those and doesn’t like my art, I think, because it is just paint and canvas.
Penny is the other girl here – she is a poet, too. She is blonde and small and pretty with a soft, round wistful face, like a heroine of old folk songs and stories, asleep in meadow sweet. She has a warm smile like morning sun and wears strange things like Jette but instead of ripped they are old and lacy. She buys vintage slips and suitcases and looks like she is in the English 1920s. She looks shy but she is not, and she smokes drugs and is good at holding the audience when she reads her poems, maybe because she is so pretty but also because her writing is very good, I think she should have a book and enter competitions but she doesn’t. She has a boyfriend she met last year at a festival, he is Dutch and has a broad pale tan face like one of his country’s cheeses. I think Penny is her real first name but sometimes she calls herself Penny Dreadful and I know this is an old-fashioned London magazine about murders.
Indie is an actor and lives on the ground floor. I have seen him in independent films made by post-graduate students, and a couple of plays in the new theatre space here. It used to be a kebab house. Indie is the eldest of us at nearly thirty, and has a pierced nipple. He is gay, and his boyfriend is a quiet, charming man with deep blue eyes who works in a hospital. Indie often becomes very depressed and drinks too much, once he was so drunk he fell in a river walking home and nearly drowned. He says he is not an alcoholic, but he gets rid of his wine bottles by himself and not in the house recycling, I think this is because he is ashamed of how many there are and he does not want us to see. I think Indie is short for Indigo, but I suppose it could be India, too. He wears lots of natural jewellery, made from little stones and seashells and pieces of coconut. He has got me in with the director of his next play to paint the set, I am very grateful to him – we lend each other the hands in this house.
And I am Cairo Kovalski and I live in the top floor room. I have kept my parent’s surname through, because I think it is good to make friends with your past and all the flesh that has borne you to this place, all the bones and blood and love-making and brains and sweat that has carried your family through the world and delivered you like a gift.