Friday, 13 July 2007

Melanie, tout court

I guess I’m tired, she says. I guess I’m tired of the way that every time I think I’m onto something, you know, like really, really onto something, he’ll just come in and ruin it.

Who will come in and ruin it? I ask.

Sneaky Martin. she says. My nemesis, she says.

I was especially impressed by his description- anyone who carries a description around with them, like a note in their pants pocket, is obviously a person of value. I thought up possible descriptions for myself. Lazy Melanie, Unmotivated Melanie, Angry Melanie, Tired Melanie.

Who’s Sneaky Martin? I asked.

He used to be just plain Martin. She replied. That was before,

Before what?

Before he became a jerk.

I paused. I looked down at the dress I was supposed to be pricing. It had billowing sleeves- a nice pattern, but was slightly too old fashioned. There was a bit of the wench about it.

How much do you think for this? I asked.

Cut off the sleeves and you could maybe charge 30.

I looked at it again. Cut off the sleeves? That would be like straightening its teeth.

Do you think I have to cut the sleeves off?

Puffed sleeves? I wouldn’t pay anything more than 15 for puffed sleeves. You’d look like a walking anachronism.

I looked at the dress again- A is for Anachronistic- folded it up and put it in my bag. Sneaky Martin. Previously just-plain-old-Martin.

Did he ruin that window display, I asked.

Which one?

The one out front. There used to be birds in the window and now it’s gnomes.

No, I changed that all on my own.

Oh, right.

You think I ruined it?

No, sorry. I don’t know why I said that. Just being controversial, I guess.

Don’t try too hard. You and sneaky Martin. You two would be two peas in a pod.

I smile. Sneaky Martin. Lazy Melanie.

But when I actually met him, he wore an unexpected hat.

There he is- she said.


Over there- ordering a drink.

We were at Maude’s, the local haunt round the corner.

That one, with the glasses?

No, she said. Idiot. The one with the wicker hat. That’s sneaky Martin all right.

Sneaky Martin laughed at something the waitress said. He was uncomfortably handsome.

Do you still want to meet him?


God, you’re slow. My nemesis- brainiac. Sneaky Martin.

I took a sip of my drink. Swallowed. Felt nervous. I guess, I said.

Hey Martin! She called. He started to come over. Now whatever you do, she said, don’t call him Sneaky Martin to his face. He won’t like it.

Fine. I said.

Ladies! He said.

Hello. She said.

Hello, I said.

And who’s this? He said.

It’s Melanie. She said.

Lazy Melanie- Frightened Melanie, Terrified Melanie, Happy Melanie.

Well Hello! He smiled. My name is Martin. Handsome Martin. Devastating Martin. Gorgeous Martin. Scary Martin.

Hello Sneaky Martin! Her angry look came almost immediately.

Sneaky? What?

No, I just meant.

She didn’t mean anything.

I like that, though. I like that a lot.

I blushed.

It sounds good, doesn’t it? Has a certain ring to it?

Yeah, yeah, like an email address- I laughed.

She sulked.

Sneaky Martin- that’s cool. I think I’ll have that embroidered on my jacket.

I think you should. I said.

She continued sulking until he put his hand on her knee.

Disappointed Melanie. Tired Melanie. Lonely Melanie. Stupid Melanie.

The thing about a Nemesis, she was saying, is that if you have one you have to be very sure that they are your equal in every way.

Right. I say.

They can’t just be anyone. Like someone you don’t like. Then they’re just a jerk. And a jerk is very different from a nemesis.

Got you.

But a Nemesis- a Nemesis is the way that you would be if all of your skills- all of your abilities- I mean everything great that makes you up, were just reversed and suddenly became evil.

Mm hm.

And then- only then- can you really call someone your nemesis.


What did you do with that dress, anyway?

I bought it.

You bought it?


Can I see you wear it?

I put it on.

It looks stupid.

I know.


I know.

You should cut the sleeves.

I know.

Do you want me to do it now?

No. No thank you.

Are you actually going to wear that?



To meet my nemesis.

God you’re weird sometimes.

You look lovely he says. Thankyou I say. I wish I could take you for dinners like these every day he says. I know I say. Isn’t it too bad, how we have to sneak around, I say. She’s so awful, he says. I can’t believe she’s your boss. I know, I say. You’re so much better than her, he says. I know, I say. You should be the boss, he says. I know, I say. If you were the boss you’d be my nemesis, he says. I’d be everything you are but different, he says. Every last bit of you, like cut out shapes of a different colour, he says. And it would look just right in the right light, he says, and if you looked at us very carefully, we’d look the same, he’d say. Because colour doesn’t matter much, doesn’t matter much at all he says. I know, I say. You’re so right, I say. We’re so similar I say. And he leans forward and whispers- Sneaky Melanie, Dreaming Melanie, Plotting Melanie, Anachronistic Melanie. I know you and I love you, he says. I’ll buy a wicker hat, I say. I’ll drink a gin and tonic, he says. And then he puts his hand on his knee and I know this is right, he says. I know this is righter, I say. And our puffy sleeves touch.

It was a few weeks later when I finally asked. She was sorting ribbons in the back.

What do you think of this one? She said.

It looks okay, I said.

Would you wear it in your hair, she said?

No, probably not. I say.

Then it probably won’t sell. She says. You’ll wear anything.

How about sneaky Martin? I say.

What? She says.

You know, sneaky sneaky-

Yeah, I heard you, she says. Why’d you ask that just now, she says?

Because- I don’t know why?

Why were you thinking of him? She says. What reminded you, she says.

Ribbons, I guess. I say.

You’re so weird. She says.

So what about Sneaky Martin? I say.

He’s gone. She says.

Gone? I say.

Yeah, done. She says. He moved back to America, she says.

He was American? I say.

Of course, she says. From New York, she says. Idiot, she says.

Where in New York? I say-

God, I don’t know. Brooklyn, maybe. Or park slope. Somewhere like that.

He’s lucky, I say.

Rent’s very high there.

That’s not what I mean. I say.

Is he still your nemesis? I say.

He left. She says.

So he can’t be your nemesis if he leaves? I say.

No. She says. Definitely not, she says.

Did you love him? I say.

He was sneaky. She says.

Will you miss him? I say.

I guess. She says.

I’m sorry? I say.

Stop you’re worrying. She says. Finish the ribbons. She says.

These ones? I say.

Yeah. She says.

And then can we go for a drink? I say.

Sure, why not. She says.

And then can we change the window display? I say.

Probably not. She says.

And then can we?

Stop being lazy. She says.

And I think, Lazy Melanie, Tired Melanie, Reaching Melanie, The Nemesis Melanie.


Karen said...

Has Miranda been inspiring you lately? She certainly inspired me. I like your story.

Ben Yeoh said...

I'd be intrigued to know more about your work, let's stay in touch - Ben