Maria had a collection of rich perfumes that towered elegantly out of the cobwebs. Her combs and jewels occupied the graveyard of dead flies upon the windowsill. She would occasionally forget to dress, or wear ripped stockings to bed, using her extravagant furs as bed covers.
In the city she would wear her finest red stilettos even though one heal was broken off completely. And in the busy theatres she would sneak into to the restrooms to steal the soap.
Maria would not succumb to the drabness of her poverty and protested in every pout to indifference. For she could see herself radiating upon the entire globe, so why were others not so struck by the light?
Maria never had lovers, but would often tease men for her own amusement. Her eyes burned only for herself and were tamed only by herself. In awe of her reflection, she would suck her finger provocatively, seeking to elicit only her own response. They tasted of cigarettes.
There were ashes on the floor. There were carpet burns beneath her painted toes; lollipop red glistening as her foot tapped amongst the mess of spoiled clothes and perfume stains.
Each morning, she would creep in to existence, out of the rot and sinew of her glowering room, a cheap room for floozies and roamers. And yet as she slinked out of the door, like a feline night-prowler, no face or form could eclipse the majesty of her own. Her skin was flowing water for lost silks to ripple upon.
It is no surprise then, that from the day she bloomed, the thorns of lust screamed vanity. Eternally inhaling love, her soul swelled in to a damp Autumn and her heart became a dead leaf. She occupied the must of tobacco and urine, staring down at the worn love-letters she used as ashtrays.
Today’s curio is not only a dead word in the sense of a term that merely isn’t used anymore- it completely vanished after the decline of the Victorian Era, just like the object it designated! Therefore, dear reader, let me kindly introduce you to the wonders of the so-called ANTIMACASSAR.
In order to fully grasp what’s to be understood by the concept of an antimacassar, one has to undertake a voyage back into the 19th Century- a voyage into the curious world of Victorian fashion and cosmetics, to be accurate!
As the devoted connoisseur of Yesteryear knows, it was the style in these days for a Gentleman to wear his hair in a carefully clipped coiffure [often in combination with sideburns, which were a token fashion item of the era] that was combed back rigorously and, in order to make it appear sleek and glossy, trickled with macassar oil. Thus, one could say macassar oil was the precursor of brillantine, which reached the height of its popularity during the rambunctious days of the Jazz Age. Today, the prospect of oily hair might appear to us as an outlandish fad, but back in the dear Golden Age gentlemen sporting an elaborately brillantined haircut were the pinnacle of elegance!
To the mistress of the Victorian household however, the lubricious
headdress usually was a mere nuisance- grease spots all over the backrest of your sofa! Therefore, the canny Lady would pin pretty white doilies on the spot of the furniture where the Gentleman’s head would be. These doilies -as you might have guessed by now, dear reader- were called antimacassar, pragmatically named after the principal purpose they had to serve.
[Considering the fact that Victorian Gentlemen also used other, rather revolting substances like beef suet or bear’s grease to control their hair, macassar oil might not have been that bad after all.]
I am a man who chooses to live as a recluse; independent of society. ‘Others’ are some abstract notion far in the distance; sometimes they’re a persistent hum that I can choose not to hear. They rarely divide into individual physical forms. Those that do are like dark waves rising from the immenseness of the sea, to knock you flying.
I am wealthy enough to be governed only by my own morals and amongst them there is one principle alone I stick to: anything you want from people can be bought. So you understand I’m therefore in a position of great power.
I choose to live alone, with one exception; I own a young boy. Yes, OWN. Under the guise of altruistic intentions, I rescued him from an impoverished home. I admit this was an incredibly mean trick to play because he’ll soon realize that his new home is far filthier! I rescued this starving innocent with the intention of giving him a taste of everything.
Oh what a master he has. Some would call him lucky, some who are as perverse as I, or perhaps those who are ignorant like his parents and believe he’ll lead a good life.
You see I wanted someone pure. Life has barely scarred the dear creature as after a year of keeping him he turned 11 only last week. I am going to weave darkness through the whiteness of his being, I am going to be the heavy imprint of life, scattering blemish, bruise and tears as if they were seeds. And with him being so young, there is hope that he will eventually bloom into something that I have created – my true heir – as bitter and devious as I. He will be beautiful and dangerous. Unlike those disregarded souls, he will be idolized and hated, trigger obsession and imitation. Moral women will be hate him and yet be rivals over him and this will lead to disgrace, mortified at their own lust.
But let’s not focus on the future when there is enough to delight us in the present. For now, I have the enjoyable job of drawing the beast out of the boy. I call him by the way Leonard, though I don’t recall ever asking him is name.
I like to torment young Leonard. Part of my motivation is my memories of myself as a boy and how much I’d have enjoyed it. I always craved such darkness and although I would be unaware of such an urge I desired the very ruin of myself. I wanted to be corrupted.
This boy is so pretty. And he’s pale, you see, like a porcelain doll. He looks just as fragile too, which simply makes me long to break him. I’ve noticed with affection how his hazel hair falls over his eyes a little and he never cares to move it away. He seems to want to hide his eyes.
He’s quite effeminate in his innocence. He holds his thin body a little awkwardly, always fidgeting in my presence. When he does this I sometimes stare harder at him and his gaze always lowers to the floor, shy of me.
He hardly speaks. But then, for what reason would I permit it?! Perhaps in later days, when he’s old enough to reflect I’ll ask him to recite these days to me. He’ll no longer be the boy I want but he can help relive the pleasure I experience from him now. He might recite it with hate or exaggerate my cruelty, but that will make his story all the more entertaining.
I often wonder what he dreams about in all his silent time – where does he go in his mind? Does he escape me? He is lost within himself, this child, all of the time. It frustrates me at times that no matter what power I have over him, I can’t open him up and peer inside.
I also question at times if he is as pure as he appears? And occasionally I imagine that he isn’t, though this is all fantasy. Regardless, he belongs to me. And he owes me everything, his life. His every action should be dedicated to my pleasure.
He sleeps so softly; I’ve stood at his door, admiring him as I contemplate my next plan to violate him. When I sit alone, knowing this child is safe beneath the covers, warm and pure, I suddenly get an impulsive desire to steal away all his feelings of security in the cruellest way I can imagine. So I sometimes call him from his bed late at night.
He then stands before me in his night clothes and I look at him with indifference, concealing this passion that torments me as I begin to torment him. All I see are good intentions and hope in his eyes. After all this time he has retained his purity. One day I will truly infect him.
I can sense when he feels uneasy with my advances, my touches or the glint in my eyes. To see him suddenly look trapped – it pleased me all the more. He would often seem to forget that we are the only residents here, and he’d look about him as if he half expected someone to rescue him. Perhaps he was naïve enough not to believe that injustice prevails behind closed doors, that goodness triumphs always. I engaged in the correction of such a fallacy by imparting the wisdom of life upon him.
There are times I pretend to comfort him, stroke his soft hair; it curls almost past his chin and has a shine to it that women would be envious of. I whisper words intended to soothe. But this I do, only to be close enough to the scent and skin of this trusting boy. He is quite needful of tenderness and yet recently he has begun to feel distrustful of it. Evidently I have given him inner conflict already; a proud pain stroke on this perfect piece of art I am creating.
Once I toyed with him and took his hand as I would a lady, and kissed it with my head bowed. The look in his eyes was alarm. Since that morning – as I had deemed it a special greeting – I now kiss his hand every morning (and if I am especially pleased with him I would turn his pale hand over and place my lips on his palm instead to show my gratitude). Recently, he has come to respond to this gesture in a similar to how most ladies would – shyness and grace twinned with a subtle inner smile that he hopes I won’t notice (but shines subtly from his eyes). This is surely a sign that his chaste nature is altering, re-shaping itself and now I’m half inclined to believe that he looks forward to this display of affection.
When I am displeased with him I slap him then hard in the face. The first time I did so he fell to the floor and lay face down momentarily. When he stumbled to his feet he glared at me with his dark eyes through the hair that hung over them as if he wanted to scream “I hate you”. The audacious, beautiful creature, attempting to be wilful even in his silence! Lust surged through me and it took all of my strength to not force myself upon to him. But I had realised all the same that he needed to be scolded. He would half expect it from me as his master and I would lose his respect if I did not punish him.
I had considered, prior to this event, that I should move slowly with him all the same. A little fear is healthy but I could not risk him rebelling completely against me and turning in to a virtuous saint in his adulthood and declare me – the demon – the cause of his path to righteousness. I dreaded such a possibility.
So I did not give in to my passions that time but allowed them only a small outlet in his punishment. I rose from my chair to look down on him now. He was brave in his boyish anger. In eagerness to admire his face I gently tucked a ringlet of hair behind his ear. Then I lowered my hand roughly to his throat as if to strangle him. I saw fear quickly flicker in his eyes before they turned glassy with tears. I eased the force of my hand and tilted his head to side, revealing the pure white skin of his neck. I would be the first to taint it. I slowly licked it. He squirmed. I was aware of the smell of my breath lingering on his skin. He had been marked by my scent and I knew well that the unclean feelings he experienced at that moment would linger and be rekindled whenever he was close to me.
I then allowed him to go to bed, satisfied that there was no wilfulness left in the child, only the nausea of his repulsion for me.
I will tell you now that I dragged out his disgrace with thorough planning, attentive to all the details. Sometimes I subdued my impatient urges in order to carry out a more rewarding plot. Primarily, my aim was to ensure that regardless of any hostility or disgust he felt towards me, he would always know the pull of all the things I’d shown him.
I decided that I would spend a year preparing him, tenderizing him, before the final indulgence. I would demonstrate my love with only the warmth of my hands and mouth.
And in time he grew to want me, with the same intensity as he hated me. On his eleventh birthday, after a year in my home, he returned my forceful kiss. Still eager to have power over him I pressed him against the wall, his breath knocked from him.
Each day I relive the moment that commenced but to describe it explicitly to you would be to take away its charm.
That boy I violated and now he grows more like me by the day, my power diminishing as he does so, vampirically draining my life but I cannot resist my allure. It is inevitable that one day the roles will truly reverse and I will be the innocent; but oh how I crave it! As an old man my thoughts will be simply the deep, amplified tremor of his actions. I will be rocked and swayed by his storms. He will give me my last breath.
Yes, soon he will know all my secrets, and will have taken all I have to offer him. And then he may live how he chooses. It served me well to live so independently from civilised society and I expect he will follow suit. You then face no slander or punishment for a narcissistic and amoral life.
From the depths of her spidery poetry salon, Miss Medellia Grey –well known to be a devoted connoisseur of Yesteryear!- is determined to unleash that newest brainchild of hers, a long overdue tribute to the beauty and curiosity of yesterday’s diction – digging up long lost grammatical treasures from their ancient graves, in order to revive them with her unequalled ability of waffling endlessly, casting a spell over everybody who lays eyes on her unconventional writings – a declaration of love, all lacy and spattered with blood:
THE DEAD WORD REVIVAL
Her aim is to stop the extinction of beautiful old words before it is too late. Think for yourself, dear reader- did you ever have to suffer the agonies of a whitlow? Danced the shimmy with a lass who was the bee’s knees? And don’t you just hate it when people talk balderdash? If all of this sounds like a big pile of nonsense to you, then maybe you should allow Miss Medellia Grey to introduce you to hitherto unknown words that will surely enrich your boring contemporary slang. Tending and caring for the remnants of the dear Golden Age is The Conjoined Girl Poets Society’s top priority.
And the first word that we will feature in our dead word revival is : TAWDRY
You may recognise this word as it is still in usage, though quite uncommon. But nevertheless, it should certainly be raised from it's near death status as it has a charming little tale behind its origin.
Tawdry is an adjective used to describe goods that are showy, but of poor quality or tacky. An item of jewellry that looks classy enough when you try it on in the shop buy it but breaks the first time you wear it would be deserving of being called 'tawdry' in a foul temper.
This tale begins with the daughter of the King of East Anglia in the 7th century. She was blessed with the very pretty name of Ethelreda. However, poor Ethelreda was aware of a growth on her throat. She blamed this growth on her love of necklaces and claimed that it was sent as a punishment. This tumour in her throat is said to be the cause of her death in 679.
After Ethelreda's death, she became a patron saint - known as St Audrey . She was paid tribute to every year on the 17th October when a fair would be held in her name. In honour of Saint Audrey - and her fatal fondness for necklaces - ribbon and lace were sold at this fair to adorn the ladies' necks. These were called 'St Audrey's lace'.
Over time, 'St Audrey's lace' lapsed in to 'Tawdry lace'. The word 'Tawdry' came to be used as a description for any deceptively flashy item one bought only to be dissapointed upon bringing it home and realising that it is actually a piece of cheap tat!
Unable to sleep – a girl scribbles down a shameful letter to her lover with a quill, ink over her hands, smearing it in to the white lace layers of her dress. She stares out across the wet Mooreland. After the storm it’s a gaping dead jaw enjoying the ghost of a scream, a cradle of sickness holding the promise of a womb. She longed to flee, let her gown trail on the dew, her toes wet and numb. She then thought of flowers wilting in the sun, tied with a suffocating bow. They’re like ladies, reserving their expression for beautifying themselves.
Every movement needs to define its principles before it is ready to set sail for its perilous voyage to world's end.
As the selected organ of speech for the Conjoined Girl Poets Society, I am therefore proud to present the following fundamental statements of rebellion, as written down by the honourable Ladies themselves in the wine-soaked haze of a summer night at the beginning of June...
- We are your Godesses who brought you out of the hell of modern society, out of the house of ignorance. You better honour us!
- Thou shalt have no other Gods before us. In fact, thou shalt not even think of worshiping anyone else or you'll be in for some serious ass-forking, Mister!
- Thou shalt honour Morrissey as queen of the universe
- Stupidity is hereby made a deadly sin, as well as any form of ignorant behaviour towards just about anything. Thou shalt be ever critical and question everything (except our infinite wisdom).
- Thou shalt not curtail another's freedom (that's our job).
- Thou shalt not be shallow, deceptive and fickle. . . or apathetic and useless. If you're any of those things we'll make a slave out of you.
- Thou shalt acknowledge that silence is far superior to mindless bragging, compulsive babble and empty chit-chat.
- Thou shalt not breed if you intend to let the TV raise your child.
- Thou shalt not partake in artistic expression that is limited to blatancy, popularity and marketing alone.
- Always remember: Black is appropriate for most occasions and doesn't show the dirt!
Miss Medellia Grey
WE must be our own society, as yours is not agreeable to us. You pester life with ignorance and insignificance! - You've killed the thrill of romance and soiled the purity and innocence of youth with your loathsome cynicism! - You've crushed beauty in your iron fist of degeneracy and made it wither and die! Nothing is sacred. Connections are superficial and transitory. Our values are being trampled upon. Everything is revealed, sucked dry and discarded. All the obvious pleasures exposed, excessively gnawed at in the form of entertainment until the meaning is drained and the magic has gone. Vulgar blatancy governs us. The world has become cloudless and fills us with the nausea of an oppressive Summer's day where souls wilt and fade. What a dreary place you have made this! The further we get away from you, the happier we shall be - let us retreat to a place of our own making, in the dark shadow underworld of your suffocating smog – our UTOPIA! The past was vital, the present is dead!
Miss Medellia Grey