Etch a Postcard: “How Dearly I Wish I Was Not Here”

Like a scene out of Lynch with its wholesome aura giving way to a more sinister subtext, a man sings “Strangers in the Night” as Ermelda passes by a mini golf course filled with the screaming spawn that seem to overrun this British seaside town. She is aware that children are a plague wherever one goes, but finds a particular strain of mongoloid genetics in the inbred bloodstream of the British. The man singing his rendition of the tune immortalized by Sinatra seems to be staring deeply into Ermelda’s soul as he does his best to croon, “…two lonely people/we were strangers in the night/Up to the moment we first said hello/Little did we know/Love was just a glance away.” But does the common denominator of loneliness truly make for a lasting romance? Ermelda wasn’t so sure. What’s more, if this man thought he was staring into her soul, little did he know, to quote Sinatra, she didn’t have one.

It had been stamped out long ago by the pervasiveness of human “energies” weighing her down at every corner of the world. She had to unload the metaphorical emblem of a soul in order to harden her shell against the nonstop annoyances of flitting among the human race. Most especially their cliche and antiquated need to breed. “Love is all we have, family is all there is,” she mocked internally as she watched a trio of inarticulate British boys hit each other with golf clubs as their mother looked on in horror, and their father merely continued to focus on his shot. “Really? ‘Cause I’m pretty fuckin’ sure you could just go to the movies instead, or even make one on your phone in the style of Sean Baker.”

The older she became, the more she realized that no one fucking got it. They were all damned to a biologically pre-imprinted path that gave them enough tunnel vision to let any other dreams or pursuits fall by the wayside. It meant those who didn’t let the tunnel vision get the better of them ended up like this overweight and unkempt man doing a poor imitation of a cultural icon. That’s all most artists could attempt “nowadays” anyway. For everything was about emulation and pastiche. Even just in terms of being a normal human being “mugging” for CCTV.

She quickened her pace as she could feel the man’s octaves intensifying, perhaps hoping she would throw a few pounds his way. Up above, the marching band doing a rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” at least didn’t expect money for it. She darted into Tesco Metro, hoping for a moment of peace when at her first turn is the image of Prince Louis and the “earth-shattering” cover story on OK! of how he’s just turned one. Ah the British with their reverence for royalty. It’s what’s kept them as hopeless separatists. Ermelda admired and disdained them at the same time for that. She could relate to the push and pull of feeling both superior and, as a result, totally outmoded in a world that only respected mediocrity and “simplifying” things. The Tesco Metro proved fruitless in more than just a literal fashion (the only fruits left being too small apples the size of Diane Keaton’s tits). And in her attempt to get a “meal deal” a.k.a. a three pound sandwich that looked fresh off of an airplane tray, she was ousted by the requisite cluster of British “hoodlum” types–of the sort you see in films that always seem to take place in London in the dystopia “of the future” that is actually the present. They overran the small section of already picked over items, prompting her to call the whole thing off like Ella Fitzgerald did. And, speaking of her, in being forced to walk the same path back along the length of the miniature golf course, the aforementioned “crooner” had transitioned from “Strangers in the Night” to “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”–all of which Ermelda was feeling except that first adjective. This was all Lorenzo’s fault of course, getting her a vacation as a birthday gift that he himself couldn’t accompany her on. It was his way of saying he couldn’t stand spending too much time with her, wanted to spoil her without actually having to “deal with” her. To anyone who observed her, she must have looked like the most unattached, single person in the world. But she had been with Lorenzo for the past five years. If they lived in California, they would practically be common law husband and wife. But they didn’t. They lived in Como, where Ermelda was often locked like Rapunzel in the castle. By choice, of course. Which was why it was so harrowing to come to this town all saturated in middlebrow humanity. He had cajoled her into thinking it was picturesque and literary because of Thomas Hardy’s enjoyment of it, going so far as to wield it in some of Wessex Tales and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. He had preyed upon her sensibilities, manipulating them to get rid of her by saying she would have no fun staying in Como while he toiled the hours away in Milan. Toiled indeed. She knew exactly what he was doing. Though not who with. She didn’t care really. By now, it was fairly obvious that theirs was a relationship of habit and mild convenience–for she served a purpose in being able to put herself together when the occasion warranted a dinner party for his business associates. In this respect, he liked her conservatism, and that he didn’t bother her with the usual fuss about wanting a child. He already had four from his previous two marriages, none wielding a male heir, he consistently pointed out with more than a trace of bitterness. So she wasn’t completely taken aback by his suggestion for her to spend her birthday alone. They were a separate couple to begin with.

***

Back in the room of the “resort-like” hotel that Lorenzo had chosen for her, peppered with families, families and still more families, she used the speaker provided–one of few modern amenities the aging hotel had sprung for in the past decade, she reckoned–for the purposes of amplifying “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” partially aware that it would bristle feathers by sheer virtue of the universal contempt for Morrissey as there never has been before. As the lines, “Hide on the promenade/Etch a postcard: ‘How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here’/In the seaside town that they forgot to bomb/Come, come, come, nuclear bomb,” blared, she gazed out the window at her view of the sea. It really was like something out of a painting. Maybe even Gainsborough. Particularly in that many of the human subjects that populated his paintings were rather affronting to the eyes.

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