Sometimes, Brenda lets you into her world. It’s a strange thing, to be embraced by someone you despise – especially if you have the instinctive desire to be liked by everyone, no matter how much they’ve proved themself to be a big anus.
On the one hand, I was enjoying the fact that this creature had come from her desk and was telling me her funny story… but the actual telling of the story was close to unbearable. It was only by turning on my dictaphone that I was able to relax – I could listen to her without vomiting so long as I had this noble, ulterior motive. To record our conversation and play it to [three inhabitants of] the world.
Before telling me this story, Brenda had sat at her desk, laughing at something. Immediately after the laugh, she looked around. Then she laughed again, and followed it with an “oh, dear!” that clearly emphasised the askability surrounding her mirth. Looking over to me, she took my grimace as an inviting wince, and wrinkled around the desks to my chair. She had a photo.
It was a photo of her, laughing. Laughing in the sense of “mouth widening, teeth bared, eyes squinting”. I recognised it as a laugh, anyway – even though these same expressions can be used for “on the floor, awaiting a kick to the stomach”. The latter describes my face. Hanging from her blouse in the photo is a “Do Not Disturb” sign used in hotels. The weight of the sign is pulling her flimsy blouse down a touch – not obscene, but enough to remind me that she was once a sexual creature, and God save us, may still be.
This sign is a comical one – it features Winnie The Pooh struggling, with a pot of honey stuck onto his head, and has the caption;
It’s the kind of photo that stands for itself. It’s not awful – I mean, it’s not nearly as bad as the office posters you more usually find – and if she’d had it pinned to her partition, I wouldn’t have thought any less of her for it. But she’s not willing to let it rest there, is she? She’s not even going to rest, having stuffed it under my nose. This picture is so amazing to her that she wants to give me the back story.
It came at a difficult time in the office – morale was low, and good old Brenda was keen to portray herself as the office jester. This is an image that she genuinely holds – when it is painfully clear to everyone else that she’s nothing more than vocal shrapnel lodged in everyone’s fucking face. This is where we join the story – the dictaphone is now on.
[what follows is the transcript – click here to listen]
just start lightening it up, to have a laugh about it, because we were all getting a little bit tetchy. So I hung this little sign up that said â€œdonâ€™t bother me, Iâ€™m having a bad dayâ€. So Peter came around with his camera, and said he wanted to take a picture. â€œDonâ€™t bother me, Iâ€™m having a bad dayâ€¦â€
thatâ€™s why I was so pleased, because actuallyâ€¦ you can actually read it.
No, you can read it.
Itâ€™s quite niceâ€¦ it looks a bit sultry, hanging off your bra like that.
I was showing off for the dictaphone, there. She looked spurred.
|Well itâ€™s quite funny because â€¦ thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m laughing. Because when he was taking the picture, rightâ€¦ he kept loweringâ€¦ he kept lowering the camera. And I said â€œoi, what you doing, lowering the camera?â€ And he, well of course heâ€™sâ€¦.. [voice tapers off into nothing as she makes mouth gestueres that look a little bit gay]
Yeah, I know, yeah.
Brenda physically can’t say the word “gay”. After the recording finishes, she says “I know it’s the fashion, these days, but…”, which prompted me to write down “anal sex isn’t a pair of nice shoes” and promise myself I’d make it into a T-shirt.
|Soâ€¦ Iâ€¦ erâ€¦ So I knew he wasnâ€™t, you know, but I was just you know, kinda winding him up. And in the end, he got embarrassed, and started blushingâ€¦ and thatâ€™s when I started laughing. And then he took the picture, and it was just perfect.
So he was lowering it to get all the words on â€“
yeah, of course he was
rather than actually take a filthy sex shot of you, for his own purposes.
She enjoys the fact that I’m responding to her, but what I’m saying is irrelevant. The tracks to this conversation were laid minutes ago, and I’m just a passenger.
|So thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m laughing, and not only that, to make matters worse, thereâ€™s a barrier thereâ€¦
a barrier, a partitionâ€¦ and when he was lowering the camera, and I said â€œere, what are you doing, lowering that camera, what do you think youâ€™re doing, what do you think youâ€™re taking pictures ofâ€â€¦
Did faces slowly appear, aboveâ€¦
â€¦there were people on the other side, listening to the conversation! I completely forgot, I was so engrossed in winding him up! Stop lowering that camera, stop lowering that camera, and he was laughing, and I was laughing, and of course the people on the other side, I only realised afterwards that people must have been thinking â€œwhat is going on over there?â€ which made it even funnier! And thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m really laughing, it completely went, and he, and he took the moment, he went CLICK.
She is making me laugh inside my head, now. When she said “and he was laughing, and I was laughing”, she’s just given up her right to claim any part of reality, beyond being a character in a sketch show.
Brenda fondly thinks that the people on the other side of the partition – whose morale she was trying to raise with this photo that she doesn’t seem to have shown them, only me – were thinking “That Brenda!”
She would probably come flying apart and dissipate in a tearless, sandy sob if they told her what they were really thinking, which was “why does death come to so many, but not to this immortal crone?”
|What makes it even better is, I didnâ€™t mention it to my husband before, right, just because I just canâ€™t. [makes more gay faces] Heâ€™sâ€¦ heâ€™s…
You donâ€™t have to whisper the wordâ€¦ you can say gay these days.
Heâ€™s not going to thinkâ€¦ heâ€™s not going to thinkâ€¦ heâ€™s not going to thinkâ€¦ heâ€™s not going to think â€œwhat was he doing taking that pictureâ€. I haven’t told him, you see, so it’ll be a nice surprise for him.
This section boils down into three statements;
1. “It will be a nice surprise for him to see that I was photographed at work.”
This is a classic case of “The suprise that was met with a ruffle of a newspaper and a that’s nice, dear”. Unless…
Possibly Brenda and her husband, yesterday
2. “I couldn’t tell my husband that I was photographed by a gay man, although (1) – it will be a nice surprise for him.”
Oh, Brenda. Brenda, Brenda, Brenda.
3. “My husband will not assume I am fucking the man who photographed me, because he is gay. Although (2) – I cannot tell him he was gay, just because. Still, (1) – it’ll be a nice surprise, anyway.”
I am glad that Brenda has taken me into her confidence, and I hope to get more stories out of her. I’m thinking of writing an anthology. Shit, I wonder if I could get her to invite me around for sunday dinner?