Listen to Kirsty Logan read 'Three Variations on Susan'
It's 1am at the launch of a queer feminist zine called Lock Up Your Daughters and I'm starting to get bored, so I lean over to my friend Paul, who has tattoos all down his arms of cherry blossoms and tea-cups, and I say I like that girl. He peers around me at the girl with an emo-boy haircut and big hips in skinny jeans, and he says I know that girl. He introduces me: her name is Suse and she used to DJ at Paul's club night. After we've been talking for a while we go outside for a cigarette. It's August, summer is turning, and I'm cold in my sleeveless dress; Suse sees my goosebumped arms and stands closer. We discuss why there are still lights on in the building next door at 1.30am on a Tuesday: she says illegal poker den, I say all-night bakery. I realise that our guesses are what we want the building to be. My wish comes closer to being true than hers, because when we go back inside plates of buttered toast are being passed around. We eat some, and we talk some more, and then we leave.
A few days later, I go to Berlin with my brother. When I get off the plane I have a text message from Suse: I'm going to Berlin for a few days, do you want to go out for a drink when I get back to Glasgow? The thought crosses my mind that she is stalking me across Western Europe, but I decide that she's hot and I don't care. The next evening she arrives in Berlin, and we meet at a dance club on a boat. At 2.30am I leave with my brother to get the train back to the apartment we're renting. Suse leans in to kiss me, sees my brother, and hugs me instead.
Back in Glasgow, we go to a fancy dress party dressed as a lumberjack and Marla from Fight Club. I drink a bottle of red wine and have a long and rambling conversation with a stranger about our top three serial killers. His: Gacy, Bundy, Dahmer; mine: Ramirez, Gein, Fish. Later Suse and I go outside onto the balcony to lean over the railing and spit on the cars eight floors down. We're too drunk to see if we hit them, so we climb over the railing onto next door's balcony. We curl up on their couch and talk shit and laugh and kiss and she puts her hands up my dress and fucks me in the dark with the wind numbing and the music throbbing and the traffic and the city lights and other people's cigarette smoke and just for that moment we're the only people in the whole world.
It's early on a Wednesday morning – it's before midday, at least, which feels early when you've only slept three hours because Suse was wasted and got up a dozen times in the night to puke – and I'm meant to be teaching a writing class. I'm a decade younger than everyone else in the room and I'm shit-scared that they're going to laugh in my face. Everyone is settled in with their notebooks and black coffee in plastic take-away cups, and I open my mouth to introduce myself. There is a clatter, a chaos, and a girl about my age stumbles into the room with a laptop in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. She has red-orange-yellow hair and a ring through her nostril. Sorry sorry sorry she says, mostly to herself, and falls into a chair.
The class goes well, and no-one laughs out loud at me. The girl who stumbles in late – Suz, it says on her notebook, and this makes me think of Suse, probably still in bed with her hangover, and I don't know whether I want to smile or cry when I think about that – stays behind to ask me questions about writing. I don't know the answers, but I try to bullshit as I steer her towards the door. I fooled everyone for the class, but I know I can't keep it up for much longer. I burble something about first drafts always being shit and getting inside your character's brain and omniscient narration, then close the door behind her.
A few days later I log onto a gay dating website called GaydarGirls and get a message from Suz. I saw your profile, she says, and I recognised you from that writing class. We meet up for a drink, sitting on a wall outside the pub so that we can smoke. It's October, and the wind numbs the fingers on my wine glass. She talks too fast for me to follow so I just drink and smoke and listen to her, though she mostly tells me about her Abnormal Psych PhD and I don't understand almost everything she says.
Later we go to a gay club that plays dance remixes of everything Mariah Carey ever recorded. The boys dry-hump the railings around the dance-floor, and the girls are boys but not in a sexy androgynous way, just in the way that they have shaved heads and no tits. We down cheap shots and make out in the toilets; Suz kisses like she's trying to choke me with her tongue.
It's early evening, just after classes have finished, and I'm standing outside the Subway station waiting for Suz. I forgot my glasses and every face is a blur. I wish I'd asked her to put a flower in her buttonhole so I could know her by the bright colour of it, but we're not quite postmodern enough for that. Through a break in the people-traffic I see her: burn-red hair and a scowl that makes something in me yawn and shrivel. It's the shortest night of the year but it seems to last forever, and at 11pm I say I'm going to the toilet but go for the door instead.
I go round to my friend Susie's, my steps slow and flat-footed because of the December frost crusting the pavements. She makes me tea and toast and listens to me talk. She crosses her legs so that her ankle rests on my knee; I reach down and rub her toes. We go to bed and she kisses me slowly, sucks my tongue, bites my lip, then grinds her cunt against my thigh until my leg muscles spasm. I fall asleep then wake at 6AM by period cramps that feel like being stabbed. Susie gives me codeine and I lie on my back and mewl while she strokes my stomach.
She leaves at 8AM to go to her graphic design job, and I settle in for a day in her bed. At 10AM a man knocks on the door to read the gas meter. The only item of clothing I have is the silver sequinned minidress I'd worn the night before. He frowns at my tattooed wrists and Robert Smith morning-hair while I mumble this isn't my flat.
I get up, make coffee, and sip it while I go around Susie's flat and look in all her drawers. I find no locks and no secrets. I shower, leave hairdye stains on her towels, put a book I think she'll like on her bedside table, then go to meet her to give her house keys back. Keep them, she says, and kisses me.
About the author:
Kirsty Logan lives in Glasgow and is still with the third Susan. She can be found at kirstylogan.com.
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