Tuesday, May 24, 1983

White and red

Last night Shelley told me that she and Penny have told Rowan and Katie that their quartet is no longer ‘on’ as far as house-sharing next year is concerned. Even though R. had been expecting this apparently there was still an evening of pregnant silence between L. and Shelley when the news broke.

So for the moment they are fallen out. Shelley says she’s irritated by Rowan’s refusal to see a psychiatrist (she never went that Friday) and attributes their rift to the acid-fling of a few weeks back. “She looks down on everyone—yes, even you . . . She’s fascinated by bisexuality and was even considering Penny,” Shelley said with a laugh at my incredulity. “I haven’t told Penny: she’d never speak to Rowan again.”

Sometimes I regard these hugely complicated melodramas with a little awe, yet at others I think them immature. “Deep down Rowan’s cruel. She uses everyone, and that’s why we’ve fallen out. Our relationship used to be based on equality but she can give nothing—she always just takes.” Katie is a “mess” too, said Shelley, and I just couldn’t believe how complicated everything is. “When they’re both together they bring out each other’s wilder side.” Shelley also thinks Rowan is deliberately avoiding her and Barry and I because “we bring her up against herself.”

Everyone went to bed late and I read McTeague for an hour before sleeping too. I woke up today at eleven. I’d been in bed, although not actually asleep, for nearly twenty-one hours.

I went down to the mini-market after dinner. Barry and Carl Cotton were both down there, and as I flicked through records at an adjacent stall I could see Carl tackling passers-by, until he finally got embroiled in an argument with a Trade Unionist who, as he leafed through a Next Step, denounced the RCP as “middle class . . . I’m working class and I wouldn’t wade my way through this shit.”

Carl saw me and asked if I was going to the Preparing for Power conference in July. I said I didn’t know. He couldn’t resist a jab at my ‘undeveloped’ political consciousness: “You could bring a few cans,” said he, smiling sarcastically until I bought a book on the Irish War. Perhaps he’s right, but I don’t like the supercilious way he condemns my (supposedly) mindless bourgeois student-hood.

I’ve done fuck all for most of the day, marooned here in Wollstonecraft in frustrated apathy. I’m starting to panic at the lack of time I have left to do my two essays. One of them is supposed to be a block-busting long one too! I’m facing another sleepless night striving desperately to stay awake and work. I have to finish McTeague as well. But how?

Rowan’s voice pierces the muffled hubbub as she endlessly monologues to “KitKat.” I hear the name Neil mentioned. Is he Mr. X? What do I care? I’ve also heard her quoting some poem, her voice dwelling almost obsessively on each syllable: “Fair maiden, white and red, comb me smooth and stroke my head.”

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