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Mrs Dalloway's Best Nightmare

Artwork by Sophie Beckingham

I am Hostess, I am Divine Feminine

for just One night. The clock carves out

its cold rhythm, the evening air reeks of it. I’m rushing

but not in a rush—you see? Two hours before arrival.

A furious chopping chokes up the kitchen, eyes streaming

with onion fuckery. Preparation frenzy goes to my head

like cheap sweet wine can’t think straight can’t think

twisted—I’ll pour the oil into the batter and the butter

into the pan and let it simmer in misunderstanding.

A guest has cancelled. All is lost, I cry, in the rich

soprano screech of a melodramatic housewife.

But in their stead a wild friend has appeared, sleeves

floating like sautéed jellyfish. She requests a nap

and a nap is served, sleeping beauty, take your pick

of the beds and let me play host to the max. The door

is a-jarring and in strolls another, loaded with armfuls

of zucchini (and you’re telling me that’s not cucumber).

Thank you, sweet prodigal son, and so along too comes

a ray of prodigal sun. Fry ’em up baby, we’ll be out of oil

and all the better for it. Fridge the shitty rosé, a fine pink mist

clouds over evening and hazy minds. Well the kitchen’s

a mess, big dipper bubbling over

with voices, ripe with hubbub. Now the real guests

are arriving, but how to entertain when the red peppers

still need straining? La table est servie—lights, camera,

and we’re rolling. One hit and I’m fuzzed out and coughing

like a thirteen-year-old behind the school bins. But see, magnum

bottle and I, we preside over the table. Then I feel the real hit:

the Dalloway and Ramsay in me emerge and I’ll be creator

and connector, megalomaniac maniaque and only a little

tyrannical. The pleasure’s subdued but it’s there all the same.

Conversations airbrushed and reheated in the microwave,

on s’en fout, c’est toujours aussi bon. When midnight strikes

I cave, adrenaline burnt through and through (did you leave it

in the oven too long?). I’ll cinderella you all out the door,

beloved friends, with your cheeky red eyes and grown-up sighs.

For one moment I sit with Success. I soak it up and put it

in the fridge—I look forward to having the leftovers tomorrow.


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