I am on holiday in a house with no mirrors


From A Bigger Splash, David Hockney, 1967

by Joanna Walsh

My friend is here with me. She has agreed to share the house I have rented for the summer.

I see my friend in her swimsuit. She has good legs, very good legs. I can see them but I cannot see my own legs. If I want to see my own legs I must stand on the chair in the dark dining room and look at them reflected in the dim glass of the cabinet above the mantelpiece. Even attached to no one I know they are my legs and I know they are not so good as my friend’s.

The house is furnished with the dirt-ring of its owners’ lives. Some of it is very good, some of it is very bad, but nothing is perfect. The chairs’ legs are curved and polished, but they are chipped. The curved handles of the teacups are chipped, but they have gold rims, which are worn. The bathroom cabinet is made of chipboard. Its legs are missing. It has only plastic and metal stumps.

The decor of the house is blue, which I do not like. My friend is reading a book I do not like. Though I have not read it, I know it is not a good book. This makes things more even.

The bottom of the swimming pool outside the house is painted blue. The sky is blue, unclouded. The grass is blue in the strong sun. I pull a long string of skin, like dried grass, from a scratch on my shin. My friend jumps into the pool, her good legs flow behind her like contrails.

I read my book.

Story republished from Fractals: Short Stories, by Joanna Walsh, 2013

About the Author:

Joanna Walsh’s writings and drawings have been published by Tate, The Guardian, The Times, The Idler, FiveDials, 3:AM and The White Review, amongst others. She has created large-scale artworks for the Tate Modern and The Wellcome Institute. Her website, Badaude, was a Webby Honoree in 2008. She has created and developed situational games in collaboration with agencies Hide & Seek and Coney. Last year she appeared at the Port Eliot Festival, The Wellcome Institute, The Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Hide & Seek’s Southbank Weekender, Shakespeare and Company Paris, Dialogue Books Berlin and the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. She is an associate member of the London Institute of ‘Pataphysics. She is currently writing a semiautobiography.