…the hard plastic shell upon which a person’s appearance is hung     

Who is the real Helen Anderson?

Is she the woman who has spent the majority of this last year behind a padlocked door in the front bedroom of number 25 Railway Street, with nothing to distract her apart from her own reflections, a pack of playing cards including both jokers, an array of implements designed to twist and turn and burn her hair, several photo albums featuring only photographs of her younger self in various states of grandeur, a cappuccino maker, a much prized collection of CDs and the open white space of the next page of her journal?

Or is she the woman who the police at this moment want to interview, the manic woman, the agitator, the miscreant, the agent provocateur, the half-wit who sparked the bananahol riot of last night in the Northern Quarter, a riot in which sixteen people were injured, one seriously, Helen herself grazed and bruised by several banana’s aimed at her deliberately by an angry mob of shakers and movers who were selected from the yellow pages the day before by letting the phone book fall to the floor and flicking ink from a fountain pen at whichever page opened to suggest the next invitee?

Or is she the woman who right now is being labelled as simply too much (if only she knew), someone who never drops the ball, someone whose creativity and ingenuity know no bounds, the woman who orchestrated, in the words of her manager (the name of whom would escape Helen at the moment a few moments hence when she would be congratulated, or at this moment, or that moment, or any moment in which she was confronted by him, or any moment in which she vaguely recalled his person, in the past, present or future, or any moment when recalling his name would serve any use whatsoever) “the flying banana coup which would take the world of advertising by storm”?

Or is she the woman who was hiding at the top of the stairwell for most of the morning, after having arrived early enough to avoid meeting with anyone in the office, afraid to speak to anyone from the firm lest she be summarily taken from the building and dragged naked through the streets or hauled in front of the big boss, a big boss who she has never heard of, who has never been referred to in any verbal or written correspondence she has ever had with anyone associated with the firm in her three weeks there, a big boss who would shout at her and scream at her and leave her in little doubt about how she was without doubt the most incompetent person who he had ever come across, and that was including the guy who spends all day every day in the six-feet by six-feet kitchenette making coffee, picking his nose, sweating liberally and reading the free newspaper?

Or is she the woman who feels, from time to time, at the pit of her stomach, or in the depths of her soul, or in the back of her mind, or in some other crevice, cubby hole or cranny a vague feeling, a disquieting feeling, a feeling at the same time sharp and vague, a feeling which never leaves her but which is often buried or ignored – a feeling that all is not right with the world, that she doesn’t belong, that there was a mistake, that there’s no one looking at her through the mirror in her room, that the world is spinning out of control, that there really is no meaning in life, and that she has nothing about her, no essence, nothing special, nothing which marks her out as different or better than anyone else, even the bland people she walked past on the street that morning and instantly forgot?

Or is she the woman with marvellous hair – in the true meaning of the word “marvellous” – her hair truly is “a marvel”.

Or is she the woman who less than ten minutes ago had thought up – it was a moment of inspiration – a story, an account, so unlikely it had to be true, which would shift all the blame from her regarding the bananahol incident of the night before and place it squarely on the pointy shoulders of any Mary, Susan or Jane, who she would indicate with a surreptitious nod, pursed lips and an arched eyebrow, as she explained to the manager whose name would escape her at that moment, as it did when she thought up this devious little scheme, how it was actually a traitor, a malcontent, a fifth-columnist, perhaps this Mary, Susan or Jane (who would be subtly indicated by a nod, pursed lips or arched eyebrow) who sabotaged the whole thing in some attempt to push this Helen off her perch, to drag down a Helen who had risen so high so quickly, who was a winner, who had stolen all the thunder that had been available to steal, from the moment she arrived until the moment she departed for the bananahol event in the Northern Quarter?

Or is she the woman, well the girl – sixteen and wide eyed and pert buttocked, who saved the life of a litter of puppies which had moments before been thrown into a river by some nefarious type, by her throwing the spare wheel, jack and car keys of an overzealous young lover who had run out of petrol into the exact same spot in the river, from a height of some fifty feet over the side of a bridge, thereby dislodging the weighted sack containing said puppies, disentangling a rather poorly tied knot and setting free the six puppies which floated one by one under the bridge, shrilly yapping, probably gasping for air and wholly unappreciative of the good deep inadvertently perpetrated by their saviour from above?

Or is she the woman who now smiles at her manager, whose name has not only escaped her bubbling and burgeoning mind (burgeoning with the bounties of success, whether deserved or miraculous), but has ceased to have its own legitimate and independent existence, as has the majority of the world which is not contained within the confines of her own body or in the direct path of her immediate needs or desires, and nods a head, this woman, a head which is already heavy with sampling the delights of an improbable, iniquitous and wholly undeserved victory over the benign and malignant forces in the world, forces which must actively conspire to defeat her though she so assiduously ignores them, a woman who looks derisively at how red his face, neck and head are getting, as he raises his voice and swings his arms in the air to encompass her genius, her amazingness, her sheer brilliance, and a woman who winks – she winks; she winks a wink so devilish, so vague, so open to interpretation that it is immediately interpreted and reacted to by the red face of the manger, which turns a deeper shade of red and all but separates from the rest of his red head and peels off onto the floor through sheer excitement, stupidity and high blood pressure?

Oh who are you Helen Andersen? You skip through life as though you were a gossamer thread blowing in the wind.



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