The Cost of Living

after Deborah Levy

His hair was not silver and
not pinned into a bun.

I’ve been reading it over and over. Obsession over something harmless must be a good thing. It’s a book, safe, I’ve been told.
A woman saying things I like to hear, moments closer to me than my own skin on my fingertips typing, writing, removing heavy mascara, light silky eye prime off my face, my skin…
before I go to bed,
living in The Cost of Living.

It gives me what I need;
keeps me hydrated, you see, which I otherwise
tend to forget. So, yes,
this man,
his hair was not silver and
not pinned into a bun, but
all I saw was a man
with silver hair pinned into a bun
having dinner with me when I was 19,
just like the girl in the book telling him a story
about her scuba-diving in Mexico.
She’d been underwater for twenty minutes and
then surfaced to find there was a storm,
a whirlpool, an anxiety, a realisation of death.

“You talk a lot, don’t you?” is what the man says to the girl.

Anxiety is not my thing. I run, dance, swim,
walk 7k a day if nothing else.
Make-up and face creams
are part of the daily routine. I date
like a brand-new thing, a woman. I own up to it
before it even begins.

it’s just that I keep
hearing the girl underwater
calling to the man with silver hair
pinned into a bun, the man on the boat,
who’d stood watching while she was drowning.

I talk a lot, don’t I?



Mariam Saidan is Iranian/British, has worked in the Human Rights field and studied Creative Writing at Kent University. Her recent most publication can be found at inksweat&tears and thebombayreview.