I leave it in my recycling bin: abandoned still life, throned on newspapers, framed by brokedown toothpaste and aspirin boxes. I dream of white-overalled men in thick rubber elbow-gloves digging for paper pollutants. They see my still-life surface, see it surf on that paper sea into furtive sleeves. I wait anxious weeks until I put my failed dream to sad sleep.
I stuff it in the glove compartment of my car and drive to a street where jackal men flash their teeth in the chaosbright night. They scrape their claws down the paintwork, roar window glass onto seats, jaw out the radio. They scatter and scent the glove compartment’s contents and howl off into the night, leaving me mewling in the morning safety.
At the Tube station my face stares boomerang accusing at me from behind the scuffed-glass ticket window. The man who grips my elbow and grins me to my tacked-up travelcard says he recognised me even headshaven and dyed, even black-dressed and glassesless.
The stranger who returns my benched wallet is eager to fan out the full deck of notes, aces all. He palms twenty pounds but takes a pass on my credit card. He folds, backs away hands-up, composure cracked as I pincer his arms and say please. Please.
I know I have been naive. That it is weightier than bank statements or the contents of my wallet. That it is bigger than the sum of account numbers, payroll numbers, national insurance numbers. It is wider than all the places my passport could take me. It cannot be disguised or given away lightly. I need a bomb, a blaze, a demolition. I need total, brutal relinquishment.
They take the money first. I slap out notes, cheques, everything down to toll-coins and lucky pennies. A man steps up, hefts the CDs onto his shoulder. Children greedy and gleeful snatch my iPod and phone, my camera and laptop. Two women squabble over the DVDs. I divide them into comedy and tragedy and lay a box at each one’s feet.
Six boxes of books is too many words for one person to carry, so I help the man stack them in the scratched, smash-windowed car and hang the keys crooked on his pinky finger. I sit in a grassy indent where the TV had rested until a young couple one-two-easy-easy-stepped it away. I wait patient in that weekend carwash sun as piece by glinting piece the strangers magpie the rest.
I lose my scent when they take soap, mouthwash, deodorant. When they take the food my taste buds are wiped clean. Vodka and gin bottles; a hash pipe; a glass jar of teabags, and my head clears. I can see the sky sharp and fragrant. I sit naked and cross-legged as men and women raid the clothes rail, waddle away in layers of shirts and coats, carrying backpacks full of ornaments and umbrellas, blankets and mirrors.
The day’s heat wanes, leaves its pink flush on my face and shoulders. An old man paws through a shoebox of photos. A woman balances a bag of souvenirs on a pram. A hummingbird-breathed girl slips love letters inside her jacket and steals away in swollen joy. Darkness lies down on me and covers all that remains. My bare flushed flesh stings with cold.
I make a pile of everything that is left. Twenty years of education, fifteen years of spider-scrawled journals. Ten years of payslips, bills, statements. Diaries and calendars, days planned out and crossed out. Sober bullet-pointed to-do lists. Poster paint sheets of primary colour stickchildren towering over houses beneath smiling yellow suns, holding dogs the size of cows.
I touch a lit match to my birth certificate and watch as it flares sulphur orange in the dark of the garden. The house’s new occupants watch curious from the window. I drop the flame onto papers and feel the heat build, become a blaze. White-orange fire-sparks jump out, bite my bare skin. I feel myself seared and cauterised. I feel thick choking smoke hands wrap around my identity and finally bear it skywards. It is sucked out spat out snake venom, it is salted scorched parasite. I wait to become cleansed and empty, I wait to become fire-pure and reborn.