portion of the artwork for Kirsty Logan's fiction

Love Riot: A Manual
Kirsty Logan

Part 1: Getting

How to Be a Bartender

Rack ’em up and knock ’em down. Never meet anyone’s eye. Wipe it all down with a cloth damp as snailskin. Keep your top lip down over your pointed sneer even though you know that you are more than this, more than them. You do not grub in the dregs like they do; you are not desperate for the rasp of flesh, for the sound of another person’s voice saying your name. Do not ever spend a single penny of your tips. You are saving them all up for shoes with steel in the toes and heels, a dress made of clouds, a beard that will never go gray, a one-way trip to the circus.

How to Be Pursued
File your nails to points. Salve your mouth where the bit has chafed it; paint it red and make sure it is wet. Display all your teeth when you smile; think wolf, think pussycat. Don’t let your damage show. Ensure the whites of your eyes do not begin to crack. Color your extremities—fingernails kite-pink, hair burn-red, toenails elephant-blue. There is no space for nature in the amphitheatre and you are not the lion anyway. Seek out ferns that match your irises, then stand next to them.

How to Pursue
Always carry a Zippo—no flags, no skulls, no flowers; just silver scratched through use and shined by your pocket. Straighten your tie and blunt the tips of your shoes. Only lean one elbow on the bar. Answer in polysyllables; if you do not know what to say, gaze into the distance and sigh. You are aloof yet accessible, pensive yet hilarious, tender yet hairy-chested. Wax your toes.

How to Be the Wingman
Get the round in. Make them doubles. Take one for the team. Lurk at the sidelines. Develop an interest in unpeeling beer mats into their various layers – they may have secret messages, and if they don’t then you can write your own. Envy and loneliness and secret vague unspoken feelings should be kept in the mouth, behind the molars. Do not bite down; you will break them.

How to Be the BFF
Look less. Think less. Be less. Ensure your heels and your eyelashes are an inch shorter than hers, that your flesh is redder and your lips paler. The spotlight is too bright anyway; the heat melts your foundation and the textures will not mix well. It will all be OK because at the end of the movie she’ll unfasten your ponytail and take off your glasses and then … and then …

Part 2: Wedding

How to Be the Best Man
Clip holes in the hedge maze. Sew the ring box into your trouser pocket. Remind everyone about the time you stole your father’s boat and sailed out among the islands for two weeks of puffins and cider and campfires; don’t mention that it was snow-spattered or that the girl went back to where she came from or that you sailed back with your fists covering the compass in the hope that you would accidentally sail out across the ocean.

How to Be a Wedding Singer

Move your fingers across the keys faster than is necessary. Glaze your eyes. Look up the bridesmaid’s sleeves. Remind yourself that they’re motherfuckers anyway, everyone is a motherfucker, and every single one of these motherfuckers is going to remember your name, oh yes motherfucker, they’ll remember this. Try to subtly insert the word motherfucker into “The Way You Look Tonight.”

How to Be the Mother of the Groom
Start fires.

How to Be the Bridesmaid
Paint stripes on your cheeks. Mutter your retreat. Select only poisonous flowers: adonis, maikoa, bloodroot. Ensure that their leaves spread sufficiently to hide your knuckles. Wear blue because it will remind her of the bluebells thick as dust on the ground and the blue of veins under your stretching tongue; of the softness of two pairs of creeping tiptoes through the woods; of girlhood and its elasticity; of the tightening hood of marriage.

How to Be the Bride
Let the grass grow up between the floorboards. Empty your father’s shotgun. Shore up your breasts like they’re a riverbank about to collapse. Wander all you like, but do not wonder. Paint and tuck and pluck, even though the lie has already been told, even though he has seen the dawn along your brow. Do not be afraid to stutter.

How to Be the Groom
Never show your palms. Change the locks. Make an island of your bed. Snap the necks of the doves and stuff wads of cotton down every open throat. Just to be safe, just to be safe. Remember the grit against your fingertips of the sea-salt stuck to her scalp; remember the bend of her toes and the sounds of sleep; remember the pink of the insides of her cheeks. Memorize.

Part 3: Keeping

How to Love
Sticky-tape the coffeepot and the plate of toast and the jamjar of flowers to the breakfast tray, because those kisses will unsteady your hands. Match up socks properly. Use extra fabric softener. You were always the type to get away with things, but those times have passed. You will never be uptight enough or relaxed enough about the detritus of another person’s day; let your eyes unfocus over stacks of unread magazines by the coffee table, teacups with biscuit crumbs crusting their joins, toothpaste hardening on the taps. The ring is tight on your finger now. Remind yourself that this is love and love is worth it. Suck your lover’s tongue and bite your own.

How to Be Loved
Maintain eye contact. Do not fidget.

How to Choose a Pet
Keep small pockets of love aside for the pet so that it does not tap the main supply. Ensure that you can stand the touch of fur or claws or scales despite hangovers or powercuts or insomnia. Consider how big you can make the cage. Select a beast that will live long enough to test your combined skills, but not so long that the house must be split in two: one side for the cat and the other for the baby. Because toxoplasmosis, because myxamatosis, because other people’s shit stinks worse than your own.

How to Keep Your Friends
Never let it to go voicemail. Line up Foreigner for them at karaoke night, but never videotape it. Keep bare flesh and dirty dishes and comparisons with exes between yourself and your twin in the bathroom mirror. If you must, write an anonymous blog and then delete it. Embrace lolcats and quizzes and animated gifs and political jokes and Tarantino references. Poke straws into the wine box and suck, suck, suck.

How to Be the Mother-in-Law
Collect dust under your fingernails, then press it out along the top of the television. Rearrange the biscuits on the plate and frown at the naked teapot. Write her name first on the Christmas card, then wrap up rawl plugs in glittery paper. Unalphabetize the CDs. Realize suddenly that you are allergic to prawns, chilli powder, peanuts, apples, salt. Catch your heels on the carpet tacks. Afterwards, do not look in the mirror. Trust that you are still the fairest.

How to Make It Last
Say what you think, sometimes.

Kirsty Logan’s Comments

I like stories about real people who act in real ways because I’m a writer and I’m obsessed with people. I also like stories with happy endings because I am a romantic. Sometimes these two things do not align, because real people cannot always be sweet and kind and patient and honest and overflowing with love for one another.

I can’t remember now whether I started out writing a cynical love story and it somehow turned sweet, or a sweet story that turned out to have a bitter edge. I have been in love and I am in love now, but love—its processes, its truth, its very concept—still feels unfamiliar.

So I use my scientific eye. I am a scientist of love: I sit in bars and I spy on the world and I write field notes. And I soon realize that I’m not a scientist, I’m a writer. Truth will always elude me because no one makes sense, ever; the best we can do is to tell what we know, to provide a manual. Then maybe if we put all the manuals together we’ll begin to form a theory. And then we’ll just burn the whole fucking lot and fall in messy, luscious, riotous love. Because we are people, and we are real.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 32 | Spring 2011