• Ali Millar

Wants


My new neighbour says when I first meet her from a distance of at least two feet, that once this is all done with we'll know the difference between wants and needs. We'll be happy with what we need, she says. The needs she lists are: human interaction, Netflix, theatre, books, nature.


My list, it's longer than that. My list, it goes on forever. I don't want simple ever again. I don't want slow mornings. I want lobster, I want to rip it apart with my teeth. I want to dance until four in the morning, until my feet hurt; I want to walk home tequila high as the dawn licks the sky awake. I want music turned up so loud I can't hear it but only feel it in my chest. I want - to paraphrase Jonathan Safran Foer - to once again experience the impossibility of not falling in love with the stranger next to me in an art gallery. I want coffee, strong, black bitter, in a cafe, with people breathing down my neck; I want a bar so crowded I'm scared my chest will explode; I want all of Zara's new season collection and the next and the next; I want to have read all the books on my shelves and to buy new ones on a whim; I want to stay up late listening to records. I want and want and want until the ache of wanting leaves me hollow. I want filled up.


I've never been so hungry.


I don't want to separate my wants from my needs. Right now I need what I want.


I want the sea. I want the cold of it on my feet. I want goosebumped legs and salt thick hair. I want my children to fling their heads back and laugh the deep way they once did; I want them to laugh with their bellies and their eyes to water as the North Sea wind eats into our faces. I want the dank, leftover smell of a stream on a summer's day with flies thickening the air and mud and weeds threatening to drag us under. I want to feel the pull of the current.


I want my Grandmother. I want her garden, her food, I want to know and not guess what she'd say about this. I want to remember what her voice sounds like, how do you remember a sound? I want to know I'm not making her long fingers up.


I want Paris on a July morning with yesterday's heat still trapped between apartments; I want the bells of Amsterdam on a godless Sunday; I want the smell of the warm earth damp from South Carolina rain; I want Charlotte Square on the last night of the Book Festival.


I want everything I've ever had. I miss everything. I miss the sheep at dusk, I miss the sound of cars, I miss street fights; I miss the bleach and stale beer smell of a club the morning after.


I want speeded up. I do not want slow. I do not want simple. I want to know I'm not alone in all this wanting, all this missing. I do not want platitudes; I do not want at least you've got your home, children, husband, after this.


I want to know it's not selfish to miss the life that went before. I want to know this tantrum, this kicking of my legs and digging of my heels is ok. I want a grief ritual to mark this time, to mark the passing of one world to the next. I know this monstrous wanting will abate, and I know my neighbour's right, what I'm really wanting and needing at the same time, is social interaction, what I want is the most basic of human needs, to be gloriously, filthily, joyously, amongst our own kind.


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