Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 102

If you get the chance to see The Worst Person In The World, go to see it. M, A, and I went to see it yesterday evening, and I thought it was wonderful. In essence, it’s a coming of age film, but centred on a thirty-year-old woman rather than on a 16-year-old kid. And it’s essentially plotless, just like life, just like that plotless novel I’ve always dreamed of writing. And there is an unlimited number of plotless novels that have yet to be written. When we left the cinema, A said that too many people focus on plot; you don’t really need a plot, just follow the people. There; that’s the plan. The film is also a reflection on the human condition from any number of angles and viewpoints.

The thing is that we probably never come of age. How many of us continually say we want more, but we don’t actually know what more is? I say it to myself at least once a day, and I still don’t have an answer. A lot of people call this white middle-class angst, and that’s not inaccurate. We have time and privilege enough to be able to be plagued by this sense of not having found our place, of not having found a sense of self, we have the luxury of being able to ponder the meaning of life rather than having to fight to stay alive, the luxury of striving for some illusory fulfilment rather than wondering where the next mouthful of food or milliwatt hour of heat is coming from. That doesn’t negate this drive for constant change and improvement, though, this quest for the one thing which we think will change our world (and maybe others’) and make us happier. I’m not going to dive off into a whole philosophical debate about what happiness really is here; let’s just say happiness can’t be the ultimate goal because a constant state of happiness can’t exist.

That’s where we reach the flip side of the coin of forever striving. Is it the root of depression, this constantly wanting more than we have (not materially, although it can stretch into that, too, I suppose, when we wander along streets of mansions and experience the Tonio Kröger syndrome of wanting to be in those rooms but never being able to be, never being able to be a part of the elite we think is happier than us, luckier than us)? Is it the root of our anxiety that we experience the physical and mental effects of? That disrupts the rhythm and functioning of our bodies, that inhibits the way our mind works, that manifests in an imbalance of chemicals? It’s constantly there. If not the whole reason, it’s one reason of many for poor mental health. And there’s no single cure, no simple cure.

I woke with a story in my head, a story in one sentence, and came downstairs with an unknown but familiar song in my head along with the words that would make up that one-sentence story. It’s been eclipsed by real life. I’m listening to music that’s not the song that was dancing around in my head. It’s the story of every morning. And it was accompanied by the lilt of Norwegian, that language I still miss, that place I still miss, although, when we left there 16 years ago, it was not a kind place, rife with xenophobia and intolerance. From the frying pan into the fire.

One of the characters in The Worst Person In The World says “Mine was an age without internet and mobile phones.” I miss that world.



‘So you’ve killed her?’ Zav says.

‘No, no!’ Aggie shouts. ‘The battery’s dead, not her. I thought they might be watching us through her. That’s why I checked.’

‘You’re paranoid,’ he says.

Marit and Katharina stare at them. ‘I don’t understand,’ Marit says.

‘I do,’ Katharina says. ‘She thought Anna was some kind of electronic spy.’

‘Wearing something that could spy on us,’ Aggie says. ‘Sorry about the mess in the car.’

Katharina shrugs. ‘It’ll wash off.’

‘So she’s bleeding to death instead?’ Zav says.

‘She’s not bleeding,’ Aggie says. ‘I fixed that.’


‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘Of course it matters,’ Zav says.

‘Leave it,’ Aggie says. She shakes her head. ‘Part of me wants to just go back to the house in Norwich.’

‘Tired of the quest now, are you?’ he says. ‘That’s why you’re just a maid.’

‘We didn’t finish searching the cellar,’ she says. ‘That was another reason for me doing what I just did. Because she could have got in another way.’

‘And? There wasn’t anyone else there. There’s nothing else to find in that house. No answers. You found everything we needed to find.’ He rubs his face. ‘You’re just going round in circles.’

‘So am I driving on or not?’ Marit says.

The rain has eased but it’s not stopped. They can see the road ahead again now.

‘Drive,’ Aggie says. There’s resignation in her voice. ‘Perhaps your father is the answer.’

‘Perhaps,’ Marit says quietly. ‘But I don’t see how.’ She puts the car into gear, indicates although there’s no traffic to be seen, pulls out on to the road again, speeds up.

Aggie, diminished in herself somehow, feeling lost and lonely, leans back, looks listlessly out of the window, mind back again and again to that night, in the dank damp forest, the fire ahead of her, the mentor next to her. She’s not complete. More words from then, the memory becoming clearer and sharper. How long will it be before the picture is absolutely clear, before she remembers everything? How long ago? Fifteen years? Twenty? One? She wishes she could sleep and everything would go away. She’s not complete. Not like you. She’s out of control. Aggie’s hands tremble. They find their way into her coat, into her shirt, onto her belly. She pushes hard against her stomach, not hard enough to cut herself open, but hard enough to feel that there’s nothing there, nothing like the shape she found under Anna’s skin, nothing. She explores round her back, the skin smooth and warm, down her sides. Nothing at all. So she can’t be spying on herself. Am I mad? Her own voice now. The landscape outside blurs into something indecipherable. She tucks herself in again, puts her hands into her lap, folds herelf in on herself, wants the silence to be complete.

‘How did you know it as there, the battery?’ Zav leans across the still motionless and damp Anna.

‘I didn’t, not really,’ she says, all venom gone from her voice now. ‘I just had an inkling.’

‘It’s got to be more than that,’ he says.

‘When we first met,’ she says, but knows she won’t tell him everything, knows she won’t be able to, just like she couldn’t tell him about those weekends that Sir and Madam, Valentine and Cassandra, used to have, knows that however hard she might try, she won’t be able to say those words, like there’s a block somewhere in her that even that tiny secret part of her the mentor could never reach can’t override. ‘When we first met,’ she goes on. ‘We were being trained to be assassins or weapons or something. But she didn’t fit in. She ran away. Escaped. And … and somehow it was too easy, like everything that happened was part of a plan or something. That’s … that’s why I thought that perhaps she was still a part of that plan.’

‘You think Valentine was involved even then?’ he says.

‘No, no.’ She stops. ‘He couldn’t have been. He’d have recognised me when I went for the job, and he wouldn’t have been able to disguise that, surely.’

‘Men are quite good at hiding their feelings. All the time.’

‘Like you’re good at hiding that you’ve fallen in love with Anna?’ She can feel him blush.

‘Who’s fallen in love with me?’ Anna sits up wearily. ‘Christ, I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus.’ She turns her head. ‘And it’s still bloody raining.’ She looks at Aggie and then at Zav. ‘Come on then, tell me who’s in love with me? I don’t know what that’s like.’


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  1. Ren Powell

    12th April 2022 at 08:42

    Has it been 16 years?
    You’re right. Not a kind place. Not a warm place. But I suppose that teaches us something – or leaves us both wondering what it was it was supposed to teach us to give us that “more”. ?

    1. Richard Pierce

      12th April 2022 at 09:17

      Al, generalisations are of course, false. Norway did teach me a few things – that I could have meaningful friendships with men, not just women; that I could still learn quickly. I don’t think the children would have become auto-didacts without the Norwegian experience; they learned an independence there that I don’t think they would have learned in the UK. And it was a valuable experience to be an immigrant, albeit a white middle class one, because even that was a horrendous experience of prejudice, and a joyous experience of meeting immigrants of all ethnicities at my language classes and being part of multicultural friendships and aspirations. I think the problem (probably for both of us) is that we’ll be exiles wherever we are. <3

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