Jessica Otterwell is a freelance writer and standup comedian based in Bath. She finds inspiration for her work in approaches to gender, sexuality and relationships.
Jessica Otterwell, The Last Thing He Ever Said to Me, 2019, projection
Words hold such power, such weight, such energy. My artwork was inspired by a particularly cutting breakup from a man I met online. He loved words, almost as much as I do. I assume he still does. He was paid to interpret the words of others, to censor others. To add punctuation to poetry and reason to rhyme. The relationship was long distance and he planned to move even further away, so words became of the utmost importance. We talked in long flowing messages back and forth about writers and musicians we admired, he was so articulate and inquisitive. The second time we met he arrived with his own collection of Jean Genet novels. I had never met a man who had his own collection of works by my favourite author. He held his copy of my favourite book out to show me, it possessed a rare cover, that looked as though the lead singer of The Human League had taken up residence in the Parisian streets of the 1920s. The first gift he ever gave me was a copy of a poetry book by a woman who had attempted to finish Rimbaud’s abandoned work – he’d had some involvement with the editing. The fact that someone could be paid to surround themselves with poetry all day fascinated me. He had another life, in another world. I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be part of him. When I think of everything he wrote to me. The incredibly intimate turns of phrase in the middle of the night. The longing and the anticipation, the gentle, the delicate, the humorous and everything in between it was of great shock then, when on Saint David’s day, as the snow fell from the sky in huge wafting flakes, that he sent me the message which would wound me to the very core of my being. To make me shake with anxiety and feel so desperately low that I thought I might never return. He told me that was it. It was over, he didn’t want to see me again. I begged and I pleaded, and I reasoned because I didn’t understand. For months there was nothing, the empty gulf that seemed to stretch for miles, cocooned in a feeling of bereavement. Then one day, when the frozen snow had long given way to the heat of the summer, he sent me long vitriolic messages so I would understand how little I meant to him, how he discarded me long ago. Which brings me to this projection, it is the final thing he ever said to me. Then there was nothing, then there was silence.