‘Changing Room’ by Rebecca Parfitt

At the photo-automat, I exchanged 24 selves
for 24 frames.
It started with a beret, then sunglasses,
then I thought, what-the-hell, and started shedding.
At the Saigon Street cafe
I sat on someone else’s table
and peeled the skin off a summer roll.
Inside an abandoned margarine factory in Kreuzberg
I pondered the face of a Geisha I had spray-painted
onto a whitewashed wall –
left a thumbprint in the paint.
A thumbprint was all I had with me.
In the cinema cafe I spotted myself
in the bottom of a bowl of coffee
topped with froth and soggy biscuit crumbs.
I left lipstick on the rim.
Outside a cafe in Potsdamer Platz
I tried to take a selfie, but self was out of view.
I was a perfect blue sky instead.
At the Chameleon theatre I dined alone by candlelight.
My dress turned green.
I wondered if anybody noticed.
Inside Otto Weidt’s workshop for the blind
I contemplated the hidden windowless room,
the doorway to which was a wardrobe.
As if the blind don’t need to see.
At the film museum I lost my reflection inside
Marlene Dietrich’s vanity case –
it was her face I saw –
those half open eyes were not mine.
Infinite selves reflected into the distance.
In the Chinese dumpling restaurant I waited
for my dumpling to cool,
while the dumpling was cooling
I was a blonde woman with two perfect daughters,
sipping champagne.

I think, the more alone I am,
the more invisible I will become.

Later, I remove my clothes for a Berliner
who tells me that 33 is the perfect age.

Later, I remove my clothes for a Brazilian
who refers to his erection as his ‘candle’.
He photographs me as a torso, tells me I am beautiful.
Life is easier when you are headless
and puppets are good with no strings attached.

When I go I offer my handkerchief to a stranger in
my train carriage.
I grip my suitcase. It is my changing room.
My life depends on it.

Rebecca Parfitt lives in Cardiff and works in publishing. She was a finalist for the Aesthetica creative writing award in 2016 and is a recipient of the Hay Festival Writers at Work scheme. She is currently receiving mentoring from Literature Wales to complete a short story collection. She is editor and founder of a magazine devoted to horror and the macabre, The Ghastling. Her debut poetry collection The Days After was published in April 2017 by Listen Softly London.