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10 April 2024

Listed for Sale by Kayte Ferris

Wasafiri is proud to publish the 2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize shortlisted pieces. These poems, essays, and short stories detail a range of emotions and experiences, produced by promising new writers from all over the globe. This shortlisted life writing piece by Kayte Ferris explores past relationships and the impact of life choices through a series of items 'listed for sale'.

The 2024 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open until 1 July 2024. Read the full guidelines and submit your work here.  

All items listed for sale. Message me for pictures and prices. Buyer to collect.  

1: Book about foraging

An unexpected present, brought over one night in January (the early days). A beautiful block of a book, not unlike a little wooden box with its intricate cover of vines entwining. It looks great on a bookshelf - the spine is unbroken. It is a book that I thought meant something about the giver. Because he gave it to me sheepishly, saying he thought I could look up the plants I saw on my walks, I thought it meant he was thoughtful, that even when I wasn’t there he was thinking of me. I thought it meant something about us, and what we would be. Selling as it reminds me of my naivety.  

2: Pasta bowls

Matching pair. Brushed with pale sky blue and splattered with black, a design you will have seen in restaurants or cafes before. He brought them home one day because he said he’d thought I’d like them; it only later turned out he’d stolen them from work. I never did like them. I like floral vintage crockery or smooth earthenware bowls, something that feels more loved. I don’t know why I’ve kept them so long. Selling as I want to stop eating out of his hands.  

3: Felt tip pens

Two identical large sets, bought as a Christmas present years ago. 30 pens per pack, in the usual spectrum of colours. Briefly used. I was told, over and over and over again, how expensive they were. Selling as, even now, they make me feel guilty.  

4: Dining table

Drop-leaf farmhouse style table, stripped pine planks stained like honey with painted white legs. There’s a small drawer that you can imagine keeping linen napkins inside, the kind you always mean to buy but talk yourself out of. Originally bought after many online searches and comparisons while looking for a table to host intimate date-night dinners and also friends and visitors to a new house. It is in a used condition, but not as much as you might expect.

It is now too loaded with the story of how I acquired it to keep. I had arranged with the seller to pick it up from a car park in Chester; it was December and I was giddy that he had agreed to come for a day out with me. I had measured up the car, he’d waved me away when I asked if he wanted to double check it, we’d got up early and set off through the hills. It just all went wrong when we got to the car park.

The table was there, draped in a loose cloth of bubble wrap, and that was the point it changed. 'Is that it?! Well that’s never going to fit!' The tone. The spitting, seething tone. 'It will, it’s fine, I measured it …' My own trying-to-be-chirpy-yet-panicking voice. I had shown him pictures, I had told him the measurements, I had, I thought, accounted for anything that could go wrong. I wasn’t prepared for it to go wrong.

The sharp foot on the brake. The blankets and dog toys and bottles of screen wash that he flung one by one from the car, the way I scurried around picking them up, as if I was quick enough then no one else would see what was happening. The swear words spat from his mouth as he threw. The faces of two strangers in their car, leaned forward and silently agape behind their windscreen. The courier with his clipboard, my wobbling, intended-to-be-reassuring smile as I signed, my intense need to convey 'this is absolutely normal, don’t think anything of it'; his un-reassured expression that itched to get away.

Back in the car, the table, admittedly, didn’t really fit; the boot barely closed on the third attempt and the paintwork was rubbing off on the carpet of the ceiling. 'Now look what you made me do. That man has gone off thinking. oh he was a bit aggressive towards his girlfriend, but how am I supposed to be when you put me in positions like this ..? Oh for fuck’s sake, what are you crying for?'.

The way I tried to forge ahead with the day out, as if pretending hard enough would make everything okay again. The way we walked through the market with him dragging like a ball and chain. The way we sat silently at the lunch he didn’t care if we had, the way the bill came and he stared at me and we both knew that paying was the least I could do to make up for this. The way we went home early. The way my car seat was pitched forward at an angle that would surely kill me if we were rear-ended; the way it hurt the nerves in my back and he said, 'Well, that’s what you get'.

Although I tried to love this table it always made me think of that day. At first, how I had ruined it, and later, how I didn’t know I actually hadn’t. Selling as it deserves a new home where it’s appreciated.  

5: Television

Bought two years ago, in very good working order. Larger than I wanted. I’d wanted a small television we could tuck behind a curtain, one that only came out when there was something we really wanted to watch and the rest of the time we’d listen to records and make cocktails or sit out in the garden when it was warm. He had nodded along in a way that I thought was agreement, but when it came to it he wanted the large television, and he didn’t want it tucked away. He didn’t want to pick out the records or put them on in the evening. He wanted to watch the television, and back then I made what he wanted what I wanted because that was the easier way to live.

The day the games console arrived even he looked bashful, because I had specifically asked him not to get one so we could spend evenings together. In the time when we all stayed home he and the television grew closer. They spent all their time together, from noon when he awoke until 4am when he fell asleep. I asked if we could at least have a drink together at the end of each day and the first few times he lurked in the doorway while tugged by the television, but quickly the 'drinks on the terrace' became something I did by myself, every evening, me and the blackbird who sat in the tallest tree, the golden sun on my face unseen.

My life hummed with the simulated sounds of helicopter blades and gunfire. There was an uncomfortable pause on the line when my friend asked how we were spending our lockdown and I, unthinking, told the truth, before I laughed it off and listened to her stories of kitchen gin tastings and jigsaw puzzles, trying to engineer a way to believe that I didn’t deeply want that too. I barely went into the living room anymore; my presence there was an irritation, and I could no longer kid myself that I wanted to sit there and watch. To speak to him I would have to creep into his field of vision and give a timid wave, and he would remove the headphone from one ear but not his eyes from the screen nor his hands from the controller to tell me he didn’t care what I made for dinner. And then I would retreat, pushed to the peripheries of my own house, the peripheries of my own life.

Selling as I don’t want to have my life dominated by this television anymore.  

6: Secateurs

Red-handled secateurs, the central spring is broken so you need to keep them locked when not in use. The blades are still sharp though and they work perfectly fine. Best used for snipping shrubbery, I found, which is what I was doing the day he came outside. It was the kind of hot where the sweat prickles under your hair even when you’re completely still, and maybe that made me irritable, or maybe it was because I was outside alone feeling very much aware that this was not the life I thought we’d have together.

Whatever it was, when he reached to squeeze a spot on my forehead, I recoiled, and when he grabbed my hair to tug me back in I said 'no, stop, don’t control me like that'. Both of us hung in the fraction of the moment after, the point where the storm draws breath. And then, the thunder. 'I do not control you!'. The storm turned its eye and swept back into the house.

Usually, I wouldn’t follow. Usually, I would sit quietly in my nest of guilt and hope it would all blow over. Maybe it was the sweat, maybe it was the irritation, maybe it was the throb in my scalp or maybe it was, for the first time in seven years, feeling absolutely, completely right. I was right about this, so I followed him. But I can’t remember much after marching up the path and into the kitchen.

I wasn’t used to chasing hurricanes, didn’t know how to volley the uprooted words, didn’t know how to combat the unbending power of a storm. I had always capitulated before an argument could ignite and I didn’t know yet that it was impossible to reason with him, for him to see my side, so all my small 'can you just try to see that …'s were whipped away like lawn chairs before the hurricane had even registered them. (Later I would try to quell the storm with empirical evidence, but even when presented with spreadsheets and bank statements, he would tell me, 'You can show me whatever you want, I’m going to believe what I believe'.)

But for now, the storm swirled towards its end when he demanded 'tell me one time I’ve controlled you, go on, tell me' and I stood in the doorway, between one life and another, and couldn’t think of a single thing. The nasty smile on his face. 'See?! You can’t think of anything'. I retreated that day, but although I couldn’t be sure of it, I did think that none of this was right. For the first time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I hadn’t done anything wrong. And although nothing changed that day, everything did too.

Selling as no longer needed.  

Note to potential buyers:

Selling all items as I am moving away from here, a place that I have loved and felt at home but that ultimately is now haunted by too many versions of lives I never got to have. I can’t walk down the road without bumping into all the me’s I’d hoped I’d be, and now they’re clouding my judgement. Selling all items as I look around this house now and think to myself that I don’t need any of it, I don’t need the physical weight tying me to a past life. I do not want to carry these things forward into a new life; not because I want to forget, but how can I not remember? I carry it all in my body: in my reflexive flinches and the eczema on my eyelids and the way I panic that I’m always in trouble. I do not need to carry it in my arms too. 

Open to sensible offers — I may no longer want it, but it was still my life. 

Featured image by Getty Images via  

The 2024 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open for submissions until 1 July 2024. Submit here.

Kayte Ferris has been writing on the internet since 2016. In her creative non-fiction she is interested in desire, knowing and emotional experience, exploring fundamental, and unanswerable, personal questions.
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