OPINION - Tracey Emin: Living without love (again)

 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)

I still don’t feel well, my mind is so scrambled, heart keeps pounding, eyes keep burning and living hurts. That’s how it feels living without love, an inner torture like a giant panic button going off. The sound of screaming I WILL NEVER LOVE OR BE LOVED AGAIN.

The grinding of cogs and broken machinery becoming the soundtrack of life. Rust and dust begin to line the valves of my heart, your heart, our hearts.

A tired breathlessness takes over. Saltern tears begin to fall and burn, my heart is breaking.

Life carries on, it has to. I feel like I’m dying but I’m not — the last time I felt like I was dying, I actually was!

The broken parts of our souls, how do they mend? I’m not sure they do; if they do they have big cracks glued together with the stuff of survival.

 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)

I’m feeling very fragile right now. If I’m honest, the only thing that’s making me feel good at the moment is swimming in the sea and my little cats, Teacup and Pancake — they love me, they love me unconditionally, unconditionally with treats.

I love their warmth and cosiness, their purity. Every morning I wake up and Teacup is there, wrapped around my arm, her little paws and arms holding on to me. Pancake is curled up around my feet, his little heart beating against my toes. My life would be unbearable without them, but the strange thing is it’s more or less a certainty that they will outlive me.

The only time I feel strong is when I’m swimming. I’m not a good swimmer or a fast swimmer, I just like it. It makes my body feel alive, the rust falls off and my heart opens.

My desire to swim outweighs my fear. I swim and scrub. There are good days and bad days to swim

At the moment there’s a ton of s**t in the water, storm drains off-loading sewage, pollutants and God knows what else. My desire to swim outweighs my fear. I swim and scrub. There are good days and bad days to swim, after the rain is not good.

My friend Margate Ben (he swam the Channel in a relay) and I like to swim around the harbour arm and back at high tide. I love it because usually going out is against the tide. Sometimes you just stay in the same place, you have to push your way through. The sea feels thick and salty and coming back it’s like you’re pulled by a magical thread. Sometimes I have to stand on the jetty ladder to empty my bag if the swim has taken too long.

I like the feeling of the open sea on one side and vastness of the harbour wall on the other. On Sunday we had missed high tide so I suggested we go to Walpole Bay Tidal Pool. This was out of character for me. I’m pretty stubborn about where I like to swim.

 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)

The tidal pool is very beautiful and surreal especially at sunset. The green sea algae on the wall against the dark blue green of the water, the orange and red purple glow of the sunset, is truly breathtaking.

As Margate Ben and I walked around the wall, he said: “I’m so surprised you wanted to swim here, you never want to. Why ?”

I could feel my face screwing up — I could not remember the last time I had swum there, I pointed to the steps covered in seaweed and sea moss. You see those slippery steps? When I was about 10 I was here swimming alone one evening. As I climbed up the steps I slipped and scraped the skin off my shin. A deep gouge, blood pouring down my leg. I limped along the beach crying, the sun was setting, my leg was in a real mess, and bits of green seaweed were drying in the cut.

A man at a beach hut asked me what I’d done, I was crying and crying.

He took me into his hut, gave me some Coca-Cola, cleaned the cut and bandaged my leg. I was so grateful, so grateful that I got on my knees and tried to pull his trunks down and push my head onto his penis.

 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)

The man pushed me away like I was a flea. Pushing my head away for his own protection, I could hear his shouts in my head to get away as I limped and cried all the way home, confused. That, I told my friend, is why I don’t like to swim here. Not because I slipped but because it reminds of living without love.