Iris the Virus

IrisIris and I first met back in ’85. I was just 21 — just a kid, really, and a pretty unworldly kid. From the outset, it was hard not to be intrigued by Iris. I was drawn to her — she had a kind of raw sophistication, if I can call it that. She was a wild type: clever and adaptable and totally different to anyone I ever met. She struck me as enigmatic, a walking contradiction: scary and entrancing at once.

She had this funky Protein coat she wore everywhere — I think she found it in an op-shop or maybe she picked out of someone’s garbage. It was very retro. It suited her. Retro Virus.

I guess we were destined to be together.

And, yeah, she was sexy. Dangerous, scary, sexy: why am I not surprised that those three go together?

It was sex, after all, that led to our first meeting. Not that Iris and I ever did it — she’s a chick, after all, and that’s not my thing. But you probably can guess the story, there was this guy I was screwing — can’t even remember his name now — and he and Iris had been hanging around for a while. So this guy introduced us, that was the start of our beautiful crazy, scary friendship.

Iris never had a permanent home — she’d move from place to place as it suited her and she never stayed long. Sometimes it felt like the whole goddamned city was her home. She had a million couches to sleep on.

In those days I didn’t know what she was capable of, I don’t think anyone did really. But we started spending a lot of time together — Iris is like that, if you let her into your life.

After we started hanging out together a lot of my friends said they didn’t trust her, but for me it was too late by then. Iris and I were stuck together. Still are.

“Girlfriends,” I guess you’d call us. A pair of old girlfriends. We don’t really like each other, but we’re stuck together. It’s a story you’ve probably heard before.

Our relationship might be kind of dysfunctional, but that doesn’t mean I’m planning to break it off with her. Sure, she pisses me off at times — a lot of the time — but after you’ve been through as much as Iris and I have, you don’t just end it, you can’t just end it.

Over the last few years, our relationship has matured a bit. She still meddles in my life a bit more than I’d like, especially my sex life, but I reckon we’ve reached a much more relaxed arrangement. She’s still that intense, scary chick inside, but she’s older too now; I guess she’s mellowing a bit.

We never thought we’d grow old, Iris and me. We always expected we’d go out in a blaze of glory. Live fast, die young.

Iris is a part of me now. I guess we’ll always be together. Sometimes she turns up out of nowhere and I wish I’d never met her, but I’ve learned to live with her. If she gets on my wick, I give her both barrels, but if she doesn’t give me too much trouble, it’s easy to ignore her crazy ways. We don’t love each other; I’m not even sure we like each other. But we respect each other. And that, after all, is what girlfriends are for.

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Photograph: Jeroen Peys