21 One Bags of Fleas
Which American states is it legal to marry your own cousin in? Asking for a relative.
Nobody outwardly seeks a bag of fleas.
It’s not an Amazon bestseller or chef’s recommendation or even made more than, what, twice inside Santa’s workshop? I’ve never rubbed a lamp just to ask a gaseous cobalt blue Robin Williams for one, nor have I ever swiped two quid out my dad’s wallet in order to go secretly purchase some (a packet of fizzy rainbow laces, however).
And yet, now, I couldn’t ever live without one — plus twenty others. They are, it seems, my very source of life. If this was Northern Lights then these fleas are my daemon (which is very on brand for us considering demons are one of our themes). If this was Harry Potter then these bags of fleas are my 21 horcruxes. If this was Doctor Who then they are 21 versions of my very own self, two hearts times almost two dozen.
But this is none of those realms, this is Earth dimension C-137, I am me and those bags of fleas? They are my cousin. Fleabag. 21 years old today. And my heart is riddled with her like a cat’s fur is riddled with, well, fleas.
Sure, nobody chooses to have a bag of fleas, much less 21 of them. And sure, nobody gets to choose their family members, either. But since that day back in the past (this day minus (365 x 21 + leap years in between)) when she worm-holed her way out of my aunties organic Tardis, I would have it no other way. If I could have chosen, I wouldn’t have chosen any differently — although maybe I’d have made her slightly less talented. Give me a chance to catch up.
November 29th, 1999:
(Proper skirting the edge of the nineties there, ain’t ya Lee?)
Mom says, “Em! You’re a big cousin!”
Me, three years old, replies, “honestly mother, I’m going to need a little more context on your end. The ambiguity behind your statement is threefold! Am I a large cousin, in size? By age? By status? Clarity, woman! Give me clarity!”
Mom, resisting the urge to put me up for adoption, adds, “Leah’s born.”
“Why didn’t you bloody say so, Trace! That’s friggin’ ace!”.
Turns out that by big, she meant lucky.
It’s Illegal to Marry Your First Cousin in Louisiana
And yet they turn a blind eye to the vampires overrunning New Orleans?
The word cousin is of Middle English origins (love that for you), derived from the Latin for “consobrinus,” which specifically denoted “the child of one’s mother’s sister” (aka your dad is now a woman). In Spanish, it translates as Prima. So I’m assuming the Spanish for Leah is Donna, because that would explain a lot (also another inadvertent Doctor Who reference. We’re nothing if not thematic).
And yet, she’ll always be so much more than a cousin to me.
She’s my family. And not just genetically bound family — sure we have the same under chin mole and excessive manes. Sure we’re hardwired to love horror and dogs and war memorabilia (????). But I also mean like family family, where your souls are the same shape (a triangle) with matching tattoos and matching scars. Where your livers retain the same capacity for VKs. Where your mouths both have the same inability to just ever stop. And even our blood is the same, not simply because we’re blood relatives, but because we’re destined to be vampire food, because we’ve got cherryade coursing through our veins, because we’ve sold vials of it online just to afford tickets to go see Yungblud (very on brand there). We are extensions of one another, identical (like twin sisters, you might say. That’s another theme) but also opposite ends of the spectrum. Assuming “the spectrum” is actually just an age timeline of famous boys, in which Lee lingers at the end labelled “Old Men/Wait is He Dead?” and I teeter dangerously close to the “Baby Faced/Are You Sure This is Legal?” edge.
But the point is: me and Leah?
We are different genres of the same novel (she’s the best-seller. I’m the first draft. Both of us are unsuitable for kids).
Assuming, of course, that these novels are actually just neatly bound scraps of horror based scripts and elaborate sketches of the Community cast and quotes from Twilight and a thorough tally of ducks’ opinions on gluten free bread and vampiric fanfic and doodles of Henry Cavill’s moustache and defaced pages of a ghost hunting book and astrology charts and boo(b) branding and a list of eateries likened to nightclubs and Midnight Beast tickets and drawing of James Acaster with boobs and a strip of photo-booth selfies from Pryzm and an irremovable stamp from Snobs. And the rest (we have a lot of themes. Netflix wouldn’t even begin to know how to categorise us. Nor could they air us before 9pm).
You see? Me and Lee? We are 21 bags of fleas, and a tiny pot of phlegm.
117 Reddit Users Upvoted a Photo of a Map of American States in Which First Cousin Marriage is Legal. There Were 37 Comments.
And here is some other quantitative data you didn’t ask for:
21 Things I Love About You:
21 Things I Tolerate About You:
- Your beautiful face.
- Your beautiful heart.
- Your beautiful warm ciabatta spread with pesto, layered with brie and sundried tomatoes and a dollop of 4am brewed love. Then you lobbed a mini roll at me.
- Your beautiful talent.
- Your beautiful voice.
- Your beautiful collection of Halloween buckets used as miscellaneous storage.
- Your beautiful mind.
- Your beautiful ability to dip into the darkest timeline, pluck out some of the most concerning themes that would make the Saw franchise seem like a wholesome DIY show, and skip straight back here in your flowing knee-length summer dresses and french plaits.
- Your beautiful cousin (sorry Alannah).
- Your beautiful slanted floor.
- Your beautifully archived 21 years of life, categorised by themes and phases and Spotify playlists. And the dark depths of your Instagram.
- Your beautiful taste in boys (I literally mean James. We’ll ignore all the others).
- Your beautiful mane.
- You’re beautiful.
21 Things I Hate About You
(Sounds like a parody remake of that movie with Heath Ledger. We’d definitely watch it).
- Your ability to poo in like fourteen seconds.
- That, at this moment in time, you’re not stapling.
- That’s it. That’s friggin it.
So, My Son
My boy. My guy. M’Lady. M’Lord.
Happy my half birthday eve, to you.
We’re made from the same starstuff, us two (fiery ball of gas. Real hot. Will disintegrate any human beings that come near us) and the same DNA. We share the same genes. And you and the twins share the same jeans. And you and Alannah share the same Jean. It’s all full circle — except really, me and you, we’re all about the triangles (James Acaster triangles, love triangles and hey, even a pentagram is just a collection of triangles).
You put the chest into Manchester because you have severed through my rib cage and stolen my heart. You put the man into Manchester because you’re my fave bloke. You put the perfect quantity of butter onto that fake Richmond sausage sandwich and honestly, I don’t think there is any love more potent than that.
No matter what, just know that there is nowhere on this Earth or another version (including all possible Hells) that I would not venture to with you, that I would not ghost hunt and graveyard hang and drink-winning HSM dance with you. Whether that’s Romania or a Channel Four show or a photo-booth in Pryzm (or prison. Likely both). You are my log flume and I am your hype man.
And on this here 21st year of your existence, I can confirm: you, Fleabag, are ready to eat apricots.
November 29th, 2069:
I’m an age I’m unwilling to disclose. Leah is that age, minus three. I still look nine. Leah still looks phenomenal. She’s still 3ft tall, though.
The lights go down. The auditorium falls silent. I even stop snacking long enough to cheer manically when a spotlight appears on stage, a tiny red-lipped bombshell appearing beneath it. She’s doused in blood, clutching a knife, a lemon yellow knee-length coat illuminating the room. Fleabag in full view. Glowing and beaming and about to supernova raw talent right there on stage as she performs yet another one of her self-scripted masterpieces. She’s also gassy — a little fart slips out as she bends to grab a sock puppet lying beside her care-bear clad feet.
She truly is the definition of a star.
And just like that, I know exactly what I’m so obsessed with space.