Sunday, 14 December 2008
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
The next twenty minutes were chaos. Adam’s hangover was forgotten, his father’s just beginning. Armed with a hoover, bin bag and duster, he became the general of an aged one man army; waging holy war against The Filth and The Mess. The work was frantic but short. Soon they found themselves sitting across from one another at the dining room table holding mugs of coffee with the smell of Mr Sheen placed firmly in their nostrils.
Silence pervaded as they stared each other down.
There hadn’t been any shouting when the bombshell was dropped. Just an awkwardness. Some Dizziness. Adam found himself sitting down. His mother was dead. He tried to imagine the concept: it escaped him. It was a slippery fish he kept trying to catch with hands covered in jelly. He could have asked the why and how, but they were too abstract and obtuse. Instead he found himself worrying over the real and the present; their situation as they sat in a house of filth, waiting for his aunt and Granny to arrive. They wouldn’t be impressed; all their prejudices against the male half of the species would be conveniently confirmed.
So he solved their problem and now they were left with the original one: the abstract and the obtuse. He thought of interrogating the older, mirrored version of himself for answers. He could have done. All of the difficult questions would have been answered with ease. But he couldn’t.
“I had better get ready.” He got up, grabbed his holdall, and floated up the stairs.
His bedroom remained the same as ever, yet emptier than before. The funeral suit remained in its original bag, recently dry cleaned; the label still safety-pinned on. He put it on half-heartedly and went to check himself in the mirror in his parents’ room (or rather, his father’s room. Singular: parent. Just a father. No mother).
He was a semi orphan. He checked himself, noting that he had lost weight and then he noticed the bed. In fact, he noticed half of the bed, the half that remained pristine and unused; the half that was left null and void. Her book remained unfinished by the side, the queen of hearts still sticking out the top as a forever temporary bookmark. The edges remained straight and the corners unbent. Everything was in order. She was a pristine woman. How could she have left such a mess?
The shrill cry of the doorbell woke him out of reverie and sent him down the stairs. He was greeted at the door by his stern grandmother and prude aunt.
“Hello Granny. Hello Aunt Meg.” Granny grabbed him by the shoulders and rather than hugging him, shook him fiercely.
“Oh, my poor little Addie.” She tutted in a thick Scot accent. An echo somewhere repeated: “poor, poor little Addie.”
“Such a terrible way to go,”
“Where’s your father?”
“Just through there,” he pointed half heartedly. “Granny, what did you mean by-“
“Oh, that silly man, I always knew he would be the end of her.”
“What are you talking about?” He almost shouted out, but somehow managed to restrain himself.
“Oh I’m sorry Addie, how rude of me. I forgot to mention we bumped into that lovely friend of yours.”
“She ‘s finding a spot to park.”
“Granny, who are you talking about?”
“You know, the pretty one. Such gorgeous blonde hair.”
“Hello Adam.” Walking up the path dressed in black, her hair running freely, was his ex-girlfriend.
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
It was in late September, just as the trees were beginning to turn shades of gold and auburn. A few weeks earlier Adam had moved into his new apartment, the first place that he ever considered to be truly his own. In the sense at least that he was the sole tenant (it was rented), that it was of reasonable quality and that he intended to stay for a while longer than a year. Taking these three factors into account meant that, in his opinion, the past three years living in student digs hadn’t counted as moving away from home, but rather that it had been something more of an extended trip, or life-lesson. It also meant that the rest of his earthly possessions needed to be boxed and moved because, as his mother had so eloquently put it: “We’re turning your room into a spare bedroom; and that doesn’t mean that you can let your friends stay in there when you come to visit.” Hence, he was planning to head home and complete the move, which actually only involved shifting two boxes of books and his funeral suit (which had only been worn once, at his grandfather’s funeral a year earlier). The plan was to head down on the Friday and come back on the Sunday. A simple plan, he hoped.
A few days before the Friday, he received a phone call from his father to confirm that he was, in fact, coming home for the weekend.
“Don’t worry about it Dad, it’s all sorted.”
But then of course he was lying.
A separate set of circumstances that occurred whilst he was heavily drunk resulted in him double-booking himself on the Friday night in question. These set of circumstances also happened to have occurred whilst he was deep in conversation with the attractive girl from IT at a spontaneous office outing (which he later discovered was all too common). He was carefully informed by several colleagues that you only got one chance with the attractive girl from IT and that if he had means and opportunity, he should take it. The result was that he was forced to phone his father on the Friday afternoon, make up a work related excuse, then promise him he would arrive first thing in the morning. Of course, he didn’t arrive first thing in the morning, because he was still slightly drunk at that time and didn’t want to wake up the attractive girl from IT, who he discovered quietly snoring on his pillow. He happened to note that she seemed fairly plain without any make up on but that he didn’t mind at all and that this just added to her charms.
When he did finally come home at a time closer to midday, he found that the house was in a mess and the curtains drawn. There were at least three bottles of Scotch in various states of emptiness and old take away boxes littered almost every open surface above the floor. The ash tray on the coffee table was full of black-grey detritus and at the head of that table, sitting almost ceremoniously, was his father; garbed in a black suit with his shoes polished to a shine and a half burnt-out cigarette placed between index and middle fingers. His top button remained undone and his tie untied. The greying mess of hair on his head looked ruffled and the lines in his face seemed somehow… deeper.
“Jesus, what’s going on?”
“Hey, son.” The middle aged man huffed and lifted himself out of the chair. “You got here just in time, your Granny and Aunts are about to arrive.”
“You look like you’re dressed for a funeral!”
“That’s because we’re going to one.”
“What do you mean?” Silence. “Dad?”
“It’s your mother. She died last week.”
Monday, 15 September 2008
I saw a dead squirrel by the side of the road today. It took me a little by surprise because I had been staring at it for some time, wondering what it might be before suddenly realising exactly what it was. It made me side step and very nearly jump headfirst into a hedge. I dare say the hunched old woman shuffling along behind me must have thought I was nuts. What made the image so disturbing was the way it was lying on its side, almost foetal, as if it were just sleeping. Its tiny mouth was open. There was no blood.
A car rushed by at the same time, and I couldn’t help but build up this scenario in my head where the creature was crushed beneath the titanic tyres of a truck and its bloody guts were sent showering over me. I was of course instantly sick, spewing the contents of my stomach over the nearest garden wall.
It was then that an angry housewife stormed out her front door, shouting at me in the belief that I was a drunk or an addict. That’s when, breathless and gagging, I managed to somehow explain the turn of events.
She instantly took pity, saying as she ushered me into her home: “oh, you poor dear.” She fed me tea and biscuits and cleaned me up. And after lending me her husband’s clothes, she introduced me to her shy yet delicately pretty daughter, who happened to find me fascinating.
And so on…
I might write a story about it.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
I have to walk away. My hand shakes when I partake of my dirty pleasure and it shakes when I don't. What am I to do?
I NEED THAT FALSE SENSE OF WELL BEING AND ALERTNESS.
Saturday, 13 September 2008
She crept in under the cover of partial darkness, sneaking with her head scanning from side to side and back arched: a cat stalking prey. The amber glow of suburbia filtered through the slotted gaps of blinds that remained open and cast stripes of light and shadow upon her form. Her form: it stole away out of the covers, creaked open the door and crept silently down to the end of the corridor where she broke into her brother’s room. His former room.
It seemed empty without him; a desolate shell of the life he used to lead. Much of him remained there though and was preserved as museum pieces to his memory. Tokens of the past that nobody wanted or felt brave enough to part from.
A finger ran across the surface of his desk. She lifted it up and rubbed the dust between index and thumb. He never allowed any dust to gather in his room, he couldn’t stand it, couldn’t allow that mess to exist. It was his greatest weakness and fault. Never had he ever tolerated disorder in his life. For him it always had to be just…so.
Out of his drawers she pulled a sweater that was ironed and folded to perfection. The exact size of an A4 sheet. Perfect right angles. No bobbles. In real light, not the fake light of the city at night, it appeared evergreen as she remembered him. Alive and well all year round. His winter had come far too early.
The scent of him remained, however; the slight musk mingled with the fresh smell of conditioner. Clean. He had always smelled clean. She buried her nose deep into the fabric and took him in, absorbed his essence and memory until she could barely breathe or think. Her heart quickened as she pulled away and her stomach tensed. Her chest rose in short sharp bursts. The palpitations rose up into her throat. The blood beat harder. Her vision grew dark. Lights faded. Amber to grey. Shadow to shadow.
Her head flung back, she fell with arms wide open onto the bed and through half closed lids could almost make out his form, almost see him and sense his presence right there, right above her as if he were very nearly corporeal.
Friday, 12 September 2008
In the end I visited my doctor. She was forced to inform me that the staining would be permanent and that there was nothing I could do about it. I wear scarves now to cover my mouth.
Thursday, 11 September 2008
A while back I received a call from a friend who, if I’m being honest, I hadn’t spoken to in a few weeks as the last time we had spoken things had been just a little… strained. But she got me worried because there was this earnest tinge to her tone that suggested she wanted to discuss something important. The strange part about it was that she asked me to meet her at a café that was just a few minutes from where I lived. Normally, she would have just hammered on my door (no bell) and be done with it. So, on the basis that something must have been wrong, I agreed to meet up.
I arrived a little late to find her brooding over a mug of something hot and couldn’t help but imagine that she was listening intently to whispers in the steam. I waited in front of her table as a passive attempt to garner some attention but it didn’t seem to work, so I bought an orange juice and a pastry and sat down in the opposite chair. After a few minutes she looked up.
“Oh, hey. You came.”
“Well it sounded important. You okay?”
“Yeah, fine I suppose.” She turned silent and I bided my time for her to strike up a conversation, or at least offer something akin to an explanation. She remained impassive though, simply staring into her mug with a slightly cocked head and furrowed eyebrows. I gave up.
I offered her some Danish.
“English Breakfast actually.”
“Oh. No thank you.”
“Watching your hips?”
“Maybe, you could say that.”
“You seem a bit out of it. Are you sure you’re okay?”
She huffed and then looked up, jutting her chin out and widening her eyes so that she looked like a frightened rabbit. “I really want to go for a walk; shall we go for a walk?”
“I just want to take a walk outside.” She sort of smiled manically when she said this, so I decided to appease her.
“Okay, that sounds fine.”
“Thanks.” She got up, gathered her coat and bag and started toward the door. I had to down my juice and wrap the rest of the Danish in a napkin and stuff it into my jacket pocket. By the time I caught up with her she was already halfway up the street, walking with her eyes focused entirely on her feet. We walked in the clear light of a spring afternoon with her leading the way in an awkward, silent meander. It was one of those days where the sun seemed distant and a slight wind meant you had to wrap a scarf around your throat so that you wouldn’t catch a cold.
She led me down to the river where we sat on wooden benches and she stopped to stare at the mundane. And each time, when I had almost figured out what it might be that she was looking at, she would move on and then again I would follow like a puppy dog on an invisible lead.
Eventually, we came to a bridge and she stopped like every time before, but rather than simply zoning off into the middle distance, she asked me a question.
“You ever feel like you’ve sailed too far down the river?”
“You ever feel like you’ve made one little mistake and now you can’t turn back? That you have to just accept it and get on with life?”
I tried mulling over her words but drew a blank.
“I don’t get what you’re saying.”
She sighed deeply and looked at her watch.
“Late for what?”
She didn’t reply and began to zone off again.
“What are you talking about?” I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and start shaking her until she made sense.
“Doesn’t matter.” She dug her hands deep into her coat. Then she looked up at me and smiled gently. “Can I ask you one more thing?”
“As long as it isn’t some kind of… cryptic metaphor.” I don’t do well with metaphors.
“We’ll always be friends, right, no matter what?”
“Good.” And then she brightened up. All of a sudden, there she was; the friend I knew, just back to normal as though the past hour had never occurred.
“Let’s get some food; we’re feeling pretty hungry.” She gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek and carried on back the way we came, with her head held a little higher and her arms wrapped around her stomach, keeping it warm.
Monday, 8 September 2008
We slept quietly, occasionally waking when the tips of our feet brushed against one another’s through the thick quilt in the dead of hushed night. Our bodies remained silent, but not motionless, and my heart jumped with excited fervour each time until one of us shifted on the hard, old, lump ridden mattress. And then it sank once again, with the guilt of runaway fantasies and melancholic realisation of futures that could never possibly unravel. And between those moments we both slept, and perhaps you slept through all of them, but I think I heard you take a short, quick breath once or twice. Perhaps it was with sudden ecstasy, or perhaps with shock. Either way, the night was soon over and I was left only with memories.
So when I woke I opened the curtains to reveal a pure winter morning: clear skies and cold sunlight that reflected off the fresh, bleached snow to dazzle my sleep worn eyes. I rubbed away a hard nugget of sleep dust with a thin finger and took a long gaze at the serenity before me with clear sight. And then, finally, I noticed that a bird had disturbed it; leaving a three-toed trail through the pristine flakes that disappeared off into a far-off vanishing point beyond the extent of sight. And I felt like I was staring at the whole scene upside down, as though my brain had forgotten to revert the image so that I could comprehend it; true to life.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Lucinda, an ex-girlfriend of mine, always insisted upon wearing a paper bag over her head. She seemed to believe that her face was malformed and wretched, but I thought it was the most beautiful I had ever seen.
Many months were spent trying to convince her otherwise, but to no avail. Eventually noticing that her usual brown bag was becoming torn and rough at the edges, I resolved to find her a new one. I spent weeks trawling the high streets of the country, testing every paper bag I could find in order to find the one that she would love the most. But also to demonstrate that no matter what life she chose, I would always be there to support and love her.
A few weeks after I presented it to her she left me for another man, saying as she walked out the door: “You don’t love me for who I am anymore; you have become too obsessed with aesthetics.”
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Monday, 1 September 2008
Early winter and the sun hides its face behind a mask of brooding cloud. We trudge up the empty beach in single file, a meandering column of two with you at the head and me at the tail. A slight pitter-patter of rain crosses our vision like a thousand ghosts of shooting stars that leave the stones beneath our feet wet and glistening and make our impractical shoes slip against them. Our progress is slow, but it doesn’t matter because we have so much time to squander on this day, to spend as we please.
The tops of silent seaside shacks are just visible above the bank of shingle; their occupants safe inland for the length of the British winter. I wonder if they are worth the expense, only useful for such a short period that is our supposed summer. Do you remember how it used to last so much longer? When, as children, we spent so long adventuring in the woods and paddling in the sea; building sandcastles that were there one day and gone the next, ready to be resurrected. Now each year the sun shrinks farther away and becomes more blanched. Our autumn comes on in overcast waves.
The waves: they crash on the shore like heavy thunder; throwing up spray that kisses our faces and tickles the insides of our noses. Even though it is bitter and cold and a wind cuts through to my skin, I still feel cheerful walking by the sea, awed even. A scientist friend of mine once said that the reason the sea makes everyone happy is because the salt water releases free oxygen into the air which makes you, in a literal sense, high. A chemical reaction is all. A biological process that we take to mean so much more.
I ask if we can stop to rest and you nod, your face softening to give me a smile and reverting back to a more intent look as you begin to scan across the stones. A rogue strand of hair gets tucked back beneath your beanie with a gloved hand. I saw it fall out earlier while we ate ice cream from the isolated van. I didn’t say anything because I liked the way it framed one side of your face.
While settling down onto hard stone I see you walk around in tight circles, following an invisible path which, from experience, I know means you are searching for something suitable for skimming. Still, I ask:
“What are you searching for?”
“Something suitable for skimming.” You reply without looking up (and that familiar smile becomes visible at the corners of your mouth). A few moments later you pick up a stone that is flat and smooth and fits snug into the palm of your hand. You toss it into the air a few times, flicking it with your fingers and getting a feel for the shape, then you pull your arm back and launch it with a practised precision that sends it spinning well over the white foam and onto the swell of that heavy, undulating ocean. It skips three times and then disappears over the horizon of a far away hill of water. I clap through thick gloves. You turn to me and beam.
Sunday, 31 August 2008
You are gnarled. Like an old woman’s hand reaching up to the pale morning sky. Worn and arthritic you remain stock still. On the rare occasion that you do move it is with immense and immeasurable pain. You stand as a testament to time that although nature has thrown everything she can at you, you remain whole and resolute.
Yet looking closer there are scars, too. Small ones. Three in particular. One from fire, one from a child and one from a man. They tell a story where all the characters are just phantoms lost to memory and time and where the circumstances are obscured by an indistinct fog and only the physical marks remain.
In some places the skin has come off; taken away by a blade, or maybe something similar. Where it has grown back there are darker patches that seem somehow odd, as if they do not belong to you but to some other, alien being.
There is a thump.
A creak, a groan and a crack.
Are you struggling to move, to reanimate in the cold winter air? No, because slowly you turn away from that sky, revealing parts of you that have never before seen sunlight. And they are joyous in its distant warmth. That rapture is short lived. Your death is a silent scream except that there are witnesses, who watch without awe as you fall with undignified speed. The event occurs without grace. You are not the morning star. They hear you crash with a broken, dulled thump.
More wood for the fire.
So, here goes...