I Was Bored Before I Even Began

I can’t tell if the hissing is from the wind through the ruins, the crickets that balance on dead stalks or from her dissatisfaction.  I look over my shoulder and she looks happy enough but that means nothing.  I’ll grant you, this isn’t the most romantic location in the world.  We’re standing in the ruins of an old brick building, rotted into piles here and there, with plant life clinging to rubble and metal bleeding rust into mortar.  This place, long disused, feels connected to everything around it – not dead yet but on the most powerful kind of life support.

I had to lie to get us here.  I told her long tales of supernatural beasts and phantoms who flit over nettles and discarded white goods.  Ever since her Auntie died, one window in the house is permanently clouded by condensation.  She insists it was her favourite window, her favourite view, and now after death she continues to breathe against the glass.  I can’t logically explain why this window is suddenly covered in moisture when every other pane of glass in the room is clean and clear.  But then I cannot explain why this old building, in which we wade and explore, still smells of sweat and tar nearly a century since anyone last worked inside it.  Which is why I have brought her here.

She once said:

“Do you think buildings sleep?”

And I replied, well what the fuck, buildings aren’t even alive to be able to sleep, the fuck are you talking about….

Yet here we stand, in a relic, and what is now covered in moss and creeping ivy feels as alive as it ever could be.  Even the drunks and the junkies don’t come here, because they are scared by it’s vitality.  Not my words, but hers.  I won’t claim credit for them, and neither will I accept the blame.

I have to be careful though.  The Boy was only buried last month.  I know that she has a count beyond him.  I keep having these fucked up dreams…. where myself and The Boy are climbing mountains, where myself and The Boy are slightly older and sinking beers in a strobing bar, where myself and The Boy are walking hand in hand and I have a raging boner that I am trying to hide inside my trousers, because I’m not a homosexual and never have been, never will be, but I can see him smirking out of the corner of his eye and I just want to let go and beat him into a mess of red and silver brain fluids…. and then I wake up, covered in sweat and semen, blood pulsing around my arms, neck and shaft.  I lie in my bed, letting the frozen winter air purify the droplets on my chest and stomach until I shiver myself flaccid and I pretend that it was just a dream, just a terrible dream, just a dream with no basis on….

 

 

….and now I’m standing under a dense tree.  Back to reality, as it were.  Tar and diesel fill my nostrils.  The leaves of this thing are wide and dark, so I light a cigarette out of the wind.  It began as a seed on a corner of the building, but it has grown and pushed the bricks aside.  Now it seems to sprout from within, leaning away as though ashamed of mankind, coiling and clawing.  I stand under the night and I look across to the sun, to lighter greens and horses and I see her… oh jesus do I ever see her…. standing on the points of her toes, her arms out like a fluid Jesus, laughing as the Romans try to hammer nails through a waterfall, face pointed towards all the vitamins, a human satellite dish of emotion, poise, pose and grace.  I can only sit back on the crumbling shoulder of an interior wall and take a deep drag.  Everything on the outside feels so alive and I fill my insides with plastic, death and hacksaw smoke.

*

It was at this spot that we witnessed the End Of The World.  At least, it was the End Of The World to us.  If you are reading this, then clearly something survived.

But we sat, side by side, as I looked at my watch counting down the seconds.  We were ready.  We knew what was coming.  The previous week, we’d walked through a town centre covered in broken glass and blood, layered with regret, lust and every petty argument known to our ridiculous species.  For the first 48 hours it was dangerous to leave the house, but once the Alpha’s had settled their scores they slunk back to their bases, lairs and hovels to die in whatever manner they saw fit.  Every cuckhold, disgruntled neighbour, ASBO and golfer had ventured out to cleanse their soul.  With nothing to live for, everyone seemed to fall into a nihilistic atheism, and took the opportunity not to say goodbye to loved ones but to destroy those who had wronged them.  I watched as men and women battled other men and women, many of whom had not seen each other since their school days, just because of an isolated incident of bullying that had clouded their existence ever since.  I watched as men left their houses with sharpened garden tools and their faces covered (why were their faces covered?) to exact revenge on individuals who’d sat behind them in pointless Geography classes two decades previous.  I watched as men and women walked naked except for slabs of metal hacked from car bonnets, like so many turtles learning to walk for the first time.  No one had electricity but everyone had fire.  The town felt warmer than the sun gave us.

Afterwards the streets were filled with broken glass and the dead.  All the shops were destroyed and yet the cafes remained untouched.  When I asked her why, she shrugged and said no one knows how to make a decent coffee these days.

*

I didn’t think of our echo as the grass turned to yellow and then red, and the shirt on my back caught fire and my trousers melted and clung like a scared child to my legs.

Just before that, I watched as the sky turned from blue to turquoise, and we had about two minutes left as the atmosphere of the Earth found itself invaded by new and hostile elements.  She stood like a tuning fork, still and straight, and then bounded over to me.

‘They’ve done it!’ she beamed.

‘They’ve actually done it!’

I climbed up the crumbling ruin, perhaps the bravest thing I ever did, and placed one foot firmly on a fragile iron roof and one on a yellowing tree trunk and I looked across to a world stocking up on supplies for something they could never survive.  No traffic moved, but the pavements were full like disturbed ants and I could hear the distant roar of dissatisfied voices, crying and bumping, shouting and bemoaning, shoving and shiving.  It struck me in that moment how I hadn’t noticed…. there were no background noises.  No sirens.  No aeroplanes.  No sports cars or superbikes.  In the face of annihilation, everyone had decided to rely on their legs, a base human instinct.  The roads were almost empty, the pavements almost full.  And then the gasp came, and it was too late for me to analyse whether it was a gasp of horror or acceptance.

 

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I climb, gasping, up a green slope slashed with white like uncooked flesh.  Here, the grass unzips over the chalk; just a papyrus layer of broken skin.  I can feel the Earth vibrating through the soles of my bare feet, tingling and stung by nettles and thorns.  Air whips around my ankles, uncovered and unfamiliar.  I flashback to a memory of a knee sock being slowly rolled down on a hot day and seeing bristles of unshaven leg hair clinging to the fibres.  I understand completely.  I cling as well.  I cling to everything.  The odour of a sweaty foot in thick wool on a hot day.  A sticky forehead and a greasy fringe.  Bad coffee breath and grey patches under the arms.  Even the furry teeth and a poisonous tongue, yellowing from a rusting, home-made stud pushed (unblinkingly) through.  All these foul things I embrace in a personal degredation.  It’s not that I don’t think I can do any better.  I just don’t want to.

I look in front of me.  The path winds on ahead as everything falls away dramatically to my left and right.  The ridge reminds me of her spine as I once viewed it on a lethargic summer afternoon, gently kissing her naked figure from ankle to buttock as she lay on her front, indifferently reading a book and eating fruit salad from the can.

*

We’re in bed.  I’m on top, balls deep and pounding away, giving it so much oh jesus oh god yes so good when I realise she’s stopped making any noise of her own; in fact she’s staring straight through the back of my skull.  I lose my train of fuck and pull out, hovering above her like an indecisive murderer holding a melting knife.  Her face falls out of her weird trance and she starts looking towards me, her pupils flicking left and right to meet mine.  I feel her entire body, beneath me, relax back into familiarity with a deep sigh.

“I really hate the word ‘gash’.”

‘….beg pardon?’

“Gash.  It’s just such an ugly word…”

‘I’ve never used the word.’

“Taking a woman’s sex and turning it into a violent wound.”

‘I’ve never used the word.’

“No, no.  I know baby.  I was just thinking about my ex…”

‘…..’

“He was always throwing it around.  Always.

‘…..’

“Pissed me off.”

‘…..’

“….are we finished?”

*

The first time we sat down and discussed what scared us most, I realised that all my answers were wrong.  I talked about spiders, cancer and being burned alive and I concluded that all my fears were about the realisation of death before it happened – the slow crawl of a venomous tarantula in an infinitely large jungle, the slow decay of cancer, the gradual and agonising disintergration of immolation.  She remained uninterested until my last answer, when her own fire lit behind her pupils and she wondered aloud how it would feel to watch the digits of your own fingers turn to black and drop away like so many rain-sodden winter branches.  Her fears were seemingly obscure and wilfully obtuse – train journeys, junk mail and motherhood – until I realised it was all about a loss of control about circumstance and identity.  The loss of control during a journey, the loss of control over a social construct or your gender or age, the loss of control over your body.  My fears were all about endings, but her fears were about the middle bit of the story – the bit where the focus could shift at a moment’s notice from one character to another.  I remembered a conversation we’d had a year or so previously, after a cinema date; imagine being the person who is deliberately cleverly written and well characterised in a film just so they can be killed off halfway through to fuck with the audience.  Like, we get involved with them, get interested in them and then they die just so we can gasp and be all ‘I never saw that coming!’  And then that character, who didn’t expect to die, in their final moments realises who the main thrust of the story is about.  The movie isn’t about them, it’s about The Other Person.  And they thought it was about them! Wouldn’t that be heartbreaking?

I’d tried to reason with her.  Life isn’t Forrest fucking Gump.  Life is more chaotic than that.  Everyone has the chance to beat everyone.  Okay, don’t roll your eyes, just listen.  If I looked across the street now and I spotted the World Champion heavyweight boxer standing outside a shop, I could hotwire a parked car and run him down and kill him, and defeat him.  He’d go from 29-0 to 30-1, indefinitely.  Does that make me a better fighter?  No!  But that’s the chaotic nature of life.  No one is better or worse.  You just have to understand your universe. 

She let go of my hand.  Maybe you’re right.  But what’s wrong with us being here for a specific purpose?  Why do we need to know other things if we already have our journey mapped out.  If you don’t know… if you need to understand something, it’s probably not worth it.

*

I lay propped against a tree and she is nestled in the crook of me.  Our legs are interlocked like the French braid in her hair, that I toy with between my fingers.  Our breathing is as one; as my chest raises so does hers.  We’re both being eaten alive by midges and sometimes we accidentally scratch each other’s bites and itches.  Her sweat dampens my shoulder, mine seeps into her back as she lays against my chest and stomach.  I grab the tuft at the end of her braid and realise it is full of aphids.  No matter.  I’m not selfish.  I’m happy to share.

My arm rests across her breasts and she idilly drags a scalpel across my skin, letting the broken white skin bloom across the red sunburn, trying to join the dots of my numerous freckles and moles into the constellations of the stars.

‘…I have this anxiety dream’

“Anxiety is weakness, baby.”

‘Yeah, I know, but it involves you.’

The razor stops on my skin for a moment, and I can feel every muscle in her body tense up.  I can’t tell if it is fear or anticipation.  She gives my wrist a little squeeze and tells me to continue.

‘I’m driving us in a car towards town.  You’re in a summer dress with your feet up on the dashboard, which pisses me off when you do that for real, you know?  Anyway, we head into town and ahead of us we can see the main high street and the traffic is bad.  Real bad.  Everything is jammed solid.  So I start to press the brake pedal, because I’m being really cautious, except the car suddenly accelerates.  I try all the other pedals and they all react the same way.  I realise that I’m driving now headlong into a wall of cars and trucks and the car keeps accelerating everytime I go near the pedals and it just doesn’t slow down, and I’m still hammering away at them hoping that they start doing what they are supposed to, but the car just gets faster and faster and then I try to steer away, to throw the car into a spin or something, anything, to slow us down, but the steering is all fucked…’

‘….and I realise that we are being drawn somehow, like a magnet, towards this petrol tanker, and I know we’re going to hit it so hard and cause a massive explosion that will kill us and many others who will be trapped in their cars in this traffic, and I turn to you and I am going to tell you that I love you and I’m sorry and I have tears down my cheeks even though I’m not crying and you have tears too but you’re laughing…. like this is the greatest thing ever, and you’re laughing not out of fear or love or… …you’re just laughing.’

She’d listened to this completely still and cold, as though I’d been cradling the statue from a tomb.  The scalpel that hovered over my arm now drifted away like a derelict space station until she finally dropped it into the grass clambering around us.  Her muscles relaxed but then stiffened again into a tight embrace.  Her arms pulled mine around her tight, and she ran her palms gently over my red and white slashed skin.

“Well, at least we’ve got an ending to our story” she smiled, “….and I guess that’s better than most.”

Bravo

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“Don’t you find the expression ‘real estate’ absurd?  Is there anything less real than a house?”

We sit – me and her – dangling our legs over old stone into the grabbing waters below.  Seaweed coils around our toes in furtive strokes as though all our past lovers have drowned and are now trying to reclaim us.  Our picnic is sparse – two bottles of inexpensive wine, a packet of cakes, meats and pastry rolls, a vial of cocaine, three cans of Pepsi, two chocolate bars (melted) and a small envelope containing four or five scraps of blotter acid.  Her phone is pumping out some kind of transcendental new age bullshit, full of pipes and violins and King Arthur and…

“I really hate it.”

‘Don’t be racist.’

“How is that racist!?  I’m not being racist, I just can’t stand…”

‘…you are so racist.  I saw the way you looked at that guy yesterday.’

“That was not race.  That dick fuck’s dog tried to annihilate me.”

‘I’m going to burn you everytime you are racist.’

“I’m not…. oww!  Stop doing that!”

She pushes another cigarette deep into my flesh.  She does this everytime I am negative about something.  I have five black holes in my forearm.  One of them – the earliest one – is showing signs of blossoming into an infection.  Around the jet black disc I can see yellow and orange petals.  It doesn’t hurt but itches like crabs or sunburn.

‘…or crabs with sunburn’, she offers. Below us, the sea is no longer lapping at our feet.  Now it hugs our bones, caressing our ankles, flattening and darkening our ankle hairs.  The tide is coming in fast.  I draw deeply from a fresh roll and take a bite out of a fresh roll.  Suggesting that we should probably leave before the tide engulfs us completely, I pass the smoke over to her and she blows the smoke back in my face.

‘How can we be high and drown at the same time?  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?’

Neither of us can swim.  But in this frame of mind, it is hard to disagree.  The sea comes in at two inches every minute.  I do the calculations.  We may die in approximately…

‘Approx-him-at-lee’ she snarls.  Then, with the ‘finger quotes’.  Ahh-prox-him-at-lee

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“When I was seven years old I burned myself to death…I’ve spent the following twenty-one years talking about it, trying to work out…why did I do it and what went wrong.”

The Boy had been gone for a little while now.  Technically, he’d been dead for over six years, but he’d only been gone in the last eighteen months.  The Boy usually manifested himself in our deep discussions, until all talk about him dried up completely.  The local newspaper ran a story about a devilish – or ‘Satanic’ – cult that grew up around the tree from which he dangled to his end.  It talked enthusiastically about weird symbols, blood rituals and inhuman howling heard around its cursed trunk.  A spokesperson said, with authority, that a local group of vampires were sacrificing their veins under the shadow of that old tree, leaving spots of blood on the dead and dried up flowers strapped to the bark; notes covered in the blue poppies of ink from rain-soaked tributes.  A local group of ne’re-do-goods built a small fence around it, trying to dissuade these fiends from desecrating the final day of a simpleton.  The fence was about three feet high and not even electrified.  We were mildly disappointed in their commitment.

The blood was hers, as were the symbols.  She’d been trying to cut the tree down for months.  Unable, or unwilling, to find an axe she jammed sharp pieces of railway ballast into forked branches and tried to hack it to the ground.  Her fingers were torn apart by the violence.  Her screams of frustration could be heard by insomniacs in the nearby neighbourhoods.  Finally she tried to kill the tree by carving deep gouges into lines that she imagined were the tree’s veins.  On more than one occasion I found her curled up and asleep under the boughs.  The fence remained intact, untouched, but the blood and the hacking continued.  Clearly these are sick individuals said the spokesperson earnestly.  Clearly new measures are needed. 

Clearly…

I couldn’t imagine anything less clear than this.  I shook her shoulder to wake her up.  In the night she’d rolled partially into a bed of stinging nettles and one side of her face was swollen red and pockmarked by little white volcanoes.  One of her eyelids had fused shut.

“I can’t imagine anything less clear than this….” I offered.

‘My gums…’ she said, surprised.  ‘My gums.’  She stretched, yawning wide and pushing her tongue out like a church gargoyle.  ‘Help me make an axe will you?  This needs to come down, now.  Now.‘  It’d been three weeks since the first blow.

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“I don’t think you can be happy and content and connect with people.  There are two kinds of art – tragedy and tragi-comedy.  That’s it.” 

She told me about a dream she had, where her eyes had been replaced by cross-head screws.  She said; depending on how I wanted to view the world, I could take a small screwdriver to my own eyes and tighten them or loosen them as I saw fit.  If I wanted to take a world view, I’d loosen them.  If I wanted to focus on a point, I’d tighten them until I felt the back of my brain trying to pull away from my skull…did you know when you are dehydrated, the headache is caused by the brain shrinking and the nerve endings attaching the brain to the bone getting stretched too far?  Anyway, the dream will never come true and I’m not sure I want it to either.  All I could smell was chrome and grease, and I couldn’t cry without rusting myself shut…

“Without rusting myself shut” I said aloud.

‘Alright, it was a fucking stupid dream, but it was important to me.’  She brings a leg out of the water that now swallows us to the knees.  It’s an effort and she has to lie backwards.  Seaweed hangs from her ankles.  Spray is flicking at our thighs, arms and faces.  My hands are wet as is my fringe.  A few minutes ago I started – quietly – freaking out.  Now I’m in a strange state of contemplative bliss.  It’s a combination of two states of mind – accepting death and knowing that she can’t die, so therefore whatever she does, I will follow.  If she attempts to swim, I will dive in after her.  We won’t drown just because we can’t swim.  It’s impossible.

After several hours of strong drink, stodgy food and lowering drugs I’m feeling sleepy and horny.  Before us, I can see the colours of the sky blending and colliding politely together like guests at a wedding.  I lie back, but it just makes the sea colder and I shiver.  The rough stone below me turns into mercury and I spread my arms out wide, feeling the soft bumps against bone and memory.  My spine protests but nothing else in my body is listening so it shouts alone.  I don’t even notice the hot point somewhere in the region of my mid-thigh.  She’s pressed a cigarette out on my rolled up jeans and the fire has burned through.

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I wrench the bloodied homemade axe from her hands.  She’s sobbing.  As if in sympathy to the tree in front of us her throat begins to hack with gutteral noises and coughs.  She falls onto her hands and knees, clawing at the earth and pushing it over her fingers and toes.  She tries to take root in the ground.  Her hair is lank with mucus and tears and sweat.

I bend down and touch her shoulder with the reluctance of someone trying to test an electrified fence.  The spark from the wispy hairs on her goosepimpled skin is dangerously charged.  I reach down and grab her firmly at the upper arms and try to raise her to her feet.  The tree still stands but the bark has been slashed and carved with unnatural fury.  Several of the old wounds are already darkening, whilst the more recent ones gleam with a cream, green freshness.  A deep gouge, flowering at the edges with infection, now waits like a half-scream unrealised.

She gets up without my help, raising herself up to her tiptoes and stretching.  With a vicious snarl she kicks out at the tree with a straight leg and it shivers in fear and torment, the leaves rattling to the impact.  I can hear faint snapping and rending noises from the open wound.  Satisfied, she shrugs off my embrace.  The hairs on her arms and shoulders relax back into slumber.  The skin becomes smooth again.  She takes a deep breath, puts her shoes back on and presses her tongue deep into her nettled cheek, which now blooms a sickly, pale white with only the faintest of thin red lines tracing like rivers from space.

I imagine I can make things better.  I imagine I will save her one day.  But I fail to realise – again and again and again – that not everyone is in trouble.

Gracious

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I’m typing…

He was the kind of guy who helped old ladies across the road and looked for their gummy smiles.  He was that guy at the party who hung out in the kitchen and swapped band recommendations for tumblers of expensive whiskey.  He was the kind of guy who cried when he saw a discarded teddy bear in the street…

He was….

“….a massive wanker” She bit my earlobe hard and I heard my stud crunch between her teeth.  A gentle blow on my neck later, she wiped a trickle of blood from her chin.  My ear began to throb to the increased beat of my heart.

I shrugged her off without any venom or animosity.

“Oh, fuck off, wench” I smiled “…or I’ll double team you over this desk… just me and that bottle of Jack.”

“Double team” she repeated, mockingly.  Witheringly.  “Double team.”  Sucking on a cigarette, she stared thoughtfully at the ceiling fan as it chopped up a thin trail of smoke.  Then she cackled, expelling cauliflower breaths.  “Double team.”  Another wicked grin.  “Double…. team.”

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I went outside to clear my head.  Stuck in my writing bubble, I felt like someone overcoming general anaesthetic.  Closing the front door behind me, I stood for a moment looking down the hallway, lit a sickly green by unclean bulbs.  Everyone here was normal and asleep, with their normal wives and husbands, normal dreams in normal sheets.  It’s three in the morning and the glass entrance door is so black, it could be locked against me.  I can smell that the cleaners have been.  Everything is pine, everything is drowsy.  Our mailbox is the only one that is overflowing.  We haven’t checked it in months.

“It’ll just be bills and junk” she said.  “Nothing interesting.”  Everytime our lights flicker, I think we’re about to be switched off.

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I like walking at night.  I move faster in the dark.  I’m fitted with anti-solar panels that give me energy by the sun’s absence.  I stroll along the dark lanes that weave between the houses.  When I’m sober, I walk hunched over, carrying the weight of expectation and peer pressure on my shoulders.  After one drink, my back straightens out, my shoulders fold back, and I walk with a certain confidence.  It adds years to me.  After two drinks, I walk with arrogant swagger, like a prize fighter walking to the ring with horseshoes in his gloves.  The only thing that gives me away is my thousand yard stare.  I fix on nothing in particular and I head in another direction.  Past three drinks, I’m a mess.  I stagger about like baby Bambi in an earthquake.  I’m drowsy, nostalgic and even worse in bed than usual.  I get too tired and, halfway through fucking, my dick fills with piss and gives me cramps.  I try and disguise it, but the passion is dead when I have to abruptly leave in the middle of hammering myself deep, take an audible toilet break, work my confused pecker back to solidity, roll on another condom… No one likes ad breaks in a sex scene.

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I need to piss now, so I head out towards the fields.  I walk past the disused public toilets, where my best friend from school lost his virginity.  Hard Cock Looking For Pussy Boy,  10pm Every Wednesday.  He answered the ad, turned up in a blazer and tie, and wouldn’t you know it… Hard Cock was there.  He told me it was the most romantic evening of his life, but then you have to take everything he says with a pinch of salt.  He once told me he got off as a kid by putting knots in his school tie and pulling it out of his arse.

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I urinated on a dead fox as the flies swarmed and tickled my genitals.  I thought about gods and monsters, and how they both terrify us as children but only the monsters get publicly defeated; in space battles, by heroic swords, by the deeds of the good and just… the gods just quietly withdraw, and we find ourselves distracted by the empty space left behind.  We fill it with all manner of things just to end the silence, but we never stop to think whether any of it is useful.  I shook myself clean.

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When I finally returned to the bedsit, my clothes were clinging with sweat.  Little black flies stuck to my face and arms; I could feel them in my ears and my vision was speckled.  I spat out a couple of the fuckers on the floor opposite our neighbours.  With any luck it might ruin their lives, to try to go to work in about two hours and see a globule of phlegm on the floor swimming with carrion flies.  It might tip them over the edge.  He’ll quit his job and start abusing alcohol, starting fights in bars, spitting his teeth out into the faces of his opponents and dribbling blood into their beers.  She’ll commit to whoredom, shave off her hair and tattoo her arms with the names of her past lovers.  They’ll take the car to the expensive supermarket in town, leave their faeces in the fresh fruit, brush their teeth in the aisles and swing from the advertising signs.

I shook my head clear of this little reverie.  It’ll never happen.  Never.

I was anticipating that she’d want to fuck me.  I did not anticipate opening the door and seeing her dressed in my smart trousers, shirt, tie and hat with one eye overly mascared.  I got the reference easily, even before she handed me a length of varnished tree branch with a metal studded head.

“I’m tired” I begged.  “I have to sleep.”

‘It’s less than an hour before daylight’ she smiled.  I know this.  I looked out of the window.  The first rays felt heavy on my shoulders again.

“Just the one” I said, looking into her one good eye.  “Just… the one….”

I knew she held up two fingers behind my back as we closed the door and ventured into the dawn with sunsets on our minds.

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The Author….

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Green Flames

We’d been dancing around the trees, the three of us.  My left hand enveloping her cool hand and my right entwined with his sweaty paw.  Like Victorian ghosts, we ringed around the rosy around this confused silver birch until we became dizzy and the black scars on white bark began to swirl and combine…

…and she cried out that she could see underwater zebras galloping across an ocean bed, and the heads were breaking the surf like the incoming tide, and we all just pissed ourselves laughing and blamed the drugs, because it was always the drugs, even though she didn’t even swallow cough syrup.

The Boy was born to take drugs, if only because he made more sense that way.  Drugs seemed to mature him mentally and physically.  He stood taller and sounded wiser, although I look back now and realise I was probably meeting him halfway rather than him rising to the occasion.  Too often though I became so debilitated, and he would stand there sardonic, silent and judgemental as though all our jibes and crimes, all the blood and sweat that we drained from him like vampires was now presented to him as evidence of our unsuitableness in his pathetic life.  With detached reason, he watched me suffer and he watched her dance as she vied against this new threat to her power.

Late one February, we lit a bonfire on one of the old railway sleepers and listened as the snap of the flame waltzed a tune with the hiss of the melting tar.  The Boy had made a small guitar from elastic bands, a length of bamboo and a little paint tin we’d found amongst a stash; dumped by a decorator and then hoovered up by the local sniffers looking for any kind of perfumed solvent to jam up their noses.  Two or three in the morning was the safest time to be out.  As She would often reason, even the rapists and the murderers have to sleep at some point.

The Boy belted out a dreadful tune and then tried to sing, just a load of nonsense and wailing.  We listened and I tried to stare at her to see her reaction but the light of the flames in her eyes gave me the beginnings of a bad trip.  Looking at her from the corners of my eyes made it even worse; the shadows elongated her face from her cheekbones down, giving her the look of a demonic mask from a Greek chorus.  I shivered and sensed her complete lack of movement next to me as She sat, rapt and slowly clapped.  Words began to slip into The Boy’s unintelligible stanzas like the flash of fast cars from a road bridge, and his foreign sounds turned into language.

He sung a bizarre thing I cannot remember.  I looked up to the sky, but it was empty of stars and glowing faintly purple.  Whenever I breathed out, my breath became smoky, but the shape of the smoke kept changing into a hand reaching out from my mouth and trying to grab The Boy’s face.  Just when he began to find a tune, just when the words began to make sense, he launched into a deranged, sing-song chorus repeating the same words over and over between the high pitched whistle and the gutteral spread; GREEEEEN flames…..  GREEEEEN flames….. GREEEEEEEEN fe-laymes….. GREEEEEE….

He pointed the guitar’s neck at me and performed a theatrical windmill strum, bringing his hand down heavily on the elastic.  Two of the bands snapped and I felt one sting my eyebrow and the other my cheek.  Instinctively, my eye closed and my muscles refused to open it.  I felt sure I was blind.  And through one eye, the sky changed from purple to turquoise.  Next to me, I saw her terrible form like a Chinese dragon elongate across the fire, growing extra pairs of arms to accomodate her new torso.

The Boy grabbed a handful of the fire and his entire fist from knuckle to wrist turned into a ball of green flames.  Inside, I could see his flesh turning black.  He started to laugh and to swing wildly at Her as she shrank away, her body receeding back into itself like a compressed spring.  I started screaming, really screaming so that my vocal cords squirted blood into my lungs, and then my screams turned to words and the words turned into a song, The Boy’s demented song.  The bonfire rose, The Boy’s upper body became engulfed, The Girl disappeared behind a black cloak of smoke and shadow, but I could hear her singing as well.  I felt my body fill with hydrogen and I knew I would blow all three of us sky high as soon as the heat penetrated my skin.

 

I woke up ten minutes later, my head clicking as I tried to move it.  Lying next to me was The Girl, thoughtfully laying on her back chewing on a splinter of bamboo.  The fire crackled energetically.  And in the amber light, I saw the half-face of The Boy, squatting over me, tearing up grass in his fingers and gently sprinkling it over my face and chest.

 

Shiny Rails

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I put on my skinny jeans, and I add my posh suit shirt – brilliant white with the black buttons – and my suit blazer.  The shoulder and the lapel is still dusted with her make up.  The hug was so tight, she left herself behind on me.

I look elegant in my suit.  It appears expensive but actually it was bought for peanuts.  Walking to the station I shield my eyes from a Spring Sun with aviators.  Behind dark lenses, I people watch with the relentlessness of an indecisive hunter.  One woman walks past and fixes her gaze on me; a mix of admiration and confused distain.  What’s a bum like you doing in that nice suit? I can almost hear her mind asking.  It’s a fair question, but to stop her in the street and explain everything would be…. well…. unbecoming.

At the train station’s pub, I sit outside.  It’s 11am and I’m already on my first beer.  A man in front of me loudly brings phlegm up from the depths of his anus, gargles it into a ball and spits onto the floor, all the while looking me straight in the eye.  I look back down to my book.  I’d bought it earlier to accompany me on the journey and hopelessly tried to flirt with the pretty cashier.  A middle aged couple look nervous and leave soon afterwards without buying anything.  Two guys are playing cards; or more specifically one guy is playing cards and the other is losing badly, constantly, incredulously.  Are You Fucking Serious?  Again?  None of them know anything about football, but they’re talking about it regardless.

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Another bar, another part of town.  A young couple sit at a table opposite me with their little daughter Sophia and their grandmother.  The young couple are bad-tempered and jittery; his arms are pock-marked with little red holes and her eyes are sunk so far they peer nervously from behind cheekbones as though hiding behind cover in a gunfight.  Granny is protesting, she doesn’t want coffee! doesn’t like coffee! but Daddy insists, just sit down and fucking drink it.  Mummy and Daddy go into the disabled toilets together.

Gran pours several sugars and an entire jug of milk into her coffee until it almost overflows; then she has a sip but it’s still disgusting to her.  She turns to Sophia and starts talking about miscarriages.  Then she tries to get Sophia to say Grah-knee or So-fee-aah but the kid just gurgles happily and plays with her own feet.

Grah-nee?  Sew-fee-aaaah?

Mummy and Daddy return from the toilets.  They’re vibrating with new energy and eager to leave, come on COME ON leave the coffee to poor old Granny who prefers to move in minutes rather than seconds.  Granny tries to have another sip but Daddy insists they HAVE TO GO.

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At the crossroads, I looked at a skyline I don’t really know.  I listened to a street busker playing a beautiful song.  I stared at people I don’t recognise.  The song finished and – I swear this is true – the light instantly switched from red to green so we could all cross, and I knew where I was going and I knew where I had to be, and I knew I was lost.

Womb, Tomb, And Everything Between

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In the distance, two lovers entwined (ask me why.)  N has two pairs of pouting lips and walks with exaggerated candour, caught on the cusp of virginal innocence and sexual blooming.  She has a kind of smile, a kind of walk, from hips and lips that have been complimented and now she handles this power uneasily, like juggling a hot plate without gloves.  Blinded and intimidated by a new door opened and the dark light within.  One time, she promises to striptease for me if I’ll only show her mine.  I don’t but she stripteases me anyway, only there’s no teasing.  She takes all her clothes off in the same way she does before a shower, or in a changing room, or at the swimming baths, and then she stands in front of me, naked and tufty below, with a quizzically crooked what now smile and an eyebrow raised half in insouciance and half insecurly.  Nothing happens, except I grasp two handfulls of fleshy arse and lean in for more kisses, because it’s the only sexual thing I know how to do.

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Last night I dreamt I was trapped with several people in a large house that had been booby-trapped with bombs.  They were powerful enough to wipe out anyone in the room but not strong enough to destroy the room itself.  The house became an energy of cat-and-mouse panic as explosions went off here and there, seemingly at random, and I found myself one of only a few people left alive, trying to anticipate which room to avoid going into before the next bomb went off, and as our numbers dwindled and our survival became more frenetic, loudspeakers announced the taunts of our captors.  I woke up, having just correctly guessed that the kitchen was about to explode next, and I felt the heat and the wood splinters as I darted out of the room into the hallway outside.

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One of my favourite songs of all time is The Sound Of Silence, and not just because it begins with a line that I have experienced so much I want it tattooed on my arm.  It’s because of another line that always takes me back to this very place.  The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.  Living so long near abandoned industrial units, coloured by the bored and the glue sniffers, I’ve long seen graffiti as expression rather than vandalism.  Even the gang tags as you roll into Kings Cross fascinate me, a world I would never want to be part of.

Jesus Is A Ok Guy!  As we follow the light to…. shopping.

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I returned recently to a place I want to be sprinkled after I am dead.  Ironic that it still makes me feel so alive.  Up in the Dramatic North, I’ve climbed up the side of waterfalls, crouched in ancient chapels, ran my fingers through millenia-old carvings and dangled my legs over the edge of cloven valleys.  But my mind still wanders back to five lumps on a small hill, overlooking a flat piece of land.  Where I have some of my happiest memories, both alone and in the company of others.  Speaking of which…

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I’ve known this man, S.K Nicholas, for a long time.  Longer than I’ve known anyone except my own parents.  I grew up with him, was influenced by him, continue to be influenced by him.  But most of all, I delight in his mind.  A pair of hopeless romantics turned writers, from broken streets, covered in grass stains and stabbed by rusty nails, swerving the junkies and the liars, ignoring the abuse of the fools, the controls now set for the heart of the sun.  A piper at the gates of dawn, Shine On!

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Giggle…

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Raishimi may have the unenviable honour of knowing me better than anyone else who walks this planet, seeing me at my creative best and my weakest and tearful worst.  Even after a relationship has ended and is long dead, there are unbreakable bonds – the kind that are sealed when you were both 24 hours from homelessness or fighting against forces beyond our control.

I travelled back to my hometown recently, which is where these pictures were taken.  I’m not entirely sure what I achieved.  My hometown continues to disintergrate, or perhaps it is just changing and I am behind the times.  Perhaps I am that guy who complains that music doesn’t sound like it used to anymore, and there aren’t any bands as good as Yes.  I tried not to wallow in memory.  I deliberately avoided certain places that I knew would catch me out, places and areas that contained milky white globes hovering peacefully, waiting for me to drive or walk straight into them and be imprisoned.  I am trying to look forward, even as I receive rejection letters like ash fluttering from a volcano.  I’m unhappy with my present, and I cannot continue to tunnel my past, so I can only force myself to look towards a vague and undefined future.  An English teacher once told me; the only difference between solitude and isolation is how involved the individual is in the choice.  Up here I choose to live alone and keep myself to myself because the options outside are – lets be kind – somewhat limited emotionally, mentally and geographically.  But seeing the people you adore for the first time in a while you realise how the fences you build can sometimes become too high.

I missed them both before; I will miss them dearly now.