Friday, 17 October 2008

Everything fuzzed




The world looked very different to him when he woke up that day.
Everything was blurred, everything fuzzed. He looked around his own bedroom like it was a strange chapel, the light as if stained by the sacred glass of the windows and bathing everything in a rich glow.
He reached for a glass of water. He felt his thick fingers shunt it clumsily, nauseously it fell and smashed and spilled somewhere on the beige floor. At least he could still tell what colour the floor was.
He sat up and tried to think what last night had meant to him. He remembered little though he was sure his head met another object at force. Possibly the floor, or something overhead that stood firm when he tried to stand up.
He tried to stand up. It was so difficult, swimming in the strange floating colours of the new room. It was as though it had been repainted overnight in a fractious blend of rolling watercolours, and as he looked around he felt ill with the strain of looking.
He took a step and his back arched in a sharp response to pain. His foot hurt so he collapsed to his knees to save the pain in his foot. As his legs hit the floor they were gashed deeply by the remaining shards of the broken glass. He remembered this almost as soon as his hands felt the damp carpet. He screamed and then sobbed, but he knew no-one would come.
He just lay there in a tight ball, revelling in the pain, closing his eyes to the blindness.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The black rock




The black rock called to me that day. Its sentience crawled out from under it and spoke to me across the waters. Its thick syrup of a voice sped across the breakers coming at me in engulfing waves, begging me to swim.
In a skyline devoid of rubble, except for the strange crust of souls that jutted high above the wicked sea, everything about the rugged peak inflamed my mind. I had to see for myself, I had to see what spoke to me from its burnt coal heart.
So I swam. I dropped as many of my clothes as I thought I needed and I waded into the surge. With each fresh wave that swamped my body I was refreshed for a moment and knew my recklessness, my insanity, but then the voice of the island craned its neck once more and carried its message still clearer so my ears could hear it anew. I had to press on.
It was a grave struggle. Never in my existence have I fought so hard; against tide, against exhaustion, against my own spirit and conscience, telling me to turn back.
You might think the waves would roll smooth and pitch less mountainous, less torrid than at the shore, but you’d be dread mistaken. I was buffeted and tossed by forces so great, forces I’d never feared and respected as I ought. And yet, as I drew ever nearer with every aching and despairing paddle of my arms the sound in my head turned to wondrous song and the voice became multiple. But the water was choking my lungs as I gulped of it again and the spray was singeing my eyes and I had not a stroke left in my muscles.
When I felt the strong arm of the lifeguard around my chest, I tried harm to raise my arm in defence, or perhaps even attack. With each firm kick of his legs the song died a little in my mind and I gritted and ground my teeth in such despair. Yes, I think I would have killed that saviour of mine if I’d only had the strength. I would have smashed my elbow into his face and drowned his body or dashed his head onto the rocks, if I’d had the power to. And as the voice of the rock faded forever, I cursed my guardian angel, this enigma of the sea, this lifeguard, with a tongue as black as the enchanted rock itself.
He left me there on the shore, screaming and ungrateful; begging of the black rock to call me forth, solemnly, once more.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Behind the bars




There were men in uniform at the barrier today.
As the rain began to fall we all huddled under the shelter as the train pulled away. You could see the plump drops falling from the sky from a long way, could follow its route to oblivion. I listened to them splatter on the corrugated roof as I waited my turn to be seen.
As the queue receded, I could see them more clearly: a white woman with bobbed blonde hair and a black man with a light beard stood, padded in blue jackets, the company’s logo on their chests. The jackets made them look bigger than they were, more powerful. After all, who knew what lurked beneath?
Behind those two were two police officers; standard beat bobbies. But behind them were two special officers, wearing vests. They all looked around, uneasy, eyes picking over people in the queue, people on the station. I imagined there was a firearm or two stashed somewhere about these strange figures of civil power. A deadly weapon, hidden but brooding.
There was a murmur of disquiet about the rain soaked stragglers, creeping home through the station barrier, heading for the stairs that would lead them out of this strange Hades and back home to their wives and children. I arrived at the great checkpoint, slightly clammy, I’ll admit. All these people, all of this assembled cabal of authority, seemed to be doing was checking tickets and passes.
As I passed the first checkpoint unscathed a hitherto unseen officer lurched forward toward me pulled, it transpired, by a German Shepherd. The dog sniffed at my pockets and crotch and then moved on to the next man. It was but a brief defilement, but a defilement all the same. I stopped then, in slight bewilderment, looking round as if to check: ‘Is that it? Am I free to go?’
Nobody looked at me. Perhaps they didn’t know. So I trudged on up the stairs as normal and as the breeze hit me I realised the rain had stopped, or at least it had up here at street level.
I wondered how close I’d come to arrest at gunpoint. How good was the smelling power of those dogs? If I’d sat in a seat (and my seat on the train did feel like someone unsavoury might have been sitting in it, this evening) that a recent cocaine-fuelled lunatic or else a pot smoking fiend had recently used, could not a few grains of the white stuff passed on to my clothes? Might not my jacket and trousers have acquired the unfriendly aroma of cannabis? And then, then what would the dog have done to me?
I was suitably bemused by these thoughts all the way home, and when I got to the top of our staircase and pulled closed the baby gate I felt compelled to kneel down before the bars and peer out to sense the queer freedom of the world beyond.
I stayed like that until I heard the baby crying.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Drinking song for Rosie




We were gathered around drinking, been up since the dawn,
And there in the corner lay Rosie, so warm,
When the barmaid came over she smelt something raw -
So we all blamed Rosie.

See Rosie’s our girl and we cannot deny
She’s the sweetest and cheapest, most drunken, bar fly
And if any of our best laid plans go awry,
Then we all blame Rosie.

She’s hardly a sweetheart, she’s black to the core,
She’s coarse and she’s bawdy, though never a bore,
And whatever your girl gives, well she’ll give you more -
Oh we all love Rosie.

I hear she was a looker, ‘til the drink took her man,
Then it took her along too and she was at its command,
And now if you’d ask her she’d eat from your hand -
But we all drink with Rosie.

Well I once met a girl and she looked better than you,
She was taller and thinner but she caused quite a coup
When I touched her behind - to the landlord she flew
And we all blamed Rosie.

Oh I wish I could sit you down on my knee,
I wish I could stand up, I wish I could see,
But I know there’s a girl who’s perfect for me,
So I’ll stick with Rosie.

Rosie dance with me, dance with me, 1,2,3
Dance with me, dance with me, 1,2,3
Yes dance with me, dance with me, 1,2,3
Oh we all love Rosie.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Stumbling home




As I wandered the streets, my head weighed down with the water I refused to let well and fall from me, I stumbled and almost fell into the road. I sat and wondered how it would have felt to have been squashed by a truck or a bus. I couldn’t imagine it.
Wiping my running nose with my sleeve, I remember staggering on through the open market of St Christian’s. I wouldn’t cry in the street. The market stalls all lay bare and plastic bags swirled about my legs. It was Sunday, so I knew where she’d be.
I hadn’t thought about her in days. The economy of mind can help you get through life without any real thought muddying things. It helps you do your job, it helps you get up in the morning.
But yesterday I heard a flute playing quietly, a low soothing melody drifting up to me. It haunted me like a spiralling devil and I drifted down the hole that I’d been long digging but never fully explored.
I spent all afternoon in the company of red wine and the piano. Satie’s Gnossiennes coloured my day and I swear the music of the flute came through strongly every now and then, an accompaniment to my thoughts and my ever flowing fingers.
The fug hasn’t lifted since then.
I remember her chastisement on the last day we spent together, but I don’t want to recall why she scolded me so. Thomas watched me go past his open door via the mirror in his bedroom. She told me not to say goodbye to him. I could see the reflection of his red eyes blinking, though. He wrote and told me that he’d never felt a sound like the sound of my closing the front door that last time.
So here I am. I’ve almost stumbled home. Thomas likes to come to The Castle Courtyard where they put a play on every week. The theatre is always on after his bedtime, but Marie-√Člise will take him to see a rehearsal, or just to witness the stage hands preparing the props and the lighting and the sets. Thomas can watch their performance for hours.
He started to clap when they lowered the chandelier from the rafters. It must have seemed like magic to him. And when two people walked by he stood on his chair so that he could still see the stage, just in case he missed anything. His mother held his hand, so he wouldn’t fall.
I ducked back behind the pillar then. I couldn’t hold myself upright any longer, hold myself in. I sank to the ground, biting at my lip, clawing at my hair. I heard the squeak of a bicycle wheel and shuffled around, away from the oncoming steps of my wife and child.
Once I was sure they were gone, I raised myself and took the seat she’d taken. I sat then and watched the men as they finished dressing the stage; applauding and weeping at their every flourish, their every measured placement of cloth or curtain, long, long into the burnished night.