Friday, 2 January 2009
I trust this note finds you - it’s difficult to track you down at the best of times. Still, if you’ve been trying to get in touch with me, you won’t have managed it and I’ve sadly missed out on your fine words.
What must be must be, though, Sebastian. I was thrown from my digs a few months back and had to find whatever shelter I could. The church saved me.
Now, some people say it’s hard to be dead but I just don’t agree. I’ve been living in the grounds of this church for a while now and not noticed their hardship. The dead sleep better than the living and, when they wake, they have little to worry them. The dead do not disturb me.
Sometimes I’ve heard them whispering or moving rocks and leaves about, but they’re not interested in me. I’m as dead as they are.
It’s not been all fine here, but the priest is an understanding fellow and turns a blind eye to us, as often as he can. We stay out of the churchyard in the day, when people might be visiting. It’s a large cemetery and crypt here at St Theresa’s and it’s been easy to hide our existence from others. Fr Mead has warned us that if a needle is found in the churchyard he will be forced to call the police. I regard that as only fair.
I’m staying here with some friends – Millie, who I’m very fond of, also Gregor and his brother Tony. There was an incident a few months back, a group of guys throwing rocks and insults at us. We managed to get away from them, but they trashed our stuff.
The next day, we were drinking and Millie went back early because she felt ill and needed to sleep. They were waiting; she said it was the same guys. They were merciless with her. It brings me such pain to recall the sight of her when we found her there.
She said she’d be alright, that it wasn’t the first time it had happened. She didn’t want to go to hospital because they’d involve the police and then we’d all be moved on. So we looked after her as best we could. The men never came back.
I’m sorry I don’t have brighter news for you, Sebastian. Maybe I’ll see you, friend, next time you’re near the old church? Know that I think of you, often.
Thursday, 1 January 2009
When the fish started talking to the man, rather than being staggered, the man simply found the sea creature rather rude.
The fish had interrupted a perfectly lovely conversation between the fellow (a middle-aged man, called Leonard) and a pretty young thing he had met at the docks.
The fish began to bleat quite pathetically: “My name is Susan, and I shall not be ignored!” The man, Leonard, tried his best to ignore this imposition for as long as he could, knowing full well that, were he to engage the fish in conversation, his pretty young conquest would soon turn heel and run.
But, just as a guilty conscience bangs the head like a hammer and nail, so the streamlined fish continued to shout up from the water: “I’m still here Leonard, stop ignoring me at once. I will be spoken to, remember, I need you to purchase some items for me – from the store.”
Leonard ignored the blue-eyed fish for as long as he could. He liked the way the young girl smiled at him and touched his hand occasionally. This was a sign of affection that his wife, Susan, never offered him.
“Who are you talking to up there?” snapped the fish, swimming out and away from the quayside to better sight the young woman.
“Hah! Why she’s nothing other than a common whore. Stop wasting your pathetic lusts on this floozy and run along to the shop to fetch my supplies,” shouted the fish, slapping with its tail to send a spray of water up to soak the couple. “I shall make you very sorry if you do not!” came its companion cry.
With that, Leonard’s calm reserve subsided and he turned upon the fish with a volley of verbal abuse. “You fish wife, you scaly serpent, your gills are blocked shut with venom which you spit forth at your erstwhile husband. Why, I should not hope to meet such a slippery eel as yourself again, and yet I find myself tied to you for eternity in matrimonial bondage!”
The fish chuckled to itself, at this tirade, and the pretty young maid did indeed turn fleet-footed from the scene and the middle-aged man was left to trudge wearily to the grocer’s store and purchase the few items she had sent him for.
Then he walked slowly, back to the quayside, and upended the brown paper bag of groceries into the water, whereby Susan, the blue-eyed fish, hungrily gobbled up this new and tasty flotsam.
She then waited, maintaining her position through small bristling movements of her fins, as her husband clambered down the rusting iron ladder on the wharf and plopped into the cold waters, beside her.
“Come along, dear,” said Susan, and they both swam off, away from the docks and on into deeper waters.
Wednesday, 31 December 2008
I remember you; the grass running free in the meadow and you rolling through it. I remember you standing atop a narrow boat, your reflection in the water bejewelled by the sunlight.
I remember touching you, whenever I wanted, never having to hold back. I remember that day, on the towpath, tugging you along though you were scared of the water.
There was breeze, yet there was sun; there was fire and there was fear. Still, we ploughed on, didn’t we?
Do you remember the autumn coming? Ensnaring auburn leaves in your hair? Catching patchouli wafting from that bright boat we passed? Kissing my eyes and mouthing ‘I love yous’; breathless and silent, feeling the shape of the words through close-pressed lips.
Staying, that night, beneath stars we hadn’t seen for years. A bitter cold night, but we moved slowly and surely, sculpting one body against the other so there was no room for icy air to intervene. Do you remember it all?
Funny how it has come to me now. I hope it crosses your mind too, from time to time. I worry you never think of me at all.
Tuesday, 30 December 2008
After what they told me was a passing of thirteen days of my life, they moved me to a room where I could see daylight.
And not just see the sky outside, but taste the air; breathe and smell it. Winter is a cruel time for colour and the sky was blanched grey: no remedy there for the cold stones of my cell. Still, it offered such respite for my soul that I put all thoughts of giving in and wasting away, there in captivity, firmly aside.
I thought this view might help me to better understand or even recall how I came to my current predicament. I was trapped in a stone hewn cell, perhaps like that of a castle or medieval keep. The thin, overcast, corridors were lit by torches.
The guards ordered me about in grunts and arm movements. My interrogators questioned me in broken, halting English. They were all white-skinned, of obvious European descent, but their accents were seemingly impossible to place.
Their questions, too, were a source of perplexity: "How many kings have reigned during your lifetime? Do you remember the last time you saw your mother? How many times have you attempted suicide? Have you ever been to South-East Asia?"
They would ask these in a barrage – one after the other – seemingly not recording the answers. I have no idea which questions they needed the answers too, nor if the answers to all of these questions were of interest to them.
It may have been a psychological exercise or an information extraction. All I know is that I had difficulty recalling much of the information they required. My mother, for example; I have no recollection of her whereabouts, nor where I last met with her. This seems to be a cause of real sadness to me.
I’m drifting now, between consciousness and sleep. I’m peering along the tiny passage, as wide as my fist and barred at both ends with barbed wire. I’m peering out in some vain hope of salvation. And then I hear something, a song from the outside world; a call of nature.
A dark bird sings and I am undone, for it is the caw of a crow. I don’t know whether to call myself blessed or cursed, but I find myself making the strangest of sounds. My throat feels like it is being strangled, torn by internal wires. Still, I struggle loose a caw of my own, a quite realistic call. Where did I ever learn to do that?
I cough a little and then wait. Sure enough, after a small time, I am answered. My body floods with warmth and a smile greets my face.
Somehow, I know now, there is hope.
Monday, 29 December 2008
The silver coin weighed him down, played on his conscience. Neil’s grey hair, was parted and greasy and flopping into his face as he stared down at the mugshot of capitalism. It eyed him coolly in return as a magic mirror, almost smirking remembering the spinning lies and the possible future it had once shown him.
He tossed the coin away then, as the thunder rumbled in the hills behind the city. There would be a flood, soon, but not that day. The rains never reached the city until late summer, but the devil walked freely there.
So Neil saw it: the evil twists of his life’s story. He guessed at a sinister edge of dark magic being accountable for his wretched decline in wealth and status. Perhaps men like Neil refuse to see the truth in such situations, for to see the truth would be to accept blame, to understand one’s own fallibility and take blame for one’s own actions and the outcome of their risks.
So Neil kicked on through the black heart of a city that seemed dead, now that trading hours had ceased. And there, he found himself; his head repeatedly pressing itself up against the tastefully lit windows of designer stores.
He saw the devil, there. Somewhere between Buddha and baby it laughed at him in its perverse infant nudity, all red and burning. Behind it lay the stuff of temptation and greed and pride.
And, from its nascent sulphurous palm, Neil struggled to climb free.