Just before the sun died, and the small shivering family finally pulled down their nearly invisible kite and retreated back to the warmth of a family saloon, I wondered where is the oldest footprint I’ve left? On this walk I had left several, just a few hours old. Now I looked out over a landscape where, at some point, I had left thousands… probably millions. Some were heavy, some were light. Fatigue and laughter influenced every tread. If any patch of mud, soft and then frozen and now soft again, still contained the pattern of an old walking boot it was going to be out there somewhere. A bent blade of grass that never grew back, or was plucked out, a visual reminder of when an inconsiderate moron had tramped through it’s serenity, no doubt looking for a better view or a place to piss.
I didn’t mention this to my friend and colleague in All Matter’s Dark. Everything seemed unfamiliarly familiar. I saw grotesque faces in trees, my skin flinched at the memory of barbed wire and my pulse quickened at a tall metal fence trapping me between ironmongery and a vicious dog. Gypsies, tramps and trees.
Nothing is more stupid than the total rejection of silence. Perhaps if we all shut up a bit more, evolution would allow telepathy to thrive. Not that evolution ‘allows’ anything, it isn’t sentient.
Neither am I, standing on this tall hill overlooking a gloomy lake of dusk. I can see the ground at my feet but I can’t see the ground below me. Behind, a sliver of light, like a deep knife blow signals tea, toilets and fashionable rustling jackets. I wonder what the Saxon Princess would make of this – not a common reflection I admit. But you can’t see the soft humps away to my right, where I have sat, laid, kissed, fondled and read. I’ve talked to airline pilots and wondered if the girl who loved System Of A Down would love me as much.
I can’t see them either really, it’s too dark. But I know they are there.
Things That Aren’t There Anymore I
It’s surrounded by a large fence now – an imitation of dignity. It’s a blanket over a mangled corpse. All you can see is the tip of a roof gable, like a pathologist only showing the eyes during identification. Except, at the last moment, they realise the eyes aren’t calm and serene, the pupils are still a pin-prick frozen in a moment of severe terror and anguish. The blanket is thrown back over too late for the family who are now screaming.
I Will Not Reproduce
It’s always the smell that I notice first. Soot and grease. The London Underground doesn’t just ignore the rules of physical etiquette, it’s encourages the shattering of them through extreme physical proximity. I’ve never smelt perfume though, or aftershave.
The not-very-gentleman in front of me on the escalator struggled with his cases. As I reached forward to help I saw why – he’d taken a photo of the girl in front’s arse in a pair of tight leggings. He looked embarrassed about the fumbling of his luggage – I looked back at him coldly. I called him a ‘sick fuck’ and gestured to his phone. He couldn’t speak English, or so he didn’t say. I lost him in the crowds a few moments later, torn between who to report him to – an official or the girl in question? I hope he cries himself to sleep, cock in hand.
It’s always the immediate rush that is so exciting. The clatter of the pinball up the chute. If I was Minister For London Transport, I’d put slabs of metal on the edges of the carriages designed to brush against the walls and create sparks. They would flash through the windows of the cars, as everyone stared into their Kindles and Metros. I’d make the lights flicker on and off, as though this entire journey was on the verge of bringing down the entire network – the train is breaking shit just to get you somewhere you need to be. The cute boy or the pretty girl would accidentally return your glance between the gaps in the darkness. Pupils huge – lust or simply night vision? Isn’t that just part of the adventure…
“Why is he taking a photo of a tree?”
It’s a gentle city, St Albans. Grand, but gentle. I’ll forever associate it with endings. My former partner, now very good friend, and I lived there before the house of cement slabs finally eroded smooth and gave way. That’s the trouble with Frost – it gets into the cracks and makes them wider. Nothing had changed but everything had changed of course. Everything was in the past tense now, and felt it. Shop doorways carried echoes. The heels of my boots didn’t make a sound on the noisy floorboards of a wooden pub. Not even a grassy, rectangular mound in a long abandoned graveyard. Still, rather like this shot, the flimsy branches are overpowered by the light of memory. No footprints, just laughter bouncing from old walls along with the ancient songs on the cold stone of The Abbey. My ankles remember the cobbled streets. My ears remember ringing from sweaty gigs. I held up my drink to the strobe lights and I bellowed I Wish I Had A Bottle and the lead singer gave me the mic because I knew the words and everyone else was in the toilet or too drunk to care. Right Here In My Dirty Face. I staggered home invincible, wingspan unbelievable. I could’ve punched a horse through a wall that night, but he was out so I slept quietly, my unshowered body corrupting the sheets instead.
Things That Aren’t There Anymore II
For such a serene place, it can throw up some alarming situations. For example, this is the only place where I’ve been suddenly charged at by a group of screaming children. Under this green and gold temple, I fell into a body of water for the first (but not last) time. The crazy lady who pinned me to a hedge to let me know about her dog and how it kept drinking from muddy puddles but not from it’s water bowl at home – all here. Stuck right up to the arse in mud – here. The wedding in hiking boots – here. More footprints of course, mine and others mingling with the unshakeable bond of a ceremony of jewellery swapping.
Memory Is A Cannibal And A Fiend
From my hotel room, I saw two young men struggling up a steep hill carrying plastic bags. I poured another glass of wine, removed the net curtain and sat back in a chair, protected by the anonymity of a tall tower of tinted windows. One of them seemed to struggle with his footwear, the other released gasps of frosty breath from above a protruding chin. Upon reaching the summit, both adopted different poses. The Struggler held out his arms, Christ-Like, to allow the bitter winter wind to freeze his sweating armpits. His baggy cargo pants flapped like loose skin in a wind tunnel. Chinly Defiant stood aloof and observant, scanning the horizon for targets. With their respective ceremonies complete in a matter of seconds, both sat down on an unforgiving steel bench, the paint blasted off by the elements.
They started examining the contents of their bags, hunched over in demented curiousity. They held pieces of paper to the air and wanted to destroy every molecule that surrounded them. One, and then both, caught a glimpse of me as I reclined in my chair, the voyeur. Their eyes pierced me and I knew I was being threatened. I withdrew, pulling back the curtain and waited for the danger to subside. The next morning I saw no trace of them, except two patches of scorched earth and a badly warped metal bench.
Of Gods And Reputations
Less than a century ago, these walls were terraced houses and the route often used to transport coffins from church to cemetery. Now largely derelict, it still has an echo of death in the graffiti tag of a local tearaway-turned-murderer. I wonder, as he scrawled his nickname across the walls and the fire escape doors, if he ever thought that this little act of rebellion would be the most heinous criminal activity to be etched onto his pathetic history.
It seems, as we glide through autumn, to make this obviouservation – that the leaves have all gone but the roots remain. Odd how one can derive so much pleasure from the leaves and yet we owe so much to the roots. I know it and yet I’m struggling to believe it, like being shown definitive evidence that 2 + 2 = 5.
The fact is, I can’t make the joke about the headless gravestone anymore. I can’t drive excitedly past the giant robot anymore. I can only experience these things through anecdote, a Cliff Notes version of unreality, watered down heartbeats. When I look at my hands, I see more lines than used to be there, and I pretend that they are the lines of all the other people I’ve held coming together into a collage. I still feel warm wrists around my bare waist when I shower. I still feel a rough, wet tongue against mine, my lungs devoid of air as I try and take in a lover and oxygen – both are essential to continue living. He blinked a lot and smelled of dirt, she laughed silently and bent double like she’d been kicked in the vagina, he never cried even with a needle through his finger, she licked my sperm from her hand for a dare. All these faces like a game of Guess Who?, one at a time being flipped down permanently until only a few remain.