I’ve been having a lot of strange dreams this past year, anxiety dreams, but not like the ones I used to have of driving a car that is out of control and smashing into a group of pedestrians. I keep dreaming that I am somewhere impossibly high; clinging to the surface of a cliff, on the rapidly disintergrating roof of a gabled skyscraper, stuck up in the rafters of another tall building with only a hard marble floor twenty storeys below. I’m breathless and struggling for grip, weighed down by something oppressive above me – either a heavy sky or a pressing roof. I’m trying to find a way safely down but every move I make puts me in more and more peril. I can feel my stomach go light as the balance gradually moves swings away from me and I know that I am now minutes, now seconds, from falling. I never fall. I always wake up just at the moment when I know I only have moments left, when I feel my entire body go light as all the tension in my muscles is released and I am on the cusp of losing grip and succumbing to gravity.
I usually have friends below me, and loved ones. They point upwards at my predicament and I hear their concern, but I don’t hear them calling for help or ladders. They just watch me as they might a spider sprayed with poison and waiting to die.
I’m walking softly, my feet landing to the bounce of the bass in my ears and I’m kicking stones here and there. I can see my breath and the air is chilled, a white arctic light. There is no warmth, except from my heart which thumps rabidly against my clothes. Running my hands through my hair, I shake my fingers of the dust and inhale the trees. The cold bites and I cough and snort. When I crouch for a piss under a thorn bush, I can feel the steaming heat rising up over my chin.
I reflect on echoes, and realise that we’ve been here before. Every path begins to look the same, even as you know you are walking on new territory. What makes a paving slab different to any other, except the memories fossilised on top of it? Why bother recognising locations. I pick up a stone, take out my plastic launch and slingshot the grey bubble straight into the sun. Fuck warmth.
I lay down under the old bridge and position myself under a drip. My dry hair sludges rank in the shallow puddled recess. The icy water bullets into my forehead at twelve second intervals and I can feel the nerve endings in my skull being wrenched by a furious brain. I lay contented by this torture. I can reflect on his actions, how much I wanted to destroy his feeble bones, how I wanted to smash this empty vessel. I think about Her because that’s all I’m capable of right now. I think about tracing a finger around her nipple.
And the water smashes the illusion.
I think about smelling the shampoo in her hair.
And the water smashes the illusion.
I think about throwing him into a pit of vipers and watch them cling to his arms.
He’s a yelping octopus.
She moans into my open mouth and I feel my vocal cords vibrate painfully, confused by a noise that isn’t my own and not of their doing.
I blink away water which is imitating tears I don’t have or feel.
You’re driving in silence on a straight piece of tarmac. The bridge is ahead, hundreds of feet up above a ravine. You stare ahead, as the bridge has no barriers and you don’t want to look over the edge and see how far away the tops of the trees are. You remember getting scared on top of a tall building, when you realised you were higher than the roof below. You’re snapped out of this when the car hits a patch of ice. Everything goes light, as though the car has become a hovercraft. The tyres no longer roar against tarmac but go quiet. You start to feel the back of the car crabbing around. You let go of everything; the steering, the pedals, and your eyes are locked on the edge. The car continues to skate, not losing speed but slowly turning around. You see the tops of the trees getting nearer and nearer as the ravine climbs. Just before the bridge ends, the car finds grip and snaps back. You’re going straight now, and losing speed. Other cars flash past you, blaring their horns. When the car has almost stopped, it stalls pointlessly and you’re marooned. You take a breath and your fingers are trembling.
My head is heavy when I lift it up out of the slime. My forehead is bright red. I’m angry, and in childish retaliation I try to punch the shit out of an old television that has been discarded nearby. I pound every angle and face of the thing, splitting my knuckles and lacerating my forearms on the jagged plastic and the circuits within, but all I can do to the thick screen is leave bloody smears as my fists are deflected away, skipped like a stone on a pond. I pick up the wreckage, lifting it above my head and I can smell bits of solder dropping over my shoulders. I throw it pathetically and it lands without much protest. The screen doesn’t break. I’ve got my own blood in my eyes.
You get out of the car and walk away as the out-of-control truck smashes it six hundred yards down the road. You’re left staring at the remains – a tiny patch of oil and the gas cap wrenched off by the force of the impact as the accident continues away from you. Someone asks if you are okay and you smile and say ‘of course.’
Laying on the remains of a mattress, I’m reunited with a piece of paper I’d buried years ago. The type has faded to obscurity but I can still make out my name in black marker. I’m lying under a railway platform and the rusted metal is inches from my face. I’m in an open coffin. I scratch my name next to all the others; a long list of eyes, dreams, hopes, fears and fingers. I could sleep here, I think to myself. When day turns to night and I’m awoken by the ferocious pain in my frozen, locked kneecaps, I realise that I was right.