“this is not – an escape – but I don’t know how to hold someone without losing my grip”
You danced in an odd way, or so ‘they’ said, but what the fuck did ‘they’ know? I’ve never touched LSD, but when I watched you dance I saw the bars of the music rolling through you like shaken paper. You convulsed and spasmed and it took careful observation before I realised there was nothing random about you – every contortion and every flinch was to a beat. You didn’t just connect with the bass drum, you connected with everything. An arm for the lead guitar, another for the rhythm, and by the time of the solo you had turned into oil. When you shot out an elbow and knocked that girl’s teeth out, I was so proud. Outside the club, breathing so heavily I could barely see your face for the cold steam puffing out of your mouth, I felt sure you wanted to have any man, woman or thing that you first set your diluated pupils on. So I grabbed your jaw with my hands and focused your eyes on mine until I felt your breath forming crystals on my eyebrows. You calmed down, took a step back, and wiped the blood from your cut elbow across your forehead. Smiling, deranged, in total control. In the background the siren’s sounded and the unfortunate girl stumbled into the cold, blood staining her cheap white dress.
“You’ll say I – was bound to leave – since I first stepped across your borders since I crawled into your skin“
You were such a careful driver I used to make jokes at your expense. I didn’t have much to go on so I took any opportunity I could to give some back. You pushed the seat so far forwards your tits got in the way of the steering wheel when you were parallel parking. Peering over the wheel, creeping along whilst a smoking line of angry traffic followed you at twenty or thirty below the speed limit, I admired your lack of blinkers. Drivers overtook you waving their fists, waving middle fingers, and you waved back polite and smiling. Always the same comment towards the middle finger saluters – “tiny… wouldn’t even touch the sides” – and I knew what you meant because I looked at my own fingers with doubt.
“thought I heard you whisper in the dark – that you knew where the light would be“
‘I wish I was born Roman’ you once said, and jabbed me with a stick as I reclined half-snoozing in the crook of a small tree. You stabbed my trainer a few times, pulling some moves I’m sure you’d seen in a film. ‘They just drank wine and fucked. And you know why? Because that’s all their Gods did. Drank wine, and fucked. That’s aspirational.’ I opened an eye and swatted some midgets that had begun to feast on my face. Only one insect was allowed to devour me, and it was waving a sharp branch around and begging to build a time machine.
“You want to be a centurion?”
‘Did they have female soldiers in the Roman army?’ you asked, hopefully.
I closed my eye again. “I’m sure for you they’d make an exception…”
“thought I saw your shape against the black – thought I felt you moving beside me“
You wore your hotpants, striding through the middle of the town and as you held my hand – or better yet, coiled an arm around my waist – I felt like a God. No amount of strong drink or fawning adulation could compare to the seething hate I felt in the eyes of every man who looked at you and wanted you and imagined your pussy and tried to conjure the images in their heads and such was your confidence, I knew that you’d never be theirs. This was my fatal flaw. As you once joked, in a backstreet sushi bar over dreadful ice cold saki, ‘I don’t like chasers. I prefer things neat.’ It was a good line; probably stolen from a film were my first thoughts. But I didn’t really know you then. I’d learn. I’d learn quickly. And some things I’d forget. Fatally.
“we are not alone and we are more alone than we’ve ever been“
I remember once asking you what your favourite movie was and you said, oddly, ‘movies are for wussies.’ I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t now. You had a similar attitude to art. ‘Who needs paintings when every house has a fucking window?’ I realised in that moment I was the art major who had pulled every book on every major artist off the library shelf only to discover they were all written in Russian or Arabic or some other language I didn’t understand and couldn’t transmit to you. All this information was useless. Nothing I could’ve said in that moment would’ve helped. None of my prior knowledge could’ve changed your mind. Oh sure, I could’ve banged on and on about feelings, capturing the light, Van Gogh eating his own paints but you would’ve shrugged and said ‘so what?’ So I took the bait and asked you what you saw out of the window that was better than art? I expected you to say some shit like ‘life’ or ‘real things’, but you were always one step ahead of me.
‘I see a cute guy with his shirt off and sweat collecting in the cavities of his shoulder blades.’
“Shut the blinds”
‘I see a dragon with a massive erection fucking the arrow slits of the castle he is attacking and destroying the archers inside.’
You were looking up at the clouds.
‘I see a car with two engines and the hood moulded especially to look like a pair of tits with the nipples being the air intakes.’
“Shut the blinds.”
‘I see everything…’ and you winked.
“Shut the fucking blinds.”
“so hurry up and lose me – hurry up and find me again“
I told you once, after drinking enough wine to drown Southern California, that I was an accident. I expected you to make a joke but you hugged me and I felt our molecules mesh to form a new undiscovered element that would cure all the energy problems of the world forever. You told me that you were an accident as well, and I held my tongue because this was not the time. You said that so many of the great things in the world were accidents. Vaccinations were discovered accidentally, LSD was discovered accidentally, entire countries were discovered accidentally. You said ‘accidents are not grown by their makers but dropped here with another higher purpose.’ I asked you what your purpose was and you told me you hadn’t discovered it yet, but that it’d probably happen by accident. Reaching under my bed for my pellet gun, you held it up to the TV screen playing some dreadful soap on silent and said ‘whatever it is, it isn’t this’ and you shot a hole right through the cuckoo clock in the background of the scene. The liquid screen cracked and melted, and the picture froze melted like something dreadfully mundane from Salvador Dali.
“but you never liked it when I’d play dead“
Our first kiss was inside a garage; pitch black and stinking of bodies. We’d decided to play hide and seek with our double dates but I knew this neighbourhood like I would come to know the contours of your back, and so I knew I could break the lock off one of the abandoned garages on the estate, replace the lock as I lowered the door, and we could hide inside as they searched for us. In pitch darkness I swore that I could see nothing but two pinpricks of light from your eyes, and I never knew where the light could’ve come from except within. In the jet darkness, every other sense was heightened. Your calm breath before the kiss was a hurricane, your strokes on my arm were a cheese grater over the mountains of my goosebumps, the soft snap of our wet lips echoed around the concrete slabs. I could feel your tongue in such minute detail, like someone reading a secret love letter in Braille. My pathetic manhood swelled to the size of a train carriage, so hard and long in the darkness you could’ve rested on it. And yet I knew, in the light, everything would be so painfully normal. So even as our teeth clashed in the darkness, I hoped that we wouldn’t be found and you wouldn’t get bored or grossed out by the dank stench.
We heard them arguing eventually, our double date, so we emerged blinking. They sounded so far away we thought we could pretend we’d hidden separately and hadn’t just spent two hours kissing our tongues smooth. But they were right there, furiously arguing about where we’d gone. He looked fed up and wanted to go home. She shouted at you and then slapped me so hard my ears rang and tears formed in my eyes even as I laughed. You bit your bottom lip at me and winked. She was your friend but I was something more. The tears may have been from the slap or they may have been from my rapture.
“and you wondered why my lovesongs are always the grieving kind“
I am the fool who held perfection in his cupped hands and wanted more. I am the fool who won £50million and gambled it all on winning £51million. I am the fool who threw away the gold in the hope of a scrap of platinum. I am the fool who drinks alone because the fog smothers my memories in optimism. I am the fool who will never taste you again. I am the fool who pathetically laid a bunch of flowers at the garage door in the hope you happened to be walking by, caught in the same nostalgic trance, flowers in mourning for our parting. I am the fool who was mugged as he walked home that day. I am the fool who reached his front door and realised I had lost everything – phone, wallet, money, keys.
I am the fool who slept outside that night, judged by the stern windows of my own house.
“why I wonder all to search for my reflections in the crowd“
My heart didn’t break with your words. It didn’t break when you packed up your things and left. It didn’t even break when I realised what you’d left behind – all the paraphenalia of our time together, discarded and thrown aside to make room for your future. It held firm when I looked into your eyes and saw your pupils were not diluated but pin pricks, like a syringe of cyanide. It quivered but stood when you told me I was a useless lover and that you’d faked your way through our adventurous sex life.
“oh – forget I said love – and also don’t forget I said love“
My heart broke when we had that last meeting. I’d planned everything out perfectly. We’d stroll through fields of bright yellow, we’d hide in the shadows of the ruined castle, we’d have a picnic lunch in our favourite place and we’d continue onto The Hill.
Once we’d stood there, hand in hand, as a vast pillar of rain came through the clear blue sky like a giant buzzsaw through the middle of a Redwood trunk. As fellow hikers scrambled away we found ourselves alone, facing Nature direct. We collapsed into each others arms and I felt the first splat of heavy rain on the back of my thighs as I climbed on top of you and slid deep inside. You clenched around me and you let out a gasp, looking me dead in the eye. By the time we’d started I couldn’t tell where the rain began and your wet sex ended. Perhaps that was your intention.
I finished before the cloudburst and after I rolled off we let the rain wash our genitals clean, panting and shivering. That was our first fuck, on The Hill, and we never fucked there again. Whenever I tried to instigate something, you’d press your finger to my lips and shake your head. It was a memory, and I was too clumsy to realise that it was precious.
And now, I’d dropped it.
“so hurry up and lose me – hurry up and find me again“
You drove me home from The Hill. You’d been friendly throughout the meeting. We’d talked about the past, tales from the present and you’d skilfully avoided the future. As the day wore on, I felt my presence eroding at you. You told me that you’d give me a lift, that you’d had a lovely day and that it was good to see me again.
You used to drive so slowly but now you floored the car over crest and down valley, screeching around the country lanes as though pursued by demons. As I felt myself being thrown around the passenger seat I realised this was not for my benefit. You weren’t showing off to counter all those jokes about your safe driving. You weren’t looking at me, you weren’t smiling, you weren’t enjoying this. You were driving like crazy because you wanted to get rid of me. For the rest of the ride I kept it together, even when you ran a red light that had just changed, and I saw the panic in your face at the prospect of spending another two minutes with me.
I got out of the car. I didn’t wait for a hug and you didn’t offer one. Instead you smiled faintly and said ‘thank you.’ Thank you? I began a sentence but you interrupted me. ‘I have to go…’ and you looked to a watch you’d not put on. The watch I bought you.
I stepped onto the pavement and I heard the little engine rattle and rev as you sped away, forever.
A year or so later.
I cracked open the garage door lock and got inside. Allowing the door to slam behind me, I stood in the darkness and I thought I heard a noise. My heart leapt, not in fear of assault but in delight. I’d imagined this moment happening.
As I waited, the silence smothered me like a heavy blanket. The ringing was loud in my ears. Throwing my palms out I eventually found a wall, slid down it onto the dusty floor and waited for nothing.
*lyrics in italics are by Laura Gibson from her wonderful song ‘Empire Builder’ Pictures and (other) words are mine.