Emerald Quill


Those narrow corridors we walk, in that sliver of life between the hard floor and the oxygenless atmosphere.  Men and women growing rocks in their hands, dancing on the sand, drawing shapes.  I’m grateful for cold stone, hard and predictable.  I jam my hands in my pockets and walk past the noise and the ennui.  Sometimes I want to dance on the cliffs but I know people will worry.  Sometimes I want to dance down the road but I know people will care.  Tonight I played guitar until the tips of my fingers prickled with blood.  It hurts to type with my left hand.


I gave my hand to a fortune teller the other day.  Wandering around town with a head full of wine and Big Ideas, I stepped into a booth I had always passed before.  Ten pounds for a hand reading, twenty for the crystal ball.  She asked me; which would you like?  To whit I barely stopped myself from saying; you tell me.

She was old, and still is probably.  Her face was sunken and skeletal, and she spoke with a broad cockney accent.  I generally have a good measure on when a person dislikes me or not and I could tell straight away that I was a lamb to the slaughter – a source of easy money.  She hated me.  Maybe she saw all the terrible things I’m going to do.  Or maybe she saw a young cocksure man with an accent that wasn’t local.  Another bumblefuck tourist with cash on the hip.

She told me; I have a good woman in my life, or if I don’t I will have one soon.  That I had a definite idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but that I needed to take it less seriously.  I take life too seriously, she insisted.  I need to enjoy myself.  I’m a young, handsome man.  She told me about the three kids I’m going to have – a menagerie of girls and a poor boy.  She told me that I would have my own business one day, adding a hopefully under her breath.  She told me; you live too much in the past.


Working all hours and rattling around my new old cottage there is no time to live anywhere but the present.  On rare days off I walk the cobbles, stepping into cafes and drinking tea and wine whilst reading about my favourite cowboys.  Not quite lonely but unsure.  Not desiring company but curious about it.  Fond but not in love.  Still kissing with saliva.  Still tucking the sheets between my thighs when I sleep.  I wake up under a skylight to the morning sun streaming on my face.


Before I moved out, I hired a van and my father helped me out.  We spent two days together and probably exchanged more words in those two days than we had in the previous two months.  My father loves to play the rogue, the Del Boy.  Loading up, driving around in a van full of my furniture, having lunchtime beers, we were two misfits out for hard work and trouble, having adventures, having fun.  My dad has such incredible stories – has had quite an extraordinary life – and I always like hearing them.  He went over the old favourites first but with new twists – describing in detail the first time he was shot and lying on the floor in the rain with a new poetic flourish – I remember the rain felt like someone pouring sugar over my forehead.  He described the fear on the man’s face as the pistol shook, and how the assailant stood numbly in the road without attempting to get away.  A nurse who told the police – desperate to retrieve the bullet still in his thigh – to piss off.  All those mishaps and crashes, backing vans into sewage farms with people in the back so that they feared drowning in shit hammering on the walls, sending trucks and trailers smashing through buildings, tearing the front off shops.

New stories blossomed like poppies, characters and plots remembered keenly.  Having to drive around a rough council estate in a security van looking for the rent man who would hide from his tenants up a tree with their cash, lest he be mugged.  Stories of broken fingers, stolen statues, intoxicated friends and badly burned Scots.  If he is losing his mind, if dementia is creeping in, there is a corner of his brain that is fighting hard.  For those two days he was not confused, or slurring.  He was, and is, Dad.


I altered this photo turning the sun into an eye.  Bright eyes, peering from underneath a duvet.  Recovering from the night before; dancing, ears bleeding, sweating.  Carrying over the threshold, clothes scattered, fingers and tongues, the wild iris, the pupil as dark as sea coal.  In a day of emptiness, all that was needed was a look.  A glance, and suddenly the world is fine again.