Sitting uneasily on the remains of an old washer-dryer, I look up to the sky and toast the world. At my feet, dead yellow grass paws pathetically at my shoes. I light another cigarette and blow smoke into the day. It is nice to feel involved in some small way with this wider conscious, even […]
She glared at the strange figure spray-painted onto the wall. The simplistic and boxy shape of a man, with legs apart in a power stance and arms out and slightly bent as though caught in an eternal shrug. The completely spherical head contained no facial features other than a big ‘X’ cross stretching from jawline to forehead. We’ve walked past this a hundred times but for some reason she has decided to engage.
She spins on her heel and her eyes are glowing amber in the fading light of a terminally ill sun. Pointing behind her into the ‘X’ she snarls, her voice bubbling out of her throat as though the words were born from the acids in her stomach. I do NOT like the way he is LOOKING at ME.
I know I cannot make it better, and trying to make things better is like trying to put out a fire with petrol just because it is a liquid and therefore the same as water. I shrug and stare up at the sky. There are no birds anymore and I miss being jealous of their freedom. When I look back, she is carving at the stone maniacally with a broken panel of glass. Blood is running down her arms from how hard she is gripping it, slashing and grinding into the stone. I can only sit and hope that the wave crashes soon enough for pain to register. To interrupt now would guarantee the loss of an ear… a tongue… two eyes and the tip of a nose….
“All women have a built-in grain of indestructibility. And men’s task has always been to make them realize it as late as possible.”
-Chris Marker Sans Soleil
I have always been fascinated by that which I do not believe. What can you know about something you already know? I delve deeply into books of the absurd – UFOs, Flat Earthers, Spontaneous Human Combustion – trying to find some common ground, a portal into another reality away from this horrible mess of cynicism, avarice and virtue. I hold out for surrealism, abstraction, perversion. All big expansive words for something so simple as the need to find my own connections, to finally slide into the freeway lane where there is nothing in front of me and I can relax. She once told me I was just a wound looking for a host, how all the best people were only there to remind everyone of the beauty of remaining alive and unblemished. If I questioned our lifestyle, she would light a cigarette and give me a look that aged her by a couple of decades, small eyes and cheek blades. She said to me; okay babe… tell me how Bukowski wrote those stories sober… tell me he had a relaxed life, and I won’t believe you.
I never really took any of this seriously until we were sat on the garden wall of the Rectory, pushing fragile needles into our pulsing ankles and waiting for the oceans to fill our lungs. As the vicar walked towards us concerned with the blood gently meandering down our shoeless feet, she pushed a pair of dildos tied into a crucifix into his face and started screaming at him. You are no better than those dogs who wait outside the offices of their dead owners. You don’t want to achieve; you just want your memory to be adored. You just want love after death. I offered her my mouth to calm things down. As she kissed me, I began to count the probable stitches I would need to reattach my bottom lip. It is only when everything wears off that I remember how much pain I am usually in.
She keeps having this recurring dream, where she has a baby in her arms suckling away until it begins to chew through her nipple, through the tissue of her breast towards her heart, finally devouring it. She tells me she can feel the pain of those little teeth like machetes through her nerves and tendons, and when her heart is consumed there is a rush of air inside her chest. She wakes up with stabbing pains and struggles to breathe.
It is all true. This evening, much like all the other evenings, I will not sleep tonight. Instead she will curl up on my feet, folding her entire body into itself. She will thrash and writhe, clawing at my leg with her dirty nails and leaving thick yellow infected streaks where I ignored any kind of medical attention. Then she comes out of the other side. After an hour or so her body sighs loudly and everything relaxes. She lies serene, softly breathing, her eyelids barely acknowledging the curious tiny insects that land on her eyelashes looking for salt.
I look across to a red painted figure of a crossed face, hacked and slashed by this maniac snoozing on my toes. I know I am tired when the figure cheerfully waves at me, and calmly walks away.
She told me; I want to tell you three things and I want you to shut up whilst I’m talking. Holding up a hand, she extended a finger as she counted. There’s a dream… a memory… and a verdict. They are connected, but I don’t know how.
The bridge creaked in the wind, bustling through the narrow valley below. Our bare, dirty feet hung into the abyss, as curious animals peered up to see whether we were a threat or just angels. I passed the half bottle of warm liquor and she ingested it with the grim determination of someone enduring minor surgery without pain relief.
She told me that she dreams about The Boy. How he always appears in the background; leaning on a postbox as she walks through 1920’s Berlin, or in the seventh row of a Stones gig she imagined she attended.
She told me about a memory of The Boy hijacking a car to impress her but realising he couldn’t drive. So she took the wheel and got them far away before the car alarm attracted too much attention. They dumped the car; to stop him feeling too disappointed she nibbled his ear until he got erect and left him alone to finish the job.
The verdict is… that I should’ve saved him. I let out a disguised cough; this is anodyne for such a sharp mind.
I tell her; he is a severed portal to a place you want to be.
Anywhere but here.
I lean back against the rotten wooden stump of a dead friend and scan the parked cars nearby. Ever since I saw my first crush getting into her mum’s car after school, I’ve been able to memorise plates and make patterns with the letters and numbers. If I saw that car driving along the street, I would push out my shoulders, straighten my posture and do everything I could to look enigmatic – jawline clenched and profiled – in the off chance that she was sat in the back seat gazing out of the window at the multitudes of shufflers and caught a glimpse of this god. The plates around me look like fun, or as close to fun as I get these days. Those add up to 20. That one kind of spells twat. That car, in that shade of red, reminds me of Jessamin and her chocolate eyes, and her new surname, and the child she bounces on her knee that isn’t mine and I never wanted anyway.
“Newspapers have been filled recently with the story of a man from Nagoya. The woman he loved died last year and he drowned himself in work—Japanese style—like a madman. It seems he even made an important discovery in electronics. And then in the month of May he killed himself. They say he could not stand hearing the word ‘Spring.’”
– Chris Marker Sans Soleil
I am halfway down my first bottle of beer, and I can feel the buzz as the disease winds around my arteries, laminating my cells in that familiar melancholy stupor which will leave me reckless and blind later on this evening. When I am into my third or fourth my mind becomes sufficiently lubricated as to give me a glimpse of my former self – when life was as simple as a 16bit jump over an instant kill pit, before morality sat me on a fence for eternity, before I knew anything about the future and how influential it will be. By the seventh, I will listen to the ravens as they sing their songs about death hunting us through the long grass. I will remember the stuff that never happened, and I will fantasise about things that did happen and happened beyond my remit. It is easy to live inside a bubble until it becomes opaque and hard, and before you can escape you are trapped inside a marble and condemned to be lost in a gutter or under a child’s bed.
The last time I sat here I made a bit of a fool of myself. I begged an old woman for a trampoline because she looked like my grandma and we never had a garden growing up. I cried over her old dusty tights and vomited maroon over her inexpensive shoes. That night, in the police cell, I felt too embarrassed to shit on the exposed toilet and too wired to sleep on the mattress. Instead I added my name to the others carved into the wall, taking care not to overlap ‘Johnny Sumner’ who (from the number of notches underneath) had spent sixteen nights here.
I look up to a cloudless black sky. It is just past noon, but the blues and greens and reds have drained out of my eyes of late. I see everything in a saturated monochrome now – trees, lakes and birds just vague shadows in my mind depending on the strength of the incandescent Sun. All the cars now look the same, except – of course – for the plates. I neck the last of this warm first bottle, placing it carefully next to me, and look over my shoulder. That one is the same make and model of Jessamin’s. That one adds up to 17. That one spells Mist.
Silent Hour sits with a notebook on its lap or in front of a computer. Its pen is fine-tipped and black, its current notebook is also black and almost finished, and the computer is rather old.
Silent Hour is Basilike Pappa
I remember she once told me; the funny thing about endings is that they never happen. By the time you reach it, you’re already past it. Likewise we can never experience tomorrow, it is always just out of arms reach. She was always saying stuff like this; it sounded profound but then […]
When I wake up, my room is a deep pink from the sunlight passing through the cherry blossoms that cover this place. It never fails to give me a warm feeling inside, as though the rays are diluted through the petals and into the cells on my bare arms and legs. It takes me back to a colder memory I often have from five years ago of a windy dock and a rotten jetty poking forlornly into the harbour, reinforced by a finger of steel pointing towards this pink dandelion island nestling in the middle of the bay. I took the boat with other kids all looking at each other with the curious mix of shyness and knowing – that our sunken eyes and strong brows gave us all something in common we all knew too much about. As we sailed towards the island where my new school was apparently located, we began to see that this beautiful marshmallow floating in the rough ocean concealed bright white buildings, whose small towers seemed to furtively whisper to each other at the latest intake.
It took me a few days to realise why I was here. Sitting through an easy math’s exam to determine our respective abilities, I finished early and glanced over my shoulder. I was the second of five rows with a sixth row of kids all attached to trolley drips – thin hoses to noses and arms. After the exam finished I took a wrong turn down a corridor looking for a bathroom and saw another exam hall filled with beds and machines all bleeping in unison, the participants propped up and scribbling frantically on trays attached to the sides, with far more invigilators than we’d had in our hall, dressed in brilliant white.
I was now a permanent resident at The School For The Dying, an institution that allowed kids with incurable ‘situations’, as the staff euphemistically called it, to see out their education. Anyone who couldn’t realistically continue their studies and who wouldn’t make it past graduation could be considered. Inhabitants stayed on the island in rooms of varying degrees of intricacy – mine was just a bed with a desk, drawers and a small sink and wardrobe – but others were the size of operating theatres with machines and instruments that meant we couldn’t have the lights on after 9pm every day.
I got up and stretched my thin limbs, shivering in the warmth from the window. Today is a good day – double History followed by double Art and a single English Lit lesson that will probably be silent reading. It took a while but now the rhythmic hissing of ventilators helps me to concentrate during the quiet reading periods. I also get used to seeing our single desks slowly become more and more empty as the school year progresses. We all make friends as quickly as we can, because we know that our lives exist on fast forward.
I dress quickly, wash my face and prepare my books. My classroom is just across the courtyard from this dorm block, but I take the longer way around so I can get a glimpse of the sea. From the outside the cherry blossoms seem impossibly beautiful, until you are inside them and you realise they are blocking the outside world. But standing on the right bench, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can see through the canopy and get a sniff of that salty air or, if there is a storm, maybe a splash of real, unfiltered water.
As I leave, I see Prof Maguire talking to a group of young girls. I sneak away to the outer path, knowing that walking too close to the sea is technically forbidden – not that anything is really forbidden here. Maguire is well known for scolding the girls who hide in the bathrooms to smoke, telling them it is bad for their health, but the arguments always end in laughter. There are no real punishments here because no one ever really misbehaves. Life is too short, it seems, to spend it being a cunt.
The outer path is cut by curious feet to wind between the mass of trees that separate the school from the sea defences. I tiptoe through the mud of a recent rainfall so my shoes don’t give away my location. The air is still today so all I can see is a noisy curtain of pink, but I can hear the roar of the ocean as it breaks on the rocks that guard us from storms. I stand for a moment and try to remember a landscape that I haven’t already seen every day. I see the paths between buildings and I try to remember a street. I see puddles forming after rain and I try to remember seeing a lake, for real, not as a picture in a book.
Eventually I make my way to the classroom and take my seat. There are not many of us left who are so close to the end of their teen years. I have already repeated the final year once, so when questions pop up I keep quiet because I know the answers and I know the way to the answers. A couple of the seats have been filled with new faces this past week, and the other empty desks sit sadly like dogs tied up outside a shop waiting for their owners to come back.
I lift up my desk lid, now covered in deep little carved marks, and add another one to the gathering army. I wasn’t supposed to see my 15th birthday, so after I had passed that milestone I started carving little notches to mark my ongoing, bewildering march towards irrelevance and a little headstone on the mainland – my marble ticket home. I have to carve them deep, the sawdust falling over my wrists, to distinguish them from the other lesions and scratches left by previous students who also marked their time, however fleeting or lingering, but it gets harder every day to have the strength.
I am 17 years, two months and six days old… and I am running out of desk.