The Cost Of Endings Is Sunlight

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She keeps me safe in the terrible places.  Partly because of her spirit and partly because of the knife jammed into the belt of her jeans; the same cold blade that keeps her grouchy for the first half hour of every meeting until it has met her skin temperature.

We walk down sloganed spray-painted alleyways where rapists fear to prowl, and we stand at the apex between modernity and decay, bordered by a mist that permanently laps across this town like dying tides.  On her haunches, wild hair flecked by raindrops and dust, she kisses the nettles flinging themselves desperately out of the concrete until her tongue is blistered white like mould on bread.  Planting a triumphant foot on the burned out remains of an old car, we stare down this brick tunnel towards a fetid beige light that hides the brown blood seeping from the disused and dead structures beyond.  The only life around here are the black specks that dance around the sickly yellow of streetlights, and the shine in her eyes when there is mischief to be had.

She kisses me, and as her ruined tongue laps around mine I feel the stings still planted in her own.  Even as I think about releasing, the warmth around my hips, my chest and my legs draws me in, and just in case I have second thoughts she clamps a hand in the small of my back and presses me closer.  As we kiss the tapping grows louder, and soon heavy drops of iron rain, moving on the shoulders of the perpetual miasma, are pounding down on our eyelids.

I want her and I am having her, but I know that I can’t.  This is not a chapter reading but a glance at the cover.  Releasing herself from me she takes steps backwards, her arms raised out.  I feel something warm on my skin and then a sharp itch – she’s slid the knife inside my jeans and left a thin laceration down one buttock.  I look left and then right down the alley – empty except for the loud nothingness – as she presses her back against the wall.

The rain gets heavier and behind me, through a chain link fence and a tangle of confused dead trees, the town steams and broils in protest.  There are no colours except yellows and browns – even the blackest night skies are coloured in a film of grime.  I can smell sulphur and feel the heat through my shoes, as I lick the corners of my mouth and taste the poisons.

She’s against the wall, spread like a crucifix, her fingers splayed out and head thrown back.  I go in for another kiss but she plants a firm boot into my groin and pushes me backwards.  The graffiti covering the wall is bleeding into her fingers, the faded reds blues and greens now growing bold in the tiny veins under her skin, past her wrist and into her sinewy forearms.  Her hair crawls up the bricks, infesting itself like ivy and taking on all the colours around it.  She is bleeding the wall dry of its art, of messages and memories.  I look her in the eye and I see that they change colour as though flickering through a prism.

I sit down on the floor and cup my hands around the back of my head, because my neck is burning from the deluge above.  Her feet are no longer touching the ground but pointed and poised like a ballerina, hovering a few inches above the gnarled path.  Colours sap from the wall and bleed through her, processing themselves, and I realise that parts of her are growing fainter.  The razor cheekbones are dulling, those shapely thighs less distinct, the hips that shook Paris are now translucent and warp when I move my head.  Worst of all, I see that face fading away, the light in those eyes dying out like a pair of lightbulbs coughing and spluttering towards their eventual end.  And far from fear or regret, I see contentment in her.  I see a person becoming a ghost, becoming a memory, that disintergrates like ancient papyrus exposed to oxygen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturdays

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I remember those Saturday nights, sitting cross legged on our old maroon carpet.  I have the apartment to myself, as I often did, and there’s wrestling on TV.  WCW Nitro on TNT, beamed all the way from the US to this little boy in England.  The picture quality is terrible, but it adds to the outlaw feel, the sense of watching something I shouldn’t.  I never confess my wrestling love to anyone except one or two, and I’d turn the TV off as quickly as if I were watching some soft-core erotic thriller, frantically trying to beat off during the two minutes of low lighting and sighing.

I get up from the couch and pad over to the smaller living room window that looks out across town.  We’re on the top floor and below, the lights twinkle and pulse, running like a field of neon wheat towards the black mass of the distant hills.  In the background, Goldberg spears another jobber or maybe Rey Mysterio leaps from the top rope and splashes everyone.  I turn the TV off and grab my coat.

The front door is always heavy and I’m not technically allowed out.  I know the neighbours all have ears so I pad down the cold steps carefully, lit like a mortuary slab.  Each apartment block has a different smell – the one next to ours smells weird and I get panic attacks even going past the door – but this smells like home.  Carefully, I open the main door and quickly slip down the path before the curtains start twitching.

I quickly walk to the end of my road.  I can hear the hum of a drunk town, interjected by random shrieks and laughter.  Sometimes I stay up until dawn looking out for lost stragglers who shamble through the estate, keeping an eye on them, making sure they aren’t causing trouble.  I feel cold and strange, standing as though waiting for a bus, and I’m aware of time ticking away.

Walking back through my road, I pass the small hill where we build our dens under the shadow of a warehouse.  In the distance I can see the jagged silhouette of the old factories long since closed down, where the old railway line runs.  I won’t go near that area at night.  As I walk back, I realise everything feels different; not just the lack of light, but as though I’m drowning in clean oxygen.  I can walk a lot faster and run like a sprinter.

I’m back home when my parents get in.  After they sleep I creep back into the living room, open a couple of cans of beer and watch MTV until dawn.  Banned music videos and Jackass.  I sink into the cigar-smelling chair of my father and wiggle my toes at the horror and the juvenile – everything I can get behind, the feeling of living off-grid and without rules.  Hiding the cans at the bottom of the trash, I dream of a future I haven’t had.

Driplets

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I inhale the smoke and gasp under the lights in this jet black room.  Sweating bodies and dead flesh grind and bump around me, so much cadaverous globules.  The first pill hasn’t kicked in yet – I can still taste dry ice and hairspray – so I pop another and dream of my future.

Above me on the stage, the party is just getting started.  But I don’t party.  I’m looking for sensation, real feeling.  I see empty men and indifferent women, just so many appendages and openings, no more atuned to love as the assembly instructions for furniture.  I’ve already seen a Princess, but the low bass throb is reacting badly with my shoes and I’m struggling to move more than five yards a minute.

It doesn’t matter.  She comes over to me, just as the second pill kicks in, and her eyes turn into a pair of gold coins ringed with black.  Leaning on a table, my opening line isn’t brilliant.  Are you blind?  Can you see?  It’s fine if you can’t…. I’m not prejudiced.  She’s sympathetic but confused.  I’m confused but sympathetic.  With firm hands and long nails pinching under my armpits, she hauls me out of the bonfire before the strobe dilutes my memory.

Dragged across the floor, I can see the artifice of this place.  No ceilings, just vents.  No lights, just effects.  My trousers are sticky with beer and other questionable things.  I have a flashback memory; fourteen years old, first time getting loaded on beer stolen from my parent’s fridge, listening to music on my headphones whilst lying on my bed and feeling as though I were floating into the song… like melody could be fluid, and something one could swim around.  I felt my immature quilt cover melting around my arms and legs, the pillow swallowing my head, falling into the rabbit hole of a greater sensation of feeling.  I’ve never felt better than that teenage drunk.

She drags me into the Gents and rams two fingers down my throat, her long nails lacerating the roof of my mouth.  I instantly throw up foam and blood, as a concerned man with aftershave and soaps for sale looks on.  She rubs my back, tells me Everything Will Be Okay, and buys some wipes from the dude.  He won’t accept her money, but she has a way of making things happen.

What’s that Smiths lyric?  Under the iron bridge, we kissed.  This isn’t an iron bridge and we don’t kiss.  She drags me outside and we meander, supporting me as best she can, until we sit under the ruined arch of an ancient church.  The fresh air ploughs into my senses and I feel like I am drowning.  Even the stars in a cloudless sky move too fast.  She sits with me, holding my hand, and asks me questions.  I try and answer them all flirtatiously, but she just laughts.  She wants to know who I am.  When I sit still the echoes of the bass still pinball around my head and send me off-balance.  Her arm around my shoulder isn’t affection… it’s protection.

At some point, I ask her for her number and she hands me a card with a wink.  I go for a kiss, and she darts away from my lips and plants a wet one on my cheek, grabbing a handful of my expanding groin in the process.  I look up and mumble something about the moonlight.  I can barely focus on the damn thing, glowing and bulbous above us.  She looks up and points, tells me about footprints that will never be erased and flags that will never stop fluttering, if we can just believe in the impossible…. something something.  Something something?  Why can’t I remember….?  Fucking hell.  Why can’t I remember?

I woke up in the gardens, not far from the arch.  I opened my eyes to a dogwalker, crouching nearby to pick up some shit and eyeing me pathologically, trying to assess whether I was still alive.  Underneath the crook of a low shrub, dry from the morning dew and still wrapped in her denim jacket, I rolled out from my little grave and surveyed the morning with a thumping headache and slime on my lips.  I felt something sharp in my pocket and I remembered, the card she’d given me.

It was blank except for a lipstick kiss and words scrawled in biro; TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. 

 

Weave

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In the dream, she walks behind me as I stand in front of something impossible, trying to find my way around it.  She wraps her tentacles around my waist with a squeeze and I feel her breath on the back of my neck.  My hair, and everything else, stands to immediate and obediant attention.  When did I get so submissive?  I feel her breasts pressing into my ribcage and her heartbeat thumps against my spine, playing the bones like a xylophone.  I can feel the nerves dancing in my heels.

Nothing is impossible inside your forcefield.  Wearing you like a rucksack, with your arms wrapped around my neck and your legs hooked under my arms we flatten mountains and part seas.  We stomp across suspension bridges, leaving rippling waves that send cars and coaches flying into the air and over the edge.  We reduce cathedrals into dust and snort an ecclesiastical line or two from our forearms.  Your long scarlett red hair hisses like serpents and cuts like a molten whip, slicing through the forearms and necks of any fool who steps in our way.  We collect limbs like pennies in a casino flattened by a tornado.

I offer impossible things, because I like it when you bite my ear in irritation.  One day, we walk into the sea with our pockets full of rocks, to see the shipwrecks and pickpocket the dead.  I know that this is an impossibility too far, and as the cold water curls around my ankles and then my knees, I realise that I’m feeling for the first time.  We go under into a deep blue and I cannot breathe.  I stumble along, in the vague direction of the skeletons of ships, seaweed waving us away, until your heel nudges me in the hip.  You’re pointing in the direction of a metal husk, with eyeless sockets where the Captain’s bridge used to be, and a broken bow like a dislocated jaw.

I trudge over, but my feet are getting heavier, or you are getting heavier, or the tide is pushing us back.  I turn my head to meet yours and we kiss, but I realise as our lips meet that you are struggling as well.  I taste your tongue, mingling with sea water, and we break apart, our lungs convulsing as you hold me tighter than you have ever done before.  Arms around my neck, my ribcage compressed and your heartbeat now beating tribally against my back.

I wake up face down.  My pillows have been violently tossed out from under my head and are resting on my back where your breasts once were.  There’s blood on the sheets from chewing my lips apart.  I’ve gripped the sheets so hard, my fingers have pushed through.  Every muscle is locked tight.  I roll over with some effort and stare at the ceiling until I can escape impossibility and return to a safety I don’t want anymore.

 

Unkempt

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I remember the first time I saw my schoolteacher naked.  I’d returned from lunch early to avoid being alone in a crowd; I preferred to be alone whilst alone.  I opened the door and found Miss Kempt, laying back in her chair with her eyes closed.  Both ankles were resting on the desk as she reclined, knuckle deep inside herself, with a sanitary towel clinging on to the gusset of her panties which itself hung from one knee.  For some reason, it reminded me of the pathetic bunting we’d put around the corridors with messages of learning and wisdom, quotes from dead cunts we didn’t care about telling us to learn stuff we didn’t care about so we could grow up and get jobs we didn’t care about, and meet partners we didn’t care about and have children…. well, you get the idea.

I snuck out before she could notice I was there and took my boner into the boy’s bathroom.  I showed it to the weird kid in the class next to ours in exchange for three sticks of gum and four packets of stickers.  He just stared at it for a while, breathed on it, tried to touch it but then flinched away like it was an exposed electrical socket.  With a last wheeze from his stuffed nose, he gulped hard and ran into a cubicle, slamming the door behind him.  I zipped myself up and left, my head feeling light and without blood.

When we all finally returned to class, Miss Kempt was on her knees sponging the floor, next to a bucket of pale, pink water.

Engaged

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I do a few tabs of blotter acid and head for the arcade.  Mercy is working tonight; a diva with dirty feet and a bruised knuckle from knocking the shit out of her Dad.  I nod towards her, but those circular hawk eyes are scanning the room like a survellience camera.  This time of year, old homeless guys come in looking for warmth and free water, using their last pennies to start a game they’ll never finish as they get the feeling back in their throats and fingers.  Mercy shows none; she stands behind the old fools waiting for them to take a turn of a game they can’t understand, before throwing them out by their greasy collars.

A seventeen year old boy in a huge uniform, with a rock in his throat, waves at me and offers me a gappy smile.  Slip works the ice cream parlour, which is why I never order any.  Slip’s face is pebbledashed with acne, a series of hideous eruptions that produce small yellow snakes whenever he does something like talk, or breathe or exhale into his cheeks.  Mercy has thumped him twice; once when he tried it on with her and once when he tried to jerk off into the salted caramel.

Somewhere around the fifth go on House Of The Dead the wave crashes over my brain and I’m failing badly.  I take a few more tabs, knowing there is no going back now, and my only chance is to fry my brain so badly it tries to reset itself.  Monsters are reaching out from the cabinet to wrestle the light gun from my hand.  I can feel the coins in my pocket chewing each other like little Pac-Men.  I step away from the encroaching zombies and start firing the light gun wildly at a ten year old boy trying to play Virtua Cop on the machine next to mine.  He has red eyes and sounds like James Earl Jones, and I know he is controlling the monsters and so must be destroyed.

When I regain consciousness, I’m sitting on the floor against the shutter of the arcade.  It’s closed, but the lights still blink and fizz above me.  My head has melted to my knee, bone on bone, and I scream as I wrench it free.  Standing up, on one leg and with the sea wind blasting through the hole in my head, I stumble down the empty promenade.  On nights like this I’ll break into a car and sleep on the backseat, because the wallpaper in my bedroom moves and makes me seasick.