A Love Letter To An Autumn Thunderstorm

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It doesn’t help to overly romanticise The Girl; a Manic Pixie Nightmare smelling faintly of green meat with greasy hair and black under her fingernails.  Every morning she drew teardrops under those auburn oval windows in eyeliner, in memory of those who didn’t and couldn’t pass the tests.  Every morning she pressed those dirty angelic feet into the same toeless, ripped heels.  Those feet, the soles hardened and yellow, once kicked the life and death out of her own father, and left a streak of explosive blood across the wall; she compared it to a peacock feather.  She was not romantic, but she appreciated actions…. not gestures but actions.  When I took a beating from a gang of ten with pool cues for commenting on her tits she looked down on me like undersole filth and played on with them, as the barkeep swept me into a bucket and threw me outside.  When I pressed a sock filled with chloroform over the mouth of her best friend, and watched as she was strung up by her wrists over a bonfire to dance, The Girl rode me until my pubes were torn from my skin.

Whenever we drove anywhere, no matter the weather, she opened the window and rested her head outside and fell asleep.  In those quiet moments, where I felt safe from knife blades and cigarette burns, her hair flapped like the banners of two ancient armies on the battlefield.

*

I know I can never touch her again, so I touch the things that she once grasped.  I find the pieces of graffiti that fascinated her and I run my fingers over the same lines of paint.  I search in the weeds for the same bottles of glue to huff; they lay empty with the labels slowly fading like memory itself.  I squeeze nettles and thistles and stare down adoringly as the little white bumps form in my palm.  I cut myself on the same pieces of rusted barbed wire in the hope of capturing a few cells of her blood.  In town, stumbling and confused with yellow bandages over my fists, I flick to The Beatles and put on She Loves You and I remember when I had dreams.  Genuine dreams.  Before the transfusions, before they were drained to preserve the lives of many others, who squandered them with pointless admonishes and meaningless children.  She escaped, blasting past the indecision and weakness into the vacuum of non-knowledge, where every eventuality became a natural progression.

I know the songs we both loved have been extinguished from her mind and it terrifies me, so I keep them alive in my own mind.  As memory exists as a lifeforce I wallow in the increasingly diluted and faded colours, see the heartbeat grow faint, and I feel it in my own chest.

*

But I see the echoes every day.  I see three men standing against the sun like curiously shaped monoliths and, in a moment of self righteous frenzy, I pretend they’ve all fucked her and left her for dead.  So, headphones still throbbing into my brain, I launch over a fence with a blade already locked.  I’m all ready to own the ears and lungs of these three bastards when the song changes.  The memory changes.  I’m not standing in front of her, facing up to a certain beating with only a rusty knife, as she disinterestedly smokes a cigarette and puts it out on my shoulder.  I’m thinking of the time she ate a piece of my hair and clutched her stomach telling me she’s now pregnant.  I knew she was messing with me, but in that smile I wanted it to be real.

So now, I’m left standing in a field in front of three men eyeing me with both fear and confusion.  As The Sun sinks behind them I click the blade away in embarrassment, and I swear I can see her eyes swimming around, bumping like tadpoles, in the black spots that cloud my own.

Dead Boxes

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I look across and you are asleep already.  You look so angelic my eyes flood and I blink away the tears that tumble from my eyelashes.  The moonlight illuminates your skin, hiding the dark circles around your eyes and your chewed lips.  In this light you aren’t slumped anymore, but elegant and wise, your jawline casting deep shadow over the nape of a pale, spotted neck.  I feel like an astronaut, peering out of the capsule window over a foreign landscape, looking for a safe place to touch down.

Carefully, I pull the needle from your arm.  In front of me is a chain link fence and, picking a hexagon, I aim the syringe perfectly through… it lands with a faint puff of dust on the other side.  It can’t hurt you now… hurt us now.  I stretch out my boots and click my knees.  My jeans are caked in oil and grime so they creak when they bend.  Running my tongue through my mouth, my feet are as furry as my three year beard.  I wish I could sleep, but my heart keeps beating.  Thump thump thump, it pounds away, the only healthy thing I still own.

We’re resting in the alley, because it’s too warm to sleep.  Even outdoors, the air is heavy and dismal with pollution.  Buildings sweat, trees die, people go away.  From here, between my legs, I can see the churned turmoil of a diseased Earth covered in the detritus and mistakes of Man.  Chimneys and rigs, steel and sulphur, lit artificially and haphazardly and now abandoned, to be reclaimed by a mutated Nature that does not grow so much as manifest and pulse, tentacles of thorns grasping everything it can.  This is Gaia on life-support, her bed left unattended as her flesh rots into weeping sores.

I look over to you again.  Your head has shifted towards me, so I can see the jagged parting in the top of your greasy head.  A single trickle of blood is making its way between the hairs on your arm, so I lick my finger and gently mop it up.  I have dreams of us leaving this place.  Daydreams and night dreams where I get it all together, get a real job, rent a flat, buy a dog, do recycling and go to the funfair to win teddy bears for you.  But I know you can’t do these things.  The umbilical didn’t sever, it just clung on and became septic.  You can’t leave this place and I cannot leave you.  So this is now our life – mossy alleyways covered in graffiti, the rusting monuments of industry, old shacks covered in ivy and stinking of piss that we sleep in when the snow falls from November to March.

We play in the wreckage of those that failed.  But as we get older those paints don’t fade but become bolder.  Old ruins glint sharp.

As long as we still breathe, we still have time.

We don’t have to fail.

Crimson Lips

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I took her to the disused railway line.  The trees form a green tunnel, with patchwork sunlight dappling through the leaves.  Looking eastbound, I see a circle of green pierced by light and flanked by the twin brown lines running to meet in the distance.  In dim shade, there are grey walls coated in faded paint, covered in the icons of those who no longer walk here.  In the long grass burned spoons and aerosol cans, all the pathetic detritus of a people that have failed their home.

When I told her where we were going, she rolled her eyes… must we?  Haven’t we done this already? 

She told me once; I have fantasies about being tied to the tracks, bound at the wrists and ankles, as a train is approaching. 

She told me; I feel the vibration from the rails on my skin and in my bones and I’m writhing to get away, pushing my chest out, and I can’t… I just can’t.

And I have to walk away.  I can’t abide the thought of her in peril, but I can’t explain the bulge in my jeans either, or my dry mouth, or my breathlessness, or that I’m trembling like I’m cold under this midsummer sun.

So I bring her back here out of confusion.  I’d never tie her to these rusty old girders, and no train has run down here in sixty years.  I just want to hear her story again.  I want to hear her desire something.

Countered

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I’m so tired.  I shamble over the ridge, looking down at the town below – faded pink and yellow lights, and the distant shrieks and cries of people passing through an hour’s worth of inebriated contentment with the world.  Heels, frocks and stockings.  I knew them all once, threw them aside with abandon, fishnets simmering and smoking over a naked lamp.  I knew cherry lipstick, greasy hair and morning breath that tasted so sweet to a loser.  Now, the words weigh heavy on my eyelids.  There’s too many to say and not enough to write.  So I turn my back on the town and stumble under a black sea.

I sit down on a lump of stone and look across at a sepia photograph of a landscape I once knew, where wingless birds flitted and buzzed over our heads and you got grass stains on the knees of your tights.  My suit is in tatters – holes in the thighs and fraying at the ankles, the shoulder straps tied into knots to compensate my shrinking waist.  The soles of my boots flap like gossip.  My face doesn’t feel water anymore and any kind of emotion cracks the skin like underfired clay.

I haven’t slept since 1991 and I refuse to as long as your face keeps appearing.  Sometimes you approach me in a street where the pavement is lit from below; the road is covered in glass over deep pits that cars carefully drive over.  Sometimes I am standing in a park playing with my daughter as my love takes pictures of us both smiling and giggling and I see you standing in between two trees; silent and faintly reverberating so the trunks shimmer like in a heat mirage.  Sometimes you’re on a billboard as I’m driving along the highway as a rancid little seventeen year old with slicked back hair and a leather jacket twelve years too big for me, usually adveristing chewing gum or hairspray.  Sometimes you’re just a rumour –  a pair of familiar initials carved into a tree that bleeds red, and a forest that suddenly erases all the paths and leaves me suffocated under a dark canopy, easy prey for the wolves.

Let he who casts the first stone…. well, fuck it.  I have nothing to lose.  I’m casting it.  So I pick up a fragment of the lump I’m sitting on and I hurl it into the black landscape, hoping to shatter the pane that stands between me and my freedom.  I want to see the light beyond.  I throw it so hard I feel my back click out of place.  I throw it so hard a nerve pinches from the back of my head down to my knee.  I throw it and let out a scream that rips the dry skin at the corners of my mouth as the invisible crowd below me in their soft, candy floss ocean, let’s out a roar in tandem with an event they will never see…. never understand.

The rock falls unseen into the void below.  As if in response a brisk wind whips around my legs and I stretch my arms out waiting to fly.  But nothing happens.  Something is trickling onto my jawbone.

Time to try and sleep again.  The grass looks soft here and the night is warm.  No one will disturb me so I don’t bother trying to find shelter.  Eventually the lights of the town will go out.  The wailing voices will go silent one by one like hypothermia victims after a shipwreck.

I sit back down; just a silly man in a bad suit.

Metallic

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We roll up, the tyres cracking and complaining under the broken ground, into the skeletal husk.  In the shell of the old factory the slabs of mottled concrete rise like broken teeth, or gravestones, testaments to mothers, fathers, daughters and sons.  Every surface is tattooed with fallen graffiti artists, leaving their tags in blood red as the light dimmed from their eyes.

Trespass is the least of our crimes, and our crimes are the least of anyone’s around here.  I look across to a vibrant bundle of scarlet hair and anger.  Aged fourteen she found her brother kneeling peacefully in the street with a knife hilt buried in his chest.  She ran over to hug him as he rose his head to the sky, closed his eyes and a single tear ran from the corner down his cheek.  He whispered into her ear; this really hurts, and I need to sleep… if I don’t wake up, know that I love you. 

She broke my ribs last week.  As I crouched, doubled up and breathless, she pointedly remarked; if it makes you feel better, I can feel it too… and it hurts.  She was dangling upside down from a tree at the time.

Now we sit in front of a jagged, arrow shaped monolith, casting a shadow over the car.  Five stories of naked, pointless brick holed five times down the centre by glassless windows and kept up by a few flimsy pieces of tape and warning signs that the whole thing could come down at any moment.  We’re underneath it, and for good measure, I turn the key to shut the engine down.  The stand-off begins.  If it decides to fall today, we won’t have time to react.  I pass the can to her and she passes it back.

Tears regularly form on her eyelashes like icicles.  She tells me; I’m finding it harder and harder to keep breathing forwards.  Then, with a deep sigh that raised her chest to the heavens, she turned her head to face me…. See? 

When I walk down the street with her at night, the streetlights flicker and dim as she walks past them.  I used to think it was her energy fucking with the wiring, but now I realise it is the shadows of her thoughts that swim and dance around her head, blocking out the light, selfishly hogging her soul.

Sucking on the can, she leans back and stares out of the window.  Her voice is half panicked and half relieved when she says; I think I’m dying… I can see angels coming to collect me… I never thought I’d be one of the saved. 

I look ahead; flecks of snow are settling on the car windscreen.

 

Saturn

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Flashback One

I straddle the dead log, keeping my dress down towards my knees and my spirits up.  He flicks his cigarette lighter endlessly, over and over again.  The Marlboro remains in his mouth, unlit, as he stares into the floor.  I realise how little he looks like James Dean.  Everything is there… the white stick, the leather, the brow… but he looks like a little boy in his father’s suit pretending to work at the office.  This is the end.  So I pick a thin stone out from the small bag over my shoulder and carve some initials into the fallen log.  I can tell from his sudden interest that he thinks these are our initials.

‘T’

‘H’

‘I’?

I write; THIS IS THE END…. and whip the stone at him hard, cutting to the bone just above his eye.

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Flashback Two

On the alley stairs, the girl is begging.  She’s crying hard as her clumpy heels crumple and fall and she slides down a damp wall.  Sitting on one of the steps, looking up at me… she pleads I don’t want to fight you. 

Too bad.

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Flashback Three

T_____ once told me; I’m not lost.  I don’t have a destination.  How can I be lost if I don’t know where I’m supposed to go?  There’s a logic there somewhere.

Towards the end, I said; if you love me as you say, why does so much have to change?  She didn’t answer.  Her chin wrinkled like an orange, and she took a deep gulp of air down her throat.  At the time, I thought she was sad at our inevitable demise.  Now I realise she was sad that I’d only just realised.

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Flashback Four

I watched T_____ stand over the girl, begging on the steps, not wanting to fight.  I probably should’ve said or done something but she didn’t need any help.  She drew a fist back – not a slap but a full on closed fist – and demanded the weeping girl get up.  I’d forgotten how big her arms were flexed.  Looking at those four knuckles must’ve been like facing a firing squad without a blindfold.  Eventually, after much pleading, the girl was allowed to leave intact.  I watched as T_____ brushed past me, still full of blood and thunder, out of the alley and into the street beyond.  As the rain began to fall, I found myself torn between following the fury or comforting the wreck.

In the end I sat down on the damp floor.  T_____ was long gone and wouldn’t be back.  I sat listening to the desperate, choking sobs of the girl on the steps.

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Flashback Five

My shot got him good.  Blood poured from his eye socket, down his cheek, over the eyeball.  I leapt off the log and brushed myself clean.  He just stood and looked at me; hands down by his sides, his cigarette now polka-dotted with red.  I walked up to him, embraced him for a kiss and then ate the Marlboro out of his mouth, spitting the flakes and paper into his face with a smile.

Perhaps his destiny was to lie under a train and let it happen.  Perhaps his destination was the sea with a pocket full of rocks.  I walked away across the fields, away from the fallen log.  When I finally turned back, two hundred yards later, he still remained where I had left him, like a dead tree only with less sentience, awaiting instructions on how to fail…. again.

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.