Diesel

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Pitter patter on my head, standing on a corner of this piece of the world, spat from a cancerous jaw.  Closing my eyes I taste the acid and corruption, as the ground and leaves hiss around me.  Inhaling the stale scents of chemicals and chalk, melting and bubbling under my useless feet, the sky turns brown and attempts to end our lives again.

When the rain sweeps in I can’t see beyond the end of the road.  I look towards my escape route guarded by a white mist and unknowable shapes, voices, actions… gestures I cannot recognise.  I turn away and look back at those dull, disinterested buildings, knowing that I’ll never leave their lethargy.

Under a little fort of rusted oil drums, I lie face down on the cold concrete floor until the dust sticks to my skin.  As green fades to grey, our memories are built upon and ‘modernised’.  My fingernails are raw and chipped from clawing at the ground, trying to find our dreams and footprints.  Some dim echo of old laughter or a lost conversation still softly bouncing around in the deep places of the Earth, unmolested by experience.  I have to find them before they stop bouncing, and simply pop like a soap bubble in a field of brambles.

When the Sun breaks through the miasma I stretch my muscles, pulling all my cells apart to allow as much heat and light in as possible.  In this dank, ruined iron shelter, I live for colours.

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.

Forgotten

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I numb my mind and retreat into the safe places, because it is easier to live a happy life backwards than a disappointing one forwards.  I tell her this, but then I fall asleep in her navel, and when I wake up the world is full of plans again.  She would’ve made a great war general, but there are no wars big enough for her mind these days… no grand epics where sixty thousand people stand in lines in a field and cleave each other’s arms and legs from their sockets.

She told me; I don’t dream anymore, I just lie through pieces of sleep where I know I cannot be harmed. 

The problem as I see it is this; too many people, with whom she forms intimate connections with, end up dead.  And it isn’t always her fault.  I see her in fields of failing wheat trying to outglare sunsets.  I see her up to her knees in water trying to change the course of waterfalls, trying to open curtains to other realms.  I sit as a passenger in her car as she blasts two grooves into the tarmac, naked and gruesome as birth, hurling abuse at anything unlucky enough to be enjoying an evening stroll on our route.

I tell her to stop drinking.  She replies; I will stop drinking when you can present me with a better alternative to sobriety.  And it is hard to disagree with that.  We share the same brown bottles.  We share oblivion.

Estimate

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I remember, on a hot summer day, her standing silhouetted against the sun with two enormous clouds behind her like a pair of mismatched wings.  I remember rolling around in the wet soil, as we crouched from the thunderstorm; when giggles turned to kisses and tickles turned to fucks.  I remember the smells – the faint almost minty scent of dry alkaline earth, citrus deoderant and perfume, the rusty iron tang of blood for which she apologised but showed no sign of wanting to stop.  I remember peeling off wet socks and emptying my shoes after we ran across the boating lake to stop a group of male ducks from ganging up on a female with a limp.

As colour drains from memory, and so the scents fade into dust.  The wet earth becomes brittle clods again, the blood dries and flakes, the perfume destroys itself into lousy bacteria and the clouds turn to rain which pass by and are gone before the first shoots of spring can taste it.

She once said, ever the sweet little cynic; “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage… one being whipped just to drag the other.”  I used to love those killer little lines she’d drop like stones in a perfectly still pond, just to see how far the ripples would travel and for how long.  This is why we aren’t together anymore – I spent far too long trying to decide if what she said was profound, or stupid or neither.

 

 

 

Grove

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Walking across a dark, rainy bridge of suicides, I can feel her tender hands around mine keeping me from the edge.  Around us, drifts of snow are piled and dirty like dead sheep, but there’s gold in those eyes and silver glinting in those teeth.

We will always walk this path, even now… even thirty years after the fact when your face is covered by the mist of a few broken hearts, a few hundred whiskeys and a few thousand dull days staring into faces as bland as dinner plates.  I sit on the floor, surrounded by a week’s worth of TV dinners buzzing with insects, and I clench my hand into a fist… and as the nails dig into my skin I feel the warmth of yours.  Wherever you are now – happy, no doubt – you will never know how often you save me.

On rainy evenings, I throw on a rucksack and trudge out into the mire.  Ignoring the hiss of passing cars in the spray, and the glare of headlights, I stare down at the soft colours – all those sunflower yellows from reflected streetlights, dark purples and blues from the oily puddles under my feet, and the black mass of the old bridge as solid as a marble tomb.

I don’t sleep anymore, I just shut my eyes and think of the nice things I want to have.  I wiggle my toes under the blanket and imagine cool grass and innocence, before I burned myself on finite desire.

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.

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.