Saturdays

20180912_165659

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

20180912_170235

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.

Abhor

DSC_0031

We always tried to be angels, but her smile made me want to spit in the face of God.  We tore along the street like lava, consuming everything in our wake.  When she grabbed my hand and told me to stop, I watched her vault into the open top of a sports car and wink at me – one hand on the wheel, one arm propped on the door.  As I stared, waiting for the punchline, I heard it… the steady hiss of piss as she wet herself and the leather interior before vaulting away.

Sure, we smashed a few windows, and sure, we upset a few natives.  We ran to the churchyard and pulled down as many slabs as we could before mounting each other on the cold slab of a former vicar.  She rode me, legs splayed wide across my hips, jeans still hanging off one ankle and dripping yellow, t-shirt knotted up and arms out to receive the sun.  We came in unison and rolled off, landing with a winding thud in a pile of autumn leaves.  Kissing my nose, she bit her lip and for a moment I saw true love… true companionship…lying in the hundred scents of a thousand dry brown leaves.

Lying under the stars later that evening, she points at one and says ‘Mary Linskill.’ Then another, ‘Alfred Broe’.  When I ask she tells me; these are the names of the people whose tombs we upset….and the stars are their spirits in the dark.

Sync

DSC_0126

Stroking your arm, I navigate my fingers over the hairs and goosebumps, trying to read your thoughts like braille.  There are no clouds in this night sky, so we lie alone on the beach sharing our moment with 4 billion years of chemical reactions, and a trillion unknown worlds.  Next to us, the remains of a bonfire quietly hisses and crackles, like a grumpy child reluctantly getting into bed.

I can’t read your arm, but I feel your breathing quickening.  I stroke your cheek and check your racing pulse and this is all I need to know.  You stretch a leg out, one side pale against the night, the other textured with grey sand, a monolith sending out a signal to distant tribes.

….like a monolith sending out a signal to distant tribes.  I think it’s a good line but when I say it out loud you pinch my nipple hard enough that I feel my calf muscles tighten and my ears involuntarily twitch.  Too much?  I ask.  You don’t reply.

In the harbour, we can see the lights of an approaching ship.  A small boat, one of the local fishing tubs that go out from time to time.  The quiet of the night is interrupted by Dancing Queen by ABBA blaring out across the dark water.  As if embarrassed, the stars begin to go out.

As the boat draws nearer, we see a small group of men and women gathered around a large beer cooler.  One guy is standing on the prow with a girl, trying to reinact the scene from Titanic.  It’s a sweet moment, and I feel you nuzzle close to me, until he downs a can, throws it high into the air and shouts BRING US YOUR RUM AND WHORES. 

The boat putt-putt-putts away past the breakwaters, to the sound of cackling.  I look up and say aloud; it’s safe to come out now.  You turn and look at me confused, but one by one the stars reappear above us.

 

Sanctuary II

 

Sanctuary II is here.

As with Sanctuary, it is a combination of my pictures and my writing.  Please click here if you wish to purchase a copy.

Green Flames

(Originally posted May 2017)

We’d been dancing around the trees, the three of us.  My left hand enveloping her cool hand and my right entwined with his sweaty paw.  Like Victorian ghosts, we ringed around the rosy around this confused silver birch until we became dizzy and the black scars on white bark began to swirl and combine…

…and she cried out that she could see underwater zebras galloping across an ocean bed, and the heads were breaking the surf like the incoming tide, and we all just pissed ourselves laughing and blamed the drugs, because it was always the drugs, even though she didn’t even swallow cough syrup.

The Boy was born to take drugs, if only because he made more sense that way.  Drugs seemed to mature him mentally and physically.  He stood taller and sounded wiser, although I look back now and realise I was probably meeting him halfway rather than him rising to the occasion.  Too often though I became so debilitated, and he would stand there sardonic, silent and judgemental as though all our jibes and crimes, all the blood and sweat that we drained from him like vampires was now presented to him as evidence of our unsuitableness in his pathetic life.  With detached reason, he watched me suffer and he watched her dance as she vied against this new threat to her power.

Late one February, we lit a bonfire on one of the old railway sleepers and listened as the snap of the flame waltzed a tune with the hiss of the melting tar.  The Boy had made a small guitar from elastic bands, a length of bamboo and a little paint tin we’d found amongst a stash; dumped by a decorator and then hoovered up by the local sniffers looking for any kind of perfumed solvent to jam up their noses.  Two or three in the morning was the safest time to be out.  As She would often reason, even the rapists and the murderers have to sleep at some point.

The Boy belted out a dreadful tune and then tried to sing, just a load of nonsense and wailing.  We listened and I tried to stare at her to see her reaction but the light of the flames in her eyes gave me the beginnings of a bad trip.  Looking at her from the corners of my eyes made it even worse; the shadows elongated her face from her cheekbones down, giving her the look of a demonic mask from a Greek chorus.  I shivered and sensed her complete lack of movement next to me as She sat, rapt and slowly clapped.  Words began to slip into The Boy’s unintelligible stanzas like the flash of fast cars from a road bridge, and his foreign sounds turned into language.

He sung a bizarre thing I cannot remember.  I looked up to the sky, but it was empty of stars and glowing faintly purple.  Whenever I breathed out, my breath became smoky, but the shape of the smoke kept changing into a hand reaching out from my mouth and trying to grab The Boy’s face.  Just when he began to find a tune, just when the words began to make sense, he launched into a deranged, sing-song chorus repeating the same words over and over between the high pitched whistle and the gutteral spread; GREEEEEN flames…..  GREEEEEN flames….. GREEEEEEEEN fe-laymes….. GREEEEEE….

He pointed the guitar’s neck at me and performed a theatrical windmill strum, bringing his hand down heavily on the elastic.  Two of the bands snapped and I felt one sting my eyebrow and the other my cheek.  Instinctively, my eye closed and my muscles refused to open it.  I felt sure I was blind.  And through one eye, the sky changed from purple to turquoise.  Next to me, I saw her terrible form like a Chinese dragon elongate across the fire, growing extra pairs of arms to accomodate her new torso.

The Boy grabbed a handful of the fire and his entire fist from knuckle to wrist turned into a ball of green flames.  Inside, I could see his flesh turning black.  He started to laugh and to swing wildly at Her as she shrank away, her body receeding back into itself like a compressed spring.  I started screaming, really screaming so that my vocal cords squirted blood into my lungs, and then my screams turned to words and the words turned into a song, The Boy’s demented song.  The bonfire rose, The Boy’s upper body became engulfed, The Girl disappeared behind a black cloak of smoke and shadow, but I could hear her singing as well.  I felt my body fill with hydrogen and I knew I would blow all three of us sky high as soon as the heat penetrated my skin.

 

I woke up ten minutes later, my head clicking as I tried to move it.  Lying next to me was The Girl, thoughtfully laying on her back chewing on a splinter of bamboo.  The fire crackled energetically.  And in the amber light, I saw the half-face of The Boy, squatting over me, tearing up grass in his fingers and gently sprinkling it over my face and chest.