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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 For Sorrow presents; Photosynthesis – Jimmi Campkin

I cannot fly but your words whip the wind under my arms. Just a smile and wink, just a poke in the ribs and a kick in the shins, and I am no ones. We stare at the dead brown leaves stuck to my shoes as we kick through the dead drifts, and I wait […]

via Photosynthesis-Jimmi Campkin —

Yellow Marzipan

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She sits, legs dangling, on the remains of the stairs.  Her feet are bare and sticky with blood from three or four nails that plunged into her flesh as we scrambled inside the Old Hotel.  It doesn’t concern her though, except when she winces and complains of itching, and the little bloody holes are opened again running maroon and smelling faintly of rust.

Around us are the words of the lost, layers of dissatisfaction under the many slices of wallpaper, all jarringly hideous and rotting.  Some from the usual crowd of junkies, squatters and winos, but also from those who stayed here before it died – not with the bang of a closed door but a gradual bleeding until the last cleaner gave up the keys with a rusty hypo at her eyelid and never returned.  Now, as the shiny high rises climb to meet the sun like daises, our little cancer refuses to be moved.  So ruinous as to be impossible to safely demolish it stays, growing cracks across the walls like lines on an old face.

I look across to those kicking feet, and then I glide my eyes upwards along bruised legs, skinny arms, welts on the shoulderblades from a guy she’d judo-thrown when he lunged for her arse, and a timeless face – somewhere around 15 or 50 with many other lifetimes squeezed in.  I’ve seen her deranged, happy, and melancholic.  I’ve seen her laugh, cry and spit in the eye – in the eye socket – of failures.  I’ve never seen her tired before.

I get up and stand between her ankles; those feet radiate warmth which could be her internal furnace or the first seething infection.  She looks down at me and a sad, involuntary smile curls one side of her mouth.  Veins run bulging and purple up her calves as though she is soon to be assimilated by tree roots.  I kiss the ankles that I love so much and the kicking stops.  Blood drips with an audible pat on my shoes as I kiss the heels, the arches, the wet toes and my chin glistens and begins to clot.

She ushers me away and jumps down, landing with a firm splat and leaving two perfect red footprints on the old floorboards.  I have a box of matches in one pocket, some lighter fuel in the other and a ton of ideas.  She walks past me and shakes her head, ambling gently towards an old mattress in the corner of the old dining room, walking like a ballerina with broken toes trying to finish the dance.  She flickers in the rectangular slabs of open light in this dank and oppressive space, curling up on the blackened fabric remains and turns her back away from me to face the wall.

Over six days I leave her in peace and return to see that she is okay.  Never moving from the position, I listen out for gentle snoring – I’ve never seen her sleep and I’ve never heard her breathing before.  The blood flakes off to reveal skin that turns pink, to gray, to a mottled purple and green.  On the seventh evening the mattress is still there but she has gone.  I search the entire place, slicing my palms on broken glass whilst climbing to the first storey, almost shattering my kneecap when I step through a rotten board and lose my leg inside an old chimney stack.

I make it to the top floor, the ceiling gone, the roof pockmarked with holes, and find a dry corner to sit down.  Taking off my shirt, I rip it in two and wrap both rags around my hands to stem the blood.  My knee won’t flex properly.  Feeling faint, I rest against cold stone, and look up for a glimpse of the first stars, for a breath of air.  It’s now that I see her again, peering down through one of the holes; a silhouette blacker than the night, one pale dangling bare foot, and a pair of unreadable, watchful eyes.

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.

Abhor

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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

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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.