Happy Meal

Flower Steps

We sit on the edge of the bridge, just a pair of imperfectly parrallel lines, a tectonic fault that no longer clicks together.  Staring over her shoulder, across the paper and plastic strewn car parks of the deserted shopping centres, she looks down at her dangling shoes and says shit like.

“Our entire existence is just the flicker of a candle.  And if we’re lucky, it might cause a dribble of wax to form and to roll on, to leave some trace that we actually disrupted everything and…”

…I’ve stopped listening.  In my head I say I’m sorry.  I can’t help myself and I certainly can’t stand the feeling of my legs slowly being broken from ankle to knee.  When she talks, or lies, or quotes, my bones shake and try to snap themselves into shards.  Sometimes I think she does it on purpose.  I know she’d keep a piece of my shin bone, put it in a necklace, and wear it whilst kissing her future husbands.  I know she’d scratch their necks with it as they leaned in.

‘We’re just stones in focus’ I offer.  ‘Nothing more.  Just inanimate objects with ideas above their stations.  If I had a decent sized pebble right now, I could hurl it with all my force into the windshield of a car passing under us…’

She audiably sighs and stares up at a mucky blue sky as I continue.

‘….and I could kill the driver.  Then they crash and kill the occupants.  Maybe the people they hit as well.  All from a stone, in focus.  There’s nothing more total than that moment before you sleep forever.’

“True” she mumbles.  “I read somewhere that plastic bags don’t biodegrade for decades.  It’d fucking suck to be outlived by a plastic bag.”

She takes a big mouthful of her burger.  I’m not hungry, I’m just throwing chips at an empty can of beer next to me.  I daydream about building a time machine and going back to the moment before I met her, taking another street and living my life observing her from a detached distance, rather than being so deeply involved.  I’m not sure that’s how time travel works but fuck it, it’s my fantasy.  I’m missing the can with every single chip.  After this, I may never eat again.

She pokes my ribs.
“Can I set fire to you later?”
‘No.’
“….okay.”

She sounds hurt.  Fair enough.  She told me about a dream she had recently where she covered herself in spray paint and camoflaged herself against some graffiti on a wall.  She dreamt that in the middle of the night, artists came to add to her body and when they stepped back they’d turned her into a goddess with multiple arms and legs and a divine halo.  The image in my mind was that of a spider under a single yellow light bulb, the shadow casting it’s size many times larger than reality.  Some would call it cynicism, a word I used to confuse with cunnilingus; a mistake she was in no hurry to correct me on.

Fair enough.

She gives me a sideways look and says,  “I could swallow you whole.  Like this burger.  Full of junk and lifeless things.  Even the vegetables are dead.”  I have to laugh.  There’s something to be said for honesty that flies in the face of social graces.

‘You’d never keep me down’ I say.  ‘Even your stomach would reject me eventually.’
“I’d try.  I’d absorb you.”

‘You can’t.  I don’t degrade.  I’d just sit in there, clinging to your vital parts, until you threw me back out, and I’d take everything with me until you’d be inside out and I’d be looking at you, with you in my hands.’
She chuckles, picking meat from her teeth.  “I knew there was a reason I dated you.”

I smile and we meet for a kiss but accidentally bang our heads together.  I pull out my lighter, roll up my arm sleeve and show her a portion of skin that isn’t already blackened or covered in a bandage.
‘Go on then.  Be quick about it.’
She smiles – no, she grins – a big bread-bun stained beige crescent of undiluted joy and, believe it or not, it’s actually a beautiful thing.

Mercury Preachers

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We sit down together, scraping our chairs over the decking and looking below to the granite river glittering like a malnourished catwalk model.  You brush a lock of hair over one ear but I know this isn’t flirtation.  The wind is kicking around us and your eyes struggle to focus on mine as they are whipped by strands.  Mother Nature is mischief today.

 
Last night I spent in the Old City, where my faded young ghost still bounces on his heels over well worn paths, my feet disappearing slowly as the roads are resurfaced and the original level consumed.  I walk through boarded up doors and create chills between courting couples sitting on benches who squeeze together for warmth.  I leech from the energy, looking for the faint echoes.  I drift past iconic places but the long rope of time is fraying badly.  I know these places are meaningful, and I can remember events that surround them, but I cannot remember my thoughts and feelings at the time.  I remember blind kisses in a dark alleyway, but I cannot remember what these kisses felt like in my mind. So I assume a memory that is pleasant.  I remember sitting on benches reading all the important things I felt I needed to read at nineteen, but I can’t remember what each page felt like.

 
I tell you this at length; how it occurred to me that part of the nature of nostalgia is not knowing where is home anymore.  You sip your coffee, your head angled in such a way that your right eye has stepped confidently forward whilst your left retreats behind the bridge of your nose.  Everyone is looking for a foundation, a ground zero that they can pivot their life around.  Even those who claim to have the wanderlust, who claim no patch of earth as theirs, are actually searching – not for adventure but for stability.  It’s why we fall in love, and why we crave it and why we fear it.  My foundation was once the Old Town and it was destroyed.  The Old City has been reoccupied by new faces, and to walk around now carries the air of the intruder.  And yet, because it remains tangible, I go through fits of wanting to try and reconnect.  Even though, from now on, I know I will always be the stranger in the room, the guy at the party that no one can remember inviting.

 
So we sit in the sunshine, and I have deliberately turned my back to the past – to the train station that will take me home – and I am looking upstream at the future and a platinum, alien sun.  All today my heart has been lifted by music – from street performers, ice cream vans, cafe bars and fashion stores.  Even the crap old man with the shuffle and the balloon animals singing Sinatra made me smile.

 
I decide to tell you about a young woman I’d seen at this very table a few days ago.  She’d been reading intently but the rhythmic swing of her leg indicated anxiety.  I know she hadn’t seen me but perhaps she could listen to my thoughts, which even as I looked down at my blank sheet of notepaper, every line formed into a perfectly shaped calf, languidly dangling a ballet pump from her pointed toes.  I wanted to know what her favourite line in her favourite film is, what jokes make her politely laugh and what can make her bray loudly with shoulder shaking tremors.  To kiss her hidden freckles and creases would be a privilege I could never adequately reciprocate – a priceless and infinite debt.  I wondered who she thought of before she closes her eyes and how fortunate he or she is.

 
I didn’t add that I wondered the same thing about you, albeit for different reasons.

 
I’ve cleaned up today but I was a mess that other day; probably frighteningly dishevelled.  I trembled with the previous night’s wine and a lack of sleep.  I smelled worn, covered in a thin sticky film of memory and pollution.  I desperately needed to shit the alcohol out of my system.  My shirt was covered in holes.

 
I look down at my empty cup and I can feel a new tremble in my fingers, a caffeine vibration.  I’m suddenly aware of my heart which thumps against my chest so hard I can see it through my shirt.  You say to me patiently; that I’m always searching for answers but I haven’t even worked out what the questions are yet.  That finding the answer is both pointless and impossible unless I’m clear in what I want to find out.  You flick your gaze from me to a point over my shoulder as the sounds of raised voices fills the air.  On the river below us, a small group of preachers in an inflatable dinghy is chasing down a tourist cruiser, yelling tales of damnation and salvation at the confused passengers.

Eastern

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Mina pushes another penny into the arcade and it flares into life, the music crackling through the fading speakers.  Around her the floor smells of stale soda and gum trodden in like an indecisive patchwork mosaic.  The machine is almost as old as she is, and so familiar, the light gun practically moulds into the print of her palm.

She’s dead by Level 5, too soon for her talents, distracted by a memory of playing the same game crossed-legged at home in her Nanna’s house.  A two bed place above the weird family, who tried to ‘sell’ them t-shirts by shoving the damn things through the letterbox in the middle of the night and demanding payment, hammering on the door at first dawn.  The arcade is too warm, and as a bead of sweat runs from Mina’s hairline down the bridge of her nose she is back in that stifling living room next to the gas fire, rippling malevolently from behind a copper cage.

That warm memory triggers another; a hot summer day with the neighbourhood kids, including two from the family under Nanna.  Liam; blonde haired, as pale as a newborn fish with bright red lips, and Sebastian; pockmarked with brown freckles, jet black angular hair and eyebrows that seemed to weigh heavily on the rest of his face so you never really saw where he was looking.  On that sweltering afternoon Mina and the gang had been playing football on the green, in the centre of the semi-circle of welfare housing that made up the Estate, when a door flung open, and a grotesque crackling voice blared out into the blue sky.  The ball hung high in the air, as though not wanting to land until the trouble had passed.

All the kids scattered, milling around the confines of the Green, never crossing the dreaded threshold of the Dangerous Road.  Except for Sebasian and Liam who stood frozen like statues where everyone had been moments before, as their father cursed and swore towards them.  Waving shirts above his head, some flecked with paint, he looked like Mario, except a decayed, verminous version of Mario; a piece of fleshy wreckage the result of spending the past twenty years trying to find his misbegotten teen years at the bottom of every bottle he could get his hands on.  Looking back on it now, he reminded Mina of a deranged medieval herald, planting the battle flag of a hopeless hundred before a mass of bloodthirsty thousands.

The Father pushed Sebastian aside, who realised the power of his legs and scampered towards the rest of them hovering before the inevitable spectacle.  Liam had flicked paint onto some of the hundreds of crap stolen shirts that littered the house, and now this was his public execution – as brutal to a kid in front of his friends as being torn to pieces by horses and chains.  Over the father’s knee, pants down, Mina and the gang watched as he belted that pale arse with the heel of a slipper until blood peeked at the edges of the purple horseshoe shaped marks left behind.  When it was over, and with Liam in too much pain to even begin crying, he was hustled inside.  Gradually, tentatively, Mina and the rest of the kids made their way back into the middle of the Green, avoiding the spot where the horror had occurred.  Someone kicked the ball into the air, running alone towards the goal, but the game was gone from their hearts and everyone shuffled home.

Back in the arcade, Mina pushes in another coin.  Wiping the sweat from her brow, she lines up the first three bad guys and pop, pop, pop, lays them out with three head shots.  Another dude appears from behind a door, floored before he can even get a shot away.  The game moves down a narrow corridor, opens another door into a small room, and on screen Mina sees what she has been looking for.  Another bad guy, a Mario lookalike, with a bulbous gut and beady little eyes.  She ignores the head and shoots for the legs.  The character falls to the ground, groaning loudly through the speakers and going through the jerky animation of someone in horrible pain, as text appears on the screen imploring the player to FINISH HIM, FINISH HIM.

But Mina doesn’t finish him… lost in a memory, she just lowers the gun and smiles.

 

 

Bunker (via FreeVerseRevolution)

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(Originally posted on Free Verse Revolution)

*

I watch as her fingers dance across the yellow keys.  Greasy silver hair down to her waist, a tattered and frayed dress dancing around her knees and a pair of filthy ballet pumps pushing down at the ruined pedals below.  When the notes emerge from underneath the rotting wood of the old Joanna, I want to wrap my arms around this strange creationtoo messed up to live and too strong to die.  

 

She flings her pale arms out and announces to myself and most of the oxygen that surrounds us; I will now play the Glorious 9th!  I pick up a piece of crumbling stone and hold it up to the Sun.  I scream into the sky – BYE THIS STONE, I HEAR THE NINTH – but we’ve both had far too many chemicals and yet not enough.  Above us, the sky faintly hums with amber, and the clouds now rush past as though they have places they need to be, people they need to see… that are not us.  

 

It troubles us not.  

 

It troubles us, never.  

 

*

 

Later that evening, on the hill overlooking the machinery, we recline and shiver in the cold blanket of progress.  The ruined piano slumbers peacefully nearby as we point our legs towards the bright lights below.  From up here we can see a sickly neon reflecting from the silver towers, the arc of the orange streets forming like the lank petals of a dying flower, dark smells of sticky macadam drifting up over the dead thistles and dandelions that lay around and under us.  

 

I pass over the bottle of Lumberjack; a lethal, plain label affair with the colour and smell of dehydrated piss.  She gulps, taking it like a shotgun blast to the chin and pulling her lips back to reveal red and puffed gums.  I can almost see her hairs standing on end, like in those cartoons we used to love.  She lies back down, softly counting the faintest stars ahead.  

 

“…fifteensixteenseventeeneighteen…”

A scrunched nose

“…nineteen?”

‘My feet are going numb.’

“twenty…. twenty…one?  No?  Fuck.”  She hisses like a cat.  Pulling her fingers into claws, swiping at the air…  hisssssss!  Hissssssssss!

I’m serious… where are they?’

“What happened to all the stars?  Are they dying or are we just drifting away?  Floating away from some kind of wonderful nirvana… where…”  

She takes another swig and kicks her feet into the ground

“…we might live inside our dreams.  Imagine that…”  Tickling my stomach.  “Inside a dream.”

 

I roll on top of her but she plants a knee upwards into my groin.  We tumble a few yards down the hill and stop in a heap of tangled limbs and clothes, the bottle bobbling along pathetically after us.  

 

*

 

What is the point of progress when it sends us not forwards but sideways, to a new reality but without going anywhere?  We look down on the metallic tentacles sprouting from the ground, slumbering peacefully under a dead moon, cables and girders all anchoring to the old town like a seething blackhead.  I rest my head on her shoulder and point towards the gleaming new glass covered office block, covered in Opening Soon banners like bloodstained bandages on a headwound.  When I close my eyes I can see the fingerprint of the record shop that stood inside it.  All around the glaring lights act like sacrificial bonfires as one by one a meaningful edifice is torn down in the name of…

 

Progress…”

The word dribbles out of her mouth like pus from a septic wound, shit from a diuretic arsehole.  

“That’s all this place wants… progress.”

I nod.  ‘Just trying to be impressive, like hiding behind the school bully and threatening the weak kids.’

She shakes her head.  

“No, it’s not even that.  It’s more than that.  It’s a denial of… I dunno… history I guess, and a denial of an attainable future?  They want to pretend that culture never happened.  It’s a scorched earth policy y’know?”  

 

She gesticulates, flinging her hands out.

 

“Burn the books, shred the music… extinguish anything that might give you a dream and give you an oversized glass coffin to march inside every day for the rest of your waking life until you are buried alive underneath MDF, paperwork and shit coffee.  Wear a trouser suit, do your nails, cover your little plastic idiot box with pictures of the kids you wish you hadn’t squeezed out of your useless cunt.  Fuck the milkman, fuck the nanny, swing your limp dick on the golf course… push it deep inside a cow’s arse and pretend you are still vegetarian…”

 

I sit up, resting on my elbows.

 

“Pull down the bookstores and the libraries… knock down the schools and build another supermarket… wait til the kids can walk and get the little bastards stacking the lowest shelves.”

I stare at her.  She stops and looks back at me.  

“What?”

I take the bottle out of her hands and gently replace a shoe that has slipped from her dainty, blackened foot.  

“Don’t you stop me when I’m in full flow, fucker.”

I hold my fingers up in a crucifix.  ‘May the Lord Jesus compel you towards forgiveness’

“Fuck Jesus!”

‘You can’t, he’s dead’

She fights the grin that spreads across her face.  “I reject all deities!  I am a fucking woman and I outlive everything!”

‘He Died For Your Sins!’

“Then Why Do I Keep Doing It!”

 

She laughs and pounces on top of me.  We roll through the dry grass, kicking out legs, our hair knotting together.  

 

“Every time I try and say something you bring God into it.”

I tilt my head and put on my best angelic pout.

‘But God is everywhere…’

She takes a deep swig of Lumberjack and belches loudly into the ether.  

“Not everywhere… just in here.”  Her black nails tap against the bottle.  

 

 

*

 

‘In all seriousness, what do you think it all means?’

“You’re asking me?”

I sit up and look across to her.  We can hear the first tweeting of early birds and the black sky is turning a sickly mauve in anticipation of the rising sun.  

‘Why wouldn’t I?’

“I ‘unno… I don’t have answers any more than you do.”

I look towards the town as the streetlights blink off one by one.  

‘New beginnings… Prosperity, commerce, opportunity… it has to be a good thing, right?  We’re a couple of wasters, but we aren’t the future.’ 

‘This…’  I gesture to the town, covered in cranes and construction.  ‘This is reality.  We… we’re just stuck… in here.’  I hold up the empty bottle and tap my forehead.  

She looks at me for a moment, then leans in to kiss my cheek.  

Oh bless you.  Three lovely words.  Prosperity, commerce, opportunity.  As if they have any relation to each other…”

She stands up, very unsteadily, and opens her arms out to the weak heartbeat of the town below.  I get up as well, despite my head pounding with every intake of breath.  

 

“This…” she begins.  “This shiny optimism is not a new beginning.  This is an ending.  An end to culture.  An end to the hope of escape.  An end to an alternative way of being.  See the old record store… gone.  See the old bookshop… now just a pile of bricks.  See the old school… now a 24hr mart.  See the people… they don’t look up anymore, they look at their own shoes.  See this sky that once blazed orange, now fluttering in lilac like a dying butterfly.”

 

“There is hope.  We just need to recognise it.”

She cups her hands together, as though protecting a bumblebee, and offers them to me.  I look inside, but there is nothing except her cracked palms.  

 

“Can you see it?” she says, hopefully.  I look deep into her bloodshot eyes, past the pockmarked cheeks and the yellowing eyelids, over her shoulder into the shiny metal town being assembled beneath us.  A breath of wind rattles the dead weeds at our feet and rolls the empty bottle of Lumberjack down into the thistles below.  

 

‘Yes’ I lie.  ‘I can see it.’

 

My Little Empire

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Our hands clasp warmly, despite our mutual cold, as we push through the narrow door.  One small tinkle of that familiar bell signals our arrival – our place as refugees in a town of crumbling faces and grey buildings, where rusted cars compete for supremacy and hearts are broken against nightclub fire escapes.

Behind the counter a lady with a pair of beaming teeth and a row of yellow eyes bows cordially to us, her long black hair running like an oil slick down her shirt.  We release our grip and scan the shelves – column upon column of strip neon cuddled between deep brown wood.  Lone figures stand solemnly here and there on the fetid ugly carpet, noses deep in words; still wrapped up against the outside but here full of colour, glowing from their shoes to their foreheads.  Some corners have sickly lights, some have asthmatic candles dancing unsteadily on their wicks, but mostly the aisles are drenched in warm shadow – the kind of place you want to get lost in.

The Bookshop was our Sanctuary from a race that didn’t read, from a society that burned things it didn’t understand and a generation that preferred to stare at their own faces warped and reflected through tinted shop windows.  Inside this time capsule were the collective imaginations of thousands, gathered from the experiences of millions; an endless galaxy of connections and hearsay, of meanderings and meanings, of feelings and fears.  Inside The Bookshop there existed no fast right or hard wrong; you just simply were, and the words simply existed to be absorbed by those with the right eyes, or jumbled by those with the wrong ones too.  It didn’t matter.  As long as it happened, as long as a dusty page got to see light again, who cared what it meant long term?  What is any story without the tale and only the teller?

She nods her head and we descend into the cellar, down a steep, swirling and crackling wooden staircase.  In comparison to the warmth above, the cellar was always cold and reeked of damp.  But, with the exception of the coffee machine burbling away in the background, everything here was old and waiting to be found; a collection of orphans in their Sunday best with tags on their coats.  Second hand and classics, antiquarian and raggy vinyl.  The ceiling hung oppressively low, the wallpaper brown and ragged with war stories to tell.  Even the couches looked both homely and yet distressed.

We split up and scanned the titles; so many names who had made it, who had broken free.  Thomases and Annas and Gerards and Eves, names that would have otherwise been carved into a stone slab one day, and condemned to being weathered out of existence.  Here those forgotten names shone out in gold plated ink from tattered sleeves and shoulders.  Their bodies might lie in grey now, under overgrown and forgotten mounds, but I can pick apart their thoughts, run my finger over their words and kiss the dust from the tip of my finger.

I picked out something from an Augustus Ligier.  On Temperence And The Common Man.  I opened up the yellow pages, taking a deep sniff of the stale air.  Halfway down a page about the rucks of old navvies, how one beserker had taken hostage of an alehouse in 1855 with a coal scuttle and nineteen pints of mild because the landlord called time, she calls me over with pink cheeks buried somewhere between a hat and a scarf.

“This is filth” she tells me excitedly.  “Proper Edwardian smut.”  I follow her finger as it traces a wonky line.  She reads aloud to me.  Her pendulous bosoms left me in a daze as I mounted the footstool and awaited distinction.  She approaches me and, heaving away, I buried my lips over a single nipple like a barnacle attached to the hulk of Nelson’s Victory.” 

Snapping the book shut with a puff of fibres, she asks me.  “Do you ever mount a stool before you suck on a tit?”

‘I don’t think so?  Then again it has been a while…’

Her hands pinched my cheek through her fingerless gloves.  Awww.. you little barnacle. 

I swatted her hand away.  ‘Are you pendulous?  Have you ever compared your breasts to Royal Navy frigates?’

She cupped herself thoughtfully for a moment, scrunching up her nose.  “It’s weird you should ask me that…”

‘Really?  Why?’

“No reason” she smiled.  “It’s just weird.  You fucking weirdo.”

*

We take the shortcut through the cemetary home.  She points out her ‘favourite grave’; a coupled called Rita and Tom who she thought were called Ita and Tom on account of the ‘R’ going missing.  They died on the same day in 1973.  I hope they were holding hands when it happened, even if it was during a car crash, she always used to say.

We sit down on some old stones, having checked to ensure they didn’t have names carved into them, and compared our finds.  I had a small yellow and purple book with maps of Sub-Saharan Africa (just because I liked the hand-drawn maps), a copy of Mirabeau’s The Torture Garden, and a dog-eared flaking edition of Little Women bought just for the inscription on the inside cover – To Millie, with love from Mummy, Christmas 1901.  On page 65 I found a photo used as a bookmark; it was the top half of a distinguished looking gentleman in woodland, wearing a tin hat and a thick black moustache.  On the back, someone had written Alfie Ypres Nov 1914. 

She put her rucksack down at her feet and pulled out her haul.  Lucia Berlin, Elizabeth Gaskill and… I put my head in my hands… oh god…. she’s clearing her throat.

“No seriously, read this bit…

Clarissa’s buttocks massed before my very eyes.  I could only see the enormous mounds of jiggling flesh backing towards me relentless, like pale tides.  Trying to gather my senses, I mounted the stool and awaited her on…”

‘Fucking stools!’

She tweaked my nipple.  “Don’t interrupt me.  I am trying to read you literature.”

She gestured with her hands.  “Lit-err-ah-chure darlhhing!”

‘How many stools!  Seriously!’  I tried to fight off her squirming hands, fumbling for my chest.  ‘Does this cunt not know that other furniture exists!?  Stop it!’

Her hands reached under my jumper as her fingertips grabbed at me.  Shouts and cries, boots kicking into the cold air, rolling off the stones and across frozen brown leaves.  Our laughter echoed around the cold stones, and those cold faces, as the rest of the world passed us by with indifference.

 

 

 

Flux – via FreeVerseRevolution

Golden Canal York

We wait patiently in a hot summer evening haze, expectant of some event or apotheosis.  Everything ripples before us; the horizon, landscape and the cold shells of the old furnaces undulating in this new heat, leaving us drowsy as though languidly awaiting the Rapture.  We’re reclined in a pair of old car seats dumped in the midst of a daisy and buttercup sea as all around us, yellows, whites and dainty pinks, Louis XVth greens and platinum silver rays flow like the tides, sweeping and retreating in disorganised order.  

She rolls up her skirt, pointing a toe into the heart of the Sun and plunges a small penknife deep into her calf.  Blood begins to trickle out from the slit, and I can hear hissing – perhaps from her in pain or from her fluids hitting the hungry vegetation around us.  I don’t ask questions though.  I just try not to stare too hard at the blossoming crimson below her knee, spreading over her ankle.  If I make this a Big Deal, I’ll probably be next.  

So I pass her another rolled smoke as she reclines again, allowing one bloody leg to cross the other.  I lay back into the creaking old leather instinctively fumbling for a seat beat.

The wind whips around us, eager to join, and I feel her smoke burning my eyes and tongue.  Around us everything has taken a day off – birds stand silently in trees, the few clouds remaining stationary in a rich blue sky like ocean liners.  She holds up a clawed hand, in the vague shape of F# and tells me, as only someone under the influence of powerful narcotics can, the importance of the chord progressions in Tonight’s The Night by Neil Young.  Strumming her hip and making gestures at the air.  And then you go dnng dnng dnng ng.  Ng nng nnnnnng.  

I point out the shadows creeping across our feet like burst oil across a clear sea.  The old factories and cooling towers loom over us now, once gleaming bright but now turning orange as the Sun sinks lower.  All I hear, other than her words and the wind, is the deep ringing of silence.  The buildings around us barely emit a hum, and I can hear every languid flick of her air, every crack of her spine and every crackle of burning cigarette paper.  

The evening sets in, deep terracotta, the little black silhouettes of birds now gathering on the ripe saplings dotted here and there.  She takes a deep breath and asks me; do you remember your finest moment?  I shrug.  Beating a one-legged kid at tennis in three sets of 6 love in half an hour?  Building a home-made parachute out of old sheets and leaping out of a tree?  Scaling the fence into the old factory and finding the cupboard full of glue and pornography that kept us awake and alive for an entire autumn?  She waves her hand dismissively away. 

“I remember… ages ago… you put on a pair of stupid glasses, jammed some flowers into your jeans and then hid in the toilets of a nightclub for an hour.

Until they played a track by The Smiths and you… just… fucking… emerged, dressed like a Poundland Morrissey, in the middle of the dancefloor, twirling daffodils about like a deranged helicopter, until the bouncers dragged you out and kicked the shit out of you.”

I laughed.  

‘Yeah… I was a dickhead back then…’

“Yeah, you were” she smiles.  “But you were also brave.”

*

On misty evenings even machines leave ghosts and echoes.  As I sit, surrounded by a damp curtain, I can hear clanks and grinding from mechanisms long since rusted beyond repair.  Nothing makes sense in this cold.  My fingers and legs stretch out before me, pale grey and barely emitting any light.  I perch uncomfortably on brown springs – the leather long since torn or rotted away.  Around me dead yellow stalks hiss and scream uncomfortably, whilst at my feet a wide circle of burned black punctures the earth like a missing eye.

I’m on my fourth can.  Once upon a time I put a hand on a shoulder, and felt the warmth evaporate my fingerprints, absorbing them into her constellations of freckles.  I looked into deep eyes and floated – always floated – even for someone who could never swim.  

I look up at the sky these days and it doesn’t feel empty, just overwhelmingly crowded and noisy.  I remember the days when I could eloquently scream and cut through the white noise with ease, setting my target for the heart of the Core and exploding with confidence, sparks dancing from my shoulders as my emotions brought down mountains.  Now I fumble over broken words that bounce pointlessly away like airgun pellets against a Battleship.    

 

The noises don’t intimidate me anymore.  If I hear the grumbling of a ‘78 Rolling Stock Diesel vibrating under these rusted springs, if I see its shape rolling past in the fog, I can pretend that it is meaningless.  Just the ridiculous echoes of an old time bouncing off the walls for perceptive ears.  Except everything feels so numb now.  Nothing is rich anymore.  Nothing burns, nothing hurts, nothing excites.  When a forgotten past bleeds into a forgettable present, where can one exist? 

I finish the fourth can but it won’t be the last.  I am too cold to stop now and the dawn is at least another couple of years away.  As my feet stamp and crunch into the black soil I have a vague memory of auburn hair smelling faintly of cigar smoke and pollen.  One leg raised against the dying sun, blood streaming from a single wound and forming a pool at our feet, as all those whites and yellows, Louis XVth greens and platinum silvers were slowly drenched and drowned in her deep, oppressive red.  

*

Eventually she began to lose consciousness.  Even as the smoke rasped my lungs I could tell that she was in a bad way.  Her eyelids ashen, her sockets sunken, her flesh pale and old.  The blood that once streamed now patted rhythmically on the stubborn head of a Buttercup, determined not to be deterred, unflinching.  A deep pool of red formed a circle at her feet.  The ground beneath us gargled like a drowning swimmer.

She told me; when I was a kid I was obsessed with Space Oddity by Bowie.  I used to listen to that song over and over and over and over again on my little kiddie cassette player.  And then, when my parents got pissed off and wanted to sleep, they’d hide my tape player.  But it didn’t matter to me.  I knew that song.  I knew the lyrics.  I could feel every vibration of every note in my ears.  So I would creep out of my bed when everything was quiet, go to my bedroom window and stare into the night sky imagining that Major Tom was real… that he was actually floating out there in his old tin can, just a dead man perfectly preserved in a vacuum, endlessly orbiting the planet.  

I wonder what happened to that girl who didn’t look at the floor but looked up to the sky.  

She took another deep drag and lifted her toe up to cover the sun.

What happened to the girl who believed in Major Tom?

*

I wonder that as well.  I wonder what happened to the boy who believed in the girl who believed in Major Tom.  There is no wind now, but I still hear the hiss of the dead stalks around me.  I remember, only just, when this meadow sang with colour.  

I cannot keep the flowers alive with memory alone.

(Originally posted on freeverserevolution, with thanks.)

Patience

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Patience she always told me.  Five fingertips on my chest as my heart burst to be grabbed by that glowing palm.  Patience she said again, and pushed me away.  When it is our time, it will be our time.  She looked me deep into my skull.  Our time. 

I don’t care about time these days.  When I look around me I see time as a cancer.  Time rots wood, crumbles concrete, devours entire coastlines, throws towns and cities into the abyss.  Time eats our flesh and leaves our skin hanging over the bones like a fishing net flung over an old coble.  Time fades like old 35mm film, crackling and hissing into impenetrable white.  When I try and remember now I can’t; it is just the endless whirring of a brain devoid of content.  Hissing and thrashing.  Fuck time.

Fuck time I say out loud.  I meant to say patience but my thoughts overtake me these days.  I’m sitting on a grassy stump that used to be Our Tree, looking towards a supermarket that squats over what was once Her House; I’ve counted the steps and her living room was somewhere between Fresh Fish and World Foods.  The same living room where she told me that cum tastes like mushrooms.  We kissed, we devoured, we probed and we investigated inside jeans and up long skirts, black knickers and white boxers.  She jerked me off, looking me dead in the eye before licking her wrist clean and smiling.  Mushrooms… kinda.  

Kinda.  Well, this is kinda my spot now.  I’ve had enough of stomping my feet around the Fish ‘n Pasta aisles trying to find some echo of carpet or wall lines or fireplaces.  So instead I sit here and glare at the entrance to this pathetic monolith, without even a plaque to commemorate her memory, daring any of the cunts who march inside to enjoy themselves in the same way as I have done many times under those same blue skies.  When everything else decays and dies, no one thinks to look up to the deep blue sky and hope to see some echo of a past that they once knew and now no longer remember.

I remember.  When the clouds form into that strange pattern like the bones of a fish, I am thrown back to a conversation where she told me about how much she loved a particular song by a particular band she was into at the time.  She looked up to the sky and talked about how the chords of the song swooped like fish in an aquarium; a kind of disordered orderliness as though the dance of snowflakes in a gentle breeze.  I was in the middle of extolling my praise for a tune I’d never even heard when she abrupty broke off the conversation and into a sprint.  Running in her wake calling her name I could only look up enough to see raven curls flung from left to right like an intense fire and the soles of her chewing gum stained shoes.

Just as I thought she was getting away she stopped at the top of the hill above her house, breathing heavily, waiting for me.  I stumbled up to her, sinking to my knees and hacking up phlegm.  Eventually I asked her why did you take off like that? 

She didn’t say anything but she looked across to a deep red sun sinking into the horizon.

No reason, she shrugged, barely out of breath.  I just wanted to know you wanted this as much as me. 

*

I get up off the old wooden stump.  Yes, I wanted it as much as you.  With every sunrise, every cuttlefish cloud and every maroon evening, I am reminded.  But I took that word to heart, and that is why I now sit alone.

Patience.