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.

 

Designs

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She’s like every autumnal daydream, but with hairier armpits and an infected toe.  The white bandage, yellowing in spots, pokes out like an eager tumour from open heels.  We walk hand in hand but yards apart, because I’ll interfere with her wings apparently…. oh fucking whatever, woman.  I roll my eyes so often I can feel Sisyphus struggling on my eyelashes.  On the bright side, we can swallow up a busy pavement, sending old people on mobility scooters into oncoming traffic; taking out little kids with no awareness of how hard two fists clamped together with love can be to break.

We eat ice cream in a seaside town, and she laughs at topless old men with pubes on their chest, skin peeling at the shoulders and scrags of chips in the nipples like savoury piercings.  We watch the gentle hiss of the sea as it approaches the bathers, waders, whales and grandmothers, encroaching and retreating like a threatened cat, scared of all this filthy humanity polluting the already brown water with Factor 50.

We pass the arcades where exasperated parents stand bored as little Tarquin and Emily blast the heads off zombies; Mum and Dad are preparing their lines for an earlier breakfast fight not yet settled.  Others wander around with tubs of coppers, like this worthless browngreen shit that you pass on the street is now precious suddenly.

We hear a strange noise, like the very Earth has indigestion.  Behind a row of bucket and spade shops, a ferris wheel is beginning to tilt and then topple.  The screams of the manicled prisoners gradually grow in intensity, starting with individual voices at the top, before being swallowed up in a hurricane wail as the Big Wheel slams down out of sight, in a deafening eruption of dust.  The screams silence immediately, followed by the roar of a laughing tide, and the gradual murmur of paralysed consternation, people on phones, people asking the person next to them what happened, people running to the scene, people rushing to film the carnage.

Huh, look at that she says…. she’s pointing to a blob of ice cream on her nose, and laughing.

Tangerine Eyes

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I’m always nervous when she is in a good mood.  She draws too much attention to herself.  And us.  I’m standing next to her but a few paces apart.  I can see a tree, and I can see her former boyfriend hanging from the tree by his wrists.  She’s wrapping herself back up in a deep, dark coat covering up the black lingerie she wore to entice this fool.  And then, with one ridiculous heel braced against the oil drum, she kicks it away and This Boy dangles like a trouserless pinata…. his dick already beginning to tumble in panic like a demolished tower block.

She has a knife in her pocket and it’s already out.  This is both good and bad.  If she shows the blade early it means The Boy will almost certainly return home with the rest of him, but on the flip side she is in the mood for fun.  And any second now a passing dog walker is going to stroll past and start asking questions.  And I have my own blade, hidden and considerably sharper than hers, to deal with intrusions.

Whilst they – whilst she – talks, I sit down on a nearby rock, like a grey island amidst the thistles and weeds.  The wind hisses and waves through the grass that seems to charge in unison towards this weird public execution.  There’s dog shit on my shoes, my jeans, under my armpits and behind my ears.  It’s been an odd day.

I should get out of this.  I tell myself every day.  But within her sphere life isn’t boring and sex is dangerous.  A sniff of her greasy hair flecked with pollen and dandruff and I’m hopeless.  To see her squatting, shitting in a field is divine.  People may laugh, but then they end up like This Boy.  Kicking and fretting about the loss of his insignificant sexual vegetables.

Her eyes are orange, thin black pupils over a pair of deep autumn suns.  She always has plans… and strategies and I wonder if she shouldn’t be in the military, or as a modern day Boudicca, riding a tank into a warzone with a sword in the air and a pair of goggles to protect from the diesel smoke.

It always begins like this; we’re going to do something nice and normal, like go and get pizza from Earl the street vendor, but we ‘happen’ to meet up with her ex; and for a while we sit and we eat pizza and she tells us stories about each other and our failings, and I haven’t even asked why a black trenchcoat in June?; and then she suggests a walk out to the fields and beyond to the wasteland, and by now I’m trying to mouth to her ex that this is a bad idea; but he’s cock of the walk right now, especially when she turns to me and tells me to fuck off but with a knowing wink that he cannot see; so I do go away to give her the five or ten minutes she needs to string up this silly boy and prepare him for the entertainment…

…and as I’m walking away, knowing I will return soon I think, there she goes again with those flawless Tangerine Eyes. 

Back Hare

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Hands deep in pockets I sidestep the chewing gum and the endings, the smashed cups and food wrappers, taking care to step on the ballast rather than the slimy wood of the old railway. Ahead I can see the multiple spines of concrete that run here and there over the convergence of roads, bridges over the lost circulating and standing still. Climbing over the barbed wire and through the nettles, I leave the pain behind and aim for banality.

The overpass hovers above the mess like a dead spider – straight arms spreading out as the multiple roads weave and wind to the whirlpool below. I look over a rusted railing, in between two large groups of flowers, and see nice cars with distressed men and distressed cars with nice women inside. As I lean over the side, admiring the many shades of black and grey someone spits on the back of my shoe. This isn’t an accident; we are both alone on this dusty tributary, but I have been chosen to be defiled. I swing around to face his back and call him terrible things. He swings around on his heel and marches towards me, as the shiny bugs below all nuzzle and beep at each other.

We exchange words and I grab his lapels. I have a blade in my pocket but I’m reluctant to use it unless I feel my life is in danger. He’s twice my size and height, but he just spat on my ankle… I know that I am likely to face a trip to hospital and nothing more. I swing for his temple and aim a foot towards his kneecap and miss both. His first blow knocks my jaw out of its socket and I sink to my knees. I know that I won’t die today, but I need to be as dead as possible for the next five minutes or so.

Lying on the damp floor, I can feel old chewing gum sticking to my jeans. I can look through the metal railings of the overpass and I can see commuters and rude boys, hairdressers and priests, all doing their best not to look up as this guy kicks the shit out of me. My nose is already broken. The next blow costs me a couple of ribs. I keep the blade in my pocket though. He’ll be tired soon. He’ll realise it is time to go.

Grandeur

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There’s an old woman in the bookies, who always sits at the same fruit machine with a beret and a packet of sandwiches. When I walk in she turns her head to the ringing of the bell over the door frame – “hello J” – and the familiarity makes me uncomfortable. I stand and watch as the pears, apples and bells roll past, and with every No Sale she clenches her fist in her lap and mimes wanking, whilst swearing loudly at the machine. Whether it’s dementia or an immense vocabulary her phrases illuminate the dull room, still faintly stained with blood from a failed robbery. Wankcrumpets. In her sweet-old-Methodist-lady-voice. Christjizz. Cunthurdle. I lean on the writing shelf that surrounds three-quarters of the room as she rolls another dud. Shitcrumble.

I place my bets and the dogs die. Always, the dog I’ve put money on leaves the little box to chase the piece of rag on a machine and it dies… either on track or with a shotgun between the eyes soon afterwards. Behind the glass, D____ smiles behind three day old make up and a company branded shirt covered in dandruff and cereal. Sometimes it’s B_____, a waxen haired old bastard and forty-five year old virgin who will tell anyone who will listen that it is his choice. As the regulars die, his voice gets louder; as he gets older, the chances of him planting anything diminish accordingly.

I made the mistake one day of asking the old woman for her name, as she rolled two Bars and a Star. With a huff, she hissed at me like a snake; Fuckphelia. I took two steps back and sat down on a stool. Ophelia, I thought…. what a pretty name.

 

Proximity

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I walk the alleyway, stepping around the burned spoons and questionable puddles, dragging my fingers over flaking bricks, moss and paint. Above me, cleft narrow from the intense black, is the faint dark grey of the night sky lit from below by the many lights that fail to keep anyone safe. I walk this alley because no one else dares to. I walk this alley to get some peace and safety.

The path runs blacker than black before me, and I follow the scents like a dog with its nose glued to the floor. I smell piss, smack and The Righteous; those who believe and who stamp down on those who don’t. I scrape my fingernails over White Power slogans and I caress the multi-coloured forms of gang-tags; The So’n’So Boys, E14 Rebz, Pinky’s Dart Masters…. I don’t fucking know. I’m not a bad person. I don’t know who these people are. I just stare at their art and wonder why they waste their time on robbing the working classes when there’s tens of millions of upper class coin waiting to be shafted for this kind of low-high-brow form. All the Best People have a gangtag covered in perspex in a gallery for chin-strokers to admire. Some of the Really Great People have a corner of their living room for a damp collection of bricks to admire in company and distain when alone.

I round the dog-leg with my heart racing. I don’t believe in astral bullshit but I sensed them before I saw them. An arm grabs me around the neck and throws me against one wall and then the other. Then I hear the voice; a young woman with the rasp of a fifteen year cigarette career, but with the vocabulary of someone who is no older than her mid-twenties. Cold steel catches against my seven o’clock shadow. I’ve felt a few blades at my neck over the years, but this one has been maintained. This blade has been taken care of. The bluffers keep it blunt and for show, the pro’s use it regularly and keep it lethal. It’s sharp.

She demands some things but I’m not listening. I think of my girl in her summer dress, dancing through the weeds. I think of her climbing on the old oil drums, flashing a glimpse of knickers I’ve never seen before, and may never see again depending on how I behave. I think of her in goggles and a thick winter coat setting fire to glue along the flank of her thumb and wrist, inhaling the fumes before shaking the vapours free, leaving her with a smouldering grey line on her skin. I think of her ex-boyfriend, the one who gave her black eyes and made her shoplift for concealer so she could go to school. I think of her gleeful smile as we chloroformed the swine, nailed him to a dead tree and watched his body fit and writhe into darkness as the blood ran red over white wood.

My new friend demands my belongings again and snaps me out of my moment. She whips the blade across my skin causing a deep cut, my skin parting over muscle and flesh like a silent scream. The blade is returned to my throat as the blood pumps warm down my shoulders.

I forget my girl for a moment and search through my pockets… I cannot find my wallet and phone.