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.

 

 

 

Debris

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On a stale summer evening, balancing on a single rail, I light a cigarette and let my eyes water over filthy cheeks as the smoke washes over me.  I feel the dirt when I smile, and I feel the tears dancing through the grime when I cry, so I do neither.  Kicking through the litter and detritus, I listen for the sharp warning blasts from the freight trains that steam and rumble past dragging waggons full of sulphur, or rattling past carrying nothing but dead air and waste.

I dream of climbing the trees I sometimes see on torn billboards, and on the faded juice bottle labels.  Sometimes I’ll steal a fresh one from Frankie’s Shop – I go in with a piece of glass melted into a toothbrush handle and threaten his one remaining eye.  The poor old bastard just nods and holds up money as I go for the broken freezer cabinet and brace for the flies that buzz around the milk.  I run as fast as my panic will let me, even though I know he’ll never tell.

Around the corner, across the car park, behind the burger van and through the fence onto the railway that severs the town into two rotten apple halves, I sit on the floor and stare at the label.  I dream of trees, and I dream of the day I can climb one just to be closer to the sky – the hazy blue I see beyond the veil of ochre.  There are no real trees here; just cold lifeless and slippery searchlights, and the harsh pylons who guard like diseased and underfed sentinels, wrapped in sharp wire and frying all but the few coughing birds who pass through.

I’ve never wished for anything – just more colours than grey and the oxidised brown rust that gets under my fingernails and stains my hair.

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As the amber evening turns into a dark brown night, I climb the disintergrating wooden steps up to the old signal box.  The mattress is finally dry and the room is quiet and warm.  I feel the glow from the remains of the day through the broken window panes and I know tonight I will sleep better than I have done in three months.

I go to a corner of the room and remove a pile of rags – inside is a box of dumped fireworks.  I light one and send it up through the hole in the roof above my bed.  With a whistle it flies, followed by blue lines like thin leaves, a loud pop, and then the dull purples as the colour mingles with the air, and the sparks descend like doomed paratroopers.  I hope she has seen my signal, and I hope she will return soon.

I need my girl, and for those octopus arms to entwine me safe.

 

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.

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.

Dead Boxes

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I look across and you are asleep already.  You look so angelic my eyes flood and I blink away the tears that tumble from my eyelashes.  The moonlight illuminates your skin, hiding the dark circles around your eyes and your chewed lips.  In this light you aren’t slumped anymore, but elegant and wise, your jawline casting deep shadow over the nape of a pale, spotted neck.  I feel like an astronaut, peering out of the capsule window over a foreign landscape, looking for a safe place to touch down.

Carefully, I pull the needle from your arm.  In front of me is a chain link fence and, picking a hexagon, I aim the syringe perfectly through… it lands with a faint puff of dust on the other side.  It can’t hurt you now… hurt us now.  I stretch out my boots and click my knees.  My jeans are caked in oil and grime so they creak when they bend.  Running my tongue through my mouth, my feet are as furry as my three year beard.  I wish I could sleep, but my heart keeps beating.  Thump thump thump, it pounds away, the only healthy thing I still own.

We’re resting in the alley, because it’s too warm to sleep.  Even outdoors, the air is heavy and dismal with pollution.  Buildings sweat, trees die, people go away.  From here, between my legs, I can see the churned turmoil of a diseased Earth covered in the detritus and mistakes of Man.  Chimneys and rigs, steel and sulphur, lit artificially and haphazardly and now abandoned, to be reclaimed by a mutated Nature that does not grow so much as manifest and pulse, tentacles of thorns grasping everything it can.  This is Gaia on life-support, her bed left unattended as her flesh rots into weeping sores.

I look over to you again.  Your head has shifted towards me, so I can see the jagged parting in the top of your greasy head.  A single trickle of blood is making its way between the hairs on your arm, so I lick my finger and gently mop it up.  I have dreams of us leaving this place.  Daydreams and night dreams where I get it all together, get a real job, rent a flat, buy a dog, do recycling and go to the funfair to win teddy bears for you.  But I know you can’t do these things.  The umbilical didn’t sever, it just clung on and became septic.  You can’t leave this place and I cannot leave you.  So this is now our life – mossy alleyways covered in graffiti, the rusting monuments of industry, old shacks covered in ivy and stinking of piss that we sleep in when the snow falls from November to March.

We play in the wreckage of those that failed.  But as we get older those paints don’t fade but become bolder.  Old ruins glint sharp.

As long as we still breathe, we still have time.

We don’t have to fail.