He has this funny way about him. I don’t know. And what is going on between them anyway? You always see them together. I mean, there must be something going on between them, you know? I don’t know.
He ‘d been having problems with the phone for three weeks now. He knew all about the neighbours vaginal discharge, that the husband stayed out too late and always came home drunk, that the neighbour, that was me, had funny ways and must have been having an affair with this woman she kept seeing him, or me, with.
His tee-shirt had ridden over his belly and he pulled at one of the hairs there while he listened to the neighbours. Better the devil you know, he thought.
Fried up some eggs and took his tablets and looked out at the street, the garage, road signs, men, women, dogs and thought ‘fuck this’. He was desperate for a piece but feared that it might fall off. Some people have irrational fears about tsunamis, his was about spontaneously detaching genitals. The thought horrified him enough not to pursue the urge.
* * *
“What do you do without a teevee?” Someone at work once asked him and he felt the need to scream. It was as though the world had really turned into the hell feared by some it might become. Somehow, he thought, the ad men have convinced us – by using sinister techniques – to buy things we don’t need, in order to convince us that the world had not died. We were all mourning, alcoholic widows clutching the ad men’s bottle of gin; popping pills and wearing strained, awful smiles.
He imagined these men as a little mournful themselves. But it was their job to lie and make-believe everything was fine. What was the alternative?
The war of despair…a return to street massacre for no other reason than boredom and frustration…anarchy on a level to turn the stomachs of the anarchists…lawlessness…disease…malice…
So, instead, we gaze a our dream-boxes and pray to a god with fake tan and tippex white teeth for a fresh trinket to distract the brain from setting the sky alight with madness, sheer ‘I know that one day I shall die’ madness…
* * *
He checked his watch; two hours later; he popped another pill, sighed and went back to bed.
The drinking was as good thing for him, a really good thing. He neither had to worry about his feels, nor those of others. It was as though the world really was just a dream. And without having to wake up into hell, he could just open his gullet and pour it down until numb enough to face the thing snarling up at him…a child; indistinguishable sex, black hair and long, thin teeth and no lips; lidless eyes filled with fear and hatred. But, with a drink in its hands, the thing became distracted; chomping at the bitter wine with phantom lips. He steadied his hand and forced more of the strong liquor down. He feels the questions come with the tears. That smile, Nanny; why do we grow up to forget it only to look back at what we’ve lost, and that which we’ll never regain? Why is one of my arms colder than the other? Why do my feet itch? Why is evil everywhere?
The answer is indigestible and yet, here is comes; served steaming upon chipped plates to be eaten with soiled cutlery.
The creature sits alert in the lap of the old woman and claps its hands, suddenly indifferent to the now sobbing man.
The old woman looks at the man, and with a free hand wipes away his tears. With a free mind she answers all his questions at once.
“Because, my love, the World is dying.”
He sat in his fathers car and the words wouldn’t come. He sat there in the car that he could never afford and he thought about the life he was leading and where it was leading. He played with ideas about leaving the town. The idea of staying made him feel both sick and alone. Yet he already was sick. He was already alone. After a million disappointments he knew it was naive to believe that anywhere else would be different. But he thought that a different landscape; different face, would make the difference. Without worrying about what those who knew him wanted or expected.
Are you still painting?
So, where you working these days?
Living the dream yet?
Are you coming over Christmas day?
Without these distractions, he thought maybe he’d have a chance. Might be able to make a life that was, at the very least, tolerable.
He felt the back of his neck and winced with pain. There were knots within knots. Ancient knots. Scrunched up muscle caused by this, that and the other. And he knew that there would always be this, that and the other. But in his mind there was, if not a better place, somewhere he could lay down his head and know that, if it were going to be his last night of life, he could die with dignity.
A bus pulled up outside in the street. He heard the brakes screeching. Then he picked his nose with his little finger and wondered how to finish.
A face in a mirror. There is fear in its eyes. It has become aware of a skull beneath the skin; the brain inside the skull, like a treasure, or delicacy. Hard to get at, unless using the right tool for the job; typically, by bullet or the morticians saw. Prior to death, at its very centre, the brain is home to a small galaxy. At the point of death, however, this galaxy falls in upon itself forming a tiny grain of matter. Like a miniature nut. This nut, or grain, is irresistable to small rodents and insects. And upon decomposition of the body the grain is consumed and excreted by a small animal becoming, finally, a small pellet of mud. This provides the basis for the planet, encasing the burning core of the Earth.
At the centre of the Universe there is a man. At least, there was. Now he is dead and been replaced by another man, who, by now, is also dead. In the space occupied by the men there are nebulae; the remnants of the vaporised men. These nebulae freeze in windless antigravity.
In the eyes of a face that hangs in a mirror in the endless black, resignation replaces fear; a resignation that survives each reincarnation. As the eyes and faces and men change, in the beat of the mysterious clock that measures eternity, the expression remains fixed. Man has finally come to understand the purposelessness of the mirror.
End up in the same place. A cheap pub selling stale beer. Taking it off the brewers hands, presumably. Would be a shame to waste it. And it’s not waste. Almost, but not yet. Everyone knows, too. But, instead of letting a small fact like that get in the way, they order another drink of piss.
The dark, I don’t mind. It’s the chill that gets me. And right into the marrow too.
Although, it didn’t vex me this earliner on my walk in the country. I felt, for the first time, that I was stood upon a planet of no significance. Of course, we are meant to feel certain ways about our environment, I understand that. But, single-minded self-preservation aside, I felt, breifly, the sublime indifference of the Earth.
Not to mention the fathomless space beyond it. The blackness, for argument’s sake, is the one true father. The entity, the nothing that drives us to invent Gods. To invent a world that drives us ga-ga. Until we, finally, rot into the sodden Earth which, itself, merely exists to be blown to smithereens by the tremendous death rattle of the Sun.
No, the only true father, or true God, doesn’t give two penny’s worth about anything you do. Probably is you. The same thing that makes you smile, dance, cum, bleed, cancerate and rot. The one true father.
And beyond the fiery body of destructive life, all there is is blackness. Emptiness. Time between events. And I scurry inside the pub as though I were a premature child, aching for the warmth of the womb.
I think to myself, ‘where is the fire?’
Perhaps I feel it on my face and decide, simply, to turn away and stand in the cold like a barren tree.
Yet it’s honest. An honest defeat. I wave the white flag, if that’s the fashion for surrender. If I could be bothered to get a flag, or care about its colour, yes, I’d wave it. But the look on my face, really, ought to be enough.
Is this how I will continue?
And one day, as an old man, I’ll look across the pub and see myself. He’ll look at me as though he didn’t mean to. He’ll understand but will not comprehend. He’ll glance over again, like a flash. And he’ll be wondering to himself, ‘Is that how I’ll end up?’