And so she became an object of irritation. Like a mosquito. A needle. Something to be savagely removed.
And she wanted to save the world. She tried to save me. And, like a mirror would do, save herself, by proxy. She was an addict. Her high came when she felt superior. And this often came disguised as help. And she helped everyone, as long as she had no emotional attachment to them. With me it was easy. I was her fuck buddy. And she could help me because she didn’t feel anything for me. All she felt was my dick. That’s all she wanted anyway. When I used to talk, to try to express something, she’d look at me as if to say ‘What on EARTH are you doing…BOY?’
And she fed me expensive chocolates and took me to her bedroom. Three hours later, we’d emerge…
She’d watch Coronation St. I’d text other girls. I’d think ‘what am I doing with nutty cat-woman?’
Then she left. She told me that she started feeling things. And that she thought I had too. And, there was no excitement once the person liked her any more. No challenge.
So I imagine her sitting in her sofa, probably after a sex sesh with some obliging mute, watching Coronation Street and watching the cat staring in, meowing for food.
When the brittle soul man dreams, it dreams of empty service stations; endless isles of junk food, cigarettes, change for the arcades. As he snores, the rest of the world snores with him, perhaps even in harmony. Perhaps not. Tribes of alligator skinned nightmares queue up in a special, spongy part of his future. A lizard eyed, long-legged woman pries open his chest like a tin can; jagged flesh, a small, bulging heart coughing black ink shrinks at her grin. ‘He he,’ she prods, with her talon. Carves the word ‘smile’ upon his rib-cage which expands with the force of his still functioning lungs.
Betty, pray for me. The formica table top was strewn with dead cigarettes and many bottles. The air was alive with shagging insects. Betty opened the window. ‘Shoo!’ she went.
I flicked the dead butts at her peachy backside and watched her jump. ‘Oh!’ she cried, ‘Oh! They’re on me, they’re ON me!’
Poppy said her neck was hot. So I blew on it. She glared at me like I’d slapped her in the puss.
A man stood about fifty feet away. He was staring at the clouds. He was chanting too. Chanting that he wanted to make the clouds change shape. A rhino? A girl? A hypothalamus?
Poppy undid the top buttons of her blouse and laid down upon the picnic mat. I raised my eyebrows and blinked out towards the boats. They are going to rebuild the Titanic, I thought, in conversation with myself. I thought about telling Poppy. Decided it was best not.
The man was still there, his hands clapping together, silently somehow. An little, old woman was walking her tiny dog. The little, old woman stared at the cloud man. She stared and wore an intense frown on her little, wrinkled face. Rather like how a cat arches its back when it thinks its going to be attacked. She had nothing to worry about though, the man was light years away.
Just then I heard what sounded like a single, muffled note from a trumpet in a mouse orchestra. Poppy cleared her throat.
The little, old woman walked past and mouthed the words “Morning.” I ignored her. I felt like standing up and chanting, just to wind her up.
The man began shaking his head around. If he’s not careful he’ll go over the cliff, I remember thinking. No more clouds.
The tiny dog coiled out a turd into an otherwise pleasant afternoon. The little, old woman picked it up through an inside-out bag. Then she pulled the bag out the right way and tied it off. The tiny dog trotted ahead, not wanting to be downwind, presumably.
“What is that smell.” said Poppy. “Have you farted?” .
(A dark hallway. The radio is on. No words exchanged in several hours. The dog yawns on the welcome mat, looks up at the letterbox, then at its owners and lays back down. The news pumps misery all over the carpet.)
Ruth: How was it today?
(She asks but doesn’t care. She scratches her belly and squeezes her eyes shut and yawns. Then she looks around for the light switch.)
Ian: No, don’t.
(Ian is in the cack. He has sort of fallen in love with this new woman who’s started at work. This new woman likes one of the younger men. Ian hates the younger man. And he hates the new woman. He loves her though.)
Ian: I’m just saying.
News: …several occasions this year and the rift that has been created is expected to worsen in the coming months…
(She puts the remote control down and stares through the walls. The flowers lose a few more petals onto the window sill above their heads.)
Ruth: I’m off to bed.
Ian: I’ll be up in a minute.
(He staggers down to the basement and finds his old notebooks. They are filled with love letters he never sent. He wonders where they are now, these women he loved but could never say. Darts of light flutter around the shadowy walls.)
Ruth (from upstairs): Can you switch off the lights?
Ian (to himself): They’re already off.
There have been a few moments in 2011 that have made me want to shit my life through a straw at the heavens. Many times when I have seen the phantom plane ticket. Times when my feet have been constantly restless. Embarrassingly so. But as a year, it’s been fairly pffft as far as I’m concerned. Fine. The previous one reared it head like a twenty-foot monster in the shape of a demonic three-year-old. And fucking terrifying that was. Destroyed everything including a special temple I had built to commemorate the life of an excellent, but unknown, poet. No matter. One dusts ones self down and carries on, doesn’t one? And so, as 2010 hit its declivity, it was with a profound sense of unease that I bobbed upon the waters of the late December down time. You could find me stationed at the local. My weapons: a pint of strong, continental lager and, when there was minimal risk of losing my seat, a packet of full-flavoured cigs. Occasionally I’d see some shifty figure lope past the window and convince myself that it was a scout. Yes, 2011 had employed scouts and was sending them out into the world to scan, tag and retrieve the data on every poor sod who hadn’t had the sense to lock themselves in their flats. In the far reaches of my noodle, I felt sure that, if it was going to happen there was nothing I could do about it. Hiding would only prolong the panto of persecution. Out in the open, at least I could see their face. Inevitably, though, I’d end up chatting up some girl or be part of a group of lager laughs. If 2011 had busted through the door in front of strobe lighting and dry ice, I’d have been none the wiser. Imagine being sat in a pub, bladder too full, an uncomfortable build of beer bubbles in your colon, and they announce the four-minute warning. That new year’s, like this one, I’m sat behind my curtains armed with this typer and watching to see what unfolds.
And I’ve not ruled out the stay puft marshmallow man.
He opened his eyes to slits. Then he raised his head and licked his lips and yawned. He was dizzy. His bed had been made out of the garden, though he did not know why he was there or where he was. The leaves flapped and crumpled as he moved to steady himself, then stretch his body into a state of readiness. He was surrounded by plants and shrubs: rhododendron, azalea, honeysuckle. Small flurries of light buzzed before his eyes. He threw himself to the floor and buried them under the fallen leaves. His nose picked up a scent. He followed it. In a clearing there was a big, stone table upon which was laid a book. He nudged the book off the table and the table sank into the grass with the sounds of crackling fat and twisting timber. He whimpered. The sun hung above the tips of the trees, full of courage and power. Light beamed from gaps in the woods. His little form seemed ready to burst with fear. Birds hummed and zipped in the air before him. The scent was weaker now. Then, he heard a whistle. Then another. A stick hurtled through the air and caught him on the back of the neck. He yelped. His chest lowered down to the woodland floor, his tail pointed to the sun and his teeth emerged, pointed and bright. The sun poured power and courage into his quivering body until he was straining to hold himself back. A dark form stepped between a shaft of light. His claws dug deep into the earth and he leapt at the silhouette, burying his teeth into it.
‘Bobby…’ the voice gurgled; blood bubbling from its pale, trembling mouth.
If you cracked open my abdomen, you’d find an assortment of tired organs; a heart barely beating; more glugging than anything else, and probably a small rodent seeking shelter.
And all this while I’m driving. The car wasn’t in much better shape either.
One or twice, I could swear I heard her cough. But it was the weeping and wailing which I was less prepared for.
My sympathy vehicle and I had the appearance of having been dragged through electrical wire after being slapped around with sides of beef.
The things we have to do.
So when I parked the car and shut off the engine I could smell the fear. Then the heart leapt into life, presuming upon the advent of fight or flight.
In the end, it was a little of both…regrettably.
And I left her with tears in her eyes whilst I got out of there, not knowing what else to do. Instinct told me to run. Like a rat’s must.
Idiotically, I expected to feel as though a weight had been lifted. But as I drove back to the destroyed city, my heart hung in my chest like it was a lead bowling ball.
Only the warm, tickling sensation on my face gave me any clue at all that I was in floods of tears.
Guilt put in the best performance of the day by a mile. Robed in sequins and neon, it strode onto centre stage with murder in its eyes. Blinding light spewed from every pore of its poisonous form like space worms with razor teeth attaching to my flesh at the speed of light. And its tirade hissed through an iron grimace; flesh still attached to its teeth. Like a hot knife, it stabbed into me again and again.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…leaving people in the gutter like so much throw away detritus?…loathsome…all you do is rampage over people who care…no thought for their feelings…then act all surprised when it KA-BOOM’S in a shower of shit…your fault…forever…an ever…it will always be your fault…you are worthless…why can’t you just get on with it like everyone else anyway?…just go with the flow?…do you think you are BETTER than everyone else?…is that it?…hahaha, one thing I’ll give you is that you’re a funny specimen…no, not funny, you’re fucking hilarious…and I mean that; you are so funny that I’m giddy with it…look at you and your gut…and what is going on with your face?…I mean it’s all lop-sided, like a livid corpse…maybe that explains the smell that blares off you…you’re dead…DEAD…because only a dead thing would behave as you do and fail to realise how thoroughly disgusting it is…you’re a putrid, little nothing…you might as well be nothing…no guts….no substance…no balls…yeah, you heard, you’ve got no BALLS…you’re a eunuch; emotionless, compassionless, pointless…a hard, unfeeling husk…”
And you take these beatings because there is nothing else to do. You know it’s coming. The fight posters are glued up all over town. The tickets sold out within minutes. The audience members are composed of ghosts: old friends, lovers, acquaintances, those I was rude to for no reason, those I was rude to with good reason. They all watch the walk-in. Some throw urine in open top bottles. Others just throw abuse. The noise recipe included large quantities of malevolence and retribution. When the crowd favourite makes its appearance, all decked out in black sequins and laser beam red eyes, the stadium erupts. Women scream lustily at the mere thought of your downfall. Men have fantasies of being the one dealing it out; just to watch your body reduced to mashed flesh, burst blood vessels and splintered bone. And when we stand opposite each other to hear the referee’s instructions, they laugh. The monster opposite towers over me. I can feel cold air hitting me rhythmically with grief’s sub-sonic glee.
After 12 rounds of brutal punishment, the creature puts me out of my misery.
And they’re right. The one that knocks you out you don’t even see.