Stars

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“On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars – Something good will come out of all things yet – And it will be golden and eternal just like that – There’s no need to say another word.”
― Jack Kerouac

 

Okay, technically August isn’t Spring. And I couldn’t see any stars, though I wanted to believe they were out there twinkling their approval, getting in on the moment like they would in a Disney cartoon. The light had already started to fade through the cheap yellow curtains at least half an hour before. Now the dimness draped the room in early night.

She was laying on the bed next to me. I was following the line of the curve from her waist to her shoulders with my hand. She was silhouetted against what remained of the light outside. I stared, trying to capture the moment in some fractured memory bank that wasn’t full of bad times. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Everything I’d ever experienced up to that moment meant nothing. The World could have ended as we kissed. Nothing mattered except being exactly in that single moment with her. Maybe, I thought, I really had earned it after all? I was in love. And it felt like I’d never been in love before. I’d missed out, or missed the point, yet here it was – complete and total desire and respect and admiration and a brand new feeling of a cosmic, chemical, soul connection that transcended anything I’d ever experienced: golden and eternal. Kerouac was right. There is no need to say another word.

Examine this

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Okay. Do you know how wrong it all was? Everything you did? Examine closely. It’s possible.

I suppose most of how we interact with life is down to simple causes, or beliefs.  We are simple creatures, however different we think we are. This is heavy stuff, and I might not be able to get my point across right now. There is not a lot to be said for typing on this keyboard at this hour after the medication I’ve consumed. Oh, and Therapy was cancelled today. But, hey, here we are.

Today is not about death, or hopelessness. It is about life. The most alive I’ve ever felt. The most emotionally exposed I’ve ever been. People with Borderline Personality Disorder are supposed to feel like third degree burn sufferers. We feel the slightest touch. And, mostly, it hurts. But not this time. Right now I’m at the mercy of something overwhelming and good.

There is a shift in my life. A palpable, touchable, event, person, emotion, that has driven out almost all other thoughts. Some might say it’s just down to Oxytocin, but I don’t believe in science. I believe in the look in somebody’s eyes, or the sound of something chasing you in the darkness. You can’t put that in a petri dish and make it grow into fungal lumps, measure it, or get a diagnosis to stick. There is no cure.

Like I’d ever want one.

 

 

 

That’s Entertainment

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The island would have to be fairly decent sized. The fantasy calls for at least a hundred acres of jungle and beach. It would be too much to hope for some kind of weathered volcanic peak, bright orange magma bubbling down in the crater. All it’d need would be for the island to be inescapable. Sharks patrolling a knife sharp reef, big breakers, no chance for a dugout canoe or a raft to get far from the beach. Maybe gun boats, searchlights, the ability to launch a helicopter from my nearby private yacht – the operational centre of things – anchored a mile or so off shore and packed with every comfort known to man.

There would be a requirement for observation towers, high, with night vision cameras, giving 100% coverage of the island. Nowhere to hide. The pictures would be beamed to the yacht, where I would be sitting comfortably on a white sofa, drinking Cuba Libres, and taking just the right amount of amphetamines to stay awake so as not to miss a second of the show.

Okay, this kind of production isn’t going to be cheap. I’ve budgeted several million pounds for starters. When I begin to factor in things like the introduction of Tigers and King Cobras, and the amount of LSD I’d need to periodically poison the water supply, that total will rise. I plan to have enough money in reserve to cover those kinds of running costs. A Euromillions lottery ticket practically guarantees safe financial management of the project. I’m not worried. There will be enough surplus for cocaine, Louis Roederer champagne, and Dodo eggs. I may grow fat and lethargic, but my heart rate will never drop below 150bpm, especially if I’m watching the screens when the Tigers have been released from small boats onto the white sandy beaches by teams of animal handlers brought in from all the Worlds best Safari Parks and worst Romanian zoos. With the almost constant increased cardio load I may well live to be a hundred under such circumstances.

The island, as you’ll have guessed by now, is to be inhabited. The population will be unwilling, at first, but at bayonet point there are going to be few arguments… Here are the contestants –

  1. A Walter Mitty dog walker who I went to sixth form with. He tells people he is an expert at survival. I think it’s only fair to see just how far his bullshit is going to stretch when he’s being chased, purely as a source of meat, by the other contestants.
  2. Bez from the Happy Mondays. That drug-addled clown can’t dance his way out of this one.
  3. Pete Tong. Now, I don’t know much about Pete. He might be a lovely guy. His face, though, is what is putting him on the island. He looks likehow I imagine Satan would if he was off out to your local Town’s shittest night club to play records standing behind a wallpapering table.
  4. Wolf, from the shit 1990s TV show ‘Gladiators’. I didn’t like his hair, his claw pose when his name was announced, or his roid-rage eyes. He might be, God I don’t know, seventy [?] now, but I think his brain would still be enraged enough from the years of human growth hormone abuse that he’d be super-aggressive if provoked.
  5. Iain Duncan-Smith. That shitbag is to be a ‘special guest’ on the island. He’ll arrive after the others have formed a loose coalition based on fear. He’ll be pushed out onto the beach strapped to a wheelchair, chained to a rabid, blind, hyena. Anyone who has ever been a victim of his benefit system reforms can have this episode beamed into their homes for free.
  6. Jean-Claude Van-Damme. No explanation needed.
  7. That twat from the ‘One Show,’ on BBC1. I don’t know his name. I don’t want to – unless, by law, I’ll have to have it carved on his tombstone after his liver is eaten by the others. But I’ll make the correct lines of enquiry when that happy day comes.
  8. Jeremy Kyle. That fuck-pig will jettison out of a high speed aircraft over the island wearing a Kevlar suit – like a modern day knight. The suit will make him invulnerable to almost everything except disease and drowning. In a strange twist to his rotten life, he’ll pray for someone to talk to by the end because there is no chance of assimilating with the other freaks on the island. He really is that popular. If he doesn’t starve to death, and if he is the final contestant left alive, he is to be thrown into a pit of lie-detector failures from his show. Even Kevlar won’t save him then.

The whole experience could last a good few months, unless there’s some form of mass suicide pact or the animal handlers can’t recall the Bengal Tigers when needed. Depending on how much fun I’m having – likely a lot – I could probably stretch it out for them for a year or more; giving food parcels, rudimentary and experimental health care, and blasting loud music from the towers to ensure they remain at peak levels of paranoid sleep-deprivation and alertness. I’d need a companion to enjoy it all with, of course. And viewers to consume the experience from the comfort of their own homes at £30 a month. Entertainment like this doesn’t come along very often. Be ahead of the curve. Book now.

 

Fine Print

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Someone told me that you should just write. Doesn’t matter what it’s about – choose the first thing that comes into your head. I followed that advice for years. Even sitting doing paid gigs for magazines/websites and PR companies. Mostly the advice proved to be good. Only one Editor refused to print something I’d written without ‘Major fucking changes to the way you are blowing smoke up the ass of the W.B.C.’

Today I’m finding it difficult. Really difficult. Worse than psychotic episode brain-freeze. Or gibberish. Shit, I liked the gibberish. Reading the ravings of someone deep into a paranoid belief the neighbours are all police officers makes for fun reflection when the dust has settled. I’ve written high, low, hallucinating, starving, puking, hungover, and when it’s been so cold that the olive oil in my kitchen has frozen. But not today. There is no coherent thought I can drag along on the back of. Well, there’s one, but it’s so consuming that I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside out.

My Psychologist and I argued on the phone about how I deal with this. She’s worried. Kept asking me about my propensity to self harm. Wanting to assess the level of danger. I could hear her typing things down carefully as I spoke. ‘No……honestly, for fuck’s sake, I’m safe.’ One answer like that is usually enough, but she must have asked me four or five times over twenty minutes. Same answer, same typing. Same thought, over and over and over. Same face, same smile, same laughter.

Music on now. Loud. Someone told me it’s all about grounding yourself in times like these. I guess it works, mostly. Maybe a quick prayer will help?

Okay, God, you fucking owe me. Let’s not argue about that, eh. We both know it. I’ve borne enough bullshit and hurt to last me from here until you high-five my hand warmly as I ride through those big gates on a Raleigh Chopper. Time for that re-birth you’re always banging on about in those pamphlets that come through my letterbox infrequently. Forget the gibberish about dinosaurs and homosexuals. That stuff isn’t important. You’ve lost your way a bit concentrating on things that don’t matter. Give me this one fucking chance to feel good.

There. I told you this thing would be incoherent. But at least whatever being is tending the eternal campfire up there now has the fine print in black and white. Spiritual proof, if you will. Maybe you can write your way to anything if you let it just flow?

Nights of panic

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The house was on a new development. Mock Tudor. Hideous. I was only looking at it because my partner thought it was the right thing – the upwardly mobile thing – to do. She was bland. I guess that’s why the blandness of the little street appealed. All I knew was that it was bigger than the house we were living in. And I wouldn’t have to hear the neighbours over the road fucking in the summer with their windows open. Screaming up the hot night while I lay in bed not wanting to do the same with the woman laying next to me. Every time I heard them I imagined the kind of love and lust that was driving those screams and moans. It had never been like that in my life. Fuck those hot summer nights. We would breath heavy. Both of us knowing the other wasn’t asleep. Not touching in bed. Me staring into the gloom praying I wouldn’t feel a hand on me under the thin sheets. Having to make up an excuse.

But the new house was going to be away from all that. The neighbours weren’t going to screw all night and shout each others names into the stinking rotten Epworth air. This was a move upwards. Up Up, into the middle class. Two cars on the drive. Waving to grass-cutting middle-aged car salesmen across the way on Saturday afternoons. Pristine house. Glass of wine with Dinner. Better and better cars and sofas and holidays until the rest of my hair fell out and the pension cheques started dropping on the mat. Climbing up into the apex of fat mediocrity. Tense puckered kisses goodbye in the mornings, the limit of sexual contact. Thankful for it.

The house was owned by a single woman in her mid to late forties. I can’t remember her name but it was something like Crapper, or Merde, or some other shit-based reference. I remember laughing when I first heard it. She had curly brown hair and, possibly, an eating disorder. She was very thin, drawn, and her eyes had sunk right down into their sockets. I was shocked when she opened the door to show us around. And she was timid, really scared-looking. Mousy. Like she was about to run to a safe room and bolt the door behind her. She barely whispered when she talked. Something told me she’d seen something awful and couldn’t wash it away. I thought that’s why she kept the house so clean. The hallway and stairs had a brand new carpet, you could smell the newness. The walls had been painted cream and it looked as though the paint layers were thick and expensive. My partner loved the place, so after we looked round we went back to the estate agents and told them we’d offer near the asking price. I wondered about the new carpets in a new house. I asked what it was all about.

‘You didn’t see the news last year?’ she replied.

‘No..’

‘Her husband attacked her one night in the house with an axe. It was pretty bad. She was trying to leave and he was chopping at her as she was coming down the stairs into the hallway to the front door, trying to run. I heard she curled up into ball by the front door and he just kept on hacking. Someone next door heard the noise and called the police. She nearly died.’

‘Jesus!’

‘He got twenty years in prison.’

‘And that’s why the new carpet and the paint job?’

‘Yeah. You do still want to put an offer in?’

The sales pitch wasn’t the best I’d ever heard. But at least it was honest. Mrs Crapper, or whatever she was called, had only just come out of hospital and wanted rid of the place where she’d almost been chopped to pieces by someone she trusted. She wasn’t even living there any more. She’d moved in to her sister’s. She couldn’t face living alone. Being hacked at with an axe tends to change people.

So we bought the house, violent memories and all, and I set about cleaning the car on Saturdays, waving to the guy across the road. Losing more of me by the second. Disappearing into the middle of my life in a beige haze of nothing out of the ordinary. At least in the summer, with the bedroom windows open, the nights were still. Like they were in the marriage bed.

 

The Connection

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The chapel had been funny. The Elvis impersonator was a Chinese guy. When they said the whole ceremony could be done in less than five minutes they weren’t kidding. Even down to the karate routine at the end. Outside there was a queue. In Vegas the impersonality of vacationers lends to crazy impulses, and there is always some scheme set up to fleece the good-willed. And hordes of willing victims. Still, in there, at that moment, they were both laughing. They were in on the joke of it all. That’s the reason they came. That, and the connection they’d made that was so intense you should have been able to see it from the Moon.

In the convertible outside they sat down into the seats, put on the stereo loud, and squealed the tyres blasting down the strip to the lights at the end. There was crazy talk over the noise of the wind and the music. A sense of dangerous excitement and a big motherfucking country right out there in front of the steering wheel. Cheap motels, the desert, and the Mountains of the Sierra, all moments away. They took turns to drive, both jamming their right foot hard into the floor. Gunning the thing. Laughing. Holding hands. Stopping to refuel. Kissing. Two people with some weird soul-bond, heading out under the milky way with the roof down. Maybe all the way to Alaska, Canada? Fuck, it might not end there. There were Northern Lights to sit and stare at, hold each other. Plan a graffiti crime-spree on the walls of a hick town. And wondrous, spirt-touching, intense love making to send them soaring.

 

 

Fooled

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A long time ago – is two years a long time? – I used to write about Boxing. It was mostly always a paid gig, depending on the publication and the Editor, and the strength of the subject matter. Really though, when you lay the subject bare, there is only so much you can say about people punching each other in the head. I used to try and stay away from that sort of thing and aim for the off-kilter parts of the sport: the weirdness, the characters, the underworld, and the feeling of being covered with blood splatters while you’re sitting ringside watching the Doctor playing pool on his iphone instead of watching the fight. Nights of baying crowds, high on Cocaine and cheap booze, with me sitting next to the canvas with a notebook and pen, trying not to look the fighters in the eyes when they were getting punched senseless in the corner right in front of me. Some of them even whimpered. Say what you like, but you can see pain and fear when the punches rain in. I don’t care who they are, or how they tell a press conference about ‘desire’ and ‘courage’. I know Rocky doesn’t exist outside of a cinema screen. Just like I know that blood takes ages to remove from a white cotton t-shirt.

But, ah, those sweaty nights. Locked in turmoil. Earning a crust, hating the sport, writing hours of endless gibberish with mock sincerity. Avoiding the fights in the crowd, sitting next to scantily dressed ring girls who were barely able to climb into the ring on heels you could skewer a pig with. The background soundtrack of wolf whistles, shouts of ‘I’d fuck you!’ and the drunken jeering when the round starts. Blood-lust. The smell was tangible. Testosterone, earnest machismo. Barred teeth and pumping fists into the auditorium air. One glorious, unpredictable, human machine. A combine harvester ready to go at a moments notice. Anywhere. For any reason. Mob rule pressure cooker release valve, ready to test the limits.

Some nights there was need for the security cordon around the ringside area. The fearless few always lost in the end, carried out by men in black towards back entrances and a lesson in the alleyway that would leave an impression lasting beyond the life of the bruises. Other nights I was left alone in relative quiet between gangsters and many, many handshakes and faces eager for me to write the right things about their boy. I almost never did.

When I got home after an event I was always shattered. Emotionally spent. Covered in sweat and tiny freckles of blood. I’d go and shower, leaving my face lifted up to the shower head and thinking about the meaning of all that violence. The swollen hands and noses, broken ribs, the money changing hands, futures decided in the half a second of lapsed concentration. Sated violent desire, hotel rooms, come-downs, ice baths. The spectacle of it all; steeped in history and evolution. Satisfying the crowd, but not me. I always thought everyone was being fooled anyhow. Nobody ever won.

 

Feelin’ it fast

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The cars were wrecked, covered in mud, dinted, full of hungover kids and fucked up camping equipment. Girls had tried to plat their hair but the rain and the sweating atmosphere of airless tents had rat-tailed every one of them. They looked like refugees escaping some desperate war zone. Close to the edge of panic.

Car after car sat in the gridlock in the village. The bus driver was shouting to me about the madness of camping in a field around here and listening to ‘that shit music’. I shouted back that he just felt old. Like I did.

I got off at my stop, walked slowly across the road, waved at the Romanians at the car wash. They smiled and waved back, then went on cleaning a Porsche as the fat driver stood back admiring the power of money. His sunglasses were too big for his piggy face. Trousers too tight, belly hanging over the front. Gold bracelet, heavy and glinting in the sun, hung against the top of one hand, dragging him down, nailing his soul to the floor. His teeth matched the white foam but his skin was red. Blood pressure too high. Climbed off his big-titted wife barely half an hour ago as she lay panting under the weight. Cock barely functioning despite the view below him writhing in mock ecstasy, trying her best.

He moved his head to one side, checking out the cleaning job on the car. It had never occurred to him how much you can get people to do for ten pounds. You got your car cleaned, smiled at – bowed at, too, sometimes. Language barriers make for odd gestures. The traffic moved slowly. He eyeballed the bored drivers. He thought about where to drive when the car was clean. Maybe McDonalds? Eat a burger. Then pick up the wine and get back to those tits. Man…they’d been a good investment.

I went inside my house. Put my bag down. I heard the roar of the Porsche start up. He revved the engine four or five times for maximum effect, turned up the stereo. I heard him pull out into the traffic and accelerate away up the hill, really gunning it. I wondered if his wife was ready for another go on the mountain of blubber that was heading her way in the sunshine, too fast to stop.

 

Wasted again

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I burned another incense stick but the smell of weed was overpowering. There were a couple of windows open, but I was sure that they only spread the problem down the backs of neighbouring houses. For some childish reason the whole thing felt naughty. Here we were, two middle-aged guys wrecked on booze, pills, and weed on a mild July night. Listening to music. Laughing. Talking about the old days. Passing the joints back and forth like we’d done a long, long time ago. I wasn’t mentally ill, and he wasn’t struggling with his past alcoholism. Neither of us had been through tough times. Not last night, anyhow.

The lights drew moths in through the windows, the music moved on, we sank more beers, smoked up a good fug, and I twirled on the old office chair at my desk talking rubbish over and over again about that one person whom I’d have preferred to his company right then. He was oblivious, rambling and starting to lose any coherent train of thought. I decided not to offer him any of my codeine and pregabalin. I’d taken some but, then, I am a professional. I watched him – eyes reddened, slurring his words, veering wildly from reminiscence to periods of semi-rage as we navigated our shared experiences. He took longer to roll the joints, got less involved in listening, and more in talking. His eyes seemed to have become smaller, like tiny red marbles, withdrawing into his face to escape the sensory overload that the cannabis and ethyl alcohol were laying down on his brain.

He over-ordered from the pizza menu and I rang the order in, mostly because I was the nearest we had to a public face. When the delivery guy turned up he was greeted with a cloud of blue smoke and a beaming smile faking innocence and trying desperately to get the money into his hand and explain, yes, I’d over tipped by a long way but to just take the fucking money and let me shut this front door for the love of God. Too much attention was already being garnered at the back of the house, what with the music and the stench, to have to fight a battle against the general public on two fronts.

He ate greedily, in the clichéd stoner way. I chomped through my shitty pizza only because I hadn’t eaten for almost 36 hours. It tasted of warm dough, fat, and battery acid. When he’d eaten two pizzas and some chips we sparked another joint up and sat back with full stomachs smoking into the night. Bottles and cans everywhere, music booming into the early hours down this quiet hillside. Two old friends. Wasted again.

Le Sourire

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Heart beating hard and fast. 2am. I kicked off the duvet, stared at the ceiling again, and tried to focus my thoughts. I could almost see the feeling in the air above me, all around the dark room, moving just that tiny fraction out of phase with everything else. You could squint and maybe you’d catch it for a second moving quickly out of the corner of your eye or right ahead of you disappearing, fading quickly into the stone window frames. If I didn’t know better I’d have said it was a spiritual intervention or message. Religions have started on lesser foundations.

And over it all, that feeling thumping, cossetting, working deep inside against the grain of everything I’ve ever known. Call it what you want. This thing has power.

When I finally woke up, the sun had started to aggressively pound into the hillside, a dog was wailing, and my head moved quickly through the gears from early waking numbness up into that feeling again. I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried. I took my meds, swallowing them down with cold water, and went into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror over the wash basin. My eyes were red, I looked old, fat, ravaged by years of bad experiences. I told myself this was only a dream. No-one could really be that crazy. I soaked my face, grey beard and all, in the sink and lifted my head back up to the mirror. Nothing had changed at all except the water running in great globules from the straggled edges of my face. Then I thought of those images stored in my brain from the night before, the things that were said, looked once more in the mirror, and couldn’t stop a smile.