Elliot

Elliot usually calls at night. He knows it’s easier to speak to me when there isn’t a distraction. You could almost say he was thoughtful in the same way a shark is when it waits for a seal to swim away from the safety of a group. A predatory kind of thoughtfulness. I wait for the hoarse whisper, off in the distance, coming closer, the voice gaining strength as it closes in. Never a nice word.

When my bedroom is dark there is a shadow on the wall of Christ on the cross. It’s a trick of the light, but there he is anyhow, slumped forward in pain, head down, waiting, like me, for Elliot. And one day maybe Elliot will call on him too. He’s the mocking voice at the foot of Golgotha; Judas; the baying crowd; a true confessional.

When he first called I thought somebody had broken into my house and was standing behind me. I turned around but, of course, Elliot can’t be seen. He told me I was worthless. You could sense a warped enjoyment in saying what, in essence, was just a simple fact. He was probing for weakness. Gloating. I imagined him with his finger running down the page of all the things I’ve ever done, or known, in my life, waiting until he came across the worst words and deeds and feelings. I imagined the smile on his face. Storing it all up for the right moment. He knows the things you don’t. How afraid I’ve been, how sad, and how close I get sometimes to ending it all. Nothing I can say will ever give you the same kind of access as Elliot. Nobody can compete. He’s watched it unfold up close, and if he isn’t purely a watcher – which I doubt he is  – then this is partly his story too.

The wind is starting to pick up outside. The leaves are falling in a good number. The heating is on. In a moment I’ll light some candles and stare out of the window towards the nature reserve at the back of my house. On the hillside, Buddhist prayer flags weave their words into the breeze. All I have to do is catch them. I feel a bit sad. Elliot knows this, and maybe tonight he’ll mock me for it. Until then, here we are: you’re reading, I’m waiting.

 

 

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Destination

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Never pry into someone else’s life – especially a stranger on a train. This is a sound doctrine and it has served me well. But something about this young guy made the huge phone shine its messages on the screen like a beacon from the seat in front of me. I couldn’t help myself.

I’d seen him on the platform – red short trousers, heavy make-up, silver high-heeled shoes, the points of his blacked in eyebrows almost impossibly sharp. Like a catwalk model. Hip thrust to one side, the universal uneven stance from every red carpet minor list celeb event you’ve ever seen.

I got on the train first. It was just luck that he ended up in the seat in front. Then he held up the huge phone and that’s when I saw into his young life.

Some guy was messaging him, telling him he was the owner of a ‘multi-million pound company’, and asking if ‘she’ was available next week.

‘Yes, darling.’

‘Will you be wearing an on point outfit?’

‘Of course.’

That was the limit of the thing. Nothing really. Just some young Asian man making ends meet. Turning a trick who was so deep into his fantasy that he was starting to concoct a backstory for himself involving wealth and success, almost like he was trying to justify payment for the services rendered. His money meant more. The kid might even work harder if he bought the millionaire company bullshit. It was worth the risk.

The train stopped after a few minutes at a shopping mall. The young guy got off, clattering down the platform, chin up high, on point.

The next guy in the seat was a businessman. He laid out a laptop and got to it. Very important man. Time too valuable to waste. Life more grey than his hair.

When I left the train at the end of the outbound journey I knew I’d be back on it soon enough, deep into the canned lives of everyone on those tracks. Chugging slowly along. Gambling with the proximity of the next person to take a seat nearby.

The return trip was worse. A football match between two local sides was happening that afternoon and the train was so full that I was left standing up against the luggage rack, listening to heavy talk of fights and fear, beer cans being opened, men trembling with excitement you don’t often see on a train. Everyone pressed up close to each other, laughing, banging on the windows at stations when a pretty girl appeared on the platform. Police officers in front looked bored, constantly on the radio; seen it all before. An hour and a half I stood there staring grimly out of the window, waiting for someone to single me out as not being a member of the same shitty tribe. They didn’t bother. I was thankful for it. As the train rolled into the opposition’s town the mood started to turn ugly. People were pushing, lighting cigarettes, starting the first bent over steps of Liam Gallagher walks. It was a bad scene. They swaggered out of the train like a pack of Lemurs searching for fallen fruit. Good times. Bad postures.

I walked up the hill in the sunshine. Travelling is okay, I thought, as long as the destination is worthwhile. It had been. Love’s like that.

The Dyatlov Incident and Me

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On February the 2nd 1959, nine experienced Russian Hikers cut their way out of their shared tent in the middle of the freezing night and ran away into the Ural Mountains snow. Half of them weren’t even dressed. Some were barefoot. All of them died within twelve hours. And when the bodies were found some of them had injuries that the Coroner described as being ‘unable to be inflicted by any human.’

Two semi naked members of the party were found with bloodied hands and had climbed five meters up into a tree to pull branches down and make a fire barely 250 meters from their tent. But there was abundant dry wood laying around on the forest floor. Why did they do this?

Some of the bodies had their eyes removed, and one person was missing their tongue, although her stomach contained blood – meaning she was alive when it was taken. Another Hiker was so badly crushed by something that it had apparently broken every single one of his ribs.

They had taken a camera with them on the trip. It was found propped up on a tripod inside the tent, facing the buttoned up entrance. The film was developed successfully. All normal pictures of smiling hikers, but many of the same scene: the treeline by the campsite, almost like they were trying to capture something on film lurking out there in the forest. The last photo was blurred and appeared to show two lights in the night sky. After the bodies were all recovered the Russian Government placed an exclusion order on the entire area for the next three years.

Yeah, you’re thinking what I’m thinking too: why am I even reading this stuff? I don’t know. It is the basis for some really crazy hours of internet research when I should really be writing about things that make my heart glad and fill me with life-affirming thoughts. But here we are…stuck in the possibilities of something that is almost too terrifying to consider. What it is for sure, I maybe can’t figure out. Look it up – The Dyatlov Pass Incident.

Why do I get bogged down in things like this? Do I need a purpose instead of sitting here at this desk and staring down into the portal of the internet waiting for some bullshit thing like this to grab me by the amygdala and thrash my psyche around like a Kingfisher slapping a minnow on small branch? The dull thwack thwack thwack until the flapping stops and I’m moved on to some thoughts about that bastard Donald Trump and his promise today to cut corporation tax in the USA to 20%. ‘It will help the USA,’ he said, tiny fingers making that perverse OK sign that has come to represent nothing more than a rich mans take on a wanking gesture. ‘Here’s what I think of all of you.’ Secret laughs in the back of the Presidential Limo afterwards. Back slapping as pornography is streamed right into his eyeballs by the CIA. Those people know how to control a sexually dysfunctional clown like Trump – beam old Miss World shows right into his brain, or scenes of Russian prostitutes snorting cocaine from the inside of his soiled underwear. That freak could get his kicks from anything if you gave him enough time and the promise that he’d never really be prosecuted. He’d fuck a dolphin, or even a rubberised half-human, half-rat mannequin, without once looking over his shoulder to see if the whole thing was being viewed by the entire population of the World.

Horror scenes aplenty here on the Hill this morning, in my little stone cottage. Not what the doctor ordered. The music is fine, loud, and this is a good thing but yesterday I killed the menacing fat spider out the back of my house that was being cared for by my elderly neighbour as some form of pet. I knocked it out of its web with a small stone, then stomped on it when it hit the ground. My neighbour will know it was me, but I will deny it and blame it on a bird; the wind; Donald Trump; or simply tell her the spider could read the writing on the wall, even if we couldn’t, and left for greener pastures. I am a bad liar, but I’ll do my best this time. No-one likes to admit they have killed something for no good, logical, reason. Not even me.

Yes, things are weighing heavily this morning. In a weird way, I kind of know why those Russian Hikers ran blindly into the night all those years ago. I just don’t want to believe it.

 

 

Mr Pie

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Mr Pie bent himself forward into the climb. Twenty young schoolkids, his schoolkids, walked behind him wearing rucksacks and carrying clipboards and pencils. They were excited.

‘Hey, Mr Pie, here’s another old building. I wonder what it was used for?’

‘Hmmph’ Mr Pie continued his slow walk, grey head bowed.

‘Mr Pie?’

Silence. Mr Pie didn’t raise his head from staring at the gravel. The view was beautiful but he wasn’t looking. Still, the wide space was putting the zap on little brains behind him; the simple pleasure of not being encased in the middle of concrete, bricks, and diesel particles. Here there were golden leaves, the soft rolling hill stretching up and over and down to the river, ducks to feed. Small birds were jinking between the birch trees, spider webs hung with hope. Life was everywhere. No traffic. The kids were making memories.

Mr Pie was thinking about how long he’d been in the job, and how he could manage to get through the day with as little hassle as possible. There are limits to how much someone can be pushed. Teaching was overrated, like most things. He had a home, no kids, and an equally unhappy wife to sit in silence with as soon as he could get out of the school gates and through the rush hour. A takeaway; bottle of wine; Eastenders; sleep; shared experience of misery. These things are to be cherished, unlike his job, unlike today. ‘Teaching,’ he mouthed silently.

The kids made their way up the incline, past the last crashed train truck in the Catch Pit. Excited noises. Mr Pie trudging on stoically. Staring at his feet moving forward in big walking boots, moving forward towards the end of his day.

Blood Brothers

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‘My friends don’t amount to one hand.’ – Mark E Smith

I picked more small pieces of paint from the wall beside my bed. It was pink. Flaked off easily once you got your nail up under the edge. The hall light shone under the bedroom door. Somewhere at the other end of the house the little black and white tv was showing something. Not loud. My parents were watching. Tired.

I never worked out why my bedroom was painted pink. I’d got some pictures of dinosaurs up on the walls, and above my bed there was a baby mobile of sea creatures: whales, dolphins, all smiling insincere grins down at me in the dark. I watched them, hardly moving in whatever draught was coming in with the light. A car came past on the u shaped road, down the hill then up the other side. Every car changing gear at almost the same point every time. I listened for them, mimicking the noises under my breath, guessing the moment.

The shelves above the tiny desk in my bedroom were full of books. I’d read them all. Even tried writing one: something about a murder on a ship. Some fantastical island paradise turned bloody. They caught him in the end. Something to do with him working alone; no help to dispose of the bodies. Mistakes were made.

I had no friends on the road. There was an idiot two streets away – Warren – but I avoided him because when he laughed, spit flew out from his goofy teeth and he looked like a cartoon character. The only people I ever really hung about with were Jack and Floyd. They lived further away on the island. We knew how to get girls pregnant. You pissed on their belly. With such secret knowledge, imparted by Floyd one afternoon to me and Jack, you had an edge over other boys. It was a frightening proposition to be in charge of creating life, and so easily. I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to piss on Leanne (my first girlfriend). I mean, we hadn’t even kissed.

The three of us played down on the mud flats, over the oyster beds. Prodding the silt with bamboo canes, digging for slippery gold. Throwing huge globs of clay at each other. Laughing. We were pretty much the Kings of the Primary school. No-one could outrun me at sports, or outswim me. And me and Jack would fight anyone, even each other, until the sun set. We became blood brothers – cutting each other’s hand with a blunt penknife and holding the two tiny cuts together while saying some gibberish about growing up and becoming men. Being bonded. Fighting forever.

We moved before my cut had healed. Before I really had time to say goodbye. Up to the North. Two hundred miles away. No friends.

 

Child, Summer, Safety, Shit.

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The stone staircase was grand. Probably would have been grander before they’d knocked down the huge house which must have stood on the slight rise above. There was no sign of exactly where. The staircase was blackened but hardly worn. I wondered if it and the house had been in use for long. If ladies in long dresses drifted up and down them to the lake below. If martinis and tennis whites painted the backdrop to talk about the war. Money. Privilege. Oxbridge accents, eventual death and decay. I guess even some of the super rich can’t remain wealthy, or alive, forever. The grounds were now a caravan site managed by my grandparents. You could pull up, plug into blue electricity points, and settle down on fold-away chairs under the canopy of Yew trees. Then next morning empty containers of shit into a chemical disposal slurry pit. Bright purple chemicals, chlorine smell, happy faces of men wheeling barrels of human waste to the manhole cover, surrounded discreetly by a brick wall so nobody could see the lumps jigging out and down. Splashing satisfactorily below in the tank. My Grandfather would check the level, then ride off on his little red tractor to see if the shower blocks were clean. Sometimes people smeared shit on the walls in there. He’d sort it out without anger, just a quiet shrug, while I stood outside handing him a mop, or filling up the bucket with more water. I always wondered why someone would want to shit in the showers and wipe it around. I mean, the people who visited the site were mainly retired, enjoyed sitting idly watching the rabbits on the grass in the early evening, a drink or two, simple meal. They seemed normal. Staid, even. I tried to picture what drove someone to do something like that, but couldn’t. It was a secret and perverse crime. Okay, so I’d pissed out of a tree that time back on the island when a guy was walking his dog in the alleyway below, then ran through the folly laughing, but shit was a whole different level. My crime was out in the open. My victim knew who’d soiled him, saw my face, shouted in rage, and given chase. He lost, couldn’t catch me, but he knew I wasn’t a coward. I’d given him the sporting chance to make things right and settle the score. My crime was direct. Honest.

The main reason I liked the summers I spent down on the caravan site was the fact my parents hardly ever came with me – apart from my mother from time to time. My father would spend his summer break sailing with his friends, getting drunk, and finding someone or something else to rage at. Gritting his teeth, growling and screaming like an animal, fists pumping. For those glorious sunny weeks it wouldn’t be me on the end of it all. My Grandparents were kind, loving, and let me play out in the woods as much as I wanted. Although I was used to the freedom of roaming back on the island, and I did that as much as possible, it was a novelty to not be scared to come home when the light was fading. Nothing waiting for me other than a couple of warm smiles. No terror. Just talk about my day, my Grandfather telling me I could drive the tractor in the morning. An ordinary life I didn’t usually have access to. I’d always sleep well, waking in the morning without my heart in my mouth, listening to wood pigeons cooing in the trees. Safe.

 

Rich Indeed

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Jimi Hendrix choked to death on his own vomit. He was wealthy, but all that meant nothing when he was disappearing into some alpha hole he could never trip back from. Sleeping tablets and booze can do that to a guitar hero, or to you.

The wind is cold. My walking boots are failing me and wearing heavily. Prince George (is that his name? I’m not entirely sure I know for certain) has started at his first private school. Money is tight around here. The summer was a washout, tragic, really. The first shitty autumn storm came around two days ago – my birthday. Birthday… I’m forty four years old. I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t a hell of a do. Neither was the storm. I guess naming these things stops us from wondering why we never used to get them back in the days when lead was in petrol. And it is easier to believe an abstract weather entity with a name has some form of sentience than it is to admit to Climate Change. We really are that stupid. It’s been a long time since I’ve touched this keyboard. And if you can’t tell, then I can.

I started out with the intention of writing about the £4,000,000 spent in the past two years on the Duke and Duchessessess’ – whatever fucking antiquated bullshit name they’ve given themselves – home in London. I was going to spit bile about it, get worked up, and throw more tablets down my neck to stop me losing any sense of reality. I still might. I haven’t finished reading up on the renovation properly.

Shit….the place was ‘riddled with asbestos’, and had no running water. What the fuck has all the Royal income been used on over the years if the house where Prince Charles and the people’s Princess lived in wedded bliss had no running water? Where has the cash gone? Words like ‘Sensitive’ and ‘ordinary’ were used to describe the Cambridge’s views on the plush restoration of the massive house in the best part of London. They apparently paid for their own kitchen… William has no official income now he’s stopped his year or so of work – excepting the expenses for merely existing and carrying out his official engagements. Tahiti, or Stevenage? Tough choices. Oh, he receives roughly £350,000 a year from the £10,000,000 trust fund his mother left him and his playboy brother.

I can’t type any more. I can’t write any more. I’m barely managing to stay afloat today. This is a day for medication, music, and for forgetting my lowly birth.

I’m starting a DBT Advanced Group next month. My CPN is due in the morning. I don’t pay for either. I am rich indeed.

The Wedding

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It was dark on the manicured lawn. No lights, other than the shitty disco colours through cracks in the curtains a hundred feet away on the other side of a sand bunker and a small car park. Muffled music ran like thick sludge from the doors to the hole in the grass with a flag in it where I was standing. I was looking up at the stars in my hired three piece suit. The July night was clear and warm but there was an ominous feeling, like I was committing a murder, or had just felt a sudden strong gust of wind on a cliff edge. I didn’t want to go back inside. About a hundred people were sitting looking bored, or had drunk too much and decided to dance. People weren’t talking to each other. Nobody looked interested in anything other than getting the fuck out of there and back home. I was no different. I lay down on the grass, wondering how long it’d take before someone realised the groom had gone. If it mattered?

A friend of mine had driven from Leeds but was sitting in his car smoking weed. I could smell it from the eighteenth green, lush and fragrant, like a last note of many years of fantastic music. There’d be no more of that kind of thing for me. At 27 I was already so deeply into normal life anyhow that whomever I used to be had been kicked to death. And I was having my wedding reception at a Golf Club…..a fucking Golf Club….! The shitty, dull, grind of nothingness was already weighing heavily. What sort of robot had I become? Somehow I’d got with a woman so incompatible that the days lasted forever and the nights couldn’t come soon enough just so I could go to sleep and waste the hours. Inside the Golf Club hall she was sitting talking to her sister, laughing. The wedding dress was cutting into her armpits but she kept it on. It was her day.

I got up and walked slowly back inside. Shitty music now, booming. Alternate blue/green/red light illuminated faces all staring into space or down at the plates of food from the £1,000 evening buffet. I hadn’t eaten any of it. I waited at the bar to be served. Somehow I’d have to get through the honeymoon. How? I couldn’t bear to think about it. I drank the lager quickly and ordered another, which didn’t taste as bad as the first, but couldn’t have lifted the mood even if it had been laudanum.

That night, in the bridal suite, I saw someone had smeared lipstick on the mirror. Some bawdy bullshit about screwing my new bride. There was a penis shaped balloon tied to the bed. We undressed. She folded the wedding dress carefully. I chucked the suit on a chair and climbed into bed. She got in beside me. ‘Did you enjoy the wedding,’ I asked.

‘It was wonderful,’ she replied.

‘I’m very tired.’

‘Shouldn’t we….’

‘Maybe in the morning. That okay with you?’

Silence.

I slept well. Avoided any physical contact in the morning. Ate breakfast. Drove to the airport. We didn’t even have sex on the honeymoon. I managed to dodge it by saying I felt poorly, hungover, sunburned, headache, stomach ache, tired, and spent the week drinking, walking around in a daze, avoiding thinking about marrying the wrong person. Feeling like a rat trapped in a barrel. No chance of escape.

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?