REPORT A PROBLEM
Yesterday my car was stolen. Today I am in an airport cafe drinking barely acceptable coffee. There is a young girl sitting with friends at a nearby table. She is startlingly beautiful until she opens her beautiful mouth, which pours out a torrent of braying ignorance and commonness. There is a sickeningly sweet smell of cookies and apples. Your flight is forty minutes early. Why do so many women pluck their eyebrows so brutally? They look like they've been in a gas explosion. Your flight's expected arrival has just slipped by sixteen minutes. Jesus, I abhor mobiles. Hurry up, UA956.
I'm reading Andie Miller. I'm struck by how alien her writing makes me feel. Don't get me wrong; she writes well, but.... this apparent need to comment on 'coloured' people, on the interaction of the white South African with 'coloureds'. It interests me. They fascinate me, these glimpses of a world where racial difference is such a big deal. We Brits don't say 'coloured'. It's regarded as patronising. We say black, if we say anything. And if we do it's for reasons of simple practicality. It doesn't
Is this bad form here? To pass comment on someone else's writing?
Stupid. Stupid fucking cuntbubbles. Ignorant, ill-educated, motherfucking ratfelchers. Dirty little pondscum parasites oozing suppurating arsefilth over my eyes; assaulting my ears with the infinite pestilential swill which geysers out of their shit-filled gobs; befouling my world with their horrible squawking voices, their nasty little gadgets, their piss-witted attitudes and their toxic, retrograde beliefs. Look at that fuckhead with a faceful of shrapnel. That unutterable CUNT thinks he's cool! He thinks he's a rebel! A non-conformist! Can you believe that? Just give me him, an empty room, and five minutes without a conscience. That's all I ask.
Christ, it should be illegal, the way we fuck. It feels like a blasphemy against the natural order of things, the intensity of our sex. Aren't we supposed to be slowing down, love? Aren't we supposed to be running out and running dry? Aren't you supposed to be menopausing whilst I make excuses for not getting it up? So what is this heartpounding, pulseracing, headspinning, soulcrashing perfection? Where is it from? We've both been there so many times before, so why is it we've never been
Alone again. You are in my blood, literally. I'm still drunk with you.
The ceiling crack has been there since I moved in over twelve years ago. I have no idea how to fix it so it stays until the ceiling falls. I spent fortunes on repairs to my old car because I couldn't do them myself and I couldn't afford a new one. The car has been stolen; now I have a four-hour commute. My job is beyond me and so is learning what I'd need to know in order for it not to be beyond me. We're still apart. My hands shake a lot, these days.
A life of impotence.
He lies on his back, eyes open, calculating how long it's been since they last... why is it so hard to talk about this? He knows. It is because to do so would be to permanently scar. If the problem remains unspoken it may pass, and then no tremors are seen in the mirage of love's perfection. But voiced is admitted and admitted is damaged. And then, every time they make love they are thinking...
"Does s/he really want this? Or is s/he trying - even in part - to 'deal with our problem'?"
She begins to snore, softly.
I can't sleep properly so I get up early and I'm at work by 7:00 and because of this I get ridiculously sleepy in the afternoon so I need coffee but I shouldn't drink coffee because it aggravates my chest so I remain sleepy and travel home in slump-shouldered exhaustion then I eat and bathe and try try try to stay awake so I can chat to Ann but I'm so damned shattered I almost fall asleep online so I have to go to bed where I can't sleep properly and I am in some minor circle of hell.
It's harder to take in with him seeming such a shallow man, I suppose. This old boy: never happier than when sitting alone in his tidy garden, smoking his pipe and reading a formulaic, undemanding war novel. His benign features never arranged themselves into anything remotely threatening or passionate. He laughed and smiled, but mostly he just... existed. He drifted through life's doldrums and tempests like a simple-minded deckhand. No Ahab, he.
So I understand the dull shock in her voice when she tells me she found him silently weeping. He said, "There's no point to me, is there?"
He leant his bike against the concave curve which ran along the top of the sea wall like a breaking concrete wave. He came here whenever it had been bad at school. The stars and the rhythmic crash of water helped him to calm down, and there was no-one around to see the tears. When the worst of his misery and self-loathing had abated he glanced down at the water and noticed the bottle bobbing at the foot of the sloping wall. He carefully climbed down, fished it out and read the note inside.
"Help is on its way."
Invisible force animates the television set. Movement and sound flow; expressing the most subtle of emotions, profundities, vacuities, laughter, love, violence, sex... a tiny, intense universe. Circuits hum with the signals. The signals carry wonder through wires, components, gas molecules. Animation in a dead thing, an illusion of soul. We are entranced. Or bored. Or disgusted. Or moved. A circuit blows, or we hit the 'off' switch... and what is there now? Metal and plastic. Where did it go, all that enchantment, all that meaning? Where is it? In TV heaven? TV hell?
The afterlife. What pitifully transparent human nonsense.
Sometimes there is only this: sitting at a table, in a room, alone, considering aloneness. Not loneliness - aloneness. Sometimes it is not depression, it is not despair, it is not grief or any of the other grubby little dissatisfactions, it is this infinite awareness of how separate it all is; we all are. Alone.
My head throbs and buzzes with love and melancholy and regret and there you are, a world away. You and everything. I fill the glass: sip, taste... stare at a picture from another life; a ghost.
I loved, I hated, I love... I am.
I won't pretend it made me sad. It was just a car. As I retrieved the few personal items they hadn't taken I found myself reviewing the years. Bought it with the ex-wife, had it stolen, got it back, made innumerable journeys the length and breadth of the UK, dutiful in-law runs to Bath, cosy Highland hotels, a road trip to that idyllic gite in the south of France...
...and your airport car service.
Rain-drenched seats, dashboard ripped out... I sort of half-patted the door as I slammed it shut for the last time. So long, faithful wreck.
I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.
A fine epitaph and you'd probably
to be dead too before you could make those claims. The dour, stern males in Kazantzakis' books believed it and tried to live it, and I have long found the idea attractive. I even have it in Greek on an old T-shirt. It's like a challenge. Not to others; to myself. Something in me finds the stark, courageous truth at the heart of that statement deeply noble.
I hope to get closer to it. It scares me that I feel that way....
This one's true.
One might say my sense of proportion had gone. A week earlier she'd walked out after ten years, completely unexpectedly. Shock, then grief, then...
... all within a week. What was "this"? This was discovering they worked together. This was calling in sick, driving to the car park opposite their workplace and staking it out, camera ready, intending to obtain incriminating shots. Shots that would also deliver a coup de grace to this condemned love.
The police turned up after four hours. I told them the truth. They told me to go home and wished me luck.
Travel light. No jewellery, no expensive clothing. Cut all frippery and fol-de-rol. Keep it spare and functional. Head up, eyes level, take big, positive strides. Stay fit. Know how to defend yourself, or at least look as though you know. Be unafraid by refusing to be afraid. Keep it in perspective. Fuck the news, fuck the urban myths, you own this town. This city is yours. Never forget it and never, ever doubt it. And if it comes to it, do it. Bite it in the face. Rip its fucking spine out. This ain't the fucking sticks, man. We rule.
1974. Three years in an all-boys grammar school had been followed by an uneasy merger with the adjacent comprehensive. An underdeveloped runt was accosted by a girl.
"Hey kid, how old are you?"
(Good God... a
She laughed incredulously.
"Christ, you look about
2002. A grown man, lost in thought, walked onto the platform behind three chattering schoolgirls. One turned, looked at him and stage-whispered to her friends:
"scary man behind!"
They used to find him laughable, now he's "scary".
It seems rather pathetic that I still feel it at all.
More schoolgirls. This time an incredibly rowdy group on the Croydon to Streatham train. They'd give St. Trinian's nightmares. Really.
"I dahn't like 'er."
"I just dahn't. She's a fackin' slag. I'm gonna beat her so bad."
"She's Asian, in't she?"
"Dahn't be fackin' stoopid! She's
"Well... Indian's Asian, innit?"
"Fack off! Dahn't be so fackin' stoopid! She's
, not Asian!"
"Yebbut...India's in Asia, innit?"
"Fack off! S'like being Scottish or summat, innit? Scotland's in Bri'ain but you don't call Scots
, do ya? Narmean? Fackin' stoopid!"
"I'm gonna fackin beat her so bad. Narmean?"
I don't sleep well, of
I have dreams of impotence when I do. This limbo state is the eye of a storm I can no longer keep pace with. I'm starting to lag and the wind's picking up fast. There's the brutal physical distance between us. There's the work thing; I've mentioned that already. There's the bodily decline, the sense of incipient decrepitude. There's the stifled creativity. Write? Riiight. What's the problem there? Laziness? The old lack of confidence? No and maybe. But something else too. What is it? A stalled life and the edge of panic.
The plastic bag had washed up against a submerged piece of junk. The very top of it protruded slightly above the surface. Bin liners in canals don't usually make noises so he clambered down and hooked it out. It was heavy with grimy, cold bodies, curled together like newborns. But one still moved, and cried, and glared at him with terrified outrage. Weeks of careful pampering followed and she was ours for nine years, then mine for one, until I found her, stretched and cold on the carpet. She had a look of terrified outrage, which I buried with her.
Words like strokes of a brush or strokes of the whip; tight-lipped, mean little phrases; sentences fashioned like drill bits and depth charges; mad-eyed prose and shrapnel language. Paragraphs under pressure, white-knuckle narrative, heart-stabbing fragments, veins pulsing on and off the page. Coiled snakes and knotted worms between the covers; a skull full of cracked knuckles, spitting blood and bombsite teeth. They're in there like angry hornets, shut up, put your fingers in your ears and shut your mouth, SHUT IT; cylinder head, piston heart, wait for the spark, WAIT FOR IT. You must compose yourself.
Is it hearing that story for the twentieth time? Is it that each time he tells it he changes little details and so you realise it's bullshit? That he doesn't even have the wit to keep his precious stories straight? Is it having to sit through him delivering that pet rant yet again? Is it because those words which used to seem so thrillingly impassioned now seem like a tired old street-loony harangue? Is it that these days all his kisses taste of is stale beer? Or is it that he can't even see from your eyes it's over?
True love waits? You're ridiculous, child. You stunt yourself more cruelly than those wicked friends of yours with their cigarettes and alcohol. You're the sad product of the new puritanism, a craven repression of sensuality borne of timidity, superstition and the retrograde forces of thin-blooded flesh haters. sXe instead of Sex. Stay clean. Is it safe? What would people think? I pity you. Soft, precious little thing, all knotted up inside and you probably don't even know it.
Skin, lust, sweat, scratches, bruises, letting go and coming so hard you think you may die. Poor you. You know nothing.
Alcohol is a sort of cerebral laxative. We have these carefully defined pathways in our minds. We think along those lines like walking the familiar route to work, to school, to bed. Some live out whole lives never straying from the ant tracks. Alcohol loosens shit up and boom, a couple of neurons get sleepy and the juice has to find another way and there it is, lightning strikes across dead grey matter paving slabs and you're in another place where moonlight angles in through a smashed skylight and shadows are long and scary and still you laugh and play.
Balancing. Keeping that centre of gravity above the wire, the chalk line on the pavement. A paen to alcohol is all very well but there's a balance to be struck. Impairment to be weighed against release. I'm not as quick as I used to be. Some of that is age. But some is damage I've willingly done to myself, sleepy neurons which never woke up or which woke up stroke-stricken and stymied. I had a skin too few. I needed to numb down but not dumb down. Had I been less intelligent then would I be more intelligent now?
I have another car and it has made me absurdly happy, just for today. I am capable of huge, boisterous, effervescent happiness but only for relatively short periods of time. The car is old but in wonderful condition because it has spent much of its life garaged and unused. It is shiny and clean and new-looking and it drives like a dream. So now I have something else to worry about. I have to care about it, a bit, for a little while.
There is pain involved in having good things in your life.
That's better. I'm depressed again.
Days this hard fell me, step on my neck and make me recite the litany:
ambitionless. I have never wanted to do anything, particularly. Tolerable pain is my only life goal.
There is artistry in my soul but it is stunted. I can write, but only within limited parameters. I am a hack guitarist, playing with a flat-footed jog, too lazy and giftless to fly.
I have never wanted to reproduce; a vasectomy has ensured I never will. These blighted, miserable genes will die with me and I'm glad of it. That's something. I hold that to my heart.
Mark had red-green colour blindness. I wasn't sure whether this meant that his perception of green was equivalent to my perception of red or whether it had more to do with a sort of visual equivalent of dyslexia (dysphotia?). Somehow I had the strong suspicion it would take more than wearing coloured filters over my eyes to see the world through his.
I sometimes wonder if ideological differences are rooted in physical ones. The older I get, the more I feel it's simply hopeless trying to understand you.
I think I'm right. You think you are. This is war.
I wanted to finish the month on an upbeat note, but I find I can't do it. I have nothing to say today. All I'm feeling is the water torture of days and weeks and months and years. Another day where it didn't happen. Another day we weren't together. Another day where nothing useful took place. Another day of physical and mental decline. Another day trying to keep the beast chained up. Another day faking it. Relentless. Grinding. Hands still shake, nightmares punctuated by wakefulness, every night. All the time. Another abrasive little grain of sand falls through the hourglass.
The Tip Jar