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Bad movies and martial arts; that's where the blame lies. The former make violence look sharp and clean, in spite of all the party blood and slashed plastic. The latter turn violence into an apache dance; all posturing and STEP BLOCK LOCK TURN BEND WHEEEE over he goes, get down and cuddle him until he pats the floor or passes out. The occasional burns, snaps and bruises fool you into thinking it's sorta real. Mistake. Real is a dry mouth or a total surprise. Real is quick and upsetting or slow and humiliating. Don't play with this stuff. It's dirty.
Patsy Pro-Lifer knows it was right to nuke a whole bunch of innocent foetuses in Hiroshima. Katie Christian says "Thou
Kill" if "thou" is the state and the killed is a killer. Jesus came back and retold the parable of the Good Samaritan only this time he made it the Good Homosexual, so Gary Godhatesfags and the boys put him straight and Christ don't come around here no more. Then they put Buddha on a step machine, arse-searched Mohammed at the airport and cast Ganesh in a Broadway starring role that might have been written just for him.
Revenge has to be considered. You must decide whether the net result of vengeance will be an improvement in your situation or not. If it will make your life more precarious or painful, leave it. If it will make things better, go for it. He knocked me down in public; I followed him to a quiet street and whacked him hard in the face with a chair leg. His mouth split like a tomato. He spat out a couple of jagged white pips. I stared hard at him, said nothing. He never came near me again, so it was right.
"Come on. Spell it out. What do you really want? Don't censor yourself. What would it take to cheer you up?"
"Sure you do. But OK, let me tell you what you want. You want love, sex, companionship, adequate means, a decent home and satisfactory interactions with other people. You probably want kids at some point too, even though you're not entirely sure why. You get depressed because one or more of these desires is being frustrated and you don't know what to do about it."
"It isn't that simple."
"I know. But that's 90% of it. Really."
A box of kittens on the corner of North Seventh and Bedford. "Free Kittens", says the sign (I wish I could, but I can't). A small group oohs and aahs over the five furry bodies and of course, we join them. You pick one up and its limp little body droops in your hand then relaxes into your chest, closing its eyes. I know that feeling. We wish we could take one home. We know we can't.
Their eyes have such uncomplicated beauty, like semi-precious stones. All the kittens in the world. All those scattered gems and scraps of velvet.
Everything is Babel. Work, music, books, the things people say to me. I don't understand much of anything anymore. I don't have a clue what I'm doing at work. I don't understand the mail I receive. I don't understand advertisements. It's really getting to me. I feel tearful and frustrated. People explain things to me and still I don't understand. What is happening? Could it really be premature senility? Almost nothing goes in and the little that does fades away almost instantly. Has something happened to the world that has taken it beyond me, or have I simply become stupid?
I can understand how insomnia could drive someone to suicide. Good sleep provides one thing above all: respite. Sanctuary. A healing stretch of time in which nothing happens and we don't have to think, don't have to act, don't have to feel. Losing that is bad enough when one's waking moments are tolerably stress-free. Losing it when they are miserable is relentless living hell. You can't go on like that. You can't go on like that. And then you can't go on. And then you can only think of one way to gain that respite, that sanctuary. That nirvana.
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Idiot man-child vein and brain degrading, heart like an eel, gut like a long-rusted hawser, clutch at lust like a lost boy, sad act, the last bang at the big bonfire. Fire of belief and cool philosophy lost in a scrabbling madness of lust and dreaming. Think maybe I could do that, this, the other; know it's not so. Even now, at odds. Me and it. Two tandem jumpers on the video show; candled canopy; jellyfish in a wind tunnel and the student doesn't know she's spinning to her death. I am the teacher.
A ragged, stained bedsheet lay under the assorted savouries. In one corner an old wine stain, in another, a fresh one. Jim, Matt and Sim lay back in post-picnic lethargy. You sat reading your Angela Carter. Your bare left leg was visible from upper thigh to toe. As I stared you breathed deeply, ran your left hand slowly across your calf, under your heel and to your toes, which you cupped in your hand and then flexed backwards, the sole of your foot a taut arc. You caught my stare, smiled. You turned back to your book, still smiling.
Later, I felt like an invader, a rapist too insignificant to fear. Later, my orgasms became sick, bitter things and yours became memories. Later, only darkness and the gentle protestations of fatigue spared our blushes and our pain. So I stopped; we stopped. We lived like old people; sex extinct, although we still tried to fool ourselves that it was only dormant.
The taste of you used to make the world shake, I remember you purring with pleasure as you took me in your mouth. Later, we became old with dissatisfaction. Later, your eyes held nothing and mine only tears.
And he was supposed to be my best friend but now he advanced upon me with junior violence in his eyes.
"You're yellow, ain'tcha? You're think you're so fucking smart but when it comes to it, you got a yellow streak a mile wide. Ain'tcha?"
You don't want this. You feel fear, sure, and anger, certainly, but mostly embarrassment. You're embarrassed for him and for yourself. You want to reach out, pat his shoulder, say
"Mart. Let's not. Let's not do this, eh? Not us, mate."
But you don't. The rules of the school. You let him have his moment.
She had very striking looks. Not classically pretty, but with the sort of appearance that someone like me would notice, someone who likes to look beneath surfaces. She could flicker between ungainly and attractive. There was something in her eyes I really, really liked. A vulnerability, a mischievous twinkle, a softness. She could look dull and sour and then just change the angle of her face by a barely perceptible degree and some amazing, heart-melting transformation would take place. Watching her could be like staring at one of those optical illusions that look first like one thing, then another.
Oh, they were hitting it off, big time. A couple of beers and they were clearly going to fuck each other's brains out. Chemistry, connection, the happy coincidence of types, a regular pheromone cocktail, all that stuff was going off like fireworks. She leaned into him, touched his cheek with a mouth-moistened finger.
"It's crazy. Sex is the most amazing feeling in the world so why do so many of us make it so hard to get?"
He was the happiest man on the planet. Later, he looked anywhere but at her as he failed to get it up.
All boarded-up and broken down now, my old junior school. I peer through the railings. The old red brick walls still stand. Entrances still have the words "BOYS" and "GIRLS" carved into the stone architraves. The outside toilets are long gone but the playground looks the same. I can no longer really feel that I was there. Four years of my life. I remember incidents and emotions but only as if I had read about them in a novel. Some dreary little northern kitchen-sink drama; chalk dust and headlice and casual misery. Probably written by John Braine or Alan Bleasdale.
The last time I took acid it started with phantom panpipe music. Then tight, regular spiral patterns appeared in the wallpaper, the whorlpaper. The fringestrings on the lampshade began to flick like snakes tongues, they crackled with green static. I stood naked in front of the mirror and made my face elongate and turn the colour of coalfires. Devil horns grew from my forehead. I looked strong. I felt invincible. Next morning I felt like my consciousness was dislocated and elsewhere, like something was broken in my head. The acid didn't cause it, it just made it impossible to ignore.
"For a socialist, you show remarkable intolerance of bad American films."
I paused in mid-mouthful and looked at her over the rim of my glass.
"That's... an interesting remark. I wonder what it means."
"It means that perhaps someone who argues so passionately that even the poorest, least capable members of society should be provided for ought to consider that such films provide a service for the intellectually and emotionally impoverished."
"Service? Those films help to keep those people impoverished!"
"And we conservatives say the same thing about socialist welfare programs."
I wished I didn't fancy her so much.
I'm a sick perve."
He was trying to look furtive but I could see the amusement.
"I've gone full circle, pornwise. Remember when a glimpse of the pink was about as wonderful as it could get? Then we found the full sex mags, oral, gangbang... and with the internet, Christ. You can always go further out there. I became this perma-jaded filth hound. But yesterday I found a site which just had pictures of clothed women showing long, bare legs. I wanked myself raw, man."
We laughed and returned to gazing at the short-skirted woman at the bar.
I could do it. If I cashed in my various mysterious savings schemes I could probably raise a year's salary; maybe more, I don't know, I don't keep track. Then I could get out, get off the wheel. And maybe I would work out what I need. Or maybe I would just fritter away time and the money and end up poor and hopeless. Maybe I would, finally, write. Maybe I would write a tale of a man who walked down to the beach of his childhood and went naked into the cold brown sea and was never seen again.
My fortunate generation. No wars to be fought. The beginnings of the age of leisure. Travel. Disposable income. Punk rock at just the right age; the last really earth-shaking musical cataclysm for angry white kids. Post sexual revolution and no need for condoms: oh god that was the best, no need for condoms. Let those fluids fly and mingle.
They have much more
today, but so much less. Adrift on a sea of bland mediocrity; driving wide, well-trodden roads on supersafe retreads. TV glossymag internet cellphone digital everything. Zeros and ones, separated by a thin latex membrane.
The old dog we saw was definitely showing his age with his stiff gait and tired expression. He walked slowly and when he lay down it was with a slump of visible relief. You mentioned that he had once been an excitable puppy. I acknowledged this and mused on the fact that I preferred him now.
Snapped tendons, hiatus hernias, exploratory operations, mysterious bruises and an insistent morning cough, which is starting to sound like a sinister warning bell, tolling faintly through the grey mist.
I prefer him now and it makes my sadness at his decline hurt like grieving.
So do not freeze my old flesh in some vain (in both senses of the word) hope of future resurrection. I will not take Pascal’s wager, either with god or technology. I am not so enamoured with life that I would seek to extend it beyond the natural limit available to me. I am braver than that and insufficiently precious (again, in both senses of the word). This is my body: take, use. Do this not in remembrance of me but as an act of practical rationality. Burn or plough the chaff. No epitaph, no tomb, no resurrection. Only ascension.
I can see it all playing out, in my head. He’d be drunk, of course. Properly drunk, none of this slightly slurred shit-talking drunk. No, his mechanism would be pretty well shot. There’d be piss on his pants. Naturally, someone would take exception. It wouldn’t take much. Just the look of him is enough, for the right type of guy. There’d be words. Threats. Then he’d lurch to his feet and say,
“Yeah? You’ll do what? Like this? LIKE THIS?”
Then he’d do it, head through the glass, blissful, let it all go. Born again in blood and piss.
Guns, God and Greed. The three worst things about America. The third just makes me feel distaste; the first two, disgust. When I listen to the defenders of America’s gun culture talking, when I see the truly astonishing daily evidence of the terrifying depth and breadth of religious belief in the USA, it’s like suddenly turning a corner and finding myself in a third world country. These huge, monstrous blind spots. This mule-headed reluctance to evolve. Those things are bad enough, but I think it’s the square-jawed
they take in them which gets to me the most.
Cant, class and conservatism. The three worst things about England. Back there I move in a small circle of people who are the closest thing to classlessness I can imagine. We come from mixed-class backgrounds. We drink in working-class dives and high-class restaurants. We are a minority. We sit in these places and listen to the whining of the class-entrenched and the hopeless, desiccated, instinctive conservatism of the great bullshitting British bulldog. And occasionally we lose it and endanger ourselves. Surly interactions may occur, but more typically we self-anaesthetise with ritual pleasures. Very British, that.
The lake was cool but without the jagged chill of the sea at Sand Beach. I dived and swam underwater, opened my eyes and looked back at silver spit-trails of bubbles strung along my body like jellyfish tentacles. The water was green with life. Weed fronds and algae; big-headed bullfrog tadpoles; flies (dragon and horse); dogs and nude sunbathers.
Later, I sat watching as Nora emerged dripping from the water, reaching up to arrange her hair, touchingly aware of her new body. I looked down at my old one, smiling. In some brief moments, I’m OK, it’s OK.
We seek values and meanings which we know aren’t there, if we’re honest. But it’s hard to be honest about this, our everything. We so need it to matter. We so need to believe life’s grain of sand is important, somehow, even within the unimaginable reaches of this infinite desert. We so need it that we will turn off our judgement, blinker our eyes, block our ears, anything to shield our fragile little sparks against the chill cosmic wind.
We will never improve until we find the courage to stand exposed, unprotected by cosy myth, free at last.
I walk naked into the street, carrying my gun, my system crack-buzzing; my brain filled with lazy, snuffporn-fired images of infant rape. A car approaches. I note the attractiveness of the young female child in the back seat, take careful aim and plug daddy driver in the face. The car veers into a lamppost with a satisfying thump and a spray of glass. I drag the girl from the wreck and fuck her while she’s still unconscious. Damn, it feels good. I run, before the vigilantes come. I live in a
free society. Vive la liberté, motherfuckers.
Do you really rejoice in the death of another human being? Even an evil, dangerous one? Don’t you think it’s sad that it came to it – that someone had to die? Even if his death saved the lives of others? Don’t you think it would have been better if the situation hadn’t even arisen or if it could have been avoided without snuffing a light?
I would have assassinated Hitler without hesitation and been glad that my action would probably have spared the lives of many innocent people. But I would never feel
about killing, no matter how justified.
There is a sharp sense of precariousness about it all which in other circumstances might have pleased me. Too much stability is boring, but too little… is nerve-wracking.
There is a continuing sense of dreamlike unreality about 36th floor midtown apartments and upgrades to first class and a near-doubling of salary and expensive restaurants several times a week and cabs whenever I feel like it and all of it could collapse in an instant or in a variety of painfully protracted ways.
I’m not flying, I’m windblown. Some of us are in the stars, looking at the gutter.
12:30. Jesus, that must have been – what – an hour? Feel rough. Headache. The new AC is quieter. I’m naked, uncovered. Decent temperature, considering the stifling day.
1:40. Shit. At least it’s still early. Almost five hours, yet. Am I too cold? No, my hair is damp with sweat. Body cold, head hot. Hothead. Jesus.
2:30. Oh, great. That was worth it.
3:30. Is this a rhythm now? Hourly? How nice to be regular. Cold now. Under the sheet.
4:25. Bad dream. Headache. Cold.
5:30. Too depressing.
5:50. You’re stirring.
6:27. Up. Sit. Hold head. Shower.
Please kill me.
No-one remembers anything about my great-great-great-grandparents. They are gone, all traces faded. They might as well never have existed. They came, worked, loved, spawned, suffered, died and were forgotten for eternity. Even Shakespeare and Plato will go, eventually. Even Jesus Christ. Do you doubt it? Then you are not thinking.
It will take only three generations at most, with me: more likely two. If I must affect the trace, at least I can keep the disturbance to a minimum. A blip on the readout that one could easily dismiss as mere signal noise. Did you see it?
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