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My father was born on May 1st. He died just over 69 years later after falling from a bicycle and breaking his neck. My father was an alcoholic, from a line of alcoholics. The decades before he died appear to have consisted of a routine of, one raw egg followed by morning cider after the army instilled habit of showering and shaving, then a daytime sojourn at a bar. At some point, he must have tired of the walk and so borrowed a bicycle so as to speed things along. One young man from the pub came to his funeral
She had started to believe that maybe there was hope. Just an irregular, faint gleaming that twinkled through the everyday beige of her life. Beige is not an unpleasant colour. She had a good life. With accomplishments aplenty, both personally and professionally, she felt secure and satisfied with who she was. Wanting something more though had made her feel, not needy, but certainly as if something was missing. Fun, was the easiest way she could describe it to her friends but fun would only temporarily fill the vague emptiness that she felt. And now she had allowed herself to hope.
A thin, old woman appeared by their table in the fast food restaurant. The woman stared into the man's eyes and said, “Let Jesus into your heart and he will envelop you with his love”. The man shook his head, stared back at the woman. If you do not open your heart to The Lord, there will be no eternity in heaven. There will be only hell and there you shall languish amongst the flames. The man shook his head again, hardened his stare and watched the flustered woman move away. I do not believe what you believe, he thought.
He stopped to watch the moisture run on the black skin of a the girl he was embracing. It was a memory he tried to file away while still gazing upon the reality of it happening. It was amongst the most beautiful things he had experienced. There was more to what he has feeling than simply observation, of course. He certainly wanted to remember this. He’d never been one for choosing girls of simply for how exotic they happened to be. People, he actually found interesting, when they weren’t excruciatingly dull or attempting to fulfill some formula to appear successful.
With madness as with vomit, it is the passer-by who is most inconvenienced. Joe Orton phrased it something like that. The nice, quiet girl he'd been seeing had left him 48 messages during the night. In the morning, he told her, 48 is too many. You must stop now. She apologised for disturbing him. It was only later he realised that there was more than one interpretation of disturbing. He didn’t mind buses being late or snow falling when he had planned to cycle. These were just things that happened. On a personal level though, he absolutely loathed being inconvenienced.
My daughter asked if she could play with the thing in the box. Which box? The box with the thing… with her fingers she mimed typing. I dug out my old Smith-Corona typewriter from the back of a wardrobe, opened its box then showed my girls how to insert a sheet of paper. They clicked away on it for hours, writing one or two lines and then little stories. I realised how much I had missed the sound of a typewriter. I miss the more physical aspects of writing: the approach to the machine with intent, the realness of it.
There was a blues band playing in the bar. At the table next to him and his colleagues, sat a pretty young girl and a woman closer to his own age.
On the prompting of his colleague, he initiated a conversation with the women. They talked about the singer and how good she was.
They talked about his foreignness and her genealogy. Her family was originally from Southern Europe.
He said goodbye and shook her hand. She followed him outside and asked if they could meet again.
Decades later, he remembered watching his semen land on her stomach.
A girl on a paddle board floated by the dock. Blonde haired and in a wetsuit, she looked beautiful and serene.
He had gone there to fish, not really fish but cast. It was a simple, meditative task that he found relaxing. He had started going to the dock earlier that summer. On his first cast, he had caught a carp as long as his forearm. Nothing since. One day he had met an old man, who had said that he caught his dinner several times a week during the summer.
The girl on the paddle board floated silently away.
Tina Charles is my youngest daughter's current musical obsession. The tracks, I love to love and Dance Little Lady dance seem to have especially hit home with her. She listens to music in the shower. Sometimes staying in there for up to an hour. That’s an hour of assorted disco, friends.
Her friend’s mother danced to I love to love whilst making dinner for her family and my daughter one night. I think that she thought this was a good way to be. The scene certainly rang a bell, much in the way that Anita Ward would have recommended.
Some people are just exceptionally good at what they do.
Mainframe computing, for example, does not suggest sexy to many. The people who are specialists in this, or indeed any area, come up with solutions that make things easier for everyone. They also generally, and kindly, understand that not everyone knows what they know.
Recently, and with minimal understanding but intuited conviction, I felt obliged to present one of these solutions to a customer. This initially caused a great deal of confusion, which turned to glee when basic understanding sank in.
These milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard.
All those soldiers died.
People can be made to believe in causes that that they don't understand. Unworthy causes too. If you use people as a means to your own end, being the cause that you believe in, what does that make you? A manipulator? A dictator? Or just someone that understands how power can be acquired and validated through self-promotion? Yes, there are historical parallels but are the methods used similar, or is this a new phenomenon? People will be led. People want to be led. People learn quickly though. People are not stupid.
All those soldiers are dying.
There were fond memories connected to the dress she'd worn. She picked it off the floor, crushed it to her face and sniffed in deeply. OK, she thought, and dropped it over her head. Green. It was her second favourite colour.
Her underwear lay at the bottom of the bed. She plucked them up and shoved them into her bag - it was warm out. A smile tightened her face as she thought of the air moving under her dress while she walked. She bent and placed the softest of kisses on the stomach of the sleeping man.
Adam and the Ants, I told the girl, they were very popular in the 80’s. The track we were listening to was The Human Beings, which has lists of American Indian tribes as part of its lyrics. I’ve always liked its romantic ideas of purity but can also imagine that these would lead to a racist outlook. The girl was from another culture, she had never heard of Adam, with or without his ants.
Days later, she put on a playlist whilst she cleaned her apartment. I like to picture her vacuuming to Antmusic.
I took it as a compliment.
The road home felt as if it led to one of the city’s higher points. There were as many big climbs as fast descents. Such a steep decline come before the worst hill; it’s not the longest or the steepest but it is convex. The ramp that bumps down from cycle lane to road and the following swing to the left robs the bike of its acquired speed. A steep incline and a similar ramp back onto the cycle lane necessitate a rapid change down through the gears. It’s best to be on the second cog of the front derailleur.
Memory makes up such a large part of a personality. All those experiences, feelings and emotional or physical responses to happenings in one's past form the way we feel about ourselves. The hardships that were once endured or overcome have resulted in greater strength, ability or fortitude to face whatever life throws at us. Once it starts to slip though, we begin to change. The internal questioning becomes increasingly concentrated, and as self-confidence crumbles, a nagging worry sets in, – I’m not as sharp as I used to be, – I don’t know if I can do that, – I just don’t know.
- But why are you texting with the Chinese girl? She doesn’t seem nice.
- I was thinking about her naked, I said.
This was actually true but, there were other reasons I had been thinking about her. She is a good person. Apparently centered, although possibly somewhat unbalanced, maybe due to mystical hormonal fluctuations, and seemed generally content when we were together. I appeared to make her happy. It feels good to make somebody happy. Does she make me happy? Sometimes, I think. She is very caring. There is much to talk to talk about between her and me.
There used be an Englishman that lived upstairs. He and his girlfriend moved out about a year ago. In the next building from mine, lives a nice Englishwoman. The weather looked miserable this morning so I left my bike and took the bus. Something I regretted as it turned out to be a fine, sunny morning. The English lady, Liz, waved to me as I got on the bus. I sat beside her and we talked until I got off at my stop. It’s so good to chat in your mother tongue with people that have similar points of reference.
The emergency key was no longer where he had taped it. Tape remained on the backside of the pipe in the cellar but, there was no key-shaped bump to be felt. It's possible that someone had taken it, or that the tape had simply loosened to the extent where gravity had pulled the key free.
Not trusting his ex-wife, who was the closest person he knew that lived nearby, he had placed a key behind the pipe in case he ever lost his keys. It was his only extra. A convenient solution to a possible two in the morning problem.
At five every morning, the sound of barking dogs awakened him. The dogs were set off by the routine cry of the muezzin calling to prayers from a nearby mosque. The dogs’ bark and the wail from the minaret were layered in such a way the sound of one or the other was impossible to ignore.
The jet-lag during the early days of his stay made this a minor inconvenience; he was generally almost awake anyway, smoking on the balcony of his apartment, and watching the lightning flashes of the nightly storms strike down on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Kenny left school shortly after his 16th birthday. He left one day and on the next he was a soldier. It was all he had ever wanted to be. He was my first friend in a new town. We were young boys, both interested in military romanticism.
Much later, Ken, as he became known, became a military policeman. He married and Irish girl and took a law degree from the Open University and was given a commission. By the time of his tour of duty in Iraq, he held a captaincy and was heading to being a very young major.
His obituary filled an entire page of a national, broadsheet newspaper. As head of investigations into the alleged crimes of allied forces, this was fully deserved. At the time, I thought that my own death would likely be surmised within a single paragraph. Now, 10 years later, it’d be even less.
Ken hung himself in the room of his Basra barracks. A friend was the first to tell me this news. Thereafter, I read articles, army bulletin boards and newspapers online. His wife had released e-mails, which showed a man under a lot of pressure who was missing his family.
E is the most used vowel in English and French. And likely other languages. At least two novels have been written that exclude the letter. Lipogrammatic novels. Georges Perec, a French writer who appears to have been brilliant to the point of madness, wrote, La Disparition, without using an E. The book was translated into English as, A Void by Gilbert Adair, under the same constraint. Both are impressive tasks. Imposing restrictions on oneself as a writer has the purpose of making the mind work differently so as to liberate the thinking or even the subconscious to flow more freely.
My mother told a story tonight about the day she left my father. Apart from having my brother and I, their marriage had not been a happy one. My father took to drinking and beating his wife for whatever reasons a person does these things.
Her colleagues knew of her marriage troubles through seeing the imprints of fingers on her throat and bruises on her face.
‘Just take as much as you need,’ her boss had told her over the phone. ‘Write the amount on a note and put it with any remaining cash in the safe’.
A good man.
When my older brother was about six years old, he became a Liverpool fan. I, of course, was forced to become a supporter of their rivals, Manchester United.
Despite being die hard Liverpool to his core, my brother had never been see his team play.
As a fiftieth birthday present, I bought him tickets to a game at Anfield. It ended in goalless draw.
Similarly, I had not seen United play in all these years. By chance, they were playing in a final, which happened to be in city where I lived and, I was given a ticket.
This was her second son.
Both boys had been born bowlegged.
The labour and birth had weakened her yet here she was carrying the boy on the busy harbour ferry. The plaster coercing his legs straight made him heavy. A young Chinese man noticed her struggle and gently took the baby from her. He spoke to another passenger who gave up his seat to let the woman sit. The young man returned the child to its mother’s arms. He helped her to alight and find a taxi.
She came home to find her husband absent.
He was out playing cards.
Obviously, if one has found oneself considering it, things have already gone too far. Once finalised however, one
realizes that there is no obligation of any kind to the other person.
I told my ex-wife that she had no reason or justification for asking which language was spoken during my lovemaking with the woman to whom I feel romantically connected. I just (absurdly) corrected the grammar in that sentence as I wanted it to be correct.
What an absolute cunt though. Fucking cunt would have given more satisfaction, but those words and their meanings, who can control them?
Let’s say I died.
Everyone that I know is more or less saddened. Some sort of gathering is arranged and people gather at my house (as I’d still like to think of it). Ex-girlfriends will wander through my rooms and find no intentionally meaningful keepsakes or mementos of our relationships. It would be nice if they found some trinket that set off a reel of related memories from 'us'. But really, there’s nothing there.
Actually, there may be an old photo of Karin looking stunningly grumpy in the morning, still in her nightwear.
I doubt she’d remember it being taken.
Larra told me that he’d been sober since our last outing. We had spent the greater part of an evening drinking Negronis in a theatre bar. It had been an expensive and very drunken night. Even in his wasted state, Larra had felt such guilt at my paying the exorbitant drinks tab that he had transferred money on the fly for half the amount to my account. That had been two and a half months ago. I have drunk since then and wonder if I have made such a bad impression that Larra does not want to be like me.
Another football match. My second within the space of a week. There were only 20,000 at this one. We stood amongst the home support. The seats had been removed for just this section. To maintain a tradition perhaps. There were two large drums next to us, which were constantly beat upon by two sweating drummers. At the front were four men with megaphones who initiated songs and chanting. During one chant, the people sat down. A young man close by motioned to me to do the same so I did. Then we stood up and chanted.
I had joined in.
There is no advantage to being either proactive or reactive. In certain situations, being one or the other may be preferable. How a person might define themselves, if at all, comes down to their penchant for how they want to live their life. Proactive suggests a lot of planning for contingencies and arranging of events for a desired outcome. Given that life is generally unpredictable, might there be a higher occurrence of depression amongst proactive people? Being reactive does not necessarily mean that one has no plan, just that game plans can readily be changed or adapted. Both are necessary.
Just get it done.
It's the last day of May and I have no ideas for a succinct, coherent entry. What I could write about: Myself, my random thoughts on family, relationships, the inflexibility of my attitudes. Work, begging gypsies, love, the sky, people, why failure is good in the greater scheme of things. Food! Drink, which does not stir much excitement within me today.
I much prefer a specific theme rather than this simple list. Lists hold very little meaning except to the person that compiled them, I think. They are very easy to write however.
Maybe that’s why.
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