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'Are these the cakes you made?'
'How did baking go?'
'Well...the bottom of the cakes are basically charcoal.'
'No, but that's actually okay, because that burnt area at the bottom ends up giving the cakes the only bit of flavour they have.'
'I'll be honest, you're not really selling them to me.'
'I don't think I could sell them to anyone. I'd be hard pushed to give them away for free. He ate them, though.'
'He eats anything. He's, what, hyposensitive to taste? He'll eat whatever's there.'
'I know. I didn't take it as a compliment.'
'Okay, I have a new idea for a Mister Men book.'
'I'm not a publisher.'
'Okay, he's called Mister Depressed.'
'Again. I'm not a publisher.'
'And here's the basic plot. He wakes up one morning.'
'Why are you telling me this?'
'He wakes up one morning, and he just opens his eyes and stares at the ceiling.'
'I'm still don't know why...'
'And he just stares. Page after page he's just staring up at the ceiling. Not moving. Hardly blinking. Barely breathing. And the final page?'
'The final page?'
'He just slowly closes his eyes again. The. End.'
The day dulls into foam. That happens a lot, now. The usual sharpness of life collapses until it fuzzes, fizzles out until every voice sounds like white noise and every image has been painted by an impressionist.
Life is easier, like this. Simpler. Much more uninteresting.
It worries me, because I don't want life to be uninteresting. But the things I once enjoyed are that much harder to do. The weights on my fingers stop me writing and the lack of insulation in my brain stops it firing.
Dear God, if I have to untangle strings one more time...
Confidence is a strange thing.
I remember hunting Confidence back when I was a kid. I kitted myself out with all the best hunting gear and went stalking through the schoolground in search of its lustrous coat.
It took me a while to find it, and I was so relieved when I did. Everyone else had found their own years ago. I skinned it and draped it around my neck. I strutted around, confident with my Confidence.
However, recently I've been having a nagging feeling that it's fake. A Fake Confidence. I'm trying not to think about it.
Richard walked into the lecture hall, sneering at the other students as he proudly marched his way to the front. The lecturer paused in the middle of his speech to ask him what he wanted.
Richard pointed an accusatory finger at the lecturer, before loudly proclaiming 'To protect their minds from you!'
Richard turned to face the audience. 'Do not let yourselves be fooled by this machine! You are all individuals, you are all worth something, you all have ideas that deserve to be heard! Do not let yourself be moulded into one indistinguishable organism who toes the party line!'
Richard shook his head sadly, solemnly, weighed down by the sheer gravity of his individuality.
Richard started to speak again. 'You'd all rather DIE than THINK!' He shouted, repeatedly tapping the side of his head as if his finger were a woodpecker and his skull a particularly stubborn tree. Spittle formed at his mouth as he sprayed the front row with his words.
Richard glared. 'You're all so DESPERATE to GIVE IN to these so called 'EDUCATORS' that you'll NEVER THINK FOR YOURSELVES! I THINK FOR MYSELF!'
Richard turned to face the lecturer, who had been backing away.
Richard burned in his self-important glory. 'TELL ME SOMETHING YOU THINK!' He squealed, finger trembling. The lecturer stuttered, brain trying to process what was happening before falling back into well worn procedures. 'Th-th-that....ahm...That the building blocks of the brain are neuronal cells...'
Richard laughed a bitter laugh, before violently spitting on the ground. 'AND I BET YOU BELIEVE THAT TOO! ALL OF YOU!' The collection of students reluctantly nodded their heads.
Richard fell to his knees, back arched, face pointing towards the sky. 'SHEEP!' He cried, as a priest cries for sinners. 'ALL SHEEP!'
There is nothing more satisfying in life than a sneeze. Not scratching an itch, not an orgasm, not avenging the death of your family.
Some days, I just look for an excuse to sneeze. I'll hunt down feather and pepper and spices and just sniff, breathe them all in deeply so that I can have the sensation of sneezing again.
You might say I'm a sneeze-addict. I've skipped out of work to go and sneeze.
It's okay, though. I can stop any time I like, honestly. But just for now, for the next week...I'll sneeze.
'Domestic Scene, Los Angeles' was painted by Hockney in 1963 Having had an obsession with Los Angeles from his reading of magazines and books, Hockney painted an invented shower scene of one man washing another. The images for the two men were lifted from the homoerotic American magazine, 'Physique pictorial'. He would continue to refer to this magazine for other figures for his paintings, as it would show men in various contrived poses within a domestic setting. The painting is currently part of an exhibition at the Tate, denoting the work of Hockney and his evolution as an artist.
When I saw the painting, I immediately thought of you.
That's slightly to vague. It's much too vague.
I thought of when we were in Germany. I was going to write about the build up, the day we had had, but I don't remember it. I'm sure it was...I don't even know the word to finish that sentence. It could have been good, or adequate, or awful. I don't know any more. I don't trust myself, my mind, or my memory to give my an accurate representation of the events of that day. Or many other days.
Regardless of how the day had gone, we were in the hotel room, getting ready for bed.
We got into the shower together. It was small and cramped and awkward, but all that meant was neither of us had to worry about being left in the cold.
It was warm. Humid. We danced around each other.
I washed you. And I can still remember your giggle of pure joy as you washed my hair. I didn't understand why you enjoyed doing that so much, but you were never more pretty or full of life as when you were laughing.
As I walked into the gallery, I saw the painting and was reminded of that moment.
The figures in the picture were us. I had never related to a painting more.
I had been moved more, made to think more, stunned more. But I had never before looked at a painting and thought 'I know'.
The intimacy, the closeness, the playfulness...everything was there. Hockney knew what that moment was like, what my experience was. What our experiences was.
I felt melancholy fall on me like light snow, and it tried to convince me that I missed you.
I don't miss you.
I con honestly say that I don't miss you. I don't miss waking up to a string of messages swearing at me. I don't miss the constant questions and criticisms about my life choices. I don't miss being made to defend how I progressed through the world. I don't miss how you held me to a different standard than yourself.
I don't miss the hypocrisy.
I don't miss the determined lack of effort.
I don't miss being made to feel that my life experiences were inferior.
That painting didn't make me miss you.
It made me miss being with a person.
Within the act of washing, there was an intimacy that we shared. It was delicate and light, like a single feather. And obviously what we acted out was worthy of trying to capture on a canvas.
It was something that someone, somewhere, thought was worthy of pinning down to share with others.
As I walked into the giftshop, I saw a postcard of that particular painting.
I bought it. To prove I could. If I had left it, it would have meant that you still had some power over me.
I've realised that the primary reason I have for living, what brings me joy when I gasp and struggle out of sleeping to face reality, is learning new things.
Learning a new skill, an odd titbit of information, a fact about another human being, is wonderful. Every new piece of knowledge is you taking a step closer towards understanding the universe.
A step may be a little grand. Most of the things I learn are an awkward stumble, where I even have to ask myself whether I've moved at all.
Most of all, I love learning about myself.
For example, yesterday, I learnt something new about myself. Something that I had only really been subconsciously aware of. But the events of yesterday dragged this particular piece of knowledge to the front of my mind, and revealed an aspect of my character that I had only been able to guess at before.
Namely, I should not write these things any time after midnight.
I'm not sure what I was trying to achieve. A cathartic exposition of my relationship? Was I trying to argue my emotional superiority? Romanticise my pain, then mock the very notion of romantic love?
People often mistook his apathy for confidence. That's how he'd been able to climb through the company so quickly.
Every presentation was given clearly, with no hint of tremor or fear in his voice. He kept his back straight, his eyes forward and answered questions with ease. His colleagues would always compliment him on his delivery, admiring and wishing that they, too, could talk with such ease.
'I always feel bad going after you. You exude such an aura of confidence! I'm always so nervous.'
He would just shrug his shoulders in reply. Why bother to answer?
'You know one of my favourite slang words?'
'Is it dickhead?'
'No, dickhead. It's codswallop.'
'Codswallop. Like talking crap. As in, you're talking a load of codswallop.'
'I know what it means, dickhead.'
'It's great, you know? Because that word must have come from somewhere, right? At some point in time, probably back in Medieval England or some shit, codswallop really meant something. And now we still have the word, and use it for something, and it might not even be what the word was originally used for! That's crazy, right?'
'Yeah, that's crazy all right.'
- I've lost my mind
- Well, where did you last see it?
- If I knew where I had last seen it, then I wouldn't have lost my mind, but merely misplaced it
- Maybe your Miss placed it somewhere out of reach, to keep your mind from straying
- Straying? These days my mind is so heavy with thoughts that it can barely manage a crawl, let alone a stray
- And yet you find your mind astray at this very moment
- I can't find my mind at all, that is the very problem!
- You should get to looking, dear sir
'So from what I understand it...'
'Tell me how you understand it.'
'Bare in mind that I don't really understand it all that well.'
'I am keeping that right in the forefront of my mind.'
'But from what I know...'
'Tell me what you know.'
'But according to Aboriginal Mythology, up there in the Sky, that nebula right there? That's an emu.'
'An emu. And it got me thinking...'
'It got me thinking. That they have an entirely different interpretation of the landscape, and by extension the country, than you or I could ever have.'
'And it got me thinking about our landscape.'
'Yet more thinking.'
'And I was thinking, what about the druids? You know, the ones that were around before the Romans came and killed everyone?'
'I don't think they killed everyone.'
'They must have had a different interpretation of the landscape that's just lost to us. I mean, look at Stonehenge.'
'Look at it. Nobody knows what the fuck it's been build for. But obviously someone took a lot of care and effort to make it. For them, it was an important part of our country. But we don't understand.'
'It makes you think about the future, right?'
'It does. I mean, what are people going to think about the Eiffel Tower hundreds of years in the future? How are they going to interpret the London Eye? What meaning are they going to assign Las Vegas?'
'Does Las Vegas have a meaning?'
'Maybe it does to the future! Maybe they think that it's a highly spiritual place.'
'I suppose you could say it's a highly spiritual place now.'
'No you can't. You're just trying to sound deep.'
'You're such a dickhead.'
'That's a load of codswallop.'
After a considerable amount of thinking, he came to realise that the most depressing thing about his loneliness wasn't the fact that he was alone, but that it was far from unique.
If his pain, his despair, was an individualised concoction of pain and sorrow, it would make it that much easier to bare. But instead, everywhere he looked, people were thinking and feeling the exact same thoughts and emotions as he was. Nothing that he could create, write, paint, would be able to better highlight the human condition.
It seemed that it had been highlighted enough already.
If I had to pick my least favourite item of clothes, it would be socks.
My argument has always been that I don't wear gloves all the time, so why should I wear socks? They just get in the way. And there isn't a better feeling than curling your toes into grass that's just been lightly painted by morning dew.
If I had to pick my second least favourite item of clothing, it would probably be a belt. Mainly because I used to be beaten with one as a child.
I'm not sure what my third would be.
'You have a lovely tone of voice.'
'Yes, really lovely. Soft and gentle and non-judgemental.'
Which is useful. Because, secretly, he was judging everyone, every second of every day. How they walked, what they wore, the way they tossed their hair. All clues as to the personality of a person.
You could tell she was a bitch from the trimmed short hair. He must be a pompous idiot because of that waistcoat. And people who didn't wear socks were just the fucking worst.
'Yes, lovely, lovely tone.'
'I try my best.'
'So soft and, yes, gentle.'
'How long did it take you to get over me?'
'Considerably less than you would have liked.'
'You make me sound like a bitch.'
'I don't mean to. But I genuinely believe that you would have been much happier if I had spent the rest of my hears pining for you, before tragically throwing myself off of a bridge.'
'Don't be ridiculous.'
'I don't think I am being ridiculous. I think you loved how I needed you more than you loved who I was.'
'Then why didn't you leave sooner?'
'Because I needed you. And now...now I really don't.'
Don't you hate it when you go to shave, and then about an hour later, once you're out, you realise that you've accidentally left a small patch of hair that hasn't been shaved properly?
It annoys me no end. Throughout the day, I'll keep touching it, feeling the roughness and contrasting it with the smooth skin next to it. Wondering whether people can see the disparity, whether they'll think I have so little self-esteem that I can't even be bothered to shave properly.
I also have Brexit, but I don't have as much control over that.
So fuck shaving.
'After considering it for a long time, after meditation, rumination, consolidation and a wealth of other -ations, I've reached the unenviable conclusion that, given all the factors and circumstances and effects, I can no longer continue to work at your establishment.'
'And why is that?'
'Because last week, someone took a shit all over me.'
'Well, if it's workplace bullying that you're worried about...'
'No no. Someone literally took a shit all over me. Not to mention the scratches, bites, headbuttings and general physical and psychological abuse that I've suffered.'
'I'm sorry you feel that way.'
'As am I, sir.'
Is this what life is? Waking up to go and have your soul crushed at work? To be so tired that when you come home, you can barely muster up the energy to do anything that you enjoy? To be constantly frustrated in every little action that you take to try and progress forward?
In my opinion, life is essentially a bell-curve. Mostly average, with shitty parts and exceptional parts happening around 5% of the time respectively.
Of course, I have a feeling some people in Syria would have a slightly different interpretation of the results.
'You know the weirdest thing to me?'
'What's the weirdest thing to you?'
'The weirdest thing to me is how we all just, like, accepted that this was life, you know?'
'Like, money. We've all just accepted that we need money. That we should work for it and shit. You don't find money in nature, do you?'
'You also don't find hospitals in nature.'
'That's not my point.'
'It kind of is.'
'Fuck you. But you get what I mean? Like, when did we decide, as a society, that this is what we wanted? Did we ever decide?'
- Where do you think you'll be in 50 years time?
- Somewhere warm, hopefully.
- And will you still be writing?
- I would hope that, at a minimum, I would still be trying to write.
- Is that all you want? To try?
- It's better than the alternative. Where I just stop. Where everything just stops. Where my mind creaks and rusts, my fingers turn to ash and the words stop flowing like a dam stops a river.
- And if you just keep trying and never get anywhere? You're saying that you'd be happy as Sisyphus?
- I would. Now pass me a boulder.
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