fiction

Recurrence

We’re moving to Paris, we said to each other in astonishment about where we were. Only where we were was London and it was bleak and gray and confusing and I was trying to make sense of the subterranean rail system as if I’d never been anywhere before, let alone there. The map on the small screen in my hand was moving around like the carpet in the hotel lobby in Fear and Loathing. The film. I don’t remember what the carpet did in the book, because whatever it did was in my imagination and that was years ago.

Ali Smith commented on the suicides that take place each year on the north line out of King’s Cross, I recalled, aloud, as if that’d help us navigate and we maneuvered like two lost fish, our foreignness silvery and glinting amidst the hurried throngs, side by side and single file, slant formation, a desperately rhyming dance of happenstance through crowds and corridors and around corners and finally up some stairs at the top of which we emerged into noncommittal daylight and stepped our way past a woman with such judgment in her eyes she stood out from the blur and we couldn’t help but notice her glaring harshness and contempt like we were about to walk some plank and she knew it and enjoyed not telling us with her mouth, only her look.

We left her behind us like so much else but carried her look along and felt heavier for it, stepping out onto a walkway under construction or re- at the edge of a wide bridge high up some few hundred feet over a green-black river I thought shouldn’t have a name but surely did and was speckled with all manner of vessels going this way and that and lined by tall mirror and gunmetal buildings rising from its foam and filth banks. I noticed that part of our path consisted of a vehicle-sized rectangle of steel of the sort they lay awkwardly over giant potholes or trenches cut temporarily through streets for the laying of pipe or power only this had nothing beneath it but a long drop into that terrible water. We took our first halting steps with my mind full of wondering why we couldn’t simply stop, sit, and think this over… And that’s where the story begins, always.

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poetry

Mediocre

Being “someone” felt like taking
care of a baby that wasn’t mine,
sad little helpless stinking bundle
of other people’s exhaustion,
expectations, and distress, alone
in a home not my own at night
fumbling around in a dark room
with anemic hallway light coming
in thin, searching for bottles and
rattles and whatever the fuck else
those bundles require for pacification
while the bundle itself kept
unraveling from its swaddles,
squirming and wailing, loyal only
to its own suffering.

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life

Misgivings

You know most of this already.

In the car with them, sitting in the back seat with her up front passenger-wise and turned back to me the two of us and talking fast like always like she had something to sell that she knew we hadn’t the cash or care to buy and the rain pelted the windshield and the wipers swung right back and the dark was outside full of unfocused and flickering points of light, streetlamps and headlights and incidental bokeh, while some vague figure in shadow form all the while drove us on.

Afterspiel, when she’d used up all her words and most of the air in the vehicle, I told her in fact no, our problem is we try to do too much too fast, all force and no finesse, just blind dumb vigor and ataxia and too little brains, like these wipers here, perhaps, I felt, reaching for a metaphor, sweeping dismissive overreliance on artificial intelligences built up around sleights perceived and true and entitlements seemingly due, ungrounded emotion and mechanical philistinism with an inarticulable mission like the goons who forcibly removed that doctor from a plane in Chicago and probably went home that night and had the nerve to believe in civil society though in their idiomatics it’s hard to believe any such nerve is needed, they haven’t even the proper vocab for the fact that kids in the same city kill with AK-47s and five people died last Wednesday just because, nothing happening, nothing going on, just a Wednesday in the city and what do you make of that, if you were to stop and sit still and be quiet for a minute.

The other there with us in the back seat with me was compelled to agree with me and I wondered what keywords in her repertoire of principled social consciousness I tapped, knowing for sure she wasn’t packing even the slightest hint of directional allegory, as oblivious to irony as those goons and maybe just as gullible, just as crowdsourced, giving a mere simple pacific piggybacking mhmm and nod of head, pleased that someone had done the thing and spoken out because somewhere along the straight and narrow well-meaning way she acquired the notion that speaking out said something but it at the very least for the moment changed our atmosphere.

And with that, nevertheless, just her up front stillness and quiet and that slight sound and musculoskeletal gesture in the back beside me within the still-floating presence of my words, I’ll be damned if a faint fellowship did not for a moment shine upon us all four road-weary travelers like the immediate aftermath of a photograph flash, a fraction of assent trying its best to be illumination and hanging in the air and draping us in what I can only think to call our common humanity, common and shared and base, and for that instant it felt not as if we were two against her brazen, impudent one, not as if the three of us outshined and consumed his resolute nothing drive-along indifference and better-knowing onlooker’s bemusement, but as if we were actual, and in that actuality a forward step might be taken, an honest word might be uttered, some responsibility assumed, a tide turned, a leaf flipped, a change made.

But it swiftly turned to dust as always tends to seems to happen with everything with vocal chords and no backbone and all was once again rain and shadows and distorted glows and she just looked at me through streaks of darkness and light and a sort of crazed eye blaze on par with Colonel Kurtz and I wished I hadn’t said a thing, wished I could vanish along with the dust of our fleeting fellowship, right along with it be turned to dust myself and taken away by wind and washed away by rain,

but all I could do was shrink from the terrible inordinacy of the space she occupied up front in that fractured darkness, already shaking off my rejoinder like a dog fresh out of water while I began inwardly apologizing by proxy and diminished presence for others’ misdeeds, her misnomers, our great misanthropy, daymare dreaming in my passive defense a wishful little thesis about going beyond thought as if awareness were something cartographical lying somewhere off the edge of the world, somewhere where I might forever sever ties to the false freedom of staying small amongst the throngs and the safety sense that silence might be the way to say what life’s about, beating myself into a backseat submission that like a deep bruise I felt lacked his up front strength and dignity, and yet

And yet there is hope, he said, and stopped us all.

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prosetry

Miraculous Mistake

In my dream there had been a terrible or rather brilliant mistake in which you were in fact still alive but had just been in hospital for a while and I said Oh dear, mother threw all your stuff away so your flat is empty but don’t worry we can buy you new stuff, it might even be fun, and you were asking about my brother and my writing and if I’d been going to therapy and then wanted to know if I’d got your money, keys, phone, glasses, medicines and well you were pretty pissed off at the whole thing to be honest and didn’t understand how or why we thought you were dead but I was so indescribably happy that you were okay that nothing mattered and I said Wait, so if you’re alive, who the fuck was inside that coffin we burnt? and we laughed and laughed and got a taxi down to your empty flat and when we got inside you looked around and lit a rollup and said Ahh it feels good to be home babes but I couldn’t quite believe you were really there so I held onto your arms because I thought maybe it was a trick but you were warm and alive and moving and breathing and talking and in your flat and you said you were Feeling a bit tired actually so we sat on the floor and I had my arms around you and I was saying You’re safe now Daddy, you’re safe, you’re safe now, you’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe and then this morning I woke up to the sound of my voice saying “You’re safe” and I genuinely thought that you were alive until I saw the little shrine I made for you by the window and then I remembered that you’re not here anymore and my little heart broke all over again and my God I’ve never wanted a crazy miraculous mistake to happen as much as I do right now

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fiction, life

ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE

Chris R-0232.jpg Image by Christine Renney

The boy had pushed his dad so far that he had hurled his dentures across the room. They lay broken beside the dog bowl. His dad picked them up and sat at the kitchen table pushing the pieces together, trying to stick them with glue.
The boy kept on pushing. He didn’t really know very much about anything; he was just a numb blonde kid with bad skin and braces. He had once threatened his dad with a knife but on this occasion the boy’s mum pulls them apart and no weapons are involved other than their fists.

At seventeen the boy’s dad had enlisted in the Army. He had begged and pleaded with his own dad until at last the old man, worn down, signed the papers.

The boy’s dad was posted to Germany and he had learned to drive on the Autobahn. But he didn’t fit, wasn’t suited and so the boy’s dad had headed for home. Just like that.

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