And in the fifty-four weeks
that I’ve somehow lived without you
I have discovered that,
while “I’ll be there for you” can mean something,
“I’ll be there with you” means everything.
(The former is a favour;
the latter is a life-saver).
Read: The Chronicles
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You carelessly devoured me with no regard for consequence, rushing to have all of me before I got cold. Now I am the fishbone stuck in your throat. A niggling irritation, an itch you cannot scratch. I’ll stay there, stubborn, a daily annoyance, but one that you become used to over time. “It’ll go away eventually.” You’re right. I will go eventually. But I will stay until I can be sure that, when I leave you, you will notice that I’ve gone but you will not miss me.
A Star Wars-esque opening crawl scrolled in my eyes, on repeat, in yellow, in white. It crawled for a long time. The instructions were clear: Remove sleeve. Pierce several times. And so it scrolled on and on and on. And so I did. I removed my sleeve and pierced my skin several times, with a knife. Stab stab stab stab. The blade went through to the other side. Stab stab stab. How many times is “several” anyway? Wait, was I supposed to stir halfway through? I didn’t stir, I just sat and let myself marinate in a bloodbath, in my party dress, with sawdust in my hair, and the spider on the wall, and watched the Star Wars crawl gradually fade into the darkness. You found me eventually.
“What the bloody hell are you doing in the attic?”
“I… I don’t know…”
“JESUS CHRIST, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”
“I don’t know, it said remove sleeve and pierce several times so I did.”
“NOT ON YOUR ARM YOU SILLY COW, YOU ARE NOT A FUCKING MICROWAVEABLE MEAL!”
“But I was just following the instruc–,”
“YOU ARE NOT A FUCKING LASAGNA!”
Every now and then you call me or message me to remind me that I am not a fucking lasagna. I am not a lasagna. I am not a lasagna. I am not your problem anymore. I am not a lasagna. I am not a lasagna. I am not yours. I am not a lasagna. I am not a fucking lasagna.
We went shopping for funeral outfits. We bought the suit that you’ll wear at yours. You stole the dress that I’ll wear at mine. That dress is the most beautiful, perfect possession that I own. I take it out it’s plastic cover sometimes, just to touch it, to look at it. I am so excited to wear it. I wrote you a note and slipped it in the pocket of your suit jacket when you weren’t looking. Either you’ll be buried with it or you’ll find it when I’m gone. And I know you haven’t found it yet because, if you had, things would be so very different and I wouldn’t have to write this shit.
Sometimes, things come back.
Things come back to me sometimes.
Not things, as such, but rather memories.
Memories come back to me sometimes.
Only sometimes, though.
Like that fancy bra poking out from my blood-stained white blouse,
running down the hill at 3 o’clock on Christmas morning.
Prison Break, Breaking Bad, breaking up.
Yellow flowers, always yellow flowers.
Lighting my cigarettes with a blowtorch.
Bike rides along the sea wall.
Inhalers and cat allergies.
Cheese and cucumber sandwiches at cricket.
Teaching me to drive the van.
Micky Flanagan and the £8 slice of pizza.
Never drinking the final third of your Peroni.
“Babyface” and squeezing the pus out of your knee.
Spain, swordfish, sunset.
Bunk up on the bunk beds under Manchester United duvet covers.
Me throwing up in Wayne Bridge’s toilet while you fixed his cooker.
The Best Nachos in the World.
Henry VIII and Henrietta.
Freezing under floodlights.
A firework display because I wanted one.
The realisation that you’re going to prison.
Apple crumble and custard.
The decision that I’d wait for you while you were inside.
Cutting 40 onions.
The jubilation when you were found not guilty.
Glass table-top on the roof.
Coaxing the gerbils out from under the wardrobe.
Sex in a hot tub in Sherwood Forest in the middle of December.
The diamond ring and fancy watch that I can’t bring myself to sell.
Your face when the test was negative.
Your face when the test was negative again.
Your fucking face,
the face I know off-by-heart,
the face I can still feel beneath my fingertips,
the face that I know better than my own.
Your fucking face.
Sometimes, things come back.
[Featured image source here]
Where are you? I don’t know where you are. I wonder what your piece of sky looks like. I am sure that your sky looks different to mine, even though we’re under the same one.
We lost each other, somehow. Perhaps we lost each other deliberately, although I prefer to think of this divide as a tragic accident, our totality sliced in half by the universe and her clumsy but ungovernable path.
We used to share so many things: you know what so I shan’t patronise you by listing them, all those things we shared, all those things we lost. The only things we share now are this sky, and the sun and moon that live in it. And, even then, they are not shared equally or fairly. But at least we can say that we’ve still got something, we will always have something.
You see the sun more often than I do. You adore her, you worship her, you welcome her. You actively seek her out. You chase her. She makes you happy. I loathe her, I hide from her, I dread her arrival. I can’t stand the fact that she is so committed, so steadfast, so predictable, so fucking resolute. I hate that she never stays away for long enough and I hate that she always returns. She bores me. I am bored of the sun.
But we will always have this in common: we are both her dependants, entirely reliant on her for life, even though we never wanted to be. I’m angrier than you are about the fact that we need her. We are her slaves, we exist at her mercy; and this is a situation that we will never have the opportunity to challenge or change, a reality that was forced on us all without warning or argument or even explanation. None of us ever agreed to be solely dependent on a faraway celestial body, and yet here we are, going along with it, accepting that we will die without her but we will also die with her. It reminds me of the fact that no baby ever asked to be born.
We will always share the sun, this sun of ours. And while you worship her, I wish she would hurry up and explode. Then our sky would look the same no matter where we are because I suppose we’d be nowhere, but we’d be nowhere together.
I always believed that wherever we are in the world, however far apart, we would always share the same moon. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that even this is not the case.
I spend so many hours now just watching the sky move on the other side of the glass. All those days where I am too sad to get out of bed, people assume I am reading in bed or writing or painting or watching movies or sleeping but really I just lie there and watch our sky performing its never-ending dance, with its clouds and colours and weather and stars and sounds and speeds and aircraft and fireworks and pollution and promise and a stray green balloon. I spend so much time just watching the sky and wondering what your slice of sky looks like. I hope yours looks happier than mine.
I am infatuated by the moon, arguably obsessed with her. I always feel a strange sense of relief when I see her and I am disappointed when she doesn’t turn up, worried even, as if the sun might have burnt her to death while I was in my windowless bathroom where I couldn’t keep an eye on her. I don’t know what I’d do without the moon: if she died I would miss her just like I miss my father now.
I know that you have always liked the moon too, especially when it’s misty, or on those stoned Sunday nights we shared years ago when we’d look for words on her skin, convinced by the crater edges forming silver tattoos on her blinding, imperfect shell, like when we couldn’t unsee the word ‘SIN’ branded diagonally across her left side. We like the moon. We trust her.
But she shows me a different face to the one that she shows you. We see the same moon from different angles, at different times, in different stages, in different moods, in different countries, in different lives, with different eyes. The moon that I see and the moon that you see are the same, but different.
Like us, I suppose. We’re the same but we are different. The same, but different. Same but different. We are different people now but some things will always stay the same. So as long as there is a sky above us, and a sun and moon within it, I’m yours.
[Featured image source here]
He said he never brought girls back to his place because he was embarrassed about his flat.
I told him that I’d lived in some horrible places myself, with mouldy wallpaper hanging off the ceiling, mildewy curtains, bloodstains on the walls and a ground-floor window fashioned from cling-film and sellotape;
and that one time a guy took me to a crack den on our first date and he tried to kiss me while we were sitting on a damp mattress that had previously been set on fire and a rottweiler was trying to eat my handbag;
and that my friend dropped a hot microwaved chili con carne on his kitchen floor 4 years ago and it’s still there;
and that another friend’s bathroom contained a toilet that was worse than The Toilet in Trainspotting, there was no light or running water and someone had stolen the shower-head and taken a shit in sink so when anyone ever needed to take a leak they had to leave the house and go to the cinema down the road to use their facilities;
so I’m sure his flat would be lovely.
And it was. It was spotless. It was a really nice modern studio flat, high ceilings and big windows, and loads of books and records but not messy or cluttered at all.
“Got any booze?”
“Yeah, there’s some beer in the kitchen sink. And some vodka, I think.”
I went over to the sink and sure enough found some bottles of Bud bobbing around in the bitterly cold water that filled the sink to its brim.
Oh, and some vodka. Not much, but enough.
And 2 pints of semi-skimmed milk.
And a pot of strawberry yoghurt.
And 500g of extra mature cheddar cheese in a ziploc bag.
And some kind of ham in a ziploc bag.
And half a cucumber in a ziploc bag.
And a handful of grapes in a ziploc bag.
I heard his voice behind me.
“This why I don’t bring girls back.”
“Cos I don’t have a fridge. People think it’s weird. People think I’m weird.”
“Cos everyone has a fridge. They don’t know how I survive without one.”
“I mean, why don’t you have a fridge? Do you just not want one, like how I don’t ever want a TV so I’m never going to get one? Or maybe you only eat fresh stuff?”
“No, it’s not that I don’t want one. I just can’t.”
“Oh, I see… Your electricity bill must be lower than everyone else’s though, right?”
“No, well, yeah, probably. I just can’t have one. I…”
I can see he’s starting to panic.
“Hey, it’s alright, I actually think it’s cool that you don’t have one. No pun intended on ‘cool’, either.”
And then he blurts it out:
“I’m scared of fridges.”
I say nothing.
“And freezers. Fridge-freezers. Fridges. Freezers. All of it.”
“Woah. Okay. Erm. I’m guessing you had a bad experience? Did you get locked in a freezer once or something?”
I laugh and open the beers with my teeth.
His face pales.
“No. Not me. Someone else.”
“Jesus. Sounds pretty—“
“Bad. Yeah, it was. It was really bad.”
I remind myself that I am a listener, not a therapist. I am a listener, not a therapist. Listener, not therapist.
“Wanna talk about it? Come, sit with me.”
We sit on the window ledge and dangle our legs out. I light us each a cigarette.
“It was ages ago, when I was a kid. I was 9. And a half. We were playing hide and seek in the scrapyard near my old house. Me and Tommy. He lived a few doors down from me and we used to play out after school.”
I stare at him for a second too long and then flick some ash off my tights. We watch it fall one two three four floors down until it disappears. I half-hope that he’ll change the subject but I’m also massively intrigued, so I say nothing.
“We were playing hide and seek. It was his turn to hide. I counted to 30 because the yard was huge and there were so many cool places to hide, like old cars and empty skips and that. I looked for him for fucking ages. Fucking ages. In the end I was shouting TOMMY I GIVE UP. COME OUT NOW. I GIVE UP. It was getting dark. I guessed that he had just gone home cos he got bored or cos his sister came to get him or he had gone off with some of his own pals.”
Beer. Inhale. Exhale. Beer. Exhale.
“Anyway I heard my mam calling my name to tell me that my tea was on the table getting cold. So I shouted LAST CHANCE TOMMY, I’M GOING NOW, I’M NOT JOKING, FINE, I’M LEAVING NOW, BYE. Went home, had my tea, forgot all about it. Went to bed. Then my mam woke me up in the middle of the night to ask me if I’d seen Tommy cos he didn’t come home for his tea and his mam was worried cos nobody had seen him and the police were downstairs and wanted to ask me if I’d seen him. I was scared cos I thought I would be in trouble and I thought the pigs would take me to jail and they wouldn’t believe me if I said I didn’t know where he was even though I would be telling the truth but grown ups never believe kids so I didn’t say nothing.”
Inhale. Exhale. Beer.
“Next morning everyone went out searching the scrapyard, neighbour said they heard some kids playing there the night before, and we all used to play down there all the time so they started looking for him there. They had sniffer dogs.”
He tenses up.
“Then at school in the middle of last lesson we all got taken into the hall for an assembly and the headmaster told us that Tommy Greenwald had tragically passed away. That we were all devastated by the loss of such a bright young lad. That the funeral was on Friday, that the school choir would be singing You’ll Never Walk Alone at the service and we were encouraged to wear our Liverpool shirts to the church. That we would be making condolence cards in class that would be passed on to his mam and sister, and that if we see his family in the street we must treat them with the utmost respect. “
Inhale. Exhale. Beer. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
“Long story short, they found him in a fucking fridge. One of them massive industrial ones. The pigs in the assembly warned us of the dangers of playing in the scrapyard. They suspected no foul play, that this was a tragic accident. How he must have opened it, got in, shut the door and of course it don’t open from the inside, does it, and it was sealed shut so he fucking suffocated. Nobody could hear him scream because the yard was so big. His screaming made him die faster. He was 7.”
“Jesus H. Christ.”
Beer. Inhale. Reach for vodka. Exhale. Vodka. Inhale. Exhale. Beer. Inhale.
“You know it’s not your fault, don’t you?”
“No. It’s not. Even if you told the police where you were playing, they wouldn’t have saved him any sooner. He would’ve… gone quite quickly.”
“Seven years old.”
Vodka. Vodka. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.
“I should’ve looked more, for longer.”
“No. You were a kid. Something awful might’ve happened to you too if you stayed out wandering the scrapyard in the dark. You weren’t to know, anyway. You weren’t to know.”
I am a listener, not a therapist.
Beer. Spark up. Inhale. Exhale. Vodka.
“You’re the only person I’ve ever told that to.”
“What? Not even your mum, or Tommy’s family?”
Beer. Beer. Inhale. End beer.
“Shit. I don’t even know what to say.”
Silence. Inhale. Silence. Silence. Exhale. Silence. Inhale.
“Hey, I’m sorry to change the subject, but I’m gonna grab us another drink– I think we need it.”
“Go for it.”
“Is there any more beer in the…”
[Featured image source]
The perfect mist ascended in a different way today and I learned to breathe on my own again. The valediction that had threatened never to arrive, did so, suddenly, overnight.
The merlot mystery cloud that shrouds your poisoned soul with intrigue and allure has disintegrated into nothingness.
And that black light, the one that projects your godlike image onto every wall of every chamber of my crippled heart, that hard, cruel light that keeps your image dancing through my dreams and swimming around my shredded veins and patrolling, steadfast, all along the watchtower of the prison of my brain on a mesmerising, sickening, neverending loop: that black light has been turned off.
Now my world is dark but in a lighter way. All our flames have been extinguished and I send the smoke away. I don’t know who pulled the plug, who shut us down, who turned us off. But it’s over.
Your transparency has become clear to me. I see you and I see through you.
My deluded vision of you has fallen apart after so many years of dedicated worship, so many years of defending you, so many years of never quite being yours. They are taking down your statue as I write this.
The haze has lifted and all the thoughts that I harbour about you saving me have evaporated quietly. I wrote your smile in the clouds before the storm came and ripped it to pieces then spat it out in some faraway ocean, leaving it to drown with the other chunks of deleted smiles.
Nothing fills the spaces that you once inhabited. My personal abyss belongs to me once more, just it did before, before, before. I don’t need your voice or your hands anymore, I’ve scrubbed your words of wisdom off my crumbling inner walls.
I gratefully occupy my silent tubular nowhere. I have smoothed out all the sharp corners of this rusted cage so that you have no place to hide. I’ve wiped your hallowed fingerprints off the lenses on my eyes. I can see and I see through you.
You are no longer godlike but rather ghostly, a figure who once had command of every cell in my body, who has since fallen from grace, who will try to haunt me in hallways and stairwells, to rattle me with surprise appearances and misplaced affections. You are only the ghost of a man who was once great. I now see clearly that you are just as empty and hollow as me. And someone who is dead inside cannot be the one to give me life.