fiction, life

I am the Car Crash

I was missing for three days. I wandered the forest that rose up the sides of the valley, drank from the iced waters that continued to carve the riverbed, slept in the abandoned barn that creaked and moaned in the wind as if to give away my position. The search party numbered less than a bakers-dozen — no women — and it seemed to me they were more keen to get back to the bar for a warming dram of whiskey. They were easy to evade – I followed their movements through sound as they told bawdy jokes at distance, or when they were within my sight I could read their vulgar breath as it escaped their blue lips to form speech-bubbles in the winter air.

I kept proximity to the crash site, each morning looking down upon the wreckage from my concealed vantage, sat within a fortress of rocks my brother and I had built upon the crest of the hill two seasons earlier, when the days were long and the evenings warm. The car had not yet been towed, a burnt out shell, nothing left but a twisted and charred cage, sat in a circle of black dust. The day following the incident a van appeared and I watched hi-vis men rebuild the crash barrier, removing lengths of twisted metal, before welding new plates over the section we had destroyed. I have often looked from a car window as we passed sections of new crash barrier and wondered why they chose that place in particular, among the miles and miles of dirty, scraped metal, to erect something fresh and gleaming — now I know; they are a death-marker.

I had resolved to never go home, that they would never find me, but on the third night I decided I was starving and needed a bacon sandwich My Uncle was ambivalent when I turned up at his door, hardly looking at me as I walked into his house and slumped into the huge sofa that dominated the lounge of his tiny Council owned flat. To the sound of bacon crackling in the pan and the smell of toasting bread, he shouted from the kitchen that the funeral had already taken place, gone ahead without me — well, there was no reason to delay, he justified. Also without Mother, who had been overcome by denial since the incident, as she had refused to attend; refused to accept this was his end. That if she didn’t see the box adorned with the brass plaque upon which was engraved his full name, well, then it wasn’t the end and that there was still hope he would come home soon. I watched him die – I could have confirmed otherwise. He said that after the cremation the ashes had been scattered over the family grave. A cremation! Of all the inappropriate things to do to a body after it has found death by fire. I guess there was no need to turn the gas up high for this one; the macabre in me wondered if we got a discounted rate on the ceremony. I looked down upon the backs of my hands, turning them over and over, searching for signs of my own physical trauma. Just then my sandwich arrived, steaming and smelling of burnt flesh.

When I had wiped the bacon fat and brown sauce from my face, my Uncle offered to drive me home. On the way I spoke just the once, asking him to take me on a detour to the cemetery. I stood over the family grave and felt the rain, hard on my face — it always rained when I came here. His ashes had washed away and run back into the sodden soil, there was nothing to see. On the return journey from the we came to the location of the accident. I tensed and gripped the carseat until my fingers turned white. My Uncle saw this and slowed, taking care to negotiate the bend in a seeming act of pity for which he was not well known. My eyes were tight shut, but I knew the road so well I could sense exactly where we were with every turn of the steering wheel, every rut and jolt of the road. When we had passed the shining new barrier I opened my eyes, relaxed, and vomited over his dashboard.

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life

Revelation

I have a friend who wants to live to the age of one hundred, not because she fears death, on the contrary. She wishes to see her centenary so that she can utilise the balancing sixty years of her future to make up for the forty she feels she has wasted. I get that epiphany, that revelation, albeit in a slight different flavour. You see, she is self inflicted whereas my situation is in no way my own doing, or at least not in a way that my blinded and selfish personality will admit to in print.

You must “get that” too – the concept of, having completed a fourth decade that your life to this point has not been your own? Or at least a base realisation it has not panned out the way you would have wished, a desire to re-wind the movie, then remake and maybe recast with the clarity of twenty-twenty hindsight. I don’t know about your life, maybe you’re a lucky cunt, but my own has become a bit shit – a series of comedy sketches, wherein I clown around on fast-forward, trying to sate the emotional needs and demands of others, all the while neglecting the self. Problem is, my Comedy Channel runs jokes with the punchlines edited short, and replaced by adverts for Prosac or Tramadol.

During infancy people do random stuff on your behalf as you are not yet capable on a physical, mental or emotional footing; – yes, this is true for most of your life, but I find it at its most obvious during this stage of personal development. As you become taller you have a level of autonomy, but are limited by the boundaries imposed by your parents, or schooling, or laws of the land. At fourteen you can hang with your friends in the local park and drink alcopops stolen from the all-night 7-Eleven by your older brother. Yet society and law is more firm that this in decreeing it is too young an age to fuck or smoke a doobie. It doesn’t stop you, you do so anyway – a double-whammy of a middle-finger, stuck both up your girlfriend and up to society.

Early adulthood is your own, to an extent, but even this is a series of misguided misjudgements on your part – thus out of your control by the nature of your own inexperience and ineptitude. While it is no longer illegal to fuck, society still frowns upon you banging your best friend’s mum, no matter how much she begs for you to go down on her in the back of her husband’s Volvo. It doesn’t stop you, you do so anyway – and find she tastes of disappointment and broken dreams.

Then you commit your time to preparing the foundation for the later stage of life – working hard for ‘the man’ to earn a basic wage; or maybe be a middling wage and a crippling student debt should you choose to slog your guts out within the education system for a little longer. Then fireworks explode into the night marking another January 1st, and you realise your twenties are history, and you wonder where the fuck the years went. You make a resolution to go find them, fail and give up within a week.

By now you have disposable cash and own some unnecessary commodities, along the way developing a manageable Coke habit you can give up any time you want. Under instruction you hand the key to your chastity cage to a single person – and under no circumstances are you are permitted to have extra keys cut. That’s right, we can only fuck the same person for the rest of our life, and it must be in a heterosexual relationships or we will burn for all eternity – or longer in the case of indulging with a mixed group of naked, consenting adults in the same room. What ugly fuck came up with these rules?

Meanwhile Society is insisting you hurry to pro-create – which means the thought of responsibility ends your Coke habit overnight, and binds you to lifelong relationship with expensive Vodka served neat from the freezer – which is a much more acceptable vice, of course. So you rut and conceive small humans that your wife calls Rachel, or Phoebe, or Chandler, or some such popular-culture-copyist-shit. Then these fucking kids that have your eyes and your smile and your big cheeks, they look up at you from their low vantage point and demand stuff, like clothes and food and wisdom and encouragement to become good human beings. While you look down trying to hide the sorrow in your face, a raging guilt that you are setting them off on this same, cyclical journey you yourself are struggling to master after forty years of practice. Hey, Joey, pass me that rolled up banknote; fuck you Ross, I’m first – well hello Monica, come sit on my lap.

Then you are forty years old, and you are fucking done, my friend. You have pro-created, kept the world over-stocked with bodies, and your time is up – biological purpose complete, your next stage is biodegradable. Now you can start to enjoy yourself and do things you want to do, right? Society decrees you are not allowed. You still need to work to earn money to survive in this artificial economy – you want a house and a car and holidays abroad, right? Still need to bring up your kids who already disrespect you and treat yourself like you are an embarrassment to them – which you are. If, by now, you are beginning to think that society has it in for you, then you are late to this party, and deserve the dregs of the tropical punch and canapés.

So, do I also want to live to one hundred? Let’s just say that right now life is, just like a manageable Coke habit, something I could give up any time I want.

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life, photography

Lost Into Darkness

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I was up early this morning, or maybe I never made it to bed – either way, I wrote a ‘thing’ for the first time in a month. It looked good, read well. It had a start, a middle and an end – you, know, all that jazz. I was ecstatic at the output. Maybe I will let you read it one day.

I left the house for work, walking a familiar path to the Underground. I was thinking of what I had written, smiling at how clever I had been with my twisting sentences, the slick characterisation, the clever call-back at the climax that referenced the beginning. In my mind I began to edit, adding fresh pieces – to refine the start, to plump the middle, to polish the end.

Then the happiness faded. I started to see the gaps, the cracks, the fractures; the long-winded wordiness, ridiculous choices of my protagonist, the clichéd fait accompli of the antagonist. The weaknesses within my prose emboldened ink-black against the pure-white canvass.

In an instant this familiar path, along which I had been skipping, came to the downhill slope section where you will find the ruts and bumps. I stumbled and fell heavy to my knees, pitching forward onto my hands and left skin from my palms and knuckles upon the bitumen. That is when it came loose and tumbled away from me towards the storm drain. I watched it slip between the thick metal fingers – confidence in my words lost into darkness, and it was gone

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