fiction, photography

TRASH

Chris R-0153 Image by Christine Renney

The room was dirty. It hadn’t been cleaned, at least not properly. She wanted to complain but Pete was so exhausted he pleaded with her, tried to talk her down, convince her to let it slide.
He sat on the end of the bed. She hadn’t noticed the empty beer cans stowed beneath it and he realised of course that, if she did, they wouldn’t be sleeping in the room; probably wouldn’t be staying in this particular motel.
She slumped down beside him and, laying back, he heaved a very audible sigh.
‘Okay,’ she said, ‘but I’m not getting inside the covers and I’m not taking off my clothes.’
Turning onto her side she groaned and Pete could tell she was just as tired as he and could no longer fight it. Reaching out he fumbled for the light switch and closed his eyes.

Pete awoke with a start. His arm was hanging over the edge of the bed and his hand brushed against something or something had brushed against it. Rolling over he peered down. Some of the cans had rolled from beneath the bed and Pete could see there was other trash scattered across the room. Fast food and sweet wrappers and empty crisp packets. Squinting in the half light he could see an old apple core and a mouldy banana skin.
Pete climbed quietly from the bed and crossed to the window. He was thankful that he hadn’t taken his shoes off. He parted the curtains a little, letting in the light from the street lamps. The rubbish was everywhere, the room was almost entirely covered.
Pete crouched down and closer to this carpet of mess, of leftovers, he felt nauseous. Looking away he swept his hands through it. The rubbish was sticky and old, the food stuff mixed amongst the paper and card was rotting. It seemed impossible to him that somebody had managed to cram so much underneath the bed. And unbelievable that neither she nor Pete had noticed. Standing, Pete gazed across at her. He realised that it was now time to complain. But she was sleeping so soundly and after the day they had had, after the night they had had, he didn’t want to disturb her. Pete wanted to leave her be, to let her rest.
He decided that he would clean up the mess himself. He had gloves in the car and some old carrier bags. Using these he could carry the rubbish across to the wheelie bins he had spotted at the far end of the car park. Working as quietly as he could Pete would make as many trips as were necessary and in the morning she would be none the wiser.
Pete stepped closer and he studied her for a few moments. Crouching again he lifted the faded eiderdown and peered. There was still a lot of rubbish beneath the bed. In fact it had been forced and crammed so tightly that the trash formed a solid block and it was pushing against the underside of the mattress.
But how could that be when so much had already spilled out into the room? Pete’s bewilderment suddenly turned to anger and in his rage he thrust his hands in, frantically clawing at it. He realised that she was standing beside him but she didn’t speak and kneeling she began to help.

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life, prosetry

Hard To Explain

I called him to say that I was just about to leave home, but that I needed to buy some smokes first and then I would meet him outside the £1 pizza shop in fifteen minutes, that I’m putting pineapple on my half of the pizza and that I didn’t give a shit about his fruit-can’t-be-a-topping argument because tomato.

I texted him to say that I wasn’t feeling too clever, that I really wasn’t feeling good at all, that I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t walk anymore, I couldn’t walk anywhere anymore, that I needed to sit down, that I wasn’t on this planet, that I wasn’t in my body, that I wasn’t anywhere, that I was nowhere.

He found me lying on the floor underneath the bus stop bench. He put his face parallel to mine on the ground. He said my name over and over and over again, each name feeling like a piece of gravel falling on me, all these little stones with my name on them crashing all about us, raining grains of grit, not hurting much but still hurting a little bit. He was there and I was there, and we were here but I’m not sure where.

My outer body was convulsing violently, my hair, my teeth, my nails, shaking, but inside I was still, I was dead still, but he couldn’t see that, he could only see that I was shaking worse than usual and that my eyes were full of cloudy tears and then we both heard my voice crack as I whispered, “I don’t know where I am.”

I was terrified but he was terrified-er. He scooped me up and carried me to his car, wherever it was, wherever we were, whoever we were. I remember that he put my seatbelt on for me and I told him not to bother: I think I said it out loud but it may have been a whisper and it may have never left my mouth. He double-checked it was secure and locked the doors. He said, “It’s my job to keep you safe.” I remember driving down roads I’d never seen before while tears fell without me moving, without me asking them to. I remember that I couldn’t move my legs, that I had set concrete in my veins instead of blood, that my shoes were anchors. I remember that I couldn’t speak, but that was fine because I didn’t know any words.

Some hours later I realised that I was at his house, tucked up on the sofa in my usual corner, wearing his big comfy clothes, with Only Fools and Horses on telly and a pint of water and my meds next to me. He was cooking Sunday dinner. I could hear him stirring gravy in the glass jug.

I dragged myself to the kitchen and stood in the doorway. He was startled when he turned around and saw me there. I quietly asked him what had happened. He said he didn’t know. I started to panic. We sat down and he told me:

that I was supposed to meet him at the £1 pizza place, that I didn’t show up, that I sent him weird texts about feeling unwell, that I wasn’t answering my phone, that he went to the shop where I buy my fags and Bossman told him that I was there earlier but that I looked drunk and that I walked down the road,

that he walked around the area looking for me, found me at the bus stop, the bus stop by my house, by Bossman’s shop, by my secondary school, by the station,

that I was really frightened because I didn’t know where I was or who I was or what was happening, that I was screaming into my wrists and couldn’t move, that it took 15 minutes for himself, two passersby and an off-duty nurse to get me to trust him enough to let him grab me from under the bench and pick me up,

that the girl under the bus stop bench wasn’t me, that it was someone else entirely, that I was like an orphaned child waking up alone in a foreign land, like a ghost of an infant, that my eyes were dead and didn’t recognise his face at all, that I didn’t seem to understand how people were existing around me, that I didn’t understand how I was existing, that I had no idea where I was,

that it was as if I was seeing for the first time the area that I walk through multiple times a day and have known like the back of my hand for 20 years, that I was scared of the buses and the people and the cars and the air and the pavement and the sounds and my heartbeat and my skin and my voice,

that he’d never seen anything like it in his entire life, that he thought I’d taken a meth overdose, that he thought I’d been smoking crack, that he thought I was possessed, that he thought I was going to die, that he thought I might kill someone, that he thought I might kill him,

that he thought he should phone an ambulance but he knew that being in hospital would terrify me more and make me even worse, that he will never forget the state he’d found me in, and that he’s quite frankly terrified of me but would do anything to get me to return to being the girl that he knows and loves.

I didn’t remember a single thing, apart from a minute in a car. I didn’t know what was real or right or wrong or true. I just didn’t know.

He said, “Look,” and pulled my sleeves up. Bloody great bite marks on my wrists, the back of my right hand, my forearms. All red and purple and violent and frantic, punctures in my flesh where my teeth fit.

I looked up at him and his eyes were soft and safe, like golden syrup. I knew then that I would always be able to find a safe place in the irides of his eyes.

“I’m scared of me too,” I said.

He hugged me, being careful not to hurt me, and then mumbled into my hair, “Do you want one Yorkshire pudding or two?” and I laughed and cried into his chest, unable and unwilling to make sense of anything in that moment, other than that one question.

“One and a half, please,” I said.


Original version of ‘Hard To Explain’ posted on 13/07/17 at The Magic Black Book. Revised version above for Hijacked Amygdala.

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poetry, prosetry

Parapraxis

I worry that you lie awake beside me
Listening to me breathe
Wondering with whom and where I’ve been

And I am afraid that it’s his name that I speak
Aloud in the dark
When my brain is steeped in drunken reverie.

He features so regularly now
That the odds of his name escaping from my mouth
Are stacked against us on the nightstand

With the unread books,
The stolen looks
And the conversations you don’t know we have.

*

Does his name hang above our bed,
A mosquito net with human-sized holes in it?
Have my drug-induced murmurs hurt your heart,
His name a subconscious stab in the dark?

*

When I wake from my drug-addled sleep
Your side is empty, you have already gone.
I don’t know what damage has or hasn’t been done,
But I send you a message saying,

I had horrible dreams last night 😦

Hoping that if indeed I did say his name aloud
You’ll think that it’s all okay
Because I meant it in a bad, bad, nightmarish way.
But really,

I think my dreams about him are horrible
Because they’re not reality
And I really want them to be.
(I’m so sorry).

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life, poetry, prosetry

This Doesn’t Count

Do I dare immortalise you?

No, I dare not write your name in ink.

If I turned everyone into a poem
I wouldn’t have time to drink,
And if I don’t drink then I have no excuse
To see you, no courage
To speak to you, no bottle,
No reason, no appeal, no point.

*

I’ve fallen before
For the married man,
The invisible man,
The dangerous man,
The man twice my age,
The man who didn’t want me,
The man that Papa told me not to.

I tick off the clichés as I collect them
And write their names in black
On the back page of my book
Like pressed flowers grown in fields of promiscuity.
(That way, I can clearly see the repeat offenders).

Do I dare immortalise her?
No, I dare not write her name in ink.
The barmaid at the Anti-Social Social Club?
No, surely not.

Another day, another cliché
Committed by a mess of a human
Who’s allergic to inertia,
Susceptible to flattery,
Game for a challenge:
The actions of someone who is fine to die tomorrow.

*

Stop the world, I wanna get off,” she said.
With you,” I said, too quickly.
IT’S A SONG!” I said, caring too much,
Dropping the Queen of Hearts
I had hidden up my sleeve.
She flashed that smile of hers,
The one that scares and thrills me
And walked away, knowing she was winning.

She’s cooler than me, sharper than me, harsher than me.
I can’t possibly have met my match, not here, not now.
Not her, surely?

*

When I see her I fluff my lines,
Avert my eyes, die a bit inside.
She gets me into trouble.
She hates my boyfriend and lets him know;
Oh, I thought you were single! You act single,
She announces, talking about me, loudly, to me, in front of him.
She enjoys watching me squirm.
She digs me out about shit I say when I’m drunk,
And I only ever remember our arguments
When she tells me about them the next day,
But I catch her staring at me between the taps
And she doesn’t ever need to remind me about that,
No matter how many “Basic Bitch” drinks she serves me.

*

Imagine my surprise to see her on The Other Side one night,
On my side of the bar, planted at my side, with her hand on my thigh.
No, I can’t turn her into a poem. Then she’s important. Then she’s real.
Do I dare immortalise her?
No, I dare not. Then she’s Someone.
I can’t turn her into Someone when, to her, I’m probably another No One.
No, I won’t write about her.
I daren’t immortalise her.
(This doesn’t count).

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life

Tantrum

January 10th 2007. I had just broken my New Year’s resolution which was to attend whole days of school, from 8:40 to 3:15 every weekday, instead of leaving at lunchtime or walking out mid-lesson or writing the whole day off and failing to turn up at all because depression was killing me from the inside out. Apparently I had to go to school because it is the law. There should’ve been a law in place to protect minds like mine being infected with lugubriosity but I suppose parliament were too busy dealing with the impending smoking ban to really care about the rapidly snowballing mental health epidemic. They’re still too busy now.

Anyway, it was 12:40pm and I’d just walked out of Physics. I knew mother would be at work. I knew father left home to go to the pub between 12 and 12:30 every day. I dragged myself home to our disgusting council flat on the A1000, silently praying that I’d feel even just a tiny bit better after having a cup of tea and a spliff, whiling away the afternoon lying on my dad’s bed, staring at the ceiling and listening to records with only our cat and the voices in my head for company.

I turned the corner into the entrance to our block. My dad’s car was still outside. Shit. What is he still doing here? I thought he’d be out. I needed to steal some of his tobacco for my spliff. Damn. I ducked behind a bush and threw away my roll-up. I didn’t want him to know that I smoked. He’d be disappointed and blame himself. I dug around in my bag and found the sickly sweet body spray that I’d nicked from Superdrug a week prior. I sprayed my uniform and my hair and my hands. (In hindsight, this makes it more obvious to parents that you’ve been smoking but at the time it was all one could do). I stuck a chewing gum in my mouth and spied on my dad.

The car boot of his fourth-or-fifth-hand-definitely-belongs-in-a-scrap-yard Vauxhall Cavalier was open. It was a red car but was so faded it was practically pink. The back seats were folded down. He was throwing full black bin-bags into the car in a semi-organised fashion. ‘Girl From The North Country’ was playing from the tape deck. What the fuck is he doing? I crept out from behind the bush.

“Dad?”

“Hiya babes. Give us a hand with these bags, would you?”

“Sure, what’s all this? Are you taking stuff to the charity shop?”

“Not today.”

“Ohhhhh, you’re going to The Dump?”

“No, I’m dumping your mother.”

“What?”

“I’m moving out. I can’t take it anymore. I’ve found a flat. I’m sorry, princess.”

“Are you fucking joking?”

“I’m not going far.”

“What about me and T? You can’t fucking leave us with her, you CAN’T.”

“You can come and visit whenever you want.”

“Aren’t we coming with you? How many bedrooms is it?”

“Just one babes, it’s a one bedroom flat.”

“But we can come and live with you, right? We can sleep on the floor? We can get sleeping bags? You said we’d all leave her together, and it’ll just be us three, the way it’s meant to be.”

“I’m so sorry, darling. I’m so sorry. You can call me anytime. I’m still your dad, I’ll always be your dad. Nothing will ever change that, even if we’re a million miles apart, I’m still your dad.”

And in that moment I realised that this would be one of those scenes in my life that would be called a “major life event”, one that in the future I would look back on to see how greatly it affected the course of my life, one that therapists would ask me about, one that might be described as a turning point, a new chapter, one that cements a new fixture on my timeline, a “before dad left” and an “after.” I knew that this would be something that I one day write about. I had to do it right.

I realised I could do this one of two ways.

I could either kick and scream and shout and throw a teenage tantrum of epic proportions. I could tell my dad that I hated him and that I’d never forgive him for leaving us with her and that I’d never trust him again and that he’s a bastard for walking out like this and that I never wanted to speak to him or see him ever again. I could cause an almighty fucking scene, shout louder than the traffic, grab the bags from the boot and toss them into the road, strew clothes all over the street, frisbee his vinyls into the trees. I could beg him not to leave.

I could cry and hold onto his legs like I did when I was a small child. Every morning when he left to go to work I would grab onto his legs and refuse to let go and I’d cry and cry because I didn’t want him to leave. He’d peel me off and escape through the door. I’d sit by the window all day waiting for him to come back. I’d look out, nose pressed to the window for hours until I’d see his head bobbing up the street, then I’d run to the front door which I wasn’t tall enough to open and wait to hear his keys. He was always so happy to see me. I could guilt-trip him into staying. I could try to persuade him to let us live with him somehow. I could propose that mother live in his new flat and us three continue to live at this place. I could just keep screaming and crying until he realised he couldn’t leave me in a state like that, that what he was doing was wrong, was mean, was bang out of order. Was unforgivable.

‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ started playing from the car.

“I will always be your dad and you will always be my girl,” he said.

Or I could be delighted for him. I could be pleased for him. Pleased that he’d escaped the asylum, the house of horrors. He was getting out of this place alive. He wouldn’t die in that room, as I’d feared he would so many times. He’d be so much happier in his new place. T and I would have a safe place to go after mother beat us or kicked us out. We wouldn’t have to sleep in the park, we could sleep at dad’s! We’d probably get to see more of dad, since he largely avoided the house other than to sleep and bathe. It might even be cool – I could leave the house with no need to make up mad excuses about where I was going, I could just say, “I’m going to see dad” and she’d never know because they don’t speak, she’d never call him to ask. When I’d get in trouble I could go to dad’s. When I’d get into trouble at school they could call dad, instead of the wicked witch on the landline. Maybe things would be better for everyone. Maybe with dad gone, she’d be less angry in general, and therefore may be less angry at me and T. He must feel so guilty for leaving us as it is, I shouldn’t make it harder on him. I should help dad move out. I should help dad move out. I should support him, just like he’d support me if I’d moved out first. He’s free. I should revel in his freedom, breathe it in like second-hand smoke. He wouldn’t have to deal with mother anymore. He wouldn’t have to see the violence and feel powerless to stop it. His mental health would improve. Maybe even his physical health. He was free. He was free. Finally. A week after they’d ignored their 17th wedding anniversary. Free.

“Why aren’t you at school?” he asked, breaking my chain of thought.

“Black dog.”

“Shit,” he replied, worried that I’d inherited the same madness that he’d been plagued with for so many years. “Come here.”

We hugged by the car and he said,

“I’m not leaving you. Or your brother. I’m leaving her.”

“I know,” I replied.

I decided that I didn’t want to look back on this and be ashamed of my reaction. It was up to me now to protect myself and my brother. I had to keep my shit together. And I didn’t want my dad to spend the last stages of his life riddled with guilt. You should never trap or try to contain a free spirit – the best parts of them are always the first to waste away.

“Give us a hand then?”

“Okay,” I said, walking head down into the block. “Hey, Dad?”

“Yes, love?”

“Seeing as you’re moving out and you’ve got the biggest room… can I have your bedroom?”

“Course you can. But you’re probably gonna have to fight your brother for it anyway.”

“Challenge accepted.”

I picked up a box of books and heaved it out the door to the car. ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ played. “They are indeed, Bobby,” my dad said quietly, sighing.

Then I went inside and emerged with two of his acoustic guitars.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” he asked.

“No, what?” I replied.

“You’re gonna have to find someone else to steal tobacco from.”

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

She predated the moment of her autopsy

1234908_469437609824109_1609513967_nWhat you don’t know, can’t know, won’t know

is she flushed it all

and now she’s ten pounds lighter

no womb

no baby

it’s been carefully dissected and left for students

to place in formaldehyde and trot out when exhibitions

are in town

rather like her

with her avuncular spirit that even when pissed on

from a great height

keeps joining the circus

you wouldn’t have wanted her if she was the last girl in the room

and she was and you didn’t

but fornicate you did

the way young skin seeks anything for a thrill

even the mildly disgusting

where did you get the scar? you asked without needing a response

but she told you everything, the whole dirty bag of it

because she wasn’t going to last. and you

weren’t going to listen

when they came knocking on your door

inquiring if you knew her

at first you said no, I haven’t heard that name before

but of course you hadn’t, you never asked

she didn’t volunteer much besides

the opening and closing of her legs

scissors chopping the thin thread

they showed you a photo

someone who had light in their eyes

not her with darkness on her breath

but it was

those scars

the dissected girl who was cut open

and *audience cheers*

found to be empty

of life

she predated the moment of her autopsy

with a slow smoked cigarette and some warm cum

leaking between her legs

giving her the courage to believe she’d been alive

before she fell like a weight seeking reclamation

the air rushing and pulling her down

to where she lay in an impression of sleep

I don’t know why she jumped, you said

feeling no guilt for nameless sex

it was just two consenting adults

hooking up after a night of drinking

I couldn’t even tell you anything about her

other than she didn’t say no

he closes his eyes and he feels her hands

touching his shoulders softly

pulling him inside her as if she were

hungry and full at the same time

no I didn’t sense that she was sad

or wanted to take her own life

I smelt her perfume it was

like flowers

left in water

too long

 

(photo credit: Nona Limmen)

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