There was an old man called Michael Finnegan. Ourobouros. That's the word. Ourobouros, the snake that swallows its own tail. Between these shelves, between these books, between these words, I go round in circles. Swallowing myself. Imagine, swallowing yourself. A hit with the ladies, no mistake. But why would a man need a woman if he could swallow himself? The wind came round and blew them in again. Light's still a long way off and the library doesn't even open till nine. Thoughts going round but they can't get out. Thoughts in circles. Ourobouros. Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again.
12 September 2004
Ninety-nine. Twenty-two, he was, from the local paper. I had a war, six dead brothers, influenza and an abortion to my name by twenty-two. He said To what do you attribute your longevity? Very good grammar, most unusual in a boy so young. I said it's probably all the cocaine I took in the Twenties. They won't print that. They've all gone home. I never liked cake. That's what I should have said. I chalked up ninety-nine because I never liked cake. I made cake every year for James. Sixty-six cakes. No more children to outlive. Ninety-nine. Time for bed.
I admit perhaps to physical unmanliness. Some people even deemed me mental. If that is what they think, that is what they must think regardless. My own thoughts have been a permanent friend to me over the years and helped me not to regret my ignorance of life and how people are supposed to live in it. The person who is born introverted has such a tiny impact on events and why I was even born into the pod of the world's green peas, I will never guess. I was slapped the very moment I came out into the world.
A burglar mid-crime on the telly. Making a collage from the catalogue. The smell of glue. He tiptoes up. I see him reflected in the screen, but I let him put ice cream down my shirt anyway. The telly flutters, vertical hold gone so the image rolls. Revenge for stealing that bad poem from his typewriter, his primary school effort. But I devoured his every rhyme, only put it back- with the speed of a synonym- when I heard him come in. I put it back upside down. Never thought I'd ever dream of happy and wake up into it.
Another day, another town. Another load of fat smug faces you'd as soon punch as look at. Hello, how are you, nice to meet you, we mean you no harm; we bring only electronic novelties for your young, can I interest you in a load of old crap? When you're new in a strange town you never see the things you'd want to see, and you get to see all kinds of things that you don't. All the slappers and junkies, unloved and unlovely. Madam I am drunk and you are ugly but in the morning I will be sober.
All because of a tumour so small it's almost impossible to visualise, in my heart, and because it broke loose. Nothing anybody could do. Now there's small parts of it all over me. And they keep growing. Dad had it, too. Men are usually reptiles when it comes to expressing their emotions. The back of the brain is the oldest part. It deals with the most basic ways of responding to things. Like an angry crocodile lashing out when it's attacked. He lashed out. Women are more like monkeys. They sit down and have a little chat about it. Yes.
He told me he liked all those kinds of things. Wanking off winos and tramps. I don't really understand it myself, the dirtier the better almost. The boys, the clean boys, you might be able to understand, but those filthy old bastards, I don't know. At least there was a purpose in what I did, in such a way though a person goes through so much, no… because a person goes through so much it's possible that a person has to be, what you would call anaesthesia. That's a word from a crossword puzzle. Anaesthesia. How do you spell that?
Could have been a great lover, but never had chance because nobody ever threw themselves at my feet. Nobody ever made it easy. I was a clever lad, maybe could have been a teacher. But the seats in the library was too hard and I always thought I knew best. When I was young I always said I'd have myself done away with if I turned into a cripple or something. I say have myself done away with. Never said I'd do myself away. Now I wish I could. Too late, 'cause choice has gone the same way as opportunity.
Trois Gymnopédies. Lent et douloureux. Erik Satie, about 1890 I think. Somebody in the building plays it so well, note perfect, but it's transformed into something more elegant still- delicate as blue skies in summer- by the corridors and stairwells between us. The discreet touch of a stranger's fingertips to ivory. Fluid, unresolved, and the last note hangs for a few perfect seconds before the player returns to the start and the delicate bass chords begin again. Perhaps they're practising piano. Perhaps it's just someone's CD, running unattended, unheeded, unheard. It doesn't matter. Blue skies. Dada dada da dadada da.
Sex. I remember sex. I know what's really going on. She's just not attracted to me anymore. I've been dispensed with. She's got what she needs from me. Now Toby's first, second and third. All I am is a very crappy fourth on her list of what's important now. And there's all that bollocks about she doesn't even know if she's attracted to herself anymore, she still feels like such a fat pig, well not to me. Anyway she's still my pig, and Toby's my son, my beautiful son and she's my beautiful wife. Watch where you're going, you fucking-
When we play monsters and Mummy catches me, she never kills me, she only tickles me. Johnnie says play like a boy, not some girl. You want to grow up right, don't you, don't want to grow up a puff like your dad, do you? When we play monsters I sometimes let Mummy catch me because she tickles me where it tickles and not where it doesn't tickle. I don't want to play monsters with Johnnie, but Johnnie wants to play monsters with me. I want to play monsters with my real dad. Cause Johnnie hurts when he catches you.
The copper says Can I ask you if you've been taking drugs, sir? I can't stop laughing, I say Who isn't on drugs? The other copper says Step out of the car, sir? I put my foot down and I kind of feel the copper's foot under the tires and hear him shout Fucking nigger drove over my fucking foot. They only stopped me because I'm a nice black man with a nice black car and I'm a handsome bastard with the right kind of hetero patois for hooking the honeys and those racist arsehole pigs can't stand it. Tree.
I bet every father thinks their daughter is the most beautiful girl in the world. But it's true. The trouble is, I've never told her. I've never said, Lucy, one last thing: I want to tell you how beautiful you are and that you've the greatest heart of anyone I've ever met, and you won't always get what you deserve but I know you will make people as happy as you have made me in the twenty-five years it has been my honour to know you. I have never said that. Because I never even realised it until just now.
8 September 2004
That's the thing about security. In the end you forget whether you meant to lock yourself in, or everybody else out. When Laurence is away I sometimes think there are prowlers on the security monitor. But when I check the tapes later, there's never anybody there. He's my security, I suppose. We'll both be fifty soon and I need him more than ever. He'll say: You menopausal old cow. I go checking all the locks on the ground floor. There's a shadow by the pool. It exhales cigarette smoke and points. I'm not alone here. My husband's upstairs. I'll scream.
3 September 2004
I feel like I've got Tourette's syndrome. All I can do is spit and swear and scream. I'm a hearse bandit, wanting the end, looking backwards and forwards in anger. Anger rubs out my own mistakes and where they've got me. A toilet's flushing. Somehow a flushing toilet is the appropriate sound for this moment. Fact's hard to get at in a life like mine. I've made sure of it. They'll have me cremated. A stake through my heart and my ashes in the reservoir. Nobody wants to take any chances. Nobody wants me now. Nobody wants me coming back.
This place is disgusting. Freezing cold, dank, scrawl on the walls. Dark grey walls and the smell of men. What do they call it? Battleship grey. Maybe I'm too ambitious to have morals. Very convenient, is what she'd say. I could still go to university or something. It would be good to help people instead of just using them. But I have to use them to get where I want to go, for now. Myself in the mirror, acne gone, ribs gone. There's nothing wrong with pushing yourself. I imagine each rep crushes her and all the shit she said.
Yeah? Come on then. Come on then. Fuck. Fuck off, that hurt. You're dead, fucker. Come on. You're dead. Fuckin kill you. Come here, I'll fuckin kill you. Gonna kill you. Yeah, you think I won't. Think I'm some kind of poof, do ya, think I'll do nowt about it? You're all mouth. Think you can talk to me like that and I'll do nowt about it. Fuckin show ya. I'm not taking that from youse, ya stupid little fucker youse. You've been waiting haven't ya, waiting to have a go. Have a go, then. Come on. You're dead, fucker.
Peter's gone. I'm positive now. Past scatterbrained, past confused, past senile, even. He screams whenever I turn out the light. He tries to drink from the cup but his hands are shaking and more sloshes onto his cardigan than into his mouth. I say his name, four or five times. Finally he looks at me, but I think it's my tone that does it, not his name. I watch carefully but he doesn't seem to feel the hot tea pouring into his lap. There's all kinds of ways to die out of this world. I'll not go like you, Peter.
Miranda sits by me, stands by me, lays beside me. I hate the way people smell when they've been sick. She hardly even flinched when I puked down her dress. Knelt beside me all night as I heaved over the toilet. Now I will her to sleep, bequeath her my share. It's no use to me. Lying in the dark, I concentrate on my hands instead. Pretend the cramps and pain are resting in the palms of my hands. If I just close my fist around them, if I just grab them and hold them, I know I'll be OK.
They make me sit down and eat more food than I'd normally eat in a whole day. They still expect me to get myself up in sari and bindi, a costume really, it means nothing to me at all. Makes me feel so guilty, even more English than normal. Auntie puts on some Hindi film music and asks me to dance for her. I feel about five again. I dance for Auntie in my weird, English, trying not to be too sexy way. It always makes her throw back her head and laugh so I see all her terrible teeth.
1 September 2004
I wake up again and this time it hardly even worries me that I'm pinned here, upside down almost. I cried my eyes out, I cried for what I'd guess were hours after it happened, but I couldn't believe what happened to Dan as he died. The lines on his face seemed to just melt away, the look of pain dissolved. Now it's actually getting boring. The sun's coming up, I think. Haven't heard a car all night. A single bird sings, very far away. Later, a sparrow perches in the smashed window. He cocks his head, trying to understand.
I pop a couple as soon as I get there, saying I have to piss after the long drive. I find I can almost entirely put up with Maggie's whining, oppressive, negative attitude. What happens when we get together's as predictable- and vicious- as a cockfight. She should have worked for the KGB. She can twist anything, that woman. Anything you say is ammunition, with our own children as human shields. The Saddam Hussein of the Home Counties. Jack's hammering on the door. Daddy, are you on the toilet again? These things work as well as advertised, though. Maybe better.
I'm so tired, he says, and I say Well aren't we all? You're nothing special. He laughs, frowns. Not sure what I'm saying. He's got this knackered digital watch from Japan, from when he taught English in Fukuoka. Sometimes it just starts talking and goes on for hours, jabbering at random. It's polite as well. When it's finished with the digital diarrhoea it says Sank You VELLY much, in that irritating Japanese girl-woman helium voice. His arm slips from my shoulder and we both turn our faces to the thin strip of blue between buildings and some woman screams.
The blinds are drawn and the heaters flutter like our daughter's heartbeat. The only other noise is Kim's elephant walk, her pregnant patrol across the tiles. This is the silence I forget myself in. Forget that I exist, or I won't much longer. No need to rehash what we would have done with our futures, futures that are now just black jokes, pure speculation. I feel like one of those cultists, waiting to be spirited off to some UFO, leaving Kim to attend to business on the planet. Kim. And the belly that- for now- stands in for our daughter.
Eyeliner pasted on thick like glue. Bruised eyeshadow, brown, yellow, purple. Tried to lipstick a smile over a grimace. It didn't work. Used to be so beautiful, oh and I knew it, I knew it. It's all gone now, and the people who were drawn by it. I'm broken. But still everything just happens, life goes on after beauty stops, God knows how or why. They'd need a crane to lift this face. A moment of temper and seven years bad luck. The pills take control of me. I'll sweep up the pieces of my shattered face in the morning.
31 August 2004
Draw in the back garden. Draw flowers and monsters and James. The flowers smell and daddy told me the names but I forgot and he doesn't know I forgot as soon as he said but they smell. James takes my pens and I kick him in the leg again like before when I got sent upstairs. He says he's telling, I say Tell then. Pick the flowers and feed them to the fish. The fish don't want to eat the flowers. They'll eat my finger but not the flowers. Put my fingers in and their funny mouths tickle my fingers.
She says: One more thing. Her diligent tan and her grey eyes, strafing me with her eyes. I really want to be serious for a moment. No, sit over there. She must see my odd expression and she says You know I love you and I'm more certain than ever that she doesn’t and she never has. She's like a character in a story, never caught making a bed or on the toilet. She says Close your eyes. No, keep them closed. It won't be a surprise unless you keep them closed. No, close them. And you’ll get your surprise.
Forgot how I got here. A nasty toilet somewhere, puke all over the floor, with my shirt off and some kind of sticky crap in my hair. The lav's got more dog ends around it than the ashtray. How did that get here? Handy though, someone's left a ciggie in there though it's nearly burnt out. The state of the bog makes me puke again. Behind it there's this weird, hopping spidery thing and an old condom. I think someone's trying to kick the door in. Lots of shoes under the door. Fuck off. Fuck off. I can't stop puking.
The smell of petrol everywhere, coating my palate, stinging my eyes. Net curtains on fire. Those animals outside, shouting such filth I'm glad Lorraine took the girls with her when she left me that bitch. Can't remember any prayers, just something about lead us not into temptation. Suppose I know the way already. They're just trying to put the wind up me. Papers are going to have a field day. I'll get out of this. Always have before. Anyway they wanted it wanted it wanted it and they shouldn’t go walking through the park alone at night if they don’t.
Yeah, he was like a machine. Or like some mangled insect, still humping away even after somebody’s bitten off its head. I found out afterwards it wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just women. There were men, too. Probably goats, hamsters, the slots of vending machines, toasters, who knows. His sister told me he got beaten up in a police cell, and I laughed then quickly put on a serious face and said how terrible. Anyway. Too late now. The past has already happened. It's up to us to change the future. Christ. I sound like a fucking greetings card.
Mum was a frozen thing, like one of those old old mummies they sometimes find buried under thousands and thousands of years old glaciers. But she was my mum. I'm an only child, but she didn't have time enough even for one little girl. Home is where it hurts. She was still warm, the telly on, some documentary about gophers or something, the something or other lives in matriarchal something or others. I stagger out, not because I want to, but because stumbling around is part of whatever's snapped in me. I see him coming but he doesn't see me.
I used to barely be able to watch the news. I was weak. Used to be so overwhelmed by the bullshit of life. Everything you say or think coming pre-equipped with asterisks and quotation marks. Now I'm weak, really weak, but I'm strong. Found the beauty in people I never noticed before. I told these nuns- never spoke to nuns before- I walked up to them, told them I thought they were beautiful. They tittered and giggled and blushed and I didn't tell them it took a stupid waste of a life for me to say a thing like that.
Twenty quid for a car stereo. Good one, as well. Made it last nearly two weeks. Sit on the kerb and eat sandwiches from the council van. Just bread with butter between ain't a sandwich. A bus stops. Driver doesn't see me and I breathe diesel, I can't be arsed moving. The street empties. I sit against the wall, look up at my breath and the sky. From here it's almost luminous, a luminous black. I pull the plastic tight around me, watch every breath go solid like fingers and toes but luckily I'm so cold I'm almost warm again.
He looks tiny, almost frail, my boy with the old man's face. These last few months he's made grief into something like a vice, an addiction. I'm alive in here, but all I can do is open my eyes, and every time I do he's caught up in himself. Can't read his expression. His brown eyes are distorted by those cheap sunglasses. I bought him a pair just the same when I let go of that door and broke his nose. Thirty years ago. Now he's had enough grief and it's time to switch me off. Please. Switch it off.
30 August 2004
Jo's still crying behind that sheet of beautiful blonde hair, crying into her tiger's back. Never thought I'd be so very pregnant and so very alone, not again. The blood keeps coming out from between my legs in such a shocking puddle and it's never going to come out of the carpet and Jo won't leave, won't leave, and all the dolls and monkeys and bears sit there goggling at me, all passive and watching and I wonder if they'll tell Jo and the baby that I love them and tell me when the ambulance comes and I'll wake up.
His eyes are black dots, dead space. The previous stretch he did snuffed out his humanity like a match in a hurricane. Now he's in for stabbing his girlfriend's baby. I remember asking what he was looking forward to, when he got out. He thought hard. "Nothing." Imagine. At 21. Nothing. He looks half that. One night I just cried for hours because I hadn't met anyone with any goodness in them for so long. He can't keep me here forever. I always knew he'd stab me in the back, in the end. Stabbed me in the front as well.
If Freud was the father of Psychoanalysis and his writings gave birth to it, then Psychoanalysis is his child and his writings are the mother. So Psychoanalysis obviously suffered from a desire to possess him and destroy his writings. Never let on, personal feelings, that sort of thing, but he'd do anything else if one asked. But one had never to take no for an answer, one had to drive oneself into him like a nail into wood. Ah, the darling daughter. Patriarchy's Achilles heel. Followed father into psychiatry because one knew no alternative. Always escaping into one's own mind.
My legs are starting to go numb. I could be here all day before anyone finds me. I'm not bleeding very much, so it can't be anything life threatening. But I can't get up. I know where I am, I've got my wits and I am trying. My arms still hurt and I can just about feel my hands. Now I'm being hysterical because I'm starting to imagine my legs are paralysed. I can't move them, but I think I'm just too scared. Blood from somewhere is slippery through my shirt. I'd rather not see so I close my eyes.
By the time I fight through the canteen, Sean and Tracey have already lost the battle with all those plastic chairs I never liked. Christina is sitting on the smouldering carpet next to a dribbling extinguisher. Her legs are spread and her white knickers are showing. Her normally smooth and flawless face has been painted black, with two clear slug trails slowly making their way down sooty cheeks. The smoke burns and worms up my nose and down my throat, it's like having a three bar fire in your lungs and I can't see. That red plastic really does stink.
It's like that film Night of the Livid Dead and I play the role of the zombie who Bleeds to death by the canal Staring through the eyes of the dead Fucked with a knife Stripped raped and strangled Mangled by diggers Asking for it Force fed broken glass Murder experiments Stabbed through with garden fork Falls into lift shaft because it's stuck twelve floors down. And then I'm chucked in the back of a rubbish lorry and my name not written there because I'm not eligible for any assistance as the lady said from behind her fucking reinforced glass.
He stopped ringing before either of us wore the conversation down to facts. I tried calling him, but all the computer says is that The number I've dialled is no longer in service. Now I can hear the phone warbling in everything. Every time a phone goes on a telly programme, my hand twitches for a few seconds, wanting to answer it. Men digging up the tarmac they only laid two months ago has got bells in it. Even the settling of the house at night while I flipflop between REM and doze sounds like the chirp of the phone.
He holds my hand a lot. It's like a horror film without the horror. I wake up, his hand's in mine and I wonder how it got there. It creeps sideways under the sheets and squeezes my paw masonically. He puts his hands through my hair so often I've been using the stickiest hairspray the nurses can get, just to slow him down. Not that I mind him doing it. I just don't want to go with messy hair. He kisses me, doesn't cheat by asking if he can. He knows the time is now. It's time to kiss me.
These things aren't working. His size 11s tracked across my clean carpet to the door. Wrought iron telephone stand, black curves under glass. Silk and polythene flowers, colours like old ladies' dresses. Phone line frayed away to almost nothing. Leaflets for attractions mostly closed or fallen down anyway. Dripping tap in the second-floor bathroom, with a corroded smear I can't get rid of on the porcelain. Scratch marks on the door, someone's desperation or constipated boredom. Bolt ripped off, leaving a ghost outline of itself in the paint as evidence. Age-grey net curtains. God, how many before they start working?
The nurse is one of those women who have such hard, tough looking faces that they cover with so much makeup one is amazed they don't develop hunchbacks from the weight of it, because all their self comes from those greasy lines they demarcate themselves with. It looks as if you could take the edge of the woman's face between finger and thumb, and peel her self away in one piece. What is she hiding behind there? I want to ask her, but she glides away on hidden wheels, moving her head gently from side to side as she goes.
There's something on with puppets but he makes me turn it off. He wipes his bashed in nose on the back of his hand, taps fag ash carefully into his shirt pocket. He says I told ya what would happen if you didn't do it and I remember then and see what he means. The floor's still hiding under all the crap and clothes and CD cases. He says You know I love ya. I say yeah, carefully though, but I still think I see something in his eyes get bright. Then he says Don't make me come over there.
We're thin as a glance from a moving car. You smile, you pretend you're not interested in anything, they want to shag you even more. I don't know why. I only work here. Executives are the worst. Jack Daniels and coke and beating up girls. Shirts that never quite fit. I think I've had every organ in my mouth. You don't need a brain. It's better if you don't have one. In the bitch seat, between two dickheads who keep yelling and throwing beer cans out the window. I tell them I'm getting out. Sudden blood. Quick as a razor.
28 August 2004
I hate the 4-D room. Dead, Dying, Diseased and Disabled. Can't even look at a chicken nugget anymore. Twist the legs out, chuck it all in the hopper. Have to really stuff them in because the grinders don't work proper. Usually some of them are alive even after they've been hanging in the pen. When I had to gas chicks in the hatchery it used to give me nightmares. Todd's always off sick. When he turns sixteen they're gonna sack him anyway. There's something clogging up the grinders. Broom handle's no good so I have to put my arm in.
There's something about parks at night. People think they're entitled to a fumble, a screw, a piss in the dark. The infrared cameras see them, so do I. Just because nobody can see them doesn't make it right. People need more restrictions, not less. You can't let too much freedom in. I've never broken the law in my life. There they go, prickly little monochrome blurs, a whole gang of them. It's cold out. Bastards. Perhaps one day they'll let us carry pepper, at least. Six of them, rabbits in my torchlight. One of them's got something in his hand.
He was horny, yeah, good looking bloke. But he had the tiniest dick in the world. I never knew when he'd put it in. I didn't tell him. But there must have been something, something in him I never saw. Evening seems to come in chunks. I don't notice it getting darker until it actually is. He was my only hope and now, alone in our bed, I can hate him enough to do what he did. It's not a competition, there's no league table of despair. But I've done it better than he did. They'll know I meant it.
I had to get out of my head. Somehow got into sniffing glue out of bags. Wish I didn't give a shit about Liam, though. But sometimes I start out still fucked from the night before, that ain't no life for a baby, I know it. Glue's my truth serum. Anyway, everybody's addicted to something. Just wanna bring my fate on quick, get it over with. Dunno why anyone would want an Alsatian unless they was a copper or in the bomb squad. I think it's my dog. My memory's fucked. The stupid crap people do shouldn't be remembered anyway.
About 8:30 you get the schoolgirls with racoon makeup and belly buttons out. When I won't serve them, their childish swearing proves my point. Then it's the supporters, nasty but stupid, pissed before they even come in. Not really friends, just acquaintances who fall into each other's company for the length of the match. It's the pack instinct you have to watch out for. I can't see the telly, but it must be a goal, yells and hugs, kisses. They'd kick your head in if you called them queer. Then I notice the scuffed Adidas bag under the empty table.
There's a pool on the floor of the day room, I'm in it, I'm making it bigger, aquarium water and blood. My shirt collar's done up so tight it feels like it's about the only thing holding my head on, I can't feel anything else. The guppies aren't quite ready to be amphibious yet, dying in the broken glass and gravel. People are already murdering them underfoot, they're tiny, nobody even notices. The way they flip reminds me of bacon in a pan. Steven's naked now apart from my blood, disco dancing to a red hot cut only he can hear.
Everything in the magazine looks painful, but I suppose that's the point. The models would look better with their clothes on. But the little bastard persuades me. Even the plaster over his eyebrow looks like deliberate bondage now. I let him cuff me. He says all women should be taken like this and my gagged laugh comes out as a snort. From behind he calls me her name. OK, they're only one consonant apart, but it pisses me off. I can't breathe. What are you supposed to say to make him stop? Uncle. Uncle. No more. I can't breathe. Uncle.
I had this vague sense of disaster while I was shaving this morning. I can't seem to push it away. Concentrate on pushing the product. Nobody would buy these things without me. The lawn's going bald from front to back, like I am. Mr Bloom seems fairly standard, old but not quite senile, polyester shirt. His living room's like a 1930s show house, in a time warp but clean. You honestly can't believe anyone really lives here. I know better than to ask about the wife. Prewar wiring as well, probably. He says there's a socket down there somewhere. Careful.
Nothing ever changes. Looking for a job. Haven't heard from anyone. Had one interview. Didn't want anything I applied for. Better off on benefits anyway. Apply at a lot of hotels, a carpet warehouse, cattle market pubs. Don't hear anything from any one of those bastards. The man at the desk won't get off the phone, just hands me an application form off a big pile. Job's mine if I want it. Better off on benefits. Temporary. Third shift. Split shift. Shit shift. Graveyard shift. Zombie shift. Lunch break at 3am. Some people can take it and some people can't.
I begin to get the distinct impression the driver is taking advantage of me, motoring around in circles to get his paws on the money I've hidden in my shoe. He thinks I'm confused. Casualty's too bright and smells of nothing. The carpet tiles are the colour of burnt toast and rough like Velcro. The doctor just sits there twittering away her nonsense, absorbed in herself, alien to me. She goes away to find my files. Good luck to her, is what I say. I've written seven conflicting autobiographies and left them stashed around the flat for people to find.
You'll find that ghosts cross a person's mind at a time like this, as life erodes itself into nothing; just someone's forgotten cigarette burning in an ashtray. I'm still on your case. I hope you're able to forgive me in the end. It's only because I can't stop loving you. It would be nice to see your smile when it finally emerges again, I want to see your eyes when they decide to come up like the sun from behind your face. Don't let joy wear thin, come and go like a ghost. There are far too many ghosts already.
The street has shiny tarmac scars people drive over without noticing. The traffic lights go into stop and back. Apart from some dreadful BBC chaps who didn't know what they were talking about, nobody caused any fuss. I think certain things should be personal and private and confidential. The world will go on for millions of years. How long is a person's life, compared to all those millions? A couple of years here and the rest in the ground. Murray succumbed to natural causes. Murray had always been, and Murray always remained, a lady. One can't say fairer than that.
27 August 2004
Regret, the police, vodka, head lice, cancer, advertising creatives, other people's parents, the North Sea, versions of me in old photos, little dogs, lies, teenage girls in threes, winter, food poisoning, politicians, sex, being alone when you don't choose it, flu, Debbie, malicious Debbie, I'd like to hit her in the face with a spade even now, time, not enough of it or far too much, rejection, ambition, pain, drugs, sales reps, junk mail, Jehovah's witnesses, Jehovah, hayfever, violence, desperation, taxi drivers, waste, false histories, oysters, the top ten, grief, the human mind, driving examiners, memories. These things are monsters.
I always used to be afraid of being touched or shat on by the gulls, but fascinated with them. The way they'd swarm down on things they found washed up. I wonder where they go at night. The current's too strong, the water's too cold, it's too far away. I can just about hear the lulling sound of a boat, a long way off. I'm swimming for land against a billion blurry dots of light. Behind the beach, the town is blazing, melting into the night. I take a deep breath, fill up my lungs. And the lights go out.
My hangovers are worse these days and I need a day to get over them. My dad used to say he forgot who he was in booze. I think I know what he meant now. And who round here doesn't need to forget who they are sometimes? One time he shot three men, within 72 hours, on the same street. He had his rules, though. Not in the head, not in the groin. I'm coming out of the post office. They shoot out my knees. After they check my wallet they tell me to run. I can't get up.
Just the right amount of that good shit in me and it's gone midnight. Empty houses with the windows tinned up against thieves. Doctor said it was stupid, nicking needles out the hospital sharps bin. All I want to do is get out me head. Ste says I'm a cheeky little bitch and need to watch my fucking gob. Be normal, like everyone else. But I always say, being like everybody, ain't that like being nobody? I press for the lift. It don't seem to be coming so I put me head through the broken window in the lift door.
I tie Tommy up outside the front door and watch telly. I watch the soaps and the quizzes and I keep the door locked. I taped the curtains shut months ago. I live in the dark with Tommy and my cricket bat. Sometimes I see blurred movements out the corner of my eyes, but when I check there's never nobody there. A few years back I realised I was twice the age of athletes, actors and musicians and I'd never be one of them. As it goes I feel a bit better, just a bit tired. Not sleeping too well.
The empty windows frame the postman. He's hyperventilating into a dirty paper McDonald's bag that another man is holding. The logo scrunches in and out. Behind him the back wheel of a bike spins slowly, sticking out of a shrub. The smoke detectors sound like hungry chicks with megaphones. A fire engine draws up between us, a wall of red between us. They won't let Craig move me, but he holds me in his arms and they don't know their own strength. He kisses tears off of my cheeks, like I'm fragile, kisses my lashes closed, kisses finally my lips.
He's wearing dark glasses and I imagine grief or bruises. Is he drunk? Hungover? Perhaps he's got no eyes. Perhaps if he unpeeled the shades, there'd just be blankness. A look ricochets around the room, something unnameable and unstated caught for a second in the air. That frozen English withholding of love. I'm sick of it. He holds my hand, so provisionally I feel like a stranger. It's the first time he's touched me since I was six. His hand doesn't feel real. It feels prosthetic. Like a Marigold glove full of warm jelly. I'm too sad to tell him.
It's really hard to get worried or worked up about something you take every day. First time, Sam dared me to do it, and I didn't have no girlfriend or job so I thought what the hell. I stink of fags and blow, sweat, spilled whiskey. I climb the mesh fence, can't hardly hear what the bloke's shouting about, then I'm moving faster than you ever seen. My brain feels like it's on a stick in the sun. I dream a funeral. Take your fucking puppets with you, Sammy. I seen what a train wheel does to a human body.
Ruth, Jack used say, you're stranger than fiction. That joke wore smooth over the years, like a pebble, but I could see it in his eyes until the end, even after the doctors took his voice away. As a boy he learned how to tell one wood from another, just by the touch and smell of it. Even in the dark he could tell. Somewhere I know I'm cold and need the lavatory. The nurse has a queer look about her. I don't think I'd like to know her. She looks up from her television magazine, bored. Nothing happened today.
It looks like we're splitting up after all. I always was amazed that such a big head held such a small, narrow mind. I knew all you wanted was a clone of your last girlfriend, like she was of the one before, but you were too good looking to resist, too well dressed to ignore. Your money tan and smug smirk. You hardly seem to be here at all, just kind of a suit walking around the place. I sold out while I still had the chance. I'll be gone before you learn how to use that iMac you bought.
A production line of filthy, patched-up aeroplanes, boys in ratty overalls and Balaclava helmets cranking over engines, adjusting earphones, climbing on board, fidgeting in cockpits, faces streaky with exhaustion and exhaust. Don't see faces like that any more. Old young men. Wounded three times before I pretended the concussion was driving me mad, got myself out. Buried five children I didn't know with my bare hands. I've worn this watch for fifty years, even though it only stays on with an elastic band now. Wrists have gone away to nothing and it keeps slipping off. Time slipping away from me.
I tell Carmel what to do with the insurance. Some of it's going to Paul, for his baby, and some to Claudette to go to university. How much does a funeral cost? As I sit with them I seem to get weaker. I hear myself gasp. I suppose that's me trying to breathe. Can't speak. The air stops in the back of my throat. My breathing has worked all my life but it doesn't now and I'm happy. I love you. You can't change that now. In a way it's good that it ends now, with the love still intact.
26 August 2004
A person needs to listen their gut, even if it's the same gut that made them eat those three dented cans of salmon. Jackie was eight months gone but she never gave up trying to get rid of it. Ran onto the M1 at junction twelve. I knew when she went out that day I'd never see her again. That was twenty odd years ago. She haunts and nags and doesn't accept excuses, apologies or a note from the doctor. Then I remember that I didn't care enough to help her. And, somehow, I don't feel nearly so bad.
I smell wonderful tonight. My hair looks like advert hair. I'm not hardly drunk at all. That non-filtered butt floating in the toilet. I don't smoke. Marie only smokes filters, when she does smoke. Later someone had flushed it. I like it when she smokes a ciggie without taking it out. The girl at the arcade was doing it. Blasting these plumes of smoke from her nostrils, even harder when she got the high score. I had a perfect view. She knew it. I'm under the water, staring up, staring up through the windscreen at the sun, through the water.
I'm home because everyone knows I'm finished anyway. I have a mother, and it's not fair on her for this to happen. I shouldn't have cracked that joke about incest at Aunt Laura's funeral. I try to cough it out of my clogged lungs, but the inhalation that comes after each hack only draws it deeper into me. It's gentle, I'm exhausted. Surrounded by everyone. I seem to be bleeding from everywhere I'm open. This bed is my battlefield. I'm glad there was some pleasure, before the pain. Because the pain lasts longer. Michael raises his finger to his lips.
The windows are dirty. Faces like slow white smears. Ghost balloon heads. Footsteps of people embarrassed by God, deaf or just not here anymore. Sometimes prayers between coughs. The constant flashbulbs of nuns. Don't cry, I'm full of angels. Secret passages and passwords. Please, baby Jesus, just cut my skin and let it all out. Cut my skin. I'll feel better. Get me a bucket and cut my skin. Contact the authorities and hand over the proof I collected that Satan the Devil exists. Only He knows I've bitten away the inside of my lip rather than make a fuss.
Just give me the bloody morphine. It's to kill the pain of the cancer, to kill me as well, of course. Reds darken to maroon, blue blackens into night, yellow's solid, luminous. Buzzing, dry mouth, restless. Your hands flap around, directing invisible traffic. There's that bloody great grin on your face. You flirt with the nurse. That's good. You don't realise your grace. I know I've already done everything worthwhile I ever will. That weekend. The smell of your face. The coat you gave me. I didn't like it. The touch of your hand, I did like that. I'll remember.
I told the others I was a lesbian. I lock David in, he's eleven, old enough, and go to the phone on the corner. All the glass is smashed out. Six months on Andy's still a fine looking, friendly stranger. We're tied together by my Visa, whether or not we've anything in common. We pull off the motorway into the empty car park behind the Travelodge. It's hot, it's clicking with crickets. The smoke he breathes catches headlights. I think I've been punched. My stomach goes numb. Not punched. Stabbed. I've already seen it all. I'm not surprised at all.
Two fresh symptoms today. An ache behind the eyes and a tender feeling across the scalp. Symptoms of what, I'm not sure. Maybe not symptoms at all. Doesn't strike me as anything too serious, but Patrick's hidden the medical dictionary again. The speed makes your thoughts go so fast and you think this is good, this is what I want, where's the condom, you know. It's not like you don't worry about it, you do for a second and then the speed takes the thought away and that's that. At least my youth will never oxidise into boring old age.
I hardly go to the shops anymore because of the chemicals. They give me these pains in my chest, make me vomit. Then just sitting in the doctor's waiting room flattens me for another two days. A person can't live like this. Polly and I once sneaked into Peter Pan. When Peter asked if we wanted Tinkerbell to live, we were the ones who shouted, No! We knew life has to be tragic sometimes. I'm folding in on myself, taking a shape that's useless for living in and wants to drive me out. I suppose it will happen to everyone.
I'm sick of being buggered about. Too bloody right I am. Yeah, bugger it, that's what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna wait until those buggers come round and then in a very unemotional way tell those buggering arseholes I'm not going to be buggered about any more. I'm pissed off and this just isn't buggering on. So bugger it. It's a boring life anyway. The best thing would be her apologising for the way she's treated me. Then, when she's said she's sorry I'd say OK, It's still your fault and step off anyway. My door's got no handle outside.
I should leave off drinking on an empty stomach. Not in the lunch hour, anyway. Now I'm hardly pissed at all but I've got a splitting headache. Rattling over the roundabout I get the smell of myself, of what I've been drinking. It's like having two rugby players, big ones, catch you in mid air and tackle you to the ground. I look at my hand because it feels funny, and all I can see are the bones. Lucky I'm left handed. There's a guy curled up on the tarmac with glass all around him. Has anyone called an ambulance?
25 August 2004
Jim's like a building on the horizon. He doesn't get much smaller when he's in the distance. His skin is dark, his hair, his eyes. We're meant to be going to the reception. In the doorway Jim pulls a knife on me and tells me to drop my trousers. Straight away I know he wants to cut off my nuts. I thought we was mates. My body folds in on itself like clothes stuffed into a suitcase. I lay on the carpet, looking at the shoe buffer. He's fucking dead when I catch up with him and no fucking mistake.
The sterilisation was my idea. Afterwards I started to overcome my… the word is… Inertia. I began to make the most of summer days. I binned my ouija board and started to live. But Callum still wouldn't consider letting me have any male friends. Not yet. Once he threatened to kill me if I ever did anything like that again, ever. It was his temper talking. I knew he had a temper before I married him. I tell him about Joe. Just to test him. Just to mix things up. There's a sound like spare ribs cracked by a spanner.
In the new fitted kitchen I undress her next to the shopping. The honey jar shatters on the floor, but stays together by the label. She says forget it, I'll clean it up tomorrow. I've been patient. I've waited for her all day. Like eating a whole meal but all I really want is dessert. She kisses me like she's hungry, like the O of my mouth is a bagel and Philadelphia. She's a good kisser. She used to practice on her elbow. I go to bed happy, but with a weird sense of creeping worry and an upset stomach.
When I cover my ears your voice is still inside. I wanna kill you. I wanna smash this house, burn it down. I've got this rage that burns my eyes from the insides. I don't wanna feel like this. I'm scared of what I might do. I wanna be happy, you're the one fucking stopping me. It was me what stole the black wise man and the white baby Jesus. It wasn't vandalism. It was me. I don't care what you do with me. Feed me to your fucking Mongoloid dog if you like. You're a fucking Mongoloid and all.
Sometimes, especially on pension day when I might have had too many cans, I fall over. But I don't want any bother. Started topping up, what, ten years ago. First in the evenings, then the afternoons. Then the mornings. Because I was never really drunk, I didn't worry, even when I started packing miniatures in my handbag. Preparing for the expedition is what I call it. I sound like an alcoholic, but I'm not. I'm always in control apart from the shakes. I lost a lovely man friend who said it was either him or the tipple. That was that.
Tony sits on me next to the sofa to try and stop me screaming. Against the wall, wiping blood from my nose. Tony rips the buttons off my shirt while Peter yanks my jeans off. I've done something in them. Tony tries to fuck me and can't, Peter takes over and I think he can then Peter hits me on the head with something. There's a bubbling noise in my nose and throat, inside my face. Andy wipes my blood off with the curtains. The grunting and panting starts to sound mechanical and in the end it makes me laugh.
Pluto, fascists, horror films and I were born in the Thirties. I hardly think about any one of them seventy years on. Of course most of the people are gone now. Clarence. Coloured chap. Words mean absolutely nothing. People aren't about anything. Everybody thinks very highly of Freud because he wanted to make love to his mother. God obviously doesn't care if I believe in him, so all I'm left with is some of my teeth and some of my hair and a faltering heart. The rain washes memories from my brain. Look. Try and see the meaning. It's gone.
24 August 2004
My body pops off the bonnet. Everything goes black. There's no sound, no sensation. It's like I'm floating. Something's wrong. Air is gone. I try to shout. How long have I been like this? There's no pain. My body's ruined, I know it. I'm lit by the spinning lights of the ambulance. I'll probably be too late for the nine o' clock news. Sirens and car alarms make the street scream with me. The thresh and slice of a helicopter above. The grocer's across the road, run by Asians who never seem to sleep, will deliver anything at any hour.
Laura had the voice of a bird and the curves of a Highland road. Where are you now, Laura? Been laying here waiting for you. Where are you? The brunette woman there reminded me. I just want someone to sit a while with me. You don't have to stay all day, or all afternoon, even, not if you don't want. Just a little bit of company. It gets lonely in here, with all these people. Something takes hold of me. I'm overwhelmed by those enormous eyes and that beautiful smile even as it becomes too huge for me to bear.
I resented your twenty-four hour demands. Crawling with insults and accusations, like salmonella in the chicken you tried to hospitalise me with. Both of us sending out codes the other one couldn't ever decipher. The heating's gone off and I can smell you even now, even though you're gone. The wardrobe door's ajar again. It's that lazy catch. I can see your books piled there, furtive transvestites wearing the dresses and blouses you left. They pounce when I open the doors to look. It's getting colder now. Everything's cruel. I don't have anybody. I have the cold night. I'm tired.
Some days it's perfect, some days totally mutant. Like, you take off and think everything's cool but it starts warping, you pull up into it, so it pitches a bit and swats you. I turn up towards the wave and ride right into its face, trying to judge the best place to hit its lip, the top of the wave before it breaks. As the lip comes in I bear down with my back foot, digging into the water. I start my turn before the top of the wave. I snap the board round, already thinking about what's happening next.
The first time I tried jumping in the river at night. The tide was out and I broke both my legs. Now I take advantage of the 26th floor to end my ordeal. Looking down is terrifying. It's enough to make a person commit suicide. Like the magazine says: practical, smug and stylish. A jumper says it all this season. I don't want anything anymore. The sky's the colour of a bus station. The rain is like dishwater, grey and lukewarm. A jumper says it all. I'm going over and out. I grab hold of the city. Over and out.
She was ten. She went out with my Co-op book and three shillings to buy me a quarter of margarine. It had been snowing all week, it still was, hardly a blizzard though like some people said. She had on a navy, belted raincoat, a sky blue bobble hat, a fawn cardigan, a navy scarf, a chocolate skirt and chestnut shoes. But she never came back. Just disappeared into that white. She'd be 54, knocking 55 now. Her poor nan passed on without ever knowing what happened to her. She was a good girl. She never got into any trouble.
The door opens and closes on its own, I don't know where the draft is coming from. I can't move, but after a while I begin to feel the mass of economic rhythms, seem to sense the pulse of international trade in my bloodstream. I think I'll wear the blue tie tomorrow. When I get back I need to make some kind of order out of the jumble sale on the desk before I get a bollocking. Nonsense words begin to appear on the laptop screen, scrolling up, as if invisible fingers are pressing the keys. Maybe it's my head.
I suppose I should have been nicer to him but I was only little myself, then. It was mum's fault at the end of the day. I know I shouldn't have put the bag over Steven's head. She never forgave me. Me. She was the one to blame. And there's a curtain that falls down over me and I won't let her use it against me any more. I will not be her escape goat. I'm the one who watched Steven's face go purple. Everyone thinks I done a terrible thing. All I wanted was for him to stop screaming.
I knock over the chair as I run. Mark grabs my shirt from behind, pulling it out of my trousers as I turn. He brings the Stanley knife up, uses hardly any force at all to slide it up with his thumb and into my belly. He stands back in those few seconds of silence, as stunned as everyone else. I scream, high and shrill, only it's not me screaming. It's Gary screaming for me. The air bucks and buckles under its weight. I always thought there was something about him. A hysterically camp film heroine trying to get out.
One minute watching Saturday night telly, quite enjoying it actually. Then chest pain out of nowhere. Won't be long till I see Charlie in heaven, God willing. Seems I've been waiting for decades. The receiver's cold and plastic, propped against my face. He says stay with me Mrs Stoker, twice, or perhaps the line has an echo on it or my hearing aid's playing up again. The ambulance ambulance will be with you soon soon. The way people talk on the telly isn't how real life goes. People talk in bits. God God I think think she's gone gone gone.
There's gulls bickering for old condoms and poisoned fish washed up on the shingle. The town looks like there's been a neutron bomb attack. Sometimes people appear from where the prom meets the horizon and half an hour later backtrack. Doing the whole pointless journey in reverse, like the plastic horses in the betting game on the pier. I'm parked on double yellow lines. I doubt this will take very long. I'm too tired to wipe the windows anymore, so I close my eyes instead and listen to the sound of the engine, breathe with it, suck it all in.
Caroline's got this thing that you always need absolute control if there are emotions you're not comfortable with. Something like that, I don't pay much attention these days. She talks about control constantly, like it's a town she's moving to. I often buy books but never read them. I just put my finger between the pages. I've got loads I've never read. I open the book, it says "people deny themselves love for all kinds of reasons". The rain falls heavy and slides off my mac, off my back. I put the book inside, carefully. I cross the road, carelessly.
Looks like we've got the river to ourselves tonight. I tug my T-shirt down again and he asks me when I'm going to relax. I answer him by having another glass of wine. He's got lips like a woman but I don't tell him so. First we think the same. Now we've got the same mouth. He hugs me, just as nonchalantly puts his hand on my crotch, laughs and runs away. He strips quickly and his body is long, tight and almost hairless. He promised I wouldn't see his dick this weekend. Watch it, he says, its fucking slippery.