The Route Picker and the Salthouse Maze

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
my first short story

Submitted: April 28, 2014

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Submitted: April 28, 2014

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“I breathe deeply, like Pelléas emerging from the underground chambers and rediscovering life, the odor of roses.”

 

“To know that these things I am going to write will never cause me to be loved by the one I love, to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that it is precisely there were you are not – this is the beginning of writing.”

 

Roland Barthes,

A Lovers Discourse

Fragments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1:1

 

Chapter 1

 

Roses and Walls (The River boat Girl)

 

Alone, on the floor I sat, nervously offering the actress my space, ominously expecting her in red or black, not staring, nor in awe, but more like love than before.

Once she scribbled on a page, a caricature of herself as a scruffy mess.  She was signalling some kind of future feminism and contradicting her attempt to diminish herself because the picture had been drawn with her fair hand.  It seemed to relate to me and created in my mind, tiny connections to the transformations I had discovered in her.  The drawing shown and torn from my minds’ admiration, like a laurel or a fool’s crown, reassured me of my place, where sitting child-like; I demanded no attention.  She gave me thought to muse that I didn’t want and from my mind she unknowingly stole away the happy hours and occupied all of my thoughts, leaving me with two minds and two lives, confused where I had not yet drawn the distinctions as to what was real and what was not real in her art. 

Like a gift of flowers; unwanted or abhorred, the actors’ faces were blank, as here at the meeting the formality of speeches gave them time to compose the characters they would undertake for that seasons’ spectacle.  And yet to be present in this uncomfortable place was enough.  There was no asking for a moment alone.  The privacy had left us, long ago, a naked vase at the window that no one saw, the scent of there distilled; in what had passed out into nothing.

If the pain transferred itself years from there, it was worth the gift of knowing that she keeps a flower from its death, un-trampled at its stem, its petals withered from the heat of the sun, and yet in ripened colour broadening in all aspects and the scene, a scene that she has created, the eternity of a single memory, which is forever giving comfort to the holder of this immortal dream.  Imbibed in this picture, this dream, is a portion of time that forgets the purpose of life, a place that is never pointless, and only life on the surface is a densely locked void and only the keeper of this secret world, who knows no method to obscure and desires none, knows of the place inside that exists without end nor no misery.

 

The bar was entirely white with maybe six pine table and chair sets and a long pine counter which was laid out across the midriff of the room.  This was the only barroom furniture.  There was a shoulder high rail that stretched throughout the room and beyond the doors: that was used for interval drinks, and left a clear view out through the glass fronted aspect that formed the side of the building, leading out on both sides to a green carpet.  The room was always bright and airy at the beginning of the day, but filled with smoke fumes as the night progressed and became like the living room of the second home of the company of actors that always seemed to be there.  At times it was bare waiting for the presence of a star, or filled with noisy theatre goers, mostly middle aged and middle class with children that stood out as better dressed and educated than most of the university student bar staff that worked there, there was a kiosk that sold sweets and a coat room, but most preferred the bar because of the chance of meeting someone unique and important and occupying the same space as some ubiquitous being, that everyone knew and would focus on.  The room had several purposes and could quickly shift from being quiet to being filled with people and maybe four or five times a year would be entirely shut to the public after the first night of a company performance and would become transformed into a disco where the student staff would eat like hungry wolves and eventually the free drink would make everyone dance and almost nearly forget the social boundaries.

And one night, near when the place was still new to me, she took my hand as we simply talked walking out into the darkness, and then in the bar later that night we kissed, for what reason I do not know; but life from that moment on was never the same again…

 

  “Let us begin.”

The voice aroused me from my formidable silence and from my entreaty to be left alone, highlighting, as my cool quickly transpired: - a sudden shift back into the reality of the situation.  She’d taken control, her place and gave me mine, as I tried to claw back my confidence by explaining my inability to be there.  With a sideways motion the actors formed groups and the “lesser workers”, sluggishly followed suit, carrying the burden of their sense of the lower order, where the atmosphere consumed them with their inability to interact with their colleagues of a higher order, who took the room as they took the stage, as if it belonged to them and everyone else was simply in servitude, their audience, which in truth was the integral purpose of the job description, and nothing of social politics at all. 

 Young and sad though, I felt like this too and was avoiding at all cost any interaction with the actress directly, for fear of touch or look or word that might upset her further, I felt myself immaturely disappearing and circulating from her general direction, the woman I had kissed and had loved endlessly for two maybe three years. 

I had learnt to accept their discourse and their appetite for attention and I usually felt distaste towards the general feeling that everyone there wanted to be the centre of it all, I was the observer never the socialite and this suited my melancholy mood although perhaps I secretly dreamed.  Many times I contemplated leaving yet always remained to see my beloved actress again, and I would have stayed just to see if their way was true and had any depth to it and yet still small, sad and worried like a boy each evening I returned home unsatisfied, like a rose against a wall, eclipsed from life by the shadow of time and like a rose in a box with a cling film shield, mine was a communication for the lovers from the mountaintop - I was foolishly mutely and deafly exclaiming a love that never dies, yet experiencing a very different reality.

 

I lived not far from where the roses grow, in a second floor flat where the sofa that I had brought would not fit because the property of this period was built with steep stairs and narrow walls.

All I’d managed to keep from the sofa, which I’d brought from a dealer and had collected from a thin Scotsman who’d lifted more than his body had led me to expect, was the cushions.  It had for some reason brought me memories of a film I’d watched, transfixed as a boy, once before Christmas when I’d given everything away and was lost.  These four cushions, no more than a foot off the floor in topiary green flowered design, like an ancient fashion, covered in a modern throw, white with brown circles, comforted me in this new place, although the fleas soon bit me.

My heart full of absence but ever present, warmed itself away from the nest.  The days of nature were behind me now and were covered up, and I always seemed to be almost wondering where they had gone.  The piles of rubbish had been cleared, a strange voice called through the melodious pattern of life, a robotic woman who commanded and the soon to be troubled sound of an unresponsive answer reminded me of thoughts of body language, where I had once been afraid to itch or sweat in public places, unsure of the changes taking place.  As the food cooled and more cooked I anticipated a calm evening relaxing in front of the fire with a book and the constructed chaise-lounge.Thought felt right here, voices were unheard and kept away and only the ticking clock, the hum of the walls could be heard, leaving me free to write without thinking out side of my mind; to a stage of bother, or of those places that sometimes hinder and confuse for no other reason than that they’re not real.

 

There was a shop outside the city where I had worked when I was younger where you could get a hair cut for the price of a political opinion or an artistic impression.  I had started with the Beatles mop, progressed to receding quiff, outgrown in spiky flat top and had settled, no balanced, unsure between either look.  I’d tried to request and to imitate in many ways many celebrity styles and always thought that the result was slightly Irish.  I’d been with the Mohawk’s, been basined, undercut and from suede head to skin found innumerable and immeasurable ways to spend my money attempting to look less like myself and knew that where haircuts failed me hats did too. 

None of these changing looks or their associated styles ever pleased the actress though and she often took great delight in humouring herself at my freshly trimmed look.  And towards the end of our acquaintance I told her I only ever got my haircut when drunk and in truth I think she’d sensed the barber had been drunk too, when he’d created for her another dumb mullet to love her.

She had only ever once given me something to hold onto that couldn’t fade, for it was not mine to possess, a note, and a picture, and I remembered the scruffy scrap and their greedy Italian dining with humour.

I also remembered her face for it was perfect, having such an art to it, that, forcing away her mask with a hand, she revealed a colourful delicacy, the full red lipstick lips and perfectly white teeth beneath.  Her hair was long with a fringe and a dark brown colour, and she seemed to never age, though in one picture I felt she looked more perfect than in any other.  She was bold and sometime animate and where description and character fail, as is only human, she was truly beautiful and will always be for she had spirited me away from simply collecting glasses and emptying ashes; all done bookish the moment she arrived.  The world had lit up for me, bright as stars and more powerful than anything I had known, a world which once had been purely set on academic dreams which had troubled and braved me from home.  And upon the stage she was an island, where the spotlight shone, and in person she was a light and she showed that artistic duality that separates great character interpretation from the person, the woman who walked down the street pushing a pushchair, who could then blend into society, invisible to the genius that all beheld in her when she performed, and this was the woman who never faced me or interacted and yet who in both character and self made me feel that life was somehow worth living. 

She was to me all women and more.  She was like a treasure, statue or idol that haunted me religiously as a boy becoming a man, who became desperate to leave everything and longed to forget her…

 

There were two more roses left in my mind for that place and time in my life, for one had gone and one had waited and both placed side by side.  I don’t remember the strain or breed and they remain as nameless as a family with no more sons.  I hope to find them someday and nurture them, creating a generation of roses to sow.  For just by the Roman wall stands a theatre, the wall is crumbling and ruined and is one that stretches to my city… A man once looked into the window there, much later in time and at night, and had thought he might see your face upon the other side.

 

 

The farthest space I have ever seen was upon a beach where the pink footed geese land, there the enthusiasts gather at the most backwash stretch of water; the mud is super flat and stretches for miles out into the coast.  I went there once and thought of loneliness and peace and where the noise and congestion met and I could not turn off the hot nor cold water in my mind, the space and the distant birds, all far off were flying all around in rare formation.

I didn’t know the time of year, in plates it was somewhere near spring, for the newness of the lamb and in recollection it was closer to the winter than the fall, where to heart-broken souls; the language plays a sorry scene and within the bank vault void of nature, the colour pink shines through, beautiful and human.

Somewhere in the empty recess of a city where the rose is cut and the wall ends, amidst a grey and blue mist, abandoned at night, with a lost cause, shrinking, extinguishing, close to a place where love reinstates and hope also close relaxes and binds. 

There, where a car park’s sideways in its freeze, a man taking green bugs and red berries off its screen, on a harsh grave winter’s morning.  Resting, heating up my place, in a new routine, where I wore a brown fitted leather jacket, double breasted and sat without much heat in my room not far from the quay, where the mud-dock and river-boat lads, whose fiancés had left long ago, sat on a wall drinking lager from cans.I always wore headphones, a hat and fingerless gloves and the red tab blue jeans balanced my look in a kind of fashionable P.H.  I scuffed my heel and looked back over my shoulder.

On this journey along the road, the steep crossroads were being out-paced by a declining spiral.  At its side an imitation hill, man-made, with an impossible summit, with irrational buildings at the peak.  Through a series of roundabouts, busy and yet also easily crossable, when time is taken properly, the road: in choices: straight and arching left or meandering right:  The left full of businesses and garages, private buildings and a train stop beside a supermarket.  Or the right where there is a Vets surgery, a recession of public houses and an urban-degenerate nature in view.

I had two keys in my pocket at the slow quay, dredge-dark; wooden where out of place lifeboats in oil painting colours lay lazy at the water’s edge.  Houses mounted in perversely opening-organic size, on the bank, where they stretch internally without metre.  The mist had thickened, beginning to turn the night to water and ice from a sober and smokeless clarity, dense and foggy, life appeared to slip so far away that as each month progressed, what was, barely remained.

 

…Like love that ends in adolescence, where one vows never to love again; life as the rising of the ashes and the sun, outplays human nature, rebuilding everything that it could work its way inside, the stubbornness depression somehow fades.

The windows condensate, on the real houses that are further on from the docks where over the road-bridge and close to the supermarket she had once long ago spoken to me again in a dream, a dream of crosses and stupid martyrdom which led me through the night towards the Tower block.

Approaching the woodland and the field, without hesitation or a thought, unable to speak or listen, I had at a fast pace once fled through the half lit night.  There the noise was like a wolf and the first of many blows that would knock me to the floor and leave me scarred in both body and mind, would come one night in the late summer.Some of us had been drinking, university friends, drinking a lot and had been attacked whilst walking home.  There was blood all over the street and on our clothes, dripping from veins like traffic lights that stop.  I picked myself up there and regained my identification and my name, picking myself up from where I had laid before in the dirt and would continue along the path of life.  Awaking from the dark dream, silver beads of sweat in a daze and haze around my head, spinning and sickening and like chains turning my mind inside out, with memory loss and uncertainty, my life would change again…

A painter sat in a Christmas lane, close to where the sewer sucked up the rain, and as the shoppers rush by there is a painting displayed outside the shop of dancers on a stage.  The painting someone else’s but sold as seen, in terms of its portrait or possessiveness.  Also a painting of a girl with short neat brown hair, cropped.  She is pretty.  She sits upon a blanket, wearing beads of myriad colours.  She has quite tatty clothes with rips and tears in her flares and a shirt blouse of checks and female pleats.  Her eyes display a lot of things and sparkle in a pre-determined state, an immortal love-state in-between the rise and fall of her breaths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

The French Mannequin and the Game of Patience

 

 

Beneath the snow

Defrosting in the black-ice

The melting ice

 

The autumn leaves on pavement top

Rejuvenate as evergreen beneath

And are our lives

 

She is to me

Where my Island’s split

Where she is history and her future is more and definite

 

The employment agency had reminded me that most industries closed over the festive season, and I was left for weeks without a job.  Late one afternoon I walked to the money-shop where legal loan sharks worked, and not having sold anything of any value and where moments before, a messenger from god, ragged and fat with no hair and a beard, had stopped me for directions and a conversation I would usually by-pass, and this man out-stepping his homelessness had revealed a blue Buddhism, that so profoundly spurned me on, that I then begun to stink of the city and had nothing to find but fortunes there.  

Pace always mattered to me and only at the citizen’s advice / job centre / city hall could I slow down enough and keep on exercising my needs.

The pub had shut when the apprenticed landlady reappeared, high above the soup kitchen, which my name for my flat was also shutting up for selfish Christmases in irony at home, with only the kitchen window blind and wheelie bin lid left open revealing a tin of soup and some used food cartons.

Outside with the dark sky; the silhouette trees framing a long walk I took, and a narrow stretch of snow through the centre, where maybe a lake or the dawning morning would glisten unknown, where the pylon hummed unusually generous in its electricity, surrounded by the tools of site-work, and fences, lights populating the horizon, orange in the farther distance.

The opera house and all the souvenir shops also began to close, but only after quickening their pace, for one more day… I

The moon had not been replaced, the yellow and black parallels that first appeared in the sky and as the week progressed began to hint where the moon, over-full, started to change, in blue, and heighten the beautiful manufacture that I the then professional sticker sticker had seen; at first in her eyes and then in the globe:  the body of a beer can, the box upon the carpet and the lemons netted beside the home-makers toaster, and also in the roasting dish that sat upon the microwave.  These things like her good looks could buy her objectivity and should be shared.  She was in the vases, the toolbox and the rubber-gloves.

I will describe her now.

Having decided not to wear the vibrantly red lipstick she imagined herself at the front of the queue almost everywhere she went, having contemplated often on her level of boredom.  Cheerily smiling at the deli style ticketing system, she watched the numbers change on boards until hers was called and about her business she could peacefully be.  She avoided two children and their parents; who were arguing and projecting their violence and racism, already demonstrable in the children as well as their parents, easily overlooked but still a shame.  She had also removed her mind quickly into a stall and from gossip and dry air, in the ladies, where many teenagers and their ageless mothers’ complained with foul mouths and illegal cigarettes, about poor company and unknown hardship.  She showed more concern with waste paper towels than bullies and peer pressure.  The artist outside selling canvas that was too expensive and the South African, with all her wondrously exotic gifts and the hopeful charity collector faded as she passed.  Also passing the one-night girl who stood outside the artists window semi-smoking someone else’s’ cigarette for savings sake alone, and she passed my former girlfriend who only ate pizza and only watched movies she selected for a crowd of mildly frustrated women.

Here she could find me alone if she wished, alone, not smoking, not drinking too much and just waiting for her.  Where I enjoyed depicting episodes of m

 

 But I have not met anyone yet; reaching out across the nothingness – without Sylvia’s red knife life or a manic perverted insomnia that might think they could command themselves and not ask God for their one companion.

I now live elevated on a second floor, my estate comprised of a constant reclamation of self-doubts and I stay alive by keeping myself from the truth that almost took me. 

I am imagining again; a bridge, where a Japanese girl outstretched her leg and took me on safari across a five week holiday, where in each of five places my lost fiancé; playing out her life in a mirror, another version of herself such as a gypsy; wearing a scarf, who was with a tobacconist father, who ran faster when realising perhaps that there two girls try to kiss me.  That does not matter now; it is just a brain-print and nothing more, if she is what I wore a hairnet for. 

 

Oh, the insanity of the page and that fretful night, the eye and the mind that left behind silver lights where I might try and save her.

Up against the Lamb Inn wall where her face is but small and beautiful.  Where the chains slam, and damn the coward chased away, and onboard for the law to line.  Where the silver-light-sticks and poor-health is overcome and there is no realisation of love yet allowed.

 

I had yellow teeth from all the cups of tea and coffee I had made for friends who’d convinced me to drink them myself, making better use of their time and wasting mine.  There was a medium fellow I trained to be a teacher with, with a changeable complexion and an attitude that his life was so unlike what he had perceived it might be that often he felt compelled to sleep where others are always a party to everyone and everything.This man who at the checkout always complained that no-one wanted to speak English in the modern-world because even the self-service screen closed the conversation in Finnish, gaining him next to nothing in terms of the language skills he barely got to use and couldn’t quite achieve the grade to pass the course.  He felt perhaps like his own brick wall, impossible to overcome; yet in daily routines without payment or title he could take joys from deciding that the young African child should not have sweets before his dinner and that the chemist-girls constant laughing did not really register in sound.

I felt spectre thin like a china-white-tea-cup, not offering my colleagues coffee anymore and spent my day re-reading novellas handling my place and interactions carefully; enjoying all human contact for a change and running miles out of my fear of losing.  Sense told me to take my time now and not to rush around, to make simple sense enough; and to write out poetry where my thoughts of black-background voices needed to merge and not disperse, not faint but integrate.

The idea of making a career was for me still apparent and inspired my mind.  Sitting at the disappearing coffee table like a matchstick, blind to what I would need to achieve:  I was the TEFL student who cooked chicken and potatoes and looked for company.  Finding my girlfriend where she said she would diet and deciding there to take bottles in place of love.  I had talked of a wish to go again to an academy and be all I’d promised my proud parents: in my tired and worn soul-mate style, and embarked on the journey not for nonsense sake but for being really happy to be in love and to wear my colours proud and perfecting.  To be more like what a woman would need from a man, not a poet, a wretch and not somebody’s bastard kin arisen from a bendable soap opera.

 

These things that I write may not seem to make sense but are like poetic fragments my mind struggles somehow to piece together into the beautiful experiences that they truly were and are sacred like the Saints and not mapped by lesser tormentors.  They are saucepan meals and melancholy music.  And one night returning brave where I could not find if her where she had left and I sort of searching for the route-picker and hardly touching the grain, for fear of finding calamity in an Eastern quarter and Grecian apartment that I had left for sheer bewilderment in the early light with the promise that I might find her, but she was gone in silent unbeknown wealth and love faded.

 

My mind had usefully broadened, and my appetite swelled, but love not being found in a gift I had given, and a rare dream only lingering in my memory like a dripping tank that stores someone’s songs like an illuminated bank, a dull tune and a damp morning mist denying that she would belong to me again, where her silhouette and footprint misted over, unable to be recognised by a mark, where my soul clinging to get her in sight of a couple’s hands or bled away in walking nightmares, nearly distraught enough to end.  I was dreaming that we were about to share a room together and that this time apart was for me to get acquainted with your friends, to further educate myself as part of the trainees hemisphere, of learning fusion skills and finding meaning.  And then again all relationships had ended and all dreams, careers left unachieved faded from my focus and slower the girl I’d love in many ways drifted into many other female faces and she became but a memory in life’s distraction only forcing her way back into my feelings when some similar face or friend or family member appeared before me in passing.  Here I was to begin again but not in hopeful new life but in finding something else, the proverbial fisherman in his wooden boat, scouring the streets for a face or form to catch his inspiration and make him cast his line again where moments before he’d thrown his catch back into the water.

And in recollection love had surely made me lose my mind, though somewhere in the fragments and the poetry there was sense of it all, how love had come and gone and was unfulfilled and then had faded.

Time moves forward now, far from the lazy youthful days and nonchalance into a world of wandering where my life knows no direction from one day to the next.  I first met her casually where she worked as an assistant, finding her mostly in the pleasant morning refrain, where loneliness doesn’t bite but the cold, like her blue eyes piercing through the frustrated feelings of online retribution, where I try to find solution to the mounting bills.  She appears far from my social circle, though immediately present in my thoughts, slightly difficult to be around, making me smile uncomfortably, and taking in my opinion an abstract stance, drawing my attention to humorous parts of her profession.  Our meetings are short though there is a prevailing sense that something is about to happen, a feeling that she is about to become a greater part of my life though not wholly there at this time, like a stranger talked to in a bar, not a friend but more a possibility, and therefore I will describe her in more detail now, for when she reappears at some later time or in some other heartfelt retrospective form.Her eyes aforementioned are of the purest brightest blue and her hair folds into her shoulders, a mix of reds and browns; she is medium petite and wears a long cardigan without the need to change her clothes each day, displaying her clean style of living and her earthliness.  There have been others in my mind since I have met her, though this leaves me safer from the pain of finding out she’s married, has children or a bearded boyfriend with a stable job and artistic opinion outreaching my own.  I imagine her confident and informed and sustaining her boredom with groups and functions, drinking at the places where social groups are already formed and listening to the fashionable music and on trend.

But are meetings soon became infrequent, for in truth she was merely an assistant and I could not find a way into the situation other than making enquiries about books I didn’t really want to read and she soon became unsure to my constant enquiries, so I decided to leave the scene and paint her picture instead.  Here the hopelessness of finding someone led my mind to happily return to thoughts of the actress, and for three weeks I lived in an alcohol induced reverie in which I no longer existed but lived as I had in the past, interspersed with alternative realities where what had really happened transferred into something more inspiring.  I was thinking of the parties where she’d asked for a light and often made me feel that she found me attractive, and then her friends who’d demanded I forget her telling me she would never be with me.  There were times when I hadn’t seen or talked to her for months, the dark and painful months where I would await the new seasons’ brochure in anticipation that her name would be there and then the party after the first night show where sometimes I would be one of the first people that she spoke to, incidental enquiries as to my well-being where all I wanted was to tell her I’d missed her and then other times where she was so caught up in her world and commitments that she would virtually ignore me until later in the run when she had chance speak more freely and at length and I would always stumble and forgive her for leaving, though I really doubt she ever thought these thoughts were in my mind.  Sometimes she’d comment or make jokes and my responses would play over and over in my mind, sometimes full of regret at the things I could have said and sometimes just maddeningly questioning her meaning and one time I denied her a kiss goodbye when she made the rounds and she reacted and said “I won’t kiss you then Tyler” and that was really all I’d wanted her to do, but over-thinking I misconstrued and denied myself the pleasure of her company.  She was only ever starring for four weeks at a time and was always the lead, and for four weeks I tried to plan my every move and our every conversation, often standing like a loon at the end of the day waiting for the sun to rise.  Our eyes I believed sometimes met where the darkness and the light inside an auditorium meet and the actor and the audience can see each other, and sometimes as she spoke and played I felt that she was looking directly at me and could not bear the thought of the impenetrable wall that invisible stood before us, and yet in time and with wisdom, through the worn out soul came the acceptance of this wall and the force that keeps things separate, things that are not meant to be and can only be recovered after loss in that fraction of the mind known as reverie.  And yet this dream I’d found myself reclining in for just three weeks, like a holiday in the mindless repetition of my work, was enough to make me realise I had truly found love, and would never want to feel love again, would not look for a companion, like a divorcee, widow, I felt twenty years senior to my actual age and like I would gladly die alone, a life spent secretly in this memory.  Far from the homemaking lives’ of my contemporaries and in many ways literary and poetic, feeling the hopeless not so much but the gratitude and final satisfaction that this love was mine alone and could now last me a lifetime.

I was often accused of over-thinking and of staring into space, or of acting like I wasn’t really there or wanted to be a part of the social groups that surrounded me and in truth these accusations were correct because I really did not feel I belonged in regular society, I did not fit in no matter how I tried to conform or quietly blend into the environment.  My camouflage and cover was always disrupted by someone’s decision that I was in some way different, or not my usual self, probing my mind for complexes that kept me both from being average and also from comfortably interacting socially.  I often felt bored by the commonplace things that people talked of and secretly longed for excitement and adventure, to find someone who would unquestionably accept me, understand and not delve into a life of notoriety and misuse but just in knowing accept and find place with me in this crazy world.  But even the eccentrics and the fools found a way to become so conformist that the creativity they hailed became contrived and lost its value and it is here that I really began to feel like leaving the literature course I had started three years earlier, because I no longer believed in the preachers and professors or in my own opinions on art.  Sure there was still at times that great profound sense that a great work of literature or a writer captivates, or the life of a doomed artist or musician, but it seemed to be valueless because there were no real jobs for those who really believed that this was what made the world great.  More like a tourist attraction, a new cool, black clothes, everything began to be overrated to the extreme and I walked away from the theatre a broken man, full of failed dreams and promises, not able to make the call that may have offered me a way back and a future there, unable to lift the receiver or muster the words to talk to anyone anymore.  Becoming reclusive and antisocial I never again saw the people I worked with, like the people I had studied with, or the actors or teachers.  Over-thinking had damaged my brain and the spaces I stared into from time to time, even years later became places where I could laugh and talk as if I was back in a situation playing out my life of the past with invisible acquaintances, colleagues and friends.  And yet the outcomes were always the same, always leaving the pointed building and the road behind it for good, and finding nothing of that place in the future, nothing of love, of remote creativity no matter how contrived, I’d just been young enough to not know my place and hungry for the muse enough to lose my mind in the narcissistic marvel and mad-vain, until drowning, fleeting with a backward glance for all eternity as unsure as Orpheus if there really was someone there...

 

I have seen your face before, over my shoulder

I close my eyes…For fear that I

Might lose my mind and never find her

Such a strange light

When I’m in love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

The Line-setters pillar (I don’t think you’d understand)

 

She is but one love and one life compounded into one reality.  Ours is a love so profound it can never be realised and therefore has no end.

 

The sinking ship and blend between oil paints and water on my canvasses separated the daylight from the moon with an unconsciousness that kept me working throughout the day and night.  In between the furtive hours there was appetite to hold the forte, keep everything together and forge forward against an earlier rebellion, that kept alive a stifled mind and middle town sanctity and protected it from selling out.  Here where the journey into the centre of the city was enough to tire, but could not wear out the heart and the journey home was like wearing holes in shoes and spending hard to earn pocket money on making life looser, only to fill up again on the rich delicacies otherwise unaffordable.

The silent night gave me contemplative peace, and with the construction drills now fainter, I could sleep and not anger-wake or night-cap-hurt, where the air was cold and warm and sweating.  It was nearly time for easy-to-wear clothes, in an adequately adjusted climate, where the atmospheric changes came less obvious and slow, now at a wintry plateau, where work could take the life and leave the love like a buoy on the ocean, beautifully alone, and where there was simply a curing of language in practice, and a continuing realisation of feeling of the profoundest and most beautiful sort.

When the sky was not fused, not static it showed like tonight a divided bleu and I sat with a mellowing back writing about the heavenly beauty I could see there, perfecting some French-Haiku on ruled and margarine-stained paper, wanting no trash and uninhabited cleanliness in exchange for hard cash and a place to rest my head.  And the view of the turning low light not far from my neighbourhood and the heavy industrialised rooftops, a delight that left the sky tranquil-tipped and baby blue with hints of early evening lilac and a mist.

And in anticipation of the early morning starters, who knew the pink division was looming, which is that point just after the new year when the sky is clear and the most amazing colour, like pink glitter and otherworldly and would come with the birds departure, and the barren landscape, towards the promise of spring from warm lands and the easy summer of quick sunsets, showing cotton-bud cirrus clouds and sparkling starlight.

There I was waiting for her and the tune to clock in, the thought of missing her hollowing where I was getting well enough to cry from the bottom and the pit, in floods and tears and hazardous foreign weather patterns that polluted the tragic daily news broadcasts that year.  And at work we were all of us shrouded in white cotton jackets and happy logos, for team mates to work together in the pellets of the red earth; which began to button itself up in promises of eternal blossoming amidst the wasteland of our common existence.

I went beyond the poison-plums, eating whisky biscuits and mackerel spines, earning long distance money and counting pennies as blessings; listening to the abstract radio.

The day had been intolerably slow and there was agony between interpretation and calculation, but everything had ended on good terms; the driver set out the journey home and the empty busses indicated bright transport for the future workers, who now sharing cars chose diesel free alternatives in modern England.

Dark hearts warmly traced back the tale for ease and comfort where my mind struggled for love; pairing up at the lunch table so that talking could take place and each person could participate as they chose to.

Amidst the confusion, the illusion got heavy enough to draw a line and set the line setters mind to party where age was no barrier and neither size, as long as everyone was safe and enjoyed themselves accordingly.  That place where the clubs are square and nature knows no boundaries.

The early highs quickly sped into painful lows, and I was drawing to the drink as rest enough for limit; where four days raced by like bullets through a gun-cage.

And where everyone paired up I was alone and there she sat in a sad canteen, without much make-up on, and she needed none and where she held her chin upon her hand, I saw only beauty and her love.  There in my lonely hello she could not speak and I wished she could, though I accepted easy the painful chest and the chime that signalled the return to work, knowing no more where her fingers played with her pony tail, which in my dissatisfaction left a mind for a portrait of her, and her face powder pink and her long blonde hair, for a moment rested on her shoulders, where I had shared the great weight with her.  Where I had felt she should talk and could not understand why she didn’t, I decided I might leave to take away the embarrassment and give her peace.  Though in all words and languages I still felt connected in love or all things, accepting a nothing fate, where my hands wore yellow fat and my tongue and mind battled out against each other.

She wore a pink rain jacket that showed her sense of adventure and she held herself tremendously with her people and even when I absently dramatic, or inviting genius, she could shield herself, like a lone star amidst the newly lit night, faint and vague, yet demonstrably present and awe inspiring, even beneath the goose feather layers of the early spring and into the longest night, worth waiting decades for, like the colour pink in cure.

And yet against this great beauty-awe I felt great hurt, a juxtaposition, for I was angry with the foreigner for taking away the girl I had fallen for, so easily becoming the occupier of the space her empty gaze had looked into and yet unknowingly searching for, that look which I had fallen into and in love with was now occupied because I had been unable to set a course to reach that place and find what it was she was looking out for, and I had thought that it was romance or poetry or love and had failed in translating that as I nearly always did.  And in this failure I, misguided, let a nasty rival bait me towards fighting him where he made me angry and then under my nose stole in on the girl I was already in love with, until finally for the sake of a heart she drew with breath upon a glass door, on a wall that separated us.  I gave in and left for the sake of leaving love where it was, where I understood what she meant by that fading breath.

She wandered freely where others died, for life for her seemed endless and yet there was an unutterable sense that somewhere like us all she could explode and fall apart; undressed for her own adjacent fall.  A natural decline for a city or a town or a village far off, that she too could act out for immature identity, that only attitudes when the rolling time covers our footprints and relinquishes us of our burdens, showing us beauty, that we respect; allowing us to ask forgiveness for our doubt where we thought we would not be shown, like magnets connecting us all.

And then for some reason I was transferred to thoughts of my first love; who had after several turbulent years left me in the summer, way behind her.  She had travelled the globe, away from the bum who had taken his nourishment and the wine drinker who sank in his own soup, both of whom are incarnations of myself, looking back with praise where goodwill is over popularised and damages people a little bit, she’d gone to the Volga and had found someone in the Russian mafia who she said would always leave her mid sentence, she’d enjoyed the theatre with homosexual friends and made it an opera for her career, where she hoped to make it as a doctor someday.  Her hair had changed too and she wore a scarf, kind of lop sided and dyed and tied together for her protection.  The lines she spoke to her class each day came easy to her and she’d boasted of her political inhibition, which had allowed her to drink in the mornings and bring back the absentees without catching cold.  We wrote to one another for a while until she sent me a CD about a man with a similar name to someone famous, who she knew I loved, the phonemes and intonation different, so that I might grow up and realise that she’d not wanted to hurt my feelings but had found someone else, I sweated it out and from my early thoughts of catching up, I was given a prescription to lessen the blows where the CD flew across the room, an emblem of our tumultuous relationship and the dramatic demonstration of its total end. 

She travelled on in someone else’s space to another continent, recovering her life in a youthful expedition and finding another boy to love, and she was changing the sound questions she had encountered in a new and unfamiliar language into a person she felt she could not yet care for but who had potential as she saw him riding the mopeds and scooters through strange landscapes and in time she found new love there in populated telegraph poles at football matches.  The baby she had carried was lost as she accepted that she couldn’t bring herself to leave her islands’ feminist identity and follow a religion so strict that she would have to become someone she did not believe she could be and because she felt no fear and no madness like a wandering atheist, who could not ascribe herself until her hair had greyed: if ever.  She un-relentless returned home where she found she could piece people into her life’s equation and decide to settle with someone who had waited for her for such a long time, almost indefinitely.  Here she found that the change in some was more suitable than in others and one man’s offering to share in her friendship and wait for the right time to contact her, meant that he could accept and understand and trust that she was far and wide and his.  This was all so much misery for my mind to comprehend for a time and only my logic knew that she was not unstable like I had been and that she just didn’t want to stay and had a large picture house in the countryside to occupy someday, an estate to inherit or buy, that had to be, as it had been, then, before she left, because that was her and who she would want to be, like a picturesque cottage biscuit barrel that was only hers to fill.

 

She happened to appear today in a vision of oil painted foxes, of two, out in a dark green scenery, found amongst corn husks and twilight.  She was as before the only person I had wanted to see and in the unknown copy was becoming so much lost in my memory that I found it impossible to stay at home, and so there in the late afternoon, where there had been a hint already of the oils wasted painting sheep, that had crept into my mind from another long walk out into the countryside, where thoughts tire and acceptance lies in unrequited love, when it is dryly rationally thought through, then the most beautiful creature; the fox, from an early morning drive, became enough for my mind to settle down again, enough that I could leave my thoughts and feel safe in the knowledge of goodbye.  And here I felt happy throwing myself away with all remembrance that I had worked in the meat factory and I was gone with the clocking card.

 

The desolate city lay in Sunday’s aftermath where the betting slip could pay for cigarettes and cut its losses there.  I was half a working man and half a jobseeker; who was ruining his chances with unimportant paperwork and I was almost smothering my life’s loves with thoughts of leaving the abattoir my obituary and telling myself words that sprung from a book, that seemed to say ‘don’t get sick kid but read away the loneliness and save every penny, where they’d spend it for ya, in their thick inbred need for nothing, where they’re so-dumb they’d eat the prick on the berry.  Jus save the words for the writer kiddo and the money for yasalf and the rest of the world can remember the book as if no one there had happened.’  That’s the first time the writer had spoken to me and I understood as if I had been talking to myself out loud; which is stupid of me, but somewhere out of his page he had told me that he was there too, and had been there where I was long before me finding solutions to the fatigue, and it was as if I had been promised another summer, where I get to work again for the easy money and the books, which is all I’ve ever wanted and where I know life can also be fair, there were your simply single, ‘cause it gets confusing when you’ve got a girl and even more so chasing some or laying some off; gets to the point where you don’t eat or sleep and stink of foolish things and forget important stuff like washing up or cutting your finger nails, gets you in that maddening web where you fight your chances and lose too much: - it’s all so far away from what I really need; ‘Jus’ money and booooocsz.’  So I’d started to copy the good old American mind; eating unusually square meals that cost pence and not pounds, reading mantras not fortunes and forgetting everything but the desire to earn; where money was low and I couldn’t trust anyone for a second and where I could begin to see in the city some sign that things could work out favourable and possible; not just living this life of unmet dreams but something more beautiful like a communal pink; away from the savages, the ravages of souls that could I’m sure somehow save us all from the horrible world and the unforgivable things we do to each other, like atomics and undoable knowledge, where we need to just stop and brighten the browns not the greens.  This place far from future labour and into lavender without the edge of a politic, without the excuses to facilitate a complaint, just parting without the paperwork, without the need of a new office for such a new idea but simply just the people curing the planet; cause we’ve all got skills and we could all wash in the river, once we had got it clean.  The colour pink was very fashionable and had for some considerable time before Christmas been in my mind, where I contemplated steps and what it means in colours to be cured, focusing on pinks and oranges, or to be at least made happy enough by the shades and tones that remind us, that they are built into the fabric of our existence, into our landscape, our portraits and into the colour scheme of our lives, a code of colour, that remotely controls our mood and dictates to our senses how we feel and react to those things around us, where we want to go with the grain and not fight the tide where it washes us... At the factory where I worked the employees’ hands moved so fast you couldn’t tell if he was plucking feathers or packing meat, his feet had worn a print in the green floor- like an arc in time and like the tire tracks that his car left each afternoon where he parked for ten years and did not change his vehicle; his jacket hanging each day on his age-peg and his shoes on whichever language – number he chose that morning...wondering if he’d get that promotion he thought he had heard of in the problematic afternoon noise... The line setter had reached an impossible feat, that enabled the employee in his theory of unaided listening skills to consider the news when announced, that all involved there were so impressed with his work that they gave him enough to believe the golden mobcap was his, and the lavender exit door was finally shut, where the new dawn begins and ends... This was the fact: that he could now pack at half the recommended and desired speed and turn the line setting landscape on its side and ropes into ladders, and this with new meaning turned copper coins and space treats from unendurable silence to machine-made manufacture, where Pablo and his maid once kissed betwixt the boundaries, where knocking-shops-stopped and the all clear was given for the posting of long serving love and where confines are opened and ready meals note the traffic on deli lines... And yet the reality as I really later saw it was simply this that the line setter had worked at the factory for several successful years and had been promoted, to the point where he wore a different hairnet to the rest of the factory workers although he still drank and ate from the same vending machines…

 

I guess love had kind of made my life seem like jazz and poetry.  And these were my experiences, a few amongst many…

 

Amidst it all the Rastafarian was tall and dark, wearing his hairnet round and not flat as was then the fashion, and his snood easy and open, allowing his early age to hint beneath a thirty year; with a pre decade youthfulness that spread him somewhere I reckon in a decade-band, as he later told me, where his gigantic hand found from a shoe-gaze kid a kind and welcoming knowledge of languages and a laid back approach, an ease of communication and a gladness we spoke.  The Rasta man seemed confused by my mind when I said that stripped of my eyesight I was subsumed into a general consciousness of character, too busy for voicing!  Where language was more or less his in his Portuguese in the similarity of its’ sides and yet lazy and strict-commanded and cursed where night-life beckoned us, ‘cept for the CEO making guest appearances in our alien disguises and disappearing just as quick; making alliances in a late mess-hut routine like officers and alignment crew and drawing a line through booze...

 

And Mr Patel who had the most amazing moustache I have ever seen, at who I’d peek when he was asleep looking like a cross between Rene Descartes and Alfred Jarry and wearing a commonly mistaken turban, travelled me awake and dusted down the cross I had been wearing, opening my conscience enough to change me at the first sign of the soft pink light, which was caught where I missed the point of the heart that left an imprint on the square submarine window... where there was a binary white in long back pain and the strip lights wore bowler hats, and the sky like a painting left a picture of a girl from the river bank found in the warm fecundity of the afternoon heat; where rapid meat crazed in the new forest air and the tree leaves thirsty... And the slicer with his broken shape and distorted hemisphere cooled in the absent longing of my mind for geography and own distaste of virtue, where love; now aged longed for art to master and the frost-tipped grass like rags laid bare; the near oval structure of the day, where in an empty bed I’d laid happily alone searching for the apricot morning and leaving the lavender sleep wherein I keep my own identity.

I remember when you used to spray the sweet French perfume that I brought you to instigate a love-nest or a nest-egg that never grew thereafter, love like a bottle discarded in your night-read-conservation, and my heart bled-cheap, and the smoke all-consuming; leaving my skin opaque and the holes where candelas themselves disappear away and light the fumes they leave thin away, for no known theological reason- another days’ forsaken memory, that sometimes plagued and found its’ way into my useful armoury, which without love is “la belle dame sans merci”, unrusted and without indentation. And for you who do not know the art I mean, I mean that once I nearly died and all that was left wherein I awoke was that which had troubled to put me there, and no known God could tell me why, or give me strength, and only love and art itself could remind me that strength and beauty and god and love had since become so intertwined that this was faith, the beginning and ending of all life, a Confucius that is rhetorical and practical as faith for here to question is to believe and to doubt is to know the answer is in the question.  And here only peace I felt.

I awoke from a dream and in the early morning hour the fox crossed the road and stayed awhile lingering where I followed; a vixen I think, waiting for her mate and searching my soul with inquisitive bright eyes in the nearly lit daylight, where the morning nearly meets the night and just before tranquillity, heavenly; where I’d leave her once again for the good of the production line.

 

...I was ad-hocking, running around with shin splints smelling of tramps sweat and wearing charity shop disguises and experiencing the greatest torment: elongated tragedy in my heart and yet the sound of laughter in everything around me and the blankest mind. And my digibox that only works on Fridays and is just in time to allow me to watch music biographies and classical symphonies (first) on BBC4, like it’s got a mind to culture me.  And I sat shivering as the heroine addict hammered on my apartment door where I’d laid an hour before looking at the purple equals clouds parallel and their pink-tipped-peaks dispersing into nothing, and at a bird in a bush during a secondary frost in winter-time which, had slipped past my gaze and had danced beneath the berries.  And suddenly I was faced with a scene and I had to call the police in. 

The next day was terrible for I’d had two hours sleep waiting for the addict to retreat and had started a twelve hour shift lifting three litre bottles of apple and blackcurrant juice into stacks four stories high forgetting as much as possible about my life and earning very good money easily, escaping daylight and the need to think in search of growing out and filling my mind maturely in the brick-kiln despatch where things are vast and near silent and the radio plays songs that sound like French realism and the lads on the temporary trail kind of look out for each other.  And everything had gone wrong in a drunken night where outside of my mind I’d spent my money on thrills and not left enough to pay my rent and bills and woke in a horrible state running through the city looking for anxious solutions to a state too crazy to describe and then things had slowly turned around again with the focus of work somehow keeping me from a disastrous fate and slowly bringing me back to my senses.  And life had again ended there and my decision to leave alcohol alone had not come as a cure but as a consequence to a frightening mistake, sickening where the girls had danced naked and taken nearly everything from me without conscience

 

She had been the amazing dream to hold up to and recount

The changing figure and the mind, that travels alone.

 Into her food and quiet company where there was exquisite hopelessness.

And farther to her course and mind where longing faded, there was still love.

A pillar to hold all up

Chapter 4

 

A Temporary Man

 

I’d been living on three pounds worth of value food a week, starving myself through the long shift and going to bed with a hungry belly.  Money was scarce on the ground like work was and the satire had left the government long ago when the economic hole began to swallow almost everyone.  I’d drive my ford to random employers, working strange shifts; drawing Hare Krishna nuns and self-portraits in the unemployed sunny days in between where often I’d drink a bottle of red wine alone.  Sometimes I would have two jobs in a day, maybe I’d be stuffing envelopes and then cleaning toilets somewhere near the seaside, laughing my way through the unpleasantness with some girls and a mate I’d made called J, who’d made me laugh for a week with stories of his conquests of older women, the increasing number of women carrying his children and his excuses for being late, involving road side abandonment of his broken down car.  He was tall and noticeably attractive to the opposite sex, who seemed to swoon in his presence, and his cheeky comedy and his rude sense of humour made him the spokesman for the lads.  His piss taking and easy attitude was a welcome break from the seriousness and robotic jobs I’d previously had, he was Saint Chav, shining the torch through the darkness without fear of condemnation, swearing, playing music loudly, eying every woman and clowning around and this made the days go quicker.

The sky was nearly always white and blue and you could divide it in half as if it were made simpler for beginner painters, or for birds to be noticed or to hide away during the coupling rituals of early springtime.  And the grass was brown where it was not green scorched by the good long spells of sunshine, and littered with the empty pallets of factory productivity, and the sound outside silent but for the forklift buzz and the laughing seagulls and the occasional passing car.  And at night the sky ocean blue with a hint of turquoise and that Vincent starlight and a moon surrounded in its own aura like a guide on a night walk through the hot streets, conjuring ideas and dreams of artworks and romanticism.

I had a week’s worth of work, involving heavy lifting at a parcel sorting office and had no option but to take the pathetic four hours each day, that paid twenty pounds for back breaking work loading a conveyor with huge oversize parcels weighing in excess of 50kg sometimes and making my neck ache.  Temporary work was like that though some weeks I’d earn nothing and others I’d work real hard to make one hundred and fifty pounds, enough to get wasted and pay some bills and feel down in the Sunday realisation that I had nothing left and had to hope to go through it all again just to be in that same position the following week, just hoping for nothing at the end of the day, barely enough to pay for petrol where the prices rose and the lifestyle withered.

And then I had the fortune to get a days work delivering mattresses and the two hundred mile drive for forty minutes lifting didn’t seem mad anymore it just couldn’t take me far enough away.  All the way through the journey the radio would cut out and when we hit a bump or a pot-hole and the lunatic driver would smash and kick the dash board and swerve and kick the curb in attempts to get it started, even convincing me to open and slam shut the passenger door at seventy on the motorway.

And then the pharmaceutical packing warehouse gave me nearly two, or three week’s continuous work.  The place was a maze of overhead and waist high belts that wound round every inch of the building and in between was an alphabet of racks stacked full of drugs and health care products that were scanned into green tote boxes at zoned stations.  You were on your feet from four in the afternoon till one thirty maybe three in the morning listening to the constant complaints of tired bored voices.  At about eleven everyone shifted into another room and did the same thing only with different products, and I didn’t see much daylight except for mornings when the telephone rang or the bird song awoke me.  The summer was approaching and I was happier for a time, especially in the early morning when work finished and the road was entirely mine.  At work I got talking to Les another temp whose voice was pretty much the only other I could stand listening to; amidst the mute muttering ignorance of the other employees and he seemed to share my desire to block out the past with late night and early morning work that destroyed the soul with boredom.  Life did offer however an occasional glimpse at something more, with the sighting of a rare nocturnal animal that showed that there is life even in the quiet solitude and loneliness of the latest hour.  And he told me of romantic stories of the foreign legion that he had joined as a young man, where he’d marched with a broken foot for days and drank beer in hospital without the officers knowing and where his friends had been blown apart by bombs and had joined the army, so desperate to forget the pains of life and love that they had welcomed the loss of their bodies because then there was less left to hurt.  And there from the woodland heath the fox stood staring for a moment.

There was nothing but sunshine for weeks on end and May flew by barely noticing itself or looking back, only in the corners of the street paths and road curbs could there be seen the remnants of an earlier autumn where the leaf litter was brown and mixed with cigarette ends in a forgotten afterthought laid down, where heads did not look because they were transfixed amidst the green scenery of the summertime and the countryside against the road hinted at an urban pastoral landscape embellished with Constable and the business of a roadside Lowry, as oily as the salads and the body cream; those who raced by feasted on.  I’d enjoyed myself a little too much, drinking and talking with momentary friends whenever I had the opportunity and often outreaching my income, but it is the dark isolate hours of winter that are for saving and I had welcomed the company and the desire of women with humble dignity wishing at times that life were eternally like this and considering myself lucky to be young enough to enjoy these simple pleasures.  I had finished packing pharmaceuticals when the long Easter break came to an end and the chemists panic ceased to be an early morning chore for the furious employees and I had picked up some work as a lorry drivers mate, carrying kegs of beer to bars and breaking bottles of wine on ill stacked barrows.  Work had become solely a means to an end and all of my enjoyment in life came from the pay packet, I had no job satisfaction and no ambition, both had left me the moment I had left University.  I was entirely at the mercy of the employment agency as to how much fun I was worth and the days when the proverbial rain came I sat alone hoping to think of ways to make money to spend, watching programmes on television about graduates struggling with fees, a hopeless job market where intelligent, educated people were screaming for jobs, listening to the echoing voices of colleagues telling me foreigners should go home, I was longing to write or be creative, or to make money from a profession where the product or industry I worked in meant something to me, instead I was forced to take anything offered and accept the minimum wage.  I was far from settling down, getting a mortgage, marrying or having children, for financially I had nothing to offer, and there was no light at the end of tunnel and nothing to work towards.  Life to me seemed almost entirely temporary, like the work and the relationships I found, and I gave myself this nickname and for a while I knew myself as a temporary man.

I recognised Fran from an induction for new starters at the cities’ newspaper printing house and spent Friday drinking too many pints for an empty stomach to handle, assuming his fiery Scottish temperament like an arrogant dislike for just about everyone.  I hate spending money on drinking like that, for it has no purpose, except for paranoia and regret, but I had just about taught myself to not care anymore as most things in my life led nowhere anyway and such a small diversion from my non-existent life plan was of little consequence.  And he’d made me feel shit and self-conscious with his fashionably observational style, though in truth he was quite kind and honest, but I hate feeling like I have lost control and I had only myself to blame, like a isolated pain which you have no-one to share the discomfort of it with.  I had also met Paul that night who was the talented musician but poor friend I had jammed and recorded music with for a few years.  But he was forever letting me down and selling my equipment when times got rock and roll, but my moral code told me that this was wrong and I invested less time and emotion with him these days.  And then the weekend seemed a waste; as my date cancelled, my head hung-over ached, and I was bored of everything, waiting only for someone who would sleep with me and make me feel loved, but it never came, never, like an empty message inbox on a mobile phone.

The print-house was a vast underground warehouse, with the machinery I had slowly become accustomed to, and I’d wait on the instruction not to touch anything; but to stack the bundles of newspapers in layers of ten on wooden pallets, repeating this monotony for eight hours, although here the breaks were really great; drinking coffees in the long spaces in between print runs, nothing here was unexpected and almost as if in a state of sleep I occupied this job like a fool; of the lowest sort.  Overhead the papers came travelling like on a roller-coaster on a kind of mechanical bicycle chain that had teeth to grip each paper, that wound round into various machines that inserted pages and advertisements and wound them into counted bundles, ready for lifting and stacking.  Here my life was really simple, and yet there would still appear at times gripes and complaints about the quality of the work, perhaps half in jest, but still cutting beneath the near worthlessness of my abilities; as if I were a buffoon, of intelligence, so low that I could not satisfactorily arrange newspapers in such a simple fashion.  It was pure pettiness and pathetic, but I stopped caring after the third or fourth confrontation when in similar situations I’d given up or been sacked.  At first I had resisted, trying hard to maintain dignity and my credibility as an educated human being, now I’d learned to not try, and to not talk to anyone and simply act like a zombie or a monkey and take the little money without afterthought to the job or the attitude of other employees, for nothing in my life mattered to me now, nothing at all.  I had gone from being an academic overachiever to being an unrecognised underachiever in every job I had been given, and no matter how hard I looked to sell myself and my skills, nothing came my way of any consequence, only ignorance from people who seemed to think somehow I was strange or different, this ignorance a by-product of my education; that never served me favourably, and likewise I had learnt to detune and assume myself into the general consciousness, burying my ideals and opinions and tastes beneath a mass hysteria numbing itself and deafly bullying the world around it.

Everything slows approaching thirty – like a twenty mile an hour speed limit with bumps, and every song you hear you have heard before with some distant memory fading.  I was beginning to grow tired of it all or at very least of my own company, and the rainy day savings seemed to take a life-time to build, quickly spent, leaving me chasing after nothing.  I didn’t know where my life was going and it seemed that I was destined to become the no one I had felt like for the last seven years.  My educated mind felt slow like the blues, and the voice of retro was wondering what I had wasted my time upon.  Unhappiness however disappeared with the Friday wage, but it was the loneliness and the solitude that kept up the frustration and starved my creativity.  And I, knowing now of all hours of the day, felt partly doomed to all eternity, sublimely awake to possibility, where only sleep and the consequent morning, when things are truly real and concretely renewed, could like the myth of Sisyphus, so harshly apparent, bind me to the fact that what those things left behind for sleep were always there waiting where you had left them.  That once again you are who you are, having only the day to change those things you dislike about your life, through knowledge and invention.  And so I thought: What is life to me, but to be a mechanism, no matter how small and to lock all my troubles away, and wait for the spark of hope and life, as if it mattered enough to be positive.  And for a moment I thought I existed on the precipice of genius.

…I was on the road again where there is no place for thoughts and my happiest place to be, back lifting mattresses, with sat-nav directions that got the truck stuck in the trees and walls of a narrow lane, where the passers-by took photographs and gave us wisdom on how to get back out and find our destination – and somehow we managed it and later drove through fields of sheep to find a farm house and nearly crashed though it wasn’t our fault when a van swerved out in front of us.  And then another day I was drivers’ mate for J – two clowns reunited – and full of it!  And J called everyone a cunt and beeped the van horn at girls and shouted fatty at the overweight ones, spitting out the window to get rid of his cold and drinking an entire bottle of cough syrup in a day and farting his way for laughs.  And we laughed a hell of a lot and sang, with the radio so loud! And an old lady gave us fifty pence tip each that wasn’t enough to buy us both a drink, yet was a sweet thought.J made me laugh hysterically when we arrived at a rare bird farm and the peacocks screeching and J screeching back at them, sounding more-like an orang-utan.  And suddenly I understood friendship, where in the past there would have been a social and academic divide; now there was just a way to laugh through the working day.  And I also later thought and understood the lunatic comedy of Surrealism, of all of the things of the past few days that had unfolded in the course of a delivery drive.  And life was madly funny.

Then I was sent to a shoe factory to open boxes and place the shoe boxes on shelves so completely full of shoes it was near impossible yet somehow occupied eight hours and they seemed to almost know you'd be back tomorrow because there was no escape once you had started.  And I’d heard how an industry at its peak twenty years ago, the industry of this region of the East, had moved abroad because this could cut two thirds off the cost of production, leaving now only a giant warehouse and a lot of expensive European shoes, and a lot of trades-people who now had nothing much to do.  And this made me sad to think of my family who had suffered through the nineties and even before, and it was like my own graduate experience of becoming qualified for nothing, like a discarded needle at the end of a pro-government fix.  And here I was in the wasteland of it all, surrounded by lights and boxes on racks, and everywhere but the road was like this and it felt like being in a tunnel heading towards death, and yet rich people on the television brought expensive houses and lead expensive lifestyles, acting as if hundreds of thousands were next to nothing.  I laugh to think what they would think of my pocket money wages.

The week and a half of opening shoe-boxes was over and it came quickly and with a feeling of relief as I was sick of spending my time hiding down locker isles and going to the toilet every thirty minutes which was merely my imitation of what all the other workers were doing.  We’d spent three days filling the same shelves, taking the piss out of an Eastern European imitating Borat and laughing at how he meticulously filled a skate board with so many boxes, and how no body else had anything to do and nobody could move down the isle we were working on.  We’d nearly got to fighting then we made it up and then were to fighting again and then it was someone else’s turn to fall out and the one thing that brought us together again was the easy lazy work and the stupid comedy catchphrases that sometimes boarded on friendliness and other times on racism.  There was a group of us, all temps and we all hated work and did anything we could to find an excuse to waste time, except the European who worked as if his life depended on it.  There was a mad old guy in his fifties who was Buddha fat and had a grey skinhead who made strange noises and talked to himself and another guy who smelt like shit and laughed like he had the IQ of a chimpanzee.  The Buddhist guy told of his life as a hippy, living in communes and practicing macrobiotics and we shared some stories and music tastes in common, he told how he’d worked as an extra in a Tarzan movie when his hair was black and how he had sung with John Martin, but he came across as very eccentric and most people gave him a wide berth as he was the type to shake hands with you when he thought he might not see you again.  The rest of us made do with repeating the Borat quotes endlessly, farting inconspicuously, hiding from work and generally taking the piss out of each other, perhaps even more like monkey’s, but we each had wasted skills and united in a kind of working strike against all things.  The guys were gamblers and drinkers and I found that what I considered strange about myself, what marginalized me from the rest of society was in fact a commonality amongst all of us.  We were an agency of loners, drifters, hippies, thinkers, who couldn’t give a fuck about anything, just the end of the day and the booze and fags we could buy with our wages.  We worked nine hours a day from seven until four thirty opening boxes and filling shelves, growing hot under the strip lights and sore throated from the humid atmosphere, where the moisture in the air was sucked out by the endless packets of silicon desiccant, and the endless mountain of cardboard boxes, but nobody cared because it was almost as if nobody was there.

These irregular days were becoming regular to me now and I liked being the constant new guy, that some people quizzed for a life story to make their day go quicker or who other people chose to ignore because you were the outsider and momentarily in their way, without their expertise and a representative of all their quarrels with the politics of their employer.  But I didn’t care much, I was happy enough, working as hard as necessary and enjoying weekends drinking to much and spending my wages, though life was hard at times.  I’d grown out of the desperation for finding work and panicking to pay bills and it seemed I wasn’t destined to be a nothing man after all, but a temporary one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

The lonely section (Found my Ground)

 

The day was bright and warm, and the pink light and the soft rain that blighted the preceding month, had found its way round again with the rotation of the globe, dispersing grief and pain like the leaf litter of my fallen nature.  Life had matured, clearer and far removed, enough to be enjoyed, away from the hot marshland and the ringed out-skirts, into a village that promised something broad enough to grow into and wake up for.  I spoke in the morning with my windows open to the hairdresser; his usual morning greeting was “morning Tyler.”  Not many people used my surname which is Fleurie and that was fine, as I hated having to spell it out where it varied in most people’s minds, but most people struggle spelling most things and don’t have the education or the obsession with language accuracy that I do. 

I had cleared most of the chip shop debris from the garden and was spending my mornings walking to the library before working the evening shift, appreciating the clothes women wore in the new heat of mid February.  It was around this time where time had chased away thoughts of a love that wouldn’t prosper and the heat took me away outside from the stagnant thoughts of love that had failed in the past, there is no place for the past in the spring, where my eyes opened to the endless newness of possibility and the outstretching promise of the summertime, like a happiness switch set to on, a reversal of the artificial energies we rely on through the wintertime, a place full of hope and self motivations.

I have had an interesting past, the most distinct change came when I was twenty one, where the immature love I felt for an actress and the pressure of too much work alongside too much study reached its peak just before Christmas.  In a drunken thoughtless state I marched to the theatre, with a mind to confront the woman who for two years had given me such a varied range of emotions that although I knew there was no future for us, incited some strange obsession that kept my feelings for her fixed like a drug.  Amidst the confusion and intrusion, I ended up being taken away and for two months was hospitalised, being fed tablets manufactured for mental confusion, sleeping where my former friends realised their degrees, and disappearing from the relationships I’d developed for three years at the University.

All promise of achievement vanished and I was not well enough to return to my studies until the following year, where nearly all of my friends had gone home, finding themselves graduate jobs around for that year I carried on my pursuit of the actress, walking the Quay streets and listening to painful music, until finally on leaving that place of dark desire the voices in my head finally stretched them selves out and gave me a more positive direction.I graduated with honours though I felt none and since have found myself in and out of manual work, still sleeping heavily in the medication and realising the noise around my mind is mine to not listen to.

And then I was back to being alone, though I really always had been, away from the mad high of love back to the low, thinking back to when I used to see lights before my eyes, lights fixed like stars, though sometimes moving in a disorientated aura, that stretched in my vision and dazzled before me making me confused, frightened, hang my head over the toilet or basin and vomit.  They could come before me at any time of the night or day and would float around until I’d lay and close my eyes so they would disappear, until the tablets composed me.  I started off on large pink pills, sugar coated, popping from a silver jacket.  They would make me sleep instantly and for most of the day.  Then I was reduced to blue, somewhere in the depression, balancing between realisation and acceptance, and still with a heavy sleep that I otherwise could not find, and also a waking hunger that slowly made me stack weight on.  And when finally deemed better, the white pills would just stabilise my mood.  I would miss the lights sometimes, as if they were a way to find access to the retrospective sublimations I sometimes longed for and I would continue on lethargically and drowsy not hearing or talking to someone who wasn’t there, a stable routine of self medication.

Sometimes my face could move involuntarily, and people would comment or my speech would be slow and incomprehensible, other times my mind would race, I’d be creative and talk as if I’d bottled everything up into an idea flask and was desperate to pour out the contents whilst they were still hot.  My heart would beat fast and also super slow, I’d feel at extremes anxious and exhausted, and then more dizzy light shows would sparkle before me, and then I’d sleep almost crying to myself or drinking till the rest came. There were tremors too, which convulse the entire body, and these are more regular for me and trouble me still, sometimes forcing my head and face to twinge other times moving my shoulders too and for a moment shifting my body from its frame, for no reason and then returning it to its normal position.  I can feel and notice the change but don’t know why the convulsion came, to cause me to, for a moment feel outside myself and quiver or shake and twitch like a fit that momentarily and without warning takes me nowhere but makes me look so incredibly strange.

I would suffer from mistaken beliefs, thinking I was copying or being copied and that people had some kind of evil agenda they wanted to subject me too, like I was an outcast or unable to understand their dislike of me, and I’d escape from what I knew to be true by creating fantasy scenarios in which I was a hero instead of the weirdo everyone saw me as.  I lost friends quickly where I’d sit staring into space for minutes on end, and became withdrawn into my own world comprising only of happy memories.  I became sensitive to sunlight and camera flashes became overly suspicious and untrusting, thinking things that had no sense to what was really happening to me, and the only thing connecting it all and the only sane fact is that it is all so very real…

 

And yet love again once began and ended in only eight months but it was of the most intense and truly felt love that nothing was left of me but hot-bath burning legs and the inability to turn the taps on, an indication of eligibility to the disability register.  This experience I will traverse here.

I met her in a secondary bar at the University in the city I live in, I had graduated two years earlier and was working at another Theatre and singing in a band, though this was merely a hobby and not a profession.  There was a Japanese society meeting and I was drunk, and there at the bar was a girl, who ordered us gin and tonics when I offered to buy her a drink, and gave me her number to sing in the streets as I walked home with a friend.  The next time we met we held hands and walked through the high street understanding as much as we could there where first meetings turn to something serious.  We continued the date and brought port for funs and I stayed in her bed, still wearing my jeans for polite anxiety, though her leaning breast made me realise she was interested in something more.  She was pretty and not plain, though not beautiful by any means, short and toned in accordance with her youth and studying psychology in her third year.  The relationship quickly turned into something that occupied my every waking thought, she possessed me and turned me back into what I had been when I was in that position, enjoying how she warmed my cold-footed January with her body, it was lust and this turned to love and after celebrating her twenty first birthday I took her to Paris and proposed.  We enjoyed each other and never argued and travelled a lot together in that shortened year, visiting places we had both previously experienced without any pangs of jealousy or guilt. 

She seemed to possess a part of everything, inheriting a mythical Eastern medicine from her father and a bitterness of love from her mother, but neither could stop the easy feeling and correct connectedness we seemed to share, like we were somehow made for each other, despite being from derby rival towns.  In my songs I sang of her and in my poems, and each time apart I ached in the core of my heart longing to be beside her again and thinking of ways novel enough to show her how I felt; so that she would never forget.  These times became less regular as her father invited her to explore career options as he had done; and in the summer she announced a working trip to Africa, an opportunity to work in a game park that had connection with her family, like most things had.  She left me crying on the platform of the station, missing her already and expecting her back in three months, left in the pink drink and the quarrelling tiger cats I saddened but still wrote until the message came from the near empty mail of the Dark Star Safari energy shut off, telling me of the end of us and of the fact we were not in love.  There in the seventy percent absinthe her father arose me from my non existent sleep in triangular wizardry, offering alchemy in mocking solutions and diverting the traffic of my telephone inquiries, like the rainbow fireworks he’d brought out in the storm of his island and the out of reach ceiling of his home, he confused me where she’d left, until hopeless I gave up, though in the course of the struggle the voices came back telling me of dying cows and Southern maids gone awry.  And I never heard of her again, and for five long years I longed for and could hope of some glorious reunion that never came, only in frighteningly talking technology that could explode and hopeless water, also angry.  Then one day where I think I regained the friendship of her best friend, with a knowing smile I found out she had married, an aviator with a double barrelled surname and realised without a tear that she had wanted a life of wealth and although bitter and sad, now not for the loss of love but for the suffering I had endured, the loss of mind and the incarceration, and the endless tablets to avoid the noise and the highs and downs, and there the thought of Paris in the Spring began to bring me back to my new found England with all its flaws that I would not change. 

 

Everything was alright for a while, I had been sorting mail for minimum wage and the time between breaks always seemed to drag, filled like cigarette smoke in cold steel constructions, but the people were kind and there was a general camaraderie and even a hint at love.  Then a call came from another agency offering more money at a factory closer to home, away from paper cuts and long car journeys, so I took the offer.  On the first day I received my uniform of black combats, green shirt and jumper, protective cap and hairnet and ear defenders.  The trainers were creepy: one a monosyllabic northerner, covered in punk tattoos and principles he didn’t believe in anymore and another man who always touched my elbow when he made a point, invading my space and making me feel uncomfortable to be in his presence.  Both were boring as hell and continually stipulated the need to place the cardboard cases in perfect uniform upon the belt, criticising me and repeating their drills.  On the third or fourth day I made the mistake of trying to keep busy, attempting to impress with my initiative, sweeping beneath the bottle machine with an over-size squeegee broom.  Then my worst fear… the broom caught beneath the machine, wrenching away at the mechanism and causing the machine to stop.  About an hour later the machine was fixed and my mistake made ever apparent by the punk who refused me any sympathy.  The weekend came to my relief and apart from a long drive to a fruitless meeting with a six-foot woman, I’d hoped to form a lasting relationship with, which I’d met on an Internet dating site and had formed an attraction to, was otherwise satisfactorily spent relaxing.  Then Monday, oh a blissful day, wherein I met a member of permanent staff who made more mistakes than I, who I thought might save me with his ineptitude, but I was wrong, as an hour before leaving, when his machine broke down and in his useless panic his line, a catastrophe, he left me in charge of changing the film on another machine, a task I had only witnessed and never attempted before, and as I unaided again broke down my machine, severing my chances at a money pot, and was later sacked, six days into the job I’d left another successful enterprise for, finding myself again in the unemployment chase, to begin again as before, never knowing, never reaching, driven further to the bottom rung, wondering what would become of me and what chances there were of earning that longed for thing, the shiny coin and the crisp note, like so much poetry I’d written, my life was like discarded paper, and opportunities gone wrong.  And then there is hope for something more, that challenge that sends us all out of our doors, into the void space and the mundane, into nothingness and complacency, fuelling us on in these violent, uncertain times and keeping us from that place where we think to improve our chances and set ourselves further back, not accepting our place, as we scrimp and save for an uncertain and unreachable future in which none of us are ever satisfied, always longing to be somewhere, with someone different to who we are with, without identity and any reason to be.

I had been asked at the factory if the love of the girl who drew the heart on the wall was enough.  In truth it had not been and the distance in leaving had helped me realise this, in the same way the distance from the girl who’d left for Africa and married, had made me realise our love was not meant to last.

I found out that the actress was now a single mother and though hugely successful in her career, the fact that she had suffered and lost happiness and knew of the poverty and struggle of life renewed my appreciation of her, and this I felt in my heart was really enough and here I made my decision.

Life was slow and painful and had been for a long time.  None of my career or creative ambitions had ever been fulfilled, I had not found love, and the drudgery of not being able to live life in the apartment due to a lack of work, and the sense that the work I could find always ate away at my soul at the price of the minimum wage; as if that was all my life was worth made me feel sad and lost more than I had ever before been.  The door stayed locked and the curtains closed and I slept most days and stayed awake most nights.  For six months I lived in this bleak incubation, not eating much or talking to anyone and then one morning the sky, bright, illuminating through my closed curtain, everything changed.

 

It was August, a Thursday, and in the Northern hills it was mild, wet and sunny, the west was warm and full of holiday makers, filled with the seaside sounds and of crowds talking, till the noise becomes inaudible, yet pleasant with a breeze that carried the music of street performers and shops playing the radio with their doors open.  The Southern landscape was free as it always is with gentle washes and busy market towns, and the sounds in places of footsteps on pebble stones and the gentle backdrop of the ripe green hillside with rolling woodlands, steep walls and ancient relics and carvings.  The East radiated its central warmth which carried with it the weight and importance of the nation, emitting like radioactivity the latest summer fashion in all directions and out across the ocean into Europe and beyond.  And in the midlands busy roads and motorways inter-connected the weekday with the weekend translating the complications as people from all corners converged and passed, taking with them some fanciful interest like the local name for the local bun, or some artefact from a famous landmark, house or museum.  And this day in August went by without notice, though sure as a day with disaster and tragedy, the same as any other.  The night was cool and starlit, promising tomorrow to be another glorious day.  Throughout the country workers finished in daylight and savoured the hours in beer gardens.  Lazily enjoying the sunshine until jumpers were no longer sufficient to soak up the cold, and then in hot beds with windows open and electronic fans switched low, they slept in quick heavy drunken sleep, to wake early to another blissful morning and the birds call.

At six am the sun was already shining and though not warm yet, in many gardens, in many streets, washing hung on linen lines.  There was no fear of rain though it often came to spoil the occasion.  Salads sat in bowls in fridges and grew in abundance in greenhouses, flowers of all varieties were full in bloom and shaved lawns struggled to maintain their lustre as the heat scorched and children playing wore patches.  Fences bright and smelling of creosote, traffic quietened by bicycle resolutions and the starting hum of car engines already warmed by the sun, and yet quieter still as everything in the summertime seemed to start later and last longer like couples walking along beaches holding hands, as the good life stretches out into the hour glass grains of time, infinitely small and delicate and for a moment seeming as endless as eternity.

 

The actress was playing with her son before school, watching cartoons and eating breakfast.  The girl with the bullring nose-ring, who has become unmentioned, was preparing the topic for her class that day.  The Asian girl was putting her make-up on and arguing with her husband and somewhere in Africa there was a couple asleep in each other’s arms, in another time zone where tomorrow is forever yesterday.  The factory girl was already at work, with the Rastafarian and Mr Patel, Pablo and his maid were there too, all busy in productive tasks.

The crime scene investigation concluded from the evidence provided that Tyler Fleurie had smashed the hallway mirror of the flat in which he lived and had repeatedly stabbed himself with the glass shards, leaving a series of blood stains and bloody handprints as the trail of his demise.  Tyler: pale and vacant, motionless, had slipped slowly and agonisingly away in a happy release from an existence too painfully felt.

The sky above the street where he lived was unusually dull and grey with only a hint of light shining through the vein-like cracks that appeared momentarily between the overcast glooms.  A promise was made as it played on the radio that all life had been beautifully spent in awe and appreciation of love.  And in a final thought never captured in time, a lonely, often tragic and sensitive mind thought of a single kiss that played over throughout a lifetime like a film, that captured in its beauty both momentary ecstasies and impossible conclusions.

 

And Tyler Fleurie was dead! 

 

Deemed a s

 

 

 

It was the police that discovered Tyler’s body two weeks after he had died and their report stated that on approximately Friday August 21st a young male had committed suicide in the bathroom of his apartment.  Those that knew Tyler knew him to be a dark character, around five feet eight inches and of slight build he demonstrated little physical impact on the world, though many thought that his eyes, which were dark hazel, framed in sockets that bore the dark skin tones of a foreign lineage, the mark of a sensitive and exotic nature that shone out from his chiselled but not beautiful face like Blakean illuminations, resembling deep feelings of pity and sadness for the world.  He was known as the shy reclusive character, that, always reliable would step outside the expected boundaries for just about anybody.  Full of moral dignity and pride, anyone who knew him found him intense and yet strangely alluring, so much so he was for many difficult to be around and became an acquaintance in passing more than a friend, a figure that left a haunting sensibility that could not easily be forgotten.  When he spoke it was with hesitation and poise in a changeable accent that he could alter for the occasion, impressive and charming to employers, he quickly became admired yet never fitting in socially with his peers, many felt him to be an isolated outsider, dark and mysterious, and wished that he might blend in, be thoughtless and of his time, rather than, try too hard to find his place, beyond where it really was in the world; which was sadly his way.

To many people he was a stranger, who would sit on the outskirts of a conservation, never finding a means to impose an opinion where the opportunity occurred, but in Tyler’s mind those places where he tried to thoughtlessly satisfy those who appeared concerned, were too confrontational, he didn’t want to be around people who would move away, change the subject or ignore him completely and tiring of this, he chose to shut himself off completely and exist in a world where he was never present, somewhere else in time, experiencing the joys where life bored or tired him out of existence.

To many people as life journeys on in age this seemed strange and incomprehensible and when Tyler, trusting, told of his feelings, even those people who were closer friends, drifted further away toward the social circles that live for the moment, and though this seemed a superficial existence it was a well earned one.  For Tyler though who was composed enough to function and yet distant enough to feel safe and secure in his own world, this was not enough.

In Tyler’s apartment the police found nothing of importance or of value to warrant continuing investigation into his case.  They found a journal he had kept, in which he wrote of his thoughts, of loneliness but moreover of a desire to be alone, to be a writer who through hardship, madness and life outside of the system could find through contemplation, retrospect and ideology, sense to the life, which he had found himself living.  The journal was full of facts and long metaphorical explorations of both real and none real experiences.  In it he cited many authors and seemed to identify with those that had suffered for their art.  He seemed to hold an affinity for those that had died young in tragic circumstances, to the extreme that he talked of sacrificing his life to search for genius and artistic perfection and knew that such a task was rarely accomplished within a lifetime but often found posthumously in the wasteland.

The final report was suicide, cause of death clinical depression.  And yet the expression of pure joy and peace upon Tyler’s face as he lay staring in the bathtub, perhaps told of a different story and interpretation of the world. His life had been of the profoundest and most consuming sadness and yet unknown to most, also of the most important beauty and love.  And behind the dark mask that shielded Tyler from the world, there engraved in his eyes, that gave a hint in their faintest gleam, somewhere hidden in their dull frame, was a teardrop long ago transpired, a hint that once his life had been pure and untroubled.Perhaps these eyes were like a gateway or an illuminated door that led the way to the heaven that he had hoped for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

The Girl in the Corridor

 

The dark circles round your eyes, hint at foreign wonder and they shine

For she was never tired nor showed weariness and was as soft as a pleasure only min

The thought that those eyes could rest on visions that together we had beheld -

Warms my heart, a perfect sunset and the promise of what future skies might unfold

And love I feel has begun again, like a Roman chariot with wild horses at the reigns.

 

Against a plain white wall two chairs and a coffee table formed a sanctuary in an otherwise clinical corridor that stretched far into the distance and was brightly lit by rows of strip lights.  On each side of the corridor were closed doors, numbered and identical in appearance.  Two women sat drinking coffee.  One wore a dressing gown and pink slippers, strange, as it was lunchtime, and the other, in her late twenties, blonde, pretty, around five feet five inches tall was wearing a loose fitting white dress of soft material.  Her name was Faith and she spoke with a strong Northern accent, yet her voice was feminine, intelligent and mellowed by the coffee.  The woman wearing the dressing gown, was older and of a sturdier build, she spoke in hard short sentences with a Southern accent, and mispronounced her words and confused her sentences, her name was Trudy, she was blunt and abrasive and always steered her conversations towards her own experiences and was mostly negative towards men, having been let down in love on too many occasions to have any hope left that she might find happiness in her life.

Staring beyond Faith she gave the impression that she was only vaguely interested and was not really listening, as Faith recounted to her a story from her past:

“It was two thousand and five and my son and I were living a happy life together in the suburbs on the outskirts of the city where I’m from.  I had a good job and had a mortgage on our house, a nice car and could comfortably afford the luxuries in life that most people, living, as a single parent, can’t manage.  Then I had the accident and social services said I couldn’t cope, they took my son and put me in this place, and I’ve been here ever since, referred to doctor after doctor and refused access or any visitation rights.” 

“That’s just like em” Trudy Remarked

“All I know is they put him with another family, he will be so much more grown up now and he might not even remember me.”  Faith wiped away a tear from her eye, feeling its sting against her cheek and sighed as she poured the last of the coffee away and made her way into the line that had formed at one of the rooms in the corridor.  There were around twenty people, all zombie-like and in different states of dress.  Faith’s turn soon came and she was handed a small plastic cup filled with an assortment of tablets and another cup filled with water.  Routine told her to swallow, her mouth and tongue were probed and proving that the pills were gone; Faith was allowed to leave and return to the lounge area to watch T.V and wait for lunch to be served.

Faith looked pale and was leafing her way through a music magazine when the dinner call came.  Served on a plain white plate was a meal that looked like it had no taste and would make you shit out any nutrients to make you hungry but she ate the shepherds pie and watery vegetables as a side effect to the medication and knew she’d crave chocolate and not the sick as the chemicals in her mind rearranged themselves in protest to the starvation routine she’d imposed on herself and learned to believe in.  She spoke in a way that showed education and hinted that she tried to convey a proper sense in her language, avoiding words that litter sentences with repetition and nonsense forms that shorten words or accentuate meaning unnecessarily.  This came across as slightly naïve and to some pretentious though there was no malice or snobbery implied, she simply felt more like herself when talking in this elevated style and more often than not she attracted like-minded individuals, careful enough to make sense of the words and to make themselves sound melodiously interesting.

Unlike her friend Trudy, Faith believed in Romance, for she had known love long ago, and that feeling of how the mind can suddenly feel in tune with the wonders of the world, and she sat that sad afternoon in the summerhouse on the edge of the hospital grounds, reading the lament of the artist in love, from a weathered and much loved paperback that she held close to her breast when the words spoke such clear and beautiful language, that she was forced for a moment to pause from her reading, by the immensity of art, and contemplate the words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lament of the artist in Love

My mind keeps retracing the contours of your mouth

Like a delicate topography

That once in tune with my mind and lips, saw me circling around a landscape that since we met seems rich and full of happiness.

Already plush in nature and many times before the inspiration of my muse

And yet now as my foot, steps on the ground, a path of leaves and branches that crumble and snap beneath me, and above the birds song humming on the breeze;

 

And I sit by the lake where once your hand I held in mine where the world seemed united in a beautiful thought

And as the light dispersing, in the hot melancholy, the unknowing of our first time parting, I am entirely alone.

 

And my heart sinks where my ears no longer learn of your sweet discourses

Nor my eyes; that widely hope for glimpses, of your charm and smile:-

And here where I am worst of all in all my mockery, unguarded against this self-defeat, that harms my senses and inwardly challenges the pressures upon my soul

 

And amidst the freedom of nature and its pleasantness that never fades, the scene shows effortless against immortality.

 

I wore a sullen mask as time too quick overshadowed my news,

And all the while I waited for cupids’ returning call, thinking myself stupid in expectation.

And now I wander where the landscape fell,

And since its beauty taking on a human face and form,

A shape so fair, profoundly conquering the imperfections of this earth,

Beyond the constructions, which are the horizons litter, harking to a grace for all eternity, a plea to God?

It is as if it were you who breathe new life into this world with a kiss, creating paradise and leaving only questions where the answers are left unknown.

 

I am a fool to ask and yet it is my faith to marvel at and wonder

And my memory believes where my reality too brutally distastes.

And here where hope falls, the comforted sound of the new birds call can instantly renew the scenery and though your shape will not fade, for I am entrusted to relate the truth.

In a sorrowful reflection of how creation can never be myth and how both nature and our love remain as perfect emblems, unquestionably and with no fault

For I am sad alone and humbled

For the girl I love has left me with a tear in my eye

That will never dry

 

 

 

 

 

Faith awoke when the dinner call came at five, she had experienced the most amazing dream, whilst in the unconscious company of birds: the sparrows calls and finches whines, and the bishy barnybees and dragon flies in splendid colours danced all around, and even there the dangerous hum of less friendly insects, flying harmlessly around, could not wake her.  It was a dream in which she was flying towards a child, her son, who flew high up to meet her and she kissed him and hand in hand they flew towards the horizon, and out across the sea, where the sky was blue and framed by fluffy white clouds.  She hadn’t wanted to wake, but she had had this dream before and knew all too soon the pain she felt upon waking from it, she looked down for a moment at her shoes, then picked up the book that had fallen to her feet and numbly walked inside, where she was greeted by a bustle of incidents and patients in worlds of their own, some wandering where they shouldn’t, some in a state of distress, some abusive, aggressive, and one, maybe two, looking down, quiet subdued, and yet none felt the joy Faith felt, still clinging on to her dream.

 

Around noon a girl arrived wearing a headband of daisies that looked so real that all that gazed upon them felt a state of awkwardness between childish; infant-like mentality and artistic impressiveness, unsure whether to feel sorry for this individual or impressed by their statement.  Although she appeared at noon she had been seen in some feint resemblance and similarity of a familiarising voice since 7 am, and seen passing through like some haunting; chanting; reassuring; ghost, at hourly intervals since nine, like some chime checking the workings of the mechanism of everybody’s lives and imparting some great positivistic enchantment and yet also in a darker form flowerless and muscular, fading into the shrouds of movement in the starkly lit effervescent corridors of Salt House mental Hospital as time ticked slowly by, in routine and sad formation, of shuffling patients circling the same ground and grumbling in the dull noise of the radio and further off near sanity and release the feint heard of conversation gathered amidst the near formidable echo of confused delusion and rambling echoes, repeating, repeating, repeating.

Somewhere someone was going out of their mind contemplating the end of a love that seemed no longer to have ever have had any beginning, ‘cept for some strain of life where there seemed to be no doubt of separation, until the end of continuity, like the cutting of an umbilical cord that rips the ripening life from its home into some other place where there is only something and nothing; in new found maturity and the developing consciousness and the sad age that wisdom sees as Blakean inevitability.

Like the sky she was always there.And yet she could be momentarily wonderful, a heavenly fissure amidst a blue permanence in the early morning sunrise of the late summer, that makes the commute seem happier, where you know you’d see her within half an hour.  She knew everybody’s dilemmas instantly and was quickly assuming the role of a counsellor more than that of a patient.  She found many of her words and phrases from the so called “urban dictionary” and kept everybody enthralled with her expressions and explanations of modern day life as it appeared so different in the translation in her eyes.  And yet she could not blend to the expertise of the health care staff, there were shades in her of light and dark that needed some professional adjustment, and these were quietly discussed using the terms depression and bi-polar, although the patients with their perhaps more experienced professionalism determined that from her control over her personal balance and from the calming influence of her family that she would most probably not be there above a week or two, for in truth there was nothing wrong except a broken heart and the need for sleep and a few carefully unmonitored meals, and they reassured many of the young men there that easily fell in love with her that this was inevitably so, and some of the older ones realised early on that this was the case because although she leaned on strong with her emotions; she never formed lasting attachments, perhaps she felt the need to break a few hearts too, and not be around to have to mend the pieces.

 

Salt house hospital had more rooms than patients, for some, no many preferred to be transitory, preferring an elusive and mysterious existence where they could keep quiet solitude and their heads bowed down.  Rooms one and two were occupied by the two Franks: Mad Frank and Foreign Frank.  Mad Frank had done time when a child and later travelled the Far East, living a kind of homeless life, dwelling in caves and upon warm beaches; devouring the culture and architecture like food.  He made friends easily for the stories he could recount, but being a sensitive soul, suffered in the almost adolescent realisation of a penniless love affair and was later deported broken hearted.  He lived alone until he was sectioned for talking too much to people who were really far off somewhere else in the world.  Eventually he found his way to Salt House where spent most of his days reading and smoking and most of his nights writing letters when he felt better and making most of his bed for early nights and late mornings.  He had a habit of singing softly to himself, a kind of off key melody that repeated over every song he thought of, he did this in a way that seemed to punctuate the silent air around him as if the environment were his accompaniment.

Foreign Frank would ask so many questions, so very slowly, and he surely always already knew their answers, asking them as if he simply wanted to hear the words in English, so to be recognised for his transatlantic realisation and wisdom in knowledge of languages.  Just like Mad Frank, Foreign Frank felt isolated, although he would not become the dirty recluse that mad Frank was.  On the contrary he would walk and talk all day until finally the dismissive responses would make him somewhat volatile.

There was art on the walls of Salt House hospital and most of it if not all was accredited to the inhabitant of room three.  This room had the name the relic room attached to it and its occupant went under several names, his real name being classified for press reasons as part of the doctor / patient confidentiality agreement.  He was a Scottish man, middle aged, who resembled a holidaying Buddha, in peaceful attire, not dissimilar to that worn by the militia or by tourists on Safari.  When he spoke it was with enormous campaign, not just recounting stories or reflections or facts, but with subdued welcoming to the banquet of his mind, where all could feel at ease and feast on the great wisdom and direction he had to offer.  He was a passionate Buddhist, and this was reflected in his art that painted portraits that mirrored their subject leaving nudity for his great landscapes and depictions of the natural world.  His room was a shrine to art, philosophy and to his God, adorned with relics and this is where the room’s stigmatic name appeared.  And sadly this man was a life long resident, for he could not communicate, nor find comfort in a world, that too cruelly devoured and mocked his spirit.  He was of course that rarity in the world, its genius, and was greatly respected and loved by all, and especially by young scholars on the verge of discovering that great beauty he possessed, an art of loving kindness and an appreciation for all things as if they are the best.  Upon arrival at Salt House, he had insisted that he was given room three, throwing out its former resident, who in disbelief and anger got well and consequently left.  “The Relic” would not have any other room, suffering from a delusion that room three had some kind of magical power that was only his to inherit, and eventually this satisfied the staff of the hospital as it was farthest the farthest room from the corridor where when in an exhausted state “The Relic” would often demand pie or bacon rolls at unholy hours of the night, stating that where they thought him a nuisance he was in fact only stating Thomas Paine’s great doctrine that “Man is born free and yet everywhere is in chains.” 

 

The girl in the corridor was assigned to room four and although her stay was brief, within an hour of her arrival she was showing many of the other patients around as if it were a room within her own home, smiling as they complimented her draperies, choice of bed-linen and her extensive collection of shoes and clothes, and asking where she had got her rug from and trinket boxes and coats.

 

Life was breathtaking for the girl in the corridor like the first steps a child takes and she was a pleasure to watch as she began again to become remarkably human, less bleak in spirit and yet pale and sullen in her appearance, wearing her hair down where it curled into the corner of her mouth; which was raised in a knowing smile and only beaten in beauty by the sparkle of her eyes; moist and bright and framed in their arcing paradise by the thick black feathers of her eye lashes.  She dressed in dark colours in which she implied some hidden meaning, wearing the inside out and hinting at feelings from the phrases emblazoned upon them.  At night she changed whilst others all remained the same, she changed and looked more mature, growing more beautiful in an eastern print dress and long and draping scarves and shawls, and it was here in the quiet space of night where voices deepen and grumble-croak, that she began to listen, and later think of herself in her mind and here she formed a reflection full of sorrow, and waking from a tearful sleep found strength enough to rest and eat, subdued from further contemplation, and also radiating in her own beauty and kindness and relishing faithful visitors.

She balance between darkness and light erring on the bright side and somehow indifferent, possessing that quality where all things are equal in a blind spectrum, and she hardly ever looked at herself preferring to exist and disappear and change with the light of her surroundings, to blend so effortlessly that she shone out.

In the social room Faith sat gazing with one eye in the mirror and the other in conversation, for most of the patients were sociable and obeyed the rule that by nine o’clock they had to spend at least an hour in the social room, but there are some people who cannot bear to socialise.  On this night Mad Frank and The Relic were playing jazz and ambient music on the stereo, creating sound-scapes for conversations and avoiding ballads with sad lyrics that might depress the mood or create a sad realisation for someone.  Outside there was a paste-like rain and the jazz suited fittingly beating down on the roof like a drum someone walked in, said hello; received a few acknowledging looks and joined Faith’s group.

The girl in the corridor was listening to Faith talk about her past: “I used to live in a Georgian house with my husband and my son; we were married five years before we fell pregnant.”

A text came through on the girl in the corridors phone and after reading it she looked down hearted.

“Is it from him?” Faith asked

“Yeah, he wants to see me, I think he’ll come Wednesday” She replied.

Later that week he arrived, they talked for two hours and he left her with a passionate kiss.  Three hours later the girl in the corridor was called to the doctor’s office and on Thursday she was informed that the following day she could go home.  The girl in the corridor did not look or talk to anyone as she left, as if she had never belonged there, and this was uncharacteristic the other patients thought, for whenever she looked upon someone she knew, perhaps even considered a friend, her eyes faced upwards with a certain blankness and in such a way that is only ever known in the priceless-ness of a goodbye.

That jazz night in the social room, mad Frank had challenged The Relic to listen non-stop through the night to Leonard Cohen’s “Famous blue raincoat” and that in doing so he could not as is cited in the lyrics go clear, that is to embark on the path, as Scientologists do, to rid the mind of all neurosis.  The Relic relishing all intellectual challenges took mad Frank on, and having kissed Faith and the girl in the corridor proceeded to undertake this task.

In the morning he awoke with a strange feeling and the bearded realisation that was half disappointment and half stupefaction that somehow he had changed, he had no urge to create and his mind felt clean and untroubled.  He approached his doctor and explained what had happened and after extensive psychological testing and care, The Relic was certified as sane, released into the local community and subsequently offered employment as an arts teacher to those with physical and mental disabilities which he worked at and thoroughly enjoyed for many years, subsidising his income with an ice-cream van that he took to music festivals, charging extortionate prices to the dehydrated.  His doctor had been informed by The Relic that the reason behind his sudden realisation was due to a Transcendental metamorphosis, the doctor at first puzzled, but contemplating at the time the importance of Salt-House institutes location next to Wells-by-the sea, decided that perhaps this was in fact a lucid possibility not to be over-ruled.  This coupled with the fact that both parties seemed satisfied with the recorded attribution of sanity to the Relics’ long list of achievements, and that they both concurred that medication and therapy were also in part to blame, and should be continued; the doctor decreed that any nuances were overlooked and that the rehabilitation of this patient whose real name was Gary parker and was reinstated as part of the release agreement and that his release would be a great addition to the world, and eventually all thoughts from both sides of transcendental metamorphosis were composed to thoughts of religion and controlled expressions of art and were barely ever mentioned again.

In the space of four weeks rooms three and four became unoccupied

Mad Frank was released, no escaped, a week before the Relic went home and was never found, rumours circulated in Far Eastern Literature of a bearded figure who lived in caves and gave blinding lectures about past lives at beach parties, though no one in particular was ever named.  Foreign Frank left a week after the Relic went home and within a year had procured a steady job as a lorry driver whilst studying for his IELTS certificate in language.  Within two years he had returned home and became a teacher, which made his wife and children incredibly proud.  This left only the occupants of rooms five and six at Salt-House for a while, Faith in room five and Trudy in room six.

Trudy was quickly rehabilitated into her troubled family life, when no longer deemed a danger to herself and others around her, and all was quiet in the space of a mad elongated jazz weekend.  It was one Sunday morning; plain as so many others, and for a while, until three o’clock in the afternoon there was only Faith at The Salt-House hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

When night arrives we fade with the shadows

 

(Lifeboats upon the Sewers Canal)

 

He was brightly lit within reflection, sat beside the sad lantern.  At first gazing downward in contemplation and was often asked what was wrong and if he was okay, and yet, there in his stare he saw clouds and sometimes laughing to himself.  And later on his vision altered, hazy like the summer and revealing how some things are not real and some much larger in reality than at first how they seem.

Faith was unsure of the newcomer who was now her only companion at Salt House hospital.  The first time she saw him he sat in front of the T.V screen moving backwards and forwards in front of a channel with no reception, just that snowy static that lives in a void between channels.  Later that night after Faith had slept she found written on a scrap of paper a poem, which gave no authors name, although she guessed that the writer was this mysterious new figure.  She was from this moment more intrigued than unsure and vowed to talk to this man in a few days when his mind had settled some.  For the rest of the night she read and repeated allowed his poem, travelling through his words as if he were some visionary that could nest in areas and hide within the trees of a painting by the Relic that hung upon the walls, describing its beauty and detail in a way that was simply profound.

 

There was a tree with a black rope, which hung dead on its only branch, a crooked overhanging thing that reached the earth with its spidery tip.  The tree looked more dead in comparison, and yet beneath its troubled, sad and poorly bough were scattered flowers, mostly red, of a common mixed and wild variety, where individual colours stood out in a lowered merry bouquet amidst the grass which not angled as a lawn although still rich, having no border; as if to dare no trespass, like an indivisible fence to this vivid wilderness in a juxtaposition of love and despair, that would and could only grow bleaker in time and grow covered and frozen, until the rotten harshness of so many autumns and winters might again inspire some brave blossom, a chance to inherit this old odd array of beautiful colour; not forgot.  Beyond this nest of contrasts was a wasteland, like a heath and further off beyond this behind a high fence, carefully blended into the surroundings, that was sort of there, but shielded by the greenery and broken in places where the wood had aged and panels had been snapped in protest by cursing infants among young children.  Beyond the fence, a tall and thin young man, with a bowed head and wearing a pastel green complexion where his face shone through, a face he knew he did not want but aware that he had no other face to wear except his own, unwanted still in scrutiny of the darkened figure who looked out at him from inside the hospital.  He thought for a moment this man as a mirror to himself, although much taller, still similar, wondering if he knew how hard it was to be invisible, and that he might and that he could not know completely how hard it is to be, like a shade on a paint shop pallet that garish tempts, only to be discovered on a lifetime of homes, in paint flakes on hallways, ornaments in charity shops and beneath the much tempered strata of the inside of things, or like carpet underlay between nailed down battens, or in art-ex patterns that cloud-like comedic-please and yet date as if in romantic dinner-dates over-done.  In reality this man was merely walking past the hospital to a pub where his friends were waiting having earlier spent the evening at a theatre watching a play about the importance of a healthy life at wintertime, he was deep in thought for minutes earlier he had climbed a slight hill and looked out across a bridge where a director led a colourful procession of canoes into the darkness and out into the night.  He had passed many shops offering a range of food choices and had thought of what he might eat later, having already eaten earlier that day, and by the time he reached the hospital in passing he took a quick cigarette smoke and then his looming presence too, faded into the darkness.

 

Later that evening the darkened figure was given his medication in his room, two white pills for headaches and insomnia.  Meanwhile Faith had found his newspaper, in which, in an article about the murder of a young woman, he had circled the numbers 32, 30, 21, 20, and the number 19 twice in red pen – in green pen he had written the word Numerology and in blue pen he’d underlined the part of the headline “The End of the World”, Faith studied the whole newspaper, and noted there were no drawings only a completed crossword, which he had undertaken solely in black ink, thinking this behaviour somewhat odd, but in fitting with his nature.  She had complained of his character to the orderly on shift that evening who told her to get some rest, for the lights where being shut down to a bare minimum, ready for bed-time.  Upon reflection the day had seemed to combust two small occurrences and end with a headache and a disappointment.

There was nothing even close to a conversation or connection for days, or weeks, just endless mute passing in an otherwise abandoned corridor.  Faith felt torn between the devil and the deep blue sea.  The darkened figure slept throughout most of the day and long through the night – abandoning his senses like a frightened fool who could not dare face the inevitable – the changes the sunrise gave and the things the sunset took.  He offered only a blank mask and the pills he took gave him the appearance of a plumped-up wrinkled smile, that did not look as if it belonged to him, but forced its way out in tiny shards at inappropriate and belated moments that were nothing like true emotions and were not responses to real jokes.  Perhaps they were givern practices, anticipations for his escape from his closed up and darkened world.

Light travels, like sound in waves that are all around us like the invisible lines of a broadband signal and as is the chemistry of our nature, what starts as an expression can travel infinite distances, or at least those unknown and end up somewhere completely different as an in-expression, a confusion of sorts but one that is known and understood, but for whatever reason cannot and should not be expressed further, but instead should be accepted. 

The darkened figure had been brought to Salt-House as a result of such an in-expression and had been brought there to be forced to close himself-up in order to allow his wounds to heal.

There were two paintings at opposite ends of the hospital both were by the relic.  One entitled “A Summer of Fields”, a study of light – a delicate pastel work, the other in heavy oils was entitled “Carnival balloons” a dance of excitement against an otherwise black canvas.  The walk between the two paintings took the dark figure three hours and was his favourite afternoon pastime, a slow walk of: pausing, thinking, leaving and returning, back pacing, drinking tea and eating, and numerous other preoccupations that focus the void into an idea and an opinion, or an opinion and an idea; depending on how you looked at it, or which side of the hospital you started your journey from.

Sometimes he would stop and think he could hear singing on the breeze or see light flash by in some kind of recognition but these things were things that used to happen and were hardly relevant now, captured in the imagination and echoed and reflected through time and yet far from all around and ordinary, more like a memory that was remarkably beautiful and his alone.

 

Craig was the orderly who worked the night shift.  He was a broad shouldered and like-minded man, well adjusted and always at ease.  He wore a T-shirt, jeans and smart casual shoes, on trend and hinting at grounded creativity.  A few years prior to now, he used to smoke at hourly intervals throughout the night, eight smokes in eight hours and two for the journey home; a half hour drive that took him to a flat where he lived alone.  This changed however when he met the woman who would become his wife and the mother of his children.  She was attractive, having a well-defined attitude, a quiet calm, which helped her nurture those who encountered her throughout her mature years.  She kept her figure and an excitement for design, harnessed in the clothes she wore and the home she kept and in the strong determination of her character; to get what she wanted; which she alone knew, and she gave all of this to Craig, who emerging from his lifelong state of darkness could share her lessons whilst maintaining his pride.  Faith liked Craig and the Darkened figure warmed to him, but both gave him distance at first and later respect, when he remembered and organised the things they told him in their alienated poise.

He always brought a carton of soup to work with him that kept him contented, but bothered the Salt-House cleaner.  Faith looked in the mirror and saw the lines on her cheekbones; they were a sign of her mature language and were the greatest feature of her beauty, a wise vernacular that balanced the patterns of her speech with such splendid peaks and lows; and yet she felt herself growing older and missing her son, longing to be free of this hospital and loved and in love also.  As her mind calmed that Monday night the darkened figure finishing his walk around the halls, stopped, politely said “hello Faith,” walking away before Faith had chance to reciprocate his greeting with a response.  She was in slight shock as she thought of him as a teacher thinks of a schoolboy with a crush, as most of that day he had sat staring, not far from her in the social room, staring and eating sweets and thinking so she thought of ways to make him self seem large and impressive.

Later that day, where we leave them for a while Faith sat reading in her room.  The darkened figure sat at a round dining hall room table asleep in his dinner.  Faith had the somewhat sad recollection of the party of friends in the social room, the easy to understand colour-coded nature of things.

Outside beyond the fence and the steep variety of the local shop front displays, where there was so much to offer above the façade in overlooked architecture and strange inhabitants in rooms above shops who perhaps one would expect to be there, or for that place to be that place, but something else more common or even vacant and nothing.  And past all of this, past the scaffold and the duck tape of a refurbished home, finally carried to room twenty one, carried by slow sleepy footsteps and an orderlies arm, to room twenty one, the darkened figure who had in bleak abandonment lost all sense and faith drunk so much alcohol that he could scarcely breath, ranting, raving about the loss of a great love, so important above all others, was carried in sickness, spewing to room twenty, because like a heavy lead weight the orderlies could carry him no further, and in that room they eventually left him where he could rest and sleep and dream.

 

In an empty room, a common living room, a film began which no one was there to see, the story of a young man and his lady…the film was called “The Student House”, and the film began…

 

The Student House

 

On a cold October morning, full of cold condensation though not yet bitten by a frost, where the morning was a later shade of dark, the ground newly bare and quickly covered in golden brown leaves and woodland materials.  A boy, younger in looks that he was in years, dressed in an orange hooded sweatshirt and tight jeans, felt in his mind this particular morning a strong sense that he must have foreseen the colour of the sunrise before it had been born from the ground, as if the stem was his very self and that he too must have been born from an earlier view of it, and where the colours mismatched he felt perhaps these gaps were the fillings for this mornings’ creations in his mind, of the wealth of happiness, both past and present and both expected and unexpected in his future.  His mind felt almost full of colour as the beautiful rays entered the tiny pupils of his eyes and filled the vast wonderment of his mind, his body and became one with all that he was and with all that was around him as he walked home from his girlfriends’ student house to his own, where he knew he would try and relive this route, as he did all routes and memories he was fond of.  He did not eat much if at all and the journey took thirty minutes, crossing one bridge and several busy roads until nearly reaching the large green door that stood at the top of three thick stone stairs.  Inside the entrance hall opened onto a staircase, the second door on the left of the ground floor, beyond the stairs and opposite a small toilet under the stairs was his.  The room had a boarded-up fireplace, single bed, wardrobe, drawers, a desk, a bookcase and several generalised artefacts, some antiques and heirlooms of little but sentimental value, a rug and an ashtray.  There was a large window, which faced right out onto the garden, a patio and lawn, both rarely ventured upon. There were a few daffodils, narcissus and two rose bushes which he had bought and planted, but they had failed to grow, although the daffodils sprung through like pale dwarves, found in random locations and not uniform.  There was also a shed with an old push lawn mower that was blunt and abandoned.

He undressed in his room, showered and returned to the top of the made bed to relax and clear his mind.

He had fallen asleep and awoke an hour later recalling the night he had spent with Mary.  They had been together for a little under a year.  They were in love, having studied and slept and walked and talked almost entirely immersed in one another’s company for that special time that is life in halls, in one’s first Romantic year of University, where life is all so free and new.  They became so close; they knew each other’s thoughts could finish each other’s sentences and were of a similar standard of mind where their tastes like kisses intertwined, combined and where only the minor details are differences to furnish that love for the future.  Neither of them had been in love before.  And when they found each other they knew that this was what they both had been waiting so long for.

 

For Mary it was simply another blue day so far away, for it was morning in the bakery, she was sick of the amount of cigarettes Jake had smoked the previous evening, which was their only time alone, to see each other that week, she had tested the smoke alarm twice, hidden his smoking paraphernalia and directly complained, but it was talking to a cold brick wall.  She now felt even more pissed because her shift had started and she had to put aside the book, the only escapism she had, and concentrate on Victoria sponges; in which she thought in a momentary hallucinatory dream she saw a Spanish man with a thick moustache and some words rearranging themselves into an image of Jake, or something he would say, and she felt revived by the loose comment of a pastry customer who thought she looked somewhat down or starved or over-stimulated.  Later Mary anxiously, distastefully abhorred the customer whose wrinkles looked like stretch marks and who brutally complained on the state of the afternoons bear cake selection.

 

Jake had finished wanking himself off put his two day old pants back on, walked to the bathroom, showered, quickly ironed his clothes for work, smoked with his neighbour, a large, balding boy, with iconic style and attitude.  He then walked to work in a dull haze, collecting his thoughts together.  Through the screen door and into the staff cupboard and then into a shift at the cinema where no doubt he would see a four week old film, run on and on about his dreams, until all conclusion was spent and he was merely a voyeur gazing into a world that was somebody else’s ideology and out again into the Smokey damp night air, to the burger bar and home for a fondle and much needed sleep, for he worked hard, though he hardly worked at all.

Mary was already blissfully asleep, having finished her book early in the evening whilst cooking dinner, she’d listened to the album she had bought that afternoon upon returning home through town from the bakery, she bathed in the blue light of her tranquil bathroom and bra-less slept in the small bed by the window.  Jake slept too in his own room but with the noise of a neighbour, awoke at intervals and wrote quick verses, chords and poetry on scraps of paper he would find and perhaps collate or waste in the morning.  Enjoying the amassing detail he could psychologically map himself into as he begun his routine again tomorrow.  His diary was dark blue and rarely captured how he felt; this page was folded in the corner:

 

“It was a sad evening where everything felt detuned and no-one really knew, but the atmosphere was so subdued and subtle that there amongst a thousand beautiful mirrors, the oldest and most beautiful woman played a skilfully held guitar like a child and spoke and sung a perfectly freedom filled melody like no one else ever had or could again.”

 

At ten o’clock self assured that she would by now be awake, Jake phoned Mary on his mobile:

“Hi I have to tell you.” He said, once the formalities of the first few minutes of the conversation had paused.

“Okay, what?” she said to break the silence.

“Last night I had the most amazing dream. I dreamt that there were neither boundaries nor restrictions in love or life anymore.  That the world was wholly peacefully.”

“Sounds nice” she replied…”but it doesn’t bode thinking of really you have an essay to write.”

Jake said that he had to go.  Told her that he loved her and spent the next two hours playing his guitar and singing those last lines she’d sent him like a mantra, until he awoke from a haze and felt the need to read, eat something, which he did until two.  At three o’clock he sat in a small classroom; speed writing and avoiding eye contact with everybody, for there was a girl in class whose room he had walked into by mistake, thinking it to be Mary’s room but he had gotten the floor numbers wrong in her Tower block, this girl was at the time newly returned from the shower and naked, changing.  He had apologised; thinking he would never see her again, but there she was in his seminar class, eyeing him scornfully and curiously as if awaiting his criticism or for him to make amends by revealing his own naked body.  Jake had somehow learnt to make his mind quiet as well as his voice and kept calm if not cool.  He was glad when the hour ended, gathered his paperwork together – loosely as was his style and speed walked to the cinema where he hoped he would see Elaine, who he had a slight crush on.  It was a quieter than usual night, and Jake and Elaine (friends) had time to talk about a film they had seen entitled The Vinegar Jar, which Jake applauded for its emblematic coastal-rural scenery.  Elaine had agreed, saying how the story line, which depicted the fulfilment of Romantic love against adversary was inherent to the truth of the artists vision and direction.  Jake admired this, and told Elaine how his girlfriend Mary had merely thought that the horse, whose name was Ying Yang, was cute.  They laughed, like ducks do in ponds when trying to scare away sea gulls and it was then time for them to cash up the day’s takings.

Meanwhile Mary sat watching The Vinegar Jar on television, for that evening it happened to be showing and she sat thinking of Jakes’ return home from work.

 

The autumn leaves were falling along the avenue that wound itself around the city in steep hills that rose and fell, surrounded on the outskirts by vast fields and sparse houses, pronounced in claiming their victory over this hard to climb landscape, and the houses had names like The Greenacres.

Mary was watching television and talking to housemates, warm in the post-dinner wind-down before bed.  Elaine was being admired inside and outside the cinema, and outside she sat contemplating a bird, a chaffinch, which resting on a wooden peg, in a back garden corner of the cinema, reserved for bin men, storage and smokers; and like most she like the last of these the least.  She wore purple spectacles, had treacle blonde hair and was tall and thin, slender and elegant.

Those purple glasses were quite different to the ones, which Mary wore; hers were more angular and metallic rimmed and chunky, like a hungry cubist painter or a sad friend with fiery downward glances.  Elaine thought of travel as she gazed at the bird and somehow strangely both Mary and Elaine simultaneously thought in a waking dream, a shared consciousness, the same thought, they thought of teaching.

Jake choked on a cigarette and the chaffinch flew away.  He continued to admire Elaine’s tall thin frame; but she quickly tired of him and commanded or led him inside where she could lose him in the traffic of work.

Jake’s walk home was as bright and colourful and his earlier morning adventure, and was full of late-opening convenience stores emitting yellow light and the fish and chip shop and an off license with a bargain white wine display and also the sand-blasted frontage of new houses built from old and the quick passing flash of the green spiked Mohawk outside the offy.  Jake spoke to the young girl in the chip-shop where his brought his late dinner, and he asked her how school was going cause he felt she shouldn’t have to work late.  And then he was home again to his green door.  He ate chips and discarded the paper and fell quickly to sleep.  In the morning Mary called at eight and in a complaining tone asked why he hadn’t bothered to come to hers that previous night.  He apologised and told her he had simply forgotten; but this was not enough and she hung up the telephone and refused to pick it up again when he called back. 

Someone had knocked the clay pot over in the hall that housed a nice sized houseplant, of a mostly unknown variety but one, which was well, looked after by Kate, the girl who lived directly above Jake.  As a consequence, there was much and shingle over the hallway carpet which was partly grey in colour, turning brown and also slowly balding in miniature patches, where the most footsteps trod.  The pot belonged off centre to the left of the door when facing it from the inside, beside the telephone table, propping the Hoover up; and a rainforest to the floor of shoes that sometimes hanged there beneath a coat, a mirror or a small yellow gas box key.  This was all sideways to the front room bedroom.  Jake’s instinct was to tidy, but also not to wake his mate who was surely sleeping in the aforementioned bedroom, so he simply used the dust pan and brush that his mother had given to him.  This short process reminded him of his home, which was more North Eastern, than his University residency, so Jake made tea and ate biscuits when the room was positively rearranged.  Almost everyone it seemed had left the house and it was here in this quiet luxury that he could find ample time to read.

The book was about an orange painted boat and chartered its course and the exploits, philosophies, adventures and misadventures of its crew.  It was all fiction however and the Western writer said towards the end of the book; that there in his bleak longing for solitude and peace, he had gazed out into the sea and wrote that here where this boat passed momentarily along his stretch of coastline, for what felt an age and yet in reality was only a short time.  He wrote that it had seemed for a moment as if life were so malleable like clay, turning substance from movement, from energy and he wrote of a white farm and the rusty turrets of an old refinery and here the horizon seemed to him truly infinite and encompassing and vastly blue.  It was Jake thought all an allusion to Blake; that partly healed his crisis with modernisation particularly industrialisation and yet also forewarned of a deeper danger.

 

There was an advertisement interval in the film, the darkened figure had appeared and sat in the corner of the room where the staff had discovered a minor problem and attempted to fix it as best they could.  Here the wall was covered in flypaper and the windowsill and carpet were home to a number of upturned insects.

There was another man; a large fat man of gargantuan proportions, or perhaps a giant from the world of the ancient myths.  He sat occupying the three-seater sofa in its entire entirety, bulging over the sides and the arm rests.  He had arrived the previous evening but nobody had noticed as they were sleeping.  By the time they had awoken at the fourth and final dinner call, the new comer had followed suit and was himself asleep.  Twenty-four hours later; he awoke to occupy the sofa he now sat in.

The darkened figure uncharacteristically spoke and said

“Hello.”

“Slinky Slim” the man replied, indicating to himself with his hand.

The darkened figure did not give back his name, but instead pointed towards the television screen, as the advertisements ended and the film began again.

 

Raking the leaves early the next morning Craig was surprised to see slinky slim, faith and the dark quiet man whose name he could not remember sitting on the steps leading to the summer house all talking over coffee and cigarettes.  He approached them and said that today it was briefly his birthday and in celebration he would like for similar festivities to bless their most beautiful beings.  And with that his shift had ended and he went home, leaving everybody smiling as he left them sitting there talking.

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Woe is the iron on which the heart is forged

 

(Where have you been my love?)

I existed in the dim daylight and the white winter light, without Faith, where life becomes more necessity than feeling and where you inevitably seem destined to return to your senses.

We had become close, and then she had gone, taking her belongings to a halfway house; which was really good for her, and I was to be for some reason her removal man.

Six months had passed since we first spoke at Salt-house and throughout the early spring and up until the burgeoning early summer, so full of romantic promise, without fail each morning, we would meet on the summer house steps and from there we would spend the rest of the day walking and talking through Salt-house village and out into and beyond, into the town, where a mix of amusement arcades and coastal treats would occupy our days, and more often than not we would spend the long hours talking in a beach front café or might simply stroll for miles eating chips, along the beach road and pier.

 

Everywhere I looked I saw reflections of Faith; like a maze in the rivers’ flow, slowly reaching out to the distant balance of a far away horizon and somehow when full of food and medications... when I thought I had found the strength to find love again:  For I had loved her.My dream of love and of a new start to life seemed doomed to always lead back to her again in some similar thought or action, of history repeating; as if love were the eternal static embers of a long faded masterpiece.

 

I spent those long summer days alone, walking the paths that together we had taken so many times before, to where we had spoken of our inner-most dreams and deepest feelings and some-time mocking me without knowing or intending to; another couple, like we had been; but rearranged, would walk by kindly smiling as if they knew of the place inside that I was in, and of how my mind was; closed and retrospective; as if it were Faith and I secretly stealing their places, only to be crushed and discarded on a continual cycle of degeneration, like the disused chip papers strewn for the sea-gulls to scoff, with the lights of the sea-side perhaps the only beacon left to me, in a landscape that did not renew itself to me any more.

And I would sit in the café throughout the evening until bleary-weary-teary eyed I could stand it no longer, seeking only to fade away into the night like a shadow.  What had been my image of Faith, my idol, to hold, to cherish, to caress and to love, had become nothing.  And in my inevitable reflection of her and also of ourselves in love, love itself destroyed by such overpowering forces, leaving only sand to be swept away by the sea and the floating echo on the breeze of her bird-song voice, to the point where even my reflection of Faith, which was all I had left of her, became nothing more than a reflection of myself.

I declined the friendships of others, seeking only solitude, to find the truth of what had been, and I found there that Faith had wholly left me behind, a nothing man of fate and loneliness.  And where Faith reminded me that there was only my own belief in myself to continue onwards with, where there were no footprints in the sand but only rain and empty places, there beneath the pier where we had once made love; I closed my eyes and lay in the sand, ready to die.  And I realised that it is all about age and looks and who you are and where you are from and it is society and politics and race and colour and creed and so many sad factors and you can’t do anything about any of them.  And it didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now because you are who you are and the hardest thing in the world is to be in love with someone and be told that you cannot be with them anymore or in any way and there’s no excusing that from anybody.  And it is not “life” it is death and pain and heartache and lies and there is no hope for any of us, except you and her and me.

And so I lay in the sand still alive and barely breathing and picked myself up and went home, or at least back to Salt-house, which was my kind of home, for I was lucky to have one.

 

When I arrived back at Salt-house, Faith’s room had become occupied by a young woman called Laura, she was instantly attractive, petite, slim and had shoulder length hair; she later also confessed to a love of photography and cigarettes.  I was not at first able to talk to her, for the memory of Faith still lingered, although Laura’s quiet nature and popular attitude warmed me from the bleak uncommunicative place I had crawled back into, my rock in a dark cave that like a bed spread shielded me from the pain of loss by abandoning all sense.  I was so much stronger thanks to Faith, than I had been when I first arrived at the hospital, but there is no protection of the self from the mind, no matter which bunker you reside in; and Laura recognised this, including me as best she could, with backward glances and indirect speech, in her conversations with Slinky and the other patients that incidentally began to populate the ward with little impact on me, like some kind of pointless yet inevitable therapy; until in the solitude of the night I could find the time to sleep again; and forget in the morning, from the long thought out night, and in the daylight hours occupy myself enough for an appetite for living.

After a while I began to feel as if, in the absence of Faith there was only a void, no sound or life.  I was very reclusive, going for days without changing my clothes, not really seeing anybody, and when I did, my absence made me miss the point; lose the thread, making me quickly withdraw and retire again.  I found a room, a communal and meeting room, which most people didn’t use, largely because of the smaller smoking room and quiet gardens.  At times, in this quiet place, I found comfort in music, listening to old records left by former patients and writing simplistic melodies and incomplete songs on a piano.  Through the window to the left of the piano, which stretched the entirety of the wall, from waste height upwards, I could see the contented faces of visitors arriving and also of patients leaving, cathartically tearful or smiling that they felt better and well enough to go home.

One such day as this a girl appeared beside me at the piano stool; it was Laura, she began to play along to the melody I was musing, nervously procrastinating over chord transitions.  I stopped and smiled and she began to teach me a piece of music, which I remember to this day.  As I looked up at her and smiled, she turned her face, as if to leave.  I don’t know why, but at this moment I kissed her, she immediately told me to stop, at which point I cockishly hesitated, but it was too late, she had already risen from the piano stool, perhaps realising her mistake and had left.  Only moments later I could see, another man appear, embrace her and excitedly kiss her, and then from the expression which her face gave, as a fleeting vision before my eyes, I watched as together they left the hospital.  I never saw Laura again after that.

Later I overheard another patient talking about her and she said that Laura had finally gone home, commenting upon how good-looking her boyfriend was and how lucky Laura was; and how excited she had been when she had returned from the Route-pickers’ room, instantly attaching herself to the telephone like a cable.

“Who’s the Route-picker?” someone unfamiliar to me asked.

“That’s the name given to the top doc; he liked the name so much he has it inscribed on his office door;”  was the reply.

 

I confess I felt no love for Laura and no longer love for Faith either; if it was even love for her I had ever felt; where feeling collide where promises fade in the newly cleared garden of emptiness, undisclosed and revealing, once so populated with fresh delights and fruits to nourish ideas into experiences, with sweet discourses into the palace of slumber.  But where the mind turns black, where consciousness, unconsciousness switch places, where the bed becomes empty or unmade, and where dreams and nightmares mix, living together both unbalanced, perhaps unveiling.  Here there is a hidden truth, that stretches Faith apart against want and reason, annihilates reality, as memory blurs and then fades, until colours simply found, all around become someone else’s’ vision; a wonder I cannot doubt to have ever have been mine.

 

And I also confess that this knowledge left me happy, for here was the beginnings of my recovery; in finding my-self in my whole entirety; again upon the pathway of righteousness and self-discovery, and away from the mists of romance.

For about a fortnight I walked through the corridors of Salt-house, full of salutations; it was spring outside, and I lay happily; coolly awake at night, refreshed; reading and re-reading books I had borrowed from a local library; I made a few new friends with enough distance and self-respect to simply enjoy being in other peoples’ company; where similarities do not become crossed wires and duals or battles or paranoia’s of possessiveness but are apt signals for learning and ways to think openly and objectively; like an extended window arm.  

I began visiting the local swimming pool to clean myself of the smoke fuelled loneliness of my existence, at first I could hide, unnoticed; at least to myself in the blanket blue comfort of the chilly water.  Here the mix of lanes; simple time pieces and friendly voices humming in the reflections of the cavernous pool-side allowed me restful escape and a level of control from the fixed volume of the water and walls around, a healthy vacuum sanctuary where direction became simple and yet moving.

A few falsely started conversations; reflective idioms, and self-conscious costume errors later, I began to feel acclimatized and found new peace amongst the foreign faces attracted there.  Though still shy and reclusive throughout the winter months, my body greedily absorbed the heat from the sauna, my bones stretching out in relaxation and my lungs cleaned by the steam room, my muscles too massaged by the Jacuzzi.  Just before the spring I was left alone with a girl too familiar for my liking; in a relative sense and then like a cautious flower I awoke to the beauty of another woman, resisting her where I still felt like a weak failure, or encompassed in the disaster of a former love affair, which I dare say I saw reflected in her eyes.  I also joined a gym, growing in stature, where health gave me a quickened pace and new hope for a solo life, loneliness had become identity and I was anxious to hold onto it, fearful of the madness love brought, wiser to time and the displaced disappointment of being who I was, as if life were somehow more possible, and I was unable as I thought to hold to love once?  I had found it, fearful for the next heartbeat once the pulse is discovered.  I had trained myself to avoid the confusion, the circumstances of knowledge, of certainty and uncertainty, choosing to dismiss the imperfection by closing myself off, and yet still mentality intact and never narrow minded because of the experiences I had suffered, like a travel log leading the immobilised forward, searching, reaching, in stationery static.  Where I allowed myself to open though the world took its compass and directed me through the darkness in strange ways testing my minds capacity for sanity,

It was here at the swimming pool I first met Rossella, she was instantly recognisable to me as my own individual ideal, I felt wholly uncomfortable in her presence and thought of virtually no one and nothing else, until feverish I broke free and simply felt pure ecstasy and I also knew that moments from meeting her I was being called back home; back against the struggles of longing like a breaking kiss; at the moment when lips part and the mind wonders whether they will ever again meet, struggling against the scent of her perfume, with my belly calling, until in the pitter-patter of rain, when the face finally gives up and looks up from the pavement, past nature, the birds and into the clouds.  And it was at this moment with the rain creeping up my legs and soaking shoes, that I began to feel almost ready to leave Salt-house forever, and where things like this do not matter, there was only shadowy sunlight at the dawn and a feeling that life was clearer.

 

A week transpired.

I was called into the R.O.U.T.E.  P.I.C.K.E.R.’s office

The letters R and P stood out in gold on the door plaque.

Sometime passed, how much I am not entirely sure of.

When I left the office I collected my belongings and left Salt-House.

I had realised where I was going and I had found my voice and I was free.

 

 


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