The car has no battery so I try the canoe.
I realise there isn’t a destination; ‘shit happens’; your car breaks down, your laptop, like, implodes, your partner describes you to their mother as a ‘friend’, you get the point. There’s no goal. That’s what I’d taught myself anyway. I’d seen it through the cracked veneer of a reality snuggled up next to Santa Claus and his other compadres that, like, spew linens and, like, Rolex onto the shadiest fucking faces of the percent. The sun’s white. Its gangly fingers look like a crude cartoon drawn by the unsteady fucking hands of a four year old trying to copy her textbook. The pavements are hot against the rubber soles of my shoes. The tarmac teams together, melting into little pools of prehistoric black on the side of the road near the clusters of fire hydrants. It flows down the street past the casino behind me. Invisible hands rub my jeans with heat and hug the nape of my neck. I dive head-first into a bath of water brimming with floating nuggets of ice. I can hear them. People are telling me their life story. What happened to their mums and dads, and why their life is just as mundane or exciting as anyone else’s, you know, why they think they deserve my attention and time. Happy people, sad people, middlings. They all talk. I can hear them I can see them. I see them as I walk along the pavements and into little parks with big flying sharks and a manhole filled with glue.
Sunday morning light beamed through a crack in the blinds. He blinked to orange strips of light splattered against his wall. There was some sort of routine. He liked to let his cereal soak for a while so it was soggy and saturated with milk. Sometimes he’d would go downstairs, watch a topical political talk show debating the finer and more redundant points of legislation and reform, and sometimes he would just sip coffee, stare into the garden and think about the day.
He watched the news for a few minutes before leaving the house.
The roads were jammed. He walked past children on their way to school, people waiting at bus stops, the menial every day. He’d decided to go to the nearest city centre. There was a coffeeshop tucked into the love handles of a shopping centre. He sat down. He saw a woman eating shortbread and drinking an espresso, something in one of those small cups of porcelain. Her eyes were small. They were green and blue and clear. A cracked red oval glinted with her mug. Her right knee pointed at him, ten, five, maybe twelve feet away. She wore black plimsolls with black tights and a black skirt and a white dress shirt and a black blazer. He went to the toilet, sat back down and she was gone. He avoided the air conditioned racks of clothes and kitchenware and wondered around the town centre before thinking of the park.
Shaded benches were like some kind of gold. He looked at the map, huge green cartoon drawings of trees were divided by little brown parallel lines that led to buildings, meadows or blots of blue, he was here and he decided to head for blue. He walked down stone steps onto a dirt path by a pond and continued up an incline made of concrete slabs that jutted out of the dirt. He walked around a tree that’s trunk was about the length of a car and followed another path for twenty minutes, past batches and dribbles of people, until he found the blue.
Rotting, tucked away beside the tears of a willow tree, near a bank, hidden just below the dome of a Humanities office block, a bench watched a pond surrounded by ragged robin and yellow flag. He read a weathered placard sticking out of mud, it was nothing interesting. He looked down the incline. He could see people playing with their kids and walking their dogs and homeless men sitting on benches, quiet, drinking cans of cider and smoking discarded butts of cigarettes. He sat on the damp bench. A can of lager, left, propped up against the trunk of the willow tree. The yellow flag gyrated with the wind. There was an eternal struggle in between the sun rising and its twilight, and he had decided that amongst the wild flowers, the dirty pond, sitting on a rotting bench, he wouldn’t mind if they were the last thing he’d see.
He turned toward the back of the bench. Through a wire fence he looked down at the block. An overgrown decline of weeds and bushes stretched ten metres or so before meeting the building’s foundation. Some offices had balconies, some had windows ajar. A lecturer in an office on the ground floor lay on his couch, his wrist resting on the ridge of his nose. Through a window and an open door on the second floor he could see people walking down a corridor. Few stopped and chatted in the doorway, mostly he saw ankles and cuffs.
He watched the block until it was cooler and the grass started to look grey, a few of the office lights were on; a ground floor office at the far end of the block had a TV screen showing some black and white indie flick with bowler hats, scarves and pretty dresses; a top floor office to his left, its drawers of a desk or cabinet, scratched, the curtains half drawn; and a third floor office just below him. Aside from the furthest corners of the room he could see its entirety. A bookshelf above a curved desk piled with books, papers and mugs, a wheelie chair and another hidden by a half drawn curtain, the door was painted black, a coat and light grey hat on a hook, the carpet brown and worn. Two people were there. A young woman, hair tied into a bun, and an older man with thick rimmed glasses and a marble cake mixture of grey and light brown beard hair. They’d disappeared behind the curtain for half an hour before he saw the lecturer push his leg through the denim tunnel of his jeans. His chest was dotted with dark tufts. He buttoned his shirt, checked his phone, and tapped at the screen laughing. He left the office.
He looked back into the pond water. The air was soothing, sharp as it bit his cheeks and numbed his nose. He cupped his hands together and blew into a phantom mug of tea. Few stars began to twinkle. Satellites blinked, planes roared miles away. He heard a rustle. She’d come out onto the balcony. Worn plimsolls, a flowered print. Her skin was pale. Her hips dipped into her belly button, shoulders small and hidden by her black hair. She blew smoke out of her mouth like she was a fish. His eyes peaked over the bench’s back. She walked to the edge of the balcony, looking into the forest of weeds in front of her. She looked up at the fence and dropped her cigarette.
I eat her with a teaspoon.
Naked, I can feel their eyes. The entertainment basking in a tube of blue light, dancing, laughing, what’s the difference between a piano and a tuna?, they laugh, it’s canned and tinny, I sit on a stool and undo my tie, my sweat is green on my dress shirt, they’re waiting for…for the punchline or another joke? I turn the TV off, climb out, and head for my bedroom. Applause is superseded by whistles and boos. The crowd roar, the flash from their smartphones cast shadows behind me. I face them. Those fuckers with their expectations and their desires and needs, what am I supposed to do? Grab the nearest person and jump into the television and let you watch the awkward moment when they realise that I’m fucking weird and? Let me just extend, stretch my fingers, grow my finger nails and scratch all your itches. You like watching teenagers drink too much and make bad decisions in clubs? You like the rich-bitch-and-bastard-twenty-somethings? Imprisoned celebrities? Optimistic fried-chicken cooks? Plight of slaves, and the white men that abused them? Those lovers whose love is as bastardised as, like, Romeo and Juliet? Those fucking car flips, explosions, and miraculous, like, healing from broken bones and gunshots? Those stupid fucking indie movies with their fucking consistent switching between wide panning shots and extreme close ups of, like, stupid emotional shit? Let me just contort every bone in my body, let me just, like, scratch and scratch until you ejaculate from pure entertainment, is that what you want, am I bendy enough for you, am I smooth skinned and sexy enough for you? They’re still. No flashing smartphones, or chatter, or disgust.
I feel her gaze. She’s stood on her seat like a statue. A spotlight showers clean white light onto her skin like snow. Spores flutter about her. Her hair long, black and wavy, I can feel it brush against me. A small top lip, a large bottom lip, chapped, I can feel them pressing against my chest. Her brown eyes like murky water. I pitch a tent. She’s bare foot and she’s in front of me. We exit and take a trip down some water rapids. She’s sitting next to me her thighs pressed up against mine. The water splashes up the sides of the boat. I can see it foaming in the distance, there’s a black shape of trees, and she whispers in my ear, I can feel her breath, my pillows hard, I can’t get comfortable. I fucking feel it in the pit of my stomach, like, a wet tingle of, oh shit man, you fucking love her you fuck, you fuck. I can feel the small crinkles of her areolas. She smells like cigarettes and peach schnapps. The trees look like burning cones of newspaper. The ash bundle together, float like clouds, crystalline like icebergs, there’s a can opener, a saw, a witch, a volcano, that one looks like fucking China engulfing Japan, look. We sit in the long grass chewing egg shells.
He didn’t notice it at first. But before he left for work, he saw a prospectus lying on the bristled mat that lay beneath his front door. Fifty pages were devoted to propaganda, their courses, campus life, entry requirements, but the last pages were a list of events and open lectures. He looked down the list; Who Stole Annie’s Gun?: An exploration of Feminists in the Music Industry, Chekov’s Postmodern Gun, The Economy of the First Civilisation Versus The Economy of Now, Vanity (1895): The First Horror Film Ever Made?, The Fall of the Fitzgerald’s, The Future of Broadcast Television, The Reason for Existentialism, Understanding Microsoft Word 7, all in the next week, a few that day. Each had a thumbnail of the lecturer adjacent to its summary. He could have spotted that marble cake beard anywhere, a nightclub, an alleyway, a mortuary. It was decided, The Fall of the Fitzgerald’s at 4pm. He tucked the prospectus into his rucksack and walked into the haze of a normal day working in retail, bending to the needs of consumers doing their bit for the economy.
He had half an hour to get from work to the University College. He cursed every passenger that boarded the bus, every red light, he nearly exploded when the bus had to change drivers, but he arrived with ample time and found that the dirty grey gruel of anxiety had manifested itself into either an abundance of gas or explosive excrement that was sure to lather the nearest toilet bowl. He walked into the reception and asked for the directions to the lecture room. He went through a set of double doors, turned left down a corridor, walked past an empty lecture room, found the nearest toilets, and sat down. It was neither. His head bobbed between his knees. The tiles were dirty, certain angles illuminated dried spots of urine around the base of the toilet, a small silverfish ran along the grout. He could hear someone talking, about a girl and her arse, and her fondness for deepthroating and sitting on his face. Their laughter echoed around the bathroom. He stood up, flushed the toilet, and washed his hands.
“Hey mate, are you alright?”
He mumbled and left. He was late and the lecture room was full. MarbleCake stopped and watched as he walked up the stairs that separated the auditorium’s seats, rows and rows of people, glasses, dark hair, jumpers and brown satchels, black rucksacks. He felt naked. He stood against the wall at the back, and MarbleCake continued. An image of Zelda Fitzgerald illuminated the screen behind MarbleCake. He scoured the room. He could see sides of faces and thick rimmed glasses. It was easy to spot outsiders, they looked stunned as MarbleCake proceeded to draw on the board with a stylus and critique paragraphs of Save Me the Waltz and Tender is the Night relating each of them to the explosive lives of the Fitzgerald’s. MarbleCake wore an ironed blue shirt and blue jeans with brown suede boots. The majority of the room were women, their gaze locked onto him as he joked about the intensity of Scott and Zelda’s love, and Zelda’s penchant for drama and attention, our man could see friends looking at each other and smile, whispering their fantasies of him shirtless, muscles fortified by the thousands and thousands of pages he’d read. Like, he was a jungle of knowledge waiting for deforestation.
He was struggling to find her, the naked girl who blew smoke out of her mouth like a fish. There was no point if she wasn’t there. She walked in half way through the lecture. Her hair was wet, her cheeks blushed as if she’d ran from the bus stop about thirty metres away from the reception.
“As always Miss Reyes, a pleasure to have you here at all.”
She turned red and smirked. Her eyes searched the room. He waited tucked into the corner at the top of the stairs. There was nowhere to sit. She began climbing up the stairs looking left to right. MarbleCake undressed her, he could see his stare on her arse, glaring about her legs. A group of girls whispered in front of him I heard that she got a grade up from Jacqui, she got a third and then went to see him and got a 2:1, she must have sucked his dick at least. Only a 2:1 as well, I’d’ve got a first. Yeah I heard from Anthony that she’s a slut, fucked two guys in his halls. No shit, I literally saw her come out of a guy’s room last night. They are always those weird fucking creepy guys too who like play World of Warcraft and shit. What a slut. Close to their ears, he gave a dramatic shush. Reyes looked over at him. She was scarlet, she stumbled on a step, and a hand waved at her and a girl with frying pans for eyebrows lifted a bag from the seat next to her. She looked over at him, eyes wild, smiled at her friend, whispered into her ear. Her eyebrows reminded him of two pans flipping pancakes when she laughed.
A small cluster of people surrounded MarbleCake. They all waited for their turn. He stayed at the back while people funnelled out. Reyes walked down the stairs and reaching the bottom walked behind MarbleCake and whispered into his ear, he looked toward the top of the stairs. He continued shaking hands and talking until everyone had left. He pushed his chest out, grabbed his books and notes, and stared at the small man peering over the seats at the back of the auditorium.
“We should talk.” His voice was loud, practiced. “We have something to talk about.” He began walking up the stairs. “Harrie told me that she saw you the other night. Why are you here?”
“I like Zelda.”
“So you know what happens to obsessive people?”
“Look, we don’t want any trouble, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to give you any trouble, right?”
“Who looks for trouble?”
“Good. So we’re clear, I don’t want to see you again. I don’t want Harrie to tell me that she’s seen you, okay? Forget that bench exists. I’ll admit we took a plunge into a very delicate situation but we don’t need something, someone like you, making things exponentially more complex than they need to be, right?”
“A guy that sleeps with his students.”
“That’s who looks for trouble.”
“Listen. Don’t fuck with me. What do you want, what are you here for?”
“I like Zelda.”
“Look, I love her.” He leaned into his face, his finger pointed at his chest. “And the situation we’re in, the circumstances we met each other, it’s fleeting, it won’t last, she’s going to graduate and we’ll be able to see each other.” MarbleCake’s stare flicked from eye to eye, emphasising.
“So I won’t see you again, she won’t see you again?”
“I knew this kid in, like, Secondary School. We were pretty good friends. One day he told me that I couldn’t come round his house anymore because his Mum thought she saw me wanking in her room one night. I agreed – it was the right thing to do.”
I spin in my kelp bed.
Do you like it when I touch you there? Do you like it when press my body up against you, when I fuck you? She gets up out of the bed. Her arms are saggy like raw chicken skin. Her belly’s been stretched for every bad decision she’s made. I tell her that. She walks over to me. She reaches behind my ear. She stands right in front of me. Her eyes are, like, right next to mine. I can see their little islands of grey. She stabs me twice. I’m crying, shouting and screaming, running away. She slams the door, light escapes through the hinges. And the door opens, and they come out and handcuff me. You fucking pervert, you degenerate piece of shit, you weirdo, freak, fucking thick piece of dog shit. They push me to the floor. I say nothing. I do nothing. I look up at the ceiling at the constellations and galaxies, floating, projected onto the plaster. It cracks. There’s two options here.
I can plead guilty – hey, I did it okay, I did it and I won’t do it again, I’ve learnt my lesson, I won’t talk to her anymore I won’t look at her, I’ll be celibate, I’ll go to a convent, I’ll become, like, the male version of a nun or something I’ll do whatever it takes, I have the rest of my life to live, you know, okay?
Or I can stay silent and let Colonel Sanders fight for my innocence – this man, a fine gentleman, hear me, a fine gentleman, he is one of the most considerate and thoughtful souls I have ever met in my life. Do you know the first thing he said to me when I met him, our first meeting, the very first time we met each other, he said that he didn’t care what happened to him, he just wanted the girl to be okay, he just wants her to be alright, do you know why? He loves her, he loves her with all his soul (I throw up a little), and we both agree, I think we can all agree, really, that his love is misplaced, that’s certain, no one denies that, but he is willing to make a change and take the order if that’s what’ll make her feel safe.
Lady Justice winks at me. I sit on her scales and she kisses the nape of my neck, her lips smooth and cold.
Through the constellations eating the galaxies and chocolate buttons of rock, a clean green light leaks through the cracks in the ceiling, I can smell my flesh searing. My hands are free of the handcuffs. I have stumps. The policemen scream and disappear. I close my eyes. Wind rushes about me. The yellow flag and ragged robin look like bundles of sweets from above. I fall into the pond. I swim to the bottom, you know, where it’s nice and fucking cold, where no one will find me. You know when you feel like an outcast, a pariah feeding off the healthy positive energy of those fucking people who have their shit together.
You know when they look at you and they pity you and they want to help you and they want you to go and talk to someone because they can’t help you anymore because they aren’t fucking perfect like they thought, they aren’t a fucking saint like they made themselves out to be, they are fucking normal weird people like everyone else and just because they’re happy they think that they have everything that you want, and you want it but not like that, not like those fucking pedestal succubae feeding off the morals and ideals of some corporate divinity that invented, like, Valentine’s Day and fucking sexy, oh you’re so sexy, with your smooth skin and your thin body, I want to eat you you’re so sexy, so frail and little, just pay attention to your phone, yes, yeah, like that, share it, retweet, fucking blog and vlog and talk about you’re stupid fucking opinions and that muffin you tried at that really cool, like, totally discreet bakery that doesn’t even have a Facebook it’s so, like, chic.
A mountain range stretches out in front of me. I’m still bleeding. I look down into the valley below me. I can see them on the balcony. He’s kissing her shoulder, sucking her neck. His fingers cup her breasts move down her body over her small belly and he stares at me, he stares at me.
She was in the same seat, her knees pointed at him, reading a newspaper. She still wore too much lipstick. She looked up and back down at her paper, twisting her body into the wall before her. The café was quiet apropos a Wednesday afternoon. The baristas stood by a coffee machine laughing, discussing the tall and gangly nature of their area manager. He’d never noticed it before but the walls were decorated with strange swirls that pointed to a quote painted on the largest wall of the café.
‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.’ T. S. Eliot
He laughed. A group of teenagers looked over at him and giggled. He lifted his mug to his lips and sipped. One of them wore jeans with its cuffs rolled up, white socks, he had a leopard print rucksack, his messy hair implying some kind of dishevelled sophistication. He pulled his rucksack closer to him and whispered to his friends. They glared and left. He walked over to their table grabbed two chairs, and placed them around him. He leant back against his armchair and continued to wait. She was nearly finished her newspaper. The red oval was on her mug. He smiled. She took a pen from her blazer pocket and started writing, he presumed a crossword or Sudoku or something like that. She had a ladder in her tights. Her skin was olive. She could see it through the ladder. It looked smooth, soft, moisturised and preened. She fidgeted.
“Let’s make this quick, okay? What do you want?” They stood, holding hands, a few metres away from him.
“Hi, hey,” He smiled, “have a seat, what would you like to drink?”
“We have somewhere else to be.” They looked at each other.
“Just one cup, please.”
“Okay.” She began to take her coat off as MarbleCake whispered into her ear, pulling at her arm.
“It’s okay it’s alright honestly I just want to talk.”
Her body curved from her hips into her stomach out around her breasts and in at her shoulders. There was a small curry stain on her tank top. It had a b/w picture of Marilyn Monroe printed on its face. She held a cigarette in her hands. Its tip was coloured bright green, her eyeliner shaded blue. Harrie sat down opposite him as MarbleCake grabbed the chair from his side and placed it next to her. She wore black tights, they hugged her thighs, and hoop earrings, and a black bra that peeked behind the straps of her top, and grey plimsolls, and a mood ring on her thumb. She had a button nose and a pock mark on her chin. She scratched her arm, her forearms and hands. MarbleCake leant into her, hand on her knee.
“How are you?”
“Look, what do you want?”
“I just want to talk.”
“Talk.” She looked at him.
“Well, I thought of a solution to your problem.”
“Our problem?” MarbleCake rubbed his beard.
“You know, teacher student stuff, someone knowing, someone who wouldn’t feel any sort of remorse writing an anonymous letter or email or something like that.” They looked at each other. MarbleCake pulled his chair closer to the table, and leaned in.
“I won’t tell anyone if you do one thing.”
“I want some pictures.”
She stood up and left.
“What pictures?” He stood up, knocking his chair down behind him.
“You’re a sick fuck. That’ll never fucking happen. You know why? Because you are an ugly piece of shit, you look like Steve Buscemi and Cher had a love child.” People laughed. “Even if you were rich, even if you weren’t a dweebie sociopathic dwarf, even if you looked like Paul Hollywood.” He breathed. Anger grunting and breathing, “Frankenstein wants you back for an upgrade.” MarbleCake threw a mug at him. It shattered behind his chair. “If I ever see you again, I’m going to the police. I don’t care if you blackmail me. And if Harrie ever sees you, I’ll be there and I’ll fucking rip your head off, you piece of shit, you hear me? Are you listening? Do you understand? Do you understand?”
I sip the gasoline on his skin.
The cake tastes like granola. I’m in bakery waiting. His eyes are frantic. They look side to side, they roll back into his skull, pleading, begging, no. The crackle sounds like marching bands rapping on snares. I pour coffee over my hand. It drips off my palm like syrup. He squeals.
You think you’re like Adonis, some literary genius.
I spit. I jump off my chair and run into a field of long black grass. The ground shoots daggers of dirt behind me. Chased. Something gangly, black fur, two legs, galloping with its long arms, moaning like a whale. I can feel each cry vibrating through the earth.
I shout: I fucking hate you I hope your genitals shrink and blacken I hope like all of your hair falls out and all your follicles like decide to congregate by one of your nipples I hope every single time you piss a sensation like a thousand thorns like thunders out of your urethra I hope you’re like invisible to every automatic door I hope like every time you buy eggs they’re rotten I hope every time you orgasm you get like cramp in your legs I hope no matter how loud you shout or scream no one can like hear you I hope you fucking stub your toe every time you walk past a table I hope by some act of like divine intervention your like dreams of academic success are like nearly realised by the publication of one of your like essays only to be found false like misogynistic like fabricated and like wholly lame sending you into the fucking basement of ridicule the butt of every joke at every like graduation commencement speech like every subsequent essay breaching the topic so you live in infamy for being the fucking cunt you are I hope your children are retarded I hope your wife dies of TB I hope you live for eternity and watch mankind and like civilisation perish and fall and crumble and like whimper and I hope that every single fucking year is worse than the rest and I hope that you’ll remember me when you’re like floating around space trying to kill yourself trying to collide into comets and meteorites trying to like sink into a black hole remember that little fucking ugly weirdo I cursed you and I’ll fucking curse you until the day I die.
Its jaws snap at my face. I can see rotten flesh stuck between its teeth, my teeth. Feral, I lean down towards my ear.
I’ll eat you whole. You fucking prick.
Afternoon, he blinked to the grey light retreating through the metal blinds. His phone vibrated. Of all the excuses, ‘my mother’s ill’. It gave him enough time to recover, forget. He stood up kicking an empty bottle of White Lightening. He stepped on an old pizza box and felt a cold tinfoil container scratch against his ankle. He picked it up and smelled the leftovers. There were only soap operas and game shows. He ripped the meat from the bone, sucked at the cartilage and marrow, opened his mail, licked his fingers clean, and left.
The city was a fever dream. He could smell the noxious gases of cars, buses, motorcycles, coaches, vans, and SUVs, lulling in the air, tidal in its respiration, in with each rush hour and out after midnight, where the schizophrenic lethargy of London was fully realised and impeded by the insistence of its potential. He could taste an assortment of metal and pollution. He could see omniscient control. Roads like ventricles, feeding off motorways like arteries, pumping its slave and master into your seedy alleyways and suburban Avenues. It pulsed with every step and stall, the tarmac pushing up, pavements jutting out, cobbles massaging and kneading tender soles. He could hear it. The distorted orchestra of horns and chatter, rail service announcements and drunken spools of despair where lives were persistent in their living, their breathing, hating, their rage, their apathy, anxiety and sex. It surrounded him. Where there should be peace, prosperity and love, he found gruel, people and anger; abject solipsism, spewing from your grates and gutters, leaning off your platforms and rooftops, descending from the monotonous heavens above.
Its branches reach out. Its roots dig and plough through soil, brick and worm. He would live in its trunk, wrap himself in its bark, count the lines. The slabs had fallen into the earth, sinking into a cold, soft prison. Earth used for towers and shrines floral and dark green, canals of dirt weathered by feet leading to galleries of grass and legions of callow chicks resting, swallowing their mother’s regurgitated trials and tribulations plucked from the earth. He could see the yellow flag, the ragged robin, staring up at the sky. Stalagmites like moth to light. The dirt cupped the stagnant water. He span above their embrace in a dream he could hardly remember. There. There the fire exit, the final frame, and beyond. There, beyond the city, beyond the park, the divinity, angelic, divine like bread and wine. The curtains were drawn. He sat and stared at elastic silhouettes walking about the third floor office. He was here and Harrie was there. His fingers fit in the holes of the fence.
She smiles pillows in my palm.
I walk through a field of chrysanthemums. The petals are soft. The soil fills the gaps between my toes. The air is clean. I can feel it in my lungs. I never thought I could, like, enjoy a field so much. Open air and, like, space. I can see nothing but fields and flowers and forests all the way to the horizon.
The wind is cool. The sun kisses my forehead. It’s warm on my arms, heating my shirt. I take it off. I lie down. They’re soft on my back, the petals tickle, the stems rigid, I can hardly feel them. Pollen fills my nose. The whole field, a giant orgy of free love, psychedelic peace and love, dude, the wind whistles Dylan and Hendrix. Songs my father listened to on the radio. He had vinyls, Marley, Zeppelin, and Floyd. I can hear them coming from the barn like a siren, like a drunken sailor I make my way.
It’s dark inside. There’s candlelight upstairs. I climb the ladder. It’s silent. Someone’s hidden themselves. They’re asleep in the hay. It’s soft underneath the soles of my feet like walking on Vogue cigarettes. I walk toward the figure, prone, their breath nasal, she can’t hear me, I touch her shoulder. She doesn’t wake up. She rolls a shoulder and lies flat on her back. Light creeps through the cracks in the red wood, falling onto her chest, her breasts are small, nipples brown, a small faint scar parallel to the curve of her hips. I touch her stomach. Her belly’s limp against my palm. I lie down. She sits up:
Yesterday upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
I wish, I wish he’d go away.
When I came home last night at three,
the man was waiting there for me,
but when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all.
Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away…
She repeats it twice, three times. I put my head in her lap and fall asleep.
He blinked to the sun rising over the horizon, grass holding the dawn’s dew. She’d cried over his education, foster home and salary. She’d woken up, tilled the earth, sowed seed, drank goat’s milk, played Farmville, and then she’d cried. He watched her. He wished he could watch her still. Her hair long and black, slick and wet with grease like his.
The sun floated by the pond’s bank. He turned toward the office block and saw lecturers arriving, drawing curtains, opening blinds, drinking coffee, checking the news, scientists had discovered that the brain responded to erotic fiction as a depressive similar to alcohol or roofies, and good literary fiction like the reproductive successes of panda were as hard to find as LSD.
They had long since left their nests and had started to return to their young, the worm caught. He faced the pond. A thin green scuzz covered its surface like Clingfilm. He looked up and watched the sun slide across the sky. It slid over the uniformed hundreds of suits stuffed into carriages like sardine or tuna or opinions in the comments section of a YouTube video about the scientific plausibility’s of religion. The soy sauce tasted like fish. His seaweed was soggy, udon undercooked, communism failing, temples colourful, bright like peacock feathers, wings of celestial beasts protecting karma and korma, the tallest ice tomb, a mountainous pinnacle of fuck man, you can’t climb this shit, c’mon I fucking dare you, like soggy swamps of vodka and stew, frankfurters roasting on an open fire, boiled frogs legs, and fish and chips. There was the hot sun of L.A., shining over Santa Monica and Hollywood starlets. They sucked cock and played strong feminists slaughtering rapists in revenge flicks adapted from their French patriarchs. He could see them. They fired bullets into the hairy chests of drama geeks forced to endure months of weights and squats. See the crystal, coca, oxycodone, ground and snorted. See the Mormonmental mountain ranges and lakes filled with the bodies of slaves and thousands of Luca Brasi’s sleeping with the fishes, the victims, kids in primary school, shoppers, employees, everyone’s a target, everyone’s a killer, dodge the skyscrapers and pretzel stands and try not to choke on the obnoxious laughter and god complexes on your way out, over the seas of, like, salt, and waves, and ships, planes, pirates, Ireland, Wales, and fuck…what’s left?
The sun was a target. He threw the empty beer can, his phone, his wallet, his oyster card. They plopped through the green scuzz and disappeared. He sat on the bench and looked across the park. It was empty. He turned toward the block. It was alive. He stood up, the wood squeaked under his weight. He leaned back and forth. It squeaked with his momentum. Back and forth, it squeaked.
He crawled through the dark forest.
His lips pursed at the little insects that swarmed about the dirt. The thick stalks were covered by short white hairs. They reached up toward freedom, that vast current a constantly moving, changing and wicked stream. The comforting damp of the dirt soaked his clothes. Little legs, tarsal pads, scuttled over fabric onto his skin. Bites peppered his body. He began to slide over the ground. His nails dug into the soil, nettles stung his cheeks and forehead. He coasted past plastic bottles and beer cans, their labels tattered, bodies rusted, their countenance stolid and frail from their purge, an excretion of substance considered wholly desirable to the civilised consumer. He lay amongst them. He rolled onto concrete, an island, a shoreline before the mountain. A long black tube was fastened to brick with oxidised nails. His hands clasped around the gutter. He climbs. The silhouettes dance, seesaw to and fro, hands above their heads, hips swaying, extraterrestrial. He climbs. A thin crack in the curtain. He climbs. Her hair, short tendrils, locks of blond…tanned orange skin, a mole on her chin, a blemish. A fucking intruder. He reaches the balcony. He grabs at the rail, wet from rain and dew, his feet hang mid air.
The door slides open. He isn’t there. She lights a cigarette, she should’ve worn socks, there’re butts all over the balcony, she kicks some into a corner, a few fall through the rails. She watches them fall down to the ground. She blows smoke out her mouth like a fish.