His intentions are warm, his intentions are good. His hands are blue white in the cold air. His breath a plume. He walks with a slight sway, the guitar case pulling down his right arm. An old sofa coming apart in a musty attic, a lost pair of shoes. We always fail to make good impressions, we always hurt those we love. A place only slightly worse than heaven. A whisky bottle and a faded polaroid. A frayed corduroy jacket. A ticket to see a band. Nothing worse than another dried up angsty poet or frustrated musician, down on his luck but with a beautiful heart. It’s such a cliché and as worn out as the paint in the damp flat he undoubtedly lives in. The words carry you down like a coracle in a river, twisting and floating out to sea.
A lighthouse on a northern coast. The arc of water against the rocks. The tang of salt. A stiffness in the wind. Forgotten places. Dead coastlines. The Aurora Borealis flickering above windswept gulls. A fake star shining in the darkness, bringing the ships in.
And he walks, guitar case thudding against his thighs as he walks along the coastal road.
(because I’m getting all too good at removing myself from myself)
He went home again. His parents had worried him recently with their slip towards dependency. His father no longer walked with stick, but he began to realise that his parents had other crutches and more subtle dependencies. Barely an hour could pass without some seemingly mundane request for help. He found it wearying, and yet they were his parents.
Whilst he was home he thought about his flat in the big city. Silently it waited for him. He thought about the emptiness of it. No one waited for him back there. In a funny way it made him glad to be wanted, but he felt sick at the thought of having to meet someone else’s needs. Some sort of malaise hovered at the edge of his thoughts. A choice between facilitating dependency or tending towards loneliness.
Twice in the last twelve months, dear friends had moved away to other countries and now another was going. He wondered about this diaspora. How tenuous friendships could be when conducted through wires and pixels. He wondered at the complexity of it all.
He returned to his flat in the city. Bought milk from the corner store, listened to the whispering cadence of the fridge in the kitchen, observed the moon through the skylights. He wondered about where he might end up and what might constitute home for him. The buzz of the computer fan offered up no answer.
Our daring protagonist made it through his thirtieth birthday unscathed except for that continual nagging sensation, somewhere deep in his cranium. That sensation one would get if one had forgotten whether the hob had been turned off, or a candle had been left burning. That sensation had characterized his stream of consciousness for too long.
He imagined the content of his days as Tetris blocks falling from the sky, a straight piece of eight hours in the office. The awkward S shaped blocks that might be his social life, crammed into unoccupied spaces or abridging difficult relationships. A T shaped block might be a productive period at the end of the day, or it might signify four hours of computer games when he had vowed to catch up on his reading. The blocks kept plummeting down relentlessly and only occasionally did he manage to fill up enough gaps for a horizontal line.
His dad got better, or at least discharged from hospital. He took the train home to see him. It was strange and disconcerting seeing his dad walking with a stick, moving from room to room as though looking for something he might have lost. His father’s dozing in front of the TV seemed to happen that little bit more frequently these days and his father’s speech was that little bit quieter and that little bit softer. The doctors were still baffled by whatever had caused the collapse.
Whilst he was home he walked to the next village, to the pub there. The moon was fat and white over the wheat fields, like an old woman’s face. The wheat stalks swayed in the evening air. Somewhere in a back lane a dog barked. The sound carried far in the stillness. He felt he could get his head together here, away from the city. The continual drum of traffic had been getting to him. Here there was only a Zen garden of calm. He could cope with that.
He had been having difficulty parsing recent events. They refused to collaborate with him, hanging apart like ill formed flatpack furniture. Like cupboard doors missing hinges. He thought hard about it. It seemed to him to be a form of cognitive indigestion.
He traced back through things. His father had collapsed in the laboratory, breaking his nose on the lab bench on the way down. He called our protagonist from the hospital, telling him not to worry. Of course the doctors didn’t have any real idea what had caused the collapse and so our protagonist did worry. The worry rattled around in his mind, like a peanut in a coke can. That’s the sound the worry made inside his mind. A metallic *plink*
Another thread he tried to trace: His employer had short changed him on some work, cutting pay for no real reason. He worried about his friend moving to Montreal. “Montreal is very far away”, thought our protagonist to himself, “and on this low wage, low prestige job it is going to be very hard to visit my friend” – This was the second friend in twelve months who had moved abroad. Everyone seemed to be moving to other countries all of a sudden. He thought of ocean liners and of stowing away under piles of sun-dried rope whilst the ship rocked from side to side. He thought of icebergs in the Atlantic, bobbing up and down with deeper roots than you can imagine.
The other thing was that he could no longer deny that he was getting older. His thirtieth birthday loomed. Thirty orbits of the sun. Orbits that heralded receding hair and growing paunch. The untold aeons of the world and his life just a blink in the eye of the planet. He used to wish for some epiphany, some moment of ultimate sense or of total awareness. These days he suspects that he may have cauterized his sense of wonder in order to minimise any pain that might come his way. He suspects that this cauterization has rendered him immune to epiphanies.
Of course this is all just a story.
Also this song is worth a listen
Building Better Bridges
“I have never fallen in love. I used to think this was because I was frankly ugly. Then I used to think that it was because my mind took me to places that other peoples minds did not venture. Nowadays I realise this is not the case…. and I think I may have lost my chance to really fall in love. I think if you don’t fall in love once or twice at an early enough age, your heart atrophies and becomes solid, unyielding. Like astronauts in high orbit with osteoporosis and weakening biceps because gravity no longer exerts any effect upon them and all they can do is look at the Earth spinning below and out of reach. My heart deprived of the gravity of love became solid, hardened and impervious to its draw.
I think these words to myself as I stand over the gas hob of my kitchen. It must be said that I have a nice kitchen, one with a large modern fridge which is capable of keeping things very cold for a very long time. A can of Budweiser sits on the worktop and I stir white sauce and parma ham into cooked pasta. A meal for one, a movie, I’ll sit still in the twilight of my apartment, possibly until the sun rises but more than likely I will fall asleep before then, curled on the black couch in only my boxer shorts whilst the muted TV plays on, casting its sullen glow over the room. My apartment is a sparse place, this is not out of lack of desire to furnish it or because I recently moved in but because I don’t yet recognise enough of what constitutes ‘me-ness’ to begin to decorate it. Am I for instance the sort of man that would have an IKEA wall print of a waterfall or a tropical beach? I simply don’t know. Again there is no gravity drawing me to these things. My apartment is sparse for this reason. Anything else would be wearing a mask, putting on a front, acting a role that I cannot play for long without falling apart.”