She has an Anglo-Saxon sternness. She could be 20 or 40 years of age, her religious conviction writ large in her plain facial features. She loves warmly but disciplines firmly, an island of austerity in a world of plenty.
I have been shooting incorrectly for the majority of the time; it took me just one trip with the well-informed to tell me that. I should have known, I shouldn’t have shot from the hip, wasting film and time combined. Honestly, I have learnt my lesson, just hand me that last roll of black and white film and I’ll get your shot, the one that we both dream of on long hazy afternoons – the body laying silently, awaiting a brief exposure with your eyes focused on mine, the twin cradles of hips and shoulders turned towards me and only to me. As if in a dream the thin rivulets of your flesh cascade gently against the cold leather couch.
On developing I can see the flames licking the border of the shot, the deep blacks and greys helping to create shadow against the brilliant white of immovability. The mistaken shot turns into something more, an image captured that I had not originally cared to note.
I love you and I need you, I wish that I could see you. I’m travelling down this corridor alone, strapped to this trolley with doctors by my side pushing through door after door. I can see the light shining but I’m not sure if it’s for me or if it’s for everyone around me. I cry out, not pain not in horror, I cry out in confusion. I need you and I want you, to be by my side again. Memories flood my frazzled mind, a skeletal hand clasps my own and tells me it will be alright, it will be okay. I can help but feel that this is a denial, that my body is failing even as I flail in the half-light of an under-funded hospital, staffed by sleep walking staff with the warmest of hearts.
I need you and I want you, I can hear voices in the corridor, not my own or those around me but others, crying out in equal pain or in anger at the wait. Where are my sons, where are my daughters? I wanted to say to grow up in peace, to love your family, friends and neighbours as one, to move on or to leave if you need to. We understand, we want you to be happy, we need you to be with us. I love and I need you, and I wish that I could see you.
The final corridor, my body is checked in. Checked once that I am who I say I am, that the arrows painted on my limbs are correct and that my brain is related to my body and my body is related to my name. I say I am who I am and they take it on board, and I’m made to wait at Heaven’s Gate. Two blonde angels guide me, make me comfortable on the slip green sheets which matches their sleek outfits. Only bras and knickers must be under their gowns I think, wondering who they share their bed and younger, supplier bodies with at night. My own is broken, battered and torn. A mess of surgical scars, shortened limbs but above average, well we won’t go into that but it is according to a litany of my previous lovers.
I want you and I need you, I wish that I could see you. I laugh, laugh at the futility of it all. The drugs, I yearn for the warmth of the morphine, of the wicked sleeping potion to crawl up into my veins and up into my arm and to flood the chest cavity and consciousness itself. I yearn to sleep with no dreams, where the minute that passes is not a minute but a moment between awake and awake. My eyes linger on one of the angels, filling in the paperwork in the corner of the room, haloed by broken bodies on stripped back beds.
I need you and I want you, I wish that I could see you. I’m moving, I’m moving, but I’m not moving, there are no words for this. Through the first set of doors I am pushed, name confirmed once more. Am I aware of what is going to happen to me and why it is happening? Yes, yes I scream still dreaming of the green robed angels in the theatre waiting room. Just do it, yes the heart always beats fast. I need you and I want you, but I just can’t seem to see you. I stare at the anaethetist’s eyes as the plunger is gently but firmly pressed down, a milky white liquid seeps into my own bloodstream diluting reality.
I needed you and I wanted you, but I just can’t seem to have seen you. I wake as if I have been asleep for years. I crave water, yearn to drink a thousand litres of the freshest water available. I want to drown in crystalline lakes and to never wake. A tube has been down my throat, a mainline into the neck is still present. I wish that I could have seen you, I’m sorry to have left you. I close my eyes again.
How could I possibly tell her that I had thought we had a future together when these thoughts alone were just the remanent of fragmented dreams, and that those dreams were recalled by the half light ecstasy of sexual mores that only I could gain personal satisfaction in? No, these feelings and lust-filled thoughts were just that. They were simply a morning temptation before the creeping light of dawn awoke me fully to the realities of the day ahead. I held the phone in my right hand, her number displayed on the screen with a text half-finished underneath. I reread the message and cringed in shame, the liquid warm against my belly whilst I drew deep breaths. Deleted. For the betterment of us both.
Besides I had double English to attend and I still needed to scrub the sleep from my eyes, shower and dress. The walk to the college alone would take twenty minutes and I had an hour at the most to get ready, prepare for the class and to arrive on time. Timekeeping was never a strong point for me, the lack of punctuality ran in the family and infuriated my mother continually throughout her children’s adolescence. My eldest brother, for I was one of four and the second youngest of our parent’s brood, would drive my mother crazy by getting up late, sometimes comically late and especially so if we had to be somewhere on time. This would then cascade a chain of fury from my mother to my father, who got annoyed on her behalf before the fury finally found us, his younger brothers. Once we were out of the house however we were fine and I think Dad sensed this when he saw the frustration spreading and urged us out as fast as was humanely possible.
The house was empty this morning though so I could blast the music, keep the bedroom door open and move about freely as naked as the day my poor mother had pushed me out. I loved it – the feeling of an empty house where my favourite music reverberated from wall to wall; where I could eat quickly before I jumped into the shower, laughing as I did so as the water followed and flowed over the contours of my limbs and ran down my thighs. They were where the thick surgical scars outlined the orthopaedic surgeon’s fixation. I was proud of these scars, they were my personal tattoos of a specific time and place, my memories of pain and pleasure entwined to produce a better me (or so the hope went).
The first lesson passed without incidence, we learnt of the black ram tupping the white ewe and the lecturer expounded on what this meant for the play, for the deft characterisation and turn of phrase the author was so well-known for. I wondered of his contemporaries, of his hopes and dreams. I wondered what became of his loves and hungers, what his reaction would be if he knew that his plays would be enacted out four centuries hence whilst his fellow playwrights would lie largely forgotten in the lands that birthed them. But still, I had the break to look forward to where I would see her and think ashamedly back to my morning scene. I wanted to hold her hair in my hands and look deep into the blues of her eyes. This was a fantasy, the girl who I would later call my partner had brown eyes and curly hair, she wasn’t the person who I had dreamt of whilst I had lain in bed, regretting the passing of the minutes that I was powerless to stop.
This was the contract, signed by us both. Remaining friends but no more, the blushes of a late teenage crush hidden by a mop of hair. Instead I put aside my fantasy of my cheek against hers, my lips kissing hers, my body entwined with hers, and put our friendship on a higher plane. There was no underlying hidden moral heroism driving this, it was purely the shame of not trying and never asking for her hand. The joy of seeing her and sharing stories over drinks replaced this erotic dream of mine, one that I had subconsciously harboured since school and let blossom fully at college. Instead I focused on the give and take of friendship. The unsaid declaration of the fact that she and I were always willing to be there for one another, at the end of a text, a phone call or in person, that it remained hanging in the air never needing to be vocalised.
Taken by the author with a Pentax S1a camera using Lomography Lady Grey film. If reproduced elsewhere please credit as appropriate.
The office I worked in dealt with applications from students and our daily targets were monitored and recorded for prosperity, and to check against what was and what wasn’t correctly documented in our individual tally sheets. Of course these sheets were digital spreadsheets that were specially formatted for each different piece of work that was allocated to the worker. The spreadsheets highlighted how much allotted time was given dependent on the category that the piece of work fell into, whether we’d have five minutes to complete it or ten minutes. Simple pieces of work could be given only a few minutes whilst more complicated pieces, such as responding to emails with extensive trails or queries, were given a timing of a quarter of an hour or more. We felt that luck was on our side when one such piece of work fell out of the electronic basket and into our caseload, we had time to breath, to relax, to look into the faces of the person sat beside ourselves and to realize that we each went through the same, day in and day out.
Many kept to this electronic tally, toting it up at the end of the night by memory or by scrolling through the master sheet. I, unlike many of my work colleagues, kept a ink tally in Roman numerals of each type of piece of work that I had completed that day. Towards the end of the evening, when we each heaved a sigh of relief and gladness that the working day was over, I looked down with fondness upon my scrap of paper to find an ever changing squiggle of lines, crossed and solitary, segmented by type and time.
It was the last action of the working shift that so pleased me, that I could scrupple up the piece of paper with my jottings on, tear it in two if needs be and thrice more into smaller pieces so that no readable piece remained, and declare that I was the master of myself once again. No greater feeling of satisfaction came with the job then that final action of labour destruction, or rather rapprochement that my work towards the whole could be so simply and so justifiably torn up. That my value as a worker was counted as so little that I needed to be constantly monitored for each and every movement within the workplace, each piece of work accounted for and judged against the character of my soul. The residual of feeling of loyalty, that thinning pool of employee liquid that had somehow lingered through the various turbulent governmental changes and process improvements, now felt at a very low ebb indeed. It could evaporate at any moment.
My action was, in its way, a minor everyday rebellion at the absurdity of employment itself. That each man and woman shall spend a third of their life strapped to the face of labour so that the other third can be slept through and the final third can be lived in a state of fretful suspense. It is perhaps not fair to categorize in this way what so many want, what so many need, but for me it is not enough nor is it a rightful use of the labour market. To rebel, in whatever fashion is feasible or at least in which way is not detrimental to your standards, is to acknowledge that you recognize that this is so. Such is life.
Standing there on the twisting stairs,
legs wrapped around the banister
The cocked head leaning back,
throwing out your lonely stare.
A thousand bored nights wrapped
in your tight shawl of love and despair
Oh the pity just seeps off you, the
cold skin of a thousand frustrations.
It just makes it worse than I could care
But I still stand fixed with a potent glare.
Lips like fat potato chips, the body
dysmorphia can’t do more for you,
than I think that I thought we could
together, riding this wave of gigantic…
This wave of gigantic love that truly
fucked us up, spit and spat us out,
until we couldn’t give what was demanded
We were remanded, deported and resorted
to the horrors of the night.
The golden hair clumped in my right hand,
served as a fine reminder of a fairer time
Cast against the natural light, we dreamt
it could last always, but DSM-5 taught
me who was really alive.
(It was you and not I)
Caged room, the small ceilings always
find us kneeling, giving way on bended knees
Our deserved regression an assigned session
despite our former air of a passion kindled,
heated to intense temperatures.
Stepping up the stairs, I can see your green eyes
that silken purple dress which makes me quiver
against the oak and how I wish I’d had a toke,
but we crashed and careened as one, bodies broke.
No-one ever expects that they will walk around a corner and find the person that will become their significant other lingering there on the street before them. How we meet our partners, our lovers and confidantes, becomes a personal legend shared between only ourselves in truth, embellished by time and by the ebb and flow of emotion. Love can be a hard emotion to describe, to quantify or to qualify, to articulate to each other and to one another. That drunken and passionate kiss goodbye, the result of a haphazard opportunity presented in all of its glory, sits side by side with the memory of a slow burning romance experienced in our youths when we fumbled anew under covers soaked in teenage sweat. Experiments of connection and of lust, of two pieces of lego mixing and matching to form one. As time recedes the flashes of faces become a Rolodex of past conquests and imagined hurt, often sitting uncomfortably close to one another.
Lust, as a rapid fire launchpad to the past, operates on much the same lines as those random encounters experienced during the vicissitudes of youth. In moments of relaxation you are comfortably entertaining yourself, your thoughts ensconced on a particular moment and how it would play out in your mind, perhaps how you would make the move and seal the return of the love and physical intimacy as given in your affections.
Yet still, how the mind can shock and shake the very foundations of your core!
No longer are you in the throes of doubled or singled passion, your senses are startled and your hands are instead given to fumbling lamely against the body of skin and flesh before you. No more thought is given to reaching the apex of sexual arousal.
You are instead seeing the failures of your past mount even as you have failed to. The chances lost of forming romantic entangles in the freshly cut grass, of bridging the gap between brief fumbles on the sofa and maintaining long-term relationships. The thought is half formed, it ghosts across the mind but briefly as you lie there on your bed, shivering in the warm night air.
To walk around the corner of the street you inhabit, to cross the road at just the right time, to be there to answer that question and to form that connection as the eyes meet, the pupils dilate, and the lips curl into a smile. The heart that jumps a beat and resets into a rhythm of two. To miss those opportunities. To wait upon a table where the food of life will never be placed. It can be a hard thing to think about in the moment of your greatest conquest, of a solo ascent.
Tasks are always taxing,
Unless you’ve got greying hands and an unsteady shuffle
In which case you ignore them and secretly deplore them.
But you carry on regardless, steamrolling
Through the corridors of the company,
Your own private land of claims
Disregarded and abandoned,
Like so many lovers before you.
But now the sun is setting
On a broken dream of what could be.
The tasks are always taxing,
But they always wait their turn.
Grab those words that have flown out of your mouth and stuff them back in. Crunch and munch on them, bite them in two and swallow. Let the invisible numbers, those 2’s, 3’s and 4’s, mix with the consonants, similes and metaphors in an unholy mash of grunts and grumbles. Words let lose don’t mean anything when there is nothing to say, nothing that cannot be communicated by a knowing smile or a gentle touch. Let the tears run free, the doe-eyed grin show. A kiss upon the hips denotes nothing but a kiss upon the lips, no words are misconstrued or thoughts thrown astray. It just is.
~ Running in the night , screaming at the light
of a thousand stars dying and the all engulfing love
of skin on skin ~…
…~ Of memories long since buried
beneath the ocean of the beloved
me still ~…
…~ Pain is pleasure and pleasure is
gained through the experience, but
there is nothing
and no-one ~…
…~ We are the sum of all we are,
what bullshit do we seek, when
thrills, high or low, can be found
on every corner street ~…
Do words mean anything when there is no context, no fabric into which they are weaved? Are they meaningless if they are spoken to the ether, scored into the sky, taking no physical form nor permanency?
We all die, and we all die alone.
I had no meaning in my life,
meaning instead was imposed
by the very existence of my life.
Not upon the world but in my family,
by the invisible chains of familiar blood
which gave a future to my nearest.
I carefully stepped
(one at a time) Down the stairs of life
(with one breath at one step) Knowing that at the end
Lay only the untenable truth of my own death.
I swallowed hard
And I held the hand of my mother and my father
And took that first step
I became a person with(out) meaning.
(She held a trembling hand
She spoke with an effort
but what She said…)
In this aged body that wonders to and fro, how it surprises me still that it can make decisions that challenge me so. That even as I trot and roll, tumble and fall, I know not always where I shall lay either by night or by day.
In so short a time, as one drink did follow another, I chose a path that led to nowhere and satisfied nothing, but one that was taken and one that shall never be retaken or retraced.
The waves lap against my feet, sit and I stir, squirm and I fear.
The step on the train, to stay on or to get off, to work one more day in a mind numbing environment or to take that step and explore anew.
As ever my mind wanders far ahead of my body, far over green fields and glazed mountains, gliding through the fresh grass, flying through the earthly smell of animal shit.
The invisible chain is rankled only by the illusionary option of choice that lies behind the intoxicant drink but lo, no it was no dream, no it was no freedom call nor lions roar. It was squalor to make me think that I still feel, that I still have voice or a choice.
Do I hold it dear or throw it off, should I still remain flightless but forever moving – do I dream anew or do I scream forever more? Chained as I am to nothing new or old, nothing solid, nothing to anything or anything to nothing.
What is this fear that controls me, that so taunts and bids me do by invisible strings? Why can’t I shake my hide and begone, begrown anew as one should do. Do I think or feel too much or not enough, emotions barely stirring beneath the shaggy mess of adipose filth. Or am I contained by knowing I shall never be strapped to a bed for so long as compared to when I was young, leg tied down and healing ever so slowly one day at a time.
Is it my body that is restless or is it my mind never being satisfied, my curiosity never being quite sated. Routine, damn routine, though I hold it dear, I try to forget it’s power and forgive its fear.
Another day, yes another day then. Give me that morning light, give me that chance.