It is dark. Outside dawn’s evolving symphony is building moment. Street light diffused illuminates a small halo upon the fabric of the blinds. I am laying on my back, legs and arms spread-eagled on the bed. It is probably, but not definitely about 6. I do not recall when the dreams turned into the furious mechanics of a conscious brain. I don't recall becoming aware, just of being awake. I flick through the images of this mind, searching back for the closing moments of last night.
It pretty much started on the train with the hockey guys, then the predictable turn of events. What is the last thing I recall as conscious merges to black? What did I subsequently do which seemed perfectly rational, since filed under 'best forgotten'.
I seem to faintly recall talking on the phone, carefully forming words to avoid an incriminating slur. Some far off barely formed memory, it was female but the face is just a blur and the lyrical lilt of her voice an elusive echo. Familiar I think. There is no recollection of how we came to be talking or of how it ended. I do recall being urged by hushed almost breathless words to describe a tongues lustful journey over flesh - the describing of is a particular talent. I can only recall the intent.
My audience definitely wasn't the sweet ex Mrs. Nunn, location currently on this earth in diametric relation to yours truly. There is talk, I keep hearing that she is about to squeeze another dual nationality citizen into this crowded world. Last I heard half the family where at fever pitch and all you could hear in the village after Emmerdale was the furious clicking of knitting needles. I wish only good things for her.
I roll over, body exhausted but with conscious ramping towards overdrive images tumble through mind’s eye, ideas, whole paragraphs of unwritten text, books, beautiful faces, work, war, weeping faces, rouge cheeks, hopeful faces, children. I squeeze close my eyes and desperately reach out for darkness, one hour, more or less before the alarm.
Pressing sleep gives me eight minutes peace, the best sleep of all night. After reaching over and deftly pressing sleep three times and five minutes after I should have, legs clad in yesterdays jeans swing over the edge of the bed onto the cold laminate. We bypass the bathroom to do the morning review, nothing aches above the usual but it doesn't harm to check. There is a child standing in the hallway, framed against the wall, looking back at me with that impish grin set above a restless skinny body. I blink. The man I see is my height, just under six foot, lean build, not skinny, not muscled. Basically the sort of guy you see running around playing hockey, well up until a few years ago anyway. Dark hair sweeps down either side of red rimmed eyes, pupils a mix of hazel and blue. There is a hint of grey in the air. Nobody bar the exceptionally devoted have ever described this face as good looking, it is plain, given impetus it can muster a wickedly mischievous gleam that does occasionally catch the eye, mostly of those sweet girls that love to nurture.
Getting up late necessitates some deviation of one’s ideal preparation, so having showered it is a toss-up between Kellogg’s and packing a day’s worth of provisions. Not even a contest. Now dressed and at least feeling clean if only hollowed out human, we stop by the kitchen. It looks like there has been a battle. My bag is a large flat rectangle, dark with some forgotten blue logo imprinted on the flap. It carries everything I need it to. First we have six bottles of diet coke, it's addictive, then a large silver flask and a 660ml bottle of milk. I much prefer making it up myself from powder. Back into the hallway with 30 seconds give or take to spare, hoist bag over right shoulder so it sits on my left hip and out the door we go. The train station is conveniently 300 yards down the road and the primary reason I brought this compact two bedroom with its own karma friendly rock and pebble strewn garden - the previous owner being a middle aged Japanese women. It takes 185 seconds from front door to platform which heralds two simultaneous arrivals, me and the train into Victoria.
First things first, we have 45 minutes before final destination so cappuccino is acquired one in each of two large cups. Both are topped up with milk from my bag, empty bottle in the bin. I like it milky. The first cup is consumed before we get to the next stop, its warm product coursing through veins, re-animating cells exhausted. Already I am starting to feel alive again. The other one sits in front of me, it won't be there for long.
My parents were good British colonial types and did well for me in all areas not encompassed by parenting. Father was an airline pilot formerly for British Airways and then out of Hong Kong for Cathay. Mother an occasionally published precursor to 'chic lit' with one best seller to her name. I had a glorious education, private of course, at which I excelled in every chosen subject save for maths. Mensa accredited at 14 (genes of mother), there is little this avid mind does not gobble up with wide eyed relish, although there was the great falling out over my desire to linger within humanities (father). It was hard finally giving up on my role of eternal student but with a rounded list of published thesis and more letters after my name than there are in my name, it was time to 'repay my debt to society' tally ho! Well at least that's the official version. At the time parents were in fine health and the reality was I needed some means of supporting my lifestyle outside of their radar. Let’s face it who wants to quantify a stack of lurid passions before getting their hands on this year’s 'sustenance' cheque.
Ironically, five years ago both parents conveniently departed our mortal ranks in quick succession leaving their only child a sizeable estate, a thick portfolio of equities, antiques and cash savings. Even after the good brown suited chancellor had his take – it required selling the charming square Georgian house set in the Wiltshire Countryside amid 5 acres of land - I was left with probably just enough, if carefully maintained, to loiter my days comfortably at my own leisure. To be honest I probably would have sold that house anyway, not that I didn't love it but what use would I have?
By now you are probably starting to formulate a few questions, so let me address these in advance. My job title is rather vague: 'News Analyst'. It doesn't really give much away. I work on the news desk and I do this for dear aunty beeb as I have now for eight years. The news desk is split into multiple tiered sections. You have the high towers: the editors and producers that decide the content, and then in the following order in descending importance. First there are the journalists that go get news along with the film crews. Then you have the studio desk, with its perfect mannequins, all masters of shy cleavage and the spoken word but struggle with anything more complex than their microphones - and shoe laces. They are supported by an army of studio rats, top people to the last man, women and unexploited child. Next we have your hardcore hacks that alternate between the main news features and the website. Finally we have the four of us that do the headline bulletins. Each one mostly specialises in a specific area - domestic, worldwide, entertainment (media and sports) and the gem in the sparkling crown - War. This last is where yours truly enters the frame. Turn on News 24 at any time at the quarter hour and hear something like '30 dead in Taliban insurgence. Afghan civil war concerns!' or 'Exodus from Niger after militia insurrection, rape and genocide fears!' then chances are it is probably me. Well to be honest, me and worldwide would probably fight over the last, competing to see who can make up the best scare tag line. Nobody would know of course whether rape or genocide had taken place until swathes of daisies started popping up on the nutrient rich soil, but it's kind of assumed. It's good though to add something that will have angst ridden liberals and church mice fortifying their cups of tea with a good drop of Scotland's finest, Aunty loves that! There are a couple of perks. We get to do fillers for the bulletins, which is where the fun starts. You only get handed those as the bulletin starts with someone shouting a countdown, 60 seconds to air, 50 words needed, 40 seconds to air, 30 words needed etc. Finally, and only occasionally we grace the less worthy pages of aunties web enterprise. I have one on there right now - Elvis is back on top as the highest earning dead celebrity.
Just finished the second coffee. The train has just passed the last stop before Victoria and is busy two stepping on its final approach. Around me are the usual clusters of tired and disinterested Homo sapiens. Apart from the occasional day tripper this is mostly prim suits either trousered or skirted. The skirted tend to have the neater hair, but not exclusively. You may be surprised to know that slumped bodies with eyes shut and head bouncing off the window, is not gender specific. Male co-passengers swap furtive looks and break into schoolboy grins at the unaware painted faces with red lined mouths wide open.
Time for my first cherry coke. Hitting my stride now, creative neurons are starting to fire like gangbusters, just need to kick start the words. You would be wrong of course to think I slide behind my desk and start firing out headlines. The reality is you have to dig up the words, prepare and nurture them with care, else you can find yourself with a 30 second deadline and a vast nothingness to feed down to your poised fingers. Not good. I have tried lots of things, my morning system is down to pat and so far (touch wood) hasn't failed me. The key is the two books I am now pulling from my bag. They are both dog eared, worn, in a worse condition than any of their siblings sat in dusty second hand book stores. I carry these wherever I go. If there are 10, 20 or 30 minutes to burn, or I am looking for inspiration or just down the pub by myself, out they come. The first is the Wordsworth print of 'The Great Gatsby' by our man Mr Fitzgerald. It's my third copy, so it's one of the newer blue covered editions you can get for £1:99. I am assuming the cover is of Daisy in a fine early 20th century period dress. She is looking rather poignantly across the harbour and across to, I imagine, Gatsby's house. Even though it's relatively new, the front page has coffee stains including a couple rings from careless cups, or glasses. The bind is worn and almost white. Flick through it and you will see half the pages have that wrinkled look of wet paper dried, the result of an escapee drink. The other book is the peerless 'Loo-lee-taa'. This is in rather better condition although very tired with the edges of the covers fraying. The cover picture is faded quite a bit and the pages within an off white (disregarding my extensive annotation) but otherwise in pretty good fettle considering this is the only copy I have ever owned. It is my ultimate word bible, Vladimir I adore you. The edition I have is from the seventies, it's got the picture titled 'Girl and her Cat' on the front. Said brown haired nymphet is reclining on some wooden framed sofa with her pre-pubescent legs slightly parted showing off her little girl knickers. For the first half decade I always thought the picture title an atrocious metaphor until careful examination one day revealed two dark little pointy ears down on the shaded floor, mostly hidden by the block rectangular book title. This copy was brought for me by mother for some reason she never fully explained. Inside the front in languid ink is testament to this 'Dear Matthew, it is beautiful, love Margaret' she always referred to herself as that, I never did work out why.
The beauty of the words contained in these books is that I can open either at any page, read any paragraph and the magic is there. Truth be known I can close my eyes and turn most of the pages in my mind. But there is something about holding the book though, that seems, well just a little more substantive. Consuming them kick starts some portion of my brain, before you know it I will be walking through the station painting the mornings grey light in some grand but clumsy Nabokov imitation or creating a back story for the Asian guy at the Bagel bar, illuminating his world weary despair, not by the telling but in describing his face: ' Those big dark eyes, their movement speaking of something chasing in minds shadows, the sallow skin, slack from muscles drained of hope.'
Granted there is not a great call for this sort of striving prose on the news desk but it's not so much the words but the ability to call them up in a split second, flick through imaginations dictionary, cross referencing synonyms, antonyms and produce 20 slick words propped up with aunties favourites: fear, guilt, war, corrupt, raid, civilians, dead, officer, child, starve, death, leak, fear, gay, muslim, murder, missing, safety, MOD, Islam, did I mention fear? I digress.
You would be forgiven for thinking all this televisual news magic happened somewhere a little more spectacular than behind the facade of sweeping Victorian town houses two hundred and twenty paces along from Regents Park tube, but it does. I am seven minutes early, five of those will be taken getting through security. I finish my third bottle of Cherry, pop the bottle in my jacket pocket, profile my face for the camera above and press the buzzer. The heavy sounding door mechanism clicks and in we go, fluid.
It was a good morning - 15 headliners, two last minute bulletins and a curve ball. Ok, so eight of the headlines were the same story regurgitated but we need the masses on the edge of their seats and not reaching for the little red button. I waited for my moment with the curve ball: 'Bush takes on Blair over banal targets, fallout over ozone emissions'. When the story came up I had to beg worldwide for it, cost me two pints at lunchtime, no problem. You have to bide your time with these, you know the story is going to run most of the day, you just have to wait for the moment when they want it changed while the floor manager is counting down to 'we are live'. I saw the editor look up when it appeared on his screen but he just turned up the corners of his mouth. We sat back and hoped but it came to nothing. The little erect guy with the dark hair, pink ties and broom handle up his arse got his mouth round that nicely thank you very much and we all turned back to the desk and ploughed on. The generally acknowledged master of the curve ball is of course American, NBC's hourly celebrity spot. Over the course of an afternoon the headline guy managed to tie the presenter in knots and got him to spit out 'J Lo gives head in public'. Now that was class! We never did know what the headline should have been and spent awhile trying to track down the writer in the hope of offering sacrifice in his honour. But everyone over at NBC was tight lipped on the whole thing, so to speak.
Finished the last of the cherry bottles just before one, had me buzzing. Shortly after twelve there was a rumour from the floor that everyone was decamping to the 'Anchor', which built impetus and by five past one I was stood with a half empty pint of Stella in my hand opposite a smug looking worldwide. A succession of the floor guys squeezed past clapping me on the back: 'good effort!'
Of course the beeb have stringent rules on the consumption of alcohol, especially at lunchtime - does not do to have a cameraman take a kip while the President of Mozambique is on air. Generally one or two is an accepted standard, especially towards the end of the week, but this is only Tuesday. My fleeting spotlight as 'soldier for the cause' earned me a neat row of five pints, but would also inevitably mean five minutes in the cubicle opposite Mandeep, listening to some weak kneed gem of philosophy. Necking the five pints would raise eyebrows. Of course you don't want to waste any, or as little as possible, so I had to get crafty in my moment of glory. I drank the first two, stood holding the third and left half a pint in the remaining after spreading them along the bar, outside my general vicinity. I turned round occasionally gulping down from either but never to full empty.
Funny thing happened about half hour in. The place was heaving with the ensemble of smoke, conversations and laughter suspended in the high domed ceiling. I was talking quarterbacks with one of the floor guys when Sam squeezed herself through the crowd leaving in her wake pivoting heads and a salacious air. She is a nice women, I don't really know, maybe just under thirty. She might be younger, think I heard someone say once. She works on the floor making sure everyone is in place and everything is set before 'live'. While she was busy standing on tip toe offering encouragement to my right ear she gently balanced herself using her delicate pale hand on my shirt. As she stepped aside with a sweet smile on her rosy cheeked face the hand slid down, only disengaging as it hit my belt. I was quite taken aback, never would have thought her the flirting type - far too wholesome in her dark blouse, matching chequered skirt and grey woolly tights. Across the mob worldwide gave me a knowing pantomime wink, stupid tosser.
On the way back I picked up two cokes from the corner shop and was chewing gum by the time we were all sat back at the desk, just before two. By two thirty I had been in and out of the cubicle. Mandeep was on form - apparently his name means something like 'lamp' in the Sikh community. He loves his ethics and responsibilities speech, we are convinced he rehearses, so word perfect is he. He threw in an analogy at the end just to make sure I had been suitably illuminated. I left vowing my dedication to Aunty and its goggle eyed masses – may have to lay off curve balls for a day or so.
The afternoon is always the hardest part of the working day for me. By three the buzz has worn off, the brain has almost reached its daily limit on the sparkling word front and the body starts to wind down in preparation for the evening. Occasionally something kicks off that lasts all day and you’re there till nine wired as fuck and clawing the underside of the desk in anticipation of the bar. Last big one was the Tsunami, Mandeep was on the phone dragging everyone in, couldn't make it myself - spent all Christmas in bed down with the flu! You can always rely on two or three good earthquakes a year though. Certainly gets the adrenalin pumping, turns into a numbers competition between the majors. News 24 competes against Sky, Sky against ITN and in the background you have Channel 5 (before it got sucked into Sky) and the Radio stations eeking out the margins. No sooner have you a descent rumble, flattened a few houses and lost a few cars down the cracks, BBC and Sky have gone from 'hundreds dead' to 'Thousands' and then in ever larger increments. By the time we have the Red Cross hurling food parcels and med-packs into the back of a chartered 737 there are 15, 21, 43 thousand 'feared' dead. Of course when the dust has settled, which is determined by our dear audience’s capacity for cloaked women wailing and tear streaked kids running around in shorts, we find out there are only 342 casualties. This last of course is slipped in just before the politics review on Sunday morning.
Today was not to be one of those days. As ever I produced the flask from my bag and worked my way through the tea and the remainder of the working day. Green tea is my favourite, a nice waft lingers on the breath and it has a bitter earthy kind of taste. It keeps me going through all those banal headlines.
It has been getting dark for a while. By the time I step onto the clean, brightly lit concrete pavement, the long night is under way. I discard the empty cherry bottles in a station bin and with my books and flask banging off my hip, head back to Victoria via Oxford Circus.
The train throbs into life, any minute now we will be on our way. Me and the hockey guys are stood just round the corner from the bar, cold can in hand. It will be six of the night when we heave awkwardly out of the station. Current topic of conversation for these juvenile creatures is the guy sitting a few seats down, arms folded. He is wearing a smart brown woollen coat, knotted tight around the waist. Curly dark hair has been carefully constructed. He is cleanly shaven that is for sure. His eyes warily watch everyone through the reflection in the window, his posture is inward but I guess that is born from life. His face is most telling, a mixture of exhaustion, hope and excessive make up. This last has been expertly applied but guess there was a dilemma on whether to go subtle or beacon 'this is a woman'. He went for the later. Hockey#1 and Hockey#2 are giggling like children, #2 wants to go over. If he does I swear I will bury this can in his thick skull.
We get to our first stop and the man thankfully gets off, we are on our fourth can and #2 has shifted from 'let’s have a laugh' to 'worryingly volatile' with consummate ease. Fortunately #2 and #1 get off at stop 3 and 5 respectively.
There is another 10 minutes before we get to my station. This is the time of night when it hits me the most. I sit down and feel like sleep could envelope and take me wherever it may, I am tempted to just close my eyes and let McFate work out the rest. I wish it would last, that I may walk through my front door and collapse onto the sofa or my unmade bed and just disappear into blissful darkness. To rest my ever fertile mind and give organs and proteins just one night to heal woes and eject me, a salved man into the next day. I know that is not going to happen.
The train jars to a halt, I down the last of the can and step onto the barely lit tarmac platform, a stop early. It’s one of those stations that sits on the edge of suburbia. All around are pensive trees and shrouded fields, a jacketed horse flicks its tail, imagining I guess, the next time they will let him loose with Mrs. Horse. Behind this high mass of foliage there is a faintly orange glow in the sky. You would never guess 500 yards would bring you to the entrance of Waitrose. I get off here every night. I suppose I could do a big shop but it’s all just too much to carry and I quite like wondering down the clean white rows of neatly packed produce, a balm for the mind.
Despite this being a daily occurrence there are a lot of bags, two of them clunk together as I hoist them into the back of the taxi. We do the five minute drive before the car wheels about, the receding red lights leaving me to my own devices.
I have a set routine, not that I am organised but necessity forces it upon me. It goes something like this. I kick the door closed, drop my bag on the floor and walk through into the kitchen. The mayhem from yesterday still sits like the dead and wounded, so I pack the food into the fridge, bottles into the corner, along with the coke and evian. Once this is done I clean all the rubbish from the counter into one of the bags and go pop this in the bin. Next I load the dishwasher, turn on the hob and cook food. One is not much of a chef, so we are usually talking pasta with Salmon, king prawns or diced chicken. I like a bottle of red with the meal so with the glass half empty I throw some bouillon into the pan and hey presto!
Once food is done I start on preparing everything I will need for the next day. First we pull out the six diet cokes. At the moment this is cherry, it adds to the taste and leaves a sweet odour to the breath which we like. Lime is a favourite to. I unscrew each and pour probably one third maybe just a bit more down the sink, you have to be careful though, you don't want the casual eye registering diluted product. Occasionally I will have a glug to cleanse the palette. Next we pull over one of the bottles from the corner. Its contents are a golden liquid, relatively devoid of smell and mighty fierce. Finding one that didn't scream 'whiskey' whenever you unscrewed the cap took a lot of sampling I can tell you. Once we have the six coke bottles lined up I unscrew the golden bottle and fill each up, making very sure not to fill them more than you would fresh off the shelf. Once done there is only about an inch left of the golden syrup and is put to one side for now. Next we rinse out the flask, it’s one of those large silver ones you see everywhere nowadays. After giving it a good shake over the sink I pour in the last of the first whiskey bottle and all of the next bottle. I used to alternate the flask with a bottle of evian/vodka, proportions 50/30 and throw in some squash to avoid any busy body asking for a cup of water. I don't do this so much these days. I started getting pains in my back a few months ago, just below the ribcage. Since switching to green tea, four bags of which I now drop into the flask the pains haven't got worse. I will screw the cap on and leave this sat on the side tonight, it’s amazing how the bags soaking into the whiskey change the taste and add a nice odour. Tomorrow morning I will top it up with boiling water, job done. Time for the second bottle of wine, not that this will serve any purpose for the coming day. Now for the milk. This took the longest time to work out. How do you mix whiskey and milk and not end up with something that looks like cloudy whiskey? The solution is powdered milk. You have to be careful because too much powder and you end up with a gloopy stodge which is no fun having to swallow along with your cappuccino first thing in the morning. You need about three times more powder than they recommend on the box and stir this with half a cup of tap water, it will be pretty thick. Next we get our 660ml bottle of water, I always skulk this in one hit, quickly followed by a good gulp of wine. It never harms to have some wholesome water in with the mix. I then get one of those 330ml whiskey bottles, (I always have lots of these in reserve) and pour into the cup until mostly full. I then stir like fuck for a couple of minutes, making sure not to spill any of course. This will leave you with a cup of perfectly white, but thick milk like substance. Now pour this into the 660ml bottle which will come just over half way, pour in the rest of the whiskey to the top and give it a bloody good shake. It will still be a little thick, perfectly white though and if anyone asks, it’s full fat!
Now I know what you’re probably thinking 'Why does this guy work?' Well that’s a very good question. There was, you may recall, all this mention of frittering away days at some leisure but there was also that caveat 'carefully maintained' which has proven a bit of a stumbling block. As you may have noticed I have expensive habits, there is also the problem of having too much time on your hands never being a good thing! Aunty did agree that I should take a three month sabbatical (unpaid of course) once I had bade my last farewell to mother, father only four months in the ground. I had planned on making serious inroads into the book (did I mention the book before?) and for a short while good progress was made, if I got going first thing in the morning that is. Increasingly I found myself succumbing earlier and earlier to the cacophony of voices calling from the kitchen. By the end of week two I was usually hammered and unconscious by three in the afternoon, which takes some doing I can tell you. I was back at work after four weeks feeling decidedly ill and in need of some routine. Mandeep was a little taken aback but I came out with: 'I can cope better with something to occupy my mind'. The poor guy seemed genuinely touched. For a brief wink of times eye I moved up a few rankings in his good books. The sabbatical had taken the accumulative word count to 150,000 that’s about enou ....
Sorry, another bad coughing fit. Got a cold two months back, which of course went straight to my chest and I haven't been properly able to shake it since. Never get it during the day though, it first began in the dead of night and has been getting earlier ever since. The first time I hawked a clot of blood was a bit of a concern but we all know what the good doctor will have to say, I think I will need to lay off the coke for a while or maybe find a replacement entirely.
Anyway, Mother confided her idea for the story just before she departed: 'the great book she never wrote' along with the hope that I would write it for her, I know what she was up to. There is absolutely no disputing she had a sharp eye for the subtleties of human nature. Her publisher rang chasing it occasionally - of course the early bird catches the worm. I have just finished the second bottle of red, it's a toss-up now between another red, whiskey or vodka. I should go red but I could drink that all night and I need to bring this to a close, time for some bare nekid whiskey.
I am finally starting to feel a little under the weather, just the odd bump into the door frame or stumble off the sofa. It didn't start like this you know. I know what you’re thinking, and it is, totally fucked up, what a waste. See the problem has been, right from as early as ever. My brain just won’t stop, apparently a side effect of my huge IQ and its capacity to literally memorise everything my eyes set upon. When ...
Sorry .. dizzy spell, starting to feel quite rough.
When I was in my eighth year they prescribed sleeping tablets but they didn't kick in till 2 in the morning and I would still be like a zombie at ten the next morning. By the time I was eleven I was so fucked up I tried to commit suicide by taking three of the fuckers and had the best two days sleep of my whole life, they immediately confi ....
Shit ... vomiting your pasta and blood can't be good. Might have to get up really early and see Dr De'ath (for that is his name) regardless. Whiskey is starting to really kick in now, shouldn't be long, might have to start watering it down now though, each time I sip it's killing me.
I was going to tell you about Sarah (Ex Mrs Nunn). Most of my real problems started about the same time we got together, not that you could apportion any of this to her. She truly was an angel, blew 10 years of her life and a bucket load of angst on this sorry carcass. Do you know, sometimes still I wake up and think I can feel her hand against my face and her tears on my shoulder. She used to put her hand there so she could make sure I was still breathing, of course that was until those nimble little fingers of sleep would reach out for her as they so lovingly did ...
Back again. That was the phone, no fucking idea who would be ringing me this time of the night, not sure I want to know. Just tried to boil the kettle to make some coffee, thought it might settle my stomach, caught the jug on the toaster and before you know it have boiling water up my arm and down my leg. Fucka, me and the kitchen had a little falling out, that’s going to take a little cleaning and a trip to Sainsbury's kitchenware sometime. I hate inanimate objects, never do what you want them to do when you need them to.
Something isn't right, my right arm feels cold. I can still move it though. I loved her. I had always lived in cities before her and her compact little village. Trouble was by the time I was 26 I had tried the powders (not milk) but couldn't be doing with all that arsing about. Before that I didn't really get on with alcohol, didn't much fancy the taste, oh the irony. Trouble is in a village what the fuck else you going to do but watch TV the nights and drink. Bloody hour to the cinema, 20 minutes to the gym (both ways, even longer on a bike if you don't got no license). The nearest reasonable civilisation is the two conjoined villages they now call a market town and the nearest real town has one high street and a third division team proudly listed as a local attraction.
Damn phone again, not sure I am going to answer it, knocked over the table between the sofa just and now have another pile of damp books. Found if I mix coffee and gin it doesn't sting so much. Caught myself in the mirror while bouncing off the door frame a little while ago, look totally fucked, must make sure I double check tomorrow. Mandeep would throw a fit if I turned up with blood smeared all over my chin, not to mention my co-passengers. At last my eyes feel heavy, not sure how much of this I am going to remember tomorrow, or what bits so I am going to wrap this up soon. Just saw it’s raining outside, I love listening to the rain.
Despite being well on this path after four years in the village I was sleeping after a fashion and I was deeply madly. I was still studying and father was handy, it has to be said, and we had a nice little house (which she got come the day of reckoning, only seemed fair). I was churning out all sorts of thesis and a few short stories on my favourite; Charlemagne, so I was always busy.
Just threw up again and asthma is back. Fell out with the bathroom looking for the ventolin. Leaned against the shelf and the whole lot came down, I soon had a fucking word, fucking sorted that. Didn't find the ventolin, got some whiskey and started breathing in the fumes and sipping while holding my breath. Think the fumes are clearing the passages, getting on top of it now. Don't think it was helped by the tears, it quite often gets me about this time, I really fucking miss her you know. She wasn't really all that bad, of course I had to put some distance between me and them else they would have found out and like we needed one more shouting match. I can still remember her arms round me. As a kid I loved feeling the warmth of her breath on my peach fresh cheeks as she tucked me in: 'my love', stroking the hair from my forehead. Sadly these are fleeting, precious memories that only feel real in the early dreams of the dawning day. Those sad eyes in her last years, she knew I think. I try so hard to claw them back, the memories ...
Think I just passed out. Woke up with gin all over my leg and the floor, don't think I fell asleep, more fucking blood. Think I am heading to bed, I hope I dream.
I will never know. Finally paralysed my brain shuts down and I collapse on the bed, sleep reaches out its long gnarled fingers. Apart from the slow rise of my chest all is motionless. Inside organs strain under the weight of their burden, blood urgently courses through veins carrying remedies, trying desperately to repair that which it cannot.
The house is a silent contrast, street light diffused, illuminates a small halo upon the fabric of the blinds. Outside the suburban symphony is on a deserved break. Somewhere far a door slams, seconds later a distant chain flushes, quiet returns. Into the hall, a large water heater groans from behind a closed door, busy preparing tomorrows shower. On the floor there is a dark bag carelessly open, a book with a faded cover is splayed wide. A photo has slipped free but still grasps to the sanctuary of the pages. A rosy cheeked mother proudly stands behind her boy, both bathed in sun and shadow. He can count his years in single digits, an impish grin is reassured by a loving embrace. Silence counts on. The peace is disturbed by the shrill call of the phone, it’s lonely cry repeats over and over but there is no one here. Outside a shadows cat waits as if stone, its attentive yellow eyes not concerned with the lazy rain. The sparrow, looking everywhere at once flicks skywards, we can almost hear the beat of the wings, soaring out away from glowing construction, across trees, fields and free, into the clouds.
Submission: 28 October 2006
Revision: 26 October 2007