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Kiss your sleeping face. Down five flights. Cigarette smell tells me silent Polish geezer's smoking outside; he is, we never speak. Dark still, colder than expected; whatever, only three blocks to the station. Metrocard in hand, smile at rats scattering from the garbage sacks on Hooper. Past the paper stall, idle glance at the racks of bland and fully-bikini'd Hispanic babes, up the steps, stand by the bin, will it be J or M? M. Bridge. East river. Graffiti. "You pink bitch, you can't draw for shit. Get some skills, dickhead." Still seems to be directed at me, somehow.
The rhythmic clopping of your clogs on our stone stairs puts "No Surprises" into your head. That weirdly distinctive, high-pitched "oo-eeee-aaah" noise the subway train makes when it's pulling out puts "Gigantic" into mine. The "bing bong" tone which signals the closing doors is the opening two notes of the Cuckoo Waltz. At Geneva airport the five-note PA tone goes ba-BA-ba-ba-baaa, and every Brit in the place segues instinctively into "...dog-gie in the window!", and the Swiss look at us as if we were mad. We are mad. All of us. Not just Brits.
I seem to spend my life alternately happy, depressed and especially - more and more these days - in a state of sparking, snapwired irritation at minor annoyances caused by other human beings. The stinking inconsiderateness of our neighbours who leave their garbage bags in the stairwell. The endless, teeming hordes of oblivious imbeciles who stand right outside doorways or in the entrances to subway platforms. Damned parents and their damned children in my favourite restaurants. Cyclists, riding on pavements and ignoring red lights; oh, especially those bastards. I think my disposition would be eremitic if I didn't love you so much.
A black and tan mongrel springs at the rusted wire; the crash and bark make you flinch, sidestep and curse. You step in a slimy fresh turd; the stench hits a second later and you curse all the more, kick out at the fence, hope to catch that dumb fucking mutt right in his stupid slavering chops, maybe take out a couple of teeth but no such luck. It backs off and barks some more so you petulantly gob at the fucking thing but the fence intercepts and your spittle swings on the wire, mocking your impotence. A kid laughs.
Easy for you to say. See, I want to dance, but I can't. I can't. No, really, I can't. Flat feet, a bad back, a sort of general gracelessness and inflexibility of body and limbs, plus I generally look like shit, you know? A face that looks like the forceps slipped (more than once); features crowded on my big old head as though drawn on an over-inflated balloon (by a remedial kid); this short, blocky, increasingly going-to-seed body and its uninspiring way with clothes. Well, yeah, and that crushing lack of physical confidence. I'll give you that.
There is a bottleneck between his brain and mouth. Some neurotic cerebral sphincter squeezes the life out of vibrant, sparkling thoughts so that they fall on his tongue like wrung-out, mutilated corpses. His ideas seem bound to him in a futile symbiosis. He knows what he wants to say, but speech perishes like Icarus: he cannot make words fly to you.
The affliction has spread to his heart, keening with a love like the ache of cello music, yet which his spastic body transmits to you with all the subtle beauty of an idiot child with a tin drum.
Physical cowardice is borne of the rational desire for self-preservation. Courage is bone of anger, outrage and blinkered stubbornness. Physical cowardice frequently makes a lot of sense, yet we revile those who display it because we would rather they justify anger, outrage and blinkered stubbornness. We seek that justification because we are prey to those emotions, so we need to dignify them. It doesn't take more than a cursory assessment of America's current attitudes and behaviour to understand that "Home of the Brave" is an appropriate description for the country right now, but only if applied with heavy irony.
Snot frosts an unshaven lip on a drunken orange face; halitosis shock and sickly orange premature pumpkins in the markets under disused razorwired railway: we can't get up there, the high line, cops and a tough climb; we need planks from the window to wonder at this greenbacked rattlesnake half-coiled rusted rigormortised one-time meat duct artery, corrugated segmentation snicking the undergrowth in the overworld. Walk up in plain view, trust to luck, fuck, to feel as free as a bad boy not responsible, act your age but be yourself. Stop thinking so much. Stop thinking so much. Live.
I am losing my appetite for life. Terminal one is a sparse mall filled with things I absolutely do not need or want. Watches, jewellery, clothing, magazines, travel items, novelties, sweets, bags: nothing. A crass cornucopia of nothing. What is this stuff for? No, really, what is it
? Do you feel
wearing that watch, carrying that Fendi bag? Do you really?
I believe you do, and I can't understand it. I can't even
how it might feel to be pleased by such things. To honestly feel life has been made a little bit better by possessing them.
I miss moving through cool, crystal blue; mingling with shimmering shoals which part and close around my body instead of absent morning mist; scattered shell shards and the sudden animation of a hidden hermit crab. I miss the lysergic light and the surreally sharp delineations of early shadows. I miss fresh herb-and-oil-rubbed flesh over hot coals, and crushed figs bruising dry earth; white walls bursting with bougainvillea; the incongruous beauty of bright, fecund plants in old olive oil tins. I do not, and will not, miss her.
After almost eight years I am finally ready to return.
Subway weirdo: big hands delicately finger a light grey cardboard-and-duct-tape package containing maybe twenty-odd folded copies of a black and white photograph. One is labeled in (presumably) his childish hand: "Miss Crystal Gayle". The slow, careful movements of his stubby fingers are hypnotically deliberate as he selects one particular copy and strokes it open with the patient intent of a baby trying to pick up a toy. He never fully opens any of the pictures or ever really looks at them. They are his worry beads, his rosary. They do not make his brown eyes blue.
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING."
Impossible is getting the dumb yank responsible for this fatuous advertising campaign to realise what an irredeemably moronic, thoughtless, spoon-fed little pisswit he is. Impossible is the platitude-driven, wishful-thinking bullshit mythology such Americans insist on deluding themselves with.
The Vile burst through the door and, undeterred (yet arguably influenced) by the considerately muted strains of Crimson's "Red", proceeded to tear out the Wizard's throat. Mixed emotions swirled in Gotham Muse's stunned mind: shock, of course; fear, naturally; horror, oh yeah baby
, but underneath it all lay the insidious sensation that somehow this was to be expected. Somehow, this was probably her fault. Somehow, this was sadly typical. She stared at the Vile's jubilant, gore-smeared leer and felt the familiar implosion of ego. Then Emerson Dameron charged into the room and kicked that murdering motherfucker's hairy ass.
Perhaps this is why I'm pining for Greece right now. I want beauty, peace, light and respite from the endless geysering vileness in the news. This damned world. That damned criminal Bush. Those twisted Al Qaeda fucks. That stupid, opportunistic little chancer Nick Berg. The infinite stinking hypocrisy of the USA: where the murder of one white American is headline news and the murder of ten thousand Iraqis is barely worth a mention. And then I remember Nisyros; a goat slaughtered by a roadside. Plenty of blood, unlike in that highly suspect Berg video. Serious darkness moves on this earth.
It kicks up as the train pulls in. They're going to get on the same carriage as me, this pumped-up, guffawing gaggle of jock arseheads. I will
go out of my way to avoid them. The doors close, and off they go: singing "patriotic" songs at the top of their freshly bollock-dropped voices. You know the routine. That horrible jock thing: we will
to you, and you will not do anything because you, unlike us, are civilised.
The calming mantra circles in my brain: "
are why America is hated.
are why America is hated".
The local car service guys make me feel like Michael Douglas in "Falling Down".
"Metropolitan and Berry, please"
"Mer'poli'an an' Lor'mer?"
"No. Berry. BERRY. MeTropoliTan and BERRY. Okay?"
First traffic light: "Strai'?"
"Yes. StraighT. Metropolitan is straight on at this light." (This light which is maybe THREE FUCKING BLOCKS FROM YOUR BASE, dickhead.)
Next light: "Strai' here?"
"YES. StraighT here. Straight until I say otherwise. Okay?"
Next light: "Strai?"
"StraighT. Yes. Jesus."
We stop at Metropolitan and Bedford.
"Why have you stopped? Berry. We want BERRY."
"You say Mer'poli'an Bedfor'!"
I'm sorry, but learn English, you dopey fuck. ‘Kay?
Six more weeks until I have to leave this big dirty ugly beautiful city for a while. For at least three months. Probably more like six. I can't imagine it will go on much beyond six. We can't let it; we've come too far now. But there will be a hiatus, an interregnum, an unwelcome return to physical remoteness. I may go to Norway, to Switzerland, to South Africa… maybe even to Hong Kong, if I can't wriggle out of it. I don't want to have a whole planet between us. An ocean is already too much.
We've done well.
The little things undo us. They can tip us over the edge far more decisively and irretrievably than one-off traumas. The drip-drip-drip of daily jibes makes the guy go postal and murder his colleagues. The constant minor inconsiderateness of neighbours who do not take their trash out of the hallway threatens to make me snap in a way that a bite from their dog would not.
Straws and camels' backs.
The cumulative Chinese water torture of that trivial but irritating habit will break a relationship just as surely and terminally as an isolated, uncharacteristic episode of infidelity.
Reverse time. Heal wounds; infuse scar tissue with blood and feeling once more. Take the lines from my face, and the pains that carved them. Let the blows become caresses ("I'll take my hand off your face!" said my mother, meaning, she'll hit me). Reverse the drill; let it mine mercury from my teeth, and caries cure themselves. Re-break bone and tendon so they may be truly mended. Rewind, return, send me back. Let knowledge, hope, dreams, despair fly from me along with memory, awareness, consciousness. Send me back to the death before life, where life after death is real.
It appeared he was involved in a fight, or a murder. He was knee deep in the water; his tanned, wiry body angled over the sea's undulating surface; his left hand submerged as if holding someone down; his knotted right fist driving repeatedly into each spittle-flecked crest. Long braids flicked and gleamed in the sun with each blow, a chain-haired gorgon. I ran towards him as in a dream, my legs weak, immersed in syrup. I heard his sibilant, monotonous mantra; realised he was alone and mad:
"Please. Stop. Please. Stop. Please"
I shivered, because it made sense.
Lazing in that huge suite at the Carlyle I mused that I will never be able to consider myself well-off. Whenever my personal finances have been far enough into the black to allow me to do things like this, I've had the same reaction: I feel like an imposter, a fake. I expect to be escorted from the building at any moment. This sort of life - luxury hotels, room service, $25 cover charge per person – it will always be alien, no matter how much money I might acquire. I don't have what it takes to take excess casually.
so i was like all and she was like all and then we were all like omg lol ur 2 cool and then he was like all and we were like all and omg d00d no thats like so cool and stuff lol ur 2 funnee and gta is like omg teh best game evar omg lol omg like omg like lol like like like Jesus
you vacuous, turdbrained little gitwads. You know what I'd like,
I'd like to violate your dumb little arses with a copy of Chambers Dictionary. Hardback edition. No lube. LOL!
The office looked like it always does yet somehow there was an air of unreality, almost as if we were in a movie set. Everything seemed less solid than normal. Kevin was indulging in his normal morning whine when he started screaming. And man, he
started screaming; with such fierce, panicked intensity I leapt up and looked over the intervening cube wall. He was arched backwards over his PC. The receiver was squirming in his hand, like some slick, parasitical plastic worm. The earpiece was buried deep inside his ear, which was welling blood like a backed-up abattoir sink.
Two birthday cards. Open envelopes: four seconds each. Read messages: ten seconds. Tear up and throw away: four seconds. One birthday greeting via email, telling me of a card sent to the address we have not lived at for almost a year. Well, that's eleven seconds saved, I guess. I think I can safely say the days of parties with jelly and ice cream are over. Thank goodness. What you did for me was infinitely preferable. Happy birthday Bob Dylan, you hideously overrated, whiny-voiced fuck. God rot the infernal agents of fortune which made me share it with you.
I don't like you. Call it prejudice if you like but you really, really disgust me. It doesn't help that you're stuffing your fat, greasy, prematurely-jowelled face with pizza, stinking out the whole damned carriage. Look at yourself, you grotesque lardarse; you bloated, corpulent behemoth. What fevered, possibly fat-borne dementia makes you imagine, in your most deluded fatass fantasies, that tight pants would look good on an arse wide enough to need two seats? Ugh. UGH, you bloody monster. Screw
feelings, what about mine? Why should I have to choke down vomit when I ride the subway?
And so once more to the school concert. Always a painful experience yet somehow vaguely cute: I'll admit that, albeit grudgingly. I wonder what gruesome treats await us tonight. The excruciating "highlight" of the Christmas concert was a version of "Moondance" as rendered by twenty-odd recorders and a painful lack of discernible musical talent. I shouldn't be too hard on the little dears, of course (and I don't think I am), but what that spastic cacophony reminded me of is that the hardest musical skill to teach a kid is how to
. Puberty seems to cure the problem.
It's hard to escape the conclusion that sexual development has something to do with it. Arguably that's an example of
post hoc ergo propter hoc
but it really does seem to be more than coincidence that kids start
the whole beat, swing, syncopation, bump-n-grind aspect to music at about the same time the hormones jazz their systems. Some vital spark flows between brain, dick, clit, guts and limbs. Wrists, hips and legs loosen and rhythms become dangerous.
At last night's concert the munchkins did "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing": it hadn't; it didn't.
The devil is in the details, but so is god. I need full understanding: to grasp mechanisms, ideas, chains of logic in which I can detect and scrutinize every interaction between components, down to the most fundamental, granular level. A modern electronic device breaks, you replace an abstraction: a card, a black box of some sort. But I know the fault is only in one tiny part of this abstraction; that an undetectable silicon synapse has blown. It offends me that I have to take a sledgehammer to crack this nut, buy a new house to fix this broken window.
You sit at the desk, the light from the screen casting a pallor on your mouse hand. It looks like something seen by refrigerator light, an unsavoury leftover from a botched meal, something you should have thrown out weeks ago, the hairs like tendrils of black mould, a thing so obviously dead that when your finger twitches, so do you. You feel the old surge of nausea; remember your youthful identification with the Sartre book. This...
... of veins and coursing blood and lymph; of nerve strands, pores and sebum... it is part of you. It
you. It's insupportable.
It's insupportable except by lust. Lust shores you up, mans the ramparts, repels the boarders of existential repulsion and then you relish the taste of your lover's mouth and skin; sweat becomes nectar, dew on petals, such blissful intoxicated nonsense. You kiss her hand, hold it against the sensitive skin inside your lips; feel the pulse of her blood, feel how close her flow is to yours, imagine it mingling, red whirlpools and prevailing tides, strong enough to wash your thoughts away, to drown disgust and strip the pallid flesh from its dead hand leaving only bleached white seashell bones.
And none of this is to be his. Perhaps he was an ugly child, too. Perhaps even his mother struggled to love him. And there he is, forty... fifty? So hard to tell with ugly people; the beautiful show their age more readily: each centimetre of slack flesh a glaring disfigurement, each tiny wrinkle a flaw in the diamond. But the ugly have always been broken and unpleasing to others' eyes and thus is their "prime" extended. He is profoundly unattractive physically, and how many people care about anything else? No, I mean enough to actually fuck him without pity?
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