REPORT A PROBLEM
Thereís mischief in her eyes and a solitary tear. However hard Iím finding this, sheís finding it much harder. I looked for her beneath the giant screens and my heart leapt with every choreographed move. My heart is heavy now as she walks away, gliding from foot to foot with her dancerís gait. I should have let her go; should have let her walk Home but my heart hurt so I ran after her, listening to my footsteps echoing on the pavement while the rest of the world was sleeping. ĎLetís just get there,í she said. But, where? And, how?
ĎIn another life.í
ĎIf our circumstances were different.í
Thatís what we say to each other with every smile and gaze. Is it better to contemplate rather than consummate? Can I do that to myself every time I see you? Iím not sure how long that lasts. Realistically, I know how this ends; I always do. I know that you get married and I move on but that doesnít make it any easier. Itís good to feel something again but this capacity for pain is deeper than Iíd remembered. Always filmic; always soundtracked, silhouetted and beautiful, Oceans and oceans of longing.
No one gets out alive. Iíve found myself saying this a lot recently. Iím not sure if I was offering advice or just punctuating my own thoughts but Iím struggling with a new philosophy and this mantra seems to help. Or itís aiding and abetting a steady decline into selfishness and amoral behaviour. Time passes regardless of anything I choose to do so why not just do as I please? I know the answer to this and I could never fully become that person but itís tempting, all the same. I have to be able to live with myself though.
I wrote out a list of literary suicides and put you on the end: Number 11 Ė Chris Bradford. ĎIím here for a good time not a long time.í And a hundred other quotes you spouted over the years that will happily haunt me until I follow you. Youíre in good company; Hemmingway and Thompson, who opted for bullets Ė far too American an end for you. Plath, Seneca and Woolf; too complex. You lacked the apparatus to follow Wallace or Sexton and didnít have the politics for Mishima. Like Berryman, a simple step would do. But then, you always loved walking.
From time to time, when things arenít going to plan, itís tempting to force my head into the sand and wilfully ignore everything thatís going on around me. I make all the right noises and nod in the right places but, the truth is, Iím not really there. I kid myself that Iím getting away with it but Iím willing to bet Iím not. I can only imagine what my friends make of it. Perhaps they worry? How pleasant then to have a night like tonight where I donít have to think about whatís going wrong and just laugh instead.
Sunburnt, sat in a field, and my sleepy mind keeps wandering in your direction. Iím sure youíd hate most of this but youíd probably entertain the idea, for a minute or two. Youíd be sitting next to me, avoiding shade, with a cigarette in your mouth asking me questions and howling at my answers, if I was very lucky. But I have no right to be lucky. Sooner or later, this will come to an end with an awkward chat and perhaps a hug, if you have your way. I suspect itís a fair way back up for me now.
There are things we will never say to each other. Things we never can. Instead, we talk in metaphors and quotations; of paths taken side by side or boats and vast, unchartered, oceans. We talk in literature and film, of private memories and our Ďstoriesí. We laugh, a lot, and then fall silent for a while before one of us says, Ďanyway.í Our timing was off completely but then we donít get to decide things like when to fall in love and with whom. Our mistake was that we carried on; both curious. Take that Wonderheart. This one will hurt.
And so Iím left staring at the phone again waiting for some answers. Not the cruel red blinking light this time but a single vibration and a flash on the screen. I wonder if Iíve gone too far; if Iíve shown my hand and blown my chances; if sheíll ever answer back. Iím not sure how we get ourselves out of this one. The walls have been erected once more and sheís trying to break them down but how can she expect to when she cannot let me in? I wish there was space in her heart but there isnít.
I havenít felt that uncomfortable in a long time. You were wrapped around my arm watching the play as if it were the most natural thing in the world. When I tell you I feel awkward about our proximity or the questions youíre asking, you look at me like Iíve lost my mind; that the problem lies with me. Can you really be so naive about the whole thing? I worry that youíre playing me; that this is all a game. Iím entertaining you until he comes back home. I know what feels wrong but I canít seem to leave.
Feel that gnawing in your stomach young man? Feel that restless trepidation in every new task you venture to complete? What is the point, you ask. What will come of this? I should be doing something vital. Something monumental. Or I should strip away all the layers of useless shit and walk the Earth collecting memories to form stories to pass on to the lonely and the lost in quiet beach-side bars. I should slip right out of this weary body, shake my bones and float away. Iíll find a new piece of sky and rain heavy all night long.
Everyone is running around with smiles slashed across their faces. All is well and all shall be well if we all just keep smiling. Iím stood in the middle; a fixed point in my universe (how could I not be?) and I realise that no one has a clue what theyíre doing. Itís all Ďfaceí. If we can keep all the balls in the air weíll get to the end eventually, right? I want to stop them and say, ĎYou know weíre all heading there anyway? You know that weíre all lost and scared?í but no one wants to listen.
Arms glistening with sun cream smoothed on with long, delicate fingers, hugging her shoulders and neck. She paints her own aura; a carefully constructed armour to protect her from the irregularities: the tiny black specks in her tea cup. Finger-tips pick through the detritus and collect the imperfections like a concert pianist, her brow wrinkling with the effort. He catches her eye and a smile flicks across the table. She collapses into a braying laugh, bent double, reaching for more words. ĎYeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, Iíll do it.í Spun up into the air like a beachball eclipsing the sun.
She asked him, ĎWhat is love, to you?í and his tongue stuck fast in his mouth. (Now thereís a question). I can tell you what itís not: Itís not something that can be wrapped up and handed over with a smile. Itís crueller than that. Itís not something that comes easily or can be moulded into simple words. Itís much harder than that. Itís not all the little parts of you I notice and adore and piece together to create my private story. Thatís a selfish, idealised love that only exists in fiction. Itís a secret language shared and laughter.
Iím attempting to write a new chapter before it gets too hard to move away from whatís gone before. I stood gazing up at a crane at London Bridge and I imagined climbing it. Jumping over the wooden fences surrounding the base, running across the open ground to reach the foot of the structure and climbing. Enshrined in my metal cage, putting one hand over the other, Iíd climb up into the sky. Iíd stay a while looking down at everything Iíd left behind illuminated like some giant birthday cake and Iíd take one step off the edge. Only one.
Everything is out in the open and we know exactly where we are without having the faintest idea where we are. Sitting on a bench in the market place, talking, and a guy on a long board passed from right to left; he emerged from behind a stone pillar and disappeared behind itís twin. Two weeks (or so) ago, we sat on another bench and watched a child appear from a hedge and take the same journey, from right to left, followed by his father. Both were important conversations; flagstones on our journey but which direction are we moving in?
I could really do with you still being around. Youíd know what to say, Iím sure. Youíd cock your head, light a cigarette, and gesticulate with your free hand; a sawing motion through the air as you sorted through each point in turn. If you could meet her, youíd spur each other on. Flying through your packs of ten and going out for more. Youíd tell me you could see exactly why I liked her; that I was in serious trouble and wouldnít have it any other way. Youíd call me, Ďmy dear boyí repeatedly. Youíd have loved her too.
Waiting, waiting, waiting for that phone call. Waiting for something to happen. Itís a funny existence. The sort of life that could drive you into something else. But, sitting in the sun outside my local cafe, writing this, Iím joined by a young woman who uses a frame to walk. She talks to her friend about a good day she had last week where she managed to walk from her house to the end of the road and back. That was her good day. My bad days suddenly donít seem so bad. All my problems donít amount to very much.
About that new chapter I was planning; I think itís just started without me. That beautiful ending to the last Iíd anticipated was never fully realised. We came close a couple of times; twilight shared on various benches overlooking a city on fire with an arsenal of clever words and half-remembered quotes but real life always got in the way. A lexicon of clumsy teenage longing wrapped in a stutter and a pregnant pause, in eye-rolling and incomprehension. The mess of reality imposed itself upon all my high-sounding nothings which, in its own way, contains a certain kind of beauty.
Weíre in drought (This drought is relieved with acid rain). I wonder what lies ahead for us? You meet plenty of interesting people in this job and youíre thrust together to create something for almost no time at all. Often you get on incredibly well and burn brightly in the time youíve got before parting. Itís the nature of what we do. After the last month together, it would be a shame if thatís all we had to show for this. She knows exactly how I feel and Iím happy with that. Letís just take our time and get there.
Take care of yourself, Scorpio. Itís been a lot of fun. I think youíre probably running scared but thatís your prerogative; better late than never, Iíd joke if we were sitting face to face. But weíre not and we may not again. Iíve been trying to make a dignified exit for a while now but you wouldnít let me go. Now, youíve come around to my way of thinking and I wish you hadnít found your way there. I imagine running past you in the park and speeding up which fills me with sadness. Iím definitely climbing that crane now.
Her black hair on my pillow and her arm around me, sleeping.
Iím still on Terra Firma.
I trace tiny circles on her hand and her wrist; itís the only language I can use here, the only way I can make any sense of what I see.
Dry hands on clammy skin.
A bead of sweat forms in the fold of my knee and drops inky blue on my bed-sheet. She bites my shoulder and laughs at the impression left behind. I ask stupid questions and she repeats herself as the sun comes up.
Capricorn and Scorpio; this was unexpected.
Coffee cunts gathered around their silver God, churning and grinding out steam and froth, as they chatter on about single origin beans, tasting notes and the irredeemably sweet finish to be captured on the tongue. An ordinary human interrupts the service and asks for a black Americano. There is a sharp intake of breath all round, ĎWe do things a little differently here; weíd recommend a filter coffee, if you drink it black.í He stumbles over the menu again and nods in agreement. ĎIt is £4. Just so you know.í He nods again, having lost all use of his tongue.
Here we are once more in Limbo. Itís exhausting here where nothing is certain; caught between what you want and what you know is right. Each impulse swiftly curtailed by circumstance (well, yours; letís be honest). A series of interrupted actions, impossible to follow through to their conclusion however easy it might seem. I am a wooden woodpecker on a wooden post, fastened with a spring, forever falling banging my head in one direction, reaching the bottom to be pulled back up again. The trouble is, I enjoy that journey up the post. The view from the top is enchanting.
ĎWe are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.í
And how Death trembled when he caught you. Iíll bet you had him laughing immediately. If there was a bar where you were waiting, Iíll bet you bought a round. Death will have refused, saying he was working, but youíd have bought him one regardless. Youíd have kept him there for hours with stories and advice, making him late for a thousand appointments. At home with his wife, heíd say, ĎYou know, I met the most wonderful person today.í
Itís too hot to do much of anything. My shirt is sticking to my back just sitting in a chair. Iím trapped in my head. I need to take a long, cool swim in the sea away from all this confusion; a run in the rain Ė if only it would rain Ė and lose myself in each footfall. Every decision I make, I second-guess immediately and justify the path not taken. ĎThere is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.í Iíve been thinking far too much, weighing up each possibility and tying myself in knots. Itís too exhausting.
Sleepwalking through these stiflingly hot days, he canít seem to make a decision he can stick to. Continually offered options, he just says Ďyesí to without considering for a moment if itís something he actually wants to do. Now heís caught in the middle trying to pick the Ďrightí decision being painfully aware the whole time that such a comfort doesnít exist. That should be liberating. There are only decisions and we have no way of knowing which is the better choice. Itís a leap of faith. Why then, canít he shake the feeling that heís made the wrong decision?
Iíve found my crane. It stands tallest on the skyline from Canary Wharf like a Praying Mantis balanced on itís tail. Great red claws extend at regular intervals from the body and hug the conical building slowly taking shape before itís eyes. My elegant potter bent over her wheel. I trace my fingers over the blue fence that rings her abdomen as it brushes the ground beneath, tip-toe across the wooden boards lain, Jenga-like, over the foundations, and climb each scaled rung like a shiver up her backbone. My train enters the station and she slips out of view again.
ĎYou donít really know what you want yet.í
A statement delivered as a question to soften the perceived blow, I think. It was formed in relation to settling down, having children and getting a Ďrealí job.
ĎThere might come a point when you want a different sort of lifestyle.í
Another statement with a lilting inflection at the end. Another point for me to cow-tow to her way of thinking perhaps.
ĎAt a certain point you must abandon your dream.í
Is the implication but Iíve never considered this a dream; itís my job. The other things will follow too, in time.
Iíve got that longing for the Edinburgh pilgrimage once more. Arriving at Waverley Station and walking up the narrow streets, taking in the rich, bready smell of hops floating over the cobblestones. Brushing past fresh-faced university students, cradling hundreds of pristine flyers for their show (inevitably, ĎThe Picture of Dorian Grayí or a Hip-Hop ĎTwelfth Nightí) drunk on caffeine and Iron Bru. Finding all those special places from years gone by; the French cafe, the whiskey bar, the Cameo Cinema where we drank Port and lemonade. The magic lights-down moment in all the tiny make-shift black-box studio spaces. Encore. Bravo.
Perfect in a red dress and ankle boots, she ploughs through Covent Garden soaking up her sun and transforming it to laughter. Sheís a powerful alchemist turning rainy London days into weeks of balmy summer. Everything grows tall around her in shades of luscious greens and blues; all the magpies now travel in twos and sing long into the evening. Singing songs their parents taught them, winged down from beak to beak; the story of how they came to be. An ancient chorus of wonder and love into a careful low lament that hangs on the breeze like a warning.
Preparing myself to dance at your wedding. Preparing myself to smile. Iím preparing myself to walk away, once again, but it gets harder every time. ĎAll farewells should be sudden when forever, else they make an eternity of moments.í We had our chance at that and we chose, instead, to risk falling in love with our moments by rivers, on benches and beds. Linking arms and brushing fingers. Emptying our heads into one another and finding our reflections smiling back and laughing and laughing and laughing. Iím preparing myself to find laughter somewhere else for a while. Forever, your friend.
The Tip Jar