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There was a rat in my room.
And people say I don't like a glamorous lifestyle.
It moved lethargically across the floor to under my bed, and has now seemingly disappeared.
I'm rather hoping that it never comes back. I hope that it somehow accidentally wandered in to my room , became confused, and has now returned to it's usual realm. Perhaps it will go back home and regale it's comrades with tales of mystery and woe, tragedy and adventure.
Perhaps its tales will propel it up to the dizzying heights of rat high society.
Perhaps it'll get laid.
'And then what happened?'
'Having struggled through the darkest of underpasses, I finally managed to see a light.'
'And then what happened?'
'Eyes blinking like a newborn, I thrust my head towards this wondrous source of energy and emerged to a new world.'
'And then what happened?'
'I had to take a moment to drink in the new surroundings. Brown. Hard. Authoritarian. It was like stepping in to a novel by George Orwell.'
'And then what happened?'
'Truth be told, I was overcome. I had to make my escape, for I new to stay would invite my won destruction.'
There is nothing better in this country than when the sun comes out.
Regardless of who you are, where you've come from, or what's happening in your life, everyone goes out to blind the world with their pale skin and regret it the next morning when their skin is peeling off like bad paint.
The young and the old, the liberal and the conservative. The gentle, the sleepy, the honest, the weepy. The sun plucks them up and drops them all outside.
Not the vampires, though. To be fair, they get every other day of the year.
So fuck them.
'Have you ever had that moment where you just feel like you need to unleash your energy in a wild, ferocious way? Where you just want to wrap your fingers around something until your knuckles are hot and aching and smash whatever you're holding against the floor until it's completely obliterated and there's blood running through your fingers and sweat is stabbing your eyes and you're panting so hard that your head feels light and the world is too bright and everything seems far too fragile?'
'Is that your excuse for breaking my mug?'
'I'm a wild animal. Don't judge.'
The art of mindfulness is not to necessarily focus your thoughts when they wander, but rather to understand and notice where your thoughts wander to.
It's about knowing what you're thinking, and then figuring out why. Realising why you're feeling the way you're feeling.
You can be surprised at your thoughts.
Take me, for example. During work, I realised that I had been spending hours staring at a spreadsheet without taking it in. Focusing on my thoughts, I realised my thoughts wondered how practical it would be to jump out of our 7th floor window to end my existence.
'Her name doesn't belong in your mouth.'
He knew it was possessive. He knew it made him sound like he owned her. But it was the only way he could possibly convey how terrible it was that they had uttered her name.
Her name wasn't them. It wasn't theirs to carelessly toss around, to roll of their tongue as if it was just some word.
Her name was special. Uttering it was the same as saying a prayer, or savouring wine, or writing that first sentence that's been burning in your chest.
Not everybody could just say it.
I'm sure you must have seen us around, down by the banks of the river that cuts through the city.
Muckrakers, they call us.
We wait until the river stars to recede and then run down to the exposed debris to gather up whatever we can find.
It's amazing what people throw away. What they lose. What gets swallowed up by the river and tenderly placed on the rocky banks.
Gold, jewels, lost dreams, last hopes, used condoms, sweet farewells, angry words. Final kisses, used up tears.
It truly is a magical place. Apart from the condoms.
They had decided to take refuge in one of the parks offered up by the city in what seemed to be a cruel parody of nature.
The whole park looked like it hadn't seen sunlight in months and was in desperate need of a watering. It looked like how people feel when their alarm goes off at 5:00 in the morning after not getting nearly enough sleep.
He stopped down and ran his fingers through the grass. It was dull brown, sharp, and crackled under his fingers.
'I miss grass. Real grass. Countryside grass. I miss the countryside.'
'So why don't you move out of the city? Go back to the country?'
Have you ever woken up and you don't know what time it is? You look out the window and you see the sun in the sky and you have on idea whether it's on the way up or on the way down? And just for a moment you're completely frozen, and it's terrifying because if you knew which way it was going, at least you'd know how to react.
He laughed at her suggestion, and that feeling rolled over her whole body.
'What do you mean?'
'You don't just move out of the city.'
He sat down on the ground, kicking the heels of his shoes in to the dirt.
'Not once you move here. The city doesn't let you go, once you're in. It wants you. It needs you. Like our body needs red blood cells. Or terrorists need hostages. You keep it breathing and pumping, working and growing and it will wring you dry and tear you out and grind you to dust but the one thing it won't do, it will never do, is let you go.'
He shrugged his shoulders.
'Hey, what do you think of this pickup line?'
'My heart is like a terrible drummer whenever I'm around you. It just keeps skipping a beat.'
'Truly, I have never heard anything more poetic.'
'Well what would you say?'
'Why can't you just introduce yourself?'
'Everyone does that! You need to stand out. It's like an interview, right? It's not a natural interaction, you prepare constantly for it until you already know how the conversation will basically go.'
'They say romance is dead.'
'I didn't kill it.'
'But you are feasting on the remains of its rotting corpse.'
I was very proud of the sky today. It took me ages to paint.
I enjoy my work, although it's difficult constantly coming up with new sky patterns.
Can you let you in to a trade secret?
I don't. I don't always come up with new ideas.
I know. It sounds preposterous. But most of the time I use the same basic idea and add a few extra motifs to change it up a little.
Sometimes, though, I spend ages on something new. Like tonight.
Look at those pinks. The deep orange. The gradient to blue.
It's pretty good.
I've got a tight grip on reality.
So tight that I'm never going to let it go. I can feel it squiggling around in my hands, squirming and kicking and screaming but I'm not going to let it go.
Can you imagine what would happen if I let it go? There would be chaos. We can't just let reality run around without any oversight. Someone needs to be in charge, and I've decided that it should be me.
You're all welcome. This would be a terrible burden on most of you.
I've still got it in my hands. Still gripping.
'Do you ever get stuck? You know where you have a desire to do something but no will to do it? So you just lie there, desperate to get up, determined not to, hating yourself?'
'I think that happens to quite a few people, really.'
'How do you deal with it?'
'I think you just have to accept that sometimes you won't be able to do everything you want to do. And that's okay. You should celebrate the small victories that you have rather than berating yourself for your understandable failures.'
'Can I do both?'
'I don't see why not.'
'Do you ever wonder about things?'
'Some things. What are you wondering about?'
'What it would be like if aliens took us as pets. You know. Like neutered us and put us on a lead and made us perform and shit.'
'Yeah, right? But we do that to animals here.'
'Maybe aliens don't have a concept of pets. Maybe they come down here and they get really surprised that we have pets. They just can't understand it.'
'I guess that's a possibility.'
'What else do you think aliens might be weirded out by?'
'Probably cheese, I guess?'
I got stuck today. Very stuck.
I came home, clambered in to bed fully clothed, pulled the sheets over myself and I got stuck.
I couldn't move. I couldn't eat. Blink. Breathe. Think. I wanted to move do badly, but there was no spark of electricity to get me going. Nothing to light up my neurons.
I just got stuck. I think I know why I got stuck.
I got laughed at, today. Right in my face. Someone laughed right in my face, so I came home and I got stuck.
I hope I don't get stuck tomorrow.
I get nervous going to new places.
My anxiety generally stems not strictly from the fact that the place id new, but that I'm not entirely sure about how to get there. Especially if I need to be there by a particular time.
I'll feverishly keep updating google maps to see the path I need to take and how long it will take me, factoring in at least another 10 minutes just in case I get lost or get stuck at a traffic light or something.
I know it sounds like a petty thing to worry about, but I do.
I have to go somewhere new, tomorrow.
I'm anxious, but not for the usual reasons. Well, not exactly the usual reasons.
I typed in the address of the building in to google maps. My computer whirred horrendously, flickered between black, white, and a menacing red colour on the screen before finally settling down.
Mildly concerned, I checked to see how long it was going to take me to get there.
It told me 29 days.
Which was concerning, because from what I could tell, my destination was only half a mile away from where I lived.
29 days seemed excessive.
The journey took me 29 days.
I was so busy staring at my phone as I left my house that I failed to look both ways as I crossed the street.
I was hit by a car and ended up in hospital for 19 days. Then another 9 days to rearrange the meeting. Then off to it the next day.
I don't know how it managed to get the time right. I mean, to the day. It's slightly worrying.
To test it, I put in another address. Entirely at random.
It told me 17 years and a day.
'You shouldn't swim in that river.'
'Well, you have to give an offering to the spirit who looks after the river before you can swim in it. Just in case they pull you down under the water and keep you as a pet.'
'What sort of offering do you have to give?'
'They all want different things. You have to go over to the river and ask.'
'How do you ask?'
'Just go up to the water, lean down, and kiss the water. Then you ask what the spirit wants and it'll show you.'
'It's that simple?'
It was a warm day, and he really wanted to swim. He was pretty sure that there wasn't a spirit in the river, but she spun nice stories and he was sure that she would appreciate it if he played along.
With a stretch that would envy a cat he rolled on to his front and pushed himself up to his legs before wandering over to the river.
Fingers digging into the dirt of the bank, he lent down and carefully placed his lips against the water.
'Oh spirit of the river.' He intoned solemnly. 'What do you want?'
She liked telling him stories because he always went along with them.
It didn't matter what is was she said. She'd told him in the past that if you pulled the petals off of a flower it would start crying, and its tears would taste sweet.
He had immediately grabbed the nearest flower and started miming licking the stem. He'd then mimed smacking his lips and then pulled a disturbed face.
'As tasty as it was, I'm not sure it's worth it. I don't like seeing things cry.'
That's what he said. She was constantly enamoured by him.
My mother used to say that a cluttered room was the sign of a cluttered mind.
It doesn't bode well for my mind.
There are clothes everywhere. Magazines on the ground. A multitude of coffee cups, a piano, empty bottles. A hot beer. A 'make your own pesto kit'. A whole stack of cardboard boxes.
There's some blood running down the walls. A strange moaning from underneath the floorboards. A strange, red throbbing multi-circular symbol on the ceiling.
I don't know what this says about my mind. But I'm sure that's it's ultimately fine. No need to worry.
Oliver had never really understood music. To his untrained ear he couldn't distinguish between a symphony or a synthesizer. Every piece sounded like Ulysses had been written.
But he understood that it must have come from somewhere. Music must have had an origin, a genesis. A first note.
And if he found the first note, maybe he could finally find out what all the fuss was about.
Why people liked listening to it.
Why she liked listening to it.
How you could possibly dance to it.
How you might be able to dance with someone to it.
She took a step in to the water and her body shuddered at the cold. It was a sharp day, with the colours in the forest so crisp that it felt like they crunched under your eyes.
After a quick round of gasping, her legs settled against the cold and she turned around to grin.
Her grin was infectious, in that the joy of it quickly spread across her face and body, made her tense up as if her body was crammed to bursting with happiness.
At least, that's what he hoped.
It was a grin that demanded a reply.
He replied with a grin of his own and took a picture of her.
Unlike most pictures, it managed to perfectly capture her.
She didn't have time for photos. Not right now. As soon as he had satisfied himself, she pushed further into the river, crying out with a giggle whenever her foot slipped on a rock.
He took his time rolling up his jeans as her laugh and the gurgle of the river mixed together until it was impossible to tell the two apart.
And still she pushed on, utterly determined. Nothing could possibly stop her.
'And then what happened?'
'Well, she became the river spirit didn't she?'
'Yeah, I could see it was going that way. But how did she become the river spirit?'
'I don't know. I haven't figured that part out yet.'
'And what happened to him? Did he become a river spirit, too?'
'Yeah I think so. I think they're river spirits together. Like, they have to be. If she became a river spirit, he would. He loved her.'
'So he couldn't just leave her.'
'So they're both in love.'
'Obviously! That's why you have to kiss the river.'
I love thinking about how fragile my body is. There are so many things that need to be working correctly to keep me going.
Like my heart, for instance. If that stops beating, no more moving of blood, not more oxygen to my brain, no more thoughts.
Or my stomach. No digestion and I get no nutrients, non energy to keep my body moving.
With bad white blood cells I'd be completely riddled with terrible diseases.
And if you weren't there? Well, then my body really would be entirely broken. It wouldn't be able to work at all.
'Do you ever get a really human moment? Where you hear or see something and for whatever reason it triggers something that you're unable to name or understand and you just have to sit there with tears in your eyes and your skin prickling hot and your brain whirling like an old computer.
And you don't know why you're like that, but ultimately you have to accept that you're experiencing a raw, intense emotion that you have no control over. You can only sit there and wait. Wait and hope it ends.'
'...so you had a good day, then?
You ever get those intrusive thoughts? That just pop and squiggle into your head despite that fact that nothing has happened to trigger them.
They manage to push your other thoughts out of your brain like a a plough pushing through snow, or a rock pushing its way down a mountain to create a rockslide.
They fill and expand and take up the whole of your bandwidth and then slide down over your eyes and ears and then that's all you have, just this intrusive thought that's taken you over completely.
I think about you a lot. Sometimes on purpose.
The rat has gone.
I think, at least. I haven't heard him in a while. No more little scratching scrabbles in the corner of the room. No more rustling against plastic bags. No more surprised squeaks as he accidentally sets of the rat trap and the door comes slamming shut.
I wonder if he's found somewhere better? A new adventure and new food and smells and sights.
I hope he makes it, wherever he is. I hope he gets new stories to tell. I hope he uses those new stories to get laid.
Goodbye Percy. You'll always be remembered.
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