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Monthly Archives: December 2013

It’s nothing remarkable

like him if truth be told

nondescriptly uniform

brown leather

brass locks

just a briefcase

my Grandfather’s

battered and aged with time

like him

scarred and ruptured surfaces

like his skin

peeling away from seams

like his mind.

just a briefcase

locked with a combination

six numbers,

that spin and twirl in gold

six numbers,
 that once

I read in blue as he

dozed, unaware of me pulling up his sleeve

revealing

six faded numbers

etched into his skin.

For the past six months, the winding route home has taken us past a set of keys clinging to a fence post. A battered and faded heart hanging. Initially they were a puzzle. Who had lost them, did they even know they had been lost? Who was the altruistic hanger, hopeful of reuniting the pair? Then as time past, as lines cracked both wood and skin, the keys became an installation, a point of inspiration. A ritual that broke up the journey home. We would try to come up with a story each time we walked past those keys. For our youngest they became the means of entering the old haunted wooden house on the hill. Where treasure and pirates lurked amongst zombies and ghosts. For the eldest they were the means of opening a dimensional rift, created by a scientist escaping our reality. Lives and worlds were constructed and discussed, of unrequited love between a Juliet and her Romeo, a gang of nefarious bank robbers and their hidden loot, the sole means of accessing Heisenberg's meth lab and grabbing some blue. Then sometimes they were just simply keys with a heart-shaped keyring hanging underneath.

IMG_1649

The relationship that defined my college days was all deceit and denial, lust and hatred.

We ended up one summer going on holiday to Corfu, staying in one of those coastal towns denoted as existing by a dusty potholed road running through a haphazard collection of white buildings. A chaotic assortment of hotels, strip joints, bars and clubs.

The holiday rep warned us of many things, primarily avoiding drinking the local ouzo (‘it made a lad from Macclesfield go blind’) and renting scooters. Apparently the scooter’s bare exhausts had a tendency to burn skin off of sunburnt calves.

Within the hour of arriving we were plunging down that potholed avenue on a loudly blatting rental scooter. We must have been quite the sight, me holding onto her tightly with one arm, the other clutching a bright green inflatable alligator. Both of us wearing snorkel masks and tubes.

Bonnie and Clyde, I muttered in her ear as we negotiated a hair pin.

Just like B&C we had a belief that we were invulnerable, immortal, yet we were already on a downward trajectory. Commencing when we first met via a mutual adoration of class As and vodka and exacerbated by a cruise to an idyllic isle that lay across the azure sea. Somehow, on the way back, reality distorted by ouzo and sunshine I conspired to get sunstroke. As I stumbled from the yacht the world tilted, swimming around me, until I collapsed in a nearby. I awoke to find the hirsute owner applying natural yoghurt to my back, as I lay face down across a table. The love of my life nowhere to be seen.

An interesting scenario.

I made my way back to our room to discover her having a siesta. My annoyance contained by fatigue and the scent of simmering dairy products on my skin. I lay down beside her, watching the ceiling fan lazily stirring hot air. The familiar whine of a mosquito broke the oppressive silence that we were in.

‘Get rid of it’ she barked.

‘You get rid of it …’

‘No, you ….’

Resigned to having to deal with our intruder, I felt my sense of self zoom out, akin to an out-of-body-experience. I watched as my right hand reached down under the bed, retrieved a blue converse hi-top and lobbed it in a languid style at our intruder who had alighted on the glass part of the balcony door.

As the shoe tumbled en-route to its destiny, time slowed. Dirty laces twisting in the air, sunlight glinting off of metal eyelets, the converse star spinning.

Bang.

The sole of the converse hit the window with a thud, a perfect connection. As it fell to the floor the remains of my nemesis was smeared across the window caught in the diamond print left behind.

Then time sped back up.

As the shoe hit the floor, the window exploded outwards, spraying glittering shards over the balcony.

Fractured and destroyed.

The perfect metaphor for our relationship.

I’m not a religious person. I tried it once, when I was younger. It didn’t work out. Standing in a cold church, as an even colder man demanded that we all sing, kneel, clap, pray to someone who was apparently watching everything I did 24-7.

Big Brother and all that …. I mean a teenage boy had things to explore in private, so it was never going to work out. Not purely because of the surveillance issue, more because it lacked what I wanted. So, me and religion agreed to split up, move on, see other people/ideologies.

A very amicable separation.

I suppose you can call me an atheist, personally I don’t like the term. It implies that I am somehow lacking, that I am tinged with negativity, that I am anti something. The word fits me into a system of power in which I am cast as being without. For those with faith, enjoy it, glad the system works for you etc, I prefer my reality without the spectre of the inevitable damnation I would probably face.

Reality is all subjective as someone once said.

The reason for this entry was a conversation that I found myself engaged in today. One of those impromptu chats that sidle up to you without announcing themselves. My co-conversationalist and I were engaged in dissecting the merits of Arsenal’s tactical approach (football chat folks). At some point, much to my confusion, he brought religion into the conversation. Lamenting how, though religion had been a constant throughout his youth, his own offspring had no interest in going to church with him.

He then decried, with great conviction, that the fault was the ‘fashion of atheism’ that ‘atheists had made god irrelevant.’

I was surprised to be counted amongst any group that had made anything irrelevant? I mean, how could I as an atheist make the big-G anything if he is omnipresent, omniscience and omnipotent?

(I’ll ignore the dichotomy that exists within those terms by the way)

I suppose it was the certainty, the absolute confidence in his statement that provoked me into responding. Normally I would, at a point of conversational discomfort, adopt one of three tactics:

(a) Engage lightly.
(b) Back away, keys suddenly in hand, mentioning something about a, till now unmentioned, doctors appointment
(c) Let out an uncertain laugh, look up to the sky, tut, then shake my head in a knowing fashion. (the appeasing the mad approach)

So I answered his question with my own, pondering whether it wasn’t atheists to blame but those people who were of faith. Wasn’t it the followers themselves that had made their God irrelevant within society?

I continued, tentatively questioning why anyone would willingly want to believe in a deity who would permit their followers to, for example: demonise loving relationships due to sexual orientation, evoke religious faith as reason enough for acts of terrorism and war, demand people donate their life savings to prove their faith, conceal the abuse of children by the purest of his followers.

As the words left my mouth I felt my chest tighten, I hadn’t meant for them to tumble out like they did. Yet, he listened, then after a moment of contemplation he responded.

With an uncertain laugh, a shake of his head ….

… and a loud tut.

We walked, you and I, our footsteps echoes in the night. Walked, silent effigies holding hands. You spoke. I listened. You explained. I pleaded. We walked, you, I. Through pools of dirty light our gazes lingering on cracked tarmac underfoot. We stopped. The irony not lost. To be back under that streetlight. Whose glare had once illuminated, a boy kissing a girl. We stopped there for the longest time. Until your fingers slipped away. Your hand letting go of mine, I waited. Under that light. Till the echo of your steps were consumed by the dark. Photo mine taken of street art by My Dog Sighs 2012.

So 2013 was a fine year for, aside from the usual success and failures of life, I found myself signing my first publishing contract. Admittedly for a short dystopian fairy tale, not my first novel, but from such acorns something may well grow (climate change behaving). So in 2014, sometime in February, you can purchase an anthology by Fey Publishing entitled Happily Never After, in which my short story Thirst will feature.