Thursday, 8 November 2007
I wanted to take the images further, everyone brings their own ideas to an image. Every picture tells a story, sometimes the story is not what was meant. I started with an image then developed a narrative to fit. These short openings are ideas, narratives, fiction born out of things I see, imagine, sometimes think about, sometimes wonder what could have been. Situations glimpsed though never realised, the images lead, but mostly they're tips of icebergs, ideas just drifting through. Each piece, the preface page of the novel I will never write, the words I never said.
Stories, lives, situations, turnings inside out.
This is not autobiography, just imagination a projected life yet to be both lived and not lived. Don't assume what I write is fact, if you recognise yourself you have a vivid imagination. These are opening lines, what could be rather than what has been.
It was a quiet, a dim-lit, middle-class road. He could see the window from the gate. He was toying with the idea of taking random photographs. Why not he thought, he'd drifted away from the magazine work, not so much drifted as was dropped. Funny how people react to a breakdown.
He'd run out of ideas, lost his MOJO, not just subjects but everyday things just didn’t interest him.
He'd lost faith.
Starting to look for more random subjects, anything to get him back into proper work, a normal life. Hitchcock was just another starting point. Remembering the film, Rear Window, it epitomised the act of seeing, observing, watching, almost stalking unobserved. Maybe this was a possible way back to work.
The private lives of others as voyeuristic entertainment was almost pornographic, he felt excitement for the first time in a long while. The voyeur can watch, it becomes inimate entertainment he thought. When does an innocent glance become an obsession.
Drawn into a cinematic world where privacy rights were assumed, in the real world he was just another peeping tom.
It started as a random event, watching, shooting. The subjects unrecognisable, he knowingly took their souls without consent. Starting with random passers by, people in parks, watched and recorded, every movement, every detail. Then on a dim-lit evening, by chance, he saw them. A chance encounter, a random moment of serendipity. At first he just watched their everyday lives, a couple engaged in intimate conversations.
He became addicted to the unknown narrative unfolding before him, watching more often, becoming an unknown intimate stranger in their world.
After a few weeks his subjects nightime conversations turned to sour argument, more regular, more agitated. He fed on their corrosive rows, enjoying every nuance and tear, he was truly fascinated, drawn in, held, hooked.
The arguments became more frequent as did his nightly clandestine visits. They were constantly arguing about something, he couldn't hear. She was in tears, what had the guy done to upset her? What was she crying about? He constructed his own story to fit with what he could see through his lens. Maybe the guy was ending, confessing or excusing something. Whatever it was, she was upset, he was pleading, being watched uninvited all the time.
At times he wondered what right did he have to capture this.
Drawn into an unfolding story contemplating alternative scenarios of what would happen next. They started to sit apart, drift apart, their lives falling apart before him nightly. He wanted them to fail. She was angry, the guy was sorry.
He wondered how many times their words had been spoken before, wondering if she knew about the other woman or if the other woman knew about her.
He'd seen the other woman sat in the room, watched her car pull up when the coast was clear. His lens had caught them kissing, holding, loving, fucking on the bare floor. They never argued, just fucked all the time. He found it ironic and wanted to send them all copies of his stolen sight, his own remote viewing. Watching was enough, gave him the moral high ground, made him complete. Like a God ever omnipresent, knowing everything and telling no one. It gave him back his sense of perspective, his self worth, his understanding, his sense of being.
When they broke up, the guy quickly moved the other woman in. He stopped watching. What was the point, he'd seen everything. Who cared about this petty affair, it was just another minor sordid domestic. He felt for the woman, the one left behind, the cheated partner. He felt guilt, maybe should have warned her but it was too late, damage done. Anyway, she would have shot the messenger.
He was just another peeping tom, breaking unwanted into private misery. The damage was done, he stood by, he did nothing, what could he do anyway?
The trip was long, sixteen hours too long. The seats were uncomfortable, he couldn’t sleep, but managed to squeeze down under the seat rails where the dust and dirt of a million footsteps left their trace, drifting off to the drone of bus wheels rapping on tarmac. The bus stopped occasionally to pick up and set down, this was the cheap end of the travel market and like cattle people hoarded, pushed, crammed into the truck. Moments of clarity and then loss punctuated his journey along with a couple of rest stops to eat in 1950’s diners complete with plastic chairs and food. He thought about home and almost woke up back there but the sharpened reality of his situation brought him round. He was on the hard moving floor of a bus, sucking up dust and dirt, his face pressed hard to the dirty carpet, longing for rest and more sleep.
The Pacific Highway is not so much a road, more a backwater track in places. It was dark outside and only the Southern star lit the way. The sun slipped in to replace stars to set alight the countryside. Fuck, it looked like South Wales, he thought. But this was New.
The transport arrived, along with others and he wondered if this was what Belson looked like early morning. Bags and lost souls looking for a destination, but he had arrived, this was it. A lay-by beside a wooden bus stop, a road bordered by a couple of bars, a train station. To the left a group of dispossessed fucked up locals under the shade of a big tree. They had seen this spectacle before and looked on with drunken, knowing eyes. They watched as some hippy freak try and separate the innocent from their bags in all the confusion. This was Byron, home to dispossessed hippies and shysters, he had truly arrived.
Within a few minutes most of the travellers had decanted to places called “The Factory” or some other refuge for homeless travelling gap year students on Mum and Dads payroll. Then he was alone, quite alone and bird song returned to replace the noise of coaches. It was almost silent, almost peaceful, almost back there, almost home.
It was too early to call, with no idea where Mat lived, all he had was a number and a shop address. So, he decided to just grab some sleep, where he had fallen. In Sydney a girl in a bar called him a feral Englishman, due to his tan and lack of conspicuous travel adornments like baggage, but he had enough emotional baggage for a longer trip. In Byron he just fitted in. A guy off a newly arrived coach asked him for directions and if he had any drugs for sale. Yep…. Fuck and thank you kindly very much, he thought, within two hours he was no longer visible. Even the local drunken tree dwellers let him be, his transformation from person to nobody, from lover to unloved was complete, people just stepped over him. He was strangely adapting to being no one.
By mid day, making new friends, he found where the best air conditioning could be had in the doorway of “Woolworth’s” and even found Matty’s shop. He hadn’t seen Mat for five long years. Fuck had he changed. Matts' Dad asked him to find his son, to look him up and make sure he was ok. Matt didn’t need any help; he was doing just fine. By early evening they had surfed Tallows together and snapped a fin. Back to the farm for repairs, big fucking joints and big fucking spiders, ending the day with hard-earned sleep on a hardened floor with only cane toads for company. This was as good as it was going to get.
Matt shared the farm with an array of surf bums, as day broke, all travelled to Watego’s for the dawn patrol. The day was spent on hot sand watching “Touros” burn. Australians add “i” or “o” to everything, so everything or one is called Jonno, Simmo or something similar. He spent the Arvo in the sun; He admired the simplicity of language, sentences broken down to basic words and why not. Who needed to talk shit, it was way too hot for conversation.
By evening a pattern was emerging. More joints and getting stoned on the veranda after the dusk patrol, sleep then dawn patrol, then waste the day. This was going to last another three weeks but right now, seamed longer by about three lifetimes. By week three he would have forgotten who he was, let alone where he had travelled. He had found rest but knew it was short lived. Sydney and another board waited. Hot nights, distant sunsets and more home grown filled his time. This was so laid back, getting back up was going to be a problem. He didn’t care, it felt good, safe, blurred and that was the reason for the trip, to forget about a past life, bury the hurting and sense of loss that consumed his every waking moment.
The farm had tank water, a resident Brown Snake in the outside dunny, wild bananas and a long walk to town. There were no neighbours, just open grassland and sheep to pass the time of day. This was a momeneto mori of how the outback was tamed, by farms and sheep just waiting for nothing to happen. He thought about where to go next and even of not going anywhere, just lay down with the sheep, chill and let the place take his soul but he had to leave sometime. Everything must have an end.
His plan was to fly to Bangkok then overland to Cambodia Laos and Vietnam but Bird Flu fucked up any ideas. So, he had to get back to the Quantas office in Elizabeth Street to juggle flights. It was going to be easier to do in Oz than in some fucked up Touro office in Asia and shit loads cheaper. Anyhow the New Year becoming old and there were friends at the Rocks to meet.
The last week in Byron, he found Parks who was old and a bit lame, met Greenough surfing a mat with fish bait attached overlooking Julien rocks looking like shark bait. Swam with a couple of 4 metre Tigers that scared him shitless, some more brown snakes and other poisonous things that just wanted to fuck his day. He bought a train ticket back and headed south again. “Fuck coaches”, he thought.
It was the first time in months he had headed back to somewhere. He knew this was a turning point, from now on it was one way and that way was back, but he no longer knew where back was, it was just a distant memory but it was growing every moment of the day. Back meant home, but home to what. They say, if you look for something you never find it. He was looking for the reason he walked away.
When he started to sweep the yard; the sun was nearly up. It was kind of peaceful this early, only birdsong for company but for the last three years birdsong was all he had. There was something comforting about that blue light before dawn; he remembered the times he sat up feeding their son as she grabbed some sleep. There was a time they would share the blue light together, when they were in love and nothing mattered, but those times were gone. He swept the yard every morning, sometimes he swept his neighbours but they never seemed to notice, he did it anyway. The sun started to rise and he recalled the sound of waves gently wrapping on a concrete shore. They were out on a first date, she was with a new guy, they didn’t see him as he left their bar, it was nearly dark almost that blue light. He often thought about what they should have talked about; getting to know each other, flirting as he and she once had. First dates, best behaviour, trying to impress, falling in love again and again. How many guys had she fallen in love with since him? He swept some more, brushing away the past. He hadn’t gone down that route, how could he, she was still in his head, he couldn’t just move on, his vows meant something. A promise he kept even though the bargain had been long forgotten. Some say a divorce is like bereavement but without the burial, you keep seeing the dead rise up and hurt you all the more by moving on without you. He swept the sand some more.
He remembered the words, the smiles, the eye contact, holding hands happier times, but he remembered the hurt and things said that could never be taken back by either of them even if they wanted too, the damage had been cast. “You will end up sad and alone” she had told him, “with no family”. She had seen to that by restricting his access, an unkind way of winning control in a pointless fight with no winners, he missed his son. He pondered the idea for a while put it to the back of his mind with all the other unhappy memories and carried on sweeping the yard. No one thinks about dying, he thought why should she be concerned about his solitude at the point of being no more. It was a curious thing for her to say but her intention hit home hard like a poison arrow every morning he swept the sand. You expect company on your death bed, your family, friends, partner to wish you off, hold your hand, make it right as you leave for another place. He wondered about dying right there right then but who would even notice, not his neighbours they didn’t even notice he swept their sand. Maybe that’s what she meant, a prediction not a threat.
Maybe that was the point of it all, just like sand being constantly swept away, forgotten, no point at all. You live, you love, and you die. The sun was up, the sand swept for another day; he wondered what she was doing. He missed the memory of her, he missed their shared blue light but he didn't miss who she had become. The sun was up; it was just another day. The sand was different today he thought, maybe he had moved on but no one noticed. Why should they? In all the sand his story was just another grain, swept away, and lost.
He had a new life, someone new, someone to share a new blue light with but from time to time he still missed her, mostly when he was sweeping the yard in the early light, everything was different then.
He met her by chance; neither of them was looking for anything more than the close of another day. A gas station isn’t the right place to meet someone, a person to question your life, he looked at her every curve as she gassed up her car. She was younger than he, nothing special but she had something about her he couldn’t quite explain. He said Hi and they started one of those random conversations only strangers can have. Both of them had given up trawling bars for the one, “all you find are idiots” he said as they talked across their cars. “You come here often” he added. She gave him a scornful stare but tinged it with a smile. “No, it’s my first time; I’m a gas station virgin” she said. As they paid he asked her for her number, and why not, he had nothing to loose. Even if they never saw each other again something about her had caught his attention. She didn’t give him her number, “I have a partner” and “I don’t think so”, was all she could say. As she drove away he sat for a while and wondered what could have been, he felt cold and small. It’s time I found someone decent, he thought, someone like her, there are only so many nights you can spend alone. He watched her taillights disappear into the rain, she was gone, he was alone again.
He gassed up at the same station for three weeks in the hope he might just catch sight of her but she never showed. A couple of months passed, the rain gave way to cold mornings and the evenings grew dark before he left work. He didn’t use that gas station any more; he found a cheaper one up past the interstate. One day drifted into another, he had seen too many winters going home to a cat for company. He tried night school, art classes, even yoga in the hope of finding company, a person to talk to, share a life with. It was never this tough when I was younger he thought, everything was so simple then. He’d dated a few women, but felt everso slightly let down at his own performance, his lack of social skills. What’s the point if there’s no passion, no love? He remembered his ex-wife; he tried to remember their time, he imagined their love making again, her taste, her scent, her touch but he couldn’t see her face. It was a long time ago, he never thought he would forget her face.
The winter months warmed to spring, by chance he missed the interstate turning and had to gas up at the old garage. He didn’t notice her car as he pulled in, or when he was filling up his car as she passed by. He went in to pay the cashier, even passed her, but failed to see her. He paid and went back to his car. There was something stuck to his screen under the wiper. The note read, If you remember me, my number is 555 98742, I’m single now. He read it slowly and tried to remember the girl who had caught his attention so many months before but he couldn’t see her face. He drove away, he screwed up the note.
It was the kind of morning that lasted all day, just grey, no sun, no life. After a lot of talking she suggested he move out, take some time away, give them both some space. “Stupid mouth” he thought. He found a place within his income, he didn’t have much to spare, didn’t want to share. He rented somewhere on his own, a place to reflect, make important decisions, a place where he could find himself again. “It’s only temporary” he told her, “once we have things sorted, once we’ve had some room to think, we can sort things out”. It was only going to be temporary anyway, he thought, she just agreed. He remembered faint dark tracks, tears on her face, eyeliner smeared and blotched following every wrinkle, they both did a lot of crying that day. He remembered the gloom lasting. His new place was basic; it was all he could afford, not forever. He never met his neighbours moving in or when he left for a larger apartment.
They spoke from time to time, argued about blame but never solved anything. The calls grew further apart, he didn’t want it that way, it just happened like that. When he heard she had met someone else he knew it was over. “Shame she didn’t have the decency to tell me” he wondered what the new guy had that he didn’t. The way she felt about him had changed.
His new apartment was clean but wasn’t a home, something was constantly missing, he never worked out what it was and just assumed it was a female touch. He filled the spaces, made it feel like home, but four walls are hard to make right when all about seemed so wrong. He wondered if he was living a life, he wondered if he had done the right thing but it was too late now. She was comfortable, safe, an old friend, but she had new friends now. He tried to remember all the things they had done together but started to forget. After a while he forgot more than he could remember. It was comfortable but comfortable lost. He felt empty for a long time, “stupid mouth” he sometimes thought. He never told her how much he ached, how much he missed her. Maybe he could have made it different, done something good, “but life’s like that” he thought, "time moves on".
Sunny morning in a park, one of a thousand parks, one of a thousand sunny mornings. The sun shines, the breeze gently pushes leaves about grass, two Dads play football at either end. Two Dads enjoying brief glimpses of stolen time, all the courts will allow, set out what’s best for all. The current new man gets more time, shares lost birthdays, Christmas mornings but no love invested, inconvenient truths. Fathers and sons, the cycle repeated in one of a thousand parks, on one of a thousand sunny mornings, one of a thousand broken dreams of family. Two Dads share brief words, sum up their hopes, fears and despairs.
“How old’s your boy, mine’s six, I get to see him every other weekend, she has him the rest of the time”.
“I see my son every Saturday, he’s five, his Mother and I don’t speak any more, it’s better that way”.
They play the game, cram as much in a few hours that most would find hard to do, make use of every precious moment save it be lost. So much said in so few words in so little time, so many inconvenient truths left unsaid.
It was early; only silence heard, she was asleep, this dysfunctional friend.
“It’s funny how you meet someone”, he thought. “Think it will work, be everything you want, yearn for, wish for, be the one”. But, and this is the big but…… he knew deep inside this was not him, everybody hurts.
“You end up compromising, do anything but be honest”. “The sex is good, somehow not like the others, how many have cum and gone”, he thought a while, she was asleep now. He looked at her, the curve of her back, bare, soft, warm in the grey light.
“Was this about as good as it was going to get…. just ok. He was going through the motions, doing what was expected but no connection…. What started as lust soon drifted into just sex, literally filling a void, doing what’s expected, being alive but somehow dead at the same time.
“I’m lying to myself”, wanking at 4am, glad you're not here.
“Convincing no one, it can't work out, inside not happy, not content, not right”.
He glanced at her soft naked back again, he wanted her but not enough, her own issues clouded his vision.
“What am I looking for, desire, needs, a lust for the life”. She was smart, pretty, loving, dysfunctional.
“No… it’s just sex, the beast with two backs”, a shallow remnant for what he wanted, enjoyed, wished for but missing all the same. He'd compromised, thought it could somehow work out, be everything he wanted. Then it hit home.
“This was not love… it’s a form of deceit, a shallow excuse, hanging on, do anything but be truthful”.
He wondered how long it would take to be happy, secure, want and be wanted, find another, hope for the best. Love and life is just a lottery, why had he picked so many wrong numbers. It’s just a matter of time till his lucky number came up.
She was asleep, unaware, but he knew she suspected. They had talked, insecure but not looking for commitment just a sign that he really wanted her, she never said as much but he could tell from the way she looked at him. He didn’t want to hurt her but he was and he knew she would be upset. He didn’t want to hurt her. She would move on, be dysfunctional with someone else.
He knew her questions before any breath was spent.
“How could you, be inside me, with me, loving me, not want me”.
He’d played out endless scenarios to answer her questions but had yet to find a reason. He knew her grief would turn to anger, accusation, argument, he knew her next question.
“You’ve met someone else”.
He wished that he had, another to excuse his guilt but he didn’t love her, he never had and never could.
"Dry your eyes", all he could offer.
Why be so afraid to tell? People move on, love again, find happiness, find something, anything even more hurt.
He looked at her in the half-light, wished it was the last time. He left the room, she didn’t wake, could almost see her face pressed to the sheets, asleep, no longer content. Tomorrow he would explain as best he could, be honest with her, with himself. But, tonight would be cruel. Let her dream, sleep with a ghost, lie there soft, grey. Tomorrow was another day, another excuse to put off how he felt, put of the hurting he knew would come.
It's easier to lie to himself one more time, everybody hurts sometimes.
American towns blur into each other, melting into one big fat laden chunk of gristle; they all become the same place. Constant drifting, moving up, moving down, takes a heavy toll. The Pony Express frontage just a glance above the real estate offices and Burger joints. Every small town, same outlets, where general stores once served cowboys guns, farmers and alike now served fat food for fat people who all owned their own gun. God Bless America, land of the free, God Bless capitalism, we can all grow fat of it’s land. Not much had changed since Hunters road trip to the underbelly of the American way of life; it was still a lame fuck around but had grown old and fat on excess consumption. Hunter could see it coming, he even warned us but no one took any notice, why should they, his trip was fuelled on drugs and misunderstanding, they guy was a nut, freeloader, freak, rebel, enough said.
So what was I doing, cast adrift with this ship of fools an Englishman abroad.
I was drifting, passing through, taking it in but somehow not. That’s the benefit of being an illegal alien, not fitting in, somehow not being American. I could look, observe, judge but be apart. America a diverse nation, a hotchpotch of mixed up quadroons, the land of opportunity, the land of difference. But all that history was just another lame fuck around, it had all boiled down to retail outlets looking the same, one town melting into another, where had all that difference gone?
I was selling advertising space for a magazine, just mention crippled kids and the Yanks nearly broke fingers getting their hands into their pockets to dish out their hard-earned cash. Americans love winners, they love charity at home a damn site more, restores their sense of righteousness, gives them meaning in a land where meaning is no more than the next advertising hoarding strung highway. The magazine was real, I was the fake, money eased my passage to the next town. Grifting my way across the good old U S of A and the good old U S of A was picking up the tab. Like Hunter, I was searching for something, meaning, truths. But I was just fucking around.
Yanks prize their first earned dollars, they frame them and proudly hang them up. I still have the first dollar I grifted, not framed but prized all the same. American towns blur into each other, melting into one, they all become the same place, another touch, a place to deceive, a place to forget. It’s not as if I was bad as a kid, I have morals, my own moral code if you like. The little I can remember of my childhood punctuated by regular beatings for no reason, having a violent father no excuse, just fact when you don’t know any different. So, where did it all start, lying to get what you want? Survival, dog eat dog and all that?
No…. deceiving others as a child meant one less smack in the mouth, one less strap of the belt, one less kicking a five year old had to endure, no remorse, no feeling, no guilt, like the beatings my answer to survival had become second nature. I guess I owe my father a lot, his violent outbursts moulded me into this, no feeling, no cares, just constantly running away by any means to avoid the reality of hurt, to avoid another beating. Running away started at sixteen, grifting was the logical route to get by, I never saw my father again, I heard he died, I was glad at the time but with age I had come to forgive his sins, feel remorse for my own lacking and understanding, I miss him. He never realised his drunken rages could have such an effect, all those small town people giving up their hard earned cash to a grifter passing through. I did anything to avoid becoming my father’s son, drunk, angry misfit, selfish loner. But here I was, still running away after all these years, still one step ahead, one town away from jail, one less smack in the mouth away from my fathers sins, I hadn’t got away at all.
SIX AND NINE
He remembered, the weekend shots felt somehow second hand. Looked good enough at the time, caught the light just right, composition worked. Unsure if he’d caught a fleeting glimpse or something wished through his lens. Lost imagination, lost faith, lost honesty, or just lost.
“How come I still get it so very wrong every time”, he'd asked himself. “The pictures worked well enough then but something was missing, not quite right, not complete”. “Maybe I get into things, too easily, wishing for a broken clock to tell the time again”, he had a habit of analysing everything too much. “That’s the problem with constantly searching for something you desire, think you’ve found it but chimera like, somehow slips away, not up to scratch, never quite good enough”.
The shared weekends, early hours, didn’t help. Analysing too much again, looking for reason, reassurance, a sign, back on track, regular, expected. With her, in her wanted company, intimate, close but distant all the same.
Step back, rewind time, take in what she had said. Focus, he couldn't find reason to believe. Doubts, coldness, an ice fingered touch was ever there in frame, missed most. It's the little details that count, small truths mean the most. An unhealthy obsession with her best friends husband, obsessed with herself more. Pucker up, re-write the past, lie down with a dog, catch fleas. He'd been here before.
She'd confided, but it wasn’t what he wanted or expected. She was playing games with another. Shared much, talked little, he should have seen the tell-tale signs.
He could see them now.
Selfish, emotionally tied, an invisible bond of self-absorbed guilt fixed her to her wasted past, now everyone had to pay. Not his fault or reason to be treated with cold duplicity. He tried to understand, justify his part in her story as it unfolded. All she could offer, "I'm a cold bitch", her way to justify everything past, present and yet to come. He felt bruised, somehow left behind. This ones' poison come undone, best forget, let the next willing fool fall into this ever-so sweet honey trap.
Clock, ticking. Yearned for family, more fantasy than untruth. Sure-fire warning bells. She wanted everything, but nothing was going to be given away, all on her terms, all or nothing. He wanted honesty, what he saw in the photos, captured lost moments in time when so much was shared but too little known. Her breath, heartbeat, take-away burden, fix the broken clock, make it right, mistakenly think what was said was diamond crystal true only to be told, another fool in waiting.
Looking at the photos again, every guy was there, in frame, invisible but present, with their own cheated pasts, cheating, coveting the one he thought above it all. "Put it down to seeing too little, wanting too much, emotions played, the jaded fool", deserving better odds, maybe just deserving better this time round.
"But I want us to be friends", her guilt-edged eased remarks, slipped softly with intent. "You inspire me", so obviously not he thought. Shallow shelf-life tokens explaining so little, dropped for anyone to satisfy selfish need. How many will come and go? No reason other than satisfy, ease, justify, just another fucker, just another fuck.
"One day I'll meet someone I want to be with, they will do to me what I have done to others". Feeble excuses tripped from her pretty little mouth justifying everything. Slipped so easily along with so many words lost. He wondered if her turn would truly come, he wished it would.
Another sucker, selfish, unkind, limited love, emotions lost. Every me, every self made fool. No ones place to explain or reason to be damned, this half-life muse, inspired, all wrong, a precious gift, giving focus, to see right from so very wrong.
No contempt, no remorse, no guilt, dignity intact. If anything a sad joke with no punchline other than sorry. He remembered the weekend shots, somehow feeling secondhand. He saw her from time to time, going about her business. She lived next door, he had no choice. They never spoke again, he couldn't think of anything to say, she had run out of excuses, lacked the courage to apologise, strangers again.
His six indeed turned out to be no more than just another nine. Life does that sometimes, a dog is a dog no mater how you dress it up.
Who gives a fuck anyway, it's a numbers game after all.
He looked at the weekend's shots, felt somehow second hand. Bruised, used yet still amused. Even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day, maybe his timing wasn't right, maybe next time.
WHAT DO YOU FANCY TO DRINK FOR CHRISTMAS?
“What do you fancy to drink for Christmas” He paused a while waiting for last years reply. It was the same answer every year complete with ordained question as regular and expected as the Queens speech. He wondered what the Queen had to drink at Christmas.
“Bet she’d have Scotch”.
Scotch is the worlds biggest selling spirit at Christmas, he’d read it somewhere.
“We could get a bottle of that Irish drink you like, the real stuff, not the cheap one, yes that’s it, Irish Cream, yes Irish Cream and…… and”, a second sucking momentary pause…….… “And a bottle of Scotch”.
The words spilled out as if filling his imaginary glass, smooth over ice, on the rocks, a mixer, neat. How he missed his life, how he missed the smoothness of fire water tingling lips and tongue. His voice faltered, spluttering words “and a bottle of Scotch” like he both said it and didn’t say it at the same time, just subliminal he thought, she wouldn’t notice. She didn’t miss it though, he knew he was defeated.
“Whadaya want Scotch for”, her whining accusing voice, spiteful, cat-like. “You don’t drink Scotch”.
Almost pleading, “It’s Christmas, I only drink it at Christmas” but he’d lost before he’d begun. No one else in the store noticed, he emptied the shopping basket, defeated, put down, lost again, how did it get to this, why couldn’t he argue, fight his own corner….. just this once.
“I thought we could have a bottle of Scotch at Christmas that’s all”.
“We…… we……..You thought wrong Mister” judgement passed, he was just another dead man walking, sober sucking mouthful, cold air.
He’d learnt the futility of argument long before, how many Christmases had come and gone, how many other bottles of Scotch had he wished for, lost, never to feel the burn of mouth with spirit. He emptied the last few items from the shopping basket, her beady unforgiving eyes scowling, pursed like her small mean mouth,
“Scotch indeed, you think your gonna sit there drunk on Scotch Mister, while I do all the work, she’s my Mother not yours, you just play the entertainer and a sober one at that”.
It was the same routine every year, her Mother came down, spent the festive break bemoaning and complaining she had no Grandchildren to spoil. Poisonous arrows hitting home with barbed precision, every opportunity a slight pinpointed directly at his groin. Two women drawn, entrenched defenses, neither prepared to offer quarter back down or show remorse. Each hurt, each hurting in their own perverse way, each looking to hurt.
“Entertainer indeed” he thought, “morelike referee to two acrimonious crows arguing over carrion”
He stared at the basket, wondered if some freak accident, a runaway train, falling aircraft, tsunami, asteroid or suchlike could hit home, do away with the pair of them. Problem solved two nagging crones with the same stone, he could have Scotch then, he could have anything he fancied, he could have peace, the affections of his neighbor, wild sex, not mow the lawn for a month, anything he wanted .
Looking at the empty basket; as empty as his life, he remembered when they met, so many lost embraces, a different time. The chains of Christmas past, living, present, all the future could offer was more of the same. No redemption, no second chances, nothing much to embrace, not even a Scotch. He glanced at her face, that spoiled mouth, mean stare, looking, nothing, thanking no one. Once lovers, dancing entwined snake-like, all to look forward too, nothing to forget, everything wished for, did she even smile back then? How did they get to this place?
Walking to the car, no conversation, no outcomes, there never were anymore. Shopping packed, sitting in silence for the drive home. Just one Scotch, courage enough he thought. She drove, she usually did he could sit there, un-relaxed, passive, ever waiting his chance but chances gone.
Remembered Christmas past so long ago his Father always had Scotch at Christmas, never in question. He remembered the last time they spoke, just before the old man died, clay like, a miniature model of the man he remembered so strong become so weak, so small, so frail.
She drove the car, awaiting criticism next, window seat, life’s rich tapestry laid thread bare.
Watched my Father pass away today. Both suffering, in turn, frustrated anger but for different reasons. Sunlight breaking cold clouds across a January harbor. Held his hand, probably for the first time in my life. How queer it felt. We were never so close. Silent vigil, neither speaking, he couldn’t anymore. Watching him gasp for life, for breath, no meteor eyes burning. Lost resolve, slow seeping death rattles, regular in time his past ebbing away with every sucking breath. We sat there he and I counting breaths, counting moments, counting.
I wondered when we last held hands, I doubt we ever did. A faded jaded memory, three years old, being beaten with a wooden coat hanger. I never understood why he did it, still don’t till this day. Someone passed the open door, looked away embarrassed intrusion, unwanted intimacy shared, father and son holding on. He felt cold, unaware, me unwanted still.
The beatings stopped when I fought back, it took 12 long years before he quit. My mother endured far more. I could never fathom twisted unconditional love. Why she stayed, the reigned blows, taken with complicit complaint ever endemic. Suffer in silence behind closed doors, waiting for him, waiting her turn. That was the way, back then. My Mother told me when they met, “I threw a stick up into a tree, it landed by his feet, he came up and started talking to me”. How their journey had come to pass, from thrown stick to waiting for this day to end.
Moments of clarity punctuated loss, almost recognition, his icy grip tight desperate not to let go. Past lives wished him dead so many times. He was never a father, me never a son. Unfinished business he and I, a future mapped, some Mandelbrot mistake destined never to repeat his sins. In his company, for the last time, cheated justice stolen, justice blind.
How many dances on his grave, how many arguments heard, how many women he’d fucked behind my Mothers back. Me a giant slayer now with hollow victory’s vice like grip. By cruel duplicity become my fathers son, him a three year old from so long ago. Become his sin eater, sneaked redemption for all he’d done, if not for him, for my own counted breaths yet to come.
The rattle paused, I’d thought he’d gone but the waiting continued. We never spoke, so much left unsaid, two cold hands molding into one. Small sacrifice for the man I never knew. I held that hand for the first and last time in my life, anger gone, momentary peace. This January burden lifted for us both, nothing said, no explanation, no apology.
Posted by Keith.Nichol at 05:26