Showing posts with label Love and Marriage Trilogy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Love and Marriage Trilogy. Show all posts

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

...and at the other end was a small dog.

At one end of the lead was an early middle-aged woman, chatting on her phone. She was always chatting on her phone in an overloud whine. I had watched her walk that dog so many times, always on the phone. I doubted that there was anyone at the other end.
Just across the fence, George emerged from his garage with some tools and a satisfied smile. George had a life. He worked on his jeep, took it up to the mountain with other jeeps. He risked his shit for fun. He asked me to come once, I was busy.
Twitshot
I drew hard on my cigarette in an attempt to ease the tight feeling in my chest. I drew again and necked the last of my third cafe Americano. You know, its named after the way the Italian baristas tried to satisfy the American GI’s desire for long filter coffee during WWII.
No one needed me that morning, at least not enough to pay me. Instead I would go to the supermarket.
I walked up the stairs describing my every move. I’m going into the bathroom. I’m taking a piss. Every sentence beginning with ‘I’. I didn’t wash my hands. The first person pronoun. I’m undressing. But none included ‘me’. The first person object pronoun. I ran the shower. scalding hot, I liked the pain. Twenty years of teaching and all I had was the ability to express my life in grammatical terms.
The aromatic shower gel lathered well in my chest hair. The foam covers the grey. I scrubbed and shaved in the steam then ran my hand round my face, smooth and young. I drew the shower curtain and regarded the man facing me in the mirror. I couldn’t say I knew him well, we were acquaintances, that’s all. I mined my ears with a Q-tip, no wax came out on the cotton tip but you can never be sure. I brushed my teeth, twice. My daily battle to keep the stench of rot at bay.
After dressing, I look in the full length mirror in the hall and pull in my gut. Not bad, I lie. I’m sure I could turn someone’s head. Modal of ability.
“Hey kids! Who would like to come shopping with daddy? All boys together, eh.” One clicked a YouTube link the other changed weapons and blew the head off a zombie. I left.
There is one thing the futurists will never understand about the car. Expensive to own, expensive to run, dangerous for pedestrians and the environment alike, but obedient. When you urge a car to go faster, it goes faster. It doesn’t care if anyone is watching, it doesn’t care if it gets messed up. You will, it does. I dread the day we are all shuttling around in self-driving cars, safe and clean. I guess the upside is that there’ll be one less thing to stop me drinking. I turned the stereo as loud as I could, the speakers began to protest so I took it down a notch. Always maintain clarity in your excesses. Imperative. I sang even louder, I have little clarity in my own abilities. I took a bend a little too fast and the back kicked out. My heart raced. I sang louder. I enjoyed myself driving. First person reflexive.
I swung the car hard into a space narrowly missing the next car. I popped the boot and went back to retrieve my eco-friendly reusable shopping bags. The next car had a fine blue line down its rear quarter. Maybe not so narrowly.
Supermarket trolleys are a poor imitation of the car, they require huge effort for the most minor manoeuvres. They must have been designed by women. The supermarket was packed with couples choosing vegetables. Singles choosing convenience and children choosing disruption. I chose wine.
Once I had filled my trolley with the demands on my list I joined the queue. I let a guy with a six-pack go ahead of me. It made me feel good.
Back home, I parked the car more carefully. I managed most of the bags in one trip. Was I strong or just poor. The handles cut deep into my palms. The pain gives me strength. I returned to the car for the bottles. The bags were full of crisps, cakes, condiments, cheese and aromatic toiletries. It seems that less and less of our weekly shop is actually food. I refilled the wine rack but it wouldn’t all fit. I would deal with that problem later.
The evening was punctuated with dinner, penne with pesto. I decided a merlot would compliment it best. I splattered it with tabasco.
“Why don’t you taste it first?” she asked.
I like tabasco.
She started talking about Italian food. I drank the merlot.
“You remember that restaurant you took me to?”
“When?”
“Ages ago. For Valentines.”
It was early February. I didn’t remember. She insisted that I should know this. I didn’t. If we were talking about the same thing, I remembered the flowers I bought. She was getting quite agitated, I didn’t get the big deal but for some reason she needed me to remember. I remembered how I had felt about her that night.
“I remember it was Italian.” I thought that may satisfy her.
If I had remembered, I would have told her. Third conditional.
It did not.
An earbud connected to a mobile hiding in his lap fell out of one of the kid’s ears. I hadn’t noticed it when he came to the table, nor had she.
After dinner I watched Top Gear or whatever it’s called now with a glass of wine. Three middle-aged men risking their shit for fame and money but mostly for the hell of it. Then I read a book, with a glass of wine.
Eventually the kids were told to unplug. Passive voice.
They had a snack from the non-food provisions of the day’s shop and were herded upstairs for teeth and showers. I listened to them bicker and fight. When I was called to, I went up to give kisses and good-nights.
We watched a film on Netflix and I continued to deal with the bottle storage problem. I was winning.
“I think I have angina,” I said.
She looked at me horrified. “Since when?”
“I don’t know, I have been having pains in my heart.” Present perfect continuous.
“You must see a doctor!”
“Nah. It’ll pass one way or the other. Eventually.”
We smoked a cigarette together by the burning fire. The flames drew the smoke up the chimney.
I turned off the TV and headed upstairs to bed. I took a piss but didn’t brush my teeth. She locked the front door, lowered the heating and turned out the lights.
She climbed into bed almost naked and rolled to face me. I ran my hand up her side. She closed the gap with a kiss. I tried to pull her close.
“You do remember, don’t you?” She kissed me again, her body inches from mine. I wanted her but couldn’t bridge the space. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to lie but she wanted something I no longer had.
“Valentino’s… something like that.”
She spun like a crankshaft. “You’re doing it on purpose!”
I moved in like a jigsaw piece but her shoulders tightened even more. I ran my hand down her soft stomach, her thigh, the upward stroke bringing my hand to rest between her legs. Her elbow hit me in the armpit. “You know I hate being groped!”
When I woke, I was alone. The sound of gunfire from downstairs. There was a cold cafe Americano by the bed. I drank it and delved into other people’s lives on facebook. One of my ‘friends’ had posted half a dozen sad songs and a couple of inspirational memes. Another had posted pictures of her night out. The majority of my ‘friends’ are women, I guess it’s the profession I’m in. I clicked ‘like’ on a couple of posts and wrote something clever about politics.
I sat on the veranda with my second coffee and rolled my third cigarette. George emerged from his garage. His jeep was wearing the huge knobbly tyres he fitted when going up into the mountain. It had been snowing hard for some weeks and the side streets were dicey. The mountain would be perilous. I raised an arm, he returned. “Wanna come?” I did but I was busy. Round the corner I heard one side of a phone conversation. I doubted that there was anyone on the line. At the other end of the lead was a small dog.

This is the first part of my Love and Marriage Trilogy a dark and harrowing study of what it means to survive the til death doing us part. 



If you enjoyed this, you should check out my series"From Under Dark Clouds" and SUBSCRIBE. You'll get the eBook of book 1 for your iPad, Kindle or Android device.


Go on! You know you deserve it!


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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Haunted

I watched her sleep, her lips slightly agape snoring gently. There was no one in the bed beside her. She slept soundly, she always did. I knew this because I had watched her so many times. I moved between the rooms in the dark. The children were sleeping in the same bed despite each having their own, they did this quite often, they craved the company. One murmured words and the other snapped breaths like his mother. I could have woke them. I had managed to push things from the shelves before. It took great concentration but I could do it. They would then know that I was there, watching. Could I speak to them, could I be heard. I don’t know. I had tried but the best I had managed was a flinch of recognition. The effort had been exhausting so I just focused on pushing things from the shelves. I moved down the staircase to the kitchen. A half empty bottle of wine sat on the worktop beside a single glass. I remembered the taste. I could drink once. I liked to drink but only now could I taste it. I had memories of taste. I couldn’t be sure how accurate they were but they were good and good is often as good as it gets.
Twitshot
I watched the clock, willing the hands to move until the sun rose and the house was filled with life again. Showers, coffee, cigarettes, sleepy eyes and toast then quiet again. The door slammed behind them. I watched. I loved to watch them in the morning but I hated the sound of the door. Sometimes I would go to other places. Its not true that we disappear during the daytime. We are always here and sometimes I would see others like me but we never spoke. We couldn’t, shouldn’t share our thoughts, it was like a rule. We exchanged nods and sometimes a raised fist but never talked. It wouldn’t be right, we each knew but a problem shared is not halved, it’s doubled and there are too many. Far too many.
I liked to visit the school, watch the children play. I would even enter the classrooms and follow the lessons, I always knew the answers. It was mostly useless shit but education is very important, at least I liked to believe that.
I visited houses with women cleaning and talking for hours on the phone, saying nothing. Sometimes lovers would visit. The door closed after a quick check of the corridor. I watched the urgency, the need. I followed them to the bedroom. Like the wine, I can still taste it. I look down at my fading body and leave.
I visit many places during the day but there is only one house where I spend my nights. I tried to be somewhere else but somehow I needed to be there. The snoring woman, the child snatching at air.
I sat watching the TV with the woman. I didn’t sit too close. My presence made her shiver.
Before she slept she prepared snacks for the children. A sandwich, some nuts, some fruit and placed them in plastic boxes labelled with their names. I knew that they would dump them in the bin at school and buy sweets. I had watched them. She prepared them with love and I couldn’t tell her the truth if I wanted to. She folded their clothes and placed them at the foot of each bed then undressed. She looked good. I could taste her but reaching out made her recoil and rub the goosebumps away. I watched her sleep then took the space beside her. Closing my eyes is futile, sleep doesn’t come for me. It is just an unnecessary memory.
The alarm clock squawks the beginning of a new day. I remember how I hated it, wrenching me from sleep. Bed was an asylum of warmth. Now it means I have more than the darkness for company. She makes coffee and smokes before waking the children. They complain and wrap deeper into the covers but she continues to coax them downstairs with promises of warm milk and sweet bread. I watch.
That day I choose to stay in the house. I have no need to see others like me. I have no need to see the children learn and play. I have no desire to watch the women with their lovers. When they go they leave the TV on to play, for me? Maybe.
It’s snowing outside and I can see the cold but then again, I never did feel it.
I watch the non-stop news channel and wonder at the scale of pain in this world. There only seem to be two stories, people dying and people making money. I always used to think there was more. Guess I had it wrong.
When they come back, the children run to their games and tablets and the woman to her cigarettes. Sometimes she drinks, today must have been a good day. The table is soon laid with warm plates of nutritious food. She summons the children to eat. She repeats this a number of times before they disconnect grudgingly. I remember, I drank in the same way. They push the food around the plate pointing out all the ingredients they don’t like. She has prepared and cooked a meal I wish I could taste, not remember but really taste. The ungrateful bastards. One of the plates falls to the floor. It breaks into a thousand shards in sauce. The woman leads the barefoot children around the opposite side of the table to safety and takes them a plate of biscuits before setting to the mess on the floor. I try to help but I can’t. She looks tired. The children play.
After she puts the children to bed, I sit with her on the sofa. She is wrapped in a fleece blanket and I dare to get closer. I can see her breath.
I spend the night watching her sleep.
The next day repeats the last.
I watch her sleep.
I watch the children but mostly I watch the woman sleep.
The alarm squawks.
I stay in the house and wait. The news channel repeats the same stories with different protagonists. I choose to believe that I am being informed, keeping up with current affairs. The door slams then opens, the days pass. Warm days replace the cold and I consider venturing out. I consider it but I don’t. Neither do the children or the woman. Not apart from routine. The routine is good. The routine is safe, no surprises.
I try to move through the door but I get stuck halfway, better to stay. I enjoy the memories of my jaunts. When the family return I take a place at the table. I watch them eat. I sit there while the children do their homework trying to move the pencil to the answer. At bedtime, I sit with the children while they read and giggle before falling asleep. I wait for the woman to go to bed.
Sleep takes her quickly. I will her to stay awake but my will is faded. I reach for her but my grasp is hollow. I move closer but she shivers and wraps herself tighter in the duvet.
I am standing over the bed, bottles are falling from the shelves bouncing silently on the soft rug below. I look at the door but it snags on the rug. A word comes from deep inside me. I bring it up careful that it doesn’t slip between my fingers. I feel my diaphragm move. A plastic bottle hits the wardrobe, moisturiser leaks down the melamine door. The word comes, growing, achieving mass. I feel the ceiling getting closer. I don’t recognise the word. The bulbs in the light above the bed begin to glow. Faintly but it is me doing it. I am making light. I am making light in the darkness. The word forms. The lights flicker then glow harder. The word splits into two. The woman stirs and mumbles something. A name, my name. I can’t be sure but I am. I try to hear it. My words fall back. I can’t concentrate on them both. I regain my grip on the words, they are sharp and heavy and now ready, ready to be heard. A drawer opens and underwear spews to the floor. My head is a ball of pain. The words. The door tugs against the rug. “SEEE MEE!” She sits upright her eyes still closed but she is looking where I am. I swell, my shoulders reach the walls. She is looking where I am. I summon the words again but they, as I, are spent. There is no place for me here. As she slumps back into the pillow, back into slumber.

This is the third part of my Love and Marriage Trilogy a dark and harrowing study of what it means to survive the til death doing us part. 


If you enjoyed this, you should check out my series"From Under Dark Clouds" and SUBSCRIBE. You'll get the eBook of book 1 for your iPad, Kindle or Android device.


Go on! You know you deserve it!


Don't forget to share with the little buttons below.  

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Insensitive

The two female voices above my head gently volleyed their subject back and forth. Short strokes passing turn to the other, neither the questions too probing nor the answers too comprehensive, like a heartbeat. Systole. Diastole. One of the voices was my wife, I think, but I wouldn't swear to it, neither was overly-concerned. The slow regular metronome beeps of the heart monitor seemed to punctuate their conversation, each beep a bullet-point of my life waiting for details to justify its existence.
Twitshot
I first became aware of my condition, as it were, one day at Frinton-on-sea or Southend or somewhere. Charlie, my youngest, was splashing in the water, emitting shrill giggles of pleasure. The wife was beside me, sunning herself behind huge dark lenses. The wave rolled in and lifted him before pulling him down. I saw it all happen, even watched for a while, like a YouTube video.  The events developed behind a sheet of glass. Running, mouths open, arms flailing, a limp child. Then I had to drive. Fast. The wife’s mouth was wide open, her eyes streaming. I focused on the road. At one set of traffic lights a Citroën pulled up beside us, the new one with the windscreen that goes up over the roof. I was involved with the campaign. Fabulous visibility if you want to look up, otherwise it was like driving a greenhouse. The hospital carpark was quite empty so we found a space in no time; it’s the little pleasures, eh? They took the kid in really quickly, say what you like about the health service but there’s nothing like a four-year-old with purple lips to get them in action. I took the opportunity to go out and check my emails.
When the doctor came out he said it had been touch and go. He was still pretty shaken up but he would be fine. I could have told them that; the waves had shaken him like a martini. I was probably relieved. The tide had taken him quite deep and he had taken in a lot of water. I knew then that it was the first time I was aware of it because I knew that it wasn't right, something was missing. I realised that I should have felt something but I couldn’t focus on what it should have been. I looked around and did my best to emulate the faces of the people around me. There was a buzz in my pocket, Facebook. I told myself it wasn’t important and checked the faces of my wife and the doctor before pulling the device from my pocket; a puppy meme. Puppy memes are the new cat videos. Their faces changed but I couldn’t mimic this look. Something had changed. I still remember the events but I couldn't tell you what it was.
That night the wife stayed with the boy in the hospital and I took the remaining one home. I explained to him that mummy wouldn't be coming home for a few days because his brother had nearly died and mothers like to be there when these things occur. He took it quite well, but why wouldn't he. I ordered pizza and let him play on my tablet until long after his bedtime.
When the kids came along life changed its soundtrack from laughter with friends at the pub and cosy nights of quiet bliss to noise. Crying from the baby, screams from the wife. I tried to make things right. I bought teething gels, employed babysitters, bought her lingerie but the lingerie gathered dust, the nights out were spent waiting for a crisis call and the baby continued to scream.
I started to live a permanent state of fury, losing my temper for reasons I couldn't explain. The wife told me I wasn’t being sensitive enough to her needs. I could have argued that I was too sensitive to her frustration. Love amplifies pain. When someone you love has forsaken happiness for obligation, the only viable act of self-preservation is detachment.  I started drinking to muffle the pain but that just made things worse. Alcohol allows you to say things that an otherwise active part of the brain would filter. The same part of the brain that is wholly underdeveloped in bigots and zealots and people who speak too loud on public transport. Thing is though, once things are said they cannot be unsaid and women collect pain, like dogs collect fleas ready to be shared on contact.
Our childless friends stayed away. Babies evoke jealousy and sympathy in couples but mostly a fear of contagion.
My days became a cycle of flying cutlery, apologies and a cold back growling 'fuck-you!' before snoring back into the next loop.
Work required one-hundred and ten percent. The wife demanded undivided attention, the kids needed complete care. I got what was left.
Thankfully, the fatigue brought with it a warm muffled haze of exhaustion. The pressure of work became a haven, the relationships were similar but at least I wasn’t supposed to care about any of them.
I think in the beginning it was a conscious thing, I actually turned down the volume and the more I did the more it stayed down. 
I worked in marketing and I was very good. Advertising requires a finger on the pulse, an understanding of the Great British consumer. Empathy. I had that in spades in the beginning, I always knew what people wanted but as the time went on, I lost it. I used to be able to walk down the high-street and pick out anyone from the crowd, I could tell you their drivers, their desires and where I could seduce them into sales. Then they became faceless mannequins, units of consumption. Curious thing was that I got better at my job. When you strip down all the frilly edging, people just want. They want new stuff, they want what you have, they want what you can’t have and they want more. I, on the other hand had trained myself not to want, not to need.
As the kids grew up, the wife grew old and I wore my ties a little tighter. When they went to school she went back to work. After bedtime stories she told me about the flaws in her colleagues and I did my best to say the right things before she left me on the sofa to wait for the alarm to signal the beginning of another cycle.            
The room is empty now, just me and the slow regular beep of my existence. I open my eyes, a slight change in light but little else. I remember events in spartan detail, step by step like history revision notes. Some of the events bleed into others but mostly just bullet-point information.
Work was still going well. It was me that came up with the “Buy these biscuits, they’re better than the cheap ones!” campaign. It became a cult classic, people said it was post-ironic. I couldn’t see it myself. A big faceless company wanted to sell more biscuits so we got some celebrities to tell them to do it. Simple. 
My trips to the doctors began after an incident one Sunday, I could tell you the time and date as well but that would be showing off.
The kids were protesting about something and the wife was trying to out-protest them when a blue Hot Wheels car came flying over my shoulder and landed with a plop in the chip pan. I first looked down at my shirt, one of my favourite Fred Perrys. Then an explosion of tears from the youngest boy and the realisation that the car was bobbing around with the potatoes, slowly sinking. I plunged my hand in and snatched at a potato but eventually grabbed the car, its plastic pieces were a little soft but it appeared undamaged. Fortunately, the screaming stopped. I turned holding the toy in my outstretched palm to see the wife and kids staring. I couldn't remember them looking at me like that before. No yells, no demands just silence. I followed their gaze to my hand and the car. The oil was running down my arm and dripping from my elbow onto the floor. I had saved the car and now she was going to bounce on my balls for a couple of drips on the kitchen mat; fucking typical. The eyes followed my hand as I put the car down on the table. I remember thinking that some of the red paint had transferred to my hand but it was blue. The black plastic of the wheels had begun to harden on my fingers, some had fused. I looked up at them all and offered an empty apology and intention to replace the bloody thing. The Fred Perry would come right in the wash.
All feeling evaporated like sweat replaced by a refreshing anaesthesia. Food and sex lost their flavour and watching films and reading books was an indifferent waste of time but I found myself absorbed by documentaries so it wasn't all bad.
At some point walking became an issue. My relationship with the earth became tenuous until one day I took a tumble down the stairs. Some bones had articulated beyond normal tolerances and one was making its exit through my forearm. Getting up had been impossible. I pulled out my phone with my good arm to pass the time. The kids started playing video games in the living room the moment they came back from school. I was reading an article on the Guardian online about interest rates when the wife got home. She made a terrible fuss. The kids were sent next door to the neighbours. I didn't get to finish the article.
The ambulance crew kept asking me where it hurt which became a bit of a pain. They seemed to be a bit preoccupied with huffing, calling control, huffing some more and asking me where it hurt again. I managed to finish the article before we arrived though.
That began my residence of the University hospital as an object of interest and research. The doctors were a little baffled, they tried dozens of cocktails of drugs for the pain; to cause it. They gave me so many cat-scans that I felt like I was stuck in a drain.

There were so many theories, acquired congenital analgesia, late-onset autism, early-onset Alzheimer’s, Asperger’s. My favourite was one who believed it to be a rare bowel disorder that had caused my pain receptors to overload, I actually laughed. Because as the beep turns to a long flat tone, I don't give a shit.                          
This is the second part of my Love and Marriage Trilogy a dark and harrowing study of what it means to survive the til death doing us part. 


If you enjoyed this, you should check out my series"From Under Dark Clouds" and SUBSCRIBE. You'll get the eBook of book 1 for your iPad, Kindle or Android device.


Go on! You know you deserve it!


Don't forget to share with the little buttons below.  

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY