How to Die

Some people are just born restless, I guess.

They’re the baby that never slept and the toddler that always got stuck trying to fit through unexplored spaces. They’re the five year old that flooded the bathroom trying to make a swimming pool and the nine year old that broke their arm climbing the fence to see what was on the other side. They’re the pre-teen that can’t sit still in the classroom or keep their mouth shut when they need to and they’re the teenager that experiments tirelessly with all those fantastic things like sex and drugs and alcohol whilst they’re still young and blind enough to see the high gloss these first precious follies into the land of adulthood wear for a time.

It’s rebellion, they say.

A phase.

They’ll grow out of it.

Most of us learn how to suppress every exciting instinct we have by the time adulthood kicks in proper. The vast majority of these restless children figure out a way, all be it and most often subconsciously, to remove the shrouds of mystery and wonder from the even the most common of common place things. The kids that started out with safety pins in their ears and green streaks in their hair grow up and grow tired of the extraordinary amount of effort it takes to be extraordinary. Their futures suddenly begin to stretch further than the weekend and the debauched revelry crammed so tightly into those two days that used to make them salivate now makes them nauseas. The idea of spunking their weeks wages up the wall instead of squirreling some of it away for the ominous “rainy day” that they always heard their parents speaking of when they were small, terribly behaved children, now fills them with dread.

Preparation.

The Prepared Generation.

They have learned from the financial fuck ups, crashes and collisions of their fathers and their grandfathers and now owning their own house and being able to keep up with the mortgage payments is a far more seductive midnight thought than playing to a crowd of a hundred thousands fans screaming the lyrics to their songs back at them or packing a bag and hitting the road Kerouac style. That instability that used to be so ethereal and enthralling is now a nightmare of monolithic proportions.

Stability.

Safety.

And, comfort.

They don’t want the world, these people.

No, they just want a little four bedroomed piece of it with a patio out back and room for two cars on the driveway out front. They want to marry nice people and have nice children that will then go on to populate the world with more nice children. They want to leave a legacy of niceness now, instead of neurosis. They want to go on holiday, all inclusive of course, because anywhere out of the resort is dangerous, especially in all those terribly trendy places like Cape Town and Dubai. They want to drink wine with their lunch on a week day and feel like buying the bottle is a daring feat of absolute insanity. They count every calorie and work off the red playing sports that they don’t really enjoy or fully understand, like badminton, or heaven’s forbid – squash.

And when they’re not on some court or another they pay a portion of their monthly wages for all inclusive membership to some shiny shit hole known as a Health Club (always capitalised, of course, ‘for these are the only places where one can purchase Health with a capital letter) where they run on treadmills like rats in cages never really getting anywhere or anything but heart palpitations and sweat in uncomfortable places.

They spend hours cooking elaborate meals for people that they have known for years and hardly know at all and they spend more money than they ever would have spent on a ten bag and few pints down the pub in their younger years, but it’s a worthwhile expense because it’s all so dreadfully sociable and lovely. They compare their children to other peoples children, but not in a candid or even remotely honest way. If Susan just graduated from Brunel with a BA in Mathematics then Benjamin better be working on his fucking doctorate in molecular biology from Oxbridge, quick sharp. Won’t have the likes of that bastard Benjamin showing me up to Terry and June from the Health Club.

It’s all about appearance, you see.

But then again, it always has been.

And your parents did it with you.

I know it’s hard to believe but when your parents first got together, they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. Even worse, still, your mother, beloved mummy has at one point or another had your fathers cock in her mouth. Shocking, but true. What’s even more shocking is that the dirty bitch fucking loved it. Your old man probably grabbed a handful of her hair and tugged on it when he shot his load at the back of her throat and depending on what kind of woman your old lady is, she may or may not have gobbled that goo right up.

We’re all interesting when we’re young because we’re dangerous.

And we’re dangerous because we’re stupid.

And we’re stupid because, for the first twenty five years of our lives or more – we have absolutely no fucking idea what we’re doing. And I’d love to tell you that we reach an age of enlightenment when some magical light bulb dings above our heads and we suddenly know exactly what to and where to go and who to be but for many, hell, for most, it’s a slow and arduous trudge to the finish line. Some of us, crippled by the weight of this hopeless disorientation, cash our own chips and punch a one way ticket to the end of the line long before our time, but the comfortable and contented masses wander aimlessly towards death, treating it with a weird breed of apathetic inevitability like taxes or hiccups.

Everyone dies.

It happens to the best of us.

And the worst.

It’s what ties us all together, isn’t it? We’ve all got a whole heap of shit in common with each other. We’ve all got a mother and a father out there somewhere, whether we were raised by them or by wolves, at some point in time, two people came together, figuratively and literally, and boom – there we were. A cluster of tiny cells brimming with infinite potential, cooked for nine months and heaved out screaming and naked and clueless. We were all taught how to do even the simplest of things like tie our shoe laces and write our names and fry an egg and open a window. These weren’t things we were born knowing and at a time in all our lives we were novice egg fryers and amateur shoe tiers.

Repetition, if not necessarily practise, made us into the beautifully broken people we are today. We were taught tact and how to read people’s emotions. We learned slowly and through this art of subconscious repetition, the difference between angry faces and sad faces and happy faces and later on we learned a tonne of new faces like stoned faces and drunk faces and come faces. We learned how to read people around us and how to interact with them like we once learned how to interact with the building blocks we had when we still got a round of applause for shitting in a bucket with feet in the living room.

And whether you were brought up or dragged up, we all learned how to make coffee and how to make out. Some of these things were learned by the art of education, by someone showing us how to do something or by teaching us about it had been done before and hoping that we would have the same successful outcomes were we to re-enact their battles. Others were learned by the brute force of experience, trying something once, realising that you ballsed it up, rewinding and going again until you got it right, or if you couldn’t get it right, you got it better than you did the first or third or fifth time.

Some things, though, even the most intelligent and interesting of people have absolutely no idea how to do. There are some things during the course of all of our lives that no matter how much we prepare or practice for them, when those things come around, we’re just as fucking clueless as we were when we were cutting our teeth.

How to feel.

How to forgive.

How to die.

That last one is probably the most important. I mean aside from being born, the second most significant day in our lives is when we are effectively unborn – when we die. Yet no one prepares you for it. You’re not taught about it at school and your mother never sits you down when you get to an impressionable age and explains that one day you’re going to close your eyes and you’re never going to open them again or that your heart’s going to stop beating and your lungs are going to stop breathing and more than likely you’re going to shit yourself.

They never prepare you for the fact that one day you might find yourself sitting in a little magnolia office somewhere with a doctor whose name you cannot remember and couldn’t pronounce even if you could remember it, being told that you’ve got something really fucking aggressive and nasty living in your breasts or bowels or bones that’s going to kill you pretty damned soon.

And when you’re a kid and you go to bolt across the road and your old lady yanks you back just in time to save you becoming road kill, she never says – “Look, Timmy, if that car had hit you it would have killed you and we would have had to scrape your skull off of that pavement and bury you in a black bag to keep all the leftover wet bits of you together.” And because your parents never tell you that, you’re not scared of a car slamming into your tiny body at fifty and rendering your once wonderful life pedestrian pate on the side of the road. So when you’re mums not about, you cross without waiting for the green man.

That’s universally a very early and very common act of defiance.

A sign of things to come.

But if, if, your old lady had said that to you the first time you did it and put the fear of endless darkness and death into you, you’d probably have grown up to be a much more cautious kid than you were. You wouldn’t have hung upside down off of the monkey bars or climbed loose limbed trees in the sunshine to survey the forest from the heavenly plinth usually reserved for birds and squirrels. You’d never have found the biggest hill you could have and rode your bike or scooter or board down it as fast as you could. And you’d never have jumped off of countless bridges and piers into the perilously shallow waters below to cool off when the air was still and the heat was fierce.

If you’d been warned about the inherent permanence of death as a child, you never would have taken that unknown pill at that party or a bummed a drag of that strange kids long, loosely rolled cigarette in the park when you were a teenager. You wouldn’t have known the bittersweet sorrow of that first, barbarous hangover or felt the pleasant shame of coming inside someone bareback or indeed having someone else’s come drip down your thighs and as a result, you’d never have found yourself alone in your bedroom trying to make your body do what it did with someone else’s hands on your body with your own hands.

And that’s why we don’t tell kids about death.

We don’t want to scare them.

Because it’s hard to live when you’re so preoccupied with dying.

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Rivers and Forests.

I read somewhere once that music is like a river. That everyone whilst being able to appreciate its beauty cannot appreciate its power unless they fully submerge themselves in the water and become part of the current. The people that become part of the river, the people that become the continuous ebb and flow of the water, the forever changing patterns of ripples and tides, the sunken debris forgotten by all and missed by none – these people are musicians.

They understand the river better than the river does and when mere mortals hear just an incessant babbling of water over rocks and lapping against the banks, musicians hear something entirely different. They don’t hear the noise of the river, rather than the music of it. They have become part of the river and respect its ability to take them anywhere and away from anything. People who do not have the ability or the inclination to be part of the river become passive observers to something that at first appears as simple as a body of water or a string of chords, but to the river, and to the musicians, there is a far deeper and more complicated meaning to its composition.

When I read this I instantly began to think about the river in all its complexity and my mind drifted to the forest. During the day a forest is possibly one of the most breath taking and beautiful places you would be lucky enough to find yourself standing in and its omnipresence is astounding sometimes. Mile after mile of trees that have stood longer than your lineage and will outlast the best of us, intertwined forever with the earth through a connection of soil, roots and promise. Massive natural structures completely untouched by man that dwarf you into insignificance and remind you just how unimportant you actually are.

Sun breaking through bough after bough of fragile looking leaves, no two the same that seem so utterly breakable but are in fact intricate natural phenomena that put our peasant like cardio vascular system to shame. Trunks as wide as cars and armoured with bark that is so easy to break and impossible to replace. Stagnant earth swamps your head and on a hot day can become absolutely intoxicating. The smell of soft, damp, breathing wood and the muddled sense of belonging to the earth and it to you when standing in such a place.

Every possible crevice your eyes could search rich with life and death in equal quantities, a never quite silent place that is as unnerving as it is attractive. You could be a hundred miles away from the nearest human being or they could be hiding behind the nearest tree but the forest will never forsake your solitude. You came to it and you took the time to breathe with it, if only for a moment and if only coincidentally. For that single moment, you were alive with the rest of the world and in that single moment you were perfect.

Then you start to feel an unsettling kind of bewilderment radiating from your stomach and forcing your teeth to clench. The sun is dipping behind the broken boughs and shadow begins to steal the way out. It’s getting cold and suddenly there are too many trees, too many twisted skeletal remains of various fallen friends blocking your once safe path and threatening to send you spluttering onto the damp, dead floor. You start to shudder as shadow begins to envelope you as well as the forest, and your heart begins beating in your ears. Saliva pours into your mouth and you realise that you are frightened.

Because what was so beautiful just moments before the sun disappeared behind the now suffocating canopy of translucent leaves and insidiously shaped branches, is now one of the most intimidating places you dare to imagine. The liberating closeness of the trees now feels claustrophobic and the quaintly sporadic half walked paths that were roughly guiding you through to the end have now disappeared in the darkness and you are on your own and out of your element.

You are now alone in the dark with the earth and the earth doesn’t seem to like you very much anymore. The fractured roots of monolithic trees catch your feet and send a jolt of adrenaline straight to your already over excited heart. Getting out of the forest is all you can think about now. The sounds of crickets and birds are now haunting and unsafe, the low rumble of what you thought was a toad in the day light, the ruffling of leaves on the forest floor that would have been a rabbit were the sun still up, have now become the sounds of ravenous wolves and angry animals the likes of which your pressured mind need not comprehend for fear of complete and utter terror.

But there is one consistent in it all, one thing about the forest that never changes even when the light surrounding it does. Like water is needed to make a river a river, trees are needed to make a forest a forest and it is the likeness to these trees that call to mind the similarities between musicians and water.

Just as musicians are ever changing, flowing with what seems to be at times unbridled passion and unadulterated abandon for what convention has to say about how they choose to follow the bends in their banks, writers and the words they string together are stoic and unchangeable like the trees of a forest. A musician on stage performing a song can change it at any given moment, improvising or just following a tangent of unthinking trust that the music, the river, will guide them to the end of the performance unscathed.

Writers have a harder time adapting their work once it’s completed.  The moment those words pass through a press and onto the page, they are their forever, the deafening deepness of their roots hard to ignore or escape. Books do not flow, they do not adapt and their trunks are only soft when they are young. Once they are complete, finished and rooted in reality they stay the way they were made forever, or until someone cuts them down and rebuilds them in their own image.

We cannot improvise and we cannot comment, we are instead forced to stand on whilst the sun fades behind us and what you once treasured about the stories we told becomes marred with sadness and fear. We cannot uproot and clear a path for you to follow, we cannot lap against your ankles and offer you comfort when you so desperately need it.

All we can do is what we have always done; look on with concrete confidence and hope that even when the sun sets on our time together, your knowledge of and trust in the forest of the day will accompany you to the end of our affair with a deeper understanding of just how hard it is to be one tree in a forest, one drop in a river and one story that at one point, needed to be told.

It is through this understanding of relative simplicity that we cease to be rivers and forests, men and women, broken and whole and we simply become what we were always meant to be but never really took time to notice we were – alive.

The Heart of a Child.

When I look back at my life as a (hopefully) old woman, I want to know that I did all the wrong things for all the right reasons. There are things I wanted five years ago that seem to me now, better left as pipe dreams, the ramblings of an over imaginative teenage mind. However, the dreams I do still possess would seem that way to most of you reading this were I to tell you what those dreams were, but in all honesty, have you achieved your dreams?

When you were a kid did you say to your friends –

I want a job where I sit behind a desk all day in a polyester uniform and fluorescent tubing illuminating the depravity of the stale magnolia room that I call my workplace. I want a nondescript dog with an equally pallid human name, because after all animals are my “babies”. I want to sit in traffic all morning listening to Traffic FM, looking out at all the other tired faces stuck in the rush. I want to mix all my liquor with lemonade because it is not acceptable in polite company to drink anything stronger than a beer without a mixer. I want to complain about how busy my life is, when in actual fact I lay awake at night with stomach cramps and tears in my throat, at the thought of how bitterly boring my life really is. I want to read nice books, watch nice films and wear nice clothes. I want to donate my three pound a month to charity and sleep better at night knowing that I am helping “the less fortunate”. I want to raise three blonde haired, blue eyed children who all end up with a degree, a car, a spouse of the opposite sex and three more identical children each, replicating the uniform of perfection for the generations to come. I want to paint my nails in neutral translucent polishes because anything other than that is garish and offensive to taste. I want to vote for the same politicians year after year because partisanship is what made this country great. I want to make love once or twice a week, always in my bed and always for a certain amount of time. I want to live for my package holidays in Spain where I can let my hair down for a couple of weeks and drink wine with my lunch. I want to drive a car that has more buttons and knobs that I know what to do with, but will turn heads when I pull up in the car park. I want to do all my shopping at farm stores and local venues, because I support my community. I want to hold my chin up high and give the youths that pass me wearing torn jeans and lip rings, my best “I’m-not-afraid-of-you” look. I want to wake up at half past five in the morning on a Sunday and trawl round car boot sales, to fill my house with other people’s unwanted shit. I don’t want to get involved in people’s problems and a fight on the street is none of my business. I want to be able to wear a Winnie The Pooh watch as a forty year old woman because Winnie The Pooh is timeless. I want the highlight of my year to be a meal round the table with the relatives that could make it, while the real pine Christmas tree sparkles in the corner of the room and no one finishes what they put on their plate. I want to live a long and happy life, knowing that I made ripples in the waters of life.

I want to be normal.

Kids never aim to do any of these things and yet the adults they evolve into seem to fall neatly into many of the beige compartments of conformity and why? Because your parents and their parents before them, know the dangers of making waves instead of ripples. They train you to reach for the stars and ignore what lies beyond it. They tell you that you need a job, a spouse and three perfectly formed children to match you perfectly formed people carrier that sits in its cradle outside your perfectly formed house. They do not train you in this way because they want you to be normal, heavens no.

They would love you to be the astronaut that occupied your vocational mind between the ages of five and six, or to actually be able to make a living from playing your twanging guitar – they would love you to be able to accomplish it because they too, would have wanted to be able to live that life. They do however, know more than you ever will, and by the time you leave home they only want one thing for you and it is not the stars, the fast cars or the endless mountains of cash – its security.

At the end of it all that’s all any parent wants for their children and if it means falling into the land of the beige and living a good, clean and honest life to achieve a low blood pressure and a calming existence then why wouldn’t a parent wish this life upon their children? I don’t care for my daughters blood pressure. I don’t care for the colour of her life. I don’t care for the money she will one day have in the bank. I don’t care if my daughter remains a rolling stone her entire life – I care about her heart.

If my daughter wakes up in the morning with a smile on her face, goes to bed at night with the same expression and does exactly what she wants to do in between I can honestly say I would sleep content in my old age knowing that she never gave in. I want her to bleed, to cry, to push and to writhe with want. I want her to want something that bad that she never gives up, that she keeps pushing through the mind numbing boredom of the beige compartments until she gets it. I don’t want her to settle for anything less than her childish notions of happiness, because at the end of it all – isn’t that when we are at our best?

Being an adult is an amazing time of life and the responsibilities that come with being an adult do nothing but enrich our outlook on the world. But if you can maintain the childish qualities of dream keeping and balance it with the adult duty of book keeping, if you can still comfortably climb a tree without fearing what other parents in the playground may think of you, if you can still build a fort in the living room on a Saturday morning with Pokemon on the television, eating toast wrapped in blankets without pausing for a moment to worry about what might stain and what might crease – then you have achieved as close to nirvana as one would dare to find in this century.

When push comes to shove all we want is to be happy and in turn its all we want for our children, but happiness does not come from a catalogue or in a pay cheque. True, unadulterated, fiercely beautiful happiness comes from one overlooked and underrated place within ourselves. It is a place that most forget is even contained inside us. There are people in the world who would kill to have this place etched out in their histories and in their blood and bone beings. It is the place that so many people before us fought and died to preserve and it is the only place that will bring you any real joy.

There is a place inside you that holds your freedom. Your freedom to do what you please, when you please and how you want to do it. See the world through your adult eyes – assess risks, pay bills, go to work, remember birthdays – but feel the world with a child’s heart. In between these places you will find yourself truly free and in return inexplicably and fundamentally happy.

When my daughter asks me what I want her to be when she grows up I will smile and touch her soft, curly brown hair. She will look at me like I have officially lost the last of my marbles when I respond –

“You.” If I have done my job correctly, she will understand exactly what I mean. I may even get a hug.

When I Dream of Rain

I was sitting outside of the art room with my headphones in listening to Cat Stevens singing about fathers and sons. It was raining but it was the see through rain that speckles the windows before the real storm breaks. The corridor smelt of plaster and heat, the radiators were turned up almost to the point of scorching.

I hadn’t slept and I was waiting for my art teacher to unlock the classroom door so I could get on with my after school lessons. I hadn’t been doing them for long and the whole process of going to school for two hours a day was new to me. It wasn’t helping me. It was hurting me. It was allowing me more hours of unguarded time when you weren’t there to stop me breaking my own heart.

My battery was dying and I was beginning to get anxious. I could handle it when there was music or a book, but I had nothing that day. I wasn’t even wearing shoes. If he had walked by at that moment I would have been sent back to that place, even further from you. Then the door at the other end of the corridor opened and I knew without looking up that it was you. I knew it was you because I felt you before I ever saw you.

I could feel you looking at me and as I began to cry you came to me and slumped down the wall onto the floor, side by side. You called me a wayward genius once and I called you a cunt more than once, but there was something that connected us. Maybe it was because we were both such good liars. We did it so well. I would tell you that I was always fine and you would always tell me that everything was going to be alright. They were the greatest lies we ever told and we told them to each other.

I slipped my headphones out and you asked me to come with you. I would have followed you anywhere and a couple of times I did. I sat on your desk and put my head phones back in. You watched me as I mouthed the words to Fast Car by Tracy Chapman and cried the tears of a teenager who was too young to know how far gone she was.

You put your hand on my chin and lifted my face up to meet your eyes. They were the glassy and as horrifically blue as ever. You took my headphones out, so softly. They fell to my neck and I heard my heart beating in my ears where music had been moments before. I don’t know if you ever fathomed what your hands did when they were on my body. It wasn’t sexual, it was almost … chemical.

You told me that people get addicted to other people. I took it as an insult and pushed your hand away. I could see that you were hurt and I liked it. I liked hurting you. I lovedhurting you, because you never stopped hurting me. All your words, your jokes, your manipulation of the rules and your time, none of it ever stopped it hurting. And you were too distracted to realise that what you were actually doing was killing me.

I told myself that the reason you said that about people being addicted to people was because I relied on you too much and you were pointing out that you were fast becoming just another pointless thing that made me feel good that I couldn’t live without. Just as I was about to leave you held my hand and I felt my stomach melt out of my knees.

Then you kissed me. You kissed me. You kissed me.

When I pulled away your eyes were wet. I wasn’t crying anymore. I was confused and I still am all these years later. I always thought you were a figment of my imagination and if people hadn’t have spoken of you in terms of reality I would never have mentioned the way you made me feel. But the truth of the matter is you are real and your words were real and every time you smiled or cried or kissed me, all of that was real too.

But now I look back and all I see is the notion of you. The promise that one day it would get better. The promise that you would never, ever leave me to face it alone. The promise that you and I were something far greater than what the world was allowed to see. The promise that somewhere, deep, in the dark part of your mind that tells you what we were doing was wrong you saw it as right and tried to convince me it was so.

You never convinced anyone. I find it hard to think of and every time I see your face in my mind I go back to that day when you first pressed your mouth against mine. November Rain by Guns n Roses was playing through my head phones hanging listlessly around my neck when your lips first grazed mine. Maybe I have better taste in music now, but I still cannot listen to that song.

I wonder if you ever think of me. If you ever think of the teenager I was when you took to kissing me and wonder what kind of adult that mess of a girl became. I wonder if you know now that although I no longer pay rent in the darkness, I stay there occasionally and almost always when finding myself in the shadows recall the strange way the rain fell against the windows that day.

Most of all I wonder that if were we to meet now, whether or not you would allow me to protect you from yourself the way you protected me. I wonder now if you used me as a distraction from what was going on in your mind. I wonder now if I ever meant anything more to you than what we ended up as.

I wonder now if you knew at the time, that I was unattainably and irrevocably in love with you. I wonder, every day, if knowing that would have changed your mind.

A Series of Ambiguous Questions

Love is not a new subject for my rants, in fact, it is one of my least favourite but most committed sources of anger, confusion and genuine exasperation, hence its appearance as those three emotions are usually at the core of all of my rants. However my friends, I am not going to knock love to the floor and kick its teeth once again, no, I am going to ask you a series of questions that I want you to answer in your minds. I want you to answer them in your minds because were you to vocalise them, to me or anyone else, you would not be telling the whole truth. Love and truth are the mistresses of the mind, enticing us and crippling us in a matter of moments. They go hand in hand and as such, you must keep them away from each other as much as possible. We all know what chaos they can cause together.

In my experience on this earth, which after all is what this entire charade is about, I have come to accept that when love is on the cards, there are three types of people in this world – those that are IN love, those that WANT love and those that HAD love. And so comes my first question to you, my inquisitive readers … Will you read on?

Are you IN love? Do you share your heart, your mind, your body and your soul with another human being, so carved from the heavens that even the mention of their name sends your stomach tumbling in on itself? Do you perish at the thought of that love dissipating, or *gulp* disappearing altogether? Do you hold hands in the street and steal glimpses of each others infatuation when at the dinner table? Have you got that crooked grin that all lovers wear, that says “She is mine and I am His”? Do you wake up in the morning just to watch them sleep? Is the thought of any harm or pain coming to your love so overbearing that you would literally die before you saw them shed a single superfluous tear? Have you found the only other hand that you will ever hold on this mortal earth? Are you in love?

Do you WANT love? Do you want to commit yourself to another entirely and regardless of fault or flaw? Do you want to belong to someone else’s family and be enveloped in to their pasts and futures? Do you want to sign birthday cards with two names instead of one? Do you want to have someone there for you whatever the need or cause? Do you want someone to hold you and tell you that everything is going to be alright, even when in all honesty things probably won’t? Do you want to be able to say “This is my boyfriend/girlfriend”? Do you want the kisses, the cuddles, the commitment and the confusion? Do you want to be so consumed by someone else’s body, that the worries about your own no longer matter, because someone genuinely thinks you are beautiful already? Do you want love?

Did you HAVE love? Did you have those moments that felt like they would go on forever? Did you have those perfect trinkets of your love together, however meaningless to the rest of the world, that meant everything to you at the time? Do you find a stray item of their clothing and find yourself powerless to bring it to your face and inhale the scent of what you lost? Do you hear a song or see a movie and feel a hot prickle of tears in the back of your throat? Do you walk down the street and convince yourself of the words you would say to them were you to bump into them again? Do you find yourself powerless to tense up whenever their name is mentioned, intentionally or otherwise? Did you ever think it was possible for a human body to produce the amount of tears yours has? Did you have love?

They are my questions to you my eager love fuelled companions. Now comes the fun part. It will only happen with a few of you I am sure, but it will happen most certainly with a few. I am going to ask you one more question and I want you to answer it again in your mind. When I stated at the beginning of this rambling mess that there were three kinds of people in this world, I know you subconsciously allocated yourself one of the labels without the need to read the questions posed. You decided whether you were IN love, in WANT of love or indeed if you did HAVE love at some point. Here is my final question – Did you change your label after you read the questions?

My point is this – love is not a static emotion and what you want from it changes as your experience with it does. Those who have never been in love long for the tiniest things that those that are in love mostly overlook. Those that are in love fear losing it, but those that have lost it, well some of them are regrettably happy to have done so. Love is blinding and that’s why as human beings we are obsessed with it. The wrongs in the world seem a little less sharp when someone holds your heart and somehow love helps most people to function, gives their lives a deeper meaning and they find stability and calm when completely consumed by another’s embrace. The world is a horrendously ugly place at times, but to go home to the comfort of your love’s arms, to hear their voice and feel their heartbeat beneath your face, well, that’s a very special thing indeed. However I propose that this love, this one integral, ball breaking, would-die-without-you love, only comes but once a lifetime. Its logical really.

If you have bore the first label in my list and no longer do then by default you have also had to burden the third label. Subsequently, by bearing the third label, you will find yourself wearing the second soon after your heart begins to work again. There is no adult human being on this earth that has ever experienced love, that will not at some point feel all three of these labels pressed against their forehead.

Now you’re probably thinking, well what if you fell in love and that love lasted forever, and I think you know what I am going to say to that. Those that convince themselves that every love is THE love of their life are cheating themselves out of a wealth of experience, because the world is not black and white. In order to make the extraordinary shades of grey that shape us as individuals you have to mix the black and white, the good and the bad, the love and the loss – otherwise, you will find yourself perpetually blinded to the TRUE power of love.

Being love is an amazing feeling and one that I wish every human being will experience in earnest during their lives, but losing a love, well that my friends is a whole different matter. All the gooey emotions of being in love fade, they don’t disappear if it is real love, but they slowly begin to fade into the background as life steals you from your lovers bubble. All the tormented emotions of losing love, however, well they never really fade. To experience loves better side, that is beautiful, but to experience loves ugly side, that my friends is real. If you have never felt what its like to be at the bottom, you will never truly appreciate what is at the top, even if you remain there your entire life.

People fall in love too quickly, put rings on their fingers, children in their bodies and hope in their hearts, and as much as the media would have you believe it, teenage pregnancy, marriage and scandal is nothing new. Ask you grandparents how old they were when they met, married and had your parents. It may surprise you. But when a child is born out of love, even if that love fades, that child is a lucky one indeed. So many people have children to literally manipulate feelings of love in those that have lost the capacity to love them back. Love has become a weapon and a powerful one at that.

I disarmed that weapon a long time ago and threw the ammo into the Thames. I used to wear the second label, of someone who wanted desperately to be loved and then I was lucky enough to wear the first and finally, had the pain of bearing the third as we all inevitably should. Now I don’t think about love in those terms, which is hard for someone as neurotic as me to do but I try. Now I don’t try to think about love at all. My theory, because you knew I would have one, is that if love wants me back it will come and find me. In the words of Allen Ginsberg I gave it all and now I am nothing.

And I would rather remain nothing to love, than ever have the duty of any one of the three labels mentioned above. Love shouldn’t be a duty, it shouldn’t be something that comes quickly and fades like wise. Love should be real, it should be true but only one love will ever be forever. The words “I love you” are thrown around far too much by people who have no real understanding or respect for the word. Love has become a notion, a card once a year and a broken memory of what it meant to find the other half of your soul.

Love in those words has no place in my heart, nor I in its. And we get along just fine that way.

You Are Not a Princess and This Is Not a Fairytale.

Men get blamed for a lot of stuff that I don’t think is necessarily their fault, namely what I like to think of as the “Prince Charming Curse”.

All women whether they want to admit it or not have a Prince Charming in their head. Now he may be different to the Disney princes we were raised with as children, but the general logic is the same. It doesn’t matter if the Prince Charming in your head is covered in tattoos or straight off of the factory line, what does matter is that in your head, in every woman’s head, there is this perfectly charming man that was made by some great force, just for them.

To pick apart the PCC we have to look at the different ways in which men and women view each other. It is a commonly held misconception that men do not have their own notions of Princess Charming, because a hell of a lot of them do, but women, especially when they are little girls, are taught to subconsciously develop this notion of “perfection” in terms of who they choose to love and who they choose to leave.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, men get blamed for a lot of stuff that isn’t their fault as a result of the way a lot of women think about members of the opposite sex, whether they are conscious of the fact that they are doing it or not. No man, whoever he may be, has any chance of living up to the Prince Charming label and it isn’t because men suck, or men are evil beings, I quite like men – the point is men aren’t Prince Charming, because women aren’t Cinderella.

There seems to be this idea that all little girls are princesses, even the ones that play in the dirt, but that men have the ability to grow up good or grow up bad. Women do get called some horrendous names like skank, whore, slut – take your pick, my point is that it doesn’t put all men off of them. Some men actually prefer that kind of woman because they know that they don’t have to be a gentleman, or if you will, a Prince Charming. These girls are low maintenance and good for one thing, and if you are a man looking for a fix, there is nothing better than someone giving it away for free. I hold nothing against these women and in a lot of ways I envy them.

I envy people who can have sex with absolutely no strings attached, who look at members of the opposite sex with one thing in mind and only one thing. Who will overlook even the most blatant discrepancies to their Prince/Princess Charming criteria in the face of such unadulterated and uncompromising lust. I envy people who can forget that they are human and switch off their emotions for an hour or two and for those moments, be whoever and whatever the person desires with no prior assumptions of how they are supposed to act.

I think this is why a lot of women hate the whore/skank/slut kind of women; when it comes down to it its jealousy. You see them firstly as a sexual threat, because when someone has no morals your boyfriend, brother or best friend could be on their menu, but you ultimately see them as a personal threat, their mere existence causing you to feel like one of you is doing something wrong. People don’t like to question who they are and I think this is what the age old battle of sexually promiscuous men and sexually promiscuous women comes down to.

Disney is a classic brainwashing tool for young and old alike and it is in Disney movies that I founded most of my abhorrence for the Prince Charming idea. Something I noticed as a child and I still notice now is the amount of men in a Disney movie versus the amount of women. Take Pocahontas for example. You have a ship load of crude, most likely half-drunk men and an entire crop of young untamed, wild spirited women. Why is it then, which even at the end of the movie when the savages and the slave masters are equal, are Pocahontas and John Smith the only two that fell in love? I know the answer, and I think that if we taught our children, both male and female alike the true nature of love and what the world wants you to think it is, we would save them a hell of a lot of heartache.

The truth is simple – you are never going to find your perfect person, no matter how hard you try or however much you think you may have already found them. You will never know a love like John Smith and Pocahontas, because you are not a “princess” little girl and you are not a “prince” little boy. You are most probably a middle class child with a life time of disappointment and compromise ahead of you. The sooner you learn that life is not a fairy tale and that dreams genuinely don’t come true, the sooner life will begin to get better.

It’s not that women keep falling for the wrong guys, it’s that women keep trying to convince themselves that the person they love is perfect for them and instead of realising that all the things they don’t have in common, all the times they irritate each other and argue pointlessly are actually signs that they are not right for each other, they convince themselves that compromise and changing themselves slightly to benefit the other is what relationships are all about.

No. If you have to change who you are to be with the person you think that you are meant to be with, you are not meant to be with them. Eric didn’t make Ariel dye her hair because he preferred blondes and Tiana married Naveen when they were both still frogs. The only Disney movie that teaches children what life is really like is the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Quasi loves Esmeralda and she loves Phoebus. Now she does not love Phoebus because he is any kinder, braver or smarter than Quasi, no, she loves Phoebus because he is better looking.

We are preprogramed to think that the personality we wish for in a mate comes pre-packaged in a box that is also fit to our description, never mind the hundreds and hundreds of perfect matches we skip because they do not fit the Disney brand “Prince Charming” ideology. When people say that they genuinely prefer personality to looks, these people usually being the same that despise those brave enough to admit that looks are important, I wonder what they would do put in Esmeralda’s position? I can almost guarantee that none of those self-righteous people would choose Quasi. The “princess” only ever falls for the “prince”.

So what happens when you realise that you are not a princess? Does that automatically mean that you should except that fact that Quasi is as good as you are going to get and abandon all hope that Phoebus will ever love you? Seems like a depressing thought when you metaphorically use characters than you know and love instead of pointless celebrities or random acquaintances.

There appear to be two options. Either make yourself more like Esmeralda – change who you are, so that Phoebus will love you. Or accept the fact that Quasi is a person just like you – be who you are and be happy to be loved for who you are, by someone who would have you no other way.

The Disney Delusion has left a trail of broken hearts in its wake ever since Snow White bit the big one way back in 1937. Since then women have been convincing themselves that they are worthy of their Prince Charming and men have been convincing themselves that love is an elusive beast, often being left with feelings of inadequacy at the end of a relationship. The amount of men whose hearts are broken at the end of a relationship because they felt like they simply weren’t good enough is staggering and mostly overlooked.

You never find out Prince Charming’s story in Cinderella. You don’t get to go back to his palace and see how he rolls. He appears out of the pages of dreams and sweeps Cinderella off of her feet. The only way you are ever going to find your Prince Charming, is to never get too close. The moment that you see that a man is a real, living, breathing, feeling entity with emotions and aspirations just like you, who is weak and insecure and has the ability to break just like you women do, that is when the Prince Charming illusion shatters.

My best advice is to remember as the great sage Swift once said – you are not a princess and this is not a fairy tale. Abandon your hopes of every getting Esmeralda, Quasi, girls like her only want the Phoebus’ of this world and girls likewise give up your search for Phoebus, he will only settle for you if he cannot find his Esmeralda.

People will call me cynical, but I would rather be cynical than delusional. Anyway, I haven’t completely given up hope of finding my Prince Charming, but then again I never really liked Phoebus. I’ve always been a Quasi kind of girl.

Socially Acceptable Suicide

Even in 2015, there are still a hole heap of social taboos that centre around how an individual causes themselves physical or emotional pain or even death. Suicide, self harm, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, alcoholism – all of them will raise an eyebrow or two in any “socially acceptable” forum. However, and I am saying this as that little voice on the other side of the fence, there are ways that people mutilate their hearts and heads without ever picking up a razor blade or contemplating a one way waltz off of a tall building.

I’ll give you an example – when my marriage broke down, my first reaction was to get my nipple pierced. Now, for a couple of seconds can we just forget that the nipple is a “rude” place to get a piercing and just concentrate on the task at hand. It was a Tuesday evening and I called my mother to ask if she was around and if she wanted to pop by to the house that I had shared with my ex-husband, our daughter and two fabulous lodgers. She said yes, and I had a request – that she bring a cannula and a reasonably sized BCR. She obliged, without questioning this as she had been piercing me and my brother for years. Yep, we’re that kind of family.

So Ma pulls up and gets out of the car, comes in to the house and plops herself down on the settee. My friend and lodger was sitting on the other settee, my daughter asleep, the male lodger at work and my ex-husband was somewhere probably doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing. Or someone…I was in pain. And that pain wouldn’t go away. So, in the true spirit of fighting fire with fire, I, no noob to a cannula, asked my mother to pierce my nipple. My friend and my mother laughed, knowing that it was ludicrous and that I’d always maintained that I’d never be stupid enough to pierce anything below my neck for the simple reason – that shit hurts, man.

But I wanted it to hurt. That’s the point I’m trying to get across here. I wanted something to hurt more than my heart did, something to sharpen that dull, relentless ache in the pit of my stomach, something to spike some fresh, lucid tears from my swollen eyes. So, my mother, being the woman she is, pierced my nipple for me as I sat there on a cold Tuesday in November and my friend cringed right beside me. Needless to say, I don’t think she’ll ever be getting her nipple pierced…

And you want to know something totally fucking insane? It worked. For awhile. For at least the first week after I mutilated my left nipple, whilst the pain was still fresh and it ached like a rotten tooth somewhere near my heart, I felt like I could breathe again. So much so that a few weeks later, when the house was gone, the lodgers moved on and my marriage officially in the gutter, when I moved in with my mother for the first time since I’d left two years before, I asked my mother one day as she made her way out of the door, again on a Tuesday – if she had time to stick a couple of cannula’s through my lip. I didn’t bother asking her to “snake bite” me because my mother learned how to pierce people before people gave said piercings such ludicrous names. Again, she obliged, and I had two newborn piercings in my brutally swollen lip to get me through the next few weeks until they healed and the real pain came back again.

So then, after those piercings were on their way to healed, I went out and gave myself a rather nasty case of the “dead drunks” when I decided that a cocktail of tramadol, anti depressants and whiskey would numb me for a night in February. It worked, until I woke in a hospital bed feeling more shit than I thought was humanly possible. I trudged home looking like death warmed up, apologised profusely to my mother and sent a bunch of flowers and a thank you card to Joy, the nurse who had to deal with my issues that night in the emergency room because I hadn’t quite figured out how to tame my demons on my lonesome by this point. Rest assured, it was the last time I ever did that.

It all boiled down to distraction in the end. I started writing more and reading too much (as many as four books a day) and gardening, fuck me, the gardening. I started walking everywhere and playing my guitar and baking all the time. I was drawing, painting, sewing and even tried my hand at ceramics before I realised just what in the hell was going on – I was shutting down, slowly but surely each and every one of the little lights inside me were burning out whilst I was busy knitting or learning the chord progressions in Bruce Springsteen’s newest song. I was a husk of the teenager I had been, caught somewhere on the front line of being an adult, being a mother, being a woman and being alive.

Slowly, I was drowning in my own distraction. So I stuck a pin in it and tried, fuck me I tried, to be a good person and for the most part its worked ever since. The issue is, sometimes, things still hurt. It’s like I have a chamber in my heart solely reserved for a swarm of hornets that hold my all the tiny arrows the poor bastard has taken over the years and every now and then, one of those hornets stings against the bars I have carefully built up around it and its friends. Sometimes, the really determined ones even manage to break free of their cage and terrorise the softer patches of my heart.

And that’s when I’d give anything to feel a tangible pain again, instead of just the vague burning sensation that comes with immense emotional distress. Something I can get my hands on and sink my teeth into, a pain that I can control and manipulate at my pleasure or discomfort – something to make me feel anything other than what I’m feeling when one of those mutant wasps breaks free and pours its poison into my veins.

Pain is the key here, people. And yeah, you can pick up a razor or a piece of something broken and sharp, maybe even something poetic like a mirror, so that you can watch yourself hurting yourself and take comfort in the solace that knowing the attacker brings. And yeah, when it all gets too much you can get punch out a single and ride the train to the end of the line. You can drown in the bottom of the bottle or soar on the tip of a needle, or you can throw your beautiful, broken body at anything willing to call it so for a time or two just to feel like you’re not entirely worthless. And all of these things, were you to tell them to a psychiatrist or a even a friend or family member, may wind you up with an intervention at the best and a funeral at the worst, depending on the quality of the people around you.

But there are a million and one socially acceptable ways to commit suicide. You can, for example, become addicted to the most foul and fiendish drug of them all – nicotine. You can smoke your life away one cigarette at a time and never once find yourself alone in a room full of judgemental faces and inquisitive eyes. Hey, you smoke, yeah you shouldn’t but my grandaddy smoked for like a hundred and two years and lived to be seventy nine thousand years old, or something like that.

You can go out every weekend and get blackout drunk, so drunk that you don’t remember how you got home or where your shoes are or what in gods name that is down the front of you t-shirt and you’re fine, because you only do it at the weekend. You hold down a nine to five, you pay your bills and you don’t beat your old lady when you’re wasted. You don’t drink and drive and nine times out of ten you walk away from the fights that find your face in those fabulous shit holes you frequent Friday to Sunday. But you’re just Dave, the local pisshead, everyone’s favourite pet yardstick that they measure their own failures against. Oh well, you weren’t as fucked as Dave was…is anyone ever as fucked as Dave is? Lol.

Spend your days walking around so stoned that you couldn’t tell your daddy from the postman. Go on, do it. You’re allowed to numb yourself so relentlessly against the bullets flying at you because you’re funny when you’re stoned, you’re easy when you’re stoned and easy is endlessly endearing. Pump yourself full of Valium and Prozac, hell skin up one hell of a joint and blaze your life away, because weed is natural and it doesn’t hurt anyone and it should be legal, man. It doesn’t hurt anyone, it helps people. Look, I’ve got this killer Wiki list that details all the good things about weed. You know, it doesn’t say anything about the fact that any chemical or natural substance, that takes you away from the way you feel is inherently dangerous to your basic understanding of identity and position, but you know… could you pass the oreos?

And here’s the best and the worst, saved for last as all things of its ilk should be. I’m going to tell you now to call him. To pick up your phone and call him. It doesn’t matter that it’s one o’clock in the morning and he’s probably passed on someone else’s bed, y’all just go ahead and call him. Tell him that you can’t live without him. Tell him that he will never, EVER find someone who will love him like you do. Tell him that you fell like you can’t breathe without him. Tell him that he’s the only thing that stops the voices in your head because he is the only fucking voice in your head. Tell him that you’re sorry and that you’ll do anything to be with him. Tell him that you’ll die without him. And believe it. Believe it all. Every. Single. Word. Of. This. Bullshit. Boil it down and breathe it in, because nothing, and I mean nothing, quite compares to the powerfully destructive pain of desperately timeless unrequited love.

And that’s how we do it. That’s how we live, creatures of immeasurable misery integrated fully into a functioning society that wouldn’t know us from the next. It’s how we survive by ritualistically torturing our minds and hearts and bodies with a whole heap of socially acceptable forms of self mutilation. We stick needles through our genitals and tattoo our rib cages. We drink, smoke and fuck like the worlds going to end, because in our heads, it already has. We throw ourselves into experiencing our lives in means and ways that we’ve told are enjoyable but in actual fact are dead end attempts to be happy on a road to absolute fucking misery.

And there’s hundreds of thousands of us out there. Some of you might have even read this and nodded along or sighed or shaken your heads because you know Dave the piss head, hell y’all might even be Dave the piss head. And you might be high now or smoking a fag or looking at your phone wondering if they got your text, telling yourself that it’s late and they’re probably asleep, crossing your fingers that they’ll text back in the morning with the obligatory apology and inadequate excuse, all the while knowing that the reason that they’re not texting back is because they’re busy living without you.

And you question whether that would be living at all because you haven’t realised that they have realised this already.

So, yeah, we’re all in pain and we’re all trying to find a way to make that pain go away or at least shut the hell up. Sometimes we win and it does shut up. And sometimes we lose and it whispers in the backs of our minds and we feel that wave wash over us, feel the water trickle down the back of our throats and find ourselves crawling through the hours on all fours gasping for the air that everyone around us is breathing seemingly with so much ease. And we wonder if that pain will ever go away. We wonder if we’ll ever be able to breathe again.

And sometimes, we hope we won’t. We call it a day and we settle into a sleep that we wish, somewhere deep and dark inside ourselves, that we don’t open our eyes again. That we just silently tap out of all it is that weighs us down and tears us apart, but then, more often than not, we wake up and realise that the world woke up again too. And that it would whether or not we were here or gone. We realise how small and insignificant we actually are and it scares the shit out of us. The notion occurs to us that were we to shuffle off this mortal coil and into the blessed abyss, no one would care. Yeah your mum and you dad would probably be devastated and your friends would probably go get your name tattooed on them and raise a bomb to you every other weekend, but given time, they’d live, because like all things, pain fades.

So you have a choice. You can either accept the fact that the world will go on without you just fine, that even those that would want to die if you did, would find a way to deal with that pain and would remember you always but that there would come a day in even their lives when they would be pouring milk into their cereal in the morning and your face wouldn’t be in their mind or your voice in their ears – you can take this information and drown in it, or you can take this information as a free pass to live exactly how you want to live without fear of what the world will think – because it doesn’t care, remember?

You’re free. Free to do whatever you want whenever you want with whomever you want for whatever reasons you want. The world doesn’t care. And neither should you. Be yourself, your own magnificently mutated self. And remember, that that place in your chest that aches all the time also beats all of the time, and in those moments of universal despair, lend a hand to that spot on your chest for a moment or two and take comfort in the fact that it never stopped beating, through it all – however much you may have wanted it to.

And be beautiful.

Because you are.

And know that we’re in it together.

Because we are.

“Dear, Heart.” (2013)

Sitting alone with bended knees,

Scribbling away the minutes,

Marking the paper with desperate pleas,

When you know that your heart’s not in it.

Gave up looking for a muse,

Since time before hereafter,

Pecking at the mesh discouraging you,

From tying a noose to the rafters.

The walls are too close,

And the day seems too long,

When those who loved you most,

Seek salvation in the great beyond.

But the light that you breathe,

Cramps leaden in your lungs,

And the technicolor symphonies,

Curse you to a life lived half sung.

And there is no ever after,

No promises hidden in your prayer,

So hurry now, forsake their laughter,

Those that love you will meet you there.

When I Dream of Syringes

It was cold and most certainly night. I was drunk, for the most part and standing with my usual crowd outside of our local supermarket. I was wearing my blue paisly shirt and my olive green Lee Coopers. I was smoking a cigarette and laughing, a bottle of something strong and tepid in my hand. He approached, his eyes bluer than I could ever recall from photgraphs burning into me. My friend stopped and put her hand on my arm,

“He’s looking at you.” He came straight up to me and took out a pen. He smiled, his face reminiscent of what I knew but something was different. Stubble speckled his young cheeks and he laughed,

“You can’t be though, you haven’t got any hair.” He had cut his hair to half an inch all over but his face bore a similarity too uncanny not be frutiful. He shook his head and closed the distance between us. He uncapped the pen, which was laden with white ink.

“Can I?” I nodded, my mind still and my heart beating in my ears. I breathed in as he pulled one side of my half open shirt aside, revealing the black of my bra. He scrawled a word, an autograph on the portion of my left breast that showed and let the shirt fall gently to rest. I reached out to touch his face and he took my hand before it could.

“Come with me.” He pleaded. I could see poison under his eyes, swimming in the blue that was never quite captured on the cameras where I had come to know him so well. I turned to my friends and realised that they had moved away. He squeezed my hand and we walked out of the car park and into daylight. We were by the side of the sea. There was an immense heat baking off of the ground but neither of us looked pained for the weather. The cool sea breeze wafted through my hair.

We came to a wall, hand in hand, and beyond it lay nothing but ocean. He let go of my hand and climbed over the wall, almost glided over the wall and hit the sand on the other side with a soft thud. He then reached his arms over and helped me, also somehow glide, over the cinder block obstacle. Our foreheads touched and my stomach knotted when he kissed me briefly on the mouth. On the wall now stood out a face, melted to the brick, its skin grafted to the very mortor.”It’s for nothing.” Its mouth was disorted, a hideous grimace marring the scarred, powedery skin but its words were clearer than the ocean that now lay before us. It shifted and came closer to us, almost sinking into the brick and oozing back through the wall now only a foot from us. His grip tightened on my hand and we ran, we ran like we were trying to beat the devil, until blood pumped in our eyes and our mouths were are dry as the sand under our now bare feet.

We skidded to a halt on the side of the ocean, a platform about three foot over the water. We sat down and caught our breath, words were exchanged but they escape me now. He took out a leather pouch. Inside the pouch was a syringe, a white ball of clinge film and other random pieces. I watched as he sharpened his arm, the muscles writhing underneath the roadmap skin and popped the needle of the syringe through his the cleft of his arm. He immediatly fell back, his muscular stomach now bare and glistening in the light of the rising sun.

I went to stand, placing my hands next to me when he shot up as it electrocuted and stabbed the same syringe, now full once more, into the soft flesh between the knuckles of my index and middle finger. As soon as he pushed the plunger down the platform broke and I was flung two hundred foot into the air, the platform rising and blood pouring from the wound on my hand. I could vaguely see him but his voice was lost in the wind.

I had to throw something. He wanted me up there, that is why he had stabbed me. I had to be that high up. I could not remember what he wanted me to throw though. The wind was heavy and the platform unstable. I shifted my weight and looked out onto the horizon. There was ocean for as far as I could see but behind me was a dense city landscape, with life and sound melting together. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a green guitar pick.

That was what he wanted me to throw. I held it against my mouth, the metal in my lip chinking against it. I pursed my lips and kissed the pick before shuffling my feet to the edge of the platform. Then I took a deep breath and thought of the man who had led me here with neck length dirty blonde hair, a green cardigan and a guitar in his hands singing about the scent of teen spirit and then I remembered who he was and what he wanted from me. I let my feet continue off the platform where they found nothing but air.

But I did not fall. I floated back down to the platform where he now stood smiling, his hair grown back to the length I remember it being. He had tears in his eyes as he took me into his arms and kissed me once more. With my arms locked around him, he dissolved into dust and was carried away by the wind. The day faded to night in seconds and I was back standing outside the supermarket with my friends, although now I was covered with sand like powder and my hand was black with dead blood.

“Are you okay?” I nodded and we walked up the high street and into one of the pubs. I ordered my drink and excused myself to the toilet. No one had said anything about my hand that was now twice the size it should have been. I stood in front of the mirror and watched as my hand returned back to normal and the dust like dirt all over my shirt washed away into the air and out of the open window.

I unbuttoned my shirt, standing in the harsh light of the pub bathroom and let it fall to my elbows. There written on the nape of my left breast, almost as while as the flesh was his word as if to assure me that he was not a dream but somehow more. Four simple letters in untidy scrawl that brought an exhausted tear to my eye – live.

When I Dream of Buttermilk

It’s one of those days when the air just isn’t moving and it sits in my mouth and lungs like ash. I can smell the dirt and the tobacco on my hands as I wipe the sweat out of my eyes and make my way through the crowd. You’re not looking at me because you never do and I’m looking at you because I always do. And I wonder how you’re not clawing your beard off in this heat, effortlessly cool in every possible sense of the word as you sip a warm beer and laugh like a lunatic. People are melting out at your feet. I’m just melting.

She creeps up behind me and asks in her own flamboyant screech if I would like a drink. I see what you’re drinking. I tell her the name of the beer and she scurries off, eager to please me for reasons beyond my own comprehension. She returns and hands me a lukewarm beer that tastes like old milk and I wince as I take the first sip. She asks me why on earth I would want to drink that stuff and I shrug it off, not content to tell her that it’s because it’s what you’re drinking and that it’s probably the closest I’m ever going to come to knowing what your mouth tastes like.

I look at my battered boots and smile, my hair falling in front of my eyes. I look as insane as I feel. Because here they are, suited and booted and dressed to the nines, in their sling backs and halters, all bare skin and radiance and here I am in a sleeveless R.E.M shirt, black jeans and the same dusty boots I’ve kicked the ground with for most of my life. I’m a shadow in a room full of stardust and it’s no wonder you’ve never noticed me lurking in your peripheral. I take another sip of the awful beer as she slinks away to go irritate some other poor bastard with her own desperate sense of companionship.

Everything’s hitting me in monotones and monochromes, a sea of nude fabrics and sterile music thumping through the air like an infected tooth. A woman pushes her ample chest against yours, standing on her tiptoes to whisper something in your ear. Your hand, the tattoo on the back of it crystal in my eyes even from this distance, presses against her lower back and she wafts back down to her normal height, looking at you with expectant eyes that beg you to laugh or nod or shake your head. Instead you look up and through the sea of faceless people in nameless gowns, your eyes find mine.

It’s your turn to whisper and as your hand leaves the woman’s back, violent ripples of gooseflesh break out all over my body. Your eyes are still on mine, those dauntingly dark eyes and as you make your way through the ebb and flow of desperate creatures in dainty gowns, all the blood rushes out of my body and hits my cheeks. My face is on fire by the time our toes touch. It’s like I’ve being queuing for a roller coaster nine hours of my day and when the time comes to get on and buckle up, I want to run. And that’s just what I do.

I run. Through the crowds and out into the blistering heat of the day. The sun hits me like an open palm and I gasp in the dusty air, doubled over with my cold fingers biting into my shaking knees. A few moments later, silence fills the air. You haven’t followed me. I wait for my heart to climb back down from the roof of my ribcage and when it is safely beating at a steady pace, I begin to make my way through the ruins of what was once a car park. Where I’ll go, I don’t know but I know one thing is for sure – I will never come back to this place again.

On the other side of the car park I hear my name, whispered in buttermilk. My heart loses it’s mind again and begins flickering about the place, a manic moth caught in its own dead lights. You say my name again and my shoulders slump, ready to swoon, but I don’t. I hold my shivering right hand out in front of me palm down and force it to still. Then, methodically, as if reciting some sacred incantation, I turn my hand palm up and slap myself across the face hard enough to draw blood. My cheek stings and the corners of my eyes begin to run with hot tears. I run my quivering tongue over the torn groove in my bottom lip and laugh.

You say my name again, and this time, I wake up.