When I Dream of Dreams

The sun is setting outside and the thick summer heat crowds the small room. Everything seems too close. You sit a few feet away from me, mirroring my stance, cross legged on the floor. You hand me a piece of paper and show me the words that you’ve stitched together, words hidden within other words, worlds hidden within other worlds. I struggle to understand. It’s been a long day, I’m hot and I’m tired and I’m worried. He’ll notice I’m not home any moment now and as the sun sinks behind the grey skyline, a lump forms in my throat.

You sit beside me now, out arms touching, your strong, tanned forearm prickles against my side and sends gooseflesh shivering across my back and chest. You point to the words on the piece of paper in front of me and explain what they are. Your handwriting is messier than I thought it would be but the paper is precious in my trembling hands and I hold tight, tight enough to make the tips of my fingers go white. You stand, bare footed in jeans and a white t-shirt, the way I and everyone always pictures you, in their dreams and in their minds. You ask if I want to listen to some music. How could I refuse?

I sit stoic and scared on the sofa as you place a record on the turn table and the black magic scuffs its way to life. Have we been drinking? Smoking? I feel about ready to float off of the sofa when you sit down heavily next to me and the music takes up the last of the space the heat left behind in the small, sweet smelling room. Your hair is a mess and my heart is a mess and you look at me like you’ve known me forever.

We sit, together, perfectly enclosed in each-others company and listen to the music. You close your eyes and a bead of sweat falls down one cheek. It takes everything in me not to wipe it away with the corner of my t-shirt or to run my hands through the sweaty mess of black curls mopping at your forehead. We sit for a moment longer as one song ends and another song begins, the stop and starts of the record player sending little jolts of awareness through my mind and down to my fingertips.

This will end. I know this will end. But for now it’s here and until the record skips and changes its tune, I know that this is here and it’s now. With your eyes still closed you lean into me your face graving mine as you nestle you hot, damp head in my lap and exhale deeply. Your breath reaches up my bare thighs and settles somewhere near where my shorts begin. I am useless, speechless, dumbfounded and lost. My hands suddenly seem superfluous, my breath seems ragged and painful.

You open your mouth to speak and every word hits my bare legs with a soft gust of hot, fragrant breath. You ask me not to go, you tell me to stay, here with you in this place, in this moment and though we haven’t spoke of my leaving, it appears we both knew I would have to go sometime. Your voice breaks and my fingertips find your forehead, sweeping back your sweaty hair and stroking away the hurt. I have to go I tell you. But not yet.

Not yet.

Advertisements

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.

Brick by Bloody Brick

When I was a kid I always wanted to be seventeen. This was when, in my mind, the world would open its gilded doors and allow me to float through into the chaos that growing up in a small left me craving by the time I reached ten years old. And what, you ask, did I hope to find on the other side of those magnificently elusive doors? Well, I hoped to find the world and within it – myself. So here’s what I was going to do when I was seventeen –

I was going to be tragically and impossibly intelligent by the time I was seventeen. I was going to know exactly where I was going and why I was going there at all times and the childish notions of confusion and fear would evaporate the moment those doors to seventeen closed behind me and enveloped me into their madness. I was going to read – a lot. And not just the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the Wind in the Willows that got me through much of my childhood – I was going to read foreign books by enigmatic heroes of the written word like Dochevsky and Alighieri. And I wasn’t only going to just understand them; I was going to understand them on a level so unfounded that my sheer ability to comprehend their nuances would be simultaneously enthralling and enraging. And I was going to write – a lot. Hell, I was going to write a library.

I was going to be cynical and alone and insufferably miserable. I was going to drink hard liquor and smoke cigarettes that didn’t have filters and I was going to look unimaginably awesome whilst I did this. I was going to see the world and travel from place to place with a few coins in my pocket and a crooked smile on my face. I was going to make friends and enemies in equal measure and learn as much from those who loathed me as I would learn from those who loved me. I was going to drink wine out of the bottle on top of the Eiffel tower and strike a pose next to Washington monument that bordered on phallic. I was going to eat food that wasn’t even considered food in much of the world and I was going drink my coffee black and bitter and I was going to draw deep and meaningful correlations between the nature of my favoured beverage and the inherent nature of my soul. Yes, I was going to be one deep motherfucker when I was seventeen.

I was going to change the world one burnt flag at a time and I was never going to wear a bra or shave my legs or give into what a society who idolised nothingness asked me to be. I was never going to wear make-up or take note of my appearance. I was going to be an independent entity, existing only to better humanity and for no personal gain. I was going to chain myself to fences and throw pretend blood over many a war mongering politician. I was going to be the next Abbie Hoffman and I was going to end the hypocrisy and injustice in a blaze of adolescent glory. I was going to establish world peace because when I turned seventeen I would suddenly know exactly where the rest of the planet had gone wrong in that respect. People would listen to me when I was seventeen. I was going to set the world on fire.

And then when my library had been written, my world discovered and eventually saved I was going to die alone in a cabin in the woods somewhere in Maine, New England surrounded by books and tokens of my indulgences. Empty whiskey bottles, overflowing ashtrays and vinyl – my God there would be so much vinyl. And I would leave nothing behind but my legacy. No children, no broken hearts or thankful ones and I would be remembered for what I did and not who I was. No one would know me enough to miss me and I would take comfort in this thought in my last days. People would remember the thousands of lives I lived but no one would ever be close enough to know the real life. The eating, shitting, snoring, crying life that we all try so desperately to hide from everyone but the people you love. I was never going to fall in love. This one was the most important. I was never going to fall in love.

So I am a few years on the wrong side of seventeen. And what, you ask, did I actually find on the other side of those magnificently elusive doors? Well I found the world and within it – everything but myself. So here’s what I did when I was seventeen –

I was tragically and impossibly suffocated by my intelligence and the constraints, as well as the expectations that came with it. I had no idea where I was going most of the time nor why I was going there or what I hoped to find at the end of many dead end roads. The childish notions of confusion and fear were replaced with the adolescence notions of confusion and fear that were in retrospect much more terrifying than their predecessors. And I read – a lot. And I read foreign books and I understood little to nothing hidden within their pages. But I pretended I did, as if just managing to finish “The Idiot” or “The Divine Comedy” and understand their basic premise was enough. And I wrote – a lot. Hell, I wrote a whole goddamn library.

I was cynical and insufferably miserable but never alone. I drank hard liquor and smoked cigarettes without filters but never looked any cooler than the other people doing it. I did indeed travel from place to place with a few coins in my pocket but there was very rarely a smile on my face. I made more enemies than I made friends, and in all likeliness probably learned more about myself from those whom loathed me than I did from those who loved me. I never did make it to the Eiffel tower or to the Washington monument to snap that fabled phallic photograph. I have eaten some crazy stuff, but nothing of note and yes, I do drink my coffee dark and bitter but never drew that comparison between its nature and that of my soul. Yes, I was one misanthropic motherfucker by the time I was seventeen.

I never burned a flag and have always worn a bra (well most of the time) and I shave my legs and pluck my eyebrows like every other woman. I wear makeup and care more as I grow older about what I wear. I realised that I was a person in the world too and that I could not save everybody without martyring myself. That idea lost a lot of weight by the time I was seventeen. I have berated many an MP but I have never chained myself to something or thrown any particular item, blood or otherwise, over a politician. Around the same time I discovered that I was a person, not independent of the world but part of it, I discovered that even the most parasitic politician has a mother and a father who love them as my own loved me. It made the process of being objectively outraged a lot easier once I began to see my enemy as a human being and not a sack of cells sucking up oxygen. I learned quickly that I didn’t know everything and that the establishment of world peace took more than just telling people to put down their guns. I didn’t become the next Abbie Hoffman and I didn’t really achieve any great political victory when I was seventeen. No one listened to me when I seventeen. But I did set the world on fire.

Sitting on the wrong side of seventeen looking back at all I had hoped to achieve does twist my stomach into a knot – mainly at the sheer vanity of many of the dreams. I was an egotistical, angst ridden fool who thought of nothing but herself and masked it as a deep and meaningful understanding of the world and the problems within it. I didn’t know what I was talking about then, and I don’t really know what I am talking about now. And in coming to that realisation I managed to set fire to the one part of the world that mattered – my future.

I will not die alone in a cabin somewhere in Maine, New England and I won’t be surrounded by empty whiskey bottles, overflowing ashtrays and vinyl. Okay, so there will be vinyl, and a lot of it. I will leave behind much more than my legacy and I know at least one person will miss me when I am gone. One heart will break and one person will never be the same. I know at least one person will remember me independent of the thousands of lives I pretended to live in the shadows of my own vanity and that one person will remember me for the eating, shitting, snoring, crying mess I am and you are and they are. I know this because I broke my own rules and I did what I said I would never do. I fell in love.

Yes, instead of doing all of that awesome stuff I had planned for seventeen when I was ten years old, I did the one thing I promised myself I would never do. Broken promises are always devastating to some degree, but none cut deeper or fade slower than the promises you made yourself. And then on the wrong side of seventeen I realised that predicting the future is possibly the most fruitless endeavour one can hope to comprehend because sometimes the exact thing that you never wanted is the exact thing that you always needed. I needed to fall in love, I needed to break that promise and there isn’t a day that goes by that this fact doesn’t simultaneously kill me and heal me.

And however we end up, whether she loves me forever like she does now with complete innocence and adoration, or she grows tired of my unrelenting pessimism and tries to break free of my inane bull shit – I will always be eternally grateful to her and the promise that she forced me to break.

And however we end up, I will always love the little girl who helped me set fire to the world and held my hand as we rebuilt it together, brick by bloody brick.