Sunday, 16 December 2012

Chapter 1 of a piece I have yet to name.

I had intended to close my eyes when they opened the gates, to close off my primary sense and use only my ears to absorb the revelation of freedom. I would lie in my bunk at night sometimes and imagine the sound of those huge gates parting ways for me. I didn’t know if they were still traditional gates with a heavy barrage of locks, or if they had been replaced with new ones, electronically controlled by a lever or button in a booth somewhere in the vicinity. I knew they would be metal though. I knew that, and so in my bunk in the dead of night I imagined the groan of steel and iron, the scuffing sound of gravel being swept backwards puffing out small clouds of chalky dust. In my vision there were no others leaving that day, only myself. I would stand alone with all the dignity I could muster, in my own clothes that may or may not still fit me and I would close my eyes, the image of a barred gateway in my minds eye and wait until I could hear no more movement, then I would draw a deep breath and open my eyes and all there will be in front of them is space. A stretching road, reaching from me into the beyond with no bars nor shackles, nor guards lining its path. A road that lead either into the hills if I were to go right or into the towns if I chose left and I would be free to select my own destination. For the first time in fifteen years.
I could smell coffee wafting down the corridor which meant it must have been just after six and the early shift guards were arriving. I could see a sliver of light breaking through the darkness outside. Stretching, I swung my legs out of my bunk and cracked my neck to ease the stiffness. My cell mate was at the bucket, his piss falling heavy and fast, some of it splashing back onto his bare feet. He didn’t seem to notice. I heard the jingle of keys and then the clang of a truncheon being slammed against a railing.
“Alright, listen up;”
A voice rang out and for a second all that could be heard was the creaking of bed springs and the shuffling footsteps of inmates, some crowding their doors, hairy arms dangling through the bars like caged apes.
“… the following men are to report to Captain Ingle after breakfast: Barton, 10650 Keats, 23671 Matthews, 21455 Singh 32186 Tillman, 19498 and Weinstein, 23990 You are to be released from the custody of this facility and may God guide your every step from here to eternity.”
As the last echo of the speech faded to nothingness against the whitewash ceiling, there was a cheer from one of the cells below, a huge raucous cheer that seemed to shake the dust from the rafters. I looked towards my cell mate. He nodded and looked away from me, his big dopey face contorted with disgust.
I was getting out. He was staying in. We were no longer to be cell mates and as we had never and would never be friends, there was little to say. Jacob. S. Connolly, from Irish stock originally but now in the fourth generation of his family since immigration, he had nothing of the old country about him save for the tiny bible that lived under his pillow with an inscription in the front pages about the beauty of the emerald isle. The word ‘emerald’ was spelt wrong, an ‘o’ replacing the second ‘e’, although I don’t think Jacob could read well enough to notice.
When he was first moved into this cell he was cordial enough, but he talked in his sleep, begging his mother to speak to him and to cook him stew with dumplings. On these occasions his voice would wobble like a child’s when they are on the cusp of a tantrum. Other times he would occasionally berate a woman called Nancy for something he never seemed able to articulate beyond murmurs and threats of violence if it happened again. I had mentioned this to him one day during the morning ritual of taking it in turns to do push ups in the narrow space between our bunks. Jacob went white with shock as I explained to him and then very quickly flushed crimson from his throat upwards. He put his fist under my nose, crushing my lips, and made it very clear to me in his own words that he wasn’t crazy and that suggesting he was talking in his sleep like a madman was going to prove bad for my health. I could have taken him on, I could tell from the way he moved that he was a slow and clumsy fighter, but it seemed foolish to make an enemy of the man I had to trust not to slit my throat in the night so I backed down without incident. After that conversation though, he refused to even look at me. I suppose he thought I was mocking a weakness he had involuntarily exposed. I didn’t see it that way, but who am I to force interpretation upon anyone. I couldn’t convince a jury to see things my way, I doubted I could convince Jacob.
Officer McDonnell opened our cell door and looked me over. His right eye, alert and bright as always, the iris so dark it was hard to tell where his pupil began, swivelled around the cell and came back to rest on my face.
“You’re leaving us today Charlie?”
He posed it like a question as he did with almost all statements. The last word of his sentence slanted upwards in pitch.
“Yes Sir.”
“Good, think you’re ready?”
I didn’t know if this was a genuine question or another odd inflection and nodded with vague committal.
The older man grunted and ran his tongue along his bottom set of teeth, pushing his lip out. Reaching up, he scratched just beneath the grey cloth patch over his left eye socket. There wasn’t really much more to say between us either.
After breakfast I reported and was handed a bundle of civilian clothes and told to go change in the toilets.
They weren’t the clothes I had come in with, these were charity clothes, cheap and worn. Apparently my own clothes had been infested with lice and had to be burned but I suspected that top of the line tailored pants and a shirt made out of fine linen as opposed to cotton, with a matching pale blue silk tie simply were not meant to sit in storage for fifteen years in a place where guards have families to feed and clothe.
My remaining belongings, pathetic as they were, I piled into the paper bag provided. I carefully rolled my certificate of carpentry qualification, tied it with string, and placed it on top of my two books which were Moby Dick and The Last Of The Mohicans. I also owned a carton of cigarettes and a pocket book of matches which I had forgotten about. Last but not least there were keys to a car. I had told the police the keys were a sentimental trinket, a memento from a dead relative. They hadn’t believed me, I wouldn’t have believed me either, the way I was sweating when they mentioned it, but they hadn’t found the car either so they clearly had no choice but to return the keys to me upon my release date. I fed the my belt through the key ring and buckled it tight, securing them to me then flopped my new shirt over the top, the armpits stank of stale whiskey and shrimp.
I was asked if I wanted to return to my cell and say good-bye to Jacob and I declined without a second thought. Fifteen years of that cell, that tiny smoke box of a window, always clouded with grime and a view of only one barren field if you stood on the bed to look … if I could have viewed anywhere in that place one last time it would have been the kitchen. For the last six years I had washed dishes in there, three times a day all by myself and it was my own little paradise a reward earned through nine years of good behaviour.
It had a large window, barred up alright but cleaned regularly, and the most beautiful view of the road and the woods beyond it. At certain times I could make out the shape of servant women carrying their mistress’ shopping home, mothers shooing children ahead of them, their voices lost to me over the distance but a sweet sight all the same. No matter how many times the guards barked at me to hurry up my scrubbing I always took as long as I could.
All six of us who were to be free that day were escorted by truck to the gatehouse. We said very little, each exchanging nervous smiles and nods, I offered round my packet of cigarettes and despite the tobacco being little more than dust two men accepted. I couldn’t tell who was who, although as we descended I noticed the label poking out of one man’s coat it read “A.J Tillman”. He saw me looking and the menace in his eyes as he turned to face me made me check my step. I have always found it best never to presume a man is guilty of the crimes he is imprisoned for until you hear the confession from his own lips, but at that second I would have wagered my freedom that A.J Tillman had done whatever it was they said he had done, and that he would do it again.
My identity card was handed to me at the gatehouse, just one more door to walk through and I would be facing those massive gates and then, well, then it was whatever I wanted for the rest of my life.
I looked at the card handed to me and there I was: Charles Bartholomew Barton, originally from Perth, Australia, now of no fixed abode, next of kin - none. 5’9”, blonde hair, blue eyes, birthmark on right shoulder. 20 years old at time of arrest, 35 years old now. Crime - Murder.
I looked from the paper to the gate keeper and he shrugged.
“You look younger than that, and someone messed up on your height. But yeah, not bad boy-o. Fifteen years?”
The man whistled and shook his head.
“We all have to live with the choices we make as young men. Good luck to you mate.”
I looked at his extended hand and it stirred something deep inside of me. I gripped his palm like a life raft floating me away from a dreadful storm which I should never have ventured into.
“Thank you.”
My voice was gruff and I had to blink rapidly for a few seconds.
“Move! You dingo shagging son of a whore!”
It was Tillman from further down the queue. I glanced back at him briefly, he wanted to fight. I saw him bristle, like a dog raising its hackles and I turned to stare at him, my hands loosely curled at my sides. He stepped out of the line and I placed my bag on the floor.
“Knock it off! Or you’ll be back in there before the imprint of your arses is even off the damn truck bench!”
One of the other guards glared at us, daring us to defy him. We weren’t free yet. Tillman nodded to me and moved back into the group. I don’t know which of us would have won that fight but in here it didn’t matter. Once a fight was off, it was off.
We all milled around for a few more minutes, Tillman took one of my cigarettes and I lit it for him. We were all restless now. Every gust of wind that brushed aside the flimsy curtains and brought a flush of hot air into the room was a gust of wind we should have felt as free men.
Eventually the key holder arrived, and the guard who had shaken my hand pushed me gently forward. I was being lead toward the door, the final door between myself and freedom.
Fifteen years! Fifteen Christmas’, fifteen birthdays, fifteen times around the sun and finally I was through the door. Sunlight flooded the courtyard and I could see the heavy iron gate with its thick black locks but I didn’t close my eyes.
Instead I stared up at the sky until the tears streamed down my face and I was blinded by white-light. I heard the metal scraping just as I had intended, but beyond that I heard the birds and they sang and called me to the ocean, to the waves lapping at the shore and those waves were so bold in my memory that they drowned out the gates defiant scraping. And still the birds sang:
Go! Go West!
Or South or East!
Follow the path,
Which pleases you best.
Save North for another day,
You have so many now!
Find water, Find water!
Make your own way!
I started walking, still blinded, but my feet found their path, and my eyes adjusted to the light, greens and browns swimming into focus until I saw the trees ahead of me and then I was there. The gate scraped shut behind me and, I know it sounds stupid to say it, but the sunlight on this side of the gate felt warmer somehow. It is almost definitely my imagination but I still wonder sometimes, in my more whimsical moments, maybe the sun … maybe she really did shine a little brighter for me that day, welcoming back to the land she touches freely, without long shadow of bars and chains; encouraging me to get away from that place, to circle the earth, just as the earth circles her.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Rambles on Sexuality.

Jotting down a thought I will hopefully find myself able to expand upon later.
The comings and goings of a fetish or obsession of sexual nature that is all consuming one day and then almost non-existant the next. This is not a libido thing I don't think, more of a psychological 'jerk'.
Like any nervous tick or such thing it is impossible to control 100% of the time and some days far worse than others.
My preoccupation with this lies in the urgency the desire. It is something that demands satisfaction in a far greater way than hunger, which if ignored, placates itself at least for a while. There is no escaping a fetish with a tight grip on you. It is something which is a constant battle to resist and I imagine the pressure if it is a socially unacceptable one is almost unbearable when the thought is upon one.
Currently I am experiencing such a thing, the timing is abismal and it is everything I can do to function in a quasi-normal way. My hope is that it will resolve itself if I keep repressing it and leave me be.
Is this how a paedophile or rapist might feel? Is it possible that it is the same lust for pleasure - all be it a pleasure which is destructive for others -  that drives them as the desire which drives me now?
How far do we resist temptation and to what end is it our duty to resist ourselves if there is a negative consequence for another human being?
If my fetish is distasteful to others but does not directly harm them, I feel I have the right to parade it to my hearts content (consider the implication sustained here with the ideology of 'Gay Pride') but is that actually the way society is structured to work or is THIS feeling of necessary repression merely a product of over assuming parenting and no background in stage schooling which encourages children free expression?
This leads me to question where my duty to society ends and my duty to myself begins; and then again to question if I have those dual priorities in the right order!
This is a blurt of thoughts with no order and should be given the credibility of such ramblings but I intend to persevere with my opinions until I have formulated a clear one.
I should probably do the same with my opinion on capital punishment as that topic comes up quite frequently and whilst I fight what I THINK is my corner, I am not 100% sure that it is really what I feel.
More later.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Woman vs Godzilla

Deborah Carson had always wanted a husband, and through sheer diligence and by over coming numerous heartbreaks, she had finally, at the age of thirty-nine, selected a suitable man named Thomas.
A poet and a scholar, he was academically her equal and his physique was everything she had imagined during the lonely nights of her teen years.
The sex was good and frequent without becoming a chore. They held dinner parties that friends and acquaintances clamoured to be invited to. The only blotch on their happy relationship was something that no matter how hard she tried, she could not ignore. In the evenings her husbands beautiful personality began to alter completely.
“He acts like a child!”
She would wail down the phone to her mother who would nod sympathetically at the other end of the line and say
“They all do darling!”
Her friends all agreed and so it was with a sinking feeling that Deborah resigned herself to the fact that her husband was not quite the man she had thought he was, but considering everyone agreed that it was a common feature of men she didn’t see what else she could do to avoid dying alone - apart from become a lesbian and that was something Deborah had never had any inclination towards.
It had all started a few months into their marriage. At night he began to make love impatiently, exuberantly and was ready to go again within minutes. This was something she learned to accept and put down to his caffeine intake before bed and allowed herself the flattery of thinking it was also a sign of his insatiable lust for her, but then one night she woke up alone in their bed in the small hours to the sound of a recorded guitar track that was definitely not from their gentle jazz and classical collection and stumbling downstairs, found Thomas on the kitchen floor, hunched over a note book, scribbling furiously and pushing his hair back from his face with impatient gestures. When she had asked what he was writing, he had covered it from her view jealously and grunted that it was private and she never understood him anyway.
Wounded, she had gone to bed and fallen into a fitful sleep. The next morning he made tea as usual and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her awake. When she questioned him about the book and its contents, he looked confused and shook his head. He had no recollection.
As the years moved on, he began to lose interest in sex at night. She would have put this down to age and exhaustion were it not for the fact that he would insist on strange tickling play fights and on the rare occasions she was able to hold her own, he became either sullen or over excited to the point of violence. She became used to waking in the night and hearing the sounds of computer games echoing up the stairs and didn’t bother to go and investigate what her husband was up to.
Shortly after his fiftieth birthday, the games consol was given to charity and the tickling matches stopped. In the evenings he would either read to himself of plead with Deborah to read to him. Inwardly Deborah sighed with relief. This was odd behaviour she could deal with.
At night she could sometimes make out the sounds of plastic action figures bashing against each other downstairs and would occasionally hear an argument between the two characters narrated in strange high-pitched whispers.
One night the whispering was closer and Deborah realised it was coming from the gap between her husbands side of the bed and the wall.
As her eyes adjusted to the darkness she could make out a bulky Godzilla action figure and some sort of plastic monkey acting out a scene on the edge of the mattress. The cord of the alarm clock was wound around Godzilla’s foot and she watched with a building irritation as slowly, inch by inch the clock was dragged forward until, with an audible thump it fell onto the floor.
“For God’s Sake Thomas!”
Tried beyond endurance Deborah sat up and slapped her hand down on the light switch. From beside the bed there was a gasp and a familiar looking little boy stood up. He was wearing her husbands pyjamas and he looked as if he were about to cry.
“I didn’t mean to wake you up darling.”
His voice was high and pure, he couldn’t possibly have been more than ten years old, and yet …
Deborah blinked in confusion and sweat prickled under her arms.
“Am I in trouble?”
The child crawled onto the bed and sat blinking at her, holding the waistband of the pyjama bottoms in one tiny fist and his Godzilla in the other.
“How … What is happening?”
Her husband shrugged his narrow shoulders and shyly offered her the toy, causing one side of his pyjama top to slide down his skinny arm.
“You wanna play? You can be the cool one.”
Deborah stared at his outstretched limb. The hair across it was so fine she could barely make it out in the lamp light.
“If you wanna play you should hurry up. We only have a little while left before …”
The child moved his hand to the top of his head and raised it as high as he could to indicate his growth.
Deborah blinked at him slowly. She was now fifty-two years old, she had let her figure go slightly. Could she find another man? Did she want to? Thomas, her Thomas not this strange hybrid child, was kind, hard working, loving … could she really throw it all away because at night time he was a little … unusual?
With a trembling hand, she took Godzilla from him.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Irish lit

I can feel my stomach, swollen with the need to urinate pressing against the waistband of my trousers. The atmosphere in the seminar is strange today. People are sniping at each other for no reason. The older lady in the class, definitely married - possibly a mother - is always pissy. She is twenty years older than everyone else here. She has started wearing colourful bits of chic vintage ribbon around her waist and wrists. Her lipstick forms rivers in the cracks in her lips. Her glasses are expensive and fashionable but ultimately she is striving toward something she will never capture here.
Beside her is a black kid with a hat on. He attends class even less than I do. He has a huge note book and no pen to write with. He looks happy constantly.
Beside him is our depressive. She is always starting sentences with "Maybe it's the Prozac but I think..." this makes me smile every time. Either she is genuinely on anti-depressents or she is not and instead feels it gives her an aura of being an outcast. Personally I think she is probably not on them. Prozac is too common, there are millions of breeds of anti-depressant out there and the likely-hood is she would be on one of those and could brag about that, taking even greater pleasure in her difference.
Beside her are the cute couple who scoff at every vague moment of humour that our tutor creates. They smile and shake their heads, delighting in showing off their understanding of each and every literary quip Prof. Vance makes. One of his favourites he trots out every week and every week they laugh and smile and nudge each other and the boy normally winks at Vance. The girl wears a pearl necklace and her long honey coloured hair is always wrapped in a loose bun. I could probably imagine her naked and pass my time that way except for that horrible fake wrinkle of laughter. I blame her boyfriend. His worn loafers and beige socks are annoying because they have only appeared in the last two weeks to replicate Vance's own. He asked Vance to sign a copy of the text book he wrote and solemnly swore he would treasure it always.
I am obsessing over this boy. He is the car crash I can't stop staring at.
Beside him is the girl I have named 'Claire' who I wrote about in my previous post.

Studded Leggings in Irish Lit

Claire wears studded leggings
she flicks the little silver studs
with short bitten nails
and the sound pierces the silence.

Her shoes are flattened against the chair legs
and the tartan pattern is stained with red sauce.
They don't have laces.
You couldn't kill yourself with those shoes.

Her jumper is green and knitted,
a giant yellow cat face smeared across her breasts
nipples for pupils and her spine for its tail
it fits her badly all the same.

A military print mini skirt,
dirty with a chocolate wrapper sticking from one pocket,
sticking into her fleshy hip, accusingly.
Faded. A broken resolution no doubt.

These are observations of a girl
possibly named 'Claire' They are stupid but ...
Anything to stop me noticing the fluffy haired Jock
making 'bed me eyes' at our tutor.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


An experienced taxidermist goes to bed and has a dream in which a happy, prosperous duck removes her liver and replaces it with padding to pay the phone bill, and swaps her eyes for lovingly selected rounds of white and blue glass to keep her pretty and put food on the table. She wakes in the morning a happy trainee-carpenter with no idea how to pay her council tax, hoping she won't one day dream of trees.

The grass don't stay greener for long Son.

As a young boy he watched men walk away from obligation freely and without apparent stuttering of conscience. It intrigued him, how his elders could ignore the lessons they drilled into him day after day for as long as he could remember. Now, a grown man himself, he is sick of his own obligation and the nagging sense of waste which haunts his journey to the office everyday. His life is comfortable physically but emotionally he is in constant pain. Making the descision internally before he registers his movements he is running away from his beautiful middle-class suburban life. He jumps eagerly over his prison fence, and in that brief moment of flight he feels all the optimism of his youth return to him. His limbs work in perfect harmony as he vaults the pretty, white sticks which have caged him for so long. His beer gut bounces joyfully at the prospect of brighter days. The cramp in his hand from constant repeated clicks of a computer mouse is all but forgotten as his fingers splay out in anticipation. He is leaving behind him all that has ever gone wrong with his life and the neighbouring emerald carpet stretched out before his eyes seems eternal. He is doing what his glorious fore-fathers have done! He is finally learning what it is to be a man!  He lands with one pristine Nike-capped toe in pedigree poodle shit and cursing, shuffles back through the gate his money paid for.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

In which I realise I am miserable

I paid my train fare which has gone up again and have dutifully sat in a barren lecture hall listening to a nice middle-aged drone on about renaissance architecture. It feels incredibly like I am wasting my time continually. I have just moved into a great flat with a fantastic companion but between a pointless job in which my boss calls me a cunt when angry about staffing issues and a flaccid degree which seems to be shrinking my mind to fit with academically acceptable norms as opposed to broadening my appreciation and understanding of ...anything; it feels largely like I am existing just to breath and function.
I want more than this. I miss my liberty. People constantly talk about the freedom of University but I don't get it. University is a privilege but it is a fucking huge tie to one place for a minimum of 3 years. Even if you transfer you are just tied to another place. Also just like a job, if you cease turning up they kick you out. This is fair enough of course but don't tell me uni is a place of freedom. There is just as much red tape here as there is in any other institution. This is the issue with not having a decent or constant circle of university friends. If I had that it would probably feel less like a milestone of obligation.
I tried to make friends with 3 people today. They were welcoming and we laughed about the crap tea from the machine. I sat with them during a seminar and took fewer notes than normal because we were muttering amongst ourselves. Then somehow the subject got round to politics and race. Two of them believe that black people of African descent deserve to be paid 50% more than white people because they have suffered in the past. I asked if Jewish or Asian people should be given the same boost. They got angry and said I didn't understand. The other man has to spit every time he hears the word 'Tory'. Not pretend spit, actual spit.
My 3 new friends are now 3 new acquaintances.