And when he heard and when he heard and I said yes. Mistakes steaming ahead and writhing in the sticky mud, I pushed it down and held you back up but did you hear it? The friction was the distance. It cradled the answers and advanced my hatred like a black flame that feeds on whatever it touches, it fattens and vomits and malfunctions and grows and spits and argues till no no no. It rolls away and magnifies and in the end I don’t know what I have.
The space was the killer. At least for you. Down with back to the side from the up past and it goes like GO behind you to I. You to I. From one end to the other and it keeps back again, water lily on the summer surface and I don’t know where I’m streaming will you help? Twisting round but the eyes are appearing and always, read, hurting me because I feel like I can see to the other end. Why can’t you throw yourself in? Is my gaze so repugnant to you, do you hurt because I remind you of the shame you buried when you sacrificed your mind?
Bubbling thrusting up violently the tip shards the skin and the rest will follow. Out far out so inconceivably out don’t pretend you don’t want it there. Don’t pretend here, the consequences are too dire and the pained answers you give will be held against you in the scorching craters of hell that is your smile.
I know what you’re thinking.
Do you know what I felt on those jerky train rides? I stepped on the platform, my boots echoing on the dirty floor and my coat buttoned tightly. The fluorescent pink bag packed with artful inexperience, my clothes almost pushed out because I wanted strangers to see what I was carrying. The strangers mattered most of all, they mattered more than you or I ever realised. They counted the minutes, whispered when I wasn’t looking and ransacked my luggage. They provided the music. They told me when to stop, when to stride ahead though my desire was to go backwards; my words were fed through a funnel that I was desperate to imbibe because the illusions were sweet and acted like glue.
I picked up the closest crayon and coloured you in. Every brief glimpse of tangled hair, the hesitant smile and the ribbon around the wrist, all infused with a pulsating nostalgia that left you in its shadow as it assaulted every vacant opportunity. You drowned and it was my hand that held you under.
And I wanted to tell you which one was worse, but the truth is I wasn’t sure. She sat in the corner of the room with her back lining up against the wall, the sunlight coming through in a little patch that couldn’t reach her eyelids. I felt like there was a dagger somewhere thrust up, and my entrails were spilling out in a muddled heap on the floor staining the mahogany a sombre red. Amongst the blood and hope I tried to pick out all the things that were truly mine. I wanted to show it to you.
I wanted to give it all to you, shaped as it had been in my hand that sculpted it. I compressed it all, squeezed it down and forced it, I pushed my fingers in till the rubber released out through the gaps and I bit down, knowing my teeth could never pierce through without destroying what I had created. I made it all and I blamed you. I decorated it with trinkets and pendants, I threw in sand for good measure and I daubed it with my heart. I spread it all out and I perforated it, I let you handle something that loosened all over your hands. There it was, in a film that wouldn’t keep its hold as it ran faster and faster away from itself. It said yes then turned around and pushed you hard in the neck, it told you it was ok before crouching beneath you, sliding between your legs and slamming its elbow in the back of your knees. It told you go and keep going, but every second it was hurling itself against its jelly-like walls screaming at you, tearing its lungs apart screaming at you because nobody knew what was happening. The insides were straining and the outsides were pushing back in, it was all morphing and crashing and I didn’t know how to put it all. So I just said yes. Or nothing at all, they amounted to the same thing, didn’t they?
Of course neither of us was to blame. There’s a two faced with a three, but somehow we managed to make it equal four. And what’s so bad about that? When I stick my hands into the water I don’t know what I’m going to get. I’m no liar, but I’ll hold you to account. I will make you crawl through every detail, I’ll force you to relive and I’ll watch you tense. Rip you open, splinter by little splinter, and we’ll see who’s left on the lawn when the sun comes out. I’ll get you a gun and with my own face you. Twenty paces from each other I’ll align my eyes with yours, measure your shadow against mine and fire before the weight drags me down. The smile will handle the trigger.
And you and I know that is the only way. With fire I will combat more, and if you told me no I’d just pour more petrol till the flame hits the skyline and bursts back in on itself. Like a black flame that feeds on whatever it touches, it fattens and vomits and malfunctions and grows and spits and argues till no no no. It rolls away and magnifies and in the end I don’t know what I have.
None of it was mine. It was all stolen, forced and borrowed. The red, the black, the shirt, they’re all landmarks I use to remind me of a time that never existed. You told me yes they did. You soothed my cut and you enveloped my cheeks with your hands, you handed me water and warmed me. But through everything, through the knuckles and sandy backs, the sustenance, the music, the morning sun, you told me the wrong time. Printed in black as it stared out at me from the palm of my hand, I understood what had been stamped long before I came on the scene. Like waking up in the soft, constructed haven, I heard the relentless traffic noises stream through a cavity in the well-positioned window. A fishing rod was poked through the hole, nudging me in the hip and reminding me of the wet concrete and the sharp breeze that awaited my return. But you see what the trouble is, don’t you? I saw it so much faster than you did. I saw it so quickly I didn’t even register what had happened, it flitted past my consciousness but left its imprint to be revisited at leisure on the dankness of my wooden floor some time later. It passed me the answers and left back the way it came, but that was enough. That was the reason for my desperate plastering, for my entreaties and countless silences: I knew it had finished before it began.
Remember the things I’ve said when things get difficult. But best of all when they’re easy. Know that the great machine was set in motion in a way totally unconnected. I had no part in this; no part in me and no part in you. Like a rain daisy looking up and forever rooted to its position, dependent on the clemency of the heavens and praying that another doesn’t grow bigger and crumple its light. But you never stretched far enough to see that when this flower dies, it spreads.
I want you to sit in a corner
I want you to sit in a corner and think for a little bit. Tie your hands up and block the holes, admit no-one and act dead if you have to. Just because the mouth is silent doesn’t mean the thoughts are, but I never believed you to be stupid enough to think otherwise. Unless of course, you are, in which case stop reading because I’m not sure how much you’ll get out of it. Or if you’re a little bit sadistic then please carry on, it’s nice to be reminded where we fit every now and again. Actually what am I saying, do what you feel like. I don’t know who you are and I don’t know what I’m writing, but maybe you like that, yes? Capriciousness only hurts those who like their angles fixed.
He sat me down on the bed and asked me which I preferred out of lofty suffering and easy happiness. I said I didn’t know what the difference was. He told me yes I did, or I wouldn’t have put the question to him. Stop playing with me, I said. You think you’re clever but you’re just capitalising on a smoky film, I know your game, I’ve had it tried on me enough times and that filth doesn’t wash. The dirt would be sufficiently thick to bury me in. And he slapped me round the face and poured shot glasses of water into my mouth, and told me that stains come out.
Did you know that? Head bent over the toilet, vomiting all the foulness that’s been poisoning my bloodstream since I took the first bite. All the bilious yellow gunk, all the insults, all the dog hairs and all the lies, all the pretty little kisses and the awkward barriers, all avalanching out whilst you hold back my hair and do all the things you should have done whilst the rice was still warm and the water was draining.
But, of course, there’s a time and place for it all. The hands don’t work out like they used to and the cycle is malfunctioning. But that’s a good thing, if we’re going to get all sentimental about it. It means there’s a little tadpole swimming around under the surface, tickled by the spring sun as it fights its way across something it doesn’t even know it’s in.
There’s a glow softening the wings, but it can only go so far before needing to refuel to reach further the next time. Each step is a better escape from the chain of no’s and suppressed anxieties, from the guessworks and the eardrums that were open to bursting. Each one is an underformed yes in a jelly that releases its hold when the legs kick and the mouth bites, when the eyes are open wide enough and the thread is cut. When I stamp the envelope and send it with the pieces enclosed.
And you were right after all when you said I knew what the answer was. It turns out that one hurts and the other one doesn’t.