She trips a little while we walk and I get a flash of her falling onto the road, lying with her arm stretched out and a desperate look in her eye. She needs me, but I don’t help her. Traffic blooms over the horizon with the sun’s darkening fate and in a moment I picture my whole life without her. Then she recovers her balance and so do I, falling into the familiarly paired empty stride. ‘Almost lost you,’ I say, and she pirouettes behind me, dancing in the blind side and singing, ‘You’re never going to lose me.’
Caleb calls it satire, a piece of dry reportage on the subject of animal farming lensed by its social implications, saying the key to elucidating its humour is in the specifics of its objectivity. I wonder aloud whether it’s alright to make light and Caleb clucks his tongue. ‘Light,’ he says, again, ‘is defined by its darkness and deceptively perceptual.’ Orwell, apparently, was alight. ‘The spirit of the times boiled inside that man before he splashed them on the page.’ I really wish I cared but I’m too engaged by all the animals to monitor his thoughts right now.
I push my hand into her hair, coarse but yielding, shaping my fingers around her skull in a basketball stance. She stiffens from the neck down and I feel it in the molecules of the couch as they separate between us. Nothing gets said and the music plays on, anachronistic sludge pop slitting at the atmospheric wrist. I try to sense her through my fingertips but nothing gets through, all signals blind firing at a wall. My joints ache and I start to lose my grasp. I let it drop and my hand falls, still full of empty wants.
That was the moment I loved him the most I ever would. Drenched in his own sugary cynicism, with just enough smile eroding the sneer to make him seem beautiful. Things would get difficult later and I knew it, but the future was something that happened in Blade Runner and I didn’t much care to see it. All the times I’d ever need fed into each other like film moving through a pinhole camera. I would have loved myself back then if I could’ve been me now. And him, if I saw him, I’d know there was no future.
I click my fingers at Laura, telling her to get the legs. The guy doesn’t look heavy but moves like a bureau, dead stained oak. We roll him into the tub and close the curtain on his face. Laura sighs with the effort and not the regret, her blood splattered chest ballooning with a sparrow’s slender plumage, flecks of the man’s red sparkling in her ash blonde hair. Preening back a lock, her burgundy hand leaves its mark upon her temple, consecration of the sweated brow. Glowing with the honesty of effort, smiling, she tells me, ‘I hate cleaning.’
Fucking Damien, with his skin stinking like cigarillo pale ale and day old pork crackle, wreaking sweat into the bed. Fucking Damien, throwing me down with juggle clubbed hands and thickly mallowed fingers making clumsy fumbled passes. Fucking Damien, ploughing witless, greedy furrows in the dirt, clotted ruts and too much traction. Fucking Damien, channeling away, an inept oarsman throwing stroke after stroke and grunting, gormless with the effort, racing trials against my ghost upon the swell of my repentance. Fucking Damien, as if I hadn’t already said yes, he has to take the joy out of it too.
Hey internets, I’ve just put up a new piece over at Inkposts. Get your faces over there and have a look while it’s still warm.
After the nurse calls her in I’m stuck sitting with Dana’s stepfather. There isn’t much for either of us to say in the bloated sterile silence. Part of me expected to detect a seething anger from the man, some sudsy fury carved out of a telemovie melodrama or maybe something more cartoonish but certainly palpable to the point of being very nearly visible. Instead he wore a sheet of nothing coated with small checkboxes and faintly drawn labels that listed normally gratis human manoeuvres; fatherly concern, conciliatory hug, softly stern but knowing look. Very few of them were checked.
Graham, suffused with marijuana smoke, reads his lines from cards held in the ether. ‘The truth has never been real,’ he says. The cumulous pall built about his skull grants the manufactured mysticism of a Himalayan diorama, peaked ideas clotted with cotton wool clouds. ‘What is shown is shaped by the hands that reveal it. What is known is flexible enough to snap.’ The words fall out of him with strange waylaid purpose, a bundle of skydiving knives, inevitably swift and dangerously misdirected, building momentum and heading towards a pointless incision. ‘I mean, have you even read the data?’
Trouble breeds in the miasma of awareness. It’s a flyer for indigenous rights. I show it to Mikey and he cocks a lazy fist by his head like a slot machine arm. ‘Powah,’ he says, grinning in his iceberg way. When he drops his arm I wait for the coins to spill out but he just clicks his tongue with mechanical emptiness. ‘We shouldn’t celebrate diversity. People wouldn’t bothered if they didn’t know they were different.’ Ignorance is bliss and knowledge is power. I tell him somebody said that but he already doesn’t care, telling me ‘I get it.’
A tee started it, the blue-green three quarter he slept in. It hadn’t been washed since and the scents in it kept him close. Cynthia would take it to bed and crawl inside, trying to dream of before. Soon she was into the rest of his closet, chasing down memories of him and wearing them through her days, all the best parts put together like an armoured garment shrine. Gradually she slipped into his skin, sought its council, and bound herself to its past. In the end she brought him back, but it was her we truly missed.
It sounds like it’s coming from above and behind me, the wretched mewling of a cat in heat. I know there’s nothing there but it could still be real. There’s been a lot of that lately, not ugly cat sounds but the blurred feeling of being indistinct in the face of reality. I’m so substantially intangible and harbour such vivid intellectual viscera, when the lines are not only faint but shimmer and shift with perspective, who knows where the truth intersects. The effort it takes to focus on the agreement is exhausting, I get so tired of hearing lies.
Sebastian’s decrepit little face was like a hollow object that people pumped their desires into, inflating it into some bloated resemblance. He loved it too, running around with his valve primed, ready to be filled up by fatuous gasbags and high floating lowlives. It was an effective symbiosis of defective personalities, each party weighed and lifted of their excess and Sebastian desperately trying to absorb some character. Poor little guy, irradiating himself in the glow of those around him, face contorted with the effort, and taking on such poisons. One day he will pop, engorged on other people’s lives.
Dana puts her hand on my knee and looks at the tip of her cigarette, a yellow red corona in the dim night. There’s the sound of evening bustle aching wearily over the hills, tired commuters and the wheels of industry, endless trains with spliced punctualities that blend the rumble of their schedules. There’s no wind and the air feels one step removed, not coy nor cautious but aloof, distant in the way of oblivion, had it cause to notice I would be as dust. Dana squeezes, biting at my jeans with her nails, and looks into the light.
Posters and stickers mark the walls in history, if I run my hands across them they will tell me a story in the way of Parisian cobblestones. The time before me is fascinating. I try to picture the establishment of things, the scope becomes so vast as to be vague. My eyes start to hurt from looking into it. I squint, breathe, and wonder briefly how to proceed. Caleb looks at my profile with defiant silence and scratches his balls. Because I’ve noticed, I don’t say anything. I drink my water and nod, agreeing with all that has happened.