A Few Short Words

Dense Not Thick



Nic Addenbrooke is a freelance writer, editor, content creator, radio broadcaster, part-time poet and sometimes artist. Nic has been coming to terms with existence for years. He currently lives and works in Brisbane where he struggles to turn the cacophony of voices in his head into things of substance. It doesn’t always work but occasionally produces a nice veneer of sanity.


I see myself reflected in the beads of sweat on Betty’s neck, secreted distortions cavorting on her skin. Watching a thousand tiny replicas rolling out from her hairline, dripping and ducking into prominent creases and taking my face with them. Her clavicle’s a pool now. I want to drown. As I stare into it, I see my eye shimmering back as Narcissus sitting in dysmorphic horror. My own sweat clings, moist in depravity, sad in shameful spots and proud upon my brow. Saltwater taffy, I think, and don’t lick. The eye doesn’t blink, judging. The oasis is a mirage.


Trying to sleep with sheets kicked to the floor and air upon raw flesh. She’s slick with sweat. I’m also wet. I lay palm to her belly and it hydroplanes to hip. ‘Don’t,’ she moans, throws my hand away. Industrial fan clicks, turns, churns the atmosphere to paste. The night gapes, still, dull, and dead. In my head we could have sex. I replace my hand atop her chest but it backslides landing leaden on the bed. ‘Was supposed to rain,’ she says, again. Press myself flat to the mattress and tell her, it’s only going to get worse.


Most of the time Callie ignores me, but every now and then, when I make her a nice meal or stroke her neck just right, she loves me like nobody ever has. I wish she was more affectionate, but it’s her nature to be capricious, aloof. I don’t blame her, and late at night when I feel her little body pressed against mine and hear those sleepy sounds, I feel enraptured. Though lately it’s like she’s lonely beyond me, primed with primal needs I’ll never meet. I don’t want to share her, but maybe I should get another cat.


The wind struck him first, full in the face then deep in the heart. Thrashing against him like a blind animal, rummaging through his clothes and pawing his person. It pulled his hair and filled his mouth with muted screams. The rush filled his ears and pressed on his mind the way blizzards shut doors. Oddly peaceful, he considered his place in the world as he hurtled towards it. An object in space welcomed by resistance. A shockingly elegant process, half a step and gravity did the rest. It struck him finally as holistic, then he struck the ground.


I’m stuck to the screen when a toothpaste ad reminds me I haven’t cleaned my teeth in two days, which means I haven’t showered in two days, since that’s where I brush. It’s more efficient that way. I wonder how long a body can survive unscrubbed, if filth and decay is a life or death process. With no infection or interference, no action or interaction, what minor scum accrues can only be more skin. An excess flesh carapace encasing my corpus in quiddity. Then an ad for a dating app comes up and I decide to take a bath.


My dealer’s gone eco. Insists on a container or she won’t sell. Reminds me that buying drugs isn’t a consumer affair. Where else do you find the power to simply say no? Anyway, I’ve been bringing her tins and baggies, unloading my recyclables gratis for gratitude. Of course, I still have to pay for the goods. Though I wonder, down where cynicism lives, does she make more profit preferring a DIY dealership? At grass roots it’s only one lady in a chain, removed from corporate mandate, who wants to make the world a better place by enforcing sustainable consumption. 


We’ve seen too many vistas in too short a time, become insignificance in the face of it, standing at the base of the vanishing points. The world outside the car grown alien as landscapes sweep past like rendered passages between the pillared frame of steel and glass. We stall at sanctioned landmarks, locking them in black boxes to look at later and remember we are linear. From here you can see the shadow of our futures, all looming at distance in recreation, momentary cinctures stringing the self along in retrospect. Not stopping to survive, all we do is drive. 


She wanes and waxes, cutting shapes in reflected lights. Easier to catch, harder to predict. I watch from the sides, scared to commit, afraid of failure, breeding shame. I sit still as she shifts and shimmies. But the lights accept her as their own and she breaks apart into a billion brilliant particles. The air becomes her, forms a lustre making sweat sheen, banal beatific, dull keen, and radiance sublime. Now her light is everything. That, I will never be. I sit still and settle for proximity. She coalesces and cavorts, reshapes herself and sees me. Join, she gestures…


Barbara runs into me at the rocks by the north quay ferry. She’s getting off and I’m taking my time. We say, ‘Hey,’ in uncertain cadences like chastened children forced to make nice after a fight. It was never so hard before. She looks at my shoes and the stairs and the rocks and the sky and all the spaces where something might be that isn’t me. There’s no silence in the city. Pointing away, I tell her, I’d better go, but she’s already a few steps above me. Indirectly she says, ‘Nice seeing you,’ and continues her ascension.


Beyond the flesh I miss her mind, or moreover her presence now in absence. In cerebral invasion I envision this floating thing, like an orb unmoored by gravity, a hovering visage flitting and forming simple actions and single lines, slices of time that, like scientific slides, cut a swatch of understanding from the whole. I guess you could say, the soul, but it’s divorced from dogma and drawn in cotton watercolour. Well, whatever the render, it’s what it represents. Memories and summaries that somehow draw a person in relief. Beyond the flesh. Beyond belief. Totally occupied by her vagrancy.


Sometimes I take cigarette breaks I don’t really want just so I have a good reason to be alone. A lifetime of tiny deaths seem worth the price of a little isolation. It’s not that I don’t like people but I don’t want to be around them when the cost of even the best interaction is deep and swiftly taken, leaving me shucked. It’s nobody’s fault but mine maybe, for feeling myself so seperate from the rest. Sometimes I just need a minute, to recalibrate, breathe, and become human again in my own way. One day I’ll give up. 


Once year I smash a bottle of Southern Comfort on the ground. She would hate that, I hope, it was her favourite and her favourites were sacrosanct. The pleasure it gives me is short but large though largely without solace. I look at the shards and sticky liqueur and say it’s a metaphor, that it’s symbolic. I say that, but it’s not, it’s wasteful, scattered thoughts, passions, anger and obsession. I hurt myself in ways she would love and say it’s expression. Of what I don’t know, but once a year I smash a bottle and remember being broken.


One hundred seventy eight square centimetres of contact from shoulder to shin. Palm to palm, forty six when pressed flush. A rush of blood in a minute round trip, tip to tip, past the heart. Two spoons, one big, one little, hard held in tapered flesh. The breaths are a current across neck and shoulder atomic flecks that rise and blend with periodic heat, see oh two, particles mixed and settling into concentration. Presupposed adipose tissue with no limp lipids is crackling with kinetics, so rate of force is of course glorious and love is the result-cum-catalyst.


When you write a sigh it loses its subtlety, becomes less than punctuation or something strong as a sentence, turns sassy like irony or onomatopoeia. Sigh. So audibly versatile. It could be exclamation or ellipses, exasperated and punchy or forlorn and drawn, but give it textual context and it dries on the page. Sigh with rage. I wish things were simply what they meant and often lament their transmutative action for lack of explanatory traction. I wish a sigh on paper or in aether would have it’s meaning be clearer than being heard in the head or merely read.


Neither of us cries and the air grows thick with precipitation. In times of drought, I tell her, people of the Balkans would pray to Perperuna, a ceremony and god, Pagan in principal. She was the goddess of rain. A little smile breaks, as sunlight does, and penetrates the cloud. ‘Does this mean you would dance for me?’ For you, yes, but not for rain, I say. Naša dodo Boga moli, my aim would be to stave the storm. ‘Then start,’ she tells me, ‘and let us both enjoy the sun.’ We hold hands and move to warmer climes.

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