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.


The stink of sandalwood and machine grease assail my sinus as Carl pulls me close, cinching the harness tight to my body. Bits of belting and buckle burrow into the fleshy excess under my arm and up the inner thigh. My heart races and my skin vibrates. I can feel Carl feel it, the bulk of his body invading areas the rigging won’t reach, a tacked and tacky sensation. Outside, the propellers spin and masticate the wind, spitting the shrieking remains throughout the fuselage. “Don’t be scared,” he whispers, breath hot and wet upon my neck, “I’ve got you.”


The hand presses into hip crease, chases the form deep into the folds of the couch. A small voice says, stop. Lips and bristles prickle the neck. The hand keeps creeping. Flesh crawls and stays put. Stop, says the small voice, get out. But the ego-fog is intoxicated. Dull eyes, grown gross with mischief, grab and pry, working where the fingers won’t. Tobacco stink, sweat, and spittle stained skin press their inescapable vulgarities. Stop, the small voice screeches. Tongue, slick and prying, denying, doesn’t. Stop. The mind takes flight. The little voice is silenced. Nothing stops but her.


Air is fine it’s the people that are sour. Respiration, the new plague rat scuttles about the city, forcing our faces behind fabric so we don’t have to fabricate masks anymore. Socially distant, emotionally isolated. Why bother smiling when it can’t be seen and the eyes can scream just as succinctly. It’s all screened now anyway, talking heads on babushka boxes babbling and braying, saying, your walls are your kingdom, expand them through Amazon. Buy a monitor so they can watch you. Comment on YouTube. Glad this was created, I see so much that stinks. Breathe it all in.


Women fuck me up. I want to perform small intimacies on them. It’s not even sexual. How easy carnality would be, fuck and forget. But the things that I want come with time; a hand that lingers; a meal shared; afternoon naps; laced fingers. The casual that is beautiful, innocuous, dutiful, caring, fatuous, benign. The divine fine little things. I just want to touch them, you know. Be there when everyone says nothing. Float in our own lost thoughts together and idolise the interstitial times. I want them to take their skin off and show me the machine beneath.


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. 

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