Category: Short Story


WHEN THE PARTY’S OVER

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“Just home from a party I had no plans to attend, nor any memory having been invited. I didn’t have any desire to go in the first place, but my friend, John (hello John, if you’re reading this!), wouldn’t let it lie. He kept on about it until I gave in and agreed to go with him. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve never been to a more life-changing, mind-clearing, enlightening event.”

The Increasing heaviness of gravity’s pushy hand pressing down interrupted Adam’s Z’s, depressing him like a button beneath finger. With a surge of resistance, he manages to muster the will-power required to pull himself

Out of the frying-pan… he groans aloud

out of bed

and into the fire!

and vertical.

Sweating profusely, mouth dry as dirt, lungs gasping for fresh air, he thinks fuzzily it’s too hot for clothes, stumbling around the dark, two-bedroom apartment drawing curtains to reveal a brooding, overcast sky. Cool air cross-draft feels good against skin.

“At the time I wished I hadn’t. For a while I was on the fence. Now, I’m glad I did. Glad I kept my promise. Thanks for your persistence, John, in your insistence that I go to the party. Helped me get clarity on a new perspective, and for the most part, I had a wonderful time.”

The blackness of dreamless sleep now banished by a couple of long, deep breaths, Adam finds himself faced with the usual line up of questions: the one’s that were always lurking there, waiting to greet him every time sleep slips away.

“Ever notice the way certain songs on the radio sometimes take on a profound meaning when you’re deep in the midst of something important? Like that part in a movie when the song playing in the background perfectly fits (describes and points toward) the scene unfolding in front of your eyes. Well, it’s like that right now.”

Blurry-eyed, he ignores the questions, feeling his way round the kitchen, eventually managing to switch on the coffee-maker.

In the living-room, he turns on the computer. Looks at the picture of his wife beside the screen. Voice creaky from disuse, he says

Good morning, my love… or whatever time it is!

“An old song by a guy called Johnny Nash (not Johnny Cash but a different guy called Nash) is on Pandora right now. ‘I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain Is Gone)’…”

What time is it? What day is it? Are you a man of your word?

“I can see all obstacles in my way / gone are the dark clouds that had me blind / it’s gonna be a bright / bright / sunshiny day…”

A habitual part of his brain (the part that keeps insisting on imagining a future) suggests he gets himself a pet if he wants someone to talk to, maybe a dog. After all is said and done and you end up in a place where everyone’s gone, a dog is a man’s best friend.

“What would a suicide be without a suicide note?”

Maybe so, but pets are not allowed in the apartment complex. If he lived in a house with a decent sized yard, he’d get a Labradoodle, a big one he could wrestle. More than their looks, their friendliness, or their hypoallergenic ‘hair’, he simply loved the sound of them.

Abracadabralabradoodle!

“Like getting a birthday card from an old, rich aunt with no money inside, just her unmistakable, Alzheimer’s-spidery-scrawl and best wishes underlined with a crooked row of O’s and X’s.”

Magical.

“A friend of mine successfully committed suicide last year but failed to leave a note. I remember thinking: What a rip off! I felt a little overlooked somehow. Cheated in a way.”

Screen flickers. Fan purrs. Facebook loads. He’s made three new friends, he sees.

People I don’t know from Adam!

“Nobody saw it coming and, so far, nobody’s come up with a reasonable explanation.”

A sound escapes him: a bored sigh combined with a rye split-second of a chortle, maybe a guffaw. He wasn’t sure. Who’d ever have thought that you’d call complete strangers ‘friends’?

“I’ll be taking my life (soon, all accordion to plan!) and with a view to making things easier for you, in an attempt to make sense out of what I can only imagine seems meaningless.”

Adam reads the writing on the wall.

“I’ll try to supply a reason, explain my behaviour so you might understand, and at best, think of me as brave… or at worst, not judge me too harshly and feel bad whenever you think of me.”

A mouse-click opens Pandora’s jukebox – the site that plays tunes at random to the user’s predetermined theme – the one to which his wife had grown addicted during their first winter in this apartment together. Unnoticed at first, a scent wafts in from the kitchen.

Taking my life. Funny phrase, when you think about it. How can I be losing my life if I’m taking it where I’m going? And how can I go there if still in possession of my life? Only a person believing in an afterlife (heaven, hell, reincarnation – is Limbo still on?) would come up with a phrase like that.”

He thinks about the time he asked his wife what it was exactly she loved so much about Pandora. She had said, as if letting him in on a secret: Because I always know there’ll be another song… but I never know what song it will be. He had loved it when she shared that… and the rare times she sang along under her breath to certain songs, never knowing (or believing him when he told her) that her voice was beautiful. Hated the fact it was getting harder to hear her voice in his head. Or to get a good, steady picture of her face in his mind without the aid of a photograph.

“Unburdened by belief in the supernatural, I think the sentiment would be better expressed this way: I will choose to stop living soon.”

He smells the coffee. Goes in search of his fix, he chants

a shot of caffeine in the main vein of the brain

like a mantra or words he was praying.

Black Gold

“Many of those left in the aftermath of suicide are consumed by an urge to understand, get hold of tangible meaning, fearing if they don’t, they’ll go insane.”

One gulp swallows it down – shortsharpshockan ice-pick in the forehead! and quenches his thirst. A burst of energy enervates him.

Liquid shock-therapy

“Or, maybe they think if they don’t solve it like some sort of mystery they can feel good about before filing away (To Be Forgotten) in the basement of their mind, it will cause them to do the very same thing. And that is unthinkable, isn’t it?”

An unexpected sound fills the silence. Adam starts, spine rigid, head tilted. He hadn’t heard his cell’s ringtone for so long he didn’t know what it was at first, nor could he name that tune. Upon realising it is his phone, he follows the sound into the spare bedroom, into the wardrobe to no avail, then inspects the pocket of his black leather jacket hanging on the chair in the corner. Was he expecting a call? Who could it be? He doesn’t want to answer, but it won’t stop, and he isn’t thinking straight.

‘Hello?’

“There’s this phenomenon known as the Werther Effect – the way it appears that suicide, like a virus, can be contagious, and clusters of copy-cat deaths can spring up out of one, leaving an entire town scarred.”

‘Ah, Adam, the first man himself! Howzit goin? What took you so long? Did I interrupt you in the middle of a wank or what?! Howzit hangin, mang? Howzyer li’l friend?!’

It’s Richard – has to be: who else his age talked like that? Who else called Adam ‘the first man’? Who else still did bad impressions of Tony Montana from Scarface?

‘Richard! Hey – how are you? Haven’t heard from you in a while – ’

Richard was the only friend Adam still had from schooldays: they’d been like inseparable twins for most of their teens. When school had finally (and not a second too soon) finished, career paths took them in different directions and they lost touch.

‘Yeah. But no – I’ve been mighty busy!’ Richard says, as always, talking fast, sounding cheerful and enthusiastically urgent. ‘Idle hands and all that, ya’know. No rest for the wicked, eh?  And yourself? How’ve you been keepin… y’alright, I mean…’

A few years ago, not long after Richard’s return from his European travels, empty-pocketed as he was upon setting out, their paths crossed again and they struck up their old friendship. For the first three years they met frequently to play poker in Richard’s about once a month, or in Adam’s about once a week to play chess. Somewhere along the line, probably after Adam’s wife’s accident, the card game had ceased to be.

‘Sure, no point in complaining, isn’t that what they say? I’m okay. The world keeps turning. Was just sleeping there when you called… couldn’t find the phone.’

Lately, unable to sync schedules, they played chess, less frequently and at a much slower pace over the internet. Sometimes weeks went by before a game ended. Richard, only occasionally beatable, was always a challenge in chess (always a challenge, full stop!), offering Adam’s brain badly needed short breaks from bouts of stupefying solitude, useless thinking and mind-numbing navel-gazing.

Adam couldn’t remember whether or not they were in the midst of a game right now.

‘Sleepin? In the daytime?’ The mocking incredulity in Richard’s voice is audible. ‘You’ll have plenty of time for sleepin when your dead, mang!’

The unmistakable sound of a long, deep inhalation and Adam knew Richard was back smoking again. He said nothing, not wanting to send Richard into one of his monotonous monologues of improvised justification – they could be there for hours. When you gave Richard your ear, he took hold of it firmly and would not let go.

‘It’s time to live a little.’

‘Umm…’ Adam’s voice trails off into mumbles.

‘It’s all good, yeah? – because the party we’re goin’ to ain’t stoppin’ ‘til the Bank Holiday’s over!’ Richard laughs so loudly it causes Adam to yank the receiver from his ear, wincing.

Richard’s last name is O’Shea. Growing up, other kids tried to (and often succeeded) in teasing him about it, calling him Ricochet. Adam never called his friend that. When Adam was annoyed at Richard, or was simply bored and in need of an activity to amuse himself, he reverted to calling him Dick! He was never sure whether Richard got the joke or not.

‘This time tomorrow night, my boy, you’ll be glad you recharged your batteries, if you know what I mean!’

‘No, Richard.’ Adam is confused. ‘Actually, I don’t know what you mean. What party?’

‘Wait now! Are you tellin me you forgot?’ The teasing tone is tinged with a hint of panic. ‘This is The Party, man, The Only Party In Town! Don’t tell me you don’t remember.’

‘I don’t know.’ Adam stares at his wiggling toes. ‘I don’t remember you telling me about it. Sorry.’

‘What do you mean sorry? You don’t have to be sorry. So what, it slipped your mind. Big deal. That’s the past, man. We’re setting our sights on the foreseeable future, the inevitable outcome, and all the instant gratification we can handle on our journey down the yellow brick road.’

Truth was – then and now – Richard was a dick at times.

Adam listens distractedly, picking at a burst blister on his big toe.

‘I’m sorry, Richard, it must have slipped my mind.’ Adam hopes this will let his friend down gently. ‘But I have other plans…’

Slipped? You want to talk about slipping? Okay, here’s the deal, my friend – slip into the shower, wash your hair and change your mind, then slip into your best gear, pour the Jack and skin up a big one. I’ll pick you up around 7:30. Roger?’

This tactic – selective hearing problem – no longer surprises or entertains Adam. Richard has always claimed to be partially deaf in one ear, but Adam can never remember which because it changes from one to the other as often as Igor’s hunch moves from side to side in the movie Young Frankenstein.

‘I don’t know.’ Adam is suddenly heavily tired. ‘Are you saying we arranged this? When?’

Richard’s problem – if it was a problem at all – was only one for other people, not for Richard: it gave him license to hear what he wanted and deaf-ear the rest. He used and still uses it shamelessly. A characteristic Adam had found amusing at the beginning of their acquaintance when they were around ten, but like all spells, over time, it had worn off. Now, it just wore him out.

‘Arrange this?’ Richard echoes, impatient.

Adam recognises this as a rhetorical ruse – one Richard often employs when stalling for time, searching for the right words. Adam imagines he hears the machinations of Richard’s mind in motion.

‘Sure, isn’t that what we’re doing? Pay attention, mang! Picture this party as a hot piece of 20 year old ass in a too-short skirt barely hiding a pair of panties with your name on them. First base, we get a bite, maybe Nando’s. Second base, we go for a little foreplay and hit a tittie-bar, down a few brewskies. Third base, ninja-style, we make our move, penetrate the party… and you fuck that chick! Think about it – deeply.’

Adam struggles to do so. Barely manages a weak response.

‘You paint an attractive picture, Richard… like an artist or something… but… I don’t think so… I…’

The pause goes on so long this time, Adam wonders if they’ve been disconnected.

“There’s also Werther’s toffees, if I’m not mistaken and just making it up. Could these two Werther gentlemen have been related? Or, even better, one and the same person?! I can see the commercial: A short and strikingly unpretty Asian woman leans into the camera and says: Tinking to commit suicide on self? At a special tyne like dees, you want go out sucking a Werther Original. Sweet juicyness last long tyne!”

‘You still there, Richard?’

“Meaning. Perhaps when I finally let go into knowing how little I truly understand, and that some (maybe all) things don’t really have any meaning, enlightenment might rain on my head, making me sane.”

Richard replies less enthusiastically, voice slower, tone lower.

‘Remember how you got really pissed off at me when I didn’t come to your wife’s 40th?’

‘Well… yeah… sort of… why?’

‘And do you remember how angry and disappointed you were with me?’

‘Oh, come on, Richard, I thought we’d moved past that – I wasn’t upset with you personally, I was just upset you couldn’t be there. What’s this got – ’

‘And do you remember why you were so angry and disappointed?’

Resigned to being led to wherever this was going, Adam admits he doesn’t remember right now.

‘Because, you said, I had broken a promise.’ Another deep drag of a cigarette – or whatever Richard was smoking. ‘You said people should only make promises they’ll keep. You even wondered aloud, repeatedly, how you could be friends with someone who couldn’t keep a promise.’

He’s put me in position, Adam thinks. Check.

‘I’m sorry, Richard. I said I was sorry, didn’t I? If not, I am, sincerely. But, I don’t get it – why are you bringing this up?’

‘I just wanted you to know before you make your final decision that when I told you about this party over a month ago, you said you’d go, but I didn’t think you meant it and said so.’ Richard clears his throat harshly. ‘And you know what you said?’

‘Enlighten me, Dick.’

‘You said: I give you my promise.’

“What’s the meaning of a rose in full-bloom if a human isn’t there to see it and give it one?”

Bested, Adam shakes his head. Check-mate!

‘What time did you say you’d be here?’ he asks: the only move he can make without ending the game.

‘7:30! Weren’t you listening, mang?’ The partly annoying, partly infectious over-the-top cheerfulness has returned to Richard’s voice. ‘I’ll be there on the dot – I promise.’

‘We’d better synchronise watches, then!’ Adam laughs. ‘What time is it, anyway?’

Richard laughs, too. ‘It’s 5:22! You’d better get a move on. Later!’

“Man is a meaning-making machine wrote Victor Frankl, compelled to invest everything with meaning even though the return, given time, will be meaninglessness. Like our tenuous hold on life and sanity, meaning has value because it’s ephemeral… you never know when you’re going to lose it.”

Adam opens the sliding doors in the living-room and steps out onto the 9th storey balcony unaware of his nakedness – bare, save for a lost-with-nowhere-to-go-and-nothing-left-to-lose expression. Caught in the dim spotlight of the sun’s closing eye, he moves about madly, freely, as if the last man on earth possessed by dancing demons, starring in the only show in town in a theater full of empty seats, with not a ticket sold:

The Greatest Story Never Told.

“If I claim to be sane I suppose there’d be those who would use that as proof to the contrary. Conversely, if I claim I am insane – Catch 22! – they’d say that proved I was sane, on the grounds that I must be sane to be able to recognise my insanity.”

Overtaken by a sudden out-of-nowhere urge, he leans on his arms, hoists himself up, and gracefully maneuvers into a standing position. Poised steadily on top of the glass barrier, it’s as if his presence is challenging its two main purposes – namely, stopping people falling accidentally or jumping deliberately. The strip of metal underfoot is 6 inches wide and its cold, smooth hardness feels good against his soles.

One momentary loss of equilibrium and its 6 feet under

“Therefore, I will make no claims. No doubt, in time, you’ll come to your own conclusions.”

Face turned skyward, Adam slowly raises his arms by his sides until he takes on the shape of a man nailed to an invisible cross. Breathing deeply, filling lungs to capacity, he bellows a challenge with unwavering voice

If you exist, show yourself! Show me some of that Omni-mercy it’s said you possess. Whip up a wind! Prove your compassion. Blow me away!

A growing erection (caused by a gentle breeze tickling his balls) grabs his attention. To anyone staring from the block across the street, he must look surreal: like a naked, erect, crucified tight-rope-walker.

Nothing more than a gentle breeze – that the best you can do? Since you’re not there, it doesn’t matter. But if by some chance you are, you’re pathetic, and it still doesn’t matter.

“One thing I want to make clear is that I know that death is not the only choice available. I have specifically chosen to die at this time (rather than at an unspecified, unknown future date) because, out of all the options, it’s the best on the whole. It’s the one that makes most sense.”

Adam reposes for a time he cannot be bothered to gauge. A passing rain cloud veils the sun, covering his face in shade. He crawls down. Feet safely on ground, he gazes down (along with his now flaccid penis) at the strangely empty street below. He likes its white stripes dotted along the middle and the circles of light running up and down both sides. And also – especially – the lack of people… and the noise they brought with them wherever they went… in the city, the country, inside of the mall… The presence of people can make anyplace unattractive.

The street look so inviting in the almost dark… of late… and the way it seems to be moving like a conveyor-belt warming up… he’d never noticed before.

“Unless, of course, your church tells you that my soul / spirit / being / isness / essence will live on and I will be punished for not believing in your god. Punished for taking my own life with eternal torture (replete with the unpleasant gnashing of teeth) for my finite (and in the big scheme of things, not very serious) crimes.”

Everything was (almost) planned out, dealt with, laid to rest, so to speak. Save for the day… the time… and the way. Adam’s in two minds as to why he hasn’t chosen these things yet: one part says its because he’s scared, because he’s a coward, the other part claims that a deadline – coupled with whatever would be the effect on his mind knowing the manner of his death too much in advance – would unnecessarily increase the heaviness he was already under, making things harder than they already were or needed to be. His idea of how his last moments would be spent did not include clocks or watches, just him in-his-own-good-time zone. So why, he wonders, this nagging feeling of something left undone? What was it?

Speaking of clocks and watches…

“I say your church instead of your god because I’ve read the bible and nowhere in it does it say thou shalt not commit suicide. You could cite the ten commandments where it plainly says not to kill, but that’s a little vague, wouldn’t you say?”

By force of habit, Adam checks his wrist only to find it bare for the 100th time. The clock on the computer screen tells him to get his rear in gear. Richard would be here soon.

“I understand you may not like it, but I feel good about my decision, made free from the burden of overwhelming emotions and whimsical feelings. I am confident in its correctness.”

An unwilling man following unwanted instructions, Adam moves in the manner of a sleepwalker. He slinks into a steamy shower. Brain blasted by hot liquid shrapnel – fireworks memories of his wife’s 40th birthday celebration exploding. His beautiful wife. The only meaning in his life ever had.

“Be assured – reassured even – that it was not a mistake you might imagine I’d correct if given the chance. Or even that, had you somehow known in advance and had the chance to speak with me before the deed was done, you could have saved me.”

The sound of the shower and the water rolling down his face masked all signs of crying and sobbing.

“Nobody could have saved me but myself.”

Watching suds swirl down the drain, Adam wishes he’d spent more time with his wife, before thoughts drift to his job… the one he used to have.

“The only person who could decide whether or not I was worth saving was myself. And for what would I be saving myself for? Or what from?”

It was true: he’d done exactly what he’d set out not to do. He had lived to work, worked to live, invested everything he possessed into a life that, in hindsight, was mostly a hectic blur.

“Those answers could only have come from myself.”

Twenty five years round the clock – practically all 40 if school years counted.

Maybe the old saying is true and schooldays were the best of times, even though at the time they seemed the worst.

“One thing’s for sure, we can all be united in this certainty: I am not going to regret it.”

And maybe that old saying is true: Life begins at 40. Didn’t John Lennon write a song called that? Yes, Adam was almost certain he had. And if memory served, it wasn’t long later, at 40 years of age, Lennon’s life ended at the hand of a man intent on stealing his fame.

“Of course, we take this to mean not to take the life of another human being for no reason. Killing is justified in war, right? Sometimes in self-defense – or in defense of another.”

Standing before the mirror shaving, Adam avoids eye contact with his reflection, keeping gaze fixed on the razor.

“What about picking an apple from the tree and eating it? We do not take the commandment at face value – we do not take it literally… except maybe for those weird and whacky fundamentalists!”

A few months ago (he couldn’t say how many for sure – not that it mattered), Adam had been informed by email that his position with the firm was terminated. Just as the fax machine had given way to email, he had been made redundant. The idea early retirement washed over him in a baptism of relief. Taking off his watch, he rubbed the naked wrist as though a tight handcuff had been removed. With full attention on the office clock above open door, the one to which he’d been a slave for way too long, he raised his arms, aimed the back of both hands at the clock, and double-flipped it the bird. Aware of his co-worker’s silence, ears cocked and eyes locked on him, he waltzed through the door. Pausing suddenly, frozen momentarily on the threshold, he looked back over his shoulder and made snap-shot eye-contact with each desk-jockey before breaking into a wide-eyed smile.

‘I’m singing in the frame…’ he sang, ‘just singing in the frame / what a glorious feeling…’

“It’s a matter of interpretation. I interpret that commandment the way I interpret it, and a loving, merciful god would understand that. I say this to make it clear that if there is a heaven and hell, I categorically do not want to head south!’

A sharp turn of the razor nicks his chin, draws blood.

“I may be choosing to die, but I’m not choosing to go to hell! Whatever anybody claims.”

Returning to the memory, he realises he’d stopped short of the song’s next line. He just couldn’t sing it – it would have rung hollow. Eyes meet in the mirror. He’s at a loss to name the look in them.

“I choose the black, inky nothingness of a REMless sleep. Complete absence of awareness. All something negated by the all nothing.”

He would never be hap-hap-happy again.

Taking extra care, he continues shaving.

“In fact, ironically, not wanting to be in hell is the overwhelming reason for putting a stop to everything.”

Standing in the office doorway singing, the words gave way to a burst of hysterical laughter at the assbackwards irony of the situation. He had bestowed his employer a gold watch (the only watch he owned) as a retirement gift, a small token, maybe. A reminder of times shared, times that wanted to be forgotten, and for the most part, were. After that all he could remember was the sound of the door clicking closed… and as he splashed cold water on his face, it echoed repeatedly and loudly in his head.

“I’m in hell now… and I want to get out… and I can. Sure, I could end up right back in hell, I know. I don’t believe it but I guess it’s a possibility. But so what, it wouldn’t be out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire: it would be out-of-the-fire-and-into-the-fire. So, what’s to lose?

“Nothing.”

Adam follows Richard’s 3-step plan with twenty minutes to spare. Sitting on couch, doobidge ready in ashtray, glasses on table beside bottle of Jack, he stares straight ahead, emptying mind, gazing at nothing… wondering

What would it be like to feel nothing?

how one would know. It was more than he could begin to imagine… but he’d never find out as long as he was curious, right? Because being curious means feeling something – and that was a long way from feeling nothing.

Adam finds it difficult to describe what he feels. Imagine the feeling that comes when everything you once knew and relied upon is suddenly invalid. Uncertainty. Knowing nothing anymore. Emptiness, hollowness – the fragile feeling of an egg-shell about to crack.

“Please, my friend, if you’re feeling at all sad or sorry for me, don’t. I wouldn’t want that. Who would? There’s no need for it and nothing good to be gained by it. As hard as it may be for you to get this right now, I’m feeling good as I write this.”

Bathing in the calming quiet and the setting sun’s final rays of orange light, his mind (recently resigned, too, but not redundant!) begins to unwind.

“Springsteen is on Pandora’s box.”

Adam is not only physically ready to go, he’s also mentally and emotionally ready, when Richard announces his return by depressing the doorbell button and not letting go.

“We made a promise / that we’d always remember / no defeat / baby / no surrender!”

‘7:30!’ Richard exclaims, pointing at his watch.

‘On the dot!’ Adam grins, inviting his guest in.

“I can’t remember the last time I felt more in control and on purpose.”

They talk boisterously as the doobidge goes up in bluish smoke and the Jack goes down like liquid gold. Maybe it’s the sweet Lebanese, maybe the Sour Mash… the conversation, the music from Pandora’s box… whatever it is, the effect is trans-formative. A hellacious amount of joking and laughing is shared between them, as easily as it had been when first friends. Before anything bad had happened.

“It is said, in life we are in death. Can I say that in death we are in life? Right now, as I write this, with the night about to give way to morning, I am exhilarated. Full of clarity and energy.”

Half a bottle and three joints later, they were moving at speed, singing along raucously to Richard’s mixed CD blasting through fuzzy speakers. Cruising down the road lit up by city’s bright lights.

Heading for the only party in town!

“If pressed to say, I think most people would describe me as a quiet person, someone who didn’t have much to say or didn’t say very much about anything. Kept his thoughts to himself, was pretty agreeable, affable even.”

At the party (a semi-detached house surging with what seemed to be a hundred sweating bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages), the temperature’s too hot. The music’s too loud.

“Since society agrees that one should not speak ill of the dead, I think now is as good a time as any to free my thoughts. Because if you say I didn’t think much, you’ll be speaking ill of me – untruthfully, at least.”

After a half an hour sitting in the corner, fending off falling bodies, Adam gets up, slips carefully through the tight mob in search of Richard.

“I intend to get a few of them down here before my time runs out, for whatever its worth.”

Standing by the entrance to the kitchen, something pokes Adam in the back, accompanied by a familiar voice.

‘One false move, and you break my finger!

Relieved at having found him, and amused to some extent, Adam hadn’t heard this one in decades. It brought back memories and put a smile on his face. They’re both laughing as they face each other. Richard leans a shoulder against the wall for support, demanding to know where Adam had disappeared to.

‘Snap!” Adam shouts, and answers by pointing at the couch by the fireplace, .

‘Sitting over there in the corner. Watching the posers and the phonies go by and uprighting the one’s keeling over. Kind of like The Catcher On The Couch.’

Either uninterested or failing to hear, Richard looks the other way.

“See them?” he asks. Now he’s the one pointing. “Those two babes dancing together over there?”

Adam squints and sees nothing more than a blur of writhing bodies through a thick cloud of smoke.

“Yeah, sure. What about them?’

Richard says they are beautiful, sexy, and couldn’t be more than 21 years old. Friends. From Lithuania. And, the best part is, they came only with each other. His enthusiasm fails to infect Adam, who can only muster an Uh huh. Richard proceeds undaunted, claiming the girls were theirs for the taking.

‘Look at them… they’re really up for it, wouldn’t you say?’ Richard can’t stop staring. Perving is the word that springs to Adam’s mind and he shrugs.

‘Maybe some other night,’ Adam says. ‘I’m thinking of heading home.’

CC Sunset 012 (1)

“Right now, as a matter of fact, I could reverse my decision. Further proof, if you need it, of my rational and sane state. I mean, if some new bit of knowledge comes along and persuades me that staying is a better choice, I’ll take it, no problem.

Richard’s wide-eyes beam on his friend like headlights.

‘Well, that’s great, Adam. Thinking’s a good thing, you know. Can’t get into trouble thinking, right? Doing. Now, that’s another thing entirely.’ Noticing Adam’s without a drink, Richard pretends he understands why Adam’s considering leaving. ‘I’d want to go too if I didn’t have a drop to drink! Where are my manners? Let me go get you one.’ Richard turns in the direction of the kitchen as Adam grabs his elbow and tells him not to bother.

‘Bother?’ Richard winks. ‘It’s not a bother. It’s my pleasure – and the least I can do! Now, stay put and I won’t be a minute.’

‘Well,’ Adam shouts after Richard. ‘How long will you be?’

“Who knows – if I do change my mind, maybe someday, over a drink or three, I’ll let you in on one of my dirty little secret – how I was going to kill myself one time, but didn’t.”

A young girl, Adam guesses to be around 24, appears out of the blurry crowd like an hallucination – holding a tall drink, wearing a shy smile – and stands at a right angle to him. Her appearance focuses his wandering attention and rivets it in place. Looking him in the eyes, her shiny red lips part, and she says that she hopes he won’t consider it too forward or presumptive that she was wondering, having seen him a couple of times throughout the night, if he was having a good time.

Adam says it’s okay to ask, and yes, he hasn’t been having a bad time. It’s hard to tell in the dim and shifting light, but he thinks he sees the pretty girl blush.

‘What makes you ask?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. Curiosity. I’m very curious. You look really sad or something. Lost maybe.’ She smiles ruefully. ‘Sad and lost.’

Adam asks what it is about his expression that makes her think that. Her eyes jump up to their left before returning with the answer. It was a combination of the way he held his mouth and the distant, searching look in his eyes. He says he hopes he doesn’t look that way now and she reassures him with an emphatic no and a touch on the arm. Bringing her mouth close to his ear, she tells him in a small, secretive voice, that her name is Amy. Stepping back, she holds out a hand for shaking and he takes it without hesitation.

‘I’m Adam.’ Her hand is dry and he likes the way it feels in his.

‘Well, Adam,’ she says, eyes gleaming with excitement and curiosity. ‘Were you feeling sad and lost?’

He shakes his head slowly from side to side, gazing blankly at her feet, part of his mind wondering why she wasn’t wearing shoes.

‘You must have pretty good eyesight. And pretty good insight, too! Yes, I was feeling sad and lost.’ He gets a good look at her eyes, a mixture of hazel and green, and sees that they are also pretty. ‘Oddly enough, I don’t feel that way now.’

‘So, Adam.’ Amy’s smile broadens causing her eyes to squint. ‘What do you get up to when you’re not partying?’

‘Well, Amy’ he replies seriously. ‘I work on my list.’

‘List? What kind of list is that?’

‘I made a list of all the things I want to get done before departure.  Everyday I try to put a line through as many as I can.’

‘Oh, I see,’ she says. ‘Where are you going?’

‘I don’t know specifically. All I know is that I have to get away from here.’

Here?’ Her oval face scrunches up with puzzlement. ‘Where? This party, you mean?’

“But, since you’re reading this, I guess that’s never going to happen, is it? These are the last words you’ll be hearing from me… but you won’t be hearing them in my voice, just your own internal one. Unless, of course, you’re reading it aloud to someone else. Or having it read aloud to you – you’ll be hearing my words in their voice. Weird.”

Richard’s back, a beverage in each hand, offering one to Adam. Adam takes it with a thank you, and introduces Amy.

‘Amy!’ Richard nods. ‘Why does that name ring a bell?’

‘You know the host of the party?’ she asks.

‘Frank? Sure. He’s a fiend of mine.’

Amy giggles.

‘He’s my older brother.’

Slapping palm against forehead with a loud sigh, Richard tells her it’s no wonder he didn’t recognise her: last time he’d seen her she’d had short hair and braces on her teeth!

‘This calls for a toast,’ he exclaims, holding glass high. Amy and Adam follow suit. ‘Now, in the name of good friends and in the spirit of partying, let’s honor this moment by tossing down our drinks in one gulp! Agreed?’

‘Agreed,’ Amy and Adam say in unison.

Richard whoops ‘To the party!’ and its bottom’s up.

Wearing a sour frown as he fights a gag-reflex, Adam asks Richard what the hell was in his drink. Richard smiles mischievously.

‘If I told you I’d have to kill you!’ He gives Amy a playful wink. ‘Let’s just say it’s my own secret recipe. Now, my friend, let’s you and I go find Frank. I want to introduce you. He’ll like Frank, right Amy?’

Amy shrugs her shoulders.

Adam finds the young woman he’s been talking with intriguing, so much so he feels like a magnet in the grip of her attraction. Adam declines Richard’s invitation, says he’ll stay and finish his conversation and that Richard is perfectly capable of finding Frank by himself.

‘Okay, but you’ll be here when I return, right?’

Adam nods.

Richard leaves and is immediately swallowed up in the swirling sea of people.

“Maybe you’re having it read to you by (or reading it to) someone who can’t read it for the tears in their eyes, or someone too old to make out my micro-penmanship, or someone who can’t stop laughing enough to hold the pages still.”

Amy tells Adam that she’s not supposed to be at the party – that Frank will kill her if he sees her – and that she’d better go. The strength of disappointment that comes over Adam upon hearing these words surprises him, leaving him tight-lipped and crestfallen. She whispers in his ear again, saying he can go with her if he likes, and before he can answer, or even knows what his answer is, she slides her hand into his and leads him towards the hallway. The word Slalom comes to Adam’s mind as they zigzag between the obstacle course of weaving bodies. Repeating it over and over, he comes to wonder if it’s really a word. Slalom. At the bottom of the stairs, Amy hesitates in taking the first step, asking Adam if he’s sure it’s okay not to stay put like he’d told his friend he would.

‘It’s not a problem,’ Adam says, squeezing her hand gently. ‘I just changed my mind.’ A grin curves his lips. ‘I mean, it’s not like I promised him or anything.’

Going up the stairs, being careful not to step on anyone, knock over a drink, or spill an ashtray, Adam gives into his rising curiosity and asks where they’re going.

‘I don’t know specifically,’ Amy says in a deeper, serious tone. ‘I just know we have to get away from where we were!’ Seeing Adam’s confusion, she adds, squeezing his hand, ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to a place we can talk without all the chaos.’

And they did. And it felt to Adam as if Time had ceased to exist.

“Unless real life is like one of those terrible TV movies where a character reads a letter from a loved one and hears it like a voice-over playing in their head.”

Adam descends the stairs alone, wondering if what had just happened was real or just a dream he was having. Maybe the whole thing was a dream and he was still asleep at home. He’s moving all right, he can see that, but can’t feel his feet touch the ground. It’s as if he’s floating.

“TV. Sounds like a transmitted disease. If there has to be reasons for my demise, then I’ll be happy to cite TV as one of them. I used to think that vacuum cleaners, of all household appliances, sucked the most.”

Much to his surprise, he was not having a terrible time. Mingling, which never came easy, is a breeze, and conversations flow as plentifully and effortlessly as the booze. Good spirits, he thinks, drinking his fifth, sixth… (he’s lost count) drink.

“I was wrong. TV has far surpassed them, and unlike vacuum cleaners, TV sucks for the wrong reason.”

The sounds are great, the people are excited and friendly. The atmosphere feels like it’s charged. Tingling electricity. With every new person he meets and talks to, he feels as though he’s gone deeper into a state he hasn’t been in for years. What was it? Euphoria? Happiness? Ecstasy? Wait a minute! Ecstasy? That’s it! That drink Richard had given him before going off to find Frank. The fucker had gone and spiked it with an E! He wouldn’t put it past him. He’d give him a piece of his mind… but in this state of mind, what’d be the point? He’d probably just keep grinning as he tried to sound annoyed.

“I do not own a TV. One day I just kicked it right in its big hypnotic eye and killed it. The sound it made as it landed at the bottom of a refuse cart in the basement was music to my ears.”

‘There you are!’ It’s Richard and he appears to be pissed off about something. ‘Jesus Fucking Christ, man. I’ve been looking for you for the last couple of hours. You said you wouldn’t go anywhere. Where were you?’

Adam’s response – an involuntary gut-laugh – is so loud that heads turn.

“I see whatever I want to see on the internet. I also see a lot of what I don’t want to see. Can’t win ‘em all.”

Adam had a pretty good time for the first four hours or so, but somewhere along the increasingly crooked line everyone was helplessly and mindlessly following, things had taken a less entertaining direction and enjoyment had turned to discomfort, giving way to a growing longing to be in his own bed, window opened to cool breeze and silence. Receding deeper into endless blackness.

“I would guess, having once been in your position, that you want an answer, right? You want to know how an educated, employed, healthy 40 year old man with the second half of his life ahead of him (well, you’d be wrong there, eh?) could do such a thing. The religious among you likely wondering how I could commit such a sin.”

People are acting like animals, Adam can’t help noticing, as though the place has metamorphosed into a zoo. Scanning the room, he sees wild animals, wounded animals, abused animals, ravenous animals, animals in heat. The feeling that he’d managed to escape with Amy for the last few hours had returned, changing the way things appeared to him. It didn’t look like such a great party after all.

“Suicide. It happens all the time, you know… all around you, if you opened your eyes and ears, you’d be aware of the steadily increasing numbers.”

Realising that, for him at least, the fun was over, Adam goes to find Richard to tell him he’s really going to call it a night now and go home. Had he any inkling of the conversation that would follow this announcement, he’d have left right then without saying a word.

“Did you know that we live in a country that is number three on the list for suicide in Europe?”

‘What do you mean you want to go home?’ Richard demands.

‘I mean I want to leave, go home, Richard. I’ve had my fun. I’m tired now and want sleep.’

‘Oh, come on, man, the party’s just starting. All the fun is yet to come. Don’t be a party-pooper!’

‘Maybe so, but I am pooped! I’ve had my fill of fun – ’

“Suicide is commonplace (in relation to other forms of death – less popular than some, more popular than others) but it seems to always come as a big shock to friends and family of the ‘victim’.”

‘Hey, listen… I know what – you need a drink. You’re running on empty, man. Hold on a minute, I’ll get you one. What is it – rum and coke?’ Richard doesn’t wait for an answer.

“They call them that, don’t they? A suicide victim. About to become one myself, I think it is a misguided misnomer. I mean, what person in their right mind would turn themselves into a victim of themselves?”

Richard shows up, shoving an iceless, slice-of-limeless drink into Adam’s hand.

‘I wasn’t looking for a drink, but thanks anyway. Cheers.’

‘Ah, go on, drink up. Celebrate good times, come on!’ Richard raises his drink and clinks it against Adam’s. ‘To the good old days!’

They knock back a mouthful of their preferred poisons and stare at each other.

“You’ll make meaning of my words, you can’t help it, but I am aware that in the fullness of time, they will mean nothing. I have no problem with that. It seems right to me. I hope you’re okay with it.”

‘No, seriously, man,’ Richard pleads. ‘You’re just kidding around, aren’t you?’

‘About going home you mean?’

‘Yeah.’

“Not that it really matters one way or another.”

‘I’m not kidding. It’s no big deal.’ Adam takes another swig. ‘You stay and have yourself a good time. I’m going to make like a banana and split when I finish this.’

‘But I thought we were having a good time…’ Richard’s gaze falls into his drink. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing’s wrong,’ Adam sighs. ‘We were having a good time. Now you’re having a good time and I’m not… so I’m going home. It’s no big thing. Tired. Got to get up early. It’s cool, mang. You don’t need me to have a good time.’ He hopes this line of reason will be acceptable, even though he knows it won’t.

“Have you ever noticed that some of your best decisions were made in a state of rational calm when you were completely honest with yourself about everything? And some of your worst came as a result of seeing things in a distorted way, overwhelmed by emotions, or panicking to the beat of a ticking deadline?”

‘Well, no, actually,’ Richard states, an audible sulk in his tone. Thrusting his hand in his jeans pocket, he pulls out a small pill bottle. ‘I got these for us. We were going to stay up all night and party, man. What’s your problem?’

‘Oh!’ Mock surprise visible in Adam’s arched right eyebrow and crooked half-smile. ‘Let me guess. Ecstasy?’

‘For shit sake, you’re acting like an old man.’ The accusatory tone in Richard’s voice is underscored by disappointment. ‘And nobody’s saying you’re the life of the party… but you’re good to have around. At least you used to be. Aren’t you having a good time? Didn’t you see those Lithuanian babes over there?’

‘I see them.’ Adam looks to prove it. ‘Think of it this way: with me gone, you’ve got them both to yourself. Imagine that.’

“And that’s it, isn’t it? Nobody who commits suicide can be in their right mind. Come on, let’s admit it. As you know, I’ve had to deal with a suicide myself, and before I came to understand, that’s what I thought, too. A person capable of that would have to be playing poker with a stripped deck. Or a game of chess with the queen missing.”

`Come on, man, stay. What do you want – you want me to get on my knees and beg?’

‘No. I don’t want you to do anything except stay and have a good time. Take your pills. Give some to the Lithuanian babes, why don’t you?’ Adam does his best to sound reasonable, attempting to resist the blooming yawn pushed upon him by the heaviness of Gravity and the restless boredom setting in. ‘You’re right, the night is still young and the party is just getting started – already has by the looks of it – and just because I’m going to go now as soon as I’ve finished this drink, doesn’t mean you have to. Stay. Party on, dude… but let me go, okay?’

“The left behind almost always claim that the dead person was not in his/her right mind and suffered with something – depression, guilt, grief, isolation, desperation…”

‘Listen, man, my friend went through all this trouble to put this thing together, and if I can be totally honest with you, I think you’re being a little rude, you know? And selfish. You’re bringing me down.’

Here it is, Adam tells himself – the guilt-trip.

“Another anagram comes to mind. Desperation rearranged becomes ‘a rope ends it’. A rope. Hanging. I thought about it, but not for long. As you already know, it wasn’t my cup of tea.”

Rude?” Adam’s taken aback. “I don’t know how you figure that. This guy was going to have this party with or without me. I didn’t ask to be invited. In fact, he didn’t invite me, you did. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because when you were getting my drink I called a taxi. I’m going home. Thanks for the invite. I enjoyed it up until a few minutes ago. It’s a good party. And, you’re right, those Lithuanian babes are pretty sexy!’

“Whatever happens I want this note – this multiple Dear John letter, if you will – to be read at this gathering. As for my last will and testament (I exercised my right to refuse to encourage the occupation of ‘solicitor’ by hiring one!)… well, you’ve no doubt found it in the notebook on my desk.”

‘All right, then, be like that.’ Richard sticks out his lower lip. His silhouette, what with his big bald head and jowly face, reminds Adam of a TV show he used to watch as a child: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

“Some of you may want a traditional affair, but it’s my party and I want it to be fun!”

‘Don’t let the fact that I’m not going to have a good time bother you in any way, you know? Don’t think of me or anything. Just go to bed early like an old man!’

Patiently, Adam grins.

‘I’m going to get another. You want one?’

‘I appreciate the offer, Dick, but I’ve had enough.’

‘Suit yourself.’

“Speaking of fun – did you know that ‘real fun’ is an anagram of funeral? So, let’s not have a funeral, let’s have real fun!”

Their circular conversation continues for a further half hour when Richard brings back a beer in one hand and a large whisky in the other. Running out of angles and approaches, Richard empties his drinks into his finally quiet mouth. After a long swallow, he peers into each glass to see if there’s anymore. There’s a drop at the bottom of the whisky glass and he tips it into puckered lips, draining it.

“When it comes to dying, I have only one thought: No pain. Who needs it? In life don’t we have enough of it? Death will be the end of the pain.”

It is still dark when Adam gets home, having left before the taxi arrived. Without turning on the lights, he sheds clothes in a heap on the living room floor, and hearing a song from Pandora’s Jukebox he likes, turns it up. Lights a candle in the middle of the coffee table with no idea of the time, not that it made any difference anyhow.

Humming along with the song, foot tapping. Content in the now. Still tired, but without the nagging tug of sleep.

His mind had been bright and free from the darkness of suicidal thoughts since coming up on the ecstasy: their shadows sloped back into view as he walked home from the party.

“I’m open to the idea, but I do not believe there is anything after death. If it’s true that energy never dies, then I guess mine will dissipate out into the ether and go on to have further experiences of its own, without one iota of my persona, identity or consciousness to be aware of it.”

Adam sniggers, wondering who wouldn’t have suicidal inclinations after having had to put up with Richard’s harangue. And he senses – lighting up a joint and blowing a slow, fat smoke-ring – that it is only now – for the first time – that he is totally connected to the idea. It resonates. The more he thinks about it, the more he knows it is the obvious next step.

Transfixed by candle’s hypnotically dancing flame, the ripples of his consciousness slow down, flatten out.

“This person (which literally means mask, persona) you think you knew, is gone. As absent as before I got here.”

He hasn’t taken a shit in days… but the rumbling down below says that’s about to be fixed.

In the windowless bathroom he sits on the toilet in the posture of Rodin’s Thinker, giving great consideration to the usual line-up of questions

Is today the day?

“As you read this, I am now… nothing.”

By what method?

“As I write this, I am not afraid. I have, at times, been afraid of some things.”

Was I really in Amy’s bedroom for two hours?

“But why should I be afraid of nothing?”

And, if so, what was I doing in Amy’s bedroom for two hours?

“And there’s no reason for you to feel afraid either. Talk to each other. Tell stories about me and laugh. Let your hair down, get your spirits up, and celebrate. Can you do that for me?”

They’d smoked a joint, hadn’t they? Yes… maybe two or three. In the memory of his mind’s eye, Amy’s beautiful, curious face is sideways… so they must have been lying on her bed talking. She wanted to know more about his list, and when he’d told her, she seemed disappointed. She’d thought it was a list of ‘dreams’ or ‘big things’ he wanted to accomplish in his life, not just a row of bulleted To-Do’s. She shared some of her dreams… to write a novel… visit Tibet… make love to a man who she felt something for – a man who made her feel sexy and horny and impossibly beautiful… With a little teasing and a lot of coaxing, she got him to share some of his. To write a long Dear John letter… find out how it felt to fly, free as a bird… have sex with a beautiful woman while on ecstasy… a woman who – even though he didn’t know too many facts about – he had an inexplicable affinity for… She had kissed him then, softly, sweetly, saying she hoped he thought that she was a beautiful woman. She had gasped, he had moaned: fucking like it was their first and last time. For the last few days he’d had a sneaking suspicion that something had been overlooked. Since leaving Amy’s bedroom, that feeling was gone.

“Nobody is to be sad or scared or worried.”

All that was left of her was the scent on his hands, the pictures in his mind, the loosening in his chest.

“Bearing in mind that many of you consider yourself good Catholics… well, I have a challenge for you. If you are not going to go along with my last wishes and be in grief and cry, please let the others know that you are crying for yourself – whatever the reason is: unhappy that my death only serves to bring your own into sharper focus… or that you feel sorry for yourself that you didn’t say or do the things you would have liked to have said and done in relation to me while I was still in a fit state to have them said or done to me… or that you feel bad because you have strong feelings for me (maybe you loved me, maybe you hated me) and haven’t yet accepted that you can never be with me again.”

Pushing and straining, lost in thoughts, waiting in the dark for the penny to drop. Condensation has traced the outline of his feet on the tiled floor.

Since nothing means anything, does anything matter?

“Unless, of course, there is a heaven… we might meet there. So, here’s the challenge: Act in a manner congruent with your beliefs – knowing I will get what I deserve and justice will prevail.”

An unexpected resounding ‘plop’ in the bowl splashes water on Adam’s buttocks. He shakes his head, grin growing.

In the morning what goes in counts, but at the end of the day…

A hand fails to stifle an eruption of laughter (howling like a loon at a rubber-moon water-balloon bursting) he blurts out two words

Outcomes matter!

“Celebrate the fact that I am in a better place now – all pain and suffering gone. Basking in the eternal life and light of god’s love and mercy.”

In Sunday pre-dawn silence, with the falling moon about to call it a day, Adam sits at his desk, back upright, feet flat on floor, engaged in a session of Zazen meditation. It is all about the acceptance of what is, his brother had told him once when teaching Adam how to do it. It’s about turning away from regrets of the past, worries for the future, letting go of all resistance until thought-forms loosen their grip. No struggle or effort. Being and breathing. Detachment. No trying.

The way it had been in Amy’s bedroom. After they’d both come and were still panting side by side from exertion and pleasure, she had brought up again the subject of his departure, wondering what he’d meant when he’d said he had to get away from here. She hadn’t put it to him as a question, so he hadn’t answered, waiting for her to carry on with her thinking aloud. Perhaps what was more important, she said, was why he had to get away from here. He lined up his reasons and was about to tell them to her when a memory from years ago surfaced for the first time and played like a film on the movie-screen of his mind.

His wife and himself lying in bed together smoking and whispering in the dark. Without warning, she’d started crying. Alarmed, Adam slid closer and put an arm around her, hugging her wet face to his chest. It took a number of invitations before she gave in and told him what had set off the waterworks. She’d been thinking about her dog, Einstein. Adam understood. Einstein had been a crazy-haired poodle that she’d had – when he was a puppy small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, and she was an 8 year old girl still in pigtails. Einstein was in nearly every memory she had. She had loved him so much that she feared she would never overcome the grief she now felt since he’d died. Adam stroked her hair and rubbed her arm, feeling helpless and ineffectual. He mumbled words intended to soothe, but instead caused her to weep more violently. She told him that she loved him – through chokes and sobs – so much. So much that she was afraid. If anything ever happened to him. If he died. Her grief would surely kill her. Or she’d kill herself. She couldn’t imagine life without him. Didn’t want to. She apologised for the scene she was making and sat up to blow her nose. Adam sat up, too, and took her face in his hands. Looking deep into her watery, bloodshot eyes, he spoke to her in a hushed, sombre tone, telling her many things. That her love made him so happy. That she gave his life meaning and purpose. That it had never dawned on him to imagine his life without her… and now that it had, he knew it wouldn’t be one he’d like to live. As he talked more urgently, he felt his heartbeat speed up and pound like a fist in his chest. Tears fat as raindrops spilled out like exclamation points marking his words of love. That he wouldn’t want to live without her. That he would rather end his life, too. She asked if he’d really do that for her. I promise you, he said. They held each other tight, kissing softly until sleep came.

Something shifts. Adam feels an overwhelming rush of an unnamable sensation – not just around him, but also inside him.

What if?

He asked his wife’s picture

What if insane or sane doesn’t really exist – and that people are just the way they are… and as long as they aren’t harming anybody else, they’re just accepted for who they are, not judged and labeled?

He gave her a generous thirty or so seconds for her reply, listening closely to what he imagined she’d say.

You think it’d be good? Because people would feel better about themselves. Yes, I think you’re right. I read somewhere that all the troubles in the world are caused by unhappy people. It’s a sweeping generalization, but it has a grain of truth in it. Thanks. You always were a good listener. My true companion.

“On second thoughts, if you really believe in what your church tells you, then you believe I won’t be going to heaven. That being the case, the only chance we’ll have of getting together again is if you join me in hell. Heh-heh-heh! It’s another type of Catch 22, isn’t it?”

Now, he thinks, placing a piece of blank paper on the desk and grabbing a pen, whatever time it was, he understands everything. Has arrived at all the answers.

It’s time to write the letter.

“Whether a member of my family or a friend… if you love me and want to demonstrate that with respect, I ask you to do your best not to judge me too harshly, not to agonise over this or feel in any way sorry for – or, god forbid, pity – me. Don’t let my behaviour affect you negatively.”

Having had no proper sleep for ages, Adam’s eyes succumbs to Gravity’s pushy fingers and slide closed. Before falling into a dreamless sleep destined to last for less than fifteen minutes, he becomes aware of a warm, relaxed sense of satisfaction.

“I respect myself and my decision. I am not in any agony or experiencing sadness or regret, or any negative feelings. So, why should you? Of course, you shouldn’t!”

He recognises the sound that wakes him this time – his phone. It could only be Dick, again (who else), but this time he won’t answer.

Head muzzy from alcohol and ecstasy, he considers the pool of spittle he’s leaked onto the glass top of his desk as the ringing continues. Pen still in hand, he figures he mustn’t have finished the letter. Today indeed was the day. And there’s no time like the present.

“Through a lot of questioning, I checked if this choice of mine was something I could initiate and maintain. I used Cartesian Co-Ordinates just to be sure, asking myself four very useful questions. The answers only confirmed what I already knew in my head and heart.

“Q: What will happen if you commit suicide? A: I’ll be going home. Returning to where I came from. Finally at peace. I’ve been dead on the inside for quite some time now, just walking around aimlessly waiting for the outside to catch up.”

A three step plan of action forms fast. First, he’d complete the suicide note. By then, he’s certain, the way would reveal itself. He’d better hurry though if he planned on going down before the sun came up.

“Q: What won’t happen if you commit suicide? A: This unsatisfactory, chaotic life. This all consuming sense of pointlessness, tediousness and boredom.

The Beatles Flying comes on Pandora – and strikes him as oddly appropriate. And instructional.

“Q: What will happen if you don’t commit suicide? A: Just more of the same. The same old same old. Same shit, different day. It’s not like I think we’re going to be together when I die or anything like that. We’ll just no longer be apart: the ache caused by her missing will stop.

He stands and stretches, appreciating against his bare skin the sensation of cool breeze coming through the open balcony doors.

“Q: What won’t happen if you don’t commit suicide? A: This game will not stop. This game that I didn’t ask to be part of. This game and it’s rules of which I have no understanding…  and do not enjoy playing because it’s rigged and I know that ultimately, I cannot win.

He turns the music up loud, and humming along, grabs the hip-high dining-table and carefully drags it out onto the balcony.

“Well, this supposed Dear John letter is turning into something approaching unwieldy and unnecessarily verbose, and I’m so tired… so, this is as good a time as any to love you and leave you.”

Clearing the coffee-table, he slides it across the floor and positions it about three feet from the dining-table.

“Looking out at the sky I am pleased to see it is clear. Stars shine brightly. And, I muse, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that one of them is winking at me.”

Back at his desk, he speaks one last time to his wife

“I bet you like your life and want to have as many happy years on this earth as you can get – and I say, go for it! Be happy and love every second for as long as you can, okay?  And if possible – if you ever find yourself thinking of me – I hope it brings a good feeling to your heart and a smile to your face.”

I’m keeping my promise, my love

“If you believe in god, and if he really is all merciful, we may eventually meet again. And if there really is such a thing as progress, won’t it be even better next time around?”

and kisses his fingertips before touching them to her mouth.

Facing the balcony, he takes a deep breath and starts to run.

“I am simultaneously the most tired and the most excited I’ve ever been in my life. Now that I am approaching peace.”

He jumps, lands with left foot on coffee-table, then right foot on dining-table, and like Superman taking off, or a bird spreading wings, he raises arms above head, palms pressed flat together, fingers pointing skyward, he launches himself into space over the balcony, an image of his wife’s beautiful face fully formed in his mind, wondering where the road below will take him.

For a brief moment that felt like forever, he was flying.

“All my love and best wishes to you and yours.”

Gravity’s pushy hand takes hold, increasing the speed of his fall.

“I’ve got to fly.”

Later that day, white tape traces the outline of where his body landed on the tarmacadam.

“Your once upon a time friend, son, brother, uncle, drinking buddy, pen-pal, Adam.”

It was a bright, bright, sunshiny day.

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LUAS TRIP

NY Lol 017Poking in pockets for coins to purchase one-way ticket
H feels like he imagines how the proverbial stranger
in the strange land might have felt before disappearing
without trace. And being a stranger, he would also disappear
without notice. He hadn’t given any and none would be taken.
Strange, he thinks, hadn’t he always felt this way? Clarence Returns 029

This place had never felt like home, just another space in which he didn’t belong. The fit was wrong. Now that he had decided to leave it really made no difference. This intensely lonely feeling would soon be gone..
if he could only hold his hand steady enough to operate
this ticket-vending touch-screen menu before him.

photo (1)
Frozen fingertip taps machine’s scratched screen as he raises
his other hand to mouth where tear-stained palm stifles sad laughMalahide 035
covers bad cough. Strange, he thinks again, abstractly
(waiting 
on machine to sum everything up before indelibly
printing ticket to final destination) about time
and how it slows down
as approaching train
draws closer.

Mr Blue Sky 005Journey’s cost totaled, H stoops for ticket, focusing in  on black period at end of line. Full stop. Clanking change falls splashed down like rain. Wind’s icy spear pierces flesh of face, burrows into bone marrow. Numbing. A sudden blast of wind takes advantage of the opening at back of shirt collar and what feels like a bucket of ice cubes envelopes his torso. Should have hitched a lift? He sighs shaking head, but
it’s a bad night
to be thumbing.

Train slows to a stop and green doors’ wide arms slide open. H is carried by pushy mob hurriedly piling in all spooked and unstoppable unyielding to oppositely directed passengers wanting to get out. Inside is bright and suffused with a fetid steaminess. If he were to somehow manage to get rid of it, he wonders absently, could it rightly be said that the nauseating stink had been defetid?
Sad laugh returns for a moment, evaporates
with the closing of doors.photo (9)
Everyone is looking every which way – through slippery windows, down
at littered ground, at their too long fingernails… anywhere except
into the face of another. People these days go to great lengths
to avoid eye-contact. It lets them keep pretending to the ones
they are pretending are not there that they are the only one here,
invisible and somehow sorry – to whoever may happen to notice –
simply for being, taking up space… wanting to be right in being left out.
Refusing to belong, they say they have to go. And when asked,
promise not to be long.

Clarence Returns 020Light as an autumn leaf, H falls into warm seat on Jerry-Lee’s Green Line
travelling east to see a god about a man. Going all the way today.
To the end of the line. Full stop. Determinal in his destin(y)ation
was the Point. Why? Had to be the Point. What’s the Point?
A small area at end of the Docklands famous for theatre of same name…
but that’s not important right now. He sees no point in calling it by another, and fails to do so.

Sunny Summer Evening 006

 

Anyway, it’s a short walk from there to the sea. You can see the candy cane twin towers of the Poolbeg Chimneys on a clear day. Getting there… that’s the point of this journey…

Pole Thiker 019

which is stranger than this town… because…
there is no longer any point.
You’ve got a point there!

H had heard the rumors that he had lost the plot. Well, that isn’t really too far off the mark, but more accurate to claim he was lost in the plot. A plot that dissolved as it thickened. For the last three days he’s been drowning in inky black ocean of subtext, ankles tangled in seaweed tendrils pulling
him under, pushing him to belong. But he’snot afraid of the water. We’re like old friends.
As in the beginning 
so to in the end. Simday Sept 231
Full stop
.

As above, so below.
A little round black dot… as lost as a piece of coal
in a field blanketed with snow.

Bemused and curious, he turns head left and gazes
at blurry reflection in window. A hollow man. A stranger unto himself. A hologram. Lightning strikes furious blows, bowing in the expectancy of approbation – way back off in the distance deep in back of mind, up in the balcony where mirror is hidden – is met almost immediately with thunderous approving applause. Beneath his breath, like life under death, H begins to whisper forbidden last train of thoughts to the face fading into transparency right before his eyes.

Clarence Returns 047It started soon as you were born: innocent victim of belligerent crime… big enough to be punished for.
And, you wonder, by whom? The Narrator, Orator, Creator? Makes no difference what you call it.
It comes to lower the boom whether you call it or not…
for the sins of father, the stupidity of mother…
Reaper’s bony knuckles rapping on door.
To collect debt owed. The inescapable consequence
of the seed they sewed.

Luas comes to halt beside tall stone wall. H isn’t sure wherephoto (7)
they are anymore and stops craning neck trying to find out.
Draped by a sudden paralysis stiffer and heavier than
a Store Street cell blanket he feels raw-like half-digested meat
after going a bloody round with the World. Heavy Weight
of Mastication. A shadow passes over his face (mouth shuts)
causing grave expression to hover above features.
He is a slave to each wave of peristalsis pushing him down
snakelike swallowed backwards, intestines (guts) pulling
Nov Weekend 001onward to final (de)st(in)ation when trip’s over
vanishing into another beginning –
full circle –
where loosened grip uncoils
from Time’s twisted tapeworm shadow.
An abrupt lurch gives way
to forward motion.

Seeing is not believing… isn’t that what they said with closed eyes
using words like brushes painting vivid pictures on wall of mind’s eye
where bright white light is imagined in a warm, spacious room…
not the slightest hint of gloom…

H looks into crowd when disturbed by soundMiley and Miley 045
reminding him of a preacher. Preaching
through tines of forked-tongue delivering
mixed messages into back of schoolboy’s head,
speaking words that can’t or won’t or should not be understood. H manages…
manages to drown.
Drown
the noise out by counting glittering stars
littering abandoned playground lost in murky black puddle.

Your resistance weakened by too much drinking, you failed, ran out of persistence, gave into their insistence and got impaled on the pointlessness of deluded thinking. Trapped and stuck in place. Your heart was in the right place, but your head was in a mess. Instead of leaving behind in the distance all the blind believing,
all the self-deceiving, you let yourself fall
under their spell… and you fell back on faith.

Christians 022And what did you find? Not a thing.
No thing. Nothing. Not a shred of joy or peace of mind.
Indeed, that is what you lost. If only you’d understood the difference between sticker price and the overall cost.

Holding tattered Metro like dirty rag – wrinkled and used – a pair of hands come into focus. Looking away to his right, H catches sight of an old dear who appears to be hiding beneath a floral patterned scarf, nose picking bony finger pointing his attention away. Gaze drops
to soaking floor where there’s nothing but door to door shoes.
He notes this old one’s feet wear funny footwear, the kind$cientology 002
sold in a Chemist’s shop on the wrong side of town, down
beyond the tracks where trains like rain never stop until
summer smiles start spinning in time with the Ferris Wheel
that came and went.
Full circle.
A sneak peak shows dim lights back of her eyes twinkling:
slip-sliding into a memory… a memory of a time…
a time she’d been happy… and for a fleeting moment she is…
dreaming… content in the now of not being here.

Spire in the SkyBelieving is seeing, they said… promising you’d be perceiving reason or it would see you in the appropriate season and your harvest of pictures would actually bloom, the main attraction was always coming soon.

And when you realised they meant it hypothetically and not matter-of-factually, a crushing weight sealed your fate and delivered you into a pitch dark tomb reeking rich doom, you lay quiet and still beneath Potter’s Field. Squashed flatter than Wile E Coyote underneath Acme anvil…
hyperbolically speaking.

Stuttering towards town’s dirty bowels, passing row after rowPole Thiker 007
of dead dull facades, H wonders which of the passengers
are looking for love in the heart of the city’s bottomless pit.
Bright lights flash like a ready-for- business casino where they
will step-right-up placing bets against long odds. Just as long
as what they win pays to get them out of their heads for
the night so they can more easily act as though they find funny
the joke that’s on them.
They laugh in the face of its humourlessness, scream
when it swallows them whole. crying like babies after
being spit out to go back and shout loud in the flowing crowd
they hope they can still swim in.

Monday Nr 4 Courts 011These passengers…
the expressions on their faces…
bring to mind haunted bells ringing
hollow and true… at the same time…
knackered and undaunted.
If they cancelled each other out, there would be no sound. And this… perhaps… is why we never hear them no matter how loud they shout.
They are as empty as a cup cracked, stained with cheap altar wine – a tired tumbleweed blown away into dust
dried up body of Christ
hanging
from deadwood
cross beams
tied

Under scrutiny-eyes you got caught. Caught and told. Told to utilise all resources available, maximise learning – reading and courses and tapes. Getting coached and moulded and trained. Believing you were unassailable
you opened up and made yourself available. You were bought. Bought and sold. Sold on a waving sail flapping in wicked wind like a post-it note reminder that makes you forget. Accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative. Take hold of your brain and wash it clean.$cientology 082
Make sure it’s disinfected and not confounded by unfounded doubts
or over-tasked with unasked for suggestions, stupid questions
unuseful attitudes. You were promised they’d all be rejected after
the confessing… that you’d receive the blessing of unbounded beatitudes.
If only you’d gotten a check up from the neck up when you still
had the chance! Spare me your platitudes, if you don’t mind.
I didn’t spare you any but I do see how it would be possible for you
to think so. I just said something off the top of my head –
something so obvious it literally goes without saying, that when
the time was right for you to get your head seen to
you didn’t take the opportunity.

$cientology 061It’s Paddy’s Day and the whole world is celebrating the legend of a saint.
Those wanting to be part of the scene have worn something green.
Patrick allegedly rid this Isle of snakes, but like everything else on the face of this land in the cold artificial light of night, that view does not make sense since there were never snakes
to be driven away. But this fact –
about a Christian character
who performed a meaningless act –
fails to make any difference.
Truth overwhelmed by tradition. Suppression by superstition.
We toe the lie without thinking for no good reason, with the exception
of course, of drinking.
Ah, sure, any excuse will do
to go downtown and drown
in another session.

Death is the ultimate personal banker,
H tells his reflection then winks as if it’s a joke. 705010_10151558659182222_1723330662_o
The high priest of punitive payment –
a legitimate but pervy old wanker. NY Lol 057
Your first and last accountant –
he waves a scythe disguised as a sceptre –
he inspector of your suspect books
you thought of as a transparent broth
stirred together by too many cooks,
unaware you hadn’t a prayer when
it turned out the murky soup was brewed
by a bunch of Celtic Tiger crooks, each one
as mean and bad as Liberty Valance,
but not nearly as clever as those in the Vatican.
And after the adding and subtracting of sums
to see if the figures actually balance,
your soul will begin its slide down
into bottomless slums. 

You kick yourself for crossing the lines. Not heeding drums of warning signs that beat lowly before you slowly die… at first, inside…

June 29 2012 011

Lost in dreams, H only vaguely senses train moving slower. Overhead is heard a discomfiting sound:
a distorted pre-recorded female voice, posh as a nun from D4, knees on floor pleasantly praying
(or is that presently playing?) saying for Abbey Street alight at next stop.

AIB Homeless 026
Beginning to brake, he comes fully awake, dropping gaze lower and sitting up straight. Eyes fall
on face of a young man with waxy skin, sporting menacing grin, swaying by doors and
swigging the black stuff from can of thin tin with widget that gives thick head, burping
while slurping it down in the manner of a patient taking medicine. The jaundiced youth
scratches Lotto cards between mouthfuls of stout, sideways sloping, searching for pot of gold,
ready for ghost ship to come in, begging under breath in monotone ramble, asking god to throw
some good luck his way, even though he undoubtedly knows that to gamble is a sin,
and seems in no mood for giving a fuck.

Teddy 002The pile of wasted cards surrounding his surprisingly pristine trainers
speak of the fact that Lady Luck stood him up and Dame Fortune let him down. Just another pair of missing persons that may as well be relegated to images on flyers adhered to lampposts: a pair of talismans no longer at hand, taken by the land beneath the rain,
fading into the mists of time
like old photographs
collecting dust.

Illusions 092But that’s just wishing in vain… may as well be gone fishing in rain… if only you’d made different choices and hadn’t listened to the voices that spoke in your head and said over and over to your self be true…
remain a free agent, do your work free lance,
avoid sinking by learning to swim, shun evil and strive for purity, stay on the path and don’t
take a chance. But you gambled your stock on a whim, trading freedom for the illusion of
security.

Stuck at red light, H surveys variegated passengers.May Long Weekend 204
At a glance he estimates most are from abroad, and
thinks about how we once called them foreigners…
and how that’s been changed… to lessen the risk of
causing offence. As to a rough breakdown he hazards
a guess. The Genuine Dubliners are about 25%,
more or less. The rest of the Irish (who live here
all year) are around a half of that. Resident Non-
Nationals make up half at best, so that means
the Tourists make up the rest.

WatercolorEach of them claims to have Irish inside as they wink
with a sense of pride and belonging. More ingredients
in the melting pot of simmering Irish stew. Some think
of it as their original home. He’s not sure as he stares
on in silence, who the real Irish are anymore. The
natives, like a hanging hem on a dress, are the ones
that look out of place.
It’s getting harder to
say who is us and
who is them.

Once Captain of your own dinghy, though weathered and battered and badly leaking, you were sadly flattered when asked to join another man’s yacht,

and stupidly thought that was all that mattered. In the sails tightly caught you were rightly sold and bought in the sales even faster. Felt out of place, out of time in a kind of space oddity standing under
the authority of your new master. You were not an indispensable commodity, you too late realised
and your despising, upon further conceptualising crystallised into a rock of hate.

Castlecomer (33)

Worse than fingernails scratching a blackboard, a screeching sound –
from a Sheriff Street girl  – elicits a wince from H. She’s clutching an iPhone in the claw of her hand, fake nails painted in luminous shades, glossed lips foaming as orange face goes scarlet. Her appearance is blinging, like the ringing of her mobile, tinny and cheap. The sound reminds H of a cracked cash register in a 2 Euro store lit up like a juke box and loud with muzak. The junk they sell is a pox on the earth, not a single item worth the sticker price… but it’s cheaper than Guineys, who display poorly Thurs Night July 2012 002hand written signs unaware of spelling or punctuation
(a gesture no longer valued by customers) with messages simple and blunt. Thinking the word ‘cunt’,
H takes another look only to find her expression as vacant as the rooms in Wynn’s Hotel.

She eyes the seat beside him that’s just become free and as she draws closer, he smells the fragrant scent of a bitch in heat. He hopes in vain she’ll cross her legs and dispel the ripe and flagrant odor left by the last dog she was with – no doubt one of the homeless, maybe a vagrant or squatter. One thing was for sure: she was somebody’s whore. Anyone’s for money, no longer her mother’s daughter, brother’s token pet slave,
father’s unspoken dirty secret, boyfriend’s broken
punchbag ragdoll… Freedom July 2012 117 each one no doubt, had pushed her into her fall from grace and over the edge down a darkening road where crimes are best left unspoken.
Cheated out of her portion of nurture, the fact she had no future was written all over her face.
She had nothing but a past too tired to remember.
For people like her, getting a job only meant getting fired and making plans was for the birds. The bad side
of nature had rewired her brain and stitched up her wounds with a dis-solvable suture deadening the pain and hunger, leaning her(o)in contrad(icting)irections that always lead her standing with stiff upper lip cold and shivering down some back blind alley, earning 5 for a job
handy and quick fingertips dancing for erection’s relief while imagining the warmth of a brandy in a pub
she hadn’t yet been barred from.

Sean O'Casey PubThere is only one direction you regret not going in. If you got a second chance, you’d happily return to your own little boat. You would travel light commando-style, dancing on deck as you sailed to a new life in France incognito, where never again would you change your stance on the fly burning all the bridges so you couldn’t go back. You have been turned
and all you have learned is you cannot return if you try. It’s either a lie or someone made a mistake. Doing your best would pass the test you thought. One step after the other in a crooked line, your dreams would manifest and align under the influence of your singularity of pursuance to protest heartfelt deep desire to acquire your fair share of opulence and affluence… for goodness’ sake.

Sundown 024

Another stop: people get on, people get off. Illusions 109
There’s a man wearing cheap dirty brogues.
Probably works for a bank. Chin held high
and sights set on prize aimed at – money talks
and bullshit walks
is stated in his eyes –
a wind-up man who runs by the clock, mind set
on stocks and shares. No time to tell rational lies,
not that he really cares about truth because he’s
long in the tooth and short on details, wearing
powerless suits and colorless ties, his main MO
is to sell general lies.

Midsummer 004Spinning facts to make  figures count, stating highly persuasive amounts while ducking challenges he considers pervasive. He’s tall and one long diatribe of verbal fucking, endlessly evasive and perplexedly perverse steered by single-minded purpose at forefront of mind at top of his head to the steel caps  on his heels, clicking down hallways always in search
of that yielding door leading to a boardroom
where dreams come true
and wallet grows fatter.
Because he believes,
like the tricks up his sleeves
if his dream is big enough,
the facts don’t matter.
And if he keeps his nose clean,
he could be in for a perk or two,
maybe catch a few breaks
of golden slumbers
as long as he makes
numbers work.

 

Malahide 088

You used to be like the man in the suit, annoyinglyAugust 3rd pt 2 Weekend 2012 011
positive and insatiably hungry. Half-demented,
goal-oriented,  you’d been imprisoned behind
the bars of  job where you wore brave mask.
You were not expendable or replaceable,
you told yourself again and again believing
with all your might that you could perform
the task of holding up the customer with a smile
and a pen, before robbing her money.
It was insanity. An odd thing to do, isn’t it?
When you were a slave: when you were the one
being robbed of time and humanity.
Hysterically funny.

NY Lol 048A gray crowd of junkies come aboard, shuffling in slow-mo carnival time
drawing H’s attention outwards. Some faces wrecked, others ruined –
all resembling haunted houses over hung by clouds darkening a partial moon. One man’s troubled eyes are broken windows, ledges littered with shattered pains. His girlfriend’s are blown bulbs, stunned silent by the betrayal of vacancy… shunned by moon’s mocking urgency.
The bruised and raggedy girl in between them has a pair of chimney pot eyes that seem to be watching strings of smoke climbing high until they evaporate floating into sky…
proving smoke can exist when fire
does not.
Their heart(h)s are cold, empty of peat briquettes in the chill of night’s silent sighing. H can’t look away from their collective aimless stare, fading pictures in fragile frames propped up by a pole. Zombie bodies mere artifacts
reminding him there once was life…
and now there is
no place like home.

A chicken can run around for as long Monday Nr 4 Courts 015
sometimes hours
after having its head severed
from its body before
finally laying down…
a few scribbled lines
don’t make a poem.
The junkies are dying. So is H.
Life is short…
but Death’s Time
stretches out…
long and crooked
arm of the law.

Freedom July 2012 008H used to love creating characters and writing short stories around them until he slowly came to realise that watching people in real life was
more interesting… and humorous… and terrifying. He’s come to wonder whether
what he wrote didn’t so much tell the reader
about his characters
as it did about himself –
and not specifically
what was objectively real,
but what he imagined he could see,
what he thought he’d heard.
He doesn’t know what is real anymore.
He doesn’t know if he ever knew.

The Voice 014
Apparently, it seems to be, at least from the angle he can see, the kid on the track playing chicken with the driver, is now defiantly urinating as he stands legs akimbo.

Of all this a man with a cane catches a glimpse Speakeasy 338and points ragged finger before posing two questions of his own.

‘What is this idiot trying to prove? Does he want to end up in his grave?’

From behind, a teenage boy with a high-pitched voice
answers.

‘Naaah! He’s just too fucking lazy to move!’

Another voice chimes in with an ear to ear grin.

‘Ah sure, he’s only taking the piss!’

A laugh passes through the crowd like a Mexican wave.
Train stops hard without warning. The old dear’s head snaps back! narrowly avoiding head-on collision. Through his own transparent reflection H sees that up ahead, at the top of a curve in the line…

New Kitchen! July 2012 029a shirtless boy standing squarely on the tracks, mugshot exposed and captured in flashflood of Luas’s headlights. Old dear’s feet wake up screaming putting the boot in pulling no punches kicking in pain. A question twists her lips barbed-wire style. ‘When I’m dead,’ she says to no one and everyone, shrugging shrunken shoulders ‘how will I know?’ Cracking a smile, she shakes a fist before wantonly abandoning awareness. As her eyes turn first dull gray, then coal black, they roll around before turning back. Letting go ideas of fairness and free will.
Yielding to the skeletal arms of darkness
nothing to give but a broken heart and a bad liver. Susurously she snores as the train reaches last stop and everyone alights in the lights cast by the hotel.

photo (14)

As fast as he can get his legs to walk,Boxing Day 011
H heads towards the river, head strangely
silent, feeling as though he had swallowed
a large bunch of arrows into a stomach
that feels all aquiver.

It’s time…
he say, standing on the bridge… time to…
stand and deliver. Undo the damage.
Give into the savage. Give it my all…
stand straight and tall… close eyes… and fall

A short trip to the long haul. Down
below.
My Heart.
My mind. Goodbye survival.

Copy of LIffey Divers 005Let’s go into undertow where fines remain unpaid.

Park in the dark and wait with hitched breath for the arrival of death – squinted upon by slitted eye of crescent moon and tow you away in all forms, shapes and sizes.

I am no longer afraid, he soon realises, starting to cough as the shivers in belly become butterflies made of jelly.

Those swimming lessons I never took are about to pay off.


Closing eyes reveals a picture of his father, smiling sadly as if eternally resigned to a feeling of guilt
causing his heart to bend… mind to tilt. how could he ever leave him like this…
wronging believing he was responsible… had to stop.
He had known pain… but never this badly.

Blood Stoney Road 033

NY Lol 015
This…
About 30 feet away to his right, he detects
the outline of a cop moving towards him
in a hurry. Voice snakes through rain
knowing there is something amiss,
asking H if he is all right.
Don’t worry about it, H says with a grin,
understanding he could choose.
Give us a break… I’m taking a piss…
it’s all I’ve got left to lose.

There’s no doubt about it: from now on
I’m going to win.
something inside is stronger…
growing and striving
I am no longer making a fuss…
or taking a train to the land
where green grass needs mowing
from now on
I’m driving
my own bus.

H continued talking to himself as he walked back down the river, teeth clicking with cold, body starting to shiver.

Morning Has Broken 009
I thought that when a person dies, his whole life flashes before him. Strange as it is to see,
I watch the lives of others flash before me. There’s a first time for everything.
Isn’t that what they say? But they’re wrong about that, too.
Like everything else, it turns out to be the other way round.
There’s not a first time for everything, but
for everything there’s a first time.
About that I’d been so definite.
Full circle. This idea in mind
was not going to be
the first or last
time

© 2014 OM

 

TOUPEE OR NOT TOUPEE?

Sitting at a wobbly table in the IFI, engrossed in a free copy of The Irish Times, my attention is snagged by a tall, middle-aged man wearing a wig so outrageous as to be hilarious and simultaneously vomitous!

It’s almost impossible to swallow the fresh mouthful of hot puke ascending while laughing like a loon, but somehow I manage.

‘Is this seat taken?’ Gadzooks! It’s the man with the fake matted mullet on his oversized head. With a strained smile on tightly shut lips and a second upchuck of sick rising in my gorge, I struggle to respond.

After a big swallow, I ask, ‘If that seat was taken it wouldn’t be there, now would it?’ and chortle nervously. I wasn’t happy to be interrupted in such a shocking manner – eyes, and now nose, assailed by horrid things.

‘Does that mean it’s free?’ Mr Toupee doesn’t seem to get the humor, and I wonder how a man wearing a joke on his head can be a no-comedy zone. Delusional men who wear bad wigs are walking targets for joke-grenades – everyone knows that. So, what’s wrong with this guy?

Nobody tells him…

‘I wouldn’t think so. I’d guess it would cost at least €30. The price of sitting down thesedays… scandalous!’ I try to make it obvious that I am kidding him by wearing a big old shit-eating grin on my face and winking as though there’s something caught in my eye. In a manner of speaking, there is: something caught in both my eyes. The skanky roadkill on his dome gives the impression it will come back to life any minute, and peel itself from his head before limping away to hide under the first rock it finds.

‘What I mean to ask,’ he presses on in a pleasant and serious manner, ‘is if it would be all right for me to sit there.’ I can’t help notice the dirt under the index finger of his right hand as he points. It’s black. My skin crawls.

‘I bet you can sit anywhere you like.’ I’m right. He can and does. And with him much closer now, a mere dozen or so inches away, I am afforded a close-up view of his rank rug, dead-rodent-like, decaying on his head, just as a whiff of pong so malodorous as to cause my nostrils to snap shut all by themselves and my mouth to pucker up as if a lemon’s been plunged in it.

As I fight off the urge to faint, I feel an anger rise up. You are free to wave your arms around madly, an inner-voice says. But when you hit someone else, you take away their freedom! Yes, that’s right isn’t it? And when I’m sitting drinking coffee reading the paper minding my own business do I not have a right to NOT have to look at a yellowish/greenish/grayish fibrous mess threatening to jump off someone’s head… NOT to have to be slammed with a wall of stink so hard that consciousness slips away?

There is a law against noise beyond a certain level – so why not apply the same logic to our other senses? Fashion Police to stop the toupee faux-pas (as well as the fat girls in lycra pants, gut hanging out proud, every curve, crack and crevice on show so that you can actually lip-read if you dare to focus!) and Odour Police to take out the stinky people – you know the ones: the labourer you get stuck standing beside on the Dart who raises his hand to hold the ceiling-bar and you end up with a moist and minging pit in your face; or the pretty girl behind the cash-register in some store who causes curvature of the spine when she opens her halitosis-ridden mouth to tell you the cost of the mints you just dropped; or the drug-addict who sits beside you in a hamburger joint, and after you realise that the smell you’re getting isn’t coming from your meal, you conclude that the guy with the disconnected eyes hasn’t used toilet-paper in weeks!

Incensed by my internal dialogue, I tear my eyes away from a tiny white something – like a small piece of rice – that seems to be moving, albeit slowly, in a threadbare area above his temple, and unable to contain myself any longer, consider what I will say to this shambolic scarecrow at my table.

I often moan and complain about people who moan and complain about things but never do or say anything. I know all about it because I am one of those people: too confused about politeness or being offensive to actually stand up and say what I believe. To moan and complain to those who I have a problem with – that’s my goal in this life. If only it were as easy as keeping your mouth closed!

I think about saying something sarcastic… ‘You know, that wig you’re wearing is so real looking, I bet it fools everyone!’

‘Why thank you, young man.’ The smile he cracks reveals mossy teeth, most of them missing. ‘As far as I know, everyone thinks it’s my very own head of hair.’

‘Oh yeah, sure… you would’ve had me fooled, too, if you hadn’t sat so close,’ I patronise. Part of me kind of feels sorry for this guy, not that that’s ever going to do me or him any good. A much bigger part of me wants to slap the wig from his head and tell him to wash because there’s a whole wide world out there that can see and smell! Yeah, my internal dialogue goads, why should you give a damn about him or his feelings when he obviously has no respect for anyone else’s. Yeah.

‘I’d like to stab a guess at something, okay?’

‘All right.’ A whimsical look passes over his face.

‘You don’t have any friends or family, do you?’

He thinks for a moment, as if counting in his head. ‘No. I don’t. How did you know that?’

‘Listen: Can I be a friend for a minute? I mean, can I tell you something that a friend or family member would tell you if they truly cared about you?’

Again, he thinks momentarily, this time as though trying to understand a language he has mostly forgotten. ‘I bet you can tell me anything you like.’

‘Okay. Here goes. Ummm… Do you drive?’

‘Only when golfing,’ he says enigmatically.

‘Well, you know how, like when driving, we all have a blind-spot? Things we cannot see about ourselves that others can?’

‘I think so. Yes. Go on.’ He seems eager for me to get to the point.

‘It’s about your wig. I was just being sarcastic when I said it was convincing. I meant it was the opposite. It makes you look like a sad git with bad judgement and no friends and family.’

Mr Toupee processes this information for a half minute before asking why it makes him look like he has no friends or family.

‘Because, one would assume, if you had any they would be kind enough to let you know that your toupee is ridonkulous and talk you out of wearing it.’

‘Oh,’ he sighs, forlorn, and looks vacantly into his lap. Now’s the time to put the boot in. Best time to kick a man is when he’s down… and it is for his benefit. Cruel to be kind and all that.

‘Also, they would, if they had a modicum of a sense of smell, inform you that the odour that emanates from you is reminiscent of a used airline sick-bag stuffed with green-tinged chunks of rotting chicken that just passed through the loosened sphincter of a recently-dead Indian man!’

‘American Indian or real Indian?’

‘That’s not the point! Aren’t you getting this?’

Mr Toupee nods gently. ‘I think so. Basically, you are telling me that my wig looks ridiculous and I smell bad. Am I right?’

‘Yes, that’s it in a nutshell.’ I begin to feel even more sorry for him: a thing I don’t like to do for another because I hate for another to do it for me. But I can’thelp it. That forlorn look is back – all over his face like a rash. He leans forward, puts his face close to mine and whispers.

‘Thank you very much, sir.’ His voice is weak and shaky. Surprised by his response, expecting him to give me a dirty look and leave at best, I smiled and told him he was welcome.

‘Oh thank you, thank you, thank you,’ he carried on, dropping to his knees in front of me, hands clasped together at his chest as if praying to me… or worse, worshiping me… ‘thank you for being my friend, for being my brother! You have revealed great truths to me that I was to blind to see. You cared enough for me to bother to explain it. You must have such affection for me – you are my friend. My very best friend! – ‘

I am aware that not only of Mr Toupee’s eyes but that all eyes in the place are on me in this moment. I enjoy surreal in movies and pictures but up until now have never sat in the middle of it. My vision wanders all over the place, blurring colors and shapes, until they come to rest on a bottle of ketchup that has fallen over on its side when Mr Toupee bumped the table falling to his knees. It is dripping ketchup… but ever so slowly. The colour looks redder, saturated somehow… the consistency thicker… the smell so strong it takes over the insides of my nostrils in a highly unpleasant way… and I have to look away.

My eyes come to rest on a tiny white something – like a small piece of rice – that seems to be moving – wait! I remember this. The tiny white rice-like thing that really is moving, but like the red sauce, exceedingly slowly. It is, I now know, a louse! And as I have this thought it stops, stares me in the eye, and then launches itself into the space between us. In my periphery I take note that a dropsical of ketchup has also disconnected from its home and is heading south. My attention swings back to the tick: its getting bigger as it grows closer…

A sudden knowing infuses me and I relax in an instant. It’s all been a daydream. Must’ve been too much caffeine. I will blink and upon opening my eyes, find myself where I started: Sitting in this café beside a foul-smelling man wearing a head carpet, me staring at a fat louse moving around above his right ear. I begin to blink, closing my eyes (noting the still falling ketchup, the still growing bigger louse looming)…

and know that I will not being saying a word to him about his head or odour. No, I will be leaving immediately. Leaving it up to someone else to tell Mr Toupee what’s going on. Why should I be the one to speak up and say something? There’ll be someone else more understanding and articulate than I, surely…

eyes begin to open… and just a nano-second after the ketchup hits the floor, splashing like a drop of blood, the louse lands on the flat of my left eyeball, causing it to close belatedly as everything returns to normal speed and I find myself on my feet, rubbing frenziedly at my eye and making a sound that I’ve never heard before.

‘Thank you!’ Mr Toupee was starting to drink from my coffee cup as I staggered half-blind out the door. Fuck it! He can pay for it!

© 2009 Wordwurst