Tuesday, October 29

Illness Makes Me Miserable

NOW THAT THE time has changed and I am off work with illness, I have a chance to observe the shadows of the trees bouncing upon the stucco of my building; the building where I live, where I have dreamed of living for seven years and where I now live; the fact often escapes me. The days are darker now. Some men came and they butchered all of the plants and they drained the pond, answering my question—‘Are there fish in that pond?’ with a disappointing emptiness of blonde pebbles and limp water vines. The men, depending on their nationality, are wrapped up in different ways and to different extents, wiping their noses on their arms and cigarettes hanging from their lips, and all the plant clippings are noisily chopped up into tiny pieces.*
   I cough painfully. This illness was inevitable; I haven’t slept properly in two weeks and now my weakened body is resonating with my weakened mind. There are many dead leaves on the ground; swept up they cry a dirty noise and a bell-tower somewhere rings out. I walk down the street, inward and possessed. I am halted in my path by a familiar face. After a couple of moments, she embraces me but it is hardly there, so I wonder—‘Why bother?’ She asks me a number of questions. The city is quieter but she has stopped me on a corner. I look around nervously. I tell her that I’ve moved. She asks—‘Do you have a girlfriend? … Why not?’
   ‘You tell me.’ I respond. I think of telling her about Helen, but the odds are stacked against me and I haven’t had anywhere near enough to drink.
   ‘Where are you going?’
   ‘It’s payday so I’m on my way to the record shop to spunk some money on vinyl.’
   ‘I should really write,’ she says—‘I keep meaning to write, but I’ve been saying that to you for the past … seven years? … Do you still write?’
   ‘Of course.’
   Pause.
   ‘Well, I’ll let you go on your way.’
   She is a phantom to me. All women have become phantoms to me, ghosts at the feast. No-one seems very real anymore and my relocation has unwittingly detached me from the only people who did seem real. I sit alone at night, reading and listening to good music by myself, feeling like paint without any canvas. I should tell joke after joke, forget about this nonsense, move on, run my fingers along the corridor.
   On Sunday morning I knew that I could not sleep so I got out of bed and watched the railroad men outside my window. The sun was beautiful and strong. I stood there in the beautiful and strong sun, watching the railroad men. I put some bacon on, an egg to go with it, and two slices of toast. As I ate, I read the label of the brown sauce bottle. I was in a good mood. It did not matter that I couldn’t sleep; a pot of coffee, reading, again, in the sunshine and a good Sunday feeling. I hung a shower curtain and replaced the toilet seat—stained soft with strangers’ piss, who knows who, all of them slowly soaked into the cheap wood, twenty-quid down the home improvement shop. I tried it out. I took some chopped mango from the fridge and ate it at my table, staring into space and feeling the cold mango on my teeth. Everything was okay in the pristine October Sunday. After I’d finished the washing-up, I walked to the cafĂ© but it was closed until the end of November for refurbishment. I turned around, kicking stones through the park; a toddler girl was bouncing in the yellow leaves that had fallen onto the unslept in flowerbeds; her father took photographs of her on his phone and the accompanying grandmother looked like she had never witnessed anything so boring in her too-long life.
   What a good day. I walked down the street, back to my flat and played guitar. The wind was blowing a gale. The sun wasn’t so beautiful and strong anymore, but I still stood in front of the window when I was playing guitar. Afterwards I felt weak so I went down the pub to watch the football. I sat on my own, away from everyone else, enjoying the match. I was happy with the result and came home a little drunk and very hungry. I needed to pop down the shop but could hear some people in the hall talking. I waited. I hurried out but my obnoxious, bearded neighbour caught me; he ignored the other person he was talking to and spoke to me. I was so close to getting past.
   ‘I heard you playing guitar.’
   ‘Oh.’
   ‘Yeah, I dunno if you know but I’m a percussionist … I’m not shit … you probably heard my band the other day … they were round … we were pretty noisy.’
   ‘No, I’ve been away for several days … I get worried about playing the guitar loudly.’
   ‘Don’t … just twenty minutes or so … let loose … so yeah … I’m a percussionist … I’m not shit, you know, I’m not … you know, you should come round for a jam sometime.’
   ‘Hmm … maybe.’
   ‘I’m a percussionist … I mean, a play a little guitar … but mainly percussion … I’m not shit, and by the sounds of it you’re pretty good … so you should come round and have a jam … o, hey, I gotta run … I’ll see you later.’
   Then he was gone. Maybe I’ll go round just so that I can watch his girlfriend make a cup of tea and all the shapes she makes with her fingers. Instead, I suppose, I shall just write this down. I have no reason for writing it down, nor much interest in who reads it. This is the hallelujah. I am unsteady. Fin.

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