Tuesday, March 25


IF I SHOULD LOOK at my Nan’s eyes – though long ago I learned not to do so – I see small grey shapes scraped across them so that she cannot see me nor see me looking. She angles her head toward space. She is twitching her head to the faint sound of people talking; her hearing aid is feeding back, propelling birdsong into her ear; she fiddles with it, unannoyed, trying to quiet it. I watch her hands fiddle. I imagine that I am not there, that she doesn’t know I’m there, so I can just watch her. When I return from the toilet, ready to leave, she says—‘Love you.’ I put my hand on her shoulder and kiss her good-bye. ‘I love you.’ My mum’s hair is up, half blow-dried—‘Talk to her.’ ‘I have nothing to say.’ We sit in the light of the conservatory and for a long time I do not say anything because so inclined am I to noiselessly observe her.
The social club is in its post-match revelry. Everyone, almost exclusively male, is reclining before half-empty glasses of beer; there are tellies at opposite ends of the room playing the evening football match. These people know each other; some are friends, others are enemies. The young men at my table are poking fun at a man across the room who has a cleft-lip. They imitate his voice, and snigger. The day is closing out beyond the window in through many shades of dark blue, broody with rain, and the bar lights are all that is leaning against the blip squeals and blinks of the fruity. ‘How long’s Swanny been there?’ ‘Dad, fuckin get home.’ ‘Wish that prick would fuck off.’ ‘All those in the first team stand up.’ ‘I ate that cunt, you see what he said to Phil?’ Leaving the place is a long, drawn-out exercise in shaking hands, in nodding one pint too many, and of organising breakfast.
We stop off at a supermarket for beer. I wait outside. It is cold. A dog is rustling in a dark parked car. There are stars above, faint, yes, but there, and the supermarket opening and closing; the beacon lit. Dance music pounds; we in the back seat slide from left to right. My friends become nude and slimy in shower water.
For a time, I miss my old village, where, aged fourteen like whiskey, I leave and never return, because to return unsettles me beyond measure. The familiarity, everyone living on top of each other; every discussing another’s business until it is their turn, then they shoulder their pack and leave. My friend’s fish are swimming around the bottom of the tank.
The party is held above a pub.
The party is held above a pub and I am excited.
I say hello to my friend by stroking his belly. We laugh and get something to drink. He is thirty, unfazed. I am twenty-eight, fazed. Everyone knows each other. Another friend points out person after person; names I am aware of finally attached to a face, a body, a figure moving here and there, ordering drinks, mingling. Outside of the pub is neighbourhood silence. The custard sounds pub out. There is a rash on my finger that irritates me. Some things from earlier in the night are playing on my mind so that they cause me a headache. I drink, finding myself only in a more pronounced persuasion than usual because, behind me, there is an excuse. All of my sorrows I try to forget. Riddles that have confused me for days are forgotten. I speak to the guitarist, who, taking a break, entertains my wonderings. He is an off-duty cop. He tells me I should form a band but I lose interest and wander off.
The night is black.
When I am outside I have lost everyone.
I rap on the window—
‘I’m him.’
I get home and eat some cheesecake.
There is some still death in the guest room that I, sleepily and with memory to spare, roll around in. Thirty, a number: a pair of breasts and a swollen belly; kiss upon a head. It is not me, not quite, but I am a sworn entertainer and a blissful actor. You should see me dance.
No-one will see me dance. I stood there and drank. All that I had, I wasted. The sound of something I did not know broke and sank and rose to swallow me.
I and leviathan.
Over and over.

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