Lying in bed, in and out of consciousness, in and out of dream: a job as a waiter I failed to turn up to. They’d sack me for sure. I’d have to go looking for shellfish with the Asian immigrants, but they left too early in the morning. How was I ever to get out of there without a job, without the money to leave? Awake. Warmth. First question, oddly: where am I? followed by: was I drunk? and lastly, do I still smoke? Three green ticks and an early ray of sunshine from between the curtains. Happiness is.
There is invariably a crow, crawing, on the high metal fence which seals off the old chemical factory. Sometimes, if nobody’s around, I’ll craw back at the crow and it’ll flutter off a few metres down the fence and start crawing again, crying out towards the autumn sky. I’ll walk by it again and stare into its black marble eyes and it’ll return the stare, aggressively you might think, and may even look as if it is about to pounce with its beak, but of course it doesn’t. I’m in love with mornings here and everywhere, always have been, always will be; life once more, always opportune. Of course if I had had three red crosses against my waking moments this apparent bliss would be, at very least, nightmarish. I walk head down to the ground, not for lack of confidence like they may suggest, but it’s just that I’m thinking these words as I gaze at the tarmac and its decades of chewing gum. I raise my head to the four-floored Victorian residential landscape, a city on a hill by the river under the sky, someone’s utopia and someone’s end. The bricks and mortar all around me have a stature of permanence, a strange kind of crippled arrogance, in the same way the tallest of trees may carry the greatest of wisdom, yet its vantage point is a static one, just like its wisdom. The world seems to spin faster now, further away, and the builders of this bygone era of robust faith in progress and durability, are sound asleep. Today, the sky is its designated shade of blue. Wispy, seemingly unmoving clouds sit peacefully below. The breeze is slight and refreshing, not cold. As I begin my walk into town I feel unashamed happiness pulsating through my veins, like not even death can faze me, nothing can attack this inward positivity. I have to check myself at such moments for there is a danger even in happiness. It breeds distraction, ignorance, and vulnerability if you’re not on guard. With this thought my mind musters the possibility that the ubiquitous pit bull may attack me, or a car may fly off the road crushing me into the wall. Perhaps I have cancer, HIV. With these boomerangs through macabre, I restore some kind of queer equilibrium, the scales are somehow re-balanced. My fast-paced thoughts continue though; they continue self-consciously for the light grey trousers I’m wearing have caught more than a splash of piss, something I should have seen coming. Laziness alone had stopped me taking out my penis fully from these trousers and boxer shorts, cutting off the flow through the tract so that when I finished pissing, I wasn’t actually finished at all and it sprinkled quickly down my leg from crotch to ankle, dark grey on light. As I pass the butcher’s, a young man in a brown corduroy jacket and curly shoulder-length brown hair takes glance at my legs, I had told myself the piss would dry out in five minutes, but the temperature is too low and there isn’t enough wind. The guy has his thoughts, and I have mine (Wanker! Brown corduroy jacket. Another fuckin’ product of the system. Fuckin’ dog too. C’mon man, get a grip, when you gonna quit this shit, petty fuckin’ competitive delusional jealousy. Yeah. C’mon. Yeah, And what the fuck do I have against greyhounds, bolloxin’ truth is he looks quite cool, probably a nice guy. Cunt! Ha) before we simultaneously sniff- up the dead meat smell from the butcher’s like some kind of hypnotic calling. I haven’t eaten meat in months and I want to eat the smell. The sun disappears momentarily then comes out from behind a cloud with blinding sincerity. A bus passes full of people en route to work – shit shoveler the say round here. The people aboard seem sedately aghast, peering out the advertised windows with dull-faced resignation.
Death – the new fragrance, by Calvin Klein. The sickest person I have ever seen alive. She looks freakishly like a large albino cinnamon stick with lizard’s eyes and an uneven dirty-white mullet. She stands uneasily at the bus stop across from the fire station, bends down and picks up a butt, clasping it between small reptile lips, lighting it with a red lighter as big as her whole bony hand. Her face is a grey, gaunt concave, the surface of a dark, lost universe. Her old silver shell suit hangs loose and free, the grave attire of a dead shadow. She leans forward, doubles up, begins wretching, trying to vomit, but nothing, just a bloodied chunk of mucus which gets caught in her throat and ends up clinging to her chin. Two teenage boys walk by and begin laughing hysterically. She can’t be more than twenty kilos, forty years old; her head flickers back and forth with paranoiac fear, and for sure, she’ll be dead soon. She’s completely devastated.
Bukowski’s Ham on Rye has been creeping its way into my life of late: a suggestive search engine, Sideways again – looking for lonely, self-empathetic laughs to hide my impatience from myself – but finally it’s staring at me, the book that is, from the Scottish Non-fiction section at the public library. It sits atop another book celebrating a hundred years of the Forth Rail Bridge. Seventeen years of my own life spent pondering what lay beyond life under that all-knowing big rust-coloured structure. My father still has the centenary teaspoons. He’s almost as old as the bridge. Before even teenage, we would get drunk of a Friday and throw ourselves from this hundred-plus-metre-high construction, onto nets which saved our lives. Blindfold. Throw a dart at the map: Page 210:
‘Jimmy,’ I said, ‘I’m going to wait around until your mother comes home.’
Jimmy got up from the chair and started walking towards the bedroom.
‘When she comes in I’m going to fuck her Jimmy.’
He didn’t hear me. He just walked into the bedroom.
I went into the kitchen and came back with more beer.
If they had, as I’m sure they do have, auditions for paedophiles, he would get the part on looks alone. After all, do paedophiles really have to act? His oversized round glasses are magnified, yet his eyes still seem too small, like two sun-dried coffee beans, long beyond craving acceptance. Thin, free-flowing, curly orange hair hangs loosely down either side of an almost perfectly circular, beach ball head. He’s bare on top but for an assembly of freckles, dot-to-dot across his fair-skinned skull. He has a small, rodent’s mouth, discoloured teeth which match his hair, and a wide pink nose to which droplets of perspiration cling like blisters. He’s wearing an old blue parka with a furry hood and orange lining. He’s a dumpy, idle sort of obese, and therefore, won’t be getting pussy any other way in this country. He gets up to leave, placing a book I don’t manage to see back on its shelf in the Poetry section. Call it a social experiment, call it anything you want, but I decide to follow him. I’d been pondering the idea of living a useful, helpful life of late, but then I don’t want to become a progressive, a miracle chaser, a heartbreaker; so this seems a fair go-between. I follow him down the stairs and out onto the pedestrian shopping street walking slightly behind and to the left, noticing other shoppers give him the once over – disapproving, disgusting, no doubt he has hygiene issues, an ugly man. The mid-afternoon sun is now warm for October, the streets full of chattering pensioners and jobless consumers, fresh-faced students, and police – apparently there to monitor the random gaggles of junkies stumbling around semi-conscious, shouting at each other in their very own clandestine vernacular. A slim, unfriendly-looking girl with too-blonde hair and huge tits gets the attention her leopard skin cleavage demands. He takes a right, up the hill, away from the centre of town, towards St. David’s Primary. School is due out any minute. I pursue him on the opposite side of the street, my suspicion overflowing into anger as I gaze through the windows of an estate agent’s, a jeweler’s – ten watches or a one-bedroom flat! The guy stops a good fifty metres from where mothers with prams congregate around the gates, gossiping animatedly about children, babies, sewn seeds. The school bell rings loudly and the red-blazered children immediately flood out the doors like the rats of Hamelin. A lustful smile comes to his face as he peers over the black steel railings and I’m now seriously considering some kind of intervention, the cunt. The children race in all directions, kicking balls, punching each other, hugging mothers, demanding money, ecstatic for life. At this point he reaches into his parka and takes out a small green bag, out of which he pulls a t-shirt with what looks like strawberries printed on it. He lifts it up towards the sky to look at it and then puts it back in the bag. What the fuck is this animal doing? I’m thinking to myself, now primed to make a move as soon as he does. I feel like I’m on an operation, in defence of decency in the community, it’s a good feeling and I’m confident that my actions will be applauded. Hell, they might even try to give me some kind of award or something, but I’ll decline it of course – any decent person would do the same.
Outside the shop, the local Telegraph headline placard reads ‘Are TVs Getting Too Big?’ I walk in to buy some chewing gum and I’m not sure why, but I need some chewing gum which I’d find a bin for after I’d finished chewing it. A lanky, pale-faced guy in painted blue overalls pings a cigarette onto the busy road before cutting me off in the doorway. He goes to the counter, and there’s a meeting of knowing eyes between himself and the cashier – who would have looked good in her teens, before the weight gain. I could guess at how they know each other. He calls her doll after saying awerite, she smiles, says hi, he asks for forty Richmond, and she lays them down, taking his money, mentally hovering, expecting further conversation.
Hud a dream aboot you the ither night.
Really? she said, genuinely surprised, eyes lighting up with interest.
Aye, uh wiz shaggin yae fae bihine.
Fuck off ya dick, she snarls back reflexively.
Hawhawhaw. Furst wit dream fur years. Cheers eh.
Dinnae come back in here.
Fuckin wanker, she says after he leaves laughing. She snatches my pound and fucks up the change by five pence. I say nothing, leave.
I stand outside, across from H&M watching an otherwise cute sales assistant draw hard on her cigarette outside the shop, her fate as tangible as the thick make-up which is meant to make her look more continental. Pretty soon some macho tradesman would come along, buy her a couple of vodka-and-cokes before taking her back for a good shagging. Pretty soon they find they’ve everything in common: shit food, shit tv, shit films, shit holidays, shit newspapers, shit parenting skills, shit-all intelligence, just pointless shit.
So, what can a man do on a Friday evening as the sun goes down? With sobriety and without political agenda, without catching paedophiles! God, what was I thinking? I stop outside Ladbrokes, ponder a wee bet. Two reprobates stand talking in the doorway, nefarious-looking creatures, physically disproportionate, mentally slow, and financially liable – a common specimen around town on giro day.
No goant roounae foagsie’s furs toot oant auld boang?
Eh, gassin bit na, fuckin slappur kipt awet fuckin wedge faet giro ae in um aweriddy tuckt oot tae foags. Fuckin bammers, ya cunt, nae gid fir yir skitsaefreenya in awe.’
‘Ken ae, oanywye whindyae gioot?
Fery. Ivvrae fukin day tae. Widnae geez urly proe cusu pit a foark int sum wee radgies puss. Cunt wiz bein a radge eh.
Eh yae git some fuckin radges ae Snoart.
Whit’st dugs nim?
Bronson. Yae diae wangit oant wrang sie ayt thon wee cunt ull tell tae? Fuckin murdurt some wee dug uher week ae. Cuntz tain us tae court boot it nawe. Fuckin wiz his fuckin dug stare’d it ae.
Eh, fuckin loadsae wee radge dugs aboot in awe noo ae.?
Ken man, this cuntry’s giin shite.
Ken, magine yae kid jis fuck oaf to Benidorm like they rich cuntz eh.
Eh. Bit nae cunt wid unnerstaun yae in tha eh. Fuck man, magine tranae git a fuckin bag n the cuntz connie unnerstaun yae. Ah mean, fuck tha.
Eh Snoart, Fuck tha ae.
David Cameron is on TV, standing on a sky blue stage with a huge rainbow as his backdrop, the word ‘change’ emblazoned beside. It’s immediately stomach-churning stuff. He’s not saying much, but he’s delivering it like a beggar, there’s something of a seven-year-old kid about him, pleading with mother to stay awake for just half-an-hour longer, just until the program is finished, pleasssse.………… I flick over, a documentary just starting: What makes me ‘me’? Flick again, more garbage, I close my eyes, drift off. Doesn’t matter…I drift off …
I wake up to commotion. The newborn baby in the flat next door is balling again. The late-night city rain is loud, torrential, there’s shouting coming from the street. I stand up and look outside; the all-night shop is locking, in a hurry, because in front, there’s a young guy, already unconscious, being beaten to death by two screaming youths wearing scarves and baseball caps to hide their faces, one punching his skull into a broken speed bump warning post, the other hacking into his midriff with a large domestic blade. The darkness understates this horror for now, but there’s both blood and rain overflowing the drains and tomorrow will be an unfamiliar dawn – what provocation? A loved one, raped, murdered, flames, you’d think, but you don’t know, until they tell you, perhaps. To the left, other youths with batons and bottles are clashing, fiercely, one out cold under the soft orange glow of a streetlight; packs, screams of intent, one stupid move; sirens, the clattering splashes of feet through the puddles, adrenalin, the rain keeps pouring, just after midnight.
The young, prim-dressed, slim female teacher hands her over like a signed-for parcel. This is her daily routine: the playground has emptied, it would have been too dangerous for her to try and maneuver her chair through that jungle of hyperactive children, her twisted hand barely able to muster the strength to push the joystick forward. He approaches the chair, smiling widely, and pulls the bag from inside his jacket. The young girl, who shares his features one and all, gives off a loud shrieking noise which seems to register as acknowledgement and joy. She shrieks a few more times as he places the bag on her lap before she tilts her head to the side, gazes into space, stretches out her misshapen arm, and tries to grasp hold of something which isn’t there.