Monday, 28 January 2008


Johnny turned up half an hour late as usual, drank the cup of tea I’d ordered for him in two lukewarm gulps and dumped his tatty old briefcase on the Cafe table.

“Not enough sugar,” he told me, grimacing, “I have two in coffee and three in tea, remember? That’s the other way around for most people. Usually people put more sugar in their coffee to take some of its bitterness away but I’ve always preferred a very sugary cup of tea, there’s something reassuring about it. It makes me think about my grandmother’s house, dusty plastic flowers, scratchy old photos in mahogany frames. All that kind of stuff.”

I asked him if he wanted another.

“Nah, I’ll have a...” he plucked the greasy menu from its stand and flipped it around so he could peer at it, “... must get some new contacts, banana.. no a..... guava?” He squinted up at me quizzically.“ Isn’t that another word for birdshit?"

“That’s gua-NO,” I told him.

“Ahh,” he said, nodding his head gravely as he tried the shape of the word out.

“Gua-NO. Gua-VA. Gua- NO.” He looked back at the menu. “Maybe….let’s see, a......lime,” he said finally with great satisfaction. He sighed and whistled

“Bird lime,” I said.

“Pardon?” he asked me, eyes screwed up into knots at the top of his long, pale face.

“Bird lime,” I said again. “It is another word for birdshit.”

“Ah. Yes. Yes. I know that,” he said more to himself than me. He nodded again. “Good.”

I turned half way round in my seat and tried to attract the owner’s attention. He was sitting a few tables away from us toward the back of a small cafe on Steeple Road, engrossed in whatever the lead article was on that day, the 14th of February 1995, in some tabloid or other. I’m not the kind of person who feels comfortable shouting across cafes, even if they are small and even if the only people in there are me, Johnny, the proprietor and one old lady. I sat looking at him for a few minutes in the hope that he’d look up from his reading and see my expectant face, but his gaze remained stoically, almost it seemed to me willfully, on the paper. After a minute or so I looked at the one old lady as if she might provide some solution to the problem or offer some advice.

She was quite startling to look at, this one old lady. Time had worn her away and folded her in on herself. A deep crevice ran around her face a third or so of the way up, dividing a toothless mouth and sinking her lips and chin back into her face The bridge of her nose had eroded and a ledge of flesh had shunted down from her great broad forehead, over her eyes. I could still just about pick them out, glinting weakly in the shadows, trapped between the two thick folds of weathered flesh.

There was a fly doing circuit training in the middle of the room.

“Time,” I said, under my breath and the proprietor looked up at me and asked,

“Another cup of tea, lads?”

I cleared my throat, “One tea and a lime milkshake,” I told him.

“No, guava,” Johnny shouted at him over my shoulder and then, “changed my mind, sorry,” as I turned back to face him. He had a manky-looking comb in his hands that he started trawling through his hair.

“You know,” he said, inspecting the skin flakes and loose hair trapped between its teeth, “it’s occurred to me how easily unreciprocated love curdles into hate, how quickly.…I mean it doesn’t have to become hate but it’s nearly impossible to maintain a strong loving feeling for someone if they don’t feel the same way about you, your vanity has to be satisfied, you have to begin to demean them to stop yourself from becoming demoralised, because if you love someone, even platonically, you want it to be mutual, it makes you vulnerable and if they don’t love you back, if your presence or your words or your interest don’t ignite anything in them then you feel distanced, alienated, at a remove, and in such a position it’s difficult not to also feel judged, inferior, contingent. You have to re-locate yourself, emotionally speaking, you have to create a more flattering balance, and so you fall back on the time-honoured tradition of undermining the Other, diminishing them, finding as much fault as possible, and every time you find another reason to despise them your sense of satisfaction grows.”

He had a permanent cold and it made his voice unusually nasal.

The proprietor put two cups of tea down on the table.

“No,” Johnny said, pointing at it with the comb. He shook his head emphatically. “No. Nope. Not what I asked for.”

The Proprietor looked at him blankly.

“M-I-L-K-S-H-A-K-E,” he spelled out methodically, looking at the ceiling fan that was wobbling away above the proprietor’s head. Johnny had an eye-contact problem.

“ ..shake ?” the proprietor checked.

“Correct. Spot on. Most certainly. Milkshake. Lime.”

The Proprietor put a baggy knuckled hand on the saucer and began to take the tea away.

“Whoa there my good man,” Johnny said, shaking his head from side to side slowly. “The tea can stay now it’s here,” he told him, smiling benignly. “But I would also like a milkshake. Thank you.”

The proprietor moved back toward his counter wordlessly as I looked up from the table.

“You didn’t want lime, remember? Changed your mind.”

“Guano!” Johnny shouted at his slothful back.

“Guava,” I corrected him.

“Gua-VA, then, Gua-VA!” he yelled irritably, the sudden burst of noise provoking a slow, dazed shifting of the head and some subterranean mutterings from the one old lady.

Johnny opened a small packet of sugar rather hastily and half of it scattered across the table, fell off the edge and dusted my trouser leg. Without apology he poured the rest into his tea and immediately grabbed another. This one he approached more gingerly, his jaw clenched hard with concentration.

The fly that had been circling around the middle of the room suddenly deviated from its route and clipped the buzzing, blue filament of the Fly-Killer mounted on the wall above Johnny’s head. It made a sound like wet fingers snuffing a candle and then plummeted down onto our table with its left side seared off and cauterised. I assumed it was dead and I was pleased in some small way when, after a moment or two, it began scudding over the pink plastic surface, bumping into the teacups and pausing now and then to nibble at the spilt sugar. I was watching it with a mingling of admiration and pity when Johnny transformed it into a mini mauve and black Rorschach test with a sudden slap of the papers he’d removed from his briefcase and stealthily rolled into a low-tech, but highly effective killing machine.

“Of course, I’d never have got it if the machine hadn’t softened it up a bit first,"he said ruefully. Then he looked at the mulberry smear and the one tiny wing, diaphanous, intricate and delicate as a flake of mother of pearl that clung to his paper truncheon. “Oh god, oh no,” he clucked and scraped it off on the edge of the table. He loosened his grip, let the papers unfurl and placed them delicately on his lap. The Screenplay.

“How’s the screenplay coming along?” I asked him.

“How, indeed?” he asked me back. “That is a most interesting and pertinent question. The whole vexing area of the screenplay.” He took a speculative sip of his tea, puckered his whole face in astonished disgust and fished another packet out of the bowl.

We were sitting next to the window in a box of light that went dark slowly and then light again, dark, light and finally dark as clouds rolled across the sky thousands of miles above and alternately blocked and released the light that was pulsing out from the sun, numerous million miles away. One of the clouds, probably the fat, purple-black one resting on the roofs of the houses opposite, shed a few greasy drops against the windowpane.

I decided to broach the subject. “Have you seen anything of Linda?” I asked.

“The thing with the screenplay you see,” he began stirring his tea so furiously it was only the centrifugal force that kept it from spilling over as he whirled a funnel of tea up and above the rim of the cup. “Is that the ideas and certain key sequences are there...”

I stared at it in fascination, wondering how much higher he cold raise it, a Tornado in teacup, “… but it’s very middle-y, you know. Most people are OK with the starts of things, or the ends, they aren’t usually too difficult, you know, resolutions, tie ups, loose ends woven into a seamless tapestry of cause and effect, character and motive. I don’t have that. I have lots of middle. The middle is when things happen. The middle is alive with possibility. The Beginning is just the anticipation of the middle and The End is horrible, a kind of murder, a hideous fettering.”

He was looking an inch or so to the left of my face in the direction of a painting it was impossible for him to see clearly. One that the proprietor had picked up somewhere and ill-advisedly chosen to hang on the wall of his premises. It was a nighttime landscape of dark blue, rolling hills and dank, spinach green trees. In the foreground, picked out of the darkness by the lusterless light of the shriveled moon above was a little gypsy girl with a disproportionately large head and cavernous eyes whose long fronds of black hair, sweeping back from her face as she ran toward us, knitted into the night behind her and seemed to hold her there, like a restraint. You could imagine a horrible tearing sound as her scalp ripped free at last and she fell out of the frame and landed bald, deformed and shrieking among the ashtrays and dirty plates on the table opposite.

Now that would have been worth seeing.

“So the beginning is only going to be alluded to, and the end will be whatever extrapolations the viewer makes on the basis of the information he’s given.”

“Yes,” I said. “But what kind of screenplay is it. You know, what genre.” I’m the kind of person who hates using French terms in conversation, who uses them only when necessary and says them determinedly, without a hint of accent or intonation. If I have to write them, I refuse to use italics.

“A thriller,” he said. “A Whodunnit.”

“But in this case, without the ‘who’ whodunnit?” I asked to make sure I understood.

“Yes. You’re correct. That’s correct,” he told me. “Because you know what’s important in these movies isn’t actually who committed the crime but the possibility of who might have done it and why. Once you know, all the interest goes out of it. I intend to be all possibility. A million suspects, a million motives and most wonderfully of all, no solution.”

“People will find that infuriating,” I told him.

The proprietor put a guava milkshake down on the table. The one old lady shuffled, un-noticed by anybody, out of the door.

“It’ll explode the form,” he went on excitedly, his gums lathering, small flecks of spume catching on his lips. “It’ll disembowel it and pick through its innards. Unravel it. Peel its layers. Subdivide it infinitely.”

“Linda asked me to have a word with you.” I told him.

“Linda?” he asked, as though he hardly recognised the name and began drumming his fingers violently against the table.

“She says you’ve been bothering her.” I didn’t like to spring it on him like this.

I’d hoped to get round to it somehow, to work up to it slowly. I’m the kind of person who warns his girlfriend when he’s going to come.

“Well Linda is, you know Linda, what isn’t she? She’s paranoid, mistrustful, manipulative.”

“And married,” I told him. “She’s married now.”

He spluttered and began pumping his leg up and down under the table, making the milkshake he still hadn’t touched dimple in the middle so that small, concentric rings rolled out across the surface and lapped at the side of the glass. “People,” he said. “People just….”

“I know,” I said. And for a second I was going to reach out over the table and lay a conciliatory hand on his shoulder.

I didn’t though. I find it difficult to do those kinds of things.

Thursday, 6 December 2007


I think I can assert without fear of contradiction that, to speak in the vernacular, the name “Dudley” has had its day. That said nomenclature has an aspect of more than merely faded glory, is an atavism, a relic. Unpopular perhaps even reviled.

It is, for instance, an easily verifiable statistical FACT that since 1953 no children born in what we may now, more justifiably than ever, given the rectitude of this situation, call the Civilized World, have been so named.

Naturally YOU will not believe me or value my extensive research, imagining you have found a hint of prejudice rather than either prudence or preference in my prior proposals. Oh Yes! I know the modern mind, its desire to undermine TRUTH and FACT and its suicidal willingness to unpick, finger by finger, our grip upon these ideas, upon this, if you’ll pardon my conceit, philosophic ledge from which we hang suspended, the inky black and bottomless pit of relativism gaping sickeningly beneath us.

Break the world down! Deconstruct! Seek perspectives that contradict the already weak and half-hearted apologetically perspectival assertion that some palsied coward has allowed himself, full though he is of guilty trembling, to make. Tunnel through higher or lower strata of assessment in an attempt to supersede or undermine the issue! Grub about endlessly in the murky netherworld of your own subconscious or plummet, a pale and directionless speck, through a groundless, abstract Universe!

Anything but believe and assert, act or affirm.

JUST ONE DUDLEY IN THE PUB DOWN THE ROAD! ONE FRIEND OF A FRIEND WHO CORRESPONDS WITH A 17 YEAR OLD DUDLEY IN HANOVER WHOSE HOBBIES ARE SKATING AND PHILATELY! Just one such discovery and you may rub your doubter’s hands in glee as the whole edifice comes crashing down.

Search away. I’m telling you, its-a-fucking-FACT!

But I digress.

What is it about the name Dudley that makes the flesh creep so, as if the very hand of death were resting a gentle, admonitory finger upon our tender napes, when we are scarcely likely to meet a Dudley nor consequently form from experience some truly accurate notion of what such a name signifies? Perhaps the name conjures horror because of its very lack of contemporaneity. It catapults us back to some time when the enlightenments of our present technological age were in their infancy. It draws us back to, not an age of barbarism, but an age without Video and Multiplexes and Malls, without drugs or coolness or youth. A brilliantined, ration-booked world of adults, austerity and work.

Ahhh! How we feel the tragedy and poignancy of a past that suffered pitiably on without the improvements and accoutrements that make our lives so profoundly the better and more NOW. We pity the past but are disgusted by it. We
pity the past like we pity a tramp or a cripple.

But I digress.

In essence it, Dudley, is unfashionable and there can be nothing that offends us more. I use the term unfashionable in its commonly understood sense though in this context the word must be imbued with an additional gravity. We must say that it is deeply, nay, subterraneously unfashionable. If what is transcendental about, indeed the very essence of, contemporary fashion is instantaneous irrelevance coupled with a capacity at any given time to be reclaimed and lionised then perhaps even ‘deeply’ unfashionable does not adequately describe the status that ”Dudley” holds.

It is perhaps either sub or supra fashionable. I assure you that as the hand of kitsch picks its way through Late Capitalism’s various rummage bins it will never flick its winsome fingers over Dudley and pause with a smirk to consider how amusing it may be to salvage this grubby antiquity. Oh no! Even Horace or Douglas may again have their day, but Dudley? Never!

Dudley Moore cannot, of course, escape our scrutiny though doubtless both he and I wish it were otherwise. To scrutinise Dudley More is to gaze into The Pit. The ruin of
his face, the charnel fetor of his breath. A cocoon of shredded flesh congealed around the eggy, flatulent wisp he calls his soul. His dearth of talent. Truly man and name live in horrid symbiosis, the spiritual and physical ugliness of one reflected in the telling appropriateness of
the other. I have never met him but can well imagine the sibilant hiss of his laboured breathing, the weak and rheumy apologies for eyes. This last, solitary Dudley, name-bearer of a long chain of the outcast and despised.

What infernal impulse could have prompted his parents to so hobble their child with this name and send him wincing and flinching through life subjected to the righteous and proper anger of more wholesome men?

But then the eternal quandary looms vis-à-vis CHICKEN/EGG. Did they choose the name or did some unclean spirit, some nefarious other agency recognize one of its own and move through them? Did the name choose the boy? Hovering hawk-like, waiting to swoop upon its victim?

Who can speak with authority about such things?

They may, I fear, forever be mysteries.

Imagine how his flightless, insectile heart must scuttle after the possibility that there is another so named out there somewhere whom the scrupulous recording and collating efforts of the Draconian bureaucracy that sustains our Free World has missed. How he must hanker after one who has suffered as he has, a shoulder to cry on, a living mirror in whom he can see his own scars and bruises reproduced.

An impossible dream, for as I have made absolutely plain, THERE ARE AND SHALL BE NO MORE! As likely to find a Tasmanian serving behind your local Bar or a Dodo roosting in the shade of that apple tree of fond boyhood memory which, on every visit to your ailing parent’s home brings back tingling memories of Uncle Bert’s rough hands, the calloused palm, the thick, intrusive fingers.

But I digress.

Can it be any accident that the shortened version of Dudley is Dud and that this word has come to mean and I quote from the Dictionary here.......

DUD(informal) ~n 1) A person or thing that proves ineffectual or a failure.

He’s a dud, its a dud etc. May I suggest that we convert the noun into an adjective and, rather as love begat lovely, dud shall beget dudley!

If a lamp is useless or fails pathetically to conform to those standards by which a proper lamp is assessed may we not say it is dudley?

A late summer sunset sequestered in the grape arbour savouring the piquancy of young boyhood’s musky vitality as it rolls off the five strong youths sweating in their horseplay just feet away from your furtive, quivering nostrils is a delight. A pile of dogshit is dudley.

Staying at a friends house and sleeping in the warm, redolent bed of the teenage son who is away for the weekend produces a healthy, vigorous pleasure. Pushing your hand, on the first night, under his one thin pillow only to discover a soiled and viscid tissue is now adhering to ones fingers is, however, dudley.

Pain is dudley. Death is dudley. Dudley is, of course, dudley.

But not for long!

Saturday, 1 December 2007


When I was at University, quite a few years ago now, a couple that I knew well committed suicide.

They were found by a close friend of mine with whom they shared a house. He came back from late one Saturday night and discovered them sitting opposite each other in a bathtub full of warm, red water.

Romantically they had scattered a handful of rose petals into their watery domestic grave and a few pink and pearl flakes clung to their chests, arms and faces while the rest clustered around the four floating incense candles that bobbed gently in the space between their bodies, lighting them from below and sending thick, fragrant coils of smoke up to the bare white ceiling above.

The four tallow candles that had been stuck to each corner of the tub were dying down and were an inch or so above extinction. In the white plaster soap dish my friend had grouted clumsily among the neat rows of sky blue tiles six months earlier lay the razor blade with which they had opened up each other’s wrists, a tiny star of pure, white light dancing imperviously along its keen edge in time with the candles' guttering.

The soap-dish itself was latticed with thin strips of the blood that tinted the bathwater, a little of which, spilling from one of them as they replaced the razor, had smeared the tiles beneath it and spattered the white enamel on one side of the tub.

My friend said he knew instantly that they were dead, even before his eyes had taken in the whole scene. From the doorway, as he entered out of the relative brightness of the landing he saw, in a sudden flare of light among the shadows that were being thrown violently across the floor and the walls, the pale, drained face of his best friend Simon.

His head was caught between the dull chrome gleam of the taps, his shoulders rounded and relaxed, arms hung down by his side and hands floating palm up, the fingers gently curled. All that was visible of Helen was the back of her head as it lolled against the right corner of the bathtub and her long jet-black hair which draped over the edge and pooled on the grey-white floor tiles below. The angle of her head allowed him to see a pale semi circle of brow and the hairline into which small spherules of candle wax had dripped and set like a garland of white berries.

My friend, Alan, was understandably shocked. Not only because of the sudden spectacle of two of his closest friends dead in the bathtub, though that was horrific enough, but also because, and people often say this about suicides, there had been no indication in either of their manners or moods that they might have engaged in such a pact. No broken hearts or bitter disappointments, no pre-emptive traumas. Quite the opposite in fact.

They were in love and their relationship was the envy of most of the people I knew, though because they were so self-contained many found them aloof and unapproachable. Because they were happy they became a little unpopular, and because they had no need to confide in anyone they were considered distant. People were jealous of their hermetic world and, reluctant perhaps to admit to any longing for something similar in themselves, occasionally belittled them.

I felt, I believe, that jealousy more keenly than most because of recent disappointments in my own life that had led me to conclude I would never find an equivalent security. Also, I had never had a women so beautiful as Helen and felt, I suppose, that I was entitled to one.

Alan had drunk and smoked a good deal and upon finding them was plunged into an incomprehension that brought on half an hour or so of frantic, irresolute activity. He told me later that he ran repeatedly downstairs to phone the police and then back up again just to confirm what he’d seen and to persuade himself that he wasn’t about to make some stupid mistake. Every time he stood on the threshold of the bathroom he was convinced of what he saw and each time he returned to the living room doubt crept over him and made him pause.

It was an odd situation for him, knowing implacably that they were dead but requiring confirmation somehow. Instead of the police he phoned me.

In the early hours of that cold winter morning my phone started to ring. Normally I would have ignored it but this time I got up. I was drunk and generally annoyed, not by the lateness of the phone call but by a certain inconsistency in my evening. I had gone to the pub with one of my groups of friends and had expected to see there, behind the bar as always, a girl that I and a few other people I knew were lusting after. On that evening however she simply wasn’t there and even though I lacked the confidence to make any overtures to her and our interaction was limited to the familiar pleasantries of a barmaid and a customer my evening suddenly became sour and hollow. Finding it impossible to hide my mood I started, as I became more drunk and less self controlled, to argue with my friends and to snap unnecessarily at the normal teasing and sarcasm that constitutes a boys night out.

Eventually I had a tantrum and left, walking on my own through the grim little snow covered streets with my face pushed down into the collar of my coat and my eyes watering, back to my cold flat while the rest of them went off to some club and later to some promised party. When the phone rang I presumed it was one of them calling to try and persuade me to come along to the house they were currently getting drunk in.

It wasn’t my friends though, it was Alan, stoned and whimpering on the other end of the line. I had great difficulty understanding what he was trying to say as I stood there in my white toweling dressing gown, swaying a little drunkenly in the semi-darkness of the living room. I kept telling him to put his mouth closer to the phone. It sounded to me as though he were talking from the other side of the world when in fact he lived just around the corner.

All I could understand was that he wanted me to call round now and see Helen and Jason.

I said that I would and I had two motives for going. Firstly I liked the idea that my friends, full of remorse, might come knocking on my door and discover that I was elsewhere, a rebuff without the prospect of a confrontation suits my disposition, and secondly because I was obsessed with Helen and flattered myself that to a degree she returned my interest.

Up in the bathroom I prepared myself for our meeting. I dressed again in the clothes I had worn for my night out and which I’d discarded on the damp floor. I cleaned my teeth and brushed my hair even though I was venturing out, hatless, into a snowstorm. I sprayed deodorant under my arms and squeezed a little floret of sebum out of a black head on my nose.

As I walked round there I composed myself and rehearsed replies and lines I hoped might impress everyone. I had been waiting patiently for her, over the year or so she’d glided through the periphery of my life to grow bored of Simon, to leave him and to look around for somebody new. All the relationships I’d had in that time were overshadowed by my desire to be with her and I was full of fantasies and reckless plans about how I might come between the two of them.

I cannot help but feel, in retrospect, that it was the impossibility of this idea that sustained my fantasy and made it richer. Being in her presence was an exiting prospect and as I arrived my heart was pounding out of all proportion with the effort required to walk halfway up the gentle hill their house stood on.

I knocked firmly on the door and steeled myself for the prospect of Helen answering it, determined to be calm and easy. Instead it was Alan who answered and who stood, eyes raw with crying, shivering in the doorway.

"Dead," he said to me, with an inflection I can find no word to describe as we stood in the glare of the living room.

He looked down at the carpet, a plain brown carpet peppered with butts from a spilled ashtray.

"I think so, anyway." He sniffed and looked at me for a second and pulled a strange, pained face.

At first I didn’t realize what he meant and I started to ask - who? and then I thought I knew.

"Helen?" I asked him.
"And Simon," he told me. A great sob burst out of him as he said the name and he reigned it back in quickly with a strangled whine, raised his eyes to the ceiling and clenched his hands. A long strand of off-white snot had whipped round from his nose and was plastered along one cheek. After a moment or two he became aware of it and wiped it away with his sleeve.

"Helen," I said again. "An accident?"

He neither moved nor answered for what seemed like a long time and then he sat down in the armchair opposite me, pulled a crumpled packet of cigarettes out of his pocket and made no further attempt to smoke it. Eventually he said in a voice that had an impatient, dismissive edge. "Upstairs. The bathroom."

I stood and waited for more but he didn’t look at me again and he didn’t speak.

The silence between us lengthened and became uncomfortable. I couldn’t escape a feeling of incredulity. I was sure that I was the object of some practical joke, or that Alan had been. A sudden brusque and matter-of-fact attitude took hold of me, a desire to discover just exactly what was happening. I left the living room and climbed the short staircase up to the second floor, walked along the landing for a few yards and went into the bathroom.

The candles had gone out now but I could see by the light that glanced in from the hallway a few pale disconnected planes against the far wall, which, as my eye adapted to the darkness, resolved themselves into two naked bodies lying on and around each other in the bathtub.

After a moment's deliberation I reached across toward the doorway and switched on the light.

The shade was a globe of Aquamarine material stretched over a wire frame and it lent the predominantly white surfaces a cold blue tinge and made the water in the tub look blacker. I stood and gazed at them for a long time and then I took a few steps forward so I could see Helen's body better. The peculiarity of seeing them both like this, naked, was so great that it dissipated all the shock and dread I had initially felt. I giggled and then put my hand over my mouth. All the time I was looking at Helen I glanced at Simon too out of some fear that he might suddenly open his eyes and discover that I was staring at her. I didn’t look at him solely for that reason but also because I was interested in knowing how large his penis was.

His arms were floating upward in the water and I could see two long vertical slits along the undersides of his wrists, no more dramatic than two black lines drawn in ink and interrupted here and there by little flecks and crumbs of pink tissue. A rose petal clung, completely static, below his right nostril.

Mostly my attention was absorbed by Helen. I had longed to see her naked and had imagined what she would look like many times. She was lying on top of Alan and her slightly separated legs ran the length of his body and disappeared up under his armpits so that her feet were not visible. Irrespective of them, I could see every inch of her.

I reached out a hand and rubbed the knuckle of my middle finger across her lips and then quickly drew it back again. As I stood there gazing at her I became aroused and began to speculate about their reasons. They had not been personally unhappy as far as anyone knew and I could only conclude, knowing what I did about them, that this act they’d performed hadn’t been done out of desperation. It had a ritualistic and an aesthetic quality about it. As the idea occurred to me, that in some ways it had been celebratory I found it more erotic but it also incited my jealousy further and the two emotions fed on each other.

This final culmination of their love. This canceling out of every thing except each other. Running the blade tenderly along each others wrists, pressed together naked in the hot water, exchanging a last deep kiss and sitting back in the candle glow to watch each other die. Looking into their lover's face and seeing their own image slowly fading, pale and trembling in the iris of the other's eyes. The light dimming down, the pulses slowing, a soft, dark veil falling between them.

I rolled up my sleeves quickly, plunged my arms into the water and leaning over and grappling my fingers together behind the small of her narrow back I tried to lift her out of the bath tub.

She came up a foot or so toward me and then my hand slipped and she fell back again with a great sluicing of water. Below me I heard Alan stand up, walk out of the living room and call up from the foot of the stairs, asking if everything was O.K.

"Fine!" I shouted, hunched over and soaked with my arms locked round her again, her face pressed close to mine and my hot breath melting the water drops that had frozen on it.

"Don’t move anything," he shouted and I heard the pressure of his foot creak the first step in the flight. I cursed him bitterly in my mind for stealing these last moments of possibility from me. As he was halfway up the stairs the doorbell rang.

"Get rid of them," I yelled down hoarsely in a half-whisper. Outside I could hear the shouts and the drunken laughter of the friends I had deserted earlier.

I tried to lift her again and again I was obliged to drop her because her feet were wedged under Simon's armpits. I grabbed her ankles and pushed them down trying to free her feet but with every downward push Simon's unsupported weight moved down with them and there was no way to get them out.

"Bastard." I hissed at him. I took a step back and let out a sob as my eyes prickled with frustration. There was nothing else I could do or at least no time left to do it in. I stood breathing heavily between my teeth, looking at them locked together. Helen's hair had fallen forward over her face now and long black tresses of it rolled and tangled in the gentle swell of the bathwater. I pulled the hair tenderly back and let it drop over the edge of the bath where it set up a gentle, methodical dripping against the floor like the ticking away of seconds on a clock.

Outside the snow had stopped and I heard the last of my friends calling one of their more insistent party away from the door. Their voices echoed out through the empty streets telling Billy - hurry up - come on- growing more distant as Billy, drunk and belligerent, hassled Alan on the door step about the party he’d promised them.

Go on Billy, go now or you’ll get left behind I thought as I sat down on the edge of the bath and put my arm into the water that was coloured by their mingled blood so I could fish her warm, wet hand out and hold it until Alan came upstairs.

Later, on the pretext of looking for a suicide note I stole a handful of her underwear from the laundry basket in their room.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Personally, I was disappointed when the Cold War ended.

The Arms Race, Escalating Nuclear Tension, Def-Cons 1-4. All those kind of things were a comfort to me. I really thought that the world was going to end and that I’d live to see it. I hadn’t been around when everything started all-those-however-many million years ago and the fact that I’d be around to see it all disappear seemed like a privilege of sorts. I liked the idea that I was born into a time when time got stopped.

It was exciting, frankly, and it made you kind of fatalistic and vigilant because AT ANY MOMENT there could be a flash in the sky and the buildings would atomize and a colossal wall of thermonuclear heat would sweep out on all sides evaporating the seas and melting mountains down into lakes of dusty glass. Also, it gave you the opportunity to be heroic. I could well imagine the rising wail of the klaxon piercing the school playground and the monumental panic that would ensue as I bravely fought my way home through the wailing masses to be with my family.

I was only ten years old, but the prospect of Armageddon makes you precocious. I was too young to have any kind of seize-the-day, party spirit, I was just very serious about it in my day-dreamy, childlike way, pretty much awestruck and in some way oddly grateful. I’m still not sure whether I’ve adjusted to the fact that the world’s going to drag on indefinitely.

You had to die, I knew that, and here was a way that seemed appropriate. I mean your life is everything to YOU and when you die then for you at least THE WORLD ENDS whereas for everybody else nothing much changes. The Earth keeps turning on its axis, people get up and go to work and worry about the bills, clouds move across the sky, dog shit accumulates in the street and gets washed away by the rain. It’s nothing too significant.

Now, I don’t know how much it suited my temperament or how much it shaped it but there seemed to be something great about the Mutually Assured Destruction that had kept two halves of the globe locked into a tentative balance from long before I was born and which might at any second fall apart. There was no question of IF, in my mind it was only WHEN, and that meant that I was never going to be an adult, that the world existed and was huge, crazy and incomprehensible and would end for huge, crazy and incomprehensible reasons. The fact that I wasn’t going to be around to see much of it gave me an epic sense of tragedy, and anyway, I didn’t want to get old and bald and fat and flatulent and be responsible and employed. Not when I could have my molecules smashed out across the Galaxy by waves of blinding, Biblical heat.
That's the only way to go.
Imagine the sense of anticlimax that I live with.