Snapshot 6

And we sat, with the machines beeping and the rain falling against reenforced glass.
You always liked stories. We would spend our pillow talk on make-believe, not wishing to analyse the events of the day, only wanting to share our duvet cocoon with peace and love.
So as the weather outside reflected my mood, I told you a story. One last story.
About a man who was rescued, although he didn’t realise he needed rescuing. About a man who was blessed, although he was not religious. About a man who was rewarded for years of bad luck, with a lifetime of good luck in one perfectly formed package.

As I watched your eyes, unmoving behind closed eye lids, I wondered what you were thinking. What you were seeing, with your minds eye. Did my words get through? Did they reach you?
I wanted you to hear me, I wanted my words to form a bubble, a perfect little world in which my story lived.

To me, that’s what stories are – worlds enclosed in a membrane that, at the merest touch, will pop and free the story from within.

I don’t want my last image of you to be of you there, in that bed, body broken and sick. I want my last image of you to be this:
You, stood with your arms wide, head thrown back, laughing at the hundreds of bubbles that float around you, conjured with my stories. Reflecting the last of a dying sun on their glistening surface, dancing and moving with your breath. And with each touch of your finger, a bubble bursts, and gifts to you a story that I have made. That’s how I want to remember you.

Snapshot 5

Night driving again.
Headlights of approaching cars growing out of the dark like an onrushing double sun, disappearing behind and leaving an after image in the eye, the red glow of rear lights in the rear view mirror. Left alone once more, within the metal bubble of warmth, road noise, and isolation.

Journeys always seem to both take longer, and pass quicker. Why?
Is it the lack of perceivable landmarks, no road signs or passing white lines to reenforce the forward motion? Or is the way travelling at night messes with the circadian rhythm, confusing the mind and body with a combination of sleeping dark, and adrenaline inducing speed?

Driving past fields, imagining the peace of a moonlit walk, journeying to a destination in the same way as our ancestors, centuries before.
Catching sight of a lay-by as it whizzes past, the oft-thought of sentence that ghosts into the mind – “Imagine being stuck there now…”.

Familiar roads, and junctions, look different at night. When the roads are this quiet, some junctions look like the scene of an accident, where all the bodies have been removed, but the forensic lighting is still there, scanning for spilled blood, skid marks. Or they are like a dressed stage, set for actors to play their way across, before an audience that isn’t there.

Stiff neck. Tired eyes. Counting down the miles as they tick off the odometer, getting ever closer to home. No cars in the rear view mirror means a black, empty space behind, as though the road and all the world has been gathered in by the car’s rear wheels.

Finally coming upon the exit junction, leaving the main artery and filtering off into a smaller, less important one, like an air bubble in a bloodstream.

Smaller roads, slower roads. The mad, head-long rush slowing to a more gentle cruise through sleeping streets, to home.

Snapshot 3

Fishlake National Forest, just outside Utah, is where we buried it.

Wrapped in a blanket, which we took from the cupboard in the hall, where all the bedding and towels are kept.

When we made the decision, there was no going back. And to paraphrase Macbeth, “If it were done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”. Hesitation during any of what followed would have proved disastrous to our resolve.

We saw a different side of each other that day – you proved far more ruthless in deed and thought than I had seen before, and I like to think you saw a softer side to me.

As the forest closed in around us, the mood in the car darkened along with the shadows that surrounded us. We knew we were approaching the spot we had picked out using Google maps satellite view. Quiet, secluded, and off the seldom travelled road. We didn’t speak. You knew the way, so I was left to sit and look out of the window, watching the dark greens and browns flow by.

The dark, black peat gave way under the blade of the shovel. You sat on an old stump and smoked, your first cigarette for two years, while I dug down. All about us was the noise of the forest – falling branches, rustling creatures, and the deep age old sound of trees growing. The steady thump and scatter of the excavated peat hitting the floor.

“That’s enough”, you said. I looked at the hole I had created and agreed, it was deep enough. Or maybe it would never be deep enough to hide what we had done, and you were just cold and ready to be done with this. I returned to the car to fetch our burden, and lifting it from the back seat I carried it back into the small clearing we had found.
You stood, and gently placed one hand on top of the wrapped bundle. Our eyes locked for a second, and in that heartbeat of time we knew this was a secret that would keep us entwined forever.
I lowered it down into the ground. And while you went back and sat in the car, I filled in the hole.
It filled in quicker than it emptied.

Snapshot 4

This is what I saw: I work from home, balancing the guilt of feeling as though I am not productive enough, with the desire to see just how little I can get away with doing.  From where I sit at my desk, I have a view through to a bedroom window of a nondescript three bedroom house.  Most days, all I see is the drawn or undrawn curtains, occasionally a view of a person  of indeterminate gender.

This day, with the perfect storm of a clear day and the sun in just the right portion of the sky, the window appeared to me as though highlighted by a stage footlight.  And there, stood looking out through the glass, was a woman. Simply stood, posed like a picture on an advent calender. And she was crying. 

Not the dramatic, hysterical crying of a mourning mother, but a calm, almost serene outpouring of grief.  The reason for this woman’s tears was of course unclear.  But for a few minutes,  I was captivated. To be so still, frozen in place,  but to be feeling something evidently powerful enough to invoke tears…  What was it?  Sadness? Misery? Happiness? 

I wanted to know about her life,  I wanted to sit at her kitchen table, an unseen guest, and learn the tale of this woman’s sorrow. Why is it, other people’s lives can seem so much more fascinating and glamorous than our own?   Why do we often think that? And why do we fail to appreciate, even when we’re at our lowest, that our lives will seem infinitely more interesting to others? 

Snapshot 2

I saw a black sun today.
You were driving, which for me is a big deal as I’ve always been one to want to be in control. Not in a domineering, manly-man way; more like… actually, it’s nothing that complicated. I just prefer to drive.
But today, you were driving, and the verges of the motorway sped past while we moved in their shadow.
I played the game I play with myself. I spot just one tiny piece of road furniture – a barrier support, a particular cat’s eye, even just a hole or mark in the ground – and I acknowledge it. I focus on it. And I think to myself, “I will never see that piece of the world again”.

You said something to me, about how happy you felt, and as I turned toward you we left the shadows and my eyes were hit square on by the sun. It was like those videos of test nuclear blasts, an instant of pure, white light. This made me slam my eyes shut with a wince, and the impression the sun made behind my eyelids was a black sun. I refused to see this as an omen.

Snapshot 1

I want to try and write more, and as well as keeping the poetry going, I want to try these ‘snapshot’ pieces of fiction. I have been inspired by Douglas Coupland, who in more than one of his books writes in this style. If you want a good example of his work in this vein, read “Life After God”. I’d like you to be patient and stick with these. I hope to get better at them as time goes on. Thank you.

One day, just as the last morning cup of tea had worked it’s way through my system, I fell down.
It was a shock, because in my mind I was still the youthful footballer, the skillful skate boarder, agile and sure of foot. For a few moments, lying there on my back and looking up at the ceiling, I had an insight into what it might be like to die.
Nothing moved. My entire world was the near 180 degree view of my walls and ceiling. There was silence, just the faint rub-dub of my heartbeat, and the constant low ‘sssshh’ sound that seems to constantly be in my ears.
I held my breath, kept all my limbs and head still, and slowly closed my eyes as though drawing down a blind over a window.
I imagined my inner-self coming loose, untethered, and drifting away like a piece of paper on a still lake. I pictured the scenes that would unfold when I was discovered, cold and alone. The shock, the sadness. In a few moments, a whole lifetime of grief and life moving on was played out on my internal cinema screen. And then I got up, and went about my day.

Reblog : Generosity

I’ve re-blogged this to take part in today’s Daily Prompt – “Train stations, airport terminals, subway stops: soulless spaces full of distracted, stressed zombies, or magical sets for fleeting, interlocking human stories?”. Hope you like it.

The train station was as busy as ever on this cool November morning. Commuters rushing to make their habitual seat on their train to work, others arriving into town ready to attack the day anew and survive another day at the grindstone of employment.
Mixed in with these station regulars were the people travelling for other reasons – some good, some bad. The woman on her way to meet her lover, the guilt etched in her face as she thought of her husband driving home from the station with a smile on his face, not knowing the truth of his situation.
The young man and woman off to the airport for their first holiday together as a couple, he only thinking of the sex he can’t wait to have, her thinking of only of how close they will be after spending a whole two weeks together.
The older man, dignified and almost military in his bearing, travelling to the funeral of a friend, finally taken by the weak heart that had plagued him for years.

Into this cauldron of humanity walks a smiling man, with a large tray suspended round his neck in the manner of ice-cream sellers in the cinema. Contained in the tray, displayed in rows like jewellery on velvet cushions, were an assortment of pastries. Pain au chocolat, croissants, danish pastries, cinnamon swirls, all glistening with sweetness.
As this man walked toward the centre of the concourse, the intoxicating smell dancing among the people around him, eyes began to follow his progress as interest was piqued. He stopped, and in a voice tinged with mirth loudly announced,
“Ladies and gentleman. Greetings to you all on this fine morning. As a token of kindness and to help you on your journey today, I have here some fine pastries. Please, avail yourself of them, free of charge of course! I only ask that later today when you think back to this moment, you maybe think about how a small gesture of generosity and kindness can bring a smile to even the gloomiest of mornings”.

Several people began to congregate around him, looking into his tray to select a pastry for themselves. Once the first person took one (an account manager for a plumbing supplies firm, on his way to meet a potential new client), other people took it as a signal to pickup their own selection. They were pastries that are dreamed of. Warm to the touch, plump, the filled ones heavy with sweet chocolate or syrup, the croissants light and buttery. As each person bit into their own pastry they could not help but smile, and offer small noises of satisfaction and enjoyment.

After twenty minutes or so, the tray was empty. Those people lucky enough to get a pastry were left feeling a tiny bit happier than they had been before this smiling man had arrived.

The man himself stood with a satisfied grin. He had come to the station this morning in the hope of brightening peoples day. As these people set off on their commute, or their walk from the station to their offices, they would begin to feel more than happy, more than satisfied after eating these gorgeous treats. You see, within each pastry he had put a small dose of LSD. With no taste other than the rich, dark chocolate or the sweet sugary cinnamon, it had been consumed completely unawares and now, for the rest of the day, some of these people would experience a rather more interesting time than they first thought they would when they got up this morning. “Yes” he though to himself, “it’s good to give”.