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.

London Machine

This small piece came to me this morning, as I had to travel into London for my job. I hope you like it.

Emerging from the crush of the London underground, squeezed through the exit like toothpaste from a tube. The scattergun dispersal of my fellow commuters, out into the morning sun and morning traffic.
Travellers removed from their self-imposed bubble whilst on a tube carriage, to once again engage with the world. Coffees to buy, buses to find, offices to get to.
But just for a moment, to pause in a quiet doorway and really see my surroundings. When the sun shines and the chrome glows, London can be beautiful.
Watching the cyclists as they gather at a red light, the snarling couriers, hipster office workers. Their daily roulette of battling the cars and lorries in the name of avoiding public transport.
The pretty women with their summer outfits, headphones providing their own chosen soundtrack as they hurry to their workplaces.
For a moment, the genuine feeling of being part of an unknowably large machine, the beat of commerce and finance at it’s heart, the individual people as blood cells, flowing through it’s streets as veins.
It is a love / hate relationship. The idea, the image, the idealised thought of this great city, missed when not seen and experienced for a long time, calls to me as an oft’ recalled favourite place. The urge to once more walk among it’s lanes and streets gets stronger with each passing week. But then, upon arriving above ground from another grubby and dirty journey among the tunnels, bumped and barged and banged around by the inconsiderate… The ringing though, “Oh why do I bother?”
But then, I am a Londoner, in heart and in mind. My accent speaks of the Thames, the west end, the great parks and bridges. How can I not feel part of this great machine, when stood in the morning sun, feet planted firmly on the streets of London?