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?

Drive

Another mile gone, another mile without a word. It was my fault really, I once again let my temper flare when by now, I should have learned to bite my tongue.
I feel a little sympathy toward you, because while I have the act of driving to focus on, you have nothing but the passing world.
Staring out at cars with families, lorries and their loads, the lone travellers off to who knows where. Hearing the last salvos of our argument play round and round your head, dissecting and offering counter arguments to each point.
I have the mind emptying task of just focusing on the road, to drown out the “you said, I said” repetitiveness.

Arguments are always won in the mind, after the fact. But it’s the ones that are first spoken, then shouted, that make it harder, with each passing minute, to offer reconciliation. The point and counter point that plays out in the mind, “If I say this, he’ll say that”, which in the end leads to only more silence.
The lie we tell each other – “Oh I love your stubbornness, it’s why we get on so well” – is in fact a curse that can damage our relationship when it is at its most intransigent, and we both refuse to concede to the other.

It would take such a small movement to bridge the chasm of heavy silence in the car. A hand across to rest on a thigh, or to gently stroke the back of the head. That would be less effort even than just quietly saying “I’m sorry”. Instead, another mile ticks over, and another small slice is added to the growing pile of resentment. All the while, you stare out at the flowing road, while I drive.

Rain

It’s always the rain I remember.
Whenever someone asks me, “what happened?”, and I have to think back to that day, the day when in a moment my life changed, it’s always the rain I recall first.
Because if it wasn’t for the rain, would I have been there, in your room? Would I instead have been out, rushing through a thousand and one different tasks, each demanding my time?
But no. The rain had kept me in, and as I think back, it was the music of the rain on the window that soundtracked my rude awakening. The soft susurration, in that moment, replacing the sound of my stopped breath.
In that split second, when I read and understood those words, to wish with all my heart that I could go back to not knowing, to carry on living in ignorant bliss; the constant rain denying the fact that I could stop time, reverse it.
Such simple words, a few syllables, once sentence, but with the power to explode my every assumption. To tear away the false facade that was my life, and reveal to me a new future, one of unknown and unplanned for changes.
But throughout those changes, throughout the pain and torment, there was always one constant. The rain.