“Awaken, then,” the voice said. “Awaken, you foul nether creature of nobody’s womb, who lies motionless consumed inside your own leathery furnace. Arise, you filthy, pitiful waste of life, you who sit quivering when asked to relate to the world, when asked to speak, to walk, to listen, to thrive; if I could whip you from ear to ear to make you take part in this life-drama, I would – it is only my fear that you will shrink so far back from these overtones as to render my efforts immutable that stops me from doing so. You are made from melting plastic: toxins threaten those in your vicinity, and those who dare touch you find themselves facing lesions. In truth, you ought to commit suicide, but I am sure that would be far too easy for you. No – you prefer to live out your life like a horror novel, reading on just to see what will raise its head the next time you take a look at the black lake of your existence.”
That was my alarm: I had programmed it to say those words since I was fifteen, and not once have I regretted doing so. Why? I am not sure. All I know is my name is Stanley, and I emerge every day from a rotten tenant’s agreement with a spring in my step and grass in my hair, even though I am not aware of spending my nights lying in parks indolently like a strange but cultured tramp-head. Fragrances waft around my facade as I stir dust from a Monet morning, all brush strokes and abstract notions of beauty but whose viciousness is concealed only by the amateurish attempts to conceal its reality through the medium of
“Something or other,” seem to be my first words of the day – they will set its tone for the next twelve hours to come, at which point I will retract my statement and pretend it never happened, politician-style.
Grossman peers in through the door frame, head hanging like a lolloping lolly upon his quivering neck, jutting like a spike atop a boorish club devised of splintered wood. A doll’s head perches on his shoulder – I am fairly sure he is unaware of its existence. Grossman has no attempts left in life: he used up his last lifeline trying to sell tangerines to a group of youths whose fathers were silicon-based lifeforms and as a result “the entire thing went ker-blooey”. Since then he has existed on subsidiaries and steak houses.
“Bottom of the rung, still, I see,” he muses, eyes widening as he sees an imaginary cradle crying perched on the hilltop of my upper shelf that leads to the nearby inglenook within which bats and scaramanga beetles gather to await the coming storm. Guinness-like skies tell stories of lethal implementation from an angry deity whose name appears to me in a dream when I am about to be twenty-eight. Shit.
“Spend too much time in the future, lad,” speaks Grossman, as he loses his grip on the door and falls to the floor, wrapping his body around it, as though he were attempting a hug. “Never give time to your present day needs and necessities. Food and nonesuch. Wicker baskets’ importance is highly underestimated. Cajole a merchant of sesame seeds into giving you a pass to the Delta of no Reaction, lest you entail a foolish notion of pliability.” He slithered out the door,
With me calling after him, “What in the name of giants’ balls are you talking about, man?” and I stammered, which let me down and didn’t allow me to save face. I find it increasingly difficult to save face: I had a face-saving of 2 the other day, but then I spent my face on an elastic band which I used to secure my packet of Muscovado sugar to its tether in order to keep it from escaping my cupboard, for it knew it could find its owner and thus begin the Reckoning. For, in this crazy-ass world in which I usually try not to live, sugar and water are the rarest of all ingredients. I expect the unexpected, apart from that time when I expected an Amazon package to arrive, and, believe it or not, it actually did. For a short time I took to expecting the expected, before realising that if it was ‘the expected’ then it was already expected, and so did not require me to expect it. As a result I had a limbo period of expecting neither the expected nor the unexpected, but simply expected. I sat on my butt and expected. I realised I expected too much when I went to find the President and expected. Then I got arrested and expected. Then I was released and expected. But. It turns out that expectation creates nothingness and so I expected the unexpected instead because in the end, it’s the unexpected that makes life so damned interesting and colourful: if all your life was as you expected, if all your plans came to fruition, then you have lived a pre-programmed sort of life who rather goes against the notion of free will, does it not? And therefore you deserve to take a trip down Unaware Road, and battle the cosmos like I do every time I leave my bed,
Which I had finally managed to this morning, exiting it via the propulsion of my torso and legs combining to create a floppy notion of elasticity that helped construct a mechanism – that once my body hit the floor, it would stop falling, and eventually would begin a process of falling and catching itself that some referred to as walking. I walked. The bathroom was en-suite and I walked. Clothes came off me and I stepped. The bath hugged me in its primitive waters and I sank. Oceans of age and Christian views of redemption encompassed me in a foetal embrace, my posture ascertained by its lack of relation to anything outside the meandering atoms of wary watery wastrel neediness: mind reduction to baby state meant no more need to adhere. Under the water the sounds all faded until I heard only my heartbeat. Static. No more than this. Life, reduced. Interesting how many thoughts spring to mind when there’s nothing to think about.
Florence appeared at the hour some time later. My hair was being attacked by a towel which perched in my hands. Perhaps it would be good if I answered the door with my head tousled. Then I would look sexy. Then things might get more real. The fuzziness of things become all too evident when you can see the room’s dust in the arc beam flitting through the window blinds. I open the door, changing the tense of my life.
“Blimey,” she says, gazing up at my head, eyes blinking like a child’s held in the gaze of Santa Claus, “Your hair’s gone weird.”
“I know,” I say sheepishly, automatically adjusting as she stumbles and mumbles her way in, shopping bags trailing after her.
“Don’t change it,” she almost orders as she lays the bags upon the counter that makes up the main facet of our kitchenette and, laying bags out, “I quite like it.” There is a slight pause, before she ransacks her own contents and shovels them into the various holes of the kitchen: fridge, bread bin, fridge, cupboard, drawer, fridge, cupboard, bread bin, fridge, cupboard...
“Pop Tarts,” I nearly scream, for I have attempted to jump onto the sofa from the back side of it (perched as it is in the middle of the room) but have managed to snag my foot on the back end of the sofa, so that as I land upon its weary cushions I realise I may have possibly broken my foot.
“You’re fine,” she says, after a moment. “Help me with this?”
Florence is my icon, my moment. I scoot towards her vicinity and expertlessly plunge myself into the workload.
“Stop trying to impress me by being dedicated. You know it makes me uncomfortable when you try to impress me.”
“I know,” I say, although I don’t know and feel a little bewildered. “I just want to get this finitoed.”
“Spanish, eh?” she offers, as a way of acknowledging my apology through the only lie possible. “Well vamos yourself over to the kettle and make me a cuppa please.”
“Ok, mademoiselle,” I say, poised to make the greatest cup of tea known to woman.
“Seems that way.”
There is an awkward pause during which I stand next to the kettle, listening for it to boil, watching her arse as she fills the fridge with various pre-sliced cheeses. I remember the first time I caught sight of that arse. It was magnificent. I can’t imagine a better arse for the life of me. People talk about the perfect arse, but they don’t get it. This was the perfect arse because it was so gloriously imperfect. Barbie is the ‘perfect’ woman, but she is not perfect. No – I need a glorious arse like this, not a structured one. A gloriarse.
“Enjoying the view?” she said, wriggling for my benefit.
“Afraid so,” I said, half to myself.
She backed up into me and I stood there unable to move for a moment. Then she rose and asked me to close my eyes. Of course I did so – and she knew I would because she knew that I was in the sort of mood where I would do anything she asked me to, even if it meant eating something she had shovelled into my mouth without asking my permission, and making me chew on it, all the while enjoying the fact that whatever the hell she had given me was some kind of... what the hell?
“Open your eyes.”
I opened them to see her staring facelessly, a look of slight amusement on her face. “You like?”
I made a noise that let her know I didn’t but was too polite to say no.
“Not that surprising.”
She smiled when my eyes widened. Why hadn’t I spat this thing out?
“Why?” I said through facial expression.
“I’ll tell you when you’ve swallowed it.”
I gulped it down. “What poison have you given me?”
“Not telling you.”
I blinked at her. “Seriously, what was it?”
“What do you think it was?”
“Huh,” I said. “You think I care what it was? You’re not going to play that game with me, missy.” I strode defiantly back into the lounge and parked on the sofa. “You think I care what it was, you’ve got another thing coming. In fact, I didn’t even dislike it. I didn’t like it either. It was nothing to me. I couldn’t give a toss.”
“You ate dog.”
I stood up and pointed a finger at her. “Fuck you.”
“I’m joking,” she said, her face still deadpan. “It wasn’t dog.”
I pointed my other finger. “Fuck you.”
“It was ostrich.”
“Fuck...” I began, before wondering whether I was actually offended. Ostriches? Who really gave a damn about ostriches? I hadn’t seen them before, and from what I had heard, they could be quite vicious. “Actually, that’s ok. Where on earth did you get ostrich from?”
And so settled the day. Nothing had happened. There was no story yet. We existed – co-existed – in a bubble of our own uncertainty. But it was ours. Life was not a story. There are no plans. Humanity was no plan. I had eaten an ostrich today, and that was surely enough. What else did They want from me? To run an advertising campaign persuading people to eat ostrich? No. To run an advertising campaign persuading people not to eat ostrich? Never. What we eat defines us, and if there is a God, then God can judge us by our diet at The End. God is in fact a dietician. God is Gok Wan.
“God Wan,” I blurted.
“No,” Florence replied, sucking on a lollipop, “God is Jeremy Kyle.”
“Surely not.” I turned to her, face pleading and saddened. “Surely not.”
“Alright, it’s not him. But I do know who it is.”
“Go on,” I said, face dropping as I succumbed.
“Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.”
We were watching an advert for Lindt chocolate. “The chocolate?”
“But what about.”
Stoned we were; and stoned we would be, for a while yet. The sun was not yet our familiar. There were no imperatives to meet its demands. Even when the imperatives made our acquaintance, we were not obliged to follow. I do not respect the sun. My ideal hours of sleep are from 2 in the morning to half 10 in the morning. I want to miss at least four hours’ worth of sun each day. The sun is given far too much respect, far too much attention. The sun blathers at us and we listen. But it is no God. Gok Wan filled that role aeons ago. The sun is no Ra. It is simply a blithering idiot, glaring indolently at us in expectation that we’ll lie in front of it and let it shit into our faces, before giving us that final insult, cancer.
“I’d rather smoke a cigarette!” I suddenly shouted in anger.
“Sit down,” said Florence, calmly.
“I am – oh.” I settled once more, painfully aware that the configuration my body had moulded itself into only moments before had been completely disrupted, and the impossible task now was to try and reconfigure myself to match that precision of relaxation – the position of all positions. But I had fallen. I could not relax like I had. Yes, I was sitting in almost the same position, but that’s the key word – almost. I could not capture that state again. I was Adam, expelling myself from Adam with a rocket-launcher of disgust. A fart. Perhaps that’s why God expelled them. Eve farted.
“Perhaps God...” I began, before Florence pointed at the television and laughed.
“Look at that,” she said.
A man telling the news. “What?”
“Just look at him,” she said, tears emerging from her eyes.
I looked. And I looked. And looked.
“I’m laughing, but I don’t know why. Am I being stupid?” she said, wiping her eyes, “Am I that stoned?”
“No,” I lied. “I see it too.” I attempted a fake laugh. To my surprise it sounded quite real. It was then I realised his face. And I laughed.
Laughter echoed throughout the room, up through the house, out through the vents, out to the street, where it bewildered passers-by, on their way to whatever place they felt they needed to go, to make money they felt they needed to make, so they could buy their newly-acquired friends whatever drinks they needed to drink, and then drink as much as they needed to drink in order to laugh however much they felt they needed to laugh in order to justify their existence however much they needed to exist. And then do it all again on Monday. And then again. And again.
“I am exhausted,” I said, checking my watch. It had been two minutes. Watch might be broken.
“Is my watch broken?” I suggested. “It is?”
“Chuck it in the bin,” Florence said, lighting another.
I chucked it in the bin, a voice somewhere in the back of my head telling me it was perfectly operational. But that voice could be ignored for now. That was happiness: ignoring that voice.