The trials and tribulations of a pretentious, self-obsessed, lust-stricken twentysomething, as glimpsed through the throb of pop culture.
Fate has a way of biting a fella in the ballbag, kinda bite has a fella bent double o’er the bog all screeching red-eyed at the piss-hued reflection screeching back. What the fella spits is “Damn it, hear me now, look at these knackers all chomped asunder, sayin, with the teeth-marks humming neon out the flesh, and yet fuck my eyes wi’ solder if’n yonder endorphins aren’t smacking my brain-wax delirious!”
What a fella finds is he meets Fate in alley-ways all broken glass flags a-flutterin’ and lamp-posts bent with the heat, meets Fate and says aye, with the tweeds at the knees he says “Bite.”
What he maybe says is how he’s been staring at the screen for nigh on forever and nary a syllable done danced ‘cross the white. What he says is he’s been lost in a mind-funk, waking up at five, treading the carpet black till he feels fit for a knuckle-fuck and a couple spins of Post. He’s been sleepin’ two hours a night, and the dreams, oh the dreams all tartan, the dreams all ethereal collages o’ photographs and postcards, stitched round faces and names and voices and eyebrows, the dreams all pleading for to be snared within paragraphs six-foot long and humming with sordid adventure and melancholy flute. What he says is “I tried, and yet no.”
So bite, Fate, sharpen yonder gum-pegs on the granite thighs o’ Zeus and sink those razors good and proper. For the love a God, sayin, for the sake o’ the song.
And lo, words form. I woke up this evening with a paragraph lodged in the gunk between my liver and my kidneys. For the first time in six weeks, y’unnerstann, I could feel words an’ apostrophes an fuck-flecked retort sloshin’ along the sides o’ the guts, rumblin’ long the tummy-mess, bladder feeling the holes in the A’s and P’s and R’s like plasticine fingers on brail.
What they spoke of, those words, were fluorescent searchlights dancing round a church-tower, aye, moonlight carving a glistening trench from the lights all scarrin’ the horizon to the rocks all scarrin’ the beach. A set of stone steps lead from the rain-lashed promenade to the blackness huggin the apartment blocks above. A headfulla Bjork; those crystalline melodies easin the itching twixt the ear-holes with a burning back o’ the brains tastes for all the world like a cooing refrain coiled round a beat the color o’ frost on a gypsy’s tongue.
“Fuck Bjork”, Maja’s sayin, and a fella all felled around the What The Fuck’s.
“People think we’re all like that. Dippy pixie bastards. We’re so not.”
Maja, she’s also Icelandic, y’unnerstann, came to Northern Ireland for reasons of the study, and sat here now with myself and Sir Fleming in a terribly chic drink-hole by the sea. “Fuck Bjork” she says again, notebook on the seat beside her all throbbin’ with kaleidoscopic verse an’ opium prose.
Maja, she gets off with that kinda banter on account of she’s amazing and swears better than anyone I know, but still, I can stand not one more word against mine love, mine dearest Bjork, for whom God spat fire into mountains just so as she could sample the bubbling and hissing and spitting. Not a syllable more can I tolerate, and so conversation tossed in the direction o’ a lass set to arrive in the shortly-times, lass I ended up gettin’ hella very fond of in the course o’ the last few days.
“So tell me”, Sir Fleming’s sayin’, “The blazes is goin’ on there, anyroad?”
What’s goin’ on, I tell him, is that me and yonder lassie, lass by the name of Carole, we done got to talkin’ in the university buildings few eves past. I told her I was thinking of heading off for to live in the third verse of “Possibly Maybe”, she said she was planning on setting up shop in the second act of A Streetcar Named Desire. I told her I was in a mind-funk and couldn’t get a sentence to flow for love nor money, she said she’d been up all night writing a poem about Mother Ireland. I told her she should know I didn’t drink, she told me I should know that she does.
I’d seen her about, y’unnerstann, and we’d flung a banter at other before now, but never proper conversation.
Those conversations, ever more intimate they got, and all the more frequent, ’till it was txt messages in the mornin’ all about “Good mornin” and txt messages at night all about “Good night” and txt messages when I was listening to Debut all about “I’m listening to Debut“.
Soon enough, a mutual friend, he got to asking me, “Tell me now”, said he, “What’s the deal with you and Carole?”
What the deal is, I explained, is that I think I dig her somethin’ savage. She makes me laugh, I said, and also, the eyes, y’unnerstann, what beautiful melodies swim back those eyes? What sonnets all flare in the white?
“Well, what I can tell you”, he’d related, “Is that she digs you back. I think. I think I can tell you that.”
Gentleman stood by the bar lets a roar out his arse sounds like a twelve-tonne ‘ruption midst a buffalo’s bollocks. He’d fallen asleep five or six pints ago, shaken out the stupor by this gargle in his trousers.
“I swear to God” Maja says, “If I don’t get to a toilet my c*nt’s gonna explode.”
She wanders off t’wards the ladies, Sir Fleming all inquisitive round about the chin; “So, what? Is there stuff goin’ on?”
I dunno, is what I say.
Last night or the night before that, I can’t say which night, I popped a sleeper on the tongue an wept for a time to “Hyper-Ballad”. “I imagine what my body would sound like slamming against those rocks”, Bjork was singin’, “And would my eyes be closed or open?”
Monochrome emotions and Technicolor sweeps all swarming and buzzing round the marrow o’ the bones, every word let rise from the beautifully ragged binding of Bjork’s gullet tasting like kerosene kisses set light in my gut. The swell o’ that chorus, those ineffably intense raptures cascading back and forth between the speakers, they overcame a fella, you dig, this thunderin’ narcotic in the head-holes, those processed gargles staggerin’ long the melodies all twisted round one another’s thighs.
Somewheres in the midst of all this, I sent a txt message to Carole along the lines of; “I think maybe we should discuss stuff. That kinda stuff. Maybe. I might be thinking things. I dunno. My head’s afire with Bjork.”
What came back was “We can discuss those things any time you feel we should.”
The sleeper kicked in fore I had a chance to reply.
“And this”, Sir Fleming says, gesturing round about, “This is where discussions are to be had?”
Me all shrugging. I dunno. I’d hope so, but who can tell?
Outside, the seaside township of Portstewart carries on about its business. Drunks roll cigarettes on storefront stoops and watch yon ocean swell and swirl ahead o’ them. Nuns look out o’er the teenagers huddled together by the swings ‘neath the convent walls, those teenagers with their bags fulla glue hung round their ears like feedbags. Men mingle awkwardly by the doors of the public shitters where it’s a fiver for a quick one off the wrist and thirty of your finest notes if’n you fancy a rimmin. Mormon singers holler from the building used to be a nightclub, nightclub almost cost me my filth-cherry back in the day, if’n I hadn’t been 17 and therefore fucked on vodka. Myself and a lass high on Bowie, we’d decided to leave the drinks for a moment, head out back the club and maybe lay a fumble cross the gravel. Me having trouble finding my way and she being in no state to guide me, we gave up tryin and headed back inside, just in time for to puke over a fruit machine and get in a fight with a fella out a pipe band.
If a man’s to discuss these matters anywhere, stands to reason it should be here.
A lass stumbles out the toilets singing “Come Out Ye Black And Tans.” Nobody hears her.
Friend of ours, he’s since joined us, face all awash with the glow from his lap-top. “Dear Jesus”, he says, and we’re all leaning over for to see.
On the screen, a lady being filthed in the bum by a gargantuan remote-controlled dildo loaded on springs. I doubt I’ve ever seen the like.
“Got it on the web-net” fella says, “It was supposed to be V For Vendetta.”
S’been on his hard drive for three days now, hasn’t slept a sleep worth two fucks since first it spat its muck cross his eyes.
“She keeps speeding it up”, he’s stammerin, “Damn thing can go no faster, you think, and no, there it goes, faster.”
He takes a mouthful out a jug o’ White Russian, the woman in his ‘puter hollerin’ demented out the speakers.
“Just keeps goin’ faster…”
Carole arrives shortly thereafter.
“Hi” she says.
How I answer is Hi.
She’s wearing this beautiful black dress, you should know, the eyes all purple whispers, the hair all down o’er her shoulders. When she speaks, you should be aware, the words look like tears, except when they look like shadows, in which case they look like shadows.
“You look beautiful” is what I woulda said, if’n I hadn’t said something remarkably stupid about masturbation, some raggle-taggle bundle o’ guff all rollin’ out my face.
She walks to the bar like the faintest o’ breezes ‘pon wind chimes, returns with a pint o’ cider and black. In the jukebox to the left of my brains, someone tosses a coin towards “Big Time Sensuality”;
“I can sense it
Something important is about to happen”
“Is it?” Carole asks me, and I say I dunno, I say I don’t know much of anything anymore.
She sits down beside me, and there’s a moment right there, a second when it looks like she’s gonna lean over, gonna lean over and what might happen is maybe a mouth-press of some sort, but no, The Cure come on the telly hung in the far-corner of the room, we listen to “Boys Don’t Cry” and hope for a “Letter To Elise” that never materializes.
Earlier in the day, y’unnerstann, I’d been talking to Ryan H, friend of mine knows a thing or two about dirty chat and blasphemy. “Why haven’t you kissed her yet?” he’d asked. “There’s been banter and intimate revelations and by the jissom o’ Christ she’s said she’s up for it.” I’d shrugged. I’d said who knows, but most likely it’s got something to do with the ol’ Right Time and such, aye. I’m holdin’ out for a moment when “Army Of Me” is playin’ and the sky’s all slate-grey etchings, makes it all the more compelling, you’ll be aware, when it comes to telling the tale.
(Memories of the time I got kicked in the teeth and refused to bleed till such times as I could be sat in front a cathedral, on account of my journal was sorely lacking such a scene)
“Well”, he’d said, “You don’t do it soon chances are you won’t have no tale worth a fiddler’s balls, she’s headin’ back to Belfast in the shortly times.”
Carole, she lights a cigarette, she says she’s going home shortly. To Belfast. She says this and she pushes the packet o’ smokes o’er to me, and I’m thinking aye, I’ll have one a those, certainly, and also, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna kiss you.
A scene unfolds in the reflections on someone’s glass; I kiss her, and she says “Let’s go a walk, maybe up round the convent, see if we can hear the sisters all singing in their sleep.” I kiss her and the walls bend over and around us, we sit pulsing in the midst o’ that concrete cocoon writing rhymes about the texture of the estates we live in, places where the passing trains sound like banshees, places where bus-shelters go to die.
I dunno what happens next, someone lifted the glass.
Maja’s sayin “Kissing? It’s just fucking stalling. I don’t kiss.”
I’m thinking ’bout how aye, what I’ll do, is kiss Carole.
She looks at me and I hold the gaze for a moment, thread it through the fingers and roll it round the tongue, she looks at me and I lean across.
She looks away.
Sir Fleming, he notices this, but he says nothing, just flings a squint says “Was that? Did you?” and I fling one back, one tastes like “I tried.”
Who knows how it happened, who for a second could fathom it ‘thout the aid of a fist fulla chicken guts and a pipe fulla Scottish moss, who could hazard a damn guess about the mechanics of it all, but fairly soon I noticed my arm was around Carole’s shoulder. How the hell did it get there? She seems to know it’s there. Did she put it there?
A lass at the next table starts waxin’ on and off about King Kong, her teeth red-raw wi’ spite. “Fuckin Al-Qaeda propaganda if ever I laid eyes on it!”, she garbles. “Foreigner comes to America, wrecks New York, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for the rancid bastard at the end because oh, we slapped a couple natives in his homeland?”
A silence. Someone asks Maja her opinion on trains. She tells him to go fuck himself.
My arm still around Carole, the bar still hiving with drunkards and prophets and closet homosexuals terrified to admit they don’t wanna give Kelly Brook a single one.
I’m thinkin; the arm’s there. S’been there for an hour. If ever a man had licence to kiss, chances are it bore striking resemblance to the sheen o’ this moment here. And yet, oh and yet. An arm round a lassie, what does it mean, anyroad, in this day and age, with the broadband web-net and 24 hour news and erect willies on British telly? What if it means nothing, what if I go to kiss her and she says no? And here, no less, here in this ale-house all loaded wi’ weeknight revelers drowning the clanging o’ alarm bells set to bid them t’wards factory floors in the morning. Bad enough, rejection in the darkened corners o’ chapels with no-one but the Blessed Mother to hear. Rejection midst a shower o’ drunks, dare say it’d be enough to burn the pores from out the face.
Sometimes she looks at me with the kinda look says “So when, then?”
Other times she looks at me with the kinda look says “That was a fuckin awful joke, just now” and so I retreat a wee bit further back the brains.
By the time the bar’s stopped serving I get to thinking ’bout how I fucked it up. There was digging goin’ on, fella way back when said so, “She most likely digs you back”, he’d insinuated. And Carole, she’d said as much, albeit via the txt, way over there on the other side o’ that connection, over there where how I am is however she thinks I was last time we met, and probably not how I am now, here, in this tavern all Gene Vincent swagger and Robert Johnson howl.
Outside, on the street, after the bouncers’ve asked us to leave since come the fuck on, they have homes to go to and beds to throw up in, outside with the ocean tossing crystal spray to the breeze, outside with the church at the far end of the promenade all alive wi’ the neon lights from the night-club ‘cross the road, I ask Carole if’n she wants to go a dander someplace. I need to find a bank, I say.
She says “Yeah, sure.” What her eyes say is “I know what you’re up to. And it’s alright, I think.”
Beside the bank there’s a set of stone steps lead way up off the promenade towards the estates and apartments on the hill. Steps look a bit like what yon priest threw himself down at the end of The Exorcist (were his eyes closed or open?), steps look a bit like the bass-line to “Human Behaviour”.
“I think we should go up there” I’m sayin. “Up those steps.”
And so we did.
At the top of those steps, with the lights of Donegal all chiming in the distance to the left and a fella in a Hawaiian shirt puking into a bin-bag to the right, with the month of May tied to the flick’rin street-lights, with the caffeine kicking lumps from out my ear-holes, with all of this, I say, at the top of those steps I kissed her.
Was beautiful. And yet, in the midst of it, a horrific realization. It can go no further, this affair.
The problem is Carole lives ‘midst the giddy swirl of Belfast City, being a fair ol’ shit’s fling from the house in which I fall asleep every morning. The problem is that I know from experience, y’unnerstann, these long distance things, they never work out. Friend told me one time; “These long distance things” he said, “They never work out.” And more – “Fact, they lead to nothin’ but a hideous mush all laced with jealousy and longing and an itching in the groin can’t ever be fixed no-time shortly.”
Once upon a hangover, a fella woulda pretended all was right anyway, raced on down those barbed wire alleyways lead to a fumble and a fidget and a grand old tale to tell.
Carole, what I realized was she was special in the way that means she’s special, and not slow. What I noticed was that no, I couldn’t be pretending things were set to occur if’n I knew they weren’t, and I knew they weren’t. Because why, because the mush discussed up yonder, because nothing but screaming and wailing and gnashing will come from leading things t’wards any sorta boat they can’t ever board, on account of the holes in the sides and the fires galloping mental ’round the stern.
“The boat” I said. “Fulla holes.”
I reached around the vocab for a word or two could aid me, a line or nine might explain the situation. What I got was; “The distance, this, these things, mush. This, this is all there can be…”
For a terrifying second I thought I had said, “We can’t filth”, but I didn’t, and better, she knew what I was talking about.
“Had this all occurred six or nine or fourteen months ago”, I say, “When you’re still down here all the time and, conveniently enough, so am I, then different, the whole thing, and beautiful, but I can’t, I dunno how a fella might solve the whole distance thing, and I dunno if I’m the one for to solve it, even if it were lain out clear as day on a scatter graph looks like the intro to ‘Venus As A Boy’.”
“For gods sakes” she said.
She kissed me. I could taste Medúlla on her tongue.
I woke up with another paragraph caught between my teeth.
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