All entries for Monday 15 June 2009
June 15, 2009
6:27 p.m.: That’s what the clock says. His clock. He’s still not here. Five more minutes.
6:42 p.m.: Bastard. He promised he’d be here. He promised he’d give it to me. But all he gave me was an open door. And now I’m stuck, in this miserable, poky flat, which stinks of dirt and rot, and the lights throw out this sickly yellow. I took some of his milk, and ate some of his Jaffa cakes. I should walk out, never give him any money again.
But he could appear in that doorway any second. Five more minutes.
Four years ago: I was slumped in that bar, sealed off from the midday activity. I hadn’t been to one class that week, but you could get away with it. And the people here were much more exciting. Not like the people at college; everyone trapped in their insignificant prescriptive lives, doing what they they’d been taught to do, never pushing their experiences.
Not everyone. Some were special. Four of them were here, talking. They had ideas, plans, you could tell just by the passion on their faces.
Later, they came and sat by me. They were cool. They were people you could just sit with, do nothing, and still come away on a high. They told me about all these anarchic concepts: that everything, every building, every skyscraper, is birthed in the mind; that ideologies outlive their makers; that most of society’s become so desensitised, it’s forgotten how to love and to live. After that, I saw them regularly.
I’d expected it, but one time they offered me a tablet. Two of them had downed theirs already. They represented the exhilaration in my life. So I took it.
For a while, I was close to them; then we drifted apart. It wasn’t deliberate; we’d long since relinquished any deliberateness. We lived in the moment.
7:17 p.m.: I scrounged around his fridge. It was almost bare, littered with scraps of food long gone off. Then I spotted it, at the back, in a scrunched-up plastic wrapper. I drew it toward me, and peeled it open. Acid. Jackpot.
To be at the back of that fridge, it had to be at least a couple of months old. But it was still a drug. And he wasn’t turning up anytime soon.
They were coming; the wolves. Everywhere, watching, waiting, poised, fangs dripping, on the horizon. And no matter how quickly I ran down the street, they were always the same distance away, playing with me.
I hailed a taxi, it stopped, I got in, ordered the driver ‘Take me to Kensel Rise!’, and then hid behind the seat, my sweat sticking to the leather, occasionally peering over the edge. The red eyes were relentless.
When the taxi halted, I leapt out, shoving a fistful of change in the groove between the glass, and ran, my heart in overdrive, down the street, over the gate, stabbing like a sewing machine’s needle on the buzzer. They were coming they were coming where was she why wasn’t she –
The door drew back, and I nearly fell through. I bolted in, and slammed the door shut. She looked tired and irritated. ‘What have you done now?’
8:52 p.m.: She made me sleep in the living room, on the couch, threw a thin blanket on top of me, and put on some dull T.V. Then she left, back to our bed upstairs. I squeezed my eyelids tight, so that I wouldn’t see the wolves.
Over a year ago: My life was timeless. Then a friend introduced her to me. And she became this fixed point; something I could remember, that marked the passing of the weeks. She’d accepted my addiction; she didn’t like it, but she’d accepted it. And now she kept urging me to quit.
I lived with her. I slept with her. But sometimes, she seemed so vague, something on the fringe. She understood me, though, saw completely my self-made lifestyle; that was important.
But she acted as if we were bound together, locked in some serious commitment. I couldn’t even remember how we’d got to this point. But she’d stay with me. Because she knew I was going places. Because it was only a matter of time.
9:31 p.m.: The wolves were coming up a ladder! I was in a flat, I should’ve been safe, I only had a few seconds. I banged my fist on the carpet, I was so petrified I couldn’t shout, I needed help.
The door burst open, and there she stood. ‘What the hell’s wrong with you!’
I was curled underneath our low glass table, for protection. Her scowl combined with her large, loose pyjamas to make her look absurd.
‘You promised you wouldn’t do anything today. We’re having a baby!’
She whipped the door back round. Its slam hurt my ears.
There was a heavy silence. Even the wolves had gone.
I contemplated her, from the dark. The light illuminated her white, silk shift, giving radiance to her smooth olive skin. To the man opposite her, she screamed and cursed. Then she was tender, and apologetic, and pleading. They held each other’s gaze, her desperation communing with his conflict, petrifying their bodies.
Darkness collapsed upon the stage, and above me, lights burst into brightness. I, along with hundreds of others, applauded; then the sound was subsumed in the smacks of shutting chairs, the shuffling of feet, and enquiring chatter.
I leaned my back further into my seat, and thought. Turning my head, I peered at the man two rows up from me, several seats away. He was dressed in a sharp, black suit, with a pristine white shirt, black trousers and a black tie. He appeared to have based his style on a 50s movie character, and his slicked-back hair corroborated this notion. It was apt, in a way: theatre had always had a special relationship with eye-catching costumes, and he was in possession of this theatre; his retro look was a reflection of his profession.
Something tugged the man’s idle gaze to his left, and he smiled. She was darting up towards him, her bare feet moving in cute, petite steps, her white shift trailing slightly in her wake. She bent forward, wrapped both her arms around his neck, and whispered in his ear. His smile opened, he replied, he kissed her cheek. She laughed and stood up straight, beaming. But the indiscriminate light of the auditorium had washed away much of the lustre she had captured on stage. And she no longer held the centre of attention. Were it not for her incongruous clothing, she could have disappeared in the crowd. I pulled my sight back to the empty stage.
A gradual series of memories and imaginings wandered aimlessly through my mind. I remembered how I first met her, in that red French café, sheltered from the gloom of the rain, her features wet and fresh. I recalled the sensation of my hand curled around hers, from when we sat in the cinema, hidden from the outside world. And I envisaged where my decision tonight would take me: happiness? Rejection? Did she even truly care about me? Her performance offstage concerned me far more than her onstage one, to the point that I considered foregoing my intentions. But thoughts of her persisted. They were a long line of patients, and I was their doctor; but I didn’t know the cure to make them go away.
In want of a distraction, my eyes settled on a golden engraving embedded in one of the theatre’s walls, above the steps on the far right. The face of a goblin, or an imp, or a devil, stared at me: sharp angles delineated its features; its ears were large and pointed, and pressed between them was a flat, scalp-tight cap; its eyes were narrow and malevolent, piercing and knowing; its gaping rictus was filled with long thin lines, like corrupted harp strings that would produce its mocking laughter, and which spread outward to form the background of the image; bars that had let their prisoner loose. It was repulsive, inane. Unsettling.
By now, she had left him, and returned backstage. He seemed content; his play was a critical success, and his girlfriend adored him. At least she acted as if she did.
Without warning, he brought his eyes to bear upon mine. My chest tightened. I didn’t flick my gaze aside, out of a strange guilt and defiance. I hoped it was intuitive, that he had merely sensed my interest in him. But I could not be certain that she would not betray me. And he would not drop his gaze. The golden imp sprang in my mind: knowing. Knows. He knows.
Then the man just smiled. Politely, not malevolently. I replied, but my lips were resistant, my muscles still tense. I turned face forward again, and listened to the slowing beat of my heart.
Several minutes later, the lights above were extinguished, unashamedly stolen by those ahead. The actors had retaken their positions. She was beautiful again, her earlier flaws effaced in the drama. Halfway through, I glanced at the watchful goblin: in the light it had been grotesque and unnerving, but in the dimness it was as if its sight had been deadened; a childhood fear put back in its box.