I dreamt you kissed me
It was dusk and we were outside
On a bench at the side of a field
A housing estate behind us
Hands dug into my coat pockets
Red sky and cold wind
Long grass swayed before us, getting harder to see
My hair was longer
The fringe over my eyes
Obscuring my vision of you
And you were the same
Serious and calm, fragile and beautiful
Zipped up in a lime green coat
There was space between us
But only a little
We were close and talking
We spoke about us
And how we couldn’t believe where we were
And what we were doing
I was reluctant but you leaned in
And you moved my fringe aside
Cold fingers touched my face
Then your eyes searched mine for the answer
My eyes responded yes
But you hesitated
Then with every house
And every blade of grass watching
Your lips touched mine
Electricity rose in my chest
A whimper escaped
And I closed my eyes
Allowing you to kiss me
With lips like mandarin segments
Delicate and teasing
Starting with my top lip
And a little tongue
It’s my turn to respond
But the houses, the grass and my conscience
Wake me up
Cut this tender moment short
And as I lie in darkness
Desperately wanting to return
I know the moment already passed
Three weeks from now I’ll still have the kiss
On my mind
So I wrote this down
So you might know
But of course I’ll never show you
And when we meet I’ll say nothing
But I know my eyes
Will search yours for an answer
Back To The Flames
It’s the smell of burnt flesh that wakes me. Burnt flesh and petrol. And I know what it is – or rather who. He visits often. His naked frame is already seated on the white sheets of my bed. He doesn’t ask to sit, and he doesn’t want to look at me. I don’t want to look at his hideous, melted features either… but I do. It’s dark but I see him. He has a request, but he cannot bring himself to ask it and I know what the request is. I will not say it, though, even if he would like me to. I see him clearly.
At first, I didn’t recognise him. His first visit, I mean. No side-parting, no moustache, no piercing eyes. Just a heap of wretched burnt flesh sat on the side of the bed (everybody else stands) – a grotesque apparition that avoided making eye-contact. He knew what I would see. I sat up and waited. No rush, I thought, but when he did look, and our eyes met, an awful surge passed through me and I saw everything – the deceit, the hatred, the pitiful waste and the horror of countless brutal murders. He looked away quickly and I knew who he was.
Minutes pass and we converse, but not with words. I read his mind and grant him limited access to mine. He feels sorry for himself because he cannot change his appearance. He’s stuck this way – naked, burnt and wounds seeping through crusted yellow scabs – and it makes him angry. He is trapped, too. Apart from these fleeting visits, he is confined to one place and the climate there doesn’t do his appearance any favours. Bub gives him leave every two or three weeks to tease and humiliate him, although there was a period where he didn’t visit for six years.
Granted, it’s been seventy-five years since he started coming, but it hasn’t changed anything. So, as always, I attempt conversing about other topics, to make his time here more easy. He was a singer at one time and a keen painter, too. What did you paint? I ask but he shrugs it off. What did you sing? but he just scoffs. Don’t humour me. He loved his mother dearly, though. I have spoken with her many times and she still loves her little boy. He had it tough she says, His poor brother. I relay her messages and he weeps.
Other than that, he hasn’t changed. His ideals haven’t changed. Still believes he was right and those beliefs cannot be hidden. Stifling them doesn’t work because I can hear it all. He curses Stalin. He curses Roosevelt, Churchill and all of those who fought in spite of him. He curses all of those too weak to defend him, to realise his dream. He curses his eternal misery and agony. He curses God.
Deeds done cannot be undone, but there is always repentance I tell him, There is forgiveness. He nods a resigned nod but we both understand the hopelessness of my words. His request still lingers and we both know what happens as soon as he asks. I shake my head to discourage him and he looks at me, his glazed black eyes raging once more from a ravaged and near featureless face. The temptation is too much and he takes his chance. Eva… he blurts out her name but the instant he does, he vanishes. Back to Bub, back to the flames.
The whole of Thursday was spent traveling. A bus, two taxis, a train and a three-hour flight. On Friday I was frazzled.
I spent the morning catching up and cleaning up and eventually got my forty winks in the early afternoon. The dream I had went something like this:
There was a garden party. Good weather and nice people. Hot dogs and Heineken. Loungers and deck chairs. Bright flowers and lush green bushes.
I was chatting with Nik Kershaw. He was explaining how much work went into the video for The Riddle. I cut him short and argued that the chord sequence for The Riddle was far too difficult to play on the guitar.
He agreed and even apologised...
That was all I could remember from the dream. I really like The Riddle. It’s a great song! About a year ago, I tried to learn to play it on the guitar and got frustrated with it. Obviously, that frustration is still lurking around in my subconscious. I wonder what else is hiding in those shadows?
I miss you like the rain must miss the sea. Like moisture that got removed from the body and travelled upward to form a cloud. The cloud drifted slowly away and all I could do was watch until it was out of sight.
The cloud joined other clouds and turned the sky grey. Eventually it became a storm. The sky flashed in the distance.
I knew the rain was coming down, back to the body. To be whole again. I also knew that the next storm was coming, and you’d be gone.
I miss you like the rain must miss the sea. Do you miss me?
Yeah. Mine happened on a caravan holiday in the Cotswolds. You know: disco every night, pedalos on the lake, video game arcade, shove ha’penny, that kind of thing.
I met a Lancastrian girl there. Heather, her name was. Her accent was strange (for me) but strangely attractive. She wore these oversized pastel cardigans and had dark, shoulder length hair. Her features were pointy and she was kind of skinny.
We met by the Pacland machine. She was good at it and showed me how to jump straight to the 5th level (you had to stay unharmed and push a certain tree trunk in the forest). Generally, the girls didn’t play Pacland so she stood out.
Anyway, after a few nights it was obvious that we liked each other and we were on the look-out for a spot where we could smooch.
There was a grass verge between the lake and the campsite with a few trees dotted around. Nobody would find us. We lay down there looking at the stars, holding hands. I was nervous.
Then, she propped herself up on her elbow and initiated what would be my first ever proper kiss. It started closed-mouthed and I could handle it, even though I was petrified. After that, her tongue slid into my mouth and flicked up and down. ARGH! This is disgusting!
I did the worst thing I possibly could have done: I got up quick and ran for my life. Maybe I was screaming. I don’t know. I can’t remember properly but it felt like I was. There was no consideration for her feelings, I just had to get out of there. I mean, what are 12 year olds supposed to know about kissing?
We met the next day and I apologised. She said it was fine. That night we tried again and it was much better.
We stayed pen friends for a couple of years, too.
And then he was gone
He pointed to the roof with his cane. “A girl jumped from there. She died.”
Nothing Gets The Blood Pumping Like Having The Shit Kicked Out Of You
I have run before. At school I was selected for the 400m, 800m and the mile on the account of having long legs. When I played football, losing possession of the ball meant tracking back as fast as you could. But I never ran faster than when I was attacked in Birmingham city centre in the late 90s.
I’d been at a gig with my friends. Aphex Twin at the Q Club. It was a great night too. Really intense. We came in two cars. Me and Ralph in Ralph’s car and the others in Shaun’s. After the gig we walked together back towards The Pot where Shaun was parked. Shaun’s lot went to his car and me and Ralph carried on towards Smallbrook Queensway where his car was parked in my work’s carpark (Dwayne the security guard was on all night so at least the car was safe).
As we crossed the canal bridge there were a couple of guys coming towards us.
“You looking at my bird?” one of them asked. There was no bird.
Then WHACK! I caught a fist in the ear which knocked me over.
Shit! I tried to steady myself on all fours. WHACK! A boot to my face! It hit right in the mouth and I felt my bottom lip buzzing and bleeding.
Ralph had run for it and I was getting the shit kicked out of me by both of them.
WHACK! In came a fist onto the cheekbone. That one sobered me right up. I needed to get onto my feet.
WHACK! Another boot. This one hit my nose and broke it. I can still hear the noise it made: Internal, muffled by the biological effects between my nose and my ears, and sharp. It was a clean break. I really had to get up now.
And I did. Fuck knows how.
I landed a punch square on the nose of the one of them who was closest to me and started running. And, Jesus, did I run! I ran as fast as I could. I could hear the involuntary whimpers from my lungs and my trainers slapping against the pavement. ZING! I was totally tuned into my own survival.
Looking left, looking right. I was sizing up the dual carriageway ahead of me and the traffic on it. It wasn’t a case of Should I stop? It was a case of They better stop!
SMASH! A bottle hit the pavement beside me and the shards overtook me momentarily as I pumped my fists and knees trying to get away from these maniacs.
SMASH! And then another. They both missed.
I got across the dual carriageway, luckily, and rounded the corner onto the dark industrial estate where the car was parked. Ralph was already behind the gate.
Dwayne saw me coming and let me in, then shut the gate behind me.
A few seconds later the attackers were at the gate slinging all sorts of accusations against me. I said this, I did that. It was rubbish though. I was just walking back to the car.
Bloodied and bruised, I found it in myself to stand behind the safety of the gate and grab my crotch at them. It was the best I could do and gave me a sense of justice. They didn’t like it though and made a lot of noise. Eventually, they left.
Dwayne let me into his security hut, along with Ralph, and made coffee for each of us. He let me sit in his chair, the only one there, and gave me some tissues and water to mop up my face, which by this time was really starting to sting.
My story doesn’t involve me having a beer with my favourite dead author but, believe me, this really did happen...
I’m not really a fan of drinking in town on Friday or Saturday. Too many amateurs. I always prefer a weekday or a Sunday night. It’s just less hassle.
If the weather’s good then I can walk there in half an hour. If the weather’s bad then I’ll take a taxi.
This evening I’d like to tell you about was a Tuesday and it was raining. I remember it was Tuesday because a mate of mine, John, plays league snooker every Tuesday and likes to round off his evening with a few beers, win or lose. I met John after the snooker on this evening.
Before I came out, I had been arguing with my girlfriend for the most ridiculous reasons that I won’t get into here. We were as bad as each other when it come to slinging insults and neither of us had held back this time around. My decision to get out of there was quickly followed by calling a taxi. I had called my girlfriend back while I was waiting for the taxi. You see, guilt usually got the better of me and I was looking for permission for something that I was already doing (it’s stupid, I know). She wasn’t finished with the argument, though, and was continuing to scream me down.
I climbed into the taxi with my phone still against my ear listening to this volley of abuse and signalled the driver to take me in the direction of town. He gave me a kind of salute and away we went. I froze out the phone call until she hung up on me. “Jesus!” I sighed as I put the phone onto the chair beside me and threw my head back for a great view of the upholstery.
“Sounded serious.” the driver said. I brought my head back level.
“And no mistake! Sorry about that.” I replied. The driver’s hair was combed back and looked greasy.
“Where to then?” he asked.
“Just drop me anywhere by the square. Whatever’s easiest.”
The driver lit up a cigarette so I asked if I could too.
“No problem. Just don’t burn the seats.” he said and I saw him give me an eye smile through the rear-view mirror. I noticed his pockmarked skin too.
“My ex hit me over the head with her handbag once.” he said, raising his eyebrows at me through the mirror. “There was a bottle in the bag and it knocked me out cold. Split my head open, too. Had stitches right here.” and he pointed to somewhere on his head.
“Jesus.” I said, “We didn’t get that bad yet.”
We came to a red light. He reached into the glove box and pulled out a half bottle of whiskey.
“Here” he said “drink some of that. Looks like you need it.” so I did. I had a good swig of the whiskey. I passed it back to him and he had a drink himself. I didn’t raise any issue, though.
“Don’t try too hard to figure it out. It’ll work itself out.” he added, eye smiling again though the mirror.
“You’re right, man.”
And with that he pulled over. I passed a note through to the front of the cab and told him to keep the change. He thanked me and I thanked him for his advice.
Then, I closed the door and he pulled away, giving two hoots on the horn as he went. It was at that stage that it dawned on me that the driver was kind of familiar to me.
I never got him as a driver again.
Colour Blind Dave
Many years ago, I was a student at art college. My best friend there was Dave. He didn’t look like your typical art school kid, though. His head was shaved and he wore a white shirt with stone wash jeans. His hook nose and acne rounded off a rather menacing appearance, but he was a genuinely funny and likable person. I had long hair and wore baggy jeans and t-shirts.
One day we were sitting and smoking in one of the fire exits that overlooked the car park. I’d taken my dad’s car that day and had misjudged my turning circle while I was parking, hitting a grass verge and taking a huge lump of it with me. We could see the car.
“What’s that on your bumper?” Is it a bird?” Dave asked, squinting.
“Yeah Dave, it’s a parrot.” I said, laughing.
“Nah, seriously. I can’t tell what it is. Looks like a bird, though.” Dave said, still squinting.
“It’s grass and mud. I ballsed up the parking this morning” I said, owning up.
“Ah! It’s grass! I thought it was a bird!” he said, and seemed glad to know it.
“How many green birds do you know that make their home round here?” I asked, smiling.
“I couldn’t tell. I’m colour blind.” He kept his gaze on the car and all of a sudden I felt bad for jibing him about the parrot.
“Ah shit, Dave! I’m sorry. I never realised.” I said, pardoning myself.
“It’s alright, mate. How were you to know?” Now he gave me a smile.
“What’s it like, though? What do you see?” I had to ask.
“I don’t know myself really. I have trouble distinguishing green from other colours, apparently. Red too. That grass and mud both look pretty much the same colour to me. I suppose I’m used to it.” he said, shrugging.
I looked back at the clump of mud and grass on the bumper of the car and tried to imagine the bird that Dave had seen. I couldn’t picture it. Instead, the circumstances that led to him telling me and whether he had told anyone else on our course came to mind.
Then, I looked back at Dave who was putting his cigarette out on one of the steps.
“Time to go” he announced.
Then we went back to our studies.