I think I can hear some groans from next door… Listen! When the fridge stops humming and between the ticks of that damn clock – there! Is that fun or sickness? Ha, maybe a bit of both! Ooh-er, this is quite exciting. God, that fridge is loud! And my ears are ringing, echoing silence. He or she sounds so distant, but could only be next door. I’d hate to think what ecstasies could make it through the entire flatblock!
I can’t even tell if it is a man or a woman – who’s that at the window?! No, one, old, flash of grey hair. There are a few crumbs on the plate next to me, the plate has brown glaze at the edge, little scalloped design, pools of glaze between the ridges. Crumbs from the previous three meals – look – ginger cake, sausage rolls, white bread! All with distinctive crumbs. I like that, when you eat a slice of bread and a crumb from some other sweet or savoury attaches itself and you taste a few little molecules of that too.
The phone! Who could that be!? A call centre, a robot, a computer, a bailiff. What’s a computer! Eat each other! It’s stopped. God, that fridge is louder now. My legs are dancing – right – up! Sing! Wrong place, right time, I used to think I could do what I wanted to! Wrong place, for me alone, I walk the streets of the purple home! Do you do this too? Sing in the mirror? Point at the audience, yourself? I usually mime mostly, put on the tape and rewind, back to the start, clunk click whirr tap-tap-tap-hit it! Do a little wiggle, a little boogie, a little groove, play that guitar. My air guitar is left handed, but I’m right handed.
Did you know, ‘boogie’ is from the latin Bogudis, a short version of saltatio Bogudis meaning dance of Bogud, Bogud being an African king who ganged up and palled around with Julius Caesar and introduced Rome to the new musical form known as ‘iazz.’ Okay, so maybe I made that one up. I hear music from the floor sometimes.
I’m going to go down the launderette today. Yes! And put the bins out. I got extra-strong bin bags from the local shop this week – can’t wait to try them out! Usually I look out from behind the lacy curtain and see that the foxes have bitten little holes in the bags and dragged my pie tins out for all to see. Still, two for £1.50, you can’t go wrong! I love those pies – there’s one on the little wooden table – ignore the fag butt – you can see that that is quality pastry. It’s getting a bit hot in here I’ll just turn down the… wait a second, it is off! Wow! it must be hot outside today, or that new insulation the council put in must be really working well! There’s a little sheet of light in the next room – beautiful! See that golden swirling dust, particles fizzing and ducking and rising and dancing – remember Brownian motion in the fume cupboard at school? Yes? The constant energy of particles, the universal atomic dance, always there, even when you can’t see it. I want to dance! Let’s dance! Put on your trainers and dance!
The wall had gone mouldy, which is why the council had to put the insulation in. I had to sleep in the other room, the one with the light sheet, but there was no light sheet there then. No light, either, the bulb had gone. Click-click-click-click. Still gone. Look how there is this dark greasy shadow around that switch! you could take fingerprints of everyone whose ever lived here off that, solve a few crimes most likely! I’ve been here since 1994 and it must have been built in about 1962. I went onto the roof, once. You could see the GPO tower, everything. They were doing some dredging on the edge of the river. The tar was melting and it really got inside you. I felt a little dizzy and almost fell over. Imagine that! I would have got tar on my cords. They put a barrier up, and locked the door then. I haven’t been out there.
Here, you might like this – I know I couldn’t afford it, but I bet you could! I got this about a month ago – “Chard Property Review Spring 2014“ isn’t that nice! Feel the paper – all smooth and cool, like the cheek of… Like a… tangerine. Its quality stuff, you can tell. Can tell by the price and all – listen to this:
“An absolutely stunning acquisition – pristine condition throughout, this split level bijou residence is the epitome of style and sophistication. The exquisite finishing includes granite countertops and inset lighting, with one-touch control of conveniences such as air conditioning and blind operation. Only the best will do for today’s up and coming elite, and only the best is all we provide. You are a human being – imagine being here.”
Ha! Yeah, imagine that! £1,995,000 and not even a carpet! Or curtains? Yeah, there’s not even any curtains! Who would want that? Only the best! Only the vest will do me. Its not a bad one, this – ignore the stain, just beetroot juice, I love them in a sandwich, fell out – got it at QS, where quality comes first.
There is someone who comes round sometimes. His name is Simon. I saw him on the street outside the Jet garage once. They don’t let me in there anymore. This fellow was walking by and he looked at me, and I tried to speak, and he looked me in the eyes. Not many people had done that for a while. I was a bit worried by how he looked – he sort of looked like he recognised me. Did I know him and forget? I realise now he looked shocked. Shocked to see someone like me hanging around outside a garage asking people to buy things for him. Not that I didn’t have money! I have that. Not a problem. I used to be… Well, I asked this young fellow if he wouldn’t mind terribly going inside and buying me six Hofmeister. I really don’t drink them all in one go, I know what you’re thinking! I really do get them to last all week – none on Sunday. He thought it too at that moment, but by then the £5 note was in his hand and for me, the deal was done. He went inside. I could see Abdul gesturing wildly, pointing over at me and telling my new friend something. Something unflattering, no doubt. Fuck them.
He hasn’t been round in a while.
I could have lived in one of those palaces in that magazine. When I lived in Oxford – whoops, almost said “When I loved in Oxford” then! Little Freudian slip! I’ll tell you about that later! When I lived there I had a good place to stay, and I was allowed into the local shop. Medieval Philosophy: Duns Scotus and Ockham and all that. But they didn’t understand me, didn’t understand what I had to say. They think that all these ideas are just that – ideas! But no, they are rules for living, rules for life, and if you are not going to follow them then you are but a savage beast. A man needs discipline, or he goes insane. He needs to know what is right and what is wrong, or else what would happen? Society would be different. We need to test the edges, check out footing, see that it is sure and strong or else we will come crashing through the ceiling below, Rockwool and plaster and wooden lats everywhere, like when I went up in the little loft space here! God, the council did not like that one bit! I said, if I wasn’t meant to be up there, put a lock on it. These guys, they put locks on everything. But I repealed a law in my brain.
Sunday Morning, Friday the 37th or March
Girl/boy at washer number 3. Absolutely gorgeous from the Quaker haircut to the leather boots. On turning, it is a girl. Good. She is putting T-shirts and dresses and socks and – Dear God – bras and – Lord Above – panties into the huge machine. That one cost £5, not three, so I haven’t used it before. My heart is going like a drum – I thought for a minute that the tumbler behind me had lost its ballast and come loose, but no, it is my own, my very inmost light and pump, ready to tear out and run! She is overloading it and using the cheapest washing powder, that 99p one in the purple packet. It burns your skin. I know because I tried to combine having a bath with doing the wash once – the meter is coin-op so to save I thought I’d kill the proverbial two birds, and strip off my clothes, throw them in the bath, add more from the floor of the flat, run the water, add the powder and get in, writhing around and grabbing the clothes, holding them up and churning them around, swirling myself and pumping with legs. The water turned grey and slimy, and then my eyes stang like hornets and I leapt up and slipped, smashed my head back down on the taps and awoke in a freezing state later, light gone and water dark.
There is a howling sound next door. I think someone was knocking a signal to me through the wall last night at around 2:05am. I look into the mirror and see me. Hello there. Where are you in this picture? I can’t feel you with my hands but I know you are there because you can hear me. Can’t you? You can hear these words. Yes! That’s right. So I exist and you exist. Let’s get that straight at least. The simplest conclusion is usually the best. When Simon was round the last time he brought me a bag of shopping – it had this nice bread that had seeds in it, and some brie cheese in a wedge. I think I still have that. I’m going to close the door so I can’t hear the fridge. That’s better now, isn’t it. I can hear myself. There was some pasta and sauces, and Gold bars, those nice little chocolates that remind me of Caramac. Do they still make Caramac? I liked those. He did the washing up and threw away some stuff, wiped down that little table and put the estate agent’s magazine on it. He went to open the curtains but I stopped him.
This morning I walked and walked and walked. All the way down the Old Kent Road past the Gospel Missionaries with huge images of black men and women in fabulous clothing with gold and sun flying from their heads and words like these – “Building Overcomers For Tomorrow!” and names for their little churches in industrial units like “The Almighty Saviour and his Apostlistic Congregation Holy Succeders Church of God.” There was writing in the cement, now long dried, and writing on the walls in a script so illegible I couldn’t understand it no matter how long I stood and stared. A man walked behind me for a while, so I stood aside and looked at a wasteland to allow him to walk by. They had put huge concrete pipes around this patch of gravel and grass and those lovely purple flowers – what are they called again? – you get to stop people going in there. Although who wanted to go in, or who “they” are I have no idea. A girl walked in front of me for a while, and I didn’t want to scare her, so I went faster and overtook. My knees hurt with the effort, but she crossed the road behind me, I saw out of the corner of my eye.
The sky was orange on fire, and above Toys ‘R’ Us rose an almighty congregation of clouds rolling and light shafts piercing. Yet people hurried onto buses and dragged bags from Asda undisturbed and unimpressed. Posters for the last music events some months ago fell forward and resigned, knowing their time was up, and if people hadn’t read them and gone to see this “Carl Cox” by now, then they never would. All I wanted was a hand in mine to witness this.
81st August, Two-oh-one-three
“OK, I’ll just wait until my load is done – oh, and I have to use the drier too. Is that OK?” I said it was, and that my stuff would take a while too. I hoped she hadn’t seen the red marks on my neck.
They weren’t love bites, but I didn’t want her to think she had competition. There were no other competitors, and the prize was not the best. No, it was alright. I hope I can trust in you – you understand me, don’t you? I’m not bad, I’m alright, I’ve tried my best and I’ve found a place I can be. It didn’t work too well before, but I’m happy here. I haven’t read or written in a while, so its nice to be able to tell you all this. I feel like there are little reels of cotton in my head, and I can attach these to things I like, and communicate with them, be they people (alive or dead) or concepts, or places. Thomas Aquinas. Rothwell Road, Oxford. Occam’s Razor. Mary From The Launderette. I’ve got all these connections in my head, all these things I can access. They spread out like one of those paintings from the 80s and drag behind me, bringing people and places and things with me wherever I go. They are heavy and the hurt my mind sometimes. I want to snip them but I can’t find the scissors.
81st August, Two-oh-one-three cont’d
“I’m on the 14th floor, I’m afraid!”
“That’s fine, I could do with the exercise!”
“Not at all! You look great!
She smiles ahead as the lift doors open in front of us, revealing us side by side in it’s mirror and the smell of uric acid tangs out like a whip crack.
“Doesn’t usually work, but I think we’d best stick to the stairs.”
“I agree!” she says, making a disgusted screwed up face that makes her eyes crinkle at the corners, her lips stick out and her little snub nose shudders from side to side in revulsion. I close my eyes for just a moment to preserve.
“I’ve got some lager, or a pi- err… Actually, I don’t really have much in at the moment, I was going to go to the shop after the wash, but – ”
“That’s fine, I’ve eaten anyway. I’ll have a lager though!”
I went to the fridge which for once wasn’t humming and got two cans of Hofmeister out. That messes up my routine. They feel a little warm.
“I’m meant to be working on my final project, the show is on September 21st but I can’t think of how to start. That stuff you said in the launderette just really spoke to me – what do you do?”
“Oh, me? I like the empiricists, like Locke “since our concepts all ultimately derive from experience, our knowledge is necessarily limited.””
“Wow! So, does that mean there is no true truth? No reality, no rule?”
“Well, I suppose it could do. I guess it is simpler than that, even. We don’t know what we don’t know.”
The clock continued to tick for a long while, it kept on going all the time, it didn’t stop for a second, and it felt like its hands were ringing out the beat against the walls of the flat, so hard that they would smash a window or chip the plaster. They bang bang banged against my skull and click click ticked all over me. I looked up to them and they had scurried around and bunched up together in the bottom right quadrant. I put down the scissors. The threads were cut.
That day a while ago
“I don’t know mate,” I had used the word ‘mate’ to ingratiate myself with the builder from the council. Words like ‘ingratiate’ do little to ingratiate oneself with the working man. “It just started going like that a few weeks ago, I tried scrubbing it off, like you can sort of see there, but the blackness just keeps spreading.”
“Alright, I reckon the exterior wall must be leaching in damp. I’ll ‘ave to come back next week and get that insulated properly and re-plastered. thanks for the tea, pal.”
‘Pal?’ had I used the wrong word? What do you think? Are you my ‘mate’ or ‘pal?’ Or none of the above? Come on, stay a while and have another cup of tea. I still haven’t told you about the love of my life. Claire, her name is, or Emma, I think. Only joking! I know her name, I’m certain of it. -Buddlejas, that’s what they’re called! She wore the most beautiful dresses, stripes and lines and flowers and frills and T-shirts with writing on them. I could no less decipher them than the writing on the walls, but she knew what they meant. Joy Division? She wanted to become something, to really be remembered, to be thought of as a thinker, someone who had seen beyond the others, but she needed to be that little bit taller, that little bit higher, like I am, here on the 14th floor. I just wanted to hold her hand and show her all of this, show her how far you can see, but the door was locked. What, If Anything, Makes It True That Nothing Can Be At The Same Time Both Green And Not Green All Over?
I know, I’ll call her and ask!
“Welcome to the Three Mobile Voicemail Service. Please leave your message after the tone. To re-record your message, key hash at any time.”