I went to see the Abstract Expressionism exhibition that is currently showing at the Royal Academy of Arts. I find art exhibitions great for putting musings into perspective, and I have a particular love for abstract works because they offer something that bit more open to interpretation. Out of habit perhaps, I take a sketchbook with me. It’s what I was taught to do in art class, but I never really understood what I was supposed to be drawing. You see, my art is depictions of things that are inside, never objects from the exterior world, and I struggle to feel creative when sketching from life. But I do want to get that response down, that raw inspiration and mental illumination that happens when I react to a piece of artwork. So this time I spontaneously decided to make a written response to what I was seeing, and I did this without reading the accompanying information bites until afterwards to prevent my thoughts being influenced by ‘what you are supposed to think’. Here are some of the things I wrote.
You dragged me from the water for the third time that day with a look of determination on your face. A look which seemed to be new, even to you. This whole charade was driving you into uncharted territories; testing your endurance. I slumped myself down next to a rock, feeling nothing but raw. My senses were protesting at the stimulation they were expected to process. Not this again. The world was an inconvenience. I was sick from the things I once loved. We were way beyond reassurances by then, and there were no more words you could say to me. So instead you paced back and forth with your hands in your hair and your eyes to the sky.
What happens when things have fallen apart about as far as they ever could? Entropy take me.
Then you gathered a bunch of sticks, much faster than I could comprehend, and right there in front of me you started a fire. My tired eyes were some way comforted by the sight of colour, my worn and crumbled body warmed by the flame. In the crackle of the wood I heard you promise that you would find me a desert in which to dwell if that is what it would take to keep me from the waters edge.
We sat there for some hours in silence: I as a pile of stones and you as a boat. I fell asleep, and you took me home.
“Here we go, is this it? Are we starting? Are you sure, because it doesn’t feel like my spine is straight. And my shoulder itches. And I need to swallow. Is swallowing allowed or does that count as moving the body?”
“My eyes are closed, but they don’t seem closed closed. I mean, I can see my eyelids I think. Is that ok? How do you close your eyes when they’re already closed?”
“Oh damn, I forgot to check the volume of the alarm. I could just go and do it now? It’ll undo all the good work if it startles me too much.”
“OK, point taken. Dum dum de dum dum de dum de dum de dum. Hey, what’s that song that goes ‘sometimes I feel like despair is my only friend…’? You know the one. It’s by The Mission, I think. Let’s go and look it up. It’ll take, like, two seconds and then I’ll be satisfied and you can have your peace, OK?”
My psychiatrist is trying to kill me. I mean, it’s only a matter of time before these increasingly bizarre combinations of pills he prescribes (so painful are the side effects) do the job anyway, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
He has at least three henchmen that follow me around, watching my every move. Hounds of Hell, I have named them affectionately, because they phase in and out as though they are not from this world. I know they are there though; I can feel them in my bones.
The psychiatrist in question, Dr Pascal he is called, doesn’t know I’ve seen the hounds. At least, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. I haven’t told him. Then again, maybe the little sneer he makes with the corner of his mouth is an indication that he does know, and is daring me to confront him about it so he can add delusions and hallucinations to the list of symptoms he collects in a list beneath my name. I swear he gets a handsome bonus every time he adds new one. His designer tie collection certainly goes to support that theory.
Anyway, what he definitely doesn’t know is that I wear a mask for each and every interaction. That’s right, the real Jeremiah Holm who writes this journal resides way beneath the surface, hidden away from those who may harm him. He is protected by a sometimes arrogant, always flirtatious version of himself. So if Dr Pascal were to succeed in his wicked plan, I am confident he would only destroy my window display, and I can make a new one of those quicker than he can slap on a straitjacket.
I’d be lying if I said the hounds didn’t worry me though. If they are not of this world they may be able sense the things beyond. If they were to find my hiding place, I’d face total implosion, of that there’s no doubt. And that, my friend, is a fate worse than death.
Dr Pascal says things like ‘how does that diagnosis feel to you?’ And ‘do you want to know what I think?’. I don’t.
Honestly I just long for the days of seeing the university therapist. She taught me some simple breathing techniques to use in times of panic or darkness that actually did some good, and the whole experience felt friendly and gentle.
Compared to the days that came with the fog, those memories are all sunshine and rainbows and girls in summer dresses. Don’t get me wrong, I love girls who wear black and I never wear any other colour myself. But there’s still something about a lightweight floral cloth that smells like happiness.
To this day I use the exercises the counsellor taught me, even though she betrayed me and sent me to Dr Pascal in the end. “I’m afraid there’s no more I can do for you,” she said. The ones you trust always leave though. Every fucking time.
This is a short excerpt from my current long form fiction project.
Remember when we learned Duvessa was dead? We were sitting on a park bench smoking spliffs in the purple rain.
We tried to make light of it; recalling the time the three of us got locked out and spent the night under the stars drinking cheap martini and telling stories in an empty fishing boat. And the time she almost had us convinced we could be the next big rap metal crossover band when she got us a gig at the local pub. And all those times we
just couldn’t breathe
for laughing at the most basic of sitcom jokes. They were good times mate, good times.
But then her heart became enchanted by a monster of a man who kept her in a cell under 24 hour surveillance. He would throw things at her and steal from her and coerce her into commiting lewd acts, while publicly declaring her a slut and a liar and a thief. He would roar at her until tears streamed down her face, making the inner flame we adored sputter and make strange shadows on the wall. He eventually succeeded in extinguishing her fire altogether leaving nothing but a blackened wick.
You’d rescue me, you said, maybe together we could bring her back. Your voice was full of doubt though, and I needed certainty. So when the monster called my name from the other side of the hedge having realised I’d escaped, whoever it was I had become trotted obediently back to his side.
Heal my wounds?
Night after night I awake in that place; drenched in sweat, feeling a hundred years old. The walls around me are brown and peeling, etched with words that won’t stay, covered in blood that is rotting yet alive. The stench fills my eyes with tears, and the tears melt my leathery skin on contact. There are echoes around me of incomprehensible words spoken, sharp and hasty. They resonate in my skull, around and around. I am bound, yet there are no ropes and there are no chains…
Sometimes a rusty iron ring emerges from a wall as though it were soft, and I reach out for it. But I slip on the pool of blood beneath my feet and
I cannot regain myself and
I slide around, unable to grip and unable to stand or even to pull myself to my knees amongst the maggots. Yes, there are maggots now, ok? Continue reading “Fragments of Dark: George”
How do I write you?
Your essence is somewhere
between the scribbled words
on the mountains
of screwed up paper sheets
in which I nest.
Are you a jigsaw?
I try a word from one attempt
with a sentence from another
to draft a new layout,
an alternative frame;
but still I can’t complete you.
Like Osiris, you are in fragments.
Call me dramatic, but there is a black, spherical void at my core. at least, I imagine it is black. The type of black that is so black, it misses the point of being black at all. And everything else that I am, all my solid matter, my emotion, my human soul, is constantly on the edge of falling in. My heart is particularly close, and the void darkens its vibrations, tainting it so that sometimes I think it has already fallen in and is now pumping the void around my body. My soul is dark too, from the void in me. It feels tortured that it should go on in this conscious host instead of being at one with the infinite void. My mind, I think, is not wholly convinced that the void is where the heart and soul should belong, but then my mind is tainted with human arrogance as well as eternal darkness.
“So you definitely saw purple?” Hertz quizzed me back at the hotel.
“Yes. It was a big, fat, purple scream.”
“Interesting. I saw red. Ida?”
“Red,” Ida agreed.
“I knew we were right to name you Purple, it’s obviously the colour you see anything magical in.” Hertz seemed satisfied with his own judgement.
“Well it doesn’t matter now.” Ida dispelled his gloating with a flick of her wrist. “The question is what are we going to do? That poor woman was quite distressed. She recognised us.”
Before I found my will I was always sleepy and covered in dust. It made me sneeze and i couldn’t see where I was going. Instead I just saw piles and piles of where I had been.
There are millions of others, just the same. Unchanging, unmoving, still people. Gathering layers of waste fibres and allowing something else to live through them. But they are still people.