Thinking is a dangerous thing.
I think in recycled strings – like a passed on virus. As I wake up, I think that there should be a vague comfort in my hand clutching another; only I pull them apart and find that they are both my own. Wiping them across my face, their salt dampness stings in my nostrils. It congeals with the smell of blood, though I am not sure whether dangerous or natural.
I am attempting to perfect the art of ‘pulling myself together’. Some do it exceptionally well. Like on the screen which has been running all night beside me, a man stands in a pressed pink shirt with a tie several shades darker, he is preened like a rasher of ambiguous meat people attach adjectives to like ‘quality’ and ‘lean’. His mouth seems to chew over silence. Mine does too, only the jaws cracking open with a gesture that makes my ears pop and reminds my body of the compression of sleep being lifted. There is a pain below my stomach but I am not sure what it is.
My feet feel inordinately swollen as I press them to the carpet. I seem almost to sway to the bedroom door, before hunching my way uncomfortably down the stairs. These were the stairs I once threw myself down, as a kind of experience. Everyone else related to the incident seems keen to emphasize the factors of ‘birthday’ and ‘alcohol’ but I do not remember either of them. All I remember was the hot compression of my body crumpled above me whilst my face felt the cold of the linoleum, watching the patterns of grease composing secret footprints. It seemed almost unfortunate that people regarded it a ‘shame’.
I reach the bottom of the stairs and retrace the routine aisle towards the kitchen.
The door handle seems slippery and overworked. I put my hand to the brass and then against my tongue and back again – the taste of touch. With it in one sense, socially unacceptable sense. It is a guise that I seem to fall into. The succession of libs flailing, whether my own or another’s, as I offer my stare to a person on the street.
Now I offer it only to myself in a place I call ‘home’. I watch my own eyes in the glass panel of the kitchen door. There is a black rubbed around them, like a kind of war paint. My body is painted too, coated with a close fitting material which spreads over scrapes and knocks. I am not sure if the sensation is pain or cleanliness or tiredness or them all. I guess there is a relief shared as the door clicks open.
I occupy myself quickly in occupying past actions. There is the smell of quickly cooled instant coffee, the type my mother drinks from a wide-brimmed cup in hasty, unbreathing mouthfuls before leaving the house. She calls it a ‘home’ but I guess in my case it is ‘house’ – I am not meant to be here, by default. I say that to a variety of people and it usually results in an agitation of hands, tears and a GP referral.
On the table, still glimmering from damp cloth, is a handwritten note on old yellow paper and a packet of diazepam.
Initially, the paper appears to present a kind of artistry – a black line carved into curls and flicks, the type which make my eyes swim. Then it blends to figures.
“I collected your prescription. Will be back for lunch. Love u, mum xx”
I liked how she has shaped the ‘u’ with a light wobble, almost in the imitation of flesh, a personalised hieroglyphic. If she has already left, it must be relatively lake in the morning,. The digital clock on the microwave swims and stings. A little like the ‘x’s’ at the end of the message – sharp, stinging little crosses, perhaps her confession of anger. Angry at what so many ascribe as my ‘waste of time’ – the time I lie, debating with sleep and consciousness, attempting to pull words, myself, together. If I manage to write though, it redeems itself. Well it will once it is transferred into print sandwiched between two glossy covers with a price tag attached. Apparantely.
Apparent but not real. That is how I feel often, that is how I feel as I flick the switch on the kettle. I indulge myself in the assumption that there is water in it, it could be one of those magical moments when there is not and there will be the shriek of gas and confused heat, followed by the slow surging smell of burn. It provides an excellent distraction, then again, if there is water, there is the possibility of hurt. All it takes is a flick of the wrist to douse the contents just as easily over the table as into a cup. Over my own chest. I would not have to pay to watch the mornings entertainment, raised flesh and that array of sensations we so easily constitute as ‘pain’.
Something close it quakes close to where I assume my stomach is. Perhaps it is hunger. Perhaps it is thrill – the thrill of knowing the unacceptable, the knowing that I could pick up the paper note and grind it down between by teeth and experience something different. There would not be so much written on that, perhaps there might be some kind of congratulation for being ‘experimental’. There sometimes is, there sometimes isn’t.
‘Sometimes’ seems just to be one of those assemblages – hanging as part of that indeterminate barrier between acceptable and unacceptable. I take the routine regular two diazepam as is accepted, popping them into my palm with the similar gesture with which one pushes pus from a wound. I guess that it is unacceptable. It is too as I take another three. And I don’t take them with water, I chew them, clenching the sour little pips against my teeth with my dry tongue.
Strange – the barrier between two and three which turn me from ‘sensibility’ to ‘insanity’ within seconds.
A milder version was the morning I didn’t go on my ‘ paper run’. I had to go in the sense that the newsagent expected me at 7am, a series of people anticipated the familiar ‘drop’ of the paper through the door. Instead, that morning, I created a talking point, a different narrative. I was the author of interest. I lay there, head stiff against the pillow, and created something different.
I didn’t go on my paper run again. My parents attributed terms to it like ‘insane’ and ‘mad’.
Would they have understood if I said I was making interest?
Still, I have been pushed into a different profession, one way or another. the polished surfaces in the kitchen begin to glisten, they tell of human hands, not only the family hands, but the hands cutting, shaping, transporting. Everywhere is hot with touch and yet I am cold. The newspaper laid open on the table is cold, as if a body, defencelessly exposed. I take the invitation of its pages and watch them burr between my fingers, falling text after falling text. The text which constitutes the ‘opinion column’ – those certain assemblages of recycled text deemed to be more worthy than others.
I could be ‘wasting time’ or gathering evidence.
I take the paper to the fire some indeterminate time after. I watch the leaves lapse and gasp over the embrace of the flames. There is almost an affection to reduction, I think. Like the tenderness with which I extend my hand, I feel the heat growing close, closer to touch.
I am becoming a better actor.