Tuesday, 29 September 2009

15. :: "Wake up"

Andrew wakes up and looks at the ceiling then out of the window. It is 3.35AM according to the digital clock which sits at his bedside. Digital clocks work well for Andrew. He enjoys waking up in the night and knowing, at least for an instant, how long he has until he should wake up. Having that knowledge in his head is of comfort to Andrew.

The glowing of the digital clock is the same colour as the lights from Andrew's laptop computer. Andrew reads and rereads an email. Drinks from a glass of water. Tries to fall back asleep.

Andrew starts to make plans for his morning. Wake up. Pull the covers of the bed over his face and shout something obscene. Get out of bed and rub his eyes until they are more blurry than when he started rubbing. Have some fruit juice or an instant coffee. Take a shower maybe. Dress. Same jeans, different shirt. Emails. Eventually leave the house with no plans.

Thinking about these things is tiring and Andrew drifts away into the same sleep as before.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

14. :: "sorry"

Hey Andrew

How are you? First thing, I am real sorry about friday, I know it is lame and I am sorry for letting you down and not letting you know that I was doing it. I was looking forward to meeting. Seems like we should have met already. Ha.

I had a thing. My dad went to hospital, and I didn't go to the hospital and turned out that it was nothing serious, but my mother was on the phone to me all night. She likes to rush my dad to the hospital for every little thing. He gets headaches now and again, and this does not shock me. All he ever does is drink Coke and drive around in his Morris Minor. And he eats oranges, like ten oranges in an afternoon. It is weird. But, yeah, he gets these headaches and there is nothing to it, and I keep telling my mum this, but she insists he go to the hospital to get it checked out.

So, sorry for that.

We should try again?

You could meet me for lunch one day this week. Thursday? Meet me outside work and we can go to the Polish Cafe on the corner. It's good there. One o'clock.

Let me know.


13. :: "a short quiet laugh"

At work the next day Jennifer stares straight through the glass in her computer monitor. She imagines seeing the images form before her as she moves the cursor from left to right, leaving behind a faded glowing tail. She closes her eyes.

Jennifer? What are you doing? You're not busy. Can you come over and help us with this thing?

Opening her eyes, Jennifer sees the young temp kneeling in front of three filing cabinets, stacks of paper either side of him. Jennifer's manager calls again to her. Jennifer, Marc has all these forms to put away, you know the system enough, you show him ok. He walks away.

The manager is younger than Jennifer but cares more about the job. Thanks a lot, Jennifer says silently to the back of his head as he walks away. Thank you for this important job, thank you. It is important work like this which makes my every morning worthwhile, you are beautiful and a powerful leader. Jennifer laughs a short quiet laugh at the things she is thinking. When the manager started working in this office, he and Jennifer worked as part of the same desk, Customer Services, and would joke about the customers and their seeming inability to work a telephone correctly. The older customers would never hang up the receiver when finishing the call, and if you listened carefully you could hear their conversations as they walked away, though they were never very interesting. Jennifer and the manager used to take lunch together and eat in the canteen downstairs in the building but not anymore.

Today Jennifer is planning on having lunch with a boy she has never met. She is curious to see how this works. It feels like in a movie. It feels like a really dumb movie where a boy and a girl exchange personal adds and in the end it works out perfectly, but somewhere along the line one always finds something hidden the other, something they did not care to know but once they found out it made them worried. In the movie it always works out.

Friday, 24 April 2009

12. :: "love me, Jesus"

The doorbell is ringing hard and loud like a siren.

Sorry to trouble you, but could we talk to you about Our Lord Jesus Christ? I don't know if you're aware but Jesus loves you and in order to enter Heaven and the afterlife you really need to recognise Jesus Christ as your Saviour. Do you have any thoughts about Jesus Christ at all?

Jennifer stares at the men stood on her doorstep. She feels the urge to grab them both and hug them, or else scrape her knuckles back and forth across their heads. She does neither but offers in response a simple No. The two men look young and sound American and are dressed like they are on their way home from work. A silence sticks between the three of them. Eyes shift. Jennifer wonders how long she would have to wait before she could politely close the door. She holds a blank expression so as not to offend. The young Christian men are unsure and begin to back away, not out of fear but more because they are wasting their time waiting for more than a No.

Jennifer closes the door as the young men walk on to the next house. Jesus loves you, she says to herself. If you will love me, Jesus, then I will love you in return.

Jennifer has been in love before maybe. She is not sure. She thinks of love as a house which you move into and live inside of. You and another person are both inside the house and it is your house together, you both know that and that makes it precious and something tangible like you can touch the walls and curtains and believe that it will stand forever. There are times when one of you leaves but the other is still inside and at those times it can be cold and lonely and claustrophobic and the light switches stop working and you do not know what to do. There are times when one of you returns after a period of time and the house feels perfect again. Perhaps Jennifer has not been in love because she has never been in the same house as someone else in that way. Jennifer thinks that maybe you can only really know if something is love if they are in love with you also, or at least they know what you are feeling, otherwise it is something else with a different and less attractive name but still important in spite of the loneliness.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

11. :: "the path"

There is a gallery in town which Andrew likes to visit. It is what you would call 'contemporary', though Andrew is not sure exactly what that means. The art which they have on the walls and scattered around the floor and in different rooms in the gallery tends to be brightly coloured. This makes Andrew feel good. Andrew sits in the gallery for most of the afternoon, drinking from a bottle of water and watching the attractive girls who walk past.

The gallery makes Andrew think about what his life is for. As a small child, and then after that, a teenager and young adult, he believed that there was some predetermined path, on which he had no choice but to step and eventually the path would lead to something important and that he would achieve something and have a lasting relevance as an adult. He has notepads where he has written over and again the phrase 'I want to be remembered for something good'. Andrew is still waiting for the predetermined path to show itself. Perhaps, Andrew thinks, perhaps the path is invisible, and he will not know he has started upon the path until he has arrived at his destination.

As an adult, Andrew's life has been defined by vague ambition, the desire to do something artistic but lacking the conviction to follow that through to any definite conclusion. His home is full of half finished projects. Stories left half done, pencil drawings, musical instruments gathering dust and rust. Commitment is the problem here. Andrew is worried that if he decides that he wants to be a professional artist, do drawings for a living somehow, then he would have to give up all his other endeavours, or at least put them on a shelf somewhere below this ambition. What then, he wonders, if he puts everything he has into becoming successful as an artist, only to fail and have nothing to show for it? Would he then not be able to return to those other activities and try? Choosing one ambition means maybe giving up on others and that scares Andrew.

Andrew applies this same logic to most everything in his life. Girls especially. It is a cliche. It is a cliche which Andrew has had to suffer. It is a cliche Andrew is trying to break from.

Friday, 27 March 2009

10. :: "I was thinking maybe"

Girl: Hello?

Andrew: Hi.

Girl: Hi. Sorry, who is this?

Andrew: Oh, yeah, sorry. It is, erm, my name is Andrew? You know. You sent me your number I though I would give you a call. How are you?

Girl: Erm, I am ok I guess. Yeah. What's up Andrew? How are you doing?

Andrew: I am good. I figure if I can wake up in the morning and get out of bed and that takes less than 2 hours then that is a pretty good day. Ha.

Girl: Ok.

Andrew: Ha. You know what I mean, like, sometimes I will stay in bed all day and not do anything except get up to use the toilet or make a sandwich or something. Everything is pretty much within arms reach of my bed anyway. I mean, it's not like I am asleep all day, I will sit up in bed or sit on the edge of the bed so I can use my computer. I just cannot see the point some days.

Girl: Look, Andrew I am really pretty busy. Is there something you wanted?

Andrew: Oh. Oh yeah. Yes. Erm. I was thinking maybe, if you are not planning anything for friday night, we could go out. Get something to eat? Try again. Ha ha. Or something else. Or some other night? Anything really. Whatever you want. When is best for you? I am pretty much free whenever. I never have any plans.

His eyes open. Andrew thanks himself a dozen times for not making that call just yet. Andrew is not ready. Andrew thinks to himself that he might never be ready. How will he know?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

9. :: "piece of paper"

Andrew is staring at a piece of paper. He is concentrating hard. Andrew is hoping that by focusing hard enough on the paper that it will become something more than it is. At the moment the piece of paper has an 11 digit telephone number written on it in green ballpoint pen. A girl gave it to him. She gave him the number and he wrote it down. She sent him an email with the telephone number included in the body of the email and he scratched it on to a piece of paper and put the piece of paper into his pocket.

At the moment the piece of paper with the numbers on is just paper and ink. Andrew wants for it to change into a promise or a window of opportunity. Andrew wonders why he was given the number and exactly how important it is.

If a girl gives a boy a telephone number does it mean that she wants to be called? What should the reason for the call be? 'A date'? 'Just to chat? No. Should he call her soon or at all? What if he calls and she is busy and says so and that she will call him back but then never does? What can he do if he calls and it rings and then someone picks up but it is not the person who gave him the number and they tell him that he must have called the wrong number but when he checks it he sees that the number he dialled is the same number he was emailed? What if a man answers the telephone? What if she gave him the number for emergencies only? Or for business reasons? She said something about her job, maybe she thinks he is interested in her 'professionally'. No. She said she hated her job. That it was dull and unpleasant. What if the phone rings and rings and rings and no one ever answers and no answer machine kicks in and he stays on the end of the line forever, just waiting for her to pick up and say anything?

Saturday, 21 March 2009

8. :: "frisbee in the dark"

Jennifer sits quietly at her desk. Her job mainly involves spreadsheets and putting different kinds of data into those spreadsheets and then emailing those spreadsheets to someone else, after which she is not sure what happens to them.

Today is monday and Jennifer can hear other people in the office talking about what happened with their weekend. Some guy in short sleeves says something about getting drunk and playing frisbee in the dark. Some women start talking about some television show where famous people dance and then elderly people decide who was their favourite dancer and call up and vote. The two guys argue over football and end up laughing together rather than angrily attacking each other with the things people use to remove staples from paper.

Sometimes Jennifer would gladly attack everyone in the office with the thing people use to remove staples from paper.

Jennifer smiles back at a woman who just smiled at her and drinks from a cup of coffee. What did you do this weekend Jen? says the woman in a tone which shows nothing other than a lack of interest in the answer to her own question.

Oh, nothing much. Nothing fun.

Come on you must have done something.

Ok, I went to the park on saturday and read a book about a man who is obsessed and in love with a married woman. I had plans on friday night but changed my mind at the last minute and stayed in instead where I lay in the bathtub until 2AM and then cried a bit and went to sleep. On sunday I wrote a song about how much I am looking forward to work on monday and all the dumb and boring questions I get asked every week.

The woman takes a pastry from a box that has been circulating the office. Her lips are sticky and her fat tongue grabs crumbs from the corners of her mouth. I didn't know you played music, do you play in bands?

Monday, 16 March 2009

7. :: "when put to action"

When Andrew was 6 years old he 'fell in love' for the first time. Thinking about it now, Andrew believes that it probably was not 'love' that he fell in, more a friendly and curious affection, or the first stirrings of something dirty or seedy. As a boy Andrew was not sure whether there really was a difference between boys and girls, was not sure why adults tended to pair together, one boy and one girl, and then stick with it. Most of the people he spoke to everyday were boys. He spent all his time with boys. Why don't adults do that? he thought to himself. He could see no reason why adults would close themselves off in little houses with one other person and not go out all day and play with other adults. This was what his parents' marriage had taught him.

Then came a point when the other boys started to notice other girls. Girls were always just off to the side. It was like segregation, but voluntary, and with only really young people. Playgrounds were separated into zones where girls went and zones where boys went. Then there appeared this third type of zone where boys and girls went together. They were pairing off, 5 and 6 year olds. Andrew did not understand what was happening. Football games became stretched and unfocused, playing army or pretending to be the red one from Mutant Turtles got lonelier and more pointless.

Andrew just could not get his head round it.

He got his head round it one day during lunchtime. Maisy Turner walked across the playground to where Andrew was sat with his friends. They were trading glass marbles, chipped and worn from use but effective when put to action. Andrew was annoyed to hear that Maisy Turner wanted him to follow her and play with her on their own. He put all the marbles away in his deep pockets and followed her away around the corner of the lonely wall which for some reason stood near the edge of the playground. The wall stood near the edge of the playground, not at the edge, built of red brick it was about 7 feet high and 12 feet long and there was enough space behind the wall to park a car if someone wanted to. Andrew walked around the corner with heavy feet stomping the gravel as if trying to break wooden floorboards. What is it already? he asked and Maisy Turner kissed him quickly on the mouth. Her lips were tight shut and pushed firmly against his. He was shocked and had not had time to close his mouth fully, her lips touched his tongue. It was not a real kiss but it was clearly something Maisy Turner has been thinking about for some time. She ran off. Andrew never really spoke to Maisy Turner again after that, and did not kiss another girl for more than 11 years when, coincidentally, he would also lose his virginity.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

6. :: "queue"

In the 1980s Andrew was a young child and because of this he does not remember much of the details. Many of the 1980s things he knows he learned second hand through television shows about different decades. Most of what he remembers is feelings and vague situations.

Andrew remembers a time when he and his parents were on a long car journey, probably visiting relatives out of town or maybe returning from a holiday. Whoever was driving, Andrew's mother or father, must have been tired or needed a bathroom break as they pulled in at a services of the motorway. They all did what they had to do and decided to get something to eat from the Burger King in the services. Whilst his parents were queueing Andrew was distracted by a display of plastic footballs outside the amusement arcade. The balls were held in place by cords of elastic stretched across a plastic frame, like a sparse fishing net, and Andrew thought that it could all come toppling down at any moment, blue, red and white plastic footballs bouncing everywhere. Fighting the urge to test this theory, Andrew returned to the queue and took his father's hand. Andrew was 5 or maybe 6 years old.

Andrew felt a bit strange. He looked up and saw that the man was not his father, just some other man, and the man, feeling the boy's hand go limp in his, looked down to see that the boy was not his son. After a moment their hands separated. The man had on the same colour sweater as Andrew's father, and blue jeans. The man looked around and saw his wife and children sat at a table across the dining area. This was before everyone was terrified that their children would be abducted and murdered at any minute. Andrew had never heard of such a thing and yet to learn to be embarrassed by his mistake, and took a few steps away from the queue and looked around to see his father stood with a tray of burgers and fries and drinks, laughing quietly to himself. He had seen the whole thing and found it funny.

Andrew thinks about this whole incident now and can not be sure how much is true and how much is embellishment. The stuff about the footballs is almost definitely made up.

Friday, 13 March 2009

5. :: "I am willing to change to impress"

1. Will anyone ever love me?
Probably. Hopefully.

2. Why should anyone love me?
I am a pretty nice guy. I have never really done anything 'bad'. I am generous and funny. I am not hideously ugly, so it shouldn't be uncomfortable to look at me. I like good things, things which are interesting. I am 'creative' and can provide stimulating conversation. I am willing to change to impress them.

3. Why doesn't anyone love me right now?
I don't go out really. I am always miserable when I do and then walk home on my own with earphones in. Sometimes I can come across as 'mean'. I like to tell people everything that is happening in my life, regardless of how important or unimportant. I am overweight. I have a weird interest in independent pro wrestling, though no one really knows about this. I have tastes in music and movies which are not conducive to casual social conversation. I am afraid. I am afraid of talking honestly and sincerely to. I am always angry when I talk about my job. I am unhappy and unwilling to do anything about it. I am lazy. I move a lot in my sleep. I drink too much. I do not drink enough. I think other people 'just don't understand me' and use that as a reason to avoid them. I judge people. I am unwilling to let them love me.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

4. :: "in a rush always"

Andrew sits in a coffee shop drinking a coffee. All he asked for was 'a coffee' and that is what he got. He worries that the people who work in the coffee shop, the baristas, judge him harshly for the simplicity of his order. But he would worry more about sounding ridiculous trying to order anything with word 'skinny' in it, and worry even more than that if he ended up drinking something that tastes of ginger and cinnamon and vanilla and chocolate but not at all like coffee. He likes sitting and drinking coffee and reading a book and scribbling on napkins.

There is a girl. A girl sometimes come into the coffee shop about this time between mondays and fridays and she drinks an espresso before collecting an order of around half a dozen drinks and taking them away, out of the coffee shop. Andrew likes to think that she is going back to work with the coffees and is in a rush always and takes this brief moment in the coffee shop to relax and think about the day and life and space and good things before rushing away back to a boss who can not appreciate her and colleagues who do not say 'thank you'. Forget them.

Forget them, Coffee Shop Girl, Andrew thinks. She looks over to Andrew and smiles a smile of recognition because Andrew always seems to be here. Andrew gives a little short wave with his left hand, holding a pen and she walks away out of the shop. Andrew has a list of questions on his notepad laid out on the table in front of him, many screwed up and torn pages stuffed in his pockets.

It is a sad list. It makes Andrew angry that he would even think of writing this list. This is a list of 'the most important questions in life right now'. Further down the list, after ten or more questions, there are things about work and money. The top of the list makes Andrew feel like an angsty teenager and want to sit in a bedroom with no lights on and paint his fingernails black and cry.

The first question reads, "1. Will anyone ever love me?"

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

3. :: "scissors"

On the internet there are a lot of photos that show Andrew smiling and having a good time with other people. Andrew looks at these pictures regularly or semi-regularly. He is starting to believe that these things never really happened and that somehow, and for unknown reasons, a stranger has taken it upon themselves to construct these elaborate photographic lies with a computer or maybe just scissors and tape or glue. The only thing connecting Andrew with these pictures is his face and the locations he vaguely remembers. The other people in the photographs all appear out of focus and unrecognisable. A few of the people he can identify as 'old friends' or 'acquaintances' but there is no one on here that he has seen in months.

The browser window folds in on itself and then back out again like an oriental fan. Andrew clicks the mouse button a couple of times, slides the mouse just centimetres across the desk and the cursor hovers over the button which says 'Inbox (1)'. Double click. The second click was more for dramatic effect than out of necessity, a single click would have done the job just fine. There is a message there at the top of the page, it is from 'Jenbabe1979' and the subject line says 're:tonight'. Andrew clicks away pretty quickly and onto 'Spam (374)'.

It is somehow comforting to Andrew to know that there are so many people out there trying to sell him so many penis related products, or else a fake diploma or Japanese Rolex watches. This is commerce. The Spam filter on this email is a sign of what is really important to people. Sex, 'bling', and trying to appear cleverer than you really are. The benefit of the Spam filter is such that it does not allow you to take these easy paths, paths which will ultimately, probably, lead to you being massively out of pocket with nothing to show. Andrew also admires the seeming personal nature of some of these messages. They start "Hey James, it's Valerie, Brian said you'd call..." and then leads to some site selling generic blue pills by the bottle. Andrew thinks that if his name were James, and he had a friend named Brian who had set him up with a girl named Valerie, then he would definitely save this email.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

2. :: "face in his hands"

At around 4am Andrew rolls over and grabs a notepad and pen which he keeps on the bedside table. Less than a quarter of his mind is awake as he scribbles something down in the dark. The notepad and pen are placed back on the bedside table. Andrew rolls on to his back and forces his eyes open as wide as possible and looks up towards the lampshade on the ceiling. Sometimes in the night, just before pitchblack when the distant streetlamps still partly bleed through the blinds, sometimes Andrew stares at the lampshade hard enough that it seems to disappear into the darkness.

3 hours later Andrew wakes up again. This time the alarm clock is beeping away, it is the most abrasive noise known to man. Andrew pushes back the bed linen and swings his legs over the edge of the bed, sits there for a moment and puts his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He reaches for the lamp, turns it on and sees the notepad lying on the table. He knows that he did something, wrote something down, but just can not remember what it was. Without picking up the pad he leans over and reads what is written on it. Andrew rolls his eyes, sighs, and puts his face right back in the palms of his hands. His head hurts because that is a thing that alcohol does sometimes.

The notepad has three words written on it, scribbled in ballpoint pen by a tired man, drunk and lonely, at 4am. The notepad has three words written on it. 'A nice woman'.

Monday, 9 March 2009

1. :: "beanshoots and broccoli"

Andrew looks up at the sign that stands in front of him. It says in bold red letters 'Zen Bar and Chinese Restaurant'. Andrew feels a lump rise in his throat, slide with gravity downwards, then settle somewhere in the bottom of his stomach. Several such lumps have been floating up and down his torso for most of the afternoon and, now, early evening. Andrew looks up at the sign again. He has not eaten but is not sure whether he will be expected to eat here. The name is confusing. He is unsure whether it is the Zen Bar or the Chinese Restaurant he will be visiting, after all, he did not organise the evening.

The door opens and a young man comes out. He asks Andrew if he is ok. Andrew has been stood outside looking at the sign and menu for nearly 10 minutes and now he goes inside through the door. The young man shows him to a table by the bar and fetches him a glass of ice with lemonade and whiskey in. The clock above the bar says 8:37 which means that Andrew is 7 minutes late so he asks the young man if anyone has asked after him. What is your name? asks the young man. Andrew. The young man says no, but that he will keep his eyes peeled.

45 minutes pass. An hour. Two hours have passed and Andrew has drunk many whiskey drinks and has eaten a bowl of noodles with beanshoots and broccoli. He pays the bill and walks on to the cold street outside and in the direction of his house. Fuck, he says out loud, but not loud enough to disturb anyone. Thanks for nothing, he says to himself.

Andrew walks home alone. He is sad and cold and is feeling more than half drunk. He thinks thoughts about loneliness and about what CD would be perfect to listen to before sleep. Something loud and angry, or something sad and quiet. Not something quick and happy. Andrew thinks about what it would feel like to jam a piece of broken glass underneath his kneecap and figures it would hurt and figures he would never do that. He likes to say things like, I would rather stab myself through the kneecap, when people suggest doing activities he does not like the sound of. He thinks about how funny he is sometimes. How everyone says he is a nice guy. How everyone says they want him to be happy and want to help him be happy. How everyone is somewhere else right now.