Sunday, 24 February 2013

Common Problems

“So now I'm kind of wondering where all this will go next. It's like I've been through some big event, like a festival, a big show or a huge banquet; I'm stuffed and tired, a little over stimulated and I'm thinking I am satisfied. Satisfied is an odd kind of word, I know what it should mean but I feel I'm just stretching it a little to cover the application here. I suppose I'm satisfied but I know fine well that there is always going to be something else, pushing it's way in just to steal that feeling. Unexpected, maybe a bit unwelcome, jostling with other things and struggling for impact and success and starting the whole thing of again. Perhaps I'm played out, perhaps it's steak and eggs and heavy duty protein drinks and build up time. Glasses of milky stout and beetroot and wholesome stuffing and ruthless exercising, is that what you do? Still part of me wants to lie back and just float, float in a sunny careless haze, down streams of low expectations, anonymity, invisibility, following tiny shadows in the sun. Here today and drifted another hundred yards tomorrow. Catch me if you can? You certainly will because I'll be going nowhere and there you go, you've caught me.”

Sheila slapped my face. I almost fell from the porch bench, I was aware of the warm timber and flies and bees and insect noises, I stopped the procrastination. “I'm fed up with your self searching bullshit, get a job, get some money, sort yourself out. You last job's done, ok, maybe it was satisfying but that's all history. Go and start something new.”

The playful slap hurt, the words were all I expected, in this business the jobs come, the jobs go and whatever money there is just disappears in some spiral event that usual centres around the things that Sheila wants to do. I reached down and clicked open a beer and smiled at her. She was staring away into the distance, avoiding my eyes and doing her passive aggressive thing, trying to turn me back around.

“You know Sheila, you're damn well right, I'm going to finish this cold beer and head right out and see what the opportunities are downtown.” She laughed and slapped me again, a little beer spilled and we play wrestled on the bench. We were both giggling and tickling and then we stopped and just lay still and held each other close saying nothing. Over in the field I heard a big diesel engine running, in the trees crows were angry at something and the insects stayed busy avoiding being eaten. Sheila was hot and sticky in her work jeans and cheesecloth. Her breathing was low and pretty and I liked that. I settled to stay still and she did too, on the warm bench. So I just stared up into the afternoon sun and dreamt away a little more. I still wasn't feeling satisfied, I wasn't feeling anything I could describe. Maybe that's the trouble with my trouble, my chronic common trouble, I just don't have the right words to describe it but still I know it's really there.

The Camera

On reflection, the camera seldom lies.

“Time was I was a pretty good looking guy, clear skin, no pot marks, good colour skin, a little stubble, nice jaw line and a nose that was straight and precise as a pencil. Eyes bright like brown headlamps, no bags, no drooping. Teeth all pearly white and no furry tongue. I’d thick hair in those days, under control, not like now, bald where I don’t want it, sprouting from places I never knew it grew, black eyebrows, hair like fuse wire, Jesus, I’m out of breath describing my features. I look and I don’t recognise myself. Inside I’m still that kid, nineteen and I didn’t have to try, it all came easy. I just looked, made a little contact, a little smile, cheeky maybe, then look away, then look back, then look away, then stare and …hold. In a snap I’d caught me a fine slim, sliver fish of some girl. Too many now. I can’t recall their names, well some, some just blur into one another. It’s how it is until you find that right one. Swimming in that shoal, all looking the same from a distance but up close, you can tell the one. Yes I was a catch and so was she. A catch catches a catch. That’s how it should be, that’s how you find happiness, in equals and balance. Yeah, she was a pretty fine girl. Then of course I had to chase her down, talk a little, look a little, maybe run a little. It was the funniest game and you know we both knew that, whatever it was it was inevitable, like science or maths or something. It just clicked and we knew what we knew. She didn’t want to let on about that anyway, see that’s not how you play. You play smart and long, even if you’re really going in a circle. It’s all circular movements, to get to the place that you want to get to. Circles.”

“So, well right now I’m no catch, I’m in no shape to be caught. I look at this old face and all the damage me and my friend time did. We put this thing through it’s paces, now it’s pretty tired, worn out, beat up and weather beaten. It’s as if the scaffolding underneath it all just has some serious kind of fatigue. It’s shaky…and the fabric, it’s stretched out, too dry, too much extreme. Like an old motor that can’t quite rev up to places it used to rev up to. There’s a clear drop in performance. Hey but maybe that’s no everything, ‘cos now that she’s well…gone, what’s a fellow like me got to look good for? Why should I try? I’m not some silver fish that any crazy girl’s gonna want to hook, look at me.”

“Yes, time was that I could make things happen, a razor, a tack, a stiletto; sharp as they come, that was me. I could fight. I fought for her, oh yes, there were others. Keen as the mustard in a street vendor’s hog dog. They slipped and slid and there was a little blood, a few words…but she was mine, I never was a quitter. Better guys than me too, I knew that, I see what I see and I saw that. They had me all measured up but I surprised them, I punched above my weight. Nobody really expects that, nobody expects that sharp, quick punch. I fought for her all right, won her fair and square and now…it’s all some kind of history that nobody else can really remember. Only my version of events. What I saw and did and now, the little of that that I can remember. That’s all I have left, this fragile thing inside my head that plays all those tricks, this memory. I swear some days I cant figure where the lines cross and where they bend. I think I remember things, clear as ten crystal bells ringing on a snowy night. Then I remember nothing, that’s when I get the chills, the frustration. Beating myself up because you see, I can’t quite picture her face. All those years together, those things, sunny days and lollipops and I’m such a dead man now. I can’t tell what she was like. Ok I have photos, paper with ink, running colours and blacks and whites. Get togethers and beaches and weddings and monkey suits and families. I look at her in those pictures, she’s so young and so am I, well younger. She’s there on the paper but it kind of makes no sense. It’s paper, it’s a fucking piece of paper. What’s that to have at the end of your life?”

“So doctor, you can see I’m an agitated man, my face, my memory, my head, what can you do for me? I need a package, a package to get me back there, into the stream, I need to live just a little more. Get the taste and colour, the appetite. She gave me so much. I want to get my hands on those things underground, grasp them again. I need to make some sense of this life before it all just trickles away. They say that’s how it is. You go on for years, you’re proud and caught up with yourself. You don’t look up or down, you miss the detail, the little things, they just kind of evaporated like the steam out of a kettle or the flavour from a pan. Those things that made the difference, well right now they’re eluding me, I can’t get them, can’t get back there. In my mind it’s like a conspiracy is afoot. Conspiring against myself. My mind and body have their own bloody minded agenda. They had it all the time, they played at that and they just didn’t let on, didn’t let me know that all the time that I was trusting and relying and using them they were on a whole different thing. They were real busy, running down the clock, running it down.”

The doctor sat back, elbows on the chair arm, his fingers knitted together as trying to form the roof of a tiny log cabin. He was staring at the finger pattern. The silence lasted. Neither man spoke. The doctor breathed heavily but Michael just sat quiet. Confessing his primal fears and shifted perceptions had exhausted him, he’d spent his vocabulary, pushed it all out with much of a pause for breath or thought and now his mouth was dry and he felt older but no wiser.

The doctor spoke. “Well Michael, you’re in a better place than you might think. You see you came to me looking for a cure for a problem that everybody has but no one can fix. Getting older and losing that little bit grip, friction, traction whatever that holds you onto the path of…forgive me sounding pretentious here…life. You have, momentarily lost that grip you once had. Quite a common occurrence and there is no cure…except…acceptance.”

The doctor pulled out a smart phone and clicked the camera on. “Smile please!” Automatically Michael smiled and the photo was taken. Across the room a printer kicked into life and pushed the printed picture out from it’s grey plastic innards with a whir and a few mechanical noises  as if giving birth. The doctor walked across to the machine and picked up a sheet of paper. “Just stay there on the couch, I’ll get this,” said the doctor.

“Michael, do you recognise this man?” Michael looked at the print and then looked at the doctor. “Well it’s a lot like a guy I used to know…” the doctor looked again at the print then at his phone. The image was not what he expected. There on both the paper and on the phone screen was a young man, maybe nineteen, dark and animal, jet black greased hair, in his prime. Beside him on the couch was a slim, smiling  girl, sitting right next to him, pretty eyes staring out into the lens. They were holding hands. In the background the doctor could make out every detail in is surgery. It was a pretty good camera phone.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The man who built time bombs

Of course the thing is that time bombs look nothing like popular (?) image you'd imagine, that clock and dynamite picture you see when the word comes up. Oh, I build time bombs, certainly but they are nothing like what you might think...and their purpose is quite different from...the traditional bomb.

You see what I do is that I act like a kind of official whistle blower. I come along, into your life take a good look, note things down and so on and then when the time is right I blow the whistle. Now I'm trying not to stretch all these analogies and things but when I blow my whistle then it just may be a little time bomb will be set and will go off. Maybe not right away but sure as shit it will. It's my job, I build them, guard them and then when you say so I light the fuse and generally stand well back or at I'm gone altogether by then, on some other job or something. Mixing and matching.

So the thing is the client gives me all the bomb making ingredients. There's no special chemicals or anything. What I need to do a good job is just a stack of facts and some evidence, maybe a witness or two if you want to pull it all out a bit. It's really up to you and how much you feel comfortable about paying and of course how much of a burden of guilt, shame, revenge or whatever the hell it is that you need to detonate.

I usually do my bit just after my client has gone off on, shall be say a long journey, one from which he does not expect to return. Or it may be that he (or she) is sadly deceased, passed away, crossed over the river. Whatever the circumstances I tend to follow their instructions to the letter. So I turn up a funerals, family gatherings, will readings, business briefs and meetings, press conferences or whatever way the client instructs. Then, at the agreed and opportune moment, bang! Of goes that bomb.

Some have taken a lifetime to build, others a few weeks or maybe it was all down to one little thing. Whatever the scale I will share this knowledge and information with the assembly (who do not generally know what's comin') and then see what happens. Maybe it would help if I gave some recent examples and then you'd understand. You see everybody, deep down, even crazy people want to make their peace and cleanse their lives. They need to reveal, explain and whatever else before it all just goes in a puff of smoke...and I can tell you that that smoke can smell pretty bad sometimes.
So some examples...well martial problems tend to be in there, secret lovers, unknown relationships, being unfaithful to a life time partner, the whole classic double-life thing, even double families. Then there's the criminal element (which may of course be in every example to some degree...fraud and deception etc.), stealin' and killin', movin' money, tax dodges and as I said criminal associations. Surprising how many killin's keep comin' up. That's a very heavy burden for a person to carry for a lifetime.

Then there's all the sexual stuff, gets a bit dark in here sometimes, straight sex, fetishes, gay relations, memberships of clubs and “out of town” organisations and fellowships. You can never tell what is goin' on but strangely some troubled people eventually tell me. Often they are proud of it, just couldn't quite tell the other half or the family or the wider world but they want that quirky little part of them to get some final makes a lot of sense.

Some other folks need to vent their feelings, they've gone a lifetime playing the game, saying what was expected of them, turning up a church or the office, looking good and smiling when all the time something quite different was playing out behind the blinds. I find these kind of situations can cause the most...friction.

Money comes up a whole lot; there isn't any, there's more than you thought, there's all that but none of you are getting it for the following reasons. Or it's all going to a) a secret son/daughter b) the Republicans c) the old lady next door for her magnificent skills in fellatio d) some other real cluster fuck of a reason.

Justification: People the world over feel the need to explain and justify themselves, what they did, their decisions, their reasoning, their whole way of living. You set it out and I'll explain it. It may well mean nothing to the assembled masses, it may be a pile of shit but whatever it was you felt the need, at the last hurrah to get this thing off your cold dead chest.

So that's my job, I build the bombs from the carefully chosen parts you send me. What you got to share?

Most beautiful

“It is so strange to wake up and know that you are the most beautiful woman in the world.” Lara was talking to herself in the mirror. “ Other women can't understand, naturally they hate me, I suppose, why wouldn't they? What they don't understand is the effort that I have to make, the work and the working out that I have to do, the pain, the self denial, it's constant.” She was looking deep into her own eyes, the conversation becoming more serious though her refection took no notice and blankly refused to answer. “I fine tune the regime, try things, drop things, stick with things, note what works and what fails, all to stay here in the top slot. Clothes, hair, cosmetics and preparations, that's just the start, that's almost the easy part. It's keeping yourself out there, being seen, even heard once in a while. No, they don't really want to listen to me, nobody wants a talking magazine cover or a model that chats on the cat walk. It's forever about my superficiality and only the very edges of anything else...but at the moment I retain the edge.”

She continued to chat into the mirror, unconsciously she was fixing her skin, her hair, looking for some tiny, threatening blemish, looking for the start of the downhill rot...but that was some time away. Right now she had to dab a tissue on her lipstick and squint at the corners of her eyes, just to check the translucence that was always there was always there.

“This is for my fans, the little people.” She was brushing her hair. “And this is for the scumbag press and the media liars and the bad bloggers and the paps.” She dabbed nail varnish remover across her fingertips with cotton wool...where is my manicure? It's nearly eleven.” She sipped some cold water. “Nice, pure, cold and clear...a little like myself.”

“Maybe today I feel I have a sore back, like my Polish mother would have said, like a worker, maybe I'm tired but still buzzing.” She sat back in the chair and daydreamed about smoking a long Russian cigarette and eating a large cheeseburger. “I do look sexy when I smoke, I look good and dirty and independent but that's not so good for this image, for the business. These managers they tell me what to do, where to go, what flight, I get there but I never really know where I am...other than the top. My mother would have laughed at that, traveling the world, five star everything, six star anytime ans still only wanting to be something that's a position on a list, a position on a list, a slippery, stupid list.”

Lara's phone chirped. She ignored it for a moment then picked it up. Few folks had her number and she had very few numbers. Being number one doesn't mean that all the numbers fall straightaway into the right places. Some number vanish all together. Some numbers are in funds and investments and bonds and sunny shiny white properties that will act like a magnet for other sunny white properties and their sunny owners, occupiers and clients. She sipped more water listening to the voice on the other end of the phone call. It was itinerary, travel appearances and way down in the detail some work, covers and opening nights and appointments. Tomorrow was to be a travel day.

She put the phone down and returned to the mirror conversation. “They say I have eight hours, then it's that premiere, then sleep, then an early start and I'm in Dubai or somewhere...are you getting this dumb bitch? Are you having a fantasy about a lettuce leaf or an oatmeal cracker? Are you worried about the size of the gap between your thighs? We both have stuff to do, to straighten out and I need you to be straight with me but you never talk. I do all the hard work planning and getting dressed and undressed and just look back at me.” She tapped on three perfume bottles as if they were a little drum kit. “Boom, boom, boom I need red meat, masturbation, maybe a man,maybe a woman. A trustworthy worker who'll fill my bed and move between me and that mirror woman. Yes I'm talking about you, you look like you're listening but I'm not so sure, glassy eyes and that haughty look. What am I to make of that? So it's back to you and I am you're only audience but you refuse to perform for me.”

When your best friend is only a reflection your conversations will be frustrating; circular, tedious affairs, you will question your sanity. Mirror people don't talk back or share, interact, argue or tell you anything new. So you get in there and you find, suddenly it's all too deep, you've manoeuvred yourself into that place, that mirrored hall of self examination and reflection where you can go but no one else can reach you. You can't describe it or explain it, it's a ditch and you're ditched.

Maybe under different circumstances, with better tutelage, guidance, a smaller mirror even, Lara would have made that flight to Dubai. As it was she never was found but then again nobody knew she was lost and she never was number one anyway They said it was all a bit “smoke and mirrors”, that listing. If it did exist then the prize belonged to the girl in the mirror, wherever she has gone.