25 February 2006

Guilty as Charged

The last piece of promised repetition is here.

The bike is a 750 Yamaha which I rode from 1982 to 1986 by when responsibilities finally overwhelmed me and brought me to heel. However the image of the PC screen at the foot of the post was rather more recent. I positioned two events like book ends. You all know I use colour coding to distinguish fact from fiction but in these stories the pretense at fiction only thinly veils autobiography...

She lay back watching me pull on my leathers. Her skin soft and white against the burgundy sheets. “I will see you again, won’t I?” Her enquiring eyes followed my hand as I picked up my key-ring and wallet.
“You always ask that, yet you know I can never give you up!” I leaned down and as she closed her eyelids I kissed first one then the other with a tenderness that brought a lump to my throat. “Besides, I haven’t yet mastered the art of disappearance!” I grinned in a lame attempt to lighten the crushing emotional atmosphere.

I lowered my crash helmet before leaving her house and closed the front door with a soft click. The 750 was an anonymous black hulk in the shadows. It was after midnight and neighbours’ houses were unlit. A glance up at her window located the ghostly shadow I loved with my life. I lifted a black-gloved hand in silent goodbye and eased the bike off its stand. Pushing my steed to the end of her short close was my way of showing respect. She liked that.

Away from prying eyes I thumbed the starter and the Yamaha burst alive. Twisting the power on I launched into the black night with a cone of white light speeding ahead of me. The race home was my usual suicide dare. I took the racing line between high hedges, centre stand grazing the blacktop through each tight bend, front wheel pawing the air as the big bike unleashed fabulous acceleration.

I shouldn’t ride like this but then I shouldn’t fuck like this either. The random possibility of death on two wheels was my penance for sins of the flesh. Only the skills of balance and reaction kept the breath in my lungs. 2 large tins of Special Brew were waiting in the refrigerator as reward for making it home alive.

As always I jumped the crossroads on red, fast. Russian Roulette in the dark was narcotic, like my beautiful lover. I flicked my eyes down at the orange dials to see both needles pointing straight up. No traffic on these country roads so I wound up the four-stroke howl to 120mph and felt the hurricane blast pushing me backwards. A deer stood motionless ahead and I flashed by before really registering it. Fuck it, that’s the sort of chance you take when you ride with the devil.

My road was in darkness too. I killed the engine as I coasted up the driveway. The 750 began its familiar loud, metallic clicks of cooling that meant safety after a hard ride. I closed my own front door softly, slipped off my boots and padded up the hall in socks. From the lounge I could see a faint blue glimmer. I crept up and stood in the doorway.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, the shape in front of my PC resolved into my wife. “So where have you been...?” I felt the hammering in my chest. “Well...?”

My life had reached its crescendo. I didn’t reply. My throat was dry and I thought of the refrigerator. I dropped my gloves to the floor. The gorgeous salty scent of her sex was still strong and fresh on my fingers. I could not look at my wife, instead my eyes were drawn to the PC. I frowned, wondering why my e-mail page was open. Suddenly an ominous ‘ping’ cut the air and announced a new incoming message:

The heart-stopping words ‘I love you’ hovered over the plasma screen. A branding-iron, burning white-hot pain into the flesh of the damned.

“You're moving through rough waters, motor boy,
and swimming in your sleep.”
REM – So Fast So Numb

23 February 2006

The Park

This year I have tried hard to see things from someone else's viewpoint. Doing so has meant the need to observe some temporary distance in a white hot friendship. It is difficult.

Last year I wrote about a similar episode which occurred nineteen years ago and where I never made allowances for another's emotions. On reflection it seems to say more about me though. Oh and there is another one to come which is connected. I hope you will excuse this repetition but it has some importance to me and will serve to fill the gap while I am working on some other things...

The lunchtime park was glittering and heavy with the sweet scent of mown grass. Office men and women smiled and flirted over rolls and coffee under the open arms of late spring oaks. She neither saw the trees nor felt the sunshine. The bench slats pressed into her spine like a surgeon’s knife. Today was the same as every other yet unlike any other. He had let himself out in the night.

Her larynx was hard and brittle. She made no sound as tear rolled after tear. A jet twinkled overhead, a tiny silver bullet streaking lives across the blue void. She stood up stiffly and walked. Dire Straits spilled from an open-top Mercedes, queued at the lights. ‘... do the walk of life..’

Their love was the first and last. His fingers learned a tender touch on her skin, never practiced before, born only for and because of her. They slept and awoke, laughed and wept in harmony. He held her the way she needed. He knew without asking.

Even last evening he said he was happy. “Are you sure you’re happy?” She had probed for the hundredth time, her eyes racing across his face looking for a flinch or tell-tale frown. One hundred times she had asked since he walked in on her and out on his wife. Had he lied? He can't have been lying, because we knew unspoken thoughts, sick fear pounded in her head. His last sentence had included the word ‘cherish.’

For six weeks he had folded his clothes on the floor and kept his toothbrush in his pocket. Every day he had cleaned her bathroom as if to erase traces of his presence. He wiped his reflection from the mirror. His fleeting possessions had hovered over surfaces and were gone now. This was the morning he had vanished.

Too intense to persist. This supernova of passion, fusing flesh and soul had scorched everyone around them. Now the cataclysm had engulfed them too. The baking ground radiated white heat and she whispered, “I’m breathing mercury.” Pavement cracks offered the only reason for her steps. Her limbs were pointless now. She implored a stranger, “Help me, I can’t get any air in.” No answer came.

In twenty years she might wake from this horror and the park will be empty, unless in her sleep she forgets to breath...

“Maybe you're the same as me
We see things they'll never see
You and I are gonna live forever.”
Oasis - Live Forever

17 February 2006

Last Gas Station on Earth

I was re-reading some older stuff today and it occurred to me that there are some pieces my newer readers probably haven't seen. Apologies to those who probably know this and the next two by heart but I reckoned they just about deserve another outing...

The Pontiac thumped over a pothole and Frank watched the fuel gauge lift then settle on 'Empty' again. "Fuck it," he breathed and hit the steering wheel hard. They had passed a Texaco 10 miles back and were now running on vapour. "Look," cried Paula, "Gas ahead!" She launched her finger toward a run-down gas station and general store in the distance.

Frank pulled onto the cracked cement beside a solitary ancient pump. Is that gas or paraffin he wondered. His gaze took in the peeling paint, ice machine and an ages old Coca Cola sign hanging by one screw. "Stay here Paula." He shut the car door slowly and stepped past a deck chair faded and stained with age. Through the window past the hand-written 'Open' sign he could make out an old boy, a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek.

A bell clanged loudly as he pushed the door and somewhere out back a dog started barking gruffly and ominously. The skeletal figure waved a thin hand and in a barely intelligible accent rattled, "If it's gas you want, go through and talk to Billy." A fly buzzed in Frank's ear and he slapped it away as he nodded, "Thanks."

In the back sat Billy and three friends grinning with menace. A rotting Plymouth Fury sitting up on bricks was visible in the back yard and a German Shepherd sat in its shade, tongue out panting. Frank thought of Paula sitting in the Pontiac holding the battery powered fan to her pretty face.

Suddenly Billy shrieked, "It's party time!" His pals stood up, chair legs scraping on the bare wood floor. Frank turned and saw his way back blocked by the muzzle of a 12-bore shot gun in the hands of the old boy. As his eyes darted frantically for another exit he heard Paula shouting. The shout became a siren winding up to full scream. Then silence.

"You fucking bastards! What have you done?" The gun barrel pushed closer and touched his temple. Frank screwed his eyes shut and a sharp metallic click rang out. When Frank opened them Paula was sitting in the passenger seat of the Pontiac lighting a cigarette and smiling. "Wake up hon', rest over. We need to drive on and get that gas now or we ain't never gonna make it to Huntsville!"

14 February 2006

Blue Test Rocket

Who in their right mind needs this? Well it's not about need it's about want. The nice man at the Yamaha Dealership tossed me the keys and said, "Go and enjoy yourself!" So I did...

The Yamaha YZF R1 is a 1000cc Superbike of epic proportions, you need to experience 0-60mph in around three seconds to realise what it feels like - I can't describe it adequately. Not can I explain how keeping the throttle on and watching the needle sail past 100 in 5 seconds feels.

Suffice to say I enjoyed this afternoon. In truth the performance tests were completed on quiet empty roads, the rest of the ride I spent swinging through city centre streets marvelling at the sure-footed handling. Make no mistake this is a track capable bike with headlights yet it is demure, nimble and respectable if you want it to be. It won't let you down in polite company but one flick of the wrist unleashes a wild animal.

Watch for more pictures - I have placed an order...

12 February 2006

Tagged by JJ

Thanks for tagging me JJ but I can’t give you four of everything because I’d be fabricating two or three just to make up the numbers so I’m going to reveal how uninteresting I really am:

1. Bored banker

1. The Exorcist
2. Jaws

1. Bournemouth
2. Truro
3. Dibden Purlieu

1. Who do you think you are? (Genealogy)
2. DEFINITELYNOT reality/comedy/food/houses/daytime

1. Most regions of Florida
2. Alabama
3. Several summers in the French Alps

(dozens but today it was…)
1. news.bbc.co.uk
2. wedgewood-rooms.co.uk
3. nme.com
4. amazon.co.uk
5. bigmouth.co.uk

1. Pizza
2. Pasta
3. Chocolate

1. The year 1888
2. The year 3006
3. Alone

1. Logic Will Break Your Heart – The Stills
2. Satellite Rides – Old 97s
3. Up the Bracket – The Libertines
4. The Runaway Found – The Veils
5. Crime of the Century – Supertramp
(tomorrow it will be the same but different…)

10 February 2006

A Point of View

The camera should record what the eye sees. Cropping, framing and aligning are habits I just can’t break so the views are essentially contrived.

I took a long walk in London on Thursday. Despite collecting a Travel Card to ride the tube my pedometer still totted up thirteen miles of pavements, bridges, platforms, stairs and tunnels. Exercise and the bitterly cold fresh air have left my hip joints like iron grinding on iron. I pointed my camera at the Palace of Westminster and the British Airways London Eye and the resulting pictures are now here on Through the Lens along with various other images from the trip.

A dark contemplative mood drew me to Highgate Cemetery. This ancient bone yard to the north is loaded with high Victorian funeral architecture. Mausoleums are half hidden under thick, twisted creepers in remembrance of beings who were once important. The eastern side is a vast untamed wilderness of leaning statues and grimy tombstones amid dense undergrowth. The sense of Gothic horror is palpable. I would like to have spent more time there but some inconsiderate people turned up for a private funeral and visitors were ushered away.

I thought of a red-faced sexton leaning on his shovel, mopping his brow after a morning’s backbreaking effort. Not so, a bright yellow JCB stood a respectful distance from the grieving party having wrenched a hole in the ground with a single sweep of its coffin-sized bucket.

Driving to within range of the tube network is usually two hours each way but this time the homeward journey took four hours. The Police closed a section of the M3 because a coach had caught fire. So just when I was keen to get home and soak my aching muscles in a hot bath I had to endure extra time sitting in my stationary Mondeo. I couldn’t go forwards, couldn’t go back – so I had to sit it out. Why close all three lanes of the motorway for two hours just to squirt water on a burning vehicle? The hard shoulder became littered with overheated cars and lorries causing additional blockages. When finally I reached it, the incident scene was typical of modern over-reaction. About twenty cop cars and three fire engines surrounding a melted coach and scores of men in fluorescent bibs running amok.

Next time I’ll be riding - the Yamaha is nimble enough to squeeze through the slimmest of gaps.

07 February 2006

Cautiously Pessimistic

I used to know all the smart tricks the above phone can pull but already the buttons look somewhat confusing. Now it sits silently on my old desk in a dead office, hard to believe it was once such an important communication tool. I always hated the irritating little trill it made anyway so I’m glad that gadget has lost its voice.

Fitting perfectly in the world lasts for a few optimum years. The rest of the time you fight against being too young or out of date. I’m no longer too young and I’m not yet out of date so that makes me in my prime. Doesn’t it? I am a cautious chap and I know my limitations – I say I am a realist. Someone recently told me a pessimist defends himself by saying he is a realist. I guess that makes me cautiously pessimistic. WOW, I’m far too exciting…

Some days I am really smart, I see everything in razor sharp focus and all those obscure concepts become crystal clear. Other days I can’t see my hand in front of my face and I forget how the kettle works. Sometimes I need complete silence so my own thoughts can deafen me but the next day I need loud music so those thoughts can’t intrude.

No two days are alike. So is that good or bad, unpredictable or challenging? Today I want to write but I am wordless and I have a feeling this may last a while. I am still winding down from the rat-race and the process seems to involve days of frantic activity and insomnia followed by sleeping a great deal and a mind devoid of creativity.

No point in forcing the words when the words won’t flow so I am going to change tack for a few days. I am going out on Thursday with my camera to let the pictures do the talking and pretend I’m not looking at words. Maybe then they’ll come out to play. Could be prose, poetry, or journal but I’ll recognise it when it comes into my head. I have a photographic memory but what use is it when I keep leaving the lens cap on.

Just so you know, I have a row of eight cut jade tortoises on a string marching across my desk. I think they bring good luck.