A Series Of Stories – 1

 

There are two of them. That much, I can see.

Across a narrow ravine, concrete-lined; across a narrow street (ten or twenty storeys down, at that point where numbers are only numbers, no longer functions); across street lights and parking signs and empty cars full of black, and that vending machine which never works properly and stole my money one time; across all that, I can see. There are two of them. Two that I can see, at any rate.

By day the apartments are dimmed, licked only by the unmanageable sunlight that glances across glass and steel at certain, very specific times of day, circumventing clouds and smoke and balconies of stained brick to fossick through the living rooms or kitchens, vanishing within minutes of the earth’s rotating. Then, that unmanageable sunlight is no longer in what it believes to be specific enough. By day, I can see the two apartments, side-by-side; the same. My eyes can’t penetrate too deep into the living room or the kitchen, but, I can see the fridges -sleek and silver, the table tops – whipped-cream marble, the wooden floors and the stucco walls. In these ways, they are identical, the two apartments. I can see this. The building was erected not long after I moved in to my own apartment across the street, opposite the thieving vending machine. Each apartment is a replica of the others around it, to save on cost. I saw them come with tall cranes, digging at the soft, brown earth. Now, the apartments stand there, echoes of the others, so close and so similar and so dark that it’s impossible to tell which is the origin.

By night, they are different.

By night, they are alive.

By night, the one on the left has a red and black painting above the leather couch in the lounge room; the one on the right, has black and white photographs. The one on the left has a small Persian rug splayed beneath a wooden coffee table; the one on the right has only a glass table, stain and mug free. Most interesting are the occupants of the apartments: preparing dinner, sleeping, moving to the bathroom to relieve themselves, working on a desk strewn with sheets and pens (the apartment on the right), or watching TV as a gentle blue glow envelopes their still body (the apartment on the left). By night, the lights are on, in the apartments and without, so I don’t need to rely on the unmanageable sunlight – the apartments are their own sun. I can see more detail than before. I can see the dishes piled in the sink, or the list beside the phone. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see either of the occupants’ faces, since the light within their apartments is so bright and strong, it casts deep shadows on their faces. They could really be anyone.

I sit by my window, staring out over the parking signs and city lights. And that vending machine, beeping and flashing innocently.

The one on the left is watching TV again, sitting almost motionless as layers of silent sound wash over. From time-to-time, they rearrange themselves, or fidget with the remote control or their phone. I see them glance at the kitchen beyond the marble tabletops. The room is empty; just a fridge, silver and sleek. The one on the right is in the kitchen, cooking dinner. From my desk, it’s hard to tell what they’re making, but there are multiple stainless steel pots, a chopping board covered with herbs, a besmirched cookbook, and a glow coming from the oven. They turn around and cast their eyes to the living room beyond the marble tabletops. The room is empty; just a couch and glass coffee table.

I see their lights go off and darkness sink into the two apartments. By the light of my lamp, I continue working, ignoring the pain in my neck.

Daylight again, and the rooms are dim. I read a little. Open up the door and smoke on the balcony. My partner would kill me if I were caught smoking inside. The view from here is not as good as from my desk. I’ve stalked all around my apartment, searching for the best view and if it were here, I would’ve set up my desk amid the damp concrete, water-filled pots swimming with shed cigarette butts, and cold wind that brings the scent of a thousand balconies from throughout the city, depositing it here and then mixing my own damp-concrete-and-water-filled-pot-and-cigarette-butt scent before carrying it off and depositing it at some other balcony. I kneel down, listening to the grinding of invisible grains beneath my shoes, and the sound of sighing pipes below. I pick up one of the pots and empty the water slowly, watching as it puddles along the concrete, running towards one of the drains. I stub the end of my cigarette into one of the pots and stare over the edge of the balcony’s railing. That breeze is still here, in my hair, smelling like far off pockets of the city. I look down and try counting the floors below me, but, they’re too close and my eyes start hurting and I give up. Inside, I’m warm.

It’s night. They’re home. I can see them.

They always come home at almost the same time. The one on the left is usually earlier, but, tonight, they arrive simultaneously. They must’ve passed each other in the elevator or the corridor, sharing each other’s breath and weight on the floor. From their compartments, they have no idea, but, from my desk, I can see that each of their actions are almost identical, just as much as their apartments – as if they too have been given a single blueprint to work with, and made small, personal alterations as time goes on. Together, they step out of their shoes and place their keys on a rack beside the door. And switch on the lights. I can almost see their faces, but, that may just be a trick of the light. They both walk from their door to the kitchen and open the fridge. They rummage around at what I can’t see, but, can infer from the contents of my own fridge – left over roast with rosemary, sour cream, old yoghurt that I really should eat, milk, chocolate, butter, cheese, half a carton of eggs. They walk into the bedroom, beyond my sight and return after three minutes in comfortable-looking pyjamas, sit down at their couch, and sigh visibly. I can see it from here. Their whole body – bodies – move.

My partner slips arms around my neck. My pages are blank. What have I done all day? My partner asks the same question and I laugh it off. I resolve to not smoke another cigarette.

Later, when it’s just me at my desk, I look up from the cold remains of something my partner cooked for dinner on an equally cold plate beside my papers. At one point, they were attempting to tempt me into some semblance of hunger, but, their enthusiasm seems to have congealed a long time ago. Instead, I watch the two apartments across the street. Their paths diverged, perhaps while my partner was serving our dinner. Now, the one on the right is working on their computer, back to me, screen blurring, lights glittering, and a strange silence that seems too real to be contained by the thin film of glass. The one on the left is watching TV again, wrapt in a blanket, flicking through conversations with fingertips, and there is an odd sense of noise coming from the apartment, despite the fact that I can’t hear anything, as though the apartment has been feasting off the sound from the other.

Daylight, and their apartments are cold. The dinner on my plate by my papers is cold too. I don’t smoke outside. Though I do stand on the balcony for five minutes and smell the tang of petrol and the cries of car exhausts that’s been deposited. I kick at an old black stain, soggy ash that has long since been laid to rest. The wind is in my hair again, off to some other apartment, smelling of cologne and cereal. I think I can hear the vending machine down on the street, the sound of a can or something heavy falling into its catchment. But, when I hold onto the ledge, lean against the wall, and throw my head out to get a better look, the vending machine is alone and quiet.

Nighttime, and their apartments are warm. The one on the right is making coffee on a fancy espresso machine. The one on the left is reading a book in the living room. The one on the right brings the coffee into the living room and sets it on the table. The one on the left smiles a little. The one on the right sits at the couch, settling uncertainly into the cushions which look as though they’re as soft as floorboards. The one on the left spreads the blanket out a little and continues reading. They both sit there at the couch – couches – in a silence I’ve imposed myself, from across the ravine and street. And if I cross my eyes hard enough, they could almost be talking to each other.

Daylight. My pages aren’t blank. They aren’t full. But they’re at a tipping point, as in, if they were a population of animals, breeding, their population would grow exponentially with each generation, each line doesn’t beget one line, but, instead it begets a series of lines, each of which have the power to do the same. My pages are at a stage where these lines of lines of lines are threatening to overwhelm the entire desk. One extra line doesn’t equate to one extra line. It equates to lines and lines and lines, an unending stream of words that would continuously grow and inundate my pages and all pages to come, it represents characters and back stories and likes and friends and death and music and poetry and hate and chocolate and TV shows and crying and laughing and love and I don’t know if I’m capable of holding it all back, or rather, if I’m capable of being responsible for so many implications. I let my hands fall at my sides. I can see the security alarms flashing a dull warning red with each second. I wonder if each bleep has a chance of begetting bleep after bleep after bleep, enough to overwhelm the entire apartment building.

Nighttime. The one on the left is laughing at something on their phone. I can imagine the sound, its warmth, its ease. The one on the right is pacing the room carefully, speaking aloud. I can’t see any headset and I’m forced to believe that they’re talking to themselves. They carry on their conversation for an hour, divided by a wall, the one on the left nodding and laughing and sighing, the one on the right, gesticulating and bending over and rolling eyes. The one on the left stands up and walks to the kitchen and pours a bottle of wine that looks black in the lighting. The one on the right enters the kitchen too, continuing the monologue while leaning on the marble bench top. The one on the left sips at the wine.

I wonder. I wonder if, if they were to see each other, behaving the way they do in their own apartments – separate from one another – would they continue to behave the same? I wonder if, if they knew I could see them in such detail, would they draw the curtains, or would they act differently? I wonder if the compartments they find themselves in are safe havens, or if they are lies, constructed by the occupants to retreat to when they have no way of coping with the city and its billowing gusts of exhaust, and day old cigarette smoke. I wonder if, if they knew any of this, would it matter to them? Would they just continue watching their TV, or drinking their coffee, completely aware of the ticking of the world, completely helpless to change it, and completely at ease with its passing.

 

A Sky Of Words – A Looming Fate

I could look out on cities of beauty
On lights glistening
Listening to timbres and timing,
Diapasons chiming pretty
Knitted faces, churning laces burning
Delights and sights and bar fights
Devised to insight atavistic delights

They would stir me no more than a breeze
Would a drip-drab towel

How a handful of ill-fated and ill-begot atoms
Faded and beguiled little of the loom

When the universe sleeps, it snores
And when it rains it pours
And nowhere does it say that these snores
Should be targets of abhorrence,
Single-celled torrents of flaw
Sifting through threads-come-dreads-come-score
Somewhere in that network, we trawl

I could drink dark wines, crouching by horizons
I could sweeten deals, or deal sweets
Gaze upon wrought salvation that ought raise
Armies, a blaze-of-glory unlike any other
Story, dust-filled chapters at a time
But, why, when in your company
My heart could melt, start any story felt
And sharpen all the glory I could want

A Sky Of Words – Pillow Fortress

A pillow fort
Fortified by the mortified tears of
Vanquished foes
Thoughts in vogue rose
Fan-squished and tip-toed

Dream-hardened resolution
Coated by stone-soft protrusions
Enshroud
Louder
Ere sharpened arrows or
Serrated swords cross
Emboss our walls with
Jagged scars-scattered with
Ragged stars-battered
Bettered by war-horns and worn throats torn
Dismayed, arrayed, doom-betrayed

Atop our cushion-spire
Our turret-de-comfort
We can laugh up a storm
Weather or-nots without withered windows woeful
Raindrops bleed blurry
Lightening levins furry
And hooray! A marathon a-flurry!

From here we found our kingdom
We claim these lands in the name of
I miss you
In the name of
Your face
In the name of
What will happen to my books if I die
No when I die, because certainties are more sure
And I’m certain of you and yours
In the name of
Stickers, of books, of TV shows watched and those unsung,
Lasagnes and other meals undone
Late nights and warm cheeks
I can’t sleeps
Twice goodnight
And the fight of two rulers,
Building
Two nobles,
Willing
And who will

A Sky Of Words – Ghosts Live Down There

To my left is an annoyance of light
To my right, front, and back
A ring of light, fighting dark quietude
A beautiful battlefield of phosphenes and unseens
Down
Until that horizon with lights-on
Switches off
Till the sun sets
Till nights or dreams or whatever this means
Spills out of every crevice
Fills up every battle-worn vice
And bruises the world at the seams
I dig
Down
Darkness thick and cold as mud
Crunches of dried old pieces
Legs, arms, heads, cars, pencils,
Gameboys, fangirls, train stations, space stations
Knights in shining armour
Nights in shining amour
Books with no pages
Stories that reflect the ages
Glasses, sushi, pine needles, coffee mugs
Mix-tapes, paper cuts, mums and dads, blood and guts
Exhaust fumes, sand dunes, raven feathers, storms exhumed
Lips that never said goodbye
Hands and what they held
Angels with whiskey and Devils on rum
Movies of every genre
Music of every colour
Colour me in that deep dark
Cold
And I feel my fingers breaking
My wrists aching
Down
Unraveling
Revelling
In the spiralling, unending mud

A Sky Of Words – Wake Up

Wake up, alarm-clock-sleep-cock-block demands
Take up the piece that felled you, crack-quelled you
Beat me over the head with it
Till I wake from dreamy slumbers,
From stars and wonders
To see stars and I wonder
Wake up and smell the roses?
Posers posing statues profoundly sound
Pluck luck from the ground like
Prearranged popping candy posers
Proposed, prepared, preordained
Drained and stained, but not abstained
That’s my brained intellect
My charm of reflection
My hand-of-god,
My sweet-as backflip
My Vulcan death-grip
And I give thanks
Thank you, insufferability, thank you self-inspired glee
Devilishly felonious is he who
In the wake of a storm
Will wake up gormless, enormous,
Holy-shit-what-is-that?!
It’s a bird, it’s a plane
It’s me and I am freed
Cheers to greed, hears to the deed
Done-and-dusted
Another round for my friend and confidant
My professor and parole-officer
The shout in the night, the sacrificer
Keep ’em coming
Keep ’em coming
They remember the time we sat in dark cells
Where dwells flaming eyes and cold smells
Welcome to my chief advisor, most devious devisor
Of plans, shake hands and drink deep
Down in my pocket is something I owe you – for services rendered
There she is, my muse, my heart surrendered
Isn’t she beautiful? Isn’t she shame-shattering, and all that?
I don’t have much, but what I have is hers
And what she has, is, well…yours
Am I asleep?
A dreamer to be shaken and awakened?
To wake up?
Am I lost?
Twirl-whirling through the antechambers of my head?
To wake up?
Am I forgotten, begotten, unknown, unsung without reason
Without seasons god-soaked and wonderlust?
No
I have drunk with friends and seen reflections in conversations
I have tasted spiralling froth thought too overt, humour-made-wroth
I have heard musics from heart beats and start sheets
That heat hearts and start holy-shits
I have smelt bodies blackened, souls cindered, lives lived
And I have touched pulse-pulse much, loved back-and-forth, clutched
I am awake
I am awake
I am the sun and the stars and the world thick with scars
I am the dreams at night and the wings in flight
I am the scent of lover’s breath
The thank you left
The bereft and the broken
The silent and the ever-spoken

A Sky Of Words – Six Feet In The Divine

They say a step puts one foot forward
It throws that foot away
One foot in the grave
Buckle the boots, bad-arsery feat. me
Stave away from shouts that say
‘One foot in the grave’
From our first step that one foot is graveyard
Us tumbling behind
To collapse in the divine
Were we to crawl, would we stall anything?
We crave the grave
And all feet therein
Two left feet do not dance up an Elixir of Life
Nor does any feat, sporting, science, comedy, melody, or tragedy philtre facts
Force us to realise the reality that lies
In losing that foot
Within the haven of grave, beneath yew boughs birled and raven caws
Deep in chocolate mud
Six feet down they say
Do angels toast us?
Do devils roast us?
Will we ride in limousines drinking fancy dreams with a god?
Or will we sweat and writhe, confirming that heat is indeed hell?
Or is this the ride and the terminus?
Destiny and destination?
We stand tall
Six feet
I am six feet in the divine