How it could have been different. I still think of them. I wonder if they’re still alive, still together, still living out a wretched existence in a caravan, still in this country, still pissed, still using their own names. I never talk about them to anyone. I have told neither of my lodgers. Even in the middle of the night when I start awake and Stuart, if he has stayed with me, asks through the veil of his youthful sleep, what is wrong— I do not, cannot answer. It is as if speaking of them, is to reawaken then, allow them back in. There are things I want to do though. I want to visit Dorothy and Gillespie’s graves, but even this feels like a danger. I don’t want to slip back into all of that. I miss them, that’s all... but even here *this* feels dangerous.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Sirloin. What? What am it? Dozed off. Yes. Most people would have assumed I was dead by now and given up looking. (That one’s wearing a bit thin, matey, mentioning death every time you want to emerge from obscurity is just plain offensive to those that really are.) Though I’m not sure I’m not dead. I was never sure. At the age of six I wanted to be a physician. Then I’d have known. Mark that — a physician. Not a doctor, oh no. A flipping physician. I’ve always had this false air of grandeur. It’s pathetic really. I hit puberty and began a drag act — I know, it seems ludicrous to think it now, but it was defining in many ways — standing atop a milk crate in my aunt’s summer house with an audience of youths from the local council estate each paying fifty pence a throw to see if I was wearing any knickers. I was all powder-puffs and costume jewellery. Perhaps it wasn’t costume. I never thought to ask. But the powder-puffs swifty ran out, and it was never easy to explain why I thought my aunt should replace the contents of these things (which to her were just unwanted Christmas presents) and I refilled them first with self-raising flour, and then — because I couldn’t get any, or because I didn’t know the difference — I refilled them with wholemeal. By the end of that crazed, sequined summer I looked like I’d developed smallpox, and yet still held court with my poster-paint lips and honey-dew wig (my mother’s) handing out cocktails of gin, sherry and panda pop cherryade. I’ll try harder this time. Get the right flour, that kind of malarkey.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
At some point during my walk, between the mossy trunks of trees about to burst the sky with the fragmentary notes of spring, at some point between the early crocus heads, born weakly and curling as if still starved of light even in this fulgent afternoon, at some point before the garden wall was reached, before the thought itself became clear and tangible, before anything was even known, I said aloud to myself:
—I do not know what I am.
From the brow of the hill in the clearing of the park, seen across the sunlit confusion of cities running into one another, are brief fields and passing shadows of cloud. So much life out there, I say to myself, and yet I do not know myself. The park had used to be the garden of a house a little outside the city. Now, surrounded by the stucco boxes of suburbia, it is poised in a sluttish state of disbelief, box hedges once trimmed into cubic boundaries of space now run wild across the paths, sheltering birds nests, played truant with armless stone ceraphim and a sundial missing its dial. The house itself (mentioned in passing by Nicholas Pevsner) has been bulldozed following a fire in the late nineteen-seventies, and subsequently replaced by a mannerless row of dull, brick secure housing. And that is all there is from the corner of my eye, as I turn and walk towards a dark avenue of yew trees, which veil the sky with a black tangle of boughs.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
With Laodicean approach and mournful dragging of heals, taking hold of the prayer book plates which he inherited from some cankerous spinster aunt who saw him as a needy ward misplaced in my care, he passes us thin slithers of cake with an indolent disregard to the time of day or to the fact that I have forewarned him of my companion's intolerance to gluten-based foodstuffs.
We sit in his front bedroom, which he introduces us to as his 'study', though the unmade bed and scattered clothes betray its other purpose. Throughout our meeting he draws pale cigarette smoke into his insipid cheeks. He looks nearer to forty than he does to nineteen. Stuart tells me afterwards that he was surprised by how old he looked; he did not think it was possible that he was really my godson. I had asked Stuart to come with me, for it is nearly four years since I last saw the boy. We have exchanged infrequent letters, his often written in biro on the back of pieces of cereal packet. Somehow Stuart's presence was designed to ease the meeting, for I have been spending a lot of time with Stuart lately, and as I like him cannot conceive that anyone else would not.
Benjamin did not like him. I say that, but more accurately, Benjamin was not prepared to meet him, and whilst I postulated that two lads of a similar age were bound to get along despite never having met, I suppose that I hadn't considered that I should make the first move in getting to know my godson rather than bringing in external help.
Oh foolish, fond, old man. You see, that's the whole problem; I see myself as being so much older than Ben, which in truth is quite wrong.
-So is he your new boyfriend?
Ben's first question when we arrive. Perhaps a fair one, although the tone implies it is composed not out of fairness at all. My fault too that my sexuality has been implied with Stuart many times, but never talked about.
-No, this is Stuart, one of my lodgers.
-Right. So what do you want? I can't give you any money.
It goes down hill from there, and writing about it now, I realise I don't even particularly want to put it into words. Suffice to say, I have never asked my godson for money, let alone needed to. He has got into bed before we leave and is flicking through the pages of a photography magazine. It is several years out of date.
Friday, April 15, 2005
It seems too trivial to apologise for not updating this thing. Compared to the catastrophic silence which bridged an arc across the many months before this resumed, now seems too small to comment upon. I have grown tired and guilty, which is something I never thought I would become. Chris and Stuart are both out tonight. Whisky seems risky.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
We skulked last night in Chris’s room beneath a heady vapour of candle smoke and dishonour, listening to Reg packing his things into boxes. The smoke was due to an impulse purchase of two Baroque sconces that I discovered in a junk shop earlier that day. Returning home with them, I realised that the only place I had imagined them going in the house was in the room I had used last summer as a sitting room, the room that had previously been Monroe’s room, the room that is now Chris’s bedroom. So at around half-past five I was forced to make a grand show of:
‘Oh I saw these and thought of you… I thought you’d like them.’
‘Oh… candlesticks, are they?’
‘Yes… I thought you might like them in your room.’
‘Oh… well… thank you.’
I struggled for a few hours to try and normalise the situation. Of course landlords buy their tenants gifts, it happens all the time, but of course it doesn’t and of course they are not suited to Chris’s taste one bit. This was all made the more odd by the fact that Reg was storming around the house bellowing into his mobile at the ugly girl about when she was to arrive ‘at Freaksville’ to pick him and his stuff up. I casually tried to point out that ‘Freaksville’ implied that this was some kind of town of freaks, and what he probably meant to say was— but he told me to shut the fuck up, so we retreated to Chris’s room to put the sconces in place. Stuart arrived back at that point and found us sheltering in our sanctuary as I was fitting them either side of a poster of a blue whale that he has blu-tacked above the fireplace.
‘What’s with the candle-holders?’
‘I bought them… as a present for Chris.’
I imagine that a look was exchanged between them behind my back at that point. A short silence fell. Reg called the ugly girl ‘a selfish bint’ downstairs in the kitchen, and then:
‘Why?’ asked Stuart.
‘I just saw them, and thought that he’d like them.’
We looked around his room. The plastic illuminated globe. The poster of Homer Simpson. The photographs of his friends on nights out in the city all casually blu-tacked in random fashion across the wallpaper.
‘Sorry… I em… truth is… I forgot you lived here. I thought this was still my room.’
We got drunk. It was okay.
It’s funny. I like the room more now he’s in it. Turning it into a sitting room was a terrible choice; it was always haunted by its previous occupant. I found I had positioned an armchair just where he had had one. Last night I was completely at ease.
And at twelve, the ugly girl arrived and Reg disappeared, and for a while we discussed if any of us were to blame for him not feeling at home, but we weren’t.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Tolerate our indiscretions; shoulder our weeping and sanctimonious self-pity. Send flowers if you can. It was never claimed that living with us would be an easy business, which is why this morning Reg (my newest lodger) announced that he was leaving.
We can respect that (we being myself and Stuart (my oldest lodger)) and some of us (being Stuart and Chris (my third and final lodger)) can even sympathise. Or empathise. I have never liked Reg. There are many things one can find not to like. He cheats on his gratuitously ugly girlfriend and reads a magazine called ‘Zoo’, the nature of which would frighten the animals. I cannot say that I have made life easy for Reg. He’s also called Reg, and that is not nice. It is odd, I think, in a man of his age (thirty-six, I’d say) but it is not an endearing oddness.
Lodgers are a necessity these days. They pay the bills and fill rooms that I found I could not cope with being empty. Stuart is fun and Northern and is introducing me to contemporary music and cooks good food. Chris is quiet and studious and willing to talk books with me. He’s the kind of lodger I imagined I’d get, a student by proxy, someone for me to flex my ego upon, impress and influence. As it turns out, it’s not like that at all. Chris is, by and large, nonplussed by anything I have to say. He drops by my study every night when he gets home and asks how my work is going, and that’s as far as his interest in me goes. Which is healthy, really, isn’t it?
Stuart is the unexpected find. He is educating me. He plays in a band and I have volunteered the attic for their rehearsals if they want it, but I suspect that as nothing has happened so far it’s probably unsuitable in some way that anyone who knew about such things would instantly recognise.
And that’s about it. Doing a bit of editing work to repair my damaged bank-balance, which is a peaceful, soulful occupation. There’s also some research I’ve idly been toying with, which if I choose might actually go somewhere. So apart from Reg (who is leaving anyway) things are on the whole very, very good.