A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us; and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
(Endymion, John Keats, 1818)
I feel like a cigarette.
I don’t smoke.
I’ve never smoked.
I don’t want to smoke.
I mean I feel like a cigarette.
A tightly wrapped package of poison.
No longer acceptable in “polite” society.
Beauty is in short supply.
I am a mass of confusion and emotional contusions. There are conflicting forces that I must address; tradition, authority, hypocrisy, past and present. These are days best forgotten but that never can be. Never. The passing of time does nothing to erase my version of history. Things just become hazy. Events that were visceral are now shadowy images in the peripheral vision of my minds eye.
There is no quiet bower.
No sweet dreams.
Breathing is a chore, a trial, an inconvenience.
You need a reason to breathe.
I had a reason to breathe.
More than one.
But they had all…left.
I was left with the rubble of a life surrounding me. Broken bricks and shattered mortar; fragments of what had once appeared to be firm foundations. I am Robert Neville, sole survivor of my own apocalypse. But I am not legend. I am simply here. Or there. Somewhere and nowhere. At the same time.
My life as car crash.
I have been in a car crash.
A boy I don’t know is driving a group of us to Glasgow to play in a football tournament. I can’t actually play football but you need eleven players so I am in. The boy has arrived late so we have to make up time. It is dark. Snow is falling heavily. The sort of snow that only ever appears in your past. Brilliant white, powder, dry and wet at the same time. The markings on the road are growing faint. He is driving too fast. I am in the back seat sitting beside my best friend, Chris. As we approach a round-about it becomes clear that the boy hasn’t seen it. Too late he hits the breaks. We hit the crash barriers. The car flips, spins high into the black of the night. I close my eyes. The car lands with a dull thud on its side before flipping again. Then it spins. Windows smash. I don’t remember hearing anyone screaming or shouting. When the car stops it is on its roof. Nobody moves. Then the smell. Petrol. Without anyone saying anything we know we need to get out quickly. Thick fingers and fat thumbs grasp at the seat belts and we release ourselves. Chris kicks out the rear window after we realise the doors won’t open and we clamber out. Deep breaths of the cold air. Snow flakes falling on our petrol soaked clothes.
Then the panic.
And the crying.
I was wearing a parka that Chris had painted a Mod target onto for me. One of those army surplus ones, not a proper fishtail one. The petrol has caused the paint to bleed. You can still tell that it was a target, you can see the red, white and blue but it looks like Dali has re-imagined it. A surreal, nightmarish, version of my adolescent nostalgia.
That is my life.
A car crash.
A broken fuel line.
Things that were once beautiful and real now corroded by forces outwith my control.