<p>YOU MUST TAKE THE URINE–STAINED STRETCH of sidewalk leading to the nearest station. You count the time you have to hold your breath by the cracks in the pavement, but get distracted by the sight of something dead and undignified by the fence—something with fur and feathers mashed into a slab of brain and guts. […]</p>
YOU MUST TAKE THE URINE–STAINED STRETCH of sidewalk leading to the nearest station.
You count the time you have to hold your breath by the cracks in the pavement, but get distracted by the sight of something dead and undignified by the fence—something with fur and feathers mashed into a slab of brain and guts. Absorbing the air, the piss smell hits you. It smacks you in the face with the unforgiving twinge of a rubber band.
YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN AFRAID OF TRAINS.
They shoot out of stygian tunnels, eerie sideways jack-in-the-boxes, sightless and subterranean. They spew forth an embarrassing circus of adult larvae. Inside the train you see the oncoming carriage of deaf-mutes headed in the opposite direction. Catching the eye of M who reads Le Monde. The love affair is killed in its prime, M pulled backwards with a maturing smile and the thread connecting you stretches and snaps.
YOU ARE UNDER THE CITY,
after a keen navigation of mazes. In close, damp darkness and waist-deep water. A sacred room that you will never enter. Your hands and feet braced against the slimy walls, you are holding a dusty torch jammed between your teeth and are trying not to think of what your dentist would say. Someone at a party told you that every society has a countersociety that takes to the underground and makes a mockery of haute culture, that there are satirical murals of all the great works among the bones of the rotting dead. Your guide, to whom you have entrusted your life for the next eight hours, is a stoner in an Iron Maiden t-shirt you just met at the tram depot. Undergound, beauty is fused with obscenity. Dolls’ heads and relics, satanic symbols, the Virgin Mary, a corridor of dicks.
YOU ARE NOT FINDING THE HAPPY EQUILIBRIUM
between having a cold face and being able to breathe. Fingering numbers with numbering fingers into the door on the street. In a dark corridor it’s easy to mistake doorbells for light switches and you give up after two brutal monotones and one terrifying Beethoven’s Symphony. Forgetting faces of prospective love interests after the party and scrolling through Facebook to fill in the blanks. This one has eight photos on public display, five without a shirt, one without a shirt or underwear. The next forty minutes spent desultorily analysing your own little slice of narcissism, trying to get outside your own head.
YOU KNOW THE WILL TO FOCUS
is something that is hard to grasp. It becomes exponentially harder in the period of limbo leading up to the due date. You find time to waste entertaining yourself with the macabre. Four floors up. Four weeks before D-Day you watched the documentary on dilapidated suburban horror, the feral child who never learned to talk, lashed to a potty chair. Three weeks before you read an encyclopedia article on scaphism. Two weeks before you cut into a rotting potato while making your dinner. You couldn’t stop yourself from going back and examining the blue-white flesh. It smelled of dead person.
YOU ARE OUT LATE AT NIGHT,
feeling completely alone for the very first time in your life. It scares you, but you suddenly decide to get off the train because you need to pee. You are deposited at one of the Nothing Stations, one of the uninhabited outposts. Its forgettable name screams at you in three-foot mosaic capitals on the curved space-tunnel wall. Never to be spoken aloud, to be lost descending into the jaws of your memory like a feather down a well. There are trees painted on the walls of the tube, and the initials ‘N.S.’. Nothing Station. Three-foot entreaties in blue and white tiles.
YOU ARE RE-READING SOMETHING YOU HAVE WRITTEN.
In any language a lot of words seem mispelled or made-up. Uncombobulated and lackmuster. You miss the man from the one-night stand. You have been alone too long. You can no longer bring yourself to read anything out loud because when you do it stricks you as so hylarious you begin to laugh noncontrollably, and when you laugh it is always with the inhinged, unebriate weeze of a sleepstalker.
IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER THE POWER GOES OUT.
You are broke. You are squatting, shivering, frog-skinned and slippery, a popsicle-alien in a shower stall prison cell.