Copyright © 2010 Michael Pope
against the wall of his inherited home, head against the cold, damp, tattered
wall, cigarette loosely gripped by his teeth, smoke masking his face from the
small shed of light from the street lamp that enters through the drawn
curtains, casting a silhouette.
John tilts his head back, staring himself directly in the eyes,
thrusting smoke above him, slowly dispersing, creating a small portal which
sucks him in, taking him back to some of his fondest memories.
Sat upon his father’s shoulders with tired legs from walks
in the woods broken up by time spent building dams in the river, building
tepees which they would guard from the cowboy invasion, equipped with bow and
arrows made from long sticks and shoe-laces forcing the enemy to retreat at
sunset when it was time to go home for mother’s home made chicken stew and
dumplings in front of the fire.
The rest of the evening spent eating ice cream and giggling from tickles
until bedtime; tucked in and read to.
The back of his head now cold reminding him of the times he
was comfortable enough to fall asleep in the warm confines of his mothers lap,
before the times he was too embarrassed to do so. Her hand softly stroking the back of his head; comatose,
carried up the stairs to bed.
The times when excitement would conquer his whole body;
smiling so sincerely it could warm the coldest of hearts triggered from such
insignificant moments – spending pocket money on penny sweets, the newest pack
of gaming cards the excitement of Christmas Eve – an emotion he would lose and
constantly keep reaching for; like a prisoner of quicksand clutching at the
nearest branch being dragged further and further away with the exposures to the
worlds darkness and flaws, overwhelmed by compassion and the want to emphasise
with those less fortunate.
The awkward teenage years, not really knowing who you are,
the comprehension of puberty, trying to use the little foresight you have to
take you on the right tracks to a vaguely desired future and the most
disturbing new found interest in the opposite sex – compelled by their new
found beauty. Being drawn ever
closer to them by this gravitational pull only to be stopped at arms length
unable to converse with them, proving his immaturity deterring what little interest
may lie at the bottom of their seemingly cold hearts, whilst at the bottom of
his own the desire to play with the few action figures hidden beneath his bed
muddled in with the ejaculate covered Kleenex.
Late teens – house parties, the first drops of alcohol, the
first realisation that his lack of confidence can be removed, forging
relationships with the first set of friends outside his own ‘clique’ circle
with whom he would grow and evolve, sharing keen interests. Genuinely. The only menacing times to contend with were the minor
tactics required to keep vomit in the toilet bowl and off his attire, the
spinning head and as to whether the best cure was to sit with his head between
his knees, lie down and would it feel more stable with his eyes open or
closed. The biggest of them all
being the morning after, when the hangover and headache kicked in; like a
blacksmith pounding heated steel.
Unravelling all of the previous evenings happenings – arbitrary
comments, barely composed, groping at girls and leaning in for the kiss
unwanted by her, leaving him standing like a panting dog gasping for
breath. The conclusion that
alcohol isn’t the greatest foundation for confidence but there to aid him next
time to get past the current standing embarrassments.
The early twenties with a sense of who he was. Both toys and tissues exempt from the
underneath of his bed, now a master of seduction, the one night stands would
fill the empty space with dirty little secrets. The few years when freedom and the lack of responsibility
coexisted peacefully; part-time job, money, free rein. Times before marriage and families were
expected, spent in pub gardens with his nearest and dearest, holidays with his
male friends, two week relationships, days that would soon enough be longed
for, presenting themselves in later years in the form of lyrics, smells,
melodies, pictures – bouts of nostalgia smashing him in the face.
Settling down – the choosing of the ring; questioning his
motive in the shop, overwhelmed with choice bringing to attention the fact that
he may not really know her at all – why so indecisive? Arrangement of the proposal; the
setting – will it be romantic enough?
Does he get on one knee at a restaurant, landmark or place of mutual interest
holding sentiments? Her
acceptance; the tear in her eye more precious than the diamond itself. Weekends spent in front of the TV with
cheap takeaways on the sofa followed with Sundays at church saving to give her
the best day possible – the ultimate expression of his love for her. House hunting for the perfect abode to
raise the first child. The birth,
finally confirming him as a man, the chance to live his life again as an adult
through the eyes of his very own child whom he would offer his life for.
Broken from daydream by the burning of the cigarette against
his lips as the smoke above breaks up and disperses, crying, jugular on a
Neighbours opposite notice the door ajar and knock. No answer. A foul smell sweeping under their noses feel inclined to
walk in, greeted by an empty, capacious apartment; brown walls, smoke stained
ceiling, thread-bare carpet, faeces in the corner surrounded by lighters,
needles, spoons, foil and a lifeless body holding knife and note:
To my mother: my
Since your departure
it has become apparent that you were the foundation for my existence. The reason I woke up, the reason I went
to bed – tired from a lifetime of devotion to your well-being. Too late to make friends, or start a
relationship for my demise is not far behind yours - I sit and stare in to the
abyss being sucked in by addiction; there’s no going back. Envious of those walking by, holding
hands and pushing prams. I’m
coming to meet you, where we both can be safe – unreliant of drugs. I just hope in my heart of hearts I
make it all the way up to you for I have been filled with doubt of such an
existence. Life seems to be a
succession of pointless events that lead to nothing. I need to be proved wrong, and I want your face to be the
first I see to say, “I told you so”
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