Lie(f) - Revised.
Copyright © 2011 Michael Pope
New Years Eve, everyone is at parties, in clubs or settled
at home with loved one’s waiting for the big count down to begin and welcome
yet again, another year.
On his own, languidly slumped against the wall of his
inherited home, his head against the cold, damp, tattered wall, cigarette
loosely gripped between his teeth and smoke masking his face from the small
shed of light that escapes the street lamp, invading his room through the small
split in the heavy, velvet, red drawn curtains, casting a silhouette; John tilts
his head back, thrusting smoke above him. Slowly it disperses, revealing the face of another.
“Does anybody remember their childhood accurately? I mean, it was so long ago, so many
things have happened since, do most not just opt for the ideal? “
He continues: “One thing we did do, often actually, was walk
to the woods just five minutes from our house” and he rejoices about such
occasions with a wry grin. Once
they arrived at the foot of the woodland, hand in hand, they would break off
and race to the same spot as they always did. The trees would start opening and form an almost perfect
circle - like a natural amphitheatre; soaring right in to the clouds like they
would never end the thin, top branches covered in leaves gently leant over and
tickled the branches of another; like a new pair of lovers in public uncertain
how their act of affection would be received.
The sun would sneak through the
gaps warming their cool, shadowed faces.
Hours they would spend, tearing branches from the trees pretending to be
superhuman, later to be used for the construction of their tepee; they would
dig little holes in the ground and root the stronger end, then lean them
carefully against one another, later to be covered with leaves as shelter from
rain. They would save the smaller,
flimsier ones, remove John’s shoelaces and turn them in to bow and arrows for
the cowboy invasion would soon be upon them; they would fight until sunset,
back to back like true comrades.
Then, with tired legs, his father would put him upon his shoulders and
walk him home to chicken stew and dumplings – his favourite.
“I remember, up until the age of nine. I would sometimes jump down from his
shoulders and show my gratitude by picking wild flowers and giving them to
him. After that, the act became illicit
and would raise doubts in his mind about my sexuality”
The back of his head became cold, interrupting his flow of
memories. This reminded him of the
times he would fall asleep in his mothers lap; her hand would slowly caress the
back of his head; comatose, carried up the stairs to bed.
“I remember the joy I used to get from the simplest things.”
And taking another drag from a newly lit cigarette, pursing
his lips and pushing the smoke out in an almost straight line, watching it
collect together then dispersing, drawing him in to more memories, he carried
on talking about 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 grounded object 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 he was,
the comprehension of puberty, trying to use the little foresight he had to take
him 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 he had sneaked from the loft, now hidden
beneath his bed muddled in with the ejaculate covered Kleenex.
“Twelve to sixteen was a tough time. These carnal urges were being aroused
but I had no real idea what they were or how to control them. After that though, times were
good. I was always attracted to
older women though, they seem, I don’t know, more… amorous.”
“I remember our first house party like yesterday…” and
closing his eyelids half shut, he carries on the discussion, in a monotonous
About 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
with, 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 or to lie down? 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 iron.
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 embarrassment wore off with the hangover though. Chances are, the bigger the hangover,
the more you had to be embarrassed about.
But it’s all learning, and what better way to head in to your twenties?”
He carried on, talking about having a sense of who he
was. Now a master of seduction,
with both toys and tissues exempt from the underneath of his bed, 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, he would spend summers in pub gardens with his nearest and dearest,
holidays with the blokes, 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.
Then came the 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? But her acceptance
made him believe; the tear in her eye more precious than the diamond
“Ouch” he’d let the cigarette burn his lips.
“Love’s a funny thing.
Even with the right person it can be wrong. Awakening the most unruly emotions, leading you down the
wrong road at the junction when everything seemed to be going so right.”
He looks across, to the other side of the room where his
silhouette is cast, and looks himself where he imagines his eyes to be.
“You know as well as I that this isn’t true. We both know my life has been spent in
this apartment caring for the only love I ever knew, but it wasn’t the same as
falling in love with a stranger, it was unconditional. His departure made her ill, not only
robbing me of a normal life but of a father, too. Well, thy say ‘satisfaction is the death of desire’ but
desire is the death of me.”
The clock strikes twelve and cheers from across the hall
start, fireworks bang, and people, he imagines lock in to long embrace’s
welcoming the New Year.
He stands, and toasts himself: “Well, let’s face it, this
year has been terrible. What do I
have to celebrate? In fact, what
do most of these people have to celebrate? Not much I would imagine. They’ve got it all wrong, New Years
should be a celebration of what has been achieved the former twelve months, not
a celebration of what can be achieved in the next twelve. Every year, the same people, make the same
inauspicious resolutions just to follow suit of tradition, all of which will be
forgotten several hours later when the hangover kicks in.
Let’s face it; if we wanted to do
something so badly, chances are we would have started it already; why wait for
the dawn of a new year? People vow to ameliorate their lives by doing things
differently, yet they start it exactly the same! Well, here’s to us and doing
what we promised to go through with.”
He raises his bottle, takes one swig and replaces it with a
blade; jugular on a knife-edge.
Outside the other flat, two new lovers who are kissing in
the corridor notice the door ajar.
Wondering whether another party is winding down or someone would enjoy
the extended invite to join them across the way, they walk over. He pushes the door open and they are
hit by a foul, indescribable smell.
Feeling as though they could be at imminent risk, he puts his hands on
her shoulders and turning square on to her he says: “Wait here, I’ll be back in
He pokes his head round the door and calls out, with no
response he decides to flick the light switch, instantaneously disgusted with
the smoke stained ceilings and dated floral wallpaper hanging torn. One step in to the lounge he is greeted
by a pool of blood; a crimson tide, and all the paraphernalia of a junkie
(needles, spoons, burnt foil, lighter), disgusted more so by the faeces lay in
the corner, all of which disappears placing his eyes upon the limp body causing
him to vomit, almost. He covers
his mouth with his hand and takes a few deep breaths; preparing and composing
himself for whatever action he may decide to take next.
He stands still, and observes the room
making as little noise as possible looking for clues, worried for his own
safety. He notices that his left
hand is loosely gripping something that not so long ago would have been gripped
boldly with fear. It’s a
note. He picks it up…
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 and build a family of my own 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 see none of this
apprehension in joining society as your fault. It’s his, and his alone. I feel I need to avenge you, but not knowing who the true
culprit is someone undeserving will be robbed of a father innocently as I
spiral out of control. Though this
feels like a tough decision to execute, it was an easy decision to make.
I’m coming to meet
you, where we both can be safe – unreliant of drugs. I just hope in my heart of hearts that 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 or disaster. I need to be proved wrong, and I want your face to be the
first I see to say, “I told you so”.
Your Darling Son.
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