On a train, sitting across from a nurse who is reading a pop psychology book. She is wearing ballet pumps and she has her legs crossed. She arches her foot until the pump is held on by her toes. I don’t have a foot fetish and wonder if this display is erotic.
It’s early October and very mild.
The withdrawal symptoms from escitalopram continue to be awful. My moods change frequently.
Strange day: walking to the station the air is still and the sounds seem flattened. It is very eerie: it’s the stillness, I think. And the strange light. On the train, the passing landscape disappears into the grey.
The mist is now lit red.
In Sheffield, people stop and look up at a red sun. Sahara red.
The world is off-kilter today.
I’m sitting in a café drinking tea. Suddenly, I feel an overwhelming sadness. I feel distressed and anxious. I go to the bathroom and take a Valium.
Doctor’s surgery. I feel anxious. My mood drops, I feel it physically in my chest. During my appointment I behave erratically, or rather, I feel I am being erratic.
October has passed quickly.
Hallowe’en: grey morning, mild. A chill wind blows half-heartedly. The train is too hot.
As I eat lunch in a café there is a girl with her boyfriend at the next table, she has her arms folded and is pulling her top further and further down, her breasts are almost exposed. I feel awkward. I get up and buy a Hallowe’en cake.
I rush to the station to get an earlier train. It leaves late. It’s sunny now.
The low Hallowe’en sun lights distant mist and makes me squint behind my Ray-Ban’s. The landscape is silhouetted against the sky. The temperature is starting to drop.
I feel empty today. I think I used all my emotion yesterday. I’m listening to Grouper but I can hear people discussing Kevin Spacey.
The sun has gone down now. The horizon is soft yellows and pastel peaches. Scott loves Jamie has been etched into the train window.
Out of the other window, the sky is blue-grey.
A flickering fluorescent light at Meadowhall indicates the presence of evil.
Hallowe’en 1991, Religous Education, the teacher Mrs Cockerell (not her real name) tells us about the Devil. For the first ten minutes, I think she is describing another of our teachers and I am amused. However, the talk gets pretty dark when she starts telling us about children who’ve gone out on Hallowe’en and come home different: distant and withdrawn, trapped between two worlds. Despite my apathy towards religion, I go home suitably terrified. That night I barely sleep.
Among the commuters waiting on the platform there are devils and witches. The twilight is bluey and strange. Trees and spires black against the sky. It’s cold now and I pull scarf tighter around my neck.
So, I have dreamed of the same house three times now. It is not a house from my past. Nor is it a house I ever remember being in. The house is haunted. To get to the house I have to pass a railway station and it is located where my old high school used to be.
The withdrawal effects of the escitalopram have lessened over the last week. I still have the occasional brain shiver but my moods seem more balanced.
6.35 am. Grey morning: raining and humid.
Two thunderstorms have passed over this morning. Huge cracks of thunder, torrents of pissing rain but they haven’t cooled the air. The temperature remains resolute. My sinuses are blocked.
I dreamed of the flats I grew up in. I tried to get to the top floor to take photographs out of the window on the landing but I felt vertiginous and couldn’t let go of the handrail. The smell, the feel of the handrails: the smooth black plastic on twisted white metal, the echoing sound of my shoes on the hard marble-like floors were all painfully familiar.
I am underwater. I can feel my ears filling with water. I can hear my breathing. I am underwater. The bath water smells of cinnamon.
I am reading Joe Orton’s diary. Joe has just fucked someone in a derelict house. My generation fucked and sniffed poppers in partly built new build houses of expanding suburbia. We drank white cider, smoked and felt the fleeting warm buzz of amyl nitrite where the nouveau riche now live. But the houses were skeletal when we used them to escape the weather, do ouija boards, get high and talk about girls and bands, all away from the prying eyes of the locals. Furthermore, they provided shelter for 14, 15 and 16-year-old girls to give handjobs and blow jobs to 18, 19 and 20-year-old men with cars from the council estate next door. Well, that’s if the graffiti and playground rumours were to be believed.
I remember when Kris Akabusi came to our school. Me and six or seven others had forgotten our games kit. We were put in a large storeroom in the drama department. Throughout the morning we were visited by four or five teachers who told us we had shamed ourselves and the school. Funny, there were no troublemakers among us, we had all genuinely forgotten to bring out kit.
If that happened now, with social media, I imagine we would have been the victims and the school would have been shamed!
As punishment, we didn’t get to meet Kris Akabusi and be photographed with him. I did meet him, however, in the car park afterwards, I asked if thought we had shamed the school and he just smiled and laughed awkwardly, then drove away in a middling sports car while a bunch of knobheads yelled racist abuse at him. You could tell he wanted to drive over them but he just waved. He didn’t do that stupid fucking thing he used to do with his fist though.
Anyway, at lunchtime, Danni Forrest (not her real name) will wank you off for a £1 under the willow tree down by the river. And Vanessa Elms (not her real name) puts out on the first date.
Schooldays, fuck were they miserable!
As human beings, we need pillows to support our necks. In the evening the sun shines. In the day the sky is grey.
I am the person at the window. I am the one watching. I only watch. I cannot keep them from trouble. I only watch.
The warmth rises. It fills the space. It blocks your nose. It blocks your ears. It disorientates your senses. Where am I? Where is this? What are those flashing lights?
Trouble is, we forget. Who is bad. You see. We forget.
So I have been asleep for a few hours since I started writing to you. It is now almost midnight. I don’t know what I have written before this. (What I write as I am falling asleep is usually nonsense!) I only know what I am writing now.
The room is dark. Except for the light from my phone and the display on the tower fan which says 22°C. The world is still. Right now. I think the window is closed. You are in the bathroom.
I dreamt of the same house twice. First, last night then again tonight. But I can’t remember my dream from tonight, except I was back in that house.
A car drives past breaking the silence.
Now, it is just the ringing in my ears again. The constant high-pitched ringing. Ringing is wrong. It sounds like a continuous flow of sound. Whistling. Yes, whistling is better.
Midnight. 12.00 am. Zero hour.
It is now tomorrow. It is now today.
The sound in my ears is making me feel nauseous.
I am sitting on the edge of the bed in the inky dark. My sinuses are blocked. My face is lit by my phone I can see it out of the corner of my eye reflected in the mirror.
I am sitting in the living room now. You have headphones over your ears and you are playing a game. The hum in the living room competes with the whistling in my ears.
It’s now after two. You are brushing your teeth and I am lying on top of the candlewick bedspread with the red cat. The light is on. It is very late. No sounds outside just the constant whistling in my ears.
2.30 am. Upstairs with a glass of Laphroaig. I have to go to the doctor’s surgery first thing tomorrow to pick up the letter from my GP. I am going to be very tired.
In bed. 4.10 am. Not tired. Headache. Escitalopram yawns. It is very quiet and still. Very pleasant. Just your breathing and the whistling. There is cool air coming in through the window. I can feel it on the back of my neck. I keep clenching my jaw, another escitalopram side-effect. Why am I suddenly getting side-effects after a year?
The brown cat is somewhere in the room I can hear her bell. A car passes heading towards town. The world will be waking up soon but I don’t want to think that. Because I want to sleep.
I am clenching my jaw again. It is making my headache worse. I hope it’s sunny in the morning when I walk over to the doctors. Nice dry heat and the sun on my face.
I ought to try and fall asleep. Maybe I’ll read for a while. My moon is upstairs, charging. I put the potatoes away in the fridge if you are looking for them.
Cath can’t sleep. She is sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of milky tea. Outside the window, she can hear the papers being delivered to the local shop. She swallows the last of her tea. The papers have been the delivered and the van has driven away. The world is still again. She goes to the bathroom, urinates, washes her hands and swallows an Ambien with a handful of water from the tap. She goes back to the kitchen eats a biscuit from the tin. Turns out the lights and goes to bed.
Channing and Melissa were kissing on Channing’s sofa. Above them was a large poster print of Evelyn McHale. Channing favoured a minimal decor and aside from the print the only indications of human presence in the apartment were a framed original page of a newspaper reporting Evelyn McHale’s suicide on the wall opposite the poster and below it a reel to reel tape recorder.
Channing’s hands were on Melissa’s hips pulling her closer to his erection but the tightness of her grey office skirt prevented any real contact. She sat up with the intention of raising her skirt. In spite of Melissa’s sexually arousal, the euphoric effects of the crushed oxycodone they had inhaled were giving way to feelings of sedation more typical of the opiate; she awkwardly shimmied in her knee-length skirt raising it halfway to her hips then gave up and leaned back, her head against the poster; she turned her head towards the window and looked out at the distant landscape with barely focusing eyes.
On the reel to reel Channing’s own recordings of Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies played at half-speed. When Melissa first met Channing he had played one of the pieces on a piano in a railway station and asked if she recognised it. She had said yes, from television. Channing had said that those versions were always too fast. Satie had intended the piece to be played in a funereal manner. Now at half-speed, the melancholic air of the piece was almost tangible and the room suddenly felt oppressive. Overwhelmed, Melissa closed her eyes.
Channing got up, smoothed his clothing and went over to the window. He felt faint from a drop in blood pressure. To recover his equilibrium he focused his attention on a distant plane climbing into the darkening sky.