Monday, April 13, 2015


The lesbians across the street are not pretty. They appear to be happy enough, embracing each other by way of greeting. Exchanging goodbyes. On the veranda just outside their front door; the balcony, if one is given to theatrical bent.
     Some time ago the smaller woman's brother attempted to hurl her over the ledge in the dead of the night. Their screams woke me on the sofa. I did not immediately rush to the window, but lay there smoking a cigarette. Listening to the invective through acts one to three. What sounded like a shoe bouncing off the roof of a parked car.
     The next morning, a neighbour filled me in on the detail. Bagging the last of the rolls in the corner shop while I waited in line for cigarettes.
     There is nothing to beat the Scottish morning roll. Where English baps are sweet and unsavoury, their breakfast counterpart north of the border is something altogether more substantial. The Scottish roll demands one's full attention. A firm grip, should the mouth be built on dentures.
     "He'll not be back," my neighbour informed me.
     He was back with a suitcase two days later. A plastic sack full of 12oz cans.
     Blood is thicker than water. Piss. The Scottish family, the clan, is robust as its roll, enfolding all manner of mortification. Forgoing admission of guilt.
     I do not like it living here on the second floor. I can't see the river. The sky. Back and front, I am confronted with windows set in brick. The flinching of bodies under surveillance. Straying too close to the glass.
     This city was built on tobacco. The sweat of slaves.
     Cancer is its legacy.
     I do not subscribe to the concept of original sin. I began smoking out of boredom. Like all junkies I am a slave to the fix.
     Apples are for fruits.
     The fat man up the stairs rouses at four in the morning and sets his television to a blare. By nine he is back in bed. His routine is unfaltering. The floorboards wince and shriek under his weight. The ceiling all but bulges. He does not smoke. He does not appear to drink excessively. The soundtrack to his slow demise is constructed around reruns from the decade which oversaw the collapse of the shipyards. The music in him died the year the needle broke on its arm. He wears a Led Zeppelin t-shirt when he ventures out on the stair, but his ear is bludgeoned and misshapen from its diet of ersatz fodder. He no longer possesses a turntable on which to exorcise his ghosts. His father is all but eaten up by Alzheimer's. He has not been the same since senility came cold calling. Before they took him away his mind scampered here and there like infant mice.
      The family below do not like music either but are drawn to hectoring one another in bullish tones. Bickering incessantly as Scottish families will. The endless droning sets what remains of my teeth on edge. It follows me from room to room. Drilling into my skull like a wood boring beetle.
      "Cokeheads." Another neighbour chimes in.
      The soundproofing is deplorable.
      I like the noise of the rain when it comes. Sweeping onto the windows. Spitting under the eaves.
      On days when it is especially bad, I stand erect as Noah. Stripped of oilskin. The will to preserve. Protect. Let it come down, I demand.
      Sentinel in socks.
      Oh, where have you been, my one true love? Riding on your truncheon.
      At fifty, I am too old to be a father comfortably to a four-year-old. His face unmarred yet by accident, his confidence undented. I am missing those attributes I think of as prerequisite. I am abashed by my inadequacy.
     Well. It was not always like this. At least I still nurse a sense of humour. Under the scabs. The brown paper bag. The glare of white light which passes for summer. It is not as if I have entirely misplaced my marbles. Too bad I could not keep it together long enough to drive out the crow.
     The hangover.
     My ex-wife shows me where her teeth were whitened. I have no inclination to congratulate her.
     Not that the bird is all bad, you understand, it is just the dribbling jaundice which pulls at the space vacated by heart. That cavity presided over by gulls. I no longer see what I hope to achieve by my persistent lurking on the bleachers.
      The space from my front door to the highest seat of learning measures no more than two miles. It is all but unbridgeable. I have burnt them all down. If I possessed a working gun, the elemental sophistry of a Burroughs or Thompson, I might have eaten the barrel years ago. Fortunately, I loiter under the elastic tension of a slingshot merely. The impotency of a projectile launched at midget Goliaths.
     I am listening right now to the chatter of cretins scratching out a life sentence. The fucking inanity of imbeciles dressing up for high tea. Stop me if you've heard this one before. One pornographer to another.

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