\”Everybody in the world eaten up by waves blames the [WASP] child for their ills.\” – ib
When the fat man upstairs starts to singing where the ceiling bends lachrymose hornets conspire to swell up his tongue a confederacy of aculeates gathered near to blindness sharpening when the flatworm upstairs starts to singing
The fat man upstairs is depressed. Stricken by a hissing in his ear which entrenches itself all the more acutely when they take away his father. Deposit him in a care home. The fat man\’s dad has grown demented. The fat man can not cope. Merely the act of wiping an old man\’s arse so disgusts him it eventually drives him to small acts of cruelty. Still. Even so, a government cheque goes some way in mitigating the relentless erosion of living alone. The fat man upstairs is depressed but has been prescribed no pills to alleviate his condition. They throw him out of hospital after just a fortnight. Those two weeks are nothing short of a holiday for all concerned. The fat man relishes the free dinners served at regular intervals. And, because the ward is all but unoccupied, he enjoys a monopoly on the flat screen television. How do I know this ? The fat man tells me so. After the kitchen ceiling begins to let in water. Bulging alarmingly and spoiling those perishables laid out on the counter. Some bread. A little pile of chicken. An uncovered glass of Saturday night\’s wine. I drag myself upstairs and stab at the doorbell. He pins me to his doorstep with a mop. His shag pile carpets reek of damp. He has no money to call out a plumber. I say he is fat. I am less than charitable. While his jowls blow soft as a woman\’s shift on the communal green, he has lost a deal in weight. After they stopped his benefits. He is quite exact about those pounds shed. He almost died. On the street outside the butcher\’s. His physician barely recognises him. On and on he confides at length. He had spoken to no-one more garrulous than mental health professionals in weeks. I am not unsympathetic. It is just that his washing machine is in the throes of emptying its bowels. There is a blockage under his sink. It is his sister\’s fault. She is probably praying on her knees this minute as the flood unfolds. She is not one to visit. He can seldom reach her on the phone. Despite the bucket, the baby blue basin I leave downstairs to gather up the worst of the leak, I confess I vex impatient. Don\’t worry, he tells me, if it gets any worse it will cost me nothing to fetch out a plumber myself. After all. I am a tenant, right ? He expounds upon the privations of ownership, the power of attorney. They may have to tear down the ceiling to get at the pipes. Turquoise irises laced with amber piss swim in circles. Round and round like a floundering fish. I remember when the fat man snuck off to be observed quite fondly. He has this disturbing habit of rising between four and five in the morning. Every morning. The floorboards wince. The ceiling trembles. He adjusts the volume on his TV set to its ritual blare. The muezzin in his minaret. It is pointless trying to combat the assault by nesting a pillow over one\’s head. Escaping one room for another. The sound-proofing is not good. My neighbour makes it less than tolerable. After ten or twenty minutes the fat man begins to croon. My bladder forces me up off the sofa. The fat man chases me overhead and dives like a ferret into the u-bend. The sound of his pissing drowns mine out. The fat man is my doppelgänger. My fragile, disfigured, fleshy twin. He is the last stop on the subway. That failing Goering shadow in pastel cardigan and gaberdine pants. If I am not careful, we might knit at the hip like two black holes colliding. On the landing between the stairs where neuroses come unstitched. Like Howard Hughes I scarify myself at the spectre of contagion. The fat man is a cul-de-sac in surgical procedure. A botched operation. The worm-ridden step on the evolutionary ladder. He stays up late into the night on the anniversary of his mother\’s death. He toasts the curtains where they shiver, wipes the mildew from one eye. Far from impervious to the vagaries of do-it-yourself, he makes tiny coffins out of date boxes. Where Mr. Kipling ices individual cakes. Where are the swimming pools ? scream disgruntled migrants. Had you not invited us, we would not have come. The colours run unevenly in all this rain. The edelweiss has dropsy. You promised us so much more than this. Where are the balustrades ? The window boxes ? The errant fatwa tumbling off the beard of a goat dressed out for Eid ul-Adha.