Friday 1 February 2008

Those darts of social pain

Have I blogged this already? Just found it, recently written in a notebook, written during some recent social occasion. I don't know who I was writing it to. Maybe you.

It's a look in the eyes, in the face, straight at you. Dislike. Suspicion. Retreat. Social awkwardness. And when you realise that you are, despite your mortification and your burning cheeks, actually no more and no less than anyone else in any room you will ever enter, but human and human alone and having the human experience of life, then maybe you'll be blessed with the capacity to be content with being no more, and no less, than that. And probably drink a lot less.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Milk Cartons

A considerable quantity of hair went missing
from the head of a man known as Head
Head's hair was called Ralph
and Ralph snuck away in the night so stealthily
or was stealthily kidnapped
or wandered away
no one quite rightly knows
but it was done quietly, no cries were heard, no pleadings,
no arguments, no fights, no police were called
Ralph went without even a whimper

the only trace of anything having happened at all was a quiet panic that ascended from the belly of Head, one morning
weeks after the last follicle of Ralph had been stroked, or fondled, or even noticed
and lifted off right through
and away, away, never to be seen again

Truth be told, Head knew was only a matter of time before Ralph walked out of his life
How could he hope to keep such a good looking hair like Ralph interested in sticking around
his humdrum day to day
He could tell that Ralph had ambition he could never satisfy
so yes, there was a story. Yes, he knew.
Though he had never been able to face it.
So by the time Ralph had gone, gone fully
and regret had climbed all over him to claim the place where Ralph once laid
Head was wracked with doubt over whether it would ever
be possible to make amends
to welcome Ralph home
to a new life for them
a mutually loving life, together?

Head walked through the streets of Brooklyn calling out to his lost hair, his belatedly cherished hair
Ralph, Ralph, he called
Come home, you will be loved, Ralph
He went calling
through the streets in January

He put posters up around the neighbourhood
with a picture of Ralph on holiday in France
looking shiny and contented
people agreed he looked very well
looked like he and Head were very happy together
People stopped in the street to commiserate with him
tears were shared
and stories
Pated men began to knock on Head's door
to share their loss, their grief, their woes

But there were hints, clues
telltales and tip offs
eye witnesses
rat finks and their hopeful misconceptions
the skinny, the low-down, a smoking gun or two
there were sightings, there were notions
leads, marks, the occasional follicular doppleganger
those desperate cul de sac wanderings that ended in disappointment and suspicion

So Head had slight inklings that Ralph was afoot
most of it rumours, whisperings and idle gossip
By the time this fever was through
the search for Ralph had borne fruit in Head
the fruit of a feverish and passionate life
a life that had woken up to its pate, its fate, a moment right now
to do something with
to dream and execute

It was around this time that I met Head
And one day I called to Head with two plastic cups of takeaway corner coffee
hot filth: one for him and one for me,
and when Head answered the door
there was some new gentleness around his eyes
some quality of surrender
some peace
What is it? I asked. What have you done?
There is word, he replied.
Someone had seen Ralph.
There were reported sightings of Ralph in bathtub drains across the borough
none of them in houses where Head had visited
on his occasional nocturnal prowls, those moments of serendipity when a pate-loving woman invited him into her bed, and her shower, the next day
No, it was other stranger drains
that contained the hair that would surely prove to be Ralph, Ralph truly
The actual Ralph

Did you get a private eye to find him? I asked
No, I got a plumber, he replied
and sent him after
but even an expert plumber
couldn't find any real trace of the actual Ralph
and so Head took his plight above ground.
He made pleas across the borough, citywide, and ultimately across the nation
Ralph appeared on milk cartons for a week
ousting the missing children that usually dwelled there
everyone had enjoyed the pictures of the missing children
they usually looked so cheerful and pretty over morning coffee
the misslings, they called them

Seemed like they had always been around
a real part of the family those misslings
Lightening our coffee, moistening our cereal
Something to put our cocoa into
on those sleepless nights
We kind of liked having those misslings around
We want them back! they announced at once, of a piece, in a chorus
a chorus of families demanding the return of their misslings to the cartons on their breakfast tables

and so when the misslings went missing, there was a fandango, a quargo, quite a to-do
and people actually began to ask, for the first time,
and seeing as they asked, they got answered, and
the children were found in the milk carton factory
pumping udders
in udder slavery
though they said they were quite content to stay there
and not go home to their families
so much time had passed and they had become quite adapted to their new circumstances
had quite a rapport with the various cows that came through the factory
had developed skills
were valued and appreciated
and you know, they heard they had become famous in their absence from The Real World, that other place
that they were household faces, in fact
that they graced the tables
of all the dysfunctional families
they could ever hope or expect
to be a part of.

Sunday 27 January 2008

I was alone, I took a ride, I didn't know what I would find there. Another road where maybe I could see another kind of mind there.

Ants won't cross a chalk line. If you see them coming in your window, you can draw a line in chalk through their march, and they won't cross it. You'll see their frustration and their intelligence put to work at that chalk line, but they will not cross it. I don't know why. If there is a line of ants walking through your house, you can draw patterns in chalk and get pools of them that are encircled in chalk and don't know what to do about it.

I was thinking about hunger yesterday, about how we're all really just open books of information, however much we'd like to disguise it. It seems incredibly obvious, but we all just actually are what we actually are, regardless of costume. I suppose it's only really remarkable because of the elaborate games of fa├žade building that are so much a part of how human beings socialise. So I was walking along the street feeling kind of hungry for something I couldn't quite name, and got the sense that whatever it was was probably attracting some kind of resolution scenario, whether I was aware of what was going on, or not.

Do you ever do that thing of looking at some particular other people's lives and think about how their lives seem to make more sense than yours? That they seem to be less complicatedly complex and more straightforwardly simple and quietly, daily burning with some of the key elements of life that burn in a huge pyre in the middle of your dark winter's night, and then not come again for weeks or longer? I do, sometimes.

People are different to a really very limited extent, we have different variations of the exact same desires and experiences of life, and usually, I think, most human beings ricochet around exactly the same tin can of humanness, just finding themselves lying on its side or its lid at different times, and for longer or shorter periods. (If you don't get the tin can metaphor, it's slightly but not really oblique, so just take a deep breath and read that sentence one more time, and it'll crack open its rusty beans to you, I promise).

What distinguishes us is the way our lives look to other people, and of course the kinds of activities that happen, the kinds of activities that don't; temperament; and how a person has been shaped by their experiences. Even within that, I don't think the variation is so extreme. And yet we all act like it is, or actually, feel like it is: we get huffy or passionate with each other, we like and dislike each other intensely based purely on how we think we're being perceived or understood, we respond and don't respond to each other's descriptions of exactly the same experiences of living, depending on the language used. We're peculiar, I suppose. Tigers don't seem to be like this.

And then there's the whole sense of expectation of life, based on desires that may go deep or shallow, or just stick around for a long time. And so it's kind of easy to look at your life to see if it's fulfilling those desires, and so find fault or sorrow with it if it isn't. But human perception is a highly volatile thing. At least, mine is. My humanness is at the mercy of the wind and the sun and the moment and what's happening in my body at any given time. When people ask me what it is that I do (for a living, or passion, or whatever) I usually have to stop and think about it to figure out what it is this week. This is, at least, how I have been living for a few years, now. I feel very unknown to myself, in kind of a very fundamental sort of way. I am amazed and embarrassed and surprised by myself quite regularly (usually in different moments, though there are those crazy times when all those things come at once and usually it's hilarious, at least, when it does. Mercies.).

You know, people change their diets and their whole world changes. Moods, energy, thoughts, the lot. It's amazing what happens. Truly awe-inspiring, the diversity and unpredictability of this life.

I met this chick last night who kept touching my arm fondly, and saying things like "I'm so glad you're here", when she had just met me two minutes ago and those two minutes consisted entirely of her saying how fab I was, and this continued throughout our brief acquaintance. So maybe she blows some people's minds by doing that, it's an easy enough tactic to execute once you see it usually goes well, and you know, it's kind of cool to be someone who goes around blowing people's minds. Sometimes. When it actually happens, though, without any wile or guile or lipstick pouting, it's a real conversation stopper. And that can be a drag when you're just keen for a chat.

And blogging these thoughts does seem like a kind of insanity, especially when you're sober and it's four in the afternoon.