Saturday, July 29, 2006

the right time (europe, and memories of)

An old cobblestoned quarter in Vienna, luxe-bohemian, a little too trendy for my liking. The type of scene that never fails to make me feel a little awkward, a little out of my element, all touristy inside.

Turning down a narrow side street, claustrophobic, devoid of natural lighting, depressing, with just a touch of the suicidal, my feet walked towards our predetermined meeting place, a little café tucked away beyond a crumbling stone vestibule. Little more than a walk-in closet, really. I noticed her hair at first, auburn and long, hanging down about petite shoulders.

"La police, ne t'a pas encore trouvé?" she asked on first seeing me. NK smiled big, stood up, and wrapped her slender arms around me. She was so small, I felt as though I might have been hugging air.

"That's some greeting," I whispered in her ear.

"You are a wanted man, yes?" she asked playfully.

"By some people, I suppose," I acquiesced, and draped my loden coat over a tiny chair at the tiny table. "So, you've been reading Mirbeau?"

"Yes," she said, "Le Jardin des supplices, but how did you-"

"Oh, you've that look about you," I said, "like you've been flogged by a thick branch of solid pessimism."


"No, not really," I laughed. "You mentioned it in your last email."

An unnecessarily standoffish waitress came over, tiny, dark eyes, and stiff, irritable lips. NK and I cast an uneasy glance across the table at one another, before finding the courage to order.

"A croissant for me, thank you, and a cup of your strongest coffee," I said, adding, "I'm a little on the hungover side today."

"Today!" NK scoffed. "Try everyday," and she turned to face the waitress, quickly asking, "Parlez-vous français?"

The waitress smirked, then snorted, "Oui."

"Une café au lait s’il vous plaît," NK perkily responded, smiling.

"Con piacere."

I waited until the waitress had turned on her heel, stalked behind the bar, and was out of earshot, before I leaned across the table and jocundly demanded, "Why not just order in English? Italian, even!"

"It's a French drink," she coyly replied.

"It's called the same in English! You would have got what you ordered either way!" I exclaimed. "And why not just have the milk put in it? It's going to wind up there anyway."

"I like to add it as I go," NK shrugged, "different amounts of milk at different times during the drinking process depending on my state of mind. And you," she accused, pointing at me across the table, "you should know better than to order a croissant outside of France."

"But the Viennese make perfectly fine pastries!" I protested.

"Pastries, yes, but you'll never find a better croissant than a French one."

We argued like that until the afternoon grew into evening, and it came time for me to go and meet SA and DB. In an old cobblestoned quarter in Vienna, luxe-bohemian, a little too trendy for my liking, I sat at a diminutive table arguing with a willowy young woman about all things from art to life and everything in between. But schedules must be adhered to and I had a train to catch. I would see her again, to be sure, but not for awhile, and nowhere near that place.

Standing, we offered each other a hug in the vestibule, and I held her close, my face buried in her hair, auburn and long, hanging down about petite shoulders. We broke, and I stood back to get a good look at her face.

"Bonsoir, my dear," I said. "See you again soon."

"A presto," she smiled, her eyes dancing mischievously. And with that, she turned and walked away, new heels clicking down an old cobblestoned alley.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

trapped in mind

More yielding than assentive. More submissive than yielding. More acquiescent than submissive. Acquiescent; yes, that's the word. Thrown from the back of my throat, bounced off the top of my tongue, and squeezed out through the teeth, the word lands on the table between us, and we both stare, shocked, as though it were the rotting corpse of a dead trout.

"You have the gall to say that I, me, that I am acquiescent? I don't know if the word means the same as it did last time I used it, but I seem to recall it meaning something along the lines of 'willing to carry out the orders of another without protest'? Is that what you think? That I'll just go along with anything?"

Flies buzz. The carrion festers on the table between us like so much dead meat. Silent, I raise my eyebrows, and my pint to my lips. Not much to say when I'm right; no need to underline a fact. I wince almost imperceptibly as the acrid Japanese beer scores the back of throat, this same throat which recently managed to disgorge the diseased carcass before us. This caustic beer, antiseptic - I take another sip.

"You're telling me that you think perhaps there was some kind of choice? That perhaps I could have just gone another way, done another thing? That there even is another way? You don't know-"

You'll keep talking. You'll keep talking until you believe these things you say. Until all of these lies turn to truths. You'll turn from mere acceptor to believer. From convert to devotee. From doctrinaire to dogmatist. Yes, you'll keep talking until you believe your self. But, if there's one thing I've learnt in life, it's that while you may be able to lie to your self, you'll never be able to lie to your best friends. We'll see right through it.

"Another way! There is no other way! Pursuit of empty goals. Chasing meaningless dreams. All a man needs is-"


Apparently, all a man needs is acquiescence. Yes, all a man needs is to have the ability to believe unthinkingly. The resourcefulness to follow. A keen desire to find comfort in the echo chamber, and a need to make a home there. All you need is to finally make that jump from proselyte to prophet. To cross that nonexistent bridge between nothing and nowhere.

Acquiescent. A stench rises as the corpse begins to suppurate, its decaying flesh rotting and cracking, releasing streams of yellow-green puss. I catch the waitresses eye, and consider asking for cutlery. Delicious antagonism - I've a heaping plate of it before me.

You continue your rant, and as you do so, your voice fades into silence. Your lips move, but you're saying nothing, and I lift my eyes to the window beyond your shoulder. Clouds are rolling in, turning the afternoon sky from brilliant blue to dull grey - but it's all the same in here: a smoky haze and nicotine stained lamps, the fading wallpaper of decades gone by, books as ornaments high up on crumbling shelves. Years upon years of bullshit; not a shovel in sight.

Monday, July 3, 2006

what you do to me

Why write? Nothing more than a little exercise in bridging the gap between what is real and what is not, what has happened and what never will, things actually done and things only dreamt. It's a short step from possible to impossible, but a step that will not, no, can not ever be undertaken by anybody - except in writing. It is for this reason that a writer writes: to experience unreality, to live the unliveable, to wake in a dream. To take that step.

My foot falters.

I am haunted. Tormented by this great asomatous beast forever on the horizon. A beast I do not run from, but instead run towards. I am a hunter; my game, plot. I wish to capture it, encage it in a prison of black and white words, put it on display for the whole world to see. And if I can't take it alive, I'll take it dead. On the wall of my study, a trophy, this monster's taxidermied head.

"Why write?"

I listen to the clink, clink, clinking of your coffee spoon, while searching for an answer in the swirl of cream in your cup. You wait for my words, brushing aside a lock of blonde. Then, your painted lips part, as if to speak again - but I can't let that happen.

"Because," I say. "Because I have things that need saying, and the only way to say them is to write them." There is a better answer, I know, but somehow I just can not put it into words. My gaze turns, instead, to the café window as if what I search for lurks out there in the street.

"And if you don't?"

"Pardon me?"

"What if you don't write?" you ask, taking a sip of steaming coffee. "What if you do something else instead? There are things that pay better, you know."

"If I don't write them," I say, "if I don't get these thoughts onto paper, then they bouce around in my head, and things get all muddled up in there." I pause briefly to root around in my pocket, looking for change. "And trust me - you don't want that. By the way, how much for mine?"

"Don't worry about it - get me back next time."

"Thanks," I say. "Listen, I've got to run. Call you later."

I'm in a hurry now, weaving between the tables towards the front door. Close, now, to the outside. Close, now, to an idea. Growing faint. In one motion, my hand is pushing open the door, and I'm about to step through, when I'm suddenly blinded by the midday sun. I'm just about to cross the threshold when

my foot falters.

Row upon row of polished oak pews, they sit, forever transfixed. Transfixed, because they found another to guide them. Transfixed, because they found someone to interpret Those Pages for them. Transfixed, because they saw the future reflected in his three hundred dollar gold-rimmed shades. In this old worn photo, he leans over the pulpit, all starched white shirt and gleaming epaulettes. He stands, eternally frozen in time, mouth agape, with those brilliant white teeth, in mid proclamation. The choir, having lost their collective voice, stands behind him, silent; everyone waits for the other to make a move. No-one does. Not now. Not ever.

I awake on the dirty sidewalk an indeterminable amount of time later with a crowd of concerned faces around me. You're there. I've been gone maybe seconds, maybe eons, but I'm back now, and you still look the same. A rope of blonde hair lightly brushes my cheek, a soft hand grips my rough one, and in a moment I'm back on unsteady feet, with a bruised shoulder and mangled pride. war wounds.

Injuries sustained during my latest hunting expedition.