Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Square root of Man

‘You sire,’ He said looking into the eyes of the man before His eyes, ‘Are you tuned or do you fancy a walk around the squar?’
He stopped to take a puff from his cheap cigarette.
‘Yes, yes, you sire. Are you satisfied with our times, with our cheap pleasures and our low down ways?’
Nothing from the man standing before.
‘Oh, don’t be so silent! And don’t mind my ever so crazy ways. I used to be schizophrenic, but, well, WE are okay now.’
At this He had to hunt for a giggle inside and lash it out, and apparently this lashing had to escape from the man before Him as well.
So they both laughed.

‘Oh, you are the poshest nutter ever!’ He screamed and put out His cigarette in the sink, nearly missing a cockroach that had been running round and round the sink looking for an escape from the slippery Wall of porcelain Death. It had been there for the last half an hour trying to get out but He hadn’t helped, curious to see the great escape, although He thought it quite impossible. And to prolong the quest, He added some more water to the sink. Then He looked away from the mirror and walked out from the toxic waste that was His bathroom.

To an overly-sane person, this sort of morning ritual may seem a little extraordinary but as John Dryden had observed or perhaps known, only madmen know the pleasures of being mad.
He walked to His room and looked out the window. He preferred this view more than the bathroom’s on two accounts: one, the sole view from the bathroom was that of His own bathroom reflecting on the bathroom of the next apartment and two, because the view from His room had a wide expanse of sky and its dwellers beneath. Often the changing London climate would conjure up skies that were so picture perfect that you’d think God was nothing but a graphic designer or photographer constantly editing the universe. So He kept looking down at the streets, trying to find a parallel to all that works in mysterious ways and all that just simply works. He could see a lot of people walk around, some going somewhere and some going nowhere. That’s what He loved most about London. Londoners gave Him the impression of being everywhere and being nowhere at the same time. Of course, this was not the case with just the citizens of London; it is the case with everything on Earth. Everyone and everything on this third planet from the Sun is glued to gravity, floating in space, moving at the speed of absolute time itself…the only difference between these folks is that some live on trees and chirp, some take a taxi to look at paintings, some sit on streets with a bowl, some spend money like it’s infected with HIV, some sit in buses and cars and gape at the slower world and some, well, some just watch all of these creatures from the window of their Peckham studio-flat and wonder. Wonder where it all went wrong.

Suddenly the phone rang.

He hated phones: they always rang. He had always mused that John Donne couldn’t have had a fucking clue in his seventeenth century meditations that his words, ‘-And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee’, would have a very different ring in the twenty-first century. In the twenty-first century, there is no need to send to know for whom the bell tolls because (a) everyone owns a bloody bell, some of which can even impart music and show half-clothed MTV courtesans and (b) Because even if thee is not available, one can leave a message after the beep.

‘Hello?’ He asked in His best Monday morning voice.
‘Is it really you?’ asked a familiar voice.
Thinking that the world’s losses somehow become the world’s Bosses, He said, ‘Apparently.’
‘Well, you haven’t turned up to work for weeks. What is wrong with you?’
‘Not much, just a little cocktail of Peladophobia and Ergophobia.’
‘What the hell is that?’
‘Fear of bald people and work.’ He chuckled, hoping His bald boss wouldn’t fry.
‘I see.’
‘You see what?’
‘I see your c-l-e-v-e-r wordplay. So you have a phobia of me do you? And that is why you have been absent from work, because, you have a phobia of work as well. I think we can fix that-’
‘Oh, come on John, didn’t know you’d pull a Catagelo on me.’
‘Catagelophobia, you know, the fear of being ridiculed.’
‘You’re fired, you fucking freak.’
And that was that.

Ordinary men would have got certain aches from the realization of unemployment but not Him. At least, not recently. During the last month of the summer, He had somehow managed to lose His girlfriend, His savings, His friends, His joy for life and now, His job. A terrible affliction of some kind, no, more actually, a jinx in the shape of some goblin on Prozac had entered his life, destroying everything He loved or needed. She had left Him. She had left Him and She had left Him for Willy, Willy who was, in fact, a Willie. Willy who always insisted on going to certain disco clubs, clubs where men (and men alone) wore pink shirts. Places where the question, ‘Could I borrow a fag?’ had a whole different meaning. But He had never been homo-phobic; He had been a-lot-phobic but never homo-phobic...

His girlfriend seemed to be the only thing that had been good in the twenty-six years of his life. The only thing that meant something and the only idol He had ever worshipped. Now He was twenty-six and then some, and single and broke (financially) and broke (spiritually) and unemployed and alone. Even His mother, God bless her chip-munching soul, had dug her grave with a fork early this year. Everything was just simply wrong. He felt like Job with the exemption that instead of the Lord having given and taken away, the Lord had only taken. It was as if God had left a memo with the angels saying, ‘Give him the old BigMac smiting, there’s something about him that just pisses me off.’

And that was it.

Or was it? No, He thought. NO. I am going to go out in style. I’m not going to crawl through another six-seven decades of this shitty half-living and half-dying any longer. He wanted to walk right into St. Peter’s pearly department, take the shortest route possible and ask what the hell was going on (or what had been going on down) while He was down on Earth trying to live. Was it some sort of technical error in the computers or what? Did any files get misplaced or mixed? Was it something He said or did? Was it something He didn’t say or do?

He was going to find out.

He wasn’t going to stand for this bollocks and get old that way, He wasn’t going to push buttons in hospitals so they could escort Him to toilets and He certainly wasn’t going to wait for death to come to Him.
He was going to go to Death.
He had a sudden urge to make this the last Monday morning of His life.

Silence is the most naked of truths. The Razor’s edge. It is in the countryside of silence that men find and lose themselves simultaneously. The silence in the house over the last month has driven Him into some kind of madness. He would read the huge SMOKING KILLS sign on the cigarette packs He bought and a part of Him had questioned, ‘Isn’t that why everyone smokes?’ Maybe not everyone but some simply carry that smoke into their lungs to numb the pains of a healthy heart. If each cigarette took away five minutes of your lifetime then by estimation He must have smoked about a year or two away. But, even that was not fast enough. So He had brought in the alcohol so that His liver could sing dirges as well. Yet not enough. Well, there is only so much a man can accelerate slow death, so, He had blown up His savings on a GLOCK 18 fully-automatic handgun that He had purchased from a dodgy guy down the block, so that it could come in handy in the rough surroundings of Peckham. Nothing serious: just to blow the head of some mugger or robber, all in self-defence.

Today it was going to be in self-defence, but, the head would be His own.

He walked back into the bathroom and lit up another cigarette. The poshest nutter ever stood before Him again. This time the nut did the talking.
So here we are, eh?
‘Here we are.’ He said inhaling what seemed like mild gusts of Katerina.
Sick of it all
‘Sick of it all.’ He chimed in.
Final chapter in a bathroom
‘The End.’
Remember that time when you were fifteen? Standing at the urinal, you thought you had the world in your hands
‘And I sang “He’s got the WHOLE world…in his hands…He’s got the whole wide world…in His hands.”’
Looks like you still got the whole world in your hands or rather, your right hand
‘A 9mm bullet travelling through my brain, your brain, OUR brain. At the speed of sound. Who’s complaining?’
‘That’s right. Nobody,’ He said taking another puff, ‘Nobody.’
What plans from here? Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell?
‘Let’s find out.’
He put the gun to His head but before pulled the trigger, He wanted to put out the cigarette in the sink.

Then a funny thing happened.

The cockroach, still in the sink, had a little look at Him and then in a zoomed-slow-motion action, it actually seemed to shrug its shoulders or whatever the hell it is they have, climbed the slippery Wall of porcelain Death with all the imaginable strain and disappeared under those little holes they have under the tap; the hole that keeps the sink from overflowing.

‘Well, I’ll be damned!’ He said, throwing aside the gun and taking a step back, ‘did anyone see that?’
I did
He looked back at Himself, at the calm nut in the mirror.
I did
‘Oh, shut up. I know a good escape when I see one myself,’ He grunted.
Oh, but it’s more than an escape can’t you see? That’s a revelation, my friend. There you are, Man, with all your desires and dreams and faith and losses and Gods and Devils and money and jobs and rent and philosophy and love and hate and sadness and laughter and time and fear and despair and madness and hate and Heaven and Hell and finally: SOUL. And there was that simple cockroach, with a lifespan of maybe two years if it is lucky, two years of its lifespan spent in shit and worse abodes, and it still managed to get itself out of the hot soup. These folks are the most enduring of all the species on Earth and have the damn I.Q. of, well, cockroaches.
Truly, Man is the only creature even capable of carrying out or contemplating the uneventful act of self-destruction. Man will look at ticking clocks to say he doesn’t have enough time and man will look at the stars to calculate that he has too much time. But in the words of D.H Lawrence, ‘We’ve got to live. No matter how many skies have fallen,’ so what do you say?

For a moment He had nothing to say so He ambled back to His room and gazed out the window. The Londoners below were moving at the same indifferently different speed. He tried to think of something to say that would escape His mouth and sketch eternity, better still; He wanted to sing but couldn’t. Then, suddenly it started raining and the people of His kingdom ran helter-skelter and amongst the chaos, His thousand yard stare saw a beautiful sight. While most people were busy getting away from the deluge, getting under the canopies of cafes and barbershops, a little girl ran away from her mother from under such a shelter and approached a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. The dispossessed man didn’t seem bothered by the rain but the little girl took off her raincoat, placed it upon him, and went back to her mother who was oblivious of the little incident.

That was all He needed to see: truth, hope and all things pure.
‘I say,’ He said, ‘it’s so nice out here that I,’ He broke into a smile, ‘I think I’ll stay for a while. Yes, I think I’ll stay.’

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