short story, trails of thought

And when they pushed.

And so he did all he could to imagine a life better.  The kind of life where kindness and gentility replaced manipulation and oddity.   The kind of life which did not include events and occurrences such as the below:

[And so] last weekend I was approached in Caffè Nero in central Liverpool by a man who later self-identified as an Australian-resident Israeli-born 52-year-old South African. He said he was in property. Later, he showed me his Australian driving-licence/ID card (Queensland), and his cabin crew ID, for some airline I presume.

He also showed me his very primitive non-Internet connected mobile, excusing it by saying he couldn’t afford anything more expensive because he was always losing them. He did, however, carry around very visibly two tablets, one an iPad.

He was very friendly and we had a very interesting 2-hour conversation on many subjects, geo-political to a degree but others less rigorous as well.

He bought me a chocolate and a sparkling water, as the conversation got longer.

He asked me for my phone number which I was happy to give, and as I am happy to publicly do so online on my social networks and blogsites.

That evening he sent me a text saying we needed to meet up next time I was in Liverpool. I remember he was particularly interested in my opinion re Muslims, and I was clear how I felt: if he was referring to suicidal terrorism, there was always only one response. But I also insisted that by talking face-to-face with most people, one avoided the risk of painting huge peace-loving majorities with the brushes of their most extreme elements, whatever the belief system or society.

In fact, and in retrospect:

I think he showed me his ID (both, I mean – the cabin crew ID surely fits curiously with global property developer …) so I would respond by showing him mine. Off which of course in hindsight he was able to check both my name and address. If I was a mark, he now confirmed I was the right person.

When he approached me and asked me if he could sit down, almost the first thing he said was: “Are you American? You sound American.” I clearly don’t, and then he repeatedly said how his girlfriend lives in Fort Lauderdale.

The phone thing was totally random. I assume either: a) because someone might feel it shows poverty, and he didn’t want to give this impression; or b) so those who prefer to be not easily followed might find themselves in the company of fellow souls.

I didn’t offer to buy him a drink, just share the table in a not particularly busy time of the day [ed.: actually, he asked if he could sit down at my table at a moment when the coffee shop wasn’t particularly full; I only concurred]. It was a window seat, and he likes window seats. He didn’t pay for *his* coffee at the time of ordering. He finally paid for everything – if I remember rightly – at 7.03, just after closing time, explaining the staff knew him very well. 

And so he just had to conclude:

Is curious, no? Curious details. I don’t think it’s just me and my hyperactive imagination.

And so he became very sad.  And it wasn’t the surveillance and it wasn’t the data and it wasn’t the watching and it wasn’t the hawking.

It was the eternal, permanent, iridescent denial of those who controlled everything they could: a) that they weren’t doing it; and b) if they were, it was for our own good; and c) even if it wasn’t for our own good, it wasn’t for their good at all.

Which is bollocks.

And even so, they pushed.

short story


She always apologised before he ever did.  Apology meant safety even when it wasn’t right.  Most of the time it was actually right, because most of the time she didn’t do right.  But there were some occasions, even in her case, that she did do something right – and, all the same, he clearly demanded – his attitude and behaviour indicating as much – that she say sorry for a non-existent transgression.

The problem with life was the malleable nature of humanity: he wanted black and white; she wanted something gentler.  He was supposed to be the gentleman; in fact, she was far gentler than he; in fact, whilst he was a man, gentle wasn’t at all what characterised him.

There came a point in her curious life, however, where she found it impossible to work out whether she herself was a gentle lady or a repressed man in disguise.

The fact of the matter lay in how she kowtowed to the expectations he raised around her: she couldn’t decide if it was the power of his being, his character, his sensibilities or his manliness all round, or instead the ability she manifestly inscribed to place herself exactly in two places at once.

To be man and woman both, it would seem, was both a dream and a nightmare – it depended on what you thought.  It also depended on the people around you: how they treated you; whether kindly and with empathy or compassion or, instead, as a threat to the peace of the world.  Not exactly, you realise, but that’s how she felt sometimes.

And it showed itself in the rows they had, where she’d almost always give in to him first.  And she used to wonder if it was his violence onboard; the dragon he’d become; the aggressor unbound.  But lately she’d be considering the fact of her own empathy: was she really a victim to his supposed abuse or did she simply, truly, find it so easy to identify with anyone – not just him, I mean; the whole world and the cat’s mother – and see the world from the eyes of a man like him just as easily as from the eyes of a woman she was meant to be?

What if the reason for her permissiveness in matters of violent acts against her person had more to do with her than the people supposedly committing the violence?  What if the solution to her situation lay not in prevention but cure?  What if empathy and its accompanying tears had actually been the real cause of her long-term downfall – had led to her obvious inability to get along in life on the back of her own ingenuity, intelligence and innate being?

And if empathy was the problem, and the tears she shed only brought her misery, would it not be better to act out of compassion?  Would it not be better to help out both parties?

And that’s when she realised the truth of the matter: in order to live, you need to survive, of course – but surviving doesn’t have to convert you into something brutal beyond measure.  The act of survival was a given for all humanity: without survival, procreation was impossible.  And without procreation, reproduction’s absence would lead to the death of the whole species.

But survival and its necessity should never be used as an excuse for fomenting the brutality of humanity’s actions.  And it was here that she realised that empathy, whilst admirable, was actually a tool for allowing such fomenting.

Much better, then, than weeping buckets of sadness at pictures of broken children and writings of broken nations would be to re-engineer such borderline self-indulgence into the strength of purpose of compassionate activity.

And that’s when she truly realised her purpose on the planet: just as much as her empathy had allowed the violence of her partner, so the empathy of a generation had generated the injustices of a civilisation.  And in order to prevent such default[y] positions, it was time – at least for her (for others she could not speak) – to act in a different way: to act in a compassionate way.

She knew as yet not how to start, nor how to promote, nor how to grow.

But at least she knew what she wanted to start on.

At last, she’d found herself a purpose.

poetry, short story

Love ain’t a war – it’s the ONLY coming together …*


I surrender,

and render the rending of my

ending – and beginning.



I surrender,

and render the rending of my

ending – and beginning.



I surrender,

and render the rending of my

ending – and beginning.  So …


Kiss me …

assure me …

render me whole by rending my

end: my ending for you

now is my surrender, and my beginning …



* And he knew it was his job, this final step.  And he was puzzled a little why it had to be.  And he didn’t quite get it: the challenge it entailed.  And as he always misunderstood so much of his life, he knew – even then – the solution wasn’t straightforward as he actually assumed it would (or as he wanted it to) be.

And there was always a catch; a confusion; a movement or three forwards with a step or two back, that instead of a dance which would place them in trance, in tantric joy they’d so spoken about in bookshop that day, where big black soft sofas embraced their bodies in public and led them to remember “A Beautiful Mind”, and the viewing it meant, and the final goodbyes that made him so sad, and the pressure of lying to a long-time love, and how it broke his heart and his beautiful mind even further than it had already been broken by the sadness of love … and he was simply just looking to be a happy man who could be with the woman who’d made him the happiest ever … and it wasn’t even a question of comparison here: here, it was clearly black and white: on the one side the dark, on the other side the light – and in the middle, absolutely nothing he wanted at all.

He loved so many people so very much.  And he’d never stop loving them for the independence they needed.  But the love that he needed, the silken touch of her skin (and it was her skin that mattered; it was her skin he wanted; he finally realised his love was about her), the way she laughed and thought so bloody wild, and her blinding irreverence, and her refusal not to go wherever the thought might take her … and he loved and delighted and bathed fully in her promiscuity, and it wasn’t the word he needed right there, and the term he really needed was freedom of spirit, and in a way like school it was a term which taught lesson, and she’d taught him so much in her unabashed wisdoms.

And even in her absence she’d taught him so much.  And even in those terrible years of dark he’d remembered so much of what she taught him.

And the time she sucked him off in the car, and there was love in her eyes and in her mouth and her sounds and in her words, and the sounds she always made were words in themselves, and they loved their words and pictures, but it wasn’t only words and pictures: the sounds they each made were the looks they each glanced off the skin and bones and eyes of the other.

And so he realised, in fact, that he just had to surrender.  Whatever the universe now had in store was a warehouse of wisdoms he had to accept.  And if it included her, he’d need nothing else: he’d probably not need even to write too much, any more.

And if stuff got tough, and maybe it might, even after so much waiting and longing for her love, then maybe the writing might very well return.  But another alternative had already occurred to him: what if they both might work on their writings and paint up their beautiful thoughts via her drawings?  She was love incarnate as lover and muse – so just imagine the love her drawings could bring …

And he still kept her letters, and they still sat at home, and he dared not to uncover them for the tears they would bring, and the surrender he needed and the surrender he brought to the table of sex and passionate embrace, and the way that she allowed him to slip off her clothes and the way that she brushed him with the prickliness of her bush, and all these beautiful beautiful moments remained in a state of heated suspension, awaiting her permission to return to the fold – not like sheep as in cowed or horsing around but just simply that coming-home to the [heart]h which a life with his blessed beloved one had given him those four days, and if never again would never compare, nor ever come close, to anything else he would love.

short story

A weekness is a long time in the politics of love

She’d just about realised she had basically two options: a) she could wait weakly – weekly even; daily perhaps! – for her white knight to appear with horsepower but perhaps no horse (it was, after all, the Western 21st century we were talking about here); or b) she could gather all her courage together, as if forming a baleful bale of yellow wheat of anciently harvested times – and then become the white knight herself (along with Fiat 500 … not so much a horse as a tiny little pony of delicately designed and elegantly framed features).

So then she had that hugely challenging decision to make.

And the alternatives showed the weakness of her position.

To stay where she was she felt quite impractical to contemplate: to stay with a husband who spent his days saying no to every suggestion and occurrence she made for herself, demanding pointedly – as he did – that she imagine on his behalf, and doubleguess, his every need and whim – that was him, how he was, and he worked his socks off no doubt; she couldn’t criticise him in that respect; she had no desire to do so; to do so would’ve been about as rankly unfair as any spouse could have been in this measuring world of quantitative likings and unlikings: all those secretive beens and gones …

But what she really asked of him – so that maybe one day she could feel positive enough about herself to shine in job interviews, and then prove to him her value as an economic unit of productive addition for the family he was currently breadwinning quite alone for – was the love and affection, the physical cherishing, the bantering bodies of lovers still enamoured after almost three decades of the battered existences that life throws at us all … she needed this bantering, this being able to touch him when she wanted, to not have barriers placed between her and him … and she was clearly starved now of all kinds of affection, she was clearly in a place of deeply dark emotions, she was clearly  – all too apparently, even to friends and family – the subject of some kind of oppressively normalised, naturalised existence.

To the outside world still, to many she knew, she was the frigidly cold and confusing half of the couple.  But it really wasn’t her – she responded so well to love: to smiles and saucy glances; to cheeky retorts; to the kind of casual stroke on the shoulder that momentarily pets you into a different world, and makes you wonder: “With this person, what would it be like?”  And it wasn’t that she was of a promiscuous bent: it’s just that she was so hungry for some kind of physical contact.  And the man she really had a right to expect such affectionate contact from – even in today’s politically informed times, even in curiously cold and correctly distanced way – slept in the bed she slept in every night, and he didn’t even like for her to doze on his side of the bed, and they had all sorts of arguments about messy eiderdowns and corners not square and clothes left draped over the edges of a bed which should’ve been there for passionate embrace.

And if he had wanted to touch her body, just occasionally, just at weekends, maybe once a month, maybe every quarter, she’d have felt the most powerful, beloved and positive creature in the universe.

But the reality of the matter was that he neither wanted her to touch him in private nor allow her to consider anything which wasn’t a safe (for him, she presumed) display of public normality: a tap on the forearm perhaps – or a linking of hands as shop window pursued shop window and he bought up the city with the pretty excuse that his job made them money.

And so she struggled to realise, to identify, when it went wrong.

And they’d loved each other the day they’d got married: of that she was sure; of that she had no doubt.  And their children were gorgeous, gorgeous creatures of a love exemplified and held out, through grand anticipation and selfless sacrifice – and a simple delight in the pleasures and treasures of seeing their offspring spring off into wonderful sectors of endeavour.

But what never worked right, and right from the beginning perhaps, she begins to see at least, at least she begins now to see, was the fiery necessity she had to be physically cherished and the simultaneous fear he manifested more and more – always slyly (she now realised) covered up and hidden below a cloaking set of wisdoms, intellect and argument; and this was something she’d pretended not to notice for a while; and this was something that she knew now would never change.

And she loved him so dearly, and cherished his soul, and if the soul of a person was the sole thing we needed, she had what she needed in the soul she obviously cherished.  But then she was quite unable to become that productive economic unit he threw in her face, quite rightly time and time again when she failed once more to put her best foot forward: and the reason she was unable to put her best foot forward was because his crushing lack of physical affection meant her best foot forward no longer existed: his crushing lack of physical affection now acting as a mental diabetes on her heart and soul, on the muscles of her mind, on the sinews of her ability to perform: and so the courage she could’ve expressed now wound down into a crummy simulacrum: and no one was ever now going to be convinced by her daily weeknesses.

So she began to realise the universe was right: her strong desire, her finest wish, to resolve the squaring of these circles by becoming that productive unit which meant the family would finally breadwin together … it simply wasn’t going to happen.  He had refused for so long to cherish her physically; and maybe even at the beginning he’d done it with fear.  And this recent thought had arrived literally to taunt her, and make her think she was worth even less than she’d once thought she was worth, a very long time ago now; too long ago for her to forget.

And she so wanted to save all the good things that had been.

And she so wanted to square the circles of their lives.

And there was nothing she would’ve liked better than to say to him: “Love me as you can, whilst I love another.”

But if she went and said that to the proud man he was … well … what on earth might happen to the woman she still – even then – managed to continue considering herself?

What on earth could happen?  What on earth really wouldn’t?

If truth be told, she was terrified not of change but of leaving behind her the relic and wreck of a person who without her would suffer as she had never done.

She wasn’t terrified of being happy at all – quite the opposite.

She was terrified, rather, of the degree and level to which his sadness might fall in her ultimate absence: once her absence were communicated: once her absence were consummated.

Failure and betrayal were the words that came to mind: and nothing, nothing in any true way, would ever be able to usefully repair his soul.

“Is this how a war veteran feels when they return?” she asked herself.  “Guilty about survival; morbid about the prospect of recovery; tied to the past and to companions who will never return; fighting the future and better times that can never be shared … so is that what a veteran really feels?  And am I a veteran in some terribly similar way?  A veteran without bullets … but even so, with daggers to the heart?”