Sleepwalking my way through life: August 2006

Vist the leaning tower of Coke cans!

Thursday, August 31, 2006
My room sits in a jumbled mess. Assorted clothes – both clean and incredibly filthy – meshed together in an indiscernible heap with the odd sock poking out. My drawer tops are littered with change, receipts, glasses, books, CDs and DVDs. The drawers themselves are spilling over with fragments of t-shirts and jeans that have yet to be discarded out into the mountainous pile. The floor is barely visible with only a few red patches showing up here and there. The rest is covered in old notebooks and memorabilia; earphones, a mirror, a folder, yet more DVDs, not to mention the numerous plugs that are dangerously upturned. There are also plastic bags that threaten to strangle my adventurous cat strewn across the room. The bin should hold them, but it itself is filled to the brim with cans, wrappers and anything else I have decided to throw out.

I finish off my can of Irn Bru and let out a long belch. I flick my wrist and send it flying towards the bin where it bounces off the rim and disappears in the landfill below.

Welcome, to my humble abode. Please, no need to wipe your shoes. We welcome your mud.

I smile and swing my legs off the edge of the bed – content with my mess – and jump to my feet. My foot, unfortunately, lands on an upturned plug. After a full five minutes of incessant swearing and hopping on the spot holding my foot, I decide to clean my room.

You know. Tomorrow.

Shopping debate

Monday, August 28, 2006
The shop was mostly empty with only a few customers walking to and fro. I picked up a random shoe and pretended to be interested in it, even trying my luck at metaphysics and examining its sole. My mother – my personal ATM machine – picked up another shoe and eyed up the laces suspiciously. We were looking for new shoes ever since my old pair of converse shoes decided to become sandals.

“How about this pair?”

“No.” I said without looking.

“What about these… Skeekers?”

“No… Wait, what?”

“These Skeekers. They look pretty cool.”

I walked over to her and looked at the tag with an eyebrow raised. “Mum, this is pronounced Skechers, like a sketch book.”

“That’s what I said.”

“No it isn’t, you said ‘Skeekers’.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yeah, you did.”

“No I didn’t. Why would I say ‘Skechers’ when it clearly looks like ‘Skeekers’?”

“Mum, you said it again.”

Long pause.

“No I didn’t.”

This post was also submitted to Milk and Cookies.

Only two weeks shy

Sunday, August 27, 2006
Check out my newest story; Yearning.

There is something noticeably hollow in my chest, as if my throat descends deep into an endless chasm, void of anything. The wind stirs my hair and blows the drizzle into my face as I readjusted my bag on my shoulder, waiting. The taxi was late, and I was forced to stand on the dark corner with my hands in my pockets and nothing to do but wait. I look at my watch, but put it back into my pocket without reading the time; it is broken anyway, the time frozen at a quarter to midnight. I keep looking at it anyway, even though I know that no time has passed.

I check my phone for the time and, just in case, any messages; and it hits me. Why am I waiting for this taxi? Do I have to be somewhere? Yes, I have to rush home and… Spend an extra half hour online. Is that it? I shiver in my jacket, but not at the cold. The thought of spending future Friday and Saturday nights in front of my computer literally horrified me. I need some new hobbies.

Ten minutes pass and I call up the taxi firm – interrupting the girl who answered – to cancel the taxi before I set off in a stride towards home. My mind works furiously, devising plans and strategies. The bottomless pit in my gut grew deeper when the cold realisation washed over me once more. I was single, I had to become used to that. Over the past few days I had felt less and less grief, even to a point where I felt guilty about how little sadness I was feeling. Coming to terms with things? Maybe. But then again there were the sickening realisations I have from time to time. I walk into my room and feel hopeless when I see my bed; she will never sleep there again, I think. There was a flicker of sadness when I thought that I should really clean my room, but for whom?

The rain comes down heavier and thuds against my hood. I quicken my pace and hold back the urge to start running. I know that if I run I’ll trip and fall and hurt myself, I just need to take my time and walk. My mind is running though, it runs back and forth with images of smiling faces and raised glasses. Double dates and blind dates and movie nights and relationship advice and just being fucking happy again flick round and round in my mind like a merry-go-round. It’s all there, all the friendship and possibility is all before me. I just need to get past all these feelings.

I am not going to deny it, it hurts. It really does. But I will claw my way past all these feelings I am having and return to as close as normal as I can reach. I am already doing well. I can smile, and mean it. I can laugh a solid and genuine laugh when I find something funny. And I can smile when my world insists to crumble. That has to count for something.

I reach home, and take off my jacket to be comforted by the warmth. I smile at the food waiting for me in the oven and the smell of it wafting over to me. I kick off my shoes and sit down to become absorbed in my writing as I think of an even better phrase to use. I don't notice it at the time, but the chasm inside became a little less bottomless.

I will be alright. I know I will.

And the bastard world kept on turning

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Everything around me was incredibly solid. I could see them and feel them with their perfect coherence and blatant existence. There were hundreds of colours in my room, from the light filtering through the curtains to the row of books on my chest of drawers. Even the walls that surrounded me were undeniably yellow. There were birds singing outside and my brother was laughing somewhere downstairs.

The night before, I had dared the world to end. I had dared it to open up and swallow itself whole, to explode into a magnificent firestorm, to rumble and roar and crack into uncountable pieces; I wanted it to do something to acknowledge how I was feeling inside. But it stood there, as stoic as ever, while I writhed between my bed sheets and tore at nothingness. Against all probability and against all logic, I felt like I was dying.

And I woke up. My bed was still there, the cold carpet was still underfoot, the refreshing glass of water was still resting calmly on my bedside table; the world had survived. I looked up and down my body; I was still here. I smiled to myself at my achievement and gazed about the room, looking at each item with a strange bewilderment that they were still there.

The world turned unemotionally and without prejudice. It refused to stop and relent to my wishes, no matter what I was feeling; it continued on in determined ignorance.

There is a lesson to be learned from that.

It's over

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I slung my bag over my shoulder and started down the long walk down the corridor. I stared blankly ahead, ignoring the pain in my chest and trying not to smell the mixture of computer and stale sweat. The luminous lights on the ceiling hurt my eyes, but outside, with the pitch black cold, was not much better and I quickened my pace to lessen my journey home. My manager came out of one the cubicles and smiled at me as she walked in the other direction.

“Night Joe.” She said.

“Night.” I replied.

I heard her stop behind me, but I continued on without looking back. “Cheer up!” she told me, “There’s plenty of things to smile about.”

I gave myself a flicker of a wry smile. “I’m almost out of here. I’ll smile when I get out of this place.” I said to her, still walking on and looking intently ahead. She said something in reply, but I couldn’t hear her over the buzz of the office and the thud of my feet. I walked out the double doors, stepped quickly down the stairs and walked out of the hissing automatic door. I walked out into the night and walked home with a heavy head and the full knowledge that I had lied to my manager.

And so I sat, staring blankly ahead and daring for the inevitable to happen while my earphones blast music that I (ironically) hope to deafen me. I sat strong and stared ahead as the dark thoughts returned and slowly inched their way into reality. My mind thought back to the phone call earlier before flicking to and fro over memories of the past year. I physically shook and gripped my knees in a futile attempt to steady myself.

Marie called me up and broke up with me. She wanted different things and was unhappy in the relationship. As simple and as complicated as that.

It’s for the best, and it’s the right thing to happen, I tell myself. But why did it have to happen?

And the funniest thing about the whole situation right now? It’s 3am.


Taking notes

Sunday, August 20, 2006
The train chugged lazily along and I shielded my eyes from the sun that filtered through the windows. It was the first good day to occur in a while – all the days running up to the weekend were filled with thunder and rainstorms –and dandelion seeds drifted to and fro in the slight breeze that brought relief from the warm sun. I pulled a tissue out of my pocket and blew my nose in a way not too dissimilar to a clown; the irony of the first nice day in a long while is that I’m too sick to enjoy it. Marie was the same, and the combination of her throat and my nose meant that we both headed home too early for a Saturday.

The beautiful day was spent in the dark cavern of the cinema, watching the new film A Scanner Darkly with its brilliant painted style and amazing story (interrupted by only a few coughs and sneezes) before we headed to Starbucks and grabbed a cup of coffee to clear our heads. And so I found myself on the train home after deciding to part ways, agreeing that neither of us would be much fun in our current states.

The train was very busy with almost every seat, apart from the one beside me, taken. The carriage hummed with the sound of conversation and somewhere in the distant end a baby was crying. I sat back and stretched my legs out, trying my best to enjoy my comfort in spite of my runny nose, and reached into my bag for a pen. I had a new notebook in my bag that I wanted to use for days, and since I had time to myself I decided to try and fill it.

So I looked around and pulled out the small book from my pocket. I looked over the seats and heads of my fellow passengers, and began to write.

Golden Mac-licious

Friday, August 18, 2006
Round, green and oh so deliciously crunchy; they used to be one of my favourite foods when I was a child, and I would hunger into them and devour every edible piece of flesh down to the very core. The first bite was always the best, piercing the skin with my teeth, delving down into the flesh and ripping it from the rest of the body. The juice would weep into my mouth and I would taste it eagerly as I licked delicately at the bared flesh in my mouth.

I’d bite down on it and feel the indescribable freshness as the piece was split in two and juice would spill onto my tongue and I would lap it up like a greedy animal. My teeth would chew on it, breaking it and separating all of the pieces; ripping the skin apart before swallowing it all.

I’d feel the pieces fall into my stomach and smile greedily as I held the apple in my hands. I had only just begun…

Oh, and don't forget to check out the RandomShapes Podcast. I am (somewhat briefly) mention in it. It's cool though.

Work time blunders

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I know that I usually avoid talking about my work, but this story is too good to waste.

I returned from the printer and slumped down in my office chair before I started shuffling sheets of paper around in the attempt to look busier than I actually was. The office murmured around me and I stole a brief moment to rest my head on the desk and relax my eyes for a moment.

“Joe, can you read this for me?” My manager said, holding a booklet over the barrier between our desks. I groaned and sat up, taking the booklet that I had printed out the day before. “Read out the national insurance number please.”

“YX348213D. Ok… What’s the problem?”

“The problem is that it isn’t the correct number, check the inside.”

I flipped open the inside of the booklet and read out “WX348… Ok then I got the first letter wrong. It’s not that bad a mistake though; Y and W are only three keys apart. Anyone could have made that mistake.”

“Joe, you wrote it.”

“Yeah, I know I did.”

“With a pen.”

Cue a long and awkward silence.

Capcom has ruined me...

Sunday, August 13, 2006
I finish another paragraph and sit back to look over what I have written. The backdoor lets in a breeze that stirs my hair as I scan over another story to complete and I can hear the sound of wind on the trees. There is the soft roar of cars, the laughter of children that will (thank god) soon be restricted to schools, and the very faint hum of a lawnmower in the distance.

I sit back on the soft leather couch and stretch my fingers to type more. But as they type out the first few keys, I freeze. The wind coming in from outside has carried the mechanical buzzing of a hedge cutter, or perhaps a grass trimmer; but I hear the dreaded sound of a chainsaw.

My heart thuds loudly in my ears and my breath quickens as I feel the chill of night and the roughness of dirt. My hands are cold and sweaty as they clutch the handle of the gun and I feel myself swing round to face the sound, pointing the gun ahead of me for preparation of what I know is coming.

He stumbles round the corner and almost falls on his weapon, but he regains his balance and glares at me with gleaming eyes. That’s all you can see – those shining demon eyes framed by a loose brown bag. He wields his chainsaw, holding it high as his eyes show his menacing grin and he charges at me.

My heart jumps and I shoot, missing him in my panic. He’s getting closer, the chainsaw roaring louder and I shoot again. This time I had gained composure and the well placed shot to the knee brought him to the ground. I pulled out a shotgun and stared into those beady eyes of his as he struggled to his feet. The first shot hit and he was thrown back, bellowing in pain and anger; the second threw the chainsaw from his grasp and sent it skittering across the ground; and the third one silenced him. I stood over his hulking body and fired off another shot, just to be safe. I reload the gun and hook it on my back so I can bring out my pistol again… A save point will come up eventually.

Female versus Feline

Saturday, August 12, 2006
My phone vibrated into life and blasted out the polyphonic ring-tone that I had yet to change. I picked it up and answered, glancing at the white envelope that sat on my coffee-table and had remained on my coffee-table for the past ten minutes.

“Hi, Joe?”

“Marie? Where are you?”

“I’m outside your house? Can you come and get me?”

I hung up and slipped on my shoes, perplexed at why Marie was outside and forcing me to wait another agonising minute without knowing my results. I walked out the backdoor and went to the driveway, where Marie stood perfectly still as if in the middle of a game of musical statues. He eyes darted to me and her mouth uttered an urgent whisper.

“She’s here!”

I looked around and saw no one, but a small nod from Marie’s head led me to the ground at my feet where my cat purred happily as it rubbed up against my legs. After I composed myself and stopped the side-splitting laughter, I shooed George inside and led Marie in behind me; protecting her from any cat attacks while hearing her whisper in my ear.

“She was going to eat me, I saw it in her eyes.”

Deciding my future

Friday, August 11, 2006
The thud came unexpectedly, creating a booming sound that seemed to thunder through my head. I snapped to attention and leapt to my feet; I had received a rude awakening to reality, and it was time to face the truth. I walked into the hall and gazed at the white envelope that laid at my feet with the thud still reverberating in my ears. It was time; I had to open it and find out the conclusion to a years worth of education.

I whipped out my phone and messaged Marie, urging her to break all laws of physics in order to arrive at my house as soon as possible. I had promised her that I would wait for her to be with me before I opened my exam results; a promise that I was sorely tempted to break within those ten minutes as the envelope laid in plain sight on my coffee-table, sitting and blatantly existing.

After an eon she arrived, and I stood and let the envelope fall away as I clutched the certificates that were contained inside. I closed my eyes and pulled out the second page where my results were kept before opening them again and scanning my results.

Marie threw her arms round my neck, bouncing up and down in celebration as I sat stunned and bewildered with the certificate in my hand. I came to my senses and hugged her back, relief washing over me as I realised what had happened. I pulled back, looked at my results again and kissed her deeply; pulling away again only to look at my results.

A C in Advanced English, an A in crash Higher Graphics, and a D in crash Higher Drama; I had passed English. I had fucking passed English. Along with that my A in graphics shone out at me while Drama sat in the corner as an expected disappointment. My face lit up with the thought of English and Graphics. I could hardly believe it; I fucking passed English. I was ecstatic.

I logged onto the UCAS website to check my university placements, and my face fell slightly as I saw that Glasgow had rejected me from their Arts faculty. Even though my grades were good, they were not good enough to gain me access to the University. I was in clearing now.

Clearing... I still had a chance.

The next two days were spent on the phone; calling faculty after faculty, advisor after advisor, secretary after secretary. I searched for every possible loophole to admit me to Glasgow University. I had called so many times with so many questions that the woman at the admissions office knew me by name; I had to cover every base from every angle in order to find a way to work myself into the arts faculty. I even called up the Divinity faculty to see if they could offer me a place and I mused with a smirk at the thought of an atheist taking a religious course, but even that lead to a dead end.

As I was beginning to lose hope, and I was almost giving up on the university idea altogether, something unexpected came along.

“If your main aim is the Arts faculty, then I would recommend another university.”

At the time of hearing the admissions woman say that, I was not too happy. It suggested to me that I should give up on Glasgow University altogether and spending a year in university with Marie. I reluctantly opened the Strathclyde University website and browsed the pages and I hesitantly dialled their number.

I told them my situation – that I was in clearing and interested in their Arts faculty – and gave them my details and exam results. Yes, I am particularly interested in your English course, and the Journalism and Creative Writing course. The Journalism and Creative Writing course is full? Oh, damn. Ok, I will hold.

They transferred me to their admissions office, where I explained my situation all over again to another person. He asked me a few questions about English being my choice of subject – seeing how most of my Higher courses were science based – before giving me his personal details and phone number.

“All you have to do is send us in your Clearance Passport, and then we can get you a place.”

I hung up the phone with another option set out before me. I could apply for Strathclyde University and take my courses there with an almost guaranteed chance of gaining entry. However, this did not make me happier. I would still be away from Glasgow University where Philosophy (Strathclyde does not have it) and Marie reside.

That is, of course, before Marie suggested a transfer.

I jumped on the phone again and rung the Glasgow University admissions office. I eagerly asked my question, hungering for a reply that would satisfy me.

“Yes, you could transfer from Strathclyde to Glasgow,” she said, “but you would have to complete an entire year in Strathclyde. You would reapply to Glasgow and fill out a transfer form and then you would be transferred, but your requirements would be to pass your courses at Strathclyde. But there is something though; if you transfer to Glasgow then there would be no guarantee that you would be put into Second or Third year.”

“So there is a good chance of me going into First year at Glasgow after completing a First year at Strathclyde?” I confirmed.

“Exactly.” She said.

I hung up the phone and danced to non-existent music. Strathclyde seemed so much better now. It was closer to the train station, it was closer to the shops, it was in a more modern area, and it was only ten minutes away from Glasgow University (and Marie) by Underground. The courses seemed much more appealing, and it seemed to work out better as a whole.

There was still the chance of transferring to Glasgow and having to repeat a year, but a lot can happen in a year. It is very possible that I might not want to transfer at all and stay where I am.

However, there are still many options to consider...

Bed time obstacles

Tuesday, August 08, 2006
“Alright then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She murmured a sleepy reply on the other end of the phone and I smiled.

“Yeah, yeah I will. I love you too. Night.”

I hung up the phone and lay on my bed for a few moments, thinking with a dreamy smile on my face. I looked round my room as I shifted position to my side, and just as I let my eyes close for a moment I sprung into action. My room was still a tip and I had no time to sleep. I threw some assorted items onto my bed, piling my headphones on top of my notebooks as I searched out clothes for the washing basket. I performed the smell test on each sock and shirt scattered around my room; fine, fine, musty, fine, musty, fine and what the fuck?

The hoovering was the next task. Thankfully both my mum and my brother were out of the house tonight, so no one could hear and complain of the hoovering noise that signified my raging social life. The machine roared into life and whined as it picked up the numerous stray hairs and threads which were strewn across my carpet. I had, thoughtfully, remembered to pick up any stray coins lying about to avoid a repeat of last time I cleaned my room.

All was going well; the room was a hairs breadth from spotless (unless you count under the bed. And no one counts under the bed) and I would soon be able to go to sleep. But my dreams of sleep were thwarted by my open window and shining light that attracted not one, but three moths into my humble abode. And with my aversion to creepy-crawlies, I just had to get rid of them.

Ah, the hoover! Swiftly I disconnected the nozzle from the base and wielded the long metal tube like a sword. I began chasing the moths around my room, valiantly trying to protect my sanctuary from such skin crawling invasions. The first two moths went down quick enough, sucked into the windy vortex of one of the eight patented Dyson cylinders, but the last one was proving tricky. It clung to walls, ceilings, lights; even my poor cuddly heffalump received a dose of moth rebellion before I finally captured it in a dust prison.

I turned off the hoover and performed a small victory dance round my room, raising the nozzle like some bizarre mixture of a trophy and a baton. It was then, during my third lap of the hoover base, that I noticed the smell. It was stale, sharp and it invaded my room, darting about from one place to another just like the moths did, spreading this indescribably… sickly smell. I looked down the tube and saw dried in chunks of vomit descending down into the hoover. I suppressed a gag as I remembered the events of earlier this morning.

I woke up this morning and slumped down the stairs; wondering blearily what day it was and maybe if the cleaner had come three days early to clean our house as evident by the numerous cleaning products on the landing. The thought was soon shunted out of my mind though as I reached downstairs and fell back into the couch. Chris was on the couch opposite and he began regaling me with his stories of the drunken escapades from the night before. How he mixed his drinks, how he was totally wasted, how he never quite made it to the bathroom when he arrived home…

And suddenly the cleaning problems had made sense. He had been sick in his room. Soon after he told me that story he went back upstairs to clean up the mess properly before the horrible smell permeated the house. The job was successful; the smell only reached the landing before it was beaten back with copious amounts of Oust (it was bordering on solvent abuse at one point) and I was happy.

But I was wrong. In an effort to clean up the insides that he had decided to expel, Chris had tried to hoover them up; resulting in myself gassing my bedroom with Oust (an odour neutraliser, by the way) and me coming downstairs at 3am to write about it.

That’s right Chris. This entry is your entire fault.

Something different

Sunday, August 06, 2006
There is a faint reflection in the TV, a barely visible figure, lit only by the computer screen, sits back and surveys the room. Everything seems more surreal in the wee hours of the morning. Things are always serenely quiet until you shift position to cause the massive explosion of a duvet rustling. Every movement that follows is initiated with extreme care; any stray inch of body could begin a chain reaction of events that cause the almighty sound of the bed creaking.

The Lapdancer will have to be put away in a few moments, folded up and placed neatly on the floor where it will sleep through the night. Ah, but a snag has already been… snagged. The floor is far from neat, containing an arrangement of clothes, magazines, DVDs and books. Putting the Lapdancer away will be less of a task and more of a balancing act; trying to place it on a foot high pile of clothes and books.

Those thoughts are the ones that circulate my mind tonight. And not just tonight; my thoughts have jumped lazily from sleepwear to the next day’s activities the past few nights. I sleep peacefully with a smile on my face and dream pointless dreams of exam results and fluffy white clouds. Fluffy white clouds and no swirling darkness.

There is still darkness, lots of it, but it is still and silent and unbelievably peaceful as it welcomes me to the relaxation of sleep. It does not swirl and hit me with dark and terrible thoughts, it does not envelope and choke, it merely stays where it is and allows me to sleep with a smile on my face.

And here I am, sitting up at 4am and wasting all this wonderful darkness.

Best mystery ever

Tuesday, August 01, 2006
My new story, The Butler did it.

Written in forty-five minutes, as part of my new habit to time every thing I write (damn you Blogathon).


Wanted: Quiet watches

It would be simple to say that the clock has begun ticking and that this piece of fact has come to my attention suddenly and without warning; but it has not. The ticking has been incessant, always present in the background as it patiently counted down the months, weeks, days…

Days. Now there are only days standing between me and the end. I never really thought about it, shrugging it off and changing the subject before the idea could be pursued further; letting it linger on the edge of memory before forgetting about it all together. That was fine with me, I did not have to think about it just then and I was safe for a good long while.

My exam results are released in seven days. This time next week I am going to be sitting in the exact same spot I am now, staring at the bland A4 envelope that contains the conclusion of a years worth of education. I wonder what I will be like when I open them this year; jump for joy and blast music like I did for my Standard Grades, or perhaps sit quietly sipping a glass of coke and pondering my future like last year.

The ticking is becoming louder with each passing second, an ever constant reminder of what is to come.