Dear Subconscious (Those were your words, not mine)

“Well, do you ever still think about us? About what we shared?” Her tone is somewhat insouciant, but a subtle curiosity clings to the back of everything she says. Her words settle for a few moments while I put a Marlboro Gold in my mouth and light it. My heart thumps against my chest slowly but powerfully. Not a combination I recall experiencing before. Each beat surges through my torso.

I let out smoke through my nostrils.
“Do you?” I eventually respond with my eyes on the potted areca palm in front of me.
She crosses one stretched leg over the other, swirling the water around her. I’m sat on the edge of the bathtub. We’re in complete darkness save for the candles she lit.
“I used to all the time,” she begins after a thought. “It’s because you left a deep, deep impression on me. Kind of like how an owner of cattle might press a branding iron onto the flesh of his livestock. You were the one who gave me my first taste of love. Or at least what I thought love was. How perfect was that summer we first met. When was it now?…”
“It was 2003.”
“Yes, that was it. Doesn’t feel like four years ago, does it?”

She raises her arms to the sides of the tub. Then she extends her right leg, drips of water and bubbles slithering down from her foot to her thigh, back into the water. She then bends the leg, bringing it close to herself.

“Anyway. Remind me again how we met exactly. I know you must have replayed that moment in your head over and over after I’d left you.”
I blow out smoke and say nothing. Without looking, I can feel her glaring powerfully at me. It’s difficult to tell whether she’s being playful with the remark, or if she’s being slyly devious. Despite her sustained nonchalance, though, I still feel those echoes of curiosity around the room.

“I ran into Adriana, and you were with her. It was a quick hi-bye but even within that small space of time, I was slightly awestruck by the look you gave me… your smile, your eyes, I thought you looked amazing.” I stop here, contemplating motionlessly. “So the same day, I insisted that she gave me your number.”
I toss the end of the Marlboro Gold out through the small window.

“It didn’t take two days for me to receive a call from you. What immediately interested me is that you saw what you wanted, and pursued it. You and I then met three days later. From the first day, everything was so natural. I felt I could open myself and not worry about what pours out in front of you. You gave me that kind of space. A space which I could share with you and be entirely myself, a space where I didn’t feel as though I needed to suppress parts of myself. And as much as I offered you the same space, you were hesitant, never wanted to pour yourself out. Though I hadn’t realised this at the start.”

I mull over her words. She’s right. Simply put, she was willing to give me all of her when, on the other hand, I gave her hardly anything. She continues.

“Our first months were as bliss as that first summer we spent together. Then problems between us started to arise, mostly due to your passiveness and lack of effort. We were so young. We could have grown together.”

She pulls in her other leg and submerses her body in the water, arms are crossed over the stomach I used to lay my head on.
Casually she asks me if I remember our first kiss. Amidst the dimness of the room, I know her eyes are low and her face bares a faint smile of pleasant reminiscence. She made me wait so long for that kiss. We saw each other almost daily through the summer, and it wasn’t until one mid-autumn evening that she eventually allowed me to kiss her. We’d gone to a restaurant. She wore a crimson red dress which made her stand out like a rose beneath the brightly moonlit sky. We were having so much that we’d lost track of time and her mother called.

Reaching the corner from where she stayed, we stood under the gleaming moon clutching onto one another, sharing a few last words and smiles. We both didn’t want the night to end. I could feel it in her embrace. We looked each other in the eyes and said nothing for a short while. She then drew closer to me slightly with narrowed eyes. I also drew close, and gently laid my lips against hers. It was all euphoria. My hands caressed her amorously as we kissed with flaming passion. We didn’t want to pull away. But she had to go.

Yes. Flaming passion, she says after a long silence. I sigh and reach for a cigarette, and she asks me for one.
“You don’t smoke.”
“I do, actually.”
“That’s a shame. You hated that I was a smoker and said you’d never become one.”
“That was a whole four years ago. I’m not the same young girl anymore. Times change, people change.”
I edge closer to her, she sits up and sticks her neck forward. Then, struggling to make out any details of her face, I put a cigarette to her lips, and light it saying,
“I guess the real shame is the fragility of human consistency.”
She exhales and retorts with,
“Humans are bound to change though. It’s something we can’t afford to see as a shame because it’s a human condition. Maybe what the shame is, is the existence we are born into without choice of condition. We grow, and our perceptions widen. As time moves on and as we find ourselves in different situations, we all go through our own personal natural metamorphosis which is likely to contradict or drastically alter from previous natures of ours. Whether its’s our opinions and views, the way we carry ourselves, our character, habits, likes, dislikes, whatever it is, we change.”

A quietness follows. The burning candles flicker. She appears to be brooding over what she said with just as much regard as I am.  Raising herself to a standing position, water and bubbles stream down her slender form. She gives her light brown hair a backstroke, then drains the water and steps out of the bathtub. I stare at the areca as she carefully dries herself down next to me with fine grace. Placing the towel back, she loosely wraps herself in a bathrobe.

“Thanks for coming over, by the way. It’s been a pleasure,” she mentions with her back turned to me and her hand on the bathroom door. She opens it and light pierces through the dark of the room. I look up and see her silhouette.
“Wait. Before you head off, tell me what you meant by you used to think about us. When did you stop?” This utterance flows from my mouth half consciously.

“What I meant? Those were your words. Not mine.”
“What?” I have no clue what she means by this. She walks through the door and the beam of light slowly thins until it’s completely gone.

Now the room is pitch black. I can’t see a single thing. For some unknown reason, my shirt feels damp. I sat right on the edge, no water got on me, I say to myself confused. Feeling down my shirt, I realise it’s not just damp but in fact drenched. I begin to smell the distinct odour of blood. At this, my stomach sinks into itself, and my heart restarts its’ violent thumping, only much faster. What could have possibly happened, I’ve been sat right here. Questions hail in my mind as I try to stand up. My head throbs and spins that I can barely balance. My entire body feel weak, and it burns. Loud ringing in my ears. I clutch my stomach with one hand and feel around with the other in the darkness. I can’t see a thing.

“Cheers for blowing out those candles, I forget!” I hear her shout from another room. Candles? I didn’t blow out her candles. My brain throbs with more intensity at my puzzlement. I begin to feel myself slowly slipping into unconsciousness, too much blood is being lost. I fall to the ground with a thud. Then I try to call for her, but my voice and chest are too frail to produce any sound above a mumble. My breathing becomes lighter and more painful. Those were your words. Not mine. What? I think of death, but refuse the notion of it taking me in such an unexplained way. If only I could see, if only I had some light. Immobilised and dying, I give up, putting both of my arms across my stomach. I now feel a chill. I’m cold and wet.

*

I open my eyes and I am darkness. Turning myself over in my bed, I read the digital clock on the desk next to me. 04:22AM. I drop my head back onto the pillow and let out a sigh. My mouth is dry. And my t-shirt is cold and wet. I remove the covers and head to the bathroom. I’m soaked in sweat, what kind of dream was I having, I think to myself.  I place my t-shirt and night shorts inside the washing basket. Then I look at myself in the mirror, then to the bathtub, at which I pause curiously. Those were your words. Not mine. I begin to recall a bathtub having some significance to the dream I just woke from, but I can’t figure out why. The dream is gone from me now.

Unable to sleep I stay up trying to remember my dream. After some forced contemplation I recall very few details, but I at least remember who was in the bathtub. She was sat cosily in the tub, and I sat at its’ edge.

Why did I  dream of her though? I haven’t seen her in years. I don’t even think about her anymore. I used to all the time. She left a deep, deep impression me.
I guess though even though times and people change, the subconscious will always store away memories and desires that you once experienced. No matter how much you change, every once in a while, maybe a long while, the subconscious – through dreams or random recollections or whatever – will remind you of what you once were, once had, once lived.

Those were my words, not hers.

*

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Thanks for reading. Criticisms and feedback are very welcome. Some recent works in the drafts that needs editing, I promise I won’t always muse my love loss, haaa

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Don’t Let It Get To Your Head (The Waiting Room)

 

I sit still and alone in the waiting room. It’s so unnaturally quiet that it begins to make me feel uncomfortable. In as much as my ears try, they fail to hone in on any sound. Nothing at all – no faint murmurs from another room, no footsteps, no audible activity. I start to imagine that there might not be a single soul in the entire building besides myself.

The four walls around me contain only a white rectangular desk central to the room with old car magazines and outdated newspapers and an ashtray on it, the chair I’m seated on and an identical one beside it, and a fuchsia-coloured cactus inside a white vase in one corner of the room, about three-feet in height. There’s a fairly large window on the wall opposite me, and a door to my left.

I hold my breath as I rise and step towards the window. Peeking out of it from about eight floors up, I’m struck by the notion that I may be the only human being in the entire street. The window doesn’t open, I even try to bash it a few times. From my limited point of view, I can’t see any pedestrians or moving vehicles. I can’t see any sign of life. Just the desolate streets, overcast by the dense grey clouds above. I can feel my heart pummel against the walls of my chest, though I keep calm and try to think of logical reasoning as to why I can’t see or hear a single other person within the building or outside (though it’s to little avail). Perhaps there’s a diversion on the street due to hazardous roadworks going on, I think. Though it doesn’t explain the silence in this building. Has there been an evacuation of premises that I’m unaware of?

All I can think to do is continue waiting. I return to my seat, withdraw a pack of cigarettes from the chest pocket of my shirt, and light up. The ashtray on the white desk leads me to the assumption that this is not an act of offense.
3:49 my wristwatch reads. He’s late.

I stare at the vase for some time as the smoke from my cigarette clouds up above my head. I can only reason the plant inside to be artificial – how anyone would think of, or why anyone would even want a fuchsia-coloured cactus is far beyond the realms of my comprehension. I direct my eyes to the door on the left. The door which I expect him to emerge from at any moment and invite me into. This of course begs the question: if that is the only door and it leads into his office, where, then, had I entered from? How and when did I even get here? Had I forgotten to take my medication before I came to see him? That’s all irrelevant right now, I tell myself as I ash my cigarette. All that matters now is this appointment. All I should be concerned about is the fact that he is now almost 25 minutes late.

After waiting for what seemed like hours, he eventually decides to show. He opens the door and invites me in.
“Step inside my office,” he says exaggeratedly, smiling as though impressed by his own wit. I say nothing, only giving him a blank stare for a solid four or so seconds and searching for the slightest hint of contrition.
“You’re late.”
“Am I?” he responds with his back turned, then, sweeping the matter under the rug, he asks, “You got a spare cigg’?”
I hand him my last cigarette, he gives a Thanks, sport! kind of wink before signalling with his hand for me to take a seat on the two-seat sofa opposite him. I analyse his outfit: plain marsh-green polo tucked into grey suit trousers, beat Adidas trainers, coffee-stained beige blazer. The sofa I’m seated on is very much like the one I had in my old apartment.

I give the rest of his office a once over. I very quickly become cognisant that this office of his has the exact same – and I mean the exact same – set up as the main room of my old apartment. Minus the brown leather sofa he is posted disorderly on, every detail is the same. Even down to the framed photo of my ex-wife which I kept hung to the left of the antique pendulum wall clock we got as a present from her mother.

At this point, my reasoning becomes so erratic and damaged that all my brain can reason to do is chuckle under my breath. I close my eyes and rub my forehead slowly. What’s he playing at? Is this all some kind of joke? The silence, the barren streets, the replication of my old home, this is all far too extreme and unnecessary for someone simply trying to mess with my head. Or is it that my head is already messed up? I’m left totally muddled, to say the very least.

It’s a dream, relax, I begin reciting to myself in my head. It’s simply another dumb dream. That explains the fuchsia cactus and the missing door and the office. Just a dumb dream. Relax. And watch. 

He wriggles his left forearm out of his sleeve and rests his elbow on the arm of the shiny leather sofa as he smokes away.
“How is she? D’you know?” he begins, right leg crossed over left, coolly blowing smoke into the ceiling fan.

*

Lucid dreaming, I think it’s called. Dreams are never quite the same once you’ve realised you’re really dreaming them; you begin to try control the course of the dream once you remember that anything’s possible in the world of dreams. But to what extent can one really control their dream once they know they’re in it? Is it a skill that requires continued practice, like shaolin training? Or is this consciousness still subject to simply observing the world which the subconscious mind has built? My feeble guess is that it all depends on the degree of lucidity, or something like that.

*

He’s sat more causally than I’d ever seen him. He looks like he is in the process of finishing off his final appointments for that afternoon before jetting off to Barbados for a week. I mutely glare at the photo beside the clock.
Well?” he persists.

As I had imagined and eventually come to confirm, it really was just a dream. The following morning I look back in hindsight and try piece details together whilst boiling my usual morning eggs. The dream had a lot more to it of which I can’t remember. He was Julian, my old psychiatrist, for the most part of the dream, but then turned into someone else somewhere along the sequence of the dream. It happens, doesn’t it? One minute you’re with so-and-so in your dream, then the next, they’re somebody totally different. But the strange part of it all is not so much that they change, but that it doesn’t seem to go noticed, or disturb the discourse of the dream whilst you’re actually dreaming it.

Dreams are a funny phenomenon. I never could settle on what to think of them. Do they hold some significance to reality, or are they just your subconscious toying around with a few random details and memories you’ve stored in some crevice of your mind over the years? Or both?

Don’t ask me.

 

 

Thank you for reading. As usual, any criticisms and feedback are welcome.

 

When Your Lover Has Gone

 

My uncle is a wise man. Forty-two years of age this Autumn. He graduated from the Imperial College London university in 1988 where he had studied civil engineering for seven years. In the same year he received his master’s degree, he found work as a structural engineer for a top firm (partially due to ample prior experience as a trainee and then an intermediate engineer). He excelled in whichever position he reached, and was generally liked and looked up to throughout the board for his commitment, ideas and adeptness.

He got married also in the same year, and moved to Brighton with his wife a few months after the wedding. Before they were married together, my uncle and his wife had only known each other for six months. Everything was so abrupt but he didn’t mind. That’s the way he liked to do things, that’s the way he maneuvered through life; quickly, quietly and without too much thought or planning involved (though also with an incredible measure of efficiency).

He and his wife found a nice little home and set out to begin their life by the coast. To my uncle, it only made sense for him to alter his profession slightly to coastal and geo-technical engineering as he had decent experience in both sub-disciplines. Unsurprisingly, he flourished in these roles. He had an unmistakable knack for whatever he put his hand to. It was a product of discipline and hard work just as much as it was product of some natural flair he seemed to emerge from the womb with.

By 1996, my uncle became a senior engineer, and in the following two years, a specialist. He made a lot of money, more than he and his wife even knew what to do with. They didn’t have kids; she didn’t want to at the time. Fortunately, he wasn’t so keen on having children either. It’s not something he ever looked forward to (til this day, he still has none). My uncle hated living in Brighton, he missed London dearly. Though, his wife had made it clear before they were married that she wanted to stay in Brighton near her parents until they died.

*

Since he retired his engineering work in 2001, my uncle has been for three years the owner of a ritzy restaurant in Central London. Fair-sized and specialising in seafood, the restaurant is managed day-to-day by a close friend of his, whom he met whilst in Brighton. Living by the coast for twelve years seemed to have fueled an affinity for seafood in him. And even though he wasn’t involved practically with the restaurant, he had become a kind of expert on all types of edible fish during his time in Brighton, and learnt variant ways of preparing seafood gourmet.

My uncle and the woman he had married got divorced in 2000 when she admitted to him that she was having an affair with her ex-fiancé. She’d claimed to have lost feelings for her ex-fiancé, and that she was no longer in contact with him. Naturally, the news completely tore my uncle apart. He had had an idea that she may have been sneaking around; seeing someone here, another person there – for something casual, maybe a couple of drinks with a pinch of coquetting every so often (it’s what married couples often did for whatever reason, at least he thought). But that did not seem to be the case in this particular instance. He was devastated. My uncle truly loved her to whatever extent he knew how to. He really envisioned spending the rest of his life with her. They made plans together to move to the south of France once her parents had passed away. I never met the ex-wife, and he rarely spoke of her. In fact, he only ever brought her up once when I asked him if he’d ever want kids of his own.

*

My uncle is a loving and honest man. He loves to paint, though he never thought himself to be any good at it. He is, however, exceptionally deft with words, and equally good with women. On average, he brings four different women home every three-or-so months – always in their 20s – and sleeps with each one for weeks at a go before repeating the cycle all over with a new batch of women. Though at times the women desired so, my uncle never pursued committing to a real relationship with any of them. He no longer trusted women. It was unfortunate, he said, that one bad experience had changed his entire outlook on women. But what am I to do – leave myself vulnerable to hurt again?

His experience with his ex-wife etched an everlasting grey area in his mind which he felt no woman could ever purge. Some menacing pool of apprehension and gloom that taunts him, piercing his conscious whenever he dared forgetting his wife and that whole episode of his life.

He never used to, but after the divorce my uncle began to drink a lot. On most weekends, he and some old colleagues meet up at some bar and the boys go wild. Occasionally, though, he stays in and quietly spends the evening with a chilled bottle of whiskey while some 60’s jazz capers in the background as he laps a random car mag.

All in all, my uncle isn’t a terrible man. Just a simple, humble, hardworking soul submersing himself in the many mysteries and adventures and scenarios and turns which life presents. Taking life one day at a time, he is just another man with his own set of flaws and struggles.

 

 

Thank you for reading. With this piece, I was focusing on character building, and also simply practising pulling words together for the joy of it. No promises, but I may write up a second part to this which expands on who the nephew/niece is.
Criticisms and feedback are much appreciated!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gnossienne #1 (Leaving)

“When you were still little, maybe eleven or twelve, I kept having these dreams about you. Dreams in which I just remember you causing me so much stress and grief.” she said to me. My mother was laid on her back, glaring at a point in the ceiling with a pallid expression pasted on her face.

“These dreams kept reoccurring, over and over again.” she continued. “I kept having the same kind of dreams and I had no idea what they meant at the time. But this is it. This is the grief I kept dreaming about.” As she says this, she releases a heavy sigh and turns to her side, pulling the duvet to her neck. A few seconds of silence followed before she closed her eyes and said, “Turn my light off and close the door behind you.”

This was the last conversation I had with my mother. Well, it wasn’t much of a conversation – I kept my mouth clamped shut the whole fifteen minutes she talked at me. What she said of course remained and settled. In a very dark, gloomy district of my mind. Like an unpurgeable internal ghost, what she said lingers and reverberates through my soul every now and then. And that’s the last time I ever saw her.

That night was the night when everything changed. I went into my room, locking the door behind me. I crawled in my bed fully clothed, not really knowing how I felt. ‘Empty’ might have been the right word. I couldn’t feel anything – no sadness, no hurt, no anger. No emotion at all. I just laid there motionlessly for about an hour or so. The point was to stay quiet long enough for my mother to fall asleep. It came to around 1:30am. I gingerly slipped out of my covers and sat at the edge of my bed for a few moments, listening to the deep, relentless silence which ran throughout the entire house. I took a few deep breaths and mechanically began humming the opening to Erik Satie’s ‘Gnossienne number 1’ hushedly.

I’m going to do it, I’m really going to do it, I remember whispering determinedly to myself as I got up. I opened my wardrobe door slowly and, reaching into the top-right of it, I retrieved a normal-looking shoebox. The shoebox encompassed a wad of good, hard cash. £5,000 in total.

No, I hadn’t stolen it. I hadn’t even worked for it exactly. I’d won it. In an under-25s short fiction competition. Yes, I’d entered and won the competition a year before. The prize was £5,000, a certificate, and a couple features in small literature magazines and local newspapers and such. Nobody knew, though. My family didn’t even know I entered. They never had any interest whatsoever in anything I was capable of or enjoyed doing. They just didn’t seem to want to know. My family had always been like this.

As individuals, we’re very decent, friendly people – but together as a family, as one unit, we’re a complete mess. We hardly ever spent time together, and whenever we did, there was always a stubborn heaviness and discomfort. This same heaviness and discomfort was alive in the house. The walls breathed it out, the carpet stunk of it, the doors were painted in it, each room was stuffed with it. Every moment together was like walking on eggshells or trying to disarm a complex bomb which would detonate at any wrong or reckless movement.

My mother had to singlehandedly spearhead the family, and so was always too busy and too stressed to have any idea what kind of characters her children really were. She didn’t understand them. She was trapped in a bubble. A bubble in which she would live whilst taking care of all of her issues, responsibilities and endeavours. A bubble in which she could not see or think beyond. This bubble allowed no room for other perceptions or insights. Only her own. Whatever she thinks, is right, whatever she says, goes. All she saw was problems she could fix. When she saw something she didn’t like or agree with, she had to fix it – using only the tools and methods she had inside that bubble of hers.

My family grew accustomed to this characteristic of only seeing problems. And so we adopted an instinctual habit of seeing only each other’s faults and pointing out each other’s wrongs (expect for me, I tried to stay out of the house as much as possible and kept my mouth shut whenever I was home. I turned a blind eye to whatever went on in my house, and generally didn’t get involved with anything that happened).

She was very difficult to live with. She only saw things through her eyes, and as I was under her roof, she could impose her perceptions (and the decisions she made as a result of her perceptions) onto me. And I had to take it. Right on the chin. Without a word. Even when I didn’t agree, even when I knew she was wrong, I simply had to shut up and accept it. But there came a point where I could no longer keep increasing my tolerance threshold. I didn’t hate the woman, no, not anything remotely close to that. But we were very different, and would often disagree. This was the case with my entire family, too. I believe we truly did feel a degree of compassion for each other, but we just never learned how to express it – and in knowing this, we all kind of dispersed and sought after expressed comfort elsewhere.

Whenever my family were together, without fail, at some point someone would weave in something totally unnecessary into the conversation. Say, for instance, a mistake or bad decisions one of us made months, sometimes even years ago.  Or someone might have taken things too personally, or someone might have confessed harsh and hurtful utterings about someone in the family (again, needlessly).

It was all a heavy, burdensome disarray I just had to find my way out of. And that was it. I took the money, slung on a big coat and filled a rucksack with a few items I figured would come to good use: ID, a change of underwear, two T-shirts, a pair of shorts and 3 unread novels. I slipped off the elastic band which held the wad of £5,000 together, counted and placed £2,000 on my bed, banded up the rest of the cash and pocketed it. I crept down to the kitchen and downed three glasses of water, then went back up to my room one final time. I left my phone along with the rest of my belongings. Looking at the pile of £2,000 by my pillow, I took one last deep breath, and then closed my bedroom door quietly behind me.

And that was it. I left.

Where I was headed to, I had no idea. But all that didn’t matter. As long as I’m out of here, I’ll be fine, I told myself. As long as I take the step, the wind will carry me safely. I remember feeling as though this was the right thing to do. You know, ‘destiny’ ‘n’ all that.