I have a book of short stories coming out in the next couple of weeks. With the permisson of the publisher, here is one of the short stories from that collection for your reading pleasure.
When the colleciton is available, it will be advertisied here on my blog.
The Outsider Inside
It’s the cracks you avoid. Try to square your foot on the middle of the smooth block. Weight shift the second it takes to be sure. Only sure in the weight shift; it’s the forward lean that is precarious. What if I hit a crack? I can’t lift my foot and move it back properly into the space allocated for foot. I may look like a madman. I am or am not, because I know we are all avoiding the cracks. I uphold your sanity- that is my obligation. My crack-step-avoidance is secret.
Relief from a sure landing is brief, for the next step is now upon me with the weight shift. Momentum from my sure placement carries my bones forward into the next space, anxiety rushing into the briefest of timeless moments, only to be replaced by relief at the renewed sureness of my foots step. I mask this exercise for your comfort, but I know you do it too.
I can’t tell you how many squares I step into or how many cracks I’ve swept my precariously sure foot over. There are so many I forget the number. I used to count them, but would be troubled by a different number on the return journey. I’m too busy with the listening for these sorts of numbers anyway. It’s not that I can’t count them and if mathematics concerned me I would make it my problem – I would search out the place in my mind where the endless takings of life have been stored safely – the documenting of the space between the space between the space. Alone I can find everything – but it would have to be everything, for if I decided to remember I would remember fully, I would remember the things around the memories and the things inside the memories and the memories of the things and the memories of memories. I already feel tired with the weight of this enormity. It is enough to be con(sume)cerned with the present – the sounds of the present. I only think of precious ones with love. Memories are killing. They’ll come and find you, no need to seek them out. They seep from the cracks little by little, so your thoughts must be of now and the smooth block.
Scraping of brick layered over silence.
In the end it’s not avoiding the cracks that matters, it’s knowing I can. Remembering there is not so many, even if I don’t want to remember how many, and remembering I can remember if it becomes weighty in the now. If I hear the weight of it I can act. In the thinking crackle of the bubble, if I hear weight I will be ready for it. Even as a child I was hearing for weight (waiting for hear) and there were not as many weighty things then as there are now that I am overgrown into a man.
Because of this, because the cracks are important and not important, because I can hear everything even the things that don’t make sounds and the sounds that don’t come from things, it didn’t-doesn’t matter about my bags and the road and the train and the empty field that would be my bed that night. It matters in the vindicating of unpaid-for-sins in the sights of others, but not in the sound. I’ll hear my home here as I hear it anywhere. Cocoon myself in the womb of an expanding universe – smalling myself under the sound of a big bang sky.
I don’t care if you see me or open a door to see me or look through the eyes of children to see me. I (c)are and don’t care. You are kind and unkind and all these things together in the brief moment of the shifting weight. Time is a sound and all the sounds are as salient as all the others and your child dummy speaking with your ventriloquists voice rubs me over and blends with honey bees, tawny owls and crackles from nothing and the silence that must be felt.
Under these circumstances, nothing compels me to get up immediately. I’ll rest my elbow on a great tree root, settled my treasured ear in the cup of my treasured hand and allow for some memory of my situation breeding familiarity. I love and hate homelessness together. But everything is second to sound. This cloud can’t be pierced because I opened it up to the universe and now I am alone within the sounds – alone afraid and where I want to be. You are right to wonder at any sanity, given the rules imposed by your god, but when god is a sound and not a sound everything must be endured.
I pulled my old man jumper closer to my chest and wondered if I was an old man yet and if that would ever happen and maybe not because old is really something other people catch. Sounds don’t get old. Hearing changes transfers, but still, like sound, hearing is timeless. Even the blessed deaf hear something. If I’m ugly it’s not my concern. The day’s poetry, consumed on trains, busses, streets, bookshops, washes me and I wait, patiently-priestly for the arrival of the thing through sound.
It will hit me and then I’ll know.
I make it to the train and I’m thinking of fields and trees and knowing that I’ll sleep everywhere and nowhere tonight and that sounds like it was once fun to me. I know you want to follow – it’s not as good as you think and it’s better than you know, and it’s more than you can imagine. I’m outside; outside of the outside as outside of outside as you can be and still hear. Sex is everywhere. The earth pulses with it, vibrant and fecund. I’m not a cradle or a grave here, either that or I’m both or I’m in all cradles and all graves and I can hear life and death together. When my father dies I will hear him in the old man jumper but I tug at-it-tight anyway. Don’t think I exaggerate when I tell you I’m in my prime here. This is me robust – ripped you said when I heard your words typed through to me, the tapping of your fingers and the heat of your smile travel a thousand decibels across the seas. I’m jealous of you, you said; I envy your freedom.
I envy your envy and let’s just leave it at that.
I forget my age because I can’t hear it. I mean it’s not that I don’t remember it. I can remember it anytime I want. I forget to remember it in the spaces between the sounds. If I rubber stretch the pin tip holes I can hear into silence, or give the silence the ringing of my ears. But my heart is crazy and I need to shave so the soundless spots where the universe seeps through are left for other beard-free days. I’ll microphone inject you and find the hot wet sound inside. But you know it must pulse its wetness for me.
I walked back to the place I sometimes sleep and it is there and I am looking at it and straining to hear and letting go and letting the sound of a sometimes home find me. It’s foggy outside of fog. I send you a picture of the fog I can hear. It’s quiet! Show respect! But I have heard it. I’m not afraid to look, I know they weren’t spying on me. The window of my (not)room – I can see it from here – is closed. It was opened – for sound purposes only – closed now. Outrageously closed. Did they expect me to jump? Was I caught avoiding the cracks? I don’t hurt anyone but I know we can’t all do what I do and what makes me so special anyway.
Let’s just leave it at that.
Even though I stay in the room, I know what to do. I look out and go out and I do that often enough not to go mad. Officially mad or twisted into a profound sort of real. I used to go out so little! Oh my! Imagine that! It was the sound that terrified me. So many – so few. Sound lives behind the veiled curtain, into the holiest of holies and I know why. I have been there and it terrified me. It made me hasten back to the depths of the not-mine-room where I took refuge in the bed. I can be ill at ease with so much thunderous silence, even though I know how to act and I know what to do to keep you sure of god. Don’t steal god with the sounds is the first rule – so when I do that I sleep in the fields for penance.
I sit in the silence of the confusion of innumerable prospects. I know how to act when it is absolutely necessary – I told you. I open my ears to the expanse from where comes our help, where there are no roads, where you wander freely as I imagine happened in the lands where there is desert, all sound reaches together wherever I turn my ears toward the (not)limits of hearing itself. This is why I always open my ears in times of great trouble to this fog which is such a rest no matter how droning or a-tonal or veiled by industry to the town-fellow-folk. It never gets monotonous to me; though I know it bores others.
Better to feel something than nothing.
Watch me stride now – what a gait! What legs! I’ll walk for miles and miles and you’ll only have dreams of me. But then that’s me in a nutshell.
You will marvel at my concentration – everyone does. When I was a child I was distracted by everything. Everything and anything would move me away and back to the sound, but now – driven by a mad a priori – a desperate need – I never miss what I am capable of hearing. It needs words, my sound. It needs words and I’m not sure what they are. But then that’s me in a nutshell.
I walk with a lightness of foot that I learnt as a child. It’s the lightness of sound – yes that’s it! I walk on sound. I am tall and always was but this has never had me walk heavy. I like lightness thinness, lightness thinness. When I fall and I fall often you will be surprised to hear, I like to fall properly, listening to the sound of the moment, allowing for any embarrassment, the foolish flailing of limbs, the idiocy of declaring to the world that I can’t do properly what I should have mastered at five years old. I fall, if truth be known, as often as I can, searching for the sound of the stumble that carries me, the hearing revealing masculinity holding my place in time. It’s not how I appear. It’s how I sound.
Listen. Listen carefully will you?
Between you and I the journey I am on is quickly done. Don’t worry about moving further. It makes no difference and it’s only harder to hear. We are almost at the end of this small journey anyway – soon this train will leave the platform, you’ll go back to domestics and I will search for tonight’s field of dreams. I have decided we will use the train. Walking is tiring me, and I am starting to think the end of this journey is too far from here. I like the train anyway, with people hotly arguing. I like the sounds of passion. I’m in a box. A large and small box, small windows and I curl up in the corner, long legs folded, and read and read and read and absorb through the eyes, soak my mind, listen to the reading. A conductor wants my ticket and I have one so I show him. He thinks I’m obedient because I am. I save my rebellion for other things, other times, other sounds.
He wants to know where I am going and because I don’t know I tell him the place printed on the ticket, because that will do and he looks at me and looks at the ticket – and for a moment I wonder if I’ve given him the wrong answer – moved the moment of time so all-of-a-sudden he didn’t know where he was or who I was. Perhaps I am the conductor and he is the passenger or perhaps we are all passengers. He couldn’t suddenly remember why he was asking for my ticket or where we both were or are, and how suddenly he arrived at this place with three children and a pregnant wife to feed and adjusting/accepting/adjusting that he has no interest in the young receptionist any more and that he had to give up beer for gout. I smile a conspirator’s smile. Unaffected he returns my ticket and I hear the sounds of him moving to the next carriage underneath and above the sounds of every other thing simultaneously.
I do have money, though it’s hard to tell. It keeps me in trade. I have noticed in my past, and through my hearing of others, that despite ideas to the contrary you do go on living without money. Even without change in lifestyle for some time. Sound does not change. I can hear everything with or without the money. People won’t serve you though and I missed being cooked for. There is no service without money.
Soon the conductor returns and gives me a card that holds the name of a hotel at the stop I had suggested might be mine. He remarked that he liked me and I thought nothing of this because everyone likes a good listener.
I do get off at the allocated stop. I may fear repeat assistance from the conductor but I can’t be sure. It seems as good a place as any. I take to finding a field and the night is a hysterical burst of sounds that deafen my deafness. I’m weary and baby tawny owls are crying for a mother’s love. Perched under this tree and others I think of you and I think of us and wonder what that means and listen for the sounds of companionship in the cries of owls but there are none and so I sleep and you are far away.