Two Contrasts

So the first example.

You believe X. If only other people could see X then perhaps things would be better. But you know that whilst X is obvious to you, it is not to others, and this is maddening. But if you talk to them about X they might come to know it, as you do, you hope. Sometimes, though not as often as you’d like, you meet someone else who believes X. Around ninety percent of the time, though, you’ll actually find out that you only initially thought that they believed X, when in fact they believe Y, which is damned close to X, and almost there. This leads you to think that perhaps if they fully understood W, then maybe they would believe X and not Y. You have talked to them a little about W but they never really seem to get it.  The persistence of X as obvious continues, until you’re almost tired of it. Lastly you meet, after several years, someone who believes X. You have extensively discussed the matter together and you both definitely believe X – and it is at this point that this other someone asks you to fully consider Z. You feel your years and X begins to seem more complicated than you had really ever considered, and you think back to Y and your thoughts about W. Perspective hits you like concrete. You meet more people, and they believe G, F and H. You begin to acclimatise to the fact that these other beliefs exist. Tentatively, though, you still really believe that other people should really try to see X. And you age. And you still really believe X.

Or, you feel A. You keep your distance from people who don’t feel A – not particularly consciously, it just seems to work out that way. You are not an unsocial person. You do not dislike people who do not feel A. You just think that A is more a matter of taste than anything else. You have tried to talk to them about A but without them feeling A like you do, it’s very difficult to get anywhere or even to begin. Through meeting more and more people, A, you realise, is incredibly important. It is difficult to reflect on A, but you have the sudden impression that perhaps the feeling you have of A is arbitrary. This seems impossible – how well distributed is the feeling of A? Sensation of and love for A burns in you, year after year. How will you make them burn like you do?

The second example, which is almost the same.

You live in a beautiful place. It is rich in culture, in history, and there are things to see and do should you wish to enrich your life further. Good people live here, and the people you know are uniquely wonderful. The grass and trees are mid-afternoon green. The streets are calming and comforting. Everything is as it should be in this place where you live.

Or, you live in an awful place. The buildings, if there are any, are broken, colourless and old in the worst possible way. Your surroundings are devoid of life, and though you are a person with a healthy degree of vitality and hunger for life, you find yourself crushed down under the weight of days. Time drags here. You walk around bored or afraid. You are in a condition of solitude. When there are people around you, they don’t come close to touching the loneliness at your core, and it seems there’s almost nothing you can do to displace it. And you wait, hoping to leave but never being able to.

 

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My Street

Growing to increasingly love my house and the street it’s on the more I’m away from home. In the window of a resale shop just two minutes away, a metal detector hangs unloved in the window next to a beaten-up guitar. Behind it sits an old radio and an accordion with stained teeth looking for an owner. There are coffee shops springing up and no end of hairdressers. There’s restaurants – curry houses, take-away places, sit-down Chinese places with traditional menus and sleepy chefs smoking round the side. The Turkish place and the chip shop have closed down for good but there’ll be other things to take their places.  I know the name of the guy behind the counter of the shop directly across from us, but I think he only knows my face. The old Irish barber whose shop is just before the bridge never remembers me and I tell him a different life story every time.

There are people who I’ve known by sight for years who stroll up and down. We’re still all strangers. There is an old Chinese man with short cut grey hair and glasses who always wears the same blue coat, white button-down shirt and red scarf – he smokes continuously and I’ve only seen him alone. Sometimes he’s walking slowly down the road, seemingly lost in thought. Sometimes he’s sitting, his small, almost childlike backpack next to him on the bench as he smokes. Sometimes he is hunched forward, elbows on knees; other times he is leant back, arms on the back of the bench and one leg up, ankle on knee in a lounging, carefree way. This is a rarer sight. There’s a very overweight and short round man in middle age who wears large glasses and a sour expression who haunts one of the junctions about five minutes walk from where I live. He wears a peaked cap and very large stretchy gym trousers, with his keys on a chain which hangs from his pocket. It seems he doesn’t shave, but doesn’t grow a beard. Once, and once only, he nodded to me. I have never understood why.

 

Out walking today

Two late-teen girls with the same olive skin tone and lustrous black hair who might or might not have been sisters passed me by, preceded by but clearly not walking with a tall blonde man in an exquisite white shirt, open at the neck and tucked into smart-casual trousers topped by an expensive-looking belt. There was some kind of product in his hair which has allowed him to slick it all back, and he might have appeared shark-like, were it not for the red puffiness of his face and the absent smile painted across it. Behind him, in turn, was a bald man in a grey t-shirt, maybe forty-five, wearing a stern expression and red sunglasses that looked like insect eyes, with a white tunnel through one earlobe and a grey fuzz approaching goatee status, on his chin, who moved forward purposefully though not quickly, almost graceful. His grey t-shirt had a pattern on it composed of darker grey skulls and crosshatching, the kind of shirt that looks a little like a metal band t-shirt whilst at the same time being deliberately unspecific and generally just indicative of teenage rebellion. The incongruity of these bizarre items of clothing and accessories on the middle-aged man contrast with his expression of self-seriousness such that he appears almost papal.

The Two-Timer

I can’t choose, you know, between the two whom I love. The first – ravishing. An English rose. Smooth and ennobling. Full of spirit and hope and also reminds one – reminds me – of home. The second – dark and mysterious. A characterful late night companion. Strong, bold, keeps me up until dawn. Though I feel, whenever I favour one over the other, such guilt that I will always return to the other with a heavy heart. I am consumed by one whilst secretly lusting for the other. My passion for each rotates, as it were, and I loathe it. Why cannot my puny human will let me make an honest choice, stick to my guns? Why oh why am I paralysed whenever someone asks “Tea or Coffee?”

The Value of Bliss

Stopped in the hallway they kissed clumsily – a casual motion to fill a gap between two moments in the party – an easy but not a meaningless motion; one that would be revisited and revised later that night in their bed. Two guys watched the couple’s brief intimacy from down the hall, where they stood clutching beer cans. Amidst the hallways where riffs blasted from speakers in two stuffed separate rooms the couple were lost again in the party. Prior to propriety the first guy interrupted the second who had been midsentence — ‘Won’t you shut up?’ The hallway down which their lonely gaze was fixed ended in a square of beige hung on the wall and signed. Quarter turn right was a doorway, through which came a girl to occupy the doorframe and lean and leer, staring into the next room hoping to catch a stream of loose conversation, a frond of contact, anything.

She stared at a fixed point a flinch above the striped crash pattern of a boy’s blue striped shirt at what was behind – a dark wooden lion statue, varnished and with a teen’s green peaked cap draped incongruously over its protesting inanimate face – and then she realised she’d been waiting and moved on, and the boy in the shirt before the lion looked to her when she was gone.

It became four A.M. Immune from disease the party waned, guests, gradually waylaid by sobriety abstained from further drink, from further staining of their honour through alcoholic decay. Decedent brilliance continued to sparkle about the majestic figures who were still pissed. All around them in a rave were danced-out bruisers, lost-cause exhilaratists, still-high chillbags, a layer of the socially smooth and ugly losers too wasted to be excused. Red cheeked in the new light of morning, dipped in inadequacy with no fresh faces to choose.

Somewhere between four and five Tennant 2 came home – he half owned the place and was eager for sleep having been out all night. He found the disgraced remains of some he would call friends when they were sober, and sighed and hung his hat. He kicked a plastic cup on his way. The girl with whom he shared the place – whose real name was Tennant 1 – emerged from the mass, arranging her hair distractedly with a comb of fingers as she made her approach with a boy in tow.

Tennant 2 took them aside. The low hum of slurred conversation from the next room was still audible. He frowned and listened to the ring of drinkers which had formed in his study.

“Again?” he said, his grey gaze on the girl, who shrugged.

“Why not?”

“Christsake,” muttered The Man, moving past the pair and retiring to his room. Tennant 1, still drunk and lazy, grasped for her boy’s hand and made her way to her bedroom.

Hearing their door shut, considered stepping out to request the party in his study to vacate, relocate, evacuate. He removed his tie, and then his shoes, which he moved under the bed with a kick of rebuttal. His consideration dissolved: it was a Friday, and the partiers therefore had more of a right to be there than in ordinary cases. Furthermore, he was tired. He tracked the contours of his bearded face with a lazy hand and stared off until the clock ticked. He concluded by getting into bed, wondering what the worth was.