Excerpt from Ideal Angels:
Tumescent, tumescence, a rush of blood but not to the head. The anger gives way to resignation, betrayal turns in to hopelessness. Despair is everywhere.
Your world is different from mine. Your forever stretches from first matter to last. Mine is the blink of an eye. There was darkness before, and that darkness will come again. You can’t control it, you can’t swim. There is only sinking. You can try and hedge your bets, you can plan for what is coming, but you cannot stop it coming. From the top of the highest height, you feel like you can see everything, but you cannot. You are blind. But the blindness is not the darkness, because the darkness is not black. It is so much more. It is like your eyes are inside out, and everything you see is inverted in a way your brain cannot comprehend. It threatens to tear you apart. You know you will eventually be torn apart, but you do not know how. Not yet. You will not know until it happens, and by then it will already be too late. It will not be a she, nor a him, but it will be a you. You will tear yourself apart searching for a meaning which does not exist. You will kick and scream and scratch and cry and bleed and it will all be for naught. It has already been done. Everything that ever is, ever has been, or ever will be, is already done. You cannot stop it. You cannot control it. You can only accept it. You know you will not be able to, but you can try. You can pretend. You can fake. You are a fake. Your whole life has been a fake. Everything is nothing. But this is ok. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You are…
In that darkness there is a light, and in this light there is a promise. The promise is her name, the promise is that maybe everything will be ok. But you know it can never be, the promise is a lie, so you stop thinking, you stop feeling, the light goes out and you continue.
I am so sorry, but I must leave you now. I have tried, and I have tried, but I have failed. She cannot join me, and so I must join her. Do not mourn for me, I died a long time ago. Know that I love you, and I do not do this to hurt you. I’ll watch over you, I’ll always be with you.
It starts on a Friday night. You get up from your desk after a particularly unproductive day and your plan is to go home, pick up some food for the weekend and eat too much, specifically not drink, continue to work out, but someone you work with invites you to the pub and your lack of self-restraint is evident as you immediately say yes and you go to the pub, sip that first beer and think maybe next weekend, next month, next year, maybe in another lifetime, maybe when you give a shit, and you sip the beer and remember why you have no self-restraint, it isn’t just the taste, it’s the promise of being drunk, of the freedom that being drunk brings, of not caring anymore, and that’s when you meet her.
You notice her immediately, she’s too beautiful for you not to. You don’t recognise her, then again you don’t recognise a lot of the people who may or may not be there with the people you may or may not be there with. You haven’t worked for the company long, it’s a fairly large company, the building you work in is five floors, you rarely leave your desk except to get a drink or to take a piss, spending your days sitting staring at your computer, staring in to oblivion, so there’s every chance she does work with you. In any case you ignore her, not specifically shutting her out, but rather not talking to her through lack of knowing how to initiate yourself into other people’s lives. You talk to the people you know, the people from your team, the other two teams adjacent to yours, people you have spoken to before, safe people.
You sit at a table, sipping beer, watching people drift away. One woman has to go home to her husband, tea will be ready soon so she can’t be late. One man has a gig the following day, an all dayer in a different city, so can’t be out too late. This isn’t rock and roll, this is adult life. You tried to live the rock and roll lifestyle once upon a time, but not anymore. Being a not especially well off adult with rent and bills doesn’t allow for much rock and roll excitement. Regardless, it is Friday night, you’ve worked hard (well, worked anyway) all week and now is your time to relax. A weekend of not drinking turns into a shot of Sambuca, and this is when you know it’s over. Saturday is not going to be fun. But Saturday is tomorrow, today is Friday and Friday is now, the future can worry about itself, the consequences will happen to another you, a future you. This is the present you, and the present you wants to drink.
Before you know it there are just four of you remaining; people have drifted off in to their lives, in to their obligations, but not you. You have no obligations. You, two men you work with, and the girl. The way these two talk to her you realise she must work with you, and the four of you are located at a table and you find yourself sitting next to her, and another of the great qualities of being drunk swells up inside you, and you find yourself talking to her. At first you’re not listening, your main concern being trying not to stare. You have to look at her, so as not to seem ignorant, but you don’t want to leer. You’re prone to leering at the best of times, let alone under the influence of alcohol, or whatever else may come your way, and so for a long time you don’t know what she’s saying. She’s too beautiful to be understood anyway, her words must be on another level, another plane, you don’t occupy the same time and space as them, as her. Long, centre parted black hair, not naturally black, but it suits her, compliments her pale skin. Her eyes are green, amazing, you can see enough behind them and inside them to think maybe this one is something else, maybe this one is like you, maybe this one is not like them. Her nose, slightly large, protrudes from her face, but not in a bad way, it does not ruin anything that’s in front of you. It’s the kind of slight imperfection that can make you love someone even more. Love? You must be drunk.
She smiles often, warmly, perfect white teeth emerging from behind perfect red lips, a smile you keep trying to coax out of her, and which you seem to be able to do with almost alarming regularity. She wears a white tank top, black bra (you can’t help but notice, she’s not exactly trying to hide it); blue jeans, she’s skinny but not so much so that it’s off putting, not the kind of model thin that makes you worry you might break her; she’s just the size you like. This sounds creepier than you mean it to, but you know (or at least hope) the words are only in your head, no one around the table says anything so they must be, thank God, or whatever it is you believe in right now, god, sex, breasts, alcohol. You can see the shape of her breasts, you can imagine what they look like and how they feel, the thought making you equal parts horny and aching, horny in your groin, aching in your heart. You can see her hips through her jeans, and you imagine them too, you imagine lifting her up by the hips, holding her in your arms and you take another drink and dismiss the thought. It’s not healthy. Not yet anyway.
Eventually you’re able to listen, and completely engage in the conversation, alcohol permitting anyway. You find out she’s a big reader like yourself., yet another plus. You ask what she’s currently reading, your go to question, and always a chance to talk about what you’re reading, show off your knowledge, inflate your already overinflated ego, the one part of yourself you actually like. As she opens her mouth, she says something you never thought you’d hear. Have you heard of James Joyce? You reply of course you have, and in that instant you panic, and think it can’t be so. Is she going to say it? You’ve read it, twice, and wear it like a badge of honour, but didn’t like it, not even a little, and can’t remember anything specific, except maybe a toilet, maybe in the first scene. Everyone liked it but you, you just don’t get it. You’ve always worried that you missed something, that you didn’t get it, that the book is a joke everyone but you is in one. That life is a joke everyone but you is in on. And now you’re doubly worried, your number one fear is about to be confirmed. That your number one fear revolves around books says a lot about who you are as a person, but that’s a discussion for another time. That’s a web for a more sober you to untangle, a bridge for a more sober you to cross.
Time slows down even before she confirms your worst fears; Ulysses. Your nemesis. You tell her you’re amazed, when in reality you’re horrified – story of your life. You ask her why, and she can’t answer, simply saying she’s reading it because she is, the tautology shocking you. You of course tell her you’ve read it twice, something you’ve told probably everyone you’ve ever met, something you’re proud of, and reluctantly admit you didn’t like it. She doesn’t seem to be affected by this, and in this moment you almost love her. Love again, Jesus. You can’t stop yourself. In order not to dwell you move on. Have you read The Dubliners? Same author, but a book you actually understand, and can talk about without sounding, or at least feeling, like a fraud. She has, and you’re relieved because you actually liked that book. She asks you what you’re reading. The Informers. The Informant? No, the Informers. You have it in your bag under the table and you get it out, for clarification. And because it’s good to have a prop. That’s the reason you drink so much. Well, one of the reasons anyway. One of the many, many reasons. The reason you like to tell people because it sounds reasonable, much more appropriate than because alcohol numbs the pain, makes life bearable. She recognises the name, Bret Easton Ellis, and this is when you know. A light goes on in your head, and you know what’s coming. She asks you what your favourite book is, and you know this is the end. This is the road of conversation she will not get you off, but you’re drunk, and want to walk down that road and so you do. Have you read Glamorama? She says no, and this is your cue. This is where you come in to your own.
Sometime later, when you have finally stopped talking (ranting) about Glamorama and its effect on your life, the conversation moves on. She notices your tattoos, another topic you’re always willing to talk about, and begins to ask about them. What are they of? Stuff, things, nothing particular but nothing not too specific. What do they mean? Nothing, really, you just wanted them doing and so you got them done. Do you have any others? One of your chest and one on your wrist. What’s on your chest? Another something, another stuff. Can she see it? Sorry, but as much as you want her to see you without clothes on, you’re not in the habit of doing so in pubs, in public. You tell her to Google the design, and she says she will though you think she probably won’t. Does it matter if she doesn’t? Of course not. None of this does. You’re just two tiny organisms on a planet spinning towards its own inevitable destruction. Might as well try and get laid first though.
What’s on your wrist? The cross examination continues. You show her, more ink, more design. Does this have any meaning? Not originally, but now it does. You know it is the worst tattoo ever, you openly offer this description, but that is not what it really is. What it really is is a reminder, a scar of a different time in your life, a time when it was the right idea. Do you regret it? Not at all. Eleven years later, it’s not what it once was, but it’s still significant. You tell her you don’t have any regrets, at least try not to anyway. What’s the point in regrets? What purpose do they serve other than to waste time. She doesn’t have an answer to this and you’re perversely satisfied, though you know you shouldn’t be. Fuck it. Once you finally stop talking she says she has none (tattoos that is), she wants some, but is scared of regretting them later. You tell her that makes sense, but it’s not how you view it. You remind her of your wrist, of how even though it is terrible, it’s a constant reminder of a time when it mattered, and even if it doesn’t matter anymore, you know it once did. It’s probably drunk bravado, but she understands your words, accepts them, and says she’s going to do it. You smile. She smiles.
Eventually, the four of you are outside, having a cigarette, and it’s time to call it a night. She’s made a note in her phone that she will read Glamorama, and this seems the perfect opportunity to do what you shouldn’t do but definitely are going to do anyway. You tell her the two of you must discuss it once she’s done, and ask for her number. She says yes, and you know this is it. You’ve never believed in fate, in God, in any kind of a reason, but in the space of a few hours you have learned to believe in soulmates. You say good night. And then she goes home with one of the other men there. They were together all along. Of course.