FragLit

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Solitude

Fall 2010 :: Current Issue

2010 :: Issue 7/Fall :: Solitude

Coast

Notes from a Room

There are fireworks in the sky, is it New Year’s Eve? My face lights up red and blue by turns. The sprays and pops stop, replaced by my face framed in black, watching itself.

The day I came here I imagined the wind whispering to me through the half-uprooted thistles on the cliffs. The nights whispered too, tasks I failed to understand.

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But then didn’t you take me by surprise, that first day? A mutter in the waves, a murmur in the pines. No, not like that. My own call, myself whispering my own name. No, not like that. Was I hearing things?

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I awake before dawn and lie in the murk with silence heavy in my ears. I drink some water, get up and relieve myself. I lie and wait for the light and birdsong I know will bring sleep. Till then nothing to do but turn on the light and scribble.

Touching pen to paper I feel uneasy. Nausea, or is it vertigo? Fingers scribbling, mouth mouthing, like a child learning to read. Whose fingers whose mouth? How the things I make desert me, undoing themselves.

And you, does this nausea worm through you as it does through me? Odd impression of another voice mouthing my words as I write, as if someone else were reading them aloud to me from inside me with a voice by turns mocking and indifferent, louder and softer than mine. Write what I read out to you, it says. When I was a child I caught a fever and saw myself from far off, a small body lying in a bed. Who was this being, I thought, looking down on myself?

The questions jostle among each other like the shingle sucked in and out by the waves out there, part of you and torn apart from you, like the shingle which was once one rock.

Think of nothing and sleep.

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Mornings like dusk. Sun rising to set. Nothing happens, every day. Yet everything changes, murmurs somewhere beyond me.

I get up, brush my teeth, wash my face and put some clothes on.

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The condensation on my window forms a grey screen. A few drops separate themselves out and leave clear wet lines as they drop, revealing more grey outside—lighter, diffuse. How shall I get lost today?

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Scribble in the tub, let it echo off the tiles like a scratching rat. Drop the pad in the water and have done with it. But I’m not allowed to, don’t ask me why and don’t laugh. Laugh by all means. My voice is too strong, that’s its weakness. My only chance is to borrow your voice and tie it—to what? If they could see me lying here, penis bobbing in the water, tying your voice to nothing… A drip from the tap. I let the pad drop to the floor and sink into the water.

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When I know there’s nothing to be done I leave my room and walk as far as I can, along the seashore. I love the view that opens up, its absolute indifference. I envy it. I walk into what fades from me as if into pure possibility, consign myself to let you come and go, relinquish my thoughts.

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Start again.

I awake in the hole, am I in danger? If not why the fear? You lift me out and pull me along, your drift turns into another hole and so on. I look around not knowing what’s hole and what isn’t. I fall back in, half dreaming. Your words dance over me. What was that phrase I dreamed? Give me a word and I’ll remember. Let me drift lightly into your search for yourself.

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Let me get out of bed, let me crunch the pebbles under my feet. Maybe I’ll get embroiled in some intrigue, I might witness a group of walkers head for the sheer cliff round the bend and come back minus one, there’s a story. I might have a stirring interaction. But the shoreline’s empty apart from a few dog-walkers and the odd conference of gulls. The foot of the cliff free of corpses, the coves empty of lovers. Minerals glisten in the rocks, I return the smile of a passer-by, there’s the day’s adventure.

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Nothing more to say having said next to nothing, I knew this was coming. Nothing to say and the guilt that follows from not filling empty time, from sinking into dead time.

I walk, look down at my feet, the hole closes above me, and the endless end is here. I talk to you and listen for a word.

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Swallow the dregs, order another. Stay calm. If I don’t talk they won’t. If they talk I won’t. I’ll listen only for your words, the ones that appear in this grey space, that rise and disappear like smoke, if they don’t talk, if he doesn’t put music on, in this grey space where I think and am thought, where I write and am written, where I can neither think nor write. Scribble, it doesn’t matter what anymore. Drink, it doesn’t matter what anymore.

Now maybe I can talk, now that I’ve drunk and written myself into this space where anything and nothing is possible. But no one talks, silence spreads like frost. The couple in the corner fiddle with their phones, the publican wipes the counter. I’ve made it clear perhaps that I’m not a talker and isn’t that what I wanted?

Now the patrons are gone, the publican is fading too, out and away, along with the pub, into the pale orange sky, leaden now, grey now, nothing now, and I’m sitting in a chair in this nothing, in this grey space which is my room passing back into being around me, into my dim awareness.

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Start again.

I wake up and at once the words swarm on me like insects. I can’t tell sense from nonsense except by plucking phrases out of the swarm, phrases which swarm in turn. Am I losing you or are you losing me? Are you turning against me or were you against me from the beginning?

Dead man walking. I tell a lie, writing. But I did walk today, along the receding coast. I daydreamed of throwing myself into the waves, being tossed around and thrown up by them.

What are you trying to teach your dunce? Turn and face the corner. But there’s no corner to face. Strange solitude, strange apprenticeship. You whisper in my ear and return me to my missing self.

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Rain pours down outside, angry fat wooden tinny timid patters blowing every which way, dripping to a stop, swirling down drains and seeping through the earth. It’s as if the weather can’t decide on a season these days. Clouds gather and disperse, the sealine draws near and retreats. One day the sea opens out to the gas fields in the middle of the sea. The next day it closes in on itself, and hard winds drive mist and clouds inland. The water itself changes colour from brown to blue to grey to black.

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No more story. No more collusions with silent partners. Just words, nothing but words, nothing revealing itself in my words, making me a guest of my words. No, you revealing yourself, if I can address you properly. But I address you and instantly you’re here and not here. Whose voice is this, show yourself. But I don’t even know which one of us issues the demand.

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Am I what emerges from you, your excrescence? How did I become this outgrowth of longing? It’s you I want, isn’t it? Will I become you again, when I cease to be me? Or will this outgrowth go on growing? Will it move away from you like the moon moves away from the earth?

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Pale turquoise sky between dark clouds, dusk coming on. I ought to have said something by now, made a mark on the day, to stop it from slipping into the next.

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I had something to say, what was it? I tell myself to stop talking and listen for your voice inside mine, the one that gets louder as I weaken. But I can’t weaken enough, can I? I remember what I wanted to say, begin my story and ruin your beginning. You remind me to listen. I silence you and continue my story. You whisper in my ear and return me to my missing self. And then? More stagnant time. As if I have to drop into dead time for time to come to life in me—almost. Then let your words show me the way as they undo themselves between the tip of my pen and the page. Let that be my survival, your survival in me.

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