The Dark In Me

I people watched heartbroken whilst sitting outside a small unknown cafe. One of those questionable days. Asking myself who what how’s and why’s and knowing the answers to many. My phone sat on the table, and every time I looked at it an anxious grip took over the beating heart, squeezing agonizingly. I exhaled and grabbed my chest as if to massage the organ out of its agony.

I found myself repulsive in the moment. Everyone around me seemed ethereal. She stood under an umbrella talking to her love, beads of rain caught in the shroud of her gold hair like tiny crystals. When she looked at me I looked away, pretending my eyes had never been on her. On them. I hated them.

I started regretting coming out to a public space, only to find myself continuously suppressing the urge to cry. Once again my eyes shot to the silent phone. Once again my heart fluttered, as if it was trying to become origami. A waiter came to the table and looked at me. Aha, the look of dreadful understanding. He knew enough by the red-rimmed eyes. I knew on any other day I’d never look at him twice. He was plain and inconsequential, a cog in a machine offering me old grapes. But today against me he was an Adonis.

‘More wine?’ he asked. I could not help but wonder is he loved. I held out my glass while staring outward into the drizzling rain and clouds of exhaust fumes, and the crushed newspapers, and the hand jammed in the pocket while dragging on a good looking cigarette. I lit one to keep busy and my phone finally buzzed. My heart that had just so recently been assaulted by the flutters now began to beat uncontrollably. I felt my chest slowly cascade inwards. Crushing my ribs and tugging at the huge invisible hole that had so recently been blown out of it. So I took a deep pull while narrowing my eyes, and picked up the phone.


It’s not that. I just need space. You overwhelm me. Even now you do.


The eyes scanned the sentence over and over until it blurred. I didn’t care who saw. The blow was crushing. The steam filled streets and sudden burts of laughter grated against my every fiber. I didn’t hesitate. Did my pride matter? It didn’t. Loneliness did.


But please I need you, I’m sorry for everything can’t you see that?? Please I’m sorry. Don’t walk away from me.


I couldn’t have been the only one. As long as there are humans there are breakups. I held my hand against my chest and put a shaky cigarette down. The breaths came a bit short. I made some uncomfortable eye contact and then quickly looked away, trying to pretend this was some other kind of ailment. Why was he being so stupid? We all knew what ‘space’ meant. It meant space, up there, that is never-ending. Couldn’t he understand I was suffering? While he sat and ate fine and slept fine I was up suffering and starving while suffering? Couldn’t he see his power over me? The power to make me suffer? Some distant recess of my mind told me he knew all too well that I suffered. He knew it, and the dark side of him enjoyed this power over another human. For instance his last reply was half an hour later while I anxiously paced and paced inside my head for his reply.

I lifted what was left of my cigarette and took a sip of the wine. Shivers ran up my spine. I was hoping nobody was paying close attention to me. I fought the urge to send another message, and then another, and another…. I felt the need to explain in every religious, scientific and philosophical term why we belonged together and that he was making a mistake. I imagined another hand running its course through his hair.

I tipped my head forward unable to handle the surge of emotions and thoughts. My shoulders jerked forward as I let the tears run freely. All I needed in the moment was him. It hurt knowing I needed him but he didn’t need me. It peeled off my skin slowly and painfully. My phone buzzed. I didn’t hesitate.


No. I don’t want you anymore.


I didn’t understand why a knife in his hand was not a better option. I saw nothing around me, I felt nothing in me but empty destruction. I was repulsive, he was simultaneously repulsive to me and irresistible to me. The people, the woman and her lover, the waiter all repulsed me. I felt the need to bang the table or be extremely rude to the waiter, or to go missing so that he can worry and have many regrets. Elbows on the table I held my face in my hands and looked up slowly at the grey sky and began questioning love again. My heart was in a kind of treacherous pain that seemed designed to be enough to kill while still leaving you alive. I felt nauseated. The situation was completely useless.

There in the blurry distance I could see why in all honestly, as I tried to convince myself, it was all a huge mistake. It was such a life altering decision and it changed too much for me to be prepared for. But I stayed in my seat. I became a zombie. Until the dark told me to leave. But I didn’t. The dark in me was all I could see.


to the last

First draft of… Yeah…

to the last


And here I am: right at the back of the bus on a wet, thickblack night. The last bus of the day, heading to its depot, the end of the line. End of the line! How funny.
I hold close to me my brown canvas backpack; it’s soft up against me, its smell familiar. If I pretend hard enough I can convince myself it’s what she would feel like in my arms, if ever I had the chance to hold her, that is. And if I lie deep in the pretence, if I so set my imagination all that way high up above me: she feels nice; her skin is warm and soft, her dark hair sweetsmelling and fine on my cheek. Her gentle breath warming my neck as she presses into me. Her back, her shoulders: glory under my fingertips. I smile a little; I hug her closer.
Then the contents of the backpack rattle, the clunk of metal on glass; slaps me in the face does reality when I fall, when my desperate need falters and she dissolves – back to nothing. And I miss her, somehow.
I am a loser.
I frown. I shake my head to rid myself of her – what? Memory? Can I have a memory of something that never existed? It’s times like this, when I’m more than just a little half-sure I am losing my head. And tonight I really am going to lose it. Bang-spurt! Outta my head I’ll be! Thoughts set free into the night, and they will trouble me no more. The thought soothes me, such violence, such peace. But I feel it also, ticking in my gut: straight-ass, plain-faced fear. I’m scared to hell and heaven and back again. The b’jesus took off days ago. My spine is liquid. I’m staring straight at it, the emptiness, and its warm welcome is frightening me. But then I push myself further, tell myself it’ll only be a second. From emptiness to nothingness is but a short journey; a foolish trip, zero to zero in two seconds flat; and then it’s done. Then it’s over and finished.
Ain’t no biggie. Ain’t no biggie.
My existence done and dusted and no one to ponder over it. I will miss no one and no one will miss me; no one ever knew of my breathing, of my tired ticking heart. Nothing but an empty room. And stillness. Always the stillness of the night, nothing to hear except the faint hum of electricity, the quivering of my body. The whisper of a soul dying.
The bus slows, then stops. The doors sigh open and I wonder what freak will be joining us tonight. I lean a little to my left, to see down the aisle, careful to not look too curious. My heart stops, flutters; it just about implodes when I see her. For a terrible, delightful instant I think it is my imagining! My backpack brought to life! A chance beckons on this hopeless night! But then she awkwardly pushes her dark wet hair from her face, tucking strands of damp behind her ears as she pays and waits for her small change from the driver. Just another girl emerges; another no one in a world drowning in no ones.
She is beautiful though, and sad. I think that’s what makes her beautiful: her fragile melancholy. Or perhaps it’s just me; perhaps there’s a darkness in me, attracted to the lost, to the broken.
I ease back slightly in my chair; she has my interest but I don’t want it to be obvious I’m staring at her, that already I love her so deeply like no other soul ever could; that she is mine in my deep red heart and I’ll keep her forever safe. How spiteful it is that she doesn’t know.
With a knock backwards the bus is again in motion. The suddeness of the movement startles the girl, throws her a bit off her feet. She looks around, embarrassed; and right then I know, I want to run to her and hold her, comfort her, and maybe with that she could be my burning savior. I keep a hidden eye on her, watch as she delicately moves to an empty seat, against the window. She does not look outside, she does not look around the bus; instead her head drops, her eyes I guess, trained on her lap. Her shoulders are stooped and she sits silently, inanimate; water slowly trickling off her hair, down her ears. My heart tightens, breaks in two. It makes me smile.
There are three of us now, on this moving light horse, squares of yellow in the dark. Apart from the driver. With him it’s four. The other passenger is some odd looking fellow, all grey and disheveled in his grey, disheveled suit. Guy looks like he’s been sat in that same spot for a week. Perhaps he has. I have stared at the back of his head for the most part of my trip. He would laugh from time to time, almost silently, his shoulders shaking. Then he’d lazily turn his head to me, a smile only hitching up the left corner of his mouth, looking right at me, as if curious to know whether whatever resonated humorous in his head made its way to me, and if I too, found it funny. When I tried to return the smile he whipped his head back around, went on to look out the window.
After that I made sure only to keep my eyes on the back of him.
Now there was the girl, and I kept her in my gaze. She was still slumped, still quiet. I wonder what her name is? What does she look like? If she were mine, what would I want her name to be? Jessica. No, too prissy. Kate? Not bad at all, that. But is it damaged enough? Could a ‘Kate’ ever convey the hopelessness she embodies here before me? Not quite. Laura? Lara? Vicki? No, that’s feminine Victor and she don’t look it, not tonight anyway. Erin. She could be an Erin, yeah. Brooding and alone. She could be my Erin; my own sad dark hallucination, right here in wet cold flesh and blood, all of her life up here in my head a fabrication, so much better than the real thing I’m staring at; her reality could never compare to the fallacious version of my Erin.
But I still want to hold her. Still want to feel her body to mine.
She tenses suddenly. Her shoulders stiffen, push backwards. Erin dips her head, her chin buried in her upturned collar; she stretches her eyes at the guy, he notices nothing; then she shifts slightly and twists around to look behind her, to look at me. I hold her gaze awkwardly, I blink too much. She doesn’t blink at all. Her eyes are dark, her skin pale, her lips wonderfully thin. I want to smile at her, I am aching to smile at her.
But I can’t.
I’m self-aware and worthlessness. She’s my goddess, my heroine, my everafter. To smile at her would be to break her down, an insult. She opens her mouth, words hesitating on her lips. Good god! please say something to me! Help me believe in your existence, convince me of my own. I feel my heart hold tight in anticipation, my eyes on her fluttering lips. I give her an unworthy smile and her mouth shuts; I see a slight panic in her eyes and she dips her head, turns, and gazes down once more.
And so onward I go! Another tacit ruination of a futile possibility! I want to hit out at her. I want to scream and bellow as I feel my heart erupting silently inside me. I sense the hot rush of tears at my eyes, but I won’t cry, I won’t. Not tonight, not ever again. I clutch my backpack, bringing it in close to my chest. I hide my face in its roughness and listen to the stifled sobs escaping my throat, my eyelids struggling to blink away the hurt.


I won’t let go. I won’t let go by god, I won’t. I will bear this night; I’ll walk through these streets; I’ll sit on that bus; walk up through the house and to my room I’ll go ignoring the pitterpatter of little feet, the stretch of skin of growing eyes, mouths flapping open, amiable; life so warm an isolation I’ll walk through it all head down hand tight: I won’t let go. It’ll be there for me, a reminder. A faulted promise. A what-should-have-been.
The walk from the river to the bus stop was a joke. Only because it should never have happened in the first place. There wasn’t even supposed to be the fall, the plunge into the dank, icy stream. Although I reckon it matters not when water is spilling from the sky. Wet is wet is wet. So where is that difference? I cannot tell, I cannot feel anything at all. My body is numb. Is it the cold? Am I now only dying as I wait for the bus to puttputt towards me? Will they save me if I fall? Again? Those dark night mystery people? I wouldn’t want them to. What it would take for them to pass me by, I like to imagine it so.
But I can see it now, and it’s not going to pass, no; I switfly turn my collar up to ride about my neck, to hide the incident. Slowlyslowly creeping to a stop, the doors crack, the driver glares at me. An old man, stubble, grizzled; palepink face turning blue. His biceps are large sacks of hanging flesh. Suddenly I feel naked; I know he knows about me, about where I’ve dragged myself from and what I was doing there. I don’t want to get in, but I don’t want to stand out here either. He shifts his arm impatiently on the steering wheel, his head tilts, his lips move. He has spoken to me but I don’t know what he said, my head is too loud for me to hear through. I can tell he wants me either to get on or to shove off, so I shudder, I climb the metal steps and I feel them slip under my shoes. How glorious it would be if I stumble spill and split my head open! Life gushing red out of me, done for and doomed. Instead I meet him on his platform; I pay my way and he gives me the change. I stand. I do nothing. The bus lurches forward and my knees buckle. Carefully I move down the aisle, settling into a seat of cold, cracked green vinyl.
I look down at my hands. I’m still holding on. I wonder if they saw? I wonder if they know, as the driver knows? He looked at me. So did the girl down at the back, with the brown canvas bag wrapped in loneliness. The other guy, he had the suit. And a black tie undone. But I’m sure he saw nothing. To not see, though, doesn’t mean to not feel, sense smell hear. I am my failure, I breathe it; I spit it from every useless pore. My shame hollers furiously in the air around me. I feel I am shrinking, growing larger; feel the embarrassment rising off me like steam. So wonderfully obvious.
And I know she’s looking, canvasbag girl at the end. I can feel her eyes tapping my shoulder, her sneer licking my ears. I want to look at her, to ask! to shout! To say what is it you seek and see from me! What is it you taste with those eyes of yours! I twist, what I hold I grip tighter; I force myself to look at her, to see if I can see what she sees. I meet grey eyes, ready, expecting. But they are not derisive, or accusatory. They are curious, needing. There is a congeniality somewhere, hidden deep under studious detachment and profound worry. She looks older than she probably is. She is attractive in a defeated way. There are words I want to say to her, but I’ve forgotten how to speak, my lips move inanely.
She hits me down with a smile. The shame screams again, louder. Quickly I turn from her, furious with embarrassment. She has found me out! I have given it all away to strangers so easily. Transparency through guilt. What then, when I am home? With their probing familiarity, a ceaseless salvo of questions. All their how-are-you’s where-were-you’s what-was-you’s-doing? And why are you so wet, julipoppet? Are you feeling okay? What happened? What is that you’ve got there? To your room so early you’ve not even eaten! Are you? Alright? Why won’t you tell us what’s wrong! Why? Why! What have we done to hurt you to break you in pieces to tear you apart and scatter you? Why won’t you talk to us! Please, julianapop?
(Do I hear? Do I care? Do they? Really truly honestly?)
Oh! and then the worst of them all! With her small softslippered feet, she will bounce over to me, jumping up to swing her tiny arms around my neck; I hold her and hug her and press my face into her curly lemonscented hair. She is glorious, magnificent; she is life complete. She shatters my heart absolutely. And all it takes is a look from her, those blue eyes too big for her little face and she will know everything there is to know about me. What will she see tonight, then? Will I have time to lie before her, before she knows? Will my almostend be my beginning, the start of all things painful and tucked back? It cannot be this way, it was not my intention my plan, my device.
And what would littleone do? Will she tell? Will her eyes spill silently from their sockets? Would she jump free of me, run to safe arms of another? Sanity in smiles. From there on no escape will be mine. Not in front of them, with concern on alert. Julipop’s stepped out of herself again, again she’s dancing in circles around her almostnormal self. I will be the ghost of my failing. I will be naked to them, open exposed to attacks of illplaced kindness, subtle expectations of mild lucidity, of calm tranquil bouncyhappy happiness; of someone I am not and could never be.
Not without an assload of medication, anyway. The strong stuff, too. The stuff that lethargy is made of; the stuff that winds entwines around overandover my arms my legs my head so quiet now. So, so quiet and slow to move in all this movement around me.
And that is not what I want. Would anyone want it? To walk only to crawl backwards? I can’t want that, no god I don’t want that. Yet why do they want that of me? For me? How is my numbness their joy, their respite? And – myohmyohme! – why can’t they just let me be? Their love is brutal, incessant; it manifests allconsuming overpowering weak little I alone in the torrent. I cannot live up to it. I cannot face it. I cannot give myself up in offering to them, to their devotion.
It crushes and maims me; it runs wild in my veins the hated guilt and my feelings deepen I sink down within them and still they do not know! Still they irk me with unconditional adoration when they should let me alone, throw me out! out there into the dirty empty streets to let me devolve and flake away, fusing with the filth of life where I belong!
Oh, if only I could say such things to them, to filter it through their ears to their brains and make them hear make them feel how painful their love really is. If only they would stop their expectations then no longer will I fear no longer will I break apart. But oh they never will. They’ll keep on to say it softly say it silently and it will scream in my head, what do you want what do you want what do you want? Whyohwhy can’t you leave me be! But
“What do you want from me!”
The bus stops with a jolt. Before I know what the hell has just happened I am hurtled forward. I didn’t even know I was standing, don’t remember getting up from my seat. The driver has twisted around in his chair, in his eyes I see concern and panic. Mostly panic. Slowly I glance at the two others. The man in the suit doesn’t seem to have noticed anything at all. Canvasbag girl is perched on the edge of her seat, eyes set with bewilderment and affection, I think. I stare back at her the hardest. There is something in the slender face I find compelling and I want to go over to her and touch my hand to her cheek, to feel her. Again I want to talk again my brain fails me. From the back of my head I hear a voice I don’t recognize. I am frightened to turn around but the voice is insistent, persistent, growing louder.
I shriek when I feel a hand on my shoulder and spin around face to face with the portly busdriver. He takes a step back as I look at him. He clears his throat licks his lips and speaks,
“Miss, I asked, are you okay? Do you need… Assistance?”
Why yes my good man I do but not the kind you’re thinking of. Or perhaps it’s exactly the kind, the electrifying kind the strap-her-and-zap-her kind the lets-get-to-playin-with-yer-silly-lil-brain kind. He stares at me while he waits for me to respond. I suddenly feel foolish and embarrassed. My fragile bravado has abandoned me. I halflook at him, shake my mad head and set myself back down into the chair. Slowly he makes his way back to the front of the bus his trust tenuous. I feel the gears shift and we’re moving again. I threaten to look back at canvasbag girl; I have a peculiar desire to go to her and put my head on her shoulder to say all is well and if it’s not it will be.
It will be.
Instead I glance back down at my hands. I’m surprised to see I have not let go.


Do you believe in the dead? I do. And if you don’t you’re a milehigh idiot. The dead are all around. They walk and breathe and live among you, between you. They are your neighbours your friends your lovers, your wives sisters and brothers.
They talk and banter and fool about; hypothesize, argue and philosophize. But under it all under the stretched skin so tight their hearts have stopped. They’ve given up and given in, they breathe only through necessity, feeling eludes them.
Which of course, is not a bad thing, not at all. For the most part most of the time feelings are the bane of existence. They fuck you over and leave you broken in the dirt; they pick you up make you soar only to drop you and have you crawl aching on the ground. Happiness inevitably leads to pain, it’s the way its designed; hurt – misery – is the only true human emotion. Everything else takes effort, and for what?
No: feelings are not a good thing. Shamefully overrated.
And yet: those first early days when the numbness started creeping in I was panicked, heartbroken, couldn’t understand it and was worried to work it out: why I wasn’t happy, why I wasn’t sad, why nothing made me feel nothing. I resorted back to my oldest trick, my finest failsafe.
I’ve slashed my arms my pain singing bright red colour bursts on white. I’ve watched fascinated at my life exploding, diaphanous crimson pools in water. Threading delicately, pretty patterns, dissolving entirely. How intensely calming it was the blood as at ran from my flesh its thick warmth coating my skin. Happiness. So much happiness.
And then one day it just stopped.
It left me hanging high and dry without an explanation without a thought. Then did I realize I was immune to effect, to feelings, to this way or that.
Days lost meaning as I lost myself. Nothing mattered as fear dissolved, as guilt concern regret vanished. I felt strangely alive in the freedom of this death so I let it all fall down to pieces around me. Friends stopped talking my job was lost my fiancee walked out. I cared not at all.
I became the superman with nothing to touch, nothing to touch me. I slid around life unnoticed unscathed. Fun to watch those still living struggling with their concerns with the beatings of their hearts. Filled me with empty laughter. Such fools such selfdeceivers. Pitiful they can’t see it don’t and won’t matter in days to come.
All such a catastrophic futility, life. Such pointlessness; all the struggle dayindayout overandover no respite no reprieve and just then! just then when you get the hang of things when things become just that little bit easier – humph! – you’s dead.
Pointless. Useless. Futile.
But at least I know how to amuse myself, while I’m still around. How to get a kick out of the situation. This is why I’m here on a bus. I’m here on the same bus everyday allday. I stare at the samefaced people milling away at their hopeless lives. They come they go they come and go again. Routined breathing. Idiots. Mindless believers.
So I was intrigued, my curiosity piqued when she rose up from the steps. She seemed immediately overwhelmed and out of place. Clutching that brownbag as if it were her most precious, her secret heart. She kept her head down as she walked to the back seat. I’d glance at her from time to time when the feeling took me. She only looked at me once, in the eye, and never again.
She is a dead man but she doesn’t enjoy it, doesn’t know how to cope with its limitlessness. But too, she doesn’t want to go back living either. Living is even harder than being dead. So baggirl is gonna try to skip out on both. I can tell. She has that look. I had the same look once when I was arrogant enough to be concerned.
Poor little bitch. Acceptance is so much easier than change, and I’d like to tell her so. Like to go up to her put my arm around narrow shoulders and draw her in close, close to smell her skin, to hear her heart rumbling; like to whisper my warm breath, my lips softly brushing her ear as I speak
Hey buddy hey my mate there is no need for it, embrace what you’re lacking and float above the living let yourself sink downdown into the numbness. Be carried away by the lack of life it’s a beautiful thing.
Though I think if I tried she’d phase out collapse upon herself, let her mind go to some place of far off existence never wanting to listen or understand my words.
Then when the other girl stepped up to the plate drenched in wet and selfconsciousness I was thrilled! Two in one night! Hardly happens. But she’s teetering on the brink this one is, got a toe in the door of fullfledged insanity. Or not. What’s sanity anyway? Technically, I would assume others would assume I need “help”, “counselling”. So who then is a probable madman to pass judgment on another’s state of mind?
But I think I’ll do it anyway: chick’s scattered three ways to Sunday; she’s standing on a beach in a hurricane; she teases fire while wearing gasoline. She’s going going gone oh so very long ago. She’s tasted the bitter water only to find she likes it and keeps coming back for more. And tonight it seems she took another sip of the crazy juice, yes sir praise jesus hallelujah amen.
When she moved from her chair with those dark eyes darker not seeing anything I was curious; when she screamed and almost lost what little mind she has left over from tonight – right here in front of me – I was downright amused. I studied my little soul, my little baggirl to see her reaction. And she was too timid, too hesitant to approach screamergirl when she so dearly needed to approach her. When she so wanted to. If I cared enough about anything at all I’d invite them both for drinks tonight, but ah hell: what for? Life is better from a distance, better to observe from the sidelines. Lot more fun that way, as indeed it was tonight.
After driverman got the freaky chick seated and the bus rolling again, baggirl reluctantly sat back down in her seat, hugging close that sack; screamergirl seemed completely whacked. She dropped her head back down to her chest and went back studying her hands, and the piece of rope she won’t stop toying with.


Pity. If ever I felt it it was then when my Erin screamed and crumbled in the aisle of a latenight bus. Pity. Alright, perhaps I was slightly unnerved as well but it was mostly compassion. It was the chance to be her hero, to save her.
But I did nothing.
Even the weathered old busdriver had more skill at approaching her. At least he approached her, full stop. I sat and stared, which seems to be how I’ve acted my entire life. Which I reckon is the reason I’m on this bus tonight, alone with my fantasies and makebelieve companions. And the metal angel in my backpack.
And god! it would’ve been so easy to go to her, to take her in my arms, a more opportune moment could not exist; she would have welcomed me, would not have pulled away from fear or disgust. Yet still: I kissed it goodbye. Kissed her goodbye. Back I go to the material sack in my arms, my last and only comfort of my last night.
This is the story of my life.
The devolution of a woman; a silent voice lost in all this sound, all this furious anger of survival. A prime example, a thesis, of how to fuck everything up and pay the ultimate price. Alone and unneeded. Broken inside.
No one nowhere nothing.
A waste of humanity. A worthless stain on life’s indifferent fabric.
A loser amongst losers! A fuckup amongst fuckups! How great thou art! How great, you worthless fuck! You sorry useless bitch! See what I am because of you what you are because of I! Because together we are nothing and nothing we will fall. Nothing we will be til the last red breath, the last black drop of blood. The last fucked up thought the last of it all!
Thank god!
Thank god.
And oh! is my head getting the better of me now! How something so small as the inability to act has the most deleterious effect on my pithy fragile helpless little mind! My devious doublecrossing psyche! How it twists and grows inside me, so insidious so overpowering; how a lifetime of weakness and indecision manifests itself, so completely crushing I cannot withstand it anymore!
But enough! Enough. No more after tonight. No more.
No more will the silence be silent; the girl – that one inescapable girl! – so infuriatingly beyond my reach will be nothing more than the illusion she has always been, never again to torment my heart; the hum of emptiness will fall and splinter, break entirely.
And my life alone will fade, will seep back into the void from which it came, indistinguishable from the black nothingness of existence.


Theatrics are sometimes priceless circumstance of the most curious lives. Tonight’s performance was worthwhile, which adds just that little extra special to my nihilistic days. Especially when the day is done and we’re so close so vacillating on the precipice of the next one.
Too bad the surprise of repetition is often nonexistent. I find it doubtful if either of my new companions will be joining me any time soon, if ever again. Perhaps there’s hope for baggirl, but not for screamergirl. I will never set my curious eyes on her again.
I have been on this bus for over twelve hours, and my back aches. But too soon I will be forced to depart and regardless of how desperately I wish it were different: the night will end, time will whisk it away without thought for those who crave for it to last even just a moment longer.
There are two more stops left on the route; the first one stops just on the outskirts of town, the area is mostly industrial scattered with few family hovels up above derelict and soon-to-be-derelict factories and businesses; the last stop is pure ironbelt blue collar industrialblack landscape, with air so quiet and still whispers echo deep eternal. If I were to guess I’d say baggirl is going to industrial ground zero; screamergirl probably is shuffling back to her family in some cramped little tworoom apartment above a fabric store.
I myself am stepping off at the first stop, and from there I will walk the twelve kilometers back to my barren duplex and get ready to replicate the newly completed day.
The bus makes its last turn down a wide, trashswept street; it is mostly dark with few streetlights working. The ones that are functional struggle against the thick darkness of the night. There are a few lit windows, betraying the life within them.
I take a last look down towards baggirl; she is holding onto that brownbag as if trying to suck out some form of comfort, some form of strength from its feeble structure. Her steel deepset eyes are wide and vacant unfocussed on air but she is terrified, it emanates powerful from her silent body.
I feel a peculiar twinge at my ribs; its sharp and it rises up to my chest settles in my throat. I am surprised by it, confused by it; it takes a moment and some deliberation to determine exactly what it is. I find that it is something I’ve not felt in a very long time: sympathy; I feel sorry for the sad little baggirl and I briefly have the urge to go up to her and embrace her, to walk with her and walk her away from this night.
As I move to hesitate towards her I feel the bus slow and pull to the side, I see screamergirl reluctantly rise up from her chair. She gives me a sideways glance before shuffling to the open doors. Over at the back baggirl has not moved has not flinched at all. I move slightly in her direction then quickly backtrack to follow screamergirl. I nod without looking at the driver and step down off the bus.
Outside it is cold and damp, moisture still thick in the air. Screamergirl stands inanimate on the curb, looking down the street at what I cannot determine. She jumps slightly as the bus sputters and pulls away. I look up into the last row of windows to get a glimpse of baggirl. She is staring down at us, her eyes pleading and frightened; I give her a direct look and nod solemnly, I raise my hand in a wave.
I am just able to see her touch her hand to the glass before the bus turns black, vanishes.
When I turn to screamergirl I see she is looking at me, a slight look of confusion in her eyes. We stare at each other in silence, cold minutes pass, our breath hanging briefly in the air white nebulous mist before dissolving into the night. I feel a damp warmth radiate from her body.
Finally I break the eye contact and look at the buildings surrounding us. All the windows I see are barred secured shutteredup and dark. Except one, glowing a warm orange above a closed down diner. If I hold my breath and concentrate I can make out a faint din of voices, laughter. It almost makes me smile but I stop myself. She has not taken her eyes off me has not made any attempt to move.
I look back down into her meeting her gaze. Abruptly I offer her my hand my mouth opens before I can think of what to say. Eventually I clear my throat and give to her the most pedestrian of greetings,
“Evening. I’m Christian. Some night we’re having isn’t it?”
Inwardly I grimace over my introduction. It sounded banal, inept. She seems to think about what I’ve said for a few seconds, as if trying to capture the words from the air. My hand is still hovering useless, waiting.
When she speaks her voice is soft, deeper than expected,
“Yes. I suppose it is.” She takes my hand in hers, it’s cold and moist; we stand connected for the briefest moment, then we part. “Juliana. I’m Juliana.”
“Juliana.” A small smile forms on my mouth, invisible in the darkness. “Well, Juliana, it was nice to meet you. Please have yourself a good night?”
She very quickly raises her eyebrows to my words, searching out the vague question. Again we stare at each other. Again we are silent. Juliana lifts her head and glances over her shoulder to the lighted window, her gaze lingers, then she angles her body towards the dark diner. “I’m not sure if that’s a possibility. But thank you.” She hesitates. “I don’t think I’ll be seeing you again but if I do I’ll remember you, Christian. Goodnight”
With that she turns and walks away from me, disappearing into the dark building.


I feel my heart ache a little as I watch canvasbag girl drive away from me. I feel I’ve lost something I’ve never had and it perplexes me. Such an ephemeral part of my life she was yet I miss her presence so completely it causes my chest to pull my head to tumble. And I know I will not have the chance to meet her again be it through my end or her’s, this was the first last only night we could have had together so painfully apart.
I hardly have room to be grateful yet I am.
When the bus had entirely been swallowed by the night I hear them upup in the cocoon above my head. So warm so cold so alone in the closeness. I am afraid to move I am afraid to go to them. At least I have dried off some and again I find I am grateful.
I turn and face suitman who is still gazing after canvasbag girl, his hand up. Slowly he faces me and we look at the other. He is taller than I thought he was and thinfaced his hair darkblond. The hand that was raised he now stretches out toward me in greeting yet his mouth hangs open, mute. Seconds slip and at last he speaks his voice loud in the stillness. I think if I want to talk back at him to answer him and I decide I should, so I do. We talk for almost two incredible minutes before I give reason to leave before I can be absorbed into my surroundings.
I leave him on the dim street corner and squeeze into the recess between the diner and the rough wall where the door to the stairwell is found. He cannot see me and I stand surreptitious watching him try to watch me. But I am invisible I am darkness I am nothing. I see him lift and tilt his head up at the window my window and I see him straining to listen to see to feel the creatures inside. He stands for minutes more until a light rain starts again from the dark skies. I see him turn and walk up the empty street his solitary footsteps resonant and lonely in the night.
“Goodnight, Christian.”
The words are whispers off my mouth my tongue, I hold my fingertips to my lips feeling them form his name. I move my fingers up my nose along my the middle of my forehead easing away a frown gathered there.
From out of the silence I hear a shattering of laughter from upstairs. It closes my eyes tightens my heart turns my mouth so dry my teeth stick and I know I can’t delay the inevitable, I know I can’t linger down here at the bottom of the steps forever.
I press my face to the rough cold of exposed brick my eyes closed shoulders tense. I listen to their familiar voices their familiar timbres vibrating through throats through mouths through air. I listen to my own rapid raspy breathing in the small secure chamber.
The door at the top of the steps squeaks open a thin splinter of light escapes illuminating the back of my head. I slowly turn to face the stairs to peek up at the opened doorway.
I see on the top landing two thin small legs dangling through wooden banisters above bare bent knees two small pink hands resting close to the fingers a fleshy babychin supporting a broad delighted smile. Her blue eyes are watching me closely eagerly happy I’m home. When she sees me seeing her she giggles and jumps up. She’s down the staircase in a lightning flash and even quicker she’s clutching my legs. I hesistate. I bend slightly. Then all the way as my arms embrace her. I pick her up and she straddles my waist her eyes smiling into mine and I feel ashamed discomfitted scared as hell. I force myself to smile at her I kiss her cheek my lips cool on her wonderfully warm skin.
She giggles. “Julipop you’re cold!”
She scolds me admonishes me destroys me with three words.
But I still smile and ease my face away from her’s. “Hey. Sorry Peekaboo, I wasn’t thinking. Julipop sometimes loses her head you know? It floats upup – away from me.” I wink I catch her nose between my thumb and forefinger.
Again she giggles. “Your head can’t float away, silly!”
“Oh but mine does. Don’t you see it there in the air so far above us floating smiling down? I think I hear it laughing.”
With that I tickle her and she squeals and wriggles against me, pulling back to exclaim breathlessly, “Mama made pancakes for supper!” She tells me thrilled, joyful at the fact. “You must come eat Julipop, come eat come eat come eat!” She is back down on the floor pulling at my fingers trying to drag me.
I slip down on my haunches and grab her draw her close. I whisper in her ear, “you go on up, and I’ll be right there in a second.” I kiss her forehead and give her a gentle push away from me. She flings her arms around my neck kisses me on the nose and then she is gone, bounding up the creaking stairs.
I sit flat down on the cement floor as the activity in the upstairs room heightens. I hear littleone laughing, mama’s mellow voice trickling over me. I stay seated listening for what seems hours not nearly long enough before I stand and brave myself to meet them.
I stare down at my hands as I slowly climb the stairs.
I am still holding on. I have not let go.


The doors let out a final breath as they closed to the bleak night. The bus departed, leaving in the dark one solitary woman, and her canvas bag. Connelly had eyed her thoughtfully as she hesitantly dropped down the steps and stood out on the corner, her back towards the retiring vehicle. He had kept his eye on the rearview mirror, keeping her unmoving form in sight, watching as she grew smaller, smaller, vanished altogether.
Connelly Thatcher had been driving buses since he was twenty years old. He had seen every class, type, form and breath of human life in the most unguarded state. People unconscious in deep thought, lulled by the stopstart hum of motion, early morning sleepiness, late night weariness, inbetween indifferent disaffection; a number of his passengers were genuinely happy folk, some fell into grey, others were morose and disdainful.
He expected nothing more from humanity, and certainly nothing less.
The last three passengers he had tonight had caught his attention. Their demeanors stood stark, their lack of spirit he found curious. Connelly wasn’t entirely sure why three of thousands and thousands of people should be more memorable; he felt maybe it was due to the fact that they would be his absolute last customers, period. He was retiring tonight, not that that was what he wanted but sometimes life twists the seemingly straight little road you’re happily traveling on.
The girl, the one that screamed so suddenly had truly scared the hell out of him. As he approached her he was wary of stepping too close, as if she might strike him down, possess him with her sudden demons. When she had responded to him so demurely, so placidly, she scared him even more. It was those people, those who are unpredictable and erratic that Connelly was always careful of. And the girl set off a host of alarm bells; from the moment she stepped on the bus, all wet with that small, sliced piece of rope she wouldn’t let go of, to the unprovoked paroxysm – Connelly could tell something, just a little something, was not too well with the young woman.
He was more or less relieved she got off at the same stop as the suit, not wanting to be alone with her. Although being a man, and more than twice her size, he felt foolish at his sense of unease. But it was what it was, and he could live with it. And at the very least, foolishness or not, he would have an interesting anecdote to tell his wife tonight, as they sat propped up in bed, watching Frasier reruns and eating ice cream.
The thought of the remainder of his night brought a smile to his face. He looked forward to spending whatever time he had left with his highschool sweetheart, still the warmest love of his life. And she was eager and anxious as hell just to get him home already, away from these late night trips,
they’re no good for you, Con, not when it’s dark and wet out. How they’re still making you run these routes it just, it just, well it pisses me off! So long you’ve been working for them and they can’t accommodate you just once! Just once! Especially knowing that you’re, well, that you’re… About the situation. Heartless bastards. Heartless slave drivers! That’s what they, are slave drivers! Heartless greedy bastard slave drivers!
Connelly could hear the drone of his wife’s cigarette-stained contralto and he laughed out loud at the thought of it. How she would nag and pester and complain and bitchbitchbitch all night long, about how unfair they were – life was, really – and he would sit and listen, take it all in not saying a word a silly grin on his face at her remonstrance, her vehement demonstration. Such a tiny woman such a force.
And her harping would carry on ceaseless if he cared not to go up to her, hug her close and kiss the top of her greying head. He would hold her tight in his loose, sagging arms and sway a little, do a small, round dance, humming deep in his cancer-ravaged chest “Dream a little Dream”, little Teri’s favourite song, their wedding dance. So quickly would she relax and ease into his body, to which her thin wiry arms clung desperately.
They would spend long minutes like this, every night, in the kitchen before climbing the stairs to the bedroom, spoons and a tub of choc-mint in hand. In bed they would recount their days to the other, eager questions finding eager answers. Connelly was certain that tonight his wife would have a laundrylist of puzzled questions, and he couldn’t wait to see her.
The rain started to fall heavier from the orange-tinted sky. Soon Connelly would be at the depot where he would exchange the massive Marcopolo for his ’78 Accord. He turned his thoughts back to the three of tonight.
As far as he could recall, he had seen neither of the two women before; the suit he had seen every day for the last three weeks. He was always the same; he got on in the mornings – the first stop in the route – paid a large fee and stayed seated in the same seat the entire day. Normally he was the first one on and the last one off. His greeting never went beyond a silent nod of his head and he never spoke to any of the other passengers. It was as if, to the suit, nothing else existed, as if he himself didn’t exist; a longheld breath, caught in an endless void, waiting to exhale.
Connelly took the very last turn towards the faint, blurred glow of the depot. It shimmered and vibrated through the glass, caught in the rain. He pulled up to the heavy iron gates and waited for Tyrone at security to let him pass. The two men waved, dipped their heads. Connelly eased the warm, shuddering bus into the shelter, stepped down, locked up and ran his short, fleshy fingers along the length of the warm machine. He smiled up at its wet, glistening windows, now so dark so vacant, tipped his imaginary hat, and made the long walk back to the offices.
Inside, the fluorescent light buzzed and flickered bright in the small building. Tyrone was perched on the edge of a desk, he approached, arms open smile broad, as the brandnew retiree walked through the door.
“Ah, Con, ’bout time my man! ‘Bout time!”
“Now Ty, I can say the same to you.” Connelly laughed into the taller man’s shoulder as the two longtime colleagues embraced.
“‘Spose that’s true,” Ty smiled sincerely, his tired eyes stretched wide, unblinking. “Too many nights. Too many lost nights.” He agreed with his own statement, nodding his head slowly. He snapped out of his somnolent reverie, “well Con, what you got down for your twilight years? You gonna nuts, do all that crazyass shyeet? Skydiving, bungee jumping, shark diving?” Tyrone gave the bus driver a playful smirk. “Or you gonna go the slow way? Jigsaw puzzles and herb gardens?”
Connelly laughed, his head thrown back. “Lordy, Ty, you know I’ve got a woman? You know she’s going to hog me in ways I wouldn’t think possible!”
Tyrone bellowed out a guffaw, slapped the shorter man’s shoulder. “Well then I ‘spose you’re gonna go the sweet way!”
“Ah, you betcha!” Connelly winked, grinned; he felt a certain degree of happiness beginning to spread through his body. “And speaking of, I must be getting on home, Teri, she’s gonna be standing at the ready, lecture on these heartless slave drivers already slipping from her tongue. And it gets worse the later I get home.” He smiled up at the security guard.
“But Ty, thank you, it’s been my pleasure knowing you, working with you, having the privilege to call you a friend.” Connelly stuck out a nervous, shaking hand. Tyrone gripped the hand firmly then pulled him back for another embrace.
“Pleasure’s mine, Con, all mine.” Feeling slightly embarrassed but figuring to just suck it up and say it anyhow, Tyrone pulled Connelly closer, his voice dropping to a strong, deep whisper, “you look after yourself, Con, you hear me? You listen to your doctors, you listen to Teri, and you look after yourself.” Aware of the emotion creeping up his throat, he added playfully, “and if you don’t listen I’m gonna be over there and ‘taser your ass!”
Connelly let out a stifled sob, forced a choked laugh into Tyrone, he pulled away from his friend, “I’ll be ready for you, Ty. I’ll be ready.”
The two men stood facing the other, eyes shimmering. Connelly surveyed the office one last time, sighed out a smile, “well, Ty, let me be going, or us two are gonna be crying on each other’s shoulders like two old ladies out of one of those chick flick movies.” Connelly smiled at the spasmodic guffaw. He patted Tyrone’s bicep, dipped his head and left the office. He opened his car door with a groan and flopped down into the plush, lumpy seat. Three tries later and the car’s cold engine coughed to life; he flicked on the headlights, pulled out of the parking space and popped the hooter, waving at Tyrone standing stooped in the doorway.
Once he was through the security gates he didn’t look back at the depot. Somehow, despite his happiness and eagerness to be home with Teri, he felt a sense of loss, a sadness that felt to sit awkward and heavy in his chest. He drove slowly through the slick black streets, his tired eyes blinking over high lights of factories, distant lights of the highway.
Connelly stopped abruptly when he saw a figure suddenly run across the street in front of him. His heart ached in his chest as it struggled to pump his blood. Hesitantly he opened the door and got out of the car, rain trickling down his face. He squinted and frowned in the direction which the figure disappeared. He could see nothing. Connelly was almost certain it was the quiet girl with the brown backpack. He stood in the rain, trying to decide if he should persue the fleeing apparition; getting back inside the Accord he slumped forward over the steering wheel, tapping his hands on the hard plastic.
Of the three that clung to his thoughts, the girl so silent at the back, seeming so lost and alone was the last person he wanted to think about. Something about her pained him deeply, caused such an intense feeling of concern he had the insane desire to ask if she would like to join him and his wife for some ice cream tonight. However, that notion was soon dispelled, although he kept looking back at her, trying to read her, trying to comfort her in the most distant of ways. When he left her, alone off the bus on a dark street corner, Connelly felt strangely grieved, as if he should’ve touched her, saved her, somehow. But when Connelly considered these feelings rationally he chuckled at himself, sure he was either imagining things, or overreacting to a dubious situation.
He tried desperately to ignore the voice so deep down inside him, whispering steadily, to do something, do something. Anything.
It shamed him to know that on his last night he would leave a girl helpless.
Grudgingly, Connelly put the Accord back into gear and continued on his way.
As he drove he forced himself into a strained state of happiness, but the closer he got to his home he felt a sincere elation settling in, a delicate calmness.
Turning into his street, he found the veranda light aglow as he drove up the driveway of his doublestorey. At the back he saw the light burning in the kitchen, where he would always find his wife on any given night. Connelly heaved himself from the car, locked it, and made his way across the lawn, through the back gate and into the soft warmth of the kitchen. He stood very still, taking in the small frame hunched over the table, a finger twirling absently in her hair, the tip of a pencil resting on her lip as she worked away at a crossword.
Connelly could never understand how the love of another, how the separate life of another could so complete his own; how the warmth of a singular breath could spread soothing through his soul. As he watched his wife living out such an extraordinary moment of beauty, of such complete simplicity of being, Connelly knew his entire existence had been touched, had been worth every breath.
Teri stretched her back, surprised and pleased to see her husband watching her so quietly. “Well there he is.” Her smile brought an incredible glow to her face. She eased herself up from her chair and stood just in front of her man, arms folded across her breasts, frowning at the time. “Last bloody day – your retirement! – and this is the time they let you leave. Greedy, heartless, slave driving bastards!” She smiled, her eyebrows raised in a playful arch. Gently the retired bus driver pulled her small frame into his, kissed her head, and started his slow, silly little dance.

Dedication – Part 3

Perhaps it was tinges of crimson
I can’t remember

Your eyes
Your hair
Your frown
I see the pictures in my head and in my hand
I see the shape you left behind

The smoke exhales from your pretty lungs
The taste on your tongue
Cracked lips
Blackened nail tips

Your confessions
The hurt inside your jumbled guts
I listened to you as your heart broke over and over again
Ejaculating those frigid tears
Me, useless

Why can’t I remember you?

It’s not about the beauty
You have that
It’s not about the intelligence
You have that
It’s about what you do not have


…or have you found it in the meantime?

Dedicated to 13

Ringtone Identity

Evolving possibilities
That’s the tone for Maria

This one is a firebrand
Perpetual forward motion, nothing bland
She ticks me off, but only in good ways
The frustrating challenge of a maze
defeated only by the satisfaction of overcoming it
I like her, I like her very much
Maybe more

That’s the tone for Dominique

This one is beyond mystical
Emitting radiance, nothing prototypical
She broadens my mental horizons, in stunning ways
The head-scratching riddle
overcome only by the satisfaction of solving it
I like her, I like her very much
Maybe more

Classic phone remix
That’s the tone for Esther

This one is just there
My default girlfriend for the past five years
She puts up with me
Accepts the mood swings
Stays out of my vivid dreams
She helps me solve the problems
But she frustrates me with her ordinariness
She’s OK, yes…just OK
Maybe more

Marcus, he’s my boy by Esther
He’s about five
I’ll teach him to survive
When he grows up
He’ll be just like me
A man who knows how to stand on his own two feet
He is mine
I made him

The ringtones help me keep the arrangement organised
I have a different phone for all my official business
Everything is in line
I am in complete control
Everyone knows their place, although they don’t know about each other
As long as the different strands don’t tangle
no one needs to get hurt or bothered

A man has needs
My happiness comes in threes
A different woman for each facet of my multi-layered personality
The excitement, the mystery, the routine
All accounted for in my impeccable choices
I like it, I like it very much

Maria POV:

I met this guy three months ago
He’s just so-so
I had just ended a serious relationship
Was looking for nothing more than casual friendship
He just sorta came out of nowhere
Decent listener
I call him up sometimes when I’m bored
But he tries too hard
David is just a friend, nothing more

When he calls me, it’s my default ringtone…

Dominique POV:

I can’t remember
Seven months, somewhere in November
He helped me when my car broke down
We began chatting
Daniel is a nice guy
I told him about my mystical devotion
He enjoyed that very much
I call him sometimes, to hear how he’s doing
Mostly he just listens
I’d prefer if he opened up some more
In fact, I don’t really know that much about him
He’s like a notch above an acquaintance but a notch below a friend
I don’t see him in THAT way

When he calls me, it’s my default ringtone…

Esther POV:

I was very young when we met
Wasn’t even sure of who I was yet
I didn’t have experience with boyfriends
He was the first
I guess, I guess I loved him at one time
Right in the beginning
Or maybe that’s just what I thought I felt
I don’t know
I guess I’m still with him because of Marcus
My boy
I don’t want him growing up without a dad
You know?

Donny is a very quiet person
He doesn’t really tell you how he feels about anything
He has a few friends
Goes out sometimes
Gets some calls
But at least he provides for us
He is a good father
I think Marcus is the only one he really talks to
The only one he really cares about

I don’t want to marry him
It wouldn’t work
I don’t think we love each other enough anyway
It’s just a routine
And before you know it, five years have past
And everything is still exactly the same

I’ll focus on Marcus
I only want what’s best for him
I just wish we could love each other more
For the boy’s sake

When he calls me, the ringtone is “Take my heart away”
Johnny Clegg and Savuka
That’s my favourite song

I love Marcus
I love Maria
I love Dominique
I love Esther

I love them all and I know they all love me
I’m singing

My phone’s ringing…

Dedication – Part 2

One track
That mind of yours
Strangling away the hours

One thought
Ensure your security
Feelings and love don’t count

What feelings?
What love?

The shy girl gives way to the powerful woman
You realised what you’re capable of
How can you go back, when you’ve tasted the inside of your own mouth?
There where control and confidence pools
Threatening to spill from your soft lips
Threatening to engulf those perfect nail tips
That body

I remember how you made me feel


You look bored
What can I do to help?

Dedicated to 14