Words

 

Published

 

Read The Secret Promise here (go to Archives/ winter issue/ prose)

Read The Witch’s Kiss here

 

Un-published

Excerpts from John Marshall’s Journal

September 25th 2003
A damn cold barrow of a time; hallowed, senseless and desperate, like all the new found laughter we often revel in –cold whispers –a fantasy, a big dream, and it went with the wind the very moment it came…useless thing.
A fever rose to my cheeks. A man of strange charm could not seduce me as the autumn did that year.
My hands were cold in the freezing wind. It seemed strange and laborious to me that trees loose their leaves only to grow them again.
And I remember that time; I wanted to play like a child dancing in every futile moment, astounded at every superfluous detail, embellished with empty possibilities – had I known. I was a romantic that autumn, dreaming with fear.
I still await, as I did that day on the promenade in Brighton – salt brine clinging to the fish-&-chips-ridden air with every puny or half-decent splash that rose and died against the young pebbles – the day when I will proclaim my infinite rights to the world, and to every woman (bless the things) on this dream-scorched earth. All will be felt, forever, and I hope to live to see the day. And I smiled to myself on the bus back from Brighton. Remembered that it didn’t matter because every churning engine and buzzing wing of any old insect, every movement of the world will conceive it – the day, his love, until sundown. We were eternally bound to each other – I remembered then.
Heck that autumn was foul.
What stays with me most is that I sighed on that promenade and wished without knowing that the sea could comfort me, but it didn’t.

October 9th 2003
“Draw on me.”
I couldn’t think of him – what he wanted. However romantic drawing on a naked man may seem – I wasn’t there. He knew it. And it didn’t seem to me. Nothing seemed anything…
“Why won’t you draw on me John?”
“Because you’re a leech.”
“…What?”
He was mortified. As if I had offended him… As if he were some guru, sitting lotus-flowered on a pedestal, displeased with a modest offering of nothing more than truth, honesty, brutal.
“You suck to people. You’re a leech.”
The house creaked a little, the wind outside was strong.
He took his clothes from the floor wrapped them up in a bundle, covered himself and stormed out, to his car I assume.
An image came into my head of a horse suspended in a glass dome within a seemingly empty infinite space, but it was fleeting, the image left as quickly as it came and I forgot it, until now of course
And it’s strange that now, as I write this, a familiar sense of loss comes over me.
An age-old sense of tragedy, a looming woe felt only in my silence comes from a place I know only too well. The heart – enthralled by laughter, fantasizing drunk, infinite-mind-forever – is gloomy and twisted, and it’s been hollowed out through the years. All that is hopeless and dim but a gift to the void of space and the breaching of light; a flame can be seen in the dark for miles, yet in the day….
Wish I were a shell of a man, broken and lost like those who live for their tired fantasies. Such men probably know more of God than I.

December 2nd 2003
Finally the arty swaggers had buggered off. They hosted ‘New-age swinger parties’ in the flat upstairs. Something about crystal healing and orgasms… It was bloody noisy that’s all I can remember. I’ve been cooped up for a while now. Waiting for the next boy I suppose. There’s always a boy, some young lost boy, who needs some confirmation, a reality check.
It’s just a cold time really. But migration ends, and so do mountains, at some point. My dreams are filled with familiar characters, but tainted with a tragedy that all may be lost, soon…something will happen. Everything will happen soon, any time now. I can wait like a lost duck, a black bob on an empty canvas, floating only by the bygone echoes of a murmur of a wind, the artist absent from his creation.
I remember his face like a splinter in the history of everything – Him. And even now years after his cold blue eyes stab me. He sings to me in my sleep. In old dream hills and places long-gone he dwells… And when organisms are obsolete, and the world is gone, and we have become mere thoughts travelling at an immense speed from sun to sun, we will be re-united, in a spiral of fantastic light. I have seen it before.
But that is not now. That is a vision.
And I will become a moment in time that stretches out forever. I will bend light.
A love like that is a cord in time, a wormhole, it imprints into rock faces of forgotten gods, great kvasses in new forming planets, wrinkles of the young – a love like that is not forgotten. Momentous occasions bring clarity to the way; bring yourself closer to me, because I love you and I want to make you a star, today you are priceless, but forever more, your worth time – Gold dust.

January 4th 2004
Spring won’t come. It just won’t. I’m procrastinating for spring, counting the days until some shoot peek-a-boos its head out of the soil, eager for a dosing of good ol’ UV. I wonder if we become flowers when we die. After our body rots into the ground, maybe parts of us become petals and stems, hollyhocks and marigolds, picked and chosen by a keen gardener and placed into a glass jar of cold water for a gift for Mrs Worne on her 80th birthday, maybe.

April 1st 2004
A letter came through the post today. Not a bill, not an advert, not a note from the milkman, not a lot of things that come through that hole in your door, but a letter address to me, John Marshall. It was in an envelope that had been sent from France, I didn’t recognise the town. There were diagonal stripy lines of red blue and white around the edges, and stamps of figures I didn’t recognise. But hell I recognised the handwriting all right.
Heck this is pathetic, writing this in my journal, if he ever saw he’d probably take pity on me. For the sake of historic purposes and to please the historians of the future I have photocopied his letter and glued it in. Enjoy it, whoever reads this in the year 2700-something, I’ll still be around, don’t you worry…

John,
The apples in this orchard taste so rich. I have never tasted apples like this in my life. Maybe you have, you have lived longer than me. Maybe you’ve felt things I have never felt.
It’s been over a year since we last talked. I’m sick. I have prostate cancer, my love. I’m working here in this apple orchard. Come and see me. I can’t leave, I don’t have enough money. I’ve been spending my money on fine wine and rare editions of old French books.
I don’t know what I’m doing. Please write back.
This letter has been in my mind for many months. I’m sorry I couldn’t write to you sooner.

With all my love and respect,
Oliver.

Old men aren’t allowed to fall in love like they used to.

April 5th 2004
I’ve forgotten how the sea tastes when it sprays at you. It’s been a long time since I used to fish.
I got the boat across the channel, far cheaper, great fun. There was a boy playing with a toy train on the boat, I swear I had the same toy as a little’n. This is too much adventure for an old man. Old men sit in chairs andn watch telly, shout at wives and watch sports. I wish I was young again, getting drunk and battered with the lads.

April 7th 2004
I arrived yesterday. Chemo makes a man look scary. Oliver, my guy, was a bloated, pale, sick man. His eyes are the same, they still stab me every time. After sex we had wine on the veranda last night. The moon was low and there were bats. I recorded the conversation on my tape recorder.
Oliver – They’ve got wild dogs around here. They bite and tear away at anything… Every young guy has got scars from ‘em, I’ve been lucky. Got chased by one the other day.
Me – You know what you have to do though?
Oliver – …
Me – pretend your picking up a stone from the ground, and go to through it. They run off.
Oliver – Nooo, the villagers would have known! They would have told me!
Me – Do they know you’re British?
Oliver – Well of course!

April 20th 2004
The apples were good. And even though I was older than Oliver, I hadn’t tasted any better than those. There must have been something in the soil. We put them in his coffin as he requested. He said ‘to decompose with those delicious apples would be the best way to go.’ Why not? I planted an apple tree in the orchard for him. He’d showed me the spot before he went. It got the best light all year apparently and the soil was better there. Maybe we do become flowers, or maybe apple trees. All I know is the orchard was right by the cemetery and maybe that’s why them apples tasted so great.

Disposable Girls Autumn 2010

The wine tasted cheap. You’d think they’d have the money, but I guess that’s just it.
Launch parties just get old after a while. You get all these directors, executives shaking hands with people who they know their screwing over. I loved that world, I didn’t know how I got there, I guess it was inevitable.
We were sitting at a table, I never really danced.
“So who was that woman I saw you with?” – Max was a partner, for years we cut the corners, he knew everything.
“You can keep a secret…” I knew he couldn’t. “I found her on the street, took her back to my place, got her some clothes…”
“…You’re fucked up.”
It’s not as bad as it sounds. I did her a favour. It was early; six AM maybe. She was lying on the concrete, all dirty and pale. I picked her up; I thought she’d had it, too much smack. But she woke up at my place soon enough. I didn’t say much, I gave her some clothes, she got the idea.
“Oh, there she is…”
“Oh shit,” I said. She walked in all drunk and fucked up. I forgot to lock her in my hotel room.
My clients where there, my colleagues… I was hoping she didn’t see me. She stumbled around the punch table chatting to some guy. I recognised him; pretty sure he was very gay. And then she looked over and saw me, she came over and sat on the chair next to me. She reeked of booze and smoke.
“Do you love me?” She said, looking around. I didn’t even know this girl, heck I found her on the street; we hadn’t even had a ‘real’ conversation.
“No.”
Then she went to kiss me, I turned away and she hit me pretty hard, the bitch.
“You’re an arsehole…”
Fuck this, I thought, I was going to Hong Kong in a few days, my Mandarin was great. I got up and went out. My clients were looking at me, everyone was looking at me. I didn’t care, that life was disposable. I write this now on the 13th floor of a suave hotel in Dongguan. I work for the Chinese now, they need my words, my slogans. That’s what I do.
The maid stayed with me last night – Asian girls are funny.
I don’t know what happened to that homeless girl, she’s probably back on the streets, I don’t really care. I work for the Chinese now. Disposable Girls

The wine tasted cheap. You’d think they’d have the money, but I guess that’s just it.
Launch parties just get old after a while. You get all these directors, executives shaking hands with people who they know their screwing over. I loved that world, I didn’t know how I got there, I guess it was inevitable.
We were sitting at a table, I never really danced.
“So who was that woman I saw you with?” – Max was a partner, for years we cut the corners, he knew everything.
“You can keep a secret…” I knew he couldn’t. “I found her on the street, took her back to my place, got her some clothes…”
“…You’re fucked up.”
It’s not as bad as it sounds. I did her a favour. It was early; six AM maybe. She was lying on the concrete, all dirty and pale. I picked her up; I thought she’d had it, too much smack. But she woke up at my place soon enough. I didn’t say much, I gave her some clothes, she got the idea.
“Oh, there she is…”
“Oh shit,” I said. She walked in all drunk and fucked up. I forgot to lock her in my hotel room.
My clients where there, my colleagues… I was hoping she didn’t see me. She stumbled around the punch table chatting to some guy. I recognised him; pretty sure he was very gay. And then she looked over and saw me, she came over and sat on the chair next to me. She reeked of booze and smoke.
“Do you love me?” She said, looking around. I didn’t even know this girl, heck I found her on the street; we hadn’t even had a ‘real’ conversation.
“No.”
Then she went to kiss me, I turned away and she hit me pretty hard, the bitch.
“You’re an arsehole…”
Fuck this, I thought, I was going to Hong Kong in a few days, my Mandarin was great. I got up and went out. My clients were looking at me, everyone was looking at me. I didn’t care, that life was disposable. I write this now on the 13th floor of a suave hotel in Dongguan. I work for the Chinese now, they need my words, my slogans. That’s what I do.
The maid stayed with me last night – Asian girls are funny.
I don’t know what happened to that homeless girl, she’s probably back on the streets, I don’t really care. I work for the Chinese now.


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