I’d jump from a building
From the 91st floor
Just to be certain
Just to be sure
A fictitious poem to a fictitious lover
Sometimes I wish I didn’t love, I didn’t feel and I didn’t hurt.. sometimes I wish I didn’t live in such extremes, enjoying freezing winters just to take pleasure from hurrying into the warmth. That is what I do, I hang around in the cold and then seek refuge in a warm room, shuddering with pleasure as the first waves of heat hit me. Sometimes I wish my muscles didn’t contract and that my heart would stop beating excessive amounts of blood around my body. Sometimes I wish I lived in a securely mortgaged house and drove a Grey Ford Fiesta. Sometimes I wish I had a dog and two dustbins. Sometimes I wish my name was Chris.
Chris is 47 years old. Of those 47 years he has been married for 29. He has never strayed, nor cheated nor done an around turn and followed the echoes of a strangers high-heeled shoes. He neither loves nor hates, cries or laughs, lives or dies. He is in the middle of all that, living a life of unbroken and regular habit. But not dangerous habits... not habits that gamble with the fate of ones day, no... safe habits... routines. Practices that secure the fate of one’s day. In a life of mystery and surprise, of low blows and axe chops, Chris wanders through oblivious to all and everyday brings the same, and the same comes everyday.
At 6.30am one can find Chris walking his dog around the block and down the old brewery alley. On his way back home he will pass the the newsagents and pick up the paper. Dog lead hung on the coat stand he’ll sit down to an already made up and perfumed wife. He will slurp his way through two cups of tea, butter some toast and smoke a cigarette. At 7.am he rolls up his newspaper and puts it in his back pocket. He winks goodbye to the wife, kisses the dog and leaves for work.. For 8 hours everyday Chris unloads lorries and then makes sure people like me don’t steal the stock.He has done this since leaving school at 17. His evenings are homecooked meals, quick stop family visits and cable TV. At 10.30 he badly dries the dishes that his wife has washed and together they climb the wooden hills to Bedfordshire. Chris removes his shirt and slips out of his trousers and into the bed before anyone has time to even see his kneecaps. He turns his head so as his wife can change in peace. 30 years of marriage divides the kingsize bed in two. The sheets are clean and freshly pressed and never smell of sex. At 11 o’clock they turn back to back, each pointing in the direction of their half of the room. They sleep without dreaming, although the wife occasionally dreams she is living a nightmare. At 5.45am, the alarm rings and it all starts again.
For a while I was one of the many co-conspirators in Chris’s life. I became a little part of his routine, another little event that added to the surety of his day. There I’d be, every morning outside Allied Carpets, waiting to be collected and driven in to work. There he’d come, pulling into the bus lane whilst simultaneously stretching across the passenger seat and pushing open the door. Car still in a slow roll, I’d hop in and he’d accelerate away as the door swung shut. “Time?” He’d ask nodding towards the cheap unstealable radio “7.23,” I’d say “You’re bang on time.” And he was bang on time... always. In two years of early morning meets not once did that clock read any other minute past seven. I came to thinking that he must arrive early, park up down a side road and pull out at the exact minute. Sadly, I am probably wrong about that. He probably is the only man in the world who can manoeuvre through London’s traffic to the exact second. In fact, I do not doubt it. But if it was easy for Chris to pull up at the exact second I was the polar opposite of that. I’m not sure if he ever realised the hell I had to assault through to get there.. to be standing there calmly in a freshly pressed shirt. Whilst his life was a monotonous journey through tried and tested avenues mine was a life of mayhem and last minute fixes... always chasing that which had already left. If Chris knew what would happen next, I was still in shock at what had happened before... and it was with a certain envy that I strapped myself in and looked across at Chris in his one and only state of being: not quite happy, but almost.
Chris became a fascination to me. I would feel good just to be in his company... just to have his calmness rub off on me and know that besides this man the perverse was not going to happen. Life did not bluster unannounced into this man’s life... it gave him a smooth flat stoneless ride. I would catch myself observing him, admiring all his little mannerisms and laughing along as he whispered a clean obscene joke into the ear of the young female receptionist. I’d watch him preparing his sandwiches, devouring them in delightful measured mouthfuls, then wiping and patting his lips free from any sauce or grease. I observed as he took a million tiny pleasures from a world I had no excitement for and didn’t really want to be a part of. He even seemed to enjoy paying his taxes... filling out the forms and posting them off to the Revenue. Chris had found his slot in life. And no matter how awful his routines seem, or what a waste I knew it was to live like that, I could not help envying him... At one time, I could not help myself from desperately wishing for what he had.
Sometimes I would sit in the car beside him on the drive home and stare at him as he damned without swearing, as he looked up and around at the new buildings that were being put up. He’d be tapping away to some old rock beat or another, nothing intense, bland love songs of coming home. Once we had a little bump in the car and he seemed to take a sick pleasure in reckoning up the insurance costs. There he was, counting out on thick fingers garage repairs and labour costs. Nodding away knowingly at just how costly a little bump could be. When his mum died, he cried for a lunch break in his car and that was it... That was the nearest he ever got to tragedy. He returned after an hour his same old consistent self, just one parent less. He celebrated her but never grieved. One night I met him and his wife for drinks. He wore a denim jacket and a thick shapeless bright pink top. I think it was the first time he had been out since the early 80’s and that was his old pulling shirt.They both left after one drink as the dog needed it’s nighttime walk and the bins needed emptying. I was completely shitfaced and had only been there for an hour. They had to drive me to my door and walk me up the garden path. But they enjoyed that... it was a little story for hem, just as it is for me.
Once I asked Chris if he loved his wife. His reply talked of the kids, the mortgage and the joint possessions. “But do you love her Chris?” I repeated “Do you love her?”
“Well,” he replied “we’re thinking of starting up a little market stall on Saturdays so as we can spend a little more time together... there’s not many couples who after twenty odd years want to spend MORE time together. That said, we could also do with the extra cash as the roof needs fixing and we had the plumber in last week.”
“Yeah, that sounds like love.” I said, thinking of sex in parks, golden showers and planes out the country. And he winked at me as if he held all the secrets to the world.
One evening whilst stuck in traffic I told Chris of my heroin addiction. He sat there staring ahead in silence, a thinking middle finger drumming out a rhythm on the side of the steering wheel. I waited in gritted discomfort as my words hung thick with the smoke in the car, but nothing came – not a squeak, not a sidewards glance, nothing... Chris just inched forward in the traffic and never mentioned it at all . It was like telling someone you love them and not getting so much as a blink of acknowledgement back in return. Seven eigth’s of my existence was left two feet back in London’s rush hour traffic... under the wheels of a vibrating diesel powered double-decker bus.
And what else should I have expected? What other response could I have possibly received from a man welded so securely into a life of routine? He could hardly have pulled over and took me off for an unplanned talk and drink... Oh no, the wind from the wings of that little butterfly would have had far too many repercussions in his own life to be a possibility. No, Chris done exactly as I would have expected of him: he saved my revelation for the dinner table... a five minute conversation with the missus spat out through mouthfuls of chewed up sausage, cabbage and potato’s.
The remainder of the ride to my drop off point was a sombre one. I sat there with my head turned staring dismally out as West London passed by the smeared and rain speckled window. I had given up hope of receiving any kind of response from Chris and it was with relief that he finally swung in and slowed to a stop at my bus stop. As I clambered from the car that evening, Chris leaned across , and with his chin almost on the passenger seat and peering up at me under the door, he said: “Hey Shane, why don’t you come over to ours for dinner one evening? My wife knocks up a great steak and chips.” And with that comment, and the way in which it was delivered, London collapsed... it was the saddest thing I had ever heard, from anybody’s lips. That Chris imagined that the answers to the unanswerable could come through a hearty home cooked meal, carving up cheap meat whilst laughing away to evening sitcoms was sad. It was sad because I wished it were true... it was sad because I wished I had that to go home to. I gave Chris a light smile and a pair of tragic eyes “That’d be nice,” I said quietly “I’d like that.”
In a way I was touched that someone, anyone could think so simply about life and her problems. That someone was so stable and so secure that they imagined a good family dinner could heal all woes. And I desired that... I envied that in him. That stability, the knowing... the surety. He knew when he arrived home his wife would be there. OK, there was no passion but there was a bizarre kind of historic love and dependence. I would settle for that... I wanted that. In this mans head there were no dreams... no wants or desires. “I wish I was like that.” I’d think. He enjoyed simple things, things that I cannot even understand. Walking the dog at nine o’clock in the evening... greeting a neighbour or two and swapping the days gossip. I dream of that, of that kind of a life.Everything in Chris was stable and secure and I wanted it, and I envied him for that. But at the same time I knew it was not for me... it was not possible. One cannot learn to be like Chris... that kind of regimented and ordered life cannot come through discipline. One has to be born like that... or as good as. I was not... I was born dodging cricket bats and bouncing to the blows of life... all i’ve ever known is extremes. To live without question and to enjoy all the little hardships of life, one must be a very certain person. Of course, I would never want to be that... my head tells me that. But somewhere in me, somewhere buried below all the fancy thoughts, I do want it... to be less complex, to be just an average Joe.
Wouldn’t it be heaven to be guided and led by social norms, to have one’s ethics and morals laid out already dressed on the plate? To know what is right and what is wrong... what is clean and what is dirty? Wouldn’t it be good to have a built in sensor that stopped you going too far in either direction, that stopped you from falling madly in love or making suicide pacts? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to feel the cold and the warmth for what they are and not for what you will escape. To watch film for entertainment and not in search of yourself. Wouldn’t it be good to put your money in a fruit machine, not for the gamble but because that’s what you do.And whether you win or lose, well, so what! Nothing is going to change. Wouldn’t it be good to never be tempted, to be imprisoned by invisible and weightless chains... wouldn’t that be heaven? At one time in my life I wanted all of this... I needed it, and I went to bed dreaming of it. But even having that behaviour, that desire for something else told me I could never have it. No, my envy of Chris and his position was just a healthy response to my own life which had spiralled out of control and had left me on the edge trying to claw my way back in. And it helped... it helped because looking at all these things and thinking them over I decided that no, I do not want to be Chris... and I would not choose to be him even if I had the choice. I would much rather be me... I would much rather have obsessions and violently passionate relationships than calm waters and sexless sheet. I would much rather be able to write this than read it and not understand it. But for a while... Oh, for a while, I wanted nothing more than to just be someone else. Someone stable.
My relationship with Chris, like so many others, petered out and died. Rides home in his car became tense affairs after I had revealed myself. I’d unburdened my condition upon him and now I didn’t hold back. I sat in the passenger seat with my head almost slumped in my lap... coming to every now and again to see how much further we had crept through the traffic. As we arrived at my drop off point Chris would now lean over me, open the door and bundle me out into the street. I would scramble to my feet and before having the chance to turn around he would be gone. He stopped acting like a father towards me, probably realising and thanking his lucky stars that no son of his was anything like me. He stopped sharing his sandwiches with me in the canteen and would look grumpy as I came from the toilet with my bag and rubbing my arm. Eventually he stopped giving me a lift home, petrified that I had drugs in my bag and that my passenger seat antic would bring the police to us. I didn’t mind... he wasn’t a friend, just someone I once aspired to be... just someone I needed to see and be with for a short time in my life.
It’s now nearly ten years that I haven’t had word from Chris, but whenever things aren’t going great in my life or whenever I am riding high, I still think of him. I think of his life of routine and his measured, calculated way of doing everything. I wonder can anyone really be like that? Is anyone really able to be that stable and satisfied with their lot? Is the leaking roof really an enjoyable cost? Then I start to wonder what goes on behind closed doors... what happens when the family has left and the light goes out in the bedroom. Is it all as cosy and as clean cut as he’d have me believe? Does he really never dream? Is it only the occasional nightmare his wife has, or are they recurring and omnipresent? Does his sexless frustration never turn into something a little more sinister?I don’t know... that’s just me thinking and maybe more a reflection of me than of him. But then I remember something... a snippet of a conversation we once had. We were discussing films and Chris told me that his favourite film was A ClockWork Orange and his favourite scene was the gang rape one... and for some reason those words hang heavy in my ears and disturbs me. Butit’snot the fantasy that disturbs me, it’sthe repression of the fantasy, the denial of it... and when i think of that my envy turns to fear. Fear of what such a person is capable of. Far from being attracted to or in awe of such a person, the Chris’s of this world scare me... They scare me more than my shadow scares myself.
Take care Readers... and keep the fires burning, Shane. x