On the Autumn Blows

Sometimes on the autumn blows, when it comes through like this, when the evening air has just a faint idea of chill about it and the first musty tangs whip up in the first of the fallen leaves, I remember a life entire and it makes me sad and ecstatic in turns. And on the autumn blows, when the colour of your greatest bruises are back in season, when the scars from old love re-open and weep, when childish tinklebells of happiness ring through from the lost of time, I am compelled to write because this is the parallel universe of which I inhabit and in which I see the flawed and tragic beauty of this world. It is on the autumn blows that I cry for life and all the pleasures and pain therein, thereof and theregone. It is on the autumn blows that death terrifies and offends me and remains something to avoid at all costs.

I dreamt of her again last night... And of her pharmacies. The neon green cross flickering on its last legs, a dying beacon of sickly light for the junkie to wash-up in before smashing into the rocks further on. Askew road. Opposite the public library. The chime of the bell as I enter. Standing there in that pharmaceutical smell of pomade, baby powder and surgical stockings; the evening dark and suspicious outside; the last of the days addicts blustering in with their sniffles, bad lungs and lack of time. And it ends the same: watching myself recede down Hadyn Park Road with my works, the street lights on but the sky not yet quite night above, my form becoming smaller and darker until finally I'm no longer there at all. That was London and that was the autumn there and it only exists in dreamscape now. On waking I am slow to emerge. I don't move. Just lie there. A profound longing weighing me to the bed; the dream fresh in me for some moments yet. I am weeping but it's not sadness. It's a base emotion not contrived at all. I rise and I dress and the day is fresh to the cold outside. October is in me then.

I spent the better part of the morning sat alone outside the L'étoile brasserie watching the carousel turn in the square. The sky was dull full of clouds above, stretching off into the forever. Out across was the river, running parallel to me, huge sycamore trees potted along its course, leaves faded for the change in season, balding and baring through. I topped my coffee up with my morning dose of methadone and stirred it in good. The bartender saw me, made out he hadn't, wiped his cloth across a couple of tables and then came and placed a round glass ashtray down in front of me. I thanked him a Merci and asked that he bring me another cafe au lait. He gave a nod, looking at me intently, determining if I was sober enough to stay, and if so, would I likely be topping up every coffee with controlled substances. I guess he ruled in my favour. Standing a way off to my left he took a long searing drag from his cigarette, inhaled, then blew the smoke out as he peered a painful look over towards the river and at something out there which only he could see. He seemed to ponder profoundly on life for a moment. Then he smirked and gently nodded, a sad despondency in him then, like he'd figured out that it was useless and nothing could be done about it anyway. I looked over to where he'd been focusing, at the same blankness. It was another day in our lives and the city rolled on, and in a thousand years time it'll still be the same and out there I spied the insignificance of our lives when faced with the infinite spectre of history.

The methadone was coming on. I could feel it in the pit of my stomach, a warm hollowness stirring around, a sudden compulsion to be involved in life. I sat preoccupied by the carousel, lit up and turning around through the drabness of the morning, the wurlitzer music sounding so out of sorts with the yield of the day and yet so perfect in the discordant and contradictory spirit of the time. On the face of it the music was upbeat and carnival but drifting out in low tones, unfurling and seeping up through its heart was a timeless melancholy, some tragedy stewing away below. I watched the few people turning around the ride, the smiling faces, the waving and laughter as they passed their loved ones on the periphery, completely oblivious to the tragic spectacle they were making up a part of. And then it hit me, what that tragic spectacle was: it was what carouselled around the carousel: the timeless melancholy was life.

Morning the colour of cloud. A moistness in the air like very fine drizzle, but no rain to be had. I finished my second coffee and felt lonely but strangely suited for it. I imagined all the beautiful people I'd sat opposite to in cafés over the years, of the time I stole Mary's cup as I wanted a memento of where her lips had been. That was autumn too. In the hotel that night, as we lay kissing on the bed, her suddenly shoving her hand into my pocket to feel out my cock.

“What's that she cried?” Her face ruffled in surprise, looking ugly for the first time. I knew what it was and tried to squirm free. I gripped her wrist so as she couldn't remove her hand.

“It's nothing,” I said, looking ugly for the first time too. “Just a spoon!”

“A spoon??? What?”

She was laughing without laughter, her face frozen on the brink of it... Or on the brink of crying. I was angry, trying to mask it; trying to think. How dare someone go for for my cock, especially in my left pocket! I held her wrist tight and stared without blinking into her eyes. She looked deceived for the first time. Then she looked sad, but that had happened before. Sensing she was never going to get the spoon out my pocket she let go. I pulled her hand out and began licking and kissing her fingers, passionately, removing all trace of the black carbon from them before she saw, before this turned into a real tragedy. As I kissed the last black soot off her fingers I said: “It's your spoon... from the cafe. I stole it. I wanted to save the moment. I stole your cup too. Go look It's in my bag! I collect mementos... I never wanted the day to end.”

Hope returned in her for the first time. That quick all consuming hope that only lovers of addicts, gamblers and the consistently unfaithful are ready to buy into. For a moment a nightmare had nearly shattered all her new dreams, like had happened to her/to me/to the entire world before. But that autumn night would not be the one where her world would collapse. It would be another full month later before she would learn I was an addict and didn't really have gastro-digestive problems; that I was in the toilet so often and for so long as my needles and vit C and heroin were wrapped in a succession of plastic bags and stashed in the cistern.

I laughed now. It seemed sweet. I would live that again if I could, if it meant we could all be young and hopeful again. I looked out over past the carousel, past the river, over to the Fourviere Hill making up the backdrop of the city, the Basilica sat atop it, the huge gilded Virgin Mary looking out over us, breaking through the faint mist at just-past-eleven, protecting the city from pestilence. But the pestilence is here, thriving, only it looks nothing like the plague. It's hard to believe I'm here, making up the history of this foreign town, walking a part of my legend around streets so alien to where I'm from. It's hard to believe it's 2013 and we've mostly all made it this far and the world hasn't really changed at all.

It was time to go. The morning had warned up and lost its bite and other phantoms of life now blew in over from the river and called me off to some place else. I left a note and more change on the table for the two coffees. As I passed the door of the Brasserie I signalled to the bartender that the money was on the table. Taking no chances he rushed out to check before I was gone, out of sight. Taking advantage of not having rung the order through the till the bartender picked the note out the litter and saucered the change into his pocket. When I next looked back he was gone. He had cleared the table and it was hard to believe I had been there at all.

It's true, sometimes when the sun breaks through, when great sheets of architectural yellow light escape between parting clouds, when the river gently laps on the turning tide, when a swan drifts by, we can disconnect from the dirt of living, from the epoch, from the constant fear of death, and for just a moment be equals in that wonder and awe; be equals in that fleeting understanding of mortality.

So once again the greatest season of all is breaking out across Europe. The light summerwear has been chucked back to the moths, the blithe fragrances replaced by scents much heavier and darker and obsessive. It's the time for taking sanctuary in someone, rip undressing as you clatter through the door, the desperate and breathless fuck in the low of the corridor, sperm shot up the inside of a thigh, across coutured lace and woven trims, tears of joy and horror at the realisation of how far you could lose yourself in someone, entire days spent in bed, holding and healing and catching up on a lifetime of good sleep as the wind and skies growl wild outside.

And on and on the autumn blows and winter will be here real soon, and fuck me if I'm not still enamoured with this ghastly fucking world.


Anonymous said...

methadone in coffee! I used to put booze in all my cooking until I found out the alcohol evaporates so you're just left with the taste but not the effect! It makes an Irish coffee not seem so... well... Irish. What a waste! But clearly it's not interfered with the effects and maybe the caffeine speeds it up.
Re: watching the bartender
I love it when you observe someone and they act in a way that you can almost guess what they're thinking. My Dad took it to the extreme though, he'd gesticulate and shout at people that weren't even there so I learnt how to walk several paces ahead of him from a young age.

JoeM said...

This didn't come up on email as it used to. Though recent comments did. Hmmm.

when the colour of your greatest bruises are back in season, when the scars from old love re-open and weep

I like the melancholic though ultimately optimistic atmosphere.

So once again the greatest season of all is breaking out across Europe.

I think we both agreed that Autumn/Winter is the best.
Everything looks/smells/feels/tastes and sounds more vibrant. I barely survived that recent heatwave.

There was an Elvis Costello documentary on last night and they used that picture of him you photo-shopped into John. It is quite surreal how I now think of Costello as that mad freak...

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Joe... I'll have a look at the settings. I removed my ex-girlfriend's address from the post list and maybe I accidently deleted yours (you were the only two who received posts direct from me).

I've come to hate all the fake depression comments and writing by the majority of addicts, reading as they blabber on about how badly they want to die... when if it was the case they could've ended it all very quickly and painlessly any of the days in the last ten years that they've been beating that old monotonous drum. But it is possible that if looked at logically life is pretty useless and hopeless with only worse of the same in the future but STILL there is this beauty of living, even the worst lives, which makes us want to continue. For me it's why people use heroin.... and they admit t themselves only they don't really look at what they're saying. If you use heroin (as 99% of addicts claim) to numb the pain then it means that they want to NOT die but numb the pain or trauma enough to make life bearable. But of course, in this milieu wanting to live isn't 'cool' and so while screaming their heads off about other junkie myths they perpetrate the worst of them themselves. But some myths add to the cool stakes and others don't and it finally often does, like so many other things, come down to image. Well I think the world is pretty hopeless and I don't see anything changing soon, but I still want to live and always (mostly) have.

I'm the same with Elvis Costello!!! Infact Elvis Costello no longer exists anymore John Aaron Baptist McManus (Jab'M) has hijacked his existence! X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Calamity... it depends what dose I'm taking as over here methadone comes in 5, 10, 20, 40 and 60mg bottles. Millilitre of liquid is the same and so the higher doses get progressively stronger and more unpleasant to knock back. So I often sugar my coffee with methadone and it doesn't seem to affect the dose in any way. Where I speak of image (above to Joe) well, as anyone who reads my writing knows, I'm not immune to that side of addiction myself and so often purposely unscrew bottles of methadone in public places and knock them back or pour them in my drink. Of course no-one knows what the hell is in the bottle i've just consumed but I suppose it gives of a general pathetic idea of how I want to be viewed in the world. But I'm not embarrassed about that and think writing of such superficial behaviours, the stuff no-one else will ever admit to, is what makes the writing here much different. X

JoeM said...

Costello has been Palimpsested by Jab'm!

John Aaron Baptist McManus

I bet when he was wee they all called him Little John Aaron.

Such a lovely littleboy, he's going to make some girl very happy one day...

Anonymous said...

Well, as long as you're taking it on your own terms. It's horrible the humiliation they put you through on supervised consumption. Some places have a back room but others you have to loiter and are sure everyone knows what you're there for. Then when the chemist comes out with your dose you notice mothers pull their kids closer to them to hide their faces. And of course some chemists I swear are sadists. They like to make you wait like you're in detention (the wait increases according to how sick you are). Horrible, degrading exercise designed to send some people further into drugs to save their dignity.

Anonymous said...

I think I see what you mean about the Autumnal air! Just nipped out to Tesco and on my way took a big lungful (ouch!). It was a lovely dark sweet and deep smell. I could smell burning damp tree bark. Then a fire engine raced passed! Honest! Just as I thought of burning wood it appeared out of nowhere. I always thought England had a smell. A damp, sweet smell like old antiquarian books or books rescued from a flood and left somewhere cold after it dried. Kuwait (where I grew up) mostly smelled dry and hot, a kind of flat smell. But with that heat if any organic matter (meat, dead animals, broken down fridge with meat inside) was left out you got a different smell altogether!

Wildernesschic said...

Great to see a new post Shane.. and what a post. Im loving the melancholic vibe and the descriptive text.
I love autumn and the tinge of sadness that it brings. This year I was determined to hate it, but as it colours up, I find I cannot.
Love Ruth xx

Absolut Ruiness said...

Hey Shane! I liked the way you noticed how cafes remove all traces of you once you've left the table. This act sometimes catches me as odd too. I somehow fell that they should start the cleanup only after I am out of sight or maybe 2 min after that. And I thought I was the only one.

JoeM said...

Just read the Dennis Nilsen biography. Having mildly disliked him before I now REALLY dislike him.

What a narcissistic pseudo-intellectual bore. I don't know why you want to read his book- the extracts just prove what a twat he is.

Like Brady et al they're just bad people justifying their selfishness with half-baked psycho babble.

'I saw my grandfather in his coffin'! Big fucking deal!

You boiled people's heads in a pot! A pot,Shane, your mother saw and walked out of the court room because.

I can't understand why you think he should be freed. There is no remorse. No real self-awareness.

The one question nobody seems to ask him is:

Do you think you could do it again?

Anonymous said...

Where did you find the extracts? I've been looking online and cannot find anything. Thanks Jo

Tonyoneill said...

overwhelmingly beautiful and nostalgic… perfect for a left strewn autumnal morning…. love it, shane as always and cheered my morning no end to have something new from you to check out. love and best wishes to you…. t

ps sent you an email

Kelly Al Saleh said...

Re: JoeM
'I saw my grandfather in his coffin'! Big fucking deal!

My Catholic friends have all seen dead bodies in the lounge at a wake, it's a custom. But they're not all serial killers or fascinated with death.

But that's also why I wouldn't feel comfortable being so harsh on him. This is where nature (neurology) takes over nurture (psychology). Of most things I've read about serial killers (and dictator narcissistic types) is that the part of their brain that deals with empathy and that curtails extreme (inconceivable acts) is inactive. So I find it hard to condemn someone like that for that reason because I feel they are already condemned by virtue of their nature or their lack of something. Whilst I don't always agree with laws and convention (the law is usually an ass, lol), I do appreciate we have to function sociably. But with the same token, even if it is not something they can control, for the safety of others, we have to keep them away from society.

Of course we don't know everything and it is an area that continues to confound us morally and legally. If someone is aware of their actions being wrong but still has the compulsion to do something (because of their neurological make up), can you really not have any compassion for them.

I'm with you on him not being freed because of that very fact.

We all are capable of terrible things (particularly if it's sanctified as the norm by our society) or if we're in extreme situations. And most people have certainly thought of doing terrible things at some point but to actually do it is a different matter. And of course, human nature often doesn't fit into what we define as acceptable.

I don't have any answers because I'm very much a grey person (rather than black and white). I just know that he shouldn't be freed right now for the sake of future victims but I hold no ill will against him. I've not read the transcripts you speak of, who knows, maybe I'd feel the same as you.


Anonymous said...

The boy with a thorn in his side, behind the hatred there lies... a murderous desire... for love

JoeM said...

Yes Kelly, the nature/nurture thing is so far unsolvable.

As to him being freed I just wonder as I say that nobody seems to have asked him if he still has those murderous urges. He has access to marijuana in jail but I'm presuming he hasn't had alcohol. Since that was always the trigger for murder who knows what will happen if he gets drunk again.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Joe... just a quickie for now as my main comment will be quite lengthy. Concerning Nilsen's release it's quite irrelevant now as in 2008 (with Nilsen having served his 25 year initial sentence and theoretically eligible for parole) two officers from Scotland Yard visited my mother in order to calm down any fears she may have had of Nilsen being released and told her that he is one of the few UK prisoners to whom "life means life" and he will never be released and will die in prison. So regardless of my view or anyone elses Nilsen will never be released anyhow. X

Anonymous said...

Hi Shane. I have found the extracts. It is actually on blogspot. dennisneilsen.blogspot.co.uk
It took awhile but I found a facebook page that someone has opened about him and there was a link. Hope you are well Jo x

Unknown said...

Loved the part about how she tried to grab the spoon, and you end up licking the soot off her fingers to keep her from asking questions. Excellent.