Last night the driver and I stopped at a truck-stop for dinner. It was in the middle of an industrial estate and very, very large, holding 40 or 50 haulage trucks. We parked at the far end and walked its length to the small diner/pub nestled in its corner.
I had a wonderful steak pie, smothered in mash and gravy, and a large cup of coffee.
“Was the pie good, duck?” the lady behind the counter asked, when I came up for another coffee.
It was wonderful, I said. Possibly the best I’ve ever had.
“Better than your missus’?” she said, smiling.
Almost as good as my mom’s, I said.
“That’s wonderful, love. Oh, what a lovely thing to say.”
They used to have a stripper at the truck stop, the driver told me as we left. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The truck stop would be so full on those nights that they’d end up having to park next to the warehouses and offices surrounding it. Once, he said, the place was packed - totally filled - and the stripper was running late.
“It were practically a riot,” he said. “All those drivers pissed an’ ‘orny.”
Eventually she phoned - she’d been stuck in snow somewhere, and wouldn’t be able to make it.
(A stripper somewhere on a road, sat in the front seat of her tiny car, squinting out into the snow, realising she wouldn’t get there in time, resigning herself to the fact that she wouldn’t get there - having to phone up - and turning around to head home.)
Upon hearing this the truckers fell into disarray - shouting and angry - until one stepped up and said he’d get his guitar from his cab.
“An’ ‘e were fookin’ brilliant,” the driver told me.
He played guitar and sang songs and told jokes all night - singing to the 50 or 60 drunk truckers who’d all turned up in the hopes of seeing a naked lady - until the woman behind the bar eventually had to drag him off the impromptu stage.
But I en’t finished, he’d said.
“Aye,” the driver said, smiling. “Fookin’ brilliant.”
I sat and ate dinner tonight in a hotel near the marina, the only place for food in walking distance. Steak pie again. 3 times the price. It was okay. Not good. Not great. Okay.
I ate. I drank a beer. I read a few pages of a book.
At one point 3 children - all in their PJs and clutching teddy bears and day bags - walked in through the lobby doors. They stood sleepily waiting while their parents checked in. They slowly traipsed behind them as they moved off toward their room for the night.
I finished my beer. I came back to the boat.
“I live on my own now,” I thought as I walked back. I’d thought about it before but now it had happened. I now live on my own.
It was bright today. Warm. One of the last summer days of this year, I imagine.
I was walking along a road, wheeling my bike alongside me, when I noticed an elderly black man just ahead. He was dressed well - a suit, hat, and shined shoes - and he hummed and sang a little as he walked.
I tried to catch snatches of his singing and humming, slowing to do so. I guessed he was east-African - Kenyan, perhaps, or Ethiopian. If I had to guess I’d say he was singing in Swahili, but I don’t know. I wondered how long he’d been here, where he was going to. He seemed to be enjoying the sun as much as I was, basking when he paused at a pedestrian-crossing.
He stopped, then, on the sidewalk, forcing me, following him surreptitiously to enjoy his company, to pause as well. He seemed to be staring, I thought, at a small group of elderly people across the road. They were sat on chairs outside a small church - some smoking, others just chatting. They seemed content.
He ceased humming then, and, stood there in the pleasant sunshine, observed them silently for a moment.
He then slowly raised his hand and, with no great ceremony, began flipping them the bird.
He stood there quietly, middle-finger extended, for a solid half-minute. Like a soldier on duty.
People walked by. Continued on their way.
I stood behind him, transfixed.
I doubt the group across the road could see him but if they did, they chose not to respond, continuing instead with their smoking and talking.
He slowly lowered his hand then, took the measure of the sidewalk ahead of him, and continued along his way, singing and humming. Enjoying this last summer day.
There are heroes among us. Small ones, perhaps, with triumphs that are mostly personal and serve no real purpose other than to act as examples.
And some of them, I think, are old, and hum, and dress well, and are possibly Kenyan.
My phone has been running slowly lately. It’s new and shiny and this slowness was disconcerting, so I tinkered and explored until I found the culprit - the Facebook app. I uninstalled it (I hardly ever use it) and was amazed by the difference:
- My phone’s battery life increased dramatically.
- The phone stopped lagging when I changed applications.
- It deleted all my ex’s phone numbers (the ones I sometimes think about phoning).
- My gums stopped bleeding when I brush too hard. They are firm now. Robust.
- The ghosts that live in my teeth finally left, packing up tiny suitcases with their ghost clothes as I lay in bed one night, mouth open. They disappeared into the heavy night with soft calls of “So long, buddy - so long.”
- Feeling has slowly returned to my left hand. It no longer scuttles and flinches as if it has a mind of its own. It no longer twitches furiously when someone mentions coriander or the series ‘Firefly.’
- I can taste again - the soft succulence hidden beneath the firm skin of a peach; the buttery crunch of warm toast; the delectable burn of a lead paint chip.
- I no longer cough up hair or blood or vanilla pudding, none of which I can remember eating.
- Dogs have stopped talking to me. They open their mouths as if to speak, re-consider, close them again.
- Mark Zuckerburg no longer phones me late at night. (“Mark?” I’d say. “Is that you?” He’d be quiet, just breathing. He only responded once - “How can I tell now who my friends are?” “I don’t know, Mark,” I said. We sat in silence for another hour until he hung up.)
- My phone is no longer as warm in my pocket.
So if you’re experiencing dramatic battery loss maybe you should uninstall the Facebook app.
Scientists looking for the missing 83% of the universe’s mass can stop. It has been found.
It is to be seen in this shape, in groups of 5 or 6, on boyfriends’ sidetables around the world.
It is apparently self-propagating (a single unit can somehow spawn numerous others) and sentient, given to appearing and disappearing at will.
Be warned though: it is hard to detect. The only surefire method I’ve gleaned has been by walking barefoot across a seemingly safe floor.
Science is hard.
Also, I don’t like that pit-stains on white t-shirts happen to good people.
I mean, I’ve come to terms with the fact that the Universe is an entirely objective place where terrible things happen regardless of whether you’re simply out for yourself or are actually trying to make it a nicer place for everyone in it. It’s a terrible, cold truth that’s visible everywhere. And who knows, maybe it’s actually a necessity, from a philosophical point of view.
Still, it’d be nice if, if you were of the latter group, the Universe gave you a quiet pass on pit-stains. It wouldn’t be enough motivation to get bad people to stop being bad (and thus upset the system) but it’d be a small, welcome bonus for those of us who’re trying to be good people. A quiet acknowledgement that maybe we’ve enough on our plates as it is and that we deserve one less thing to worry about.
“Don’t worry about bleach or whatever,” the Universe would seem to say. “Pit-stains simply won’t be an issue for you. Your favourite t-shirt is safe. You look good in it, by the way.”
I think I’d take comfort in that.
True story: When I used to work at Yahoo! we’d bucket-test new features using New Zealand. New Zealanders accessing our sites would get features we weren’t sure would work or were still in testing.
“How’s New Zealand doing?” you’d ask on Monday morning, as if it had spent the weekend running on a wheel in a carefully-monitored cage somewhere.
The lab-boys would then peer over their glasses at a screen full of slow-moving graphs and constantly-ticking figures.
“…seems alright,” they’d say.
“Good, good,” you’d say, and continue on to your desk.
Sometimes I’d wonder if other companies used New Zealand too. (I’m pretty sure Facebook did.)
I like to think that maybe every company does - that the whole country’s internet is just lashed together, half-tested features and barely-complete 20% projects. That it’s awesome and terrible and broken and beautiful. Someplace digital that’s a little more wild and uncharted.
Not in the way that, say, 4chan is. More like Narnia, perhaps, or like Dr. Frankenstein’s lab.
And maybe when New Zealanders go to other places and use other internets they’re surprised to find they don’t have Facebook’s FACE-RECOGNITION-LOGIN™ or Twitter’s AUTO-SANDWICH-IDENTIFICATION™ technology or Hotmail’s MIND-MELD-ADVERTISEMENT™ system or Amazon Prime’s TELEPORTATION DELIVERY™ option. Surprised and maybe a little sad.
A girl fell off the climbing wall last week. About 25 feet, I’d guess.
(I’m still indoor rock-climbing. I still enjoy it.)
She fell off the wall.
I didn’t see her fall. I was belaying someone else. I just noticed the silence and that the music they usually play had been turned off.
It was mostly quiet. I was far enough away so that I could only just hear her crying.
Groups of people around the gym that were busy climbing would notice the silence, look around, and stop. Whispers of what happened, no-one knowing for sure, passed around.
Her friends were around her. She could move her legs but wasn’t trying to sit up.
Someone called an ambulance. Minutes passed.
People, tired of just watching her, went around the corner, out of sight of (and from) her and her friends, and started climbing again. Quietly and out of sight.
The ambulance turned up. The front doors of the gym were thrown open and a stretcher was rolled in. The paramedics talked to the girl and got her to laugh. The tension broke a little. She was wheeled out.
A minute or so passed. People stood around.
The music started up again, louder and more upbeat. Everyone went back to climbing. Their conversations were a little louder than before, as was their laughter. Everyone hustled and bustled a little bit more than before. Maybe more than was necessary.
I was half-way up my first route today, the only one free in the very busy gym, when I realised it was the one she’d been climbing last week.
I found out a little later that she’d broken her lower back and foot. She’ll recover.
People are fascinating.
The yak furs are warm but musty. I am tired. The grass plains below spread from horizon to horizon. My breath steams in the early morning air.
I have far to go.
A dot high above me drops. A hawk.
It lands on my outstretched arm, its heft a comfort. Two dim orange eyes regard me from behind its blinkered cowl.
A note attached to its leg.
“You have one unread DM.”
But… but I’ve read it, I think. I’m certain I’ve read it.
The monastery is quiet. The monks, serene, tend to their garden, to their bees.
I am welcomed.
Well… perhaps ‘welcomed’ is the wrong word. I am simply accepted - as existing, as being there, as seeking refuge.
I meditate. I heal. The calluses from my travels begin to soften.
I am sat in the garden and the peach blossoms are streaming down around me.
Cross-legged and eyes closed, I am finding my center.
A tap on the shoulder. I open my eyes.
A monk stands in front of me. He leans forward and breaks his 60 year vow of silence.
“You have one unread DM,” he says, his voice crackling with new use.
“I don’t,” I reply. “I have read it.”
But he is gone.
They had come at night. Quiet, at first, but without regard once discovered - tearing through the shōji screens of the house, blades out, cold and hard and terrible. Driven. Unblinking.
I lie propped against the wall. Bleeding. Unable to move. The back door is torn open. The moon is looking down on the bodies of my fallen enemies.
I am cut. Deep wounds. Such rough surgery.
I am wondering whether it is too late to compose my death poem.
An arrow thuds into the beam above me. A figure, clad in black, scurries from a distant rooftop.
A small banner unfurls from the arrow.
‘You have two unread DMs.’
Oh for fucks sake.
Description: Occasionally - about once a month or so - I’ll catch sight of the tiny freckle on the outside of my left middle finger, which isn’t really visible in most circumstances, and, thinking it’s a speck of dirt or a crumb, will attempt to flick it away.
Accurate description: Ocasionally - about once a month or so - I’ll forget what the back of my own goddamn hand looks like.
[A COUPLE STANDS OUTSIDE A JAPANESE RESTAURANT.]
Woman: Oooh, let’s go here. I hear you can get one of those sushi-girls. You know, where you eat it right off their naked, writhing body? It sounds so authentic.
[CUT TO A FEW MINUTES LATER - THE COUPLE ARE SAT DOWN INSIDE. A WAITER ROLLS OVER A GURNEY UPON WHICH LIES A GIRL, NAKED, FACE BLANK, COVERED IN SUSHI. THE COUPLE BEGIN EATING.]
Woman: Oooh, so authentic. So. Authentic. *whispers to the sushi-girl* You’re so authentic.
Man: Let’s eat.
[THE COUPLE BEGIN EATING. LOOKS OF MILD CONCERN CROSS THEIR FACES.]
Woman: …is yours warm? This is pretty warm.
Man: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I’m gonna send it back.
Woman: Oh honey, don’t make a scene. *whispers to the sushi-girl* He always makes a scene. *the sushi-girl blinks once, slowly*
Man: No, no. We paid for this. I’m not paying for warm sushi. Here, waiter. Waiter, over here.
Waiter: Yes, sir?
Man: We’d like to send this back. *waves vaguely at the naked sushi-girl* This, this sushi’s too warm.
Waiter: Oh, of course, sir. I’m so sorry. Of course, we’ll get you a new one. *leans in to the sushi-girl, whispers fiercely* Why is it always you, Michelle. It’s always you. God.
[THE WAITER WHEELS THE SUSHI-GIRL AWAY, RETURNS WITH A NEW GIRL COVERED IN SUSHI. THE COUPLE BEGIN EATING.]
Woman: Oh, this is better. *leans in to the sushi-girl* You’re so much better.
Man: See, aren’t you glad we ‘made a scene’.
[FADE A FEW MINUTES LATER AND THE COUPLE SLOWLY STOP EATING. THE WAITER APPEARS.]
Waiter: Everyone okay now, sir?
Man: Fantastic, yes, thank you. Could we get the rest of this to go?
Waiter: Of course.
[CUT TO THE WAITER HANDING THE MAN A VERY FOIL SWAN WITH A PAIR OF NAKED LEGS STICKING OUT THE SIDE. CUT TO THE COUPLE UNWRAPPING THE NAKED GIRL, STILL COVERED IN SUSHI, AT THEIR COUNTER AT HOME, BEFORE PLACING HER IN THE FRIDGE. FADE TO A FEW DAYS LATER. THE MAN’S TIE IS UNDONE, CLEARLY JUST HOME AFTER WORK, AND HE’S ROOTING AROUND IN THE FRIDGE FOR SOMETHING TO EAT. HE MOVES A JAR OF MAYONAISE ASIDE AND FINDS THE NAKED SUSHI-GIRL SAT BEHIND IT.]
Man: Ugh. Honey? HONEY? I’m gonna throw out that sushi from a few days ago, okay? You don’t want it?
Woman: Oh, no. Throw it away.
[THE MAN STRUGGLES TO PULL THE NAKED SUSHI-GIRL OUT OF THE FRIDGE. SUSHI DROPS EVERYWHERE. HE PLACES HER AWKWARDLY IN THE BIN. SHE’S SAT UPRIGHT, HER LEGS SPILLLING OUT. SHE SITS IN IT QUIETLY, EYES OPEN. THE MAN MAKES ANNOYED NOISES, CLEANS UP THE SPILT SUSHI, AND MAKES HIMSELF A SANDWICH. HE LEAVES THE KITCHEN. THE SUSHI-GIRL SITS QUIETLY IN THE BIN, FACE BLANK, BLINKING ONLY OCCASIONALLY. IT RAPIDLY BECOMES DARK AND THE KITCHEN IS LIT ONLY BY MOONLIGHT COMING THROUGH THE KITCHEN WINDOW.
SITTING IN THE MOONLIGHT IN THE KITCHEN, NAKED, HER LEGS SPILLING AWKWARDLY OUT, HER FACE DISPLAYING NO OTHER EMOTION, A SINGLE TEAR ROLLS DOWN THE NAKED SUSHI-GIRL’S FACE.]
- where are you driving to ryan gosling
- can i come with ryan gosling
- ryan gosling can i try on your gloves ryan gosling
- ryan gosling why are you angry
- is it me
- ryan gosling i’m sorry
- i like your jacket ryan gosling
- ryan gosling why is there a scorpion on your jacket ryan gosling
- hey look it’s christina hendricks ryan gosling
- nooooo christina noooo
- ryan gosling why did that happen
- do you want to be best friends ryan gosling
I have to complete an English exam this weekend as part of an application for permanent residency in Canada.
It’s a serious exam that can take up to 4 hours. I have no doubt that among the other people taking it will be non-native speakers struggling with the vagaries and contradictions of the terrible bitch that is my native tongue. That has to be hard and somewhat terrifying. An exam to determine your entrance to a whole new country? Wow.
All I keep thinking is how amazing it would be to wear a monocle and top-hat throughout the exam and loudly and obnoxiously say things like, “OH ENGLISH YOU SCAMP” and “MOTHER-TONGUE, YOU FIEND, YOU ARE OUTDOING YOURSELF THIS FINE DAY.”
And perhaps at some point, when it’s clear the exam has reached its hardest part, I’ll go very quiet, before muttering, “Hmmmm, wow, this is actually pretty hard.”
And it will be then that I will produce from my lapel a second monocle.
We have a mouse.
“Will you be staying with us long?” I ask.
He’s lost in thought gazing out the window.
I cough. He blinks his black eyes, turns, thinks about the question.
“No. No, probably not… It’s so cold out there, isn’t it.”
He turns back and looks out at the falling snow.
I join him at the window.
“Yes,” I say. “Yes, it is.”
I have been rebuilding a life, see. Finding scraps of things - friends, hobbies, a job, a girl, clothing.
Some scraps need to be found. Some are earned. Some must be pooled together with your hands, like spilled tobacco on a table, and scooped gently into an envelope to be placed on a high shelf.
I wonder, sometimes, if I’m even really me now. If all these scraps are what make up a life, and all have had to be rediscovered, am I still the same person?
Sophistry of course. Bullshit at best.
In any case, I’m almost there. I almost have a full, normal life again. In a whole other country.
Even if it is Canada.
So I bought that new game that all the nerds are nerding about (Skyrim) and, as with a lot of the fantasy-type games, you find yourself fighting giant spiders.
And that’s kinda fine.
I have a chronicled history of being entirely unworried by arachnids as a whole.
But sometimes when you kill them, they drop money. Like, pieces of gold.
This is deeply worrying. Because it leads to some questions.
What was the hulking great hairy spider I just slaughtered intending to buy? Is there an entire spider-economy somewhere of which I wasn’t aware? What kinds of goods and/or services does a spider the size of a large dog need? And from whom are they getting this stuff? Other spiders? Men? Are they buying things from scorpions?
Basically I’m just worried I may have killed giant spiders that were just going down to the corner-shop to buy milk and bread and maybe a paper. And I don’t want to be that guy.