Some may say (and who am I to argue?) that this fragile spinning planet that we all inhabit requires one more blog just like a logjam needs another log (…. singer songwriter and king of skiffle blocks the toilet for a second time?... Lonnie Donegan has done a log again...interestingly enough, Logjammin’ also happens to be the name of the Jackie Treehorn produced pornographic movie that features in THE BIG LEBOWSKI….) but for quite a while now I have been hankering for a forum that is a little more immediate, allowing my weirder stream of consciousness work a place to live and breathe, and that could also operate as some form of ongoing, open notebook. The idea is to present pieces that are perhaps not quite finished (and maybe never will be) alongside older work that has yet to find a suitable home. Possibly even publish a few poems. Maybe on the way we can also talk about some of the books, films and pieces of music that are informing the work that I’m doing (STRUMMERS LAW: NO INPUT, NO OUPUT). So, let’s begin with a story:
His obsession, it seemed, had always been there.
In early childhood, upon those rare occasions when he was lucky enough to come face to face with one of them, he would simply sit and stare, enraptured. Later, with the arrival of adolescence, came the freedom to seek them out for himself. He recalled with pleasure those tentative teenage explorations as, for the very first time, he was allowed out to journey alone.
These methods of public transport were like a dream come true for him. Not because of the independence they afforded him as a young man, but for the unlimited access they provided to that which he longed to see
Those dozing passengers, all sleep twitches and guttural growls, blissfully oblivious as they sailed straight past their destination. Head rolling, mouth open, dribbling saliva.
He found the sight of them exhilarating.
Never having the need to articulate the reasons behind his attraction, he was content at first to keep his silence, musing only occasionally to himself upon the nature of his curious fascination. Perched attentively, gawping as some snoozer unknowingly caught flies, he could only guess that it was this public display of what was ordinarily such a private act that seemed to ignite his imagination.
It was, he thought, like sneaking a peek whilst someone took a shit.
Men. Women. Even the slumbering infant, their grub-like body strapped and trapped in a swaying pushchair.
All of these held equal interest to him as he went about his travels.
All were a delight to view.
And during those early, formative years, stealing a glance was enough. To watch and study, to speculate as to the nature of what magical dream each snoring traveller was lost in. These acts of passive observation provided all the satisfaction that he craved.
And on it went into adulthood. Until one day, when everything changed.
He was watching a typical nine to fiver, all crumpled suit and polka dot tie, tatty briefcase clutched tightly to their chest like a bullet proof vest. The steady to and fro of the railway carriage had already worked its magic, their balding head swinging from side to side like some half-cut drunk in deep, continual denial.
Before he was even aware that he wanted to do it, he found himself sitting at their side. At first, he remained frozen, monitoring the situation from the corner of his eye, carefully ensuring the man was unaware of his presence.
Fear flowed through his veins, harsh and unforgiving, the sickening sensation of it wrestling internally with the almost narcotic like need he found himself consumed by.
He was afraid, terrified in fact, but despite all of this, was unable to control his actions.
A final flick of the eyes told him that the unconscious wayfarer was still adrift in the land of nod.
He slowly turned his head.
Placed his mouth close to their ear.
And began to whisper.
A few minutes was all that he could manage, a hushed and subdued monologue, his cracked and croaking voice wavering, yet constant.
He told them everything.
Revealed all his secrets. Told them all his dreams.
Eventually, his courage finally deserted him. He stumbled to his feet, fleeing along the carriage, certain that he must have awoken the man, convinced that he would be punished.
He looked back over his shoulder.
The commuter was still in his seat, sleeping like the proverbial baby.
And so, by surrendering to this one, insane impulse, a new and even more complex compulsion was born. He discovered that he had to do it again.
And again. And again. And again.
But like almost all of those possessed of a bizarre and peculiar fetish, he was able to conceal his interests from the world at large. He maintained a good job and kept up a respectable front. He managed to avoid being caught, largely due to the employment of an almost predatory level of stealth and cunning.
Most importantly, he never, ever woke anybody up.
And other than this strange and unique habit, his life was as conventional and mundane as the next man's.
His wife didn't even know about his activities.
And after every successful confession, he would return home feeling cleansed of all his sins.
And would sleep a good night’s sleep.
And would never once stir, as his wife quietly slipped out of their bed and stood over him, her shadowy face hovering mere inches away from his.
And would begin to softly whisper.
Whisper all night long.
This story is a second draft version, completed in 2015, of a piece that was originally written way back in 2012. At the time I was writing a series of stories where not a lot really happened other than people talking to each other (another story from that period A LITTLE CONVERSATION, has just been published in the Horror Tree online magazine TREMBLING WITH FEAR, and concerns itself with a similar theme. I am intrigued with the idea that someone telling you exactly what they intend to do you has the potential to be either extremely arousing or infinitely terrifying…) This little slice of fiction popped back into my mind due to the events unfolding around us. Life for all of us has changed radically, and as we all navigate this strange new world, we must learn to adapt and change almost everything we know about our social behavior. The unnamed protagonist and the peculiar habit that he displays is something that would and should not happen in the current situation we all find ourselves in. When we emerge on the other side of this terrible, heartbreaking real-life horror story, I wonder how much of what we once knew will remain? As I write these words, I am listening to the wonderful eponymously titled third album by The Velvet Underground. The closet mix of the record presents versions of the songs where Lou Reed could almost be sitting right next to me. Tunes like Pale Blue Eyes and Jesus make me think of the things we need most right now. Art in all its varied and wonderful forms; the meaningful connections we make with other people in our lives. And, of course, let’s not forget about the most important thing of all.
"Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller what there is. LOVE"
Last Words: The Final Journals of William Burroughs (2000)