Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Offline: Tiny fragmented pieces w/ no cohesion (Bodies)

“Doctor, doctor! The patient, doctor…I think the patient is coming around.”
Amidst the brilliant white light that enveloped, confusion and screams, passing out, screams, sedatives, screams.


11.40 Curious enters ‘the cd café’
11.41 Madame: if that’s what you’re looking for, hun, pm me.
11.42 Rosy_cd: lol. Madame, I didn’t know you were into that.
11.42 Madame: I’m feeling open minded, Rosy love. I’ll be anything you want me to be.
11.43 Curious: hello all, I’m new here. First timer.
11.43 Echoeing: Where did Rob go?
11.44 SlaveinTights: l337
11.45 Rosy_cd: hey curious! Welcome to our café!
11.45 HornyboyUSA: any girls with strap-ons wanting to cyberfuck me hard? PM me and lets get it on.
11.45 Curious: that was subtle. Hey Rosy. Hows it going?
11.47 Private message from HornyboyUSA: hey curious. m/f?
11.47 Rosy_cd: Ok, thanks. What brings you to our confused and beautiful love den?
11.55 Curious: I’m not wholly sure, to be honest. Something to satisfy my urges, to explore the possibilities of what I am. What do you come here for? Are you a regular here?
11.55 SlaveinTights: does anyone wants photos of me in my tights?
11.56 Rosy_cd: For the sex, mostly! I’ve been coming here for 3 years now, and I’ve made some good friends here.
11.56 Vixen: oh go on then Slave, you twisted my arm. Pm them to me :)
11.57 PetiteSuzy: I thought I was your special one.
11.57 Vixen: Oh lord, you see what you’ve done Slave?! Suzy, PM.
11.58 Curious: hehe. I’m glad there’s a sense of community here. A place for people to discover themselves and support each other. A place to escape?
12.05 Curious: Rosy?
12.10 Rosy_cd: sorry hun, I’m a little busy at the moment! Teehee! xxx
12.11 Curious: speak to you another time, byebye.
12.12 Curious: *show users
users online in ‘the cd café’
12:35 Curious: Its quiet here. Ill be back another time.
12.39: Curious leaves ‘the cd café’
12.43 SlaveinTights: Vix you’re such a tease. I wanted punishment from you. You’re too sweet.


“Delivery for Diane, Flat 36a, Mont Clement road?”
Shaking the sleep from my eyes, naked but for a bathrobe, I took a while to answer.
“Diane?” – a pause, “my housemate Diane, she’s out at the moment. Can I sign for it?”


police witness report tape #4 11/03/05

*hits play*

Name? Aulie Hrestky
Age? 23.

Alright Miss Hrestky, would you like to tell us what happened at the flat today.

Ok. I left the flat at 8:30 in the morning and returned at just after 12. I had been working at the Electric Dionysus bar and was due to restart at 1. I had been shopping in Tesco for something us to eat together. We had planned to meet at lunchtime. He said he’d be alone, that he wasn’t expecting anyone. When I got back to the flat, I knocked the door…and noone answered. I thought he must have been asleep, or at a push had gone out briefly to buy some milk. So, I used my key and went in and put my bags in the kitchen. The house smelt of cigarette smoke, which he knew I hated. That was when I saw him, through the kitchen door, his back to me, sat at the computer desk. I thought he had headphones on. *begins to cry* I called out to him, but he didn’t respond, he didn’t even move. I went over to him; put my arm on his shoulder. His eyes were open, staring vacantly, every now and then blinking; he was twitching, his face, his cheeks. He only had one headphone in. I shouted at him; Wake up! Wake up! *sobs* wake up... But he didn’t. He just stared. I went to his other side, there were lights on the wire, it wasn’t a headphone, it looked more like a computer cable for sending information. I didn’t know what the fuck it was. I pulled it out. Is he going to be ok? I thought he was dead, thought I’d killed him.


Private Message Window for PM from Vixen

Vixen: Hey Diane. You seem like a wandering earnest heart, akin to my own. Theres so much vulgarity here that it is rare to find someone as seemingly sweet as yourself.
Diane: Thanks. It seems that most people just come here for cybersex and to post extreme close up pictures of themselves!
Vixen: Lol, yeah, unfortunately that does happen. People come and go here, change their aliases all the time, but a few of us just like to be here, for a chance at a freer existence, perhaps? I don’t know. Its hard in RL to feel comfortable, trapped in that body, here, people can be whatever they want.
Diane: Because we’re just using words here, right? The occasional photograph caters for those with simpler desires, but essentially, people can create identities for themselves here, so you’re never sure who you’re really talking to, it could be anyone, but that doesn’t matter, because ‘I’ and whoever im talking to, they’re just words on a screen. So, within that, are we free to exist as our imagination desires?
Vixen: Hehe, if we can create ourselves and recreate ourselves at whim, to explore the nature of our true self, namely the thoughts and the body sat at your computer desk, what about cohesion, if any, between multiple online personalities? Well, they’re rooted in the one body, fundamentally. But that’s not important here, rooms like these are about emotion and feeling, ultimately your inference.
Diane: Im enjoying this. You’re the first person I’ve really *talked to* here, tho I’ve only been coming a while. How long have you been visiting here, and what for, if not cybersex, I take it?
Vixen: Well, don’t get me wrong, hun. I enjoy the sex too, but its just one element of what’s to be found and embraced here. Some of us enjoy chat, friendships, each others company. Ultimately, you’re exploring versions of yourself, so to deny the sexual element would be to deny something intimately tied in to your sense of self, no? No preconceptions misread in our bodies. Wouldn’t you agree?
Diane: Yeah, I would. I’m being extremely honest now, more honest than I’ve been to anyone here before (but you seem like the most intelligent person I’ve met here). Everything we are, is rooted in language and our bodies, isn’t it? Here, we’re just language. We can be anything we write. In RL, everything’s fraught with conflict and confusion, the space between language and my body, and down to things like conversation, there’s awkwardness, insecurity and uncertainty. I’ve been coming here under various aliases, some characters I’ve built (I’m talking as the core self here, the cohesive I between the disparate experiments and I play with here), differing sexualities and genders, its like play.
Vixen: I understand, but I am talking to Diane now, aren’t i?
Diane: Teehee, of course you are. I’m opening up to you. We’re lying on a sofa hugging and girl chatting about this.
Vixen: Going on what you’ve said before you, what do you mean by ‘girl chatting’? If the implication is that females use a different language, by means of a feminine semiotic, and that through here, whoever YOU are, can tap into and explore this language within yourself, isn’t that a myth constructed by the space between language and your body?
Diane: I’m not sure I understand what you mean.
Vixen: Well, you’d just be dividing your self up into little parts like a conscious schizophrenic. But you’ve already been doing that, logging on as different personalities with different sexual interests and genders. Exploring constructions of intangible feelings within you through pure language. Have you heard of Grayson Perry?
Diane: the turner prize winner?
Vixen: yeah, a transvestite. He calls his feminine side Claire, and he’s always talking about her in the third person, “Claire likes expensive clothes,” and so on. I think that in doing that, he’s denying what’s essentially so intrinsically himself, so very uniquely Grayson Perry, and yeah, it’s ok if you want to polarise these genders within you, and clearly define masculine and feminine in you- but that’s just succumbing to language and myth, isn’t it? Ok, so he’s a man (he has a penis, is XY) but he feels incredibly feminine at times, so he constructs this alter ego for himself. Which is essentially what you’re doing, right diane? But femininity is a social construct rooted in language; it applies to clothes, colours, what car you have! Haha. I just think that by doing that, you’re not doing a great deal to demarcate transvesticism as a site for existence post-gender semiotics. There’ll always be conflict in you between what you define as the male, the female, the homosexual or bisexual, as long as you hold these words up as Truths self evident you forget that all these things exist within YOU, and its YOU and not language that is the cohesion.
Diane: omg, that’s so true.
Vixen: For years, I lived under the resolute belief that spiritually, I was a fox trapped inside a human body. But my only understanding of what a fox was, was through my physical interaction with foxes, the body, and language, the connotations and definitions I held about foxes, the books I had read, etc. I’m just me, and if I’m particularly feral, its not because I’m a fox or anything (but that one did hold me for some time, I must admit!) but that that’s the closest language can come to defining me, or a means to express myself through language.
Diane: This conversation has invoked such a gravity of feeling in me that I yearn for a dream which would render this imagination lucid, or a place I could exist how I feel, and not be caged in by either language or my body, where I could transmute myself daily.
Vixen: I can do this. Wait for a parcel to arrive.
Diane: What do you mean? You don’t have my address.
The user Vixen is offline.
Diane: Vixen?
The user Vixen is offline.


I couldn’t see the postman’s eyes, his sunglasses hid them. The staircase window adjacent to him (out of my sight, stood in the doorway) lit his side up glorious yellow and contrasted to the shade and dust which steeped me and the hallway in relative darkness. He was a middle aged man, with Florida orange skin and a moustache showing signs of greying. His heart was not here. He shuffled, made a low huffling sound under his breath and reached for his pocket.
“Sure. All I need’s a signature ‘says it’s been delivered.”
Brushing the door shut behind me, my eyes were fixed on the small brown package held in my hands. Curious and fingering the parcel, tied up in string, I took to my computer desk, with scissors undone, unfolded the parceline wrapping, and saw a box, a white box, its lid half open, as if to invite prying. Covering top of the inside was a printed note, torn from A4 and seeming to have been typed in haste, reading:

‘Diane’ I got yr address thru net searching ;) don’t worry
This will be the answer to your needs, we will meet again, inside.
Vixen xxx

I lit a cigarette, with the window open. Behind the note was a length of computer cable about 5 metres long looped and tied, on one end was a standard USB cable and on the other, a strange plug like an headphone jack but make of tiny, interlinking plates of metal, so minuscule were they that the overall effect was like snakeskin. It was soft, almost organic, it moved and bended with pressure, but only to a point. I didn’t want to apply force to it, it was fragile and intricate. The nib was clear glass, it appeared, the inside of which under magnifying glass revealed itself to be like a light bulb, two infinitesimal protruding wires, joined by a filament of sorts. I had no idea what this was.
I loaded my pc with the cd in, and waiting for my doddery version of windows to eventually load, made a cup of tea.


-From a lecture given on 24/10/05 on Patient #243 at the Institute For Regressed Memories by Dr Atlinger

“…It appears that when the patient entered the sudden coma, the cause of which we’re still not exactly sure of, I will return to this later, that in this moment, a regression of everything that was defined, learned and relied upon as a certainty, or a knowledge about who he was, his relation to everything else around him, in contact and in language, occurred. This state remained prevalent in the 7 months prior to this lecture, and I am pleased to say that the patient is making evident progress in retrieving, with our help, this essential information from the deepest chasms of his brain.
We have, as you know, for some time now been exposing the patient to a series of tests designed to stimulate old memories, which in turn could trigger a reawakening of self. These tests however, have yielded absolutely no results, an unprecedented fact for one of our most tried and tested practises.
However, a suggestion from my colleague, Dr Fiona Moss, to experiment with EST, or electro-shock treatment proved to have immediate and baffling effects. I must reiterate, the patient has been absolutely silent and devoid of response for 7 months now and we had made absolutely no progress. However, upon the very first, most delicate charge of electricity, which was applied through the teeth and the palms of his hands, as shown on the board, he patient began rambling, quite uncontrollably. I remember those first minutes; the sounds were those of slurred words barked out, of animal instincts subordinate to linguistics.
Since last Tuesday, the patient has developed his skills in communication and is now very vocal indeed.
We are, however, far from saving this tormented soul. Dr Moss, if you would play the tape.”

*hits play*

I don’t understand why I’m here. No, not here in this hospital.. Here, in this. This! This body. What happened to me? I was floating, and this seems like a dream. In dreams you’re always tied down, to certain things, to rigid lines and definite objects precise and THERE! And never ever ever ever EVER changing, but when you’re awake I can, WE won’t be defined by single visions, by choices or opposites or skin! You’re not what you appear to be, Mr or Misses whoever you are. I can see her flying in the sky, with colours you’ll never see and a delicacy and grace that warmed me to my bones. I still feel it. Ha ha! Imagine being imagination! You can’t! Imagine being liquid! She said I’d see her inside, and see her inside I did. And outside! Free from physical form, like the air in the electricity of water! If I shut my eyes, I feel so sad. Where is she now? Where is she?

*tape stops*

“Thank you Fiona. Now, with regard to the computer technology we found with the patient. our laboratories in Florida have analysed the wire that the patient’s girlfriend found, connecting the patient to his computer through the right ear. It appears that the wire, the origin of which we have traced to a group of radical thinkers at an electronics lab at the University of Alberta in Canada, when used in conjunction with the software provided on the accompanying and unmarked cdr, enabled entrance and participation in a world of virtual reality. Nothing extraordinary there, perhaps, except in the apparent purpose of the wire. We haven’t been able to enter the VR ourselves, as the wire was in an irreparable state when it was found, and to the avail of our finest technicians, has been rendered quite useless. Moreover, those responsible for creation of the software and the stable running of the online network have since vanished but for a list of names and abandoned science degrees, the mainframe too, has been removed from the internet. From piercing together fragments of the patient’s speech, (though we are still trying to establish in him the importance of a fact/fiction differentiation), we believe this virtual world to be one that was entirely sensory. It was a place of electronic impulse, transmitted directly to the brain via the connecting wire, and neuro-emotional response. Online, users form a network of consciousness, communicating not through language or computer generated representations of physical forms, but through the digital encryption of emotional response into electronic impulse, a process which is enabled through the two way nature of the wire and processed in the software. It was not designed to be inhabited in, as the coding implies, it seems to have been designed as more a social experiment, an idea first suggestion in discussions with Professor Albert Hyman, a lecturer in Computer Sciences and Beth Holloway, lecturer of Gender Studies, both at the Alberta institute, into the stability of representations of self grounded in physicality and language, basing their thinking around notions that gender definitions were in some way fraudulent in their all-encompassing nature. Of the computer software itself, however, we found a finely tuned program. It utilised technology entirely unique, and the students appear to have engineered the infamous wire for this purpose. We don’t know what the patient experienced while he existed in this place, but we know that when his girlfriend pulled the wire out, she wasn’t to know, the patient fell into the coma and continued existence in this world, which became restructured in his mind, albeit in a limited sense, void of outside influence or external stimuli, a world not dissimilar to lucid dreaming….”

Friday, 24 April 2009


My parents separated just after I was born. I grew up in a council flat in Brighton with my mother, who worked two jobs to afford to pay our way. I only see photos of my father. Mum was a waitress by day (10-4 at Handsome Joe’s Family Diner) and an NHS nurse by night (7-3, Brighton General Hospital). She would take me with her, to the hospital, and set me sleeping in the crèche, at ease, while she went about her work.
She slept in the free time she had, but she had Sundays off entirely, and loved taking me for walks on these days, to the park, to feed the geese, to tell me about the hospital. Inside, beyond the necessity of it, she cherished her work at the hospital. While others dismissed it as a graveyard shift that left her tired eyed and weary, she took great pleasure, even solace in walking the dead corridors (quiet), caring for sleepless patients (there there, go back to sleep) and the easy coffee and free conversation known only to middle aged night shift female single parents.
Between falling and waking, in that dreamy, weightless pool, where mother carried my comfortable, limp body through the endless corridors to her car, an intangible bond was strengthened, between mother (nurse) and child. Vague orange lights warmed her cheeks like an angel, like a rose in blossom. Through the exhaustion, her eyes shone with simple orange love. She smiled warmly and held me to her.


I remember that I had a fever... I was about 9 years old and asleep in the crèche.
I’d taken the day off school (oh, you have got a temperature. you’d better stay in bed today) and sat watching ‘Channel 4: Learning’ all day, bored senseless and worn out from sneezing, waiting forever for my mother to return. Curled up on the sofa, in my duvet, watched the TV man read out other children’s birthdays, watched historical programs about war and medicine, the Crimean War, a lady who looked after the soldiers, healed them. Like my mother, I supposed. The lady was called Florence Nightingale, and she had saved a lot of lives during that war. She was angelic. When my mother came home (about 4:30), I told her about Florence Nightingale, and how she reminded me of her. Mother smiled and said that Florence Nightingale probably worked under more difficult conditions than her, and that there was really no comparison. Regardless, since then, whenever I would see my mother in nurse’s attire, I would call her Florence Nightingale, and she would blush with delight.
The crèche: my temperature sky-high and rocketing still. Waking in sweat, in shock, confused and vulnerable. The jovial nature of this place (where am I?), its walls and colours and the animals and pirates (Disney style, not to scare) grew dark and contorted, bastard nightmares, twisted and feverish. Shadows loomed and angles reared rigid and precise, wordless questions for which I could offer no answer, just run in painful circles, without end, without beginning. Lost. And the quiet is deafening, the air thick and restless with the silence spinning, at once instant and abrupt and echoes forever. Left here, bathing in chaos. Left here alone.
From this whirlpool of senses (all wrong) that held me captive, my sweet mother, Florence Nightingale, came bearing hope and orange candlelight. Administering reassurance and comfort, she took my hand in hers and stayed with me, in that dark place. She eased me from apparitions and into her light. We said a prayer together and the room became holy. She kissed my forehead (like only a mother can) and lay me down at peace. She stayed with me for nearly half an hour before I fell asleep, and she left me (for it was only 1 am) basking in her reflection.


She wheeled him from his bed. Between two others, opposite three more. They were asleep- everyone else was asleep. In that moment, unmoving and out of speech or thought, he gave himself to her. She wiped the dribble from his bottom lip, looked into his vacant eyes, and smiled. They continued. The left wheel was in need of repair, or oiling, or changing (she wasn’t sure which). It became stiff with revolution, like treacle, momentary and sticking. The right wheel rolled smoothly. She pushed him along the dead corridors with only the creaking of the wheel and the reverb from faraway footsteps for company. Bold, uniform windows allowed an orange light to illuminate the art that adorned the endless corridor walls. Generic seafronts and kites and suchlike. The chapel is on the left, the canteen on the right. She eased him into that holy place: along the aisle, to an elevated Christ. Magnolia and pine were gentle on him and the veil was an easy fit. He lowered himself before The Lord and prayed.

They took this journey every night. Always the same time. Always her. Always in silence.

She waited at the chapel door, and thought of her Lord. She thought of her patient, as he knelt there, in awesome silence. She thought of him as a child, and how he had aged. He’d told her that his mother was a nurse, in this same hospital, before she’d died. They’d had many conversations as she’d routinely dosed out hot chocolate. She thought he was quirky, but adorable, and she took pleasure in caring for him, seeing him heal. He’d been in for a few weeks now, since being hit by the car. She felt a sharp sense of pity for him, for he had no family alive, nor had any of his friends (of which he spoke regularly, often the same stories repeated, added to, strengthened) visited him once. She had felt he was becoming lonely, desperate, without she begun taking him, once a night, to the chapel, to share in her prayers. He had latched onto this attention, and swallowed it whole. This journey was now expected, concrete and secure. Their Lord put smiles on their faces, made them amiable and removed them from their situations. Her mind wandered and she let her eyes lose focus.

His prayer was beautiful. His prayers were always beautiful. His eyes were closed tightly and She could hear him whispering, but not what he was whispering. He thought of his mother, the caring nurse, his mother, Florence Nightingale, his love. He thought of the nurse stood behind him. He thought of these things as he prayed, and they were included in his prayers. As he whispered ‘Amen’, his mind became a tool of its own use; the lines between truth and fiction disappeared and...and...He turned his head to her, and she saw the character in his eyes. The recognition. Florence Nightingale, he thought. Mother. My Love. She cares for me. She’s always been here for me, since I was young. Mother. Here. Now. Florence Nightingale.

He lifted himself to his wheelchair (as the prayer had been lifted to their Lord) and, in silence, she led him back down the same, sombre corridors, (the window revealed to them the downpour) to his bed. Between two others, opposite three more.


Those who wander the streets aimlessly, in search of something long gone or something never there... Those who tell stories over and over, real-life factions as they live... You can’t see where the transmission ends and the receiver begins. What consequence have these people, who wield memory like a tool, for what purpose, why? Consuming truth and input and moulding them to a lifestyle blurred in search of....


I had been sat at the bus stop for about 20 minutes, waiting for the 380 and seeking shelter from the rain. I saw him walking in this direction from about 200 yards away. He was soaked. After a while, he had reached the bus stop and came inside. He asked if I’d mind if he sat next to me, I didn’t, so he did. He was eager for conversation, but conversation was stunted, one way. He wasn’t listening to my responses, my points...There was a deluge of information, of stories linked somehow to the next, the last. I got the feeling he’d told them before. Some contradicted each other, and some made no sense at all- but they all focused around one central theme, that of Florence Nightingale.
He said that he was very sad, and I could see that he had been crying. Not wanting to be insensitive, I tried comforting him. He told me of how he had recently been taken to hospital (though he never mentioned why), and there, he had met and fallen in love with Florence Nightingale. At the mention of her name, he lifted his face to me and spoke, staring into me, through me. He was sure that his love was requited, and that he didn’t think they would see each other again. I didn’t know what to make of this story.

(Bus shelters can be treasure chests of conversation. He was clearly mad. Too many drugs, I thought, fucked up and forgotten about. Lives encouraged in the rain, amplified by alcohol... It’s easy for them to flip. Best be polite. Best listen.)

He was crying again, sobbing uncontrollably. After 5 minutes of his wailing, and my uncomfortable silence, he wiped his eyes and got up. Something in him had changed, his tears had ceased and there was a new vitality in his eyes. A hope previously unthere. He smiled at me and laughed. His eyes were wide and luminous, maddening. He strode out, into the rain, and looked up at the sky. He held out his arms, turned his face to the sky and cried “Florence! I’m coming back!”. Then he ran into the road, into the oncoming traffic.


“Just like the tide out at sea, We lower and rise again.”

I am writing from my bedroom flat in Cardiff, where it is 3 am and I am awake drinking tea and smoking cigarettes and writing from my bedroom flat. I remember how I got it, but I don’t understand why. What had happened there, that day, has without any doubt, changed the course of my life. I have been writing from my bedroom flat since then. This lighter... It’s a brick wall ten hundred miles long that I have been perfectly comfortable with. The stairs to this room have gathered dust. The post isn’t delivered anymore. I miss the voices...I miss the eyes, the kaleidoscope sun and their eyes. I used to despise that condition, my utter reliance on them and what they had. And this lighter here, this lighter I’ve been lighting with all night...all year...has for a time stunted my growth, that much is clear, but now I think I understand a little better, I can make choices more consciously. I am going for a walk.


“Ooh yes. Now, see, there are lots of different types of lighters”
He said, with bayou tongue,
“Y’can get your throwaway kind, they’re a lot cheaper. You can get your Clipper lighter, which has this neat pokey gizmo thing- I don’t know, its quite useful. Then you can get your Zippo lighter. Now these are the best lighters of them all.”
And he leaned into me; sweat running down his red face, the whites of his eyes. He whispered.
“Whilst these may not carry the pokey do-wah which the Clippers proudly bear, these beauties can-“
And he got up from the porch bench, walked down into his swamp garden and motioned for me to follow. When I reached the bottom of the porch stairs, he indicated for me to stop. He glowed with excitement. The evening grew moist and lazy. I could hear the hum of the creek. He flicked open the Zippo and struck it. It lit.
He pointed, laughing to himself a little. He shouted.
“These things can withstand the strongest gales! Ain’t that incredible?”
I realised to myself then how windy it was out here. We headed inside.


This morning, I went for a walk out to the beach. While I was there, I had to ask this old man if I could use his lighter. I knew he had a lighter because I saw him lighting his own cigarette with it. He obliged and I lit up, looking at him, and how he looked at the lighter. There you are, I said. Thanks. I walked away. We left it at that.


It rained for hours, like a thousand darts on the corrugated roof of this lousy motel room. The wind howling through the air vents, blowing my smoke about me like a ribbon. A candle and a match gave me light enough to roll a cigarette and lie with this intolerable bed and the punishing cold, puffing clouds into the still room.
The curtains upset, the candle went out: a wind tore through the room. The last of my matches gone. I saved the remainder of the cigarette on the dresser, half-off. Disorientated and uncomfortable, I moved from the bed, across the room. I pulled back the curtains and straightened them. Outside looked miserable. Just cars, to-ing and fro-ing from the car park and the main road then ran adjacent to it.
I shut the top window. It was bitterly cold, and felt fragile, tense- like the storm could shatter it. Rain had collected against the pane, and my hand was made wet. I brushed it against my trousers, and returned to what should have been the warmth of my bed. I shut my eyes and, eventually, went to sleep, pining for a lighter. I had a sleepless night, and left town again that next morning.


You know, I can’t remember the last time I had one. I’d like to think that I had one once, but it must have been a long time ago, because I can’t remember it...


Tokyo is a strange place. The sun is bright and white and...Everybody shines. Standing in a busy street in Tokyo, with a skyscraper in front of me. The city, with life of its own, breathes over my shoulder. Across the road, I notice a Zen water garden. It looks lovely. Quaint Japanese businessmen shuffle past me on either side, forever checking their Blackberries. I stand, briefcase in hand, confused in the middle of this techni-colour hi-fi vortex. Business, go. I see this child across the street, through the suited men. She’s got red hair and a bright green t-shirt. It has a panda on it. There’s a black and white cat hugging her legs. She disappears, and I realises she’s pulling at my trouser leg, and talking, mouthing inextricable Japanese. What am I doing in Japan? And she’s still pulling, she’s looking at me and smiling and going ‘Hey Mister, hey Mister...’


My friends are always saying that I should invest in a lighter, seeing as how I never have one, and so am forced into asking strangers, asking them. They say I should keep one around my neck, like a crucifix, or an ornament displaying a faded photograph of a late wife. Forever running out, to be replaced. I don’t know. It doesn't seem relevant. I don't have much of an idea what it is, what it feels like. How would one keep such a thing?


It was the first night of October. We were set against a cafe in evening time. My eyes followed small candlelight to the walls, the deep red of Sanguine Oranges, adorned in simple wood frame by inoffensive chalk and oil offerings of rock conquistors Hendrix and Clapton and, in the Men’s Room, I discovered, Fidel Castro.

My male friends and I debated over the supposed painting that hung in the female toilets. Were the occurrences familiar to that toilet carried out Castro’s name too? To what overall narrative did these disparate portraits belong? We’d never know, we knew this much. So, we guessed openly, with the inevitable conclusion that one brave soul would venture into the Ladies to discover the identity of the portraiture, if there were one at all. We took turns in our guessing: Bono. Trotsky. A figurative Picasso. One of those paintings by the young girl from the end of Fear and Loathing. God...

None of my present friends cared much for smoking. It was after much liquor, and my having just returned from having a cigarette outside, where I had seen local boys on their scooters and Hawaiian shirts, that Gustavo lost a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and in he went, where no man had gone before, and returned not 10 seconds later, visibly suppressing fits of giggles.

“It’s Yoko Ono.”


There she was, opposite the mirror, in all glory, Yoko Ono, standing atop a hill. A beam of sunlight bathed her, but you weren’t sure whether she was reflecting it or shining outwardly herself.

We decided to leave the bar then, and head into the centre of town. On our leaving, I called over to Agõstín, who was half in his car. He'd voted to adjourn, and was due home to a girlfriend for whom favours and apologies would be forthcoming. We wished him the best of luck as a group, and as my friends strolled towards what they thought was the direction of the nearest bus stop, I called over to Agõstín, fumbling in my pockets.

He hesitated. Looked at the floor, sighed, looked up and wiped his forehead. He replied that I could. With thanks. As I walked home, my cigarette went out, and I couldn’t re-light it at all.


It can be so frustrating. I feel like I’m living this life but I’m not entirely in control of it.... I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve asked, been forthright, assured of self... Breaking that silence. Meeting this new person, new entirely. So many faces, so many I’ve touched fleetingly. Excuse me? Whats up, could I... This is a curse, if ever I knew one.


“Thanks. Yeah, could I have a lighter as well, please? Oh, ok, that’s ok. Nevermind. Just that, then. Thanks anyway. ”


So we're sat at the breakfast bar waiting for my breakfast bun at the breakfast bar and I'm drinking my second coffee. It's about eight thirty in the morning, say. I got tobacco and papers in my jacket, but no lighter, see. So, I'm looking around the room for possibilities, you know. Anyone smoking? Damn. I hate this waiting...This pointless obstacle which...Anyway, so there I am. And this guy across the diner can see I've got a cigarette in my hands and I'm not doing anything about it. He starts coming over. Yeah, thanks, I say.. I gets the lighter and I'm about to spark it, and it's yellow but... when you turn it in the light, it shines green. Cute. For a minute there, I was lost. What? Oh. That’s better. Thanks again. He doesn't look at me again.


It was right I left my old girlfriend, whatever. I was around her place, her flat near the cathedral outside town. She’d phoned that afternoon and asked that I come over. It wasn’t the nice kind of ‘come over, baby’ resonated in soft voice; the kind where you would wake and think 'How did this happen, again?' and shafts of sunlight through your curtains illuminate her face... no no no no no no no no no no no no. You could tell by her tone. Anyway, perhaps this was best.

I had driven with haste, the weight of doubt in my eyes. A mist borne of my own mind. Driving. The Who playing a session on Radio 2. After I had arrived, and after I had said what I had, and after she had listened, and after we decided to separate... I decided to leave. Mutually beneficial. A short drive later. And I’m outside, and it’s raining lightly through the warmth in the air. Afternoon had given way to evening, evening to night. I leave my car where it is. I walk openly in the delicate shower to the Cathedral green, and there, a nice spot.

I stared at the pond, in the odd patch of moonlight, as the rain skimmed it's crystalline surface. I wasn’t hurt by what had happened, not in the truest sense, hurt lasts and reminds and aches. I knew this wouldn't last. It was nostalgia for the passing present, for sure. Or, the recently departed. The old cathedral, a proud monument to the efforts of men, enlightened or blind, or both, still stands.

Finding scant materials on me, I made a thin consiliatory cigarette to the future, and sat in that awesome place, as the rain eventually soaked me through. Not to forget, nor to remember. Something in between, if that were possible. I’d like to choose that. That this comforting cigarette renders me comfortable in my sadness. I placed my hope in that cigarette, and did I have a lighter? Did I fuck.


I was travelling through Chiapas with an assortment of vagabonds and no-hopers I'd become associated with. I call them friends to their faces, and I'm sure they extend the same limits of courtesy to me. e arrived, after a morning hiking down from hills into a valley, at this quite beautiful little village that didn’t look in such a desperate state as the other places we’d seen. We reached a town square of some kind, small and informal but surrounded on all sides by houses in varying states of disrepair and poverty. In the centre of this was a circular area of grass, about 30 ft in diameter. We could see a local market further down the street. The others made themselves comfortable on the grass, sat against trees, and I walked to the market.

It was crowded, but not hectic. It reminded me of the hive of activity that is often found at the kind of Village jumble sales I’d been to as a child. Grabbing and taking and impatient unsharing. Comparitively, this was a colourful and yet well mannered place. Gentle bartering and genuine politeness earned me 4 cups of a red Tea. I returned to my friends after a little browsing, tea in my palm, a new poncho slung across my shoulder and a handful of bananas for a make-shift meal.

We were sat against a tree, amongst a group of trees. My friends had fallen into sleep in my absence.
Across from our tree, against another, sat another fairly Western traveller. His clothes gave him away. That, and the red of his sun burn. He was alone, and was writing into a pad of paper, barely concious of the lit cigarette hanging from his mouth. I sat and peeled a banana. Our eyes met frequently across this dusty road. I rummaged in my pockets and pulled out the half-smoked cigar I had been savouring, infrequently, since our arrival in Mexico. Rubbing banana peel off my boots, I walked across the road and introduced myself.

“Oh, don’t you have one?”
I stopped briefly and thought about that and answered his question “No, I can’t remember the last time I had a lighter.”
“Really?” He laughed, a little stunned...
“Well, It's not something I’m particularly happy about.”
“You can have mine.” He offered.

Our conversations were going well, and it seemed appropriate to express the overwhelming gratitude I felt for his kind gesture. We smoked together, for a while.


The red and white pattern plastic tablecloth and the canary yellow curtains of the by-now familiar breakfast bar. The faux plants here and there around and about, about as real as the coffee. No, you parasite, get off me, get your own damned lighter. I’m trying to have my breakfast.


I was walking through an area of London. It was quite expensive, very well kept. To my left were flats of the highest quality and to my right, a calm river, which I assume met up, said Hi, and kicked the bull with the Thames at some point. It was an evening in early August, the leaves were beginning to fall but they were still a lush green. I was here alone, visiting my parents. They had called me back after a summer without seeing them, I felt obliged but I’d rather not have been there. I'd quit smoking years ago, after meeting the woman who would become my wife. Two hours to kill. My parents had moved to this apartment to retire, it overlooked the park I was strolling through. I sat on a bench facing into the fauna, and pulled the first proof of my colleague's recent study from my briefcase. I pulled reading glasses from my coat pocket and opened the journal.