Friday, 20 January 2012

Nine Seconds of Anonymity

Another short story, destined for a life of loneliness in a miscellaneous folder. Hug me.

Nine Seconds of Anonymity
He shuffles down the street, his mind as heavily laden as the stormy clouds above him. Each step he takes is wearier than the last, and, at times, he thinks he will not make it. He is struggling, yet persevering; he needs to reach his destination, for it is where he belongs. As he walks, he observes. He examines the buildings full of memories, and the gutters full of mistakes. His feet are bare inside his worn-down leather shoes, and they are slipping in the sweat created by the stifling, stormy atmosphere. In the house to his left, he observes a faceless woman cradling a newborn baby. A male looks lovingly over her shoulder to peer at the crinkled face of his son and heir. Seconds later, they all disappear from sight, and he knows deep in his heart that they will never be that happy again.
He looks ahead; a sign pointing to the menu at a pub catches his eye. He stops, and then looks in the window to observe the clientele. A man, aged approximately thirty-five, is standing at the bar. The man is drunk and he is leaning against the bar for support, fumbling with some change in an attempt to purchase another pint of their finest. Grabbing onto his leg is a small boy; he has tears rolling slowly down his ruddy cheeks. The child is desperately trying to get the man’s attention, trying to say something important. The words are indecipherable through the heavy, frosted pane of glass, but he knows that all the boy wants is to be picked up and held. All he wants is to be listened to.
His feet are aching, and his stomach is churning with the anticipation of what is ahead of him. Onwards, towards his destination, his home; his mecca. The walk feels like it is taking hours, but he can sense that the length is deceptive, and the journey poignant in its slow motion.
A teenage boy cycling towards him at high speed startles him. He sidesteps to avoid collision, and winces as the boy hurls a string of expletives in his general direction. He curses the reckless lack of respect of the youth of today, as he bends to adjust a lace that is sitting uncomfortably inside his shoe. As he straightens, he tries to view himself in the glass of a shop window, but his focus is blurry, and all he can see are the people inside the premises. The shop is a model shop, selling plastic aeroplanes and cars, all sitting neatly in their boxes, until an enthusiast deems it essential to purchase and lovingly nurture them to life. A scruffy-looking man in his mid-twenties is inside the shop, and he watches with disgust as he picks up a tube of model glue to work inside his coat sleeve, until obscured from the view of the shopkeepers. He briefly ponders why it is necessary to steal such an item, as surely its value is negligible, and hardly worth a stint in the cells. He suspects the man will use it to get high. He shakes his head, and moves on.
He has arrived at a cul-de-sac, decorated by young trees and bushes with their best years ahead of them. He bends down to pick a rose, but cannot feel its silky petals between his sweaty thumb and forefinger. He hears a scream, and looks up to see a partially opened window, a female face pressed against it. A man is standing behind her, pummelling blows upon her broken body, shouting above her screams. He can see blood and he can see tears, but what can he do? He can do nothing; it is too late.
He walks on, despite his aching feet, and sees a church. It is magnificent, regardless of its impoverished location. He peers through the arched doorway, and notices an elderly lady sitting on a pew at the back. She is alone. He steps gently inside the church, and listens as the lady softly utters a prayer, a prayer of salvation for a loved son who has turned bad. He feels like holding her, holding the anonymous woman who has loved so utterly deeply and unconditionally, yet achieved nothing but hate. The lady turns, and he is shocked to see bruises upon her soft face. Painful darkness, disappearing between the deep lines of what could have been a beautiful life.
He is shocked, and stumbles back towards the doors of the church, reaching forwards for support as he feels nausea welling inside him. Through the darkness in front of his eyes, he can see a beautiful horizon, but this cannot stop him vomiting violently on the tiled floor at the entrance of the church. He wipes his mouth, and urges himself onwards. He must keep walking, for his destination is looming. His stamina is waning, but he calls upon his inner strength to move himself onwards. There is no one left to support him, nobody to show him the way, he needs to find the right path on his own.
There is a young woman heading towards him on the footpath. The woman is approximately twenty years old, and simply stunning in an understated way. Her blonde hair is tied in an almost child-like ponytail, and she bounces slightly as she listens to music through foam-covered headphones. As if from a clich├ęd nowhere, a man appears behind her. The man looks familiar; the anger on his face is proverbial of a mugger, a rapist, a murderer, or perhaps all three. The woman screams as he pushes her to the floor and rips a purse from her pocket. The sky is turning blacker by the second, and he feels its ominous presence crushing him. He is as powerless as she is, and the words he needs to shout to stop the brutal attack are stuck in his dry throat as he cowers behind a bush. He silently and helplessly watches the dying woman as she attempts to fight off her attacker. This is the last fight of her short life, it is a fight against a man almost twice her size; a fight she cannot win. He knows that her lifeless body will remain in that exact position until a passer-by happens upon her later in the day. To that passer-by it will seem a merciless killing, but he knows that she paid the ultimate price in an exhibition of power and control. The man who killed her feels like God right now, and he will feel like God until he is scorned for his actions. He notices a glove on the ground, carelessly dropped by the attacker, and he tuts his disapproval as he knows that this innocuous item will be the killer’s downfall; the last downfall of many.
The sky suddenly lightens, as the storm clouds part to reveal a beautiful sun. The darkness has lifted, and the light is welcoming and warm.
Clusters of buildings are ahead of him, surrounded by a high wire fence. The irony is not lost on him, as he considers that the brutal crime was committed just metres from a prison. He can hear joviality, which strikes him as odd. Joviality in the face of oppression does not sit well with him. He cannot see them, but he knows that amongst them is at least one who does not laugh, who does not cry, who does not wish to exist anymore. There is one who knows that to repent for his sins, he must die. There is one man inside the prison block who is slashing at his wrists, because the overdose did not work. That man is he; I am that man. This was my life; these were my memories, my mistakes, and my countless sins. This was my journey, and now I must leave. The nine second flash of life before the darkness of my death is complete. This is my destination.

The Second Sin

I have just found this, languishing on my phone. It's not funny, but I like it.


The Second Sin

Yesterday:

Bless me Father, for I have sinned

Homework: write a poem about something you regret

Like a present
Waiting to be opened
Like a past
Expecting...
to be erased
It exists
If only to be regretted
A truth
That nobody knows
If I could take my mistakes
And draw them again
Would I compromise
And leave this out
My best sin?
A work
Awaiting completion
The conclusion
of a heart
That began beating
I didn't think
I didn't know
Education
A sin
A rhyme
An end
With a forgettable beginning.

Today:

Molly holds the rosary beads tightly in her hand; feeling the warm, fleece lining of her jacket pocket encasing her cold hand. She needs to count her sins, but having had a lot on her mind lately, she neglected to bring her own prayer beads. For a familiar moment, she feels like a fake: looking for Him: not in His house, but in an ordinary street with ordinary people and ordinary buildings. A fraud. That's what her mother told her last night, when the realisation had set in. 'A good Catholic girl, Molly. That's who you are meant to be, that’s who we raised you to be.'

Molly had struggled with this; she was surely no longer capable of being a good Catholic girl, and was unsure whether she ever had been.

‘When did you forget this? How could you forget this? When did you become this person?’

Molly had then pulled her baggy jumper tightly around her stomach, inducing an unprecedented rage in her mother.

‘Look at yourself! You are a FRAUD, pretending to be someone you are not, hiding under those hideous clothes,'

Molly knew her mother well, and knew that in different circumstances she may have laughed, even been impressed, at Molly’s current talent for disguise. She understood that her mother had to be angry, but all she really wanted was for her to say that everything would be alright. A soothing stroke of the hair and a chocolate biscuit, and everything would be okay.

‘You deserve more; we deserve more. We told you to forget the boys, avoid the sins. Concentrate on Him, we said, for He has the answers; He is the guiding light. A GOOD CATHOLIC GIRL, THAT IS WHO YOU ARE MEANT TO BE!'

Molly is now a statistic, which she now feels is actually no less fraudulent than scrubbing her cheeks until they stung, donning a pretty frock, and pretending to believe something that she could not see. Molly’s school friends-'they are not true friends, they are leading you astray,'- have always mocked her mother, mocked her father, mocked her faith. This is why Molly sinned that fateful evening. She sinned so that she would fit in, be one of them, and be far less than a compromise. This is why Molly is here now, right now, clutching plastic beads from a fashion store. Does it matter? It is another compromise. The rosary beads in her pocket; they aren’t real, but she thinks she probably needs them to guide her.

Hail Mary.

Two sins, at the last count. The first being a stolen moment in the woods with Simon after the school disco, seventeen weeks ago. Simon is a popular boy, and Molly was understandably flattered that he wanted to spend some time with her. Molly had never before imagined the consequence of time. She would, in all likelihood, still be flattered if Simon continued to want to spend time with her, but now time means nothing to him; he points and he laughs and he mocks along with the rest of them. Molly smiles, she likes to smile through adversity, and she knows that the secret-his secret-that ticks away inside her, will soon wipe that smug grin from his face. Molly places her hand on her stomach. Life. A life that began in a damp wood; a life moulded with fumbling hands; a beautiful beginning; a perfect being, made by amateurs, in a shocking showcase of beginners’ luck.

If faith had allowed them, Molly is sure that her incensed parents would have marched her to a clinic to remove the sin from sight and from memory. But this had not been the case. Through whispers and through anger, Molly had felt a hazy blur of burdened love emanating from them. A weakness growing stronger through misfortune. They were furious, but they were forced to accept, forced to forgive and forced to support.

‘A child?’ Your child?’

'Your grandchild.'

Molly feels for the beads in her pocket, and counts down to bead number two, closing her eyes in concentration. She does not want anyone to see. She does not want anyone to mock. She does not want anyone to judge. She does not want to care.

Errare humanum est

To err is human

Molly has been forced to count her sins on many occasions, but this time-the time she wants and needs to-she cannot bring herself to do it. Molly wonders why and she looks towards the sky, searching for an answer. He is there, this is what they say. He is everywhere, He is all encompassing, therefore it matters not where she looks.

Forgive

Judge

Retribution

Yet, He does not give her an answer, nor does He comfort her. Molly inhales deeply on the cigarette she is holding in her free hand, and strolls-with a confidence she cannot bring herself to feel- towards the ashtray. Another sin to add to the list, she thinks with a smug bitterness. A sin that is bad for the life inside her, bad for the beating heart. Molly just wants to be accepted. Molly just wants to be happy. Pure, simple, unadulterated happiness, the thought of which makes her feel sorry for herself. Molly occasionally allows herself the indulgence of emotion, and now she feels another deep in her stomach; twisting, hurting, punishing her. Guilt. Guilt for the sin, guilt for the cigarette, guilt for the compromise and guilt for being unable to ask forgiveness for any of them. Molly’s knees tremble as a wave of nausea washes over her, and she sinks to the ground, holding her head in her hands. It is nearly tea-time, and she is sure that despite her failings, her parents will want her back for her meal. With this in mind, Molly struggles to her feet, holding her stomach, holding on to the precious life that will love her forever. It is a sin for which she cannot possibly ask for forgiveness, because it is a sin that she will never regret.

Molly’s second sin was another compromise; a struggle between being a Good Catholic Girl and being part of the crowd that had grown to occasionally tolerate her, despite her obvious faults. Molly again fumbles in her pocket for the beads and, holding them tightly, rises to her feet to pay for the second sin. She walks slowly back towards the doors, proudly thrusting out her growing stomach that she has deliberately encased in a tight, white T-shirt. She feels them looking, feels them judging her, but she has decided that she does not care, for she can only ever truly be judged by Him, and He is nowhere to be seen.

‘Babies having babies,' she hears someone mutter as she walks past them.

A walk of shame.

Molly laughs as tears well in her blue eyes; another contrast, another compromise, but she walks on, tasting the bitterness of the cigarette she has just smoked, mingling with the sourness of guilt. In front of her is a row of shops and Molly wishes that she had some money to spend; she wants to buy something for her baby. She would buy a dummy, or a rattle or a tiny, knitted pair of bootees. She just wants to make the fluttering real; solid and unchangeable. Molly shakes her head to bring herself back to the matter in hand, the baby is moving and willing her on. This is the beginning; a new beginning, a new start that she will never regret. Molly is a huge fan of irony, and the humour of this situation is not lost on her. She defiantly raises her chin and walks back into the shop in which she had been ten minutes ago. Time goes so slowly when you are looking for something. She finally reaches the counter, and spots a friendly-looking sales assistant, wearing a badge that proudly proclaims her name is Jennifer. Jennifer makes her way over to Molly, fleetingly taking notice of her rounded stomach.

‘Can I help you?’ Jennifer asks softly

‘Yes, I think you can. I stole these, you see, and I thought I should return them. They don’t seem to work anyway.'

Molly hands the rosary beads to Jennifer and waits patiently for her to call the police.

‘That’s irony, eh? Did they come in useful?’

‘I don’t think I need to atone for this, you know. This is my Best Sin. Are you going to call the police?’

Jennifer studies the beads.

‘No, I won't. Don't show your face in this store again. Just go.’

Molly walks from the shop and looks towards the sky. Still nothing. She feels the familiar fluttering inside her.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

I believe
in something worth believing
My life
Is waiting to be born
I regret
Nothing worth regretting

I waste no time
On the consequence
of a mistake that means everything
Then and now
Time is drawn
in black,
upon white paper.

Indelible.

Accept me Father,
Accept me for me
I forgive you Father

I thank you for this:
My best sin.