Thursday, 25 June 2009


Oxford, 1997.

When was the last time you climbed a ladder? Do you remember how it feels, when there's no-one holding on to the bottom? That's part of the problem, really, how it started: sometimes there just isn't anyone to stand on the bottom rung, and you still need to get to the top. There's a fire, or a cat, some damn thing or other. There's always a reason.

I had made a bad mis-step about eight feet off the ground and for a long sickly-sweet instant I felt that feeling, the feeling that means the centre of your mass has shifted outside the limits of your body. There's nothing quite like it: out there it goes in one swift motion, as if a faith healer has hauled it out in his fingers, and you become weightless, and what used to sit inside you does not, the stone pulled from the date.

There isn't time for this reflection, naturally. Something settles over you, something makes a smooth concession to the abominable state of uncertainty that surrounds you, a presence in the mind that says everything is in control. Not 'under control', but 'in control'. Everything knows what's going on. You don't, necessarily, but that's fine. Objects of notable mass are subject to accelerate due to gravitational force in the absence of an equal and opposing force. Specifically, they fall right out of the fucking sky, sunshine.

At the open end of the twenty-first century, before everything winnowed down to a point, I took a deep breath as the hated mass of my fat body fell apart in the sunlight. Joints separated cleanly and painlessly, the shroud of skin gathering in loose folds and spread smooth in taut planes as lipids smudged and shifted heavily about the anguished skeleton. What business remained was brisk and efficient. I passed into history like the birthday of a dull child.

As I lay dying, I could hear music on the breeze of that summer afternoon. A melody of sorts, ringing and chiming. It put me in mind of a church in a pleasant mood, and I smiled to think of the green-and-blue church by the river I'd promised to take her to. Why hadn't I done it? My skin prickled with tears. How gently these things become so vital, become the edges by which we trace and fumble out the shape of our lives.

Before now it had bothered me, the thought that my last thoughts might be of her, that those last thoughts might make the stuff of my life between those points all a terrible lie. If I sat on the staircase and put my head on my arms in that warm, lonely light and waited for thousands of days. Do you ever stop needing people, I had shouted, was it pre-ordained that you had to hate that failure to be truthful to the next, or the one after that? I had been certain that I was a liar. From host to host, tabletop guitar and broken skin, shadow to sunlight. Priest. No message between these lines.

For some, the day will be unexpected and devastating. For me, losing the images meant losing everything. Yes. Absolutely.

I made very sure of that.