Ledge

What I thought was mist I figured out to be smoke about two days down. It reeked of sweet and rot and sat heavy, like a calm ocean. I dusted the inside of my pod with chalk to drown out the smell as I  slept, hanging by a strong cord lashed around the pick that I lodged in the dry shale of the cliff. My throat hurt in the morning but it was better than bringing up the previous day’s marching bread.

I split my pod a fraction when the first beads of sun filtered through the cracks in its shell. Felt cold air on my lips and breathed deep through my mouth. My forearms ached to split and sharp pins stabbed my feet. I readjusted, felt blood run back through my legs and stuck my head out into the air.

There was no wind; it had stopped a short distance after going over the edge. The smoke was almost flat and stretched out to the grey-blue horizon. Above me dust bowled over the edge, whipped and drifted down. I turned in the pod and craned my head back, remembered each grip and plotted the way back up. I didn’t look down.

“Up.” I said. The word was muffled and stopped short. I wasn’t sure if I said it.

I rubbed blur from my eyes and swung the pod around. I cracked the shell open further, got my left foot on a solid jut, right foot braced inside a vertical crack, hands holding the cord lashed to my pod. I swung left and got my left hand on. I eased the pod back out of my way, still gripping the knot.

I looked up, dust drifted down. I held my breath and let go of the pod. The pod scraped back across the shale, it sounded far away. I saw the seal open on the pod, the supplies hanging loose inside. I swore and the word dropped. I breathed in.

Dust caught in my throat. I tried to stifle a cough and reached for the cord that I was supposed to attach to my belt. Cursed myself, coughed, my legs shook. I grasped the cliff with my right hand and caught a loose piece of shale under my fingernails. My right foot slipped and my fingernails tore. The right side of my body swung out, my left foot lost an inch of the ledge and then slipped.

I hung by the tips of my fingers for a second, saw the pick lodged above with wide eyes. I reached and dropped.

I saw sky then smoke, my eyes squeezed shut. Gravity pulled my stomach in a circle. My back hit hard rock and I spat upwards. I felt something crack beneath me. I coughed in dust and rolled onto my side, drooling out the side of my mouth. I curled up. Dust drifted onto my face. My hand was wet and the tips of my fingers were numb. Cold bit into my legs. I tried not to move.

Air wheezed in and out of my lungs. I thought the ground was shaking; it was blood pumping through my temples, my heart beating the ground. I opened my eyes, saw the jagged ledge dropping off a few feet in front of me, rolled onto my back and saw my pod hanging desperately a short way up the cliff.

My hands still felt numb so I used my elbows to drag my back up against the side of the cliff. The ledge shifted slightly as I moved, splinters of rock shot upwards. I tried to be careful.

The sun cast a red morning glow as it rose higher above the smoke, but the rays couldn’t seem to reach me. I was freezing. I looked at my right hand, it was a red mess. I strained my neck and looked up at the pod again, banged my head against the wall, groaned and closed my eyes.

I heard a voice.

“You are not moving, moving.”

The echo drifted around, darted in and out of my ears.

“You are alive, alive.”

I opened my eyes, saw nothing but sky and smoke. The voice still seemed on the edge of hearing, high pitched and frantic but distant.

“Who’s there?” I said, “Where are you?” I spoke loudly but my words dropped.

There was silence. Dust drifted down from above.

“I am Ledge, Ledge.”

I frowned, stuck my finger in my ear, yawned to try and pop them.

“I’m hearing things.” I said.

“You are hearing, hearing.”

I cocked my head, frowned. Tried to figure out where the voice came from. It sounded lower down. I leaned my head over the ledge.

“Hearing…”

I smelled eggs and gravel, saw a shape in the shadow of the ledge. It spun, slapping on the rock. I snapped my head back.

“You are climbing down, down.” Ledge said.

I leaned back against the wall, wiped blood on my breeches.

“Not anymore.” I said.

I heard slapping below, a crack.

“Why stop now, now?”

“There is so much further you can go.”

“Down…”

I wiped more blood on my tunic, tried to tear off a bit off cloth to wrap my hand. My fingers slipped and bled more.

There were bandages in the pod, I could see a stream of beige cotton hanging down. There was still no wind. The cord hung below the pod, I tried to gauge the distance, my vision blurred. I rubbed my eyes and got blood on my face.

“You are alive, alive.”

“Yes I am alive.” I said, I felt angry but my voice sounded small.

“But you are hurt.”

I shuffled closer to the edge. My legs started shaking, I readjusted, leaned my torso over.

There was more slapping below.

“I can help…”

I reached out for the cord, put blood spots on it with the tips of my fingers.

“Help…”

I pushed myself back, the cord swayed slightly. I closed my eyes. Exhaled.

I was back in the forest, brown leaves and grass. The undergrowth crumbled as I walked. Red flickered between the tree trunks. My stomach hurt, growled. I pulled up my tunic, saw teeth splitting the bottom of my gut. Saw the campfire.

The ground tilted, swung down like a trapdoor. I skidded through the crackling grass, leaving streaks. I grabbed for branches as I fell. They snapped, already dust and splinters. My hands were bleeding.

I jolted forward on the rock. There was a crack below and splinters of rock rained down. The sun had risen higher; the light was grey and glaring. The air was still cold.

I sat in silence for a moment. Looked around, tried to see a bird or tree branch. Anything alive. The smell of the smoke seemed worse, I looked down into it. I tried to find a gap, see through to below, gave up.

Ledge spoke.

“You are alive, alive.”

“Yes I am still here.” My voice rasped. There was slapping below, retreating.

“You are coming down, down?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t know.”

I felt faint and emotional. On the edge of vomiting. I breathed through my mouth.

The blood on my right hand had crusted over, dust in the wound. I pushed down with my left and got onto my knees. Walked on them to the edge, trying not to make a sound. My kneecaps crunched against the stone.

I reached out for the cord again, pushed it slightly but couldn’t get my fingers around it. I saw a point of rock just out from the edge. I breathed slow through my mouth, felt my heart start pounding again, tried not to look down. I got my left leg over the edge, facing out from the cliff, fumbled around until it was on the rock. A pebble dropped.

“You are moving, moving.” Slapping from below.

“I don’t think I’m going anywhere in a hurry.” I said, my voice squeaked and the words dropped.

I breathed slow again, leaned my back against the cliff and reached out. I got my fingers around the cord. It felt like the whole cliff swayed with me. I looked up at the pod, to the bandages hanging dead below it.

I swung the cord a little, heard the scrape of the pod’s shell. The bandages shifted, rolled forward slightly. Cold sweat beaded on my face. I jostled the cord again, the roll half hung out of the pod.

I felt pressure inch across my ankle, like tiny worms. I looked down, saw very long, pale fingers slipping around the top of my boot. A thin wrist extending back under the stone, knotted with wiry muscle, only one bone in the forearm. My breath caught in my throat.

Ledge pulled with incredible force, my right thigh twisted and my breeches tore on the stone, I came off the ledge completely. I gripped hard on the rope, saw the bandages fall beside me. Ledge pulled and I swung violently, my legs went under the shadow. A cloud of flies burst out from under me.

Ledge slapped around and pulled again. Both my legs went numb and needles shot up my spine. My left hand dragged raw down the cord. I tried to kick, not sure if my legs were working. Ledge’s grip loosened and I swung back out of the shadow.

I reefed my lower half out, Ledge’s arm came out with me, it seemed way too long. Its pale skin hit the sunlight, went red and bubbled with blisters. The arm shot back under the shadow and I heard violent slapping. I pulled up with my arms, scrabbled my legs against the cliff. My left hand started to slip, I found a foothold and leapt.

The jagged stone of the ledge stuck sharp into my armpits. I pulled with both of my arms, scraped my tunic to shreds. I threw myself back onto the ledge. It shifted slightly. I couldn’t hear anything and the sun glared in my eyes, nearing the cliff-half of the sky. I breathed. My right hand was soaked.

I tried not to pass out.

The campfire glowed crimson, the trees around were sepia. The wind blew dust off them. Rows and rows of logs lined around the fire, wet ash around the stones containing it. Children and their parents sat on the logs. Hunched over silhouettes. They dripped; no skin on them. Sacks of meat. They ate and laughed.

I tried to remember the last time I wasn’t hungry.

I was woken by the wind. A breeze whistled up the cliff, then howled as it buffeted me. I peeled my eyelids apart like they were glued shut. The sky was darkening. The sun sat halfway across the edge of the cliff. The smoke glowed red out to the horizon, billowed and rumbled. I couldn’t smell anything.

“You are alive, alive.” Three slows slaps from below.

I coughed, then wretched.

“Yes I am still holding on.” I spat, “I feel great.” I could barely hear myself against the wind.

“You are coming down, down.”

I tried to lean my neck back but it felt locked in place. I closed my eyes. Felt tears stinging.

“No I am going up.”

“I can help, help.”

“Help…”

The voice circled me with the wind, far away then very close. I gasped, breathed.

“I am sure you can.” Tried to moved my head again, rested on the cliff.

I thought about how far down I was. My hand throbbed. I gasped.

“Things are not good up there.” I said.

“Things have gone wrong.”

“I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t hungry.”

I felt my face contort. I tried to keep my voice calm.

“I don’t want to go back.”

“The thing about Hell is,”

“Once you’ve been there, it is always behind you.”

“A thin ledge,”

“Just waiting for you to step backwards,

and slip.”

The sun slipped behind the cliff, the red light faded to blue.

“You are coming down,

down.”

I wiped my forearm across my eyes. Lifted myself to my knees.

“Yes I am coming down.”

I heard slow slaps from below, they reached the edge furthest out from the cliff.

“I have been down before,

Before.”

“There are things

Down there

You have not seen.”

“I cannot see.”

I saw thin white fingers inch over the edge like worms.

“All that’s left of me

are echoes

Echoes.”

Ledge flipped up onto the stone. Another pair of hands slapped down. It flipped over again and again. I saw a flash of a mouth splitting its body, chunky white teeth spotted with brown. I heard yelling from far away, it circled around with the wind, grew high pitched.

I tried to swing my right arm, Ledge’s fingers wrapped around my wrist, another hand circled my throat. Ledge pushed me up against the cliff, its mouth snapped at my stomach. Splinters of teeth stung my skin.

I kicked into Ledge’s middle and its mouth clamped on my boot, crunched my foot.  I stamped down with my other foot. Ledge let go of me, scrabbled backwards and around like a dying spider, slapping on the stone. I pulled myself to my feet, drool strung out the side of my mouth and into the wind. I leapt for the rope.

I caught it with my left hand, swung out and then dragged back against the cliff. Heard the slapping stop and then start again. I hung below the ledge, smelt eggs and gravel and heard the buzz of swarming flies. I swung my right hand up further on the rope. The rope dragged on bare flesh but all I could feel was wet. I pulled upwards, the pod was very far away.

My vision faded out for a moment. Sepia and blood. I came back. Almost there.

The rope went taught and pulled away from the cliff. I leapt and caught the bottom of the pod, my belongings rained onto my head.

I looked down. Ledge was tugging on the rope, the pod swung back and forth. I pulled myself up, got my legs in the pod. They seemed swollen and my breeches were soaked red. I got my hands onto the top part of the rope, pulled myself up.

The rope stopped tugging and dropped slack. Ledge slapped its hands onto the cliff, flipped over itself up the wall.

I held onto the pick with both hands and stamped down on the pod. The top cracked. The slapping got closer. The pod blocked my vision. I stamped again and it broke loose, fell down and grew small. I couldn’t see Ledge.

I looked up, saw the top of the cliff two days up. Saw fingers like worms wrapped around a jut. Ledge flipped over, hands slapped the stone, wrapped my ankles and pulled. Scabbed over eyes and tufts of human hair filled my vision, then teeth as its middle split. I tasted people meat on its breath, a taste I never could get out my mouth. I wrenched the pick out of the cliff and rammed it into Ledge’s middle. Ledge flailed and we fell.

My vision tumbled over. I saw the blue horizon, the smoke billowing red below. We slammed down onto stone. I landed on Ledge.

The stone cracked beneath us and gave way. Gravity pulled my stomach down and then up. Ledge caught on a break in the cliff, my arm wrenched but I still held the pick. Ledge tore and showered me in milk and rotten eggs. I hung by his rags.

I heard only my heartbeat and the howl of the wind. I looked down, the smoke billowed very close, red lights flashed. Ledge’s rags inched downwards. I looked up, saw stars and the cliff. Dust billowed over the edge. I spoke and my voice dropped.

“Up.”

I wasn’t sure if I said it.

Lucky Strikes #1

I tried to quit smoking in Japan. I mean I’ve been trying for like five years, can’t count the amount of times I’ve had a last cigarette, still smoking way too much. I didn’t quit smoking in Japan.

Japan was three weeks I wouldn’t be around smoking housemates or pouches of tobacco. I smoked right up until the day I left. Smoked while I was there but I tried.

My fiancé passed out in a hotel in Tokyo after getting a Japanese cold on the arse end of a Brisbane one. I sat in bed next to her, she radiated heat and I was sweating. I watched a Japanese tv show where a group of comedians went to restaurants, sat around big tables and just talked to each other over meals. I couldn’t understand a word of it and no one got hit in the balls. I turned the tv off, tried to sleep, sweated, got dressed and walked outside.

I walked up the road deserted street that my hotel was on looking for a bar. Ambulances drove past every twenty minutes or so, loudspeakers blaring in Japanese “Please something”.

Raindrops sparked through the light of neon signs, felt like little bites on my scalp and cheeks where they splashed from the collar of my jacket. I passed a vending machine that sold cigarettes, doubled back and stood in front of it. Thought about god and the devil. Thought about dying and satisfaction. Thought about whether or not to tell my fiancé that I had a cigarette. I had a moment and kept walking.

I started to get out of the zone I could comfortably return from without risking getting lost in the biggest city in the world. Saw a bar called “Cantina”, sign written in English. The stairs leading up from the front door were lined with bottles of my favourite beers. Pictured a smoky bar with assorted Japanese Sci-Fi characters, maybe aliens. The bar was empty except for a manly looking Japanese guy wiping the counter and a Japanese girl smoking a cigarette and talking to him.

The bartender looked up as I entered, said “Not Open”. I left, checked the sign on the way out, the bar didn’t open for twenty minutes. I looked up the street towards the centre of batshit Shinjuku, made back for the hotel.

I passed the cigarette machine on the way back, doubled back and stood in front of it. Thought about god and the devil. Wanted my last cigarette to be a Lucky Strike in the rain in Tokyo and not one I salvaged from the dregs of a pouch of Port Royal, Winfield Gold and JPS Red.

I put in my money, pressed Lucky Strikes. A Japanese Lady’s voice blared at me from the machine, a light flashed. I checked the tray, no cigarettes. I pressed the button again, swore, looked around. An old Japanese man stared at me from a warm and comfortable looking bar. He looked neutral, stared at me blankly and lifted a cigarette to his mouth. Could have been looking at a reflection. Freezing rain dripped from my mess of hair. I hit cancel and made back for the hotel.

I ducked into the convenience store next to my hotel, dripped all over the floor next to plastic wrapped umbrellas. I stood in line in front of an old lady half my height. Said two words to the attendant, “Lucky Strikes”. He nodded and handed me a pack.

I paid and went to walk off, checked my pocked, swore. I got back in line and waited again. Said “Lighter” to the attendant, made a lighter action with my thumb. The store attendant motioned to the shelves behind me, said something in Japanese. I turned and searched the shelves. Frowned.

A friendly looking man in a business suit led me around the corner of the shelves and pointed at the lighters. I grabbed one, said sorry to the built up line. I couldn’t tell if they were angry or just from Tokyo.

I tried to find a place to smoke, there were no smoking signs plastered all over the streets. I walked down the alley beside my hotel, past two ladies who glanced up at me warily as they walked, past broken vending machines. Found a strange park, very small with a shrine and a street sign in the middle, surrounded by high-rise buildings. It was lit with a pale light like glow worms or if an elf did it.

I pulled out a Lucky Strike, got a fat drop of water on it from my hair. Covered it and lit. Breathed in and felt like a different version of me, like I switched personalities to something equally as familiar. Stood in the rain in Tokyo and watched the raindrops flash through pale light, watched my cigarette burn down.

I grabbed a coffee so I could smoke a second one without gagging.

When I walked back into the hotel room my fiancé was awake. She said she was proud of me for heading out and exploring on my own. I told her I smoked two cigarettes and then I threw the pack of Lucky Strikes into the small hotel bin. They sat there on top of mucus drenched tissues, label facing up and burning itself into my brain.

They sat there all night, and through the day as we dragged our suitcases through batshit crowded Shinjuku, headed for the shinkansen and South to Kyoto. Somewhere in the back of my head is still making plans to return and find them. To smoke those bastards with an expensive shitty coffee or a cheap amazing whiskey.

Until then they sit in my head and wait.

Dungeons and Flagons

I been pen and paper RPing for as long as I been drinking, so like early high school. For the layman (fantasy term for n00b) it is a bunch of drunk awfuls sitting around a table pretending to be elves and pissing off the one person who actually puts effort in (Dragon Maker or DM). But ya’ll knew this because it is 2016 and nerd is cool and nobody can make teases at me for doin magic noises during my lunch times anymore. What a world.

I started making my own system when I was a teen because Dungeons and Dragons played like a microwaved quarter pounder and I was only allowed a half hour of computer time a week which I inevitably spent playing starcraft with every cheat on. I scrawled into a hundred exercise books whatever I had ripped off from videogames and Ancient History lessons about swordy stuff. The system has been goin strong now for as many of my years as it hasn’t and I am still working on it even though I am technically an adult.

I wanna do another Thing on my blog now even though I have finished exactly zero of the other ones but what you gonna do woop here is some stories from dungeons and dragons over the years with my incredibly inebriated friends. Luv ya.

 

Team Cock

 

At some point some idiot (me) decided it would be a good idea to make a Bad Guy party. I would not recommend doing this for any DM with some scrap of self respect or empathy. My system of naming my friends’ parties is to insert bad puns or innuendo until I get maximum groans and then force everyone to call it that until it becomes second nature. The winner was Team Cock.

Team Cock consisted of a cleric of the most offensive religion (which I will not name) called The Reverend, a troll monk called Duke Facepunch, a terminally high gnome illusionist called Arno Fusegadget, a Disney version of Wolf Creek called Kangaranger and a wizard called tom.

After pulling a train heist for the thieves guild the party were hired by the state to investigate a tavern fire that killed some foreign diplomats that tom started in an earlier session. The only known witnesses were two Halfling drifters called Frido and Balbo. The party was sent to ask them some questions.

The party found the Halflings smoking under a bridge in the poor district. The Halflings saw tom and started to run immediately. Frido got away but Balbo jumped into the river. Kangaranger shot him in the leg with her bow and Duke Facepunch dragged him out.

Duke asked him who started the fire. Balbo refused to answer because tom was standing near him. Duke tried to twist his arm. I reminded Duke that he was a troll and this was a Halfling. Duke broke his arm. Duke asked him who started the fire. Balbo screamed in pain. Duke tried to choke him until he answered. I reminded Duke that he was a troll and this was a Halfling. Duke broke Balbo’s neck.

The party reported back to their contact at a tavern in the docks. They said “We found the Halflings but one escaped.”

The contact said “What do you mean escaped?”

The party burned down the tavern and skipped town.

A short while after the party made a deal with some demons to hunt down Frido the Halfling and his entire family, after burning down an entire village because the The Reverend decided he had a vision. I ended the party because it made me sad.

Employment Service Provider Referral

Oh lordy babies I need me a job. The problem with gettin the bipolar disease, being on the disability pension for six(?) years and having about a year and a half work experience all up is that I don’t need to finish that sentence. I done wrote this poem after searching online for a job using the terms Creative and Writing because it is what I am good at (debatable). I got zero results. Here’s hoping kids.

 

Thumbs

 

I sit and wait

Cos my awkward gait

Steps on children, puppies

People’s dreams

 

I spill on myself

I’m not good at health

My hands are thumbs

Is what it seems

 

And I still wait for the day

That I can truly say

I did a good job

Successful schemes

 

But

 

If I gotta think

I got all, plus kitchen sink

 

And when it comes to good cheer

My smile’s always near

 

And if you wanna fight

I’ll punch keyboards all night

 

I’ll write me under the table

You bastard

Starman

2.

 

When I was very young I thought jesus was a young boy who had a moon for a head that lived on the moon and cried every time you did something bad. No idea where that came from.

My first school was an Anglican private school. We sang hymns every morning and learned about the bible in religious education. They seemed pretty good about it; not a lot of hellfire or hate. I remember most of the lessons about morality seemed right. All along the lines of do the right thing regardless of what people say or think about you or if they are different or believe in different things.

I decided I was an atheist when I was maybe ten, mainly because I prayed that I could fly and it didn’t turn out. What I had in mind was a cool pair of bat wings because I was a Dark Kid. When I didn’t get them I decided God was not real and did not look back. I learned how to fly in dreams when I was very young and now it seems second nature.

When I first heard “Starman” it seemed synonymous with jesus. I listened to the lyrics and the picture in my head was a boy with a moon for a head that lived on the moon and watched us and wanted us to be happy.

There is a very specific hurt right in the middle of me that I get whenever I hear it.

 

1.

 

I am in the death star in star wars. I liked the new movie but it was still not that great. There is too much shit in this hangar bay. Like a million stormtroopers and an AT-ST and they are shooting a million laser guns. The lasers are shooting in every direction and there are a lot of explosions.

There is only me and David Bowie on the rebel side. We are doing okay even though there is no line-of-sight blocking terrain because the stormtroopers are mainly shooting each other. I have a laser gun but it doesn’t do anything when I pull the trigger, so I just aim it at stormtroopers and make laser noises to fight. David Bowie has a carton of eggs but he seems hesitant to throw any.

“Sam,” David Bowie says, “There are babies in these eggs, every one.”

He has a haircut like a kid who takes up smoking in grade seven.

“They are casualties of this war. Whether I throw them or not. I cannot save them sam. These babies are dead already.”

David Bowie starts crying. His lightning bolt is leaking.

“Dammit Bowie.” I say. I am angry because I am his commanding officer, but I understand. It makes me sad too. “You gotta throw those eggs son.”

David Bowie opens the carton. There are a lot of stars behind him, outside the hangar shield in space. They are beautiful and make my middle hurt. He cries more as he throw an egg, he sounds like he is singing. The throw is weak and the egg smashes just in front of him. There is a dead baby chicken on the ground, covered in yolk.

“The babies are already dead Bowie.” I say, I aim and make three short pchews, a stormtrooper falls over. I think one of his friends shot him.

 

0.

 

There is a poster for McDonalds on the inside of the Ipswich train. It is a picture of a giant burger with a thick layer of ham under the chicken patty. The words are mainly just jumbled letters and copyright symbols. The train is quiet except for the jostle of the tracks. David Bowie sits on the opposite side of the four-person seat. His hair is red this time.

“I am poor Bowie,” I say to David Bowie, “and hungry. I can’t remember the last time I bought a hamburger.”

“Sam,” David Bowie says, “I can lend you $11.60. Get that hamburger, do not worry about the commercialism.”

I am very grateful for the $11.60 but I am too tired to cry about it. The train is going down the middle of the street. We pass many McDonalds but the train is not stopping anywhere. I am very hungry. The sky is grey.

The train stops in the middle of Ipswich in the future. David Bowie left when I wasn’t looking. There is no McDonalds close so I dump the $11.60 in the coin part of my wallet and zip it up. I won’t have time to get a hamburger because I need to Be Somewhere.

I walk through the big park in the middle of town. It is mainly giant concrete rectangles but there are some nice trees and water features. I can hear frogs croaking. Normally frogs freak me out but it sounds nice this time. A ladies voice plays from speakers set up around the park.

“The frogs are croaking because they like us. They want to let us know that they want us to be happy.”

There are too many people at the party. The table with all the food at it is crowded and I can’t get to it. My girlfriend is there hanging with Someone Else. She approaches me, smiles. She asks if that instead of moving in with me she can move in with Someone Else.

“Yes of course.” I say. I look over her shoulder at the food table but there is no path to it. I am very hungry but I can’t get food because my girlfriend is breaking up with me so I leave.

When I get outside I start running. I try to look where I am going but I can’t lift my head. All I see is road. My middle hurts. I start to stumble, remember I can fly. I try to fly to a McDonalds and my feet lift off the ground, set back down.

I try again and I think I am flying.

 

69.

 

I should have been sad that Bowie is dead right

I mean the guy made me believe in aliens

That is very important to me

I was an atheist when I was young because I didn’t know how to do magic yet

I don’t identify as agnostic because I got too much proof

I like to believe that heaven is going off into space and having adventures and shit

Bowie is defs doing that so I am not sad

I mean whats the fucking point of being a cynic right

 

Weddings and Funerals

Oral presentations were my least favourite thing about high school, just above bus erections and 3am infomercials. Every time I would leave it until the absolute last minute, lose five bucks trading places in the line order, then scrape through with a C+ and a vague memory of what went on. I would tear up and shake and stutter throughout the whole thing and always run under time.

Anxiety was one of the reasons writing was my dream job; I thought you didn’t have to talk to people. I wasn’t briefed on speech duty. One heartfelt and nerve-wracking speech at somebody’s birthday/wedding/funeral and it becomes your job.

I got a phone call from a friend I hadn’t seen in five years. I was his supervisor at a fast food joint when I moved out of home; he was a decade older than me and moved over from China after completing a degree. He would bring me meals when he was working his second job at another place in the food court. I ignored the phone call because I was nervous.

He sent me a message five minutes after asking if I wanted to be best man at his wedding because I am “good with words and handsome and a writer”. I called him back and said I would do it. I forgot to ask the name of the bride.

My friend picked me up in a shitty white sedan outside a pub on a very hot day. My suit and the speech were already soaked with sweat. I tried to read over my speech as we drove to the golf club. Looking at the words just made me more nervous. I drank three beers when we arrived.

The bride looked beautiful as she walked up the aisle, greeted me as if we had already spoken. The bride’s father said “I, do” in English when he gave her over. The celebrant made a joke he didn’t understand.  I was standing at the front with the groom. I didn’t know where to put my hands. I read my speech off the page when it was my turn to speak, didn’t look up once.

An older couple approached me after the speech. They said it was the best wedding speech they had heard.

“You could do this for a living.” The older woman said.

“I do.” I said.

The bride’s father approached me in the carpark as I was smoking after the photos. He pointed at my pouch and I nodded and handed it to him. He rolled the worst cigarette I have ever seen, half disembowelled and without a filter. He said thank, you and walked off to smoke alone.

I ate three people’s worth of food and drank one and a half bottles of champagne at the reception to get my friend’s money worth out of the buffet he had paupered himself for. I asked a girl to dance for the first time in my life and we waltzed and I managed not to burp or fart and then I did the sprinkler and some break dancing. The newlyweds left me with enough wedding cake to keep me alive until payday and then gave me a ride home.

I forgot to ask the name of the bride.

Funerals are much harder than weddings, they mean more and you feel really bad if you half arse them.

My mother called me a few days after my grandfather died to ask if I could speak at his funeral. My father called me ten minutes later to ask if I could speak at my stepmother’s, who had died the day before my grandfather. I said yes to both. The funerals were on the same day.

It was just coming out of summer and I was just coming out of my annual summer rough patch. I had been too nervous to visit either my stepmother or grandfather in a while. I cried the most in my life that week and I am bipolar so I cry a lot.

I started working on both speeches at 3am the morning of the funerals. I had worked out the process for writing and memorising a speech without using paper at previous events. First you start pacing frantically. Then you start saying the speech, start again if you mess up. You keep doing that until you make it through the whole speech, then repeat until the speech is burned into your psyche forever. I only had time to get through the first one.

I tied my hair back for my stepmother’s funeral because she liked it that way. It gave me a headache I looked like a record producer.

I told a nice story about the time my stepmother almost burned down the house with trick candles. My father got to his feet and applauded, followed by his parents and my siblings. Then everyone started clapping. One of my father’s friends spoke to me afterwards, said it was the best funeral speech he’d ever heard.

“I can see why you are writing.” He said. I tried to mourn.

I fell asleep in the car on the way to my grandfather’s funeral. I woke up when my brother honked and screamed at another driver. I was pretty sure I knew what it felt like to die.

I had a list of stories from my siblings on a crumbled and coffee-stained sheet of paper. I spoke for a very short amount of time. The place was packed. I fumbled for words. I felt the saddest I had ever been and I looked liked a record producer. I closed my eyes and leaned against the pulpit.

“You always hope for more time.” I said. I opened my eyes, looked at my uncle who I hadn’t seen in years, he was nodding. I finished the speech.

I pulled the hair tie off as I walked out of the funeral home, bee-lined through the mingling crowd so no one could give me a compliment. My sister was standing far from everyone else, smoking. I walked up to her and asked for a cigarette.

“That was a great speech.” She said, handed me a lungbleed yellow.

“Next time someone else is doing it.” I replied.

She said that she hoped there wouldn’t be a next time for a while.

(Tell Me Why) I Don’t Like Sundays

Part of being a bipolar human means that sometimes it will be a Sunday afternoon and things will have been Going Wrong for a while now and you hate yourself and you’ve forgotten your friends and it’s always gonna be this way forever. There is a knot in your chest and it rises and you know something’s gotta change soon or there is a storm of fire coming or Judgement.

Part of being a writer means sometimes all that comes outta your writing whole is shitty heartfelt poetry because deep down we all saps no matter how many adverbs you edit out or how many ex-wives you give your character.

 

Flux Capacitor

 

And if I don’t return

If I’m different, if I learn

Then I just want you to know

That I did, I loved you so

 

If it’s time for me to range

Out of earshot, if I change

Know that I still call your name

Even though I’m not the same

 

If I have to move

If I’m gone, just let me prove

I can get the things I lack

That I can make it back

 

And if I forget

The steps that brought me here

 

Let me regret

That I don’t have you near

 

If you slip away

And I don’t shed a tear

 

Let me remember the day

And the name that I held dear