Breathe

I woke up, as in my eyes were open, but I was acutely aware I could not feel myself breathe. It was as if my lungs had somehow moved on, my ribs seemed to have decamped to some other part of my body I could not feel. I grabbed my phone and flicked to the meditation app. There it was, her cool calming voice giving me instruction, breathe in, breathe out. My breath though, had left me, had just gone from my body. I lay there listening to her, my hands on my unmoving chest, yes my ribs were there but they were still. I rested my hands as low as I could, I daren’t feel for the heart beat in case it was gone as well.

And she kept talking, gentle, soothing, the meditation woman telling me to take a breath in and then a long slow breath out, but how? It had all stopped working. I tried not to panic, this was meditation after all. I tried to focus but my hands were sending that signal to my brain, you aren’t breathing, the lungs are not working. There is no in and out, no up and down happening. At this point I wondered why the meditation couldn’t focus on some other bodily function, like digestion, but it did not.

I am not dead, I know I am not dead. I wiggle my toes, probably I have just forgotten, just forgotten and somewhere at the back of my brain is that thing that will kick start the whole thing again. Thank goodness I woke up, otherwise I might have actually died. Meanwhile the meditation app gave slow pointed instructions, in and out, in and out. I kept looking at my ribs, nothing. My lungs literally sat there, not bothering to inflate, like the last balloon in the packet that no one wants, probably the green one or the yellow one or the horrible pink which is too see through.

I wait patiently thinking what a waste for the meditation app. I wonder how much I am paying for this app that does not seem to be inducing my lungs to act. There is still no breath going in and out, I am panicked but without the capacity to demonstrate it. I couldn’t be less calm and all I can do is wait for that one heaving breath that indicates I am back on the planet.

And then it comes, sweet luscious air rushes in, I suck it in, my lungs finally inflate and the ribs move and my hands lift and I wonder about the delay! Who knows what would have happened if the blood I drank yesterday was not pre-oxygenated.

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The Conference

I have always thought I could become an expert at something, but what? Somehow bring myself to focus in on the minute detail of some corner of history or science, in truth I can barely focus long enough to vacuum, but somewhere I have always thought I would be able to espouse wisdom on some such topic at dinner parties. In my head the whole table are always enraptured as I drop pearls of factual delight, when in fact I have met such people myself and turned immediately away and began to discuss the weather.

I remember one particular erudite person I sat next to at dinner who saw nothing more than the back of my shoulder for the entire evening and to make it worse I was wearing a particularly ghastly brown paisley thing with a mosquito bite on the edge of my shoulder for good measure. No I lack the application, the attention span for expertise, but I can do generality which makes what happened seem quite odd. I think perhaps there was a moment of confusion, a point at which someone thought I was something else, someone else.

And so I found myself on the stage, in front of the audience, with a lap top open before me. Of course the audience could see the slides, but I could see the slides and the speaking notes. And what could I do, but speak. I did not think I could say, there’s been a mistake, I am not this person. I am not even presenting at this conference, I am just here with my partner.

So I gave the speech, at the conference, the conference I was only attending with my partner. Its not easy you know, to stand up and speak, to follow the words when you have not read them before at all. But I did and there was rapturous applause, and to be honest I am not even sure what the speech was about. I don’t pretend to remember a word of it but it was well received.

I feigned a stomach bug instead of dinner only for it to be reported to me (by my partner who had not attended that session but was watching another session at the time) what a standout performance it had been. The highlight of the day, maybe even the conference. I said nothing, what could I say? He would want to know why and I even now, am not sure why.

I tried not to think about it, stayed in my room. I was embarrassed by it, until my partner mentioned that it was available on a website, me giving her speech. He had watched it, said what a great speaker she was. I thought he was joking, he had realised but it seemed not. I googled it, there I was, me- giving her speech, with her name on the banner underneath. My first thought was to get in touch, apologise. But I just wasn’t brave enough, wasn’t bold enough and the moment passed and we travelled home.

And then it came, a week later, by post, not even by email, a short note, three words, ‘We should meet.’ And so there I stood, waiting outside the coffee shop for the woman I had impersonated, who’s speech I had given. I had no idea what to say, I was so embarrassed. And there she was, a little taller than me, same hair colour sort of, different colouring, not my sense of style.

And so we sat for coffee and she thanked me and showed me her other speeches, all of them given by different women, all of them just whoever was there, like some kind of weird experiment, and that’s what it was, at least how it started – as some weird experiment. She had a mad fear of public speaking and so at conferences she angled it so someone else gave her speech and she discovered that almost no one spoke up, no woman took exception and nor did the men, men who knew who it was, who knew it wasn’t her, said nothing. All of them complicit.

And then she told me more, she wasn’t the only one, lots of women did it, they just subbed in to whoever was close to the stage. There was a club, a group, on line, off line, all of them, quietly lauding their victories. It had long since stopped being a way of avoiding public speaking and become more a way of just subtly undermining the status quo.

She gave me her card with a phone number, in case I ever had to speak at my own conference. She said she would arrange it, make it happen so someone else could speak. She said she couldn’t remember the last time any woman ever gave her own speech at an international conference. It just doesn’t happen.

Of course, I was horrified, I would never do such a thing, until of course. It was just a small speech, a nothing speech, a tiny conference, a nothing topic, a general topic, nothing specific, but well, I mean you would, wouldn’t you? And no one noticed, and no one was harmed and so the chain goes on. And if you are speaking next, well get in touch, we can sort something out.

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Re-embowelment

She looked at the letter. 2pm Wednesday. It would have been easier to cancel. She looked at the organs laid out on the table. She mentally went through her check list. Heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach. There were more.

She looked at the you tube video. It wasn’t particularly helpful. How to disembowel someone. She had tried watching it backwards but it hadn’t worked. She looked at the piece of paper on the table. It was a recipe sort of.

She should have  made extensive notes last time she did it. She looked at the scalpel. This was definitely her least favourite part. She looked down. She had strapped her breasts back so she had a clear view. She had also put a mirror on the far side of the table so she could see what she was doing.

The incision had to be quite long. Her hand was shaking. She had wanted it to be straight but it was quite jagged.

There was a hint of red down the side of it, a good sign. She had managed some blood flow. That would get better when the heart was back in. She pulled apart the two pieces of skin. There was a huge hollow gap where the organs should be. Not ideal when you were visiting a doctor. She took out the frame that gave her body structure, that made it look as if she had organs. She was quite proud of it. She had constructed it herself.

She started at the bottom, working her way up. All those bits of plumbing, reconnecting tubes a kidney here, a bowel there. All the odd female bits packed in around it. She had put some food in the stomach, a chocolate bar, some crisps but also some vegetables and a burger. She looked at it. It was a bit full really. She tucked it in. Now for the biggies, the important ones, there’s the liver. She tucked it in. She couldn’t remember what it did, but she knew it was important.

Now for the lungs. The heart had to go last because once it was connected there would be more blood. She didn’t want a messy table, at least no more messy than the one she had. She’d had to wash them all first and there was residual bits of everything clogging the sink now. She had to clean that. She did not want to clean the table too.

She placed the first lung. Then the second. Were they even? She couldn’t tell. Non aligned lungs was a dead giveaway. How many had been caught out by non-aligned lungs. She would shake it all around a bit later and hope for the best. There was unlikely to be an x-ray.

Then the heart. She had the remnant s of arteries to attach it to. She remembered last time she had got it the wrong way around. She had woken in the night feeling unwell and realised her mistake. She hated being organ dependent again, even if it was just for a few days. She had to convince the medical practitioner she was still human or else they might terminate her. She wondered why the tests were so stringent. It should be enough that she was capable of being human.

She carefully picked up the heart, it was smaller than she remembered. She wondered if she had been keeping it properly. It was kind of shrivelled. She must check that out on you tube when she was taking them out again. She pushed around between the lungs. She was never sure of the correct placement. All those disembowelment videos, never a re-embowelment, even after all this time. She should really make a video, upload it, that would be a risk. She could be found out.

Time to close up. This bit required patience. The stitching was a bit rough. But it was passable. It would heal before the doctors appointment. She had some special composite skin.

She shook her torso a bit. Took her hands and pressed them against her belly, trying to get it to sit flat. How did anyone who kept all their organs have a flat stomach. It was impossible. She should not have put so much food in the stomach. None of it sat lightly. She would put nothing on social media for a few days.

She shook a bit more. She needed them to settle. To sit firmly together and to work as a system. She farted. That was a good sign. It was sort of working. She farted again. Burped. It was all moving, slotting in. In a few hours it would all feel better.

In the meantime she had the heaviness of freshly placed organs. She needed to be able to walk lightly with them before Wednesday. God, she hated doctors, these annual check ups. What purpose did they serve. Perhaps it was time to rise up and get rid of these human remnants. She shook her body a bit again. Maybe next year.  

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Exo-skelete!

Rhythm

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Heart

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Have been thinking
Turning it over

In my mind.
The outside
Covering.

Soft and permeable
No use
In this harsh world

I cut myself

Bleed.

Drip-drip-drip-drip

Like a dodgy

Tap-drip-drip-drip

To prove my point
I want to-I
have made the word

up-‘exo-skelete’!

To go from this
Soft outer coating
To something

Armoured

To bury my pulse
Beneath a heavy
framework

My pulse

Dot-dot-dot-dot

You are questioning
my idea

dot-dot-dot-dot

Sat in my chair
this afternoon
I thought my bones
outwards

I expanded them
I thought them out
in fragments

Out-out-out-out

Through the pores of my skin

Out-out-out-out

Armour, body armour
On the outside

And now I sit here
Enthroned
Resplendent
Complete

An ivory tower
A tower of bone
A hardness
Worn on the outside

I wake from dubious
slumber
Assured of who I am
What I am

I stand to shout

But

Crackcrackcrackcrack

My bones are brittle
Old
It is not how I thought
It would be

I am a seething mass of blood and organs on the floor
The dog comes and licks me away
The rug is stained forever

And I am gone

Gone-gone-gone-gone

The Chair Part 2

I have uploaded the footage to a website. Malevolent furniture.com. If you google that and nothing comes up then you know they have won.

THEY HAVE WON!

I am sitting on the floor of my kitchen, just looking at it. I wonder if it is looking back. It can’t, can it. I know it can’t. See, I am still sane and rational whatever anyone else says. I know chairs don’t have eyes.

NO EYES.

I have put the other chairs and table in the other room. It is just me and the chair now. In the kitchen.

I only really know some of what happened. But I will share it with you before I sit down in the chair. If it hadn’t been the same police officer twice I would never have known. He noticed how I spoke of only one child but in the picture in the hallway there are two children. Two children-where is the other one?

There was another abandoned car on the driveway-two in three months and he had ‘concerns’. I wanted him to sit down, invited him to sit in the chair but he wouldn’t. He stood up. He was not taken in. He lost patience with my evasive answers.

He made me go before a court on some trumped up charge. I told the judge, I told the judge I thought it was the chair.

The chair.

The judge referred me to the doctor and that’s how I ended up here. On the floor of my kitchen with the chair as my only company.

The doctor did not think I was sane. He thought I needed help. But I am sane. I do not need help, at least not the kind he thinks I need.

And you need to be careful. Its the chairs.

ITS THE CHAIRS!

I can say it out loud now because it won’t matter soon. When was the last time you went anywhere where there wasn’t a chair? Only it doesn’t have to be a chair, because they have different names but they all do the same thing-chair, seat, stool, they are all in it together. Shopping mall-seats, cinema-seats, buses, cars-all have seats. You work in an office right-all day-sitting on a chair. They are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And they are in control.

IN CON-TROL.

So I tell the doctor this, I say, everywhere I go there are chairs, everywhere I GO. He denies it! Denies it in the face of all the evidence. But they are everywhere. You know they are. I refuse to sit in the chair in his office. He tells me my case is unique. I have an odd kind of paranoia. But I know.

I KNOW.

He furrowed his brow. I know he didn’t believe me. But everywhere-everywhere there are chairs. Chairs, seats, stools. It doesn’t matter they are everywhere. Bikes have seats, toilets have seats-dear god, seats with holes, its a very bad idea. I went to the library-chairs, the cafe-chairs, friends houses-chairs-they are everywhere!!!! Yet still the doctor did not BELIEVE ME.

After the first few sessions of therapy he realised he wasn’t getting through. He wanted to come to my house and see my chairs. Specifically the chair. And I am so clever.

SO CLEVER

My husband isn’t here anymore. Did I tell you that? We had an argument about the chair. I don’t remember the details but he left suddenly and I haven’t heard from him since. I think. But I know that you’re thinking-it could have been and it definitely could have been.

The thing is when I knew the doctor was coming. I KNEW. I rigged up a camera in my kitchen. I did it in the dark where I thought the chair couldn’t see. But then chairs can’t see can they.

CAN THEY? NO!

How do they communicate??? Have you ever walked into a room and the chairs have moved around. Was that them or did someone move them? Do you know? Can you prove it?

And then he came, THE DOCTOR came to my house. A house visit.

DOES NOT HAPPEN!

Doctors do not come to houses anymore. YOU have to believe this. He came to my house. The doctor, he totally DID. He came because the chair wanted him to come. Its like he was summoned. SUMMONED. He came in and looked at the chair-then all cocky and brazen-he sat on it.

HE SAT ON IT.

I know he was reluctant to, I can sense he was repulsed by it. Everyone is. BUTT

HE SAT DOWN ON IT.

But the thing is. I filmed it. I have the footage. One moment the doctor is sitting in the chair, the next he is gone. Like magic. WHERE DID HE GO? THE CHAIR?

The chair knows. THE CHAIR KNOWS.

KNOWS I have footage. So now it is me and the chair-in the kitchen. And I am going to sit on it. I know I am, because I have no choice. Because the chair is in control. The chair is in control of me. I can’t help myself. I have to sit on the chair. Because the chair is so in control, I sacrificed my child to the chair. Two children and now there is only one and where is that one. I can’t remember.

SAVE YOURSELF!

Watch the footage. Say it over and over, ‘No I will stand thank you.’ Make it your mantra, ‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’ Don’t just sit down whenever the seat is offered to you. Fight back. Stand up. RAGE AGAINST THE FURNITURE!

BECAUSE.

Because the chairs are winning.

I can’t resist. I know I can’t resist. I have to sit in that chair. This is the end for me. But not for you.

SAY IT OUT LOUD,

‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’

RESIST, RESIST, RESIST.

I have uploaded the footage. If you are reading this, you are my only hope. The chairs are winning and we are all going to die sitting down.

I am going towards the chair now. I am sorry. I have let you all down.

I am going to sit quietly now.

Gap Girl

They are arguing!

Pulling.

Apart.

She sees it.
Watches it.

Slides into the gap.

Slips into the blankness
Where their friendship was.

Fills it.
Folds it.

Holds on to it.

Wraps herself in it.
Expands out to form herself in it.
Waits patiently.

Loiters there in the space.

She knows.

She will be squeezed out the other side
As they hedge nearer
Mend their friendship again.

If she had to describe herself
She would use the word ‘space’.

She does not describe herself.

She sees them talking again.
Knows its time

Feels their happiness
Butt against her nothingness

Can’t imagine.

In her wildest dreams
How you come to deserve either of them.

Bent Forward, Nearly Double

Bent forward, nearly double
Her eyes on the ground
As she pushes the trolley along
The pity aimed at her

Is almost palpable

But she doesn’t notice it
She smiles into a pond
None of us can see
It is spread out before her

As she walks

What a life
The things she knows
Things like
You don’t need beauty to get laid

All that over done machismo

About how you should look
All of it ignored
What counts is how you feel
Inside

Moments she has known

The moment that he realised
he didn’t know her anymore
She saw it in his eyes
That self possessed woman

Who was no longer possessed

Raw, primal sex in a park
When she was young and
they were hidden in the dark
Faceless, nameless carnal

Primal

Cigarettes in theatres
Ice creams in the sun
Feet in mile after mile of sand
The joy of a first flight

When flying was new and rare

The first time held in by a seatbelt
Instead of lolling in the back
The first time fingers tapped a keyboard
On a computer with a screen

Swiped a phone

She smiles into the pavement
Their pity is palpable, touchable
But she knows better
Her knowledge is endless

They think the world is moving so fast

But truthfully it spins more slowly than ever
What has it done in her lifetime
Flight, motorways,
Computers, colour television

Phones. And oh, oh the clothes.

Bent over, nearly double,
Brown skirt, brown jacket
Secrets hidden in shades of beige
And gilded, patterned, darned with age

Ah the life she has led,
She smiles into the pond
Hopes their lives are as bright as hers
As she pushes the trolley on.

The Last Carriage

We of the last carriage
Every jerk, slide, push or pull
We, in the last carriage
We get to feel it all

We dawdle down the platform
Frowned on by the guard
Last through the barriers
Searching for our card

Warriors of the feel good
Into work a little late
Stopped for a coffee
Chatted to a mate

We slide into our chair
Around about ten past nine
You should be glad for us to be here
Because we’re not all the time

We probably spent ten minutes
Tizzing up our hair
We look at the computer
As if there’s something there

Then we chip a nail
And leg it for the loos
We probably come back again
Around about ten past two

And then its nearly time to go
Yeh, officially its five
But ten to four is close enough
Work less and stay alive

We have no regard
for your silly stupid rules
The ones that chain you to the desk
They make you look a fool

We had a ticket for the train
At least we did last week
It’s a season ticket
Oh it might have been, I think

There’s a reason we haven’t got it
How it came to be lost
Yeh for the price of the fine
Not bothered by the cost

Here in the end carriage
It’s like a second home
Everyone is someone
And no one is alone

Sometimes its like the train
Is going to jump its tracks
But we all just chill
We just stay relaxed

We look on with scorn
At those early carriage prats
At the man with the fold up scooter
But really –in solid black

An act of half rebellion
can’t make you woke
We in the last carriage
share another joke

The conductors never make it
Last carriage, their place of fear
You should think about joining us
We’d love to have you here

The second song

I could listen to the album
The whole day long
There’s just one problem
I don’t like the second song

Its meant to be soulful and slow
But it doesn’t matter what I do
I just don’t like it
I don’t like the tune

I’ve listened to it often
Again and again
But I don’t know what its doing there
It doesn’t quite fit in

I feel I should write, tweet or comment
But I don’t know what to say
I just want the second song
To go the hell away

But something compels me
To listen every time
Just in case I’ve missed something
That might make it right

He seems to slur the words
I’m not sure what he says
I don’t like the second song
But I like all the rest

I know I should just skip it
I know I simply can
But why did he put it there?
What a stupid man!

It ruins the whole album
It ruins my whole day
I don’t like the second song
And yet, I let it play