Neither the end nor the beginning, nor is it fair or middling

Latest update from the collaboration with Jane Astley

They were immiscible notions. Trying to mix oil with water was never a good idea. Besides everyone was way past it, what, by now. He felt shapeless, lopsided, and strangled. Deepak’s arm was draped around his neck. Perhaps he was trying to stay upright feigning to murmur into his ear. He would only need to react with a smile, perhaps nod empathetically. It didn’t take much to satiate the pirate ship. If he could just unpeel from the hold, he’d step out into the cold morning air of the day after or the day after that. He wiggled the slightly rusted tobacco tin and on cue, Deepak unfurled onto the spiky-brick wall. An opportunity to roll a countless rollie with freshly earthed carrot fingers. Anticipatory verge of excitement for that first pull of the day (although it wasn’t). The sublime clarity, intense as it was short. It was all about finding ways to experience those lucid moments in longer than two sentences. Err. They became powdery lines billowing in the wind and he didn’t very much like these people like that.

“Time to chip,” he hadn’t said it, someone else had. Some loot, bootie, bootleg call. Whatever it was.

Everyone was speaking in slow motion or not speaking. He lit and walked, glass crunching underfoot. He couldn’t bear the smell of the ashtray slow cooking its fag ends, Rizzla balls, peanuts, and a chicken bone. Not the wishbone. Mores the pity. The dirty mochyns.

“What? Are you talking to me? Oh, I thought you said s’ing”

He would call her the moment he remembered her name. He could see her imperfect face perfectly. It was the words he would forget, more than the words, all the letters. Perhaps the fresh air would do him good. He was in the car park, by the hedgerow, on the fantastic kerb seat. Brooding into the night the haystack of his life, which he rolled about all day and by night it pinned him down by the chest. He had to breathe in stages, jaggedly. He hadn’t taken a full breath of air since primary school. Here was the thought that he would recall the moment of its conception: shallow breathing is not a proclivity of shallow people. Was it really appropriate for him to feel a sudden sadness that nobody had bothered to teach him how to breathe (as they had with eating)? The guilt, quick, it sets faster than concrete. Had he ever paid heed to breathing until he couldn’t? Gasping. Spooling reams of bile. Cold metal against his palm. He couldn’t tell by touch. His weakest sense. The boot was open. He’d just take a really short lie down. Green-blue alphanumerical glow and ‘Send.’

“...the enormity of something so trivial x


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