Chapter 4: Dragonfish

I closed the lounge door and Greg, my social worker, breathes in as he takes in his surroundings, no doubt noticing the emptiness. He opens his notepad, and as if cued on what to say next asks, “Have you thought any more about socialising?”
“I socialise enough.”
“I see,” He plays with his ID badge that dangles from a ribbon around his neck, “when?”
“At work,” I reply directly
“Is there anyone in particular at work that you get on with?”
I shrug my shoulders, “I guess so.”
“And what would you say to meeting up outside of work, or even to go to see a film once you’ve both finished a shift?”
“I don’t know.”
We sit with an awkward silence between us; he shifts his eyes around the lounge taking it all in again, “So are you refurnishing? Or,” he shrugs holding the palm of his hands out openly in question, “are you taking on a rigorous minimalist lifestyle?” He smiles.
I take a look around my lounge as if the aesthetic is new to me too, “I’m not sure yet.”
“I see.” He fingers his ID badge again.
He looks at me seriously, places his notepad on his knee, “I see,” He repeats and scribbles something quickly, “How do you feel,” He takes a pause and looks at his notepad for a moment as if carefully reading some detail that is new to him. “How would you feel,” He starts again, “If we brought your appointment with Dr Aaron forwards?”
My knee-jerk reaction is to spit out my question, I stop myself and pause for a moment to make it sound and look as casual as possible, “Why?”
“I just think,” He places his pen above his lip and holds it there like a moustache while he thinks, “I just think,” He repeats as he starts again, “That we should review you earlier than previously discussed.”
“It’s up to you,” I reply under the pretence of not being bothered

 

 

There is a big bulky tattooed skinhead type pacing up and down from the entrance and back to the receptionist’s desk. The receptionists sit behind a transparent protective barrier. A brown haired woman has sat in a chair three seats away from me to my right, wearing a puffy jacket and is watching the skinhead intensely. A woman with her ID dangling around her neck arrives, and the big guy stops pacing, and they face one another. “David.” She starts sternly.
“They’re five minutes late,” David complains, frowning.
You can tell he’s the type of person that gives his social worker trouble and that she has to be able and willing to dish stern words out if needed. With her ‘no excuse’ voice switched on, “Just sit down, David.”
“They’re five minutes late.” He repeats like a petulant child, stamping his feet on the spot.
“David, we’ve had this discussion before. Haven’t we?” His social worker asks.David’s nostrils flare, and he looks down at his trainers, his shoelaces have come undone.
“Come on, sit down, David.” His social worker repeats, glancing over at the nervous woman in her puffy coat and then at me with a smile that is meant to reassure us.
The skinhead turns around and screens us, looking us all up and down before turning back to his social worker, “No.” He starts pacing again.
His social worker sits down one seat away from mine and acts like she’s had enough with him now, that she’s ignoring him until he finishes his childish tantrum.
David stops and looks at her sitting down quite comfortably, his social worker raises her wrist and looks at her watch then looks through the glass window at the receptionist, smiles and nods. The receptionist presses a button at the desk, and her voice comes out clear from behind the glass, “The doctor won’t be long now.” She pushes the switch back, and the waiting room falls to silence. David shuffles up and down till he lets out a big sigh, “I’m leaving.” He says with a dismissive wave of his hand.
His social worker is in no rush to chase after him; she looks back at the receptionist, they each give a knowing smile that appears to be code for, ‘Well, we expected this. That’s David for you.’
I feel a surge of anger towards this stranger David; I want to punch him right bang in his eye and kick him in the nuts. But it’s only because I wish I had the guts to just storm out of here too. His social worker casually strolls out of the waiting room nodding goodbye to the receptionist.
“Jacob Gilbert.” An Asian man’s voice calls out.
I start to get up from my seat slowly, and as if he sees the question on my face he tells me, “Greg is already here.”
I follow the doctor to his room. Greg is sat waiting with one leg over the other, his notepad resting on his thigh. “Hey, J.J.”
“Hello.” I sit down next to my social worker and the doctor sits in front of us, his legs apart his bulge all too clear to see. It’s not that I spend time looking purposely in that direction; he’s just dressed in such a way it’s hard to miss or else he’s fucking massive. But that’s not anything I want to consider for very long.
“So how are you, Jacob?” He looks at my notes then back at me, “Or would you prefer I call you J.J?”
I shrug my shoulders. I’m not bothered.
He looks across at Greg and smiles. “I’ll just follow Greg’s lead and call you J.J, then.”
We sit in awkward silence for a moment.
The doctor writes something then looks back at me, “how are you doing since we last met?”
“Okay.”
The doctor smiles again, “It appears Greg may be disagreeing with that.” He puts a fist under his chin as if posing like The Thinker statue.
Greg scans his notepad and then says, “he’s sold or gotten rid of most of his possessions.”
“Have you?” The doctor turns to me, wanting me to confirm.
“Yes,” I admit sheepishly.
“And why is that?” He asks, his interest in me suddenly intensified.
“I have plans.”
The doctor leans forwards in his chair, his legs now less far apart sparing us the bulge. “What kind of plans?”
I think it over a minute, trying not to think it over for too long, “You know,” I look to a stain on the carpet, “Just saving up for better things.”
“You sold your possessions to save money?”
“Yes.” I try not to let my inner scowl show on my face. What is so hard to believe about that?
“For anything in particular?” He leans back in his chair again, “Surely you’ve still got your guitar, though?”
Greg shakes his head, “He’s got rid of that too.”
The doctor leans forward again, “Really?” He looks at Greg as he asks this, then looks back towards me, “What do you want to buy with all this money?”
“A better guitar.” I lie.
“I see.” The doctor writes more notes. “Do you know what type of guitar?
“A Les Paul Gibson probably.” I shrug.
The doctor sucks in some air through his teeth, writes some more notes down.
“Seems a bit much to sell all your other possessions for a guitar,” he pauses and writes something quickly, “even if it is a Gibson guitar.”
“I don’t make that much working at the cinemas.”
“Have you ever considered making it a goal to get a better-paid job?”
“I don’t want a better-paid job.”
“But you want enough money to buy a Gibson.”
“Yes, but why work for so many stupid hours to get paid more to buy a Gibson guitar you’ll never have time to play anyway?”
Dr Aaron clicks his pen and looks between Greg and I, rolls his tongue over his teeth, “So sell all your possessions instead?”
“It’s not like I have sold everything.”
“Yes, he still has a laptop.” Greg butts in.
“A laptop and?” Dr Aaron asks
“Nothing else that I could see.”
“What about the necessities?”
“I have a fridge. I still buy food.”
The doctor sits back and opens his legs wide again, his hands closed together as if praying under his chin, “I see. Very minimalist of you.”
“Yes,” I agree.
“I just worry about the reasons for your new minimalist lifestyle.”
I don’t know where the voice inside my head comes from but I find myself talking about minimalism in more detail than I’d realised I’d even thought of, “I decided that I want quality things not a quantity of useless tat. That I’d rather have a shitty paid job that allows me my own time, and have to sell previous items of interest to afford something of quality.”
The doctor nods his head and seems to be buying it.
“That is a rather profound thing to realise in your life.”

“Profound thing to realise.” His voice repeats in my head over and over.

Chapter 3: Dragonfish

I’m standing at the bus stop envisioning my head flickering on and off with that electric fizz in between, and people are looking at me. Some manic guy with OCD is trying to stop his eye visibly twitching because he wants to change the broken light bulb! I’m stood here flickering on and off like an occasional beacon of light, but the light only shines to show you the monsters in the dark. If someone were to ask if they could paint a representation of me, I’d ask them to paint a human body with a light bulb head. It would have a gruesome-looking fish inside bearing sharp teeth, and it would be electrocuted every time the bulb flickers on and then disappears just as suddenly, the last thing you’d see would be its eyes bulging from the electricity.
“Gilly,” An unfamiliar voice interrupts my imagination; I turn my flickering head towards her with a zig-zag mouth and crosses for eyes.
“Are you stunted or somethin’?”
I imagine her breath smells awful with its mixture of stale cigarettes and minty chewing gum.
“I’m talkin’ to you!” She screeches waving her hand to grab my attention. “Earth to Gilly!” She giggles and sits back down on the bench stretching her legs out, “Do you even talk?” She scowls at the pavement in puzzlement; hands dug deep in her pockets. “Oh,” her body becomes animated with new insight, “Are you deaf?” She smiles proudly at herself.
An old man with a walking stick joins her; she gestures towards me with her thumb and says, “I think he’s deaf.”
“Have you asked him if he is?” The old man says in a grainy voice, a smoker’s chuckle following.
“He don’t talk.”
“Maybe he has headphones in.”
She leans forwards on the bench and looks at him, shakes her head, “Can you see any damn headphones, Grandpa?”
“I dunno,” his coat makes a shuffling sound as he shrugs his shoulders, “They’re tricky these days with all this technology.” He nods towards me, “Especially these youngsters.”
She opens her mouth wide with chewing gum squashed on her tongue, eyebrows raised, “He’s about the same age as me I reckon.”
“A bleeding baby then!” Her grandpa replies with another hearty chuckle, “Ya bleeding babies you two!”
She rolls her eyes and sits back, her back resting against the glass pane and folds her arms, her denim jacket tightening at the elbows and rolling up a little at the wrist. She has a small tattoo on her wrist that I can’t quite make out.
“How do you two know each other?” her grandpa asks, “Are you two an item?” He winks and chuckles again.
“Grandpa!” She spits, “I don’t know him,” she chews her gum loudly, “He’s just always at the bus stop.”
“What are we talking about him for, then?”
“I’ve been trying to get him to talk to me.”
“But he’s deaf.”
“No, Grandpa. I said I think he’s deaf; I don’t know if he is!”
Her grandpa waves his hand nonchalantly, “Ah,” he shakes his head and tuts, “Leave him be. He don’t need you mithering ‘im.”
They fall silent for a few moments then I hear the rustle of a bag of sweets, and he offers his granddaughter one.
“Thanks,” She takes the chewing gum from her mouth, holding it in between her finger and thumb. She pops the sweet in her gob, and I wonder how it must taste after that minty fresh gum contradicting the cigarette taste. I hear rustling get closer to me, just at my shoulder, the old man holds the bag out towards me. I look at the broken zipper on his coat and turn to look out the glass.
“I don’t think he wants one.” I hear him say as he shuffles back to the bench.
“Fucking rude.” She screeches.
“Leave him alone, Jas”
“Well,” I hear her sigh, “Still.” She continues, “Just so rude.” She whispers.
Her grandpa leans in close to her ear and whispers something. She sighs with an air of resignation, and then their bus arrives.
The old man waves at me through a window on the bus. A submarine comes to mind, his wrinkled face looking through the circle window waving at me in that illusion of safety inside all that metal. I find that I’m waving back, looking at the old man’s lips. People’s mouths are windows to the soul for me; I shall never cross the threshold of eye contact.
Another woman takes her place on the bench, she stares straight ahead through everyone passing by, a big smile on her face and occasionally mouths something at someone only she can see. I’ve seen her around before; I saw her on the psych ward once. I don’t feel sorry for her, she’s in her own world, and she’s comfortable in it. People say she’s ill, I say that may be so, but she seems better off than everyone else I see.

I’m wearing a suit with a red noose (a tie) contrasting against my whiter than white shirt. I even envision black socks in shiny black shoes. My bulb flickers on and off, the gruesome fish inside shimmering into vision every time the light comes on,
“Earth to Gilly!” Her voice echoes in my head, I’ve heard that voice before. “Earth to Gilly!” Her face is a blur in front of me; I blink hard and open my eyes again. Sam stands in front of me, “Ground control to Major Gilly!” She grins.
“Hey, Sam.” I finally manage.
“Where were you just now?” she chuckles
“Here,” I say dryly.
She rolls her eyes, “you know what I mean.”
I take a peek at the spreadsheet glowing in front of me, inviting me to boredom. She puts a finger to her lips feigning surprise, “I know! Have you got a girl on the mind, Gilly?” She winks.
I look at the spreadsheet before me, inwardly sigh at the grotesque task of looking through all the tickets sales this month and editing any stupid fucking errors. Kill me. Shoot me now.
“Gilly?”
This artificial sun glowing in my face, this nothingness disguised as something.
“Jeeze you are really out of it today! Are you okay?”
Her words are bubbles popping into nothing, just white noise inside my head. She’s looking at me through the window of the submarine and we departed from each other’s lives years ago, she just doesn’t know it yet.

 

Meditation Diaries: My brain hurts and other rambling

I’m not to feed the birds…

My brain hurts.

Everything else is a disappointment.

I started reading a book called the “The way home: Tales from a life without technology.” by author Mark Boyle.

There is some irony to me reading that book on a kindle isn’t there?

I’m enjoying it and hating it at the same time.

He’s one of those “We need to get back to nature types,” and I always find myself somewhat cringing at that idea of getting back to nature.

Because nothing can exist without nature.

The idea that ‘man-made’ things are not natural has always bugged me.

What does that say about man? That man isn’t natural? So what is man? Supernatural?

But even ‘super’ natural has the word natural in it.

So are humans supernatural?

A strange phrase really, ‘supernatural’ isn’t it?

We say supernatural to mean something not natural, don’t we usually? Something ‘beyond’. Yet the word super suggests something is MORE natural not less natural or beyond the realms of nature.

I was looking up some birding humour the other day and I came across an article that was trying to say how “bird watching,” and “Birding” are different. I wasn’t interested in what they say is different or not about it. But what did catch my eye was this “Birds are natural; birders aren’t.”

Everything a human does we deem not natural.

So I ask, what exactly do people think humans are?

Is it a mass delusion of grandeur or is it an odd sense of self-hatred?

Obviously, the truth is it’s a bit of both, because some people in the population of humans certainly have delusions of grandeur about their place on this earth as a species, and then you have the others that hate humans and hate what humans are doing to the planet.

Anyway back to the book I’m reading it’s a somewhat painful read for me.

He’s done something I could only ever wish I could.

You don’t live this long with my medical conditions without technology, for one reason only: I’ve been kept alive by machines while they operated on me.

It’s not just the electrical technology stuff.

I don’t have it in me mentally, I’m not tough enough to do what he calls ‘get back to nature’ as much as I pick at that phrase.

It’s like reading a reminder of all the things that I have to some degree aspired to be, maybe not as extreme as he is. But certainly the idea of living in a cabin in the woods, pissing up against the trees in the morning while the birds sing and squark the morning away.

Yea that’d be my thing.

I don’t think I’d completely discard technology. I do after all use a powerchair, and I wouldn’t get fart without it. Then again right now I get nowhere because it’s broken.

After feeling dejected by everything I started searching for ways technology can be used to help the environment.  Only really to reassure myself that technology isn’t as evil as the writer makes it out to be.

But when he talks about the machines that come along to knock down a whole load of trees and essentially driving animals out of their habitats it’s hard to argue that humans and our technology aren’t bad.

To some that is enough to argue that we’re ‘not natural’ but it’s not really a good argument for that because nature is as destructive as it is creative. The fact humans do some bad things doesn’t argue against the idea we’re natural at all.

But people will use that fallacy all the time.

If we don’t like something about humans we will say it’s unnatural and that we need to get back to nature.

Sadly that mirror you’re looking in that you’re trying to change to look ‘natural’ was natural all along.

yes, that means our destructive force can’t be singled out as something not natural.

Sometimes the more I find myself involved with environmentalism the more I find myself feeling we’re just chasing our tails.

I get to wondering that maybe we’re too self-aware for our own good. But then a little voice niggles in my head and says, “It’s an illusion of self awareness.” And I think that voice may have a point.

We think we’re self-aware.

To me the very fact people seem to separate us off as another category away from nature suggests we have no idea.

Sometimes I get the feeling that we’re aware that there is something we should be aware of but that we can’t quite put our finger on it.

Or maybe it’s just me. I often find myself aware of being aware of something I can’t quite put my finger on.

Chapter 2: Dragonfish

Part 1 

Part 2

 

“Gilly,” Samantha asks me at the ticket checkout, “do you still play the guitar?” I’ve known Sam since primary school,
“no,” I reply numbly.
Sam sighs as if feeling defeated, her cleavage resting on the edge of the countertop, “Aww,” she moans, “I was hoping…” She stops short and looks at me; her eyebrows raised, “Wait, why did you stop playing the guitar?”
I shrug my shoulders
She tilts her head, “But why?” She’s nothing if not insistent.
“Because…” I let the word roll on my tongue as I move the mouse tiredly on the mat and click another cell in a spreadsheet, “reasons.”
“Should I be worried?” She bites her bottom lip.
“No.”
“Are you okay Gilly?”
I yawn from boredom at the spreadsheet glaring at me, “Yea.”
“Tired?” she giggles.
“Bored.”
Some customers make their way over to the confectionary counter, and Sam runs across to be of assistance.
The Beatles were right you know. We’re all living in a yellow submarine, well the majority of people are. I look over to Sam and imagine us swimming away from the submarine holding hands. I’m already out of the submarine; I fell out. Sometimes I look through the little round windows, and sometimes you look back at us from inside and some of you sneer some of you smile that sympathetic, pity smile, but most people just look through us. Sometimes I think maybe you’re all sad too, confined and claustrophobic in there. It seems everyone drowns in the end. After the customers have got their chocolate, popcorn and fizzy drinks they saunter on over to me, the tickets guy. I’m the guy that changes their life with a ticket to a new perspective for a couple of hours. The fact we’ve only had these five customers is why I take the evening shift.

A ribbon of steam curls under his nose, the froth from his cappuccino staining his upper lip. Plates and cups clatter behind us with the gush of the coffee machines. The lights above our heads have a monotonous hum, and one strip of fluorescence light near the entrance keeps flickering. My social worker pours another sugar into his cappuccino. “How are you doing?”
I shrug my shoulders, my staple response. I watch as a woman walks in with an empty pram, pushing it with one hand while holding the baby in the other, the baby’s head is on her shoulder, and he or she flails her arms about and wails loudly.
“How is it going at the cinemas?”
“I’m changing lives evening by evening!”
“Sorry, I can’t hear you?” He leans over the table to hear me better.
”I’m changing lives evening by evening,” I repeat trying to raise my voice over all the noise.
”Oh,” I’m unsure if he’s heard me. His NHS Identification badge that tells you he’s a social worker with ‘Shademore NHS services’ with his name ‘Gregory Davies’ dangles down a ribbon around his neck, with a picture of him looking a bit young with a bit more hair.
“How’s the guitar going?”
“I dunno,” I gulp down some of my orange juice.
“Are you keeping to your practising schedule?”
I shake my head
“Is there any particular reason why?”
“Don’t have my guitar anymore.”
He looks at me questioningly, “Sorry,” he winces a little at the sound of the baby crying right behind him now.
”I don’t have my guitar anymore,” I repeat.
“why? what did you do with it?”
“Sold it.”
He takes a sip of his cappuccino, “Why did you sell it?” He asks, his voice rising with surprise.
“Just felt like it.”
He puts the cup down gently on the saucer, “I’ve known you long enough to know you don’t do things on a whim.” He looks at me sceptically, “you usually have reasons, a plan.”
“My plan was to make money from it.”
“I see. For anything in particular? A new guitar perhaps?”
“Maybe.”
“Hmm,” He wipes the froth from his upper lip, “It seems odd if you ask me.”
“What can I say, I’m a weird guy.”
We sit in silence amongst all the noise; the baby has since stopped crying.
“Any negative thoughts and feelings?”
“Since I last saw you?” I ask, as a way to be evasive. “Isn’t that like asking if I’ve taken a breath since?”
A little smile creeps his face, “Any I should know about?”
“Not any out of the ordinary, for me anyway.”
“So yes you’ve had the usual negative thoughts, but anything more serious?” He looks at me, expecting an answer like the previous one he quickly utters, “You know what type of thoughts I’m speaking of.” He gives me a pointed look.
I consider how to answer this one because If I appear too confident, he’d know I’m lying, but I can’t tell him the whole truth either. “I’ve had, you know, thoughts.”
He knows what I mean. “And have you wanted to act on them?”
“I’ve wanted to..”
“Do you have any plans?”
“No. It’s just a passing thought and feeling.” I lie.
“So no plans?” He asks again as if not quite hearing me.
“No, no plans. Just thoughts and feelings.” I lie again.
“What stops you acting on those thoughts and feelings?”
“Fear.” There is some truth to that, “The idea of those it’d hurt.” I lie.
I don’t believe in the long run the particular actions in question would hurt anyone. To the contrary, it would bring relief to a lot of people. But I learnt that this is the response they want. “You know what people like me lack?” I ask him.
“What?” he peers over his cup curiously.
“We lack a fundamental part of the functioning human’s psyche,”
“And what is that?”
“Delusion. Illusion. Whatever you wanna call it.”
“How so?” he puts his empty cup down with a little clink.
“See to function a human needs delusion. It’s like what that writer Albert Camus said about suicide being the most rational answer.”
“I see.” He tilts his head, the light flickering behind him at the entrance.
“If you go too high on the scale with delusion you get the mental illness label, if you never even get on the scale you also get diagnosed with mental illness! My problem is, I see that life is meaningless and I have no illusions to put a veil over it. It’s just there, bleak as it is staring at me.”
“What if your delusion is thinking you’re not deluded?” He chuckles, “A common delusion,” he winks, “I find.”
“But objectively speaking there is no purpose. I’m rational in an irrational world. It’s perfectly rational to be depressed in this world, to see that life is meaningless.”
“But if life itself is so irrational, then why bother spending time being so rational?”
“Rationality or lack of it isn’t a choice.” I gulp down the last drops of my orange juice, “Plus, without any rationality, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
My social worker tilts his head to one side, “But according to your theory rationality is, in fact, an illness.”
“No. Too much rationality without delusion is an illness. You need an illusion to drive the rationality you do have into something that can be used to thrive. You take away a delusion that propels that rationality then you have no wheels to spin the thriving.”
“So delusion is like the wind to a windmill?” He picks up his empty cup and looks down at the emptiness then puts it down again.
“Yes. Or water to a watermill.” I squish the bottle in my fist.
“Interesting.” He rests his chin on his hand.
“And that’s the problem with trying to treat people like me.”
“I gather you’re feeling hopeless.”
“I guess,” I shrug my shoulders, “I mean I suppose I feel that way but I also know that feeling is bullshit because hopelessness necessitates that hope exists somewhere or did exist at some point.”
“You’re a very deep thinker, I think to your own detriment.”
“Detriment to what?”
“Objectively to your survival, to your own thriving.”
“What happens once a person has seen how an illusion works? You can no longer see past the fact it’s an illusion! So any treatment is simply about installing illusions and some mild delusions of worthiness, meaningfulness. But what if you can’t unsee the truth that it’s all just lies we have built into our psyche purely for survival?”

Meditation diaries: Not the man I want to be

Like rats teeth, the feeling of being overwhelmed gnaws at me.

It’s a subtle sense of overwhelming.

Where I daren’t say aloud the things that are making me feel that way.

Because they are surface things. They are stupid.

One of them is a pretty narcissistic thing, something to do with my looks. I’m not one to obsess that much about how I look. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I often go out with my hair still messy. But there are a few things, niggling things I have a complex about.

The other thing, well I guess the fact I saw a rat in the garden for the second time today is on my mind.

I keep having conversations in my head with support workers and managers and the manager says to me, “Matt, you need to stop feeding the birds.”

And I…

This is how pathetic I am. I guess.

I had always wondered why I often found it so painful, so odd a feeling, so stressful to some of the smallest of changes.

I guess now I have the autism diagnosis it makes sense.

The idea I might have to stop feeding the birds makes my brain feel fried. It’s a hard feeling to describe. But it hurts.

Not to mention that my key interest in life is… yea, you guessed it…Birds!

To an obsessive degree.

Do you know what I spend the majority of my time doing when in my flat? Talking to my budgie and looking out the window watching the birds feed at my feeders.

Do you know what I do when I notice the feeder is empty? I clean it and then refill it.

And do you know the action of cleaning it, then leaving it to dry makes me a bit angsty?

It does.

I always wish I wasn’t this way.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those men that exudes competency with a really calming, laid back appeal to me.

But my brain doesn’t allow it to happen. It’s not wired that way or something. I don’t know.

I’m the kind of person that watches western movies wishing I could be like clint Eastwood silent characters or like Shane from the book Shane written by Jack Schaefer.

Read books about how to be more ‘stoic’ etc.

But inside my head, it’s too painful to be that man.

It’s funny in a depressing way because I’ve searched about autism and stoicism together, trying to find ways to group the two together. To find ways to make stoicism a way of coping with being autistic.

And I’ve found a few posts on Reddit and one or two on facebook where people claim that as autistic people stoicism seems to come naturally to them.

Yet I can’t figure out how they’ve found it to be so compatible. Given the anxiety that often comes with autism, the tendency to meltdowns etc.

I can see how visually I may seem like a person who it would be compatible with. I don’t have as many expressions on my face as others, I can say very little and seem relaxed. But often inside I’m the exact opposite.

But eventually, that silence cracks and I become overwhelmed and show my hand for what it is.

Often broken.

Stressed.

Part 2 of Chapter 1: Dragonfish

Read part 1 of this chapter

The neon sign glares through the bus stop and reflects on the night washed pavements; it’s raining that summer rain, and it’s humid as hell.
“Gilly,” A voice beckons to me, loud and boisterous, “My man! How are you doin’?”
I turn to see who it is; it’s a guy I used to know from school, I nod in acknowledgement of his presence, hoping he doesn’t wish for any more conversation.
“How’re ya doing?” I know this is just that thing people call small talk, and he doesn’t give two shits about me, I turn to look at the bus routes.
“Have you heard the news?” He continues on
I nod and I look down at the shiny pavement, closing one eye then closing the other watching how the reflection of lights appear to change their position.
“What do you think?”
I look at my shoelaces that I’ve just noticed have come undone, I find his topic of conversation to be too vague, I shrug my shoulders.
“Ah man, you’re still as awkward as ever.” he smiles, and fist bumps my shoulder.
He used to do that to me at school ironically to take the piss out of my supposed social incompetence.
“But yeah,” he leans against the glass, “Shademore high is closing down.”
“Oh” I manage
“Yeah.” He shrugs his shoulders, “It’s a real piss take because my auntie was gonna put my little cousin in Shadmore.”
He runs a hand through his hair, “She’s ranting at us all the time now, man!” he leans his head back against the glass, “We can’t move again.” He says, trying to mimic his aunties voice.
I nod to show I’m listening as I watch rain drops on a reflection of a green neon light. “Ofsted closed them down, said they’re not up to scratch,” he laughed, “They’d been threatening that all the time when we were there,” he looks at me, “do you remember?”
I can only nod, I remember it well because every time rumours got around about Shadmorehigh closing I was fucking buzzing! But then I’d consider the fact my mother wasn’t just going to keep me out of school if it closed down, she’d just take me to a new one. And then I’d get angsty about Shadmore high closing.
“I mean,” he continues with himself, “It’s not like we turned out bad is it?” He laughs, though it’s clearly fake, “I mean we’re still alive, right?”
He asks as if needing reassurance.
I take quick glances at him as I take in all the changes that have happened to him since school, never crossing that threshold of looking at his eyes. He’s filled out since his school days, we both have. He has a goatee and is wearing long shorts and sandals with white socks.
I never thought he’d be one to dress like that, sandals and stuff. He’d have pulled a mooney through the bus window at the guy he’s dressed as now. “It’s gonna start lightning soon,” he lifts his bag from the bench,  and points to the sky “got all my camera gear in here.” He grins.
A woman about the same age as us; in her late 20’s comes and sits where his bag was. She’s chewing gum and smoking a cigarette.
“What you doing nowadays, anyway?” Nick asks, his eyes subtly glancing over at the woman.
I shrug.
“Nothing?”
I shrug again, close my eyes tight and try to unleash the leash around my throat, “Work.”
“Ah.” He nods his head, “Yeah, life got old quick after school and all that shit, eh?”
“I…I guess.” It’s like he read my mind, then again life got old way before leaving school if you ask me!
His bus arrives, and he rummages in his big pockets on his khaki shorts, “Nice seeing ya, Gilly.” he steps on the bus and shows his pass, the driver nods his approval and Nick walks on and is still walking to a seat as the bus starts moving.

“What kinda name is ‘Gilly?'” She chews loudly in between her words.
I feel my body go more rigid, wooden. I freeze up inside. A stranger is talking to me; I don’t like the intrusion.
She scoffs, “Cat got your tongue?”
My taxi arrives just in the nick of time, my saving grace. I go to open the car door when her voice, shrill behind me, “Eh, are you ignoring me?”
I quickly get into the back of the car, tell the driver my address and the car jerks forward.
I find myself looking out the rear window at the woman chewing gum.

Part 1 of Chapter 1: Dragonfish

The neon sign from the cinemas glares through the glass panels of the bus stop, my taxi arrives and a bus pulls up behind it.
“You have nice night?” The driver asks me in a strong Asian accent
“Yea,” my eyes dart around the interior of the car, I take a deep breath.
There is that summer hum of distant mopeds, and for a moment I reminisce of holidays as a child in Spain.
But to serve as a stark reminder, there are stickers all over the cab advertising ‘Shademore taxis at the lowest price for all local destinations an more.’
“Nice summer,” The driver intones as the car jerks forward and the air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror swings rhythmically to the motion.
“Yea,” I try a smile and think about a line I read in a book the other night where the protagonist pays a cab driver more money not to talk. I consider for a fleeting moment that I do should do the same.
“You been out with nice girl?” The driver asks in his broken English.
I focus down on my shoelaces, “No.”
“Shame,” I don’t look to greet his eyes in the rearview mirror, but I know he’s staring at me through it and that he’s grinning with white pearly teeth.
“Right turn at traffic light?”
“Yes,” I confirm the direction.
I feel a sense of relief sinks into my flesh as we edge closer to my flat, and I let my breath settle into the moment as the car pulls up outside the building.
I show the driver my Shademore disability pass to get a lower price.
He clicks his tongue on the roof of his mouth and shakes his head as he looks at his counter on the dashboard, “Should show pass when begin!”
I always forget, “Sorry.”
He smiles and I try to mimic the action of a normal smile back to him but it just feels like the friction of lips behind forced off their hinges.
“Never mind,” He waves away my apology but with a huff at the end of his sentence ejaculating his frustration.
I give him the money and close the door, running my finger down the edge four times to double-check it’s really closed.
The driver is eyeing me through his window, his face the epitome of a living question mark. I watch him pull away and drive off.

The lobby of the building is lit up, I pause and gaze through the gaps in the blind through the window and see a man checking his post. I wait for the figure to go and for the light to go off before putting my key in the door and turning. The light beams back on as I enter and then darkens once I’ve left the lobby and the other corridors light up to my presence till I arrive at my door.

My flat greets me with a calm emptiness. Security lights beam a little glow through the windows from the garden. I close the blinds, just another day over in a life not long for this earth.
The laptop whitewashes my face against the vast blackness of my empty flat. I’m picturing myself with a lightbulb head on a regular human body; I imagine my lightbulb head in different scenarios like walking down a dark unlit alley and lighting up the path as I walk. Drunks and druggies are stood against the wall, their faces reflecting orange from my head. Yes, I’d wear a suit with a tie and draw an ironic happy face on the glass. Come to think of it the bulb would be a dud; it would keep flickering on and off with a fizzing sound in between each flick. I’d go off into the town of Shademore at night with a smiley face drawn on my head and stand outside someone’s window, “police,” his or her voice will say shakily down the line, “there is a lightbulb stalking me.”