Chapter 1: Some days just stare at you with oddly dilated pupils...
It’s now and the terror never stops.
That was his first thought, and the best one. It was one of the thoughts that popped up that morning when he woke in his bed and couldn’t move. Other thoughts were (in no particular order):
There are beauties in the world that make me sad.
There are fewer decisions when you’re older.
Dead-pan: fake enigma for laughs.
Fame is when everyone’s come round.
Resolution is about having cash.
There are more shrewd than heroic people these days. The reverse goes for cats.
I don’t want to cry today.
I have a lot of anger.
I think everything’s gone past that point when you can take it back and try something else.
Is anyone sensitive to beauty anymore?
Why does everyone want detachment?
And he had his usual series of daydream scenarios that helped him prepare for the real day to come. They happened very quickly even though writing them out makes them seem long and wordy – so I won’t bother anyone with them. Which was something he also had a few thoughts about, the way this happened and how weird the mind is when it’s playing its little tricks, which it did all the time as far as he was concerned.
Is universal decisiveness of adjudication even possible?
This was a question that slowly dripped in as if an afterthought. It was the one that haunted him.
He would have gone on but his thinking was short-circuited by something very wrong happening to his body, his body being a thing of anxiety and disappointment at the best of times .This morning it was going over the top in its bid to disappoint him yet again. Some wriggling pain fiddled with his torso and every little twitch spasmed great bolts of hurt through his body. So he sweated like a Victorian ghost and turned yellow and thought that this was worth a groan or too, and he actually did that, groaned, because normally he never did but just thought about doing things like that, so as you can see he was often in this peculiar state when everything was just, you know, meta.
But there was no one around and he couldn’t just lie there waiting for darkness to come, in an existentialisty sort of way, because it felt like it had already arrived – the existential darkness that is - and besides it was early morning and the sun was bright. Well there are worse things than the dark things in your head, he thought. Like this. This was worse. This hurting. So this was something that he learned straight away from the situation as it developed both around him, as many things do, and throughout him too also, which he thought of as rarer than ‘around’ but then changed his mind because what goes around comes around but also gets inside too, often as not. That culture and psychology have their darkness but physical pain has that extra mile was what he took from this. There was a shocking jolt of recognition, a bit of a warping that came along with that thought.
He felt that there was a danger that he was trapped in his room with the smell and taste and sweat of his body lying there like a heavy disgusting thing at his fingertips, wrapped in bed linen and the traumatic obsessional allure of disease and he was all alone with it. This was stagey and corny and demented, something he admitted only before he got up because it wasn’t the sort of thing anyone expected anyone else to admit to whilst lying down, standing up, leaning at an angle, doing cartwheels, spontaneously bending forwards, or backwards, stretching, crouching, doubling up, tripling, leaping, swiping, heaving, shivering, pointing, poking, swerving, loosening, revolving, jerking, rolling or any such like.
But it was also accurate, so the whole thing was humorous in an oddly twisted way, like his body and bed and everything was an iconic of nothingness growing legs and walking around as if it was some sort of deep fuzzy intense surface that had electricity and bruised reality attached. Which he thought was actually quite cool. The sort of emerging ironic nothingness that in a foreign film would be incredibly soulful and critics would be sighing and saying things about it like ‘Oh, it made the right kind of gesture’ and so on.
And it was because he did this thing where he imagined himself in that kind of sub-titled film – probably black and white with intense staring faces and mortality on the brink of despair with trains at stations and a problem with a passport and lovers coming in troubling odd numbers so they could never do the math – that everything that was looming and swimming was held in an ironic non-torturous way.
This was because he was living now and now is where we don’t just express ourselves because that takes too much for granted, even as the pain comes rolling in. That's what he thought. And continued - No, we express our doubt, our doubt that we even have a self to express such things, to express anything at all in fact, whilst the pain comes rolling in through our doubted and therefore highly paradoxical selves, which of course might not be there, and leaves us wondering who, dammit, who if it’s not my self having these pains, then just who the hell is? And if no one then how come without a doubt there’s a lot of pain being felt? Ouch.
These were the cool things that gripped him and he knew that only a film with subtitles in black white would be able to expose this kind of irony and split, and be able to take seriously the possibility that we are nothing and that we are impossible - which was even worse than nothing and even worse than the void. And made him feel once more incredibly sad. Which in turn made him laugh. For he always thought sad was funny. Although then he remembered – what made him laugh when it came to sad was the sadness of others. So he stopped laughing. Or continued because he thought maybe he was someone else. Who knows?
The heavy lunar pain continued and he lay for an hour wondering how to escape from his bed which he thought was now looking decidedly wonky and rectangular and the dark colours and stains of the sheets and so on struck him like flowing rhythms and visual structures, as if he was lying around in a picture by some stylish hip art person. It all came and went, ornate in the one time and then bulgy and fat in the next. He had to agree that none of this was attractive.
But just who he was agreeing with was a question too far, but nevertheless real. He thought that if he was going to be able to deal with this he needed to have a line on whether what he was doing was luxury and lounging, on the one hand, or shriving.
And he nodded inwardly at this little bit of thought because it made sense of his not being able to move and also made sense of the pain and the fact that he could have been dying, whilst at the same time admitting that he didn’t think that at all but loosely was rather thinking, in an agitated way, more about taking it easy and being in harmony.
And once that thought had happened he doubted it straight away and found it ludicrous actually. Because anyone who knew him knew that he wasn’t harmonious and there was nothing like that sort of thing in him at all as far as he could tell. But wow the pain! The pain was savage and assaulting and outrageous, he thought, and hadn’t been there the night before. It made him feel like a totem pole but one with a lot of feelings attached, which were horrible and twisted and despairing. He felt like a cretin and when he finally twisted himself out of bed (so as you can see, there was an awful lot of twisting going on here) and got dressed he felt his torso was just one gagging screamotion of agony that was flying around everywhere now, filling the room with a green cruel colour. Which of course wasn’t happening at all, but that was how it all seemed at the time, a strange rottenness gone too ripe to be controlled. He felt the space was grim, unreal and arbitrary, and the scale of the pain shimmered about and refused to be pinned down.
He went to the doctor’s surgery which normally would have been a ten minutes walk but because of the agony it took him over half an hour and the sun added to his discomfort as if trying to drown him in golden quicksand. This is a vivid day, he thought as he painfully went along, and he wondered if amnesia later would make this ok. And hopefully less vivid. Or vivid in a different way. With the pain dialed right down.
Anyway, let me tell you about the story. This is a story that goes through different parts. The first part is about this guy waking up in agony and thinking that he has to get a doctor to tell him what is wrong.
And then in the second part he goes to the hospital that the doctor recommends for a check up and he gets some bad news.
Then the third part is him taking a bus ride after leaving the hospital, full of the bad news in the dark and the rain pissing it down relentlessly. And when he’s in this part he goes off into a day dream about a character his dad used to tell him about when he was a kid. The character is called Claudette and she’s some kind of cool psychic detective girl who always gets to sort out ghosts and horrors that haunt her little town.
When he was little he imagined that he was Claudette and now, on the bus as he goes home with bad news from the hospital, this character comes back to him and he imagines a mixture of scenarios from the old stories his dad told him from his past.
Except not all the things he thinks about are from the past, or not from that past anyway, because he recognizes some corny themes and storylines from films he’d seen as well as books and stories he’d read too. So it’s all a bit of a mix but for some reason he has all this going on in his head whilst on the bus in the rain and it makes sense of his bad news in some way.
Or maybe not so much it makes sense of it but rather it helps him to suppress or channel or at least deal with the bad news.
So that’s the next part, all on the bus, but maybe that part is in part three too. One part of the part is just him on the bus and then the next part of the part is his Claudette daydreams.
And then after that there’s the next part - part four - where he’s going to the hospital – a different one than the first – where he’s got to have the operation quickly and there are the feelings about going there whilst he’s on the way and going in, which is really the start of him letting his bad news get to him and come out a bit and be expressed.
And then there’s the next part when he goes from the receptionist to the waiting in a corridor before the operation.
And then there’s the part where he’s talking to the anesthetist and thinking about what his last words on earth are going to be if he dies. And that's the end.
What’s peculiar is the bit where he’s daydreaming the Claudette stories and scenarios which are weirdly syncopated in his head and are a bit of memory and a bit of anxiety probably mixed up. But what’s a little odd and I can’t see it being resolved no matter how hard anyone tries is how the childhood friend of Claudette comes back to the village and then remembers having an operation in a hospital, and this becomes the next part as it happens, part three, with the protagonist on his way.
So actually, when you read it, it’s not clear who is going to the hospital, or who the friend of Claudette is, or what anyone really knows. Or who Claudette is to be frank. And that’s something that makes you think maybe the story is a bit empty.
Or else incredibly full, which can sometimes happen when we’re not sure whether what it is in front of us is important or not. And so that makes me think there’s a part after the conversation with the anesthetist that happens before we meet her and this might be it actually, but to be honest it isn’t clear whether there is or not and whether this is it or not, and it’s not easy to say whether anyone could really tell or be even bothered to find out even if they could.
Which I suppose puts it on you the reader as much as anyone because you’re doing the hard work and reading it. But somedays we like this kind of ambiguity don’t we, because it reminds us that lives are like that, a bit unclear about whether what it is is incredibly vast and amazing or just nonsensical trivial drivel with accidental rhymes?
That's why his question seems to keep coming up for him everyday. The one that goes:
'Is universal decisiveness of adjudication even possible?'
Anyhow, this part coming up next is the first part because look who’s here, it’s the first doctor who’s going to tell him to get himself checked out at the hospital.
If you like this you might try these other 3:16 novels: