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You’re nailed to your bed by spikes. Your brain gives itself a lobotomy. You move occasionally, trying to scratch your itches, to relieve your cracked spine, but the movements are slight and feeble, fishlike. You dream of fountains and cliff faces. Turning to the wall you say –

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How nineteenth century .

The hours slip by. You hardly feel them. The hold on your wrists and legs lessens. You thirst. The sun moves beyond the curtain.


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SLEEPL E S S Third day.

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She plays solitaire, the cards heavy as sheet metal. The Kings glance at her sideways with utmost disinterest, but the Queens are full of animosity, the scepters they hold are telescopes to see into all of her secrets. They are minute, but they unnerve her. She leaves her hand of cards unplayed and ventures to the apartment window. Her garden, the communal garden, is a crater of graves, earth left rough and airy like egg whites beaten into peaks for meringue. She presses her hand to the glass. Where are your neighbours? Her lover comes home with a slaughtered lamb, blood on his pale beard. She takes it into the kitchen and strips the animal of its skin. “This will be useful,� she tells it, the aching sore of it, an abominable presence on her pristine countertop. She cries over its split veins. Her tears salt the meat and when she roasts it in the oven, her tears baste the joint, and it is a meal fit for a king, a fact which her lover tells her, again and again. Fourth day. She attempts to read an academic medical jour-


nal. The words march across the page like advancing armies, their motives for war inscrutable. She is infected with terrible diseases. Sitting very still, she can feel the workings of her body boil in a tumult, gears shifting and catching. Her heart opens and shuts like an anemone. It is poisonous to touch. The neighbours are all gone. She envies them their freedom; placed end to end they travel the world with a steady locomotion, breathing steam. The apartments beneath her apartment are empty caverns. She lie on the floor and feel their silence fuse with her bones. Her lover finds her this way. Muffled, as though by leagues of water, she hears him say, “What are you doing on the floor? What are you doing?” Fifth day. You are, she is, we are buried alive. She cannot get out of bed, the weight of the atmosphere pinning her down, pressing her lungs into the back of her rib cage. She breathes in staccato, when she breathes at all. Sixth day. She rises, weightless. Her footsteps on the carpet are gold leaf. Her eyes are two hanging lanterns. Her lover is crying in the kitchen, but she sees bronze light streaming from the pulse points at his wrists and throat, sunlight, caressing the dimensions of him. Her sight passes backwards along the dendrochronology of time and forwards, in an ever-expanding arc. She goes to the window. The landscape of equidistant chestnut trees and wellmaintained lawns is gone, replaced instead with forests that roar upwards towards the sky like waterfalls flowing backwards. Moss shifts and coils over the glass, growing and dying and growing. Down below, dinosaurs walk side-by-side with ice-hoofed caribou, dread-headed bison. A centrosaurus kisses bright dew from a snow leopard’s nose.

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But no, they left the lights burning until 4 in the morning. You know this because you stood in the dark of your kitchen, the light creeping up through your garden but never making it quite to the window. You had nothing better to be doing, not in the darkness that crept around you like strange insects believed extinct. But you function better at night, don’t you? Away from the eyes of the world that disbelieve and quantify. You’d tried reading and movies, push-ups and masturbation. There would be no sleep tonight. They have not a stitch of decency between them, apparently, these people. They walk the day in nightclothes. They sit on the balcony for all dreary afternoon, smoking innumerable cigarettes. You examine them then too – from the kitchen sink, the patio, the picture window of the landing upstairs. You cloak yourself in curtains. You laugh and wave your t-shirt around your head, mumbling tunes from an old film about Austria and nuns, the words all forgotten now. Your feet fit the foxtrot. The empty house reverberates. And their lights stay lit. They chase away everything but you. Not even the TV licence inspectors would venture there, not even the moths with their soft but tactful faces. You stay, however, with your wings curled up tight against the cold, your feet webbed for a sea you’ll never walk upon, barricaded against their pyjamas and ordinary dole-lives by the lights that they would never extinguish.

TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAW AND WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

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There is a certain kind of guilt you get as a ‘westerner’ when holidaying in a developing country.

But luckily there are many really beautiful distractions that a tourist has to ignore such priviledged guilt.

Free da bird, da bird, one dollar? one Free dollar?

Guilt - however can never be fully escaped


?

Free da bird, one dollar?

19 Free da bird?


Free the bird, one dollar?

One Dollar, Free the bird? Free bird, one dollar??

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I c o u l d n’ t h e l p t h i n k i n g . . .

In the end I gave the Dollar ... unable to resist this counterintuitive but painfully cute ‘offer’.


For a very brief moment I felt genuinely good ...

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Although I couldn’t help but feel Guiltier afterward ...


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IN THE END YOU GO WITH THE HOOKER OPTION


You make tea because it’s expected. She clacks around in her stilettos, shoes you admire because of the flex of the calf. You lean on your elbows against the counter that’s covered to look like granite. Accentuating your breasts (globes of fat that people comment on favourably because of their form and size), you wait for the kettle to boil. The prickly echoes of boiling water sound like the thud of bees against the metal. They swarm in there, crawling over one another, struggling for the light of the spout tunnel, yearning for your globes of fat and the flex of her legs under the skirt. So, you say, over the click of the boiling point, how are you doing? Your stomach squirms like worms. Are you driving? Yes, she answers, I was nearby. I see.

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You stir the sugar loudly, handing her the carton to milk the tea herself. It was polite, after all. You lean against the counter again, the kitchen tiled and silent now between you both. It fills the room like cotton. It fills your mouth, your nostrils, your ears and vagina. Your menses is stopped with silence. She sips her tea, your eyes all pupil now. You feel them stretch. And your invisible self, upstairs with her, naked on the bed. The feel of her hipbones beneath your palms, her ribs and jugular notch. The fit of your jaw against her collarbone. Her eyes devour any colour the room has left. You’re warm in your clothes with this flesh in your arms and the bees are everywhere, creeping through the remaining light, to the place between sacred time and space.


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ESC #2