A Bouquet of Thistles

For one to whom it is uncommon or perhaps forgotten, happiness exerts such a marvellous force upon the senses and outlook that it is like a drug impacted on the subject, and cannot – given this writer’s skill, at least – be conveyed within the relatively generous restrictions of the English language. It might temper the overall grizzly grumpiness of my ongoing prose exposed here, but I may just write about this evening of happiness, its incidence on one late afternoon in July. Where did I say and to whom, that when one is happy, they must pounce upon it and revel in its colourful magic, they must recognise and exclaim its presence as if it might never flower again! God knows I wallow in my misery, so why not celebrate in my happiness? If the reader is akin to the writer, and if we do indeed only seek that which is a reflection of ourselves, I urge you to revel in whatever happiness is afforded you, lasting a moment or an evening!
    Ack! I put it down some way through the cloud of two mojitos, three pints of beer, a glass of champagne, and now a bottle of red wine. I keep all the good rainbows of booze in my bowels! I am happy! I never cared much for Rimbaud! I never even learned to pronounce his name correctly!
    On Wednesday morning, as I was watering the flowers on my balcony that had suffered somewhat during the heatwave and were not much more than crisp twigs, I thought to invite my parents over for dinner at the weekend. Three weeks since I had seen them. I had nothing on and missed them. I pictured my mother in her place on the sofa, clutching a cup of coffee, her elbow pricked into hips, drinking it hot as my grandmother’s tongue; she replied almost immediately—‘That would be lovely, darling xx’
    What could I cook? My father especially complains of how long it takes me to cook anything, but I have his blind faith in the instructions of others, in the merit of a clean preparation before and after, the organisation of one ingredient after another in a long line of recipe; he lacks my nicotine addiction, the habits and intervals of an Italian or French chef, my tremors that make it so long to slice anything, the way I stare into space as I sniff the tobacco’d garlic on my fingers.
    I awoke at quarter-to-seven this morning, my spine in the paralysing pain of which I have yet to become accustomed. Arising, I took a long smoke next to the living room window, performing stretches, crouching then erect, pushing fingers into my back, where my kidneys are, reworking myself here & there, over & over, like one trying to read a large hardback book singlehanded. When I fell back to sleep, I had a nightmare of my parents coming over for dinner and me not having bought a single ingredient or prepared a single thing. It upset me so that I woke in tears, until I calmed myself down, simultaneously prodding the sweat on my hair’d chest. What silly business! (As my father said later—‘You need to get a life, son!’) Either way, I recovered, thumbed through recipes as I sat on the toilet, went into town to buy ingredients and began to quickly clean my flat before, watching from the balcony, I saw them roll up outside. My mother brought me groceries and a bouquet of thistles. It was my first bouquet of flowers in a flat I have lived for eight months. They disappeared into town where my father bought my mother a thousand-pound diamond necklace—‘You can’t take it with you!’ and my mother—‘It matches these earrings!’ and me—‘Fuckin hell!’ I rolled my eyes and laughed. I thought of a thousand pounds. ‘When I die,’ my mother said—‘one of you can have the earrings and another can have the necklace.’ I said—‘Well, that’s something to look forward to.’


    I met them in a bar during happy hour. There were a lot of people my age with each other, and the women were dressed in dresses that clung to every undulation of their figure. The follicles on their legs rung out to me as though they were the chime of a churchbell. The pronunciation of their wombs floated on by, eyelevel and exaggerated, ebbing an odour only my animal could detect as I swelled with roving eyes.
    My mother became drunk quickly—‘Shall we order another round?’
    ‘No,’ I said—‘let’s go back to mine. I can’t hear shit. Can’t hear myself think.’
    We walked slowly back to my flat, as I showed them gardens along the way. It was a fine summer evening, with the temperature all around us like a child’s birthday party, flies picking at each other in clouds, the river not flinching between puddles of duckweed, uncertain stains on the pavement, stiff leaves overhanging the path and not moving in no breeze at all, but the romance of summer underlined while a confidence flowed through me. As a child this set of days had so much more for me, and I made the most of each offered my way. Dying into adulthood, I have not one regret in that respect.
    I poured each of them a glass of champagne and myself a summerwarm yet-to-be-fridge’d pint of beer. I put on Ray Charles because I love Ray Charles, my mother loves Ray Charles, and it was my stereo. One by one, I took my mother round all of my plants. She was especially jealous of my Dionaea(Venus Flytrap); it was on the cusp of flowering, a solitary stalk contorted upwards, budded, ready to purse. ‘Useless shite hasn’t caught a single fly though! Look at that!’ I said, pointing to a shrivelled bluebottle carcass laid right between a pair of open jaws. ‘I even put my finger in there to close it – but it wasn’t interested. It’s like—“I ain’t eating that”.
    ‘Ought to use a toothpick,’ said my father.
    ‘My finger works just fine.’
    After we had relaxed with a flute or two, a pint, overlooking the view from the window and them coming to appreciate the necessity of my revolving fan, I began to cook. We spoke; more precisely, my mother spoke and at times so emotional on the course of her middleson, she choked everything towards me. The chicken thighs and red onions sweated a great deal. ‘It smells great, son,’ my father said. It was my pleasure to cook for them; for I enjoy cooking, but to do so for those I love it one of the greatest pleasures. I was so used to cooking alone, ducking away from the hob, the ring of heat, bowing into the fan. Ray Charles fragranced the background. As the day dimmed into fluttering lines of purple & peach, I declared that dinner was ready. They gathered round my table as I laid out napkins. It was my table, for once, and they asked me where they should sit, as I took my place between them. We laughed and we ate, each taking turns from the pot, more rice, more curry. At one point, my father arose and pulled the glare of the fan over us—‘Innit…?’ I said—‘Welcome to my world.’ Afterwards, after more servings, I pulled a bowl of cold cherries from the fridge; both of them spitting stones into a coffee cup I had lifted from the cupboard, passing it back & forth between the three of us—



And that was when I finally went to bed, having tired of correcting clumsy typos. I wrote this Saturday night/Sunday morning. Again, I did not sleep well, so the previous evening’s feeling of overriding happiness was something of a distant memory, but I want to post here what I wrote. To return to it would be impossible, because the emotion is gone; anything I wrote after the event would be imagined, exaggerated, faked.
    At the end of it, just as finished the wine and wished for more, I wrote the following, and add it here as a denouement disguised as a postscript.

PS— I might start writing what I think will only be short and of no substance, in any artistic or autobiographical sense, at all, until I have put down XXXX words and find myself having lost an entire evening. I apologise if you feel your time is lost, too. You see, it makes me feel a whole lot better when this exercise is of minimal importance, because I sense that writing – the craft to which I dedicate my artistic calling – is really not important whatsoever.

Mark

Thank you for reading. It really does mean so much to me.