A Kind of Pornography, or I Understand Family Can Be A Complicated Thing

The fog rises in the morning and descends in the evening. It has a sine wave arrangement with the earth, in time with revolutions and so on. Whatever the day is doing, that is what I see first, for I am without curtains. The fog is so thick it clouds the railway lines; only the sound is strong enough to push through, one imagines the trains smashswirling the grey moisture up around away. Who knows what causes the fog to lift, but it does so before my coffee has cooled enough to drink. The sky, even at noon, was dark. How terrible to be on this latitude in December! There was nothing to see. All was miserable. The field trenches of tractor tyres reflected the heaven’s dimness back on itself. A cawing crow swum past large baubles of mistletoe, and the rain made not a sound.
Because I bought my own apartment, I began to seek inspiration in the living spaces of others. It became addictive, a kind of pornography. There was style and recurring themes. Living rooms and bedrooms that stood out were saved for reference at a later date. I might be able to do something like that, I thought to myself. Most were purely aesthetic, the owners expressing themselves artistically in their environment, carefully curated and organised. Everything was neat. Everything had a place. I trod carefully; do not grow to be fixated on an unattainable lifestyle or the putrid exuberance of wealth. No, it was all quite modest, at least, and not once did I feel bad about myself or my situation, which is something one must be wary of when indulging in the exhibition of other peoples’ lives.

It was Monday evening when I came to hang my photographs. They are all photographs taken by myself, otherwise there is one my niece took when I loaded the film for her, and one of me as a toddler hugging my dog taken by my father. It is important the photographs are through my eyes, as unskillful as they might be. After work, I opened a beer, lit some candles – scent of the season, moving-in gifts – and gave each frame a polish. The wall adjacent to my desk would be best. A Tom Waits record in the background, the sound of empty trains coming back from London. For inspiration, I thought I might look at all the living rooms of others to see how they had hung photographs. To my surprise, none of them had any photographs of family! I flicked through one after the other, and no, not a single one had a single photograph. I peered in, stared, zoomed, pinched out, squinted; nothing! It could not be, I thought. Each beautiful apartment was void of family photographs or memories. Nor were there photographs of loved ones or pets, holiday scenes or special occasions, nothing. How odd! They had prints, yes, but nothing personal, nothing that had anything to do with them, as though they had never existed, as though there was no history or experience.
Once the photographs were all hung, I stood back with my second can of beer and checked that they were all straight. I was quite happy with how they had turned out. It had been so long since they had hung on my living room wall. I peered at them, stared, I moved closer, turning my head in the light, squinting. They will do quite nicely.

At the weekend, one of my brothers was in the midst of a nervous breakdown with his family, and the other was keeping his omicrom’d girlfriend company elsewhere, so I visited my parents. Now I was only an hour away, it was much easier to catch a train for no reason but to visit them. My mother had been cleaning all day and my father was wiring—‘Fuckin heating’s gone again!’ We sat there at drank and talked. Where my desk used to be was now a white plastic Christmas tree, surrounded with polar bear cuddly toys. I did not miss my desk being there at all. It was a wonderful evening, just the three of us. That I had to leave eventually and catch the train back weighed heavy on my mind, neither making me sad nor anxious, but just a very different feeling, one I had not felt in my life before.

On my walk back, I attempted imagining it was on my way to work. The fog had descended again. ‘Fuck me, it’s grim out there.’ Everything was damp. Puddles had formed from only a fine mist that came down all day. Headlights appeared faintly in the distance and bubbled towards me. There were figures moving in the distance, silhouettes that rippled and fell. The car was empty but for me, and a puddle of spilled booze that tacked to my shoes, a misshapen puddle that had wandered with the inertia of the previous journey.