Aluminium Magnesium Nitrate Dextrin

The rain, it falls. Sometimes in sheets, sometimes a stutter, but it falls. When it is not raining, it will do so soon, and one has only to wait – ah, of course, there it is! Any moments of sunshine, brief, fleeting, are seized upon with both hands, white knuckles. But the rain, it returns, it falls. And above there are grim thick clouds, too heavy for the backs of retreating gulls. I am myself in the rain, for a month now, soaked through.

Today I turn thirty-six. Every year of my thirties feels like a larger increment than the last, as though I were aging exponentially. Times rolls differently the further I move from nineteen-eight-five. At each year – thirty-three, -four, thirty-five – I relate them to the age of a child; not as if I were one looking forward but that one might be growing with me. As if in another life I were a father like those I have known, and my child were growing alongside me. If I had a child at twenty-nine, then my child would be seven years old, and the child would… I drift off. Before I have thought—If I had a child at twenty-nine, then my child would be six years old, and so on. I am inflicting on myself the sadness of an existence that is nothing to do with me, an existence that is not even real! So be it the turn of my mortal dial is measured next to the life I imagine having, not for desire but because the mind devils when idle. Perhaps it is my own father that I think of as I age. Nine years old as he turned thirty-six. Back then we used to go to the pub for lunch where the grass was always green and the sky grey, the varnishthick tables smelling of splashed vinegar and spilled beer; a pub in the middle of nowhere but valleys extending out from the gravel car park, a large fiberglass dragon, its innards hollow and smelling of pestled bark. Back then we would come home from the pub and it would be warm, a warmth like your own bed, and Sparky was there, alive, young and sprightly, and we would watch Star Wars, always Star Wars, all of us on the sofa, too full and happy to move; Sparky invited onto the sofa, turning in circles until his tail caught under his bottom and he collapsed with a canine sigh, his eyebrows twitching at the sight of Hoth—‘And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.’

The hair around my ears flows in one direction, like a Van Gogh. At the stroke of a hand, each strand is slotted into place, and they point universally to the nape of my neck, where the thick cord of my spine is routed, too. Standing before the bathroom mirror, the flipside magnified and a tool of debasement, I put this trembling finger to the sores on my face, the boils and ingrown hairs, the spots, tiny scabs. Half of my life now with this affliction! Still it torments me! As I turn my jaw, I note that around the ears I am beginning to grey. Why do they grow like that? Why do they take that course? Their jagged lines call to mind the burn of sparklers in autumn nights, as a friend might try to spell their name in the air. How interesting their form. As dull a shade my pubic hair may be, its interest lies in the way it darts and zags in different directions. I groom through them on the toilet: nothing. A white hair beneath my jawline is gripped between two tips. With a jolt, I could rip it from the root. My attention is fixed on the temples, the thinnest part of the skull. Closest to the brain, the hairs there go grey. I wonder at the composition of that hair, what makes it different from all the others I have grown in my life until now, what aged trauma its follicle may have suffered to make it discolour that way. It is not long that I peer before the bathroom mirror. I turn away.
The mornings draw in. The alarm goes at five. The second goes at five-oh-two. The first is a peaceful kind of tune, a charming melody; the second is shrill, impossible to ignore. One hour before, I awoke and saw the time. Then I went back to sleep and dreamed a nightmare. There was something in there about responsibility, a key, my uncle, my old boss, a soiled tissue, murder, imprisonment. Only I could stop them, and I failed. The murder was committed. My father was disappointed in my softness. My uncle’s family was ruined. I awoke to the first alarm, kind of peacefully, and threw the sheet off my nudity as if it were on fire. Elbowed up, I noticed that the sheets were wet; standing up, I felt droplets of perspiration fall off me onto my knees as I swivelled off the mattress. In the shower, I put my shining hands over the hairs on my legs, giving the water permission to flow through them. It was curious to me that the shower should flow over my hairs and not through them, nor press them against my calves.

Dressing, I put on the bedside lamp. A comb is drawn through my hair, and its teeth are bared throughout. Although the blinds are still down, they swell in some pristine breeze. Light is dimmer now, creeping slowly, imperceptibly until it is gone altogether. There is a name for that shade of blue in a deepsea diver’s dream or chapel ceiling somewhere. It is not as alert as it was, the morning not as fresh. It has tired since the solstice, when it summoned all its energy to put upon us the briefest of kisses as the latitude recoiled.

Only those awake as early as I are witness to the death of a season.

What privilege!

Even now, as I type this sentence, slowly, winetired and ready for bed, the sunrise is nowhere to be seen. There was a time when the silhouette of neighbours’ houses came to be pronounced on the horizon. I shook out there. The final cigarette was taken beside the cold pool, a dimness above the shimmer and my exclusive calm. This summer is wasted, lost in a gutter of misery and bad weather. There will be others. There are thirty-five underneath my belt. Although, I wondered, what if, through some huge stroke of misfortune, this summer is my last?

I have not swum this year, a fact that dawned upon me as I passed a body of water. It was uninterrupted, and only in the faintest of winds did it ripple. Birds passing overhead need not notice, but I did, and was caused to reflect. Not once have I dumped my body into the cold shock of an imprecise dive. This must be corrected. It is a venial sin. I have six days off. Hopefully now, with no one around, I might swim and flail underwater in the stillness afforded me. I will push out my lungs and sink to the bottom. There is my body dropping like a leaf in no wind. Only there will I be smothered by the water above me. Looking up, only the sky will be distorted.