Tooth Fairy Retribution Manifesto ‘92

It was colder on the coast. My father, who had just returned from the pharmacy with a small lump of cotton taped to his bicep, warned me before I left the house that it was cold out. In a sombre mood, it was difficult to care about such things; if anything, that one’s body might be uncomfortable is a thought indeed if it provides distraction from the burden of one’s miserable mind! It was only a thin coat with four buttons that I took up about my throat. There was no doubt that I had to leave the house, on a line of bedsheets if need be. The cold would coddle me. I went! into the throes of whipped sand and bitter gusts!
    The office Christmas party was the evening before. A man cradling a box walked around the desks, handing out bottles of beer as we huddled about computer screens to watch Belgium depart the world cup. I was walking out as my boss grabbed me by the scruff of my neck—‘Where are you going?’ I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be attending, to unhand me that instant! One of the directors, his breast bulging beneath the magpie of his dinner jacket, asked—‘Why not?’ and I told him too that I could not, no, I could not. Why not? O, no reason at all. Another man blocked my corridor’s path—‘O! not coming to the Christmas party, eh?’ Fuming, I swung him aside and hurried out before I could be delayed a moment longer. At the street, I became excited and dashed off towards the station as fast as my legs could carry me, overjoyed at my great escape.
    It just so happens that that night was the happiest I had been in weeks.
    Twenty months in north Essex, and every day to go out walking along the coast, along where land fought the sea and slowly lost, where gulls flew only to fly away one day and die, where the ham & eggs café put out pomme frites and the stench of old oil, where wind made impressions in the banks. In what had become an existence of quarantined repetition, that walk was perhaps the only constant that pacified and reassured. I had determined that if by retracing an old walk I could evince a strong memory of then, perhaps I could escape the now. Four buttons over my chest and headphones to cover my ears.  ordIt was the part of autumn that was angry enough to be winter.
    Right here I would light a cigarette, I thought, although now I do not smoke. (Many associations, insinuations and accusations have been made between the date I quit smoking and the onset of my absolute mental collapse, although I insist upon ignoring them; this is bigger than any nicotine addiction.) How I would love to smoke! A man was blowing dead leaves from his front garden into the road; orange and brown, dead and dying, they blew around. These leaves are the coffee grounds of summer, the ash of August, the hemisphere’s hat-tip before turning and leaving; they are an odour that impresses upon one’s senses the dispassionate grimace of decay. The sun has turned away. She loves me not. There was no one else about.
    When my skin gets this bad, the puss smells different; difficult to explain, like how some people are up for conversation until they walk onto public transport. These days my puss smells synthetic. The scent of puss becomes familiar. One’s nostril, its inner working and canal, envies that which can leave the body! Maybe the reader is fortunate and does not have boils or spots or acne vulgaris or rosacea. You may not, but I do – all four! Hah, what a cruel trick by the universe! How repulsive I look when I walk down the street. Why, the lady who sold me wine looked at me twice – twice! – because she could not quite believe what she saw; and I stood there, mute, frozen, to be scrutinised as decades of life told her that no man above the age of twenty-five – or perhaps no man at all – should appear that way. Just sell me the wine, sell me the wine and I will go out to the promenade and walk into the distance. (Three-quid off a bottle of Rioja but the shop and its bottle so cold that it shudders and will need hours by the boiler.)
    There were seabirds facing wind on the grass; in a moment they might, together, at some heavenly decree, plump themselves into the air and swoop to foam, to surf. A young couple walked in front of me and I levelled behind them, caught in the wave of his aftershave, pausing in a fleeting reverie of relationship that enjoyed land’s end. The aftershave that decorated his neck in the bathroom and then the car was quite pungent, but he looked happy; in love, she in love too; laughing away from me, from our roadside down to their beach.
    There was a public toilet I stopped at when I was part of a we, when I would leave work early on a Friday afternoon, squeezing her exquisite thigh in the front of an electric hot car until we cleared two county lines. Then there were the avenues I and we and she and I walked along, her hand like Rodin in a thirst for Cowper’s fluid. This was the photo album. Nobody saw me engorged as yards were lost to the slide of companionship and taste of her bent-over grin. They had painted the shithouse since then, its hue yet to be baked or blown away. Few know of the damage salt water can do.
    The grass was green and cut. It soddened in the lips of December mud. That morning I awoke to petals of blood on my white pillowsheets; it amused me, if nothing else, to imagine that my insides sought to escape also. In the bathroom there was no evidence of blood loss; it was obvious my body was throwing parties while its (single-)parent slept. Skin flaked and puss burst forth, like rats from a sinking ship, as they say; I cursed them in unison! Go! See if I care. To think of it, a jailbreak into the pristine cotton fibres of my mother’s guest sheets, like countryhills or the bayoux.
    Silent and nothing but silence!
    I walked on and on and on, listened to music. Years ago, when I lived in the city, my destinations were always hidden behind some building or other, not far but concealed; on the coast, however, where I grew and was grown, it was nothing at all that my destination could be seen at the beginning of a journey. There was the trace of time over all that I gazed. It was mundane, yes, that I could see where I was going, where I would be, where I had been, where I would end up, but it was a comfort, everything all laid out ahead of me, even if it was grey, even if it was cold and the clouds above looked grey, heavy and hard to pierce.