The boys' father had come back from the war broken. They had missed him. But then they didn’t.
They were twins. Opposites, not mirror.
Their father started off talking to himself and staring blankly at people conversing with him. The wrong way round. But not for him.
His reality wasn’t ours, yours.
His hair grew long and his beard straggly.
One day he left.
I’ll admit now that I’m his son.
And my twin is dead.
I am twenty-three.
People shake their heads and comment on the tragedy of it all. Our father was the tragedy.
I’ve heard that twenty vets commit suicide a day, in the US at least. But then, I’ve heard a lot of things.
My brother tracked our dad down a couple of years after he had left. Seemed to be doing better. Meds and things. Stable enough.
And then he wasn’t.
Only took an instant and he was gone again. This time for good.
My brother didn’t understand it. Decided to follow our father.
Now we’re the family known for suffering two suicides in two days.
Suffering’s the right word. …
She wasn’t normally out driving on a Sunday morning. Today was an exception. Her week had been long, tiring. Her eldest daughter was in hospital undergoing radiotherapy for alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.
She had been travelling in daily to be with her ten-year-old. Combine this with her status as a single parent and having a two-year-old to look after, she reluctantly admitted to herself that she had become distinctly frayed. In fact, she was not far away from unravelling completely. She tried not to dwell on this.
She eased off the accelerator and began courting the brake pedal while a behemothic lorry hurtled towards her on the other side of the road. She was not worried for herself. …
The underground heaved with bodies. Passengers reading newspapers, rubbish eddying on the track blown by gusts of air that had never seen the light of day.
Paul used to count the days. He didn’t bother anymore. He’d spent all his free time his first year in Paris reading Camus (in English) at various local cafés. He was too naïve to see that as gauche. But the locals soon got used to him and the waiters stopped spitting in his coffee.
He always had a flashlight in his pocket. Ever since a friend had warned him of the métro’s tendency to lose power, plunge into darkness, and for the beggars to start stabbing everyone in the dark. …
He put the letter down on the nightstand and laid his head back on the frayed pillow. The shadow from the half-drawn curtain cut across his face and his mind was torn in two.
She had offered him something. Something he never thought she would have offered. A lifeline. And now he had to decide whether or not to grab hold of it.
He saw his two girls playing. One reading studiously, the other drawing fastidiously. One with a bow in her hair. From a different time. A time that none of them came from.
He woke after the sun had set. He stirred himself and dressed. He had been nocturnal for as long as he could remember. His dreams during the daytime were less painful, for some unidentifiable reason. …
My parents named me Ehsan. I have lived for eleven years. My parents saw five of those years. I have new parents now. But I have my same old wall. I remember many happy sunrises and many happy days spent sitting against my white wall. I share my wall with my gecko friends. They come to say hello each day. They run around my feet. They tickle along the wall.
I loved learning English when I was younger. I like to think in English now. When I look at my feet, I see sandals and not saplai. I found my sandals last year on the street. They were a bit bloody, but still good sandals. I cleaned them up fine. I am almost too big for them now. Or they are too small. I think I am growing. …
The poorly lit room was infected with the harsh light of a television set. The flickering glow half-illuminated a disheveled man with long hair and a scruffy beard who was sitting on the floor cross-legged in his underpants.
His girlfriend slouched on an old sofa with her eyes closed. She wore a loose-fitting T-shirt, long socks, and not much else.
Snow lay on the ground outside but the apartment’s smoke-laden air was heavy with an oppressive heat from the oil heaters dotted around the room.
The man’s ear was pressed against a telephone receiver. His head was angled, pressing the receiver against his shoulder to ensure his auditory link to the outside world would not topple to the floor. The tightly wound cord sprouted from his shoulder and draped down in front of him to the telephone’s base. …
She entered the shop on a Wednesday morning at two minutes past ten o’clock. By six minutes past, he had fallen in love.
When she came down his aisle, he stared. When she reached the end and turned the corner, he followed. At a distance, of course. But then not at a distance. When she happened to glance in his direction, he didn’t flinch. Eyes wide. Vacant smile.
He gave the same smile to his shelves at home. Little boxes and books all neatly arranged. Children’s books, out of date atlases, electrical appliance user manuals. Nothing to be read. Everything to be organised. Dust would settle on the boxes and books. Absolute order remained. …
Next week will be riotous, I said. I can feel the claws of anxiety tickling the back of my neck, I thought. Oh it will be fine, I told myself, not really listening.
Occasionally my sanity takes leave. It doesn’t ask for permission. I only notice it when it’s gone. It always comes skulking back after a day or two, though.
What if it didn’t?
Next week will be fun, I tell myself.
Still not listening.
Far-fetched waves. I came across this phrase. Waves that have travelled a long distance to finally crash against the shore and dissipate. A bit like life.
Be as far-fetched as possible.
Stay away from the shore.
It's impossible. I can't do it. But I want to.
First Facebook. Ok that's easy. I don't use it anyway. But why do I still have an account? I don't have the app on my phone. And I don't use Messenger either. Logged in a couple of weeks ago to find a message from someone that I hadn't been alerted to. Maybe I should just delete my account.
Apple? Already got rid of my iPhone. Well, actually, it's still sitting in a drawer. And I have my old iPad. And Apple TV. And a hundred movies on iTunes. It's impossible. I can't do it. …
Been a while, old friend. A blank piece of paper, digital or otherwise, I've neglected you. So how are you?
Moved house. That was fairly major. We're settled in now, or thereabouts. Still some boxes unpacked. Good thing we have a garage. Most of the boxes are crammed in there.
Yes, we have a garage. Terribly grown up. And a garden. A proper garden. Not too large, though. Big enough for two children to hurl themselves about in hysterics. Lawn and everything.
We're visited by sparrows, finches, robins, crows, pigeons, magpies.
It took me five minutes trying to remember what magpies were called. Had to Google "black and white birds". Hello brain, are you out there?
Jimi Hendrix just started playing on our Echo.
Squirrels bound up and down the fence at the bottom of our garden, occasionally jumping down to frolic. The baby squirrels swirl their tails around like helicopter blades, boundlessly energetic.
Like our children.
We don't need television now we have the garden to watch. Not that we ever needed television.
We still have television. …