Call me Ishmael: 2500-word short story

First time I met Ishmael was during a gathering at a painter’s house, but one can’t be too sure, for in those early days following the pandemic, everyone lived, or strived to, at least, their best bohemian life. People gathered at this mansion of immaculate marble floors and walls, but no one really knew, and by that, I mean myself, who the owner of the house was. Someone had told me it belonged to a famous painter once and I wasn’t one to argue.
People had been urged to stay home during the pandemic for almost half a year, the biggest crisis a generation of smartphones and social media had to endure in the modern ages. This was in fact a generation of privileges, but not for Ishmael. He had arrived here on a boat, some had said, others claimed they had heard stories of him being renounced by his country as a whistle-blower and being disposed of due to his confronting opinions as an artist. In those days, no one really knew much about him, but at the same time everyone who was anyone in our small world knew Ishmael. He carried himself with such confidence that his writing would undoubtedly one day come to be considered up there with the very best. I sure as hell wasn’t familiar with his work when I first met him that summer night, but I knew from his aura as soon as he greeted me that there was something peculiar about this intriguing fellow.
These were in fact some very blurry, warm summer nights that easily turned into days, the setting being the big house that would later be known as one of the biggest pleasure dungeons in the southern hemisphere. Any artist who liked discussing their craft could be found there: the cocktails would be held in the huge backyard of the mansion where hundreds of people would chatter away with sophisticated drinks in their hands. Soon, after the drugs had kicked in and a few bottles had been spilled, people would overflow the mansion to indulge in broken dialogue inside the comforts of the house. Ishmael would sometimes read out his latest work to be discussed amongst his drunken peers. Some would bring their latest paintings and display it for everyone to see. In many occasions, the painting would be sold right there and then, astronomical figures and late-night promises thrown around in the spur of the drunken, artistical moment.
Ishmael started capitalising on the full artistic potential of his guests and organized various creative, inebriated workshops such as poetry readings or drawing classes. These were some of the most cultivated artists society had to offer, all drunken in a trance of ecstatic human progress never seen before in our time. Not by me, at least.
In hindsight, I believe the fact everyone had been locked in their places for over half a year made the guests extra sociable. The several trays of champagne, pills and white powder also added to the mix. Soon and before you knew it, the drawing sessions were turning into nude sessions, and soon after that the orgies ensued. It seemed the whole world had gone back to its old, simpler ways, and I wasn’t one to complain. The best and brightest drank to exhaustion since they felt a fulfilment towards life the only way an artist can. No one even knew exactly whose mansion we were gathering in, since we rarely saw Ishmael at first, but a few writers seemed to be more in the mix when pulling out expensive bottles out of cellars and drugs out of hidden compartments all around the house.
It was during one of these drunken nights that I first met Ishmael, as he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a journalist, to which he replied:
“A writer, huh?” he asked with an amused smile on his face.
“More of a journalist, but yes, a writer of sorts.”
“We’re all writers of sorts, my brother, and we’re all journalists trying to make sense of all the dust the media companies throw in front of our eyes.”
“It’s a dirty business.” I agreed in reply.
“Do you drink cognac, young brother? I did not catch your name.”
“I’m Dave.”
“Well Dave, come with me.”
He brought me upstairs to one of the many rooms of the mansion I’d never ventured to. We found a library where a couple of people were passed out. He paid them no matter. The cherry-wooden shelves were contrasted by a myriad of multicoloured book spines which seemed too perfectly arranged to have ever been removed off the shelves. I followed him to the far end of the massive room where he opened an antique-looking globe, to reveal several fine, amber-coloured bottles.
“Do you enjoy cognac, Mr. Dave?”
“I guess I’m about to find out. And just Dave is fine.” I said, trying my best not to show my lack of practice in public intoxication.
“Well Mr. Dave, a fine cognac is like a fine woman. Or a fine man. Nothing wrong with either. Do you like men, Mr. Dave?”
“Just Dave is fine. I can’t say I’ve ever tried, but I’m hoping that’s not what you’ve brought me up here to find out.”
I let out an awkward laugh I was quick to regret.
“Women, much like a fine cognac, are one of the greatest pleasures one can find on the surface of this reality we call Earth. I can say with all my enthusiasm that I would’ve never been able to find the muse within me without the great women surrounding me. Are you married, Mr. Dave?”
“I can’t say I am. Are you?”
“Marriage seems to me like one of mankind’s most preposterous inventions. Sure, one can be lost in the wonders of a woman for a few days, months, maybe even years, but to stick to one flower in the most fascinating of gardens seems almost criminal.”
He poured each of us a short glass of the amber-like liquor and stared deep into my eyes. His green-gaze seemed to stare right through my soul, a soul a young man like me was still trying to figure out back then. I still am, these days, but I found (and might have left behind) a big piece of me in that mansion.
“I’d like you to meet my partner. You seem like an inspiring and upcoming artist. She’ll love you.”
“I thought you just said you hated marriage.”
“I said I found it preposterous, but never that I didn’t have a better half. Come meet Eva.”
I followed him out of the library-like room and headed downstairs into the backyard. Laughter echoed against the marble walls. The swimming pool illuminated the faces of the many drunken guests who chattered away around the garden.
Many paid their respects and acknowledged Ishmael by simply nodding their heads amid conversations, or so I remember. In a writer’s head, blurry nights like this draw a fine line between real life and drug-fuelled, imaginary fiction. Maybe that’s what he saw in me: the fascination with which my eyes wondered at all the life around me.
“Having a good time?” he asked amusedly.
“Is this your house?” I asked as I followed him around.
“This is Eva’s house. My muse. Come.”
We somehow managed to make it to the end of the garden where a huge firepit warmed several people around it. Ishmael motioned towards a tall, short-haired woman who was indulging in a conversation with a fat man. He simply put his hand on her shoulder and greeted the man, who shook his hand in return with a smile, followed by something about a painting he would like Ishmael to see. He seemed to agree to whatever it was the fat man proposed and brought the short-haired woman’s attention towards me. Her eyes were sequestered by her pupils as she introduced herself by kissing my lips. They both sensed my discomfort and were amused by this. I inquired upon Ishmael’s eyes to ensure he wasn’t going to hang me.
“Relax, young friend, you’re home now.”
He watched me as Eva caressed my back.
“Dave here is a writer hon, and he wanted to meet the owner of the house.”
“Well, my husband isn’t here right now, but I can take you for a tour if you’d like.”
The puzzled look I must’ve had on my face seemed to fuel her as I waved Ishmael goodbye whilst being dragged away by the lovely host. She put her arm around mine and for a moment I saw the world through her eyes. Everyone glanced at us mid-conversation, their attention momentarily stolen to acknowledge the short-haired woman being accompanied by a promising young chap like myself, for I too received a couple of admiring glances just for being in her orbit. We moved through the crowd and into the house of marble façades and tall windows.
“So, tell me, Mr. Dave, what is your poison?”
“I’ve some cognac right here, thank you.”
She stopped us, held me by the shoulders and stared into my soul, much like Ishmael had done before.
“I don’t mean that. We all have a poison. Drugs, women, money, fame… You name it! What’s yours? I want you to tell me.”
“I dunno. Women, I suppose?”
She let my answer linger in the air as her focus was directed somewhere else for a second. She turned back and asked:
“You suppose? Hm. I suppose we’ll have to find out! You’ve come to the right place. Come with.”
Eva held me by the arm once more as she took me for a tour of the mansion.
In the basement we found a darker tone to what could be considered an underground party, where smoke filled the room and people relaxed on bean-bags laid all around the large, red-bricked room. A smell of what I can describe only as death hung in the air, mixed with the sweet scent of marijuana smoke.
“Here is where you come to unwind.” She said, as a pull in the arm dragged me back to the corridors through which we made our way about. A tour through the many indulgences in life where I was merely a passenger, watching from the outside.
Next, she took me up the stairs into a carpeted room with a huge wooden bed central to the symmetrical display of fine furniture. Several people laid by the carpets smoking, and many indulged in the pleasures of the flesh. I could merely watch the scene as if in a movie. Several oriental veils hung around the room. This gave the space a dreamlike atmosphere, the fabrics fluttering as the summer breeze joined the party through the open balcony.
From this room she then dragged me onto the same library Ishmael had brought me to before.
“I’ve been here tonight.” I said, gazing around the room.
“Have you really?”
She dragged me towards the far end of the library where one of the cherry-wooden bookshelves gave in to reveal another room. I saw people wearing leather from head to toe, many of them completely immobilised by dark straps and polished metal chains. Eva watched my reaction with interest. Before I knew it, she was once more dragging me out, this time onto a grey-stoned balcony where people enjoyed chatting around white, small tables, with candles central to them. Eva sat us down in one of the empty tables at the far end.
“I’m exhausted.” She said as she finished her drink.
We sat for what felt like a while, observing the party from above. I was still mulling over everything I had just seen, and she seemed to enjoy the silence for a few moments, until she asked:
“So, what do you think?”
“I think you throw a helluva party, that’s for sure.”
“You’re a writer, I’m sure you can make sense out of all this.”
“I am not really a writer yet, I just write for the newspaper for now.”
“Look around, Mr. Dave. None of us here are anything yet. We are but little human embryos trying to live our lives to their full potential.”
“I understand the carpe diem you’re implying here; I just don’t know if this is how you should put potential to use.”
“Why not?” she asked, observing my features for a reaction. “Surely by now you’d understand that it’s all meaningless. I mean look around; all it took was a small virus to throw our whole world upside down.”
“Yes, I agree, but things are starting to go back to normal now, aren’t they?”
“And what exactly is normal, Mr. Dave? Who defines normal? Who decides what’s righter or less wrong?”
The tone in her voice implied she was very passionate about this, and I let the question linger for a few seconds as if out of respect. She powered onwards:
“The way I see it, our duty to ourselves, fuck mankind, is to express our creativity and to make the most of this frail illusion we call existence. Life is too short to try and prolong it. I mean look around, here it is, the crème de la crème of society here tonight, the creative kind at least, which is all that matters. Art is the ultimate form of expression, whether you talk love, life or death, only art will subsist in the end. That’s where you, the writer, comes in.”
“Is that the way your husband sees it? I mean, Ishmael?”
“Ish? Oh, he’s but a darling. His writing hasn’t reached half its potential yet. But this is it.” She pointed her empty glass around the party. “This is where we forward mankind by edging one step closer to extinction. This is how the new dawn shall be written. The future of the constant existential crisis we call reality.”
I can’t seem to remember much past this point, and all of these lines are the best effort I can come up with to make justice to the insightful speech that fine woman gave me that day.

It was with a heavy heart then, that a few months later I had to write the news report which would set in motion the chain of events that would bring light to the mystery behind that mansion. It turns out the house belonged to Eva’s late husband, a wealthy scholar by the name of Strickland, who passed away shortly after contracting the virus.
The interesting thing behind that death was the fact that everything went on in that house as if nothing had happened, apart from the fact Eva had chosen Ishmael as the new, for all intents and purposes, man of the house. But the true revelation, the light to shine out of those tragic events, was that Eva was the one behind the two bestselling novels Ishmael was supposed to have released during the pandemic.
This information only came to light after I had to write about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Ishmael’s death by asphyxiation in the newspaper. This upset a lot of people who were avid followers of the up-and-coming artist. Everyone assumed this was just another tragic death of a too-promising an artist. But when a new novel came out a year later under the same name of the late Ishmael, questions were asked about the true identity of the genius behind the works. Eva came out in a press conference which raised a few eyebrows, and many refuted the possibility of her being the genius behind Ishmael.
I was lucky to meet Eva one last time, amid the polemic, after she stated she would only give out a full interview if I was the one doing the questioning.
“I shall keep on using Ish’s name, for people are not ready to hear the truth from someone named Eva. Hiding behind a male pseudonym empowers me. You lose almost half your readership as soon as they read the original name of sin, Eva.”
This was the one of the main quotes I would go on to use in my next newspaper’s report when Eva took the ultimate step in the artistic path drawn as her destiny, by committing the ultimate act of love: hanging herself like her late and beloved Ishmael.

Throwback poem: written in Portuguese on the 15th of March, 2011

Aqui jazo, estendido
Esquecido por esse mundo de paixão que me deixa dorido,
Extasiado pela dor infindável que me consome,
Pelo amor ou falta dele que me rouba a fome.

Aqui jazo, ao destino deixado,
Outrora de amores imaculado,
Durmo agora para esquecer,
Renegado.

O coração em tempos preenchido de paixão,
é agora consumido por trevas que me arrastam para a escuridão.

Aqui jazo, conformado,
Com um futuro certamente errado
Que me deixa a descoberto,
De alma aberto muito para além deste tecto.

15.03.2011

Quarantine Villanelle

Villa
In the comfort of this bed I lay,
the lack of a morning alarm setting a slow-pace
as I ponder on what to do with the day.

The year being cancelled as it may,
I’m now unessential in the rat-race
and so in the comfort of this bed I lay.

It isn’t all bleak and grey where I stay,
But in spiritual isolation, I too, stare into space
And ponder on what to do with the day.

The clock moves slow but the mind runs astray
In the race of time, we’ve lost our pace
And thus, in the comfort of our bed we lay.

We roam as lonely vessels, the safety of land at bay
In the capitalist world we’ve quit the chase
And now ponder on what to do with the day.

Float in solitude knowing the stars shall point the way
And that you have been blessed by grace.
For in the comfort of your bed you stay,
Privileged to ponder on what to do with the day.

Suede nightmares – short fiction with characters in conflict

Sarah enters the flat and closes the door behind her. The dark room stares back at her as she inhales its odour, a fragrance she detests but has engraved in her mind. Layers of her clothing immediately start to shed like snakeskins in summer. The darkness that engulfs her naked body brings her some much needed comfort. She looks around the empty room and heads over to the fridge, picking up a frozen bottle of vodka and setting it on the coffee table. She lunges into the couch. Big breath.
Her fingers burn as she takes a huge gulp from the icy bottle and squints at it. Silence. She gets up looking for something in the dark. A few muscle car magazines are thrown around as she finally finds a pack of smokes. She paces up and down the flat, her footsteps echoing around the dark as she sits on the couch once again as if a decision was finally made. She lights her cigarette staring ahead in the darkness.
Another big gulp of vodka. Another drag. The clock can be heard ticking as silence sinks in. Another big breath. All she can hear now is the ticking and tocking as the relentless clock charges ahead. Each second perpetuates the growing anxiety that rises in her chest. The ticking has now turned to pounding as her heart struggles to match the tempo. She breaks down in tears, but her relief is cut short as someone opens the door. The lights come on and Sarah sits still.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked. No reply.
“I’m gonna call the police!”
Sarah lets out the most genuine of laughters, turning around to face the door.
“Are you really?”
“It-it’s… how did you find me?”
“Same way you found me, I guess.”
“Look, I don’t want any trouble.” She laughs again. “Will you put some clothes on please?”
“Clothes? Clothes?” she gets up, stark naked. “What are clothes good for, you bastard? What purpose do they serve? I haven’t been able to sleep, let alone worry about what I wear!”
“How did you find me? Why?”
“Everyone finds someone for a reason, and you” she takes a drag from her cigarette and puts it out on the brown couch. “you, Richard, certainly had yours!” He looks at her in disbelief as she goes on. “I know everything about you. I know you’ve been outta town. I know you thought everything would go away. But guess what Rich, it didn’t.”
She takes another big gulp from the bottle as someone else opens the door to the apartment. She is wearing a smart grey turtle neck that brings out the green in her eyes.
“What’s going on in here? Who is she, Rich?”
“Wha-What are you doing here?” Sarah asks.
“I could ask you the same thing honey. Who is she, Richard?”
He stands by the door unable to move. His mouth is open in disbelief but words won’t come out. Sarah goes on.
“Yes Rich, who exactly am I?”

The detectives entered the apartment after knocking several times without answer. The landlord told them the rent had been paid until the end of the year and that the tenant hadn’t been seen around the building in weeks.
As they entered, the house breathed a stale quietness like a wardrobe left shut for too long. The sun shone bright through the light-grey IKEA blinds giving the space an inviting mood. Several pictures stood out in the fridge door held by heart-shaped magnets where Sarah could be seen smiling with different people. The couch had several pillows all over it, a few of them on the floor, next to which a coffee table stood littered with half-full bottles of liquor. Both detectives found this intriguing as they could not find any more alcohol around the flat, apart from an empty miniature vodka bottle forgotten in the shower’s soap holder. This puzzled them as it was hard to ascertain whether Sarah had an alcohol problem or if she had just picked it up recently. The latter seemed to lure their detective instincts.
One of them argued “If she really was an alcoholic, she would’ve finished these bottles. This looks more like she was drinking to forget something but could not handle the harshness of it.”
“Maybe she just had someone over? A party even?” The partner’s silence told him everything he needed to know. “We thinking suicide then?” he asked, entertained by his partner’s astuteness.
“We might never know.”

Sarah lights another cigarette as her question lingers unanswered. Richard is motionless, his mind racing as he watches the burning end of the smoke in his smoke-free apartment. The ticking of the wall-clock seems to impair his thoughts by the second, a moment he never expected to come edging closer and closer. The lady in the turtle neck breaks the silence.
“Look hon, we only started seeing each other recently and he never told me about no crazy girlfriend.”
Sarah laughs mid-drag, her crazy gaze being involved in a cloud of smoke as her eyes bulge out in amazement. “This man, if one can call him that, brought me to this place same way he brought you” the green-eyed woman looks at Richard to see him staring ahead “and got me as drunk as possible, on this same couch right here. When I came to, it was too late.”
The woman has a long look at Sarah whose hands tremble as she puts her cigarette out on the suede couch. She analyses her frail naked body and makes up her mind.
“What will you have me do?” she asked Sarah.
“I want this bastard to feel what it’s like to loathe your own skin.” He gazes up at Sarah like an enclosed animal, ready to pounce.
The lady in the turtle neck reaches for her purse giving Sarah a reassuring look. Richard chest’s constricts as the pounding of the clock makes it hard to weigh his options. The walls seem to cave around him as the green-eyed woman dials three numbers on her phone.
His survival instinct urges him to act. He clenches his jaw and speeds towards the couch in a predator-like readiness, flipping it over Sarah. Her naked body is thrown in the air for half a second before she can even realize what is going on. When she comes to her senses the comfort suede trap prevents her from moving. She can hear the woman’s screams from under the couch, its smell raising red-flags buried deep in her subconscious. Her heart explodes out of her chest as she tries to use all her strength to free her skin from the touch of the suede.
The ticking of the clock sets the tempo of the muffled yells as Richard struggles to cover the turtle-necked woman’s mouth. Sarah is fuelled by this. The weight of the couch urges every muscle in her body to move as she finally manages to free herself from under it in a martyr-like effort.
She gets up as the man uses his weight to smother his girlfriend’s efforts of breaking free. The phone lies on the floor smashed to pieces. Life can be seen abandoning the woman’s green eyes every passing second Richard strangles her. Sarah watches the scene and has no doubt in her mind.
She picks up the frozen bottle of vodka and smashes it against the back of Richard’s head. His heavy body immediately thumps on the wooden floor as the clock becomes all that can be heard in the room once more.
Sarah offers her hand to the green-eyed woman who stands up, her smothered make-up further bringing out the thankfulness in her eyes. They say nothing as their gazes perpetuate their newfound bond. They hug each other as Sarah comforts the woman in a feeling she knows all too well, a feeling they are both set on burying together.
The clock completes the eerie silence. Deep breath. Sarah realises the inevitable pounding of time is slowly turning back to a ticking. For the first time in a long time, she took a deep breath.

Travel writing: 200 words of vivid description

Amsterdam
It was my first time travelling alone, and what better place to do it than the always revolving bicycle wheel that is Amsterdam?
I arrived downtown during a late afternoon and dropped my bags at the hotel in a hurry, such a hurry that I did not even think to change into shoes and ventured out to those old streets with my most reliable pair of thongs. By the time I started exploring, the night fell among the canals plummeting the temperature and almost freezing my foreign toes. This gathered a few unimpressed looks from the long-legged locals.
But the warmth of the coffee shops invited you to stop for a while and charge up before going out there and explore the many more corners holding promises of new adventures.
A church bell could be heard every hour or so which helped explorers like me get situated amid the old four-storied pink and brown buildings. The simple architecture in which downtown is organized seems designed to have foreigners get lost in its wondrous streets, where green and red neons hold promises of around-the-clock fun.
The old cobblestone streets are filled with life as other tourists like me take in the facades or stop to take pictures on the push-bike-filled bridges that connect this modern-day adult amusement park.

Lisbon
It was the first time going back to my hometown after having migrated to the opposite side of the world for a while, and the jet lag gave everything a sense of surrealness, like going back in time.
As my sister drove me from the airport I was both amazed and consumed by the all engulfing rhythm of the capital city, the honking of horns and the mad merging of faded, run-down hatchbacks.
It was interesting admiring some of the pigeon infested eighteenth-century architecture with fresh eyes, the same eyes that had commuted past these same facades not that long ago without stopping to admire them.
I was standing in a supermarket queue pondering about all this, fresh off the plane, when an old lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me in Portuguese:
“Are you sleeping or what? Get a move on!”
This struck me in two ways: in the two years that I had spent abroad, never had I been approached with such brutal honesty. The wrinkles on her forehead told the story of many queue arguments. It also made me realize how in busy cities like this, the traffic must merge and life must go on.

Bangkok
I arrived in Bangkok after an overnight bus ride from Ko Pha Ngan, the bus driver urging me to wake up in frenetic Thai. I barely had time to check I had my backpack on me as the bus closed its revolving doors and steamed ahead, a cloud of diesel for breakfast.
I looked around and found myself under a bridge, supposedly a bus station where several cab drivers offered me a ride. Nothing like good old peer pressure in a foreign language to help you make decisions in the morning.
I tried explaining one of the drivers my hotel was directly downtown, to which he replied “Downtown too big.” I decided to jump on my phone to try and find a landmark, the closest one being the city’s main Muay Thai stadium.
By the time we agreed on a destination we must have been driving for a good ten minutes, but the driver seemed to have decided on where to take me.
The ride was an experience of civilized chaos, black Toyotas working together as one, as I sat baffled at the sight of clouds of pollution evaporating from the city.
He dropped me off in a Muay Thai complex as far from downtown as possible. I paid the fare, left the Toyota and found myself under another bridge.

Vicious circle (performance piece)

A play by Vasco Pimentel

CHARACTERS
MARIE- Somewhat underweight. In her late thirties.
STEPH- Very promiscuous attire. In her late twenties.
GEOFF- The group sponsor. In his late fifties.
PAUL- Typical artist demeanour. In his early thirties.

SETTING
Addicts Anonymous circle of people. Set anywhere around Australia.


SCENE ONE

Late afternoon inside an old, beat-down church. A big and old silver fan can be heard blasting incessantly. A circle of chairs is seen middle stage with a few people sitting awkwardly in them. One is deep asleep with his belly hanging. A coffee table with some snacks to the right. The door is set to the left.

MARIE: And that was the turning point. Up until then, I was the spitting image of innocence. No smoking. Drinking at special occasions only. Damn, I wouldn’t even eat deep-fried food. But I guess all these restrictions just kept on adding up. (pause.) Life comes in chunks, and if you just keep on denying yourself little nibbles off it, you are going to reach a boiling point. And that’s what happened at that party. I don’t know if it was the red wine, I wasn’t used to drinking back then. But yeah, all it took was that first step. And as soon as I took that leap, I understood how liberating it all was, how I’d been depriving myself of life itself, and since I had started, I saw no point in stopping! Or better, I couldn’t stop. (pause.) It was like seeing myself from an outside perspective, doing all the things I’d never see myself doing.

STEPH: And then came the self-loathing…

MARIE: Exactly! When I finally woke up from that night, I was ashamed of myself. I’d always been the one criticizing the girl who did this, or did that… And that’s exactly what I’d become, and I hated myself for it. I guess that’s where it all spiralled outta control.

GEOFF: Addiction acts in weird ways. (silence.)

PAUL: I feel like writing helps me process it. And your speech then Marie, my word, some amazing analogies you made there! We should record this!

MARIE: My god, no way! These are my deepest secrets! How can you be entertained by all this?

PAUL: Marie, I mean no disrespect, quite the opposite. I just find life fascinating ever since I discovered writing. It’s what’s gotten me out of the hole, and that is the whole point: drug addicts are seen as the bottom of society, with no contribution to the world whatsoever. Yet, here I am, a three-time published novelist who survived a sea of ecstasy! (Steph crosses her legs onto Paul’s direction.)

GEOFF: I thought you were deep in heroin, not pills.

PAUL: Yes Geoff, I meant it lyrically. See, this is why I get up in the morning, meaning. (he locks onto Steph’s attentive gaze.) The myriad of ways of seeing the world. Marie’s speech just makes me want to write and show how us junkies, or recovering junkies, have a say in the world! (he winks at Steph, who looks away.)

MARIE: Is that all that we are to you? Inspiration for your next novel?

GEOFF: Remember everything we share in this room stays in the room.

STEPH: I’ll make sure you don’t leave either otherwise. You promised Paul.

PAUL: Both interesting and scary at the same time, Steph. (she smiles.) You lot don’t understand. We are all subjects of a wider experiment.

GEOFF: That’s enough for now Paul. (pause.) Who would like to go next? (Geoff looks around the room of cross-armed listeners.)

STEPH: I’ll go. (clears her throat.) I’ve been struggling now that the twins go to school every day. Making sure everything is spot on used to be how I’d get my mind off things. And I swear, if it weren’t for the twins, I wouldn’t be here. But every time I’ve dropped them off and come back to that empty apartment, I just see no meaning to life. And this is just primary school, who knows what will happen once they decide to leave for good!

GEOFF: Steph, if you’ll allow me. (pause.) It seems like you are struggling with keeping yourself busy outside the twins. Now, we all know how the miracle of birth of those two beautiful boys has helped throughout the years, but there is more to life than motherhood! Have you considered going back on a dating scene?

STEPH: God no! It was a monster of a man who introduced me to ice. My life would’ve turned out fine if I hadn’t met him! Why would I need another man?

PAUL: You wouldn’t have had Jax and Cody if you hadn’t met him.

GEOFF: Paul, please, refrain from making smart comments. This is a space for confiding free of judgement.

PAUL: It’s only true! What about a woman then? Nothing wrong with that.

STEPH: If you really knew me, you’d know that our Lord and saviour does not approve of such obscenities. Come on, Paul.

PAUL: As Marie said so herself, all it takes is that first step… (winks at Steph once more.)

MARIE: How dare you!?

GEOFF: Alright everybody, that’s enough!
(Silence around the room.)
So now, Paul, seeing that you are in such a talkative mood today, would you like to share?

PAUL: I thought you’d never ask. Ok. (pause.) So, I’ve been experimenting with my writing methods and inspirations, and it turns out that all of my past experiences with drugs are what lead to my most productive writing timelines. But that has got me thinking. Is there inspiration in sobriety? Which made me look at writing, and in consequence at life, in a whole different way. I now find that a joint in the morning helps me…

GEOFF: Paul! (he slaps his hand on his leg.) Look around the room. (pause.) We are all here because of drugs, and here you are suggesting more drugs as a solution for your lack of ideas? Do you listen to yourself?

PAUL: What, you don’t really consider devil’s lettuce a problem, do you? (Marie scoffs in disbelief. Steph is entertained.)

GEOFF: That is beyond the point.

PAUL: Ok, ok. I did go a bit off script. But anyway, long story short, I’ve been reconsidering my options and now that I’ve embraced my former drug abuse, I’ve come to the conclusion that, yeah, I’m past this addiction and I’m keen on revisiting it. (silence.) But not in an addictive way. (pause.) And in answer to your question Geoff, no, I do not listen to myself until the actual words come out of my mouth. Doing so would be jeopardizing the expression process. (Geoff puts his hands on his head in disbelief.)

GEOFF: Alright everyone, disregard Paul here for a second. (pause.) Paul, seeing you are ready to put all the work we have done thus far behind you; I am going to ask you to leave now.

PAUL: What? What happened to ‘confiding free of judgement’? (he gets up.) You know what, I don’t need this. I am cured and I’m ready to start a new, fresh life. If anyone wants to join me you know where to find me. Anyone? (pause. He looks around the room and sets his eyes on Steph to finish his round of inquisitive gazes. She looks away.) No one? Ok. I’ll leave. Just know you’ll miss me around here! (he opens the door to leave.) So long, suckers!

GEOFF: (exhales deeply.) Ok. Now that we got that out of the way, who would like to go next? Steph, care to continue? (Steph gets up swiftly to leave the room.) Steph, don’t! It’s a sinking ship! Remember the twins!

STEPH: (she looks back as she opens the door.) I’m just following your advice! Thanks, Geoffie!
(silence around the room.)

GEOFF: (exhales deeply again.) Okay… who would like to go next?

(Curtain drop.)

Injidup: free form poetry

 

The sound of being left alone

Soars through these plains

as the ocean washes a mist of reality

upon the poet’s dry brow.

But tarmac leads the way

if one is to walk out of these woods.

I miss your cheeks’ softness as I caress the rugged bark

You can’t see the stars without the dark.

 

So ahead one must dig

In order to find what was always deep within

Night or day, go astray

As we find ourselves in sin.

Haiku: Not here

Here too words unsaid

Old stories locked by gazes

Friends stuck in phases.

 

Here too smiles go by

bold in ivory, meaning

floating, clever shy.

 

Here too flowers bloom

And sun shines through leaves, kissed by

starry nights’ pledges.

 

Here too hearts thicken

Sanded to many edges

as leaves start browning.

 

And time drags here too

Slippery between fingers.

Here too, the sun

Lingers.

 

Poetry portfolio: Experimental Writing – writing from an object’s POV

Splitting selves

I am

The extension of the blade

That has helped kill this planet

bit

by

bit

day

 

by

 

day.

Regardless of the bluntness or sharpness the day finds me in,

I am the movable force that pierces through years of living history.

Swing me truthfully and ahead I shall crack,

Use me with doubt and you might have to swing back.

Feel your grip tighten as we prepare for contact,

Feel your calluses start to form as we leave nothing intact.

My grip, if wooden, is consequence of the work of my forefathers,

Can you guess who I am,

You modern-day-meaning carvers?

 

The commute

It was a dark and wintry morning and Jordan was at the fourth traffic light of his normal, daily commute. Or so it would seem. He drove precisely and his constant dance between mirror and dead-angle checks had tones of paranoia. Even though it was only early morning, his lack of sleep made his eyes almost sink into the back of his skull. His gaze was weighted down by fatigued, deep, dark circles that made him look older than his driver’s license stated.

As he progressed through traffic, he felt as if the steady flow of cars and their precisely shared pace had tones of cattle marching to a slaughterhouse; all in a commute done numerous times before, all stuck inside these thick skulls native to our species. He kept on checking his speed limit to make sure he fit right into the picture. All of us, a somewhat content herd, rummaging around whatever valued-ridden stretch of land we decide to call our pasture.

His hectic train of fragmented thoughts was interrupted by the vibration of his phone. ‘Not again’, he thought. ‘Why won’t she just give up?’ As he picked up the phone his eyes caught sight of a police car joining his lane from a side road. He blinked in exasperation, only to set his sight back on the road as naturally as possible. He put his phone down and tried his hardest to keep his sight off the rear-view mirror. ‘Maybe he hasn’t noticed’ – he hoped. ‘Probably on his phone too’. The idea amused Jordan and he let out a genuinely seldom laugh. He thought about the last time he laughed out loud. ‘Maybe if I laughed more, life would have smiled more at me.’ A newfound positivity shined momentarily in his mind, like the first rays of sunlight slip through the wooden cracks of an old, dark cellar.

Maybe he didn’t have to go through with it. ‘I could turn around right now’, he reflected. The idea floated in his mind for a couple of seconds until the red and blue flashes brought him back into the cabin of the beaten-up sedan.

He pulled over to the side of the road and kept his hands on the steering wheel. His brow felt as if it were burning and the first signs of perspiration started giving in. Even though his mind was racing at the speed of light, he looked as calm and composed as a monk when the policeman approached his window.

‘Howdy.’

‘Morning, officer’.

‘D’you have any idea why I pulled you over today, sir?’

‘I wouldn’t have a clue.’ Jordan replied. His certainty and composure were only contrasted by the sweat running down his forehead. ‘Maybe he won’t notice’, he thought once more.

‘Your car registration expired last week. I’ll pretend not to have seen you hold your phone and let that slide. Have you any means of renewing your registration while I run your driver’s licence through the system?’

‘Sure thing.’ Jordan said. He avoided staring into the officer’s eyes but remained disturbingly calm. ‘Car registration’, he thought. He hadn’t been able to deal with his present for the past weeks, let alone plan ahead. It wouldn’t matter soon. He gazed into his rear-view mirror as the policeman checked his details.

‘I could just drive off right now. Just let go, and then it would be all done with. Just. Let. Go. No more stupid bills to pay, damn, no more nine-to-five-seven-days-a-week.’ The thought lingered around and was becoming more and more of a reality until the officer came back.

‘Sir.’ He said.

There was a long pause and Jordan, still holding his steering wheel, understood he would have to look him in the eye. ‘Yes officer?’

‘Will you still be able to renew it right now?’

‘What? Oh, the license. Surely. I will do it on my phone right now.’

Their gazes were now locked in each other’s. The silence of the fleeting dusk was only smothered by the constant flow of cars. They stared at one another for what felt like too long for the officer, who finally said: ‘Are you alright?’

Jordan let the question sink in. What did he mean by ‘alright’? He felt nothing but numbness, watching from afar, like a puppeteer who has lost all his enthusiasm for the chain of uneventful happenings he orchestrates. The idea of opening himself to a cop on the side of the road made him almost laugh in what came out as a deep grunt, to which he added: ‘I am perfectly fine officer, thanks for asking.’

The lethargic response made the cop believe this was just another question in a sea of endless doubts. As the car drove off, Jordan felt himself hit the deep end.

It was time.

He looked at his phone once more and threw it in the back seat.

His heart started beating faster.

He got out of the car with a crestfallen manner to him, like a child who is told to clean up its room. His heart rate kept on increasing. Sweat was flowing wildly down his forehead now, and the back of his wet shirt stuck to his frail back. This was it. The culminating of a life of small joys and big mistakes. He took a long and deep breath. As he opened the trunk, he felt his heart pumping out of his chest.

He looked at the inside with a bewildered look in his eyes. This. Was. It. Tears were now flowing like waterfalls down his cheeks. His eyes shone like spotlights as if he had the answer to all his problems in the back of his car. Or so he thought.

His arms struggled in a final effort of a never-ending insomnia, and Jordan was a spectator in the final act of his life as he picked up the rifle.