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Mortal, and Trivial too.

Posted 12 April 2005, 6.22 am by Villager

I was taking a shower, one evening. I was exhausted, and just wanted to get clean so I could collapse into bed in comfort. I was thinking about how I really didn't want to go to class the following morning when my hand, dutifully spreading soap about my person, came across something that instinctively felt wrong. I retraced my movements and found that where there should be two, there were three. A large, reasonably solid lump in the exact place where you least want to find a large, reasonably solid lump. I hadn't exactly been checking for these things, despite what the adverts say, but I felt sure that I would have noticed something of that size had it developed slowly over time. So I was alarmed mostly because of the speed with which it had grown. I didn't think too much of it at first, for two reasons. One, I knew that age and general physical condition were on my side. Two, I've never been one to worry unduly about things beyond my control. Still, I was alarmed enough to make an appointment get it looked at.

I've never really feared death. It's one of those really pointless phobias given the utter inevitability of departing from this world. No, my fears are much more modest. Dogs, severe physical disability, American “friendly fire” and so forth. That's not to say that I don't wish to live along life; there’s plenty that I look forward to experiencing. Growing up I only really had one brush with death (that I was conscious of, at least). I was at the top of a tree in my grandparents' house, about 40 or 50 feet up. With me was one of my partners in mischief, Richard his name. Being about ten years old, I was rather reckless in matters of personal safety (I was later to fall from the same tree, only from, a somewhat lesser height, sustaining only a broken thumb). I was seeing just how high I could go before the branches became too thin to support my weight when such a branch (more of a twig, really) snapped as I pulled on it. My one grounded (branched?) foot slipped from its perch, I began to fall earthwards before being grabbed my fellow climber. I still fell to a lower branch, but without serious harm. A horrible, young death was thus averted. I didn't speak or think of this for some years, and had forgotten about it until, on occasion, such as crossing a bus road and almost regretting it, it would be dragged from the depths of my memory.

In the week or so I had to wait for my appointment, I more or less forgot about it, having other things to worry about. When the appointment came, I ambled along without too much thought, and had my new companion inspected. The doctor said it felt like a build-up of fluid, which probably meant it wasn't serious. I was sent for a scan anyway. So far so good. I was told to call for the result later that week, but when I did I was told I had to come in for it instead, and they wouldn't say why. This had me a little concerned, thinking there must be some terrible news awaiting me that couldn't be given over the phone.

The day or so that followed that phone call (I couldn't go straight away) were surprisingly anxious times. I always imagined that I would be a picture of calm resignation when I received bad news concerning my physical person, yet I found myself fidgeting and dwelling at length upon my impending death. Death is always impending, of course, but it's somewhat more apparent when you have an idea of how and when it might happen. I suppose it's comforting to assume that I'll live until I’m grey and old. I didn't get an urge to do all manner of things that one feels one ought to do in one's lifetimes, but rather, I sat there and thought 'what should I feel about this?'. I was anxious, I suspect, because of the uncertainty. I wasn't sure how I'd feel if the worst was confirmed, though plenty of things crossed my mind. Perhaps I'd be distraught, but I doubt it. Perhaps I'd feel relieved, knowing roughly how long was left and knowing I didn’t have to think about medium or long term consequences anymore. More likely, I'd just sit there and think about it.

I wonder how many people would come to my funeral. Thirty or forty, perhaps, not a bad showing. My mother would cry, perhaps my sister too. Who would miss me? I can think of two probable people. That's not so good. But then, why would I want people to miss me? No sense in causing them undue misery. It occurs to me that I'd have next to nothing to leave behind, save a few impersonal personal items. What would I do in my last months/years? Take out a whopping great loan and do as many crazy things as I could think of? Live my life as usual? Or succumb to anxiety and depression and expire in an orgy of drugs and terminal velocity? Probably I'd just go home and do nothing. I miss having time to ponder in peace, free of responsibility and the drag of life. Before I left for the results, I was ready to hear the worst. I would thank the doctor and go sit outside and watch the birds.

When I arrived, I was a bit nervous, but less than I had anticipated. I calmed myself during the wait, and even managed to feel chirpy as I was invited in, having flirted with one of the nurses. I was caused a moment of alarm when the doctor looked at my details with an expression of distinct consternation, but this was not because the news was bad but rather that there was in fact no reason why I shouldn't have been told over the phone. The growth was harmless, and I later had it removed. I thanked the doctor, went outside, and found some birds to watch. 'Thank God', I thought, though I wondered quite what I was thanking him for. Had I learned anything? I felt a somewhat pressing need to make my life purposeful, but wasn't sure how to go about it. So I watched the birds, and threw my sandwich to them. It occurred to me that this was the first activity I had enjoyed in a very long time, so I stayed there until the sun came down and it started to get cold. As I walked home, I felt a sense of unexplained joy, freedom, rejuvenation and even a little energy.

Or maybe that was just the cold.

When Darkness Falls

Posted 8 April 2005, 2.17 pm by Green Mamba

Its late afternoon and the yellow sun start to climb the bricks on the East side of the building, setting them ablaze in a haze of dark burgundy. The shadows are growing longer and the wind picks up, as it does every day at this time while the street fill with people deep in their daily business.
Emma sits on the window sill of their first floor apartment, mesmerised by the strange mix of characters in the street below while her feet dangle dangerously over the edge. She likes watching people, listening to the passing conversations from simple greetings between friends to shopping lists swapped by couples or business deals by the occasional person of importance. Listening gives her a better understanding of how the world works, of how people think and of what she could be when she grows up one day. At least, that’s what she thinks.

She notices a strange boy in the alley across the street, hiding in the shadows,. She has never seen him before, which is unusual because she sits here every afternoon after school and knows everyone in the area. She squints to try and get a better view but his features remain obscured by darkness. The boy looks up at her as if he is aware of being watched and then he shuffles deeper into the alley until he disappears from her sight. She shrugs, thinking that her imagination is playing tricks on her mind. Besides, she is old enough already to know that there is no such thing as monsters. That is just fairy tales from a very long time ago.
From all the way down the crossing at Mahogany Lane, she watches little Gary Hallows running along the gutters. A real little monster that one, she thinks. He takes an apple from Mr Dickson’s cart, almost tripping over a stray cat as he makes his getaway with Mr Dickson shouting behind him in mock anger.
Jane Hallows, Gary’s mother, will come by later and offer him something for the apple and Mr Dickson will decline. I remember when we were his age, he will say; do you remember how bad I was? And they will recount their childhood memories yet again, which would eventually turn into an invitation for dinner. Fred Hallows died a few years ago in a dockyard accident and Mr Dickson has taken to looking out for them. Or maybe his teenage crush on her never went away. Either way, he’s a good man and would make a great husband and a much needed father for Gary.

Emma watches as Gary as he comes up the lane, skipping past the dark alley with his face buried deep in the side of the apple. Suddenly and without any apparent reason, he stops and slowly retraces his steps. For a long moment he stands there, unmoving at the gaping mouth of the dark alley. Emma sees the shadows shift inside the alley and leans forward, her eyes straining into the darkness. A small light comes to life from within the darkness, like a shiny metal object making lens flare halos in the sun. Gary takes a step towards it. Emma looks up and down the street but not one person notices what is happening. Fuelled by curiosity, Gary starts towards the light, crossing over into the darkness. Emma gasps in silent fear and watches helplessly as Gary Hallows disappears into the darkness.

“Hello, little boy” says the voice in the shadows.
“Hi. Who are you?” asks little Hallows
“Oh, I’m the Devil.” answers the darkness.
“What’s a devil?” asks Gary
“It’s a whole lotta fun” says the voice.
“Cool,” says Gary Hallows.
Wanna see?” asks the voice.
“Uh yeah, ok.” Answer Gary, his voice slightly unsure.

Frankie the Bum lives in an old wooden freight container, in the back of a small, dark alley. He was born slow and lost his parents early on, or maybe they lost him. Either way he was alone in the world before he was fifteen. Now he lives in a wooden crate behind Basil’s Restaurant. Basil found him picking through the garbage one night and instead of chasing him away gave him a meal, a blanket and a place to sleep. The crate originally contained a new gamma stove that was shipped in from Halo 17. After the stove was installed, the crate got left behind and has been sitting there ever since. Now the crate contains a mattress with scratchy blankets, a small electric light, a FM radio, an old electric kettle, a folding chair and a pile of books. The same extension cord that powers the humble kettle also gives life to an FM radio, and a small electric light that hangs dangerously from the ceiling. Every night he gets a hot meal from Basil and the extension cord that powers Frankie’s home is plugged into a socket in the kitchen with a label on it that reads, “DO NOT TOUCH,” in big, threatening letters. Once a new apprentice chef switched it off by accident and Basil had him scrubbing dishes for a week.
So all in all, aside from living in a wooden box in a dark alley, Frankie has a good life. So maybe he’s not the sharpest crayon in the box and the kids laugh at him when they see him searching for a book in the children section at the library, but he’s happy. As long as he has a roof over his heads, one hot meal a day and book to read by free electric light, the world is all right by him.

Gary Hallows makes his way through the alley of shadows, towards a big wooden crate in the back. There is a man inside. Old Frankie the Freak, who likes to read children’s books and combs his greasy hair with a parting right down the middle and flat against his head. He’s fast asleep. Right there in his reading chair with a book still in his hands. Gary moves closer to the sleeping body, keeping to the shadows while he tries to read the title of the book. It’s obscured by Frankie’s big hands slumping heavily over the cover and he can only make out the beginning and the end. “Pigl... ...ture,” or something like that.

“This will be a whole lot of fun, you’ll see” says the darkness.
“It doesn’t feel right” protests the boy.
“But it will, believe me it will” says the darkness.

Frankie’s wooden box doesn’t have an actual door. The front just lifts up, which he then holds up with an old broomstick to keep it from falling back down. Gary Hallows sneaks right up to Frankie’s front door, so to speak, smiles at the sleeping owner and then, in one swift swoop, kicks the broomstick-doorstop from underneath the door. It comes crashing down with a loud bang. Inside the wooden box, Frankie throws the book in the air and jumps to his feet. He forgets that his home can’t contain his full length and hits his head against the roof before sagging back down into his chair holding his head. Outside, Gary Hallows secures the door by slipping a nail through the iron latch that came with original wooden crate. By the time Frankie gathers what little wits he has, it’s too late. He starts to bang against the door, pleading to be released. Gary Hallows laughs at his plight, the darkness spurring him on every step of the way.

Little Gary Hallows has a box of matches and a small tin of lighter fluid. Later that night, his elders will question him about where he got it and he will simply say, “The devil gave it to me”. They will look at each other with raised eyebrows and for days thereafter discuss the tragedy of Frankie the Bum’s untimely death. Such a horrible end to such a sad life. No one deserves to be burned alive, least of all intentionally ... by an eight year old boy.
Garry Hallows will be confined to a room in his parents house, where he will sit for the duration of the elder’s discussions. By the time his parents return to open the door, their son will be gone, replaced by fearful madness, foaming at the mouth and eyes bloodshot with murder and rage.

[Written by Rudi du Plooy. Edited by Ben Wright]

Catharsis

Posted 28 March 2005, 4.19 am by firebrand

“I can’t have kids.,” she says, fiddling nervously with the ring on her right hand. “It doesn’t really bother me – I mean, I’ve always known I can’t have kids, so I’ve never really wanted them. Whenever I tell people I can’t have kids – it is just a Fact of Life, after all – they always tell me how sorry they are for me, and that Modern Science can probably solve my problems. I don’t think they understand that it’s not a problem for me. They might as well tell someone they’re sorry their eyes are blue.”

“But I wonder, sometimes, if knowing I’ll never have children has made me live differently. Have I been more irresponsible, more selfish because I won’t have to settle down and share my time, space and love with someone not of my own choosing? I don’t think I have, but I can never really know.”

Walking over to the bookshelf, she extracts a slim, dog-eared novel. She fingers the pages, smoothing each fold back. “You know, really, the thing that gets me is the future. What if I meet some wonderful, perfect guy and he dumps me because he wants kids? I mean, I’ve always been willing to adopt, but what if that’s not enough? I don’t want to find a Hagar to birth my husband’s children.”

“I hate feeling like other people think I’m incomplete. We live in a modern society! Completion shouldn’t be tied to my ability to reproduce, to bear strong sons for my husband! There is more to me than my womb!”

Suddenly, she flings the book to the floor and walks out. I suppose it bothers her after all.


"Coffee House" at the Student Lounge

Posted 25 March 2005, 7.00 am by Aqua

Honestly, I was afraid. Upon entering the student lounge, immediately the words “this definitely isn’t my scene” came into my head. “’Scene’? Did I just say that?” I took a seat at a tall round table while my roommate Lilly and her friend Jeff took a seat at a couch with their friends.

It was like walking into a room and suddenly tripping on ‘shrooms, and I’ve never had the pleasure of that experience, if that says anything. I felt so alienated. It was dark, and people were strewn about this small niche seated on couches, tall tables, and stools, all intensely gazing at the main attraction at the end of the room; the main attraction that just happened to be behind a wall of white sheets. Well, at least you could make out their shadows from the blue light… sort of. A form with what appeared to be antlers on their head hunched over an amp, a bunch of sticks in the corner, and… is that a scythe?

But that wasn’t the half of it. The music hit you like a ton of bricks over and over, repeatedly violating your ears and ravaging the innermost portions of your brain; you know, the ones that you never knew existed until that time your friend ran their fingernails mercilessly down the chalk board in 6th grade. I forgot about that area. That is, I did until now.

Then came the plastic doulble-sided axe.

Interestingly enough, it made you want to stick around if for no other reason than to see where this all was going. Sounding like a combination of an electric guitar with a serious echo effect on, some keyboard with erratic tempos and pennies in an oatmeal container, it was strangely fascinating. It rocked and scared me to the very core. I loved it.

The haunting beats disturbed you as the slow crescendo came, went, and came again to finally end with much applause. As I clapped, the lights were turned on, foreign objects were tossed out from behind the curtain (there’s the axe, a reindeer head, and… an alien?), and the artists emerged from their white womb: three guys in their plaid glory, glasses, tight pants and all. All of them upperclassmen I recognized in passing.

Slightly disoriented from this new… music… experience… I decided to get some coffee. Lilly and Jeff started setting up their instruments with three other upperclassmen and I prepared for what I had originally come for. It was fantastic. Starting with a few impromptu “poetry slams” backed by Jeff on the electric guitar, Lilly on bass, and a sweet drummer, the lead man had such enthusiasm and power in the way he sung into the magnificent old mic on his stand, you couldn’t help but like it, whatever it was he was singing. His moccasin-clad feet pounded at the table he stood upon as his whole being, not the drums, seemed to shake the very ground. These were followed up with Lilly on vocals to American Music and I Touch Myself, with a twist.

I don’t want anybody else.

After another impromptu jam, the main feature (for me) came on. The skinny drummer with the tie and the lead singer in sweat pants and a beige plaid shirt stood high on the low table and sang a version of Hey Joe. Of course this version was a bit different than Jimi Hendrix’s original version with their heavy bass of the drum and the intense sound of the electric guitar. Not to mention after the first verse the drummer declared over the music it was the only part they knew, and that they were going to continue with just the opening, revising a little along the way with their passionate screams inbetween switch-offs of "Joe", and "not Joe".

You know I caught her messin’ ’round with another man.

Followed by an original musical piece with only the drummer on electric guitar and another guy on the drums, I was blown away. I remember now, this is why I love live music.

It was perfect.

As this was the end of this group’s section I wasted no time getting out of there to head home. I needed to savor this feeling. I had to cling to it while I could. As I walked down the dark streets I knew so well, I was euphoric. Somehow I felt esoteric, enlightened, special; I had some sort of otherworldly knowledge and power endowed to me through this deafening music. I stepped and heard my footsteps with a new perception, stars seemed increasingly familiar, and smoke from a chimney was tangible, there for my use as I wished. I understand. This is why people actually make music, even if it doesn't get them anything. The adrenaline and natural high is beyond all else and somehow I forgot. And yet, this time was different. As I walked alone I reveled in the cold and the mantra flowed all around me.

If it feels good, do it.

When I think about you, I touch myself.

Antistrophe; Pissing on the Other Foot

Posted 21 March 2005, 5.58 pm by Waldo

There’s a poisonous idea still that somehow things might have a hard-and-fast meaning (truth, to be vulgar about it). There are answers! Even in art! Embedded in the piece by the creator and left for us to find, bread-crumbs to a higher order and perfect forms. “What could he have meant by ----?” and such. The puzzling out of imagery done from the perspective of that artist, forget how dead and buried he remains. The transpositioning of self for artist reveling a new world to inhabit if briefly or poorly. Such self-centeredness. “Forget the audience, I’ve a copy-right!” extending into meaning itself, likely through the magic of god and church, hm?

How can the one creature (an artist, vile in-itself) be the sole bearer of meaning? One perspective is no more powerful than another, eyes are eyes, if none so convincing as our own. Can we so easily do away with our preconceptions that we might consider slavery to be regular and moral (allowing for morals)? What of capital punishment? Supple as reeds, not so flexible as to play like that. We cannot find another’s truth. The differences between us (however slight or great you think them) prevent any real understanding from occurring, we cannot suspend ourselves such that we might pretend at being someone else (the artist or anyone). So let’s not make ourselves fools to try understand the artist’s world and instead work out our own, consciously or below that as you’d wish.

With the artist out of grasp we’ven’t any recourse but to take up the thing ourselves and make of it what we can or should like to (ego cannot be taken out of it). O, yes, we’re so very put-upon to find our own way. At least there’s always a flock should we murder Ms. (a guess) Peep.

(Speaking of egoism, how much greater can it be than supposing you might understand another’s mind well enough to predict their thoughts. Predict your own, that I’d like to see!)

So we deny an actual world and actual meaning, we lose history but as another fiction, along side biography and the novel. That is hardly a loss and what’s gained (the potential for disagreement) is interesting enough on its own to give us cause to dilute and lose what we may, should it be greater.

Let’s not make ourselves fools to try understand the artist’s world, something past and gone outside their skin. Human beings have limits. Humanity, the sum of humans, has limits. We are tiny, petty things. We should not suppose that we’re capable of flight but of fancy, we should be amazed that we walk up-right. And there’s pleasure in that. There’s joy in what we can accomplish, in the small, self-centered universes we populate with a hundred things imagined or real, found or created.

Art is narcissism. From end to beginning. We create for immortality or because we think we’ve something to say that hasn’t been heard before or, if it has, so that we might be congratulated for saying it. We want praise for our opinions, if not liked for what we make then for what we like. Sheeple, all of us. It’s a disgusting state. Welcome to the human race; we’re a mess.

Consequences, part two

Posted 16 March 2005, 10.38 am by Villager

Well, the deed is done. After days of completely ignoring me - during which time I largely moped around feeling sorry for myself - she came to see me. She said that she was sorry for shutting me out, and explained that it was because she feared I would change her mind. I confessed that I had aimed to, but by then I was resigned to the outcome. She had already had a scan to ascertain the age of the developing child and was booked in the following day to have it terminated. She wanted me to come with her. This wasn't something that I had contemplated, and I stared blankly at her whilst I thought about it. I didn't want to. I was still angry with her, and didn't want to be a part of something that I was so against. It would feel so wrong. I said yes because despite feeling a raw sense of betrayal every time I looked at her, it occurred to me that I still care for her a great deal and I didn't want her to go through it alone. Nor did I relish the prospect of sitting at home thinking about it happening. I probably would have overruled these thoughts had I not committed myself before having time to change my mind. She thanked me, and my mind began to panic as I realised what I had said.

It's strange now that I think about it, but I've never actually wondered what is physically involved in an abortion. For the uninitiated, the process varies depending upon the stage of development. For us (I want to type 'her', but feel that to do so would be dodging responsibility) it was too late for the simple chemical option. It was necessary for an invasive procedure to essentially suck out the unwanted contents. It's difficult to explain quite why, but the necessity of this option made it rather worse. Perhaps it was the idea of a body being vacuumed out of the womb, more real and more human than a pill dissolving some cells. From the time we set off from the hotel to the very last second - the point of no return - I had to bite my tongue and wrestle with myself to go along with it. Being bounced around by anger, pity, frustration, sadness, regret and guilt in quick succession is horribly draining. I was shaking. She was remarkably brave during the whole thing. I know her well enough to see the agony and suffering going on behind her soft, brown eyes, yet she composed herself remarkably well. Of this I was glad, as it meant there was less demand for me to comfort her, which I'm not sure I could have done without falling apart myself.

That was two days ago, and Kate has been in a pretty bad way since, physically shaken but psychologically rather more so. I've tried to be with her as much as I can bear but when I'm with her there's a sharp, nauseous tension between us. I know she wants me there but I can't help wondering if that's not doing more harm than good. When the dust settles it's hard to see where we can go from here, and I don't want to raise her hopes. Less obvious to me at first was that I was undergoing some sort of emotional knee-jerk reaction, scared of being let down again. Keeping distance. Avoiding accepting responsibility? So mostly we just sit together, occasionally voicing thoughts and feelings, neither of us willing to be entirely honest. I would like to reassure her in some way, to say anything positive, but I can truly think of nothing. It is too early for cathartic, brutal honesty, though the time for that may come.

The sharper emotions have subsided for now. Anger is now entirely futile, frustration faded away, leaving confused remnants of guilt and sadness but little else. What to feel towards somebody who betrays you but hates herself for doing so? It seems petty to think of forgiveness when a life has just been sacrificed, yet it seems the central issue. Do I care for her enough to forgive her? If so, do I still want her companionship? I do forgive her. I remind myself that the whole reason for the abortion was her desire to remain married - for the sake of whomever - and that a future for us seems highly unlikely even if I wanted that. I wish I could walk away. I wish I could feel unmitigated resentment towards her that I might cast the whole sorry affair into my past and blame it on her.

For some reason I wonder if I would feel worse had my first child lived before dieing. I imagine it would be worse, though the tragedy of a life denied altogether is what sits, stubbornly, upon my consciousness. It is not until I begin to think about the future that might have developed for the three of us, that tears begin to flow. I know many reading this will think it folly to mourn a life that didn't even exist, in a sense, but it's real enough for me. Just writing this, though, seems to relieve a little of the pressure upon my heart, whether by confession, a therapeutic articulation of my thoughts or something else. Whatever. I begin today with sadness at the past, and uncertainty (perhaps a little fear) at the future. I know I've learned a valuable lesson - I'll never again be so negligent as to let this happen again - but somehow that's no consolation. I forgive her, and that rests okay with me - though I couldn't explain it - but I doubt I will ever forgive myself. The knowledge that ultimately I am responsible - in the selfish pursuit of pleasure, no less - for this death weighs very heavily indeed.

Contra the Aborted Missive

Posted 10 March 2005, 11.41 am by Waldo

Before this last century, I’ve been told, there was this idea that art was a construct and one for communication. The artist with a head laden with ideas and images worked them into a piece. Intended for consumption but, more than that, to impart a world-view or a view of the world at least. The artist intended something, however trite, and the viewer and critic would piece it out. There was joy in the discovery of what was meant, same as finding a truly Roman corpse thought lost. Art has lost something.

Metaphors weren’t dirty words yet and cigars never cigars, pipes always pipes. “What could he have meant by a swaaaaaaaaan.” and such, the puzzling out of imagery was done from the perspective of that artist, forget how dead and buried he remained or the losses sustained by his culture. The transpositioning of self for artist reveling a new world to inhabit if briefly or poorly.

Now we’ve murdered the artist, rubbed them out of their picture, to make room for our selves. The art is solely in the eye of the beholder. Gone any attempt to assume the artist’s perspective in favor of ours. Egoism from then on then, what the thing means to you, with your cultural norms and prerogatives. The Venus de Milo is a chick missing her arms and, while beautiful, has surely lost something in its exposure to the pop world. There’s a missing piece when history’s discarded from the piece, when the thing is reduced from an icon to a reflection of one human’s history and psychology. Taken out of context, what can any of the great master’s works be but ‘pretty?’ Twain reduced to comedy with some ‘odd bits’ to be re-interpreted or ignored as the reader so wishes. And what of that bible!

Something is lost with subjectivity, something thought, once at least, to be vital to any artistic endeavor: Actual Meaning. And with that, any sort of emotion evoked by the artist in favor of whatever work the viewer would wish to do with the piece in their narrow, petty world. The piece is identified with the viewer rather than viewer identifying with the creator. We’re all tiny, self-centered universes.

With the personal supplanting the actual, art is an act of no more consequence than a heap of filth in an alley, being pawed by homeless and dogs (and that will certainly be called art!) so where’s the joy in creation? Where’s the artist? Dead and buried in a world of egotistical me-firsts. Surrounded by everything-everything art. Found-art and accidental art. The death of art, long live art. Rather than artists we’re made provokers now, ‘artists’ unconcerned with expressing themselves so much as playing with their audience and degrading everything to level the playing-field. Voyeurs in their own lives, every one of us.

Lovely, just lovely. And as self-important as ever.

Consequences.

Posted 9 March 2005, 9.06 pm by Villager

I hadn't planned for fatherhood just yet. In recent times I have even been inclined to take precautions against such an outcome, especially given my lack of a viable long term relationship. Nine weeks ago I began a relationship with a teacher in my English department (not one of my teachers). Cliché, I know, but when we met neither of us were aware of our common occupation. Eight years my senior, she is married, has a single child and a loveless relationship with her husband. She commutes from Newcastle (about two hours' drive), and stays over frequently. At no time has this relationship been intended to have a long term future. Her name is Kate.

Imagine my surprise when she summoned me and told me that she is pregnant. There was no prelude, no period of suspense while a test was taken, just the news, already an established and irrefutable fact. My first feelings were of surprise, as precautions had almost always been taken, and then deflation, as the inadequacy of those partial measures became apparent. We sat for some time in silence, her sullen, me mulling over the situation and all its intricacies. Despite the lacklustre state of her marriage, she made sure that I was always aware of her intent to stay married. This was not as problem for me, the nature of our relationship suiting me, at least at first. She also desperately wanted more children, though this was not a possibility with her husband if their current relationship persisted.

'What do you want to do?' I asked. Though I certainly had an opinion on the matter, I recognised that her situation was the more delicate. If she wished for an abortion, I could neither stop her nor wholeheartedly object. If she wished to keep the child, I would agree in principle but would be worried as to how we might work things out. 'I don’t know', she replied. 'I can’t give it up. I can’t. What do you think?' I told her that I was opposed to an abortion, but didn't see how we could figure out an alternative. That night, she fell asleep in tears, repeating that she didn’t care what it meant, she was having the baby. I fell asleep contemplating this most unexpected of developments, more concerned for my own situation that for the fate of the unborn child.

Over the next few days I spend a lot of time thinking about it, and came to the conclusion that, although I could ultimately do nothing if she decided to have an abortion, I would try to avert that. I wanted the child. We would work something out. After that first night, Kate became very cold with me, despite my attempts to talk about it. Eventually she called me and asked me to meet her, which I did. Expressionless and without looking directly at me, she told me that she had come to a decision, and would not go through with the pregnancy. There was no way she could pass it off as her husband's, nor would this be fair to me. She wasn’t willing to risk her marriage by having the child of another man, and so reached the conclusion that she had no choice. Somehow I was both surprised and not surprised at this change of heart. I began to tell her that I didn't want that, that I wanted us to work something out together, but she simply got up and left. That was three nights ago, and she hasn't returned my calls since.

Those of you who have read my article on abortion will be well aware of my reasons for being opposed to abortion (and those of you who haven't can find it in the archives), but it goes further than that. I want the child. It isn't a time in my life that is 'ideal' but neither is it unworkable. I believe she is wrong to put her marriage above the unborn child, especially without giving me a fair say. I feel anger at her refusal to hear my views, but sympathy because I know that it was an incredibly hard decision for her to make. Our relationship, in all probability, has come to a complete end. Whether we would, as mother and father, continue as partners will never be known. At first we both agreed that it was a short term relationship, but as time wore on I’m sure that it developed into something rather more for the both of us. Suffice it to say that I would have been happy to attempt to make it work.

So I must come to terms with the reality that my first child will be – or already has been, as she won’t speak to me – killed in the womb. I can think of little but that my future has been utterly altered, and the future of my unborn child denied altogether. I am overwhelmed with sadness and remorse, regret that I did not do more to prevent this outcome. Regret that I allowed it to occur in the first place. As for the future, I am at a loss as to whether I should pursue her further. As I sit here tonight her phone is switched off, my e-mail account receiving no reply. I could force an encounter at uni, but I doubt she would hear me even then. And yet, I feel compelled to try, and responsible for the death of an innocent child. My child.

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Doggybag/baggy_dog is an artist living and working in Barga, Italy. Click here to read about this piece in his own words.


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80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

Yo ! Does this work ?

* Alexander wonders if this still works

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