Winter is closing in around these parts, each day brings increasingly cold winds that freeze my bones and numb my fingers. I have taken to wearing a hat almost constantly, except when eating. Despite the inclement weather, it has become my habit to go for midnight walks and occasionally I even stray as far as the beach. Standing at the water’s edge, and staring into the blackest of horizons, I am comforted by the fact that the great oceans connect us all.
Demosthenes, so my classics tutor told me, would shout to the sea. He was bedevilled by a stammer but found that practising his speeches in this way enabled him to overcome his disability. Sometimes, as the small breakers lick at my boots, I imagine particles of his exhalations mingling with the damp air that coats my cheeks. I have heard it said that we breathe the oxygen of others because the gaseous exchange required for respiration is an entirely continuous cycle. On that basis, I feel I am intimately related to the French Lieutenant’s Woman, Jesus, Hilter, in fact anyone who has ever drawn breath.
From this very beach Anne Quinn, a writer, walked into the sea, her pockets weighed down with stones, in order to drown herself. I wonder at the singularity of her commitment and I am fascinated to think of her dying sensations. I have submerged myself in water, emptied my lungs of oxygen, and looked through fishy eyes at smearing reality. There is a point when the prospect of death, within this womblike suspension, appears comfortable and inviting, although my will to live has always propelled me to the surface.
The idea of surface, on the face of it perhaps literally, is a complicated one, like surreal it seems to suggest that there is something underneath or behind. I am reminded of childhood pantomimes, plush velvet seats, sticky sweets and screaming children, ‘It’s behind you, it’s behind you’. Of course, to have eyes in the back of one’s head would, on occasions, be useful, similarly hindsight is an excellent tool, but always for the next event.
I digress, like a river attempting to carve a new course into an unconscious landscape, however, I note my thoughts are water borne and I would surmise that this is what happens when one spends too long attempting to swim against the tide. There is a certain obsession that develops, it flows like blood and tears, secretly. A kind soul once told me I wrote ‘in piss and vinegar’, and I wonder whether my acidic nature has now achieved sparkling clean emotional surfaces whilst stripping me of the oily lubricants which protect and enable less friction on contact?
These are the thoughts that occupy my midnight mind as I attempt to divine meaning whilst skating on obsidian. Despite my coats and thick woollen stockings and gloves and the scarf that traps and condensates my breath I am chilled to the core. I had a dream, that there was a pain deep inside my head. I went to the mirror and all my flesh was translucent. Behind my right eye the smallest point of a foreign object protruded. I reached into my skull and pinched at the sharp end. I pulled and began to withdraw a long, thin spike of high tensile brushed steel. Discomfort morphed into a searing, burning pain.
In conclusion, for I must now discipline myself not to go on, I am cold, my comforts are abstracted by absence and I am worn down by attrition. Whilst it is true that the pebbles on the beach under my feet will perhaps one day become glass, for now, they are stones, inert, unyielding and ultimately futile in their existence – should they even be aware of such value judgements. If, however, I pick one up and take it home, leaving it on the hearth to warm, I can slip it into my glove and it will provide me with enough heat to take the edge off this slamming winter.