I am watching the elephant man and thinking about the elephant woman. That of course, was not her name but she had the same thing, she powdered her face, had a friend who powdered her face too, the two of them would drink in The Scotsman lounge at 5am. I knew this because it’s where I’d sometimes find myself on a first date or after last orders, or just as a place to be in Edinburgh in the middle of the night when I’d not went ice-skating in Princes St. gardens with a man I would never really know.
Once I was waiting outside the bar, street rainy, lamps on the road like orange orbs, while the cleaners finished up, me peering in the window with a guitar on one shoulder and a cigarette in hand, always a cigarette, seven years now since I smoked really but that’s how it was and peering in the bar window, willing the cleaner to hurry up and unlock the door and as I cleaned bars myself on and off at certain times, I knew this (being watched while you finish sweeping floors) to be a moderate annoyance.
That reminds me of a woman in fact that used to drink two bottles of wine on her shift cleaning each floor in the Venue, she’d finish at 11am (a bit smashed I presume) she was in her sixties and that was her days work done by then and of course to think of the Venue is to imagine gigs where I was carried over the stage, a boy with a black rose proposing, sneaking to dance clubs with a friend at fifteen and seeing our physics teacher out of his mind on ecstasy, an ex who robbed a chemist telling me he saw the flatline … you know got so high all he could see was this flat line of light and nothing, but it was a different Edinburgh then and I don’t have much idea of it now, now it’s just the lights across the water.
I have moved to Burntisland where the street lights have incidentally, just gone out and I’m thinking of what it was like to be in The Scotsman bar at 5am and feeling David Lynch about things, staying upright was the idea, I was so upright then, so aware of the curvature of the earth.
It led to six years without a drop, tai chi every morning, trips to the buddhists to learn how to meditate, taught me how to make incense from coal, I got very into cycling and climbing up rocks to read in places with views, but that lady - I used to see her around and her face tumour (a growth so big) it looked painful, it was omnipresent and her eyes, looking out, her face powdered, we would see each other around all the time. I’d wake up in the middle of the night then and go out cycling (I found it a cure for nightmares and a time to have almost the entire city to myself) and I’d see her on a street somewhere.
Sometimes I would wonder if she could see in me what others might not see in her, you know, a beauty (something I did not see in myself) a sense of self undefined by aesthetics.
I always understood beauty was unquantifiable, elusive, not what we are told it is but the merry-go-nowhere we are meant to judge our-selves by …. well, the thing is to look in a persons eyes, all the sadness of a thousand walks home at dawn.
The lights are across the water and I used to watch them the other way round and write poems when I was twelve years old and in a car I should not have been in on a school night. It seems like a time so long gone, just a kaleidoscope of images to wonder about and right now the rain on my window and my toddler nearly two and a girl at fifteen playing gigs in punk clubs she was three years too young to drink in and writing, always writing, squirreling away words, notes, drawings, etchings and knowing even then that beauty had nothing to do with illusion yet that too will always have its draw, its place but craving something real in a world without streetlights where cats eyes still find a way to glint, the light is what we seek.
We are all the ages we will ever be at once.
That’s a thing. A subject I discussed with an artist I’ve never met, a picture sent and on my wall and the rain still pattering on the window and tomorrow a writing day, a precious five hours to spend immersed solely in words, I’m averaging two thousand an hour, that’s five hundred every fifteen minutes, I don’t get enough hours to write so when I do I really go for it. This time is fiercely guarded and I’ve worked out ways to write faster (I start thinking of the next days writing — sculpting it in my head about twelve hours before) speed is no surprise really, I type as fast as I think. It’s the best thing I ever learnt (to touch type) has brought me endless benefits in writing, in unthinking, or has it? In actual fact I might write my next novel out by hand just to contrast and compare, why not, but this one, half trance, a focused, waited for, carefully protected state that is then held up to said light, in all its grainy early morning brutality — a bruise, a monkey born in the afternoon and hidden in the shadows, a way to learn to dance, seventy years old and a dance hall, London and a museum near, a man who understands time and me in a burger bar realising I have not enough to give — my words need that great staked out area of minutes, a place I can inhabit and invade.
Pickled onion. 10p a packet. Monster Munch.
I have nothing more to say.