Never Nothing

My stomach suddenly blue on the bowling green: not here please, anywhere but here. I steady myself on a bench and wait for it to pass. Seems like I’m always doing that. Steadying, waiting. Probably just too much coffee; it’s only 9am and I’ll never learn. Folding over expecting bile, greeted with nothing, never something. “Cobweb and spittle,” I underline in a book, ‘cause that really explains the short of it, and the dreams, well, they’re still pulsing. Houses made from golden glass bricks, glossy and bulletproof. Everyone had a gun and everyone was bored. Don’t go outside, they’re here for blood, you whisper, all that excess needs to go somewhere. Other thoughts: shrieking larvae, elephants in showers, a girl called Nancy. I read hundreds of pages then forget them instantly, unable to think, only to do. My body becoming steel, a hazy little machine churning away with not a single thought. I try listening to podcasts to retrieve something but the words come dribbling out, straight through my nostrils, leaving a trail behind me. Where was that place that we learnt how to dance? Where time was elastic, every arabesque swallowed up with intent. I can’t claw at anything resembling an answer.

I walk, sometimes, or sit staring at the pixelated prisoners of the screen. I want to possess them but I know I could never. Time is too thin, slips round like a wet fish, and anyway, I have nothing to offer save for the consistency of my gaze. I wait for them to notice the edges of my new fully automated system, a technology of self-defence slobbering over timesheets, wed to the precision of routine. I avoid mirrors and wear the same pair of leggings every day. I brush my teeth at regular intervals. I do not read my horoscope. I use a green pen for the things I’ve completed and orange for the things I haven’t. If I complete a task before writing it down, I go back and add it just to cross it off again. It has occurred to me that this may be a ritual of mourning, although for what I’m still not sure. I develop a deep but cautious infatuation with cosmic conspiracies, with men seduced by aliens, with time travelling teenagers, with any Hollywood movie featuring a black hole. I drink wine only from a flask, use the smallest spoon I can find for my yoghurts. I look at my old clothes longingly but never try them on as if some great reward should be sewn from my deference. I feel small in the face of a million hot-takes, for I myself have none. I have lists, though, plenty of them, a whole life sponsored by post-it notes.

Symptomatic, you might say. I tell myself each night that tomorrow will be better, hoping by then I’ll understand. Rattling between the creases of my sheets, trying to summon something, never nothing.