London has got to be one of the loneliest cities in the world. For all its diversity and cultural heft, and despite 8.5m inhabitants crowding its boroughs, its tendency toward detachment is pervasive. New Yorkers are zealously friendly. Parisians, while cranky, communicate with passion. Londoners like to pretend everyone else simply does not exist.
“I can help you. Come to mine for faith healing on Saturday,” urged Nikki van der Zyl as she clasped my hand. I was interviewing her about life as the voice of Ursula Andress (and six other Bond girls) at the time and was unsure how we had gotten so off topic.
An invisible rope, hooked around my neck, pulls me along when I’m sleep deprived. I let somebody in on this secret, performing a mime to illustrate the dimensions, and am about to confess that my thoughts are preoccupied with death, anxiety and self-loathing, but she is already half-heartedly pretending to send a text. The number of syllables in the word insomnia is up for debate.
Growing up on a farm in rural Iowa, water was something that came out of the faucet to quench his thirst after a bicycle ride down the seemingly endless, flat gravel roads, sweat soaking through his shirt. It was something slopping out of the dog’s bowl as she lapped it up with her long wet tongue.
The outdoor swimming pool was in the shape of a wonky figure of eight. A bridge crossed its middle. They said it was the biggest pool in Europe. The concrete border was patterned with circles in different sizes. If you fell, the surface was hard and unforgiving. Each bulb of the pool was pinned with two sets of diving boards; four and five boards layered on top of one another.
One day, after my father’s death, I was in my parents’ house looking through his bookshelves. I thought about powdering the books for fingerprints so I’d have something left. I still think about that sometimes. What difference would it make to have a copy of fingerprints made by fingers that no longer exist? Those fingers were burned, and now they are dust.
As we travel through the sky and up towards the intelligence centre my pupil says why do I fly when you touch me, and I think he knows there is no answer to this question, not any answer that can be told to him that he would understand, and so I say nothing in response.
I’ve been thinking a lot about dying recently. Not my own death, you understand, but the idea of dying as a cinematic experience. Like many generation Y-ers, I grew up on a diet of television shows such as Michael Aspel’s poltergeist extravaganza, Strange, But True? and BBC1’s 999 (remember the episode where the kid gets a javelin through the neck?).
Father When she is born, she is four pounds and see-through, and I am terrified. My wife’s vagina is smeared over 50 towels on the floor, and she is shaking. Across the room, our daughter guppies silently in a Perspex box, purple and writhing like a baby bird. A wall of strangers are wrangling her tiny body into life.
Walter loved football from his very first touch, on that dusty path outside his house, where he played under the shadows of the coconut palms. He was born, rather unusually, with both of his ankles made out of crystal but his mother and father loved him nonetheless.