I gaze long and hard at myself in the mirror, straining to reach the girl behind the face. I’m in there somewhere and it’s both liberating and terrifying to think that the person before my eyes is now the ‘real’, emotional, non-medicated version of my being. It’s been 14 days since Elvis left the building – Elvis being a small, white pill called sertraline, the building being my mind and body – which means that I am now the fully paid-up owner of my mental faculties.
I was first fucked for money at the age of 19. Someone tied me up and shoved a silicone cock in my ass. A digital camera captured the entire process. I was paid $300. It was fun, I guess. “He just liked the money and the thought of doing something ‘wrong.’ Passive anal sex is not his thing.” – the assistant narrator. I allowed flesh cocks to replace silicone cocks.
June 26. The US Supreme Court rules that state-level bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Worldwide celebrations ensue. July 8. I am about to leave my apartment to attend a party. My well-meaning flatmate asks, “Is that your outfit? Expect girls to hit on you if you wear that jacket.” July 28.
The man of whom she was speaking was short and dark and immensely strong. She mouthed the words slowly, with a care, gazing at her image of him all the while through a prism of love. But then, gradually, she began to speak of other things as well, almost as if she were trying to turn herself from him and those hideous passages of thought.
Do you care? Do you care about caring? Do you care about being perceived to care? Do you go through spates of caring, then get distracted and forget what you cared about last year, last month, last week, ten seconds ago? And by care, I mean more than empathise, I mean the ache that makes you want to act – just maybe not IRL.
On the 15th night of the 7th month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the lower realm is opened so that ghosts and spirits can return to roam the living world, seeking food and entertainment. During this month (鬼月), Taoists and Buddhists must perform rituals to absolve the suffering of the deceased.
At six it was a black mirror capturing and framing the first settled shapes of rising sun, but by seven the reservoir held ten thousand triangles of light that reconfigured themselves across the surface like a shoal of rising herring. There was a light breeze too, and birdsong from the curlews and house martins as they rode the unseen currents of air.
Last summer, I saw a digital ghost. I was walking around the Ring of Brodgar – a neolithic stone circle in Orkney – in the early hours, at the first light of dawn. I raised my phone to take a photograph of the standing stones silhouetted against the sunrise and saw, on the camera screen, a dark figure moving across the heather at the centre of the circle.
I have never liked myself as a smoker. A full decade and a few thousand cigarettes in, I still don’t. But what keeps me at it, with fondness, is that I might not have him were it not for the fags. When I was very small and his beard was still black, he would kneel by the bathtub and I would sit happily in the warm water. His eyes would swim as he babbled to me and I babbled back.