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light aircraft on fire
copyright © Roger Smith 1998

4 am and the night just seems to have slipped away from me again, passed right by me.

I don't know. I have these vague memories of moving around, drinking, talking, dancing laughing, inhaling, maybe even having a good time, but nothing definite, nothing certain, nothing that I can pin down and be sure of. I don't know. I don't know where I am, I don't know how I got here or why I stayed, all I know is that right now I'm sitting here on the carpet with my legs crossed, gulping down lager and talking to some stoned bloke about how depressed I am.

That's all, that's it, that's all I can be sure of. I think my memories starting to go, think I'm losing touch. Think I've finally lost my last grip on reality. I don't know. Every night just seems to blur into another and I always seem to be having the same conversation. As much as try to just have a good time and forget about things, it always seems to come back to this. 'I'm just not happy, you know?'


The guy next to me is wearing a crew cut and a seventies style leather jacket that is meant to look really old and cheap, when you know he paid a lot of money for it to look like that. As I'm talking he lifts a can to his lips and uses the moment to cast his eyes around the room, dimly lit to help feign intimacy, looking for someone else to talk to, but I guess it's just not his night either, looks like he's stuck with me. The party's almost over now, only the dregs still hanging on, people refusing to acknowledge it's time to go. As I'm talking this furtive couple get up from the corner of the room and edge past me hand in hand. They knock over a half-empty tin of lager as they head towards the stairs and it glugs out over the carpet, forming a yellow pool that sinks slowly into the shag pile. I guess I should do something about it, pick it up, mop it up or something, but I don't though, I just carry on talking. 'I want to be happy, I really do, you know? But I'm not, and I don't know what I can do about it anymore, don't know what I can do to make things better... It's not even wanting to feel happy anymore, just wanting to feel something. Just wanting to feel anything. Anything, you know? Anything. Just wanting to feel, just wanting to know that I'm alive...' The guy lights a cigarette and nods empathetically, 'Yeah, yeah,' he says, 'I know what you mean...' He doesn't though.


This girl comes into the room and starts picking up cans, glaring malevolently at the hangers-on and looking at her watch. No-one takes any notice. Someone across from me starts to skin up, someone else starts to throw up and I just carry on talking. I guess I should go home, but I just know that I won't, know that I'll be the last one to leave... I'm always the last one to leave. Not that I'm having a good time or anything, just that I'm scared to be alone...

'No, you don't understand, I feel this way all the time. It doesn't stop... It's like I'm permanently numb, anaethitized. It's like I'm watching my life on TV, completely passive. I can see it and hear it, but I can't get through the glass, I can't connect. And I need to get through the glass, because I'm dying in here, you know? I just want to get out of myself, just want to see what's behind the glass...'

I listen to my voice as it tries desperately to articulate the way I feel, but I know I'm the only one paying any attention. Besides I can't really expect someone to understand how I feel when I can't even explain it. I carry on talking though. Somehow it's really important to me that this one guy who's name I don't even know understands how I feel right now. That someone understands how I feel right now. 'It's, like, everything is too hard, it's like getting out of bed in the morning is the hardest thing in the world, I just can't do it. I just lie there paralysed. And it's not just that it's everything. Everything is just too fucking hard.'


'C'mon man, you should try and pull yourself together.' 'Yeah? Do you think I haven't thought of that? Do you think that I could pull myself together just because I wanted to? - Cheer up, pull myself together. - Oh, yeah, thanks. When you put it like that...'

'You're just feeling sorry for yourself that's all. It's pathetic. Cheer up for fuck's sake...' The guy looks at me for a second and I look back into his eyes, but there's no connection, no common thread of understanding. I can tell from one look that with his drugs, his expensive clothes and his smug, self-satisfied air, he's never had to struggle his whole life, never felt pain, that his whole life has been easy. I just want for one second to take him outside of himself, outside of his content little life and make him understand what it's like to be someone else, what it's like to be me.

I carry on talking, but before I can finish the first sentence he starts making these baby crying noises, imitating my voice, taunting me, like a school bully who's found out my weakness. It really gets to me. 'Shut up!' I say. He just carries on though, laughing and making crying noises. I can't stand it, it just gets to me. It just gets to me...

He crashes down onto the carpet, more surprised than anything else. He moved his head at the last moment, so the punch didn't really connect. I don't really know how to punch properly, to tell the truth I'm not that good at hurting other people. He pushes me away and makes a move to hit back, but before he can, I pull out a knife and he stops dead, suddenly not laughing anymore...


I shouldn't do it, I know, I know, I know I shouldn't do it, but the guy laughing really gets to me... I thought he'd understand, I really did, and now he's just taking the piss. I only want to prove a point, I only want to show him that I'm serious. I hold the knife in front of his face for a second and watch as his smugness changes to fear. For a second I feel the power and respect gained by the threat of violence. And then I bring the knife down again and again, cutting across the bare flesh, slashing and stabbing until there's blood dripping all over the carpet, proving my point the only way I know how, showing him what I'm made of.

'Do you think I'm faking this? Do you think I'm making this shit up?' He's still on the carpet, not quite sure what to do now. He slowly picks himself up as I close the knife and put it back into my pocket. I keep staring at him until I'm sure I've made my point, until I'm sure he's not going to make and smart comments. He doesn't say anything though just stares at me.

I look down at my arms. They're bleeding pretty bad now. The rips where I cut myself are deeper than I thought, hurt more than I thought. It's good to feel the pain though, it's good to feel something.


Little streams of blood are starting to drip down from my wrist, splashing over my jeans and making dark spots on the denim. I get up off the carpet and wrapping my arm up in my T-shirt as best I can.

Out in the corridor there's a queue of people waiting for the bathroom, I walk straight past them as this guy with long hair and a nosering comes out the door. The people outside shout at me, but I don't hear them.

Inside I wash as much blood as I can in the sink, then take a yellow towel from the towel rail and wrap it around my arm. It starts to seep through, turning the towel a dirty brown colour, so I wrap the front of my T-shirt around it and put my jumper over the top. When I'm finished it looks like I'm carrying a pile of dirty laundry or something.

I shouldn't have done it, it was stupid. It means I'll have to wear a long-sleeves for the next couple of weeks and it's the summertime. I don't know why I cut myself. I don't know anything, but, whatever, it's too late now...

Someone's banging on the bathroom door, and I start to get paranoid about bleeding over the expensive carpet, stealing someone's towel. I don't know where I am and the people I was with left hours ago. I don't know what the fuck I'm doing here. 'Are you OK in there?' asks the voice behind the bathroom door. I open the door a fraction, and stick my head through the gap, careful not to show my arm. 'Yeah, yeah, I'm fine.'


This nervous looking girl looks me up and down for a second as I walk out then slips away again. Does she live here, is this her party? I really don't know. I go back along the corridor, trying not to make eye contact with the people hanging around, anger replaced by embarrassment. As I walk back into the bedroom everyone looks up, like they're expecting me to do something, cut myself up again or something.

'Hey do that again would you,' says the guy I was talking to, gesturing to a couple of people in the corner, 'they didn't see it properly.' These guys are looking at me like I'm some kind of circus freak. 'Fuck you.'

I walk back up the road staggering from the alcohol and hating myself, hating myself because I've fucked up another night, because I'm such a fuck up, because of that girl, because of that guy, because nothing ever goes right for me, because I'm so desperately, uselessly lonely, because I feel so bad, because I know it's all so pointless, because nobody loves me, because I know I'm going to do all this again tomorrow, because of everything...

© 1998 Roger Smith 1998

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