He we are then, at the end of the road.
You do not appear to appreciate my literalism or punning, if it can really be called that, and instead sigh whilst wistfully combing fingers through a patch of grass beside us. Friend. In denial, maybe. Or, not as strongly absolute as denial, dithering with what the road might have meant to you when you were still, perceivably, on the road.
A dreamer, a lazy, self-indulging perambulation perfumed with your own significance. But I, along with so may others, smelt you: a stagnant belch of pond water, rife with narcissism and parasites. Those ‘ickle head scratchers, those urchins, mites, might-nots and the lil wrigglers in the scalp. You sigh. Warmed with piss and bedding down, yawning in the leafy compost of your own vague decay. A good friend of mine, you. “You” a good “friend” of ‘Mine”. Honestly. Always the same, sort of.
This is where the road has taken us and, rather than an outstretched palm shielding the uniformed blockade of an unexpected law, the cartoon baton of a warning policeman or stern parental shadows – those pressures and expectations that we never really stepped out from – it is instead a signpost.
The sign is a roughly nailed pole of sodden wood; simply a rotten post and its slightly skewed, arrowed board, lettered END; driven like a damp stake into damper, danker ground; it spelt out circumstances as we tried instead to feel them, or at least you certainly did, I was more concerned with you and not the END as the END was already established in its labelled arrival.
But you got me itching, further from what I was thinking it was that I was and how it was I related to this END until, it pains me to say, I was with you. I always am. Sat in your puddle while decrying, denouncing and denying my soaked trousers. These? Not mine, never were.
You are the false foil, maybe. Through you I convince myself I am different, distinguished from you and in contrast to you while all the same coming back to these coils of sensual, double-quilted dismay – the sort of drifting fog that I so openly despise in you is precisely the duvet I return to when no one is looking, spreading out in its deep, equivocating sprawl. Only ever deep in its capacity to consume and imbibe me and for me in turn to draw great, guzzling clouds from it; huffing the great noxious nothing.
Its depths are otherwise purely showy fronds without root or stem, an airy ivy that has crept across us and scribbled out and over core grouting with distraction.
Here we are then, at the end of the road: you echo my phrase back at me to remind me, unnecessarily, of how ridiculous I sound. Very.
What was it that was so great, back there on the road? Nothing in particular you answer, it was instead the feeling. The feeling of it. Not how it felt I stress, but now, how you feel it felt. I remember, seriously, I remember you then! At the time, on the road, when the END was still a thing to imagine (imagine!), a speculative quantity to bring forth – shining with untouched potential. Then, back then all you felt was that the END would make it all worthwhile. That from the END, or at the END, you would be able to make sense of it all; this assumption was based on the - then plausible - logic that being at the END would mean having ‘arrived’, and that ‘arrival’ would be a peaceable and fulfilled stasis. But then....Friend. Friend, you and I, we made it: we arrived here, here at the end. And as you can see, as I think I said back there – it will be (and, look, it is) more of the same.
But it’s not. It’s not quite ‘the same but different’ but, you continue, it is as if, everything that went before was unable to be properly experienced - because it was always in service of this. You sigh. I sigh. And now, now all of this (you gesture to the sign, all around) cannot be experienced because I remember all of that (you gesture to the road).
It is because you insist on voicing these thoughts that I dislike you. I have, I suspect, disliked you most of (if not all of) the time, but had supposed reaching the end might perk you up.
I thought the whole ‘sighing-forlorn-melancholy-burden-of-being’ was a way of customizing your otherwise bland persona, that it would pass, and that you would find something else – a hobby, a haircut or a different angle through which to weather and express your inner anguish at not having inner anguish... at least not really, of the sort to call your own. So you pined for emotional turbulence and then, so convinced by your whimpering, began to mistake that anguished longing for the actual anguish that you could never hope to cultivate but nonetheless felt you felt now, in feeling as though you should feel it.
After sharing this with you. You said, without looking at me, that it was typical of me to say such things. You said, just because I can’t experience with any emotion does not condemn everyone else to the same hollowed tick, tick and tock of tedium. The metronome of continuing, continuing with rational predictability and measured insistence.
You said I might as well be clockwork. Or that I was clockwork without the whirring and antiquated charm of being clockwork.
I was not to be, you said, considered digital, as this would suggest a kind of glassy efficiency.
I was instead, you suggested, the backing track demo on a Casio keyboard: insanely grating, regular and disturbingly unaware of my own kitsch appeal. Except that in my case that lack of awareness was forgivable as there was no appeal, kitsch or otherwise.
I was just annoying. You sigh, deflated by the attempt to summon me in words. And then, brightening slightly, declare that even the process of articulating my character (O stultifying and prosaic square of porridge! you rhapsodised) was in itself a crampingly dull experience that came close to conveying the frustration that characterised me – for you, at least.
My personal impersonality or impersonal personality; this white rice and chicken, this bran flake sticking to the plain white bowl, all of this, in its paltry and pastel imitation of living, was grating on you.
This looking both ways before crossing, this soft rock tribute to breathing, this chart topping misery, this Keane and this Coldplay, this interminable mush, this and this and this…it all follows so methodically, marching under the pathetic flannel of its own snivelling caution.
This glass of tepid water, this spreadsheet, this blunt pencil, this house and this life, this fucking cardigan and those sensible trousers, this level-headed nodding to the world’s fevered hysteria, this pompous flatulence waiting to break, this smugly devotional commitment to the mediocre stability of quotidian progress; organisation, dietary requirements, well-read monotony, pine bookshelves, tasteful calendars, the art that collects on hospital-walls, the magazines that pile in waiting-rooms, the sound of a self-important businessman on his phone discussing a meeting on a crowded train, the obnoxious and unquestioning sense of entitlement, talking to talk, talking that talks to itself, that talks and talks and talks with such predictable opinions, droning forever under the grotesque contrivance of insight…This must end. But it doesn’t. We both know that.
Not yet anyway.
Not like we thought it would.
I broach the subject: what did you think it would be like? A subject I know is merely returning to the alluvial swamp of your obsessions. But you need it, clearly, I can tell. Even that derivative rant about what I was, how deplorable I was, and am, and will be - how plain, how dull and such. Even that gave you a thrill. I can tell. I know you. Friend. It's like taking you for a walk, giving you permission to piss on a pot-plant or hump the armchair's stoic leg. Indulging in your own filthy self-regard, these petty fireworks, it allows you the exhaustion to feel at ease with yourself.
So, I let you strain for a while, my little impotent mutt, scrabbling at the end of its leash. You'll go for hours, we both know this. So I ask again, with such wholly uncommitted and thespian sincerity, what did you really think? The END?
What did you think it would mean in the end?