Henry arose to face another day, another arduous succession of minutes in the same languid life, the same boring routines that made up his grieving existence. He was, like so many, a tool of the state economy. He added sums, subtracted lives, and equated death. For the mind and body there was no relief, no reprieve from a time and place that neither accepted his thoughts nor rewarded his actions. It was the way of things and he was merely one among a zone of duplicates, empty and alone, scribbling in the dark amid a million mounted check books, all numbered and identified and condemned to cornered fate. Henry often wondered how many people died for the printed paper of his birth. How many soldiers fell to madmen, how many foiled them, how many spoiled them, and how many finally joined them? Was it the promise of a better life? Was it this life? Was it his life? If so, his life was slain and he smiled at thoughts of kissing Satan’s feet, his mind wandering and absconding until the Lord of tortured fate appeared aloud behind him.
‘Come on Henry, you’re dreaming again.’ The cold and dour voice intruded. Henry knew he was dreaming. He knew he always dreamt. It was the one thing that made reality bearable, the only thing, his thing, and now they wanted to strip him of his right to enjoy the one side of life no one could control but him.
‘Sorry, it won’t happen again.’ Henry replied, and off he went again. Numbers turning into naked women. Letters into woven mantras of lustful affliction. Love on his brain. Sex in his pants. Work in his face. Always in his face. Poking and prodding and relentlessly claiming every portion of his soul. ‘You’re doing it again Henry, what the hell is wrong with you today?’
‘You.’ Shit. This time he wasn’t dreaming. Reality merged and what he dreamt of saying so many times before finally spilled from loosened lips.
‘What did you say?’
‘I said you’re a fucking idiot and you can find someone else to fuck your fractions.’
‘Are you sure you want to do this?’
Henry looked at the man before him. He looked at the new suit and shiny shoes tailored for his crooked hooves and stubborn eyes. He looked at his neatly trimmed beard and plucked eyebrows. He looked at his gold jewellery, diamond cuffs and manicured nails. He searched for a trace of humanity in between the stripes of his Armani shirt. He stared at the pink tie as its brightness damaged his desire to remain sat inside this rancid place of silent death. Who the fuck is this man? Henry thought. Who the fuck is he to me? What the hell do I owe him? He looked around the office. What the hell do I owe any of these people? What the fuck am I doing here? For what reason do I surrender my life to profits far removed from mine? What the fuck? Why?
‘What, this?’ Henry finally spoke and rose to feet. He grabbed his bag and walked out, away beyond and gone. He did not look back. He did not regret or curse what disappeared behind. He did not speak or motion his farewell. He merely walked out. Just like that. Gone.
That was how Henry lost his job, four years ago, today. And today he stood beside his sister as they watched the priest tell tales of a life long since given up in search of peace. A life Henry saw diminishing, a life he smelt decaying, a life his father forgot, the last of his relatives, gone. Now he was the final hope for forebear’s name and fame, an unemployed burden to a society that washed its hands of him the day he lost his job. Henry was never one to seek refuge in distant worlds, particularly worlds that made no place for him, but this time things were different. This time, he was different. This time, there was no time.
Henry spent the past four hours watching Lost on DVD. His eyes transfixed by the troubles of a set of strangers thrust into the abyss of barren lands and places bereft of gaping minds and sagging spines. Why would this be a problem, Henry thought, adrift from everything and everyone. No work, no bills, no joys no thrills. Just myself and me, alone, together. But though he was indeed alone, confined within the trembling walls of a sullen flat devoid of familiar flesh, Henry felt no better in seclusion. This was how he lived. Six months. Six long months of self and shit and pain and piss. From the moment he was told of his father’s grim mortality, time became a burden, a burden he held no wish to recognise. Fuck off, he screamed, leave me be, can’t you see I’m already dead? Look, my veins are dry and my heart amiss, no hand to kiss, no love in bliss. But nothing came to save him, no rescue, no salvation, nothing. So he filled his time with senseless tasks and welcomed slight and sound distractions for a pulsing mind, a desperate escape from the confines of his irate anatomy, and sleep became the main component.
Henry slept for fourteen hours a day and the remaining ten were spent in preparation for a sullen slumber, coercing the mind into a trance forbidding emotional response. When thoughts of his father entered his consciousness Henry made sure to force them to retire. He tried everything. Drink, drugs, books, films, eating, shitting wanking, fighting, and rarely sex. And despite his cosmic cravings, his minor will fell ill. It was the one thing he thought would help, someone to talk to, a partner, a friend, a lover, but it was not to be. Following the disintegration of his past relationships, Henry found himself confronted by a plethora of detrimental thoughts, deliberations that made no sense and an existence that appeared to serve no purpose. In a relationship he experienced joy and pleasure in his deeds to make the other happy, he had a role, a duty, welcome tasks to make life easier and more enjoyable for the fortunate flesh joined beside him. The problem was, these persons deemed themselves unfortunate and discovered increasing difficulty in legitimising his involvement. Life with Henry was anything but easy, not because he cheated or lied or stole or cried, but because he told the truth, and when he couldn’t, silence was his only friend. Genuine truths were seldom welcome and caused more pain than peace, so he stuck with silence and refrained from words of friction. But this silence was mistaken for a distance dark in danger, a distance that made the maintaining of any relationship a laborious struggle. It was his way of coping. His way of dealing with problems that never seemed to disappear. But they never got it. Instead, he was advised to seek counselling, to get help, to speak to someone, anyone. That was all well and good, and as much as he desired a companion, as much as he yearned for love and passion, he knew it would end the same way. He would end up broken, shattered and confused, while the other smiled with glee at the absence of his presence. And no matter how much he reflected on what went wrong, how it went wrong, and why, the conclusion was the same, he was wrong. Wrong for relationships. Wrong for work. Wrong for everything. Wrong.
‘I’ll always be here for you.’ They promised.
‘I’ll never leave you.’ They assured.
‘Goodbye.’ They never said. No uttered words of compassion sounded in the thinning air. It just stopped. The end. No words. No sounds. Nothing. And that was how Henry’s relationships ended, his brief encounters with joy feebly surrendered, muscles quivering in the dark as love left him alone and scared again.
The last episode of Lost finished over half an hour ago, leaving nine and a half hours yet to waste, but how? He could wash and get cleaned up, but what was the point? The only person who could smell him was himself, and he was now used to the stale stench. He was unable to accurately identify what it was, he could not distinguish between the mixture of aromas that constituted his constitution, but he liked it. He breathed it in with intense appreciation, sucking at the peculiar taste, savouring every salty second, for in its very essence was the proof of his existence. I’m here, he thought, alive. Unless it was the smell of deaths slow grip, like the essence of a lemon, singeing open wounds and blistering battered wits. Perhaps, perhaps I should get washed, Henry decided, and trudged into the shower.