I wake up with the dream swimming in my head. The girl’s face. The way she looked at me. I feel some hero complex, I must’ve saved her from a situation. I scrutch back in bed, stretch, feel dappled light through eyelids, one of those nights when some sorcery went to work, magic dust sprinkled over a sleeping body, the dawn through the blinds bathes the room in orange.
Today could be top 5.
Just waking up in tha morning gotta thank God
I dunno but today seems kinda odd
I make lemon water, sit on the sofa in the white Ralphy dressing gown someone left on the back of the bedroom door, and do breathing exercises, Ram Dass’ voice comes through the speakers. Love your dark thoughts. On the breath-hold I get to the unthinking place, outside of time, outside of anything. When I told someone once how all I felt was gratitude, they said don’t take it for granted, feeling that way is a state of grace, the best of all luxuries.
I turn the boiler off and get in the shower.
One minute. Soap. Another minute. At the end I kneel, shivering on the mat, ice-cream headache, my whole body tenses and I feel something go through me. Hunched on the shower floor I think of Primo Levi in a Polish winter, I don’t know why, memory association thing. Something like gratitude, that I can get warm again. The ten minutes after a cold shower is spectacular, I flick the Rancilio Silva, it pours out a double espresso that would raise eyebrows in downtown Bologna.
No barkin from tha dog, no smog
And ma moma cooked the breakfast with no hog
I hit the streets.
Little I know bubbles up a kid-like raw excitement like cycling London at high speed listening to tunes. From Hackney to Kings Cross I know the lights and lines and movement of traffic like I was stumbling mid-dream to the loo, balls-pond, northchurch, ritchie, copenhagen, the street names tag-team one another, the blossoms sway and move in time with the motion of the wheels, the first time a child feels real freedom is on a bike they say. At an intersection it all gets too much and I shriek out, a pedestrian starts, gives me a look like I just ruined their morning.
I cross the smooth paving stones of the fountain square outside St Martins, remember my tutor Bobby and that time we chatted gas on the pavement the day I passed my entrance exam, he said let’s keep going, let’s walk to Brighton, now, me and you.
Ten minutes before opening I get to the library, the queue snakes a little through the redbrick courtyard. A girl ahead of me with headphones on in a black hoodie flowing-over with curls glances round. Want to time travel, get a bike. Want to fall in love, go to the library. I get in there, clock the bag checkers with a grin, take the shallow steps two by two, find my favourite spot, 1st floor desk.
Looking in my mirror, not a jacker in sight
And everything is alright
The girl with the curls is on the same desk, three down. She is a cross between Jessica Chastain and some girl off XVideos, with hints of my mother. She glances at me, I die a little. I wonder what strange forces play in the dance of attraction and think I will get no writing done. I can feel her presence, I change how I’m sitting, I steal a glance over the top of my laptop and the strip lighting bounces off her eyes and they are grey-green and full of my future. I hit the loo, splash my face with water.
Alfie sends through some theory of evolution. My days are permeated by these texts from him. He has two kids a wife on the way and runs a company and still finds the energy for this stuff. The most generous gift you give anyone is your time, said the postcard on the revolving stand in the crappy gift-shop one December.
My parents call.
They are on LOUDSPEAKER in the CAR yes COMING BACK FROM THE COUNTRY. I walk the wide-open spaces of the library, they shout over each other, I repeat myself, they interrupt, I tell them my book is getting good, Rochester asked Jane to marry him. HAS THE FIRE HAPPENED YET. What. I tell my dad to do one. HAS HE GONE BLIND. I tell my mother worse. I hang up.
I think about throwing my book in the recycle bin. And yet no plot-ruining or intensely annoying parenting, not even the aggressive library barrista with the tattoos who takes himself too seriously can get to me today, the day and I are having a moment, the girl with the curls exists, the world is full of possibility.
The gratitude I’d spoken of comes knocking. Perhaps it is a by-product of feeling out the darkness, that free from any sort of emotional baggage the world unravels into a temporary heaven, and you want to thank someone for something. I think about my parents, who they are, if I really know them, how long they’ll be around, I feel the urge to make them proud. You don’t understand how proud they are, someone said to me once.
It’s ironic, I had the brew, she had the chronic
The Lakers beat the Supersonics
The girl smiles at me, lingeringly. What in the world is going on. We get talking in the queue for the water fountain. She is French-Persian. She says she sees me here a lot. She wants me to write something for her. Let’s go to Paris, now, I say. She looks at me, bores through my irises into my soul and finds something there. Wait, I’ll get my things, she says.
Obviously no day is this good. These love affairs happen in my head most days at the library. A day like today is when you act on this shit bro. Ice Cube didn’t rap about a daydream, he rapped about a day. Do not love the idea of life more than you love life itself, said the poet. Still, to feel all this, to be in such a mood and sit in it, to feel the world pour down its magic on you, is a moment.
Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read Ice Cube’s a pimp (yeah)
I write well, on and off til about 2pm.
When I don’t write well my life is a cul de sac and I don’t know what I’m doing with it. When I’m too pleased with what I’ve written I know I’ll read it tomorrow and delete most of it. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. Finding words to make sentences to give form to wandering thoughts does something strange, it quietens the existential dread, fires up my adrenal glands, gets me high off my own supply.
I leave the hush of the library, cycle by the enormous plane of Bloomsbury Square my father’s favourite, hit the stoop outside Monmouth, tap a macchiato and a Vichy Catalan, the condensation coats the bottle. My bro comes and hangs. Tells me stories, married life, dad things, we crack up hard about the dumbest stuff, references so obscure they could be another language, a seam of the past only a sibling can tap.
Back in Hackney I pick Ab up and we hit the courts. He starts whispering fast, the way he does when I know he’s in trouble. The girl flicked glue at me, I told her to stop, she didn’t, I told her your mum can’t pay the bills, she went to the teacher and I got a blue form. I tell him some improvised fable about fairness and turning the other cheek, he isn’t listening. So what’s going on with your lovelife, I change the subject. He stops still, punches me on the arm, gives me a massive grin.
Back at home I crack a can in the tub.
A good day ey.
Some strange unknown force, opening its arms to let you in, a benevolent Spirit, allowing the good in everything to enter you. No regret for the past, no fear of the future. A champagne glass overflowing with the froth of the unknown. Today we run down the road high-fiving everything that moves.
Some basic maths tells me if this is how the world presents itself when I feel like this, it is the state of the world always. I only see it when my mood lets me, but it must be there all the time. The Spirit of the unformed future, dancing and laughing in the air, beckoning the better angels of my nature forth to meet it. I sink under the water and watch the bubbles rise up to the surface. I think of the girl with the curls. She stands for something. I try to work out what.
Today was like one of those fly dreams
Didn’t even see a berry flashing those high beams
In the evening I go to a concert.
I stopped buying 2 tickets a few months back. Across the street from the venue I stand at the bar. The solo-sharpener. A moment. ‘Eating Honey, thought Pooh, was a very good thing to do, but there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were.’ I think how feeling superbly happy on your jax is a super power.
At the gig I stand at the back, watching through the sea of heads, slip out before the end. In a light drizzle, I cycle the streets homeward. I lean back and open wide to catch it on my tongue. Two billion years ago it rained non-stop for a million years. Millions of raindrops in the ocean. An ocean made of rain drops. A life made of days. A collection of days.
I get back, put tunes on, eat hummus. Ten years ago a good day would have been more spectacular. More illicit substances, probably some incarceration. More like Ice Cube in fact. But a good day now exists inside me, rather than exteriorly. Less highs, more like a contented removal of lows, a calm.
Don’t isolate yourself darling, says my mother. I’ll be fine, I think. I am getting where I need to be. If I do my bit, things will come towards me. Doing enough to keep the gnawing voice of conscience at bay. Do that, and days like these might come along. Today is the girl in the red dress. If I do my bit, now and again she will walk on by.
I lie in bed buzzing.
I recognise the many separate beings swimming inside me.
The old man by the fire in his slippers. The achiever telling me to aim higher. The zen master wanting to be still. The child wanting the womb. The hedonist wants to drinks five beers and text Taz. The loner wants to text her. The wise man wants for nothing, knows what I already have is all I really need. Me, right now, at the back end of today, wants to hit his knees and give thanks. To something or somebody.
I lift up my heart will you show me the way
On my knees make more of these
Gotta say it was a good day.