Compartment

First published in Bloom: Young Writers, Route publishing. Reprinted in The Route Compendium.

Compartment

by Damien Walter

I would like to apologise.

I would like to apologise to you.

I would like to apologise for your lousy day, for the train that was late, the hair that went wrong, for the unwritten essay, the unfinished dream, the fun that you missed and the boredom you felt.

If your day was great? I’d like to apologise for that too.

I would like to apologise for your irritating family, your uninspired friends, your insular social life and empty, empty existence.

Your life is great? Well I’ll apologise anyway.

I’d like to apologise for your inability to organise anything, your arrogant attitude, your annoying habits, your lack of style, your rampant libido, your abrasive personality, your paranoid delusions, your sickening smile, your ignorant ranting and your fucking ugly face.

If you are great then I apologise profusely.

I’d like to apologise for all the things you never see, the lives you never touch, the days that flow unending one into the other. I’d like to apologise for the blueness of the sky, the greenness of the grass and for all the people in between.

I would like to apologise to you and I would like to apologise to God.

God – I’m very, very sorry.

#

All I can see is sky. Beautifully blue, painfully distant and always always there. All I can feel is weight. My back is pressed into the dirt so hard I’ve gone numb, weight on top but just the field below to keep me company. We call it a field because its the closest we ever come to the real earth, but its just a layer of dirt over rubble bounded by concrete paths and hemmed in by the looming shadows of the tower blocks. From here they stretch like the walls of a well, up into the never, leaving just a patch of sky for us to pin our dreams on. The sun only gets in when it’s directly above, rest of the day its all shadows and suspicion. So the grass is yellow where there is any at all. The council men get sent to cut it anyway. They leave the cut grass in heaps around the place to join the rest of the rot on the field. Its an unwritten rule on the estate that if you don’t want something anymore you can leave it on the field to rot. Couches, fridges, torn and spewing rubbish bags, shitty nappies, smashed glass bottles, beer cans. There’s the carcass of a sofa out here which has been around longer than I have, playing host to insect life which is maybe twice my age. If you don’t want something leave it on the field. Even if it’s your kids. This place has almost made it back to the tribal. While the males either find ways to earn or find ways to ponce and the females gather in raucous cackling covens the young are left to fend for themselves. Beyond a certain age we are abandoned to each other. Left without a guide too follow we set out to explore. We get into the places that others stay well clear of, we tread the paths that others fear to tread, the secret ways that snake between the houses, over walls, through abandoned properties and tenements and away into the hidden places. But everywhere we go there’s dirt, because it’s a thing we carry with us, engrained into our skin and crushed into our cheapo clothes, tattooed onto our young faces. It is our burden to always be unclean. In the tribe there is a constant struggle for position. We learn to watch each other wolf like and take advantage of opportunity when it arises. We play games and sometimes they are just games and sometimes they are more. The games get bigger as we get older, until one day we only see the games and our ‘real’ life, whatever that may be, gets lost behind. Games decide position in the tribe and position is everything because we have nothing else. The games always end up in a fight because the loser can never afford to lose. Fights attract attention like nothing else. Out on the field fighting kids become gladiators as people come to the windows of the overlooking flats to cheer them on and for a few moments those two kids become the centre of a world that is baying for blood. Moms will lean out of windows and scream their sons onto victory and even though at least half of us know its wrong we won’t say a thing because this is the only entertainment the place has to offer. We scream along until our lungs hurt because we are all trapped here and one day the TV won’t be enough to keep us sane and you can be sure the anger and frustration won’t stay directed inwards forever and so it comes down to position, you aim it all at those lower in position. But I can’t hear the screaming anymore because my world has gone silent like an empty white sheet because where I am no longer matters because one hot night I listened too long and now all I am left with is the sky.

#

He is a muffled voice below, a rumbling boom beneath the bass of the same music played over and over again and over again and again. I will never sleep. The words aren’t clear but the meaning carries although it is years later before I really understand. It is like a play which I can listen too through the floor going on in some other world. But I see her in the morning and realise her world is only a few feet away. Our eyes meet and I really hope she was not asking for help because I did not give it. She ends the night just screaming sorry. Sorry over again getting quieter into silence.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’d like to apologise.

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