Category Archives: True Life

Things that never happened to me.


First published in Reprinted in Transmission #9.


by Damien G Walter

For four years I didn’t eat. Not like you eat when you really want feeding anyway. I nibbled at things. I took crumbs left on plates. I surreptitiously sipped from other men’s cups. Then when I was thin enough that I could have slipped between the bars, they let me out.

Screws like to see thin men leaving their institutions; reaffirms their faith in the system to see you have no appetite left. I stood blinking in my first unfiltered light in four years. I was boney limbed and sunken cheeked with a concave belly but I could only remember what it was like to be hungry.

They call me Chaser due to my taste for spirits. I could line up ten little liquid filled glasses down a bar, empty them one by one and always want another. I could never have enough. I wouldn’t stagger either friend. Not that I wasn’t drunk. They say a drunk is a man trying to look sober. The trick is not to try. Never any point denying the truth. Somebody told me that once, if not in so many words.

You will always recognise the big jobs when they come along. The little ones you feel good you didn’t get caught. The middling ones you’re happy for the easy money. The big ones are all about reputation. Once they’re done you buzz on knowing on that every face that matters is going to wonder how it was done. You leave behind just enough so they guess at it being you but not enough to prove anything. You feel your name hanging on the lips of your competitors, whispered with a grudging awe by the very men who are paid to catch you.

That morning I felt better than a million bucks, better than the two million and a half again that was stacked in bearer bonds in the case beneath the bed. It felt like coming home, like the confirmation of a dream made real, like everything you ever wanted given to you on a plate. It was pure.

I was at the centre of a silent world. Outside the cars didn’t rumble, the crowds didn’t roar. The streets sat serene and unmoving as London took a minutes silence in awe of its criminal son. Out of respect the hotel suites white curtains chose not to rustle in the breeze. Even my hangover kept quiet as it crept out of the sticky dripping glasses strewn around the room. I rolled and turned, warm in a world of crisp white sheets. My arm stretched out to touch her and found the space where she should have been empty, her warmth gone. As hey kicked in the door and slapped on the cuffs my world had already imploded.

I don’t remember the streets having this many windows. Four years and now everything is made of glass, so that you can see the building right down to the bones. Window upon window of stuff. Watches and jewelry and rings, little piles of books on three for two, huge stacks of toilet cleaner now at rock bottom, the cheapest ever computer, footballs ready for the next big match, high heel under-strapped sandal shoes, music-music-music, everything must go, go-go-go, sale ends soon, 50% off designer suites and part exchange. electricals bought and sold, wi-fi hi-fi units ready in a week, buy now pay later, 0% interest until its too late to back out, buy it now before we go bust, desperate for your next fix then we’ve got the answer, cheap shit you don’t need direct to your door, another sham promotion to draw you suckers in, give us the cash now or we’ll fuck you later. Sell sell sell. Buy buy buy. Shit shit shit. I look at it all and I look at the people and I can’t understand how they want it all. I can’t understand how they want anything.

I stop outside a fast food place selling burgers and spicy spuds. Through the window I can see the people chewing down their food. In the window I see me, a pale reflection of who I should be; stood in clothes three sizes to big, stretched and sagging in all the places where the muscles used to go but do no longer. Beyond want is need and as I need food I go into the place. I order a lump of grease battered chicken. The girl behind the counter looks so sad I just want her to die, a lost vacant thing without dreams, hope or desire. We look at one another and I see my look returned in her eyes.

I will never be lower than this.

I was in love with her face, but I wanted her ass and her legs. Especially her legs. I’m reminded of this as I sit letting the shitty chicken get cold, out on a bench on the street. A young thing walks past wearing a shirt that ends just short of decent, slim legs that trail into high heels so she is tottering along and I could knock her over with a laugh. She knows I’m looking because as house walks past she looks back and flashes me a look of contempt like I could never have her and ensuring the fact that I will want her forever.

She used to do that. Did it once big time. A flash of leg – come on Chaser. An inch of cleavage – we could be together. One less item of clothing – I’m yours, if you can afford me. So one big job was all it was then we could be together in our world of silence and white sheets, exchanging a warm embrace. I reach out an arm and she’s gone, and the doors kicked in and as their slipping one of the fuckers whispers her name in my ear, so that I’ll not have to speculate.

The girls gone without looking back again, just another set of legs on just another street. I’m left thinking of legs, and a face and two million and a half in bearer bonds that might be enough to take you to the ends of the earth but won’t get you close to escaping from me. There’s grease running down my chin and I’m surprised as I hadn’t noticed when I started eating the chicken, swallowing great chunks of flesh as gibbets of fat fall from my chewing, hungry mouth.


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


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.