It took him seven tries with the magnetic swipe card to escape from the office building. This was more than the average, but still fell far short of the record 24 attempts required last Monday. Eyes bleared and head numb from 7.5 hours punching numbers into a computer station, he gulped in the outside air, a rare treat to his lungs after days on end of the recirculated variety in the office or at home. He thought about the not-insignificant pleasure the experience of dioxide-flavoured air occasioned as he walked home. Somehow, sucking air is the highlight of my day. This is probably a hugely terrible thing.
Walking home he passed lifeless window displays, and avoided the tough looking girls outside the bus exchange, not wanting to be asked 'what he was looking at' because there wasn't really any way to answer that question, you couldn't just say 'I don't know, shops, pavement'. It can all get very messy. He saw the early evening weekday drunks pissing on ancient gravestones. He listened to music, and when Ross Farrar compressed to 196kbps said ‘I’m going to throw this fucking bottle as hard as I can hope it hits you in the teeth make you learn your lesson it's dog eat dog in a place like this hard luck life sucks so I use my fists I got a chip on my shoulder I'm on a losing streak there's a cloud of contempt hanging over me', he wanted to throw a fucking bottle as hard as he could.
Inside, the air-con hummed and the TV, left on in the morning rush, screamed about the latest in a seemingly endless string of Briscoes sales. At first, the one bedroom flat had seemed lonely. By now he was used to it. The painted concrete block walls matched the rest of the city. He hadn't decided to live alone by choice, more out of necessity. Moving to town for 'his career' (as if it could be called that) had been a hasty decision. The thought of sharing space with strangers on a day to day basis creeped him out a little. A product of 21st century media, he was convinced (via To Catch a Predator, Target and various Crime and Investigation channel re-enactments) that 'stranger danger' was not only very real, but also waiting just around the next wrong turn he happened to make. Life was threatening. Once in High School, Chris Whittaker had called him a 'sheltered pussy'. In his mind, he knew he was nothing more than a pragmatist.
He spent four hours browsing the internet that night, again the result of fierce necessity – Monday night television had sucked forever, and well, what else do you do when you don't know anyone in town? After catching up on the news for practically the entire globe and making a series of vague, cry-for-attention Facebook updates, he turned to an old favourite time killer – the local hip hop forums. He hit the right password first time, and his alter ego, EATPUSSY666, was online. He took his time, slowly devouring the rap scene's interpretation of new alcohol licensing laws, and where the best sushi was made. He avoided the 'PoSt HuNnIeZ' thread, deciding that it was not yet time. This could always wait, until the more pressing issues of the evening were completed. The 'Post Your Sh*t” thread, where Christchurch's newest 'talent' came to show off their 'material' via short videos of themselves rapping – putting themselves out there for all the world to see – was maybe his favourite thing in the entire world. Tonight, he decided to review 'Shawty Jam', by SUB D.
Dear Sub D,
Thank you for posting this. I have not laughed so hard since, well, your last effort. I am wonderfully excited that you have continued to explore the 'pastiche of Soulja Boy and an eight year old with Down Syndrome' style you had previously established. I assume the lengthy delay between your last post and this latest update was the product of you inability to decide what to rhyme with 'ass'. I am glad you were able to overcome this by simply employing 'ass' again in the following line – perhaps it is a clue towards your embrace of post-modernism and a distaste for the 'conventions' of rhyme, and rap in general? Or perhaps, as I suspect may be the case, the real explanation is that you are borderline retarded. Given the mongoloid expression you wear, and the low brow-line which you have attempted to hide with a counterfeit New Era hat, combined with your slow and stuttering flow, I think it is realistic to settle upon this as an explanation. I did enjoy the beat though! It reminded me of childhood – a simpler time for those of us who weren't subject to daily shock therapy and molestation like the unfortunate wards of the state mental health care facility where you grew up. One can clearly make out the distinctive tones of a Fisher Price brand 'Noise n Learn', over what sounds like someone slapping greasy hands on the disgusting bloated stomach of a solo mother somewhere in Linwood. Hopefully you have not employed child labour in the 'production' (if one could call it that) of this piece of shit. Not only would that offend the laws of the land, but most likely the children have been scarred for life in the process. Please, give it up. Give up rapping. I have literally heard eight year olds better than this. And they weren't even rapping at the time – just going about their daily business. I will propose a deal. If you stop rapping and kill yourself, I will cover all funeral expenses. I would also offer to support your family, but I suspect that through my payment of taxes I am already doing just that.
Before you come back, crying like a baby, and saying 'Oh, but what have you ever done, wah wah wah', note the logical fallacy in this. (You can find these words in 'the dictionary'. It is arranged alphabetically). Must one be a great chef to know that one shouldn't eat dog shit? I think not.
Thanks for reading my review,
'A hip hop connoisseur'
Satisfied with the night's effort, he turned to the more pressing issues at hand – starting to stream some free online pornography, and cooking instant noodles while it loaded far enough that he could play the whole way through. He ate, cursing the third world internet speeds this part of town was burdened by.
Lying in bed later, feeling somehow gratified yet still filled with that horrible, lingering post wank self-loathing guilt, he considered calling Rebecca, his ex-girlfriend from back home in Palmerston. There was, of course, no point in doing so. If he called from his cell phone, she'd know straight away it was him and ignore the call, probably. If he called from the payphone downstairs, the anonymity might once again lead to the phone call amounting to nothing more than a torrent of abuse in a 'cleverly disguised' Chinese accent. Much like his confused post-release feelings that evening, his thoughts about Rebecca had also recently become increasingly conflicting. Sometimes he'd find himself thinking about 'the good times' – the romantic meals shared and work missed because it was easier to stay in bed and 'make love'. The good times. Usually, though, these idyllic memories were shattered by an overwhelming sense of regret and stupidity, which kept the kind respite of sleep at bay as his mind tossed in a seemingly bottomless rage. Why had he wasted all those years on some bad toothed slut who was becoming 'increasingly like her mother' (which, as usual, was nothing more than euphemism for gaining like twenty god damned kilos) as the years went on? How had he been so dumb? He thought about her and her new boyfriend, a pathetic skinny man. He thought about his under-developed arms trembling as they struggled to keep her girth at bay for the thirty seconds it probably took him to blow his measly load up her well used... The new guy had, according to his mother, also dumped her.
This was always a bad path of thought to traverse. He was still unsure where, months on, the overpowering urge to telephone her and 'catch up' came from. Sometimes you just do things, I guess.
From the start, the next day seemed to progress far better. He woke early, with time enough even to turn the television set off on the way out the door. The swipe card worked first try, for perhaps the only occasion in its entire existence. The day's filing was numerical – a welcome relief from the far more taxing alphabetical variety. His good mood meant faster work, and hourly targets were reached with sometimes as much as fifteen minutes to spare – fifteen heavenly minutes to bask in the halogen glow from above, and stare contentedly at the purpled grey carpet which lined the cubicle wall. Had he cared more about religion or, for that matter, metaphor, he might have spent some of that time in the bathroom updating his Facebook status via cellphone to something like “feels like Siddhārtha Gautama in Bodh Gaya”. Amongst this sourceless calm and goodwill he was even able to complete a 3 ½ minute conversation with the receptionist (who happened to be another Rebecca), about (generally): today's weather, yesterday's weather, and the outlook for the weekend. He wondered afterwards whether Jim Hickey had it easy with women.
That night, just as he sat down to (an almost celebratory) dinner of Watties 'Big Eat' Butter Chicken, someone started knocking on the door. At first he ignored it – not knowing anyone in town meant it was unlikely to be anyone of interest. Probably some recent immigrant stumbling over the English language as they tried to sell discount movie tickets door to door, he thought. The knocking persisted, however, and he was forced (out of a mixture of irritation and curiosity) to get up. Through the spy-hole he gazed out at a giant in a hi-vis vest and a white hard had. All signs pointed to something serious.
Opening the door, something felt a little off. Emergency workers coming to warn of gas leaks didn't usually wear Slim Shady jeans, did they? The man standing before him had no identification tags, and stood with his hands behind his back.
“Yo, this James Alexander's place?” the fluoro-vested man asked.
“Um, yes, it is?” said James Alexander, at once confused and vaguely terrified as to where this might be going. He still hadn't seen the man's hands.
“I guess you've got a problem then, ma'fuckaaaa” said Mr. Hard Hat, spitting the final syllables and finally revealing his hands – which happened to both be curled around the grip of a steel baseball bat.
James' stomach dropped, and kept dropping, as if one of those bottomless third-world sinkholes had opened in the pit of his torso. He had to swallow a rush of saliva, that harbinger of vomit. Fuck. He tried to keep from shaking. To pull himself together. Be a Man. The cops on those home invasion TV shows always said to just do whatever the 'intruders' said. Lest you wind up dead.
“I mean... I mean, yeah, he lives here. But he's out! At the moment. I can give him a message for you maybe?”
“What's your name then? Door man said there's only one room in this place. You some faggot boyfriend? What's your name, queerlord?”
“I'm... I'm, ah, his brother, Steve. From, like, out of town. I'm staying on the couch. James went out to get us dinner, yeah” said James, hoping like hell that somehow he might get the bat weilding fake Council worker to leave.
Instead of leaving, another giant appeared from around the corner to join the man. He seemed bigger. His bat, this time wooden, seemed bigger. His vest seemed brighter. James' sinkhole deepened significantly.
“I don't believe this ma'fucker”, said the second man, who in plain view began to look almost familiar. If he weren't fearing for his life, James might have taken delight in the sight of a giant wielding a wooden club, which provided an opportunity to use the word 'bommy-knocker' in a serious context for the first time ever, thus fulfilling a lifelong objective. Such are the opportunities lost to fear.
“We're gonna take a look inside then, gay boy”.
“Well, hold on,” said James, stalling desperately. “I don't know if James would...”
“FUCK UP FAGGOT DO YOU WANNA GET THE SMASH TOO CUNT?”
He was forced to press himself against the wall as the two giants passed. The copious sweat from his clammy hands left an impression on the lilac paint. This is not such a great day, after all, he thought, and considered running – sacrificing his worldly possessions in exchange for the preservation of health. Upon later reflection, James would decide that modern life itself was to blame for his failure to seize this one opportunity to escape – either through its fetishization of commodities which caused an unhealthy attachment within him to the consumer goods he had amassed, or through the sedentary lifestyle (and its consequences) which was enforced upon employees of large corporations in the name of 'the greater good' (and meant he sat filing all day in an air conditioned office rather than, I don't know, hunting wildebeests across the prairie or something). It all meant he was totally unfit and could run about three metres. No doubt they'd have caught him by the end of the corridor, had he managed to tear himself from three years of locked in finance payments. Resigned to his fate, James followed the two men into his apartment.
“Yo, dick nose, how you sleeping on the couch when there's no couch in here?”
“And how's that fuckin' nerd out getting food for yous when you're already eating some bullshit in here. Either you're lying, or your some greedy motherfucker. And by the look of you, I'd say you eat maybe once a week. So, that means you're lying.”
“We're gonna fuck you up you lying faggot. Talk shit about me on the internet this is what you get bitch”.
James was struck by four things almost simultaneously:
1) A sudden realisation as to where he maybe recognised the second oaf-giant from;
2) Some vague insight into the cause of his current predicament;
3) A metal baseball bat to the side of his knee;
4) A wooden baseball bat to the forehead.
These two sudden flashes of comprehension were, understandably, followed by a long bout of nil mental activity.
After the initial bouts of disorientation passed upon regaining consciousness, the first thing James wondered was – 'AM I DEAD'. Having decided that heaven (or hell) probably didn't consist of his own living room messed up and stripped of anything valuable, he concluded that this probably was not the case.
Now, though, he was unable to keep from throwing up. The sight of orange rice pouring from his mouth did nothing to help the overall feeling that everything was a little bit too close – his brain was too close to his skull; his eyes too close to the light overhead; his stomach too close to itself, as if his intestines had divided up and turned into a pile of snakes fucking; his knee, too close to the nerves that surrounded it, pressing on them, pinching them... more orange rice appeared.
His attackers, those grotesque giants, were still present, sitting at his computer, laughing together.
“Oh shit, he's awake bro, should I smash him again?”
“Nah g, bring him here”.
The smaller giant approach, forcing James to his feet. With the bat prodding into his back, he was forced to hop over to the computer desk in the corner. The bigger one threw him down in the chair in front of the screen. In front of him sat a webcam. He could see his face in the screen, and the arms holding him down. SUB D pushed a torn scrap of paper into his hands, commanding him to read. James' hesitance earned him another punch in the stomach.
"This is EATPUSSY666. If I had any friends they'd call me James Alexander. I live at 23/8 Rosehip Lane, if anyone wants to come hang out / shut me up. I'm a fucking loser, I guess. I talk shit about people on the internet because it makes me feel better about my tiny cock, which I use for docking, because I'm some Freddy Mercury wannabe free-gayer shit talking pussy. I live alone because I have no friends, except the gay men I meet in St Albans Park to have sex with and spread AIDS. I look like a more feminine, white Tina Turner. I pretend to drop knowledge but the only thing I drop is soap in the showers at the swimming pool. I'm so poor I blow homeless men for their pocket change. I get beaten up by school kids. My father molested me twice a day. I do the same to my four year old neighbour".
James paused, trying to choke back the tears. Failing, he wiped them away. He saw his reflection in the screen – a fat, tanned slug sat on each of his shoulders. Looking down, he recognised them as the flaccid penises of the home invaders. Of course. Why not. More tears came. A tear for every regret he felt. The moment seemed an apt metaphor for life in general. How it could go from almost successful conversations with receptionists to telling the world you molested children while the penises of violent strangers dangled centimetres from your face. It was all a monument to just how unkind the world could be. Maybe he'd been a bit of a jerk. But this? This? This doesn't seem fair, he thought, as the tears continued to flow.
'Keep reading, little bitch'.
"Sub D is actually the best rapper I've ever heard, I just talk shit because I'm jealous. I'd blow him if I could. Anyway, its been nice. Hopefully see some of you soon. Just come over whenever. Better go back to knitting for my boyfriend."
Time was muddy as the giants unplugged the webcam and started uploading the video. James' brain was stuck in recursive loop, like the radio at work, replaying over and over, Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis. Any form of escape would have been acceptable. Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis Ian Curtis.
It looked as if they were preparing to leave. A small ray of sunshine through a Chernobyl acid rain cloud, maybe. Not one of those Josef Fritzl 20 year ordeals, at least. This didn't stop the tears, or cure the recently-gang-raped-by-the-world feeling.
He saw their stupid, wide faces upside down from his position on the floor. Crooked, grinning, stupid faces. An image, he thought, that was burned forever behind his eyelids. To be seen indefinitely. SUB D delivered the following speech: "Fuck you, faggot. That's what happens when you talk shit about me g. You call the cops, and I'll kill you. Literally. I will find you and kill you". He went to kick again, but the other one stopped him.
‘Chill out bro, he’s already fucked as. We better gap eh’. And then, they were gone, stomping out the door like Butch Cassidy heading towards the sunset.
James lay on the floor. When your head feels like implosion and your entire life seems void, there's not a whole lot else to do. His mind tracked from Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain to Budd Dwyer Budd Dwyer Budd Dwyer Budd Dwyer .
In the canon of motivational literature, one phrase is ascendant - "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!". Ignoring the obvious fact that lemonade made with only lemons and no additional ingredients is simply lemon juice, which is itself scarcely better than a pile of lemons, the phrase is meant as a succinct way of declaring the importance of making the best of a bad situation. The problem is, people don't really feel like making lemonade. They feel like taking the pile of lemons and hurling the fuckers through car windows. Metaphorically speaking.
This dilemma, this choice between broken windows and lemonade, struck James a few hours into his lying on the floor crying, thinking about famous suicides and wondering if maybe he could just stay lying there, forever, until expiring from lack of food or water or whatever else it was about lying on floors that could kill you. Letting wretched life pass by outside the locked door of his small apartment. Imagining the world outside going by like the life-cycle of grass in a David Attenborough documentary. Furious movement around a fixed point, outside of his (hopefully) impregnable urban fortress.
Twelve hours on, he thought, this is not an honourable way to die. I should avenge myself, or something, maybe. God, I’m hungry. And my back hurts. I should have called work. Slowly, he crawled to the bathroom, where he saw his bruised face in the mirror. It looked worse than it had through the webcam. The high resolution of real life, in all of its blooming and busting glory.
He threw himself into the scalding shower still clothed, in a fashion any cynical observer would have labeled as an ironic tribute to the eternal post-rape-shower-scene trope James had often joked about. Hot water flowing over mental nothing and broken life. An attempt, maybe, to sever oneself from the past. Cleansing. Something like that.
Lying back clean but still broken, he allowed himself to daze. Having never been 'in to' science, he wondered if Einstein's theory of relativity was the same as the fact that everything was relative, and context was everything. His ex-girlfriend danced across the jagged fever-ridges of the inescapable beat down images. Now, she was beautiful. She was christian god offering Salvation in the face of the Romans who'd only hours before invaded on the barest of pretexts to crucify him. Out the window the concrete town looked more and more like Jerusalem, ancient or modern, torn by conflict, forever hostile. As set beside Palmerston, it practically was a war zone. The West Bank. Basra. Wherever you please. James felt ashamed of his previous pleasure in the stale air. The same air choked down and spit out by thugs who can't take a joke. Enjoyed by an inept police force who can't just tell where a violent sexual assault is taking place. An atmosphere, he knew, that would slowly choke him if there was no escape. Maybe this is the lesson. I need to get out. I need her.
The day followed an uneasy sleep. James walked to work without showering, and ignored everyone on the way to his desk. The forty two year old unmarried claims adjuster in the next cubicle looked over hesitantly, before delivering her evaluation in the tone he usually reserved for the victims of arson - “Wow, James, you look like shit!”. He ignored the comment, staring at his desk while he packed his things in a box. There was no point telling the bosses. He'd miss holiday pay and maybe a reference declaring him the world’s best alphabetical/numerical filing clerk. There are things people can make do without in life. Sometimes sacrifices must be made. Later in life, all he'd remember about the place was its overwhelming grayness – down to the managers' early-morning sweat covered skin.
He didn't bother calling the landlord either. Who knew what would happen. Probably nothing. How do they even track you down? The omnipotence of debt collection was another terrifying though. Probably how they found me. It always seems to come back to money. The good thing about knowing no-one is that there aren't any slow goodbyes. You just start driving down SH1 and don't feel the need to look back. Who cares if the door's locked or the stove's on. Momentum’s enough to keep the memories well hidden, trying and failing to bust through the overwhelming detritus of swift movement.
He avoided shouting at the hitchhikers. The irony in shouting at the defenseless to 'GET A JOB' // 'NICE HAT JEEEEEEEEERK’ might have been enough to crack the meagre shell he had attempted to build between himself and the rest of the world. The town hadn’t changed. Still a mistaken, timeless place where the only teenagers around hung out on bikes in the main street wearing too-big hats with their ears tucked in, pretending to know what ‘cool’ meant. A place devoid of Sub D’s. Devoid of concrete block mountains. Probably (hopefully?) even lacking the internet. Home. The smell of stale air was replaced with slow commerce and rural decline. It tasted clean, and you didn't share it with anyone you didn't know. There were always jobs at the tannery. Take it easy, keep your head in, smile at your neighbours and make it through the next fifty or so years. This is how you live life. Slow life beats fast life in the right contexts, relativity, and all of this. Images of falling into her arms, locking themselves away, free from the world, tracked through his mind as he walked the main street.
He found her at the pub, of course. Drinking the same beer with the same friends. Always ready to forgive and forget; to take him back; hopefully. He approached slowly, and pressed himself close in the embrace. ‘I came back for you, baby. You know I love you, and I guess I just couldn’t stay away. Things were bad, but I came back. What good is big city life, a job, all of that, without the things you really care about, y’know? I need you.’