A Pause, Two Pauses, More People

I recently had the rare opportunity of going to a concert where I was not entirely familiar with the band. I had heard of them in passing, but never listened to them as far as I was aware, although they’re probably on a list of mine somewhere amongst other bands that I need to listen to.

The band was brilliant, by the way. They played music that made me nostalgic without ever really hearing much of their work before and that I think, is a feat in and of itself.

But I have to admit I didn’t have my eyes on the stage as almost everyone else. I, instead, watched everyone else, who was watching the stage. Waves of people only outlines in doorways, their shadows stretching across the seats. A pause, two pauses, more people.

The strobe lights from the stage were really lighthouses, sweeping across a sea of faces and cheekbones and hairlines, guiding everyone home. I caught glimpses of a man dressed entirely in black, carrying glasses of water and cans of various liquids to the singers and guitarists and the drummers. A secret messenger, crouching to hide under the lights, who would later be able to attest to the fact that he delivered water for City & Colour and saw Dallas Green sweating from his facial hair downwards.

Everyone was transfixed in the most wonderful way, all reminiscing about their own lives, separately and together. An audience swimming in the raw acoustics, chords suspended by their own resonance, drifting upwards like helium balloons up to the ceiling. Masses of people surrounded by the one thing they’ve gathered for, waiting restlessly for their song to be played.

That song, the song that spoke to them, the song they can always listen to, the song they’ve associated with good days and bad days and Fridays and Mondays. I don’t have a song like that for City & Colour yet. Although I did like one of their love songs more than anything.

But that’s it, that’s all. I got to see a crowd of people being honest the other day. It was lovely.

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“Handsome?” He cocks a dark eyebrow and his mouth cracks into a crooked grin.

“Didn’t take me for the army type, did you?” He chuckles now, wondering how the younger man missed the cues. Sebastian takes the circular disc hanging from his neck and lays it on the bar.

The metal is still warm.

A POS
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MORAN
S
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Sebastian catches Quinn’s gaze falling over his broad frame. He knew what the younger man wanted. He had always been able to read people, but further training in the military and watching card games in pubs and bars allowed him to finely-tune his knack down to an art form.

Innocence broods under green eyes made darker by the poor lighting of the establishment. Moran licks his lips.

What brought him to the States?

To Sebastian, Richard was London. He was so deeply woven into the fabric of the city that once he disappeared, even those who never knew of him felt his absence. Sebastian tried staying.

But the longer he stayed, the longer he felt everything collapsing in upon itself.He tried travelling England for a while, even though he ruled out returning to the north a long time ago.

Didn’t leave much for him.
And Ireland? Ireland was always right out of the question.

And so he left.

He went halfway around the world, away from sing-song lilts and brogues, away from tartan and sheepish smirks and dark eyes.

And the nights and weekends he spent drinking whiskey in Dublin. Dublin, that smelt like wet leather and rain and yeast.

Sebastian isn’t sure he’ll ever really be able to travel far enough.
“Change of scenery,” he offers with a nod of his head, taking a mouthful of his pint and setting it down on the bar again. “Needed something new, got a bit restless, thought I’d make my way here. Need some distractions, like.”

The Silence of His Departure

He can smell the mulch underneath his fingernails. He tastes the dirt and blood in his teeth. His chest burns furiously, muscles aching for oxygen.

It’s dark. He tries to reconcile the idea that no one knows where he is. The air is suspended, held up by the stars. Sherlock tries to remember who was there, how many of them there were, but even now he cannot remember certain basic facts.

The memory is faded, too surreal to be true, but some parts are so vivid he cannot deny them. The smell of leather shoes and quiet, hurried breaths and cold, cold hands. It must have happened, he thinks. It must have happened because I cannot get the taste of them out of my mouth. 

He doesn’t remember, but his senses do.

The trees are shadows. We made a nice little spot for you, Sherlock. Come sit down for a minute. Have a quiet chat. The chewing gum will take the taste away, I promise.

Nobody would have found him in time.

His ears are ringing with the quiet. God was gone.

How to Enjoy Your Long-Distance Relationship (A Rant)

I recently read an article whose title bothered me the most:

How to Survive a Long Distance Relationship

The title irks me because it implies the only thing to do in a long-distance relationship is to survive it. (And it doesn’t help that the title is spelt incorrectly, either.) The author gives a series of headings, tips, tricks and hints as how best to endure the distance.

… so I’m going to write today’s blog post with a slightly different theme.

How to Enjoy Your Long-Distance Relationship

(Okay, so I’m being a cheeky git, but I’m also quite serious, I promise. I am also assuming that if you are in a long-distance relationship you have discussed all the important issues therein – including validated the fact that the other person exists and is corporeal. Because, if I’m candid, every relationship is different and therefore it isn’t my place to say what you should and shouldn’t be doing.)

So, most of the time, people in long-distance relationships like to pretend they aren’t in one, yeah? Closeness is one thing you can’t surpass, but coming from or living in different places has its advantages.

New restaurants or foods, sometimes different currencies, new neighbourhoods, equally bizarre public transportation, swapped seasons and skylines and everything else. Giggle over the clash in climates, sigh over politicians, become fluent in immigration law and embassies and suddenly perk up when the city or state of your loved one is mentioned in the news.

Skype calls are lovely – and they also provide one with an opportunity to talk, chat, have a ‘date’ without having to leave the comfort of one’s very own bed. Sometimes, there’s something rather appealing about talking to your significant other (and enjoying their company) without having to move or get dressed for the day.

You can still work to your own schedule for the most-part. Apart from the general lack of sleep that comes with trying to wrangle different timezones and the international dateline. But, if necessary, you can ignore your partner almost completely while studying for finals or exams. (Can you tell the wife is 17 hours behind me yet, or…?) It’s not really a pro, or a con, if I’m honest – in the same way that living with someone has its pros and cons – but it’s different, and it’s something that will come up often enough, as much as I’d rather not ignore the wife at all.

The internet affords us with little semblances of normalcy, watching a television show together is fairly effortless and rather domestic. Appropriate (or inappropriate) photographs can be swapped back and forth accordingly. Applications like Pair, Avocado, Between, Couple, Cupple, Tokii and Duet are all available for partners to access – and lessens the likelihood of anyone seeing your terribly sentimental messages.

Planning to see each other or having certain goals like holidays or long weekends is another lovely thing. And, for me, at least, it’s important to have a finite goal to look forward to. It makes me work harder, save more money and be more focused about my life in general. It’s a brilliant thing for any couple, and god knows we all need a holiday – but there’s something different about the importance of holidays with long-distance relationships.

Maybe it’s that you don’t actually get to go home together at the end. Huh.

…let’s not think about that one.

Parcels, though. Letters, postcards, care packages. For a lot of people, it’s been a long time since they last received any one of those. It’s a feature of a long-distance relationship. Even though post office queues are horrible and you’re restricted to sending certain things so it pays to be fairly gift-savvy. It’s all worth it. Seeing the handwritten address on the label, fighting through sticky tape and styrofoam. Popping bubble wrap. I certainly feel like a wee child on Christmas morning when I check the mail and see my name written across cardboard in neat, even hand.

So, in summary, (because I’ve ranted for so long I’m impressed if you’re still here), long-distance relationships aren’t something to survive or endure. They’re something to enjoy, and cherish. Being together is of course the end goal, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make the most of everything else along the way. If there’s a problem, solve it. If there’s an obstacle, overcome it. If there’s an issue, compromise.

(Like a ‘normal’ relationship – funny that.)

These are all wee bits of advice from my scarce and questionable life experience, but there they are.

Don’t panic, it’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

Curious and Curiouser (I Suppose)

I think the theme of today’s post will be something I’ve observed over the past few weeks.

On the whole, individuals tend to think they are fairly uninteresting people. Everyone has their fair share of stories but…are they engaging enough?

I think so. I think humans are terribly, terribly curious creatures. We think we’re boring, or routine, or even in a stasis of placid contentment if you want to go in that direction but – we’re not.

(At least, we intrigue each other. I’m not entirely sure about what animals or extra terrestrials think of us, but perhaps that is entirely for the best.)

But, think about it. Media, news, blogs, television shows, magazine articles, documentaries, interviews, those are all platforms we use to discuss ideas and share and satiate our curiosity. And that’s all without even looking back into the past at historical texts, documents, primary sources murals or first-hand accounts.

One of my favourite things to do is people-watching. Sit in a comfortable spot, with some appropriately caffeinated drink and a half-abandoned book and watch people walk past my little corner of the world. Watch people. That’s it. That’s what I like to do. I don’t even have to really surmise anything or create a story about their lives, just pick up on tiny details.

The buttons on one man’s coat, one young woman’s worn-out favourite hat, polished shoes, upturned cuffs, tiny wee shoes equipped with flashing lights, hair bows, ties and everything else. I like to see what books people are reading on trains, buses and trams. Couples, parents clutching tiny hands, best friends, public shouting matches, overhearing conversations in Spanish on the bus.

(One of the advantages of having studied a language at university, although I can’t say I have ever actually crashed any of the parties that were discussed.)

Individually, many of us are convinced we don’t really have anything worthwhile to contribute to society, stories, books, artwork, music – most of us leave it to someone we consider to be more experienced, better qualified, or more creative. But we’re all interesting, and all intrigued by each other. That curiosity is what causes us to explore the sky and space and the sea and look for things in the ground.

But sometimes the most domestic, the most ‘ordinary’, the most familiar are the most remarkable things. I know I talk a lot about actively trying to appreciate life’s little luxuries, but we’re not boring, and you’re not boring.

Don’t let anyone tell you any different. There’s probably someone out there like myself who likes to watch people go by and appreciates you for your little eccentricities.

(Although if you’re planning a party in another language, be careful, okay? Okay.)

The Welcome Party

I remember when I was wee, I had a gameboy colour. It was teal, and was covered in sparkly horse stickers.

I used it to play all sorts of games – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is still in there – and it works. (!)

But Pokémon Gold was my game of choice at the time. I used to pack it in my backpack while going on holidays. Along with a spare book, a packet of sweets, some music and some postcards, a habit I’ve yet to grow out of. I could play that game for hours, swallowing up the hours between airports and airplanes.

(I never actually had any strategy playing those games, yeah? I just went on my merry way and fought Pokémon with no particular direction, waiting for my wee starter to evolve and having absolutely no bloody idea when that was.)

So there I was, wandering along in LAX – I think? – and probably shoving new batteries into my gameboy when the game itself fell out. It fell with the label facing upwards. A large crowd of young men, all university students came swaggering towards me – I tried to pick up the game, but I fumbled in the way that you do when you’re little.

Woah Pokémon Gold – cool!” one of them said.

They all laughed, and chuckled, and grinned at me. And I smiled back.They walked away, all terribly tall in my memory.

And it was nice. I felt as though I had been initiated, included, acknowledged. My footloose and fancy-free method of playing Pokémon was just as valid as anyone else’s. My experience of the game was different to anyone else’s, but nonetheless authentic. (Although probably not very effective.)

What I am trying to say is this:

Your involvement or obsession with a fandom or a franchise doesn’t necessarily make you a ‘better’ fan in the same way that reading books over electronic e-books or kindles doesn’t make you a ‘better’ reader. Memorising quotations, setting the theme song as your text alert or attending all the conventions in your state does not make you a ‘better’ fan. A die-hard fan, maybe. A hardcore fan, maybe – but not a ‘better’ fan.

(The more fans there are, the more people there are to share things with.)

I know a lot of people would agree with me on this concept – I know it’s quite contentious – and I’m always grateful for those of you who’ve read this far, but there are all sorts of fans, and the important thing to remember is that we have to include them all. We’re on this bizarre bandwagon together – balance is crucial. It takes all kinds. Welcome the most recent fans, recruit your friends, do all those lovely things – because little gestures like that can stick with you for years and years.

(And also, don’t let anyone tell you Totodile is not a cool starter Pokémon for Pokémon Gold. Totodile’s awesome.)

 

 

Victor (Part One)

Where do I even begin, really.

Do I start when I first met him, or when I first fell in love with him, or when I first knew I was in love with him?

…well, I’ve spoiled it all now, haven’t I?

I first met him in school – I’d seen him before – but I first met him the day he decided to hide from the Dean, who wanted to cut his hair.

I was in chemistry class, standing in an apron and setting out the things I’d need for class, when he walked in the room. I must’ve been the only person who saw him come in. And he looked at me. He looked at me so intently I think I went bright red. He slinked over to my bench and stood impossibly close to me, his elbow touching mine.

I saw his eyes first. Felt them first, I should say. All clear and green and blue and violet like sea glass polished clean.

“Hello,” I said.

“Oh, hello,” he said, off-handedly, “Suppose we should talk, shouldn’t we?”

“I’m Victor,” I offered, trying to resist the urge to look over my shoulder and check the whereabouts of my teacher.

“I know,” he replied dismissively. And then, as if thinking better of it, “Sherlock Holmes.”

“…what’re you doing?”

“Hiding from the Dean. My hair is far too long and needs to be sheared until its considered acceptable,” he said flatly.

Sherlock’s hair was beautiful. It was thick, and curly, and dark and perfectly rebellious. I wanted to sink my fingers into it.

“Well you’re…hiding in plain sight, then?”

“Precisely. It’s part of a new method I have in mind,” his eyes flickered over the room, but they always came back to mine.

And his method did work. Until we both started to giggle.

And, rather than be caught, Sherlock curled his long fingers into a fist and punched the nearest fire alarm on the wall.

“Come along Victor,” he said, taking his hand in mine and filing out with the rest of the students.

“Sherlock, you’re bleeding,” I protested, watching blood drip down from his sleeve and onto the floor. “You need a doctor.”

“My wound is perfectly superficial, Victor, nothing to worry about,” the not-quite detective replied, but he turned into a hallway and moved swiftly down a flight of stairs, walking through crowds of boys to the sick bay with me still attached to him and pressing into his shoulder.

He started to rummage for bandages but I suggested he hop up on the bed, and had a look myself. I cleaned the wound meticulously, trying to find a reason to keep touching his long, pale fingers. He taught me how to wrap up the bandage properly. He said something about learning or creating a new fighting method but I was too busy memorising his hands to notice.

I adjusted my glasses, as was my want to do around him, and he smiled at me.

Sherlock leaned forward, then, and kissed me on the mouth. It was awkward and brisk and his nose left prints on my glasses but it was the best kiss – my first, his first, – that I had ever had. Before I could take my glasses off to kiss him again, or even touch my bottom lip, he leapt down from the raised bed and whirled out of the room, hair and all.

“You’re very good,” he said as he whirled out the door, hair and all. He winked at me.

I wasn’t sure if he meant the kiss, or my apparent skills in nursing and I don’t think he wanted me to know. I was late, to the emergency fire drill. Very late. I was given appropriate consequences. But I didn’t mind.

The thing about trouble, is that it’s worth it for Sherlock Holmes.