we's the real
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The behaviours of the human are complex and often wretched, merciless and efficient as empathic robotics, though fuelled by the lusts of the flesh, the base pleasures beyond which one seldom progresses. In even the most enlightened, the crest of one’s emotive evolution extends no further than bodily satiation in whatever form – the variance of vice blurs only into the stretched skin of absolute gluttony, gorging on the pleasures. In incalculable fragments of time decisions are processed and any concessions to a morality that we like to think distinguish us from the lesser monsters are left obsolete by turn. We pay lip service to the hindrance of ethics as it provides the limits we must readily exceed. The value of morality is in its breakage alone – consciousness demands the existence of limits so that we can comprehend the necessity of a life without them. This is what distinguishes us, as humans, from the others – our sentience enables the understanding of a moral sense and with such understanding we can consider ourselves beyond it. The ability to think in moral terms is not itself a gift; the ability to dismiss such paradigms is. With understanding comes transcendence, elevated above the mundanity of good or otherwise. Everything is permitted.
The University of East Anglia was founded in the 1960s and constructed in the stylings synonymous with the “New Brutalist” architectures, stark, grey and concrete, a profound abutment to Norfolk’s unbroken expanse, making a mockery of the heritage and traditions and incestuous inter-generational nepotism of the old colleges.
The Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer is anus-gaspingly attractive, likely queer, dungarees hung from fair flesh like flags at a march, fringe dyed starkly and sliced in sheer angles, tits just allusions, erogenous curves made more so by intertexts, the nods to what they could be in the context of pornography. Her admirable campaigns against sexual harassment – NEVER OK – are somewhat tempered by the society revellers – lacrosse, footie, other oaf work – who have turned the swift ejaculation onto the myriad posters of her face that cover the boards around the central buildings into a kind of hazing ritual akin to alcohol poisoning or naked sprinting, viscous relish running down her grin in obscene gobs, such degradation. I join their ranks on occasion, during the quiet parts of the day. Her borderline personality disorder is characterised by promiscuity, the theft of alcohol, drawing pins stuck where the thigh forges a broad avenue to the cunt. Let us walk it as one! I’m a gentle man, ladylike, you can feel queer with me, I assure you, and what are these identities but feelings anyway. I’ll undermine nothing and value the opposite, just let me in you, a taste, a touch, let me rub against you fully clothed, let me talk to your parents, let me cook you a meagre supper for which you buy the ingredients, let me walk your cat, groom your degu, let me wash your clothes and roll you about, let my fingers sink in the heat of your calzone, my touch cleanse your vessel, lets buck until spent and play chill out CDs that I’ll berate even while enjoying them, your stick thin legs, your torn tights, your tight tear, you’ll feel flimsy beneath me!, let our acts conjoin and redefine disgusting, please Jo, please, let us curate each other’s genitals as occasional custodians of same. Truly she elevates the campus, electrifies it, oozing great celebrity but possessing none; really I can but blush in her presence, the colour of sunset, from feet away, metres, whole buildings. In the bedroom we are all apes.
Set in some 370 acres of parkland, fens, meadows and woodland, with an extensive lake, or broad as it is commonly known, the campus is home to an incredibly biodiverse population of flora and fauna including otters, deer and the great crested grebe, whose calls commonly mingle with the sound of copulating students in their dogged pursuit of the fabled “five Ls”, in which any fornicator worth his or her salt strives to complete the sex act within the quint of eponymous alliterative locales, thereby assuring their absolute dominance over decorum and good taste. Such is the abundance of life that the roads that flank the environs bear a proportionate abundance of death. Squirrel Popping is an unofficial campus event, and involves the wilful crushing of the named mammal, ordinarily by vehicle. I observed a squirrel stop in its tracks for an endless moment before the wheels of a navy Corsa hit; it inflated like a crisp packet and burst in a short gush of gizzards. I was immeasurably distraught and felt a summation of all life and its associated cruelties and futilities exemplified in the act, the cheering and horn-honking of the carful of undergraduates receding into the morning. Though prohibited in the regulations the council nonetheless turns a blind eye to the pursuit as a harmless, controlled release of psychotic urges that preserves the broader integrity of the institutions interpersonal relations.
We cycled in the near dark beneath an immense circling murder of crows as they came into roost in the ancient oaks that peppered the parklands. Must have been a hundred birds or more. The noise was frightening and very loud.
The broad was dredged in 1973, excavated from 18 acres of gravel pits. Whilst offering an abundance of beauty it brings with it the potential for trauma. There have been a number of deaths over the years, students found naked and water-swollen on the surface after drunken swims in the miniscule hours. Their cold bodies would be carried across the middle of campus covered in lost property garments and stored in a cold room in the Multifaith Centre for hours before the ambulance could get through the traffic, mourned across the theistic spectrum by attendant hand-wringers.
He dropped some strong acid as he’d been doing without incident since Christmas and went mad in his bedroom. When the security personnel arrived he was wearing only a t-shirt, his penis clearly visible beneath the hem and composed almost entirely of prepuce. He was speaking in French and shouting “Vitamin A! E! K!”, thrusting his laptop toward the officers, the screen cracking audibly beneath the whites of his fingertips. The room was littered with large white pills, presumably multivitamins. He was taken to the hospital by paramedics, somewhat unnecessarily I supposed, and had no recollection of the events when asked about them the following day. He was mortified when he learnt about his penis, as we males so often are.
She considered our meeting a confessional, of sorts, and would embrace the opportunity to disclose information. She was disgusted to have found a roast beef ready meal consumed by a flatmate. She was unsure of the brand. She suffered from weak bowels. She had a slightly lazy right eye and she wore a patch after hours; a prank in the first week had led to the discovery of this fact and she feared the stigma surrounding a condition most associated with the despised children at primary school would now haunt the rest of her university career. She remained a virgin though by choice and felt this to an insurmountable barrier between the mingling personalities of her peers and herself. Her father had killed himself by shotgun in front of her only months before she matriculated and she believes this may have had a lasting impact on her wellbeing. Off-kilter, cold-blue, her eyes were slick tarns in the geography of her face that bore behind it such violation. I asked her please to repeat that and she said again that her father had killed himself by shotgun in front of her only months before she matriculated and she believes, she said, that this may have had a lasting impact on her wellbeing. I assured her it probably had, certainly might have, said tell me again about your virginity.
Before the redundancies she had occupied the desk due west of the male lavatories. She was a grim-faced mare with misery etched into her like hieroglyphs, with greasy white locks framing it and a limitless supply of pastel trousers. A sentient trope, she lamented the sickness of her many cats, spoke vividly of their bowel movements, their vomit, their incontinence and, finally, their death. She would sleep on the desk, head buried in invoices and the cradle of her arms, lulled to somnolence by the incessant ringing of the telephone. She took in male lodgers, young post-docs, academics. Helped with the mortgage repayments and the loneliness. “The willies I’ve seen,” she said, nodding towards the lavatory door at an emerging adviser. “All the colours of the rainbow. Over the years.”
“Can’t remember his name but he had this huge Alsatian. Used to menace the Italian in the ice cream van with it and always got a free 99 and a screwball for the Alsatian. Just had to hear the lead jingle and he was getting his Flakes out, like a Pavlovian thing. A response. Ate ice creams all bloody summer he did, didn’t cost him a penny. What was his name?”
The boor urinated onto his own front door. After beers, wine, a few shots. Felt flushed and wild on the vague promise of fondling, pressed against hot bodies in queues for the bar, carried along by the waves of life that surged around him, moist with hormones. Freedom of his dick in the wind. The cool night. The dull grey stain remained on the render well into the next academic year, an arc of turpitude, of despoilment, where a future nobody once spilt his wares. The modest scale of his genitals merited comment from the attending security officer in his written report, logged for file, then later requested under FOI legislation by an astute best man utterly devoted to public humiliation. The perfect moment at which his parents’ faces turned from disgust to shame. The bride’s, too, from happiness to plummeting regret. Long time, a lifetime. Hell of a speech. Not a dry gusset in the house. Nicknames forged for eternity in a throwaway, if accurate, observation by a hired grunt, face ablaze from the glare of the high-viz in the headlights of the golf buggy that in high winds had overturned and rolled down the knoll causing mercifully minor injuries, some hellish lustre, calling it, the pisser, Wee Willy Winky ha ha; Tiny Tim ha ha; Stuart Little ha ha, Mini Me ha ha. And then: imperceptible. As in, it were. And then all gone. Life, hope, poise. All.
“The guy absolutely stank of oranges, but off ones, rancid. Took your breath away.”
The flaxen belle in the tight green button up exuded the style the campus rag called nuthag, trussed like a Guy, grinning demonic, she clutched a stuffed rabbit like a ledger. Her profile pictures were of herself aside diminutive dogs, her back to the camera in foreign locales, karaoke, old postcards. She cross-stitched love letters to supermarket staff and dreamed of a better future, engaged with community initiatives, vegetables, streetlights, trees, bus fares. What fruit bore her undergarments. There was much to admire beside the contempt.
I am a godless man but seek regardless the solace of the concept of the spiritual. He born of the cosmic egg is the source of such solace. The light of the egg radiates from his pate. His eyes are angels. His smile is angels. His brows are angels. His dear brown skin against the stark white of the earth is angels. He is of the earth and far outside it, grown from the shape of my memories. He is the serene being upon whose face I gape for peace. The Anglican, by contrast, reclines sensually, nude beneath the vestments, soap-white teeth, bum him at the altar, the smell of sanitized rectum in the chapel. My sins are yours, lord. I will soil your house, I will desecrate your carpets.
He was a hefty lad, a decent one with it, loved a good meal, a big breakfast. Until he left home it was black pudding and Daddies sandwiches on bread fried in Trex and slathered in butterfat every weekday, his mother loves him, doted on the lump, gut him up like a hog for butchery, slurped down the neck with bowls of tea, syrup-thick with melting granulated, hot cross buns, pastries, boiled eggs tongued out whole like eyes out of roadkill, leaving crusted yellow brooks snaking down the chin. He revelled slowly in the gluttony of the morning and the feel of the dressing gown on his unclothed buttocks, and carried the extra pounds tenderly, like lovers across the threshold. By university the breakfasts worsened exponentially. His mother cooked still the black budding, the bread, the eggs, such habits embed deeply, but threw them each away into a bin rank with decaying food. At odds with the License Agreement he stored a toaster in his bedroom for at least some semblance of sanctity, and used it within his wardrobe to lessen – he thought – the impact it would have on the fire detector head. His clothes reeked of cooking bread. The daily din of the alarm that roared when the wardrobe door was opened became a crucial component of the meal as eaten. He missed his mother tremendously.
“I know it all. All of it. I just do. I know.”
“She’s like a sister to me, but a sister I make love to.”
“‘Wash the fuck up my pots,’ I said, I said, ‘yardie, fuckin savage, yardie.’”
“Like a sister, but a sister I make love to and abuse.”
“‘I’ll pull your cheeks,’ I said, ‘and did’.”
“Like a sister.”
“Suck me off at least. Dick’s wet.”
The lads, the pair of them, ran nude around the residences in January, an asexual act of revelry fuelled solely by drink, dicks like husks of superfluous skin as yet unshed by the passage of evolution, their flanks reddened by the fierce cold as though slapped repeatedly. It was no later than six-thirty but of course was dark already, and their flesh was bright as ghosts, grotesque lanterns illuminating their route to the lake. Security had picked the glare up on CCTV around back of one of the new blocks and would burn the footage to DVD for giggles, hoot at it over cards and instant coffee, howling with the pleasure. Apprehended them at the top of the lake, the fatter of the two doubled over, engaged in an asthma attack. They wouldn’t wrap them in blankets, wouldn’t spare them that indignity, made them walk full dick back to the centre of campus, early evening drinkers with their smartphones out behind windows, flashes bright as daylight, not that cold, breeze on their retracted balls, fat one wheezing like a farting balloon, cunt could hit the Ventolin while his mates bayed at his genitals. There’s a faint line beyond which failure becomes heroism. Woefully absent from this pair, their single memorable asset was and ever would be unremarkable inadequacy.
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I stayed at UEA once whilst
I stayed at UEA once whilst on a horticultural field trip, visiting spring onion farms, the carrot farm etc. My room was lovely, big window, lovely green view. This is brilliant, parts of it are absolutely brilliant.
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This Challenging Piece
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