The Staring Leaves

My days off always consist of reading and drinking and staring.I usually sit on the right hand side of our couch, as the left hand side of the window pane is broken.I think a guitar may have been thrown against it once.I can’t remember though.All I know is that even if it wasn’t broken, that side of the street isn’t worth looking up anyway.   Now I’m not sure if this would come under as being classed as O.C.D or not, but I always read books to a strict schedule of cups of coffee.After every 25 pages, or to the nearest chapter, I get up, make my way in a sort of tip toeing fashion to the kitchen – as there are always slithers of broken glass on the floor – and boil the kettle.It doesn’t matter if you are completely engulfed in what you are reading – short breaks for me make the story even more exciting.You find yourself rushing around like a mad man just to get back to the plot that little bit faster.All sorts of obstacles can get in your way though.For instance, searching for things like the teaspoon you last used is a common occurrence for me.Crazily looking in the same three places over and over again, until the click of the kettle – signalling that the water has boiled – makes you look up to see it just sitting there grinning.The stains from your previous cup have formed a semi circle and it is almost as if it is laughing at you.Submerging it in the scalding muddy coloured puddle that has now filled your mug soon wipes the smile off its face though – well until next time.Anyway, you eventually come padding through, complete with your steaming cup of routine and settle down to the pages that so far, have managed to make you forget about whatever’s been on your mind.

The only problem with this is that after roughly 125 pages, you become pretty jittery.So much so, that you find yourself staring at the creamy slices of paper, iced with words that a moment ago seemed so delicious, but now have no appeal whatsoever.You drift in and out of pointless day dreams.You find yourself trying to remember things like, did Jeff Buckley kill himself, or was it an accident…did he make the rock n roll club?Then after around 3 minutes of this trivial torment, you turn and stare at your neighbour’s tree, wondering when the leaves – that have turned that beautiful autumn yellowy colour – will shrivel and then blow off with the next sigh from God.

My attention span was particularly bad today.So far I had only managed to drink 3 cups and already I was beginning to pace around inside my head.It was not long before the pacing would be expanded to elsewhere.I was right.After making my way to the kitchen to prepare for the bringing in of pages 75 to 100, I found myself aimlessly standing before my cupboard.I have had many a conversation with my housemates about standing in this very spot and just staring.I cannot recall a single occasion, where either one of us has declared that our original intentions were to find something to eat.It must just be a good place to gather your thoughts.Good place or not I snapped out of my trance and made my way through to my bedroom – stopping by the fridge on the way.10 O’clock in the morning seemed like a perfectly acceptable time to start drinking.Several missed calls on my phone were waiting to greet me.I didn’t care.If they were people in the street, I would have merely nodded to them and continued on my way.Solitude was the only thing I was interested in today.

All sorts of colours littered the floor of the porch.The brighter sheets – which were either singular or held together with a poorly positioned staple – were of no interest.However, the soothing pastel pink envelope that was lying there caught, and actually gripped my concentration like a vice.It was from Cancer Research.

Back in my comfy seat, I proceeded to open it with all the delicate care I could muster.A pen dropped out – for it was the heaviest of the group – closely followed by a pre paid envelope, and then a letter designed to pull at my heart strings.Finally, a folded pink ribbon that had been fashioned into a badge out of the charity’s symbol landed on my lap.Upon reading the bold writing at the top of the page I became upset and embarrassed and wretched and anything else that is synonymous with these feelings.It read, just £2 a month can help save lives.Finally one word summed me up.Shame!

The last time I had had these words poised at me was a few years ago in Lineferdun’s high street.My day had been busy.The rain had seen fit to fall all day so that the crowded and cramped train could smell as one.Damp Alsatian seemed to be the odour of choice.The train had taken an age to make its way through all the pre agreed stops on its route and for once, I was surprisingly glad to be in the town.I didn’t even feel like a drink tonight which was also out of the norm.Apart from a few frantic shoppers, the street was more or less empty.What they were rushing around for I couldn’t tell, for there was no imminent holiday – pagan, or religiously accepted – approaching.The only other person in the street was a hooded man with a clipboard and a pleasant, but tired face.

Over the next few minutes, I listened cordially to his much recited speech and I tried without success to impersonate someone who cared.All I could think about was getting as far away from him as possible.I just wanted to get up the road, so I paid him off with what I thought he wanted.I paid him £5 a month to leave me alone.I paid him to stop talking to me.I paid him to stop shaking his peppery guilt on me.I paid him to make the itch that had become unbearable within my rib cage to go away.I paid him to look even more tired.He knew why I had crumbled to his request - the desire to get home, to eat a warm meal and then watch The Simpson’s or Futurama or whatever was on Sky One at that time.In actual fact, all he had wanted me to do was help because I wanted to help.I didn’t even feel bad about that until now.But now was the chance to rectify that unholy performance.I filled out my details and awaited the rewarding feeling that should have almost definitely been on its way.It never arrived.Even when the standing order was inside the sealed envelope, I still felt morose.Surely, this wasn't right.Do good deeds go unrewarded now?It had been that long since I had done one, I couldn't be sure anymore.

I re-focussed my attention on my neighbour's tree.I'm not sure why I portioned so much of my day to it; it wasn't as if it had a status of grandeur or anything.It seemed to me that it just grew upwards, instead of growing upwards and outwards – a bit like me in a strange sort of way.A few leaves fell off and landed softly on the ground.It was almost as if they had asked, "What is the point of holding on till the end", and without waiting for an answer, had attempted to make their way to the great gig in the sky.There was no wind though, so for the time being, they would have to sit and wait and rot.

Without my consent, my thoughts began to align themselves parallel to the strange and the surreal.Who knows if this was the early stages of my mind collapsing, but I judged that in tree years, we would probably be of the same age.I wondered how the leaves related to it.Then I wondered how they related to me.Where did they come in the overall plan of things?I mean, were they just the trees hopes and dreams, destined to gradually die over time?If they were reasonable questions, then was it actually possible to compare life to the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter?If so, I didn’t have much time to get my affairs in order.

The walk didn’t take as long as it usually did.Well it didn’t seem like it took as long anyway.There was no way I could have stayed inside that house anymore.In a strange turn of events, I was now being distracted from the tree – the one thing that had given me solace today – by the cancer research letter.Every time I began to slip into the sublime recesses of my mind, the grim reality of others pain brought me crashing back to the real world.

I replaced the letter back in the inside pocket of my coat and headed into the pub.I desperately needed to post this letter.I needed relief.This conjured guilt was stroking the inside of my lungs and all I could do was scratch my tongue and swallow violently to ease it.I had to fix this.

As depressing as this may be, I always feel more at ease after a few drinks.Perhaps it’s because we live in an excuse culture and booze is the widely accepted remedy for all issues in life.I am always looking for an excuse.I should have been looking for a post box, but that is the excuses fault.We live in a blame culture as well and madness is the vital cog that turns and facilitates the two of society’s lesser appendages.

The pub was busy.Mind you, it was a Friday lunchtime, so the joiners and labourers and plumbers and everyone else who was on a half day had now arrived, and were well into their weekly rituals.Mostly they populated the bar area, as that is where the banter and television was to be found.I made my way through the back of the pub with a dark rum and bottle of Becks as a chaser.Again I felt let down.This didn’t feel right at all.It took a moment to notice that I was pouring sweat.I knocked back my half and made my way towards the toilets.Cold water and splashing always was a sure fire remedy for bringing back your senses, and with the drying of my face, I have to admit that I felt a lot better.I would post that letter as soon as I had finished my beer.I would enjoy this beer.I would enjoy the walk home.I would make an effort to notice the things that the people who I was helping, would soon no longer notice.I would…I would enjoy the remainder of my book.I even managed a smile to myself before resuming the classic pub face.Everyone has one.It is an impassive mask you wear when you carry a pint back to table or when you stand at the juke box and choose your songs.Blankness is a person’s best friend when you are on your own.

He was older than me and somewhat smaller, but he had a face that was twisted with contempt.He was flicking through my book whilst awaiting my return.I doubt he had been able to come up with much material to try and show me up with, for I had not been away that long.You could see he was trying though.This is when men like this are at their most dangerous.It is when they will undoubtedly have to rely on their more physical traits to back up whatever pointless remark they are about to make backfires.His company were located a little to his left and seemed slightly embarrassed.Perhaps they were just his colleagues, who, for the sake of an easy working relationship, had decided to join him for a pint or two.Two pints had turned into three.Relaxed conversation had become strained and so on and so on until now.

I snapped.I didn’t even wait to hear what he had to say.  I didn’t even wait for him to acknowledge me.Like the animal I thought he was, I crossed the room to my table in a few meaningful and powerful strides.It seemed like a waste of a beer but that still didn’t hinder me in bringing down the bottle as hard as I could over his skull.He needed taught a lesson.I would be the teacher.I promised myself that this guy would never make the newspapers for an unprovoked attack.  The irony didn’t register and the bottle didn’t break.The sound was sickening.Amazingly he wasn’t knocked out.Much like my sweat before, the blood poured out of him.I reasoned that it must be something to do with the seat.I stared at him just like I would as if I was staring at the leaves.Confusion trickled down all the contours of his face.I followed his red tears down until they began to drip onto his clip board.

His face was far from contempt.It became separated from his will when he read.It moulded itself into a peculiar pose with the forming of sentences and paragraphs and eventual plot.It would normally be described as kind looking, but tired…and it was alone.The embarrassment of whom I assumed was his company, stemmed from choosing selfishness over kindness, as I had done a few years ago.He stared back, slowly beginning to come to terms with what had happened.All I could do was reach into my pocket, slip him the letter – which echoed with remorse – and leave.

A slight wind had started up.My skin felt brittle and there was the uncomfortable feeling of being watched.It became clear that hopes and dreams and whatever else meant nothing.The seasons of the world meant nothing.I – like the tree – merely exist in a time where people look at you, and the more they look, the more they see.There is nothing worse than being judged by a stranger.I don’t know the tree personally; perhaps my perceived judgement is why the leaves fall – so that they can go onto better things.I was judged today.It was I that did the judging, and that for me made it worse.In the glazed reflection of his eyes, I saw myself, and so, out of shame, I shed my letter.


Tomas Bird