There was an aloneness to it, his breathing. And in that breath which the stranger drew, since he was larger, and more powerful than I was, I watched him from that quiet, backward facing repose, as he fought the impulse to speak that which would betray our heartbreak, the very failure of our words to override that death chamber in which we call ourselves, ourselves, being revealed as it was in that precise moment in the very non-word of a gasp, that was, no, not a gasp, but only a breath to mark the coming of the next, which was all that I could hear there in the rose garden, pressed up as I was to the wire fence that borders the east side of Finsbury park. The sound that all of us hear even when we whisper our profanities, threats, demands or other, sweeter phrases, even when words are used during sex, being born as they are from a world in which non of us are spoken, if in fact we are ever said, where all of us are either dead or dying, or wish to be in that garden without words, if such things as beginnings and ends can be spoken as wished for, so help us. The stranger breathed heavily, like one inflating or deflating an air balloon with their nose, in a sound that was indefinably their own, for themselves, that is, communicated nothing but the structure of a nasal passage, the lung inflationary capacity, the aorta and other blood pumping machinery and finally the mute veracity of the anal and other organic and inorganic fissures, eruptions, dilations, which undoubtedly there were, going on, under the cotton of his jeans and so forth, flows, drawing the main beating source down, all of it, toward the cock and balls, tensing, if they needed to, must have, and the sphincter, too, winking at the stars from that sad aloneness which acknowledges the heavens only via the regessionary tendency of words, lying flat only when they’re forced to, or hidden otherwise, or spent, like cocks, finally falling limp and gracious, absent, plutonian de-recognition being in vogue as it were in that universe without planets in which we lay, nightly, and a certain amount of shrinkage, also, an inflating of vacuousness, an inflating and deflating of empty lungs, and finally a black, black hole, the erasure of whatever we might have said, puckering into infinity to reveal the true inaccessibility of a human heart. We held on, anyhow, breathing like that, until he said thank you, coyly, and left.
My voice reckons differently, however, at the border to Finsbury Park. I am startled, not by the brightness of the street lamps that halo the very wrought iron of that world, nor the darkness that collapses beyond it and into which I all too often descend, but by the difference between the two. It is the transgression between two or more worlds in which I become in-articulated, which is to say found, wordless, hunkering there between the snarling arms of bushes and other growths, with a stranger who knows neither my name nor my political persuasion, whether I adore or cannot stand Walt Whitman, Walt Disney, all the same, whether I am loved, depressed, despondent, revolutionary by nature or alone, with only my desire to call, when it greets me, like whale overfilling the very ocean it inhabits, sending water rushing into ears, providing yet more white noise to flush away the words. Breathe, instead. I waited for him to go, since we never leave together. Neither do we talk.
Of course, I should say that a few belly ups never did any harm. A cock-or-two, ham fisting, teeth exposed, all relish, abounded, throbbing. Did it matter that there was no one there? That no one, being everyone, showed up, and that when they did, they were so not-there as to render those erections you did find void, cum-less, a broken wrap, a cork-screw turning against no friction, with no wine, no bottle, no grip upon the world. Finsbury was the screws gone loose, the backyard of reason, the activation of a dull void that those with wives and children at home might at least ignore as a negation. Rest assured, it is simply untrue to deny the veracity of this negation. And the negation of the negation? The rest of us carried out our activities or else bore them in the cheap glances of GUM unit waiting rooms, where men and other trollops checked their expensive watches and opened the hungry mouths of magazines and bent themselves double, inserting the sample taking technology up to the red line for the anus, the transparent line for the throat, blood came later, after your wait. In the meantime, look.
The truth is that those rooms were the activation of the shadow land experiences we had out-doors. It requires halogen to shine a light on such a world, the form filling of experts, doctors and nurses, who, having seen it all, laugh at your experiences with the gentle kindness of ghosts. And how we thank them for that kindness, believe me. I thank and thank them again, god bless them, for they are the poets of our misfortune, or fortune, depending on your results, and the results are in fact not the most important factor, since positive or negative the test records, it records who we are in black and white and screen flashing sincerity and this is the true place of our poem, our activating of negation occurring all at once and in reverse, which is why sometimes it hurts. While the grindr world has eaten the flesh of tender park corners, where bath-houses have grown into the economic, solar dead zones of post-anthropocene sexless fisting palaces, all a-grimace and alone, the nurses continue to record. Viral loads peak, recline, become undetectable and therefore enter the poetic realm. The swallow or not swallow rule, becomes tangibly forgotten in the face of a nurse drawing warm, red blood from your arm, syphilitic nightmares are pen-eaten, erased, disappearing ink fallen into the spiral realm of boredom that the doctors feel prescribing and re-prescribing the pills that actually work, and they do work. They perform the poetic work of our nightmares and our eros, these blue pills, heavy on the tongue like a cock-end, we lap them up. And how I lapped, and loved.
Brett Darling is a queer writer living in London, originally from the North East of England. His fiction has featured in Eunoia Review and is forthcoming in Specimen: The Babel Review of Translations. His criticism currently lingers on the blog archive at the ICA, where he also works selling tickets. At the ICA he has hosted Q&As with writers such as Adania Shibli and French filmmaker, Clément Cogitore. His work tries to open, re-map, re-occupy (non) spaces, queer zones in memory, identity locality, space and time.