My dad liked to talk about different kinds of chicken – chicken nuggets, chicken goujons, chicken fingers. That’s the only thing he would really talk about. I didn’t like to talk about anything, I didn’t like to talk. Just the whole thing, opening my mouth, making a sound, people looking up or swivelling their faces around, to look at my face, and listen to my sound. None of it appealed to me. Teachers got so worked up about my silence they started to drool and twitch when Parent’s Evening came round, even the nice ones. She doesn’t speak at all, they would say to my dadda. And my dadda would reply: I’m exactly the same. Unless you’re talking about chicken, I’m saying nothing. He wore a red and white checked shirt. He seemed happy.
I have a chart on the wall where I colour in my mood with different bingo markers. There are only four colours, so there are only four feelings I can choose, so I choose: disbelief, fear, wish for it to end, and happiness. I just dab it. I do a little dab on the wall when I feel each one. Now there are lots of little dots and they are starting to form a picture. People who come through my hallway – gas, water, electric ppl – take a look when they’re done with their meter. I will draw up a key, for all the colours, and have it to hand, if new people ask what it means, in the future.
When I opened the pack of markers, I gave happiness first dibs on yellow. Purple is fear and the purple dots have already formed the semblance of an animal, maybe a bear, maybe a big cat, somebody’s favourite, there on the wall. It’s wearing a bow tie – green, with tiny yellow polka dots.
Some things you would never do, but if someone gave you a thousand pounds for doing a thing you would never do for maybe just a minute, you would probably do that thing. If someone said, you either do it, or I kill your dog, you would also surely do that thing. In this way you can see there is a way to do the things you can’t do.
I had a dream that I couldn’t stop talking. In the dream I was the kind of person that said so many things that the majority of them had to be wrong, a handful maybe were right. When I woke up from the dream I made the zip motion with my hand, horizontally, to zip up my mouth. Then I threw away the key and tried to apologise to everything around me – my dog, my curtains, my mirror – just by using my eyes.
Some of the things I’d said in that dream sounded nice – they re-entered my head in wisps when I made coffee downstairs. The me in the dream had maybe seemed more like me than the me irl, I thought as I sipped. The dream-me had spoken to Grams Bear, the Starbuddies, and the Boy in the Bubble. I’d spoken of the ins and outs, as they presented themselves to me, of staring at people and longing for people, and they’d known exactly what I had meant. Grams Bear had spoken back to me about ageing, the Starbuddies about their awkward bodies, and the Boy about the loneliness of his condition.
There was a game of consequences in the dream, a world wide super championship, and my dream friends had wanted me on their team. It was a writing game: I wrote a sentence, then Grams Bear wrote the next one, the Starbuddies carried on, and then the Boy in the Bubble. We wrote a story like that. I wrote the next sentence, Grams Bear wrote the next one, the Starbuddies wrote the next one, and then the Boy in the Bubble. Then I wrote the next one, Grams Bear wrote the next one, the Starbuddies wrote the next one, and then the Boy in the Bubble. One time my character clashed with Grams Bear’s character and one time my character answered a question the Boy in the Bubble’s character never asked, but the dream world kept going – the logic there being anything goes, nobody cared at all, nobody even noticed, and at the end, they all said, to me and to each other, in unison: good game.
People like to watch other people slip on banana skins, I know that, but I didn’t like to do that myself, not really. I didn’t find it funny. And after my dad died, I started thinking slipping on them yourself was a better way to live.
I rewatched the episode of the Care Bears where Grams Bear starts playing an electric guitar. Hugs and Tugs seemed stressed about the order of things changing, but I was on Grams Bear’s side. The older you get, the easier it is to figure out how to enjoy yourself. My dad told me that once in a dream. And I’d started to enjoy staring at things I couldn’t have. It was obvious now that I wouldn’t want the object of my longing if I actually ever got it. As happy days got more frequent, I made more yellow dabs. The bow tie had been filled in a long time ago, and my dabs started to make a new shape.
Bananas make an appearance in two out of four of the great novels of my favourite author, but I still profess to hate bananas in art. I don’t want to be reminded of the clown of the fruit world, or the clown of any world, when I’m looking at things. I always thought I wanted to look at something better. But that’s the shape the yellow dabs made – a giant curved banana, nestled in the underbelly of the suspicious purple animal. Three years ago I’d made that animal into a chicken, but an unprocessed one, I mean, a live one.