About elspod

I am someone who believes there are miracles. Unfortunately these miracles can be something really mundane. Like a dog dodging a car at impossible speeds, or a blind old lady not walking into her door frame. But don't be picky. I am currently a student, taking English Literature with Creative Writing-my true path after a short and passionate stab at classical singing. I love the beautiful things in life, whether that be an elderly couple holding hands or Niagara Falls itself. I believe literature can be the most brutal of mirrors to mankind and I believe that everyone needs to lose themselves in a film or two every now and then. There are no consistent themes in my blog, it is merely a selection of writings that I feel like sharing. I hope you enjoy them.

Ribbon City

Along the side of the freeway is a strip of land, wedged in between racing cars and suburban yards. It is marked along its borders by chain link fences that ripple when they’re touched, the dull metallic scales undulating like the lazy swim of a fish.

It is its own city with rules and family. Tents are pitched, sheets of plastic tied around trees and stretched out to the pins in the dusty ground. Towels, grubby clothes, an umbrella, are piled on top of the makeshift roof, shrivelling in the sun.

The cool blast of air-con is whipping strands of hair back from my face as I zoom past and see an exhausted man in this ribbon city, bending over a small girl. He is topless, the folds of his stomach overlapping the waistband of his jeans and his pale skin gleaming in the harsh sunlight. He is holding a bottle in his hand; squirts white cream into his palm; rubs it onto the child’s nose. Before they disappear I see a grin hoist up the weight of the young child’s face.

A few meters along is a gathering of women, sitting around a small stove fire. They are perched on floral loungers, the rusted legs digging into the dirt. Limp cigarettes hang from their mouths and the soles of their feet are grey. One of them waves and shouts something to a person out of sight.

Along the side of the freeway is a strip of land marked by chain link fences. There is family and love and story telling here. There is dirt and poverty and blistered skin from the sun.

There is a whole ribbon city, in the shadow of the free way to home.

Hush

The door clicks shut and there is silence. 

Stop.

Helicopter blades chopping through the night air, thick varnished leaves squeaking against the brick wall, and the rustle of rough bristled curtains. 

Alone.

This is the first moment in three weeks. Exhale. Feel the breath tunnel through your pursed lips and find joy in your puffed, hot cheeks. Everything washing over you in a wave of yesterdays. A montage of faces smiling, singing, slurring, blurring into one. A myriad of places, of mountains and deserts, of boardwalks and sidewalks, and females with feathers.

Blink and you see computer screens and limousines and taxi cabs careening down tarmac, shrieking a blaring note that locals ignore. 

Blink and starry skin is wrapped around your waist, and you grin with a FLASH and the moment is gone. 

Wink at the next girl you see because you share in secret love the city that won’t sleep, just hurls you into tomorrow. Wave it hello and plunge back in. 

Blink and yesterdays line up like ghostly spectres, fluttering and whispering and reminding you of their past lives. 

Hush.

Blink and bright lights dance along lids, winking you into sleep that won’t rest your bones – because in your dreams you danceIMG_6095[1]

Black Cat

You are my feline, whispering stealthily from ear – to head – to heart. Promises you can / cannot keep, wishes you grant / cannot grant; I hear the purrs and grasp your neck between my fingers.

Be mine.

You are still. Frozen; you know I have caught you but instead of bending to my will you pretend you are not there. You embody, you become the oxymoron. Fluffy feline and foxy predator. If I hold my breath for long enough you will think I am no longer there. And oh, so wrong you will be.

Longing does not exist with lust. Longing is the aftermath of lust, tinted with ‘what ifs‘ and ‘should I’s‘ and ‘maybe’s‘. I long for you. With every breath I wish you closer.

And with every breath I wish you gone.

Walking home in the dead of night, you visit me. Sleek black coat, claws that click on pavements, sharp eyes that glint. A tail swishes from left to right in the afterglow of an orange street lamp.

Still here.

Waiting.

Embracing.

Reading Romance

To me, words are the most romantic thing in this world. They lay bare the secrets of the heart and joys of the soul, and birth them for the ears and eyes of anyone who would care to be a part of them. You are a part of these words, right now. You are a part of my romance.

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Miles away in Cyprus is a sleek blue card. Early this morning, it was opened by the man I love, who would have read my soul and smiled. I told him of love and happiness and the future; I painted with ink a canvas bursting with love and gave it to him for his travels. In it I wrote, Happy third year anniversary. 

In those words, I see the whole story of our love. 

I see the beginning, sitting on a boat in the setting sun as planes fly through fog overhead and light up clouds with flashes of green and purple. 

I see the family dinners, with his Grandpa winking at me as he slipped me an extra slice of cake and cousins grinning uncomfortably in the corner. 

I see holidays to bustling cities and blistering beaches.

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I see baklava atop a cliff. 

I see learning and essays and successes at university. 

I see our flat, with the purple fluffy rug you hate, and all the wisps of it that has now been tread into our carpet so it looks like a mottled sea.

I see movies and jigsaws and bottles of wine and boardgames. 

I see night time dancing in an abandoned shopping mall, laughter echoing in the silence as we slip over tiles and spin around escalators.

I see a blurred smile on a computer screen, miming out the words I love you.

On that thin slip of shiny card there lay exposed all that has been, all that is and all that will be, through the eyes of the woman who has loved him. Histories and stories and promises. On the one day of the year I long more than ever to be with him, there is no way that I possibly could be. So I gave him the next best thing.

My words.

My romance.

My thank you, for my Happy Ever After.

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I do not miss you.

I do not miss you.

I do not pine for the touch of your skin when you step out of the shower, the hot, sticky drops that rain on my sleeping body as you bend over to kiss me. The water beads that herald the presence of coffee and foamed milk, the crumbling disaster of pastry in bed.

I do not yearn for the panting breath of evening skies as we tackle the climb from the sea back to the shelter of home. Blood moon rising behind us like a lantern guiding the way as we duck under a tree to steal a kiss.

I do not long for the days spent lounging in each others’ arms, laughing and teasing, clambering over the thick branched muscles of the limb to grab the splayed twigs of fingers that wave tantalisingly in the air. Come down from there. 

I do not miss you.

Alone in what we call home, I fumble around the kitchen and make foods that I know you hate, just to see if you will smell them from halfway across the world and hurry back to get me to stop. Make something else, you’d beg.

I need shampoo but buy Head & Shoulders for Men. I stand in the stream and scrub and scrub and scrub, but all I get is the smell of you and people stare when I wedge my hair over my nose like an oxygen mask.

I am counting the days on my shaking fingers, mapping the global movement with bright pins on calendars and coloured sheets of the world. The tiny red dot that is you haunts me when I pass it on my way to bed, and is burnt on my lids when I close them to dream.

I do not miss you.

I do not miss you.

crave you.

 

Reporting for Duty

I curl my fingers around the stem of the wine glass. My fingers squeak on the crystal as they move up and down. The bottle is curiously warm to the touch as I trace my fingers along the edge of the label and run them around the swell, before picking it up with a swing of the arm. Music is playing through the speakers; I hum along regardless of who it is.

* * *

Sand has thickened the flag that hangs stiffly from the pole, lining the fabric and masking the Union Jack in a muted dirty yellow. Years of exposure have deadened it, although lines of soldiers still salute to it every morning. I salute with them, my hand shaking from exhaustion and doubt.

It used to remind me of home. Of quaint English habits and the trumpeting national anthem; the Queen’s weedy speech on Christmas day and bushy, dark moustaches on the mouths of men. Now it is part of my scenery, in sight from anywhere within the twenty five mile radius of the camp, blasting its obnoxious tune with oblivious immortality.

We get anxious out here for too long a time; with nothing to do, we end up pacing, snapping at our tails and whining like dogs, waiting on orders. To make us feel more at ease we have a steel tin trailer, marked ‘Pizza Hut.’ You can order a stuffed crust margherita from the middle of the desert and call it British. I get excited when it arrives and jostle in the queue with the others, but it is disappointing, all I taste is grease and grit. I wonder if it was any different back home.

* * *

The wine tastes bitter as it slips down my throat, but the effect is pleasant. I feel a gentle fuzz wrap itself around my brain, taking me into those familiar arms of a mother soothing an infant. It rocks me, back and forth, back and forth.

Back and forth.

* * *

In a distant corner of Camp Bastion is a football pitch. A rickety corkboard sign is propped up at the edge of the set rectangle, with clumsy letters painted in black.

KEEP OFF THE GRASS.

I like to watch the men play. I love the way their faces set into determination as they race after the ball and crack into a triumphant grin when it bounces past the unknown marker for ‘goal’. I sit on the side-lines and wait to be called in as referee; this happens often and is a near impossible task. In the thick of the sport, the sand is kicked up into a swirling dust cloud that pools around the players’ lower bodies. Within seconds all I see is disembodied chests and heads bobbing through the cloud, following no pattern and getting nowhere.

That was a foul, you must have seen it.

Hands in the air: I didn’t see anything, sorry. Try again. I’ll look harder this time.

But no matter how I squint, how deep into the cloud I wade, I see nothing and shrug my shoulders at the players. All’s fair in love and war, I say.

* * *

Turn the music up. I can’t hear it. No one ever talks about how wine deafens you. I poke my belly: the wine has filled it and pushed it outwards, I am a bloated, stranded whale on the sofa. When I try to stand my legs flutter as if filled with water from the thigh to the ankle; it is sloshing around inside of me. I shake my head, eyes rolling as if to clear the buzz: but my lids are heavy and my brain soft like candy floss – the pink kind, the kind that kids share on a first date at the pier.

All of this I have felt before. All of this I expect. But I had never realised how wine dams the ear canal with cotton buds and refuses entry of sound. I clap, trying to scare noise back into my body, imagining it as having crawled out of me in fear. Come back, I clap. Come back.

My pulse drums in my neck. In the mirror, I can see the throbbing artery pushing at my skin.

* * *

The Mastiff moved like a lethargic monster through the sands, beige, caged, prepared for any disaster. If you saw it from the outside, it looked blind, the slots where windows should be boarded up with white board, eyeballs without irises. Instead, the sight was electronic, streamed through cameras and fed to screens mounted in front of the noses of two drivers. I never understood why they needed two. Maybe the first would get lonely, seated by himself in the small compartmentalised front.

It was an afternoon of smooth transitioning, scouting the surrounding area, reporting back on sightings of Terror. Smooth, until –

BOOM.

The world was flung into disarray, my head smashed against metal, and all went black.

Fifty two hours later, I watched as the Mastiff, chest swelling in pride, rolled out of the repairs warehouse. The scorch marks were rubbed away, the dents popped out. It was brand new, ready to do it all again.

* * *

The faster I spin, the more I laugh. My arms are outstretched, brushing the prickly branches of the Christmas tree, the smooth oak of the mantelpiece, the steel stalk of a lamp. A beautiful man – really beautiful, just look at him – stands in the doorway. His arms are folded and he looks serious. I wish I knew why.

Come and dance with me!

He doesn’t move, and so I ask again. And again. And-again-and-again-and-again.

He leaves.

* * *

The world is on its head. There is a shining boot swinging gently in front of my face and I know it is not mine. I wonder whose it is. My eyes feel as though they are about to burst from my sockets. That is how I know I am upside down.

Panic sets in.

I look around me, left and right. Three other men are suspended like me, two of them unconscious. The one other who is awake is bracing his body against the truck roof – or floor, I can’t tell which. He is gulping in air, his cheeks ballooning and collapsing in on themselves in a rapid rhythm. Blood is oozing from a gash in his head; he is blinking crimson rivers from his eyes and he has noticed me. He calls my name, asks if I am ok.

Silence. I fumble at my lap, trying to find the clasp to the straps holding me in. Be careful, he tells me. Brace yourself.

With difficulty, I wrench the belts from me and fall headfirst onto the floor – ceiling. It hurts my bones and I lie still for a moment, just one moment, waiting for it to pass. But I mustn’t stop for long. I shake my head, trying to ignore the screaming ache that is setting in, the thick muted noise that is playing ceaselessly in my ears, and move to help.

* * *

There is a picture of me in uniform hanging on the wall. I hate it. With unsteady hands, I remove it from the nail and tell it this. I tell it three times before I throw it at the fireplace and watch it smash into a thousand glass-shards.

* * *

The news that we are going home reaches me early in the morning. I feel a leaden feeling set in my stomach at the news and start packing up my belongings. It doesn’t take long. One pack; one pair of boots tied at the laces and slung over my shoulder.

A convoy of 31 trucks is lined along the main road through camp. I am pointed to my transport and climb aboard. Our packs are jammed against our knees, cramped in the tiny space. When we set off, my palms start sweating and I wipe them repeatedly on my trousers. I recognise the man sitting opposite me: it is the man from the Mastiff with the tears of blood. He is really beautiful when you look at him. I hadn’t noticed that before.

My eyes don’t leave his face for one second. We are going home. A loud clang sounds through the cabin as we jolt over a rock, and I notice his nostrils flare, the whites of his eyes expand in panic. He notices me watching and his mouth grimaces an apologetic smile before his faces realigns.

* * *

The sun is rising, its grey light seeping around the frayed edges of the curtains. I raise my head to it and stare. My tongue is dry and sticks to the roof of my mouth; I have a cut on my hand and I don’t know how it got there. The empty wine bottles have been kicked out of sight so I don’t have to look at them. Good.

Wincing, I hobble to the window and clutch at the curtain. I pause before I wrench it open and allow the light to blast into the room. The pain is unbearable, intense, blinding, but it is real. I am home.

I am home.

 

*****

This is a piece of fiction I wrote, inspired by real life stories and blogs I have read about soldiers during and after war. It is being published in the literary journal of my university and was written for the theme of ‘Now’ ; right now, we are in a position where we are witnessing men coming home from years of war, and I wish to honour them and remind others of their humanity and sacrifice with my words.

Extra-Terrestrial Relations

Let’s start with a cliche:

Everyone makes mistakes.

Never heard that before... Source: http://thetikitakalondon.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/interlull-half-time-boring-boring-yawn-boring/

Never heard that before…
Source: http://thetikitakalondon.wordpress.com

True, we all nod our head in a vaguely bored, accepting sort of way when we hear those three words. We use them as an excuse for when we slip up: I’m only human, we all make mistakes. And we do. There are times when even the best of us mumble along in speech, digging a deeper, colder, lonelier grave beneath our feet as we go. We insult, accuse, condescend. We misunderstand, misinterpret, mis-communicate. We reject, scoff, and scorn.

We have all been the victim to a lot of mistakes, especially in love. There are relationships where people say ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it’ so many times it’s easy to lose track. This apology can work up to a point. It works because of the truth of the statement we started with. Everyone makes mistakes, so I can forgive you, you didn’t mean to. The problem arises however, not when it’s multiple mistakes that are made, but when it’s the same mistake over and over again. 

It’s at this point that the apology grinds. Because there’s a hard nugget of pure honesty inside us all: you know that not everyone makes the same mistake over and over. You know that if the same mistake is made twice, then the apology becomes meaningless, because if it was meant the first time it wouldn’t have happened the second. You feel that if they loved you as much as you loved them that they wouldn’t be so human as to make mistakes. For when love is involved, you elevate the person you love to a state of more-than-human, held to unspoken promises and assumed rules.

(An eerie, alien state, not achievable with our puny human minds.)

Then comes the anger. It’s not evident at first, because you love them and don’t want to start a fight. But it’s there, waiting to be noticed. And when it does, you are faced with an impossible swell of feelings. You demand apologies that you know you won’t accept because you’ve been angry for so long you won’t believe them any more. You want gestures and touch and whispers to make it better – whilst hating being in the same breathing space as them. You fight all those fights you put off at once, and make it so much harder to pull through that you’re in danger of losing sight of that love you started with.

When reading this objectively, it’s easy to see where the thought process gets distorted and sets up impossible barriers. In fact, it seems so obvious that it’s almost a pointless thing to say. But when it’s happening to you, when you’re in the moment, there is nothing but acute betrayal and anger. There is no room left for forgiveness, not straight away – and that’s ok.

It is because we are human that we hurt and get hurt, and it’s that very same humanity that means it’s alright to be upset for a while after mistakes are made.

This is a lesson that has taken me a long time to learn. For years in my relationship, I have forced myself to shrug off repeated mistakes and hurts, to put them down as innocent error. To an extent, I believe I was right to do that, for there are times when pettiness and quarrels can – and should be – avoided if possible. But at the same time, I began to realise that I was doing that at the cost of tiny portions of myself. I would chip away at my own ethics, my self belief, my self worth, my passion and reactions. I would keep myself in check when an argument arose because I was so terrified of hurting him.

I was so terrified of hurting him that I forgot how much he hurt me in the process.

Everyone makes mistakes; we are all human.

We are all human; we all love.

We all love; we are always learning.

When love comes along it seems such a miracle, such a treasure, that we covet it. We cradle it in our hands and wrap it in cotton wool, swearing to protect it forever. But that woolly little bundle is made of everything we had and everything we were before we were in it: which means it can still be ugly sometimes, it can still be human despite our expectations of it. Those fights, those battles, those arguments, those tears and shrieked insults are what make love beautiful: surviving in the face of all that, and with acceptance of it is the true miracle.

So when that joyous bundle hurts us, we should say so. We shouldn’t balk from shouting out in protest or expressing our rage. Equally, we shouldn’t shy away from sitting someone down and calmly explaining what they’ve done and how it’s made us feel. We should do whatever we can to ensure that we don’t ever simply sit in silence and take it. You lose yourself to love in the silence.

And you’d be a fool to let yourself disappear.

Inkmen

When nib kissed paper, electricity fizzed outwards in a spider web of sparks and you were born.

You shocked me at first. You were thinner than I had planned, with a smudge of a moustache on your upper lip. A rumpled suit hung off your body; a pair of spades for hands poked out from the sleeves as if curious to see the world. When you walked, your chest curved inwards on itself, shy, despite the confident stride of your loafer clad feet.

Not a word was spoken until sunset. You sat in the margin and hugged your knees while I sat on my giant’s throne and squinted down at you. Mine. My tiny creation, perched on the edge. When you looked at me, I gasped: I had forgotten to give you an eye colour. Two dark coals were buried in your sockets, burning with a flameless heat. Who am I? you asked.

I haven’t decided yet. I think your name might be Jonah.

You rolled the name around in your mouth like an oversized marble, raising one eyebrow. Every move you made was beautiful to me. I picked up my pen again, eager to fill you out, but you stood up, shaking your head in fear. You hurled your thin body at me and tried to batter down the walls between us. Vaguely frightened, I looked on in wonder. The screams coming from your mouth were strangled, muted. There is no escape for you here, I tell you. This is the world I built for you.

I don’t like it. This is not what I wanted. Oil tears fall thickly down your face and silhouette hands press into your eye sockets. Your shoulders shake.

It is not what I wanted either. Heart pounding, I throw my pen to one side, slam the pages of the notebook shut and stuff it hurriedly onto a crammed shelf. Not only yours, but many muffled sounds issue from the long row of identical jotters: snippets of song, laughter, the miniscule taps of feet pacing. If I close my eyes, I can almost see every birth, every creation.

And I wonder if it was good.

Let me put you back together

Each thick piece of cardboard is tiny between my fingertips. I smooth along the swelling edge, and curl out the scoop on the other side. On the front is an indistinct brown line with dark shading. I bite my lip and consult the lid. It could go here… my hand hovers in the bottom left corner before, triumphant, slotting it into place.

I am practically done. A dated picture of a grinning old man behind a grocery store counter beams up at me, sitting proudly next to a ration booklet. I stroke his face fondly.

At the moment though, he is not quite finished. He has two pieces missing, both skin coloured: one for the hand, the other for the cheek. He looks eerie, like a reflection in a mirror distorted and gaping, and I want to get him finished.

My hand reaches out and scrapes the bottom of the box and finds nothing. The pieces are gone.

For a moment, I stare down at this cheerful man with his honest smile and wide eyes. But then my gaze is drawn to those gaping holes, those roughly-hewn chunks torn from his face and body.

And I burst into tears.

 

Life in a New York Minute: Part 4

By Day Four in New York I had got this notion into my head: I HAD to go and see the flower market. With no real idea of what to expect there, I was largely basing this whim on all the travel blogs and tv shows I’ve seen that display glorious pictures of endless fields of flowers. So we hauled our tired behinds out of bed and braved the sweating, heaving metro filled with morning commuters to get to 28th Street.

1239929_10200548478856111_360140350_nIt was one of the strangest streets I’ve ever been on. Here in Britain, flower markets aren’t generally a tourist attraction. They take place in the early morning and they’re predominantly for business men and women to trawl in the hopes of finding stock. Like fish markets, they don’t seem to make the list for ‘must-see’ destinations.

But if you are ever in New York, you should go along to 28th Street. The pavements are literally lined with trees; orange bushes and buckets of firecracker flowers I had never before seen screening pedestrians from the road. I found myself reaching out to touch the beautiful velvety folds of a plant, transfixed by the pure alien-ness of it. We entered shops 1233629_10200548481336173_200418687_ncautiously, with men calling out in an Italian tongue that lay heavy and fast on our ears, and found ourselves in warehouses that reached back further than we could see. The colours were blazing, the shapes twisted and elegant, the stalks thick, proud and covered with dew.

Just before we left the street, emerging amazed at the other end, I saw a small shop with buckets lined outside the front door – the picture is just to the right. They were my favourite flowers of the day. Like fireworks frozen in nature, they simply popped. 

From there we wandered around countless streets, through Chinatown, before finding ourselves in Little Italy. It looked like Christmas to me, with red, white and green tinsel dangling from one side of the street to the other: a city ready for Santa Claus. Tanned, dark haired men beckoned you in to their restaurants, promises of pizza and pasta and an ice cold glass of water difficult to resist.

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But there was no way we would stop here for pizza. We had another goal in mind.

Finally, after what felt like miles, we found ourselves at the Brooklyn Bridge, joining the throngs of people on bikes, tourists clutching cameras, and determined women striding forward in suits. It sounds corny and obvious but it was JUST like all the movies: one of those moments when being in New York really hits you.

I never imagined I would really be here. (The one with the beard and the camera is obviously not me)

I never imagined I would really be here. (The one with the beard and the camera is obviously not me)

It’s a much longer bridge than you’d think. The wooden slats under feet start to burn in the extreme heat, but every step closer to Brooklyn feels like a success. You find yourself forever looking up and around you, wanting to absorb every brick, every wire suspending the giant structure, every bolt in the railings. The well-known skyline of New York unfolds behind you (though more of that later).

SO worth it.

SO worth it.

Remember our seemingly foolish refusal of pizza? Frank Sinatra was a pizza man. He was actually quite famous for being a pizza man. In fact, he liked a certain pizza so much that when on tour he would order it and have it flown out to him. This pizza came from the restaurant we made a beeline for on entering Brooklyn: Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. And on trying some for myself, I have to agree with Frank. It was some of the best pizza I had ever eaten. And the fact that it was huge and conveniently placed before me after our five hour trek down through New York city didn’t hurt.

* * *

Tummies full and hearts heavy with glutted sin, we left Grimaldi’s and wandered over the river bank. I loved this place. From here the skyline of New York spanned from left to right across the blue rippling ribbon. Yellow taxi boats skimmed from one shore to the next. Grass lined the bank where couples and students and families lounged back on their elbows with food scattered around them. And along the way, in the shadow of the beautiful, breath taking, industrial Manhattan Bridge, a dainty bride took the hand of her new husband and stood on the shore line for photos in front of an excited crowd.

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* * *

That evening was our last one in New York City. We spent it the way it should always be spent: in the front row of a broadway show, singing our hearts out and dancing for an encore.

Late that night, we strolled our way through Times Square and back to the hotel, the harsh lights of the plaza blinking behind our eyelids as we slipped into sleep.

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