Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Point - part 1

original picture : John Backland

          “Do you ever get that feeling of utter total pointlessness ? Do you ? That feeling of waking up in the morning, going to work, coming home, eating, drinking, shitting and then starting the whole cycle off again every bloody day – even days when you’re not working ? Pointless. No point doing anything at all after a while. The whole of human existence reduced to the fact that there really isn’t any need for us to be here at all.”


           Terry uncorked the second bottle of cheap red wine from the local shop. Jaz sat across from him, sprawled on the caravan’s faded sofa bed, slurping his way through another can of lager.

          The cooker was on to provide some heat, there wasn’t any other way in this ancient crumbling ‘van. It hissed like a perpetually pissed off snake and the slight smell of gas was alarming when you noticed it.

          Terry could have afforded a better ‘van but they were all out of action at this time of year, being repaired and re-sited ready for next season, this was the best that Morton, the site owner, could get for him at the moment. Even then he’d done it as a favour, ignoring his own notice at the top of the site stating ‘No singles’ in big black handwritten  letters. He made the exception for Terry, he didn’t really think he was the sort who was going to have late, loud drunken evenings.

          Jaz unzipped another can from the plastic and pulled open the top, small specks of foam spraying onto the tiny Formica table which was gradually filling with ash and ring pulls.

          “You sound depressed mate.”

          “Nah, it isn’t depression, that’s almost the most worrying part of it really. I get up and feel this utter sense of ‘why the fuck do I bother’ but carry on all the same. I wonder about it but it doesn’t get me down. I know it does some people, but that isn’t me really. Marie used to get completely floored by it and ended up being depressed for months on end, just staring at bleakness and wondering whether it was even worth going on to the next day. But me, well I stare at bleakness and it stares back, we shrug and then get on with it. But when it comes down to it – there really is no point much at all in my life.

            I’m not saying that some people don’t have a purpose – I mean that people who build stuff, people who produce stuff, they have some sort of point in a way. Even if it is all a bit fleeting in the grand scheme of things. But look at me – my last job was all about producing strategies and policy and supposedly improving people’s lives –  did it fuck? At the end of it I was convinced that if  I didn’t do my job, if no-one else did either, then no-one would be any better or any worse off. I felt like one of those guys you see in India – You been there haven’t you ?”

          Jaz nodded.

          “Yeah, well you know, one of those guys you sometimes get in the bigger shops in the cities. Their sole job seems to be to tear in half the receipts that the last person has given you seconds before….I mean, I understand why they’re there – its a way of upping the employment figures and keeping people occupied so that they don’t get hungry and riot. I daresay that bloke’s quite grateful for it. But in the end it's just that isn’t it – just keeping us occupied in that gap between birth and death. It’s all about social stability and fuck all to do with any sort of useful life.”

          Terry swigged back the contents of the tumbler in one go and poured another. He paused and lit a cigarette. Jaz looked at him through tired red eyes.

          “You do sound pretty down mate – you really do. I know what you mean though. Christ, sometimes it’s easier just to be one of the ignorant fuckers and not think about this sort of thing isn’t it. I mean, where the fuck does it get you ?”

          “Yeah.” said Terry, then added hopefully, “But you, you’ve got kids and all – that probably makes a difference, doesn’t it ?”

          “I used to think so….see Rosie’s seventeen now and Jack, he’s fifteen. When they come along – and I don’t pretend I’m the greatest all singing all dancing dad in the world, but I do OK – then you think that’s it, that you’ll do anything. I mean just about anything – to look after them, to protect them, to keep them safe and show them some sort of way of getting on with life themselves when they’re ready to. But I realised a while ago that it’s all a bit like you said I suppose. That you don’t have much purpose other than perpetuating things. It’s that Shellfish Gene…”

          Terry snorted so hard his wine spat out leaving a dark stain on his jeans.

          “What like a fucking mussel or something ? Christ you’ve been hanging out with too many fishermen !”

          He laughed again, ignoring Jaz’s attempts to correct himself.

          Jaz batted at him with the hand that didn’t have a can in it.

          “You know what I fucking mean,  just cause I live down here doesn’t make me so completely fuckin' ignorant of thing.” He laughed too, “Mind there’s a few of those blokes down at Newlyn last weekend that look like their dad shagged a giant clam.”

          Jaz  reached over to the cooker and turned the heat down slightly, the air was getting thick and making him sleepy. He sounded more serious now.

          “Look, you know what I mean – I mean, once you’ve had ‘em, the kids, then got them to the stage where they can look after themselves, well, what do you do then? I can have a good time and all that, have a laugh, have a drink and a smoke, get in the water. All that sort of thing. But when you think about it then what is it about?”

          “Yeah but doesn’t the having kids make that difference ? Isn’t there some sort of secret to it all ?”

          “Oh yeah, the secret is like anything that gets all consuming, it changes your focus, leastways it did mine. For a while then you’re so all consumed with it that you don’t look up and out, you’re too tired to in some ways, too scared to in others. Same as something like getting big into politics or deeply into religion – they kind of take over and just distract you from the big main question, which is still - what is the fuckin’ point ?”

          Terry’s face set more grimly. “Y’know that’s what I always envied about Joe. He had that Sri whotsit thing going - what was it ?”

          "Sri fuckin' Chimney or something. Little bloke, big on meditation and running wasn't he ?"  

          “That’s the one – now I don’t get it, never did, but Joe kind of bought into it. Well, not the running I guess, but he bought into the whole spiritual thing and he was kind of happy as a result. I wish I could get into that, but I never could. I even tried going to church for a while as a kid, didn’t see the point then, all seemed a bit simple to me even as a ten year old. If a ten year old can see that it seems to involve just another layer of people telling you what to do and asking for your hard earned then what hope has anyone got of convincing me now ?”

          “Aw you cynical fuck! Haven’t you ever felt like there was a point? And whilst we’re at it haven’t you got any food in this crappy caravan ?”

          Terry stood up and took two steps over to the kitchen cupboard. It smelt of damp and dust at the same time. The whole structure shifted slightly as he moved and for a second he felt like it might carry on moving, tip over and collapse around them. But it steadied. Terry wasn’t used to this any more – it had been nearly two decades since he’d spent long in a caravan. Recent years had seen him in villas and gites, none of this type of self-denying holiday accommodation – it was a way of scourging himself of recent years of luxury. He was too self conscious to think of it as getting back to his roots, but in a way it was. Like the surfing it was his only method of proving that he still could, no other reason and no-one but himself to prove it to.

Sail away.....

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