DARWINIAN // Circle of Life

Look, I get it. A bus timetable isn’t a binding contract or anything but I’d dearly appreciate it if the sodding drivers would stop fart-arsing me around. I’m convinced they’ve all conspired against me. How else would you explain what’s happening here?

Seriously, whenever I’m early, they’re late. Whenever I’m on time, they’re early. Whenever I’m late, they’re on time. Is this some kind of joke? Are their contrary little minds jacked into one central hive mentality decreeing that this Darwin chap mustn’t be allowed to get anywhere stress-free ever? How do they even know when I’m at the damn stop? CCTV? No, there isn’t any CCTV. Well, as far as I can see anyway…

I feel like a right goose as I stand here trying to type on my mobile phone, the cars whizzing past my self-conscious self. This godawful touch keyboard! Was it made for human beings or fucking pixies? Wouldn’t you think the manufacturer could have included a stylus or something? Of course you would. So would I. But they’re not us. They don’t consider the needs of us mere mortals. That’s not what they do. We pay for what we get and nothing more. Frankly, it’s a First World privilege to be using our giant, stubby forefingers to thwack clumsy smears of not-quite-predictive text all over our tiny screens, and they know it. We all know it. My white middle-class guilt is quite adept at making me shut up and put up with all kinds of shit.

How the hell is ‘contrary’ anything like ‘dairy’?

And suddenly I’m off thinking about American highways. The other day, Calix was telling me that they’re paved with an odd mix of stuff: asphalt, recycled tyres, and hospital waste. Why is that factoid popping into my head unbidden? Is it because I’m standing on the side of a busy road, watching a Vespa narrowly miss a Bond lookalike? She loves bringing up weird shit like this. I usually do my best bobblehead impression, nodding along to whatever Calix says, and wondering if these alleged factoids are even halfway true.

I should text her. Let her know I’m going to be late. Ah, sod it. She’ll find out I’m late when I get there. Tumours, severed limbs, other bodily organs… bus. I guess a lot of Americans splat on highways at any given opportunity, eager to donate their good selves to the advancement of the automobile. It’s the circle of life, baby. All terribly pointless and wasteful. Thank god for America. Thank god I don’t live there.

Oh, shit! Was that the bus? Fuck! Shit!

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018

DARWINIAN // Woke at the Coalface

‘Eat. Sleep. Sprint. Repeat.’

At no other time in history could I wear this summation of existence on an article of clothing and not be thought of as odd. But nearly everyone’s doing it nowadays, so I guess that makes me somewhat normal — or at least someone somewhere’s definition of ‘normal’. It’s funny how society bolted from the t-shirt as an undergarment in the nineteenth century to being worn as outerwear in the mid-twentieth century. Quite the transition, no? We shrugged from ‘shock of the new’ territory into the realm of blind acceptance in one quick, easy, costume change.

So, what does this actually mean? It means that t-shirts are in. It means that catchy sayings in bold typeface beneath cartoon pics of hollow, burnt up earths with factory stacks belching out poison are in. And it means that the combination of all these things is in. I guess the t-shirt is what society now deems ‘social convention’. Yup. And the only constant is change.

Frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal of t-shirts. To me they’re just walking billboards littered with guache advertising for untruths mixed with half-truths dressed up as ‘The Truth’ that you absolutely cannot live without… so buy today. And I happen to live at the fraying edge of all of that. Oh, damn, I don’t know what to do! Should I wear this shirt and risk exposing my unmanly physique for all to snort in derision at? I’m barely hanging on here, trying not to be the wonky thread that makes my carefully insulated life come undone. My face is already unacceptable by society’s standards. Now my body too?

Is this irony? The fact that I can be shamed for my pear-shaped body rather than the trite maxim on my overstretched top doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe I shouldn’t be perturbed that not only is this the uniform that must be worn if I want to be part of society’s cabal of acceptance but that I can also be rejected if I fail to squeeze into it in the prescribed manner. No, I should just push these thoughts out of my mind…

The earth coughs up flowers for no one to notice.  The mighty dig past said flowers for coal to burn to make loot. Said mighty diligently practice their brand of self care, amassing said loot to the neglect of everyone else. And here I am, trying to decide whether what I’m feeling is mere vanity or the emergence of some awful realisation.

God. What possessed me to buy this stupid shirt anyway?

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2018

Privilegee (based on a true story)

I jumped into a marshrutka and climbed onto my favorite corner seat in the back row. It’s a bit higher than the other seats and you feel like you’re sitting on the upper circle at the theater. You can see and hear everything without attracting a lot of attention. Today, though, I wasn’t about to watch passengers.

I untangled the headphones that always managed to tie themselves into mysterious reef knots. It never mattered how carefully you packed them before. Then I found the next MP3 file on my phone and delved into an audio book in English. It required a hell of a lot of effort to recognize formerly familiar words now disguised in quirky pronunciations. I don’t know who invented the rules of English but this person definitely must have had an upset stomach. I had no another logical explanation as to why they mocked the human race so cruelly.

While still in a state of shock over how the word ‘cautiously’ sounded in actual fact, I hadn’t noticed that the marshrutka had not moved in a while. And I eventually realized that the leaflet advertising lessons promising guitar playing virtuosity in record time had been hovering near my nose for a suspiciously long time. I turned my head from the window that the leaflet was stuck to and looked towards the passenger compartment. Something was happening near the driver and it wasn’t a pleasant scene, that’s for sure.

An old man was standing there, waving a pensioner’s card in front of the driver’s nose. He was insisting on a free ride but the driver would not comply. There were only two priority seats, and unfortunately both were occupied. The driver suggested that the old man get off the bus and wait for the next one. This suggestion obviously wasn’t to the old man’s taste.

The old man looked highly strung, while in contrast the driver was the very image of calm. The old man threatened to write complaints to all known authorities, from the boss of the driver to the president of Ukraine. The driver, wordless, offered him a pen.

And the bus still didn’t move. Passions were rising.

The passengers quickly divided themselves into sides. The first side eagerly supported the old man, cursing the driver and government for being so heartless and humiliating poor, defenseless pensioners. The other side wisely reasoned that the bus wasn’t made of rubber and that the driver was duty bound to fulfill the daily revenue target. There was no place on Earth where a retired person could be late on a Saturday morning.

I sat on my VIP loge in the back row of this bus theater. I was not enjoying this stage play at all. The perfect voice with posh English pronunciation was still whispering something in my ear but I was no longer listening to it. The ugly La Comédie humaine had grabbed all of my attention.

The crowd started to demand that the bus continue on its route. Someone yelled at the driver while someone else threatened to help the old man to leave the bus if he couldn’t do this on his own… and suddenly I felt unbearable shame for everything that was happening here. No. I refused to be a part of this crappy play!

I left my seat and approached the driver, holding forth a five-hryvnia note. He took it without a word, tossed it into the money box, and shut the door. The bus moved ahead.

I was back at my seat. No one said a word. The other passengers went back to their private affairs. Someone poked a nose into their phone. Someone looked out the window. Someone else continued their conversation. I tried to concentrate on my audio book again.

“Stop here!”

The bus stopped at literally two hundred meters. The old man disembarked. Only he. No one else. And when he was passing me, our eyes met. I was ready to see any emotion in his stare… gratitude, embarrassment, surprise. But hatred? What the fuck?!

A bit later, I understood the reason. At the time, however, I was dumbfounded at the unpredictability of human nature and just went back to the book. Moominmamma had called everyone to the dinner and I didn’t want to be late.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

GUEST POST // Interlude by Gordon Flanders

I didn’t smoke weed, and I didn’t drink, but under the fluorescent lights of Canal Street Station I feel like a thing that slithers. Somehow my fingernails got dirty. I was walking with the girl who I was formerly obsessed with, and I was telling her what I thought was a very interesting story. What I know was an interesting story, in fact, from her gasps every time we hit a pivotal point. And then, in the middle, we ran into some old friends of hers she hadn’t seen in a while. She’s from here and she’s popular, so this happens a lot. There were eight of them. Normally I would just smile and shake everyone’s hand and all that, but I just couldn’t give a fuck about these people and how they knew each other and anything like that, so I stood off to the side and waited for her to ask for her bag so she could go with them. I enjoyed the breeze and I checked my phone. Finally she called me over and her friends were like wtf why are you just standing over there! Meanwhile she had just asked minutes ago why I never do what I want. So that was the thing I wanted, to not talk to these people. I was really fine with her leaving with them, very convenient escape for me, but I did not want to meet them all for no reason. But I did anyway because what kind of asshole would I have to be to hand her her bag and say goodbye and nothing else. So I shook hands with every single one of them. There were people she didn’t even know and I shook hands with them, too. One guy said now repeat our names back to us. I said, I value you guys as people but I don’t have a memory like that. Everyone thought that was funny. You had to be there. So now I look awesome. From weirdo to awesome in sixty seconds. After five excruciating minutes where everyone tried to pretend that we could have an inclusive conversation, they ask what’s up next. I hand my friend her bag and say goodbye, shaking hands with enthusiasm and warmth and real kindness in my eyes. Eight people I will never see again, now they all have a piece of my soul. The train just won’t seem to arrive.

by GORDON FLANDERS
© All rights reserved 2017

GUEST POST // A Hymn Before Dying by Anglophiletoad

Dig down deep in the well of your soul
till you find that the well’s run dry
Stretch your wings, cut the strings,
and hope dead birds can fly
We’ve all tapped out of an empty ring
at the height of an ongoing battle
and we can’t even choke; the only sound in our throats
a hollow and meaningless rattle

Nobody’s right until everybody’s wrong
You can’t write these lyrics if you already know the song
When those who believe don’t really belong
It won’t be long till we’re gone.

They say they want our words, our voices,
these referees of our silence
In the name of peace they command that we cease
with threats of respectable violence
Lest we speak, lest we compromise all,
they offer up stairs to the top of the wall
only to pull out the rug from our feet,
handing out blame as we fall

Nobody’s right until everybody’s wrong
You can’t write these lyrics if you already know the song
When those who believe don’t really belong
It won’t be long till we’re gone.

Whatever ghosts we fear the most,
they pale next to the shadow
of freedom offered by those who have it
to those whose fields lie fallow

‘Cause nobody’s right until everybody’s wrong
You can’t write these lyrics if you already know the song
When those who believe don’t really belong
It won’t be long till we’re gone.

 

by ANGLOPHILETOAD 
© All rights reserved 2016