December 21st

Half awake, half dreaming, my body meandering like a drying stream around rooms, wed to a face haggard in festive fatigue, tired and groom my hair to get all the bigger knots out, out the house, out the gate, left and then straight on, I’m late, so my pace manages to shift a gear, old banger chassis and flat tired feet cornering on the high street, leaden with dread.

Streetlamps turn from amber-red to black, the lack of light allowing my clothes to blend in with the back-end of the night: black shoes, black socks, black trousers, black top – fucking inoffensive.

Oh look, three cheers, I’m here! St. Michael, how delightful! It’s been, what, 10 hours since I was last swathed in your enchanting luminescence, was last consumed in your cacophonic concerto – the bass-drum hum of fridges, the cymbal splash of spillages, countermelody conversations about brass monkeys and Christmas cheese, said with the fluidity of wooden wind, don’t even begin to compete with that screeching violin that puts white knuckles on my skin: The solo voice of ‘Frantic Jan’.

My line manager managing to make Marks and Sparks more like Oliver and Stan, chaotic, catastrophic, like when the piano falls down, despotic, I’m not her biggest fan as she hits me with some shit about milk being in the trailer but…

“If I want you on the till, I’ll run over and tell ya”

“Thanks Jan, can’t wait”, I say straight as a di but not even the wryest of words could pry a smile from her concrete features – she’s got an irony deficiency, she’s anaemic, I mean it!

Believe it, I’ve seen it, I feel it, the monotonous motion that mediates the hours and hours of moving towers of food from fridges to shelves, like Santa’s little elves without the fun, the joy, the magic, the present-sack, the pointed ears or the green hats.

“Oi mate, where’s the brine at?”

“It’s just down that isle.”

Instead, just bad backs, tedious delirium, stacks and stacks of food moving from fridges to shelves, feeling like Santa’s little elves without the fun, the joy, the magic, the present-sack, the pointed ears or the green hats.

“Oi mate, where’s the brine at?”

I’m sure someone’s said that before…

“It’s just down that isle.”

But the repetition’s hypnotic. Stack stack stack. The recent past is forgotten to a point when I don’t realise if I’m repeating myself, this half man-half elf heating the world with spoken words already spoken, stack stack stack, repeating myself, cognisantly floating within the murky depths of chaos…

“That’ll be £7.59 please.”

“Oi mate, where’s the brine at?”

“Would you like me to pack for you?”

“George, get on the till”

“That’ll be £15.87 please”

“Is there any double cream out the back?”

“Where’s the eggs?”

“Where’s the Coke?”

“Tell the Turkey Team we need more stuffing out here.”

“I think it’s a disgrace that you move things around.”

“George get on the till”

“Would you like me to pack for you?”

“Is anyone going to fill desserts?”

“Oi mate, where’s the brine at?”

“Where’s the eggs?”

And then I re-emerge into a sea of lucid blackness. I take a deep breath of the cold outside air, the crisp pain that floods my lungs reminding me who I am. George: a man with plans, a boy who can, a boy who could, who should, not a piece of driftwood anonymously existing, rotting and then ceasing to be.

Chronology restored, I enjoy a pause, exhale the recent past to warm my hands, relish the silence of standing alone and then walk home.

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