Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Tag: autofiction

Descriptions of Strangers

For a few years now I’ve meant to have a side project where I describe strangers in more or less literary ways. This month, for some reason, I started doing that and I shall quote here the first three (and so far the only three) descriptions of strangers.

Just observed a lady ring the hotel reception-style bell at a train station bakery over and over, the bakery looking strangely empty. I peered over the counter, no bodies. Just junk space architecture; abandoned place in the middle of a crowded station bristling with purchase, consumption and destination.

Eventually a baker arrived from stage right, wearing a service worker plastered-on smile and tilting her head back unnaturally like a mannequin, ready to take the lady’s order, teeming with rage or frustration at something the lady could not and cannot know.

It was enough to have me break out into prose.

hotel reception-style bell

On the train north this morning: a woman in a salmon cardigan, black parka moulted around her body in her seat. Straight hair reaching past her shoulders. It’s been maybe three months since she blonded it last and the effect is a gradient.

Baby with a big red pacifier and sleepy eyes sits in her lap, in an exoskeleton of dark blue with pale pink patterning.

The mother is holding her phone, casing cracked like a refrozen pond, at eye-level for the little one while she herself stares absent-mindedly out the window, having barely snow-dappled landscape drifting by for entertainment

exoskeleton

The corner of the square with the hostile blue lights shining. Crime reduction lights, like from under a flying saucer stunning us into deference. He was shouting into a mobile phone. Face barely visible under the hood of the black parka, with the blue contours from the landing lights.

He held his phone away from his face and greeted me, asked if I needed any help, which is how they ask to sell me drugs now.

I told him I was good and he nodded, put the phone back to the side of his face and walked into the light.

crime reduction lights

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Dogs Would Know

I thought I’d be good with animals, growing up. Just one of those strange kids who exerts no pressure on the surfaces he touches, and exudes goodness, something birds can trust. In the square by the cathedral they came to me because I paid a man to put seeds in my hands. I thought because I was broken in half there would be good inside me spilling out like a ruptured silo and that dogs would know.

You think the accident gave you superpowers. Like abuse has made you better as a person.

I thought that dogs would know. When I was homeless I slept in the bed of a woman who did not believe in evil; I think that must be the reason she let me stay there. I think there’s something foul in me. I slept in the corner of her mattress, like a dog. I took up as little space as I could and I disappeared from her life.

And someone else froze when I walked into the room. Jumped if I grazed her, walking past. And she was shaking when she said, I’m not afraid of you, attempting a reassuring tone and not a defiant one, ears perked like a fox in danger. I thought I’d be good with animals, instead I’m limping and shedding fur like an irradiated jackal. I thought from how badly broken I was, there would be recompense if not a reckoning.

Dogs don’t know, or they don’t care.

Any good that comes from me is what I’ve done. And any good that comes from you is you alone.

Fiending

tell me some good news, roche

I’m sorry, you’re really asking the wrong man.

i’m really fiending for a fix, man

I’d love to be like “Okay Dee, the world is full of sunshine and butterflies and also death has been rendered obsolete.”

haven’t had any in weeks. my eyes are bulging. my veins are poppin. c’mon

But the best I’ve got is “I didn’t literally die in the last 24 hours.”

Just tell me that, then, the sunshine and the no-death thing. Just make me believe it. Come on. I’m gullible

I’m bad at lying.

man
man
man
dammit

Okay.

Okay: the best you will ever feel is “okay.” When I was little my grandmother smoked like a chimney and died. My mother couldn’t bring herself to say those words; she said grandmother “stopped breathing.” I was slow to grasp the full scope of that statement, okay. Grandmother once drew me a diagram about explaining smoking to me. Okay, she drew two sinewaves one under the other and she talked. She said you feel good and bad, smokers feel bad and worse. And when they feel okay they think they’re feeling good. Yeah? It’s not just smokers. Yeah. Okay? Okay.

Coke’s New Ad Campaign is Making Me Feel Weird in the Soul

I’ve got this irrational fear that someone with the name on the bottle will demand a sip. Unless I can explain exactly who I intend to share the bottle with, of course.

At first I would try to pick bottles with the names of dead friends on them, so I’d be too sad to enjoy my addiction. Any time’s a good time to quit.

Somehow I kept buying bottles. At some point I switched categories from ‘dead friends’ to ‘past lovers’ and hoped that the bottled name would start blinking on my phone screen.

But that’s not going to happen.