Even I have a tale or two to tell…
The man had scales all over his face and all over his hands. The rest of the skin was covered in clothing but the scales ran down under his shirt over his entire body and he sat on the pier in the sun, his skin flaking, drying, scales coming loose, tossed up in the sea winds.
The Lizard Man watched the world, his yellow eyes pulled tight, squinting in the bright that burned over everyone. He studied the faces that saw him and turned away, that saw him and laughed, saw him and felt queasy, ill, afraid. The Lizard Man sipped his bottle of red wine concealed in a plastic bag and smoked his rollies one after the other in a furious chain that drifted in the breeze, spiralling upwards, as the waves crashed into wood and steel below.
The Lizard Man was watching a small girl, with dark hair and a sparkle in her eyes. She spotted him but didn’t look away; four years old, too young to be afraid, too young to know what is right and what is strange. And she walked around alone looking over the edges at the water, always smiling, running as the seagulls screamed above.
The girl came and stood by the Lizard Man; there were butterflies on her T-shirt and the glitter sparkled in the sun. She looked at him again, the smoke from his cigarette making her cough. So quickly he tossed his cigarette away and below it fizzed in the salt water out of sight. Only the fish heard it.
And the Lizard Man turned on his bench to watch the little girl who peered between the railings just beside him, her brown curls blowing in the wind. And she laughed merrily and the Lizard Man laughed with her, the ocean spray tickling their faces.
The girl hopped and stamped her feet in excitement as she continued to stare at the water, her feet nearing the edges of the damp wood.
“Don’t fall in young miss,” the Lizard Man said.
She glanced at him, unsure for a moment, but then she relaxed. She could see a kindness in his pale eyes and she smiled warmly again. As the Lizard Man smiled back at her an angry man burst through the crowd and charged towards them, “There you are! I told you not to move! Bloody hell! You know what’s coming now don’t you!”
The man was raging. His tiny eyes were dark and empty, his cheeks red from gin and fury. He looked at the Lizard Man and muttered something under his breath before grabbing the little girl by the arm and dragging her away. The Lizard Man watched, rose to his feet. He tossed his wine bottle over the edge of the pier and followed.
He waited in the cellar of the little girl’s house. He’d followed her and the angry man, her father, all the way home. The man had dragged her by the arm as she struggled and tugged, trying to get free. The Lizard Man followed at a distance but could see that she whimpered and cried all the way. He’d slipped in through a low window at the back of their house. It led straight down into the cellar where he now waited, listening to footsteps, waiting for assurance that the little girl was safe.
The Lizard Man thought he heard the father leave, as heavy stomps were followed by a slamming door. He waited a few minutes before trying to climb out of his hiding place among some boxes. As he did so, he knocked over an old lamp and it crashed to the ground. Shards smashed and disappeared into the darkness. The Lizard Man went silent, so did the rest of the house. He tried not to breathe heavily but it was hot and stale down there. His scales itched and he scratched at them till his arms bled.
The door suddenly opened and the Lizard Man peered up at the light streaming in through the doorway. The little girl stood there, illuminated by sunlight, glowing. She saw him immediately and seemed scared, her eyes open wide. She released the door handle and took a step forward.
The Lizard Man spoke, “Shh, it’s OK. It’s only me.”
The girl didn’t say anything at first. She glanced around, put her index finger to her lips.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” she said.
“I know, I’m sorry. Don’t be scared.”
She was breathing quite heavily, “OK.”
“Are you still scared?”
“Yes, it’s dark.”
She glanced around, unsure of the dank cellar.
“Well let’s turn a light on. Where’s the switch?” The Lizard man stumbled around in the dark, “Here,” he flicked the switch, “is that’s better?”
The girl seemed to calm, “Yes.”
“Good, you want to come down?”
The little girl tiptoed down the stairs, her short legs allowing her to move just one step at a time. The Lizard Man stood before her. He crouched low to the ground.
“Now let me explain why I’m here. But you have to be quiet. Do you promise?”
She nodded vigorously, “Yes.”
“Good. I followed you home see. After what I saw at the pier I had to follow you home.”
The girl looked puzzled, “Why?”
“Well, I wanted to make sure you were OK.”
“I wanted to make sure you were safe.”
“I am safe.”
“Are you sure? Is that man your Dad?”
“Does he hurt you?”
The girl went silent.
“Does he hurt you? You can tell me. I’m here to help.”
“He used to but not anymore.”
“Why not anymore?”
“Because he’s scared.”
The little girl seemed sure, she was calm. The Lizard Man bent closer, put his scaly hand on her shoulder, “Why is he scared?”
“Because he knows my mother is watching him all the time and he doesn’t like seeing her.”
The Lizard Man stood up, scratched his forehead. Flakes danced and twirled to the filthy floor.
“Where is your mother?” he asked.
The little girl smiled and pointed to the sky.
The Lizard Man smiled back at her, “I see.”
“But sometimes she comes back, when he’s angry because of his bad drink. She comes and he doesn’t like it.”
The Lizard Man rose to his feet and studied the girl but she was just smiling at him. He was unsure of what to do but he could see she wasn’t playing games. Her tone was matter-of-fact.
He leaned close to her again, “As long as you’re safe.”
On his way out as the Lizard Man walked towards the front door he thought he saw something white by the living room window. The curtains were closed and he was certain he saw a shape hovering, but it disappeared when he looked more closely. He shrugged it off, it had been a strange day. The wine was still fueling his mind a little at least. Although the white figure, that was an image he never forgot, never told another living soul about.
He waved goodbye to the girl and set off back towards the pier. Clouds had since arrived and the sun was wrestling to warm the world below but the Lizard Man didn’t mind. His scaly skin was fried and he needed to cool off.
Open one eye, groan, roll over and groan again. That’s how it starts. My pillow is wet. Saliva? Snot? Both. It’s still ringing. Still ringing. I reach around, still one eye open, and I turn it off. My alarm. I turn it off. It’s dark, I imagine the outside to be wet, miserable, grey. I groan once more, roll over again.
I sit up and stare at Ray Liotta, then I stare at the window. I shudder at the thought, dark, wet. I shudder.
I reach over and turn on my music. Elliott Smith. Always start the day with Elliott Smith. Then my day will be bearable. I tap my fingers, I force a smile. Optimism, smile. That’s what I need optimism. I rise, a head rush knocks me down again and I spin a little; too far last night, a little too far. I rise again and endure. I ignore the blood blasting to my head. I endure. I drag myself to the window, slide the curtains open. My eyes burn. The sun is harsh and my eyes burn. White, white, a little colour, I’m back. It’s sunny. Would you believe it? A little orange, a little blue in the sky, and concrete glows, it sparkles. The wet sparkles. The sun. Would you believe it?
The smile is no longer forced. It’s a smile of disbelief but it’s still a real smile. Elliott Smith hums. I make him blare. ‘Angel in the snow’ blares.
I have a skip in my step, I don’t drag myself anymore, but still my head spins. I endure. I endure and I walk to the mirror. Too much of a lot last night, not enough of anything. Eyes are red, hair is a mop, shirt is stained, beard is scattered and long. I smile. I smile because the sun is shining; and I don’t care that I look and feel a dirty mess.
Shower. It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s just right. I get in. I wash and it’s uplifting. I let the water flow down my face. It numbs the head. The spins are turning to stabs and the water takes them far away, it kills them, kills all the brutal stabs. It melts away the brutal stabs. I smell good and I’m happy and even though my head spins and my eyes are red, it doesn’t matter because the sun shines and I smell good so I’m ready.
I re-enter my room and Elliott Smith is still singing, still strumming that soft, delicate guitar. I smile again and stub my toe. Hell, death, fire, wasps, guns, rape, mutilation, marmite, Sharks, kicking, gore, a numbness, brutal, ultimate pain! It all shoots through my head. I don’t scream I groan. I don’t swear I just groan. It’s sunny, I’m smiling, I smell good, that is where I am. I don’t need this so I endure. I endure the pain, like I endure the blood firing to my head. Smile, optimism.
Clothes. Not yet, I’m steaming from the water and I don’t need clothes yet. I’m not ready to sweat. That’s later. Wrapped in a towel, time for coffee. The water only halted the stabs, didn’t kill them, they are growing again. Time for some sweet sweet coffee. And a few pills. Ibuprofen, paracetamol, neurofen. Together they can kill it all. Together they can combat the stabs, block them out, shield my tender brain. Take one, the next, the last. Better already, my mind tells me it’s better already. Shields block, knives miss their targets. Smile, you’re getting there pal, smile.
Kitchen, it’s grim, it smells like Chinese, burn, dead stuff, growing things, the wrong kind. A look of disgust. Piles of plates, glasses, empty, filthy boxes. Not needed. Ignore it and carry on. This is your morning, ignore it and carry on.
Coffee, boil water, wait. It takes too long, wander the kitchen, circle it like a bird of prey. Wait for your target, coffee. Boiled, one spoon of instant coffee, one spoon of sugar, some thick thick milk. Stir, sip, satisfaction. Smile again. It’s really coming together, what looked bleak before is really forming into a vividly healthy situation. Sip again, delicious. The final stabs are shielded and the pain dies. I endured, and with a little help from my trio of tiny, white soldiers the pain is defeated. It’s looking really good. Really, really good. Back to my room, Elliott Smith isn’t singing anymore. Perhaps that’s enough for now. Perhaps we should put that on hold till the next rise. The sun lifts the corners of my mouth again. I see sparkles outside once more. A bit of blue has become lots of blue. This is looking really good. This day is looking really good. Smile.
Clothes. What to go for? It’s sunny but cold? Likely but not written in stone. Layers. That’s what we need. A t-shirt lies on the floor. Sniff it, I’m content. I put it on. It’s white and it will do nicely. Jeans? Sorted. Worn, a bit stained but just what we need for today. Hoody? Grey. Jacket? Leather, brown. It’s looking really good. I’m gradually feeling really good about the prospect of today.
What do we need. Food? No time. Maybe toast. Yes. I must have a bit of toast or that coffee will rapidly become the enemy within, tossing out the grot of the night before. Toast will sort it out. Toast will calm the insides down. Quieten the soon to be groaning episode of coffee versus grot. Back to the kitchen, insert the bread. Again it takes too long. Circle the kitchen. A predator circles his soon to be meal. It shoots out fast and I almost run to it. I carry myself to my catch. Butter melts. Slightly salty, very creamy, satisfying. I crunch away. I stand in the kitchen and crunch away. Another slice? Not enough time. It pains me but there just isn’t enough time. I hope this one slice can calm the coffee, settle the feud about to begin. I should be fine. I smile. It’s getting better still. Really good.
Bag. What to take? Books, I need my books, and paper. And a pen! Easy to forget, hard to live without. It’s a bit of a scramble. My room is bright and it’s a nice, optimistic scramble. Not a sweaty filthy scramble that I usually deal with. The sun just saves me sometimes. It’s really sorted me out today, really given me a life line.
Shoes on, black boots. That’s what we want. Out the door. Christ its lovely. Crisp, no better word, couldn’t invent a better word to describe the day. Crisp, and fresh, cool. The colours come together perfect. Blue, and orange. Lots of blue, mountains of orange. The autumn’s brought in the mountains of orange. Smoke rises from my breath. We have grey as well, the concrete, but it shines, almost silver from the dampness. Slick silver, deep blue and rich orange. It’s looking really good.
I walk, I don’t skip, I don’t drag, I don’t trudge, I simply walk, maybe with a little glide. I’m on time, the scramble means I’m on time so the pace is easy. Just easy. I see a cat, a pigeon. I want to say I see a robin and maybe a fox, but I don’t, just a cat and a pigeon. I see a few people, but I don’t really see them. I hum a bit and stop when I realise I’m humming. Laugh it off. It’s always good to laugh it off. Cars, bikes, trees, grass, a bit of green to add to the morning’s blend. It’s worked out really good. I smile. A real genuine, satisfied smile. One of those smiles you rarely feel, only on a morning like this, when you really come together inside yourself. A warm feeling in you, a lush moment. A damn good smile.
I’m walking but don’t know where to. It’s sunny and I don’t know where I’m going to be taken. I know the location, but where does that lead me? I don’t know. I can’t know. It’s still the morning and like every morning, I just don’t know. But I must say; it’s looking really good.