Words || Alex Kurtz
Sam swiped a pile of lasagna crumbs off what he privately referred to as his ‘academic green’ sweater – loose woollen thing, seaweed in colour. He exhaled, stretched back over the sofa and looked up at the cracked, pear-coloured wall above the TV. Water damage. Proliferating. Buckets placed around the house.
“This house is really going to shit mum,” he said to the wall. His mother’s voice, bromidic and pillow-smothered, replied from deep in the couch.
“Oh it’s not that bad, love. You’re over exaggerating again.” Over exaggerating was tautology. He’d told her before.
The rain was romantic, melancholy, inconvenient. It nurtured a sense of claustrophobia that swelled the green front door until it couldn’t be opened. Michael would have to climb through the window.
Five days ago he would have been the first to admit he over exaggerated when – after suffering symptoms of rapidly increased heart beats, sweaty palms, rattling blue lips and the urge to run or punch Michael – he spent two hours in the local doctors waiting room on a stupendously hot day, his shirt sticking to his back, beads of sweat trickling down his arched, tanned forehead.
When finally permitted to Dr Wallace’s office, feeling self-conscious and stupid, he exclaimed, “Doctor, I think I’m dying.” And to this he admits over exaggeration.
“I’ll let that one slide, mum,” he said. Falling asleep on the sofa immediately after work was his mother’s routine.
The window slid open, the smell of rain. Michael’s schoolbag came in first then his turgid, developing body.
“How was school?”
“Shit.” He was soaking wet. “What are you watching?”
Sam, who spent a lot of his unemployed time watching the news, was increasingly formulating opinions about human nature. Essentially, that human beings are an ungovernable and violent lot. Aristotle, he thought, was wrong, we aren’t political beings because we can speak, we’re political beings because we can kill. He looked at the library books he’d never read on the coffee table. All these books, he mildly despaired. The mind continues to roll on, formulating, explaining, searching. The human mind, a restless pessimist, refusing to accept, constantly trying to vault its inbuilt limitations. The natural extremism of humans.
“What’s for dinner?”
“Pre-made lasagna, the single mother’s baked dinner.” Michael dripped his way into the kitchen.
“What are your thoughts on nihilism, mum?” Sam asked. He said it teasingly, but was really seeking her encouragement, her practical, motherly wisdom.
She was asleep. Work does this to a person, it seems. Marx. Alienation. Exploitation. Administration. Soulless. His mind continued, its own laws, its own gravity and lame force. Marx to existentialism, existentialism to physics, physics to language, language to music, music and physics, all of this indefatigably mysterious. In the kitchen, Michael ate with such ferocity Sam heard his chewing and it mercifully, moistly, disrupted his thoughts. People help. He looked out the window. Rain, cars, roads, houses, the structure of life. Dr. Wallace had said to be empirical and present. Blood and vision, carpet, seconds, living rooms, flooding, cracks, advertisements.
Dr Wallace gave the medical term: anxiety. The reason: life. Solution: Medication and
If you’re enjoying Grapeshot Online, come meet us irl February 27, at the launch party of our next issue, Daddy! It’s at Ubar at 4:30pm, and there will be drink vouchers, temporary tats, and bangers.