:: Article

Life is Funny

It was hot outside, and it was still only morning.
John was sitting alone in his apartment, drinking whiskey and through the paper thin walls, listening to his neighbours fuck.
A door could then be heard opening and closing, followed by heavy footsteps.
“You whore, you fucking whore . . .”
There is a muffled response.
Then a scream.
Another voice cuts in, a man’s shrill voice: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know, I, I think it’s best if…I think I should…”
Something then smashed against the wall followed by a woman screaming: “FUCK YOU.”
This explosion of noise seemed to resonate around the apartment block – through the wallpaper and plaster, through the ceilings and floors, and out into the corridor.
Something was slapped hard – the sound pierced the wall jolting John as his consciousness was thrust back into his childhood.
Another slap, this time harder, kicking John back into the moment.
His ears twitched, awake, with the echo of the violence next door.
It’s sickening hearing a face being slapped about – it lingers.
It never fades away. It stays with that person and the people who saw it, who heard it, who felt it – it stays with them forever.
John was paralyzed with fear; he could do nothing but sit tight, where he was, afraid to move in case someone heard him and came for him.
On the other side of that wall were the sounds of pleading, desperate pleading for the slaps to stop; to stop slapping the woman because it was going to kill her…
It was a fierce whipping noise that sounded like a thick leather belt hitting something, hitting someone. It was a nauseating sound that forced its way through the thin walls and deep into John’s skull, where it stayed, lodged, going off in his mind like sticks of dynamite with each and every strike.

Leather belts hurt when they strike, and strike, and strike. Though not as bad as the buckle itself. Belt buckles hurt a whole lot more and leave bigger marks, especially the one John’s Father used. Either way, if you’ve ever been beaten unconscious by a belt then it is a sound you will never forget… A sound that never dies, that never fades to silence. It stays with you and acts as the trigger for those memories you’ve tried so hard to bury for all your life.

The memories of being a kid and waking up in a heap on the floor covered with cuts and bruises; reaching down to touch yourself, every part of your body hurting so badly that it makes you cry. Tears come to your eyes and fall down your face and you’re there, in a heap, on the floor, and you can’t stand because your legs have been hit so many times that you feel paralyzed. You feel so weak that you have to crawl across the floor to your bed, and try, with all your might, to fight back the pain, to fight it back: if only for a few seconds, enough so you can get on top of the bed that seems so high. And you have to get on top of that bed. For the bed is softer than the hard floor and the hard floor makes all the bruises on your body hurt even more. You reach up and grab the side of the bed. Tears fall down your face as you pull your body up and you want to cry out, yet knowing that if you do then he will come back and beat the shit out of you even harder than before.

John poured a large shot of whiskey from a shaking bottle, which clinked loudly against the glass.
He couldn’t stop his hands from shaking.
He was scared.
He wanted to call the police, but he was afraid, afraid he would be caught then whipped and beaten like the people on the other side of that wall.
John’s eyes quivered, blinked repeatedly; hearing that sound again, hearing that pain again, hearing that begging, the continued pleading for the beating to stop.
Then his tears came.
His eyes glanced around his room… That square and hollow box he had shut himself away in.
His eyes were soaked, saturated with tears.
The sun was hovering at midday.
Crying could still be heard; a continuous crying that would momentarily stop once the leather of the belt hit skin.
John felt sick.
He retched.
The brightness of the sun was strong outside as it poured through the open window. John smoked another cigarette, with a shaking hand attached to a shaking body that covered a shaking soul as his other hand clenched his stomach.
Tears kept falling down his face.
He thought they were going to die, but he could do nothing to help them, he was too afraid.
His being was frozen as his mind was attempting to hold it back, to hold back the past and keep it locked in.
He couldn’t let it out, he couldn’t.
He was trying not to listen to the whipping on the other side of the wall breaking skin apart, breaking bodies apart, breaking lives apart; tearing them up, bruising them, making them swell, making them bleed, making them shatter, making them break.
John was shaking his head.
His eyes were closed; his face contorted.
His hands covered his ears.
Tears poured down his face.
They wouldn’t stop.
A strange noise bubbled away in the back of his throat, a kind of gurgling sound…A sound that had been trapped for so many years…A sound that had been lodged, for so long now; finally trying to break through, but not knowing how it should sound.
He clutched the side of his head with both hands.
He screamed, but no sound erupted.
He held it tight; his head, trying to keep the memories inside, trying to trap them, trying to keep them away from the light of the day, trying to keep them inside, deep inside, hidden…
“You want it to stop? YOU WANT IT TO STOP YOU FUCKING CUNT?”
“. . . Please . . .” the beaten man sobbed, through broken gasps, through desperation, through horror, “. . . Please . . .”
John was rocking back and forth, holding himself tightly, trying to hold it all inside.
John was on his knees now, doubled over.
His past had snapped – to the surface.
That sound had triggered his past, had smashed the barrier that had held it back for so long.
Footsteps could be heard next door, followed by the angry man shouting: “I’LL STOP YOUR FUCKING PAIN ARSEHOLE. I’LL STOP YOUR FUCKING PAIN…”
The woman was screaming “NO”, again, and again, and again, and again.
John couldn’t breathe.
He couldn’t draw a breath.
But he had to get up, he had to get up and help those people, he had to.
And with that John forced himself up onto his feet and with every ounce of his strength he staggered to his front door.
He looked down at his hands, which continued shaking uncontrollably.
John shut his eyes and tried to focus, he tried to breathe.
Deep breaths, shallow breaths, regular breaths.
He could do this, he could do it.
He then lifted the catch of his lock and opened his door, ever so slowly.
BANG . . .
A gunshot went off . . .
The woman screamed.
It was a sickening and deafening pitch that ripped through John, shattering him into a trillion fragments.
Everybody heard that scream. Even the people living on the other side of the street must have heard it.
Everybody heard it, and everybody stopped what he or she was doing.
John clutched the doorframe for dear life.
BANG . . .
Another gunshot…
Then silence, nothing but the thrashing of John’s heart as he clutched the doorframe with a vacant mind and vacant eyes.
He suddenly let go and faltered to his side, as if he was a shell shock victim staggering out of his trench, oblivious to the raging war around him.
Without being aware of it, John was standing in front of the open doorway of his neighbour who was standing over two crumpled bodies, a gun hanging at his side.
Everything looked like it had been paused – a frozen moment in time, a photo slowly developing, taking shape, colour, and form.
Slowly, everything registered in Jack’s mind, slowly he realised that he was standing, where he was, in front of this carnage and in line of the man’s gun.
The man then looked up at John, looking straight through him.
John stopped breathing, his body, numb, out of his control, fell backwards against the wall behind him, where he quickly spun around and began trying to claw his way through the wall –
No gunshot went off.
No bullet hit him
Nothing happened, nothing.
John opened his eyes and gradually turned his head to face the man who, still looking right through him, was muttering: “I’m tired, and I’m so tired of this life.”
The man then turned to face the bodies and began firing shots into their mangled and lifeless forms.
John’s senses hit him like a fist in the solar plexus and with this sudden jerk he quickly ran into his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.
An eerie silence prevailed.
It clung to every surface of the room like the sweat that clung to John’s body. A cold sweat. A sweat filled with fear as his body trembled.
Police sirens then wailed from the streets below.
John’s eyes were still clamped shut.
He tried to get rid of the images.
He tried desperately to blank them out.
To turn off the projector in which he was forced to view the horror of that moment, of the moments from his past, of that nightmare, the one he had lived through, the one that had been tattooed on his being, carved deeply into his flesh, hacked into his mind, and burnt onto his soul.
He screamed for it to stop, for it to cease, for it to go away.
He screamed.
He banged his head against the wall – anything to make it stop. He banged his head against the wall again, and again, but it would not stop. That echo of leather hitting against bare flesh would not stop. That image of his stinking drunk Father hitting him, and hitting him, and hitting him, would not stop.
He screamed out again.
His father shouted at him to “Shut the fuck up!”
He shouted that only sissies cried and that he was gonna beat him into becoming a man.
He was gonna beat him into manhood, and keep on beating him until he stopped his sissy tears.
Banging came back at him from the other side of the wall.
John opened his eyes where he looked out of the open window and could see, below, on the city streets, lots of people as well as police cars with their red lights rotating.
Each car had a different number on it.
Everything again seemed suddenly quiet as if the world around him had plunged back into slow motion.
The light was dazzling outside.
Inside there was no light, only shadows; darkness.
Inside John there was nothing but blackness; a violent blackness.
His insides were so cut up it was a wonder that he was still breathing.
He was ruined.
He was broken.
Life is funny sometimes; it never turns out the way we think it will.
It never does.
He looked at his open window.
That open window would stop the pain.
His open window would make it all go away.
All he had to do was exit that open window and he would never have to feel that pain again. He would never have those nightmares that woke him every night. He would sleep, deeply and forever, if only he exited through that open window. He would never have a nightmare again. He would have nothing but peace.
John stood up.
His legs began to move.
He began pumping his legs quickly to get the necessary speed.
He then planted his left foot down hard upon the carpet.
He was always good at jumping. He could always jump the highest and the farthest: For when he jumped he jumped with all of his might, wishing each and every time he left the ground that he would never have to come back down again… back home again, back to his Father again, back to the belt again, back to the buckle again, back to unconsciousness again.
The sun’s rays fell upon his body as it flew out of the open window.
This time he would never have to come back down to earth and face the nightmares. He would never have to hear that sound of a belt hitting bare flesh.
He would sleep, forever undisturbed, forever peaceful, forever quiet.
A smile lingered on John’s lips as he fell.
He fell so quickly, so swiftly.
If you blinked you might have missed the sight of John’s body falling from his open window –
BANG . . .
Another gunshot.
That was the final bullet being fired straight through the husband’s head at the very moment that John’s body hit one of the police cars below.
The noise was deafening; an amalgamation of the gunshot, broken glass, smashed metal, shattered bones, panic, screams, so many horrible and deafening screams exploding into infinitely tiny pieces.
And then a silence hung over the street for a split second.
It clung to every surface like the sweat that clung to the bodies of the living.
If you looked upwards from that scene then you’d see the sun. The sun is indescribably beautiful in midsummer. It makes everything sparkle, shine and shimmer.
Life is funny sometimes

253956796_126c41d119_m.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR
If you are a fan of love and sentiment do not read Matthew Coleman. He is the Henry Miller, Sade and D.H. Lawrence of dismantling intimacy in search of its truths. His works read like Joyce’s unfettered letters to Nora… Microscopically observing, examining each vivisection. He takes a hammer, smashing concupiscence into its every fetid and perfidious shard… shattering it into a thousand little razor edged pieces for the reader to reasemble. Read him, but read him at your risk; with the caveat that you wear safety glasses.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, March 20th, 2007.