It had been a tough, tough life and Jack had grown bored, so very bored of how his middle-age was shaping up. In the not too distant past Friday night would have meant a time to unload, a time to just get completely drunk and forget all the ordeals that had afflicted his week at work. Now Fridays meant nothing beyond waking up and getting back on the routine that had slowly become his entire life of late; he would wake and start smoking weed, joint after joint of it, whilst eating occasional bits of food to quieten the munchies that were telling him he needed more, more food, more weed, his appetite for both had become insurmountable. This Friday evening Jack finds himself at home, as usual, stoned, stomach rumbling and bored, so very very bored. He has watched every film in his collection, listened to every piece of music and read every book and now there seems nothing left to do. Fired from a job he thought it would be impossible, even for him, to have been fired from some six months before he has never felt lower. Sacked from a supermarket job meant there was nowhere lower left to fall unless he fell behind on his rent which could see him evicted from his room, his prison, his own four-walled cell that at least offered refuge, a roof over his head. The only difference between this place and a proper jail was there were no guards, only those who ruled Jack’s paranoid mind and told him that if he left it was bound to end in some kind of public humiliation. This paranoia rules his life and means that he leads a very sheltered, very odd existence. When he needs to go shopping for food he picks the one place in town that is open twenty-four hours a day and he will occasionally find himself loading a shopping cart at 3am. His dealer didn’t mind delivering either at any time, night or day and on the corner was an off-licence that was open late, very late indeed for the occasional bout of bourbon induced delinquency. It was the one thing he liked about his room, it was near everything he needed and it was all on a twenty-four hour tap.
This Friday evening, an early summer one, Jack can can be found sat in his armchair, the one seat in his room, staring out his window. He is stoned, very stoned indeed and he’s spent the last ten minutes staring at his neighbours’ wall, a gravel dirt construct that is fairly representative of his life; a rough gray behemoth that to some eyes represents nothing but a blot on their immaculately manicured lives. It hadn’t been like this his entire life and he wasn’t sure how it had got to this point. Sure, he had moved away from the city he loved where the people who were his friends lived but how had it come to this? The scraping at the bottom of a barrel existence that didn’t please anyone, especially Jack.
His mind began to wander; it went back to that night, that terrible horrific night when his life down here, by the edge of the sea, had imploded. The night it had all come undone and his lies had been exposed, ending the only friendship he had developed in the ten years, ten long, very long years since he had moved here. He had been laughed at, he had been humiliated, he had been pushed out of the last bar he had been welcomed in and now there was nowhere for him to go, nowhere at all. Tears well up in his eyes and slowly began to trickle down his cheek.
‘If this is life,’ he thinks, as the tears began to flow more freely, transforming his face into a tear-drenched mess, ‘then what’s the point?’
He decides the only thing for it is to roll another joint and maybe look for some music to listen to, something to help lift his mood he contemplates standing from his armchair. ‘But what could I listen to?’ he questions his addled mind as he walks towards the wall dominated by his music. An entire wall of vinyl and CDs show just how far he’s behind the digital revolution and he almost immediately notices it, the record that saved his life all those years, hell over two decades, ago now. The immortal ‘Damaged’, Black Flag’s finest moment, heck one of the greatest records of any kind of any age. Pulling it off the shelf he lifts the lid to his turntable, turning his amp on and turning it all the way up. Seconds later the jagged roar of Ginn’s guitar screams across the room as ‘Rise Above’ kicks in with all its fury.
The tears continued pouring down his face however, intensifying to the degree that it has soaked his hands, meaning he couldn’t roll that joint, that delight he needs now more than at any time he could remember since moving to this town. Suddenly a loud anguished scream comes through his floorboards from the room downstairs, so loud it drowns out Rollins screaming about spray-painting some walls and Jack is immediately back out of his chair and looking out his window, hoping or dreading for some confirmation of what he is convinced has just gone down. Looking down at the garden, the world’s ugliest most pigeon-shit stained garden made of pure concrete he understands why he is so convinced. It had happened before, a similar cry, only this one sounded more violent, more intense, more vitriolic. He knew he should go and investigate but his paranoid mind told him that he should stay well clear in fear of the authorities who would doubtless soon be on the scene and if they knocked on his door he may well have some explaining to do.
His tears finally stop but he still feels so completely depressed he can’t even bring himself to roll that joint, that sweet beautiful smoke that could save all his woes but now, well now he can’t even contemplate it. Side one of the record comes to an end and immediately Jack flips it over. The rumble begins and ‘Depression’ fills his mind and his room and soon he is face to face with the idea he can’t take no more of this life of pain and something needs to be done. He wipes his hands dry and rolls the strongest joint he’s ever rolled before his head slumps down on his chest and the words, the only goddamn words that enters his mind, are simple and pure.
‘Do it… Do it now… There is no point continuing this sham.’
Bradford Middleton was born in south-east London during the summer of 1971, winning his first poetry prize aged nine. He then gave up for twenty-five years until he landed in Brighton where, not knowing anyone and with no money he holed up in his room and wrote. His first published poem arrived at the Mad Swirl shortly before his 40th birthday and since then he’s gone on to be published all over the internet and in some journals, magazines as well as having three chapbooks released by Crisis Chronicles Press (USA), Holy & Intoxicated Press and Analog Submission Press (both UK). Recently published in the Chiron Review, Razur Cuts and Alien Buddha he’s also been nominated as a Best of the Net poet for 2019 by Rye Whiskey Review. If you want to be his friend go find him on Facebook @bradfordmiddleton1.