It’s so cold the pink-dappled-green-brown-bubbled phlegm just sits on top of the snow. Normally it’d sink down a bit.
There’s no time to the memory. It becomes endlessly repeating.
The room is small. As you walk in, to your right, the entire wall was a mirrored wardrobe. Two-fifths of this was side-by-side shoe racks, another, her clothes. Toward the end, one has been cleared for me. A double bed sat along the entrance wall.
I didn’t have linens, so these were provided for me. There’s a skinny duvet, a curtain; velveteen with fake plastic feeling silk squares doubles as a blanket.
Pillows, a motley collection of small couch cushions used to create a partial igloo against the relentless draft. Two the consistency of deep-dish pizza for sleeping.
Routinely muscles lock and get infected from the cold. Old spine damage erratically roars into life, renewed and filled with spite.
I’m still loose temporally, melting through these flashbacks.
The pink in the phlegm holds brighter on the snow; it could be the darkness, long night an all that.
Something about it and the metallic in my mouth warps me back to climbing a mountain with a broken hand. It’s Snowdon, and the air is filled with winged ants. The pig path, and every grabbed rock is pain.
Tongue Metallics bring out the wrong in the cigarettes in a Wonka flush of flavours and disguised chemicals.
Back to the pink star speckled glisten and white, and sinking melding brown of harsher mucus.
Lying on my back now, legs propped up against the wall with pillows. Oedema legs swollen to a point where the skin feels ready to burst. Walking, standing, even sitting is pain.
This is all that works.
In a few days the translator will tell me she is a psychopath.
Afraid then, when I look back, it is rippled with a sort of horror-riddled luck.
The conversation is upside down and awkward.
Though I’m fading in and out of memory.
It’s 8am and my legs are up with the first oedema. A few days ago I collapsed with chest pain. The translator dragged me to the bed. The last thing I said before I fell was “no ambulances.”
She performed CPR of varying energy for an hour, and exhausted, ended up lying awkwardly on top of me simultaneously trying to pump-rub my chest as trying to use her heartbeat to normalise mine.
Teeth gritting pain roars in remote lighthouse waves. I remember only darkness but it’s a full dark, of colour like a television that has just been turned off. Back arching chest explosions of pain and all we remember my hissing was
“Long afloat on shipless oceans”
…and, maybe now that I think about it –
“Holy fuck that’s pain…”
and probably, “Hnnghugh!”
But I’m pretty sure that’s it.
After more episodes, I wonder if she has been poisoning me. It sounds paranoid. But things began to correspond with heavy metal poisoning, strychnine or something. It could be the pollutants from the construction, riddled as it is with asbestos. Some of which vents out from the end of a pump-inflated tube that snakes from the basement down the hallway out under my window. A flapping thing like the car lot advertising tube men. Except for nothing but cancer.
Sitting on the floor of a shower room, my face is caked, dripping Cillit Bang, coconut milk and pineapple juice. There’s crushed chunks of pineapple in my ear holes.
The water is still running orange.
Three bouncers tried to hold me down and pepper spray me. They tried hard to pull my hands off my face and get the spray into my eyes, as close as possible. An ex-bouncer remarks, “they were trying to blow out your retinas, in essence, blind you.”
“Yeah I know what blowing out my retinas means”
Fury is a fascinating emotion.
“No! No it’s not! It fucking isn’t! Take that back! You don’t know what you’re fucking talking about!”
An electronic musician and producer with a thick unaware vein of aspiring to be a sort of Phil Spectre Svengali has swerved from complaining his woman rap band want to do a few sex songs, and how he, as a feminist, cannot allow it. To shouting at me, it is a like a wobbly twin-prop of spitty of fury taking off across the room toward me.
Conversation tilted in to balls-out gauche questions about the Irish, and “Are you all like this?” and how different the Finns were, and “probably an islander thing,” said with a smug sniff.
“Well yeah, but you’d have to look at it, that the Finnish are islanders too. Marshlanders, swamp dwellers? Islands, islanders, skulking about the lake lands in their little murder skiffs with their little pointed Finnish hats pulled up dark.”
“What! Say that again!”
“I said …”
Riddled with thousands of lakes. Part of Scandinavia but not really Scandinavia. Fenno what? Russian, but not Russian, Swedish, but not Swedish. Touching Norway, but just the tip. Distrustful of, and disliked by your neighbours. Worried about foreigners arriving. It sort of is an island, and so, the Finnish and Irish have somethings in common. At least that’s what I used to say to them, not so sure anymore.”
“To you, the Finnish.”
Corpulent to a sort of shaggy melted flesh point of self disregard, this seemed to elicit a swelling skip through the red spectrum. And he grew more violent in his demands for me to recant, take back, revise, and after a hard shoulder shove, was now, taking another shot at the shouting runway.
When abruptly, our mutual friend just stood up, and slapped him echoingly hard across the face and everything stopped. And with a hand clutching his face in wild bewilderment, he appeared confused and disconnected from what had just happened, and asked just that.
“What…what just happened…?”
“You were shouting. So I slapped you
“I said the Finnish and Irish have something in common because they are both islanders.”
“Can, can you explain what you mean? How?”
Fury is a strange emotion.
New Years Eve 2018. After a lame fuck around, I’m on my own. I’ve just published my first book. It has taken two decades of imposter fear.
I’ve a bag of fireworks we were supposed to let off. I have a few cans of beer, a bottle of sparkling wine.
There are rocks by my apartment. Helsinki is a city carved out and into inhospitable rock. Like the people.
I live near Linnanmäki. It’s a beautiful thing to live beside; the distant rising, falling sounds of rollercoaster terror and laughter.
At the arse end of Kallio, the workers district, now the last old poor bohemian district fading into corrupt gentrification.
You can always tell when an old curiosity Bagpuss second-hand on an old street that used to be called stab street that leads to a square once called amphetamine turns into a small Bed, Bath and Beyond.
The rocks rise behind Linnanmäki, leading to forest-park filled with released rabbits making a go of it and the owls that eat them. It’s there I used to go when things were less. It’s there I go now.
PTSD is a potent voodoo. One panic attack before leaving triggers the narcolepsy so I collapse. I’m lucky not to bang my head this time.
I find the old perch, a ledge you’ve to climb around to. It overlooks the city, rail line and a step this way will kill you ravine.
Snow dusts down television static. It feels like the temperature keeps dropping. My fingers are beyond numb to pain back to a sort of numb that still hurts.
Joints – everything veers between sharp ache and numb and a slow ambient beat of ow.
There’s a distant alien warmth. It frills, nudges, creeps, pulls and drags.
City lights, trains and cars roll below, the poor district, raised so it could look down on the rich. A bizarre turnabout badly proving the stupidity of the rich now hungering for the space.
The edging warmth is an odd bit of foreplay.
The doctor, Hakaniemi; an economist attempted to break my neck at a party with a crude WWE style wrestling hoist and drop from behind.
According to a throat specialist, I’ve deep tissue damage. I’ve difficulty swallowing, and sometimes if I turn my head, my throat closes and I lose function, and life becomes a sudden clawing panic.
This is best when it happens at the edge of a train platform and I am wearing a scarf. Things become a sudden frantic claw that blips back to normal, like the only person in the film who can see the ghosts.
Finnish doctors are often disinterested, and riddled with prejudice. If you look different, you’re likely a liar and a reprobate.
I’ve been trying to get treatment for my throat for a while. The GP has decided that the throat specialist is wrong.
My girlfriend is there. Conversation clicks in and out of Finnish and English. It feels like I am at the vet or in some slave dystopia. They laugh at jokes that go untranslated, sometimes their Finnish dips into that throaty deep I notice Finnish women get when talking sex or visceral things. This happens a lot when you’re the foreign significant other. The remarks are often followed with a chuckle and a horse market comment you imagine is something like “That’s a good breeder there, strong teeth.”
The doctor says she wants to check lower spine muscle tone for damage. She wants to do this via sticking a finger in my asshole. It sounds bullshit, but, when in Rome, and anything to get some treatment for my throat.
She asks if I mind if my girlfriend remains. “I don’t give a fuck, sure she’s seen everything and been up there finger and tongue”.
I assume the position as she lubes up.
No wine, no dinner, it’s not as easy as she expects it to be, as she’s easing in, she says, “relax, easy, see just like childhood.” The tone has that snide mischief curl and my girlfriend immediately bursts out laughing. The doctor starts laugh-faux-apologising, and in the end, I start laughing, and push her finger out of my ass. Naturally, we have to do it again. I’m told to clench and squeeze around her finger. Conversation laughs between Finnish and English on how to tell someone to clench the back muscles, not the front.
Thankfully being anally raped by the Hakaniemi doctor is over shortly.
This is Finland after all…
I shiver back and retrieve another firework from my bag, light if off my cigarette and fling it into the ravine. A stream of bangers, candles, firecrackers and repeaters follows it.
Draw. Puff. Draw. Spark. Fling.
Shivering is constant; I have to rub my fingers to get them to cooperate in the cold.
I open one of the wines and trudge through slugs in a flurry of cigarettes and explosions.
There is a sort of monotony to the light fizz, bang, shake, smoke, spit. I’m glad though, particularly in that my face remains boringly not blown off.
Lungs ache and my eyelids are heavy.
I find myself thinking the snow seems to be warming up, and that’s good, we could use a bit of warm snow.
A lung specialist is telling me the x-rays are clear.
A girlfriend asks if anyone had translated the x-ray specialist’s summary stating I was suffering from numb toes and it seems like the specialist was just spinning things to make my cigarette has gone out.
Snow and the only bits that have some warmth are a memory of it in my boots.
The bottle drains and the non-silence of the city, listening to distant sirens and cars rolling beneath.
Piling warm snow is hard to notice with sticky eyes. There’s a cacophony of people; familiar places, but always leaving. Dinner parties, old birthdays, on and back to Amsterdam home bars and people always talking around in a loud Grogans din.
Just like childhood.