An uncomfortable silence, after our fight. Prairie yellow comes the moon while it’s so quiet we can hear the clouds rushing between us and the stars as you drive the rental down the highway to somewhere or another, I’m too worked up to remember now. Prairie yellow moon, and I pick a CD for keeping us together. Your hand on the leather of the wheel, mine on the buttons, clicking through. I want this one, I say, holding Neil Young by my fingertips. Fine by me, you say.
” ‘Anti-Heroin Chic’ meaning that what is beautiful is what is broken, that our imperfections, our exiles, our exclusions, are what define our humanity most, not the polished surface or the Instagram culture which encourages us to dissociate from who and how we truly are. There is a seat for everyone here at the table.”
The story itself is based on the Neil Young song ‘Helpless’, so I recommend a listen before, while, or after reading.
There’s also a beautiful version by one of my favourite artists, Perfume Genius
This is my last piece of the year to be published, my last of the decade. I started the 2010s off in New York City with D, struggling to get by and with a book I’d written that no one wanted and another on the way. Things, as they tend to, have not always gone smoothly, and this, for us, has been a decade marked by loss, frustration, unstable employment situations, and at least ten flats we moved into and out of due to cramped conditions, mould, or rent hikes. All this is to say nothing of the wider world’s veering into political mire and climate catastrophe.
Still, we are here. You are too. I’m now a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at Glasgow University, with somehow four books published. That one of them was published at the exact, explosive death of its publisher and is now out of print is just one more thing that marks the journey of writing. I’ve travelled to many countries and been lucky enough to do that with help from various literarily-minded funding bodies. I’m grateful to the many magazines and journals who have supported my work, and to all of you for reading, here. I know that all art is made of petals, something faint and frail and not always significant to those who encounter it. It’s a hope for connection, a method of speaking (in petals, yes, in a whisper or a yell). As a reader, I have come across so many books, stories, poems in the last ten years, and they have each of them shaped me, anchored me to this world and its changes. Paintings too, sculpture, film, and music. Whatever we have, or don’t have, we will always have the words and visions of others, and that’s something to keep us, tend to us, through the hardest, leanest of years.
As for the 2020s, who can predict the course of even one single life, among billions? But I have some hopes, as you do, I’m sure. Next year, I am flying out to Kerala, in India, to take part in the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters 2020, thanks to funding provided by Scottish Books International’s Author International Travel Fund. When I return, D and I are moving into our first house together, a semi-detached place on the edge of town, with a garden, and from the street at least a view of the hills. What happens next? It’s enough to say, it’s still happening.