Black bin liners had become a focal point of ‘Donkey’s’ well-being!
The obsession with staring into black bin liners and bin bags in general would appear to be a fairly nonsensical beginning to a tale of one man’s self imposed, subconsciously driven, and lifelong ambition to totally self destruct. That is however the unfortunate position in which ‘Donkey’ regularly found himself; staring both literally and figuratively into the detritus of both his past and his future. From the ordered definition of potatoes, oranges, apples, microwave dishes and soup cans he would regularly stand stare and examine the left over morass of peelings and pips, decaying slime, malodorous stenches and disease ridden ooze pushing at the seams of the black bin bag on the floor of the kitchen or garage, or under stair cupboard.
He wasn’t even particular about what was in the bin bag, although kitchen varieties were the most diverting. Any bin bag would do, as long as it had something in it.
But this was no aberration of mind or soul. It was how Donkey survived the pestilent trials which life threw at him each and every day, it was how he reconciled the pros and cons of alternative courses of action and most importantly it was where he regularly made fascinating discoveries such as where he had misplaced his passport, or expense sheets, or even his newly purchased microwaveable roast beef dinner for four.
Undoubtedly, staring into bin bags was as therapeutic and much cheaper to Donkey than the expensive consultations with those shrinks more favoured by the rich and famous.
With the exception of looking for and retrieving valuables and lost items of importance like his passport, he never physically examined the contents. He just stood and stared, unbending but with his foot attempting to nudge the flopping top slightly wider to see further but also attempting, usually in vain, to ensure that nothing over balanced causing the contents to spew or ooze onto the floor.
He knew he did it, and he also knew that it was only his placebo like comforter which distracted him from whatever pending disaster was occupying his mind on any particular day, but it also gave him food for his own thoughts.
‘You can tell more about a person by looking in their bin bags for a week than knowing them for a year’ he used to ponder followed by a shake of the head and a quick mental résumé of what his bin bags and their contents said about him.
‘My God. What a mess!’ he concluded.
‘So many unfinished meals and sandwiches, so much unused and out of date unopened food, so much worthless junk’ and most of all ‘so that’s where I put the TV remote!’
In a strange convoluted fashion it also stimulated him.
‘I bet that if I examined anyone else’s bin over the space of two or three years, I could tell you how they had developed and grown, how their interests had changed, and how their lives had progressed’.
But then he would get even more depressed as he realised that over that same intervening period, the contents of his bins had not only never changed in any obvious fashion, but the non kitchen bins were still in the same place, with same contents, unmoved and unexamined since the last time he had footered around with a particularly tasking and pending disaster.
‘ Here it is, the bin bag with the unopened weed killer I got to clear the still evolving wilderness commonly and wishfully thinkingly referred to as the back garden’.
‘Here it is, the bin bag with the unopened ceiling lights which were to illuminate the unconstructed bedroom alcove, for my nocturnal reading; and well would you ever here is the bin bag with the unopened bedroom alcove flat-pack and wow! Here is the bin bag with unopened and unsolicited – I wonder if I’ve paid for these – deliveries from the book club, record club, innovations magazine…..’ and his mind would start to seize up with all those good intentions which had paved his own personal road to his own latest personal hell.
Most worrying of all was the largest bin bag. It contained the largest supply, with the exception ofGlasgow’s refuse department, of yet unused black bin bags.
It hadn’t been a life long obsession or even a gradually evolving or weird habit which had crept up and taken an ever strengthening hold on him. His interest in black bin bags had manifested itself, just like his paranoid hatred of sweet corn, very suddenly and in a totally sudden but, for a broad thinking and tolerant person anyway, logical and comprehensible fashion.
The Saturday morning dawned like just about every other Saturday morning he had ever experienced. No hangover, just a totally out of body feeling that perhaps he had drunk a bit too much the previous evening, and perhaps it would not be a good idea if he carried on in this fashion. Apart from the obvious impact on his wallet, the alcohol induced torpor always meant that bills went unpaid and the allocated money was sacrificed to a hair of the dog, which then resulted in another and another, until the dog was bald..
He even tried in a weird way to justify or least excuse himself and put it down to the unnatural fact that over-drinking never gave him a headache. So many times he would state loudly to his acquaintances and boozing pals that ‘if only I had actually suffered from a real painful hangover I would have virtually no problems today!’
This Saturday was however slightly out of the ordinary as at about9.30 am, the phone rang insistently. Out of the ordinary because all self respecting friends of Donkey’s would not even be near to REM state, and since he was ex-directory and had scared of all casual callers with his long tried and tested insulting telephone manner, the phone never rang before 10.30 as a wake up to another day of avoiding reality.
But yes the phone was ringing, and ringing demandingly! It could only be one person so Donkey approached it with a weird eagerness.
He softened his voice as he answered with ‘ Hello, it is I who bow to your every wish and demand, It is I who prostrate myself before you, and it is I who, now that I am totally abstinent of all alcohol and such like impurities wish nothing more than to be your humble and obedient slave till the last star dims and dies’.
This is Sheila you are talking to, and when you answered the phone last night, – you do remember that don’t you? – you promised in your non-alcoholic and totally abstinence induced haze to take the girls to the beach today. And there was me thinking that the slur was alcohol induced, only to find out after all those years that you have permanent speech impediment which translates when on the phone talking to me into a boozy slur. I do apologise for maligning your reformed character’ a couple of seconds silence….’Pishhead!!’.
‘You do me an injustice, which I accept in good heart but not only do I remember it, but it is the reason am up at the crack of dawn, suited and booted and ready to drive the 200 miles to that little bit of heaven called Wales. I look forward to it with a passion that is only rivalled by the floodtide coursing of blood through my veins whenever I hear that mellifluous sexy welsh timbre coming over the telephone.’
In fact Donkey was actually looking forward to it with the passion rivalled only by his love for alcohol free lager. Not the taking of his children to the beach, but the drive toWales. He probably shouldn’t actually be going anywhere near a car that morning but if he was going to get toWalesthen he had little option. Of course he had been drunk, of course he had forgotten, of course he wasn’t up at the crack of dawn, and of course Sheila knew this but he did love her. All in vain now of course; he had had his chance and blown it with some élan but also with an irreversible finality.
He looked round the room and made sure that there no left over bodies and corpses from the previous evening. Went into the bedroom and confirmed that at least as far as he was concerned there was no guilty lump on the bed, in the bed or even by the side of the bed. Good, task one out of the way he was definitely alone and could therefore leave the house with no fear that he was locking some unknown in who would potentially make of worth his extremely valuable belongings. Having had this thought he then checked for his extremely valuable belongings and apart from the pizza plaque hanging on the wall, he didn’t actually have any. That was worry two out of the way. Everything had to be done in sequence otherwise the after effects of the alcohol would trigger a panic of debilitating proportions which would definitely cause him to seize up and potentially give up. But he knew deep inside that he wouldn’t so he carried on with the sequence. Next thing – was the car outside the flat. Yep and in one piece. Now what did he need to take with him. Ah the laundry – he got it out of the luxury wicker basket which he had purchased when he got the flat – and looked for something to throw it in. The only thing that came to hand was a black bin liner.
He then left the house and quickly returned as he still had his dressing gown on, hadn’t washed or shaved and generally still felt like someone had amputated his senses and left them to float like three halos, smelling tasting and seeing everything he was doing but only getting the messages to the brain via the power of the fourth halo which talked to him, but which Donkey had to translate into real words via his mouth.
o in an empty flat he walked the walk and talked the talk. Your mouth tastes like shite, your under arms smell like fossilised gargoyle shiet, your breath smells like some other kind of shite, and basically you feel like shite, you look like shite. So his mind meandered if it looks like a camel, talks like a camel, and smells like a camel it’s probably a camel. He decided not to complete the logic till after he had had a shower and then perhaps his walk talk or smell would have changed which would at least put some doubt on whether he was just a complete animated shite.
he shower was amazingly if only in the short term reviving but at least it unscrambled his thoughts enough to allow him to dress and check that all the services were switched off before he almost closed the door behind him; almost because a previous thought passed his mind.
Turning on heel, he went back in and removed the bin bag and on the way out left it for the bin men, threw his gear in the back of the car, got in took a deep breath checked mirrors like he was taking his test again and set of for the M25. At that time on a Saturday it wasn’t particularly crowded but the reviving shower had worn off and his innards generated the vacuum like taste of stale coffee and alcohol which in turn induced a frustration which manifested itself as a personal road rage with every aspect that did not meet his own personal satisfaction.
M25, Heathrow turn off and onto the clear M4 race track speeding towards theSevernbridge. Radio 4 only at this stage. And sped by Slough, Reading, and Hungerford.
Settling into the outside lane like a Japanese bullet train the sun shone his way as he closed in on Brixton, when he noticed a car in the inside lane some 200 yards ahead on a sweeping right hand curve, half parked on the hard shoulder, with its offside wheels on the carriageway. He glanced initially with some concern to see if the occupants were in trouble, decided they weren’t but in that split second the road ahead became an instant gridlock.
They were wrong…those eejits who had told him that life flashes before you when you think you are about to die…so so wrong…. at least to Donkey they were wrong.
What really happened was the strangest of all phenomena. His your brain split into four completely autonomous zones. One seen the disaster ahead with all its consequential mangled metal and blood and gore, one calmly operated the limbs and reactions to break and try and stop or at least avoid the inevitable, one imagined how he should remain completely cool, and one tried to analyse why he was driving so bloody quickly and what a fool he was. Fear and panic were strangers.
Eighty miles an hour and fifty yards ahead the outside and inside lanes were jammed solid.
The middle lane was not quite as bad, there was a further ten yards, everything went silent, no engine no brakes, no rushing air, just a mirrored lake silence as the car not so much swerved as snaked in an unstoppable trajectory at each lane in turn, and like a manic advanced driver turned a full 180 degrees and reversed to a sudden and sound releasing halt into that ten yards in the middle lane…without touching another vehicle, facing the wrong direction mind you, but not a scratch or bump. Not only did sound and time return to reality, but so did his normal bodily functions. The look of fear had etched itself on the windscreen but Donkey smiled, wound down his window, exaggeratedly wiped his brow and embarrassedly shouted ‘wow that was close’.
The driver opposite wound down his window and Harry stared back at him and smiled that toothless smile of an impending root canal removal….of the terminal sort.
To be continued