Thousand words - 3

The grey stack

You get old, you do. Suddenly a multitude of days starts to form behind you like frames in a film or a malleable stack of windows floating disjointedly next to you. Pile them endlessly into a grey stack, one on top of the other, back countless through your life. How many are grey? Shitty, endless, handle turning grinding grey? Just nothing on any kind of horizon and nowhere reasonable to get to.

They’re heavy. Those days are so heavy you sometimes feel the weight will force you down, down. Into some knee walking despair. Drowning in your own tears. Is it an endless pile of days you can pick up and look through like some old photo album? Or more like an endless grindstone, gristing you out into a fine nothing. The telomeres on your genes slowly running out of ends, no more dividing and then.


Gone to undifferentiated mush. A complex soup of DNA that renders down to bone.

But then, of course occasional days are bright and full of beauty. Full of sharp colours and waves of happiness. The sudden realisation that things hidden behind the frozen mask of now can be joyful and worth having. Even consequences become worth having. Warmth found and the staggering somnolence broken.

At other times the days seem like the endless parade you might see if you were caught between two mirrors, as the light is eventually absorbed so far away and fades to black. The past behind your shoulder, the future ahead. Stepping slowly forward.

But still this world has an I, a hero walking its faint paths, trying their best to make sense of it all. Licking the honey on the razor’s edge. Carrying what can be carried. We know time passes because things move about, and the order they moved is remembered. We know time passes because our strength slowly fades from us and our knees start to bend under the shucking grey weight. Our arms begin to find the load from the beginning harder to hold on to.

More and more those things you loved so much are starting to leave, breaking back up into an assemblage of dross nothing. Even looking sharply at the skills and things you love their value becomes less and less worth the effort.

Life is so short and easily broken. Rewards so fleeting they only ever seem to get to the stupid and the unjust. You know you don’t deserve success, your mummy said so when you were in her womb, limits set and then never broken. Like the turning tide finding its limit and quietly heading back out down the beach.

Deserve is one of those words that is deceptive in its subtlety. You never hear the voice telling you to turn away but still you do. The dead hand of broken parents rests uncomfortably on your shoulder. It holds you back and the gentle voice informs you that you cannot go any farther.

So how to break this? Is there some mystery you can penetrate, some subtle knife you can beg, borrow or steal that can cut away the loving hands that makes your limits? They never wanted you to be hurt, so they stopped you being happy. Across the howling void others struggle with the same thing. Through tears you can see what they could be and cannot become. This hurts more than your own semi-deliberate tripping and stumbling.

The sheer waste of our torpid existence is painful to watch, even more painful to live.

So move.