Time is a tricky fuck. An illusion, crawling when you plead with it to skip, hurtling when you scream at it to saunter.
The End is here. But it snuck up, Grandmother’s footsteps snapping legs.
It crept up from nowhere with its dark paws and its gravity, pulling shapes back down to earth.
Reality is gnawing at the corners of the brain again, infringing on the boundaries, slipping over the outlines and pushing, making itself known.
Hello. This is reality speaking.
Ben kept her away for so long but now he is conscious of time. There is life external from the festival womb. Somewhere else exists. Aspirin, responsibility and the mother of all come downs.
You have to go to work on Wednesday. You live with your mum. Your sister hates you. You don’t have a girlfriend. You’ve seriously fucked your leg. Was anything during the last three days even real?
I’m waiting for you.
Don’t listen, plug your earholes with a deafening melody. Keep going, don’t give her any time, any attention. Just stay up there, stand tall and don’t come down. Nothing can touch you here.
Ben’s usual is to go hard until the whiskey collides with the sleeping pills, stay hidden only to emerge from the duvet protection for his mum’s home cooked dinner, steaming, eat and go back under.
Just think about this weekend, think about the next time.
The party isn’t over. The party isn’t over.
But Ben can’t move his leg, can’t imagine it stirring, skanking, even twitching. It’s motionless. Lumps of vomit press against his windpipe, bile bubbles up his throat every time she talks. She’s returned alright. Stronger, brasher, with reinforced vigour to punish him for the desertion. For the arrogance in his belief that he could give her the slip. When he collected his wristband he dropped her off at the ticket booth. With fifty-five thousand other wide eyed hopefuls he said “Fuck you” and then ran head first into a three day long dream where she didn’t belong.
But I’ve been waiting.
You need an x-ray, the medic informs him.
Are you coming back? William and Claire are tweaking, restless, taking glances at the placement of the sun, counting moments, how many are they losing? She’s ten times louder here, around Ben she’s crisper, sharper and they can hear it. It prickles the skin, brings on the nerves.
The medic gives them both a look. Are you on crack? it seems to say. Yes, he’ll be back to join the party in no time. The sarcasm is weighted with marble but Ben chooses to hear it straight. Yes! He’ll be back to join the party in no time!
Claire and William mumble that they’ll catch him back at home, call around in the week but neither want to acknowledge what this means. The outside world. That he’s leaving here to re-enter. They stumble over it hastily and then are gone, back inside and away, as far and as fast as they can go. Ben feels a stab in his chest as he watches them run. He tries to call out to slow it down, to make it stop, to rile against her but his throat is on fire.
Lying in a straight-jacket, straps fastened and the funeral march begins. Past piles of empties caking the walk way out, dry canisters left to be choked down by cows. Ben’s ticket was called too early. His time is up.
But he’s not ready.
He wants to hang on sleeves, scratch nail-marked trails, dig in feet, if he could move them. Everyone is pushing it hard, they sense the end and it makes them go harder. Is anyone really ever ready? They can all hear her now, hovering on the horizon, humming a threat, tinnitus, she’s there, subtle but growing.
She’ll have her revenge. Oh yes. For being left. On every single one. What goes up, inevitable like the end of all things, is only a matter of time.