When life was just beginning, I met you.
My dear melancholy, why do you always follow me? Like a shadow you persist, only where rays of light exist. The cadence you're keeping makes it hard to think, taking me out of sync. I fumble through the darkness as I try to find out where you began. Has it always been like this? For it is all I can remember now. It’s been a while now, dealing with the finality and it's making me crazy, nothing I can do about it, my head is overcrowded, clouded. With a condescending smile of compassion, you stay, rather mechanically, like a stranger yet longer than anyone I’ve known. As the seasons changed, the spirits of your storm swept their voices away, leaving no tidings. A heart has broken with their absence, you do not know mercy. Walking in this valley of tears, it’s cold outside, why’d you walk out of my life?

Darkness had long fallen, and with it a silence. Greeted by the icy July winds, there was only one light guiding me towards the edge, its incandescence was bleached orange, flickering as if it’s life was slowly decaying. Too scared to be alone in my own skin, I brace the white corrosive barrier between chaos and order. The chaos waits below, making work of idle hands, affecting the paint's adhesion onto the reclaimed hardwood soddend internally by the salt spray. The white disk in the sky was filled with white, I’d never known the capacity it had.

I had successfully avoided meeting anyone on my way to the cliffs. Then she call’s out my name, something I never liked hearing, but her voice always struck me with surprise. Unaware that I turned, I saw a child come out of the darkness, greeted by the orange shade, and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards me. So reserved yet so expressive, her face, slavishly adverse, her baggy clothes spoke in length about her character, as it’s grunge dripped down from head to toe. Right back by your side I forgot what absence meant. We moved towards the night, past the order, climbing over the fence. The arctic-like breeze whistled quietly as it quickly became apparent that you and I were perhaps a first, of sorts, to engage in this folly. Nothing of practical importance, the only reasoning we had was that it made more sense to do it than not. To be stopped by someone and be forced to listen to their trivial, irrelevant gossip, pestering demands, threats and complaints, and to have to rack my brain for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie. No, I'd rather slip out unseen like a cat.

The waves fought a raging war below even as the breeze dwindled, we stepped down onto the sandstone precipice which left us just enough room to adjust our posture if we so needed. My stomach churned as you reached into your bag with an eagerness that showed that you didn’t reciprocate my unease. Out came the hip flask, all battered, bruised and crooked, like an instrument of torture. I reached my hand out, accepting what you offered.

“It’s a full moon tonight, haven't you noticed?” I asked, to keep my head above water, as I ignored my body's objection to the ethanol swimming through me.

“Very nice, yes.” Ashkar’s quick, neither a very reflective person or a particularly philosophical one, she knew she was written off - a fact of life which she has henceforth lived with, like how one must live with cancer, death or imprisonment. Ever since her parents left her without tidings, she knew that there was no preparation or foundation which could bridge the gap between them.

Never wishing to scratch beyond the surface, worried about the stains that she could leave, she doesn't attempt to dive in deep. A friendship such as ours is built through ultimatums. I’m often happy enough though, even though sometimes I’m often sad because it feels like I'm losing everything. But when you're seventeen, there isn't anything to worry about besides grades, money and alcohol. I knew that those were things Ashkar worried about the most, so it never made sense that she failed, exhausted and drank all of her seventeen values away.

More engaging than other speakers of the English language, she came off as original, not imitating the words on the page, not recycling what another had said, she preferred to be herself, she probably found a real comfort with herself. Always being nasty in a way that made it hard to tell whether or not she was resentful or just real down-to-earth, I always thought that it was no coincidence that I found her as my counterpart.

Her laugh appeared out of the darkness, “the councillor confused me with you today. Pulled me up about my attendance, said that my mum called, but when she played the voice message, it was a voice I didn’t recognise. It was your mum.”

Two years ago I could have taken the other path - there were available seats in the classrooms in the government built institutions; but I suppose I wasn't made that way. My family never advocated the need for results. Even though I got results. Until Ashkar came, it was odd how soon I realised the writing on the wall. But I stayed, the same way she stays.

I don’t actually know why she bothers with that lady; someone as unhealthy as the advice she administers, a hypocrite with malignant eyes, I must’ve looked at her with a particularly peculiar expression once because her eyes never gleam without mistrust towards me. Ashkar should know better than to expose herself. Indoctrinated that they actually care about her, she doesn't need some goddamn psychologist to try to diagnose her underlying self, thinking that she can try solve them. Practitioners fall on their own swords, they don’t administer solutions, a pill isn’t a solution, a conversation isn’t a solution. In that dark room, windowless, artificial lights stare at them while they sit and talk to nothing but sick people. You can’t escape your pain, it’s yours, it's probably more you than you are yourself, an indication that you are alive, and I want to be alive, so I want my pain, as much as I can get.

With haste I say, “Funny that, funny how they only pay attention to the things you do wrong. They talk to you when something is wrong, when you're at fault, then avoid you otherwise”. Remembering that I ought to be polite, “Some do, at least,” I added.

Distinctly shrugging she said, “maybe you should ask God.”

The conversation drags for as long as the contents of the flask do; which isn’t long. Suddenly I feel a boredom approach through her company. She likes to talk about others and I can't stand them. I have a longing to go back home, such is the cycle, as soon as I arrive I want to leave. But I don’t want to cut her night short. Afterall, I asked to meet up, otherwise our relationship wouldn’t exist, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. So I can’t leave. Maybe I don’t like this company, now I can see the ease of stepping over the edge, but the ease isn't the point, and why would I want to be any closer to my father?

I say, “Let’s go. It’s cold, a walk could help.”

She always did what I said, I never knew why, I never wanted to be in charge but somehow it was always up to me to make decisions for us. Maybe I’m seeing it wrong. Now that I’m as alive as that orange street light we passed before; which is a considerable amount, I feel what it’s like to walk alongside you without pace, or direction, along the boulevard where the crowd buzes, a resonation I always forgot whenever we were alone. In such darkness even the most inquisitive eyes were not to be dreaded.

Groups of puzzled faces. The people changed yet all their mannerisms were the same. They all look so helpless to me, like crowds that would’ve gathered around for Al Capone’s soup kitchens. Except the soup they require isn’t hot nor sustaining and their faces don’t share desperation or longing either. Not for food at least, but for something else, I wonder, perhaps they’re the same as me. They require peace. Perhaps they are in pain, yet they don’t walk with a limp, but neither do I. So assimilated into their groups; they must be happy, I’m a fool to think that they’d ever leave, ever change, ever live, ever worry or ever need to think.

Perhaps instinctively we found ourselves at the bus stop and as Ashkar walked over and sat on the blue gridded bench she asked me, as if there was much choice, as if we had options, “Where we goin’?”

Deja vu, “We’ll just wait until it arrives. It seems better than the cold.”

The driver working the graveyard shift drove into the dull suburbs, ​​passing the pimps, drug addicts and thieves. The nocturnal work of the night exposes the plagues of prostitution, juvenile delinquency, poverty, vagrancy, racism and crime. Being taken by the 343’s route down streets I knew all too well, I wondered about Ashkar as she sat opposite me, how her eyes were green, how they now carry an absence of the brightness I once saw, yet the mercifulness remains. Melancholy arrived as her voice gradually slurred, I listened to her talk and forgot about everything around me. She would talk until her voice blended into the silence that echoed on that night bus, she said nothing, just like my father always told me.

I walk, down the three steps, out into the open air, alone.

CHpt 2.

The bustle and the plaster, the insufferable stench from the hostelry, which were virtually everywhere, the alcoholics whom I had met continually glazed at me like an anomaly. Although they should be asleep, they play a part in this act. Actors of our social film, fighting for printed word and sometimes weapons, disgust gleamed for a moment on their refined faces.

With a sinking heart and a nervous tremor, he went up to a huge house which on one side overlooked a canal and on the other into the street

With a sinking heart and a nervous tremor, I walked up the olive subway tiled steps into a bright cold hallway. This apartment block was home to a drug addict, a labourer, a woman who survived chemotherapy, one that talks to herself, another who abused my mother, one that kept to themself and another who died of cancer. I was very glad not to meet any of them and at once slipped unnoticed through the hallway towards the door on the left hand side. 26 it read.