There was no doubt he’d changed. People felt repelled by him. His instinct had become rage. He knew it, but pretended he didn’t. Everyone he met felt the heat. Something could go off at any minute. People don’t need that. People seek the shadows when fires burn too hot.
Even the expression on his face was ugly. He couldn’t seem to lift the corners of his mouth, or level the concave right eyebrow that painted a permanent sneer across his face. There is energy within a soul that spills out all over the floor, puddles in the corners, climbs the walls, glows like spider webs in the lofty crooks and bends of a ceiling. It glistens or it pulses or it damn well deters. He hated himself. Hated pretty much everyone else. Age had done this to him. He was nearly forty now. You can lean forward however far you want, but you can’t reach back and grab 32, or 28, or 21 again. It’s gone, and he hated that perpetual, damning reality. Sideburns turning grey, full face and chin, rolls on the hips, cracked hands, birthdays without meaning. It was a conspiracy he couldn’t accept. There were fewer office romances, fewer glances on the tube. It had to be people that caused it. People and days and the streets and the daily news. What left was there to love?
A man at nearly forty is neither young or old, or anything at all, unless it’s engineered. A man without youth or enough experience is a derelict building. A tin box without a lid. A man who can’t dance for shit can’t hit the floor.
When a chance at love came he mistook it for cunning.
His bedroom had become a cemetery.
We only ever sleep alone.
Paul Robert Mullen is a poet, musician and sociable loner from Liverpool, U.K. He has three published poetry collections: curse this blue raincoat (2017), testimony (2018), and 35 (2018). His work has been featured in numerous magazines and journals. He also enjoys paperbacks with broken spines, and all things minimalist.