Learning to Swim

Any closet novelists, short story writers, script-writers or prose poets out there?
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camus
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Sun Feb 20, 2022 2:10 am

Nathan had listed several ways of ending his own life, each one impractical and ultimately painful. Try as he might, his suicidal plans always reverted (to what he considered) the undignified cowards approach to the destruction or ruin of one's own interests - the overdose. Against the overdose he fought night and day. The simplicity of the act struck him as unimaginative and boring. He pictured his funeral, the looks of pain and betrayal on friends and relatives’ faces, their eyes damp with truth. Therefore he refused to be typical; hence he was still a living breathing member of a fringe society, one where you exist, but are not quite sure why?

Nathan didn’t work. He felt he couldn’t work; the effort taken to arise at the same time each morning was beyond him. Nathan didn’t have a girlfriend. He felt he couldn’t have a girlfriend; he feared he had nothing to offer another human being. He often thought of buying a dog as a companion, but found the concept of walking around with shit in a bag overwhelmingly repellent.

So, he spent his days thinking of ways to end them.

This day he awoke around 11.00 am, set his alarm again for 12:30 am, pulled his duvet over his head to warm his nose, and drifted off into his favourite arena, the arena of dreams. He dreamt of a swimming pool, and of walking fully clothed into that pool. He started at the deep end. Used the steps to lower himself in, then just let go…He sunk slowly, and found himself resting at the bottom of a vast ocean. Fishes of all colours streamed by him, vibrant coral almost blinded him, and he sat Buddha-stanced, waiting…

The alarm re-surfaced him.

He woke up, alive.

He yawned, considered his half-hard-on, didn’t bother with it, thought briefly of the ocean floor, then scraped himself out of bed, plumped his pillows, straightened his duvet, headed for the kitchen and a strong cup of tea. Whilst the tea worked its rejuvenating magic, he decided on a visit the library. That was his mission for the day.

Nathan was fond of the library. He referred to it as his “local.” Containing as it did familiar faces with whom interaction was not a necessity and quiet corners to sit and be quiet were abound.

This day, approaching the library, he noticed an unfamiliar bulk. The library had an extensive front window, masses of glass, and from a lessening distance the bulk proved to be a man.

A man sat down, shrouded in thick anorak, his face barely visible with a quality street tin set in front of him.

On arrival Nathan stopped before the automatic doors, and before alerting the automation, looked at the man, then stared at him, for time was passing…A look can all too quickly turn to a stare, as it did.

“Hello” came a surprisingly smooth, almost feminine voice from beneath the anorak.

“Hello” replied Nathan.

The hood from the anorak was pulled back and down, to reveal a bald head, recently shaven, and a mass of beard, initially counteracting any face. A head and a beard.

A face eventually honed into view, unexpectedly young looking, amidst the potential desert and forest of old age. A short smooth forehead, leading to a prominent, regal nose, (a cold drip of snot quickly palmed away) bright eyes, colour indeterminate.

“I like you”, he said

“You don’t know me.” Nathan replied, somewhat startled at the announcement.

“I know you’ve taken the time from your loneliness to address me. Me, a vagabond, a vagrant, a deviant with possible criminal intentions, not many people do.”

“What makes you think I’m lonely?” Nathan said, again slightly annoyed at his insight.

“You’re talking to a homeless man outside a library on a freezing Wednesday afternoon, call me presumptuous…”

Nathan smiled at this remark, unbeknown to him, the first time he’d smiled in several days.

His intention of continuing the conversation, of perhaps taking it to a level where by he was committed, dawned on him, and he simply bid the man “so long” and disappeared through the doors.

The aroma of new carpet and freshly fingered pages were immediate. Unusual, but refreshing in a mall kind of way. The new carpet was maroon in colour. The gates to the children’s reading area were blue and the ceiling was yellow. The place was awash, the librarians less so, but the contrast suited Nathan - bright, dour and stinking just right.

When he was a child, his mother would take him to this very library and almost without fail his bowels would react. “I need a poo” he’d whisper and his mother would smile her knowing smile and say “Off you go then” and Nathan would enter a world of huge metal doors and low seated pooing facilities. He always held on to the red solid curved tubing arranged thoughtfully next to the toilet. It was there to stop him falling into the abyss below, he knew that, and only in his dreams would he ever let go, absorbed into yet another ocean beyond his reckoning.

Forever learning to swim.
http://www.closetpoet.co.uk
NotQuiteSure
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Sun Feb 20, 2022 3:22 pm

Hi camus.
Enjoyed the read, but felt a little short changed by the end (though it's possible that this has more to do with the structure than the story). And the final line threw me, I would have sworn you were heading towards 'drowning in shit' :)

Some (brutal) cut 'n pasting.


Nathan didn’t work. He felt he couldn’t work; the effort taken to arise at the same time each morning (think you could add more here, ...eat the same breakfast at the same time each morning, catch the same bus ... that sort of thing) was beyond him, and then there was the responsibility. Nathan didn’t have a girlfriend. He felt he couldn’t have a girlfriend; he feared he had nothing to offer another human being. He feared being proved right. He often thought of buying a dog as a companion, but found the idea of walking around with shit in a bag overwhelmingly repellent.

So, he spent his nights thinking of ways to end it all. (Apologies for cutting the days/them joke).

Nathan, he woke up, alive.

He yawned, considered his half-hard-on, didn’t bother with it, Just reset his alarm from 11:00 am to for 12:30 am, pulled his duvet over his head to warm his nose, and drifted off into his favourite arena, the arena of dreams. (I wince a bit at 'arena of dreams',) He dreamt of a swimming pool, and of walking fully clothed into that pool. He started at the deep end. Used the steps to lower himself in, then just let go…He sunk slowly, and found himself resting at the bottom of a vast ocean. Fishes of all colours streamed by him, vibrant coral almost blinded him, and he sat Buddha-stanced, waiting…(and why 'Buddha stanced' and not 'sat like a scrawny Buddha' or some-such?
Given you end with 'learning to swim, how does 'sat' relate to that?)


Over the course of the last few years Nathan had listed several ways of ending his own life, each one impractical and worryingly painful. Try as he might, his suicidal plans always reverted (to what he considered) the undignified cowards approach to the destruction or ruin of one's own interests - the overdose. Against the allure of the overdose he fought night and day. The simplicity of the act struck him as unimaginative and boring. He pictured his funeral, the looks of pain and betrayal on friends (he has friends?) and relatives’ faces, their eyes damp with truth. (Anything a bit more self-pitying and melodramatic?)
Therefore he refused to be typical; hence he was still a living breathing member of a fringe society, one where you exist, but are not quite sure why?

The alarm again. He yawned, thought briefly of the ocean floor, then scraped himself out of bed, plumped his pillows, straightened his duvet (oddly routine behaviour?), headed (naked, barefoot, in slippers?) for the kitchen and a strong cup of tea. Whilst the tea worked its rejuvenating magic, he decided on a visit the library. That was his mission for the day. ('rejuvenating magic' is another wince, anything more idiosyncratically Nathan?)

Nathan was fond of the library. He referred to it as his “local.” Containing as it did familiar faces with whom interaction was not a necessity and quiet corners to sit and be quiet were abound. (quiet corners to sit and be quiet were abound - well, I'm lost.)

This day, approaching the library, he noticed an unfamiliar bulk. The library had an extensive front window, masses of glass, and from a lessening distance the bulk proved to be a man.

A man sat down, shrouded in thick anorak, his face barely visible with a quality street tin set in front of him. (think you could add a bit more here, especially given you use 'bulk' twice, but nothing thereafter suggests largeness.)

On arrival Nathan stopped before the automatic doors, and before alerting the automation, looked at the man, then stared at him, for time was passing…A look can all too quickly turn to a stare, as it did.

“Hello” came a surprisingly smooth, almost feminine voice from beneath the anorak.

“Hello” replied Nathan.

The hood from the anorak was pulled back and down (by what or who? :) ), to reveal a bald head, recently shaven, and a mass of beard, initially counteracting any face. A head and a beard. (counteracting?)

A face eventually honed into view, unexpectedly young looking, amidst the potential desert and forest of old age. A short smooth forehead (would a forehead be short on a bald head, how could you tell, especially if it was smooth?), leading to a prominent, regal nose, (a cold drip of snot quickly palmed away) (don't think you need the brackets, nor the earlier pair) bright eyes, colour indeterminate. (He's really staring isn't he? :) )

“I like you”, he said

“You don’t know me.” Nathan replied, somewhat startled at the announcement.

“I know you’ve taken the time from your loneliness to address (is 'address' right, technically he 'replied', didn't he?) me. Me, a vagabond, a vagrant, a deviant with possible criminal intentions, not many people do.”

“What makes you think I’m lonely?” Nathan said, again slightly annoyed at his insight.

“You’re talking to a homeless man outside a library on a freezing Wednesday afternoon, call me presumptuous…”

Nathan smiled at this remark, the first time he’d smiled in several days, though he didn't know that.

His willingness to continue the conversation, of perhaps taking it to a level where by he was committed, dawned on him, and he hastily bid the man “so long” and rushed through the doors. (think you need to explain his reaction, a bit)

The aroma (is 'aroma' the right word?) of new carpet and freshly fingered pages were immediate. Unusual, but refreshing in a mall kind of way. The new carpet was maroon in colour. (When did the library have work done, and why does it matter?) The gates to the children’s reading area were blue and the ceiling was yellow. The place was awash (I'm reading this as awash with colour, but perhaps 'a riot'), the librarians less so, but the contrast suited Nathan - bright, dour and stinking just right. ('stinking' after 'aroma'?)

When he was a child, his mother would take him to this very library and almost without fail his bowels would react. “I need a poo” he’d whisper and his mother would smile her knowing (anything better than 'knowing'?) smile and say “Off you go then” and Nathan would enter a world of huge metal doors and low seated pooing facilities. He always held on to the red solid curved tubing arranged thoughtfully next to the toilet. It was there to stop him falling into the abyss below, he knew that, and only in his dreams would he ever let go, absorbed into yet another ocean beyond his reckoning.

Drowning in shit. Forever learning to swim.


Regards, Not

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Sun Feb 20, 2022 3:44 pm

Hey Not, some great suggestions there. I think the scatological intent was perhaps subconscious on some level, but now you mention it, a good idea for the end!

Very helpful.
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Lia
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Sat Mar 26, 2022 1:16 pm

Hi Kris, I like the simplicity you use to explain this character throughout the writing. The story is told with very little adornment and there's something quite uncomfortable about it. As if the reader is being stared straight in the eye. I like that. I also like this,
This day he awoke around 11.00 am, set his alarm again for 12:30 am, pulled his duvet over his head to warm his nose, and drifted off into his favourite arena, the arena of dreams. He dreamt of a swimming pool, and of walking fully clothed into that pool. He started at the deep end. Used the steps to lower himself in, then just let go…He sunk slowly, and found himself resting at the bottom of a vast ocean. Fishes of all colours streamed by him, vibrant coral almost blinded him, and he sat Buddha-stanced, waiting…
and how it ties in with the possibilities at the beginning of the writing, and also with the ending with the toilets of the library.

I assume that should be 12:30 pm?

The interaction with the homeless person is a curious addition to Nathan's story. It told me that Nathan wishes to avoid all things meaningful. He's aware that meaningful moments exist, but he chooses not to take part. I like Not's suggestions for this part that highlight Nathan's fear of interaction. But is fear the reason why he avoids anything meaningful? Or has he already become resigned, I wonder? Having said this, ultimately Nathan appears to bolt from the interaction because of the 'I like you', or at least that's how I'm reading it, so fear could easily play a part in Nathan's choice.

Over all, I think the writing could be tightened up a little bit -- there's some punctuation errors to sort out, too -- but it's fascinating to read. The language of the work has an almost mundane quality which explains Nathan's mindset and emotions. A kind of blankness, perhaps?

Very much enjoyed.

Lia
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