When you know at any minute you’re going to smack yourself up against your wife at more than one hundred miles an hour, your life tends to lose a lot of its flavour. To say the least. And I did know that at any minute I was going to smack myself up against my wife at more than one hundred miles an hour, because it was all authenticated by scientists. Who could do nothing to save her. Or me for that matter. They stated quite emphatically that it just wasn’t scientifically possible to prevent me from killing her. Like, bloody hell, in the postmodern age of the bell-whistling internet, this was quite distressing. That’s why I offered her the kiss of death right there and then on a plate, instead of delaying the inevitable for a few weeks at most, I reckoned, eked out with endless squat-thrusts for strength (the basic up and down variety because nothing more was possible in our elasticated position).
‘Let’s fling together, kiss and die gloriously, Honey. Come on. It’s the most romantic thing we can ever possibly do. The repose of the happy; Abraham’s bosom. And no one could ever blame us. Our kiss of death will be guilt free. We’ll go down in history. Look at our situation for God’s sake. You won’t last a month, and by then we’ll just be fit to flop down listlessly without the wherewithal to as much as moisten our lips before the crash together comes and our brains are dashed over the four living room walls.’
‘What do you mean next month, Chicken, me?’
‘You’re a woman, how could you physically last longer than me, a man? No matter how many squat-thrusts.’
‘You’re a bastard Honey. A bastard. And I promise you now that I’ll out
squat-thrust you any day of the week onward to kingdom come.’
‘Well do that so, Honey.’
‘Don’t worry Chicken, I will.’
And so it all began. She got Bookie, our nice landlord, to put up a net-curtain halfway across the room so she wouldn’t have to look at my rubbery face ever again, and we squat-thrusted ourselves onwards for day after day after day from opposite ends of the same room.
Because the basic up and down squat-thrust was the only sure-fire way we were going to survive, stuck as we were permanently into our stretched elastic band. Many top-notch scientists had said so. Top notch? Okay, I come at you straight here, no pussy-footing. We could afford top-notch because both our parents are quite well off and they could supply us, Honey and I, with enough money for the rest of our lives so we didn’t have to worry about working for a living like everyone else. Which meant, after said scientists’ chin-stroking advice, we had the means to survive in our stretched position until a solution could be developed for our problem in the laboratory, because no man or woman can stand in the gravel-crunching path of the march of technology without being pushed roughly aside.
The illustrious scientists employed by our parents were like professional boxing coaches pacing up to us between rounds, right in our faces, practically spitting. But only to motivate. So that we could maintain the tension. Our wealthy parents got them to the living room in which we were permanently stuck many times over with the power of the pound note. And each and every time it was the same. Keep up the squat-thrusts guys, they said. And we’ll develop a solution, soon, we promise. Very soon indeed.
But how could I concentrate when I had to watch my eternal former lover through a net-curtain in the centre of a living room I could never leave? The woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and now had to spend the rest of my life with, in permanent tension with no less, at the opposite end of stretched elastic. How indeed.
Ever since that night of Strip Snap the scientists asked us – can you maintain the tension between you? Do you want to maintain the tension? Have you got the will power to maintain the tension and live? Of course we do we screamed. Of fucking course. We were fit people who ran laps in the Phoenix Park as part of our every working week. Before. For fun. Before the elastic band. Nearly elite athletes at national level both of us were at school and beyond. Before the elastic band. Big and strong and our parents were rich bastards. How could we fail to maintain the tension? How? And Honey needed real life tension. That’s how I interpreted the situation. My comments, I never apologised for. Not a syllable.
She needed to kick against my prickiest attitudes to keep her squat-thrusting onwards and upwards. The anger would maintain her focus Grasshopper. I was a prickist. Go for it Honey. Hate me and live forever. And vice-versa her. Thus we watched and despised each other through net-curtains eating up our lives as best we could. Sleeping standing up in our elastic band. One eye open. Squat-thrusting and having lovers in and out over the years. Always maintaining the tension. Because we couldn’t get any closer to each other. Which was our lives at opposite ends of the same room for thirty long years. Together. But apart. That’s all I could see. Each lover she took giving my squats extra upward thrust. Renewable heartbreak. Thirty years’ worth. And vice versa her. Probably. Since day one in Bookie’s house where we painted a bedroom together. In the beginning.
Bookie let us rent a room in his house in Ballyfermot. We were a young married-couple almost two months at that stage, saving for a deposit. Wink, wink to our rich-bastard parents. His house was a library and he was off out that evening to a book festival while Honey and I painted our rented bedroom purple. It had to be purple and we celebrated when we had the job done with a card game called Strip Snap in the living room downstairs seeing as though Bookie was gone and probably wouldn’t be home until late late late. A divil for the books. We drank beer, smoked cigarettes and played Strip Snap until we were naked.
Then we saw one of Bookie’s industrial strength elastic bands lying on the mantelpiece in our drunken exuberance yodelling out to us. When you know you’re in the presence of the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with, the person you’ll die beside, then there’s only one course of action.
‘Let’s get inside that elastic band Honey. It will bring us closer together.’
It was only, of course, meant to be a black joke and a laugh, but with beer, cigarettes and a strong connection it became so compelling that we just couldn’t not do it. Bookie worked an elastic band factory for his daily bread and butter at the time. We should have paid him more rent, so he didn’t have to work there. Asked our parents for the cash. Wise after the event every time. Because he checked in to the elastic band factory to get a heads-up on the following day’s production schedule before coming home to his house that evening – a crucial delay – after the book festival had closed up shop.
Thoroughly full of ourselves we picked up the elastic band and stretched it so that we could get inside. Laughing all the way. Physically got inside. Standing up. At either end.
‘You walk towards the kitchen wall Honey, and I’ll walk towards the opposite window’
It was only four steps or so in either direction but required a great deal of effort in our gregarious mood to really stretch that elastic. But we got there. We were young and drunk is the whys and the wherefores and we desperately wanted to have sex afterwards.
Honey touched Bookie’s Guernica print on her wall and I touched his far window’s cactus plant on mine which looks out into the back garden. I stuck my head out. Then we turned to face each other.
‘And now for sex!’
I began to step towards Honey’s naked breasts when death licked my face and cupped my testicles.
‘No Honey! We can’t.’
‘Chicken, I know. We’re stuck. Don’t move. Bookie will be home soon. He’ll get us out. He knows everything about elastic bands – and not just from books. From real elastic-band factory life.’
If we stepped any closer towards each other the momentum in the elastic would be unstoppable. Both sides of the elastic band would flick together at such a speed that we’d smash each other’s skulls apart when we met in the dead centre. Game over right there and then.
We’d worked it out without scientists on the spot. If only we were born a bit dumber. Or hadn’t been educated to such a degree by our rich-bastard parents, then maybe, just maybe, yes, a pipedream I know, but maybe we wouldn’t have realised anything of our own volition and we’d have pursed our lips that effervescent evening and skipped towards each other joyfully looking forward to sex, and we’d have died beautifully. Instantly. Happily and romantically. Instead of what next.
And after thirty hard squat-thrusting years of refusal later, my mouth did something I couldn’t control. For the very first time; I cried out loud in my stand-up sleep.
‘I love you Honey.’
She heard me and cried back –
‘And I love you too Chicken. But why the fuck didn’t you say that thirty years ago?’
We no longer felt the need to maintain the tension. In the middle of the night, at last we were truly awake.
‘But Honey – I only said that in my sleep. I was dreaming. You’ve just woken me up from a nightmare.’
‘You’re joking Chicken. Tell me you’re joking?’
‘Of course I’m joking Honey. Of course. As I said earlier, I love you.’
‘In that case Chicken, I want that kiss. After thirty years.’
‘Yes Honey. Yes. At long last.’
So we pursed our lips and prepared to take our first steps towards each other in a very long time and to finally release all the tension.
‘But first Chicken, let’s have a minute’s silence for our shared and unshared thirty-year past.’
Thirty years of watching the love of your life living, loving and squat- thrusting without you from across the room through a net-curtain from opposite ends of a stretched elastic band.
‘It’s now or never. Kiss me to death, Chicken.’
We stepped forward with pursed lips and the elastic band did as was its wont. It came together at an enormous lick. Bookie, our nice landlord, filmed our final fling for Facebook, Youtube, Twitter etc. It’s what our fans wanted. So we gave it to them. We’d built up quite the romantic fanbase in the intervening years. We were actually in the top ten virtual Dublin tourist attractions for five of those years, although we did drop off the chart eventually. But after our death, who knows? Top three definitely.
In the end we tried our best to kiss but it’s really difficult to direct your lips with any degree of accuracy when moving at such a speed. Bookie, however, proved it with slow motion afterwards frame by frame. Corroborated by scientists. Our lips actually touched full-on for a fraction of a second, 0.245, i.e. a proper kiss, before our skulls collided, exploded and blew our brains, skin, hair and bone out onto the walls of Bookie’s living room. You can still buy the print.
Bookie preserved it all pristinely. He never sold the house to our parents or scraped us off the walls. He refrigerated the entire room so people can pay in and see us romantically mashed together. Still.
Nothing of us on the floor, ceiling or windows though, strangely enough. The scientists couldn’t explain that either. Just the two of us and the elastic band pebble-dashed over Bookie’s four walls in perpetuity. Not the way we wanted it, ideally, but the way it is.