Seeing as the Caitiff is free this week, 23rd of February to the 27th, I figured I’d take this opportunity to idly talk about the covering image. Now, as you might have noticed on previous works of mine, including the experimental novella I wrote as a student – Adjective Narcissism – and the poem I wrote about Liverpool over a couple of days – Albert Docks – I have a certain unhealthy fascination with toilet cubicles in pubs I visit; I think I’ll try and explain it here or, at least, make it seem a little less unhealthy than I have been told it is previously.
You see I have always enjoyed a kind of willingly indecent lifestyle – the kind of bohemia that Bukowski or John Fante or Knut Hamson might have enjoyed, if they had grown up as I had. I think that it runs deeper than, perhaps, a mere desire to emulate their indecencies, as I had read none of these three when I first started going to bars and pubs and the like and I always found cubicles fascinating.
I love the graffiti one finds in them, even if the graffiti is meaningless – I love the fact that one can find the phone numbers of drug dealers and prostitutes and crazy guys who want to emulate Andrew W.K’s philosophies – I love the sense of seclusion one can feel within them, particularly when drunk – I love the safety of locking a door against the world and the night upon which you embarked – I love the peace and the madness and the brief moments of near-silence – I love it when I suddenly feel incredibly sober, or incredibly drunk; when I use the toilet and feel the poison filter out of my body or dry-heave and, instantly, it is as though I haven’t drunk a thing – I love leaning against the cubicle wall and breathing deeply, playing a roulette with myself on the scent which assaults my nostrils, a fresh Pine or artificial luxury or a natural stench – I love closing my eyes and repeating the lines of half-forgotten songs or never-finished poems, of feeling my lips form the words – I love such indecent places as a vehicle for my arguable normality, or justifiable eccentricity.
One idea I had some time ago was to go on a series of nights out, one day after another, and write a line or two of prose, or a short poem, to accompany every bathroom stall I enter – in this way I might experiment with atmosphere and location and creativity and indecency, even as I worship in my own way, with a Guinness in one hand and a notepad in the other.
It is something I find hard to describe and even harder to justify – in fact, some months ago, I was taking a picture in an empty bathroom and a friend of mine walked in; thankfully, we were both quite incredibly drunk, so he couldn’t remember it the next day, but I remember the panic of his entry, my self-loathing and disgust, like I had been caught masturbating in public. Anyway, can I be sure that it isn’t a kind of creative masturbation, a personal self-indulgence disguised as indecency?
I like well-used toilet cubicles far more than clean ones; not necessarily with urine all over the walls or a broken lock or anything like that, but graffiti-covered ones – toilet cubicles are the new canvas for the truly disaffected and even the slightest word seems to garner entirely new and alien meanings when scratched or inked onto the inside of such a private space – Tolstoy once said that ‘art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man’ and it is this that so attracts me to cubicles. They are the housing for moments of private communication, between two people who have never met, and I’m sure that somewhere out there, there is a poet scratching lines from his Magnus Opus on a toilet wall – a new Divine Comedy, trailing downwards into debauchery and indecency and bohemia in place of Hell.
Or maybe I’m just weird; or maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive.