Benjamin Robinson

The Grind

Benjamin Robinson

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They are at their most beautiful when they collapse, their mouths contorting behind a glass through which nothing can be seen or heard. Though they yield up very little in the way of a description, they are possessed of a certain rudimentary charm. The ones who pour forth their bounty in haste are music to my ears; their cries pluck at my heart strings and tell me what I want to hear. Words spoken in haste are soon regretted, but between the toss and the swallow there can be no going back. 

Today I will get a new pair of trousers. After that I will buy a bottle of fine wine. The trousers will be tough and hardwearing, the wine as dry as a bone yet packed with ripened fruit. Before putting on my new trousers I will open the bottle of wine and, to let it breath, decant it into a suitable receptacle.

I will try on many pairs before I choose. I will search through many styles before I decide which pair suits me best. Not too light and not too dark; not too loose and not too tight. Not figure-hugging, but not all saggy and baggy either. Something befitting my, let’s call it what it is, place in the cosmos, as represented in the form of my legs. My legs are ok, I think. My legs will last me a while longer. I sit too much, of course, which has withered them to sinewy slivers. I also drink too much wine. But it relaxes me after a day in the chamber.

This old pair I wear, I love them dearly but they are so old, they need to be discarded and replaced by a bright new brace. They are not like fine wine; they do not improve with age; they deteriorate. People are like that, the ones I see, anyway. My clients, my charges. Shaped by the sun. Born to be crushed.

Who knows what kind of material is best? To be hardwearing and come in an array of patterns, which are upbeat and engaging, that is what matters. To be a fabric of elegant durability, that creates the right impression and has the stamp of authority about it. Yes, it might be too heavy in summer, but summer is a long way off, and by then I will have worn them out with many wears and many washes. Stains in, stains out, I say, round and round the flame the moth goes, unerring in its rotations.

There are many fine wines to speak of, many to choose from in terms of grape varieties and countries of origin. All over the world they are picking and crushing the berries, fermenting and clarifying the juice, tanking and bottling and shipping it hither and thither. And then, miraculously, there they are, in regimented rows with labels outwards, ready to be perused and purchased and brought home, to be opened and decanted into a suitable receptacle. 

I find a goblet best, its curved glass wall rising like a precipice against the sky’s encumbered solitude. Look in and see what’s going on deep inside, through the body, which is its own distraction I can tell you, down into the dregs. It is so smooth, that wall of rounded glass, so thin and firm to the touch, barely there, like the finest of fine membranes. Pierced by sunlight in broad daylight, we rotate the tip of the twisted metal into the spongy disc then pull slow and hard with muscles taut and eyeballs bulging, till the little plug comes peeping out of its hole. When we have her all the way we twist her off in the palm of our hand and put her lying on her side at the foot of the goblet. Then we pour and fill and sip with feet up. Before the goblet is entered I like to swirl them round to aerate the insides and release the plentiful aromas. First I go in deep to sniff, seeking out the hidden recesses, filling my nostrils to the brim with the perfumes of their private parts, those heady moments when the waiting rewards can be glimpsed, delights that yield as my fist closes tight around the stem, my charge still strong in its resolve. To watch such innocence swell and grow fat on the dissipations of reprieve is a wonder to behold.

To remove tough stains a goblet is first rinsed under a continuous stream of falling water. I like to watch the frothy stream eat into all that stubbornness. I like to listen to the splish-splash as my trusty assistants weave a cloth of reparation, their fingers moving deftly back and forth across the pockets of resistance, those patches of degeneracy where love gives up the ghost. At times like these I am reminded of an old pair of overalls I had, which covered almost all of my entire body and which became so caked in the pleasures of my curiosity that it took two assistants to pull them off of me. For many years, (before I developed a taste for such things as calf brains fried in butter with parsley, garlic and capers, which I pair with a wine of prestige), I maintained these overalls in a state of integral rigidity, which is to say with a brace of creases running down my legs from my thighs to my feet, and a similar brace of rigidities stretching from shoulder to cuff. By carefully folding and refolding and then placing, before retiring for the evening, the overalls under my bed my rigidities would by morning be razor sharp and I more than ready to face the trials and tribulations of the day.  

A new pair is generally issued as a matter of course, as the need arises. Some get through many pairs a week, other stay loyal to their brace until they fall apart completely and have to be carted away in a black plastic bag. Of course you cannot go about in your underpants catching your death of cold and getting your legs covered in filth. When permission is granted I go and, within reason, pick a pair of my choosing from the rows of suspects hanging mutely in the midday sun, or from the ones that dangle lugubriously in the modish ambience of a chill room. For me here is where the happiness begins, in the choosing of a brace, the stroking of the nap and the caressing of the weft, before the wear and tear, before we get down to the nitty-gritty and the grind once again takes hold and turns them into something in which you would not wish to meet your mother. A glass at the end of the day is the other end of this happiness, of which some speak of as an elusive moment of contentment, which I sometimes think of as the plug being pulled on the day. I must confess to fantasizing about the plug being pulled on the day, to daydreaming about it, when I should be concentrating on the grind, of everything being swallowed up and spat out like it is being sampled, tested for consistency and depth of flavour, as if the working day were something you thrust yourself into bit by bit until you appear out the other end, and the chain tightens and the black bolt shifts in its socket and you are sucked down into the darkness.

It is my duty to speak for all those to whom I have delivered the grind, the fatal kiss of life, whose mouths I have prized open so the truth might be permitted to pour out as I pour in. Let them sing before the law and let justice, across the globe and throughout the nations of the world, be seen to be done. One day a great glass bubble will descend upon and envelop the earth, a luminescent orb in which tormenter and tormented, persecutor and persecuted, all those pairs, those couples unhappily coupled, will shimmer and effervesce, and where all the things that are burning to be said will issue forth in a great spume of imperfection, surfacing relentlessly and finding its measure not in the tedium of war or the back and forth of combat but in the sacraments of my devotion, the tour of duty that is an open bottle and a spanking-new pair, which in the end is nothing less than a toast to the pursuit of happiness.

Of course in the real world it never happens with such joie de vivre, such élan or finesse. In real life you get pushed to the ground where you are punched and kicked and stabbed and beaten to death then dragged through the streets to a thoroughly undesirable neighbourhood where your corpse is strung up and set alight by a group of unsavoury characters. Would you string up a Mouton Rothschild like that? Would you treat a plate of calf brains (fried in butter with parsley, garlic and capers) with such contempt? It is indeed a sorry state of affairs when we fall victim to such morally reprehensible behaviour. It is an outrageous affront to our civilised values. It is our absolute duty to see that such things can never happen again. It is an absolute imperative that we redouble our efforts and, if we must, stab each other in the back cleanly, wearing a sensible pair of trousers.

I do not single out certain individuals for the grind, nor do I hone in on specific areas. My approach is a moral one. I do not hold anything back in terms of giving it my all, of getting what I am required to get, by whatever means necessary. Should I fail in my efforts to obtain what is required I would, and quite rightly in my opinion, be held accountable. I would be singled out and made an example of. My aged parents would be dragged from their beds in the middle of the night and informed of the sad state of affairs. Should it fall short of what is required I would be forced to return to the chamber until such times as the grind proved successful. And so I approach these things conscientiously and methodically, and above all, morally.

What I must cast from my mind is what clouds my mind most: the twisted metal rod forcibly entering the buoyant bark of enclosure, the spritely jet, its turbulent gullies ejaculated in spasmodic gouts into the vessel’s unassailable cradle, the integrity of the fisted stem beneath an open bud, the veracity of the truth proclaimed, to have and to hold, to bend and to break, until death do us part, cherishing in high resolution all the children of the nation equally, pursuing the happiness and prosperity of the nation and all its parts. I think these thoughts incessantly and in high definition so I might better eradicate them and banish them from my mind, so I might better loosen and unscrew, release and extract, pour forth and fulfil, sit back and relax at the end of the day in a new pair of trousers out on the balcony with my feet up and my head thrown back laughing at the sky.   

Benjamin Robinson

Benjamin Robinson was born in 1964 in Northern Ireland. He attended, briefly, Limerick College of Art & Design in the Nineteen Eighties. His work has been published recently in Maintenant 8: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing & Art; online at A New Ulster, ColonySein und WerdenGone LawnParaphilia Magazine, and Paper Visual Art Journal. His artwork has been exhibited in Ireland, the UK and Germany. He lives in Dublin.