* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Person to person

31 January 2002
Matt has already had the last dance.

I'm looking for love.

I'm looking for peer validation.

I'm looking for the sweeping, soaring exhilaration that comes with triumph in the face of adversity.

I'm sitting in the dark, in front of my monitor, hand on the mouse. Everyone else is in bed.

Hang on, back 12 hours: At work.

Work. Work is dull. We polka round the city. Hop, step. Step. Drop a package off, pick another one up. The sky is grey, a deep heavy sky above, drooping from the vaults. But on the horizon it's yellow grey, the colour of faces and cigarettes. Have you ever noticed how big the sky is? I haven't. I don't look up.

Hop backward. Step back, step back.

Inbetween parcels I lock my bike up outside and stop off at Starbucks. I put too much nutmeg in, to provoke a bitter reaction from my tongue, but it doesn't work, it's like drinking sawdust.

There's a couple sitting in front of the window. She has her hand on his arm, slowly stroking the crook of his elbow with her thumb nail. The red half moon is a beacon on this shadowy day, a lasersight beam for my eyes. If they looked round now they'd see a figure hunched over a paper cup, hair ironically unkempt, bike clips on, expensive satchel leaning on the stool, staring at them.

But they don't, they're too absorbed. Of course. I bet I can imagine just what her nylon feels like to his hand, the firm give of her leg.

And then - it's cliched I know, but I swear this happened - she leans back for just a second and in that same second the sun pierces a cloud and halos her with the only beam to hit the city, she's outlined like an angel and the warm light flies on and lands on my table. I lean forward to grasp it and with the sudden warmth on my hand I can almost feel what He must feel when She leans forward again and intertwines her fingers with his.

My chest goes tight and a wave of nostalgia for a love I've never had washes through me. Almost, I cry. But the shadow's fallen, and it's back out into the dance. Move on.

Hop, and.


Skid at the junction. Two lanes, opposing currents in the plumbing of London. Stop, start, stop, start. I zig-zag down the middle, riding the random motion of the interface, the turbulent flow. I gush through trafficlights,




(there) past pedestrians, and - almost - it's perfect, but the feeling doesn't last because already I'm at the next drop-off.

The broken beat of the city is still inside me so I run up the stairs two by two by two by two and - break - hop a single one, turn, next storey, two by two again.

But the mood's broken when I reach the office, a place slightly too big for the people in it. Waiting awkwardly by the front desk - I'm waiting for the receptionist to finish on her computer - I look around at the stark white walls and the thin windows, at this box on stilts. It's as if I've not seen a room before, and I have a slight murmuring in my belly of the organic London all around me, this place a cell in the hive. On the verge of my scale shifting, a sensory expansion that would let me feel my place in the city, the dance - coordinated, robotic, animate - stretching infinitely to all points of the compass around me, a starburst of polka -- on the verge of that, there's a


and in a sudden implosion I collapse back into myself and hop backwards. Step, step, to regain balance.

The receptionist looks up at me with clear dark eyes, tears tumbling down her cheeks. I lean into her and she pushes up from her chair to meet my lips which push on hers, soft and cold and salty from her wet face, but inside she's warm and urgent, and every hair on my arms is standing up to try and touch her, and every beat of my heart is pushing out towards her.

We gobble one another, as if never before we've touched a person, and never before a person has touched us.

And later, when skin is pressed hard on skin and skin barely grazes skin all in one, she chews my lip and I bite her neck and it's like the first second of the expansion of the universe, my sphere of perception doubling and redoubling, seeing colours you'd never even be able to comprehend --


I implode, flatten and collapse into myself, hand the parcel to the receptionist, get a signature, and flush down the stairwell back to street level. I'm almost sweating, but I shake my head and the almost-thought is flushed out with me, all without saying a word.

Step back, hop and turn, step in. And start again. Sigh.

The next company is a start-up and they give me a demo and a mug of tea. When companies are small, people are still people, and people are friendly.

They've written a file-sharing application, P2P, the new big thing apparently. People all over the world share paragraphs, some they're written and some they've found. I feel curiously warm inside and perhaps it's the stepping inside from my mechanical dance in the cold. Or perhaps it's seeing what these people write, these stories they share.

(The guys here tell me their users span the whole demographic. Teens are big, obviously, their rollercoaster lives distilled and decanted into 300 word chunks, set free to roost among the dancing packets, darting across the internet. But old folks love this too. They tell of when life was golden, of their love like no other 50 years ago, before they left for the city. And then there are the bereaved, halving and quartering their problem by sharing it, and a million pinpricks of empathy from around the world flow towards them, touching them.)

Possibly it's that, but almost certainly the warmth is the tea.

Out again. Quickstepping through the traffic I can't hear the music anymore. I phone in sick for the rest of the day on my mobile and cycle back home, a Euclidean straight line, passing through skyscrapers as a sword through butter. No dancing.

Downloading and installing PeopleGalaxy takes all of 10 minutes, and moments later words come tumbling through my modem. I wade through them like piles of autumn leaves, reading of unrequited love, of glory, of terror. Searching...

I dance through the information bits. Polka with electrons, hop, step back and step again down lists of search results.

I'm looking for love.

I'm looking for peer validation.

I'm looking for the sweeping, soaring exhilaration that comes with triumph in the face of adversity.

I'm looking to understand, and for understanding.

For six hours.

I read. I read. I read.

But I don't get it.

All these stories, all these lives. I feel no connection, a person apart from the city, from the world. I must have read of a hundred sunlit days of abandoned children regaining fathers, but the wave of emotion building up inside me never quite breaks. Nothing touches me.

So I read of nights with best friends, of happy days of beer and blue skies and picnics, and they're supposed to be funny but I just can't reach them. They're beyond me somehow.

More and more I download, a kind of urge inside me to complete what I've started, to let myself be caught up in this great empathic swell. But I can't let go. My feet are leaden, stuck to the seabed. Around me I see these bright, drastic lives, swirling text around me, and I can't move. I'm stuck.

Inside me is a vacuum of emotion, the colour of cigarettes.

I download all night, hoping I'll feel something. No.

Leafing through the memories of other people, my new collection, I feel hollow inside. Reptilian. Everything blurs and there are almost tears, but I'm just a dry paper shell so all that happens is I blink twice and there are some shallow breaths and a hard swallow and I bite my lip. My own lip.

Then I hug myself to sleep.

Save file.



This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
23 October 2003. Matt writes: Topology
2 October 2003. Matt writes: Haunted
8 September 2003. Matt writes: The Gardener's Diary
21 August 2003. Matt writes: The Starling Variable
31 July 2003. Matt writes: Two stories
14 July 2003. Matt writes: What is real?
23 June 2003. Matt writes: Mapping and journeys
29 May 2003. Matt writes: Extelligence
5 May 2003. Matt writes: Religious experiences
17 April 2003. Matt writes: Seeing the Light
27 March 2003. Matt writes: Flowering
10 March 2003. Matt writes: Climax state
10 February 2003. Matt writes: The Role of Cooperation in Human Interaction
20 January 2003. Matt writes: The same old subroutine
2 January 2003. Matt writes: New beginnings
9 December 2002. Matt writes: Packet Loss
18 November 2002. Matt writes: Wonderland
31 October 2002. Matt writes: Having and losing
10 October 2002. Matt writes: Trees of Knowledge
19 September 2002. Matt writes: The online life of bigplaty47
29 August 2002. Matt writes: Divorce
8 August 2002. Matt writes: How to get exactly what you want
18 July 2002. Matt writes: Eleven Graceland endings
27 June 2002. Matt writes: Listopad, Prague 1989
3 June 2002. Matt writes: Engram bullets
6 May 2002. Matt writes: Sound advice
15 April 2002. Matt writes: How it all works: Cars
21 March 2002. Matt writes: Proceeding to the next stage
25 February 2002. Matt writes: Spam quartet
31 January 2002. Matt writes: Person to person
7 January 2002. Matt writes: All for the best
13 December 2001. Matt writes: Life
19 November 2001. Matt writes: Giving is better than receiving
25 October 2001. Matt writes: Ludo
1 October 2001. Matt writes: Gifts, contracts, and whispers
6 September 2001. Matt writes: The world is ending
13 August 2001. Matt writes: The Church of Mrs Bins
16 July 2001. Matt writes: Things I Don't Have
25 June 2001. Matt writes: Fighting the Good Fight
31 May 2001. Matt writes: Code dependency
7 May 2001. Matt writes: Up The Arse, Or Not At All
5 April 2001. Matt writes: The increasing nonlinearity of time
19 March 2001. Matt writes: Hit Me Baby, One More Time
22 February 2001. Matt writes: Space, Matter, Cities, Sausages
29 January 2001. Matt writes: Truth in Advertising
1 January 2001. Matt writes: Six predictions for tomorrow
7 December 2000. Matt writes: You must reach this line to ride
16 November 2000. Matt writes: The truth about the leopard
23 October 2000. Matt writes: Shopping mauls
28 September 2000. Matt writes: Heavy traffic on the road to Utopia
4 September 2000. Matt writes: Sixty worlds a minute
17 July 2000. Matt writes: You, Me, and Face-space

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