Art Pact 255 - My Life As A Petrol Tank



Empty.

Full.

Empty.

Full.

Empty.

Full.

When I'm drinking - when everything's silent except for the ticking of the pump and the gentle whoosh of others travelling past on the motorway - I consider whether this cycle is healthy for me. I mean, I'm ten years old now, been doing the same thing pretty much since the day I was brought into this world. Is reliable conformity a thing? Or is it just mindless roboticism? I'm hungry, I drink until I'm full, everything's fine again. Until the next time, because slowly, slowly, the energy drains out of me and I'm left in the same situation again, hungering, wondering how I got this way so fast and didn't I just drink myself stuffed a few days ago? It seems so recent.

Empty.

Then I'm coughing out fumes as the last of the drink drains away, and you can almost taste it in the hunger, a sort of desperation. A sense that something will go wrong, that I won't quite be able to make it to the drinking place, that it should have been taken care of earlier. Not from me, of course, I don't think about those things - at least, I don't think I do, and isn't that the way the logic goes? I think therefore I am; I don't think about desperation, therefore I am not desperate. Perhaps that's a bit of a reach. But it does affect me. It affects me, that feeling that I've missed some opportunity, that if only I'd been a little more vigilant I could have saved myself a terrible cost.

Full.

You can be filled with regrets. All sorts of regrets. Regret that you drank too much and you kind of burped or heaved and some of the drink came out again, onto the tarmac. You see other drinkers doing that and you think: come on, know your limits! But still they try to drink too much, just stuffing that little bit extra in, and no matter what you might think about their behaviour it's just the same when you next drink. It's that moment when you know - you know you're full, and that's good. But then a few seconds later you're just having a wee dram more, just - you know, can I fit another shot in or whatever? Sometimes you can stop yourself, but sometimes it just all goes wrong. We're all made with a certain capacity for drink, that's what I think. That's the conclusion I've come to. I'm old enough to know my limits. Try to go over those limits, like even I sometimes do, and you're going to fail.

Empty.

Same at the other end of the cycle, when you're just crawling along, when you can sense the desperation, like I said. I can tell when I need a drink. I mean, that's what hunger is all about, right? It's a signal. We can ignore the signals all we like, but the body doesn't lie. The stomach wants what the stomach wants, you know? So when it comes down to it, you have to drink when you're empty. That's all there is to it. No stretching it out as long as possible, no letting yourself go dry. You've got to get on with your duty, recognize that you need a drink, get off the road and have one. That's all there is - no whinging about it, no trying to press on past the point of no return. Just find somewhere to drink, have a drink, fill up, you feel better, job done.

Full.

Empty.

Full.

Empty.

Full.

I'm not saying that it's not impossible sometimes to pull a little extra out of the bag. I mean, psychologically. It's just that a body can only hold so much drink, that's hard fact. That's science. That's maths. Geometry and so forth. Width times height times... what's the third one? Breadth? Depth? They both sound wrong. Anyway, X times Y times Z, and that's it. That's your lot, all you can hold. You can't hold more, so if you're well and truly empty, I mean really empty, down to the last molecule, there's nothing you can do about it. And if you're full, you're really full. Not one drop more of drink you can fit in there. Not one drop, everything has to go somewhere.

Empty.

It happens when you mistake psychological reserves and physical reserves for the same thing. Sometimes that happens. More heart than sense, that's the thing. You can convince yourself that you're all good, that there's more in there to work with, but - well, no, that just isn't the case. It's fooling yourself. And you know, when you try to fool yourself the worst thing that can happen to you is that you're successful. Because then you're sitting there. One the side of the road, just as empty as anything. I mean, parched. Parched, dry as a bone. God, that feeling. Hunger like you would not believe, and you're waiting for a drink. You don't know how long it's going to take. It's not like drinking when everything's relaxed - you can't just throw it back and expect more to come along. No no. You wait, and you wait, and you can hear others going past you and you know that they're looking at you and thinking: well, there's another one. Another one without the sense enough to know when he's done. One that just carried one and carried on and emptied himself out, and where did it get him? Stuck, waiting for a little drink. Just a little one. One that's so pitiful you barely even taste it, it just revives you a bit, like a zombie. That's almost worse than the actual emptiness. The drink where you want to keep drinking but you can't. Up and at 'em soldier! Pull yourself together! Here's mud in your eye! Get moving, hup-two-hup-two, and almost the instant you've had that drink you're bleeding it all out again. But at least you know that you're moving again, that soon you'll get to the pumps and the drink's going to flow.

Full.

Empty.

Full.

Empty.

Full.

And you won't make that mistake again, that's a promise you make yourself. No foolish pushing yourself beyond your limits.

Empty.

Play it safe.

Full.

But you get to thinking, still. Isn't there more? Shouldn't there be more, more than this endless cycle of filling and emptying? It seems like there should be more. You can taste it in the drink. The futility. Do this, then do that, then do this again. Like it's part of the substance, like the drink is made out of repetition and despair. You can imagine, I suppose, that the drink is like death. Like it's made out of lives that could have been lived with joy and happiness and perhaps some of them were, but the overwhelming mass of it was made out of hunger and death and futile misery.

Empty.

What if there were something else? I don't know. A better drink. Some other way of doing things, something where I'd break out of:

Empty.

Full.

Empty.

Full.

It would be better, I think. Less desperation, less drinking until I was full, less trying to cram that one last shot in. Less regret afterwards. The negatives undone, and some new way of living, open to more possibilities. It's there, I know it - just out of my grasp. But the fact that it's there at all is - promising. I can hold onto the hope. Not all the time.

Empty.

Full.

But some of it.

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