Don’t Let It Get To Your Head (The Waiting Room)

 

I sit still and alone in the waiting room. It’s so unnaturally quiet that it begins to make me feel uncomfortable. In as much as my ears try, they fail to hone in on any sound. Nothing at all – no faint murmurs from another room, no footsteps, no audible activity. I start to imagine that there might not be a single soul in the entire building besides myself.

The four walls around me contain only a white rectangular desk central to the room with old car magazines and outdated newspapers and an ashtray on it, the chair I’m seated on and an identical one beside it, and a fuchsia-coloured cactus inside a white vase in one corner of the room, about three-feet in height. There’s a fairly large window on the wall opposite me, and a door to my left.

I hold my breath as I rise and step towards the window. Peeking out of it from about eight floors up, I’m struck by the notion that I may be the only human being in the entire street. The window doesn’t open, I even try to bash it a few times. From my limited point of view, I can’t see any pedestrians or moving vehicles. I can’t see any sign of life. Just the desolate streets, overcast by the dense grey clouds above. I can feel my heart pummel against the walls of my chest, though I keep calm and try to think of logical reasoning as to why I can’t see or hear a single other person within the building or outside (though it’s to little avail). Perhaps there’s a diversion on the street due to hazardous roadworks going on, I think. Though it doesn’t explain the silence in this building. Has there been an evacuation of premises that I’m unaware of?

All I can think to do is continue waiting. I return to my seat, withdraw a pack of cigarettes from the chest pocket of my shirt, and light up. The ashtray on the white desk leads me to the assumption that this is not an act of offense.
3:49 my wristwatch reads. He’s late.

I stare at the vase for some time as the smoke from my cigarette clouds up above my head. I can only reason the plant inside to be artificial – how anyone would think of, or why anyone would even want a fuchsia-coloured cactus is far beyond the realms of my comprehension. I direct my eyes to the door on the left. The door which I expect him to emerge from at any moment and invite me into. This of course begs the question: if that is the only door and it leads into his office, where, then, had I entered from? How and when did I even get here? Had I forgotten to take my medication before I came to see him? That’s all irrelevant right now, I tell myself as I ash my cigarette. All that matters now is this appointment. All I should be concerned about is the fact that he is now almost 25 minutes late.

After waiting for what seemed like hours, he eventually decides to show. He opens the door and invites me in.
“Step inside my office,” he says exaggeratedly, smiling as though impressed by his own wit. I say nothing, only giving him a blank stare for a solid four or so seconds and searching for the slightest hint of contrition.
“You’re late.”
“Am I?” he responds with his back turned, then, sweeping the matter under the rug, he asks, “You got a spare cigg’?”
I hand him my last cigarette, he gives a Thanks, sport! kind of wink before signalling with his hand for me to take a seat on the two-seat sofa opposite him. I analyse his outfit: plain marsh-green polo tucked into grey suit trousers, beat Adidas trainers, coffee-stained beige blazer. The sofa I’m seated on is very much like the one I had in my old apartment.

I give the rest of his office a once over. I very quickly become cognisant that this office of his has the exact same – and I mean the exact same – set up as the main room of my old apartment. Minus the brown leather sofa he is posted disorderly on, every detail is the same. Even down to the framed photo of my ex-wife which I kept hung to the left of the antique pendulum wall clock we got as a present from her mother.

At this point, my reasoning becomes so erratic and damaged that all my brain can reason to do is chuckle under my breath. I close my eyes and rub my forehead slowly. What’s he playing at? Is this all some kind of joke? The silence, the barren streets, the replication of my old home, this is all far too extreme and unnecessary for someone simply trying to mess with my head. Or is it that my head is already messed up? I’m left totally muddled, to say the very least.

It’s a dream, relax, I begin reciting to myself in my head. It’s simply another dumb dream. That explains the fuchsia cactus and the missing door and the office. Just a dumb dream. Relax. And watch. 

He wriggles his left forearm out of his sleeve and rests his elbow on the arm of the shiny leather sofa as he smokes away.
“How is she? D’you know?” he begins, right leg crossed over left, coolly blowing smoke into the ceiling fan.

*

Lucid dreaming, I think it’s called. Dreams are never quite the same once you’ve realised you’re really dreaming them; you begin to try control the course of the dream once you remember that anything’s possible in the world of dreams. But to what extent can one really control their dream once they know they’re in it? Is it a skill that requires continued practice, like shaolin training? Or is this consciousness still subject to simply observing the world which the subconscious mind has built? My feeble guess is that it all depends on the degree of lucidity, or something like that.

*

He’s sat more causally than I’d ever seen him. He looks like he is in the process of finishing off his final appointments for that afternoon before jetting off to Barbados for a week. I mutely glare at the photo beside the clock.
Well?” he persists.

As I had imagined and eventually come to confirm, it really was just a dream. The following morning I look back in hindsight and try piece details together whilst boiling my usual morning eggs. The dream had a lot more to it of which I can’t remember. He was Julian, my old psychiatrist, for the most part of the dream, but then turned into someone else somewhere along the sequence of the dream. It happens, doesn’t it? One minute you’re with so-and-so in your dream, then the next, they’re somebody totally different. But the strange part of it all is not so much that they change, but that it doesn’t seem to go noticed, or disturb the discourse of the dream whilst you’re actually dreaming it.

Dreams are a funny phenomenon. I never could settle on what to think of them. Do they hold some significance to reality, or are they just your subconscious toying around with a few random details and memories you’ve stored in some crevice of your mind over the years? Or both?

Don’t ask me.

 

 

Thank you for reading. As usual, any criticisms and feedback are welcome.

 

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Purple Clovers (The Proverbial Peacock) Part 2

This is a second half to a two-part piece. I recommend reading the first half before this. Link to Part 1: https://mmwiinga.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/purple-clovers-the-proverbial-peacock/

*
*

I’d first met Remy through an old friend some years back. We only greeted each other briefly though. But then I saw her a second time; this time at that same friend’s funeral two years ago. We exchanged a few more words on that occasion, but still, we only started speaking more regularly after I’d ran into her at a furniture shop. At first I couldn’t tell it was her, she recognised me first. She was with a five-or-so year old girl who I assumed to be her daughter (looking back at it now, it was probably a little sister or cousin. She looks far too young to have a kid that age). She helped me decide on some new curtains for my front room. We then exchanged numbers, and she rang me not too long after our encounter the same day. She suggested we meet up some time, and I agreed to it.

*

We chat at length about various things over a small dinner and two more glasses of red wine. The bar has only increased in gaiety since I arrived. By cause of all the wine we’ve been quaffing at, Remy’s eyes are now more pinched than usual, and her gestures become less cultivated than when we had begun. Her movements and speech are more flimsy and playful now. Since she removed her sweater, I’ve been repeatedly eyeing the red brown pendant hanging around her neck which cleverly matches her eye-shadow and lips in colour.

Remy reaches into her purse for a 20-pack of Purple Clovers, and lights one up. Then offers one to me.
“I quit.”
“I tried to quit a few times,” she says, blowing smoke coolly to the side as she sets the pack down on the table. “You know, for my daughter’s sake ‘n’ all.”
“The girl you were with that day, that’s your daughter?”
“Yeah, Ameerah. She’s four and eight months. So cute, she always tells me, Mummy, smoking is bad for you. Your lungs will fall off.”
I laugh, telling her, “Well, she’s not far from right.”
“I never wanted to start again, ya know. It’s just something I found myself doing when me and her dad split.”

I respond with nothing to this. Her chin is buried in the palm of her left hand, while the cigarette burns in her right. Her eyes then stray and settle on some void space behind me. Ken. His name’s Ken, she begins. A dull, dry undertone cleaves to her voice.

“We fought too much. When I say fought, I mean fought. He and I barely agreed on anything. For some reason, we kept going on a break, then getting back together. Going on a break. Getting back together. I’d move out for a week or two, then come back. Then do the same after the next big fight. Over and over. We eventually filed for divorce. But when I found out I was pregnant, we had to keep in contact regardless of how we felt about each other.

“We may not love each other, but we both do love Ameerah with all of our hearts. We agree to try our very best for her, at least, do you know what I mean? After we got divorced, I went back to my parents’ house, and gave birth to Ameerah a few months after. Then I moved into an apartment in East eventually.”

Remy lets out some smoke from her nostrils, then continues:
“My mum doesn’t like the idea of Ameerah living in my apartment, so she insisted that she stays with her on weekdays, and that I have her on the weekends. I see them all the time, though. Every day, almost.” She stares blankly to the side for a few seconds with her Purple Clover close to her lips, then smiles, as if remembering something pleasant.
“My mum says Ameerah having her grandpa as a consistent father-figure is better than an inconsistent father. I can’t argue with that. I’m not entirely sure what effect it’ll have on Ameerah. But she seems happy. As long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters, right?”
I nod slowly, gyrating the remains of my wine, and say, “The situation isn’t perfect, but it could be far worse.”
“She doesn’t see Ken much. She loves him a lot, though, as does he her.”

Remy is now 27 years old, and works full time at a call center which makes her enough to pay her bills, put Ameerah in a private school, and buy expensive clothes like the burgundy fur she has slouched neatly on the back of her chair.

Out of the blue, she jerks her fluttery eyes directly at mine and says,
“Do you have kids, you?”
“I’m not even married.”
“Neither am I,” she smirks, catching me out.
“Touché.” I then take a concluding gulp of my third glass.
“We were only married 14 months, can you believe it? I have an issue with rushing into things, as you can probably tell. I had Ameerah at 23.”

In deep thought, she pauses.
“But although I admittedly rushed into things, I regret nothing. Ameerah is the best thing by far that’s ever happened to me. I’m capable of taking sufficient care of her for her to have a normal childhood.”
How normal can you call a fatherless childhood? I say nothing and let her continue.
“But my mum is concerned, she thinks that I’m still not over the divorce… I’m well over it! He’s an ass.”

She crushes the end of her Purple Clover into the ashtray with an insouciant look on her face. We both remain silent for a moment. A comfortable, reflective kind of silence. Our old friend, the one who died, springs suddenly into my mind. Neither of us even once uttered a mention of our deceased friend, which I swiftly begin to find strange. I had no idea how to bring up the topic, or if there was even any need.

“For a garden to bear good fruit, it requires both rain and sunshine,” she says all of a sudden. Plainly and fluently. As if reading from the back of some packaging. Muddled, I look at her silently, and she points to the peacock behind me. Peering deeply at its beady eyes.
That’s what he’s saying today.”

I smile.

 

 

Purple Clovers (The Proverbial Peacock)

“Yup. This is it for sure,” I murmur to myself, folding the piece of paper with directions on and pocketing it.

As soon as I step inside, I see the giant peacock statue she had told me about, standing a good eight feet in height at the back of the dimly lit room. It’s a rather impressive sight to bare in a bar, in a not-so-fancy part of town. Poised tall and perfectly still with intricate detailing. The realness of its eyes almost give it character, its own personality.  Its diligent and unchanging expression reminds me of some kind of overseer at the back of the bar, making sure everything’s in order. Not in an uncomfortable way, though. It is quite a pleasant figure to stare back at.

My gape of admiration is disturbed by a waving hand in my peripherals, then a confidently voiced call of my name. Remy is sat at a small table near the back. I make my way over to her and pull out the seat opposite.

“You’re a little early,” I mention in a semi-playful tone. She dubs out a half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray on the table before saying,
“Oh? I guess that makes you a little early, then.”

With a smile, she reaches to shake my hand. The first thing I notice about Remy since the last time I saw her is her change of hair colour. She had plum-coloured hair before, now it is a pale blonde, nearing a grey-ish white. Slick and short like a newborn baby’s hair. It contrasts almost artistically with her sheeny, mahogany skin-tone.

She’s in a puffy faux fur sweater which is burgundy in colour. Probably an expensive Julien David piece. It sure looks expensive. The rest of her attire is hidden beneath the table. Smokey red brown eye-shadow circles her narrow eyes, but doesn’t do a job of concealing the deep lines under them. Lines which have developed overtime under eyes which appear to have seen much, shed much.

With her forearms placed neatly before her on the table, Remy stares at me with a faint smile as I remove my jacket and place it behind my chair. I notice her big hooped earrings, and then some of her other piercings; a tiny stud in her right nostril, a Medusa piercing, double helix, and one forward helix piercing. Her image was clearly deliberate and polished.

“Drinks? Drinks,” she says, then signals for a waiter. She orders two tall glasses of red wine, and tells the waiter to put both drinks on her tab.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she says to me as the waiter trails off to fulfill the duty. “What, you’ve never had a lady pay for your drink?”
“No, actually, it’s just that I can p-…”
“Nonsense,” she interjects. “It’s your first time here, right? I’ll treat ya.” She smiles.

*

We clink glasses and take a sip. I give the rest of the room a once-over. It’s far more spacious than any bar I’ve been to, and is arranged less like a bar than it is a restaurant (they even serve a decent selection of dishes). Groups, couples and individuals all based on various tables around the room, sipping away merrily, chit-chatting about who knows what. Soft jazz sounding from a direction I cannot quite decipher. Waiters scurrying professionally from table to table. The sound of glasses being placed and retrieved onto and from tables. The clanging of knives and forks against plates. A vast sea of conversations ringing all at once.

The place is all very new to me. It’s like a hybrid of an ambiance restaurant and a bar. There could be someone winding down after a long day, enjoying a nice quiet dinner, whilst a group on the table beside him aren’t far off excessive drunkenness. No one appears to be disturbed or out of place, though. It seems everyone knew exactly what to expect before they came in. And the archaic peacock statue, in its own, bizarre way, compliments this vibrant restaurant-bar setting. Lax, though enticingly atmospheric.

*

“So, what d’you think of the statue? You like it?” Remy begins, directing her gaze at the peacock, then back to me. She’s sat deliberately upright with her hands rested on the edge of table. At the tip of her slender brown fingers are long, sharp nails painted a few shades darker than her hair.
“It’s impressive, I must admit. You weren’t kidding. It’s a more than decent piece of work,” I tell her. “Nice to look at.”
“Told ya. You know, each time I’ve come here, it’s like the statue says something to me. Something different to the previous time,” she says in a more introspective tone. I don’t quite grasp what she’s saying.
“Oh, really?”
“Mm-hmm,” she nods, mid sip. I turn my head to the peacock, then back at her.
“So what’s it saying to you today?”

For some 20 seconds, Remy says nothing. Just stares intently at the lifeless peacock. She places her right elbow on the table and then rests her slightly cocked head in her palm. Eyes subtly squinted. Eventually she says,
“Not sure yet. Need a few more swigs at this,” tapping at her glass of wine, then laughing a little. I let out a smile and notice Charles Mingus’ ‘Celia’ oozing from the bar’s sound system.

Thank you for reading. This is an old, unfinished piece I decided to work on. I decided to make it two parts. The link to part 2 is here: https://wordpress.com/post/mmwiinga.wordpress.com/4953
Criticisms and feedback are always welcome.

Freedom (Summer ’98) II

“We smoke and talk for some time. We talk about everything and nothing in particular… Simply exploring the dynamics of each other’s minds. Extracting from the sunken crevices of our characters. Displaying to one another the abstract and innermost of our desires, fears and hopes. Or just bantering.” – https://mmwiinga.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/freedom-summer-98/
I recommend reading part I first.

**

 

A fleet of birds glide overhead. Lana begins to chase after them gleefully from below. When I realise how far into the meadow she is, I trail towards her. Jimi Hendrix continues to ring from the car stereo on the knoll now far behind us.

“Look, look!” she suddenly yells from a few yards in front of me. I trudge my way through the tall grass.
“What is it?”
“Oops. Ah shit, it got frightened by my voice.” She kneels down slowly, concealing herself amidst the grass. I thoughtlessly do the same and try to spot what ‘it’ she is referring to.
“Did you see–”
“Shhhh!” She commands. And in a whisper, says, “It’ll run away. It’s so cute. Wait.”
“Did you see a rodent of some sort?” I murmur.
“Yes. Over there. It’s a bunny.”
“A bunny? Where? I don’t see it.”

There, she says, motioning my head with her hands in its direction. I see the tall grass ruffle very subtly. She suggests we move closer. Taking slow, muted steps towards the animal, she remains at a low stance. I sluggishly follow behind. Lana begins to make a soft clicky sort of sound. A noise you might try getting a cat’s attention with.

“Here, here, little bunny,” she calls. Click, click. “Here. Come, come. We don’t wanna hurt you, little guy.” Then turning to me, she says, “I bet he’s so scared.”

From a closer look, it appears to be an ordinary brown hare. Lana edges closer and closer. The seemingly inattentive creature nibbles fervidly at some grasses and flowers. She turns to me without a word, and smiles cockily. Her eyes are bloodshot red, as mine probably are. Returning her focus back to the hare, Lana draws in a lungful of air before taking an instantaneous plunge at the brown hare. I immediately howl with laughter as she hits the ground with a thud empty-handed. Damn it! shouts Lana. With obvious disappointment daubed on her face, she watches the brown hare scurry away into the deeper wilderness. I chuckle uncontrollably.
“It’s not funny, you prick.” She sits up and dusts off her arms.
“It is! How did you miss? It must have a sixth-sense for leaping lunatics,” I tease. She simply mocks with sarcastic laughter.
I pause and say to her in a serious tone, “Wait, there’s another rodent.”
“Where, where?” she whispers, scanning our surroundings scrupulously.
“Over there!” I shout, diving at her much like she did at the brown hare.
“Get OFF, you fool!” she bellows in laughter.

We jovially tussle and roll around amid the tall grass. Lana pants heavily from below me as I stall, staring deep into her dark brown eyes. That dainty, contagious smile of hers sprouts on her face. I feel her tender hands clasp and pull my head towards her. Our lips meet with me still kneeling over. She’s lying flat on the grass with one knee bent upward. From the car stereo, ‘Stir It Up’ by Bob Marley plays in the distance, barely audible from where we are.

We continue making out for some time. And my hands seem to take on a mind of their own, sauntering salaciously across Lana’s form. Tender groans break from her. Slowly, unconsciously, we shed items of clothing one by one. Overtaken by euphoria and senseless aphrodisia, one action leads to another. I love her with every fibre of passion my soul possesses. I grope her and caress her beneath the sun. We make love. We make song. We make poetry. Every thrust, every note, every line oozing its own electrifying flavour of affection. Sweating and huffing, we wordlessly lay beside each other in the thick of the overgrown meadow once we finish.

*

Lana and I stay out in the countryside until evening, talking, listening to music and smoking some more. We lay on the hood of her father’s Honda Accord and watch the cloudless blue sky turn to a handsome, starlit navy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom (Summer ’98)

“It’s this left, right?”
“Nope. The next one a little further down.” I tell her, gesturing with my hand. She often gets confused at this point.

The sun beams down bounteously as we ride through the countryside in her father’s 1992 Honda Accord. Crosstown Traffic by Jimi Hendrix whistles quietly through the car stereo. She handles the steering with one hand, while her other motors a Marlboro Gold to and fro her lips. I am slouched on the passenger side with my left arm hanging out the window, tourism magazine in lap.

“What about Penang?”
“Pen-wha‘?” she says with her eyes fixed on the road.
“Penang. It’s on the north-western part of Malaysia.”
“Never heard of it, I don’t think. Does it sound good?”
“Well it says, Broadly known and admired for its affluence in culture, breath-taking natural history and jubilant festivities, Penang stands highly esteemed as Malaysia’s third most popular tourist destination, as of 1995. Unwind beneath the southeast Asian sun and witness some of Malaysia’s most stunning beaches and islands located on the northern side of Penang, not 30 minutes from the city’s capital, Georgetown. Venture through Penang National Park with an optional private tour guide or boat operator and view the beautifully exotic landscapes, jungles, rivers and wildlife that Penang has to offer. 

“Bountiful in historic architecture and temples, Penang displays an array of wonderful and memorable sights to ingest. It is also home to some of Asia’s finest and most diverse cuisine, blending recipes from Malaysia, China, India, Thailand and Indonesia.” I pause here and turn the page. She edges the half-smoked cigarette towards me and glances over to the magazine.
“Definitely some place I’d like to go to,” she says thoughtfully. “It kinda sounds like where Rishi and Dalia went in April. Bali, was it?”
“Yeah, Bali. The Indonesian islands are relatively close to this Penang.”
“We should check the prices and compare with our other options.”

It was now a toss-up between Penang, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. My girlfriend, Lana, and I had been planning to go on a holiday for some time, though we never actually got to taking any steps of actively looking for somewhere we’d like to visit. It was only recently, once we’d managed to put some money aside, that we’d started seriously considering destinations for the summer.

*

We’d known each other for just over a year now, though it was unclear when Lana became my “girlfriend”. I met her through a mutual friend and we started seeing each other, casually at first – you know, meeting up for a drink at a bar, or for a smoke session at her place. Then before long (and before either of us had realised), we were suddenly in physical and emotional entanglement with each other, so to speak.

I became more and more comfortable around Lana, and her around me. And when we started sleeping together more often, I would sometimes spend three or four nights at her place in a row. I suppose that’s roughly when you could say we solidified our commitment to each other. It became blatant to her that she meant more to me than just a casual friend or a girl I was sleeping with at the time. And it became increasingly clear to me that she, too, was serious about our brewing relationship.

*

I make note of the page number before tucking the tourism magazine in the small compartment under my seat, from which I also withdraw a small jar filled with marijuana. Lana veers off the main road into what we call one of our ‘out-of-town-chill-spots’. She turns up the volume on the stereo, singing along to Hendrix’s ‘Freedom’.

The sun continues to beat down with intensity. It’s the perfect type of weather for occasions such as this; when Lana and I go out of town and simply relax under the sun away from the city’s tireless engagements, and the various responsibilities in it. We both love the serenity the countryside offers. It’s somewhere we can escape to, alone, together. A place where the flow of time seems to spread itself throughout the openness, where everything slows down and becomes weightless.

A captivating selection of waist-high vegetation is spread through the expansive grassy plateau. Some would have thought it a shabby, neglected landscape, but we’ve always seen it as undisturbed. Natural. Somewhere where nature has been allowed to take its course. Beautifully and gracefully undomesticated.

Lana parks the car beside a tree at the edge of a small escarpment a few feet away from a slope that leads into the abundant sea of tall grass and wildflowers. Agave, purple asters, lace wildflowers, meadow buttercups, pale pink betony – too many to name. After I roll up a joint, we venture playfully into the tall grass.

We smoke and talk for some time. We talk about everything and nothing in particular. Getting high and engaging in deep (sometimes thoughtless) conversations is how we spend a considerable amount of our time together. Simply exploring the dynamics of each other’s mind. Extracting from the sunken crevices of our characters. Displaying to one another the abstract and innermost of our desires, fears and hopes. Or purely bantering. Lana and I always liked to share placid, unhurried moments together – whether it be over dinner, on a long night cruise in her father’s Honda Accord, a quiet night spent at her place, or away in the countryside.

Thank you for reading. This is an excerpt from something I’m planning to develop (the second part to this piece is here: https://mmwiinga.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/freedom-98-ii/). My focus was on trying to create something more comprehensive than what I usually post. Feel free to give criticisms and feedback!

Sweet, Sweet November (The lady on stage)

It was a Thursday evening. I had clocked off from work a little earlier than usual. And so with that little extra time on my hands I decided to go to a bar for a drink or two. Somewhere different from my usual local selection. Somewhere not too far out though, I had a long Friday ahead of me and wanted to keep the bar visit fairly brief. I hailed a taxi.

“Do you know any decent bars somewhere away from this area? Say, a little further north perhaps?”
“Hmm, up north… up north.” The taxi driver gave it some thought with his hands gripped firmly to the steering wheel.
Half turning back to me, he said, “Ah! I know, there’s one I like to go to in Brent Cross. About 15 minutes’ drive from here. That’s a fairly decent joint.”
“What’s it like?” His face became smirched with a utterly reflective expression. “Umm… Well, it’s nothing fancy, I’ll tell ya that. It’s convenient, though. Reasonably cheap, and it shouldn’t be too packed on a night like this.”

I had no idea what a “convenient” bar was supposed to be like. But as he hadn’t mentioned anything notably terrible about the place, I checked my watch and decided to give the bar a chance.

The bar, named ‘Arthur’s, had a very hollow feel to it. The lighting was dim, and not in a relaxing sort of way. Just dim. It was as if a few bulbs had died out a while ago and the owner had no intention of replacing them. The carpet was dull and plagued with spill stains, decorations were minimal, and very few souls occupied the building (of which hardly any looked as if they even wanted to be there – like attending the bar was some kind of duty they had to serve).

Removing my thin scarf and jacket, I ordered a chilled brew and pondered why anyone would name a bar ‘Arthur’s’. Unless of course the owner’s name was Arthur, which would prove Mr Arthur to be a very drab and unimaginative individual, much like his bar setting. I sipped slow while surveying the interior of the building. Then I retreated my gander and noticed my fingers tapping against the counter to a Radiohead song which hooted unfittingly in the background.

I didn’t stay for very long. I downed the beer and left the bartender a £5 tip beside the almost empty pint glass. When the frigid winds outside struck me I buttoned my coat to the top, burying my chin inside my scarf. The beer had left a grimy, salty taste in my mouth. I had to wash it down. So I began to amble through the unfamiliar streets, hands shoved in pockets, searching for another bar. One characterised with a little more ambiance, I’d hoped.

Five minutes’ walk down the high street, I strolled into a bar which enticed me for reasons I couldn’t give. I mean, it didn’t look all that great from the outside for one. It may have been the faint noise that was coming from inside. It sounded like a live band performance.

The inside was fairly large. An impressive-looking bar stood at the far right of the room, a smallish stage was directly opposite the doorway, and there were tables scattered in the centre of the room. People chattered, laughed, watched the live performers, and drank. But even with all this going on, the place held quite a relaxing air.

I took a seat at the bar. The young blokes who were a few stools away gulped down beer after beer and undisturbingly cheered on the performers. The couples and individuals and groups who loosened up around tables sipped away at their various beverages. The atmosphere was loose, a pleasant energy filled the bar. And the jazzy performances complimented the mood, too. It seemed as though local artists and bands were invited to display their talents on stage at the bar on specific nights. I’d happened to stumble in on one of those nights.

“Welcome to Blues Ariawhat can I do you for, sir?” My fascination with the lady on the stage delayed my brain from computing what was said to me.
“Umm… uh… I’ll have what they’re having.” I replied, gesturing to the lads on my left.
“Coming right up!” he said, disappearing gleefully.

The lady on the stage couldn’t have been any older than 22. She had on grungy boots, dark clothes, and had long braided hair, black with midnight-blue streaks in. Her lips were coloured in a bright pink, which I thought was ill-fitting with her tender cinnamon brown complexion (but what do I know about all that).

She sang over an enchanting blues melody. It reminded me of Paul Desmond’s ‘Glad to Be Unhappy’ collection. Cool and dark. Her emotionally fuelled voice gave the number something more though. It was somehow like a graceful butterfly’s reflection on a still, forgotten pond. She would occasionally face the trio supporting from behind her. Then she would turn back to the audience, giving us an intense, meaningful look whilst clutching the mic close to her lips and swaying in motion to the music.

Once the song was done, the lady thanked the audience for its’ round of applause before exchanging a few unheard words with the band, and they geared themselves up for the next number. I recognised it almost immediately. It was a jazzy rendition of SZA’s ‘Sweet November’. The lady on the stage sang with such striking passion and with a certain bounce to it that didn’t do away with the elegance the original carries.

Our eyes met at one point. It was strange. I got one of those weird little sensations you can never quite put into words. I was so caught off guard my stomach sank a little. And it was like in that very brief slice of time, the pace of everything changed and grew unclear.

I stood motionless, beer in hand, taken aback by the brilliance of it all. When she and the band were through with her set, they waved thankfully at the applauding audience and took a bow. The lady on the stage blew kisses to audience, the band behind her, and exited the stage while the applauds still reigned.

Thanks for reading! This is a revised piece from roughly two years ago now. I wanted to continue it, but thought I’d better redo this part first. I didn’t really have a particular focus with this one, simply just writing. Criticisms and feedback are always welcome. Also, let me know if you’d like me to read and give feedback on anything you’ve written, I’m more than happy to.

Love In The Purple Forest (This side)

I’m floating.
.
.
.

Where am I exactly? I’m not sure. Some kind of abyss. It’s all blackened out. So extremely black that I can’t see anything, myself included. There is nothing but pure darkness around me. A thin and distant and unmistakably real darkness.

I’m floating.

Sinking, actually.

I’m sinking. I’m being swallowed deeper and deeper into this blackness. Gradually, against my most tenacious will, I am being consumed. Wherever I am must have some form of gravitational clout.

How long have I been here? How did I get here? I have no clue. Everything is so distant, every trace of meaning, every slice of clarity, is so far off and sparse, consumed within the blackness. I am in a space where darkness is the only reality. It is so tremendously quiet that the only sound my ears pick up is the steady pounding of my heart.

*

In the very far-flung distance below me, I can suddenly see a tiny glow. It is about the size of a green pea from my distance. A very vibrant, lilac glow. I’ve never been one to be scared of the unknown, so instinctively, I begin to swim towards it. What is it? There is some elusively welcoming nature to the glow that compels me to navigate towards it. The darkness is weightless; I can’t feel water, but I start voyaging towards the lilac light in a swimming motion, as if I really am in water. Instinct.

The closer I edge towards the effulgent mystery, the more bright and sizeable it becomes. From five or so inches in front of it, the spherical light is now about the size of a two-storey building. Grande, warm and immensely lustrous. I can see something forming at the centre of the glow. Something peculiar. Something delicate and alive.

A hand?

A small, pale hand stretches out from within the light towards me. It moves slowly, gingerly. I reach out to it in a retaliative manner and touch it. A familiar feeling instantly traces itself right through my veins, surging through my entire body. The soft hand bears a subtle warmth which transits into my own, and eventually seeps delicately through the rest of my body also. I then begin to feel strangely weightless and tranquil.

Without resistance, I follow the hand as it gently pulls me closer to the light. The hand and I move into the light ever so casually, like it were an ordinary door.

This side.

On this side is a place I’ve never seen before. I appear to be in a forest. And much like any other forest, it is inhabited by a sea of trees as well as an assortment of vegetation, small and large. But, these trees have distinctly coloured leaves. Lilac, orchid, amethyst, violet, iris. And they glow. The glimmering leaves shed a sublime tinge of purple light throughout the entire vicinal area of the forest. Everything within and around the forest is bathed in this brilliant purple. I can hear birds which remain hidden away in the gleaming branches. At a closer listen, vireos immediately come to mind, though I cannot be sure for certain without seeing the source of the unremitting warbles.

In awe, curiosity and everything else in between, I stand frozen, gawking with my mouth agape at the mystifying wonder around me. I look upwards to a gleaming full moon, at which point I’m distracted by the realisation that my hand is still clasped loosely onto the same hand. Someone’s hand.

Julia’s hand? No wonder it felt so familiar, I think to myself aloud.

“But Julia,” I say, staring bewilderedly at her. “you’re…”.

She lets go of my hand and smiles daintily in my direction. This Julia is very much like the Julia I once knew. She’s built the same; she looks, smells and feels the same. But there are subtle differences, curious little nuances and qualities that this Julia has which differ from the Julia I knew – the Julia who died three years ago.

“Come.” As she says this, her lips do not part in the slightest. Rather, she communicates her instruction to me through some cryptic voiceless dialect. Even so, I am sure of what she said; she told me to come, to follow her. Continuing with her closed-mouthed form of speech, she tells me to trust her, and not to be afraid nor startled.

Julia’s silky, jet black hair rests leisurely on her shoulders. Her skin is pale, and her dark eyes alluringly embrace the forest’s glisten. She has on a baggy black and white striped top, arctic-blue jeans which leave her thin ankles exposed, and a simple pair of Vans slip-ons.

We begin to saunter through the forest. Julia seems to be familiar with this place, whereas I fail at keeping my neck and my eyes straightway – they are too busy trying to catch a satisfying gander at all the fleeting sights around us.

On this side, time appears to be a concept of irregular nature. It’s difficult to gage how long simple things take to do. What might feel like five minutes’ walking distance in the real world could take as long as what feels like hours over on this side. Everything is so intense and ‘involved’. So centred around the now.

Also, the scenery (in this instance, the purple forest) seems to exist solely from where we are to as far as we can see. All else simply gets lost behind us as we progress through the forest. Sounds, sights, even the happenings of a few moments ago get swallowed up into the same obscurity and darkness that I was drowning in before entering this side (at least that is the way things feel like).

At one point, Julia stops at a seemingly random tree and decides to sit beneath its radiant leaves. She invites me to join her, and I do. My brain is stocked to the brim with questions – questions about this place, how I got here, and how Julia can exist on this side.

Something inside me tells me to be silent and patient, and to let the events pan out without my disturbing curiosity. There is no need to question anything, there is no need to wonder. Just take in the moment and let it be complete for what it is, Julia ‘says’. I listen to her.

Would you like some fruit?

 

 

Thanks for reading! With this piece, I was trying something very, very different. I’ve not read a lot of fantasy fiction, and have written I think only one fantasy piece about three years ago. But I found a few lines in my drafts and decided to expand on them. This is what became of those lines. Criticisms and feedback are welcome as usual.
P.s – I will try to upload a part two to this by next weekend, I hadn’t planned on making it this long…