Fisherman in Grey Part IV?

“Thanks for taking the time to come with me, by the way,” she says. “I’ve been planning to go back since I got this new Kodak, and company’s always nice.”
“Not a problem. I didn’t have anything scheduled today anyway.”
Looking to me, she smiles cheerfully.

Amber and I are on a short train journey away to the art gallery that we’d first met at. It was a particularly dear location to Amber because it’s where a 71-year-old portrait of her great-grandfather was kept. He was a fairly renowned Dutch fisherman and sailor before the Second World War.

It’s almost two in the afternoon. The sun’s moderate flare is coupled with a gentle breeze. Amber withdraws the Kodak camera from its small pouch slung around her neck and turns it on.
“Check some of these out, if you like,” she says, edging the camera at me. I begin looking through the photos she had taken. Photos of various things, in various locations. Such striking quality.
“The angles,” I say with my eyes still fixed at the Kodak, “…there are some very interesting and unexpected angles in a lot of these.” With notable elation in her tone, she responds,
“You think so? It makes me glad that you said that because angles are my thing. That’s what I put a lot of focus into. Angles are where my imagination runs wild when it comes to photography. I tend to capture very ordinary things or sceneries, but the angles, the point of view, those are aspects which carry the most contemplation and regard for me. Any amateur photographer will tell how crucial it is to consider angles, but to me, point of view is… where I have fun with photography. I try to be offbeat and experimental with angles. It’s often risky, but, hey. It’s not so much like a technical thing for me. It’s more like – Okay, let me toy around with some angles until I find the one which tells the untold or the hidden or unnoticed story of this photo. Do you know what I mean? Photographers are very powerful in that, through their camera perspective alone can you view a scene they’ve shot. However they decided to take the photo, whichever approach or angle they use, sets the parameters of how the scene can be viewed. A photo will tell a story. So I try to capture unique perspectives which will subsequently tell a unique story to what another perspective might give you. At least I try to.

“Don’t get me wrong, though, angles are my biggest consideration when it comes to free photography. But when I’m working on conceptual pieces or something like that, angles still matter, of course, but I have a more levelled consideration of other elements of photography. Like what I’m shooting, exposure, lighting, composition, depth of field, you know. I become equally as scrupulous with those aspects when I’m building something conceptual as I do with my angles when I’m doing free photography.”

*

Before we head to the gallery, we decide upon getting a bite to eat beforehand. Once inside, Amber leads the way for the most part with me stringing closely behind, catching a gape at pieces that steal my attention. With her Kodak camera, she takes dozens of photos. Not long after we came in, she asked me to capture her beside the portrait of her great-grandfather. She stood straight, smiling at the camera with her arms in front of her.

“I noticed you’ve got your hair up today,” I say to her randomly at one point. “I don’t recall seeing you with it up since we’ve met.” She smiles sheepishly.
“Yeah, I don’t really like to have it up.” As she says this she brushes a couple strands of hair behind her left ear. She has two orbital piercings in that ear.
“Why’s that?” I question whilst examining her face in slight detail.
“My ears. I look like an elf.” she says with a laugh. I laugh also, and tell her,
“Come on, no you don’t. They’re just ears. They come in various sizes. Yours aren’t even big. You look good with your hair up.”
You think so? she smiles, and I nod before turning to the smallish sculpting of a seal beside us, of which Amber captures with her camera.

**
Thank you for reading this piece. I’m rather unsure about it, to be honest. It’s a continuation of a piece I had divided into three blog posts two years ago, which happens to still be my favourite piece of writing I’ve done since – largely because the piece wrote itself, and it is my most ‘thorough’ work yet. I haven’t touched up the other blog posts but if you want some background to this piece, I’ll leave the links below.

https://mmwiinga.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/fisherman-in-grey-part-i/

https://mmwiinga.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/fisherman-in-grey-part-ii/

https://mmwiinga.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/fisherman-in-grey-part-iii/

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.

Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Eddy’s Brother)

 

“When did he get back?”
“Who, Eddy’s brother? Last week Tuesday. He’s been quite busy, that’s why I haven’t had a chance to see him yet.” Vince says.

Uriel takes a lengthy sip of his now lukewarm bottled water. He lights himself a Marlboro Gold then tucks the almost empty packet back into the chest pocket of his cream shirt. The sun beams down while the two young men sit on a bench. Birds glide skillfully overhead, supple branches sway in the gentle breeze.
Vince and Uriel are seated outside a small sandwich shop. Opposite the bench is the main road which the duo gape at whilst conversing during their lunch break. It’s an early-Spring afternoon, a little before 3pm.

An easy silence swings between them momentarily, then as if suddenly remembering he’s with Vince and not alone at home, Uriel throws out, “What’s he like?”
Vince, who chomps eagerly at the remains of his toasted BLT sandwich, squints his eyes at a spot on the ground, trying to come up of a brief but reasonably conclusive answer to Uriel’s question.

“Hmm, well, I’d say he’s an awful lot like Eddy, but just only a little more… out there, I guess. Or rather, was. I mean, sure it’s been only four years since I last saw him, but he might have changed. People tend to when they move away to a different place. Environment and associates can have a relatively substantial influence on an individual, whether they realise it or not.”
“Quite often they don’t.” adds Uriel
“He might not be the same Ian as I remember him.”
“What d’you mean more out there though? In what sense?” Uriel ashes his cigarette as a cluster of smoke follows his question out of his mouth into the air around them.

Vince stops mid-chew, trains his eyes at roughly the same spot on the ground as before, then relaxes this stance.
“How can I put this?” he mumbles half to himself. “Well, he’s more talkative than Eddy, for one. He’s spontaneous, he’ll be up for anything. The most random of things at that. He does crazy things for crazy reasons. Don’t get me wrong, Eddy does crazy things, too, but the reasoning behind it is often later revealed to be somewhat justifiable. Somewhat [As he says this, Vince looks at Uriel and gives a half smile, who offers the same smile and a monosyllabic laugh back]. But Ian, he’s totally different in that sense.”

“Example?”
“Okay, take this example: one time, Ian, Eddy, this Dutch chick called Romy who I met through Eddy, and myself were chilling out at Ian’s place, right. It must have been around eight or nine in the evening, we were all drinking beers. Now, Ian lived near a park stadium. Not a huge one, just your average sized stadium. It was used mostly for sports days, charity events; things like that. It’d close around six in the evening, and by eight it’d be completely locked off and empty. During that whole summer, we used to sneak in through some back entrance and climb over this nine-or-so foot iron gate and sit in the stands, just talking and drinking and laughing and fooling around. We were, what, eighteen? It would be ’round about midnight hours, so no one was around. Nobody could hear us. All the cameras directed at the tracks and at the stands were shut off ’cause, I mean, there wasn’t much to be stolen, unless some weird bloke decided he wanted to loot some stadium seats or something like that. Anyway, so we were virtually undisturbed. It was summer so the air was nice. We used to spark up and everything. You ever got high at a closed off stadium in the middle of the night? Shit’s epic.”
Uriel’s face bares a very slight smile as he jokingly shakes his head, then slyly peers at his wristwatch, and continues smoking as he listens for the rest of the story. Vince scrunches his wrappers up and tosses them in the bin beside the bench. He rubs his hands together and strains his eyes as if trying to focus in on a visible scene of where his story left off.

“But anyway, that particular night, Ian had a few too many beers I think. So imagine this, right: on our way back to his place, instead of going towards the back entrance we came in through, he thought it’d be a great idea to start a fire at the entrance to the stadium. Right by the front! Of course it was locked off from the outside, but the way we came in gave us direct access to the main entrance. He took a little bundle of flyers he’d found somewhere inside and set them alight with a clipper. At first, we thought, Hey, Ian, what are you doing? Stop playing, but we weren’t paying all that much attention to it. We were all too high and tipsy. About five minutes later, this flame was huge! And I’m not talking one of those fires you and your friends start in some deserted park when you’re sixteen. I’m talking a great big fire! Right inside the stadium.”

“Man, are you serious? Inside?” questioned Uriel, taken aback. The tone he carries conveys less bafflement than it does disappointment.
“Dead serious. None of us had realised it was growing that rapidly or vigorously, either. I’ll never forget how tall those flames were. The smoke… It ended up on the local news and everything. The cameras by the entrance must have been shut off, too. We never got caught. No suspects, no nothing. There wasn’t even a smoke alarm. The investigation didn’t follow up any much longer than say a few days. They were probably lazy and ruled it off as some unexplained accident. Someone left something on, and it sparked up and caught fire or something.”
“What, like how the guy in Fight Club thought his apartment exploded because of a jolt from his fridge triggered his gas-filled apartment into it exploding?” Uriel interposes.
“Yeah maybe something like that.” Vince says with a small laugh. “The security in that place was a joke. Awful. At times when I look back, I think maybe they deserved it. For lack of care and proper security.”

Uriel’s mien bears residue of perplexity as he mulls over the story of Eddy’s brother again. He tosses the end of his cigarette to the ground and lightly stomps on it. His left hand then reaches to caress the fresh stubble on his neck and chin.

“But anyway, you know why this was all so crazy?” Vince continues. “The next morning when we asked Ian why he did it, he said to us, I wanted to see what they’d rebuild, or some B-S like that. Can you believe that?! The guy is nuts. Whose curiosity drives them to set fire to a park stadium just so they can see what would be rebuilt after it’s all been burned down to the ground? Nuts.”
To see what they’d rebuild.” Uriel repeats blankly. He then looks to Vince with a playful expression, saying, “He sounds kind’a interesting if you ask me.”

Vince rises to his feet, dusts remnants of his sandwich off of his smart navy blue trousers, and reties his left shoelace. Uriel, too, gets up and stretches his back slightly and scans his clothes for any stains or crumbs or ash.
“We’d better head back,” says Uriel. “don’t want the boss getting cranky again now, do we?” Vince smiles. They both get into Uriel’s Peugeot 206 and head back to their office.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. With this particular piece, I was focusing on dialogue. Criticisms and feedback are always welcome and much appreciated!

 

 

 

 

 

Alone Together (Traditions, traditions)

“Hurry up, Zack, or we’ll be late!” I hear from the other room.
“Mum, mum. My tie, mum. My tie,” Zack said.
I fold the corner of the page from the book I’m reading and place it on the desk beside me.
“Here,” I say to him, rising from the sofa. “Let me give you a hand with that.”
His eyeballs stay unwaveringly focused on my hands as I wade through the steps of tying his tie.

Zack and his mother, Elaine, are going to the wedding of a family friend. Elaine’s long time friend’s daughter is getting married. My mother, who is good friends with Elaine and the mother of the girl who is getting married, is also attending the wedding. I, too, would have been attending, though Elaine’s daughter, Sandra, is feeling poorly. And so Elaine had asked me to come over to the house and watch over her while they went to the wedding (Sandra is seven years of age, she was born mute and almost completely blind). I told her it was no bother. I wasn’t so keen on going to the wedding anyway. I packed a novel, a small lunch and my pen and pad.

“She’s getting married to an accountant from New Zealand. God knows how they met. The mother had told me some time ago, but I’ve forgotten,” Elaine says to me as she peers at the Elaine in the mirror who meticulously applies a thin sheet of eyeliner. “Isla. Beautiful girl. Not much older than you, actually.”

“Uncle,” Zack says. “why aren’t you coming with us?”
I kneel to him and place my hand on a shoulder of his. “I’m staying at home to make sure Sandra’s well.”
“To make sure Sandra is well and gets better?”
“Mm-hmm. Now you go have fun. And behave yourself.”

Five or so minutes pass, and as Elaine does her last minute scurry-around for anything she might’ve forgotten to pack with her, she says, “There’s a leftover casserole in the fridge that you could warm up for you and Sandra at some point. I think there’s some garlic bread in the freezer, too, if you want to put some in the oven.”

*

I hear the steady roar of the car engine, and listen to it as it gradually fades off until I can no longer hear it. I stretch myself languidly onto the sofa for some moments and remain motionless – physically, and also in state of mind (to whatever possible extent the mind can be motionless).

***

It was well into the spring of 1993. A lax downpour of sun spread itself over the church building, and around its steeple a small company of wrens praised cordially beneath the sun’s generosity. The church building was brimmed with men, women and children – all suited in their cleanest, sharpest attire – smiling uneasily at one another. There were awkward verbal exchanges amidst an abundance of forged, nervous laughter. The mass awaited the arrival of the bride in sour and frantic anticipation. There was a peculiar air of tense excitement about the place, though it all weighed fickle, as if everyone couldn’t wait for it to be over and done with.

The bridegroom sat in one corner of the church building, alone, gently though unconsciously stroking his knees with the sweaty palms of his hands. He was nervous, and whenever he felt this way, his hands seemed to take on a mind of their own. Like some strange, independent organisms that latched themselves onto the end of his forearms. He took several deep breaths.

Friends and family members approached the bridegroom multiple times to either check on him or provide him with some urgent piece of information of which he needed to receive. If they had nothing he deemed important to say, he’d send them away hastily, almost foully. I need to think, I need to prepare myself, he’d tell them, Go find something else to do for now!  Understandably, he was erratic and impulsive – he was about to echo wedding vows to a woman he’d never met before in his entire 47 years. The bridegroom’s father and the parents of his soon-to-be-wife had met a few times beforehand, and had spoken even more frequently to each other than the couple who were about to be married.

It was an old tradition that both families kept; if a man’s daughter reached a certain age and had not found a husband to marry, the father of the unmarried woman would find a husband for his daughter to marry, regardless of whether she desired the chosen man or not. It was a custom that went back several generations.

*

“It’s stupid,” said the woman, exhaling smoke from her nostrils. A stern look daubed her face as she glared into the mirror before her. With both hands, the woman slicked back the few unfettered strands of hair on either side of her head. A Marlboro Gold burned between her lips. A young lady was crouched at her waist, tugging at any pleats or minor creases on the woman’s wedding gown, and scrupulously checking for any visible imperfections. Eyes and hands still trained on the wedding gown, she said to the woman, “I think it’s a beautiful thing to get married, regardless of how it comes together and happens. The ceremony, the vows, the celebrations the—”
“Are all meaningless,” the woman then interjected nonchalantly, though with evident undertones of conviction and antipathy. The young lady paused and sighed. The woman continued:

“The vows are nothing but hollow promises spurted in the moment. I’ll literally be repeating what the vicar says without an iota of passion or real meaning. I don’t know the guy [She drew in one last pull of her Marlboro Gold deep into her lungs before crushing its remains into the gravid ashtray behind her, then she looked back into the mirror]. It’s all an act for my parents. They want this, not me. All I know about him is that he dropped out of med-school after two years and decided to chase his seemingly unsuccessful career as a musician slash comedian, he’s in his late forties, and he has a wealthy father who has four wives. That’s it. Technically zilch. Nothing of importance, nothing that’ll make me mean it when I say I’ll love him in sickness and in health and all that shit.”

The young lady stood up and placed her hands on the woman’s left shoulder and gave her a half smile as if to say, ‘I understand what you mean, I really do, but…’.
She said to the woman, “I understand what you mean. It’s all true, but what’s also equally and unequivocally true is his side of the coin, too, right? His wealthy father… well, essentially bought him his wife, in an indirect sense, of course, but you know. He doesn’t know you either. This is also an unexplored landscape for him. I know the difference is he was looking for someone to marry and you weren’t, but what’s done is done now, and the only way you can make it work, is to make it work! Together. That’s the only way it’ll be bearable. Don’t let this crumble before you’ve even started building it. You never know, you could learn to like him at least, if not love him. Think of him as a friend. A very close friend whom you must live with and share your entire life with. But once you get a little comfortable with each other, you can begin to draw the lines. You know, set rules and make things clear and stuff. He knows just as much as you do that, from your part, at least, this is all an act for your parents.”

The woman’s eyes didn’t avert from the young lady’s eyes not for a millisecond. The words which emerged from the young lady seemed to penetrate right into a receptive canyon of the woman’s soul, and perhaps left an impression.

“Look, Elaine”, the young lady concluded, “I cannot imagine how it must feel. And I guess I kind of envy you for that. But please, please. Try. You’re 42 now. Tradition is tradition at the end of the day. We are all equally, though unjustly constrained and chastened by it.”

The young lady was barren, and, by the ruling of her country’s tradition, was not allowed to get married.

Thank you for reading. With this piece I was focusing mainly on narrative, and so have left character and scenery descriptions to an absolute minimum. Feedback and criticisms are very much welcome!!

P.s – I sincerely apologise for not following up ‘Washed Up on Love’ with the part two I initially promised my readers, but I will be working on plenty new material when I get some time! (or discipline myself to make time. Yes. Make time).

Don’t Explain

“Elevator music?”
“Jazz,” I say. “Bossa nova is more typically considered elevator music.”
“Same thing.”

I clamp my eyes shut tight and cup my throbbing forehead with one hand. Every morning, and I mean every morning, I start the day some jazz. Of recent, it’s always been either a Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, or Miles Davis record. Within the first few moments of my waking, I’ll reach over to my bedside table, place down the pin on one of my vinyls, and sit without a word for a few minutes before actively commencing my day. It’s a method I use to ease myself into the new day. For me, it’s almost like a bridge I cross each morning from a dreamy state to consciousness.

She’s sat on my bed with her back against the wall and her knees to her chest. I peer with one eye to the clock on the wall which reads a little before 9a.m. A glimmer of sunlight struggles its way through the slight parting of the curtains, and clings onto the carpet and the wall crosswise from the window.

She lets out an exaggerated sigh, lighting a cigarette.
“You want something to eat?”
“What do you have?”
“I don’t know. Eggs, toast, waffles, cereal, oats.” She says nothing to these suggestions.
“There’s also sweet potato. That’s what I’m havin’.” I tell her, looking to her.
She exhales before saying, “How about I prepare us some french toast and you make us sweet potatoes? Done. You’ve got coffee, right?”
“Sweet potato, french toast and coffee. That’s a bit of a weird breakfast compilation, don’t you think?”
“So? Most recipes are somewhat strange in their own way, if you reeaally think about it. Even just common cereal is weird.”

She pauses briefly and blows smoke towards the ceiling. “Think about it. You add cow’s milk to it. Like, who even said it was okay to drink cow’s milk in the first place? Surely it’s meant for calves, not humans. Yet we take it with almost everything. That’s strange, no? Why don’t we drink horse’s milk. Or, say, elephant’s milk.”

She had a point. I’d never thought about it in anywhere close to that much depth before. I let another 5 or so minutes pass before actually getting up to go to the kitchen.

She strolls into the kitchen with nothing on but underwear and one of my T-shirts. She passes a transient comment about the shirt as she ties her hair up into a no-less-than-sleek ponytail. I’m leant up against the counter with a chilled glass of water by my side while the sweet potatoes boil on mellow heat.

She walks up to me and presses her lips against mine, then stares unwaveringly into my eyes, arms slung loosely around my neck.
“Have a cigarette for now. You’ll be fine once something settles in your belly.”

Without a word, I do as she says. She always knows when something’s on my mind. In the same kind of manner a clairvoyant reads palms, she gazes intently into the very back of my idle eyes. And she reads. What she reads, I don’t know. I’ve never known and it’s likely that I never will.

But the simple fact she can tell gives me some degree of comfort.

 

Mind Of Darkness (Dialogues)

“What is this?” Zoe says with her eyes closed, laid flat on her back.

“Cortex. Mind of Darkness.” Tia responds. “What, you don’t like it?”

No response from Zoe. Tia stops the song, puts on an album by The Strokes, and returns to the Tia on the other side of the mirror who scrupulously applies a thick, black circle of eyeliner around her eyes.

“I’m gonna need some light. You mind opening the curtain a little?”
Zoe sluggishly raises her torso and draws the peacock-blue curtains, then lets out an extensive sigh.
“You better get up now anyway,” Tia continues. “Rakim is almost here.”

Zoe grunts, then says, “Do you have any cigarettes left? And water. Is there any water in here?”

“On the desk.”

The bedroom they’re in is humid and untidy. The unmade bed remains buried in one corner while a pool of garments lay expressionless on the floor. Wardrobe doors flung open. Hollow crisp packets posing languidly beside a gravid ashtray.

Bar a light-green pair of underwear, Zoe is completely naked. She hangs her slender forearms outside the window while toking on her cigarette. Peering down at her small breasts, she contemplates their very slight difference in size (or shape – she’s unsure which).

“It’s pretty hot today.” Zoe says in a vaguely more enthused tone. “What shoes are you going to wear?”

“Probably just my black ‘n’ white Converse,” Tia says. Zoe assesses the rest of Tia’s outfit – a loose, khaki blouse and cream shorts.

Twenty minutes or so later, Rakim pulls up outside and the girls get inside his car.

“Could we get breakfast first before we go?” Zoe says from the backseat.

“Is she hungover?” Rakim says to Tia in jest. Tia laughs, nodding her head.

A steady breeze brushes across the three’s faces as the car cruises down the main road. Once they reach a red light, the three glare vacantly at the transient happenings in front of them. An oldish man walks a Jack Russell Terrier and gnaws at a cereal bar. A bored-looking teen scrolls through his mobile at the bus stop. An older woman beside him plucks at the lint on her navy skirt.

“Zo’, do you have enough leg room? I’m gonna pull my seat back.” says Tia.

“Go ahead.”

Zoe sinks deeper into her seat and groans silently.

“Where d’you wanna go?” Rakim asks. The girls agree on McDonald’s.

“The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast,” Rakim says with a smile, quoting Pulp Fiction with his eyes fixed on the road before him. “What did you guys get up to last night anyway, and how come I wasn’t I invited?”

“Zo’ was a little upset,” Tia begins. “So I told her to come ’round for the night. And of course, being Zoe, she turns up with just the clothes on her back, a crate of beer and cigarettes.”

Rakim lets out a small laugh. “I see. Everything all good now though, Zo’?”

“No.” replies Zoe. Her head tilted back, she feels for the packet of cigarettes beside her.

“She’s fine. She was just a little upset about her ex.”

“Are you crazy?” Zoe interjects nonchalantly.

“Ohhhhh, so that’s the problem,” Rakim says teasingly. “I saw that photo she uploaded last night. She was all over that dude.” he continues, peeking at Zoe through the rear-view mirror. Tia giggles.

“No, no.” Zoe mutters, lighting the cigarette between her lips. “It had nothing to do with that.”

Tia says, “Right, sure, we believe you, Zo’. But really, do you actually think she’s into that guy?”

“His name’s Ryan, and who the hell cares if she is?” Zoe says almost under her breath.

“Evidently you do.” Rakim adds. “I thought she was pure dyke.”
Hmm, me too, Tia says.

“I know, right. What a crazy bitch – boys are lousy. No good.” Zoe says, looking at Rakim.

Once Tia and Zoe order their breakfast from the drive-thru, Rakim edges the aux-cable towards Tia. She puts on Mind of Darkness by Cortex.

Dabbing her mouth with a serviette, Zoe says, “Not this trash again.”

The sun beams down while birds glide coolly across the canvas of blue sky overhead. Zoe confesses to the two that she’s feeling significantly better already. She looks up at the few clouds without a word for a while as Tia and Rakim discuss punk-rock albums.

“Say, Rakim, do you mind putting the roof back up?” Zoe says eventually.

“What’s the use in having a convertible if I’m going to have the roof up on nice days like this, Zoe?” Rakim responds, pushing the button which summons the roof back up.