Tide (Babylon will always fall)

African-style bossa nova played from a sound system near the back of the pub. I keenly listened as I gave the room a good look. It was filled with men, young and old, merrily conversing with one another as they guzzled their pints. The pub was simple in decor. A few canvases lay hung on the walls, paintings of European landscapes, oil paintings of animals native to Africa, and one of Nelson Mandela hung high on the wall behind the counter. There was a pool table which six men gathered around. Small bands of men all ’round the pub under dim lighting, drinking to their heart’s content, I was the only one who happened to be alone.

The young men talked about leaving Cape Town, about women, politics. Furiously they spoke of the Purple Rain Protest which had occurred a week prior to the day I visited the pub. Thousands upon thousands of anti-Apartheid protesters joined in unison, setting out to march on South Africa’s parliament. The endeavour was short-lived and largely unsuccessful as South African police forces took immediate action, and hosed down masses of the protesters with a water cannon dyed purple. The police were relentless and at times needlessly aggressive. 52 journalists were arrested as well as the hundreds of protesters.

The old men, too, grunted over politics and the country’s state. Then they talked about the old days. And spoke of their wives and children, and how nice it was to get away from them for a few hours.

 

The barman approached me.
“Evening, sir. What can I get you?”
“One bottle of Budweiser, thanks,” I replied to him with a narrow smile.

The barman was of old age. He was a tall, hefty man with a large round stomach. Layers of lines and heavy bags hung beneath his big eyes, these same lines and wrinkles impressed across the rest of his face. He was in his late 70s perhaps, but he looked strong and active. He kept his face shaven clean, there was only grey stubble under his chin.

Once he set my drink down in front of me, I thanked him and took three huge gulps, then let out a long and loud sigh of pleasure.
“Never seen you around here before,” the barman suddenly said to me as he dried off a pint glass with a cloth. He raised his red eyes and looked me in mine after he said this.
With my glass in my hand, I replied,
“That’s because I’ve never been here before. I live locally, about seven or eight blocks down that way. Around my area there’s a bar I typically go to. But tonight, I went out of my way to find a new spot to drink.”

The barman nodded twice with his eyes on the pint glasses he was drying. I took a sip.
After 30 seconds or so, the barman asked me,
“So what do you think of the joint so far?”
“It’s decent. Has everything a pub requires, it has a nice communal air to it. The building is well looked after. And the people seem to be enjoying themselves.” I said this and enjoyed another gulp.

The barman nodded a few times again as he did before.
“Yes, the men really enjoy themselves. Especially the young ones. The old ones come mainly to get away from their troublesome spouses and because they have nothing better to do at their age except drink, chat and play cards. Most of them, say 90 percent, have been coming here religiously for over a decade. A few times a week,” he said in his dull, raspy voice.

The barman then gathered another batch of wet pint glasses which he’d washed, and continued his drying process. Randomly, he let out a small laugh.
“The young men, they are the entertaining ones. They talk about politics and women they’ve slept with or are trying to sleep with. A lot of the time, they have discussions, which turn to debates, which in turn become arguments. Occasionally, these arguments turn to fist brawls. That’s when I have to step in. Me, in my old age, can’t fight off these young men. So I simply threaten to stop serving drinks, and all the old men who want to continue drinking ward them off with shouts and aggression.
“The thing is, they get very passionate in these debates. Too passionate, I might say. All sides are trying to make their point clear, all at the same time. It’s fine if you’re out drinking and just debating, but there is a handful of them who want to be politicians, and they even have the potential. But what they lack is the ability to listen to others, and take on their point of view. And to execute their own argument with simplicity, comprehensiveness and gentleness.”

Looking over at a group of young men around a table, I think over his words.
“South Africa needs educated, fearless young men with a plan. Protesting is a voice, but entering the political arena, that, is their hands and feet. Working from the inside and deconstructing the oppressive system,” I throw out.
“Yes, but you see, for a young coloured man to get into politics takes hard work and something special. You have to convince them you’re not just another black democrat with half-baked ideas. They hate democrats and pay little to no mind for the coloured. You have to be geared. To push them into a corner. You have to show them you’re somebody.
“What needs to happen, I believe, is coloured people need to establish and support Black and Brown owned businesses. Coloured people need to build themselves financially and economically first before we think of challenging the political arena. We need to pull together and circulate our money around ourselves, rather than spending the little we have making the Whites richer. You see, economic and financial relevance gives you a political voice. Money talks. The Whites can’t ignore money. That’s why they came here and stole everything we owned. All the gold, diamonds. They can’t help it.”

The barman stopped here and took some orders.  I noticed for the first time he kept an eye contact with me for some considerable amount of time. I, too ordered another Budweiser. The barman placed my chilled drink in front of me, and then I said,

“So we build ourselves, which subsequently deconstructs, or at least changes the financial flow, giving us power and taking it away from them. How do you get a message like that out to coloured folk? And would they adhere?”

“That’s a good question,” he said. “I pray to God it happens someway, somehow, because… As long as we don’t have a real democratic government, a government whose concern of the people, all the people, is at the forefront of their decision making and actions, then there will be no future for South Africa. For Blacks, Asians, all of us. Only the Whites will have security and thrive in this land. And eventually, they’ll be swallowed up by their own greed. Babylon always falls. Always.”

 

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/

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.

 

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…

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).

“Washed Up On Love”

“You’ve barely touched your plate,” he says, dabbing the corners of his mouth with a napkin. “What’s wrong, it doesn’t taste right?”
“No, it’s nothing.” She prods the steamed salmon with her fork, though doesn’t proceed to actually taking in a mouthful.

“So? What’s the problem, you’re not hungry?”
She lets her fork fall out of her hand onto the plate with a startling clang, then places both her elbows on the table. “Not really, I’m not in the mood to eat right now. That’s all.”

With a slight contortion of the face, he says, “You couldn’t have come to that realisation before we got dressed and came to a restaurant? Or even, say, just before you ordered a 3-course meal?” She averts her gaze and shrugs insouciantly

***

“Fabulous. Thank you, dear. You take care now, Lucile,” the old lady says as she carefully hoists her sack of clothes onto her bony shoulders.
She gives a dainty smile before saying, “And you, Mrs Burton,” then watches the old lady sluggishly exit the laundrette. To the left of the counter is a small pile of clothes, of which Lucile resumes folding away neatly.

It’s early Spring. The Belle Laverie laundremat has been open for some hours, though is still relatively quiet – even on a peaceful Saturday afternoon such as this. Lucile picks up on this fact as her eyes pan around the interior of the laundromat. 4 customers (3 women and 1 man) sit patiently as their clothes wash or dry. One woman glares meticulously into some gossip magazine while her daughter presses her face gently against the glass door of a washing machine, watching the laundry turn and tumble. Lucile smiles amiably a little then hums some chords from Dorothy Ashby’s Essence of Sapphire.

Lucile’s attention is then stolen by the chiming of the bell on the door. Mr Sitei, another frequent customer she’d built a rapport with, enters in with a smile as he removes his moss-green newsboy cap. With his left hand, he wipes a thin layer of sweat from the small space between his nostrils and top lip, while his other hand removes his thick glasses from his face and places them atop his head.

He offers a greeting in his heavy Kenyan accent. Lucile retorts pleasantly and then reaches to the rack of clothes behind her for Mr Sitei’s now dried and ironed garments. He thanks her and bids her a farewell.

Not 5 minutes later, the bell chimes at the door’s opening again. This time, though, an unfamiliar face makes its way to the counter. With her hands still vigilantly folding the clothes before her, Lucile peers up to the young man who enters empty-handed. Slowly, he approaches the counter without a word. He prods his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, and stares up at the paintings lined up orderly against the wall adjacent to the washing machines and tumble driers.

“Afternoon,” she begins. “Could I help you with anything today, sir?”
The young man looks to her and says, “Hi. Yeah, my name’s Vince, I came here to colle–”
“Oh, right,” she interjects loosely. “You’re here for Lorraine’s batch, right?”
The young man looks at her and his facial expression changes to something between a smile and confusion.
“That’s right,” he responds with a nod. She tells him to give her a second. When she returns with a fairly hefty bag of clothing, he narrows his eyes looking at her. Acutely startled, she gives him a look as if to say, ‘Is something wrong?’

A question brews at the tip of his tongue, though nothing emerges from his mouth. Lucile hands him the bag and he thanks her.
“Send my greetings to Lorraine.” she says to him with her benign signature smile, which he realises tastefully reshapes her face. Will do, he nods.

Before he exits, the young man turns back and gawks at Lucile inquisitively once more. She notices him – feels him, staring, but chooses to train her focus simply on folding. The young man called Vince observes her refined, adept movements. Each article of clothing receiving its own special form of regard and careful handling. She takes her time, purposefully making sure everything is perfect without blemish or crease.

“You’re Lucile Belle, right?” the young man eventually utters. She looks at him wordlessly for some moments with her mouth very subtly agape. Her mien then slyly morphs back to her gentle expression.

“That’s right,” she tells him. “That’s me.”
“I thought so,” he says in a notably elevated tone. “Charlton Park, at WOMAD last summer, right?”
The smile on her face stretches even further across her face. “You were phenomenal, honestly. I’d never seen anything like it.”
She lowers her head sheepishly then raises it back up to him, saying, “Thank you. That’s so kind of you. The fact that you remember, too.”
“How could I forget?” the young man says, switching the bag of laundry from his left hand to his right. “It was such an entrancing set. When I heard a harpist was performing in the Siam tent, I just couldn’t miss it. I had to see.”
“So you’re a fan of the harp?”
“Very much so. I listen to a lot of Dorothy Ashby, Jean-Baptiste, a little Valérie Milot, and [pointing to a painting of Carlos Salzedo on the wall where the other wall paintings rested] that guy.” The young man says this feeling a little proud of himself for noticing the painting, and recognising who its of. She tells him she’s impressed.

“It’s such an elegant instrument,” he continues, and peering to the side very slightly, the young man says thoughtfully, “The skill it must take to wield a 47-string instrument, too.”
“It took me years to learn how to play. And I’m glad I did. I play guitar, I play violin, and also, as you know, I sing. In all these different musical disciplines, you get a different sensation – a different dynamic of feeling from each. It’s beyond just them sounding different, they each take me to a different place, even if I play the same chords.” The young man called Vince nods slowly, gently.
“Each instrument speaks its own language, and you learn to understand and appreciate the complexity, the uniqueness of each voice when you use a variety, you know?”

Lucile pauses and notices her gesturing hands floating in front of her. The young man named Vince doesn’t immediately grasp exactly what she is trying to convey, but finds himself strangely fond of how passionate she is about what she was saying. That alone was enough to keep him engaged.

Lowering her hands, she brushes an idle strand of hair behind her ear. She occupies her hands with a new pile of clothes.

 

*

Thanks for reading this. I appreciate criticisms and feedback.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – THIS ENTIRE PIECE IS INSPIRED BY A SONG CALLED ‘WASHED UP ON LOVE’ BY A HARPIST, SINGER AND SONGWRITER NAMED LUCINDA BELLE. SHE IS AMAZING. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE CHECK HER OUT (I’LL LEAVE A LINK AT THE END). THIS’LL MAKE MORE SENSE IF YOU LISTEN TO IT. THANK YOU AGAIN.