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/

*
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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.

 

 

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.

When Your Lover Has Gone

 

My uncle is a wise man. Forty-two years of age this Autumn. He graduated from the Imperial College London university in 1988 where he had studied civil engineering for seven years. In the same year he received his master’s degree, he found work as a structural engineer for a top firm (partially due to ample prior experience as a trainee and then an intermediate engineer). He excelled in whichever position he reached, and was generally liked and looked up to throughout the board for his commitment, ideas and adeptness.

He got married also in the same year, and moved to Brighton with his wife a few months after the wedding. Before they were married together, my uncle and his wife had only known each other for six months. Everything was so abrupt but he didn’t mind. That’s the way he liked to do things, that’s the way he maneuvered through life; quickly, quietly and without too much thought or planning involved (though also with an incredible measure of efficiency).

He and his wife found a nice little home and set out to begin their life by the coast. To my uncle, it only made sense for him to alter his profession slightly to coastal and geo-technical engineering as he had decent experience in both sub-disciplines. Unsurprisingly, he flourished in these roles. He had an unmistakable knack for whatever he put his hand to. It was a product of discipline and hard work just as much as it was product of some natural flair he seemed to emerge from the womb with.

By 1996, my uncle became a senior engineer, and in the following two years, a specialist. He made a lot of money, more than he and his wife even knew what to do with. They didn’t have kids; she didn’t want to at the time. Fortunately, he wasn’t so keen on having children either. It’s not something he ever looked forward to (til this day, he still has none). My uncle hated living in Brighton, he missed London dearly. Though, his wife had made it clear before they were married that she wanted to stay in Brighton near her parents until they died.

*

Since he retired his engineering work in 2001, my uncle has been for three years the owner of a ritzy restaurant in Central London. Fair-sized and specialising in seafood, the restaurant is managed day-to-day by a close friend of his, whom he met whilst in Brighton. Living by the coast for twelve years seemed to have fueled an affinity for seafood in him. And even though he wasn’t involved practically with the restaurant, he had become a kind of expert on all types of edible fish during his time in Brighton, and learnt variant ways of preparing seafood gourmet.

My uncle and the woman he had married got divorced in 2000 when she admitted to him that she was having an affair with her ex-fiancé. She’d claimed to have lost feelings for her ex-fiancé, and that she was no longer in contact with him. Naturally, the news completely tore my uncle apart. He had had an idea that she may have been sneaking around; seeing someone here, another person there – for something casual, maybe a couple of drinks with a pinch of coquetting every so often (it’s what married couples often did for whatever reason, at least he thought). But that did not seem to be the case in this particular instance. He was devastated. My uncle truly loved her to whatever extent he knew how to. He really envisioned spending the rest of his life with her. They made plans together to move to the south of France once her parents had passed away. I never met the ex-wife, and he rarely spoke of her. In fact, he only ever brought her up once when I asked him if he’d ever want kids of his own.

*

My uncle is a loving and honest man. He loves to paint, though he never thought himself to be any good at it. He is, however, exceptionally deft with words, and equally good with women. On average, he brings four different women home every three-or-so months – always in their 20s – and sleeps with each one for weeks at a go before repeating the cycle all over with a new batch of women. Though at times the women desired so, my uncle never pursued committing to a real relationship with any of them. He no longer trusted women. It was unfortunate, he said, that one bad experience had changed his entire outlook on women. But what am I to do – leave myself vulnerable to hurt again?

His experience with his ex-wife etched an everlasting grey area in his mind which he felt no woman could ever purge. Some menacing pool of apprehension and gloom that taunts him, piercing his conscious whenever he dared forgetting his wife and that whole episode of his life.

He never used to, but after the divorce my uncle began to drink a lot. On most weekends, he and some old colleagues meet up at some bar and the boys go wild. Occasionally, though, he stays in and quietly spends the evening with a chilled bottle of whiskey while some 60’s jazz capers in the background as he laps a random car mag.

All in all, my uncle isn’t a terrible man. Just a simple, humble, hardworking soul submersing himself in the many mysteries and adventures and scenarios and turns which life presents. Taking life one day at a time, he is just another man with his own set of flaws and struggles.

 

 

Thank you for reading. With this piece, I was focusing on character building, and also simply practising pulling words together for the joy of it. No promises, but I may write up a second part to this which expands on who the nephew/niece is.
Criticisms and feedback are much appreciated!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon Shine

‘Much like the distant glow of the moon, her brilliance was the type you could never tire from gawking at, no matter how many times your eyes chanced contemplation of her beauty.

Much like the variant faces and shapes of the moon, she was miscellaneous, and evinced an alluring abstruseness. She reminded me of an abstract art piece in a gallery, emanating a diversity of impressions and sensations – all beguiling in their own way. 

Much like the far-flung moonshine, her soul was remote. She was flamboyant. Elusive. Untamed. One of a kind.’

*

She’s read it through probably three or four times now. I say nothing the whole while, just taking a sip here ‘n’ there of the red wine in my hand.

It’s an early-Autumn afternoon. Lectures hadn’t finished too late today, and so we’d decided on today to visit this moderately chic ambiance restaurant and bar in Central/West London.

“What do you think?”

To be quite frank, I care more that she’d read it than what she actually thinks about it. I feel somewhat satisfied knowing that, some of what clogged my mind for so long and so tenaciously has finally found its expression and its way into her own mind. Regardless of the impression it has left, it is now there. Irreversibly.

I write, I told her. And she asked me for a sample of my writing. And so that’s what I gave to her. She has no idea, though, (I think, at least) that this piece is something I wrote about her. For a moment this makes me feel a very strange but specific facet of guilt, and heaps of desperation (though the feeling shortly subsides). But what is one supposed to do? Fill himself to the brim with all these thoughts and imagery ’til he is consumed by a chaotic overflow of keenness and emotion, of which could potentially result in a disastrous outcome?

“It’s good,” she begins. Folding the crumpled sheet of paper, she gives the restaurant a brisk once over. It’s notably busy in here considering it only being midweek.

A voluble troop of 6 or so other students gather themselves around some stools at the bar, chortling away over beers. A couple sit languidly a few seats away. Two almost-empty glasses rest by them as they glare one another in the eye, presumably wandering deep in the confines of delicate conversation.

And across the room from them is us. Her and I. Cana and myself.

“You think so?” I say to her.
“Absolutely,” she says with a sly increase of elation. “The diction is nice, and it’s expressive.” Cana hands me the piece of paper after giving it one final peek.

“So you really like it?” She nods convincingly and downs the remaining contents of her glass of red wine. After doing so, she hails one of the waiters for another glass.

*

We’ve known each other for just a little over 6 months now. I first saw Cana in a lecture. I would see her all the time but she never – and I mean not once – noticed me. Until one day a few weeks into the term, I caught her by herself and decided I’d find no better opportunity to strike up a conversation than there and then.

So I did. I asked her a question. I can’t remember what exactly, but it was dumb one, no doubt. Nevertheless, it got the ball rolling. It rolled very, very slowly indeed, but what mattered was the simple fact that it was in some kind of motion. Eventually, it rolled far enough for me to get a friendly date out of it.

And here we are today.

*

Tucking away the piece of paper into the chest pocket of my grey polo, I thank her. She looks blankly into the empty space between her and myself for some seconds without a word, then asks,
“Who is it about, like, what was your inspiration for the piece?”

You, Cana, I wrote this about you… These are the images and stanzas that come to mind when I think about you. Of course, though, I don’t say this. I instead lie.

“The moon. I couldn’t sleep one night, so I drew open my curtains and simply stared at the moon for some time. Then I had a dream, too. The same night.”

Cana peers attentively at me without a word.
“So I brought out my pen and pad the next morning, and before I knew it, my hand began to waltz all over the paper.”

“How cliché,” she says in jest. “What was the dream? You saw this… she you’re talking about in it? Or?”

With my mouth slightly agape, I watch her eye contact trail away from me and latch onto the approaching waiter, who comes with another tall glass of red wine.

 

Fisherman In Grey (Part II)

“I caught the gaze of her grey-blue eyes. Gentle eyes. The type that possess a subtle but alluring glow.”

She is studying contemporary art at a private school for individuals aged 18 and above. The course offers no valid qualifications but one is to receive greatly efficient and favourable insight from it, resulting in a very handsome CV for one looking to enter the industry of contemporary art.

*

She hands me a spare towel and toothbrush. I thank her.
“I’m making apple, tomato and cheddar tartines for breakfast. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.” I say half smiling.
“Good. How do you like your coffee?”
“Black, mild, with two sugars.”
“Coming right up, sir.” she says in jest. She then shows me the way to the bathroom, and then how to operate the shower.

Once inside, I do a good job of cleaning myself. At a point, I just stand in there for some time while the steaming water sprays over me. I think of the night before. The soft feel of her skin. Her adept and elegant movements. The tender groans which broke from her exquisite lips. Merely thinking about it sends fervorous surges throughout my body.

On the Thursday we met, we exchanged numbers once we realised that we live not so far from each other. I gave her a call on the following Tuesday, and we met up for a bite to eat that evening when I’d finished work.

We got to know each other in more detail: she told me her mother was originally from England. She moved to Germany at 19 to marry her husband once he proposed to her just months after they met. Two and a half years later, they had a daughter and called her Amber. Amber grew up in Rostock with both her parents.
Her father worked at the docks. He never went to university or even finished school; he just went straight into work at 16. He started off solely helping with maintenance of the ships and equipment, and loading the vessels, but he eventually went on to designing and building ships and other structures once he’d gained the practical familiarity.

He is a keen observer, and whatever he sets his mind to, he does it with an admirable efficiency. He’s strong-willed and assertive. His initiative and practicality are his sharpest, most favourable assets. Though, he is also a great family man. He loves the two women in his life more than anything, and wouldn’t hesitate to try provide for their security and every need.

Amber’s mother, who understood very basic German at the time she moved to Rostock, managed to scrape part-time but regular work as a translator of children’s books from German to English, and vice versa. She spent four days a week home-schooling Amber, who hated the idea of school from the moment she set foot there.

I don’t know what it was. I wasn’t especially attached to my parents or anything, and there was nothing wrong with me as far as I know, but I just hated school. I hated the idea of cramming children who had all types of differences and characters into a classroom and forcing them to get along. It just never made sense to me. It frightened me, she said. I preferred to be alone with some pencil crayons and a canvas. Amber’s mother had no idea what to do about this, so she decided to start home-schooling her until a better idea came to mind. Amber’s mother also taught her to speak, read and write in English.

When Amber reached secondary-school age, though, she decided to give school another chance.
I found it strange at first. I mean, of course; I hardly came into interaction with other kids my age, especially so frequently and for so long at a go. But by the second year, I was totally used to it. I didn’t find it hard to make friends. People liked me. I wasn’t popular or anything, no, but when people came to me, they generally never had a problem with me. Nor I with them. I wasn’t the weirdo kid or anything.

She told me how her art teachers recognised her exceptional knack for the subject, and suggested that she maybe ought to pursue a profession within art. The idea didn’t evoke any displeasure in Amber, but she realised how competitive a sector it was, and how challenging it would be to stand out from every other “exceptionally talented art student”. So, she decided to set herself apart from other aspiring artists in her town by leaving Rostock and coming to England for a year to study in a private school.

And now here we are.

Fisherman In Grey (Part I)

I wake up the next morning a little passed eight. The ambience of the room is strangely languid. I’m alone in these unfamiliar sheets, in this unfamiliar room. A modicum of sunlight seeps in through the very slightly parted curtains. I peel the covers off of myself and sit up cross-legged in the bed, trying to listen out for any activity. I can’t hear much. 

I reach for my phone, realise it’s out of battery, and so place it back on the bedside drawer. At a loss for anything to do, I simply lay back down and wait. A faint, weird mix of cheese and coffee wafts into the bedroom from the door.

She comes into the room a few moments later, gingerly opening the door.
“Oh, good. You’re awake,” she says with a smile. I sit up and smile, too. Her hair is tied up for the first time since I’d met her, and I notice her ears are very discreetly on the big side. Very discreetly. 

 *

I met her not two weeks ago. Given the pleasure of having Thursdays off, I try to make a habit of visiting different places or going somewhere I don’t go too often; new restaurants, the movies, art galleries, a relative’s – those kind of things. Sometimes I catch the train to nearby towns and get lost sight-seeing. Occasionally, I borrow my cousin’s car and go to the countryside. I simply sit in the car listening to psychedelic rock albums, and smoke while staring out at the field and the far-flung mountains. Just thinking.

This particular Thursday I happened to go to an art gallery. That’s where I first spotted her. She wore white trainers, loose, vintage Mom Jeans, a white crop-top beneath a maroon bomber jacket, and her left hand clasped a plain baseball cap. She stood out amidst everyone else who seemed to be dressed in smart-casual attire. She looked cool, at least I thought so. 

When I saw her, she was staring intently at an acrylic painting in one remote corner. The painting was of an oldish man (maybe early 50s). It must have been a portrait. The painting captured the man’s top half as he gazed expressionlessly at the painter. A full head of black hair sat atop his head with streaks of white in it which marked his aging. He wore a grey smart shirt with the sleeves rolled up and two or three buttons undone. His hairy arms drooped lazily into his lap. A brown wall for the background. And that’s it. She stood there for a considerable amount of time just gawking at it, motionlessly. 

I approached her, and stared into the painting also. It took no more than 30 seconds to scan all the details of the painting satisfyingly enough to move on. But she remained there with her arms hanging beside her and her eyes glued. An unchanging posture. Maybe she could see something I couldn’t. The painting was ‘of Gillis Alfons‘ by ‘French painter, L. Borde.‘ Strangely, the piece didn’t have a name, Perhaps it was never given one. 

“Visser in Grijs,” she said, suddenly. Randomly. I turned my head instantly towards her.
“Sorry?” the only response my mind could reason to give after not having understood the meaning of what she’d said.
“The painting – it’s called Visser in Grijs.” Apparently I’d wondered out loud. Now that I think about it, how often do I wonder aloud like that? A somewhat worrying thought.

I caught the gaze of her grey-blue eyes. Gentle eyes. The type that possess a subtle but alluring glow. My lips remained slightly parted for some five seconds before I said,
“Oh? Is that so? Interesting,” not knowing what else to say.
“It’s Dutch for Fisherman in grey.”
“Really? How d’you know that?” I asked. “I mean, like, it’s not labelled with a title like all the other pieces in here.”

She told me she had seen the painting before when she was doing a case study on L. Borde. No wonder you seem so infatuated by it, I said to her. We talked briefly more about artists and various paintings. She then told me how she’d come from Germany a few months ago, and was studying in London for a year before moving back to Germany. Once she said this, her subtle German accent became a little more noticeable.

*

She is studying contemporary art at a private school for individuals aged 18 and above. The course offers no valid qualifications but one is to receive greatly efficient and useful insight from it, resulting in a very handsome CV for one looking to enter the industry of contemporary art.