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.

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Freedom (Summer ’98) II

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

**

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom (Summer ’98)

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet, Sweet November (The lady on stage)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love In The Purple Forest (This side)

I’m floating.
.
.
.

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

I’m floating.

Sinking, actually.

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

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

*

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

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

A hand?

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

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

This side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like some fruit?

 

 

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

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).