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.

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.