tutti fruttttti

Dialogue 6 — Khotin

It’s probably too late to call. I put the receiver back in its cradle. From the next room the TV light flickers, I get up and the chair creaks. The baby starts to cry but I can’t face dealing with it.

I walk back into the room with the television. There are thin dotted lines blurring the screen, fuzzy colours reflect on the shiny mahogany floor. A female news reporter with a large bob mouths silent words, a headline ticks across the screen, another recycling accident happened today.

Jane is sat at the back in one of the seats the visitors usually take, her lumpy body melting into the hard plastic like yoghurt on a spoon. She’s got the remote and is pressing it against her top lip. I can’t see in this light but it looks like she’s licking the buttons. I want to check if any of the fluff and gunk that coats the rubber has got into her teeth but I don’t. The baby is still crying.

sunshine splatterstream moonrock brokengreen.

There’s a tap at the window. A crow is on the other side waving at me, smiling, his teeth are round and yellow. I raise my hand back and return his wave. He looks at me with tiny black eyes and I realise he was waving at Jane. I put my hand down so I don’t look like an idiot.

The baby won’t stop crying.

c’est l’été

Fred Nicolas — C’est la Vie

It’s different when the sun is shining. Everything feels easier – unfinished tasks seem finished, looming deadlines are blown away, smiling takes less effort and laughter pours out of people like sweat. Plans for the evening unravel and evolve and expand and collapse, but who needs plans when it’s a London summer (city in the sunner). You can walk across Blackfriars bridge and even cyclists don’t seem like pricks. Cigarette smoke hangs in the air like a mist and the streets smell of beer – just avoid the central line.

There’s no point looking good if there’s no-one around to appreciate it; people don’t wear tuxedos to have breakfast above the kitchen sink. There’s no point to a summer evening if you’re going to spend it indoors. And that’s exactly what our lucky couple have planned. Not even just indoors, but actually underground, in the basement of a Japanese restaurant near Saint Pauls, a time warp complete with faux-geishas and wall hanging scriptures and china saké cups and tiny booths to mask yakuza deals. Bowls of broth are carried on wicker trays and chopsticks arrive pre-split, halogen bulbs are masked behind crinkled paper sheathes.

She’s wearing a floral playsuit (navy burgundy pink violet blue) and the flowers make her breasts look full. He’s wearing a racing green shirt with a button down collar and chinos with cuffs rolled up like sleeves. They’ve both spent some time adding volume to their hair. He enters first and holds the door open for her – it’s glass framed in black metal with elliptical handles – to appear gentlemanly but mostly to avoid engaging with the maître d(‘hotel). A tiny Japanese woman hurries to a pine altar to take their name. The staircase swallows them whole.

Opposite the restaurant is a pub called The Viaduct Tavern. It’s an old fashioned pub with watercolours on the walls and unknown bitters on tap, in this heat the fat red lipstick doors have been pinned open and punters fill the mouth like teeth. A sweaty businessman in a thick suit struggles to weave through the crowd on the pavement and sends an empty pint glass flying into the road, a cyclist swerves to avoid it but the black cab is too late, glass crunches under rubber like treacle, thick shards splinter into the grooves of the tyre searching for a way to slit it open, the cabbie drives on oblivious and pint glass gravel rolls down the road. Gingerbreadcrumbs.

Distracted, I didn’t notice the chewing gum and stepped right in it. Brilliant.

vegas burgers

ShitKid — Oh Me I’m Never

They stopped to grab some burgers on their way to Vegas. The heatwaves rose off the car’s bonnet like steam, the yellow paint looked like it might melt and drip onto the tarmac. Joe unwrapped his burger, he did not notice the splat of mustard that dripped off the paper wrapping onto his jeans. He took a bite – the bread was firm on the outside and soft in the middle, the beef patties were thin with a grilled skin, the bacon was smooth and salty, the mustard and ketchup was sweet and sticky. He felt a sesame seed lodge in between his two front teeth.

As they walked across the parking lot Joe continued to eat his burger, and the mustard on his thigh was soon joined by a dribble of ketchup. Jean waited to eat hers. The thought of consuming greasy food in this heat made her throat feel even drier, and the warmth of the burger was oozing through its wrapping into her palm, making her skin clammy. She lost her appetite. She ran her free hand through her hair, dragging beads of sweat from her forehead with it, and when she put her arm back down she felt how wet her armpit was. They needed to get the car’s air conditioning fixed.

“Of all the places to stop at, why did we pick this fucking dive? I don’t even want this,” she stared at her burger, “all I wanted was a drink and some AC.”

Joe finished his burger and scrunched up the wrapper, rubbing it on his lips to wipe off the film of sauce and grease. He stuffed the used wrapper in his jeans pocket and took a sip of his coffee. Jean looked at him and exhaled over the back of her throat, making a disparaging noise. Joe carefully considered his words.

“I know. I’m so sweaty my shirt is now part of my skin.” It was true – the thin cotton was so damp it clung to his back. “Look – we’ve only got a few hours until we get there, and EVERYWHERE in Vegas has AC. And showers. And booze. Could you hold this for a second?” He held out the coffee he’d bought. Jean did not hold out a hand in return.

“I can’t believe you got a coffee.”

“Why? It’s what you are supposed to drink when it’s hot. It cools your body temperature down.”

They paused halfway across the parking lot as Jean took the cup. Joe reached into his pocket and took out the wrapper, walked across to a chipped green trashcan and threw it, the wrapper bounced off the rim onto the ground. He sighed, and as he bent down to pick it up, his damp shirt drooped and hugged him close, the wet fabric felt cold and uncomfortable on his back. He swallowed a gasp of discomfort, picked up the wrapper, reached out and placed it inside the mouth of the trash can.

One hundred and thirty two miles to go.

hiding in the dark

Sexual Harrassment — I Need A Freak

Your chin hurts and your palm is red, the hairs of your beard have pricked the skin and left tiny dimples. The window is so close that you can see the reflection of your pupils. Outside, children are playing in the street, hiding behind cars and chasing each other through the cracks in the bumpers, dusky light helping camouflage them. There is a small boy that the others are ignoring who is desperately pursuing them, but his age and size prevent him keeping up, and as they disappear behind the net curtain only the boy is left. He loses sight of them and kicks a tyre of a burnt orange Cadillac.

Your eye stares back. It’s dark now and there are no street lamps on this road. Your reflection has a solid outline and it’s like looking in a mirror. Turn off the lamp, both sides in darkness.

Gradually lights in the houses opposite flick off to on to off again. It’s almost eleven PM and most of the neighbourhood are in their beds now, but you are still stuck at the window sill. Your elbow is numb from resting on the hard wood and your teeth feel tight from the pressure on your jaw. Your lips are dry and your throat is blocked, a roof-of-the-mouth-cough clears it. There is nobody on the street, when your neighbour opens their porch to light a cigarette you hear the click of the lock and the tchk of the lighter and the dry puff of their smoke.

At twenty past eleven you hear her car turn at the end of the road, and seconds later you see the beams of her headlights as she turns into your street. She drives slowly, respectful of the peace she is disturbing, and you duck behind the wall before she turns into the driveway. The room you are standing in is briefly illuminated. A chair, a fireplace, a tall bookshelf and a short table –

She is quick to turn off the headlights. Her neighbours are asleep. You wait in the darkness and your eyes gradually readjust. The bulky shadow of a sofa is within arm’s reach, it is large enough to hide you when she opens the door. You crouch down behind it. If she turns on the headlights she is sure to see you there but she doesn’t and you begin to feel yourself merge into the darkness. She is still in the drivers’ seat, her head against the steering wheel, not moving. After a minute passes the interior light of the car blinks off and you can no longer see her, but you sense she has not moved.

More minutes pass. You cannot explain how you know but you know that she has not moved. The dark living room becomes to shrink in size, the tension in the air begins to tickle the hairs on your arms, the thud thud thud in your chest becomes louder until your lungs begin to feel smaller and all the while you just know that she isn’t moving from her spot. Your mouth is dry, you lick your lips and swallow and the sound cuts through the darkness. You are an unwanted stranger in this house, this street, this night.

Beach

Hatchie — Try

Every time Alex breathed in he could taste her. Her perfume had filled the room like a cloud, it was heady and potent and thick and clogged his throat and nostrils making it hard to inhale. She had stayed just five minutes but the scent was inescapable, he felt it prick his eyes and they began to water, roses and lilies and vanilla and citrus and freshly cut grass and cream and pollen and silk and white and blue and green flitted through his imagination.

He closed his eyes and a single tear blinked from his eyelashes and rolled down his cheek. He captured it on his fingertips and brought it to his lips. It tasted like the sea. He remembered when he was a child and his dad had walked him along the beach on an overcast dreary day. The wind had whipped dry sand grains against his face and the sky was threatening a storm but it had not rained. His coat was too large (you’ll grow into it, his mum had said) and the toggles fluttered behind him in the breeze. Even with his hood up the cold was everywhere and his nostrils leaked snot that felt like it would freeze in the open air and he wondered why his dad had brought him here when he could have been at home playing on his Sony PlayStation. Soon they reached the damp sand, wet from the morning’s tide, and it clung to Alex’ wellington boots like clay. They still did not stop. After a while they reached a small river of sea water trying to make its way inland that cut through the sand like a ravine. The banks were smooth and the water was clear. Alex wanted to touch the riverbed sand and feel it flow through his fingers in that liquid-solid-gas consistency of thin wet sand, but his dad stepped over the river and carried on towards the sea. As they got closer the wind lifted drops of water from the spray and coated Alex’ upper lip with a moustache of seafoam. He licked his lips and tasted the salt.

His tear had the same taste and he now desperately clung to that memory, that wintery beach walk, determined not to lose himself in the fog of Jean and the pale skinned woman and Sylvester and the governor and the man he had seen in the mirror and the perfume.

The Star Ferry

Weyes Bloody — Diary

Alex opted for the upper deck. He figured the sea breeze would do him some good and he wanted to take in the sights of Kowloon and Lantau; he had never been to Hong Kong and, in spite of himself, he found a growing excitement in his stomach at the prospect of partaking in a stalwart tourist tradition – The Star Ferry.

Sylvester had calculated Alex’ flight risk as minimal and opted for the lower deck. When their paths forked at the point of boarding, Sylvester sensed Alex’ pulse racing as the option of escape entered his mind, and so gently lifted the grey cotton flank of his blazer, exposing his pistol. It gleamed in the Hong Kong haze. Sylvester motioned for him to continue, walking two steps behind him over his right shoulder.

The boat was annexed onto the pier with a thick wooden board, with chunky rungs protruding to help passengers find their footing in wet weather. As the waves gently rocked the boat the board bobbed haphazardly from side to side, and when Alex stepped on it his legs felt like jelly; did he get seasick? When was the last time he’d been on a boat? That school trip when he was fourteen? Would he throw up over the side? His panic was interrupted as a large wave caused the board to rise underfoot and he almost lost his footing, his torso toppling backwards and arms flailing –

A firm hand caught his shoulder and pushed him upright. He stepped onto the boat and grasped the chain-link railing, flakes of green copper paint splintering into his palm, and turned to thank the owner of the hand. A stern Chinese man in a cream uniform looked at him and raised his eyebrows in the direction of the stairs to the upper deck. Alex smiled and stuttered a thank you before making his way up the wooden staircase.

The upper deck was less grand than he had hoped. Thin wooden benches lined the centre of the vessel and there were some plastic seats fixed onto a metal frame at the rear of the deck. These were already occupied by two conductors – or ship mates – who were wearing the same cream uniform as the attendant that helped Alex on board. They were smoking cigarettes and engrossed in deep conversation. Alex crossed over to the bench in front of the two men and took a seat on the outside so that he could absorb the view. When he sat down he spotted a wooden safety rail affixed to the bench in front with a brass hinge, similar to that you’d find when boarding a rollercoaster. He briefly wondered how fast this boat could manage – surely this was an unnecessary precaution – however still folded the bar across his lap. Just in case.

The Idiot

Iggy Pop — Nightclubbing

There’s a story on the news aboutta guy who ate a dover sole whole, got it stuck down his throat til he couldn’t breathe no more, his friends called an ambulance when his face went blue; meanwhile I’m a fuckin’ idiot cos I don’t know the first thing about Tianaman square? Bullshit. Don’t even know how it’s spelt but I sure as shit can use a semi colon.

There’s a guy on the tube wearing a tweed blazer tryin’ to ignore the bead of sweat making its way from his neck to his back, he could take off the blazer an’ that bead of sweat would be no more, and yet I’m the fuckin’ idiot cos I didn’t know you’re s’posed to serve a latte with warm milk instead of boiling it first.

There’s a tune in my ear from Annie Clark about a monster hankerin’ for a sacred cow but everyone knows Hindus don’t eat cows, it’s the catholics that eat baby Jesus, and yet I’m the fuckin’ moron ‘cos it took me months to notice Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett aren’t the most famous Kurt & Courtney out there.

My yellow coat has a brown line along the neck ‘cos I wore it to a festival and never washed my neck, and when I got back I never washed the coat neither. I’ll admit that one’s pretty fuckin’ stupid.

I’m mindin’ my own business on my way to work, keeping my elbows sharp in case some prick next to me thinks the arm rest is single occupancy, realising it’s much faster to drop a few letters here an’ there when you’re talkin’ quickly but it’s a bitch to write, and then I look up from my phone and realise everybody on the tube is paused. It’s mega-weird, they’re not moving an inch.

I pause K&C halfway thru their continental breakfast and it’s like the tube-sounds have paused too. I take my headphones out and nothin’. It sounds like how I’d imagine space would sound, there sure as shit ain’t nobody screamin’, my ears have got that weird feelin’ where you need to chew somethin’ to get ‘em to pop.

The tube ain’t movin’ which is nuts ‘cos I never got that slanty slowdown you get when the tube driver hits the brakes. What were we smokin’ last night, man? That’s a line by the way, I gotta job in the city, I ain’t smokin’ nothin’ but Marlboros. There’s an old dude opposite me halfway through a page turn of his paper, if he’s havin’ me on he’s doin’ a bang up job; the other folks I can see are all starin’ into the distance or leanin’ against the pole, to be honest you wouldn’t notice anythin’ out the ordinary if it weren’t for Fred. That’s the old geezer’s name in case you weren’t payin’ attention.

I think about standin’ up but I hate standin’ up on tubes in case they jolt forwards and I fall onto an old, pregnant, blind, and black woman, so instead I sit still but get a good lean on. There’s a skinny bloke in front of me wearin’ skinny grey jeans round his skinny drainpipe legs with a skinny tie on a skinny shirt drinking what I expect is a full-fat latte and I lean forwards toward him to get a look down the tube; a real good lean, lean in so good that my hairspray quiff crunches against him and gets messed outta place. Normally I’d be fuckin’ pissed but judging from the freaky sci-fi time pause shit goin’ on I got bigger fish to fry.