I finish my £8.30 and head for where I used to live. Why? I’ve started writing now, I might as well go. It’s an ex-council block. East London thick brick. Rubicon cans on the stairwell, faulty lifts. A kid called Abdi that tries to sell you weed every time you see him, even though you tell him that you don’t smoke weed. It was him that I thought I saw walking past the pub. He’s got a dog. He told me that it is was rare for a Bengali to have a dog. I wonder if he’s still here?
My vacation condo’s washer/dryer combination is tiny and inefficient, so I launder my comforters ten miles away at the decrepit Maple Fuels Wash-a-Ton. The old-school machines don’t take credit cards, only quarters. It takes a lot of quarters to wash a pile of gamey comforters. Since my mortgage and HOA fees are high, I have to rent my place to overnighters through Air Bnb. The guests are often careless, spilling wine and body fluids willy-nilly on the bedclothes.
I have given up so many times, thought I had hit absolute rock bottom, but after this morning I want only to cry, just cry, Lord please let me just cry. I want that great, cleansing, belly-shaking rain of tears that I had wished would come for depressed Cassie, but I can’t. I can’t cry. I try to bring something up from deep in my chest but nothing comes. I realize now that ghosts have no bodily fluids. Tears, blood, semen, sweat; these are the province of the living.
From a global perspective, living in a world in which absolutely nobody seems to be able to agree on anything, it is in fact quite reassuring that one thing in life remains unilaterally recognised. I’m not referring to the the Geneva Convention or the Unilateral Declaration of Human Rights, fated as these are by the capriciousness of feckless dictators and ardent populists. No, the world can tear itself to bits, yet one thing will remain constant, from Santiago to Sydney, that being that the referee is, and has always been, a wanker.
The centre of town burns, the fires of the barricades rise until late at night. Seen from above the city recalls scenes from its past, when Barcelona gained the nickname of Rosa de Foc. But we are in 2019, a time when political dissent is intertwined with late capitalist tendencies, and indeed you can see Glovo’s workers diligently darting around the front of a barricade fire. Because in the burning city there are those who do not give up ordering sushi at home.
But the metamorphosis deepened, and I became the most frightening apparition of all: the man who really was a dog. All human perspective was gone now. I was a tall dog standing on its hind legs, teetering close to traffic. This was serious. I could bolt into an oncoming car, or nip a passerby in my confusion. I looked around me at the world of people, orderly for them but incomprehensible to me.
Jonah stares over my shoulder, suddenly quiet. He holds his coffee close to his mouth but doesn’t drink. He looks troubled by something, like he’s made the worst decision of his life. I don’t know what to say so I just stare at the girls’ table, at Lindsey stealing glances at us and laughing with the others like we’re in the high school lunchroom instead of being locked in a mental hospital, in some story we don’t fully understand but know will define and direct the course of the rest of our lives.
I guess they’re the kind of lyrics most songwriters would use as a place-holder before coming up with something more universal and generic. Apparently the Beatles song ‘Yesterday’ was originally about bacon and eggs, but obviously McCartney decided to change the words to something more commercially viable. Thankfully commercial viability isn’t something I need to worry about. And for me, at least, I still find the lyrics quite meaningful as they are.
I sit up in bed with my hand over my eyes. The shards of sunlight, shining through the open window and the scream of a scooter from the street below make me wince. Through my fingers the black and white poster of the singer Morrissey looks down on me with pity from the bedroom wall. I return the look with remorse and regret.
You didn’t want to make her uncomfortable by smoking in front of her, or subject her to secondhand fumes. You huddled in your bedroom with your stash, emerging when the coast was clear. Still, the smell should have been a tip-off. Not to mention your red eyes and dilated pupils.
The Magic Bus stopped for no man as it sped across Europe, heading for Amsterdam. In Yugoslavia, it was changing Drachmas for Dinars time. My memory of the journey through Yugoslavia, is a rainy wind swept communist country. Pretty backward, with kid soldiers, wearing the worst looking ill-fitting uniforms you can imagine. These kids had guns, so it was scary when they went through the bus.
To commemorate the centennial of Degas’s death (1917), many books were published and shows were held. In London, The National Gallery show “Drawn in Colour” was organised in conjunction with it and with the marvellous opportunity to include works from the Burrell collection. I visited together with Dr. Penny Florence (Slade) and as we both come from a different background, our conversation in front of the paintings spurred new insights and encouraged me to write about Degas’s work, the way I see it.
And so I often find myself wandering through a hollow house alone, as he adventures to the tool sheds in the far corner of a backyard. I sift through the trinkets, the decorated knives, commemorative postcards, and wonder – who held these before me? I find a binder full to bursting with buttons of all types and sizes and colors. What hands carefully sewed each into place?
I mean, even the first time round, who the actual fuck was Alice? And who cared about living next door to her? I’m not very good at either listening to or remembering pop lyrics, but even without knowing any of the rest of them, I understood that it was a song about the girl next door. But rock stars didn’t want the girl next door, did they? They got on planes and travelled, got off, collected all that gear, got into vans and disappeared up the road, in search of more glamorous girls.
But the market wasn’t just a place to buy and sell, it was a meeting place for grownups, filled with chittering and chattering. It was the weekly news update in a pre-Facebook era; the who married who, and the who got who pregnant; and the biggest scandal on everybody’s lips, was the waiting times at the doctor’s surgery. I loved seeing my wee Ma’, surrounded by friends, super animated and smiling; this, I guess, was how she nourished her mind.
Down on terra firma, it’s my turn to pass through the weathered red, flaking door and into the gloom. The entrance is a small and, currently crowded, five metre square. Despite the doors being open, there is a musty, damp smell which overwhelms the huge spray of carnations, roses and lilies on top of the near empty mahogany bookcase in the corner. I am handed the white order of service by a faceless man and then it’s my turn to whisper clichéd condolences to two men, one of whom I know very well, the other I have never met.
Twenty-nine years ago I was an off-off Broadway playwright clerking in a chi-chi toy store for grown ups on the Upper West Side when in walks Robin Williams. I was speechless. He smiled and nodded at me before exploring the various aisles. I knew he was in rehearsal at Lincoln Center for Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting For Godot, so as I sneaked peaks at his inspection of the store, I tried to think of what I would say to him should he approach my register.
After each practice, I would get out that Glovoleum and tenderly apply it to the mitt. Somewhere in my heart, I knew I was out of step, that this love for playing baseball would have to stop at some point. All us girls were approaching adolescence. The social pressures to be girly and adapt to the cultural norms were overwhelming.
The minute the lone young gunman, who hated himself, used his mother’s revamped gun against her, he entered a state of utter automatism. He unconsciously, projected his despair upon the gun and identified with it totally just like he had with Enos, the conditioned chimp. He had, in turn, been unconsciously conditioned by his mother who, unrealistically, wanted to educate him first at home, then, in a normal school. They both suffered from excessive guilt.
Nanny Pam and me are watching This Morning; there’s a woman on talking about how she’s been cheating on her husband with a ghost. The TV presenter asks if she has ever been intimate with the ghost. Nanny Pam stares at the TV while her Rich Tea biscuit breaks off into her coffee.
My old company were the masters of web hosting hyperbole. One of our most famous internet magazine ads listed everything as free, except the price. Free hosting, Free web space, free domain name, free email address, all of which begged the question; if everything was free, just exactly what was the punters paying for?
Someone is winning somewhere, it’s just we never go to those games and better off we are for it too. Watching Sants is like dealing with a fine wine, a game of ultimate patience and faith that may not lead to any positive outcome. When, and if, three points ever present themselves with myself as a witness the joy will be ten-fold. You don’t get this at the Camp Nou, by the way.
In an hour, I will go across the street to Subway for a six-inch vegetarian sandwich. I’ve heard the buns are made from the same chemicals as yoga mats. However, this could be an urban legend. I’m hungry and inclined to take chances with my health. Also, I’m an optimist. There is no way a pessimist could be out on this highway.
I knew I was an excellent candidate, as they cheerfully say in medical circles, for sudden death. Most everyone on both sides of the generation before mine had suddenly dropped dead before the age of 60. Some had lingered due to repetitive strokes. Fortunately, I had passed the age threshold, but I wondered how much longer I could defy the odds.