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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.
He slashed at me a few times – I can’t say for certain how close he got, but when you can feel the air move because of the swipe, the blade is too close – but mostly he stood in place making these hesitant jerking jabs. He kept saying, “Come on, I’ll stab you. Come on”, as if it were somehow my responsibility to move closer to him. Perhaps that’s the way things work, I don’t know, this was my first knife fight, and frankly it was a bit unfair, I didn’t have a knife.
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.
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.
The inside of a new 80.000 ton bulk carrier was to put it mildly, a very religious experience. To go from the coffins of Castle Dracula, in driving snow, with a temperature hitting minus 25 Degrees, into a vast silent cathedral-like environment, had a profound effect on me. It was a place of bright bright lights and dark dark places. I suppose, with the scaffolding and the hanging lights it could also have been mistaken for some enormous Egyptian tomb excavation.
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.
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?
Lesson learned. When dealing with the Island Greeks, they’re lovely people, but they’ll take you to the cleaners given half a chance. This deflated our egos for a few nanoseconds. We saw a family out back refilling plastic water bottles from a well. If the silly tourists want bottled water, we’ll sell them bottled water. This was the Greek idea of keeping the tourists happy.
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.
Since the last entry, the boys of UE Sants have gone through something of a revelatory experience. What I mean by this is that they have won, twice in fact, including a comeback 4-3 victory against the adorably monikered Poble Mafumet, a performance reminiscent of the 2005 Champion’s League Final, or so said some throaty drunk bloke.
One of the joys of this level of football, a joy that detracts somewhat from the actual football itself, is the rapture of proximity. Whatever trials and tribulations the working week throws at you, however painful the boredom of retirement or the frustration of youth, all the rage that you carry can be readily directed at an arbitrary arbiter, or whoever is playing on the wing next to the only stand.
Summer’s over and like it or loath it, football is back. Green and white hoops are the colours of debatable success, conjuring up images of Sporting Lisbon, Real Betis, Celtic, maybe even Yeovil Town and as UE Sants graced the packed ‘Energia’ stadium, clad in the virescent and wan kits that defined last year’s halcyon days in Spain’s fifth tear ‘Primera Catalana’.
Senior year my mother did two months for larceny. That August she tried walking out with two carts full of groceries. I lived noir. I managed a story that became my first published in the school magazine. She was still in prison that October when my birthday rolled around. I woke up at three-thirty in the morning and read James Thompson’s Snow Angels until I left for the bus.
I have killed her in my head more times than I can count. I have attended her funeral. I have wept on her grave. I have cried alone in a room littered with pill bottles and years of filth because I wasn’t there to save her. Every unknown number from Connecticut is her final plea for forgiveness before she swallows the pills or slices the blade across pale blue-veined wrists. I am a bad son. I let her do this. It is all my fault.
For some reason, my first instinct was to assume that Derick Johnson was a figment of Nick’s imagination or a sort of creative in-joke between some of the players. The name, I observed, sounded like a character from Mad Men. I imagined a dapper fellow in his mid-thirties turning up to play, with a short glass of scotch on the rocks in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Do you remember Fridays? The indescribable feeling of utter joy that signified that thankfully school was over for another two days. The misery of sitting in a classroom against your will was to be alleviated and replaced with the respite of resentment from parents who didn’t know what to do with you. Yes, Friday was a fine time. Friday represented hope a brief, fleeting window in which anything was possible and the misery of school, with its press-gang style education was exposed for what it was, finite.
I had shat literally all I could possibly shit, but somewhere, deep down, I knew I would need to shit again imminently. Such are the joys of food poisoning, or in this case some dodgy Albanian tap water. In fairness, the foreign office advice had been fairly clear cut.
I bit my lip and concentrated as hard as I could at the grainy image on the TV screen. The brief vignette of femme désnudé from the 11 o’clock freeview on the tarot channel. Trying hard to neither concentrate on the phone number nor the colloquially lewd offers at the side of the tiny image, I worked my wrist into overdrive and finally came, it had taken over twenty minutes, fuck sake.
Beyond Work documents humans at work using words and reportage photography, with no judgement or glorification. It’s an attempt at unearthing the social, cultural and functional world of work that’s invisible in everyday life. In this series, Curtis James interviews Norman Macaulay, a man who has been working as a refuse collector for the past 27 years.