Random fiction (Chapter One)
I’m floating through the sunlight, lazy as a feather, dumb as the morning. The street is wet and still; untouched, holding its breath. No one is awake yet – not the old man in the dirty red slippers, not my neighbour and her Italian opera in lieu of breakfast, not even my dog.
I’m floating and wavering and almost disappearing, drug haze, chemical oblivion. I need to be at work in two hours, but right now, I’m so free it’s dangerous and anger is the last thing on my mind.
“Hey. That time already? Didn’t I just tell you good-fucking-bye?”
We grin, an old joke. Martin and me, desks with harbour views, coffee to go.
“Bob’s been calling,” Martin flicks a paperclip at me and misses. “He vants the Vaterboard report. He vants it now…” Martin bares his teeth at me and I’m reminded of another reason of why I should quit smoking – nicotine stains. Martin is wearing a dark blue suit, Martin has a new haircut that I won’t comment on, Martin is cheating on his girlfriend with a nice legal secretary I know called Cynthia.
“Bob. Bob can go fuck himself.” Me, muttering. The office is waking up, casually, ordered and planned chaos unfolding. People who like to argue blinking over new emails and talk of last night’s television.
“Moody? Time of the month?”
“Bite me,” I snarl.
We slouch, together. Two smart men who know they’re smart. Two people who can’t even bother with the ‘we’re overeducated, underpaid’ bullshit. Two people, only one run to the cafeteria.
“Raison toast!” Simultaneously, again. We smile.
“I’ll go,” Martin sighs, standing, furrowing his brow. “Spot me a twenty.”
“Where’s all your dough?” I ask, placing a new ten dollar note on my desk. “Hookers and booze?”
“You better believe it. Make that a twenty and find out for sure…”
He ambles off. I should call Bob. I stare at the water, the boats on the water and imagine death by drowning.
I imagine the initial unreality of it, water slapping against the side of the boat, calling to someone to hoist a sail, to throw a rope. A wind whipping my hair in my eyes, thinking, ‘This will make a crazy story when we dock!’. The wind not letting up, howling and screaming. A small plastic table skidding over the edge, going to grab it, missing it and instead facing choppy gray water. A light rain sets in. I yell to someone, ‘Get the fucking…’ but a sail hits me over the head and I fall, stunned but not unconscious. Gumbooted feet slid by my head in panic, cold sea water washing at my face. Suddenly the surface tips in a big gust of wind and a scream, maybe mine, pushes out a few feet before being lost and we’re all over the edge and my legs are kicking in water and
“Hey! Earth to Stuart!” It’s Martin. A grease-stained bag of raison toast sits in front of me, a smear of butter soaking into my papers. “Your phone’s ringing.”
My apartment was once described by a friend of a friend as small, smelly and what a hobbit would live in if they liked bar hopping and living in filth. From memory they were one of those obsessive compulsive types – always cleaning other peoples’ kitchen benches and surreptitiously inspecting stranger’s fingernails. I, of course, like my apartment, although it is small and the ventilation isn’t terrific. I know this because firstly the neighbours complain about the (occasional) smell of marijuana and secondly I once burnt onion soup and my bedroom stunk for a week. I had picked this girl up too (this is why I remember) and she made an excuse to leave to feed her cat instead of having sex and I’m sure it’s because of the soup smell. There is nothing sexy about onions.
But in my apartment is where I find myself waiting, because I’m too chicken to meet Mith in a café and Mith likes small, smelly places anyway.
It’s a cool Thursday night, medium density traffic, low pollution, rain on the way.
I sit, waiting for Mith and think: ‘Everything about me is average’. I try to disprove this idea.
I was the first person in my matriarchal family to read The Beauty Myth. When I masturbate, I usually think about other men, even though I’m heterosexual. I have moments of ambition but deep down I know I’ll never make any real difference. I’m 27, Anglo-Saxon, I can enjoy Oscar Wilde plays and the World Cup with equal amounts of interest and I can make intelligent conversation about politics. But I’m bored. And unhappy. I realised this a few months ago and can formulate this thought as carelessly now as if I was thinking about being hungry. Then Mith came into my life.
I’m so drunk that I’ve already fallen over in the bathroom and chipped a tooth. Now back in the messy innards of this sweaty colourful party, I taste blood in my mouth. ‘Oh no. Dentist.’ Is all I can think, over and over again. It’s a farewell and it didn’t seem that long ago that I was laughing politely with some strangers about ties or braces or something. But now… I’m gonna be sick. I’m lurching past couples trying drunkenly to dirty dance and suddenly I burst onto the street and vomit into the gutter. I lay down on the cool dark cement and am about to pass out when
“Hey. Prince Charming. Got a cigarette?”
A thump as someone jumps off a railing and pads past my head. “Or maybe you’re just ready for me to take your wallet…” Thin fingers slip inside my jacket
“Back off” I half-wheeze half-bark, slapping girlishly at the hand. “Fuck… you…”
“Oh charming Prince Charming,” the voice continues. “Real ladies man huh? Or do you win them over by just throwing up in the street. Classy.”
I sit up, and for the first time in what would be a long, often painful history, take in the character before me.
Glaring. A foot that taps furiously. Dark thick eyebrows above wide so-brown-they’re-black eyes. Pixie, I think. Elf. I pass out.
I’m dreaming. I’m in large old fantastic house full of rabbit holes. Each hole takes me to another room, each room stranger and more full than the last. In each room she’s there, watching me as I stumble though, childlike and excited. Violins drift through the stale air and although there’s no windows, I know it’s bright and sunny outside. I can’t leave the house, but I never really want to.
I wake on a bench in an industrial kitchen. It’s empty and cold with stainless steel. I sit up groggily and not as hungover as I should be.
“Thought you’d sleep for a thousand years. Princess.”
She’s rolling a cigarette. Early morning light filters through the windows, small rectangles set to met the ceiling, very high up. The atmosphere reminds me of a church. I suppose I’m the sinner, but I know this one is no saint.
“No rest for the wicked.” I say, stupid and flaked out.
“You work? You got a job?”
“Yeah… Marketing manager. Kind of.”
It seems like, at this moment, there’s nothing more natural than making chit chat with my feet swinging over the edge of this grey hard bench in an abandoned kitchen with…
“My name’s Stuart.”
More glares. Then a mutter, not to me, “He doesn’t seem worth it. Marketing for chrissakes.”
“What?” I say. She ignores me. I decide to just sit.
“I don’t care what your goddamn instincts are, I’m not wasting my time with another…” She pauses, as if listening to someone. Who?
“OK. OK. OK!” A yell. “Fine! But if he… yeah, that’s right, you, not me is wearing this.”
She hops to her feet and snorts through her nostrils. For the first time a niggle of doubt appears, but for some reason I’m able to just let it go and a certain sense of acceptance floods over.
“Let’s go” Mith says.
“Sure” I say.
She walks towards me and hits me over the head with a soup ladle. I pass out, again.