stuff about cleaning I could not write in the article

Standard

It was at a warehouse conversion in East London. Near the Royal London, where the Elephant man lived. The woman was neatly pregnant, a bump on a stick, took every supplement under the sun to ensure that not only would her labour be easy, but also that her kid would be born a genious, eight pounds of Omega three and coconut oil and flaxseed oil. The kid would probably just slither out, a perfect slick of oil in the shape of a baby. The kid would have been listening to Mozart concertos in the womb, and when the doc cried “It’s a girl,” the oily Churchillian face only a mother could love would do the obligatory cry to clear the lungs, ask for a tissue to spit and ,and then request a violin, to compose a free form jazzy thing about childbirth. The parents would expect nothing less. Back they would trek to the high spec, germ and dust free warehouse, a separate mop for every room, and the nanny would already be installed. Mother woud feed on demand, but as she is juicing to lose the baby weight before any of her antentatal friends, the baby would have horrible spinachy nappies, and hand the child over, arms length, to the nanny, declaring Samsara had done ( fake giggle) a bit of a pongy poo. Of course after changing the nappy, she would probably have to get the ebola disinefctant team in, so germ and dirt phobic is the mother.

When I went there for my first and only clean, the house looked like a photospread from any magazine I could never afford to buy. The deal about these gleaming houses is that no matter what you  do, it’s gonna look worse, you will ruin the finish with your streaky products. You can kill fifteen minutes pulling great lumps of long hair out of the power shower plug hole, possibly enough to make a Malibu barbie doll for the baby, but that’s not OK cos this baby is not gender specfic. Samsara may chose to play with AK47s, which  is fine.  You can check for dust under the marital  bed, but there you will find her sex toys. A blindfold, a whip, and a feather sort of thing. Stillettos.  Well, we know how she got knocked up but will she be able to keep the pace, her tits leaking milk every time Samsara cries, her bits still sore , her fatigue not touched by all her yoga appointments, her pilates, her baby massage. He  might lock himself in his doctor’s office ostensibly looking at studies on the latest techniques for gall bladder surgery, but actually he could be looking at Aisan Babes with Nothing On. In three years time he will be deeply embroiled in affairs with at least two nurses. He will get one what she wants from the medicine cabinet. She will fuck him, the way his wife used to, before she beame a slave to Samsara. The other one will be more the mothering type, drug free, but will do pretty much anything in bed. She thinks he will leave the yoga wife and go with her. Perhaps he will and there will be an expensive divorce. She will win everything, but still bitch with her overly worked out friends, at wine o clock, about how could he leave her, for that fat cow?  One day Samsara will come home declaring she wants to be like the other girls and fast for Ramandan. At which point, Mum will sell up to Hipsters and move to Primrose Hill.

cleaning the office where I was concussed

Standard

First, a practical tip.If you are a proper cleaner and get down on all fours to scrub the floor,  this not only gives vibe that says “Wow, she gets down on her hands and knees to scrub the floor. Is it sexual, ( it would be if I were sporting stockings, high heels and a knowing grin, and were 30 years younger) or is it really the only proper way to clean a floor?” It is the only way to clean a floor, properly.  Your knees go funny, you get cankles, but still, what price to pay for dimishing sexual attraction for paying the bills ? Last night at the office clean, amidst the handcreams, ergonomic desks ( am I the only one who wants to punch a person who leaves his desk at standing level, a real look how seriously I take this fitness shit sort of guy) slight smell of dead mouse, congealed coffee cups, emtpy Pret boxes, home lunches consisting mainly of goji berries and Brazil nuts. Loads of Lempsips ( cold season) loads of herbal teas, a bizarre but compelling spray paint of Shiaparrelli pink paint round the bins. Loads of mind maps and flow charts. I thank my lucky stars that someone has left his computer on, and on Spotify. I play Joy Divsion’s She’s Lost Control, because it makes you clean more fitfully, jerkily.Not well, but interstingly.  Plus, it’s a great song. At one point, exhausted, I flop on the floor, spent, readly to pass our, and my floor eyes few reveals at least five more IKEA style overflowing bins. My work here is not really done, but I am done in. Soon, I will walk home, past the guy under Shoreditch overground station. The guy with a well fed dog, who sell his etchings of his well fed dog, til the cops move him on. I smell the lovely pizza smell from Rays, who sells it American style in slices. I don’t have to experience America in London. If I want, I can go back to Queens, and go to Danni’s house of pizza, for I am bound to find a roach on my pizza and bound also not to complain, ever, as I feel there are mafia connections.

Next week you will find my cleaning musings in broadsheet, voted best newspaper of the year. Am I a writer, or a cleaner? I am a cleaner who writes. Last week, in same office, I found a bit of old cake that said “Eat me”  Very Alice in Hipstervilleland.  This week, the most interesting find was the missed the target pink spraypaint. These kids are so young, I bet they think they’ve discovered. pink. There must be flow charts, business plans and mind maps and strategies and interface to spread the pink word.  I finish the clean by pulling all the dead leaves off the office plants, which are most of the leaves. Soon the plants will be no more, but I’ll still be here, not crying over spilt milk.

Quentin plays recorder

Standard

THE TRICK IS NOT BLOWING SO HARD, says Quentin, back on form after last week’s trip to Siberia to wash his dirty pants.
Now there were several ways to take this. I could have gone all Round the Horne on him, the dirty pun hanging in the air between us.

Of course, he was talking about recorder practise. His favourite thing to do is play me a song and then I have to guess what it is. It is an easy game, for whatever he plays, whatever the tuneless tune, it is Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.

So I said, hmmm, I think it could be Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, and he said, to his credit, “I’m surprised you got it. Doesn’t sound a thing like it.

 

Quentin goes to Belfast

Standard

Quentin’s ever complicated travelling plans and his refusal to even contemplate a cheaper or more convenient mode of transport to Belfast makes my feet ache more than they do anyway, from being on them most of the day. The first involved an overnight coach from Victoria , a ferry crossing, another long coach trip then a taxi.

He is a man of slender means. Even though he was unable to get a refund for this ludicrous plan, he made alternative arrangements through, his words, the airlinecheapo.com. I said doesn’t sound like an airline I’ve ever heard of, but perhaps a travel agency. He said no no no, it was totally an airline. He was feeling a bit down , so was watching an Abba tribute band on youtube.

My painful feet informing my bad mood, I said, why not just cut to the chase and get real Abba, followed by an equally irate , “Let me see your travel plans.” Now he showed me a better plan. This plan by the very famous airline cheapo.com involves getting six am flight to Luton ( which is a billion miles away) to Dublin.

I actually put my head in my hands and said, “Why are you going to Dublin , when you are booked into a hotel in Belfast for nearly six hundred quid” He said that is what cheapo.comadvised. I said but then you have to get up at three in the morning or earlier to get to Luton, then get from Dublin to Belfast, as well as pay the money for the fares you can’t get back.

He said it’s fine, he had a better plan.

I just didn’t give a fuck at this point, not about his plan or lack thereof, but of my throbbing foot ) the toenail has gone black, this does not bode well for a very physical job) so I sat down and said so how are you going to get to Luton that early. He said he would go the night before and sleep in the airport.

I said how is that better than sleeping on the coach, in fact how is any of this creeping up to 800 quid plan for five days in Belfast better than flying directly from London to Belfast?

And he said it was his mistake, confusing Dublin with Belfast. And I felt sorry for him, and felt like killing the people at cheapo.com for not realsing he was old and confused and ripping him off. I mopped leaning on the less painful foot, I was in a really bad mood. He showed me the Stephen King novel he was reading, which had musical notation in it. He had a go on the recorder and he said can you tell the tune, and I said, probably Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, and he said yes probably, it does seem to crop up rather a lot.

He said this was his last holiday apart from one Age Concern or some army vet thing will lay on at a reduced price. I said where to. He said Bloomsbury. I said oh, that’s good for the British Museum.

He said no that was in Kensington. I said no that’s the V and A and two others, he said no no no, he knows for sure it’s there because that’s where he saw a prototype model of Robert Louis Stevenson’s railway.
Every single bit of my right side hurts, from the blackened toe upwards. I am going to dose up with paracetamol and plasters and hobble to my next dumb ass job. I think I might not say a word for the rest of the day. How the heck do dancers dance when their toes turn black? Why has my toe turned black? I don’t even wear heels. I asked Quentin if I could leave early. He said yes. Small mercies.

AIDS

Standard

When I as 17 and still a virgin, but considering not being one with my first boyfriend,  one of my best friends, a wonderful dancer with a rapier wit, came over to the apartment where I lived with my mother and ran into our bathroom and threw up. I rapped on the door. “Do you want some Pepto Bismol?”

“Nah, ” he gasped. “I don’t want to throw up pink.”

“What difference does it make. Are you colour coordinating your puke with your outfit? You want some of my scrips? I got valium, I got compazine,  I got something else, it’s not that good , it makes you shake and I don’t even know what it’s for?”

“No, shut the fuck up. Just let me throw up in peace.”

So I did and took the drugs myself, apart from the shakey one. When he finally emerged, pale, long legs shaking, drenched in cold sweat, I gave him some water and asked him what happened.

“I was in the West Village last night, this place called Uncle Pauls. I don’t even know if there is an Uncle Paul.”

“But how did you get in, you’re only 14.”

He looked at me as if to say , oh really, how stupid can you get, that’s exactly why I got in.

“So I had some drinks and then went out and this guy was in this car and he said hey get in, and you know you have a few drinks, anything seems like a good idea.”

Then what happened?

“I don’t really remember, we went to the docks on the Hudson. He parked. He took his dick out. He told me to do something. I did it.”

“Did you want to do it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I have to throw up again.” So he went to throw up. When he came back, I said,

“I don’t think you like what you did, on account of the throwing up when I asked if you liked it.”

“So what are you saying? Does that mean I’m not gay?”

“I dunno. Are you sure you don’t want the compazine? It really works. I think you might be gay but maybe just don’t like what you did, where you did it and who you did it with.”

“I don’t think you would know about it. You are a virgin. And straight.”

“You could be right, but so could I. Why don’t you try something with a guy you do like and see if you throw up?”

He thumped the table. “It doesn’t work like that. You go to clubs, you go in cars, some shit happens in back rooms, with whips and shit. It’s not your world.”

“Is it your world?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you want to do it again?”

“Yeah, just to find out.”

So he did it again, and other stuff and he really liked it. I think he had fun, more fun than dancing even.  He wore tiny little shorts with all his bits hanging out.  He thought it was normal. He got lots of different jobs, most of them paid pretty well. He was a make up guy. He did Joan Rivers once and once the wife of the then head of the UN Boutrous Boutrous something. He said she had really bad breath but bought a ton of stuff.

Round about the early 80s we started to hear whispers of this gay cancer thing. By the mid 80s, my friend got tested and it was positive and they put him on AZT, the only drug available at the time. It made him really sick, but it was hard to know what was the illness and what was the AZT, though technically, his T cell count wasn’t low enough to be considered full blown.

Years later, I moved to England and was pregnant with my first child. My friend had settled down with a rich guy but didn’t seem that into him. He came to visit me and though he looked pretty sick by then, he made a beeline for Soho and I didn’t seem him for a few days. When he came back he was sort of exploding from both ends and rattling with drugs. When it all calmed down,  I said, are you proper sick, now, not just the before bit.”

“Yeah, I have AIDS.” He didn’t bat an eyelid. “Don’t fucking cry on me, I hate that shit.”

I gave him pasta and pesto.

“I hate pesto, ” he said, and pushed the dinner aside and took about 40 pills and got into my single bed. I cuddled up to his bony frame.

He sweated and shook and sweated and shook and then took a bath and shat in the bath and I cleaned it up.  The next day he felt better so we went to The Tower of London. He said he loved London. Then we went to Harrods and bought a bunch of stuff on the guy’s credit card, the one he didn’t love. Then they took a trip on the Orient Express.

He went back to New York and got sicker and sicker, even though he was on a new type of drug therapy. He was plagued with parasites. My sister stepped up to the plate and really looked after him as much as she could with her own young family. I was pregnant with my second child and he came to London once more, with a different rich guy. This guy was nicer. We all sat in their hotel lobby drinking coffee and the guy got up and left and said, “I am leaving so you can talk about me.”

Drew said he was nice, but he couldn’t really do the physical side of things anymore, but he was nice.

Maybe six months after that, my mother called to say he was dead. I cried my head off and took a long walk. She said they tried to scatter his ashes in Central Park but the wind changed direction and the ashes blew in their faces. That was him all over.

A few months after that I went to NY and visited his mother, who had once had three sons, and now had none. They had all died.

She cried and said, “I slapped him. He went running round the apartment throwing up and shitting and he just wrecked all my stuff so I slapped him and said goddamnit just do all this stuff in one place, so there is one stain, this is gonna cost me a fuckin fortune to clean.” And she cried her head off for thinking about money when her son was so sick and dying.

And just listening to it, and imagining him running round that apartment, which looked like John and Yoko’s white room, I started to panic. I felt his presence, and he was saying get me the fuck out of here, if I go here, instead of there, I will feel better. And he went everywhere with rich boys and he never felt better in any of those places. And I had to stand out on the balcony and gulp down air. I took a Dial a Ride back to my mother’s. She was minding my daughter. My son was back in England.  Up until that moment, I ran away from death, like Drew tried to. There, I’ve named him. After that I went totally the opposite way and became consumed by it. If I knew someone who died, if I knew them and loved them, even just a little, I would crack up just a little bit more, until my very best friend died and I went totally nuts.

A little over a year ago a really good friend died and he made me promise not to go crazy or take drugs if he died. I have kept my promise.  Because he said if I didn’t he would haunt me.  I am done with being haunted. It’s really much better on Scooby Doo. In real life, you are not really living if you are living haunted. You are living with the dead. Now I live with the living. It’s a lot more fun.

the country singer

Standard

A long time ago I used to write about music and interview up and coming stars. Or perhaps they would not become stars, but I would try to convince the readers that this person or band was the next big thing. It was tricky for women in those days because some assumed you were in the game just to meet the star, a groupie with a steno pad and typewriter. I had a strict policy not to socialise, be overly friendly, or wear tight clothing or short skirts while working.I was kinda cute back then, not extremely, but I suppose some sort of thinking man’s half burnt speed freak  skinny crumpet.

I was married, it was not a long marriage, in fact it was a very short one, and not too many months in I was thinking, what the heck  was I thinking about marrying this man? He was funny, always laughing and making others laugh, likeable,kinetic, never stopped moving,  even lovable, but something inside me died very quickly. It wasn’t just his restless leg syndrome. Our attempts at eating out were fatal. Most of the food wound up on the floor, the table juddering ferociously with his restless long legs.  This suited me fine as I took lots of speed and was never hungry.  But  I had lost something. It  was not quite the will to live, but the will to be married.  I can not blame him, though he had his faults, as I had mine.  I think we were married in October, whenever the big storm was, 87, it should have been an omen. Lots of people up North could not make it down for the wedding what with all the fallen trees and stuff. My mother managed to make it over from the States. She asked me if I were sure I was in love and I said yes certainly, but I am not sure it was love, though it might have been, for a while I am certain it was.  Or something near enough.But not for long, for if I were truly in love, I would have not become insanely obsessed with the country singer. I don’t like telling this story because it puts me in a bad light and I was nearly ( but NOT) unfaithful.

A press officer sent me a test pressing of a record which I fell in love with. I played it over and over, rotating it only with Blood and Chocolate, not the bodily fluid and sweet that actually makes me vomit ( hardly anything makes me vomit, I am phobic of vomiting) but the Elvis Costello album. Elvis sounded so horny and depressed,  I wanted someone to want me the way Elvis wanted that girl. Desperate and in despair and anger. This was in direct contrast to the country singer, who sounded upbeat, singing about boats and horsies and a vine call kudzu. I wanted to be in that boat, on that horse,  or on the horse on the boat,I wanted to see the kudzu, I wanted to meet the country singer, who was not good looking by conventional standards, but he had a certain  Southern charm and had a peculiar Southern vernacular, like he’s say We usedta wouldn’t worry bout nothing” which was like a triple negative. I had a feeling that was his songwriting grammar, not his speaking one. I wanted to escape cold and dreary London and go to live in Texas, a state  I knew little of apart from the telly series Dallas, which I didn’t even like. And I know you can’t hold a whole city against the killing of a president,   but my slow witted mind thought Dallas, JFK, grassy knoll, Chanel pink suit splattered with blood, it was wrong on every level, but it was really all I knew, for I did not know nor care who shot JR. JFK, I was only an infant when it happened, but I know it changed the course of history.  I also knew  I just knew I had to meet the country singer, and be professional, not gushing.

The day of the interview came, somewhere in West London. I may have dressed up. I may not have, I can not remember, but chances are, I did. I went into the interview room and he was seated behind a desk. He looked smaller in real life, except his hair, which grew up, vertical and curly, like mine.  I thought crikey we’d have strange looking kids. Maybe even ugly. We’d have to home school them for fear of them being teased. But it would be OK.  I had it all planned out. We’d get them hair straighteners.

 

I wanted the country singer to ride up to New Oxford St on a horse, and he’d be wearing a Stetson, a guitar strapped to his back, and we would somehow find a land passage to Texas, where it seemed he owned a small whole town, passed down from generation to generation, or at least had a large stake in that town. Or we could take the horse on a plane. If I wrote a good enough article and he became rich and famous, the details would sort themselves out. We’d have a porch swing, and fan ourselves and drink mint Julips. We wouldn’t talk much, it would be too hot.  We’d have a mutual best friend who would shuck wood  and chew on a straw and play banjo, but never obvious banjo songs like duelling banjos. He would play When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio.  And the country singer and our mutual best friend would sing in, oddly , impossibly, in three part harmonies, even though there were only two of them.  You never knew. Emmylou Harris might swing by and they had to figure out her part, even though she could figure it out herself. The whole house would be made of timber and decorated in a style called New England, which really didn’t fit, it was just my little dream. I would learn how to ride horses, and sew, and make grits.  I would wear off the shoulder gingham dresses and make pies and babies. The babies would be less trouble than the pies. I would be a natural. He would tour but be faithful, and all his songs would be about missing me.

In my dreams. In real life, we were in this room, and I was asking him questions he’d been asked many times before.  I pretended to take steno but actually I taped and wrote in curly handwriting my first name with his last name, like a schoolgirl bored in geography, but with a crush on a bad boy she could never get.  I was asking him about the song writing process while really, in my head, signing the wedding registrar.  At one point he stared at me intently and said, “Why are you sitting all the way over there on the other side. I think you should come here or I should move my chair over to your side” His chair was on wheels so he wheeled it over to my side of the desk and we were sitting so close I thought anything could happen. He could say, “I got me a horse right outside that door, and we can for for a ride in Hyde Park, and then we could eat something English, like fish and chips, and then we could get back on the horse and go to Texas, and cut each other’s hair when it reached the ceiling.”

But he didn’t say that. All he said was the usual interview stuff, and then he said he had nothing to do in London that night, what should he do, I said he should have fish and chips, it’s what you do, and then, and then, he said, would I like to come with him for fish and chips and I didn’t say what about the horse and boat and haircuts and mutual best friend, I said yeah ok.

 

I was transfixed with an excitement not only sexual, but with something that felt life changeing. I hated fish and chips anyway. We’d just need to get that out of the way and find a horse.  He had more interviews to do. I got his number or he got mine, again, I can’t remember, though the former sounds more predatory, the latter just unsafe.

I pretty much floated back to the office, incapable of speech, only thinking of the night. I went home, changed into something not only clothes wise but personality wise. I was throwing caution , my marriage, and professionalism to the wind. If he asked me to sleep with him, I would. I rifled through my wardrobe, my wedding dress hanging accusingly third dress in.  It had been less than six months that we had been married.  I wore too few clothes and too much make up, is all I remember.  We met up somewhere, outside a West London tube stop. We didn’t have fish and chips. I think we had Cornettos from a van. This next bit is a little hazy. We went back to his modest hotel, and there was a frenzied American girl in the seating area, where you could have drinks and watch telly. She said, Oh my God its _______________ and burst into tears. She said his music changed her life, and she cried and shivered and got his autograph, and he was kind and gentlemanly and patted her hand and gave her a hug and she just nearly died. I knew then that I loved this man, I didn’t care about anything else that happened that night, what I might destroy. This other woman was so happy she could not stop crying, her make up was streaking down her face and I offered her tissues and wet wipes. She asked if I were his manager and I said no, just a friend, which actually was a lie. We had only met that day. A new temporary friend would have been more accurate, but it seemed like more information than she could take in.  She went off somewhere, in hysterics, and we sat in the lounge watching telly and drinking sparkling water. He then said we could watch telly in his room, in fact he was going to be on the telly that night. He said TV of course. I said sure and we went up and sat on the single bed and watched some programme he was on, and he sat closer and closer. We had a kiss and more kissing. Some but not all clothes came off. He said “You’re very skinny” and I said that was because I was unhappy but that was only partially true, because at that moment in time I was ecstatic and I was skinny because I took so much speed. We fumbled about a bit, the sort of fumbling that leads to sex and I suddenly thought of my husband and how hurt we would be, for he too, was a fan of the singer, and I was his new wife, about to cheat, like in a country song. I sat up, for we were lying down at this point, not really watching him on the telly, and I said, I can’t do this, I am married. And he propped himself up on one bony elbow and said “Well, we didn’t do nothing, nothing really bad” and I said yes but we might and he said yes that was probably true and then we lay there on the single bed, two thin bodies with big hair sprouting over the pillow, thinking. And he said, “You should probably go home then, ” and then I felt tearful and wished I had not given the crying girl all my tissues and wet wipes.  And I got up and got dressed and took a taxi home even though I couldn’t afford it. And I crept into the marital bed at 3 or 4 am, which was not unusual back then, what with gigs and parties and deadlines and speed. The next day I was inconsolable, kept bursting into tears and playing the country singer’s record and hoping, just hoping, for the clip clop of a horse and him on it, waving me, saying come away with me. But that never happened.  A few days later it was my birthday, and he was still in London and at four am I crawled out of the marital bed and went to Stoke Newington High St and hailed a taxi to West London, and I went back to the hotel and went to reception and dialed the room and he said come up. And I went up and we made tea in the little kettle and he said he was leaving London but would be at a concert that night. We didn’t even lie down, it felt too dangerous. I was just gonna be another crying girl whose hand he would pat and would awkwardly hug, having seen some but not all of my naked body.  That night, still miserable, I went to the concert. Someone introduced me to him and said it was my birthday, and we pretended we had just met and he said happy birthday and this made me more miserable.

It was a good concert. I blubbed throughout.

A few months later I left the marital home and stayed alone in a cheap hotel in Earls Court.  A few years after that he was a big star and I flew out to Texas to write about him for a big newspaper. I had a new boyfriend. The singer had a very beautiful girlfriend, and then a very beautiful wife, who was different from the very beautiful girlfriend. The wife was later and that was short lived.

He had been hardened by the music business. His manager/friend was no longer his friend. We did the interview in my room. He lay on the sofa, I sat in a chair. That night he played in a club in Dallas with stars all over the ceiling. I think it was called the Caravan of Dreams. He dedicated a song to his friends from London, his press officer and myself. I was no longer obsessed.  He had become slick, with a dry self effacing stage patter I knew he told a different audience every night.

 

Everything in Dallas is a million miles from everywhere else. It was freezing. I took a taxi which I could not afford to a Western outfit shop and couldn’t afford anything but a belt with lots of engraved horses on it. I needed extra holes punched in. I had long since given up speed, but was still very skinny.  I have long since lost the belt and pretty much all my obsessions. Now and then I hear him on the radio and think, that’s a nice song, and then I put on the kettle or do some ironing.  ENDS

 

 

West side story story, or how to get rid of a suitor

Standard

About a billion years ago, when Raquel Welch was still wearing a fur bikini, I had a sort of friend who had a brother who really, really liked me. A crush, I guess.  Well a big time crush. He was young, he was in film school, and there was ever so something slow or backwards about him. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It may have been a speech impediment. Well it wasn’t a diagnosable one, like a lisp or that thing where you can’t say the letter R, he just said “like” every other word. “Here, like, is. like,a present, like, I like , got, like, for, like you.”

Drove me nuts. Hippies and surfer dudes said “Like” a lot, but not every other word and it seemed to display a shyness coupled with a lack of vocabulary.  It may have been his ridiculous enthusiasm for things that did not merit a raised eyebrow, even.  He would come to my shared railroad apartment in Brooklyn, which overlooked a sodium street lit basket ball court. He came with an ever increasing supply of strange courtship gifts. Boxes of welfare farina which were out of date, stockpiled in a basement in Detroit in case of nuclear attack.  Lots of things involving fake blood and gore. I’ll get to than in a minute. Dead flowers.  Very dead. I remember this one in particular because I half smiled and said “Wow, dead flowers.That’s a new one. Is it a goth thing or something? I’m not a goth.”

“They, like, are not, like , dead. They are dried. They were like hanging on  a lamp post. There were like, lots. They will never miss them. Like for some guy called Denzil. But like, he never took the other ones, so like he won’t like miss these”

“You’re kidding, right?” No response. Just a big, proud of himself slightly drooling love sick grin. He really didn’t get it.

“No, sorry, they are dead, rotting, even. My guess is that Denzil got stabbed or shot by that lamp post. And the flowers are in memory of him. I know the difference between dead and dried. I’m no botany expert, but these are dead. But it’s the, uh, thought that counts? Um, what was your thinking?”

“Well, like, guys who like girls, like, get them flowers.But you are like a different kind of girl, like, kind of weird, but like good weird, so I got you like a different kind of flowers. Stolen, like dried ones for like Denzil. But like if he’s dead, he’ll never, like,  know.”

“Well how thoughtful of you. Let’s put them in water and see if they come to life, like sea horses you get by mail order in the back of comic books.” I found a vase and , like all his visits, I invited him in for instant coffee (Bustelo, Puerto Rican and cheap and I developed a taste for it) and to play records and practically every record I played, he’d say “Wow, like, my sister has gone out with one , of like, those guys in that like band.”

I am ashamed to say I don’t even remember his name, though his sister was one of the coolest girls on the planet. She had rock star boyfriends, multi coloured hair, she was funny, she had a good job and was also really nice . It was certainly an unfair genetic distribution. She got the looks, the brains, the fire and wit, he got, well, he got into film school and as such, frequently raided the props and make up department and often came to visit me with horrific fake injuries. An arm that dropped off and spurted blood. An ax in his head. Nose and moustache glasses, a pair for both of us. Once he came up the stoop, rang the bell and the instant I opened the door he started bleeding profusely from the mouth.”

“Oh my God, ” I said. “What happened.”

He grinned a bloody grin and gave me a little box. “Blood capsules. You bite on, like one, or a whole bunch, like I just like did, and people will like think you are like , bleeding to death,like.”

“Fucking fuck. Why the fuck would you want someone to think that?”

“Like, to surprise them. Here, like, have one.” I did. I bit. It tasted like a chemical, and I spat it out.

Another time he got me fruit well past its sell by date. “They were like, in a basket on someone’s doorstep for like a week. So I figured, like, Michele really likes, like, fruit. You can like, cut off like the brown bits. But you should eat the white fur cos like I remember in science it could be like, what’s that stuff that cures infections. Penis,like, cillin.” Dear oh dear, he was inserting it into the middle of words.

So I took the farina, the flowers, the comedy nose glasses, but I felt that by accepting these I was somehow giving him hope and encouragement for some sort of courtship. I knew I had to stop the visits.

Now this was a funny time in my life. I was a newly qualified teacher in primary school and I hated it. My salary was poor, I was sharing a railroad flat with two other girls and had very little money left over after I paid my rent for my little shoebox room. The city was dirty and everybody wanted money for drugs all the time. Rents were creeping up. There were lots of people living on the streets, thrusting Dunkin Donut cups under your nose and asking you for a quarter, a dollar, whatever you could spare. It wasn’t like it was in the movies, particularly not West Side Story, though the basketball court looked quite like the court in the final scene of West Side Story. I dunno, maybe all basketball courts look the same under sodium lights at night.  I liked to sit up out on the fire escape with my Bustelo and a cigarette and stare at the court, the way the light hit it, and I imagined all the dancing Jets doing their Jet walk dance, with the arc legs and splayed arms. I loved this image so much that I thought about it most of the time I wasn’t doing anything else, like teaching or trying to figure out what else I could do for a living. I knew my plan for getting rid of this kid would somehow involve the basketball court, and probably West Side Story.

So one night the kid came with some strange present, I think it was  single , broken drumstick, and he said he brought a video over, a horror film. I said I didn’t like horror films, I liked musicals. This was probably the only information I offered about myself to him. I said I just adored West Side Story, and New York , well, wouldn’t it be more fun if we could just sort of live in a musical? Did he like musicals?

“They are a little gay but you know like, I think that one has some fights in it so it’s OK. Sure, I know like every movie ever, but it there are too like many songs and dances I get like bored. It’s better when there’s killing and stuff.”

“Oh, there’s killing. It’s a good game. You will like it. You can even fake bleed if you want to.”

This was too strange, even for him, but he smiled nervously. I led him to the fire escape. I put my hand in the small of his back. I think this drove him wild with excitement, this physical contact. I said look how beautifully the court is lit. I think we should go out there and play.

“What? Like basketball? You have like a basketball?”

“No, we can play West Side Story.”

“You have like a video player you can play outside, not like plugged in?”

“No, we play West Side Story. We pretend we are in the movie.”

This foxed him. He smiled shyly. “Is there like, kissing.”

“Not really, not in the bit I want to do. Well a bit, but you have to pretend you’re dead.”

“Wow, like you are so a goth. That is like awesome. ”

“No, I just really like the lighting of the court and West Side Story.”

We went downstairs and over the court. He was transfixed with excitement. This was new mental turf for him. I was freaking him out and kind of enjoying it.

We stood there, and he moved closer to me and I said , no, you can’t do that. It’s not part of the game.”

“Well how do you play the game?” It was the first time he didn’t say “like” which made me feel a little, but not very, sorry for him.

I said, “Well, in the story, as you know cos you say you’ve seen it, you know in the end Tony gets stabbed and Maria goes and sort of sings and weeps over his body only it’s not Natalie Wood, it’s probably Marnie Nixon but that has nothing to do with it. And then she sort of walks away and the light, man, the lighting is really good and sad.”

“So what do I like have to do, like?”

“Well, you could be Maria but that would be strange, I want to be Maria, and you be Tony. You could use a blood capsule and everything. You lie down on the court and….”

“And I die and then you like kiss me, kiss me , dead.”

“No, as it’s your first take, I think we’ll just hold hands”

“Like a real hand, or my fake arm, you want me to get my fake blood arm?”

“No, this is fine. Your real arm will work.”

“Not if I’m like dead.”

“Look that’s all technical detail. I can lift it. But it has to be lifeless”

He lay on the ground. Even though it was approaching summer, I could feel the tarmac was cold. He shivered and smiled, grinned ear to ear.”

“No, don’t smile, you’ve been stabbed, you are dying. ”

He tried really hard not to smile but sat bolt upright and said “You are like a very strange girl.”

“GET DOWN AND PLAY DEAD.” I barked.

He did as I told him, but still smiled.

I kneeled over him and tried to look tragic. “Tony, Tony, ” I said. “Boohoo, Tony, you are dying”

He sat up again, for fucks sake. “Um, my name is not like Tony.”

“It fucking is in West Side Story. Now get down and die.” I was starting to say fuck as much as he said like. I am sure that was an indicator of some sort.

He did as he was told. Sort of.

“Hold your breath.  I can see you breathing.”

He held his  breath like a little kid learning how to swim. He took a deep breath and his cheeks puffed out. I decided to let it go.

He waited for something to happen. After about 30 seconds he gasped for breath.

“Do it again. Hold your breath again. Lie there and don’t move.”

He did. And I said, now you are dead I am a just all tragic and sad and have to leave.” He still lay there, not moving. I backed away, then took my shoes off and tip toed out of the basketball court and back up the stoop to my apartment. When  I got there he was still lying down on the court, waiting.  I went to bed.

I never heard from him again. ENDS