Sunday, March 2

Not Arsenal Country

‘WHO OWNS THE land over which these train-tracks spread, for miles and miles up and down the country?’ I wondered as I looked at the sun setting in cocktail colours over the capital; between wobbling heads the scene grew weary and faded.
But it was in the morning that I was first disturbed.
A knock at my door is very unusual, especially in the morning, so I was nervous and half-naked when I opened it. A young Indian man stood before me. He asked me, somewhat confusedly, for a girl’s name I was familiar with, though the owner of it was a stranger. I told him that she no longer lived here. ‘Ah,’ said he from the electricity company, a debt collector, single-handed, dressed in a leather bomber jacket, and the two of us stared at each other. My window was wide open and now the front door was open so that a good breeze flew through the flat. He gave me five minutes so I could finish my cigarette and put on some trousers; for this act alone I said I would sign on with his company because, no doubt, they employed fine people and I was impressed. He took my details. He entered my details in the phone.
‘Black or white … white. Age … twenty-eight. Working? … full-time. Height …’
‘Why are you taking all this information?’
‘I have to describe you, just in case you’re vulnerable or something, blah-blah-blah.’
Seemed reasonable, and very considerate. This was, indeed, the finest company I had ever experienced. I quickly told him—‘Put down that I lift weights, too.’
He left me a scrap bit of paper for disturbing my Saturday morning.
I went to the window, shaking terribly, and, with the sun casting down all blue yellow white’s happy early spring, saw a robin perch on the brambles, on the iron pole, then flit fluttering over the tracks up, out and away beyond where I could see.
The train I caught out of there carried on through the good weather. A big white building stood out over the suburbs and upon it in large letters was BATES written clear for all to see. Behind it was where my aunt and uncle had lived before their divorce; a flicker; a glimpse between the walls showed their house; and then gone. I dream about her a lot since she became a lesbian and tried to get the police involved. Many of my family hate her. I dream about her very often—more than any other person, probably—and she is eight-foot tall, dressed in long clothes. Twenty-four years ago I was a pageboy at their wedding and still remember the ridiculous outfit I had to wear and the presents I received in front of everyone.
Then onwards,
the vast becoming the obsolete:
why is it that there, beside the verge, I should remember Pat and Shirley’s house? It was a big expensive house and at the end of the garden was the adjacent to the grass verge’s hypotenuse and, my infant eyes peering down, the train-tracks. Their rosy-cheeked daughter glided down the stairs carrying big white teeth and a swell underneath her woolen jumper. She was pretty. Her brother—not quite so endeared toward my brother and I—bragged to the pair of us of all his figurines; we swooned over their twisting limbs! It was deep white winter then. All food was prepared and brought out, steaming. Christmas had been. There was something in the future; though for now the food will be brought out and the children should play upstairs and—‘How old are you?’
A pet-shop painted display said PUPPIES FOR SALE, though inside was all bubble and tweet; I’ve been there before and in the back is a newspaper-bottomed cage with sad fur inside. I wish to steal them all, but I cannot. My head is hurting. Where am I? A man appears from nowhere and begins vomiting on the street. The vomit flows out of his purple lips and it is clear. He is the worst water feature ever. His vomit is flowing out of him and clear; he rests his arm upon the building’s wall and throws up; splattering, wet, and clear. His friend—only, in the world—is sat on the pavement, uncaring; he is dressed unkempt and trying to keep his own sickness down. Neither of them see me when I pass. I am all that is seen and unseen.
The girl in the hairdresser’s keeps staring at me with her painted eyes. She massages my head and exclaims that my job is so interesting. I am fixated with a poster on the wall that is advertising a wide range of hair products for many different types of hair; for each type, I try and think of someone I know who has that type of hair. I think of her hair and how it is quite like my own: thick and good. When we watch movies together, she sits between my legs and I feel her skull and all of the lumps on it from when she was battered towards death. Her hair is shiny. It smells good, yet not of her perfume. I hold on to it when we fuck, I grip it when I come, and when we are in bed I press my nose into it. I massage her head when we watch films and then I sniff my fingers.
An old lady enters the hairdressers, slowly and with her personality being dragged along behind her. She gets her hair washed and talks of how she’d like it done. The hairdresser tells her—‘Oh, I can do that. No problem.’ The old lady would like a change from the usual. Soon they begin to speak of Danny.
Danny is her husband.
Danny is a question mark walking over cobblestones. He, too, is dragging his personality along behind him. He slumps in a chair and refuses a drink. Hairdressers are the worst places in the world to Danny, and he sits there like an unamused child. I’ve never known an old man called Danny before, so I try to catch a look at him through a series of mirrors. He slumps. His wife’s name is Lilly.
There is Lilly.
There is Danny.
Lilly is sitting here in a faux leather chair, getting her hair cut, though she is, between sucking on a boiled sweet and adjusting her glasses, looking back past the mirror at the room on the other side of the frame. She is—‘I’m here, hello.’
The hairdresser says that I—‘Come all the way from London to have his haircut here.’
Lilly perks—‘Where in London?’
‘Bow.’
‘Oh, that’s becoming an upmarket area.’
Danny—‘That’s Arsenal country.’
I look. Danny is there, his head back, smiling at me, a wink, his grey wrinkled face all caught up in this football talk.
I smirk at him and say—‘I ain’t Arsenal; I’m Chelsea, man.’
We both smile and he is twirling in the hairdresser’s chair.
Lilly knows all the places in London that I mention. Her voice is very good to hear, and sonorous, too.
Where has the vomit gone? Its shadow is still there, just. The café smoking areas are well-stocked. My lunch is steaming, just.

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