She Speaks – Monday

You know why they have that bamboo fence around the nursery? It’s cos of pervs. When I was younger the fence was the same as the primary school one. Wrought iron. Now all the nurseries have them. To stop men standing across the road, jerking their gherkins. Their cocks.

It’s true! Anyone used to able to walk into the playground and take you. Now the kids have to stay with their teacher until an ‘authorised adult’ comes to get them. Don’t know what my mum would have done back then. Without my nan? Without me? I don’t know what she would have done at all, nowadays. 

I guess she’d have to quit her job. Be a stay-at-home mum or let the state take care of us. After school club, breakfast club. Adventure club for the half terms, work crèche for inset days. 

It’s bleak, man. When you think about it. I go to work and by the time I get home I just sort of…switch off. I turn into a zombie. Autopilot or something. I literally shuffle shuffle from my room to the kitchen to the living room. Then bathroom, then bed. If you blocked my path I’d probably try and walk through you. I have no energy. Sometimes, when Seth and I- don’t say anything! But sometimes, when we’re- and it’s not all the time! But when we’re getting down to it, sometimes I’m just…not there. I’m awake and I want it- I love the dude, you know? But I’m also just like… Did I lock up before I left? Could I put a wash on and have it finish before midnight? I know. I know. It’s awful. But when else do I have the time to think? To really think about anything?

Now imagine that and chuck a baby in there too. A squealing wailing ball of confusion. Imagine that while you’re on autopilot. On your own. Drained from work. Drained from the baby. Maybe one day you snap. Walk out of work, into a busy street. Or worse. Get you cock out in park cos you’ve forgotten what appropriate behaviour is. It happens. I’m sure it happens. And that’s why we need bamboo fences. To keep the pervs and the parents out. 

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In My Dreams, We’re Still Screaming and Running Through the Yard

‘I’ve got light up trainers, do you wanna see them?”

She stood before me with her hands in her shorts’ pockets, her scabby elbows pointing out in right angles. The light summer breeze was rippling the Barbie t-shirt that she always wore, and flicking blond curls around her forehead. We must have been about 8 years old; yes, I distinctly remember a wad of Pokemon cards that kept falling out of my dungaree pockets. There were still wooden park benches on the green behind my block of flats and my grass stained Nikes hadn’t lost their peeling pink ticks yet.

When she spoke, I was completely dumbstruck. I repeated the words again slowly in my head: light up trainers. I still couldn’t believe it. Those shoes only existed on television, in the musical breaks between Fun House and Hey Arnold, my mother had said. If Alison owned a pair of these fabled shoes, then her parents must have performed some kind of incredible feat. Pulled them straight out of the television, or something. Because at 8 years old, I struggled to believe my mother could possibly ever lie to me. If she said those trainers were hard to get, then they were hard to get and Alison’s mum must have suffered very greatly to get them. So I definitely wanted to see them. I wanted to see them and touch them and smell them and then share the odyssey that these shoes had encouraged with my mother, in the hopes that she would also sacrifice her well-being to acquire them for me. Especially now that the likes of Alison had a pair. It’s odd actually, to think I had no concept of deception when I was younger, but knew exactly how pride worked.

‘Yeah, alright,’ I said eventually, still trying to process the information as Alison bounded back up the stairs of the tower block she lived in towards her flat. She slammed the landing door so fiercely in her excitement that she made me jump in mine. After a brief pause, and an exasperated warning from her mother, the sound of thudding footsteps echoed in the stairwell. She was so eager that she was jumping down whole flights of stairs. But not just jumping, flashing too, with dazzling pink lights where her heels had once been.

When she reached me, she began parading up and down, an ecstatic smile on her chubby, childish face. She pointed to the white trainers as she did so, to the floral accents, the neon Velcro straps, and of course the magic lights that twinkled on and off in time with her footsteps. It was as though I had stepped into the advert, and she was selling the shoes to me. Soon I was convinced that I needed a pair, watching her marching up and down, beaming with her large green eyes and toothy grin.

“They’re the best, aren’t they?” she exclaimed, jumping up and down and making her tight ringlets bob along with her.

“My dad got them for me when he went on holiday; he’s the best!”

Ah. So that explained it, to me anyway. They were foreign. Foreign was a place like Narnia, a place where anything could happen. Of course she’d got her shoes from foreign. I’d call my dad as soon as I got home and ask for a pair from his new home in foreign.

We raced around the green as she showed me all the things her shoes could do that basic, substandard trainers could not; illuminating a cartwheel, for example, so that when she spun around she glowed like a Catherine Wheel. Or brightening up a dance routine so that no one’s eyes were on the mediocre choreography; or dazzling the rope turners when she jumped so that she never got caught in the death trap of double dutch.

Finally, when she had exhausted these pursuits, we flopped down on the grass, staring up at the sky and searching for the sun that was warming our damp skin.

“You know what,” she said in her dream like, distracted, 8 year old way, “you can borrow my shoes whenever you want. Because you’re my friend. My bestest friend in the whole world, and we can share my shoes forever!”

She took them off then, and let me try them on. I remember being so happy. Almost a bit light headed with it. Not just because I had the best shoes I’d ever worn on my tiny prepubescent feet, but because I genuinely believed her. All we needed to be happy was each other and one pair of mega special trainers. We were about to embark on a multitude of adventures. There was scaffolding that had just gone up on the other side of the estate. We’d be flashing all over that soon. Bright eyed and young and overwhelmingly optimistic.


 

I saw her the other day pushing a pram along the pavement. I’d say I was surprised but it was bound to happen; none of my friends from home ever really moved away, we just never stayed in contact. I’d like to blame the pair of trainers for dividing us, but it was probably the pride. There is only so long that someone can put up with being put down. When I saw her, she looked old. Really old. Not just in a ‘it’s been 12 years so I’ve grown taller’ way, but in a life way. Her shoulders were hunched like they had carried a heavy load for a long time; her eyes were downcast like they had seen some trying times. Her curls were straggly, she was uncomfortably thin. The sort of things you can imagine when someone mentions the phrase ‘shell of a former self’. I barely recognized her, and she didn’t recognise me at all. Just swept past in that obnoxious teen mum way, face contorted into a grimace, bomber jacket flapping in the wind. The child wrestled with the safety grips of the chair.  I couldn’t really see, but I got the impression that she didn’t have those blinking trainers anymore.

 

Observation 148A

observation_room

Subject 2227

  • Subject has reached stage 3 of observation: a study in solitary.
  •  Subject becomes tense when shown into the room. Asks how long he will be in there for. Becomes even more agitated when met with silence.
  • Lack of information is definitely a trigger for Subject. Breaks free from guards twice before being restrained and wheeled into room on a stretcher.
  • Mutters incoherently (find transcript below) for 45 minutes before becoming silent. Released from restraints soon after.
  • Walks the perimeter of the room as if sizing place up. Finds the concealed observation window in less than a minute.
  • Stands and stares at/through the window for the next 4 hours.
  • Subject’s discipline is unprecedented. Lack of formal schooling should have affected concentration/compliance. Subject, however, seems determined. Unimpressed, even.
  • Subject’s legs give way at about 17:00 hours. Subject then moves the desk chair across room to the window and sits down. Continues to stare at the glass for the next 6 hours.
  • Subject struggling to stay upright. Moves to the bed at 23:00 hours. Continues to stare at the window.
  • Sleep, as observed in previous occasions, is not a need for the Subject. We are unsure as to whether this is an involuntary result of his condition, or if Subject is actively staying awake.
  • Supervisor visits at 00:30 hours. All concurrent Observations have been scaled down. All Subjects but one have fallen asleep. 2227 shows no signs of conforming.
  • Subject has not moved for 4 hours. Eyes remain open and blinking. Breathing is barely visible. Similar to the state his brother Subject 2223 was in before passing.
  • At 3:00 hours, Supervisor intervenes in observation to check Subject’s vitals. Subject is seemingly comatose when Supervisor enters. Is unresponsive when his name is called.
  • When Supervisor turns his wrist over to check pulse, Subject grabs her by the throat. Manifests ability in 4 seconds. A record?
  • When he hears the Security coming, Subject pushes Supervisor’s face against the window to mock us.
  • Sadist?
  • Complies with Security when they finally enter room.
  • Calls Supervisor by her maiden name as she is carried out. Asks her if her father would be proud of her work.
  • The Observation is paused to record Supervisor’s account of incident (See Index 2227 8A).
  • One thing to note, Supervisor closed eyes during altercation but Subject’s connection was not broken. Eye contact can be ruled out as a way he creates a bond.
  • There are also questions about ability’s accuracy. The memories Subject mined from supervisor have no coherent link. All relatively recent though – wedding, how to access Records Room, a trip to the vet – This is what we can gleam so far. Investigation is still underway.
  • The observation is resumed.
  • Subject is sitting in the chair with his head in his hands. Perhaps he has spent the last of his energy reserves.
  • At 4:00 hours, Subject stirs. Appears to be shielding his eyes from something.
  • He moves the desk and the bed and boxes himself in a far corner of the room. He pulls the mattress over the top. He is now entirely obscured.
  • After two hours of this, and further information from Supervisor interrogation, the observation is suspended. The Subject has discovered the nature of the observation from his data mining and is resisting the only way he can.
  • He will be left in the room while we consider ways to adjust Part B and avoid any further incidents.

I know girls like you

Claire: You act like you’re so light and charming, but I know. I know how calculated all of this is. I know girls like you. Girls who like things that they can’t have, and won’t leave it alone until they do. You’re like a spider, catching men in your web and the only time they truly have your attention is when you’re about to swallow them whole.

Lauren: Oh, Claire. Claire. I only wish I was that poetic.

 

Next Question

Ava: I know what this is. I know what I’m ‘supposed’ to say, doctor-

Dr Stewart raises his hand.

Stewart: Ms Ward, please.

He gets up and moves round the desk to perch in front of her. He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes.

Stewart: Do you know how many of these exchanges I have to sit through in a day?

Ava stares at him, confused.

Stewart: How many I must have experienced in a lifetime? Do you know how many people have sat exactly where you’re sitting and thought that they were going to outsmart me too?

He gestures with his glasses.

Stewart: I do this for a living. There is nothing that you can say or do that will hide what lies beneath from me. At this point, all these attempts at flair and intrigue bore me. I’d rather get this done, finish my bento box and watch question time. I understand that exposing yourself is not exactly a welcomed opportunity, but whether you answer my question or not, you’re still telling me what I need to know. Everything you are seeps through into everything you do. Being defensive in these meetings, or coy, or pedantic, or flippant, all of it gives me clues as to who you are and what you would do if we were to let you leave. This is not a test you can cheat. I am good at my job. I am really good at my job.And this, what you’re doing now, thinking you’re about to play a game with me, is a long and tedious journey to an already predestined end point. Think about it this way-

He puts his hands together and points them at Ava.

Stewart: I’m always going to get to where I need to go. But I’d appreciate it if I could get there and still be home in time for dinner. Do you understand?

Ava: Yes.

Stewart: Good.

He smiles and takes his seat.

Stewart: So let’s start again. What does your father think about your condition?

Eva’s eyes flick across the room and then back to Doctor Stewart, without a word.

Stewart: Ms. Ward-

Ava: Could you repeat the question?

Stewart: Your father. What does he think-

Ava: He doesn’t know. We don’t really speak anymore. He’s in prison.

Stewart: Interesting.

Ava: Is it?

Stewart: Why is he in prison?

Ava: For being a criminal.

She shrugs.

Ava: I’m sorry. But you have to admit you walked into that one. If you want to ask me a personal question, go right ahead. If you’re just going to ask me things that you could find out on the internet, then I might not be so forthcoming.

She leans back in her chair.

Ava: To quote you, it bores me.

Stewart: So he doesn’t know you’re here.

Ava: I don’t know. Maybe he reads the paper.

She laughs.

Ava: He probably doesn’t read the paper.

Stewart: Do you miss him?

Ava: No. Does that make me a bad person?

Stewart: No. Do you think it’s bad that you don’t miss your father?

Ava: I don’t know. Shouldn’t people miss their parents? I miss my mother. But I don’t miss my dad. Maybe because he’s alive. I don’t know. Maybe because he’s a failure.

She nods.

Ava: That’s probably it. Because I still  don’t understand it. I can’t. How hard is it to wipe your fucking computer? I mean…I’d have more respect for him if he was a successful criminal. Is that bad?

Stewart: Depends. Do you mean if he was successful or if he was a criminal?

Ava ponders over this for a while.

Ava: Successful. Right now, he makes me ashamed. Ashamed to be his daughter. He tried to be a criminal. First mistake. He failed. Second mistake. He somehow managed to lose money rather than make any, He tore our family apart and then, and then-

She realises she has gradually been getting more and more animated. She lowers her voice.

Ava: Then, you got found out. Mistakes 3-70.

She looks at her hands.

Ava: He dragged us all into. Couldn’t he just…implode on his own?

She shrugs.

Ava: But then…I don’t hate him. Because he, you know, brought me into the world and yadda yadda yadda. Always made cake on my birthday. I don’t have a problem with him as a father. But I do have a problem with him as a man. I suppose everyone goes through that at some point, when they realise that they’re parents are not these infallible titans than they’ve come to revere them as. They’re just sad little people like the rest of us, trying to cope with the terrible, terrible decisions they’ve made in life. So I don’t hate him. I just don’t want him around me. And that’s not too hard. Because like I said: He’s in prison.

She rubs her hands together.

Ava: Next question.

 

Hollow-Eyed

INT. OFFICE RECEPTION – NIGHT

EDIE, young but hollow-eyed, sits at the front desk of a dimly lit office reception for the night shift. She watches the time on a computer screen. A lift chimes its arrival on her floor. She looks up and sees a member of staff, SIMON, rooting in the pockets of his winter coat as he steps out of the lift and crosses the foyer. He pauses in the middle.

SIMON

Working late again, Edie?

Edie shrugs.

EDIE

What can I say? I can’t get enough of the place.

Simon grins and approaches the door to the main office. He swipes his ID card and disappears inside.

Edie goes back to looking at the time. A minute later the lift chimes again. She looks up and sees Simon, exactly as before, step out of the lift and cross the foyer, pausing in the middle.

SIMON

Working late again, Edie?

Edie stares at him, perplexed.

EDIE

What?

Simon grins and swipes his ID card. He disappears into the main office. Edie stares after him.

A minute later the lift chimes. Simon steps out of the lift and crosses the foyer, pausing in the middle.

SIMON

Working late again, Edie?

Edie shakes her head in disbelief.        

EDIE

Simon?

Simon grins and swipes his card. He disappears into the main office. Edie gets up and cautiously approaches the door he has just walked through. She peers through the glass into the dark, empty, open plan office. The lift chimes behind her. Slowly Edie turns around. Simon steps out of the lift and pauses in the middle, addressing the front desk.

SIMON

Working late again, Edie?

Edie just stares at him, eyes filling with tears. A familiar voice replies.

EDIE 2

What can I say?

Edie turns to look at the front desk. It is occupied. By her. The second Edie turns to look at her, hollow eyes blank.

EDIE 2 (continued)

I can’t get enough of the place.

The Edie standing at the door vanishes. Simon grins and swipes his ID card. Edie goes back to looking at the time on her computer screen. After a moment, the lift chimes.

Musing Monday #8

New York Is Killing Me.

I’ve always wondered how long you can go without sleep. Not you, personally- any body. I remember reading something somewhere about a boy staying awake for 11 days. I always thought that I could do better, the way that all 10 year old boys think they could do anything. But now…now that I haven’t slept for four weeks, I’ve proved 10 year old me right. I’ve proved that with very little or no exertion on my part I can achieve whatever I want and also, as it turns out, whatever I do not want.

 

But you probably don’t want to hear about this. You said we could use this note system in situations of emergency. I don’t know if I would label this an urgent piece of news if you were actually sitting across from me at this table, instead of reading this in the diner hours later, but ever since I woke up, for the last time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past. About my mother, about my sleepy town, about the bus I used to take to school and the sound of the surf crashing against the promenade wall as we rode past. I don’t know if you’ve ever been near the sea- you probably have if you’ve been around as much as I think you have- but it has this distinct rhythm. It gets inside you, a bit like a heartbeat. When I was little and used to wake up in the dead of the night, I could hear it still, the sound of water rushing up and then away. When I got older, I found out it was the sound of blood sloshing about in my ears. But, still. It sounded exactly the same. As if the two things, meeting as they did when I stood on the promenade as a child and listened to the sea, had taken on the properties of each other. Merging, I think that’s called.

 

I don’t hear the blood anymore. Just the memory of the sea replaying over and over, like a sound clip on loop. I hear it when I’m walking along the side streets in the early morning. I hear it when I’m mopping the linoleum floor at work. I hear it when I’m staring at the walls of my apartment, thinking about what to eat. Especially when I’m think about what to eat. The sound of the sea, of blood sloshing, of heartbeats, and chewing and dying breaths. There’s a rhythm to all of it. And rhythm is key. That’s another thing I’ve learnt. I could be a man sized metronome now. See. It’s like with religion. He takes away but He also provides.

 

I’m getting lost. I originally came in for a coffee, as you do in these parts. and then I remembered, this is where you took me, before we parted ways. You sat opposite the zigzag painting, and I sat devouring my double cheese burger with extra bacon. You specifically said, if I can remember- and I can remember everything nowadays- that you did not want to see me ever again. At the time I thought you just had a strict policy on one night stands, but now…now that I can’t ever eat and be full or drink and be full or talk to people without trembling, or sleep, or think without hearing that god awful metronome, and go a day with out feeling cold, or nervous or seeing things that aren’t there, or calling my mother’s house and hanging up the phone, or following my co worker Bethany home, I feel like you might owe me a little more. Which is probably why you mentioned this note system. At the time I thought it was odd, but I figured you probably did it for the story. A city thing. Now I don’t know. But I’ve got time. Like I said, I’m up all night and I’m achieving all sorts of things, I’m going to figure this out.