Diary 18: There is a Girl

Bitstrip - Diary 18

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True.

 

My belief in people is a little suspect.

 

Still.

 

A little company wouldn’t go astray. I’m a below-the-waist sort of guy but goddamn it when?

 

So.

 

Couples are canoodling and I want in. Distraction. Sex. To muck around with ice-cream. Champagne for two.

 

I’m eyeing up everybody, this one and that. I hope it’s not the hippy with a tea-towel on her head. Or the anorexic bag of bones. Or the dumpy one. You see, they say you don’t get to choose who you love. I read it in a girlie magazine. Still, I must try and have a say, to control the outcome, quality control, to ensure that whoever it is, is cute. I mean, otherwise … no, not worth thinking about. Big Bertha and me – it’s not happening. I pray.

 

So.

 

I’m looking at a girl worth a look. My target. Actually, let’s call her that. The Target. And the Target is hot. Only she won’t talk to me or meet my look. But get this, I ignore her ignoring and persist. Gushing. Maybe I’m simply lonely, me, a new stranger in town. Or maybe the Target thinks me married; I’m ripe enough. Or maybe my heart is burning too brightly and she’s feeling the heat. Or maybe it might just be as simple as this: that she’s the one and we both know it. See, love isn’t an exact science. Who knows anytime about it? Nobody! And although I’m 10 years the Targets senior I don’t allow myself understand sexual rejection. In matters of the heart parity is irrelevant.

 

The Target’s group are discussing the 6 students who drowned over Christmas when a freak wave plucked them off the beach at Meco. The stormy sea gobbled them up and only returned their bodies days later. Mystifying. [1]

 

I’m listening from the bar and the Target unawares of my longing. Enough, Mr. Man of Action! Hesitation is a cripple. And so I take action.

 

I intercept the Target en route to the bathroom but she sidesteps me, leaving me make eyes at the wall. So I hatch a plan and confess my feelings in a love letter and place it under an ashtray. When the Target returns I make earnest eyes at her. She slowly understands and picks up the letter and makes off to the toilet on another pee pretext. If only I could get my prick in the door! Alas no. I’m left sweating at the bar, imagining her in the toilet, smoothening out the letter, and holding it up to the light.

 

Dear Blondie,

 

I’m compelled to write but am unsure how you will interpret this as you’ll either think:

 

a)      I’m completely mad, or

b)      that I’m brave and sweet.

 

Either way this letter will test the theory. And just as you’re not really blonde [2] I propose to show you that I’m not cuckoo.

 

A question: why did you move to the far side of the bar, so very far away from me? Fear not, I’m a barking puppy without bite. I only talk loud and silly but it’s only a castle wall to hide behind. You’re the same, except your castle wall is a physical one as you keep your distance.

 

All I want by this note is a chat. In return, I promise not to make a move on you. I hope this puts you at ease. You see, to me it’s obvious you’ve been hurt before but so too have I. [3]

 

The last time I wrote a letter like this I was in love with Fiona Grouters. I feel so stupid about it  now that I’m blushing as I write.

 

I was 10 years old and Fiona moved weightless through the playground in a self-assured way, just like you. After the summer holidays, Fiona returned to her native Holland but I’d engineered an insurance policy and befriended her brother. It’s how I ensured I received an invitation to visit her family.

 

As I boarded the flight with a nametag around my neck and me but a child, I wasn’t in fear of travel but arrival. Her brother and family had no idea of the web I’d spun. Or so I thought. You see, weeks before my arrival, I posted Fiona a love letter complete with a childish drawing of us embedded in a love heart. It was then I realized that by emitting words in print there’s an eternally greater threat to oneself than standing in front of somebody and professing undying love. You see, writing is permanent. Evidence. Written words count!

 

For my weeklong stay in Holland I couldn’t bring myself to talk to my muse. I was mortified and shit-scared of Fiona’s parents who probably thought me a mad 10-year old rapist. I returned to Ireland defeated. Although I’m over that first flush of love I’m haunted by my cowardice and fear that that letter will resurface and show me up for being a stupid boy and scupper my plans of one day becoming President of Ireland.

 

So maybe our shared problem is our shyness. It would therefore be a pity if you now decided to talk to me and if I didn’t know it. But I have an idea – you could give me a sign that its ok to approach you.

 

Here’s how it works: if it’s ok to talk to you, you should say aloud to your friends that you prefer cats to dogs. But if you’d rather I keep my distance you should insist that you prefer dogs to cats. OK?

 

So, in summary:  cats are good and dogs are bad.

 

Louis

 

Ps. Meow and I’ll come to the rescue.

 

 

And then, guess what?

 

At the bar, with my candle petering out and me itching my wick and prattling on and on to myself about lugging around this everlasting longing of mine and with my half-baked letter and my head boiling over, I pitch onto the street, slurring as I go:

 

FuckwhatsHisfuckJeff.

 

And there’s more:

 

WhenLouisLaRoclandsonyoubyGodwillyouknowit.

 

And in-between wondering if the dot-com is available I hear an animal sound echo in my ear and then I’m pulling at my shirt, fighting for air, and fighting to leave this reductive world because it’s so reductive what with the way it prefers to start at the end instead of with mystery.

 

True.

 

My belief in people is a little suspect.

 

Still.

 

A little company wouldn’t go astray.

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____________

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/hazing-turned-tragic-death-6-students-perplexes-portugal-191626143.html

[2] The Target is a brunette but I made a joke that she overheard about brunettes having blonde brains and vice-versa. Ok, it’s a Susan theory I have.

[3] I did some research. I asked the barmaid about the Target. It’s so I can sound insightful so we can share some hurt. Keanu Reeves did it in “Point Break” when he lies to Tyler, the hot chick he’s after, by saying his parents died in a plane crash as he knew her parents had died in a car crash. This shared hurt got them together. Genius.

Diary 19: Floating High

Bitstrip 19

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Back in London, Jeff whatever-his-name-is is holding a single red rose, hamming it up, making like He’s great. Only He is.

The buff-fuck.

Fucking pop-stars!

 

Mr Larger-than-life’s self-assurance is unnerving. It’s all about Him. I ask Him about it, about Him, if it can ever be about someone else. It gets Him thinking, I think. It’s why we’re here. At this deathly place. The crematorium. To think, I think.

Deadly.

 

‘I’m reminded how special a thing life is’ Jeff says.

‘We often take it for granted’ I agree.

‘But her, oh God, not her.’

‘It’s tragic. The list is growing: Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison…And did you see the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman? Dead!’

‘What list?’

‘Of famous artists who die at 27.’

‘Hoffman was an actor, not a singer, and he was fucking ancient. Idiot!’

‘Still.’

 

Jeff’s scowl subsides. Here in the crematorium, we’re prowling the grassy paddock in front of the red-brick stable that houses the remains of notable people who passed through life.

 

‘When I think of Amy I think of ants.’

‘Ants?’ I ask.

‘How they survive. In a nuclear fall-out, its the smallest sign of life that survives. That’s my Amy. Or should have been.’

 

We’ve come to the plot. Perhaps it’s the only plot this blog will have. It’s the place where Amy Winehouse has come to rest. The place where her body went up in smoke: Golders Green Crematorium, North London. It’s the perfect denouement; the day is crisp and quiet. In the 12 acre garden, the main building shelters us from the traffic buzzing along Finchley Road. This place is a bakery of sorts, a furnace for human remains. Auschwitz. Nothing stirs. Us neither.

 

‘Winehouse isn’t buried here, right?’ I ask, trying to snap Jeff out of it.

‘Huh? No. Funeral service was at EdgwareburyCemetery. Side-stepping rules – that was our Amy.’

‘A wild cat’ I say.

‘Jews don’t allow cremation but …Amy.’

‘Ya, coked and cooked up here. Was it even Jewish?’ I ask.

‘What?’

‘Being cooked. Her ashes?’

‘Louis, religion never refuses a star. They scattered her with her granny.’

 

The hullabaloo over Amy Winehouse’s death is long past. A life in the eye of the media lasts five minutes. Amy got ten. We’re here to remember the day. Or remember her life, I think, although honestly I’m not too sure why we’re here. Like really really here. I’ve stopped knowing what’s going on. Who cares.

 

The thing is, I wanted to do something with Jeff, outdoors. It wasn’t that I wanted to be seen by His side – that’s too simple an explanation – but more to feel what life is like in His shoes. In a brotherly kind of way. Ok, and nobody need know this, but I feel I’m getting inside Him, getting under His skin.

 

In a dream I wasn’t merely with Jeff but was Him. And everyone was looking at me. I woke with a start. You see, it was the first time I actually morphed into Him. Like, physically. And you know what I did? You guessed right.  I carried my dream-life over into the real world and started being Him, appropriating His everyday identity. Consider it a vindication of sorts for my soulless work.

 

So ecstatic was I that I danced on the bed while singing His songs. Lalala. Then I took it outdoors, into the street, being His doppelganger, enjoyment by proxy. In London and Paris, I entered nightclubs using His name, announcing to the manager that I was a key member of His entourage and was scouting venues on His behalf. Verification came on showing an array of photos of Jeff and I together on my phone. Nobody dared say I was an impostor. Sometimes I even got showy or a bit stroppy as I ran through Jeff’s itinerary, where His next concert is and that kind of thing. I even suggested precisely when Jeff might grace the particular establishment. Other times I imagined our lives intertwined, Jeff and I as life-long pals. To perfect strangers I’d recount funny episodes Jeff told me while working myself into the story as though forever by His side. You must remember that I know everything about Him, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, me his trusted confidante.

 

Once, I even dreamt that Jeff was my servant.

 

Meanwhile, back in reality, in London, Jeff is giving me dumb Jewish anecdotes as we take a gander around the crematorium.

 

‘Jewish tradition says they can’t get tattoos’ He says. ‘But there’s ol’ Amy.’

‘Ya, it’s touching in a fitting way.’

 

I’m feeling self-conscious about my own tattoos but know Jeff doesn’t know about them as they’re hidden. My hair has grown over the insect on my skull. Anyway, not that He’d ever notice as He keeps whittling on.

 

‘Louis, it’s weird, we’re born to die but don’t accept it. Me dad used say it’s what we do between birth and death that counts.’

 

WTF!

 

But it’s true, that on planet earth, we’re mandated to do all we can. But how do I agree with Him without dominating? Girls often accuse me of doing that, of diminishing others. Jeff even pulled me up on it once. So, I play casual, playing playful, and light and fluffy like a dumb blonde.

 

‘Jeff, I saw this fat girl wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it saying: “we are what we do. The days we do things we exist; the other days we only last.”

‘What’s that Louis?’

‘I don’t know – some saying on a t-shirt. I just thought it kind of made sense. You know, what you were saying, the bit about simply existing and it not being the same thing as living.’

 

Jeff gives me a peculiar look. He wants to get back on track. To explain His neurosis or maybe to confess why He brought me here. He’s yapping. Something about His dad. About some planning problem.

 

‘There were houses up on a hill’ Jeff says. ‘You can see everything from up there, from up high on a hill. Dad got that right. He paid the best lawyers and all.’

 

Jeff shoots me a look. Am I following His look asks. I look like I am but feel guilty because I’m not. I’m not listening. But, the thing is, after I got a few details about His life muddled up He’s started becoming all particular, watchful, and fussy with facts. He’s at pains to set it down correctly, His biography, whereas I’m starting to think it might work out better if I freestyle it a bit. Anyway, forget it. We’re back to some mundane planning appeal that His dead dad went through. I mean, come on: who gives a shit!

 

‘Louis, it took its toll on him. Poor dad. I keep thinking that if only I had me head out of me ass at the time.’

‘You’d have helped?’ I ask.

‘He and me mum – well, you know. He was stubborn, but ya, of course I’d have chipped in.’

 

We discuss the funeral; His dads. Walking around a crematorium will do that, bring on the dead. On my wall chart at home there’s a question mark between them: father and son, were they estranged?

 

Grief brings tears. He’s crying. Jeff is. Then we’re man-hugging. I try to get in on the act, to feel sad. To bond. Terry, my editor, his advice is in my ear:

 

‘Louis, you must steal into him. Especially when Jeff’s guard is down. Like a squirrel, tap in and steal the nuts.’

 

I recall not liking the analogy and jokingly asking if I must be like a worm. Yes, yes, yes, he replied.

So here I am worming and trying to bleed Jeff of His secrets amid the ashes of strangers so that I can relive His pain on page. I’m getting into it, the roll-playing. I imagine my own Dad dead. Yes, the immortal Dr. La Roc. My crimes flare up in mind. My disobedience, the disloyalty. The way I abandoned the law firm. And if he knew about my hounding of Saucy Susan or about beating up the kid. Oh how much I cost him – financially, emotionally. I’ve let dad down. Consistently. Yes I have.

 

So.

 

Jeff and I are still man-hugging when I start coughing up a few tears of my own. It’s method acting gone wrong. I don’t know who I’m crying for: Dad or me. It’s probably the only time we’ll truly align, at one of our gravesides, Dad and I, death triggering life. Then there’s back-slapping: a change in its direction, from Jeff to me. He’s consoling me!

 

There. There. There.

 

Dad, I’m sorry I never said I loved you. I’m sorry for disappointing. I’m sorry for existing.

 

There. There. There. It’s what Jeff says.

 

I recover somewhat. I’m down to hiccupping sniffles when I wonder how I might impress Dad. I decide that when I’m through with this writing assignment I’ll take some time off. I’ll address my untapped potential. Maybe I’ll start work on a book of my own or even a screenplay.

 

‘You alright mate?’ Jeff asks.

‘Ya, fine. It’s just a Neknomination thing!’

‘You what?’ He asks.

‘Nothing. It’s a dare thing and I dared to be real.’

 

Jeff is holding me by the shoulders. He fixes me a curious look.

 

‘Louis, you believe in the afterlife? Reincarnation?’

‘Ya, sure’ I hedge.

 

But I don’t really: nothing is nothing, right? The nothing-ever-after. But now, guess what? I’m looking around. And noticing things. There’s a bird. Not a broad but a real one, a real bird. Might it be a past person? I’m a bit cloudy. I wipe my eyes and act like I didn’t just have a mini-meltdown. But I’m looking around again. Shit, nobody spotted us. Our hug won’t even make the newspapers.

 

‘Dads, huh?’ Jeff says.

 

I’d be rightly shafted if Jeff knew that Dr. La Roc is still alive. I take the initiative and move us along. Literally. We walk past Sigmund Freud’s fancy urn. Jeff sets down the red rose at the foot of a plaque indicating Freud’s remains. I don’t get it.

 

‘Jeff, I don’t get it.’

‘The reason we can sleep easily at night’ He says.

‘Or not!’ I quip.

‘Know what, Louis, you’re an enigma wrapped in cotton wool. I can’t figure you out.’

 

Jeff is shaking His head, smiling, knowingly. There’s an odour of curiosity on His lips. But me, guess what I’m doing? I’m noticing the little sparrow that’s following us around. I spin my head to follow its mental flight-path as it darts about. Jeff looks at me like the Exorcist has me. There’s no point explaining that I’ve gone all reincarnation mad and am hunting proof.

 

Now the sparrow is shrilling. He knows I’m watching; the bird does. I’m certain he’s trying to convey a message of some kind. What is the message? I almost roar it. Then I get thinking that the weensy sparrow might be my granny reincarnated. Then I start thinking why the fuck would anyone throw stones at birds!

 

‘Tell me I’m wrong Louis’ Jeff says. ‘But isn’t this meant to be about me?’

‘My tears? Oh shit. I’m sorry Jeff. I don’t know what came over me.’

‘Life’ he says.

 

Jeff hands me a single rose petal which He must have taken from the Sigmund Freud rose. I readily accept it in the same respectful way I received my First Holy Communion. Maybe it’s a lucky charm. Maybe it is, a precious petal.

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Diary 20: Blocked Pipes

Diary 20 image

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Sometimes there’s a wall in mind. A road-block. Sometimes. In my mind. Like today.

 

I’m stuck in a rut, choking, and stare at the world. The world and me frozen. Still. I can’t reboot or dislodge myself. I’ve gone off. I’m stale.

 

This is around the same time the world does or does not change for the better. I’m not long in my new life, with a new job – a pen for hire – and settling into my new home in Portugal.

 

The first few weeks and life is idyllic, my pace of life markedly different from anything I ever knew. The winter sun rises and I take my notes on Jeff to breakfast at a beach-front café followed by a brisk walk on the beach to mentally gear-up, framing a chapter of the pop-star in my mind, of how to write it. I’m trying to weave a coherent tapestry of the key events in Jeff’s life so that when I set it down on on page, His story will neatly slot into place.

 

In the early days, when I initially accepted the ghost-writing assignment, thoughts of mass publication and of having a vast readership spurred me on. 250,000 people have to want to read the words I write today. I say it everyday. Yes, a quarter of a million people must want to buy my words.

 

It rattles. And stirs.

 

And although contracted to anonymity, I cling to illusions of recognition, of greatness. Of my name becoming a name! Why not? I mean, how much did Truman Capote help his friend, Harper Lee, to write ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’? And come on, get real, Dumas didn’t write ‘The Three Musketeers’ and by logical extension, I mightn’t even be writing this! You get my point? The truth outs. So, there’s hope. Or else, it’ll be my undoing; my Achilles heel harbouring vain notions.

 

So.

 

I’m living on this easy diet, dreaming of accidental fame, of posterity, when I hit a wall. The wall.

 

Disaster strikes.

At first a daze.

I flag.

 

Mission creep. Paper won’t take ink. I’ve tied myself in knots. Somewhere along the way, I decided that to be able to write must prove utterly tormenting for if it doesn’t cause immense pain then I’m writing things people wont feel. After all, ink is like blood; it must come from the heart. The only thing is, now that I’ve hit a wall I’m feeling the pain but not getting any writing done. The irony of all ironies: heart-burn. I try not to make a big deal of it and put it down to fatigue. Yes, Louis, maybe you’re simply tired. Ya, that’s it.

 

So.

I cut myself some slack.

 

Then, I take to drinking myself into darkness.

Then, I awaken with a mood. A black dog is on my back.

Then, the slog is on me: the daily grind of trying to hit word count.

Then, words drop off; they’re scarce.

Then, I coax them back, my words. Hey, anyway aren’t all first drafts like a schoolgirls? Hemingway said so. So write away, right?

Then, a thought: if all you have is writing, you’re clinging to nothing.

Then, I can’t write it; scribble about having a blockage. To do so is a sick perversion under the circumstances and me a wordsmith.

 

It’s not like me to dwell but suddenly I’m doing little else. Mulling. And denying truths. Ok, here goes – it’s true – I’ve writer’s block. Happy? I’ve downed tools. And if who we are is what we do, I’ve become less. A virus is eating away at my brain.

 

I’m wasting away.

Tablets won’t cure.

Right here, right now, I’m in unfamiliar territory, trapped doing nothing.

Roosting.

 

I’m bored yet can’t work. Nothing calls me to action. Back in the office, when I was working in law and turning over files, I was in a system, a net, no matter how loathsome. There were distractions and encouragement, work colleagues, banter and a daily routine: morning and afternoon coffee punctuated by lunch break. Life was orderly. Integration, once despised, would now be welcome company.

 

I’m thinking of fisting a wall to break my hand. Then I won’t be expected to write.

 

But no, it won’t go away; the world, my cross, the burden I bear, the wall in my mind.

The non-writing.

I’m at sea.

 

Marooned in an all-consuming nothing.

 

Writing is a concentration camp. Killing ghosts. Dead.

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Diary 22: Resolutions

Bitstrip - Diary 22

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My editor is on the phone. It’s a bad sign. We rarely speak, Martin and I. Usually it’s the girl I took to the Arsenal game who calls, who makes demands.

 

‘Louis, you have those 20,000 usable words?’ he asks.

 

I’m coming to hate the word ‘usable’. It says my efforts might be in vain; that I’m not able; that Martin is my judge, the standard-bearer. Then there’s his voice. Martin speaks in an unusual staccato rhythm that I hadn’t before noticed. It’s like talking to a robot or a computerized phone-voice. He has no heart; no compassion.

 

Nanu nanu, shazbot.

Or, R2-D2

 

The thing is, Martin is giving me grief over my first writing efforts. You might recall the odd ‘yes-its-over’ thing from Diary 17 [1]. In fact he’s more than a little iffy about it.

 

‘Louis, that over the top experimental stuff is not on’ he says.

‘I thought the heart attack was a good entrée, a good way to start. It was Jeff’s 21st birthday. Everyone’s life begins at a turning point.’

‘Ok, but the vernacular? Can’t you dish it straight? It’s not poetry we’re after.’

‘But Jeff said He wanted something scatty, something fresh.’

‘Yes, but intelligible too!’

‘Non-literary? Martin, you want less flourish?’

 

It’s a glib remark but he plays nice.

 

‘Louis, stop trying to reinvent the form. Simple is also a style. So how about those words?’

‘I’m still coming to grips with Him. I must collect all His personal accounts of surviving this or that.’

‘It’s not Africa we’re talking about!’

‘Still.’

‘Why do you keep saying still?’ Martin asks. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘Look, maybe I’m thinking too deeply. Not on an African famine level but, still, the way things came about. All His domestic strife and then being plucked from obscurity. How many people get off their ass to make things happen?’

‘To be a rich rock-star? Everybody would! Louis, don’t veer off script. It’s not Live Aid. Focus and give us the tragedy that nobody spoke of.’

‘The tabloids worked those angles long ago.’

‘You get nothing?’ he asks.

‘Sure. If you consider it usable dirt. Let’s see: Jeff once launched an art gallery as an ex-girlfriend told Him it was a way to feel accomplished. Then there was the time He told a girl about a mugging that never even happened!’

‘To get her into the sack?’

‘Ya. She was a journalist and was looking for a new angle; a scoop. He was looking for a new lay. Hey presto, a match made in heaven, for a weekend!’

‘Ok, its cliché – feeding a journalist lies is like chatting up a bar maid. Attention-seeking. Still’ he mutters.

‘Still? Martin, what does that mean?’ I sarcastically ask.

‘Louis, the words? You have them?’

 

With so much to say I think better of it and say nothing, staying mum and dumb. Or, when next I do say something, I say very little and non-committally.

 

‘Martin, the words, they’re not a problem. It’s the voice. How to be Him; I don’t know how to lay it down.’

‘Louis, you’re not his singing double! It’s not a duet. We have an agreement and you’re late.’

‘Writing is not the space race!’

‘Yes, but a book needs publishing. I need to start editing. We have a deadline. Sales and marketing will crank into gear with or without us.’

‘Without the book? Interesting!’

‘What are you saying Louis?’

‘That. Art. Can. Not. Be. Manufactured.’

‘Remember our chat? Forget the art bit … just manufacture.’

‘Ok.’

 

I concede.

 

‘So, are we in business?’

‘Maybe.’

‘Maybe?’

‘Probably.’

‘Pipes aren’t clogged, are they?’

 

I’m a coin-toss away from confessing.

 

‘No Martin, I was just laid up a few days: bad back.’

‘Nothing too serious? You’ll be ok?’

 

Martin asks it like he’s making a statement. Apparently everything but writers-block is fixable.

 

‘I’m fine. I’m only jostling you.’

‘Jostling? About the back?’ he asks.

‘No, that’s true. Look, nothing. Don’t be so literal!’

‘Louis, the 20,000 words. When?’

‘Friday week.’

‘Perfect. And Louis, one more thing…’

‘What?’

‘Remember, we’re on the same side.’

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[1] http://www.louislaroc.com/?p=319

Diary 24: Shooting from the lip

Bitstrip - Diary 24

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‘It’s costly to be poor’ She says. ‘To step outside the system, to push against the tide.’

‘What tide? The tide of poverty?’ I ask. ‘You think poverty is a choice?’

‘Louis, I’m just saying we – us rich folk – that we don’t see that side. We don’t have the choice to be poor.’

‘That’s nice for you’ I say.

‘I get you, Louis, I do. But the thing is, we could afford to try it but we don’t.’

‘Try poverty? Like it’s a holiday camp, a breather from being rich, to see how the other half live?’

‘Kind of. Why not?’

‘Because people with yachts usually don’t get tired of them’ I say.

‘How would you know?’

 

Meow. Catty She is.

 

Touché.

 

There’s a moments silence. Its a moment too long. A brief apology. Sorry. From me to Her. I’ll grant Her this: She gets irony and sees Her stupidity. Kind of.

 

‘Look, I’m not a dead fish’ She says.

‘You don’t go with the flow?’

 

She falls silent. I would love to be a fly on Her brain. In case you haven’t figured: it’s Q I’m talking to. On the phone. Remember Her? The Hollywood star who wants me to blow Her brains out on page; to ghostwrite her life story?

 

            ‘We talk a lot of mush’ I say.

            ‘Is that good or bad?’

            ‘Is this the way it’s going to be when we meet?’ I ask.

            ‘You mean, will I clam up? Star-struck? No!’ She giggles.

‘Ghost-writing is like being a priest. You must let me into your world so I can reorder things.’

            ‘Reorder what?’

            ‘Things. Events in your life. You must confess everything to me.’

 

I wonder if Q will talk so frankly if we have face-time in Los Angeles.

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Diary 25: Nonsense – a calling

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I must deliver. I’ve given my word. Or else I disappoint. The list is growing; of possible disappointees. Dad, my editor, Martin, and now even me.

 

There’s no going back. It’s why I gave away my suits and work shirts; to burn my past. To force a new way. I just didn’t figure on this: on falling behind. Of losing routine. Of waning morale. Of not getting out of bed. And although getting out of bed is a key aim, sitting down to write is the day’s biggest struggle. Ants in my pants; I’m restless. My life is a battle-ground between a bed and a chair. And then, sometimes, when I close my eyes I see her. Susan. Saucy Susan. You remember her from back in my office days? Little did I know she’d remain in my heart for so long. I still beat off to her?

 

TMI? I don’t care. Anyway.

 

So here I am, on the phone to Martin. Yada-yada. Our goodbye stutters along like our chat: we’ll keep in touch. You’re the man! No, you are! Laters. Ya, right!

 

Once I hang up, from across the café I overhear a stranger say to another: ‘it’s better to write for oneself and have no public than to write for a public and have no self.’ What the…

 

It’s a fuck-head’s pop psychology said for my benefit. It cuts. There were stolen glances. One guy made a gesture in my direction; the other looked and then smirked. I already have my editor on my back and now these fuck-wits pin this on me: my being precious. I’m almost goaded into tackling them. Of saying that at least I got a hundred smackaroonies. Of telling them that they’re raving homos. But no, I’m big enough to ignore the jibe and instead replay the phone-call in my head. Sure, Martin mentioned word count and delivery date. But the small talk was more engaging.

 

The rain.

 

To Martin I described the unexpected pleasure of wetness. We shared a moment, bonhomie; a communion of sorts. Nostalgia of being watered upon. Of droplets falling from the sky; God’s piss. It’s been a while since a soaking from my sun-derenched beach hide-out. To Martin I confessed that I miss thundery skies. We bonded. Kind of. I think. At least, he fell hush as I yapped on about the way rain is our common bond: between the Irish and English.

 

Anyway.

 

Back to the now and the waiter interrupts my reverie. He also has it in for me, all of this Portuguese shit-hole has. He thinks I don’t know what work is.

 

            ‘Everyday is a weekend for you’ the waiter says.

            ‘Ya, and at the weekend I have me a double.’

 

But it’s true, I’m loping about. Procrastinating has become my profession. I can’t self-motivate. I try. Sometimes. Sometimes when I walk around this fishing village I raise a clenched fist to the sky, practicing for success, preparing for the day when I might be seen. Recognised. Victory lane, what does it take? Ah, the ordeal. And so I lower my arm and wrap it around a beer.

 

About my mission let me say this: who cares about another silly celebrity memoir? It’s bunk. I’m a charlatan and only kidding myself. Kidding you. I’m at the bar every night. I used wonder wherefrom they came; these sleazy middle-aged guys hogging the bar. Now I need only look in the mirror to spot an aging mortal.

 

I usually socialize anonymously, drinking alone, like a professional. In Portugal, its either talk to the empty bar or teach the barmaid some English. Even a dog knows more words! Still, I try. I try telling the waitress that although the word ‘context’ and ‘texture’ share many of the same letters that they mean different things. She doesn’t get it so I use my dick as a tool to explain.

 

‘See my penis: flaccid texture; dirty context. It’s all to do with interpretation. Get it?’

 

She looks down at me – at my dick inching out of its pants – then up at me, at my face, and then it’s back to giving me a bovine dumb stare. I button my dick back in my pants and press on.

 

‘Ok, can you say the word ‘elliptical’? And it doesn’t mean your lips!’ I say helpfully.

 

Fortunately, just then some middle-aged Irish biddies waddle up to the bar. Yes, here in my remote Portuguese fishing village! Foreigners! I haven’t heard an Irish brogue in ages. They’re on holidays, golfers, and take me for a local. I’m faced with my first Superman moment: what if they click that I’m Louis La Roc? I recover from faking a phlegmy smokers cough, accepting that nobody reads this. Unshaven a fortnight and speaking in pigeon English they readily accept me as the Portuguese fisherman I feign being.

 

‘We have this Irishman who come here’ I say in my best bad English. ‘Crazy he is. An Irish lawyer. He dive with the shark. You know him, Louis La Roc?’ [1]

            ‘Louis La Roc. No, not by reputation’ one plump lady says.

 

I couldn’t help myself. I’m a tad curious to see if my departure from Ireland is noticed. Then, lo-behold, the fattest of the fat ladies waddles closer.

 

‘Louis La Roc. From _____ in Ireland?

‘Yes’ I say.

‘Him. Stay well away. A bad apple he is.’

            ‘Apple? How is his type?’

‘He is an attention-seeker. A lawyer like his dad, Dr. La Roc, who I happen to know as a matter of fact. But this son of his, Louis, an outright rogue, and he’s shaming his family. Poor father. Do you understand: shame? SHAME?’

‘Yes, yes, yes. Sham!’

‘No. Shame! No shame.’

 

There you have it! I told you I was someone, once. An asshole, once. But not anymore. Now I’m a Moby Dick-style fisherman or actually more of a second-rate actor playing a Portuguese fisherman!

 

Then the nosy bag asks about me: about being Portuguese. About catching squid. Perhaps I should tell her what she wants to hear, that the life of a fisherman is hard. Alas no, fuck her, I’m on a roll. I’ll pour into my non-self, the thespian me.

 

‘Life? For me it feels like I’m living an experiment’ I say, happy to invoke nonsense.

            ‘Pray tell, what do you mean, Monsieur?’

            ‘This life, Lady – it doesn’t feel real.’

            ‘Great craic is it?’ she asks.

            ‘Drugs? No! No drugs’ I say.

            ‘No Senor, ‘craic’ – its Irish argot. Its slang for ‘fun’!’

 

It hits home. How small the world is; how lost I’ve become. About the new me, I blame Portugal or else fishing villages. I make a radical change. To gig things up. To unsettle ennui. To get away from smallness.

 

I go urban. I move into Lisbon [2], the only capital city that looks like a urinal, the façade of buildings plastered in toilet tiles, urging you to pee on them. Lisbon, the world’s largest bog! Anyway, as I was saying, no more small-town life for me. I’m back in the jungle, a wanna-be cosmopolitan writer.

 

And?

 

The most noticeable change?

 

More girls. I’m hopelessly distracted. Though it’s off-season, bikinis on hold a few more months, girls strut the streets in tight-fitting clothes as though commanding a catwalk. Everyday is Oscar’s night! And in-between not writing I run around chasing tail although my license to consume seems to be revoked. Women are untouchable; they won’t lend themselves out, share themselves. I’m not getting any and wonder if I’ll ever get into a hole again. I moan to anyone who’ll listen: I wouldn’t mind sharing my pillow, of having someone to halve my life with. But no, it’s deaf ears, and anyway the Portuguese only sleep together. It’s then I look in the mirror: ok, I’ll shave tomorrow. Dejected I turn the TV on to spy on miserable lives a world away. I’m channel-hopping but there’s nothing on. I turn away; switch off.

 

I’m a composite of loneliness and aimlessness. Nothing changes save for location, from fishing village to capital city. Over a local delicacy – a boiled egg lumped on a sea of peas – I read the Portuguese newspaper. Today the centerfold is an impressive sketch of a gang rape. A girl is en flagrante as some guys hold her down while another gives it to her, his butt-cheeks painted stark white and revealing tan lines. Everyday it’s the same, a sketch of a crime scene. Words aren’t enough; imagination is blind and must be spelled out, drawn out. If you don’t believe me check the newspaper, Correo da Mana, a mix of national news – aka porn – and sex crimes turned into art.

 

I switch over to an English daily. The newspaper tells me that life over the hills trundles along fine without me. Still, I take issue with it, with the news. Newspapers, like the telly, hawk too much news that just isn’t. The front page is a cod no different to celebrity memoirs! It’s contemptible what the news wires pawn off on us. The history of the day is pure trash. The Arab Spring, Syria, and the Russian invasion of Crimea aside, there’s no madness in it. And ignoring World War 3 about to kick off, the other news stories are so banal they fail to distract. It’s all Celeb news and that’s about as newsworthy as celery. And weird or what, but it seems I’m in the very same rut as the news itself. What, right? It might help if I – if we, the news and I – knew what we wanted as I continue eating 50 Shades of Fury.

 

Re: the latter

 

I try blind-siding the nonsense by hibernating. I sleep all morning after spending the night not getting to sleep. My tolerance to alcohol is impressive. When I manage to face the day, I stroll through the spring sunshine only to settle down to my first beer by lunchtime, a liquid lunch, only actually it’s breakfast or a drinking brunch if you prefer.

 

Yet again I try to click into gear. To dislodge myself. I stumble into a public library and stare at a blank page that refuses ink. The thought of writing Jeff’s dross is as pleasurable as extracting my own tooth. I manage a scrawl. I’ve drawn the side profile of a face. I add a dot below the chin and it becomes a question mark. Then I draw a speech-bubble. And another question mark! I shiver.

La Roc pic 

 There it is, the truth again.

 

I have nothing to say. Or if I do say something it’s going to be an untruth; writing lies and making heroes of celebrities, of morons. I could get my back up about it, about swaying from the truth, but truthfully I can’t be bothered. Fuck integrity. And I do.

 

I’m jostling myself, picking philosophical fights, when into the library saunters a beautiful girl. She’s a flamingo with spindly legs! WB Yeats’ poem springs to mind:

 

            ‘All things can tempt me

            from this craft of verse

            One time it was a woman’s face

            or worse..’

 

And you expect me to focus on this: on writing Jeff’s bio? I can’t. She sits across from me, Miss Flamingo. I keep my head down and stare at the question mark. But the smell of her body lotion distracts. She breathes and I inhale her used breathe across the room. I gulp her down, gorging on her. I throw her a side-long glance. I’m hooked. How she folds her hungry legs, how she sits in a bendy position, all angles. She’s classy: oatmeal poncho over black leggings and brown boots. Slim neck. Lean limbs. Sallow skin. Beautiful face. Oblong eyes and long auburn hair. I could go on and on and on…

 

She collects her hair, bunches it up, and ties it in a bun. See, I can look like this too! Then she sighs. The ordeal. I’d kill for her to sigh like that in my arms. If only she looked up. If only our eyes met. And locked.

 

If she so much as hello’s me I’ll have her hand. Our shared future plays out in my mind. I fix her a look expecting a reciprocal awakening. Her eyes flash past me as she finds a distant bookcase more interesting! Then she gives a small scowl. Dirty old man she thinks. I barely register in her conscious mind. The sentiment washes away as promptly as it arrived.

Our brief history is over.

A reality check follows.

Snubbed.

Crushed. 

Diamonds are safe.

 

I try holding something against her. Duck feet? But I’m only kidding myself. The flaw is me. I turn to a blank page and stare at it. Then I close my writing pad. I scoop up my belongings and leave the library in a hurry as though I’ve somewhere to be. I know what you’re thinking: I role over too easily. Whatever. Nothing helps me focus. I’m falling behind despite how I’m terrifically busy doing absolutely nothing. In fact, I’m starting to do nothing very well; the squat-diddly me!

 

And all the while, I’m supposed to be ghostwriting on behalf of the illiterate and their thoughts about safeguarding Ukraine from the Russian mob and then, there’s Martin thinking he’s getting 20,000 ‘usable’ words on Monday.

 

Well, he’s not.



[1] Note: I told them my real name and not my pseudonym. But of course, I can’t undo myself by printing my real name here!

[2] I’ve stopped keeping a hotel room and jumped ship, leaving _______ and taking an apartment in Lisbon.

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Diary 26: Ravenous

Bitstrip - Diary 26

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Say this:

 

Say you know something’s up; that you’re old-fashioned. Then what?

 

Say you accept that hetero is out and homo is in and you’re not up for sticking your ass out. Then what?

 

I’ll tell you what: there’s no clap on the back; there’s no lonely heterosexual support group and there’s nobody in your corner.  

 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m jealous. I wish I was gay. Or at least a cross-dresser. Pantybliss heaven! I try to bite back and tell my gay friends ‘suck sodomy’ but they only laugh and say ‘come again’!

 

***

 

A moment’s pause if you will. We need a quiet word.

 

I want to divulge what’s really niggling me. It’s a particularly odious matter that keeps me very busy and up late at night:

 

What is it about me being fuckless?

 

Like, what’s going on? Why am I not fucking classy birds? Is it a conspiracy, are women in on it, or have the kind of girls I’d like to fuck gone on sabbatical? Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Is it because I’m overly frisky? Or is it true what they say: sex gets more sex and no sex gets no sex at all?

 

I want all women yet get none. The days pass. Alone. Me and my burning desire. A lady-killer I’m not. I’m only killing myself. Spanking the monkey.

 

It’s almost unutterable but … I’ve started spying mannequins in lingerie shops. Barely-clothed, swollen nipples, great figures and they always look up for it. Real or unreal, they don’t stop titillating.

 

It’s got so bad that when I see a woman I automatically have a picture of the panties she has on. Nothing I can do about it, call it my extra-sensory seeing.

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Diary 27: Angel Face

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LAX airport and I’m looking around. Jet-lag mixed with nerves. Then, there She is. The Goddess. What a surprise; I didn’t expect Her. I thought it would be one of Her lackeys that collected me.

 

            ‘Bonjour’ She says.

 

She says it as though we’re already friends. I correct Her like we are.

           

‘In Portuguese it’s bom dia!’

‘Good trip?’

 

She asks it over Her shoulder as we leave the airport.

 

‘Mind the ….’

 

Too late. I hit the step and clumsily bang into Her from behind. She’s athletic and manages to stand Her ground. She spins about. We square up. She takes a second to control what might be an outburst.

 

            ‘I’m so sorry. I tripped.’

 

I throw the step a wicked scowl. Q looks me over. Up and down. I feel like a pet She’s contemplating buying, an impulse purchase. I’m afraid to reciprocate. No need to; I saw Her naked online. But now She’s real, standing before me, perfectly poised and neatly stitched together. A perfect ten, supple and delicate. There’s nothing to improve. Still. I wonder how much is from a factory.

 

            ‘Taller than I expected’ She says.

            ‘Sorry?’

 

Q gives me a toothpaste advert smile. Is She having a go at me?

 

She raises Her sunglasses, taking a keener interest. We’re eye to eye; so close I can see Her pupils dilate. I can’t hold Her gaze and look away. I’m not the first. Men are intimidated by Her. I feel Her immaculate dentition reflecting off my dull face.

 

She has control.

 

            ‘Your height!’ She says.

            ‘What? Were you expecting a leprechaun?’

 

It’s a strange moment, private yet public as strangers rush by. Then the shutters are down; the sunglasses back on. She’s impenetrable once again. A little disguise buys a lot: a simple baseball cap and sunglasses lends freedom. If the passers-by knew who She was, Q, the Hollywood Star I’m due to ghost-write for. Instead, everybody is too busy milling about, trying to be somebody in their own right. Airports bring it on; they make everyone feel they have unique destinies. Destinations. Places to be. People to be.

 

Vroom vroom; bye bye LAX; we’re zooming away.

 

Q pilots the Porsche off the fly-over and down the coast. It’s not true what they say, that people are afraid to merge on the freeway. Sorry Bret! Sure, they’re coy about it. Cordial almost. I mean, hey, it’s not the Champs Elysee or Rome. See, being a European I’m not used to manners on asphalt.

 

First a shadow stalks us and then the airplane lopes overhead. It almost lands on us. In a soft-top everything is louder and feels closer. The wind jostles Q’s cropped hair. The aviator sunglasses hide half Her face leaving Her bountiful lips and teeth all the more pronounced.

 

We’re only in 3rd when a BMW guns past.

 

            ‘Count the seconds’ She says.

            ‘To what?’ I ask.

 

She doesn’t reply. Pitted against her foot the BMW hasn’t a prayer. She works the gears. Tectronic. We rocket forwards. The wind shudders. The engine barely breaks sweat. We take a pothole without bending. The G-forces press into the back of my skull. In a jiffy everything in front is in the rear-view mirror. Including the BMW.

 

She slows up. Breaks. It’s like a parachute opening. I almost throw up my in-flight breakfast. Q smiles.

 

‘Traffic ahead. Sorry. I’m a bit bubbly and there’s you after your trans-Atlantic red-eye.’

            ‘I’m ok. Hardy Irish!’

            ‘Don’t worry. You can freshen up at my place.’

            ‘Not as fresh as the driving I hope!’

 

Q gets the sarcasm.

 

‘How to explain it?’ She asks Herself. ‘It’s free. Driving is. I loosen up. Out here, I’m just one of them.’

            ‘A regular runt?’

 

Again She smiles. Q knows she’s no ordinary ant. There’s small talk although some words are lost to the warm breeze. I get the drift: at her pad I can shower and shave. Then we can have a preliminary chat. But out here, in public, which is Her adoring public, a private moment isn’t so easily achieved. Small things are big things when a star steps into the ordinary everyday world.

 

At traffic lights in Santa Monica a car pulls alongside us. Q is recognised. Her Porsche invites looks. He goes to follow. Q is in Her mirror, observing him. She’s often trailed. Can’t put the top up at this speed Q shouts and then She’s back at it, dinking side to side. She plays the traffic like chess pieces, jostling and reordering as She repositions us on the road. Zig-zag and we lose the fan. Q sees I’m new to it. No shit! I’m grinning. Look at me, I’d like to roar: posh car; hot girl. I do; I roar it:

 

            ‘Look at me!’

 

Q shoots me a smile and then bemoans Her lot.

 

            ‘It’s like everything has become, you know, people watching’ She says.

            ‘Voyeuristic?’ I ask.

            ‘Ya. Cool. Voy-eur-istic’

 

She smiles into the orange sun.

 

            ‘The guy is bound to remember this car’ I say.

            ‘The BMW guy? Nope.’

            ‘I don’t follow.’

            ‘I change it every few weeks.’

            ‘For real? No way!’

 

Q smiles. I’m already catching myself speaking like Her. Being like Her. I do that: adapt and adopt. Then write it up.

That is of course, when I can write!

 

At Her mansion in Malibu it’s confirmed: I’ve landed on another planet. Large pine gates open at the click of a remote and usher us into Her world. We wind our way up an avenue into an oasis, a truly ostentatious show of wealth. A man in uniform greets us and motors the Porsche away. A boy washes a red Ferrari and gives us a big smile.

 

            ‘Basement parking’ Q indulges.

 

I’ve stepped onto a swank movie set. A palace. It’s a Mexican-style hacienda; rustic perfection overlooking the ocean. I follow Q inside. The alto-tenor bark of a pair of Chihuahua dogs greet me. One sniffs my trouser leg as the other circles. I have history. Remember? Still, no matter what, I’m not going to slam the runt into the giant clay pot that’s stuffed with a shiny plant.

 

            ‘You like animals?’ Q asks.

            ‘Usually only to eat with a good sauce.’

 

It doesn’t wash.

 

            ‘I’m only joking’ I say. ‘Pets – I love them. I’ve lots of dog stories.’

            ‘They like you too.’

 

I’m now pretending to try and rub the little rats.

 

            ‘Have them long?’ I ask.

            ‘Tora and Toby? Only since the refit. Nine months.’

            ‘Refit?’

‘The house. My interior designer redid it. She’s French. Real French. From France. You like it?’

‘France? Sure…. I’m only joking; Irish humour! But the house, wow, ya. It’s very French. Classy. Earthy. The dogs come with the renovation?’

 

I’m joking again only She’s slow on the uptake.

 

‘Claudine said the house would only fully come to life with them’ Q says. ‘Cute aren’t they?’

‘The dogs? Ya. This Claudine, does she chose the workers to match the place too?’

 

It’s a bit cheeky of me commenting on the staff and treating them as part of Q’s Disneyworld puzzle. It must be the jetlag; it’s making me giddy. I’ve let my guard down and become indiscreet. Still, I hope the lightness between us sets the tone going forwards.  

 

            ‘Wise-crack, huh! Louis, follow me.’

 

At least Q smirked. She’s bubbly and can handle brazen. I trail Her down a corridor. Art is exhibited on the walls, sky-lit from a glass ceiling. Once in the kitchen and Q asks a uniformed maid for ‘the usual’. Like the porters, the maid is also Latino – Mexican most likely – and is standing behind an island fronted by green tiles.

 

            ‘Will Mr La Roc have a Smoothy Extra too?’ the home-help asks.

 

She knows my name. Yikes! I was once discussed!

 

            ‘Smoothy, Mr La Roc?’ Q asks.

            ‘Sure.’

            ‘A shot of spirilina too Mr La Roc?’ the maid wonders.

 

I think Q and the maid must be on friendly terms for her to casually chip in.

 

            ‘Spirulina? Sure, if it makes me look like Her’ I say.

            ‘Nobody looks like Lady Q’ the maid says deadpan.

 

Q fixes me a smile; a smile that says: you wish. Focus but don’t stare I urge myself. I switch my gaze to a painting mounted on the wall. It looks like someone flung spaghetti and ketchup at a papa-mashy collage of tabloid newspaper cuttings.

 

            ‘Know it?’ Q asks.

            ‘Is it a page ripped out of the National Enquirer?’

            ‘No silly, not the clippings. The whole installation. The art. The artist!’

            ‘Should I know him?’

            ‘Well, it’s Galayeti.’

            ‘Ok. Interesting.’

 

Although I don’t know that it is. Or if he is interesting; this Galayeti guy. Whatever.

 

‘If you run out of food you could eat it. The spaghetti. As an emergency. You not worried it will melt or drip, it being in the kitchen and all? The heat!’

            ‘Extractor fans Mr. La Roc.’

 

Q enunciates Her words slowly as though I’m slow.

 

‘The jet-lag!’ I excuse. ‘Still, maybe it’s best not let me cook or you’ll be calling home insurance.’

 

The maid leads me to a guest-room in this hotel-sized house. I grab a much needed shower and pour the bio-fuel down the sink only for it to clog. With a hand I create a suction and pump the sink-hole until it disappears. Before the eco-gunk surrenders it gives one last glugging breath. I think of Superman and how dangerous Kryptonite must be and feel safe that I don’t have to act like a Superhero. I brush my teeth and check my breath against the palm of my hand. I wonder about mints, about having them in my life.

 

I try returning to the kitchen but can’t. I’m lost. The house has a holding point. An axis; an assembly point for anyone lost. For idiots. The mansion I only now realise is designed in a pentagon shape. Many corridors look alike. A sign reads: ‘If lost, tug cord. And wait!’. I pull the rope and a way off hear a deep gong. The green sludge-maker rescues me with a knowing smirk. As she leads the way, I try to bond, to be thoughtful, and talk local.

 

‘You know something: I tried salsa back in Ireland’ I say.

 

The maid isn’t impressed but forces a polite smile. And as we silently walk down a corridor – me, trailing her butch ass – I think she doesn’t even care to ask if I meant salsa the sauce or salsa the dance. Rude woman. Either that or talking salsa is racist. I can’t resist defending myself against my own imagination.

 

‘You know something else: the whole racism rant has gone too far. I mean, you ever wondered if getting a suntan is racist? I mean it’s about being skin-colour focused!’

 

She ignores me until we’re back in the kitchen.

 

            ‘Mr La Roc would like another smoothy?’ the maid now asks.

            ‘No thanks, I’m good.’

 

I’ve taken to replying in an equally haughty tone. Aloof. She gives me another cocky grin. Perhaps she knows I flushed the sludge down the sink. Video cameras? Or maybe I’m not wearing a pained tell-tale gunk-drinking expression; that of a man who is no longer constipated after a long-haul flight? Whatever. But I do hate the way she thinks she knows something about me that maybe I don’t. Is it voodoo? I play coy, stay on guard, and refuse to ask if she likes Gloria Estafan [1].



[1] I know Shakira is Colombian and Nelly Furtado is originally Portuguese so I’m not showing my age mentioning Gloria Estafan, it’s just she caught me on the hop and I can’t think of another Mexican singer.

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Diary 28: Doing it

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It’s titillating. Kind of. The new me is; my new life.

 

And part of being a new man is the promise of standards, the most notable of which is a rule to never fuck ugly again. Sounds good, right? To the ear, yes. But for the body, no! Abstinence hurts. Now anyone will do. So I’m back to scratch because… Oh, just because.

 

Because rules are boring.

 

We never knew how to play being us outside of a work environment, Susan and I. That’s Saucy Susan to you; you remember her, my apprentice from back in the law firm? So anyway, as I was saying, flirting at a distance is more about wordplay – aka emails – than breathing heavily down a phone. I’m uncomfortable being pervy on Skype. I look demented. I prefer chat-lines where you can’t see the granny on the other end coaxing you to lob your wad.

 

Susan threatened to out my real identity and so I’m a little coy when we speak on the phone. [1]

 

            ‘Hey, you’re not going all weird on me down there in Portugal?’ Susan asks.

            ‘You mean have I gone normal?’

            ‘Ya, I suppose.’

            ‘It’s unlikely. Why? Do I sound different?’

            ‘Dunno. Are you? Louis, are you going AWOL?’

            ‘Rest assured, I’m probably too old for a breakdown.’

            ‘But you’re about ripe for a mid-life.’

 

Susan laughs; she’s regurgitating our history, touching on our familiar ways from back in the office.

 

            ‘It could be the start of a radical change in me’ I say.

            ‘Louis, you could start a movement?’

            ‘A bowel movement!’

 

We fall hush. There it is, that area or thereabouts: our common, though as yet untouched bond: our genitals. There’s yearning in them.

 

Wait until our next email. We tend to be more forward in print.

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     00:16

 

Flights go Dublin to Portugal a few times a week. Your call. What you think?

 

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     00:19

 

You’ll get bored of me. I don’t know. I mean, imagining us is great but I’m scared of the reality, of having my bubble burst and being incorporated into something.

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     00:28

 

Incorporated? ‘Us’ is not a corporation! We’re not a limited company or, at least, my company isn’t limited! Anyway, stop being such a baby. Reality is way better than dreams. And it’s more brave being real. And stop thinking you’re boring. You’re not. And if you are, I am too J

 

 

Boring? Where on earth did that come from? What’s she on about? I wonder if I should tackle her on the matter.

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     00:33

 

You’ll take a young lover once done with me.

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     00:46

 

Ah, your demons acting up. Look, you can’t always be alone and writing.. and then this Thing… agh!

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     00:57

 

This ‘Thing’? I suppose you mean the blog…. And I hope you don’t suddenly want to see me because of this Thing.

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     01:11

 

If I didn’t know you any better I’d say you’re being thick. Stop being moronic. Or neurotic. Or both. I’ve missed you and plus you’ll be less grumpy on your own J

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     01:22

 

What’s wrong with being on my own???

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     01:34

 

You can’t eat fish on your own…. And in a seaside fishing village that means you’ll starve!

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     01:39

 

Why can’t I eat fish? I eat it everyday….. and now I live in Lisbon, a capital city!

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     01:46

 

WARNING: Do Not Eat Fish

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     01:53

 

WHY?

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     01:58

 

Because you can’t perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre alone.

 

It’s the first mention Susan makes of handling me! You’re probably thinking: Louis run, don’t complicate life, you’ve escaped the net so far; stay free. But I say, Susan has a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’ about her so I’m thinking ‘rock on, we’re progressing’. And plus, the days of sexual harassment law suits is over: there’s no longer an employer and employee relationship between Susan and I.

 

Later on and there’s more email ping-pong.

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     03:07

 

If I visit I’m bringing my hairbrush.

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     03:42

 

Did you always know how I felt about it?

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     03:48

 

Come on – the dark hairs on my brush! Are they your pubes? They were hardly your Dads. I also knew about the lock of my hair in your drawer.

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     03:52

 

What were you doing in my drawer?

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     03:58

 

I was looking for a pen one day and found it! What were you doing with my hair?

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     04:09

 

Touche! Come here. Visit me and make haste J

 

Susan, I was just thinking about something someone said: in absence you have a presence. It’s true! When we meet I will lick your neck like a lollipop then measure how much liquid your mouth can hold. I have always been fascinated by your mouth and its carrying capacity. And then I will…surprise, surprise…J Susan, you ooze from me.

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     05:54

 

I just woke up. I bet you were drinking! Ooze from you? It sounds …. wet! I had a mad dream. Louis, do you have green runners?

 

Email

From:     Louis

To:          Susan

Time:     06:14

 

Good morning to you too! I have green Converse.. why?

 

Email

From:     Susan

To:          Louis

Time:     06:34

 

Hey! OMG. Louis, it’s one thing you disturbing me here in my real awake world but now you’re in my dreams… and you’re wearing your green sneakers. I can’t get you out of my mind!!!!

 

And then we’re back on the phone, chatting like our emails don’t exist.

 

            ‘My plant – you think it likes it?’ Susan asks.

            ‘Your plant having a cup of tea? Is it scalding hot?’

            ‘No, silly. It’s cold tea. I don’t want to torture it Louis.’

            ‘Then I guess tea can’t be bad for it’ I say.

‘Louis, tomorrow I’m going to make two cups: one for me and the other for the plant.’

 

Susan is talking in code, albeit unwittingly. She lets me know she has no other reason to make two cups of tea, that there’s nobody else at home. Sean must be gone! And there was you wondering why the fuck I’d endure a vegetarian-style conversation.

 

‘But don’t get the plant hooked on caffeine’ I say. ‘I read somewhere that you should deny the body rewards to keep it alert and hungry’.

            ‘It’s a plant Louis! Its not going to run away.’

 

Oh, so I’m the weirdo even though it’s Susan who’s breakfasting with a plant!

 

            ‘Tits and ass’ I blurt.

 

There’s a moments silence and then…

 

            ‘Is it because your tits don’t sag that you’re so … reckless?’ Susan asks.

‘It helps, men not having tits. I mean, the tit-sagging phase of life is something men don’t have to face. Susan, if I’m being outrageous it’s only ‘cos I like to see astonishment in a young lady’s face.’

            ‘And sex?’

‘What about sex?’ I ask. ‘That’s just the topping. Susan, what I’m saying is, I’ll give you my brains if you give me your youth.’

‘It’s yours Louis, take it. Youth is overrated.’

‘So are my brains.’

‘I know’ she says.

 

Susan is giggling down the line.

 

            ‘Touché!’ I say.

            ‘Ah Louis, I do rate your brain.’

            ‘It’s a deal then. Swap: you for my brain?’

            ‘For keeps?’ she asks.

            ‘Eh, sure.’

            ‘I must go Louis. Bye. Kiss.’

 

Kiss?

 

It’s like phone-sex. Fucking shadows. The things we share. And did you notice the “for keeps” bit?

 

Susan also told me that her period coincides with the full moon. No, I’m not a werewolf she said. I told her I adore tides. A full tide is like a pregnant woman, the sea about to give birth. Breaking waters, she laughs.

 

I told her secrets. Things nobody knows about me. Like why I’m afraid of shallow water. Or why I can’t turn in circles in fear of becoming knotted up. Or if I do turn a full circle how I must undo it by twirling the same number of times in the opposite direction to remain balanced; equilibrated.  

 

I stayed up all night reminiscing about Susan, saucy Saucy Susan. Strolling the empty beach and airplanes flying overhead, I spy the moon. We share an intimate secret, the moon and I. The moon no longer only controls the tide but also Susan’s period.

 

Note to self: if Susan does visit I must ensure its not during a full moon. Because. Just because.



[1] Susan discovered this Blog and threatened to out the real me by leaving comments on Diary 1. See here: http://www.louislaroc.com/?p=82#comments

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Diary 29: Happy Endings

Bitstrip - Diary 29

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A dawning: there’s nowhere left to turn. Nowhere to hide.

 

I detatch, to go it alone.

To focus.

To write.

It’s the plan.

To dismantle.

To disconnect.  

 

To enable me succeed.

 

It’s the only way; detaching is. You see, I go stale in bursts. You may have noticed I’ve been a bit solitary these past few weeks but switching off from connections is the only way. And no, hey presto, it got things done.

 

I’ve come through. I hit my mark. My words are back. I sent Martin, my editor, tens of thousands of words and now I can ease off. But here’s the weird part: once my mind is switched on – as it needs to be when writing – it’s not so easily switched back off. My mind races. My imagination is running riot. What if this, then that. If that, then this. What ifs fill me up. My head is a dump of ideas.

 

I’m blogging all this – telling you – if only to find a release where once I was crying out for encouragement to gain writing traction. And god knows there’s no point talking to you as you only throw insults. I’ve read the comment threads beneath my weekly blogs: I’m this, I’m that, I’m uptight, I must get over myself. On and on the internet trolls go.

 

Anchoring is what I need. Integration too. So I go to the place where things happen. Where people distract. The pretty people. A posh nightclub in Lisbon.

 

I hit the town. Bigo. It’s one of Lisbon’s most exclusive clubs. €50 takes me past the queue. I look the part decked out in new clothes: tailored sports jacket, a burgundy silk shirt, jeans and hand-stitched leather shoes.

 

The girls are ravishing. To-die-for. They’re about half my age. So what, I’m a man of means (relatively speaking). Perhaps I can make money mean something. Purchase life? A hot 20 year old? Jeff, the pop-star, does it so why cant I? Act like Him, be like Him. Hey, after all, we’re both inhabiting the same person! So I decide to take a piece of life. A bit of high-flying skirt, thank you very much.

 

A mojito has me propped at the bar where I try to hold a girl for longer than a polite hello. But nobody is interested in me until they’re oiled up. I’m a drunk’s best friend. That’s it, I decide: I need a sidekick. I work a different angle, play nice. I talk to a few guys as guys know girls!

 

            ‘WHAT?’ a Portuguese guy asks.

            ‘Sorry?’ I say.

            ‘I said, what did you say? The music: I can’t hear you’ he says.

            ‘I said, that no, I don’t practice law anymore but I still do my Bono work’ I say.

            ‘Bono of U2. You work for him?’ he asks.

            ‘Not exactly. It’s my joke. Pro bono I mean rather than for Bono! I’m Louis. Hi!’

            ‘Miano’ he says holding out a hand for me to shake.

            ‘Funny name. Sounds like Milan.’

 

Miano is a fellow lawyer. At the bar he gave me a worrying look, the kind you give a street tramp. I caught him at it. I even read his mind: look at the pathetic loner. Miano felt bad about his prejudiced sub-conscious and so we shared a few words. ‘Wow, really, you’re also a lawyer!’ Miano asked. That’s how we got to here. Blah-dee-blah etc. So here I am, talking to Miano when his friend comes over. He’s the he-bitch type, Miano’s friend is. Before I know it I have him in a friendly head-lock. Don’t ask, it just kind of happened. I guess I have continuing difficulties with social conventions. Social conformity doesn’t fit!

 

            ‘Let me go’ he yelps.

 

I tussle his hair and release him. Once he’s back with his own head he weirds out. He’s angry. Doesn’t see the joke or doesn’t like being the butt of it. We square up. Our noses almost touch like boxers at a weigh in. I’m game. But Miano steps in. I mean, we were just having fun I say. Not cool Miano suggests. I get it: I made his friend look bad. Male ego. I know his sort. He feels the world hasn’t dished him his just deserts – like he’s meant to be a nuclear physicist instead of sorting mail. So Miano’s friend starts mouthing off – fucking Irish drunk and stuff – and then the bouncers are on us. Miano cools things. But this guy, he’s still trying to poke his head at me.

 

            ‘Fuck off, weirdo. You’ve bad breath’ I say.

 

That ends it; halitosis. Chewing gum is on his mind. He goes to the bathroom as I try to rekindle my chat with Miano. It turns out Miano works in a top law firm and you never know. Life is a revolving door.

 

            ‘Louis, so what sort of pro bono do you really do?’

 

Miano enquires after a few moments awkwardness and a long silence.

 

‘Get this: I have this guy, he’s not even 30. Chronic medical condition’ I say. ‘Its some kind of antibiotic resistant TB. Or rabies.’

            ‘Rabies?’

            ‘Ok, something else maybe. But you get me – it’s bad.’

            ‘Ok!’

            ‘So they won’t fast-track him into hospital.’

            ‘He has no private insurance?’ Miano asks.

‘He does but this eventuality, this condition – myxomatosis or whatever – is expressly excluded from his insurance. Wild, no?’

            ‘Yes, unusual. And the public system catches him?’

‘So you’d think Miano. But it doesn’t. And so, in effect, he’s condemned to death.’

 

I laugh as I fear I’m getting too serious as Miano stares at me wide-eyed. You see, I made it all up, the rabbit disease this guy has. I invented the story because lawyers love taking law; for them its like getting head.

 

Nee naw, nee naw. Warning: distraction approaching! Legs alert!

 

My eyes are hooked on totty. Slim legs, bit heavy on top but she’s fast approaching. I try to enlist Miano in my cause but he just stares at me.

 

            ‘The one with the belly isn’t bad. Nice smile’ I say.

 

Miano looks at her and then back to me.

 

            ‘Louis, I’d say she’s spoken for.’

            ‘Really?’

 

He gives me another look.

 

            ‘She’s pregnant!’ he says.

            ‘No risk then!’ I say.

 

Miano makes his excuses after we exchange business cards. Nice to meet you too, Miano. Mojitos keep coming.

And going.

 

And as for the pregnant one: from behind she gets me thinking, square meals, sure, but I’m not suited to a high carb girl. Give me a bag of bones any day.

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