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Diary 6: The Real Beginning

Bitstrip - Diary 6

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Back at the check-out counter I offer to carry the ladies box of groceries. She’s flustered. She throws her head over her shoulder and politely declines. I insist. She relents. I see the ring but it has nothing to do with her being a yummy-mummy. Call it chivalry, me, the last of a dying breed.

 

As we exit the supermarket, from an aisle I catch a scoob making eyes at me. He lifts his nose from a magazine, craning a look in my direction. A simple sconce but it’s enough. I haven’t travelled all these miles without picking up a thing or two along the way. Green sneakers and shiny tracksuit pants, he’s hard to miss, the boy clown. I have him in the back of my mind as he tailgates me through the supermarket double-doors.

 

In the car park, I perch a moment to find the MILF – where did she go? – when, all of a sudden, a dog wants to get up against me. The mutt decides to copulate with my left leg and, rebuffed, confuses it for a lamppost. I can’t loft it into the air with a kick as a granny is bearing down on me, staring intently. She and the runt: their lives are intertwined. Without shattering the terrier’s rib cage, I kick it away but as I do the canine ruins my life.

 

Knocked off balance and before I know it I’m on the ground, the ladies shopping strewn everywhere. I’m swilling around in a smashed bottle of OJ, milk and broken eggs. Only now does the lady materialise with the scut by her side. They’re joined by the granny who is on me like Usain Bolt. All three peer down at me.

 

‘My god, what happened?’ the lady asks.

‘He kicked my dog’ the granny says.

‘Bullshit! The dog attacked me.’

 

I’m defending myself from the ground.

 

OK, I admit as I was falling I heard the yelp of a dog. Satisfaction? My philosophy: I do doubly to you what you do to me. Some call it revenge. I call it education. A dog bites me – get this – I bite it back. Harder. Really. Trust me, it learns and thinks twice next time. That’s old-school education.

 

‘What did he say?’

 

The granny is clearly hard of hearing and talks by shouting.

 

‘Nobody is talking to you’ I say.

‘What?’ the granny asks.

‘Give the old bat an ear trumpet or just FUCK OFF’ I say.

 

The bedevilling old bitch heard that. She has seen wars and knows the sound of a dropping bomb. The granny dutifully shoves off to her next drama, led by the dog who probably is her husband reincarnated. I’m still on the ground, nobody caring to ask if I’m ok. Then comes the reality check:

 

‘Everything’s destroyed’ the lady says. ‘My weeks shopping!’

‘He dropped everything to have a go at the dog’ the boy adds.

‘Fuck you asshole.’

 

What’s it to him I wonder as I stand up. Why is he milling around? I get up feeling my age and shake myself down. I’ve eggnog on my jeans and the back of my shirt is stuck to me. Orange juice, milk or blood?

 

I’m in a neat little fix, my good deed going round-house and slapping me in the face, trapping me in banality. I lash out at the only one I can.

The man.

The boy.

The scoob.

The scut.

The runt.

The cunt.

 

‘Fuck off spotty and mind your own business.’

‘Mum, he did it on purpose.’

 

Mum! Ah, all becomes clear. Now I’m more angry. So be it I think. Lets dance. I have an inch or two on the weasel. But don’t be fooled, the boy is a right slug with his neck tucked into his chest.

 

‘You dopy git. You laze about as I carry your groceries. You fucking delinquent.’

‘How dare you’ mum says.

‘Stealing sweets, spying porn’

 

I’m venting. The rest you know. You know what happens an overcooked pressure cooker. The lid flies off.

 

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Diary 5: Consequences

Bitstrip - Diary 5

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Proof.

 

It’s the story of my life. Yet Dad says it like its slipped my mind.

 

‘Innocent until proven guilty.’

‘Sure’ I say. ‘But after the evidence …. Guilty. It’s clear-cut.’

‘Might seem so but it’s unfair to judge until then.’

 

We’re discussing the upcoming O’Donnell murder trial.

 

In our family the truth outs. Most fathers teach their children how to play football. Instead, as an eight year old, it was ingrained in me that the French penal code is markedly different to the Common Law system we enjoy in Ireland. There’s no presumption of innocence. If I was caught stealing sweets on holidays in France I would be treated as guilty until I managed to prove otherwise. It was a shocking revelation; it stole my youth. I was petrified of being incarcerated in a French jail pending the trial of the allegedly stolen gum-drops. It was always a relief when I was in the car back to Ireland, our family still intact.

 

This Francophile dawning brought a further revelation: a greater force is fathering me. A bigger hand. Laws of the land. A country. France will send me to the gallows if I don’t tow the line.

 

Growing up, the other thing Dad explained was the difference between telling a lie and withholding facts. There’s an art to reading a lie – logical inconsistencies (trip-ups), facial discolouration (blushing), psychological disturbance (guilt-complex) and ego (the urge to boast). Withholding also throws up its own peculiar traits. It brings on an adults’ take on the child’s tease: it’s for me to know and you to find out. So, in lying you’ve committed yourself to a story, to a version of events, whereas by withholding you’re playing for time, fence-sitting.

 

Dad senses I’m withholding. It’s his eighth sense. He plays the waiting game. He knows the time will come, that sooner or later I’ll gob off. It’s gurgling inside. I’m bound to erupt. Despite this, Dad gives that hangdog look, disappointed I won’t take him into my confidence.

 

His ponderous shuffle along the corridor everyone hears. He isn’t blind but uses his walking-stick like he is, tapping it sonorously against the skirting board as he approaches.

 

‘Get a guide dog!’ I say.

‘Can’t lean on a mutt. So what is it?’ Dad asks.

 

My hand is forced. Things have come to a head. I have to get off the track, the postpone-living-until-tomorrow train. I’m restless, sleepless, bombarded by opinions and high-minded notions. Stray thoughts align: a jumble sale of ideas – law isn’t enough, I don’t trust it, I don’t want to be cast in Dad’s mould, co-opted into his life, it’s drudgery, trivial hock, pen-pushing, form-filling. Or. Or. Or. Excuses keep coming. I’ve reached the point where working for money is unprofitable. There must be a higher aim than hoarding gold. I’m striving in the wrong direction. Or. Or. Or. There’s a slew of unemployed solicitors, I’m only a rat, it’s unimaginative. Or. Or. Or. Storming the beach at Normandy is nothing. I can’t repel this. The gulf between the life I lead and the life I want is too great.

 

I tell Dad.

 

‘I just feel the need to do something mega’ I say.

‘And this isn’t doing something with your life?’

 

He’s offended. Law is his calling. How to reply? With silence.

 

It would be vulgar, if not hypocritical, to take the pay-check and belittle his life. He wants to talk about my future, not head-on but in a roundabout way. About me taking over the firm. Instead I want to say: it wasn’t meant to be like this. I want to speak about aborting, about jumping ship. But he knows the detours I took on the way to getting here. Law is supposed to be the end of the line. I’m not supposed to have another play left in me. It was the unspoken deal.

 

And then there’s the other matter: my transgression. My Satisfaction. About which I tell him nothing.

 

He doesn’t know that side of me. He wouldn’t understand. He’d say I’m playing out my life like some stupid cautionary tale. Us lot, lawyers, are meant to learn from other people’s mistakes, not our own. Plus, taking the law into our own hands is bad for business. It’s a competing creed. Does us out of a job. The courts are for settling scores not back-alleys. Here is where Dad and I differ.

 

All said, it makes sense to clear off. At least then maybe the criminal case will die and my ignoble demise remains out of the papers. I can’t win [1]. One way or another, if I remain or go, I’ll shame the family.

 

Still.

 

It strikes me as odd that after three years working by his side how little he knows me, watching me being unreal. Work aside, we’ve no common ground. He’s oblivious to my dreams. Surely Dad must see I’m not content, that things are eating me, that I can’t impersonate being me, being him, any longer. We’re on different wavelengths. For him, law is the quintessence of life. It’s his daily habit. He has few other interests. I don’t tell him I almost have to choke myself to feel alive. Instead I spin a positive.

 

‘I’ll do it for the money. It’s not bad’ I say.

‘Paid to write a story?’

‘Ya. It’s a good offer and I need a new challenge.’

‘But you’ve only been practising law a few years!’

‘Long enough!’

‘And now you want to be a storywriter?’ Dad asks.

 

I read the sub-text: park a respectable profession for a doubtful trade. He thinks I’m on the way down whereas I think I’m on the way up. It’s all in a choice; the roll of a dice: useful versus useless, success versus failure – which is which? Different interpretations around every corner. Anyway, who knows their destiny? The battle for conviction begins. We both know I have the weaker hand.

 

‘Who would read that?’ he asks.

‘People are keen to read about other people’s lives. It’s the egotistical age. Plus, I can do it. I’ve written junk before!’

‘You won’t have time with the law. And don’t you need some kind of licence or qualification to do that?’

 

He’s referring to the ever-willing charlatan in me. The autodidact. He only trusts degrees; pure genius is bunk. Ok, I confess: I’m no genius. Dad knows how average I am at legal drafting. I’m a grafter with a limited stock of talent. He thinks his objection is saving me from myself. From falling on my sword. How do I explain that all writing is not real writing per se?

 

Dad is saying I can’t have different lives, that I’m living too many of them all at once. He wants me to settle; for him its wife or death. Despite this, emboldened, enlivened, I respond:

 

‘That’s just the thing. Something has to give.’

 

He eyes me cautiously: his unpredictable son, the bad seed, the black sheep. He desperately wishes I’d knuckle down and ….

And what?

 

Be owned.

Captured,

captivated,

by law,

by family,

by a local lass.

He’s been holding out. He wants to pass the baton over and nail me to the firm. But I won’t step up to the plate. How do I gently spell it out, that law and I are ill-suited?

Answer: bluntly.

 

‘I must get real’ I say.

 

The authority takes issue.

 

‘Meaning what?’ Dad asks.

 

There he is chipping away then listening, scraping and scratching, asking things of me I don’t know. But I answer. I pretend to know things, pretending to be my own man. After all, words are my castle. I talk shit for a living.

 

‘I can’t carry on. I want to be grounded in something else. I’m letting law go.’

‘On the strength of one offer?’ he asks. ‘It’s small potatoes when you consider that you’re leaving behind a career and hoping to set up in another. It’s not very secure.’

‘But the opportunity is there!’

 

He’s incredulous, hates insecurity, and would like to say I’m too idealistic believing I can discontinue this life and pick up another. And plus, there’s this: have I no sense of duty?

 

Recently the chairman of a London law firm chose our practice over others to run an Irish case simply because I was my father’s understudy. The top brass in London respected our family’s history, comforted in the knowledge that under my father’s watchful eye I would draft documents; me as Dad’s protégé. How proud it made my father. Me, I just felt like a tool.

 

Now I’m suggesting a mutiny; that he return to his fiefdom of one. I don’t wish to offend. Rather, I envy him. And that’s just the point: I too want to care for something as passionately as he does law. Dad thinks the cure is to apply myself. It would be like believing in a false god. Still. He leaves the door open. I can fold now. Back out. Apologise. Abort. There’ll be no recriminations; it need never again be mentioned. I can even take a week’s holiday if it’ll help it go away, the nonsense.

 

But no. My face tightens. Conviction. I have a few moves left. I must seek my true identity. I am somebody else.

 

‘I don’t know’ I say. ‘I can’t go on like this. I just feel the need.’

‘Because of a random offer, you’ll simply give up law?’

 

His hand strokes the air like water flowing down a mountain. It doesn’t need explaining. He’s expressing a wasted resource.

 

‘And all to become an unknown writer?’

 

He’s spelling out my game-plan, cutting open the fault-lines in my argument. I’m flattened. Cheapened. He makes my motives sound weak. He’s really saying: are you going to discard this life on a frivolous whim?

 

Cutting.

 

I feel a shortness of breath. Winded. His words rise up in my mind; the charge he often lays on me – that I’m event-driven. I go with the wind. I accept everyone’s invitation. I’m impulsive, lack discipline. Now my back is up.

 

Still.

 

He’s my father and it’s his right to be a little jumpy that his son is trying to live a little more. Still, I’m provoked; he has baited me. First, a false retreat – I’ll call a spade a spade – then I’ll go on the attack.

 

‘Yes, I’m quitting to become a ghost-writer and not a real writer, paid per line of prose. A hired hand, literally. I know the deal but, don’t forget, there’s money.’

 

I try to brighten the offer but he knows writing is the road to a fool’s fortune. At best, there’s an outside chance of merit in my madness. But merit is born of success and how can a nameless writer be successful?

 

He remains silent. A father knows ones son. More is coming. He knows I feel boxed in, stuck in a rut, tangled in trivia, and going nowhere. He knows I want to be many people and live many lives. He knows I fight my demons. Still, he wonders why I can’t edit my dreams or apply myself to one discipline. How do I say its because my entire life is improvised, because I never know who to act being?

 

‘I must try existing’ I say. ‘I just can’t face the prospect of more of this!’

‘Work?’

‘No, more of the same. Being short-changed. Acting.’

‘Maybe we can accommodate you.’

 

It’s a try on.

 

‘Little changes won’t fix me. This isn’t my final destination.’

‘You think another firm would help?’

‘A city law firm would be no different. Temporary distraction.’

‘From what? What is it you want away from?’

‘The herd-like mentality. The rat race. Only a giant leap can save me. I’m sorry Dad.’

 

Everything I’ve bottled up overflows. I finally said it. The cheek! I’m suddenly embarrassed. Emotional. I need grounding. I scan the wall.

 

For what?

 

For confirmation of how small my world is. For re-positioning. For clues. I register the map of the world. It contains all my hopes. I reflect. Che Guevara I’m not but it’s not all bad. I still fit suits of ten years ago, still have my chin and need the services of a thinning scissors at the barbers. Ok, there’s wear and tear: my skin has slackened, my teeth have started to crumble and I need a new back. My possibilities are narrowing. I mustn’t delay. I must fight to be born anew.

 

‘Law – I’m not cut out for it.’

‘But … the firm.’

 

He’s defending his life.

 

After much fanfare over my arrival, I no sooner wish to up and leave. The lack of gratitude! He imagines we’ve come too far together. Have I no loyalty? I make a plea for legitimacy.

 

‘The sky is falling. The fallout is beginning. Other law firms have gone under. Our receptionist is gone; the secretaries job-share. We must be brave and pre-empt the next move no matter how hard it is to swallow. It we don’t read the situation we could lose heavily. Leave now and our heads remain above water.’

 

Platitudes, it’s not. I’m selling our demise. He looks at me dumb-founded. I’m sending him to an early grave, me the bad son. I flinch and look away. He wants continuity; what went before to follow after. I feel sick puncturing my father’s dream of having a successor.

 

He must notice. He digs me out.

 

‘Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.’

 

He’s always at it. Lording it up. For a man who has been dictating letters since before he made me he was always given to speaking in perfectly composed sentences.

 

‘Cool’ I say.

‘It’s Aristotle!’

‘Not you? Oh! Still, it’s cool.’

 

Our time-out is over, he switches on. Professionally; back to being his own lawyer. We’re dug in opposing trenches. He shoots first. And so it shall be. Dad calculates the fracas it will cause. It’ll take months to shut down the firm. My departure will be half-halting and episodic. The journey has only begun. We’re in uncharted territory. We agree terms. To keep it under wraps. We speak to one another like lawyers on different sides of a deal.

We are.

I am in the soup.

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[1] Unless I write this blog anonymously or when the charges are statute barred. And you thought only Shakespeare plotted revenge!

Diary 4: Doing Some Good

Bitsrip - Diary 4(2)

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I’m up for GBH. The Taliban would be more forgiving. I’m going to be made an example of. For shaming fellow lawyers. I may even be considered a lethal weapon. Then my sentence will be longer. It’s comical.

Only it’s not funny.

 

Not only am I facing a jail term but I’ll be struck off the Roll of Solicitors for ‘conduct unbecoming’. The end is nigh. And all because I lamped some stupid kid; bust his nose in a heated outburst. And got caught. His dad is on the case. He took dramatic photos of his son’s messed up face, dragged him to the doctor, then gave a statement to the Gardai.

 

I get on the blower but Mr Murphy is slow taking the call. I’m at his mercy. Call number 13 he takes.

 

‘No matter how wrong you feel he was it’s just not on.’

‘But I started out trying to do some good’ I say.

‘You’ve a skewed definition of doing good!’

‘I tried reasoning with him, with your son …’

‘His name is Barry’

‘Ok, with Barry. At the beginning at least. I warned him. He had it coming.’

‘That’s no excuse. You can’t go around taking the law into your own hands. You should know better.’

 

He’s saying I’m not a law-abider. It’s like a layperson correcting a surgeon’s prognosis. The kudos. The kicks. Trumping my profession. He loves it. Arrogant as I am, I swallow my pride. But it doesn’t bode well: someone is in his ear. I’m suspicious. You don’t do the groundwork, set it up like he has, only to cave.

 

‘I hold my hands up. I’m totally in the wrong’ I say.

‘I’m not sure it’s good enough.’

‘Well, what do you want – my head? Then have it. I mean my career is over: can’t practise law with a record.’

‘Nobody wants your head, Louis. You shouldn’t behave that way. You said you’d shut him up, permanently.’

‘What does that even mean?’

‘You threatened to snuff him out.’

‘Bull-shit.’

‘I’m telling you what he said. Barry was in fear of his life.’

‘Look, if it were so, why didn’t I just kill him?’

‘Why would you do that?’

‘No reason! That’s my point ‘cos if I did threaten to it doesn’t make sense.’

‘To kill him?’

‘To say I’d kill him. Why stand in front of a man…’

‘He’s only a boy!’

‘Ok, why stand in front of the boy and threaten to do him in when that’s the best time to do it? I don’t talk empty.’

‘Calm down, Louis. You need to get help.’

‘I am calm. It’s just the lack of logic that bothers me.’

‘You asked me to come on the phone. Do you want me to hang up?’

 

I collect myself. The soap-opera drags. I put up with more of the kind of idiocy that initially led to my violent outburst. Messages are relayed. I continue to to-and-fro with the father. I endure his holier-than-thou lectures. He confuses me for someone who gives a shit. Worst of all, I begin to wonder who he is.

 

Their life has polluted mine. I’m infected by a Murphy virus. The plague. The offended: they club together. The Murphy’s are closer as a family unit, they bond around me, their ire uniting against me. They feel important, suddenly with a voice. It’s what they want; nobody else listens to them. They have me by the cojones.

Royally.

Really.

 

I think of massacring the lot of them. Truly. They don’t realise how close they are to being exterminated.

 

Although it’s game-over, I persist. I try damage limitation by engaging with the enemy. The vermin. Mr Murphy finally agrees to meet. In the run up to the show-down it weighs heavily on me. On the way to the designated suburban café I think a better outcome would be if I drove my car into a wall. After all, how do I say his son is a loser – most probably like the dad – while pleading with him not to go to a lawyer who will gladly squeeze me dry? And then, how do I settle it without offering him the world I don’t own?

 

Tricky.

 

I think he might welch, but no, there he is, recognising me off the bat, motioning me to a table-for-two with a commanding wave. By now, he probably knows me better than I do. His every move he must have rehearsed. And me? Well, it’s his call; depends how he plays it.

 

The café is out of a Tarantino movie. Any one of them. On the table between us is a laminated menu, a bottle of Tabasco sauce, a salt seller (but no pepper), a fake candle and – inexplicably – an ashtray.

 

I greet Mr Murphy not with a handshake but with raised hands. No guns, see, I announce. Anyway, I’m not gone on touching skin with my rapist until I see what he’s going to do to me.

 

‘Let me again say Mr Murphy …’

‘Mike.’

‘Mike, let me say right away that I am so sorry.’

‘Yes, well, as I said, it’s not good enough.’

‘Clearly, and I appreciate that. It’s why we’re here. I want to apologise to you in person.’

 

I ignore that he wants my cheque book. What I can’t fail to notice is the way his eyes settle on the salt seller. Afraid to hold my gaze? Mmmm. He was better on the phone. There’s a one percent chance I might outbox him.

 

Without his eyes on me I take him in: mid-forties and life has beaten him. Long ago. He gave in without a fight. Pure fat: top heavy, a snowman on stilts. Stately plump Murphy! His face has bloated to match his pregnant belly. His ears look tiny pitched either side of it. His nose plays baby brother to his exploding gut and piggy face. On top of it all he wears a grey moustache that can’t possibly distract from his ugliness.

 

I also try to look ugly. I’ve dressed down for the occasion. I’m wearing old jogging shoes and a new pair of distressed jeans. I don’t want to smell of money. About the TT I can’t do much. They know I drive one.

 

‘It happened. Here is where we are.’

 

I don’t know why he says it. I mean it’s obvious, but worryingly it’s rehearsed.

 

‘I was Mr Squeaky before this’ I say. ‘No form. No previous. Hang on, what do you mean – here is where we are? I don’t follow. Where are we?’

‘Barry’s face is a mess.’

‘Allegedly! I swung but didn’t connect, I don’t think, so I don’t know how it can be that bad.’

‘A video doesn’t lie’

 

Fuck! Shop surveillance. Just as I’m about to play denial it bites me in the ass.

 

‘Oh, security cameras! Look, sure it happened but it’s not how it happened. I mean, I’m not into violence. Life is precious.’

 

Yet murder is firmly on my mind.

 

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Diary 3: Saucy Susan

Bitstrip - Diary 3

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Everyone wants to be wanted.

Wanted in a non-Interpol way.

 

Shes a product of good genes. Her looks define her. It brings privilege. Desirability. Wantability. But there’s a catch: she doesn’t understand time. One day she’ll be caught out when nobody is running around trying to sniff her ass. You see, mingers, ugly girls, they have that over her. They’re always resistible and accept they’ve to get low to get any: S&M, anal, asphyxiation, dogging, locked in dungeons; basic things like that.

 

As for me, I’m no longer in my prime but get this: I’m wanted.

 

‘You’re wanted. So-and-so is here to see you.’

 

It’s how she says it, how she phrases it, spits it actually. My apprentice. Susan [1]. Her words hit me like she’s flinging stones at me. There’re no limits. She’s as nasty as… I don’t blame her. I overstepped the mark.

 

Today clients will arrive and there’ll be no warning. It’s Susan’s prerogative. See, yesterday, her demanding boss – me – sent her on too many errands. Now she’s exercising control. Earlier this morning I had control. At 9am. Ours is a game of power relations: a Cold War. I’m America, she’s Russia.

 

Susan’s my go-for. It must be hell. Go for my coffee; go for my bacon and brie toasty; go for my dry-cleaning; go bring me my clients. Officially, I’m her master. Officially, she’s my bitch.

 

‘Put Hello magazine in the canteen. Only Intelligent Life should be out.’

Instead of saying good morning, I’m shaking Hello magazine at her.

 

‘Do we really subscribe to working-class tastes?’ I ask.

 

Rhetorical question. She’s in charge of subscriptions. I don’t press – the point is made. I’m her boss so technically I control Hello, not her. Still. Although she can’t sue me any more I tread carefully. She could tell Dad [2]. Plus, I don’t want her spitting in my coffee.

 

‘Nobody reads it’ she says.

Intelligent Life? Sure they do. I do.’

 

Only I don’t. She gives me that look, Medusa-like. I can’t tell if it’s a compliment about being smart or a warning to stay clear. She doesn’t hold my gaze long enough for me to tell which way her mouth curls. She has no lines on her polished face. It’s like porcelain.

 

Once, I used fall into it.

 

***

 

Three years.

In my first year I’m trying to hide my sex life from my secretary. Girls call and she vets them. My secretary disapproves but is curious nevertheless. That dies down and lo-behold in year two my blonde bomb-shell arrives, sent from heaven: Susan, my petite 22 year old apprentice from Leitrim. McGahern country. I imagine she’s a cheap date: so small she gets smashed on a beer. Bantamweight. Low-carb. The insufficiently nourished kind. My kind. Heroin-chic. Finally, I have my own (non-doughy) play-thing. This becomes the year I master sexual harassment; get a PhD in it. I was bored. She was the object. I deliberately weakened my hand and emailed my lust:

 

‘The things I would like to do to you. I adore your ass. And your tits – OMG. You would fit beautifully on my desk. Can I nail you to it?     ps. I shout when I shoot. pps. Stuff bog-roll in my mouth when we do it and nobody will hear! Ppps. Really’

 

Slam dunk. Documentary evidence. Fucking myself is the only fucking done. My colleagues would laugh. I should know better. The golden rule is to harass other firms’ apprentices, to piss on their turf, not your own. Then you’re only sleazy. My only option is to play time. Not long out of university and unfamiliar with legal procedures she can’t know sexual harassment suits have to be processed within six months. For six months she had a hold over me. I obeyed her every whim. I even fetched her coffee. Master and slave, the roles reversed. She became my overlord. I loved it.

 

The thrill.

The risk.

I beat off more.

And more.

 

Year three and Susan is part of the furniture. She’s always fighting me off. By the way, I don’t think it’s a big deal – the age gap. Thirteen years. She disagrees. I argue the point. I know I’m right.

 

‘In many movies, the lead is paired up with a lover 13 or more years younger!’

‘You’re no Clint Eastwood’ she says.

‘Thank fuck! But you seen Tom Cruise lately?’

 

There’s no witty riposte. I throw her a Hollywood look. She just stares. I think she might suck her thumb but no, she squints, her eyes becoming half-slits, then she nods her head side to side before marching off. That shut her up. Anyway, back to my point. From the get-go, we bother one another. Now we’re reduced to squabbles. It’s how it begins. Today’s weirdness. Why I’ve no sentinel. Why the knock on my door. Knock, knock. Frantically I scan the desk.

 

For what?

 

For anything incriminating. It’s in my blood. It wouldn’t do to be caught with my pants down.

 

Naked is other people.

 

‘Sorry to barge in. Don’t mean to disturb.’

‘Not at all. Come in’ I say.

 

I go to stand but with a raised hand he motions me to stay seated. He leans across the schoolmaster’s desk and I shake a glove. He points to a chair. A file is on it. His eyebrows ask the question. Sure, I say, move it. He carefully places the file on the floor. I think it’s Quillinan’s irrigation problem [3]. Stagnant sewage. I feel slightly embarrassed.

 

For whom?

 

‘The receptionist? There was no-one outside’ he says.

‘I have an apprentice.’

‘He’s not outside!’

‘It’s a she. She’s …. She’s…’

‘Gone on an excursion?’ he asks.

‘Yes. That’s probably it.’

 

I stiffen in unfamiliar company. He ignores. He’s already at his mitts. He’s holding his hands to his face, picking at the finger tips, first one and then the other – all ten – and removes his shiny black leather gloves. And it’s only October, albeit cold.

 

‘Call me Martin. And you … I do have you right, don’t I?’

‘Oh, sorry, yes. Louis.’

‘That’s right. We’re ok then.’

 

Well-dressed and suave, I admit I’m curious. Though we have English clients who live in palatial homes this fellow is definitely a blow-in. Martin doesn’t fit in precisely because he doesn’t try to fit in. Still, they’re much alike, all with a touch of King Henry about them; the English. I like it as it must be reassuring to have a sense of belonging, to be rooted. And to be okay with your roots.

 

I find myself inspecting his green silk scarf thrown over a beige gabardine. Self-assured and audacious: an Indian-Irish touch, yet so out of place in ________. I feel I can relate. I don’t know why. Instinct perhaps. I feel a meaningful message coming on. I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t one.

 

Perhaps it’s as well to explain. I’m holed up in an Irish backwater called _______. I presumed I’d only be buried in this flyover-ville shit-hole but never actually live here. Now I’m one of the living dead.

 

‘I have been sent by …’

 

And it’s here Martin inserts His name [4]. He says it while admiring his fingernails.

 

‘I’m His agent. Not in a legal sense. I manage His affairs. Business affairs that is’ he says.

‘Of course. I understand.’

 

Martin starts up again. But I’m not listening. I’m floating. He has just named a world-renowned pop-star, a modern-day Elvis. I’d love to say I just read about Him and His latest lover in a back-issue of Hello in the bog. Come to think of it, in my lifetime I’ve seen more photographs of Him than I have of myself.

 

‘A friend of His came upon your dabblings.’

 

Proceed.

But no.

He delays.

How many control-freaks do I have to go through in a day? As though choreographed, Martin takes a time-out to savour my stuffy office.

 

‘You see, I do the leg-work, donkey work’ he says.

‘Hardly.’

 

I’m used to doling out charitable utterances. He ignores. He picks up a book off my desk: ‘Adventure Man: How to become a man of action’. What did he expect – ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’? He rifles though it and spots the underlined sections. He smiles to himself and places it back on my desk.

 

‘I only read it during lunch break’ I say.

‘Of course. Any good?’

‘In parts. It talks about shifting the axis of play. Taking no prisoners; risk versus reward. Of jumping off cliffs. Of deep-ending oneself into strange things, foreign lands. Of leading ones own life and all that jazz. But other than that, it’s a bit iffy.’

 

I’m a lawyer; I’m paid to have doubts. He doesn’t care. He’s scanning the wall. I follow his eyes and judge my choices. There’s an enormous map of the world: revealing worldly ambition? A framed poster of Che Guevara Lynch: a sign of clinging to rebellion? Then, nestled on the mantelpiece, the family boast: a photograph of Dad doing something great. And then there’s me: all said, a collector of dubious oddities.

 

‘He asked me to check you out.’

 

He, God, Elvis, Wacko?

 

‘He checked me out?’

‘Yes, well, He actually asked me to check you out, to see where you are, what you are at, what you are like – that kind of thing. And so, here I am.’

 

I wish he would stop being surprised by himself, by where he’s at. It’s effortless how he dents my ego. Simple words or a look and he shoots down my life. It’s time to give him the sales pitch. I feel Dad glaring down at me from the mantelpiece. I must remember to give just enough as the truly able never boast. Or so they say.

 

‘We have much experience’ I begin. ‘My father, Dr. La Roc, and I cover a range of legal matters. Of course, we’re a small-town firm but we’re full service. And being in the countryside, probate and trusts are a particular specialty.’

 

Overshot? The things we do, the lines we sell, the lives we live, the people we are – all in a days work; non-stop throughout a lifetime.

 

Can he tell my heart isn’t in it, that I don’t give a fuck, that I’m an illegitimate lawyer, an imposter, a hoax? Truthfully, I’m more tourist than career solicitor.

 

‘No please. Stop. Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear’ he says.

‘Oh!’

‘He thought you mightn’t be up to much.’

‘Sorry! Actually I’m very busy.’

 

I look around the desk for something to cling to. My eyes settle on the book, ‘Adventure Man’.

 

‘I don’t mean legally. Sorry, if I’ve offended. It wasn’t intended.’

‘It’s ok. Did you say not legal?’ I ask.

‘Yes. You see, it’s you He wants.’

‘Me!’

 

Nobody comes for me unless clown school has an emergency. Now I’m beginning to wonder if I’d make a good back-up singer. In his own time Martin explains.

 

‘It’s more your writing. He thought you mightn’t be doing much on that front. You see, He has a unique life-story that needs telling. He’d be honoured if you’d consider writing it. But under His own name, you understand? Be His ghost-writer.’

‘Oh!’

 

It’s all I can manage.

A random stranger has my ticket…

and is scratching at my soul.

 

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[1] She once explained the meaning of her name, Susan, some historical gunk about it but I don’t remember. Or care. You don’t either. To sail the legal waters, Susan is a kind of fictional composition, a mix of other non-people and peppered with things strange, and accordingly, the usual rules apply.

[2] ‘Dad’ might not be the real thing and instead be a paternal figure like the partner in the law firm.

[3] The client’s name has been changed; the legal issue too. Know what – the same goes for all clients, files and people named. Ok.

[4] Although presented as a Blog about things largely real, I’m compelled to maintain certain confidences and unable to outright name the celebrities I represent. To the Stars to whom I am a confidante and contractually bound, monikers aside, you’ll note I’ve doctored key facts and timelines. Furthermore, I shy away from describing physical characteristics or commonly known ticks while, perhaps, muddling nationalities.

 

Diary 2: Satisfaction

Bitstrip - Diary 2

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Here then it is – my life over in eight seconds.

Nine tops.

 

Its origins lie in a red mist that descends. The devil’s gunpowder. I yield to it. It plays out. Logic collapses. Events overcome me. I lose perspective and take on the world. To make amends.

 

‘Ass-wipe. I’m going to drown you like a kitten if you don’t back-up pronto.’

‘Oh yeah? I’d like to see that’ he says.

 

A sparrow can’t be a fighting cock. Yet the boy tries. He pumps his chest only it doesn’t rise. He can’t hide his voice either. It’s a girl’s. Justin Bieber? At his age the sexes are so androgynous. Ill-defined. Anyway, he’s a rake; corpulence hasn’t got him. Yet.

 

‘You’re asking for it spotty’ I say.

‘No, you are, you old fart.’

 

Mincing and mimicking, it’s all they know, today’s youth: posturing. My patience is out the window, the song and dance over.

 

‘Last time – shut the fuck up.’

‘No, you shut the fuck up.’

 

Warning: do not hold my gaze. It goads; it calls me on. We eye-ball, the boy and I. Great, bring it! You like bricks? Here’s a ton.

 

‘You’re dead.’

 

Not graveyard dead. Still. When things overheat …. my default setting is murder.

 

My head, the bridge of his nose, a crowning moment. Nutted. I feel his nose give like snapping a chicken carcass. Now he’s rapt. Blood spurts from his beak like a broken fire-hydrant. Newton doesn’t lie: to every action …

 

The boy, he’s not slow and though he concedes weight he plays survival. He crouches like a wrestler, stooping yet trying to remain upright in the gooey mess. The mixture at our feet is toxic: orange juice, broken glass and eggs. My legs splay to stay afloat. To steady himself he grabs me with a hand and with the other clubs at my face. I also seek purchase against him, though one of my hands is throttling his windpipe. A lady is caught up in the mix, refereeing. We spin about and she gets in the way. Obstruction! I shove the woman back with a hand, a stray finger poking the wet meniscus of her eye.

 

We pivot, twist, turn and tango. I think he might have me but, just then, I see him eye an escape. The car park is vast. And empty. It’s an easy out. But to run would define him. Can’t abandon a damsel in distress! So we tussle over the omelette we’re beating.

 

When he thinks all creative options are dusted, with a jerk I break his hold, throwing us off-balance. It’s a Matrix moment. A left hook follows. I connect cleanly with an eye socket. Not bad. He crumples. He’s down in the omelette.

 

A casualty.

 

I go in for more. The kill. It’s already played out in my mind: my foot, his head, my boot superimposed on his face. I hear the crunch. I almost feel his concussion. But that one doesn’t happen. Security is on me. The guy appears from nowhere and puts me on the ground, in the goo. It must be martial arts: one minute up, the next I’m down. All I feel is a jolt in the crook of my knee. Then I genuflect. Then a sharp chop on the neck has me horizontal.

 

Two casualties.

 

All this action is overlaid against a long acoustic scream from the lady. She can hold a pitch, the big round ‘O’ of her mouth going all operatic.

 

‘What the fuck!’ security rains down on me.

 

There’s light in his eyes; the security man’s. It’s colour – fury.

 

I’m frightened. It’s not so much that he’s in uniform as his squareness. He blocks out the sunlight as he stands over me. To be him you need planning permission. He’s built for bouncing, the real shit-house.

A mountain.

 

It’s not his language – English. The Mountain’s. That’s not racism speaking – sure, he’s black – it’s just that he doesn’t curse like he’s comfortable with it. Maybe only the Irish curse naturally, where cursing is like pissing spring water.

 

The weird thing is, when weird things happen, it takes a second to adjust, for your brain to recalibrate. What I’m caught up in is crazy. It’s not befitting a lawyer but more in keeping with the adventures of a tramp sipping whiskey street-side. For some moments my life is in another place, another land. I’m on my back in a dream. Dream-land. That’s it: this too will pass I say to myself. And him: does he eat pork? Is he Al-Qaeda? The Mountain. Then I equilibrate. Rebalance. A dawning: I’m awake. I’m here. It’s real. And the fruit: that’s me.

 

‘He’s only a boy’ the lady cries.

 

The bitch spins her head about looking for converts. Their being few others around she goes to give me one. The Mountain intervenes and takes it on the shin.

 

‘Oow.’

 

He hops in pain. She’s taken-aback, the bitch. The Mountain might turn on her. Nobody wants an erupting volcano.

 

‘Sorry, that was for him’ she says. ‘He’s my son.’

‘Violence isn’t the answer.’

 

It’s the Mountain rumbling. The munificence.

 

Shielded behind the Mountain, I scramble to me feet. The boy also rights himself as the bitch – the boy’s mum – cradles his head. After a few seconds he breaks her hold. Too late. Now we know, the Mountain and I, that the boy is mothered.

 

***

I consider running. Impossible. My car is parked a few feet away, one of a half-dozen in the vast car park. Instead I become my own lawyer, figuring on an exit strategy, a come-good. I wrench my arm free of the Mountain’s grip.

 

‘Look, it’s all a misunderstanding. I’ve somewhere to be.’

‘No, no’ says the mum. ‘I want the Gardai.’

‘Let’s cool it’ the Mountain says.

‘He’s right. Let’s not get carried away’ I agree.

‘Carried away’ the mum says. ‘You’re the only one who got carried away. You maniac!’

‘Hang on. I was helping you. I shouldn’t have bothered.’

‘Helping! Some help. Smashing my groceries and beating up my son.’

‘Mum, he didn’t beat me up’ the boy adds.

‘See. Your boy even said it. It was just a mistake.’

‘No. You, mister, you made mistake’ the Mountain says.

 

The Mountain thinks he must intervene to show his strength. I slacken up. Minimum wage and he gets this. His staff uniform is ironed, with neat crease lines down his shirt, so I can’t tell if he’ll go for cash. You never can tell where you’ll find the honest poor ones. I try to give him an out by justifying.

 

‘I was helping her as her spotty son wouldn’t’ I say. ‘He was too busy stealing sweets and peeping at porno mags.’

‘What in God’s name are you talking about?’

 

It’s the mum at it again, being anti-me. The Mountain holds up a hand, cutting her short. Silence. Then.

 

‘You hurt him.’

 

The Mountain points a finger, first at the boy, then me. We all look at the drip. He’s sulking behind his mum. His bloody nose has started to crust over making him look even more snotty. It looks like a vulture snacked on his face. He pretends to be still up for it but he’s not. His mouth twitches. I think he’s mumbling: come on, come on. He’s daring me. Come on then and stop shitting yourself. Come on out from behind mummy-kins. But no. Instead, he continues baiting me. Come on, come on.

 

‘Come on, foetus’ I hiss. ‘Acting brave? Bring it!’

 

It’s a front. He simply talks a good fight. Italian blood? He looks to his mum. She squeezes him tighter.

 

I consider second dibs but the Mountain lies between us. If I lunge I’ll be repatriated with interest. Anyway his arms are fanned out ready for any commotion. The Mountain thinks there’s some bottle left, some unexpressed agro. He’d be right. Rage isn’t so easily switched off. A gun and I’d clean up.

 

‘Hey, you kicked the Security guy and he hurt me. My neck and back is fucked.’

 

I’m making a stew, trying to tie the Mountain to the unfolding fiasco. Pull me down and I’ll pull the world down. Now the Mountain isn’t so sure-footed. Don’t topple the world; play ball is what I’m urging.

 

‘It’s over’ the Mountain says.

 

Ah, Mr Security Man, so your job isn’t so secure!

 

‘I must be off’ I say.

 

I give a tight smile and spy the hour, making like I have a life. I do. Or, at least, I did.

 

‘But the groceries. My groceries are destroyed’ the mum says.

 

Who said telepathy doesn’t work? It’s actually called ‘memetics’: information transfer or pushing thoughts into people’s heads. I just shoved a ton of silage into her ear and now she’s thinking on my wavelength. The scales are right; the quantum of damage lower: down from the thousands to under a hundred euro.

 

‘Who’s going to pay for this?’

‘The man is’ the Mountain says.

 

It’s a gem, uniting against me, just what I wanted. And they say money is supposed to sharpen the mind! Instead we’re haggling over tip money. To ones station in life what you deserve. Still, I play my role, acting like its their idea and don’t let on that I’ve rearranged their thinking. I haggle a bit, behaving indignant.

 

‘Hang on. I was helping a lady in need and get stung for it. I must remember never to help anyone again.’

 

Bizarrely the Mountain empathises with a sigh. Did I overcook it? I must row back a tad. After all, consideration must be sufficient but need not be adequate. In my head I’ve gone all legal; I’m just talking dumb. To hide the plot. To box it away. Being a lawyer taught me that; all about acting. As for them, peanuts will do.

 

‘Ok, to settle the matter’ I say. ‘Fully and finally. The end of it. Ok?’

‘Go easy there’ the Mountain says.

 

I’m fishing out my wallet when he suddenly places a firm hand on mine, restraining me.

 

‘Hey, relax, it’s my dough not a knife! You want to frisk me?’

‘The cops would. You want that?’

‘It’s cool.’

‘Nobody’s cool’ he corrects.

‘You’re right. Sorry.’

 

The Mountain nods his head, appreciating my non-coolness. Another nod – go ahead. I fish out my wallet and toss two fifties in the pool of broken eggs. In a beat the scut has it in his hands and is cleaning the notes. He thinks he’s done good. I make to leave but the Mountain has me by the arm again. His memory jogs. He remembers some protocol; has his job to consider.

 

‘Must take contact details’

 

Has he learned English by rote or is he one of the truly integrated? On a different day I’d encourage him to try out for politics. Duds do well there.

 

Sean O’Shenanigans I’m thinking of being; only he’s wise to it.

 

‘Driving licence’ he says.

‘Not got it on me.’

‘That your car?’

 

He’s thinking on his feet, pointing to a sports car.

 

‘Which one?’

‘The one you came in on. I’ll have your keys if you can’t remember who you are.’

 

Snookered.

 

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Diary 1: Exhibit “A”

Bitstrip - Diary 1(ii)

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Guess who’s fucked? You’d be right: me.

 

Today another Moan-day and I’m running late. I slide my feet into my slip-ons feeling yesterday’s dampness and no sunshine to ease matters. With a look of rain I button up and shovel off to work feeling cursed. I’m in a rut, feck-arsing about, vegetating like a prisoner. Sinfully, I’ve become boring. Uneventful. At a standstill.

 

It usen’t be so; being nobody.

Despite my inner turmoil, I harbour dreams of conquering the world. Truth is, a reality check is only around the corner then depression will have me in its grip. I feel its onset. The start of the end. The end: a shotgun in the mouth and a sidebar news-story in a regional newspaper – 70 words? Meanwhile I’m playing survival as I look for a way out. An excuse. An exit.

 

But isn’t everybody? I’m no dim-wit; I know a thoroughbred doesn’t stand still. A guy has to shake a bone to be remembered. As I make over the bridge and work coming into sight, I egg myself on, screaming at my lot. You see, today I’ve come to a momentous decision: I do not belong here.

 

I roar into the blustery wind again: I DO NOT BELONG HERE.

 

It’s absurd, if not illuminating, for this reason: right now, at this precise moment, I begin thinking of myself as somebody else, as an entirely different person, a different life-form, a passenger no longer and instead at the wheel, driving my life. Perhaps something might happen, something good, a bonanza of some kind. Now I’m trucking along, growing in confidence, imagining my hour has come.

 

Only it hasn’t. False alarm, a false dawn. Reality hits. Nothing has changed. These past few years I often have the same escapist urge and do nothing about it. My mood dampens in keeping with the foul weather. There is no life-changing event. In fact, nothing has changed save for a revelation: mortality anxiety. I’m timing out; dying by degrees. My life is a wasteland. I’ve peaked. It’s downhill from here and I never made a jot of difference.

 

I’m appalled. By me. By my everyday. Feeling more antsy than usual, I dwell on it. When an idea takes hold how can it sit quietly, at odds with the body’s goings on, living a lie, mind and body, the self divided, acting in concert as one? Faking it.

 

Opinion has it you stop feeling things after a time, only I don’t. I’m uncomfortable in my skin and I’ve grown more conscious of it, of my existence: how peripheral, parochial, its become. Maybe it’s what made me lash out and deck someone. Oh, then there’s that. The fight and its consequences. I’m staring down the barrel of a gun.

 

Dad, he wants me to stick, to establish continuity. To invest in a life. One life. He knows I’m the eternal stop-starter, that I’m in the habit of discarding my life every five or so years. Nine is nothing, me, I’ve lived a dozen lives. I’m this, I’m that, then, hey presto, vamoose. I disassemble and restart in a new location with a new career, culture and friends, wandering the world to find home. It’s my reoccurring life-cycle, people and places always failing me. Or vice-versa. And I think if I start over one last time I’ll stop looking, a make-over bringing rebirth, bumping into the real me, finally. This dad knows, that if it’s stick or twist, I’ll always twist. Well, not always, see, these days I’ve lost my bottle; all will power is gone.

 

Instead I’m being pushed. This dad doesn’t know: fight then flight.

 

Or go to jail.

Yet, nobody is on my case.

Nobody knows I’ve a problem.

Yet.

 

Folk even think a guy like me has something. Sure, I’m a flash git in a suit but everything is relative. I’m being pulled under, caught in a world of ifs.

 

If only I was somewhere else I’d be doing something else.

If only I hadn’t taken so many wrong turns.

If only I bucked the trend.

If only I wasn’t everyman.

If this and if that.

 

Fucking ifs.

 

I start to wonder about it.

About regaining my individuality.

About becoming someone different.

 

Different to this ……

 

A snap-shot of us.

 

There she is at my door. In a skirt. A tight little number. Sexy brat. I wish I had it over her head. Instead:

 

‘You OK?’ I ask.

‘Just a little tired.’

‘Late night?’

‘Don’t start.’

‘What’s up?’

‘Notalot.’

 

I think she might strut. But no, she just stands there toying with me. I hold my own. With hands behind my head I bask, leering with fuck-you abandon. My x-ray eyes are on her, counting how many items of clothing she has on. Four. Maximum five (including panties). I’m allowed; I pay her wages.

 

We know what we’re doing; circling, sniffing. I’m like a five year old looking for hidden sweets. Perhaps she’s imagining me naked. She draws first.

 

‘What you looking at?’

 

She runs a hand over her blouse then paranoia climbs over her face. She goes to rub it off; she’s pawing at it, at her mug. There’s nothing there but it’s good because she submits to my stare.

 

I’m in control. And although the dominant one, I can’t condense it down. How do I explain I’m wondering what kind she is? Would we sleep as spoons? Would she wake me up with eggs Benedict?

 

‘Would you mind…’

‘Mind what?’ she asks.

 

She almost stops me; I almost turn away. I torch the idea but can’t be bothered making something else up. This is how it went down. Period.[1] We’re breathing it out. Making fists. Pissing the poison from our minds.

 

‘Oh, nothing’ I say.

‘Everything is nothing with you. You’re such a child.’

‘The way it is.’

‘Why?’

‘An exit is an exit!’

 

We keep saying nothing though she wonders about this. Deal with it, I think of saying.

 

‘Exits! Louis, what’s that supposed to mean?’ she asks.

‘Know what, I’m free-associating!’

‘… to dig yourself out of a hole?’

‘Like I’m in one?’

 

We stare. She’s only arrived and already acts bored. It’s true, she’s the only stimulus around here.

 

‘You do know I don’t take you for granted.’

 

Is it a question or fact? She awaits clarification, going limp, lifeless, praying on a confession. I continue:

 

‘You know sometimes ….’

 

Sometimes, I interrupt myself; cut myself off. Like now. She releases a huff. A sour face. A look of dislike. Meaningless questions; meaningless answers. And we’re only starting; warming up. I’m frustrated, fucked off I didn’t jerk-off last night. Then I might have slept. Now I could forcibly rape a sheep.

This is it, this is us: the waking day. Our everyday. The more I question the more alert she becomes. It’s our natural rapport, our intimacy. At least that’s how I have it in my head. Us, waking up in the office. Together. Courting.

 

Today her blonde locks are pinned back. Tightly. Her forehead is higher up. It’s how I like it. She’s quick to advertise her strengths: the acres on her face. Some famous ballerina said lashing her hair back was the cause of headaches. I suppose her suffering is fine with me especially if it’s for me. I’m down with penance.

 

She lingers. I register awe. Lust. I look. Gawk. Longer. Harder.

 

‘I look ok?’

‘Ya, fine.’

 

I don’t say ravishing. Instead.

 

‘Panadol in the canteen.’

‘I don’t have a hangover’ she says.

‘Wowa, frosty, hold up. Don’t pin anything on me!’

 

I’m holding my hands up. She draws breath. I like that she’s overstepped the mark: it shows how close we are; that I’m big enough to let it slide. She thinks I care about rank. I don’t. It’s why I passed on joining the army. Now there’s one General less. https://vine.co/v/hH1HMQLrn3z

 

‘You know the root cause …’

 

I’m swirling a hand between us but pull myself up mid-twirl, holding myself in check. Refraining. After all, why bother, why confess? She doesn’t care for my feelings, she only wants dirt. Gossip. Maybe she’s laying a trap. Tick tock, the sexual harassment clock! No more complacency for me, thank you very much. I change tack.

 

‘I thought you might have replied.’

 

It doesn’t need explaining. She ignores my text messages. I’m sending them into thin air. At least feed me a lie.

 

‘I swear I have this mobile that writes slower than me’ she says.

 

We’re looking at the guilty phone in her hand. It becomes a person. We’re having a three-way conversation. It’s what 22 year olds do. Discuss their mobiles.

 

‘Are we chatting about your phone?’ I ask.

‘Yeah. Why?’

‘I don’t do that.’

 

It shuts her up; stops her in her tracks. Now we’re back on track: back at work, all the while sailing away from nine o clock. She makes to leave. I pull her back. Pulling rank.

 

‘Any chance of a bagel. You don’t mind, do you?’ I ask.

‘You’ve never cared before.’

‘Well, what with your headache. Would make anyone narky.’

‘I’m not narky.’

‘Jumpy then.’

 

A huff.

Then.

 

‘You really should look at your diet’ she says.

 

Instead I look at my belly. And smile. I can easily see my dick over it.

 

‘At your age diabetes is likely’ she adds.

‘I’m sporty.’

‘More risk then.’

‘Is this you plugging your thing?’

‘It’s not a thing. I’m a celiac.’

‘Thought that was a type of car! You should try one – a sandwich; not the car.’

‘I only eat for one.’

 

She’s snappy and won’t let up. I’m not fat so it’s a wasted energy trying to pin a complex on me.

 

‘And eating three meals a day is feeding a family?’

 

She knows I’m right. But she has her ass to think of. Anyway, she can’t afford my diet. It’s rich in every sense.

 

‘Bacon and brie?’ she asks.

‘How you know me. Oh, and a latte. Thanks.’

‘No pastry?’

 

She thinks she’s being funny. Facetious is actually the word.

 

‘No thanks, though it beats eating tofu as a treat! I’m thinking of going celiac. A two litre diesel.’

 

I smile, patting my gut. She makes eyes at me – this isn’t her life. But it is. I go to reply but she beats the rush. She has already turned tail.

 

In her wake: a floral waft.

***

That was first thing in the morning. At 9am. After an hour I’m bored waiting for events to happen; for things to brighten up the day.

 

Then, later on. At 10:26am. My office. There she is, framed in the doorway. Again.

 

‘Maybe you shouldn’t be like, I dunno, so familiar with me.’

‘How so?’

 

She’s in the habit of saying no without actually knowing how to. I play innocent. We exchange nervous glances. A thought courses through my mind: what does it take to be a pervert? Is there a test of some kind? I go to pin her back, deliberately misinterpreting while revealing my bargaining chip.

 

‘Don’t be your boss?’

‘No! God no. That’s great, Louis. Really. That’s not it. It’s just …’

 

She stamps a foot, revealing how misunderstood she feels. Neurotic cow! The thrust of it is that I’m crossing a line. But I won’t let her say it.

 

‘Go on’ I say.

‘Hey, you seen the You Tube video about work practises?’

‘What? I’m not with you.’

 

I give a blank look. Yawn. Boring. You know sometimes, in ordinary day to day life, I die a little. Like now.

 

‘The video. I posted it on Facebook.’ she says.

‘Oh, ya! I’ll take a look later on.’

‘Ok. But I posted it two days ago!’

 

We’ve jinxed ourselves on Facebook. Cross-pollination. First week in the office and we’re FB friends. It would be unseemly to unfriend. I act like I don’t stalk her on-line. Of course I’ve seen her stupid video I just thought she’d keep us privileged. Instead twenty-six of her friends ‘liked’ the link. That really pissed me off. I know what she’s doing: they’re ganging up on me. All of them have me under suspicion.

 

Know what I’m thinking? How to make us an ‘us’. Why not? Aren’t we already involved? Otherwise this – work, training period, whatever – is pointless. I mean, why bother sleeping with her in my dreams if she’s going to carry on like this? https://vine.co/v/hHmYtIWPE5i

 

‘It’s good stuff. You should check it out’ she says.

‘You trying to educate me? Remember, I’m in law, not HR!’

‘Still.’

 

And ‘still’ sticks in my head. Still, it’s a warning before she drops me in it. Still, maybe I should keep a distance. She could pull reassignment. She could. Yeah, she might. I’ve mucked up before putting things in writing – those emails which I know she has kept – and now she’s saying …

 

Enough.

Still.

You.

The cheek!

 

I’m not desperate; at least I don’t have to be. I get a lot of come-ons so this is a mite unfair. Remember, it’s not me that’s supposed to be auditioning for something. So why am I under the kosh?

 

She finishes her little ditty. It’s rehearsed no doubt. Her Facebook friends put her up to it. But she’s holding back. She’s gone all squirmish. Girlish. Is it to protect her career or is she hiding her true feelings for me? Or else, maybe, just maybe, it’s a me thing?

‘You look crazy!’ she says.

‘Crazy?’

‘Ok, crazed. Louis, mind if I ask you something?’

‘Sure. Try me.’

‘There’s something wrong with you.’

‘That a question?’

‘Ya.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘You should see a doctor.’

‘For what?’

 

My lust? For losing my mind?

 

‘Being retarded!’ she says.

‘That’s not cool… or PC.’

‘Ok, sorry, for having a mid-life then.’

 

I let out a laugh, ok, its a ridiculous high-pitched squeal.

 

‘I’m only in my 30s! Oh, I get it – is it because I’m not brazenly hounding you!’

 

Now I’ve put it out there, she’s speechless. She watches me, horrified.

 

The pathos. Still, what do I care? Contrary to social etiquette I’m happy to sit out the performance. I button up. Spectate, watching her silently self-combust. Staring. Carnivorously. Disrespectfully. Are we terminal? She holds my gaze. Resolutely. We are sexual equals her look says. I cede ground. Blink. Withdraw. Retreat. Still, it’s not her, at least not the real her. She isn’t bred so. Bred posh. Assertive-like. Or defiant. It’s an act. The staring. An acquired put-on. She probably adopted it from some dopey character in a TV box-set. https://vine.co/v/hX35AYq21gX

 

‘It’s just everyone wants, you know …’ she says.

‘No, I don’t know.’

 

Truth is, I’m irritated. She’s such a hit with herself. She’s the kind of girl who volunteers she’s intelligent, the real blue-stocking, only she’s a phoney. She’s not hitting high IQs.

 

‘Well, you know, everyone …’

‘Ya, everyone – I got that bit. What is it everyone wants?’

‘Oh, nothing. Forget it.’

 

But I know what she means… So do you.

 

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[1] The events described herein are all real save for a few parts that aren’t. I’m cataloguing events as they happen unless amending bits of legal necessity.