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I finish my £8.30 pint and head for where I used to live. Why? I’ve started writing now, I might as well go. It’s an ex-council block. East London thick brick. Rubicon cans on the stairwell, faulty lifts. A kid called Abdi that tries to sell you weed every time you see him, even though you tell him that you don’t smoke weed. It was him that I thought I saw walking past the pub. He’s got a dog. He told me that it is was rare for a Bengali to have a dog. I wonder if he’s still here?
My vacation condo’s washer/dryer combination is tiny and inefficient, so I launder my comforters ten miles away at the decrepit Maple Fuels Wash-a-Ton. The old-school machines don’t take credit cards, only quarters. It takes a lot of quarters to wash a pile of gamey comforters. Since my mortgage and HOA fees are high, I have to rent my place to overnighters through Air Bnb. The guests are often careless, spilling wine and body fluids willy-nilly on the bedclothes.
So far, complex titles ranging from the heart wrenching narratives of Baldwin to the mind-expanding prose of LeGuin have been met with such turns of phrase as ‘it was alright’ or ‘it was good’. Now, given that the English language is prone to the kind of linguistic flare afforded to it by an unequalled vocabulary and system of expressions, I feel I could do more justice to these totemic works of literature than my long-suffering missus has hitherto been privy. Clear? Then on with the show.
I have given up so many times, thought I had hit absolute rock bottom, but after this morning I want only to cry, just cry, Lord please let me just cry. I want that great, cleansing, belly-shaking rain of tears that I had wished would come for depressed Cassie, but I can’t. I can’t cry. I try to bring something up from deep in my chest but nothing comes. I realize now that ghosts have no bodily fluids. Tears, blood, semen, sweat; these are the province of the living.
But the metamorphosis deepened, and I became the most frightening apparition of all: the man who really was a dog. All human perspective was gone now. I was a tall dog standing on its hind legs, teetering close to traffic. This was serious. I could bolt into an oncoming car, or nip a passerby in my confusion. I looked around me at the world of people, orderly for them but incomprehensible to me.
Jonah stares over my shoulder, suddenly quiet. He holds his coffee close to his mouth but doesn’t drink. He looks troubled by something, like he’s made the worst decision of his life. I don’t know what to say so I just stare at the girls’ table, at Lindsey stealing glances at us and laughing with the others like we’re in the high school lunchroom instead of being locked in a mental hospital, in some story we don’t fully understand but know will define and direct the course of the rest of our lives.
I sit up in bed with my hand over my eyes. The shards of sunlight, shining through the open window and the scream of a scooter from the street below make me wince. Through my fingers the black and white poster of the singer Morrissey looks down on me with pity from the bedroom wall. I return the look with remorse and regret.
You didn’t want to make her uncomfortable by smoking in front of her, or subject her to secondhand fumes. You huddled in your bedroom with your stash, emerging when the coast was clear. Still, the smell should have been a tip-off. Not to mention your red eyes and dilated pupils.
And so I often find myself wandering through a hollow house alone, as he adventures to the tool sheds in the far corner of a backyard. I sift through the trinkets, the decorated knives, commemorative postcards, and wonder – who held these before me? I find a binder full to bursting with buttons of all types and sizes and colors. What hands carefully sewed each into place?
Lesson learned. When dealing with the Island Greeks, they’re lovely people, but they’ll take you to the cleaners given half a chance. This deflated our egos for a few nanoseconds. We saw a family out back refilling plastic water bottles from a well. If the silly tourists want bottled water, we’ll sell them bottled water. This was the Greek idea of keeping the tourists happy.
In an hour, I will go across the street to Subway for a six-inch vegetarian sandwich. I’ve heard the buns are made from the same chemicals as yoga mats. However, this could be an urban legend. I’m hungry and inclined to take chances with my health. Also, I’m an optimist. There is no way a pessimist could be out on this highway.
I knew I was an excellent candidate, as they cheerfully say in medical circles, for sudden death. Most everyone on both sides of the generation before mine had suddenly dropped dead before the age of 60. Some had lingered due to repetitive strokes. Fortunately, I had passed the age threshold, but I wondered how much longer I could defy the odds.
Since the last entry, the boys of UE Sants have gone through something of a revelatory experience. What I mean by this is that they have won, twice in fact, including a comeback 4-3 victory against the adorably monikered Poble Mafumet, a performance reminiscent of the 2005 Champion’s League Final, or so said some throaty drunk bloke.
The basic truth of long-distance public transport rest stops is that although you get the stop aspect, no-one rests. This is due to a potent mix of acute social awkwardness, muzak and bad colour schemes. An empty bladder, stretched legs and popped-up blood sugar at a premium price is the best combo you can hope for.
Do you remember Fridays? The indescribable feeling of utter joy that signified that thankfully school was over for another two days. The misery of sitting in a classroom against your will was to be alleviated and replaced with the respite of resentment from parents who didn’t know what to do with you. Yes, Friday was a fine time. Friday represented hope a brief, fleeting window in which anything was possible and the misery of school, with its press-gang style education was exposed for what it was, finite.
Beyond Work documents humans at work using words and reportage photography, with no judgement or glorification. It’s an attempt at unearthing the social, cultural and functional world of work that’s invisible in everyday life. In this series, Curtis James interviews Norman Macaulay, a man who has been working as a refuse collector for the past 27 years.