The 3rd instalment of a tale from the metropolis by Johny Brown , We have reached the Months of June and July . David ventures further into the city . Read on …. JUNE
The city was bucking the national trend for austerity and flourishing culturally as a consequence. David wanted to be a part of it all and in a considered manner threw himself into his new life as much as he could. Susan didn’t mind too much, the space and silence afforded by her brothers absence was filled by her earnest new hunger for religious studies.
In turn these religious studies served to fill the hole in Susan’s heart and the itch in her soul, something she had felt since her father’s death. What is life for, why are we here? These, and other, most universal and fundamental questions had lead to many Amazonian mail order books, and late nights sat in front of the internet. Susan was both reaching and searching.
She gravitated towards the Quaker movement at first, but felt herself to be sometimes afflicted with a passion for things Catholic and even flirted with Buddha for a while. Susan longed to go to a place of worship but secular minded David reminded her that the present time was all about settling in to the new home and supporting him the best she could.
She agreed with this, but when David brought her some nice new clothes home she discreetly bundled them up in a green recycling bag and put them in the Islamic Relief Clothes Bank at the bottom of the street. In turn she picked up a threadbare discarded cardigan of a light brown shade and wore that over a simple grey blouse that matched the pallor of her skin.
Furthermore she threw everything that wasn’t needed out of her room until it was as bare as any prison cell. In her search for asceticism she rejected anything natural so there were no plants of green to grow or die and no fruits of orange to ripen or mould, the nearest thing to anything remotely organic were her prayer books, and the only living thing God.
Susan left the flat only to do the weekly shop and started taking an hour out of this to do a shift at the local Foodbank. She brought full meals here to serve the wanting and satisfied her own need frugally with packets of oriental noodles which could be bought for 39p a hit and always left one with that further hunger that complimented the pang she felt for God.
Her eyes opened to certain realities when she served to families who had nothing, who were reduced to handouts, and their begging hurt her greatly. But also she met souls who inspired her through their ceaseless charity. She told David of these amazing people she was meeting. David stopped her going, for her own safety, mainly, poverty being contagious.
The two siblings had always been close but recently David had felt a slight pang of rejection. He could sense her drawing away from him and at a point too when things were becoming prosperous and comfortable for them both. David was confused at this new development but sensed it was something to do with her growing fascination for all things religion.
It alarmed him, actually. He tried to spark debate about the merits of a cultured liberal secularism over the more narrow-minded fanaticism of orthodox faith. Susan looked at David humbly and with great love but with a heart set towards the God thing. His open minded generous nature prevailed in the end. Who was he to say who should believe what or not, he left her to get on with it.
David meanwhile continued to enjoy his exploration of the city’s nocturnal terrain. His search for Nu Folk took him to all manner of liminal spaces on the city boundaries: co-operative café’s, art houses, venues on canal boats moored under great pylons, those sort of spaces, and his love of modern house pushed him towards deeper and darker and more bass ridden clubs.
He was open to the city and in his explorations he hoped to enrich his soul and sharpen his mind by partaking of many diverse cultural experiences. Language fascinated him, theory and stratagems appealed. To see the city as a vast board game was his latest notion, a fluid never ending game where the purpose was to connect as many disparities as possible.
One night he took a cab ride with two new friends. They ventured somewhere east of east then south under the river through raw night until they found themselves in a red brick public house that was possibly the most dilapidated example of post war tumblr like brutalism David had yet encountered.
The dancing room was more decaying still and when one of his new friends passed him a pint of draught lager, the only ale the hostelry sold apparently, David retched. Out of manners though he kept on drinking, and then had another, waiting for a polite time when he could leave. But in that moment of limbo, of mannered purgatory as were, something strange happened.
David found himself fascinated by the characters that filled the room. The sharpness and vibrancy of the clothes made more startling by the dirty walls. The precise haircuts and shining jewellery, the smiles and laughter and loud voices raised above the sounds that were playing, the sheer stylish sexiness of these people and the fun they were having, got to him.
David was bewitched bewildered and intrigued. He looked at his new friends with warmer eyes and then the sound system cranked up loud and this back room exploded. David found himself in love. In love with the music and with the world, in love with the people around him and the way they talked and danced and interacted, in love with being quite not himself.
For that’s how David felt when he moved amongst this throng. Like the old David had served leave of absence and a new David had blossomed in the vacuum. He felt, naughty, carefree. At one point a gunshot seemed to go off but that only served to exaggerate the intensity of pleasure in the room. There was a ritualised sexuality to the whole experience that shook him up.
There was much abrasive banter in the car park when the place finally closed though, and David was glad to find his two new friends again. Like him they were bathed in sweat and charged with a rude energy, but wary all of a sudden, surrounded as they were by such strange people, who could be perceived as intrusively different, now that dawn had broken a spell.
He ushered his friends into a cab and instructed the driver to head north. He looked at the old tower blocks of the housing estates with new eyes, thrilled to see the rising sun glint all gold and sparkle off the new glass towers of the finance sector. He felt as if he had grabbed both worlds in his hands, another moment, the sheer romance of this being his city for sure.
He did not sleep much when he got home and later that morning as he stood behind the counter selling untreated Norwegian fisherman socks he dismissed the whole adventure as a rude dream, a valid, but none too savoury experience. Actually, he felt quite disgusted. Who were all those people? They were full of themselves, the clothes, and that lager, awful.
For all that he had undergone a valid cultural and social experience. The concretopian landscape was one vast anthropological site and he was taking more out of his new place of residence every day. All the city had to offer he was absorbing, anything within price range he would readily buy up. Last night had been the most vicarious experience yet.
A working week passed and he could not get the thought of the place out of his head. He could not believe he had actually shared some balloons with three hulking chaps in, quite impressive, Moncler bomber jackets and the four of them stood in the fire exit talking all squeaky and hysterical like that and him not sure if they were laughing at him or with him Blud Blud!
How did they even end up there? Had it been his suggestion? Or maybe it was the taxi driver? It was himself, thinking about it, they had piled into the cab, and he had devilishly asked the driver to take them ‘to the roughest bar in the ugliest part of town.’ Obviously the taxi driver, a man at the top of his game, had duly delivered them to an abrasive pulse driven Hades.
Flashbacks kept occurring. The peeling Victorian flock wallpaper and the plasma screen that showed a pretty brutal boxing match were two such images. But other senses impressed too; the potent smell of a perfume emanating from the body of a woman who stood up close to him, and from her to the toilets where the smell of urine was pretty overpowering.
He could still taste the gassy lager at the back of his throat and the burn that it gave to his chest, yet what it did to his general confidence, the sense of happiness it gave him, wow, he had never known such a high, and also he had never been insulted so much in his life, but each barbed insult was like a beautiful kiss, banter they called it. It felt so wrong it had to be right.
But had the night been a cosmic joke at his expense? He felt compelled to take his three staff down there and transfer the joke on to them, as if that may rid him of the cursed nagging beat that was insidiously worming it’s way around his head. He took the staff to Craft and Son and after they had bought him two, rather flatulent, tired, craft, ales, he called a taxi.
During the cab ride David indulged in some banter with the driver as his staff looked on wide-eyed, he was suddenly very keen to show them he wasn’t the one dimensional uber-cultured boss he feared they sometimes thought he was, and an interchange of ‘easy matey’ with this diamond custodian of urban travel would certainly serve to do that.
He nodded in appreciation when the cabbie tuned in to a radio station that wore its street lineage proudly on its sleeve then exchanged dark looks of emphatic sympathy when a rather unnecessary night cyclist got in the way. ‘Do him’ David found himself saying, to the astonishment of his three staff buddies; well… it’s good to mess preconceptions every now and then.
He had been to a rival shop up the road. They were more expensive and geared more towards Nu Lad than Craft but they were the only place around for miles that sold Moncler. David bought the most expensive 3K Puffa and wondered how he would pay the staff next week, but the look on their faces as he sported it now was priceless.
And now he looked forward to patronising the patrons of this dance denizen in front of his three shop mateys, and they would get the joke too. They would dip their toes in and dip them straight out again. South East Ballons had started following him on Facebook and he had arranged to meet one of their guys. High pitched voicing’s would not be a problem.
And Kerene too, he wondered where Kerene was tonight? They had been exchanging e-mails and had become Facebook friends at her instigation, only though so she could see his instagram photos and then after some private messaging they had exchanged mobile numbers, that was at his prompting, but he wasn’t sure how, and now texts were becoming frequent.
It seemed she was going through changes and that seemed to be very much what this city was about; someone not afraid to rearrange themselves and who liked the mix of what they saw when they glanced at themselves in the reflection of one of the new glass towers. Virus city of concrete mutability, he knew he would meet with Kerene soon, if just for a £5 coffee in town.
She would make a nice change from being around his shop mateys anyway. They were becoming a bit dour and did not seem to get him at all these days. They failed to see the irony in the Moncler jacket. He had left the price tag on as a perceived in-joke and this seemed to provoke an opposite reaction, especially when he had indeed held their wages back a month.
One of his staff walked out and David felt quite stung, distraught even. He wished he could go and talk to Susan about this but felt rather averse to the idea. How do you explain a contretemps over a three thousand pound Puffa jacket with the nifty little French Moncler label to a sister who is in her room working with God to eradicate global poverty? He would feel foolish.
Instead he found himself awake until dawn exchanging e-mails, texts and FB PM’s with Kerene. She soothed his fears and gave advice that steeled his resolve to carry on and not worry what some over principled stuck arse geek thought about a mere item of clothing. Furthermore she advised him to go out and enjoy himself after work. It was his life to make the most of.
He did. He went out that night and went a little wild. Sought out another back room club like the one he’d been to previous, this time out West, out by Heathrow, and bought his balloons and got his squeek on whilst his frame shook to the heavy punding bass and came back with blim burns on his Moncler but WTF.
And the next day he went into the shop, his shop, and acted as if nothing had happened, and got stuck into a constructive day’s work, and didn’t worry what his other two staff thought, but bought them coffee as usual, and indulged in current banter with customers, and didn’t worry, if some of it was not quite appropriate. After work he went out and stayed out late again.
When he did get home he immediately got on FB and was thrilled when Kerene responded straight away, they talked about various clubs and places and characters and celebrities and this lead on to shared aspirations. What was positive for David, he thought, was that it was a quite detached relationship he was having here, and that freed him up somehow.
It was almost as if he was somebody else entirely, a character in a Scandinavian crime novel, or an executive out of the New York City advertising drama Mad Men, someone quite other than himself with different principles and motives, not harmful Perse, but a bit free in spirit and a touch more assertive mentally. It felt good to have an outlet.
He would probably never meet Kerene in the flesh again, so was able to say things he wouldn’t say to other people and could accept some of the more hard edged urban philosophies of hers more easily. He quite liked some of the photos she posted privately for him too. She had been going to some of the clubs he recommended and vice versa. There was crossover.