couple more drafts x
Pete had now solo-occupied a single bed-sit room for 24 hours, and surely this here neighbourhood, here was a proper slum in situ, he reflected, his air most congratulatory. Inspecting the steel railway tracks lined in his garden, he walked under the pylons above his yard, then stepped back – into that bedroom, his principle domain. Alone he considered fully these, the new surroundings.
But yes, why, why had university authorities ejected him from a previous lush student accommodation quarter – with its trees, the birds, the bees, the common rooms? Why, he still could not fathom. Sure, he hosted excellent parties – his amp made a fine sound system; but then to receive the red letter from faculty, and to face a dawn interview at eleven o’clock am, face a sour-faced rector and his ugly assistant sat alongside of him, he wore a suit; this was the most shocking of all experiences, to him, visually. He remembered that day – their announcement of a fifty pound fine appeared excessive to his mind, very harsh in circumstance. Pete paid the sum, whipped round, door to door, approached fifty student freshers, the girls paid on his demand.
Where were they today in this his hour of greatest need?
And later, he recalled, the door of his halls room had fallen off the hinges, authorities discovered the sink of sick. Not his sick. Nobody listened to a reasoned explanation of sick, they
had kicked him, like the door, out of halls, and posted the dismissal notice to his parents. They compounded misery, wrote how they…
‘…bore witness to the most slovenly undergraduate in the history of all student welfare.’
This was an hysterical exaggeration of a mere fact. Pete contemplated a lifetime – banned from every college facility in the whole city of Southampton forever, and the surrounding region, forever, until his death. How would Pete now struggle manfully towards the Sociology degree? Alone certainly, there were no opportunities for socialisation in the one room. Authority’s wicked action forced Pete to discover – new memberships of new landscapes – for example, The West Indian club sat around the next corner from this new dwelling, and where he [Pete] planned to play dominoes among real men, become a real man, a West Indian, regardless of tone. He pictured shebeems, his record collection shared among the companions, a befriender of so many Rastafarian gentlemen. He knew already things about these people, the places of worship, the red stripe beer, entertainment [,] rituals surrounded coconut bongs; ethnicity was his key module on a three year full-time course of sixteen hours. He would ask ladies for directions to the club. Indeed, six ladies waited in their heels, and wore bras only – in a living room window, two doors along this street. Their brothel situated in a front room.
Incredible, a front room – like his own room, the new room, a coincidental enterprise, he mused.
And yet, remaining, at least, was the one hundred pounds for him to spend in this bleak economy [what we today call austerity climate]. Money calculated to last two weeks, until his acquired part-time job with the Old Orleans Burger franchise brought [him] home to roost, or something of that nature, wealthy. He definitely would make a dreadful waiter though; dreadful management trained him to:
‘Go sit alongside the customers – and then you ask the people over there, go say “how are you doing?”‘
‘Once again, please,’ he said, ‘and slowly,’ he said, digested the repeat instruction.
He recalled that first time, during training Tuesday and the distant van driver look-a-like, a man keen for burger and a booth probably. He remembered the fionce sat underneath the customer’s thigh, and Pete gliding to the other thigh.
‘How are you doing, mate?’ he said,
and nudged the fellow …gently.
It was a grotesque embarrassment for Pete, finding his own frame spread a bruise upon cheap lino. How was he, or any modern student waiter supposed to take orders from these mongrel hordes with their burger faces – when he himself was stoned out of his mind? Nobody cared about that dilemma. Actually, he contemplated indignity of wage labour, one hundred pounds…actually, so to recap and itemise – fifty pounds spent on the rent, thirty on those three cassettes, oh he forgot about those, and of course, and obviously he purchased a lump of hash, he was 21, hash is life – people, and, well, that was all the money spent, gone, he had no cash whatsoever even to look at.
He adored his girlfriend, at least in her car during their drives to the ends of quiet country lanes, but she, the day before deserted him for a, the minor Public schoolboy called Godfrey. Godfrey had a ‘future,’ she said.
‘The restaurant!’ he replied.
Solid pals of the anarchist network rallied, remained sympathetic to his plight, yet were in-communicado, and un-contactable, families skied at Easter time. Only lonely Pete left in this cruel city for the duration of a simester break; nobody here to lend him money, and no welcome at the parents’ home because a letter waited in that porch.
Why had she left him, that terrible, horrible woman? He loved her smell, his heart thumped
so very sorely when so much rejection spilled from her lips.
‘No,’ she had said, ‘no,’ she said, and ‘no,’ she said again. He writhed, his gums red raw at her zip.
He rubbed his lips, curled upon the grey-striped mattress of his room, rode the zebra alone, his eyes closed in safari fantasy. He opened an eye, curious to the sound. Insects hopped upon the swirly carpet, and they taunted, happiness in one of several playtime smiles. How utterly revolting for a chap, to endure poverty, a chap, two months before had been top buck on campus. But then flares disintegrated on the thigh, Pete lost both his shoes, and his pony-tail – snipped by alcoholic brethren, well, he was alone with a hair band, endured woe and tragedy of isolation.
‘At least, I must check on these, the great new cassettes of music,’ he said, ‘cassettes, cheer my soul.’
He massaged Morrissey to his chest and mouthed Motorhead lyrics, he stroked Pink Floyd, oh boy – he Wished they Were Here, and not on Interstellar Overdrive.
Once he had played that most superb anthem of all at a full volume down those halls. Creeps in spectacles
had banged upon his door, like a war setting.
‘Get with the beat, baldy,’ he cried through walls, leukaemia guy – the constant menace with his threats to violence.
Pete reached for the packet of Raffles upon his new house shelf. Three cigarettes remained in foil. He drew each smoke, licked along the paper ridge of each cigarette, and conserved tobacco nutrition, shuffled tobacco strands into a china pot on this shelf – enough tobacco here for a joint or two, and then he would smoke them all over again, he ruminated, played the song, Wish You Were Here sixty two times, balled, quite a baby left under desert cactus. He moaned, later he screamed:
HOW I WISH YOU WERE HERE!!!!!!
HOW I WISH YOU WERE HERE!!!!!!
Pink Floyd, like him, were the lost souls, they lived in their fish bowls, with only brilliant minds for company. Eventually his own mind cleared, he heard the knock, and greeted fumigator man, a council contractor, at the doorstep. Pete sat cross-legged on the bed whilst the man wore a protective paper outfit, a face mask, pumped disinfectant spray across the carpet, into creases of the bedroom’s skirting board.
‘Goodbye,’ Pete said to dead fleas, then turned to the man. The man would not stay for a jar of tea.
Resilient Pete ensured simple activities of the domestic lifestyle would continue – apace. All his clothes were of course filthy clothes. He should wash his outfits, he knew. He, who never washed a thing before, a toothbrush maybe. How hard could washing be for a chap of his confidence, the task ordinarily left to a mother, the routine, simple objective, only danger potentially, involved leaving the safety of a room, and a possible glimpse of the other residents. He remembered the four other residents from inventory, would not entertain encounter with any one of the monsters at this stage of a day, a mid-afternoon. ‘I mean,’ he shuddered reasonably ‘vegetarians are upstairs everywhere, and the geography post-graduate lives in the back room, oh my god, only eight feet between us.’
The kitchen was naturally shared among inhabitants. Peter opened the bedroom door, listened, and stepped along the dark, web-laced hall to the back kitchen. He checked cupboards at speed, and to the right of the sink found what he sought, it was an enormous soup pan. He rushed back to his room, collected jeans, pants and a handful of t-shirts, lifted a bar of soap from the lavatory, and stuffed every item into the kitchen pan. He filled the pan, cold water flashed into the pan, and handled the soap novelty, chucked it last of all, rested contents on the hob of the gas oven. A flame ignited, he boiled his threads on a medium simmer.
‘Return, check suds every two, or three hours,’ he confirmed.
Other tasks necessitated a more leisurely attention. Decoration of his room, attaching those favoured prints to the walls.
‘Kylie Minogue centrefold plastered over a blocked fireplace.’
He grinned for Kylie, kissed her vagina, opened the sash window, played more music. Pakistani children bowled cricket balls down the street. He lay upon his bed.
‘Hello, hello…’ said a voice.
‘Oh Mother,’ he said, ‘Oh my mummy.’
‘Is that Kylie?’ said the voice.
‘Go away,’ he replied to the child, probably six years old. The girl leaned elbows on the window’s frame, admired the interior view, she wore a cheeky smile.
‘By my shit,’ Pete cursed, and shooed the brat from his premises, he dropped his window, closed the curtains.
Fumigator fumes filled his nostrils, darkness folded in upon him, finally hallucinating on a hash fumigation combination, had almost, here experienced simply and absolutely the last taboo, children on drugs in his bedroom. He was lonely, but children talk nonsense on drugs, he understood, and said aloud, ‘but maybe she had her cigarettes on her person?’ He felt hungry, and sniffed.
‘My clothes,’ he rushed to the kitchen where jeans sizzled, black smoke coated the rear wall.
‘Fuck in,’ he whispered carefully.
Clothes appeared darkened at the collars, and around cuffs. He inspected the crispy pile more intensely, clothes were ruined unless you were six years old.
‘My lowest hour, I shall remember one day in a Whitehall career possibly, this day, the hour I possess in the entire world one pair of underpants and the single grey t-shirt on my chest, with holes, ‘ he said. ‘At least as midnight approaches on a day of dire infamy, residents shall be very sleepy.’
He hatched the survival master plan, and opened the freezer cabinet of the kitchen’s fridge. A tremendous treasure sparkled: it was a vegetable finger mega pack from Iceland leaned aside the box of lentil cakes, and yes twinkling among them all, stood a bag mountain of frozen potato chips.
‘One vegetable finger, and only three chips, every other midnight, no soul will ever notice a thing.’
Peter prepared that first April banquet.