Tag Archives: drugs

Messages in Bottles – Part Two

The following photographs are of a sort of literary street art project I worked on with the help of my close friend Anders Rostad. All bottles washed up onto the streets of downtown Los Angeles and contained anonymous letters from five young people struggling to cope with the pressures of their lives.

One

 

One Letter

 

Two

 

Two Letter

 

Three

 

Three Letter

 

Four

 

Four Letter

 

Five

 

Five Letter

 

Six

 

Six Letter

 

Thank you for your interest. I’ll post the letters over the next couple of days.

Please feel free to share x

 

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Why Do You Dance? – Part One

unmade-bed1

*

The room was small. It was slightly rectangular in shape, and about eight feet in height. There were doors and doorways leading to other rooms, but this was the central room. You could tell that much from the furniture, the composition and the heavier looking door with the peep hole on the far wall. The apartment itself would have been called a ‘studio’, and this room would have been a living room in the day, and a bedroom at night. The walls of the room were an off-white that was once just white. The scuffed lacquer of the dark hardwood floors still reflected the light, albeit with a dull haze. A single bulb hung from the ceiling by a chord that matched the walls in color. It pressed a spotlight onto the center of the room. This was where she stood.

In the corner was a bed. The sheets lay ruffled and slept in. They still bore the rough outline of a deep sleep. There was a bedside table next to the bed. The lamp was on. It illuminated the small square surface of the table. There was a book titled ‘Norwegian Wood’. A glass of water sat there too. There were thousands of little bubbles inside the still water. A small astray with several crushed lipsticked butts sat full, between the glass and the book. The drawer on the bedside table lay half open. Inside thick black eyes smiled and peered out from a large glossy photograph, hiding in the still darkness that held back the light.

There was a window next to the bed. The heavy drapes were drawn but for a bright crack. Through that bright crack was a semi-suburban neighborhood, backdropped by the Hollywood hills. From that window one could see parking lots, pylons, chain metal fences, and the odd black silhouette of a palm tree blocking the light from the sun. Through the crack a beam of sunlight stretched across the dark hardwood floor. Speckles of dust from the heavy old drapes filled the beam of light. The drapes swung slightly from a breeze that crept in through the heavy window that was propped open by a plant pot. The pot contained a cactus, parched in dry cracked earth. It looked hours from death. The late fall breeze smelt crisp, mixing with the light scent of the stale cigarettes was being whipped around the room with nothing to cling to.

Clothes lay in loose piles on the floor. Some were waiting patiently to be folded. Others waited impatiently to be cleaned. There were lots of deep reds, browns and blacks separated by splashes of laced pink and bold childish yellows. Bras lay exposed and open on the floor. Thongs sat delicately crushed atop dresses and tucked in jeans . The chord from a hairdryer ran across the floor, under a pile of clothes, and out next to a bag of makeup that sat across from itself in front of a full length mirror. The bag was part of some carefully planned clutter. There was a circular space in the center of the mess, framed by mascara, lipstick, a flat iron, and a stagnant amber liquid inside a long stemmed wine glass.

At the other end of the room a heavy drape was nailed to the wall. The nails stuck out at odd crooked angles, clinging to the heavy, deep red cloth. A teal green sofa sat in front of the drape. It had space for two sitting, or one laying. It didn’t have any cushions on it. About four feet from the sofa sat two brown boxes stacked on top of one another. A laptop sat on the boxes, pointing at the teal sofa and the burgundy drape. On either side of the laptop sat a tall free-standing light that pointed at the sofa where someone sat or lay.

There was a doorway without a door that led to the kitchen. The shadow of a person moved around in the kitchen floor. It was long and thin, and moved in controlled motions. The thin dark lines on the floor looked and moved like arms. A naked girl walked through the doorway and stopped in the center of the room. She looked around the room. The light from the crack in the drapes cut a line directly up her body and between her large breasts that hung slightly from her chest. She pushed her hand deep into her thick black hair and cradled her head as she scaled the floor. As her eyes moved across the clutter she caught sight of herself in the mirror.

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Shit’s Still Hard

5658385033_20b53bbacb_z

 

S’cuse me mam?

S’cuse me. Mam?

Yes?

I, eh, I couldn’t trouble you for a dollar, for the bus, could I?

I’m sorry. I don’t really have anything.

 

You live around here?

I’m sorry?

Do you live around here?

Yes. I do.

Me too. Up at the US Bank.

Okay.

 

Do you think I look like Mike Tyson?

Eh, I don’t know what he looks like.

People say I look like him.

What do you say?

I say he looks like me.

That’s a good answer.

 

But I eh, I’m on that three strikes thing. You know that?

No.

Well, it’s like this: I been to jail two times, one more and they throw away the fuckin’ key. Pardon my Spanish.

I’m really sorry to hear that.

That’s okay. I’m fightin’ it. And don’t nobody want to fight with someone who looks like Mike Tyson.

Or someone that Mike Tyson looks like…

 

But it was the drugs, you know?

Yeah?

Terrible things. You don’t take the drugs. They take you.

That’s what people have told me.

Been clean for over two years now. But shit’s still hard. Pardon my German.

I’m sure. But you’re doing really well.

 

I see that you’re married.

Uh huh.

Well, don’t you tell your husband this, but you make my heart beat so hard.

That’s so sweet. Thank you.

Don’t you tell him now. And I’ll be on my way. You have a wonderful day now.

You too. You too.

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With Love – Prequel – Part Five

“Okay, we need to go,” she said, standing up. She looked around again.

“Should we try and clean this place up a bit? Like take away our finger prints or something?”

“If we start going through this house trying to remember everything we touched we’ll be here, wiping door handles clean when the cops come through the door. No, we just try to get out of here without anyone seeing us.”

I took another swig from the bottle. I picked up a fresh lemon from the floor and bit into it. That twisted juice screwed my face. I was starting to feel piss drunk.

“And if they do?”

“Well then we’ve still got five bullets left each” she said, smiling, scratching her head with the gun. I took another drink and another bite of lemon. I wished we had more coke.

“I wish we had more coke” she said, looking at Esmeralda.

“I was just thinking that.”

“Tequila will have to do. Where is it?”

I gestured towards the cupboard beside Esmeralda. She walked over, stepping over the pool of blood on the floor, opening the cupboard and hitting Esmeralda with the door. She moved. I turned away. I took the last mouthful from the bottle and let the half chewed lemon fall onto the floor.

“One bottle? Two bottles?” she asked, holding up two bottles of the same shit I just finished. I was on the verge of being too fucked to think. The verge was not where I wanted to be.

“Two. Fuck it. And the lemons.”

She started picking them up from the floor and putting them into the bag with all the money. She zipped the bag up. I saw her smile as she looked around, taking everything in. She fixed on Esmeralda. Her smile sank a little. She pinched the bridge of her nose, and exhaled.

“Come on, let’s get the fuck out of here.”

“Okay” I said, drying my eyes again, wishing I could just wake up from this nightmare and lie awake in her arms until sunrise, where we would be free.

*

We jumped into the car and started up the engine. The sun was beginning to rise. The light was soft. She pointed in front of us. South. We would be at the border by sunset. The light would be too bright for the rest of the trip.

She kissed me on the cheek as I put my foot to the floor.

As I chased the horizon into the day, she drifted off to sleep without saying a word.We had thirty grand in cash, a stolen Cadillac, half a tank of gas, two bottles of Tequila, fourteen lemons, a maxed out credit card, two guns, ten bullets, no cocaine, and a love that would have to prove itself to us as long as the sun shone high in a sky that we stole in the night.

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With Love – Prequel – Part Two

I watched her walk through that opened gate with the cigarette hanging from her mouth. She held that big old gun next to her as she walked. I watched her walk past me and I could see her perfect round ass through her dress. I was still hard and I still wanted her. But I just stood still as she sank into the darkness.

We got to the back door. She started looking around for a key, turning over plant pots and lifting bricks. I got ready to put my elbow through the glass.

“Fuck. I can’t find the fucking key” she whispered at me.

“I’ll break the glass.” I said, nodding, feeling charged.

“No, wait, let’s think about this” she said as she put her hand on the handle and lent in. The door flew open and she fell onto the kitchen floor.

“Shit!” she shouted. I picked her up. We laughed a little.

“Are you okay button?” I asked.

“I’m fucking great sugar. Come on.”

We crept through the kitchen and started up the stairs. I guess it didn’t matter if ran up them or snuck up them. The outcome would be the same. At least this way it wouldn’t be as loud. I followed her shadow, just a little darker than the dark. We walked down the hallway and stopped at the door at the end. I could hear someone snoring through the door. It was one of them drunk snores that doesn’t care who else is trying to sleep. She’d told me her daddy was a big boozer.

“This is their room” she whispered, “I’m going to go in and stand above them. You’re going to stand at the door. When I’m ready, you flick the light on. Okay?”

“Yup” I said.

I started to get really nervous. I was still spinning from the line, but clicking the safety off a handgun outside your father-in-law’s bedroom as you gulped back a little blood from the chewed walls of your mouth was a sobering experience.

We opened the door quietly. I watched her creep over to the huge bed. I gently padded around for the light switch on the wall. When I found it I fished in my jacket pocket and pulled out my sunglasses. I didn’t want him to see as I was. I didn’t want him to see my dying eyes. I sat the glasses on the bridge of my nose. I looked over them at her as she positioned herself above her daddy and her step-mom. She turned to me and nodded. She was smiling. I could see her bright white teeth. That Colgate smile always sent a shudder through me. Like a little pulse of electricity. I pushed the glasses over my eyes and hit the lights.

“Morning daddy” she said, before bringing the butt of the pistol down on his nose. I saw the blood burst out. I heard him groan, her step-mom scream and Jolene laugh. I stayed silent. Just watching.

*

“Come and grab this bitch!” she shouted to me, still pointing that big old gun between the two of them. I rolled my shoulder up from the doorframe and walked across to the bed. Her step-mom was crying and saying some stuff in Spanish. She had tears coming streaming down her face. She was only a few years older than us. The blood from her father’s nose had splattered up the walls and was seeping onto the bed. But he was just lying there, deadly calm, like he’d been expecting us, looking through the gun, at the daughter he used to have that was holding it.

“Come with me” I said, grabbing her arm and helping her up off the bed. She looked straight at me. Her eyes weren’t so different from the way mine were in the car. Fighting death. She started to struggle a little. I squeezed her arm tighter and pushed the gun into her side. I smiled. The coke smiled.

“There’s no point fighting this” she said turning to her step-mom, smiling.

“What are you doing Catherine?” her daddy said. I looked over at him. Catherine? I wondered who the fuck Catherine was. It certainly wasn’t the same person that was pointing a gun in his face. Maybe he was all mixed. He was piss drunk. Just like she said he would be. I looked at his face. There wasn’t much in the way of similarities between them. He was all fat. He had blue eyes. But they both had that same little dimple on their chin. I always told her it was cute. She said she hated it.

She started laughing, throwing her head back.

“Because you did this to me” she said, pointing at the side of her head.

“Did what?” he asked again.

I just watched. I wanted to say something. I wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up. Or threaten to shoot him or something. But I couldn’t. I was frozen again. I just held onto his wife. My mother-in-law, I suppose.

“You fucked me up!?” she shouted, grabbing hold of his hair, pulling his bloody head back, pushing the gun into his broken nose. He screamed in pain.

I watched her steady hand holding the big gun. It didn’t flicker as she pushed it further into his bleeding nose. I had to turn away. I couldn’t watch. I had to leave. This had nothing to do with me.

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Exemption – Part Two

We sat for about an hour that day. That was about as much as I could handle. He had the curtains drawn in the flat. The smoke sat thick, hovering above our heads. The light in the corner of the room gave a warm little glow.

“So this job. You selling stuff?” he asked after a long period of silence. He didn’t look away from the TV as he asked me. There was something dire on. It was that lull before the kids TV started.

“Nah, customer service. Fixing people’s problems.” I kept looking at the Bob Marley poster above his head.

“Right. Sounds shit man.”

“Yup, but I’m skint. So I need to work more.”

“Can’t you get something doing…eh…” he squinted at the crack in the curtains, at the light seeping through, “in….what did you study again?”

“Chemical Engineering” I said.

“Yeah, that’s it. Can’t you do something involving chemicals?”

“There’s nothing out there brother. Just call centers and debt collectors.”

He pulled his knees up to his chest and shook his head.

“Fuck that.”

“Yeah man, fuck bein’ a debt collector. Knowing my luck I’d get sent round to my own house!”

He smiled and laughed a little. He shook his head.

“Education, education, education eh?” he said, giving me a wink.

“Yeah.”

“Fucking Blair mate. The country’s fucked. You go to high school. You go to uni. You get the degree. And now what? A Chemical Engineer working in a fucking call center. They fucked you mate” He passed the joint back to me.

I looked at him. He was still wearing his pajamas. It was 2.40 in the afternoon. The Bob Marley poster over his head read ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ . I wondered if they fucked him too. It didn’t seem like it. I didn’t have an Xbox. I didn’t have ketchup.

“Nah I’m alright man.”

He shrugged and sat back with the rest of the joint. I saw a little smile come over his face as he put the joint back up to his lips. We sat in silence for a minute or so, the TV buzzing in the background.

“So how much are you after?” he asked me, dropping the last of the joint into the cup of moldy tea.

“Just a half ounce this time” I said, wishing I had just made this a social call. Aye right. A social call to the Mood Hoover. That would be right.

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Teaser – Untitled

Twenty dollar bills hotter than the molten gun in the back covered our tracks all the way to the border. We both laughed when she said that we’d lost more than we’d won. The bag lay open and all those Andrew Jackson’s fluttered and stared up at the sky as we laughed under the setting sun, knowing that tomorrow we’d both be dead and none of this would mean anything.

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Clive’s Balls – Part Two

Sat in the corner of the bar, quietly drinking a Vodka and slimline tonic, Clive scanned the bar for potential test pilots for his Dextrahydrochloridebyzantine 5. He could feel his heart beating in his chest. He was nervous that someone should see him dropping the fluid into someone else’s glass. He had enough problems in his life without worrying about a sexual assault trial. A beautiful blonde girl came and sat at the table next to Clive’s. She looked as though she was waiting for someone. She gave a quick glance at the hefty young man sat next to her.

“Do you know where the toilets are?” she asked him with a smile. Clive pointed to the door on the other side of the bar. He could see his finger trembling like jelly.

“Thanks” she said, standing up and walking towards the door.

He fumbled around in his pocket for the small bottle. His sausage fingers wrapped around it and sat it on the table in front of him.

Dextrahydrochloridebyzantine 5
Testicle Extraction Medicine
To be ingested by sexual partner two hours prior to intercourse
Prescribed by Dr. Marcus Phillis

He looked at it for a second, bit his lip and unscrewed the dropper. ‘Two small drops should do the trick Clivey boy’ he heard Dr. Phillis say.

***

Clive awoke the following morning six kilograms lighter. He was delighted with the success of Dextrahydrochloridebyzantine 5. He’d had to leave the blonde girl’s flat early in morning in case she thought that someone had had sex with her against her will. But she had wanted it, he told himself, all I did was help her realize it. He had looked at her as she slept naked in the morning. She had developed a gut and a double chin over night. Clive tried not to let this guilt get in the way of his happiness. He was going to be thin again! And the road to success would involve a lot of sex with beautiful, slim women! Fantastic!

The next few months of Clive’s life were a lot of fun. He had been having a lot of sex with a lot of beautiful women and hadn’t felt in the least bit bad about it. He saw it as essential to survival. Dr. Phillis had warned him that he needed to drain himself regularly lest he explode. Every woman that he fornicated with was left heavier than before and Clive was always left thinner. He would go for weekly check-ups with the doctor and he confirmed that Clive’s testicles were getting closer and closer to their original location.

Six months passed and Clive had almost returned to normal. He had a little podgy fat around his hips and his breasts drooped south slightly. He was delighted with his progress and estimated that he needed to have sex one more time to return to his original shape. It was a Friday night and he had managed to squeeze himself into his old clothes, ready for a night out on the town. He had decided that he would go out without his trusty Dextrahydrochloridebyzantine 5 and see if he could have sex with a thin, beautiful woman without it.

He looked around all night, desperate to find a woman to pass the last of his heft onto. He spotted two of the women he had slept with before and noted their weight gain. How disgusting, he thought. Clive recognized them perfectly, but they had no recollection of him. He quickly went to the toilet for a pee. He checked the space between his legs for any sign of his testicles. Hurrah! There were two slight lumps at the base of his penis. He prodded them with his finger and felt that familiar sensation zip through his body. He rushed back to his table in the corner of the bar.

He quickly finished his drink and sat back in his chair, ‘scouting for totty’, as Dr. Phillis put it. He saw the same big old fatties rolling and bumping around the bar. None of these will do, he thought. Suddenly, a gorgeous brunette with olive skin and beaming, soft eyes sat down next to him.

“Hello” she said with a smile.

Clive was confused. He hadn’t used any Dextrahydrochloridebyzantine 5, so why was she talking to him?  Could it be possible that he was finally sexy?

They chatted back and forth and got along famously. They decided to go home together.

***

Clive woke the follwing morning, confused by his surroundings. Where was he? Someone lay asleep next to him. He vaguely remembered the night before. How much had he drunk? He got up and walked through to the toilet. He had a quick pee and inspected the space between his legs. There was nothing there!? His testicles had retracted again!

“No!” shouted Clive, he was so confused. He looked up at his naked body in the mirror. “No!?” Clive shouted again. He was at least six kilograms heavier! His soft hip padding was now a love cushion and his breasts had dropped further south.

He rushed back in the bedroom and saw that the girl lying on the bed was enormous! She had huge flaps of meaty white skin hanging from her arms and her blue veiny legs were spread across the mattress. But she didn’t have any breasts, just a flat piece of skin where they should be. He was so confused. Clive started to gather his now ill-fitting clothes together. He needed to get home and think this over. Just as he was about to leave the flat, he spotted something that made him stop in his tracks.

Dextrahydrochloridebyzantine 6
Breast Extraction Medicine
To be ingested by sexual partner two hours prior to intercourse
Prescribed by Dr. Marcus Phillis

 

By Felicity Granger, 17, Basingstoke

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Dennis and Chelsea

“Hellllllllloh there and welcome to Pascal Insurance and how can I be of service to you today?” Chelsea chirped.

I shifted my eyes towards the enthusiastic blurt that sat next to me. I looked her up and down slowly. I tried for a second to guess her weight. I thought it to be somewhere in the region of eighteen to twenty-four stones. This estimate was too vague for my liking. I am not accustomed to guessing the weight of people who couldn’t hang themselves on account of there not being a tree branch strong enough. I conceded that conjuring up an accurate figure was beyond my capabilities, so I shifted my thoughts to comparisons. What does she weigh an equal amount to? A four man canoe? An oven filled with bricks? An empty bottle bank?

I sat pondering over her heft as if I would win her if I guessed correctly. Her entire frame was a lot to take in. There were so many squidgy looking patches which should have been firm. So many flab craters that should have been flat and so many chins dangling from her muscular jaw. This engrossed my thoughts until I heard someone barking something into my left ear.

“Hello? Are you still there?” the angry person asked.

I snapped out of my daze.

“Yes, eh sorry about that Miss….”

I started as my eyes quickly scanned the computer screen for the customer’s name, “es Cartwright. Now if you could just go over the problem again for me one more time I’ll try to get this sorted for you,” I said, propping my heavy head with my hand, using almost all of the effort I had left.

“Oh my god, we’ve been over this twice already, I don’t know why you people ……….”

I dazed out.

There was a well built man in his early twenties stood across from me. His name was Chris, or Chrissy Boi as he enjoyed being referred to. He was the team leader. He was the epitome of mutton dressed as a lamb. A dog shit wearing a top hat. His expensive pinstripe shirt wrapped around his water plumped muscles, his stone washed, worn effect Diesel jeans hugged his legs and a self-assured, arrogant expression perpetually scarred his fuck-ugly face.

It must be Friday. Dress down day.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of my computer screen. I was wearing a white shirt with a Bolognese stain on the collar and my pair black trousers. I swung my head left and then right. I was the only person on the floor in Monday to Thursday dress code. I turned back towards Chelsea. She was wearing an unintentionally slim fitting, neon pink tracksuit with a black trim that was made from an indistinguishable, cheap velvety material. She looked like a sausage wrapped in bacon.

Chrissy Boi was a well known member of staff at the E-Solutions Commerce and Customer Service center. He was a regular contributor to ideas for staff parties, charity fundraisers and incentives for the top sellers on the floor. I knew little of any of these things. Chris ordered us every morning to check our “JetPhone iBox” for updates on deals, incentives and staff-only binges. I had only been personally invited once to one of these “Pascal Parties”. And I remember the day fondly, as it had been my silent victory over the deluded fools that I worked with.

Chris had approached me upon completion of my first full week on the phones. He swaggered towards my station, conscious of every female eye which may or may not be inspecting his chiseled upper body. I remember thinking that he walked as if he were carrying rolled up carpets under each arm and any woman who was sexualizing this ridiculous image desperately needed to be rolled up in one of his imaginary carpets and thrown off a bridge.

I had watched Chris all day long, strutting up to each member of staff and asking them if they would like to go to Jumping Jacks, Glasgow’s nightclub equivalent of a portable toilet on a Mexican building site, for staff drinks after work. I had noticed the enthusiasm that had entranced the other new members of the team and I immediately felt alienated and happy. Chris finally made his way round to me. There was always going to be a conflict of interests present when our two confident personalities butted heads. My good self; a work-place sociopath with odd socks, long unkempt hair and dark purple circles framing my dark, deep pupils, and Chris; a self-obsessed blue-eyed, blonde haired muscle factory with a grossly inflated idea of his appeal to the opposite sex. It was obvious that Chris loathed having people like me in his team. But nonetheless he felt it necessary to approach me once and offer me the chance to join the party.

“Jumpin’ Jacks, tonight, staff party. Fancy it eh…” asked Chris as he searched his walnut brain for my name.

I hit the mute button.

BEEP.

And buckled with laughter. “Sorry mate. I’d rather wipe my arse with a broken bottle.”

From that moment on the two of us never spoke to each other again with anything other than blatant contempt.

I watched eagerly as Chris plucked the cap from his black marker pen and updated the scores for his team. As usual, I had the lowest sales score of the morning. And as usual, Chelsea had the highest. I took a certain pride in being known as the lowest of the low in a kingdom of lowlifes. It made me better than everyone else. Chris drew an exaggerated, thick circle in the box next to my name, turning his head around slowly to glare at me. He put an unnecessary full stop after the zero as his eyes met mine.

“Get yer act together Dennis! If you build a strong customer orientated experience, customers share that with each other. Word of mouth is commerce Dennis. Commerce.” advised Chris as he curled his biceps, giving a flex for the females.

I smiled and did what I always did when Chris experimented with his standard issue, company required motivational phrases. I raised a thumb and gave an overstated, patronizing wink as if to say, ‘Worry not dear leader, you can depend on Dennis, ya prick!’

“What I can do for you sir is, put you on hold for just a moment while I have a look and see if you’re eligible for any premiums on you life insurance,” she said sympathetically, “would that be alright for you Mr. MacInness?” she asked in that way she always did.

“Okay, I’ll be back in just a moment Mr. MacInness, okay…okay, thanks.”

BEEP.

I watched as Chelsea shifted her heft in her chair and turned to me as she raised her third can of Diet Coke to her face. She tilted her head back and emptied the last of it into the crater in her face and discarded the can with the rest of her collection in a bag on the floor.

“That’s me made eight sales so far the day! Ah could be up for a prize!” she beamed, “How many have you had?”

I quickly raised his finger to the mute button on my phone as the increasingly irate customer continued to lambaste me about something to do with money or the company or my attitude or something.

BEEP.

“None.”

“What? Like not one?” she asked, unable to hide the confusion in her voice. “Hello?! Are you even listening to me? Hello?!” the voice in my ear yelled. I turned back to the screen leaving Chelsea’s question rhetorical. I brought up the soft phone on the screen and randomly selected a department to fob this trouble maker off to. Commercial Restructure and Data Control, that’ll do. I clicked on the name of the department and prepared to launch this hassle Trojan into the customer services abyss, where she would subsequently be passed around the departments like a yawn at church.

BEEP.

“I’m sorry Miss Cartwright,”

“MRS. Cartwright!” she aggressively corrected.

“Of course, my mistake, I’m sorry MRS. Cartwright, this is a Commercial Restructure and Data Control issue, I’ll just put you through to them now,” I said coolly.

“No! No, how can that be a…” she protested.

“Have a lovely day Miss Cartwright and thank you for calling Pascal Insurance. Bye”

BEEP.
The satisfaction overwhelmed me as I heard her voice being flushed away and out to sea. She would flounder around there, clutching tightly onto her problem, desperate for someone who cared would rescue her from another call-center induced nervous breakdown. I breathed out and looked to the sterilizing strip light above me. I could feel that familiar old wry smile crept across my face. I looked back to the screen and kept my status as ‘unavailable’ for as long as I could without detection.

I turned back to Chelsea again. She had cracked open another can of Diet Coke and was sipping it every time the customer spoke and looking at it lustfully every time she spoke. My eyes couldn’t help investigate the blurred join between her legs and her buttocks. It had started to squeeze itself out of the triangular arm rest of her computer chair, like a homemade, human sausage maker. The fat on her wrists seemed to slip down to her elbows as she raised her can of Diet Coke. Her chin made her look like a pelican that had eaten a person. She was as far from attractive as any human could be afraid of ever becoming. Her weight would almost certainly merit, had it not already, a one-on-one doctor intervention. Her hair was dyed a peroxide blonde about six months ago and the natural brown had begun slide down closer to the tips. Teenage ache had served to make her skin look like melted Lego and she worked full-time in a call center, the human equivalent of a battery farm. But she seemed happy. And I was far from it.

***

Chelsea looked at Dennis with a strange mixture of envy and pity. He was an unconventionally handsome man who was skinnier than you’re average person his age and attracted the stares of some women and gay men in the call center. But he had no respect for himself professionally. He was offensive and dismissive to the customers and was working here for all the wrong reasons. She thought that he could do with going back to training again to learn a thing or two about courtesy and telephone etiquette, something which he was either unfamiliar with or simply cared very little for. She hated sitting next to him. He always looked so angry. It brought her down. Chelsea always maintained that the best way to work was to do your best to enjoy it and think little of the woes that could plague the day. She kept a mental score of how many times she would say a certain word during the day, how many times she would transfer a customer to a particular department, or her favorite was to see how many times she could solve a problem that was out with her purview. Chelsea always kept count mentally because you weren’t allowed to have paper in a call center floor as it was a violation of the Data Protection Act. Everybody except Dennis knew that. But she could never be sure if he didn’t know this or if he chose to forget. Dennis always had paper next to him. He would scribble furiously onto it between calls. At least she hoped it was between calls. The thought of someone sitting next to her and not listening to a problem the customer had turned her stomach. Or even worse, writing down account details of the customers.

But he was weird, she thought. He liked to write things. Essays or stories maybe, she thought. Once she saw him draw a picture of a cute little rabbit with dynamite strapped to his body and a turban on. His ears were poking out of holes on the turban. She thought that this was so offensive that she almost told Chris about him. But she didn’t. No sense in causing waves over someone who would probably consider his dismissal a favour. But the writing, that was different. She wondered if it was maybe it was a code. He would write this stuff and maybe the letters symbolized account numbers or something. She asked him about it one day.

“What is it you’re always writing?”

He pressed the mute button on his hard phone.

BEEP.

Dennis turned to her and said, “What?”

“What is that you’re always writing?” she asked again.

“Just thoughts.”

“Thoughts?” she said.

“Aye, don’t you have them?” he asked, in his sarcastic voice. She gave him a dry, equally sarcastic smile.

BEEP.

She looked to the clock. 15:58. The time filled her with anxiety. In two hours, she would be leaving. These motions she went through in the last two hours of every working day were comparable to the way some people feel before they go to bed on Sunday night. It was Friday and in two hours it would be the furthest possible time from when she would be back in her chair with that headset snuggling into her ear like a soft pillow. She thought that maybe she could ask Chris about overtime for Saturday or Sunday. Or Saturday and Sunday. She needed only a very minor reason to talk to Chris. Chelsea thought that Chris was the most handsome man on the call center. She didn’t need the money, just something to do at the weekend.

Her thoughts turned to what she would have for dinner. Fish and chips, maybe a curry or possibly just a Burger King. It was Friday and Friday was a day for lavish treats, she thought. It was certainly cheaper for her to eat these days. Maybe a bit more expensive for her individually but cheaper since it was just her.

BEEP.

“Hellllllllloh there and welcome to Pascal Insurance and how can I be of service to you today?” she said, with no noticeable dip in passion since the last call.

The man had called on behalf of his son. This was a simple sale. The customer was looking to insure his son (male, seventeen years old, not yet passed test) on his own insurance. She went through the usual rigmarole with him. She thought that this was what dancing with someone you knew loved you would be like. The sale, the kiss, was inevitable, but for both of you to come away overflowing with happiness, it was necessary for you to flirt around the subject of the kiss.

“Wow! Is that really how much I save? That’s incredible!” said the man.

“That’s right sir and if you just give me a minute here I’ll see what sort of loyalty discount we can arrange for you,” Chelsea said with conviction.

“That’s absolutely brilliant Chelsea, thank you so much!”

“Not a problem sir”

“If every call center worker was like you, we would get a lot more done in the world!” said the man.

Chelsea’s heart warmed. This was almost the biggest compliment one could give her.

***

I couldn’t stop myself looking at the clock. I could feel myself getting excited, my heart beating a little faster if it were one minute closer to the end of this hell. I was desperate to be released from restraints of my head set and be free to run around and swear and smoke and be honest with everyone. I occupied my impatient mind with looking around at the drones that whizzed around me. The spiky haircuts with bleached tips clashing with the tanned orange skin and whatever gaudy colour they had chosen to wrap themselves in for dress down day. I looked on in disgust at their happy faces. They were content to work in a place like this and it offended me greatly. An educated human being who is happy to hand over forty hours of their week in exchange for this environment and the meager wage that accompanied it, was not worth the soul in their body.

I found myself overwhelmed with a feeling of disdain for every single person that had ever smiled as they walked through the doors of this building. I looked down to my hands and noticed that they were clenched so tightly that the knuckles looked like chicken’s feet. These pond-dwellers had no ambition and even less drive to better themselves. The feelings of alienation that I was experiencing had served wonderfully to bring me to the realization that none of this suited me. I had been lying to myself in the beginning. I had assumed that if I had managed to maintain a happy private life, work would be something I could endure for the sake of maintaining what made me truly happy. But forty hours every week was a long time for anyone to feel consistently miserable. The other hours of the week that I didn’t use for sleep were either spent in a drugged up state or bound in the clutches of panic that work was once again looming over me like a black cloud ready to piss all over me.

I had never once inquired into the lives of the people I shared my most miserable hours with but I knew that I wasn’t one of them. I knew this because they asked me about mine. I would be asked all manner of mundane and torturous questions about things that were nothing to do with them. They could never seem to grasp the fact that I didn’t just dress differently from them, I was totally and completely different from them in every single way in which they could possibly conceive. To these people, thinking about things other than football/fashion, women/men, fighting/shopping, beer/Smirnoff Ice, Magaluf/Mallorca or fake tan was seen as being waste of time and, ultimately, weird. The simple and beautiful fact of the matter was, that I was not one of these people and I never would be.

I had worried that in coming back to Scotland I had made a huge, immeasurable mistake. Japan had been barbarically expensive, sexually perverse, misogynistic in a 1950s kinda way and at times a ferocious, pulsing numb for the senses, but it had been the best experience of my relatively short life. I left a lot of like-minded friends behind and hadn’t seemed to gather anything like the momentum I had with my writing since arriving back on the moody shores of my homeland. Simply put, I had never been so misanthropic as I continued to find himself now. I had been a positive, uplifting person in Japan and had never doubted that I would saddle up this new found passion for life and that this fresh, mature outlook would continue bloom regardless of where I lived. But this job had crushed every morsel of hope and drive that I had into the floor. There was nothing but scummy dregs left of my love for humanity. Seeing people enjoy working in a job of this nature confirmed to me that the planet was over run with parasitic, uninspired idiots.

As the clock rolled over to 4:00 P.M. (my last smoke break) I burst from my chair like I had hauled an ejector seat lever with all of my might. I was almost pulled back into my seat by the resistance of the head-set cable. Suddenly realizing that I hadn’t come anywhere close to fixing this person’s problem, I hit the mute button.

BEEP.

“Fucking come on ya cunt! Shut the fuck up!” I snarled into the muted microphone.

I was fully aware with what I was dealing with here. I knew that this time bandit was fully prepared to spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes telling and retelling the facts of his grievance, each little molehill becoming a snow capped mountain, as he would get more and more frustrated at the sound of his own whining voice and the serene, calmness of mine.

BEEP.

“I think that I’ve just realized the problem here sir,” said I, becoming more and more impatient with each short, bursting syllable, “you’ll have to go on hold for a moment while I try to sort this problem out for you.”

“What? For fucks sakes mate! This is absolutely ridiculous. I want to speak to your fucking manager! I’ve been on the phone for an hour!” the man snarled.

And at that point, I snapped.

“I’ve been on the phone for eight fucking months mate! So get fucked ya cunt!”

***

Chelsea choked on her mouthful of Diet Coke as she heard what Dennis had said. She quickly shot a glance to his chair and noticed that he was now standing up and everyone in the call center was looking directly at him. She didn’t like this much attention being almost directed at her so she hunched slightly in her chair, using the computer screen as a shield. This was nothing like the other call center flip-out she had witnessed. About a year ago, a young man in training had gotten angry and tossed his headset at his computer screen. Everyone took note. It reminded them that this job isn’t for everyone. Some people can take it, some can’t. Dennis clearly fell into the latter bracket and everyone could see this. A breakdown of this proportion had never been seen in this building and Chelsea could be sure that after Dennis’ inevitable dismissal, people would come to her for clues. Why did he do it? Was he getting closer to the boil? Is he really as weird as everyone says he is? What would she say to these people?

Chelsea was on the verge of solving a man’s problem with his no claims bonus history being disregarded on his last bill. It was a standard issue procedure for anyone who had been there long enough to know the systems properly. But at this moment she had to concede that no matter how much she valued the customer, she couldn’t be the only person to miss the aftermath of this situation. especially considering she was the person closest to him.

***

It seemed as if everyone around me gasped simultaneously, like air being sucked from an open door on a space station. I immediately looked around in every direction and saw that each member of staff within ear shot had muted their phone and started to whisper to their neighbor. All eyes were on me. I tried my hardest to act cool and pretend that this outburst hadn’t happened.

The truth was that I had shocked myself and when I looked down at my hand on the keyboard I could see it trembling furiously. I knew what those words meant for me.

“Ho! Dennis! Go and take five and come see me when you’ve had a wee word with yourself!” shouted Chris from behind me.

I had surely lost my job. There was no possible way for me to save myself now and that seemed appropriate because grovelling for my job back here would be an enormous insult to myself.

Without thinking, I turned to Chris. I smiled at him softly and raised my middle finger high in the air. As all eyes were on me anyway it seemed unnecessary to attempt to gather attention. But I did anyway. One last chance to articulate your feelings Dennis.

“Fuck you all.” I shouted.

I looked to Chelsea. She was sat with her mouth wide open looking up at me. Chelsea couldn’t possibly understand what was going through my head. And that made me sad.

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2. India like…

So why the fuck am I goin’ to India of all places? Why not Australia or fuckin’ Benidorm for two weeks like a normal person? Well the truth is ma man, I’m not happy. Haven’t been for a long time. I like to reflect on things a fair bit and I can’t remember the last time I could look at my life and say I was happy. Like actually happy, you know? I’ve been happy about certain things; Selic winning the league, getting Ian Brown tickets, discount need-to-get-sold-or-I’m-gettin’- ma-legs-broke coke, and some other shit as well but that’s about it. I can’t honestly say that I could look at my life, taking every single detail into consideration, and say that I was happy with the majority of them.

So let’s take a good look at the current state of ma life:

No relationship, no job, no job prospects, a growing drug and alcohol dependency, boredom, a searing contempt towards my “friends” and a fuckin’ mother on ma back at me to stop squandering ma youth. She’s the worst though. Givin’ it all that, “If ah hud the chance tae dae it all again son…” and “You’ve that many opportunities these days son”, as if I’m not fully aware how shite my life currently is, let alone how shite it could well become. I mean, it could be a lot worse obviously. I’m not a starving orphan in an Oxfam advert or a fly in a spider’s web or something. But given the fact that I’m young, white, educated, comparatively affluent and can speak English (well, Scottish but I see no point in being pedantic when I’m giving myself a hard time), my life is a shameful waste of resources.

Now let’s be clear here my dear, India is not the solution. I am fully aware of this. It’s not like there’s a job or future waiting there for me and it’s not like I’m headin there to ‘find maself’ or any of that balls. I just need a bit of time to work some shite out. I know that I can’t get that in Glasgow. I know that coming to that conclusion doesn’t directly point to India, but I reckon I can go there on the cheap, see some shit and get ma head straight. That’s the plan anyway, although I did hear that Ketamine’s legal there.  Might have shot myself in the foot there boys! Basically, I need to iron out the creases and try to work out what I really want from this life before it’s too late and I end up like every other cunt. Watchin’ the X-Factor in ma council house, kids at my neck, wife on ma case about the clogged sink, clock watchin’ all the way to the cemetery gates. Nah mate, FUCK that.

I’m very much of the “Made in China” generation. A 21st Century Boy. I like my kicks to be low in their cost and plentiful in their abundance, regardless of the suffering involved.  I care not for quality and have little patience to let it come to be. I’d rather have a hundred pairs of crappy sunglasses that warp and skew my vision than one fantastic pair which let me see life the way it ought to be seen. I am the 21st Century Boy. I can be a selfish, cowardly wee shite, who’s completely jaded by cheap thrills and instant gratification. It’s the way I’ve been brought up, though done little to change. But India shows promise in giving me a look at the other side of the coin. Cunts have been telling me how pure filthy it is over there, that the poverty is horrific and that I should have chosen Thailand instead.  But this is it right, I need to find out the real price paid for my standard of living. How much does it cost other people to put a Celtic shirt on my back, Levis on my legs and hash in my lungs? That’s how I look at it. I owe poor people enough to at least go and acknowledge how much they’ve contributed to ma lifestyle. You can’t just be ignorant about that shite. Everyone should know what it takes to make Britain and America and these places run the way they do. But I suppose if everyone knew, they probably wouldn’t run the way they do.

As well as having major bouts of white guilt, I’m also fucking bored. I’m sick and tired of every single one of ma stories starting in a sordid little Glasgow pub and ending at the edge of some random lassie’s bed with my head in my hands, only partially regretting the journey there. The same experience reoccurs week in week out. The only variable is the quality of substances I seem to pour so much hope and expectation into.

My life is like watching Romeo and Juliet performed by a different theatre group every weekend. Sometimes it’s better than others, but it’s always pretty much the same.  You’re enjoying it for the first wee while, the plot’s new and interesting enough to keep you entertained, but after you know the outcome and are familiar with the path towards it, it becomes boring and predictable. The actors are the drugs. Sometimes they can make each line count and truly add something special to the performance, other times they can be so bad that they ruin the whole thing. Once the plot has become so meaningless and the tragic outcome an accepted inevitability, you put your faith in the only variable; the actors/drugs.  If they are good at what they do, you’re prepared to sit through the predictable story until its grim and morbid conclusion. Which, in the case of our darlings Romeo and Juliet, it comes with accidental suicide in the name of love. In my case, it comes with staring blankly into a mirror on a Sunday night, contemplating suicide as a result of my quest for vacuous, transparent love. It’s basically the same thing but I would argue that my case is more heartbreaking than theirs. They actually got to die, whereas I don’t have the balls to put an end to the torment of floundering potential and drowning ambition that exists in me every single fuckin’ day.

So there’s part of your answer. A bit extreme towards the end, but that’s the reality of it. I’m very, very bored. I need to do something interesting and worthwhile with my youth, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. You see, I don’t want to go like my old man went towards the end. Get to forty-five and realize that my youth’s gone, so I grow a goatee, buy a leather jacket and try to shag all the single mums in town. Actually, fuck forty-five, look at my cousin Sandy. A fat, thirty-two year old cokehead bedroom DJ, who wears clothes intended for someone half his age and tries to ride birds who also fall into that category. Every time I look at him a little part of me shudders. Like actually shudders, because I can see maself in him. Sometimes I catch my reflection on a CD case or a mirror as I snort something and see his beady eyes staring back at me. Shooting warnings signs through the air at me. I genuinely worry about becoming like him or ma dad. Is that bad? Not wantin’ tae be anything like your family? That’s fuckin’ bad in’t it? Christ, I don’t even know anymore. But I guess knowing what you don’t want to become is a good start towards working out who you do want to become.

In almost every single way possible it’s a good idea for me to get the fuck out for a while. But there is one big thing pulling me back to shore. Her. Fuckin’ her man. Of all the things I thought might hold me back, I would have never guessed a lassie had the strength. After all of the women I’ve been with in my time, it would be my luck to finally meet one I like just before I’m leaving for while. This could have happened to me two years ago and changed my life. Who knows, it could have stopped me from flying four-thousand miles around the world in search of happiness. But sometimes that’s the way of things. Right place, wrong time.

The more I hang out with her the more I like her, like. It’s no just the mind-blowin’ sex, although that cannot be ruled out as a contributing factor, it’s her. Just the way she is and that.  After that first awkward morning we both kind of saw the drawbacks of our primitive instincts tae fuck things. It was healed by a bit of tender text messaging and a bit of Facebook chat back and forth. The following weekend we went out for drinks again, and when faced with the hump or home decision, I surprised both of us by opting for home. It was weird, it was like with that one choice I had suddenly become more attractive to her. I was like Hugh Grant dipped in Tia Maria at a granny’s birthday party. Hot stuff like. She’d always done it for me in that area, but it was nice to know that the feeling was reciprocated. We started textin’ more frequently, gettin’ together at least a couple of times a week and really enjoying one another’s company.

But this wasn’t what I wanted.

I’m about to say “Cheerio!” to this city, country and continent in a matter of weeks and I intended to make it a clean break. British Army style, no man left behind, you know. But I don’t know, I guess the lure of chasing love, something I can surely say that I’ve never felt before, was too strong to keep my plan on the rails. I don’t think I love her, but how can you really be sure at this early stage, particularly if this month long fling thing happens to be the longest relationship you’ve ever had.  I mean, I think about her a lot, I’m always happy to see her and I when I’m with her my bullshit filter is completely redundant. I just speak my mind and spout whatever shite I happen to be thinking about. I’ve never been like that with a bird. I’m usually too busy trying to think of things that’ll impress her and make her knickers hit her ankles. That’s the way I am. Or was. I dunno, but it’s nice, being able to feel comfortable enough around someone that you can completely be yourself. ‘Cause I can’t even say what I really think when I’m around my mates like. See I’m the youngest in our botched-together group of arseholes, so I kind of feel compelled tae watch my tongue and try not to come across like the wee guy. Particularly not the wee guy taggin’ about with his big cousin. Not a good look. But I haven’t had a connection like that with anyone since ma dad.

Obviously the thing with ma dad is playing a pretty big role in stressing me out and making me want to get away from this scene for a while. He died a while back you see. Two years ago. It’s been a slow road to recovery from that blow folks, let me tell you. I don’t feel like going into it now. It’s still a wee bit soon for me to try to articulate how I feel about it and judge how I’ve been taking it. I don’t talk about it you see. Rarely even write about it. It’s one of those things that feels far too big to tackle right now. It’s like gazing at the moon through the wrong end of a telescope. One day I’ll work it all out. Right now, I feel like I could almost write about the death of a family dog and its impact on my life. But the death of a parent, fuck that man. Too soon.

One day though brother, one day.

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