This part of the novel is in the future, set in London, nothing much has been missed up to this point but this is a very important chapter in his life. Over half the book has already been finished but as a friend of mine quite rightly pointed out, “was I not scared of getting ripped off” etc, so for protection I’m only putting on tasters on my blog, with a final draft being posted once I finish the whole book and get proper ‘copyright’ protection. Hope you enjoy.
Future – London
I came with little to this part of the world, so unlike anything I had ever breathed so that I could leave all that plagued me behind. I cannot say what drove me here but for the good fortune of meeting one man. True most people would not move to the sticks unless for some good reason, be it a need to retire or the quiet surroundings that wealth expects.
During one of my torturous nights I decided a stiff drink was in want. I left my achingly claustrophobic room and hit the streets.
London has that air of danger at night, no matter where you live, it reeks of shady men lurking in the water stained doorways. With ladies in their tow, half-clad, veins luminescent in the blinking lights of emergency exits.
My streets are actually dangerous; living in the heart of Islington is a piece of cake if you don’t think any better of yourself.
The lost, the addicts, the snakes and those who just want to be all those above, live here.
No, I didn’t feel safe walking the streets that night, I can’t say what I feared for I was a tall man who could hold my own in any sort of encounter.
You know they smell the brotherhood on your skin so I wasn’t frightened.
I feared what was to come next.
There is something so beautiful in seeing the ice shake in a clinking glass, the amber liquid swirling round.
The coolness you feel on your hand and you know how stinging hot your throat will feel as soon as you put that glass on your lips.
Eish, I could taste the abuse I needed. Raging in my head for so long I had been plagued by torturous demons stripping me of my childhood, like picking my teeth the sorcery of my detached mind picked at my conscious thoughts.
The nightmares still brutally kept me awake, I wish I had the courage to sleep, I wish I had the courage to stop this filthy abuse of my pursuit.
I just have to know where it all leads, whose mind I had or I was lodged in and why.
With these questions surrounding my head I turned to look at the man next to me.
It’s funny the first thing I see of strangers is their eyes and without meaning to I always think “they look peaceful”.
“Hey, where is my drink?” I struggled out.
Just some mindless visions behind the bar, in front of the bar, and in every corner.
The heavy-set pile of slobber, aching to throw his life away for the sake of that leg of deep-fried chicken, saddled towards me.
“Listen, mate I ‘eard ya the first time, it’s not like we’re not choker in ‘ere, just wait your bloody turn.”
My head spun; just keep staring straight, look at him straight and don’t shake, don’t slur – they never serve a man who slurs.
I chuckled; the whole situation seemed slightly ludicrous.
“Just a whisky, straight, ice.”
Ah, here we go, he gave me those eyes, that quizzical look trying to place my eyes, my accent.
They always do that.
“You ain’t from roun’ ‘ere”, not a question, they always assumed they knew, “where you from, mate?”
“Just a whisky”, I heard the low, grunts of my words, I always sounded so strange, “cheapest you got, make it a double now”, hoping that by slapping a fiver on the hardened table he would just leave me alone.
How can I have an accent, I thought, when I was am from nowhere, nowhere is my home, just the end of the day from point A to B.
I nursed the drink, thinking I could torture myself by waiting one, two, three more seconds before that hot fiery liquid warmed the cockles of my soul.
Then again there’s nothing more that annoys me than a watery glass from the ice giving into room temperature.
Funny, ol’ place The Lantern, a name torn straight out of a Jack the Ripper novella.
No matter how many times I sat on this same hardened stool, hours passing with multiple amber liquid passing my lips, and still no one saw me, recognized me.
For all my demons that had been dislodged and disappeared I was still an unknown man.
An apparition, aching for a drink, unseen.
All these years later when I should have been part of this world, and still the suits to the overalls slid past me, not a word of kind, Eich my throat ached for some kind.
I had grown tall and thin as a rail, fed by my constant abuse of the bottle, there’s no point in giving me a label, no point if you value your face.
Dressed in my loose jeans and shirt I stared ahead, thinking thoughts not connected to what I should have been thinking of.
I looked haggard, devoid of human contact and I knew it.
I screamed of loneliness and despair but even then the rats shrank from my room.
“I’ve seen you hear before, scrap that I see you here every day, abusing the glass, staring into the mirror.
“I would think you were narcissistic but you never talk and you never seem to look as you’re admiring yourself but rather you look through yourself.”
I smiled, the curl ever so slightly raising my lips, who the hell was this voice piercing my hell, I daren’t look for fear it would go up in smoke – and I could not spy through my looking glass.
“I can’t really say Islington has too much to offer for someone like me, I don’t care too much for the preppy side of it popping up all over the place or even the pretend slums of the pretending art crowd.”
Still I didn’t look at her.
“Now The Lantern is what’s London’s all about. It screams the raw grittiness of cockney London, really my place away from home.”
Please keep talking I kept thinking, don’t go not just yet just keep talking, drinking in each syllable from her deep hoarse voice.
“I’m not from around here you know – no where I come from there’s actual green, real country air that makes you want, dazzles your senses.
“But I need the grittiness sometimes, so I come back here.
“There is something about The Lantern, just watching the people coming in, getting drunk, numbing their senses. I come here for a week every so often, just needing to shed my skin and become someone else.”
“I know what you mean,” finally speaking, I couldn’t help it the words came out naturally when I was around her.
I could smell the mustiness of a perfume, sweet and intoxicating, like verbs pouring from my head, I had to speak to her.
Fuck that, I had to look at her.
Swigging a take to gather that ever elusive courage I put my glass down, it splashed into the condensation of the ever growing ring on the counter.
I looked up.
Like a waterfall of tears my eyes drowned as I saw hers.
Oh, Lola, Lola, Lola.
I stumbled out of my chair gripping the counter, missed and caught her arm.
Electric shock ran like ice through my veins, I could barely breathe, everything just spun around me, I tried to catch anything.
“Hey! God you ok?”
I could see the imprint of my fingers on her arm bruising her peach skin.
“Lola,” I spluttered out, I could barely breathe.
Her curtained hair hung around her face, so beautiful a face, shaped around her eyes, a face of open sincerity crinkled at my foolishness, wondering at my impulsiveness.
“I’m sorry,” I think I mumbled, trying to compose myself.
I grabbed my crumbling jacket and stumbled out, I would become a distant memory on her consciousness, forgotten by tomorrow and I wished I had taken her with me.
If only we could still knock them over the head and take them home, it would save me a lot of trouble.
The night seemed particularly fierce tonight, the lights particularly dark as I slid from street to street, my inner Sat Nav switched on, directing me to my flat.
I spun around, catching my breath hoping it was her again.
All I saw were long legs, I don’t know where her skirt was, just long legs and a blushing chest, heaving under the streetlight.
“Hey joe, want to take me home?”
I don’t need to know your face, your name or strange request, I thought.
I grabbed her pin cushion arm and took her home, it was no bar but cold cash is sometimes more effective.
I kissed her neck, fuck her neck, I thought, I need to be inside something.
I grabbed her legs, ripping her buttons apart, smelling that same mustiness, aching to be inside, I pulled some fiber thing over her head, grabbing her hair I pulled her head back, pushing her against the wall.
She laughed, “So that’s how you want me.”
I can sometimes shut someone up with just the look of an eye but no luck tonight.
I put my hand firmly over mouth, waiting to bite in between her legs. Eish I hadn’t had anyone on this bed for such a long time, I wanted her flowing all over my place, staining every glass surface obliterating my thoughts of those eyes at the bar.
I pushed inside, against the table, stabbing her, I wanted to go further in, to live inside but the rest of my body held me back.
She screamed, fuck her scream, she was mine, I grabbed her arm, pinned it to the wall.
Where had the girl in the bar come from? How did she have Lola’s tiger-green eyes? Had she stolen them like my soul had been taken from me?
The pain of suppressed thought made me scream in pain.
All I could see was red at the atrocity of seeing Lola’s eyes in someone else.
My hand gripped hard and I dug deeper.
I heard a cry for help, a splutter of pain, the world shrank as I came, into myself I screamed the pain of a thousand heartaches.
She fell on the floor.
She looked so still, full of blood on the floor and on my self, her head limp on the green cushion of my bed.
Who the hell was she, I searched as if she were an alien object laid at my feet.
The moon bathed her motionless long legs, her clothes in tatters, and so still. So still.
The truth dawned on me and I crouched down.
She had stopped breathing, I turned her head and closed her eyes.
I couldn’t look at her if I were to save her.
I pushed at her chest, the action slowly arousing me again, in and out, in and out, a couple of breaths of air, hopefully she would wake up.
If not, too bad.
Her lashes flew wide open.
Screaming at me, she choked out some insult or another, her breasts, so full, blossoming, heaving.
She gathered what little clothes remained of her tiny wardrobe around her.
I put that frightened, withering look in her eye, I thought, funny she wasn’t my type, she looked old, and I saw the invisible needles stuck in her arm.
She didn’t deserve my words, hell she already had my cash reserved for my whisky.
“Get out,” I just said abiding her insults and threats.
I liked pain, it made me feel, and to add insult to injury I threw the money in her face and opened the door.
Grabbing her I threw her out on the icy steps, the twenties at her feet, she didn’t deserve what I had done but then again I didn’t deserve this life either.
I put on the switch on my kettle, I just needed a cup of tea to drown my thoughts of Lola and her imposter.
Her eyes still stained my day, she just needed to go away, leave me alone.
I thought not a scratch on her where had the blood come from?
Standing in front of the mirror, I know most men don’t have that shiny glass in their vicinity but I needed to see myself to believe I was still here.
I stood tall; thin for someone of my height, I didn’t think I was scrawny but who knows, and I worked out enough, to have some shaping and contours, to defend myself but it was nice to see a good build.
The blood had come from my back shredded to pieces, as if it validated my behavior towards her I just smiled, no longer guilty.
But I was empty, sober and so only a bed to go to now, I had already abused everything around me.
Leaving the broken glass, the blood, the whore’s stain, I fell on the bed, those green eyes still torturing me.
I went back the next day and sat in the same stool, drinking, same ol’ thing.
Barman says “Where you from, mate? Not from here somewhere out West are ya?”
Already forgotten, I thought, just the way I liked it.
Actually I was lying to myself by being here, this no longer was a place of solitude, a haven from everyone else, sliding between worlds.
If you freeze-framed a stitch in time at The Lantern you could see me.
There, skulking around, drawing energy from others around me, a phenomena of black solitude.
But that doesn’t happen so at the end no one saw me, hell no one really cared either.
No man is an island, or so the saying goes, and I wasn’t, I tried to be but I just ached for human touch at the end of the day.
Cynicism and hypocrisy go hand in hand.
The Lantern drew me because I needed someone to talk to me even if it was the rhetoric one-liner every day.
If I wanted to be truly alone I would be lying in my stink of a flat, shooting something up a blackened hole.
I knew my haven was interrupted since yesterday, a voice piercing through into my core, a voice so pure and with actual interest that it awoke in me a desire to talk.
I could smell her hair still, coconut and jasmine scents.
It struck me that even if my memories were clearer than most peoples, they were never this realistic.
The thought and the hand clashed together and I felt the smallness of five joints on my back.
“Well, hello, fancy seeing you here, I thought I had scared you off yesterday the way you ran out of here.
“Well, I’m here for at least another week and I plan to get warmed up with a nice Black Label every night and since it doesn’t look like you’re going anywhere, I think we shall be fast friends.
“Names first, what’s yous?”
She smelled so good and her laughter was infectious I couldn’t help being drawn in.
I didn’t sleep last night, all I thought about were your brown speckled green eyes.
“Laurie,” the word a whisper involuntarily slipping out.
“Well, Laurie, it’s nice to meet you.”
A hand thrust forward, waiting for my own.
“I am Lara, what can I say my mother was in love with Dr Zhivago, she figured she could change the story by naming me Lara, as if my fortunes would fare better than that of her fictional heroine,” she laughed, tingling away, “she is not exactly happy I haven’t found my Yuri.”
I couldn’t help smiling, I could feel the corners unfamiliar to the crinkling.
“You have a charming smile, you know people in London don’t smile, its as if the smog weighs their mouths down.
“And I just love it, the anonymity I mean.”
We talked, no, she talked and I listened, like the King Brown snake snuggling up for warmth.
She told me of her life, her work, her love, her pet hates.
All the while Connie Francis played on the juke box, poignantly following the melody of my conversation; my heart rose and sank to the beats of two beautiful voices.
Lara worked hard in a little town called Sidbury, not a nine to five job for her but rather she worked all day and night breathing her work as if her dear life depended on it.
Lara worked in antiquities.
She owned a shop, tucked away in between rustic buildings, she didn’t market her wares, if you wanted a table Admiral Nelson had played under you had to seek her out.
No secret knocks or the snootiness of upper crust know how, her livelihood was kept alive through word of mouth.
Lara had always had a love of old things, she had a loose floorboard in her bedroom when she was a young girl, and inside she had hidden forgotten keepsakes people threw away.
Unloved they were, no longer meant for this world and so she collected her turn of the century cigar cases, worn out photos and memories of other people’s lives.
“You see,” she said, “my parents were fanatically modern, plastic furniture adorned the house from top to bottom, useless Ikea self-assembly, throw-aways – I still hate the smell of plastic.”
The problem was this: Lara had a certain hunger for the new and old, when the two concepts clashed together throwing off the expected.
This hunger for tortured pieces, abandoned by flitting owners, that’s what she craved for, and threw all her energies behind.
But then after, after working for months on end , barely sleeping, feverishly acquiring the abandoned pieces of other people’s lives to fulfill the material emptiness of new owners, she would finally crack.
“I crack – slowly I would wake up after the sleep of a day and I would go to my kitchen, open the cupboard and inside all I will see are shattered fragments of china, the cup which is I am always holding will fall out of my hand and shatter to the ground in a million real pieces.
“I always collapse to the floor and cry, this huge weight lifting from my chest as if I’m finally coming out.
“It’s as if I can feel every fiber in me weeping for the injured souls of people, and I crave for human tortured souls.
“It’s as if nothing makes sense, as if all that matters are people and I feel like I need to find a place where people are more tortured than I am.”
Lara discovered The Lantern after one of her fitful episodes five years ago.
She decided London was perfect, a metropolis full of strangers with secrets and troubles screaming inside their chests, wrangling to break out.
Except no one cared, you sat next to the same person, day in, day out, day in, day out, and all they knew was your name.
So to London she came and searched for the most sorrowful of palces, where people buried their anguish under the smoke of despair.
Lara arrived at The Lantern.
Just like me she chose the one place where you could be unseen and see everything.
That was Lara.
“So…what’s your story, stranger?”
Her eyes looked at mine, I knew she was searching for my life hidden in the shadows under my heavily shadowed eyes, she needed validation for beginning this fateful conversation.
But I couldn’t tell her anything.
Instead I just grabbed her hand, how cool she felt in the midst of sweating old bodies.
I just had to hold her.
“Dance with me”
With the cello of Leonard Cohen’s waltz I lifted her off the stool; she was so tiny next to me.
I touched the small of her back, guided my hand through her fingers and moved slowly near the bar.
Her cascading hair framed her surprised, entranced face and I towered over her, leading her through each small step, wading between bodies.
The heat heightened between us and I stared into her eyes, like a dream from the past she had haunted me for so long.
She blushed as I lifted here, ever so slightly off the ground.
That voice pained me through so many dreams.
I had cried for human touch for so long I was drowning in drunkenness.
I touched the contours of her face, the blush of her smooth skin warming the coolness of my hands, shaking from being so close to her, dreading the final notes coming from Vienna.
Grasping her closer, I leant down and kissed her lips, Eish who knew she would taste so sweet.
With lips so soft I crumbled in her arms, holding her tighter smelling each strand of her dark hair.
But she sprang back breaking the spell I had fallen under again.
Through pained eyes she looked at me as if I broken the tenuous bond between us.
She just grabbed her coat and ran out, leaving me to stare after a closed door, with every pair of eyes on me at the bar, pained at the stupidity of my own impulsiveness.
I couldn’t catch my breath, grabbing my coat I ran out, screams of Lara thrown down the road.
I am so sorry, Eish I was so sorry, I never meant to do this.
I stumbled home somehow, the walk of a drunk branding me, only I knowing it was the stagger of a broken man.
I lay on my bed waiting for dawn to break and for night to come again so I could tell her everything, tell her how much I loved her, tell her just anything to make her stay.
She would be there tomorrow, she promised, she said, I hoped beyond hope she hadn’t gone forever.
The next day after hours of stumbling through the streets of London, sitting under the shade of a maple tree, sitting in the warmth of a café, willing away the hours so I could catch her, it finally ticked away to five.
I ran back to The Lantern.
No whisky today.
I sat and waited in a corner, too scared to be out in the open by the bar where I had betrayed her trust so deeply.
Six, seven, eight.
She didn’t turn up.
Torturing myself, without a drink in my hand, a mess of nerves under the smoldering heat of my jacket, I sat, waiting.
Waiting, no drink, I needed a drink so badly, but no, I needed Lara more.
Closing time came round and she never turned up.
In a haze I walked home.
Catching my breath under the street light outside of my flat, I stumbled in, tearing fresh blood from my arm in anguish, and I waited for dawn.
With dawn, I waited for night and again no drink in my hand, I sat in anguish at The Lantern, waiting for her.
So many days passed, mentally sick from disgust at myself, and physically sick after days without that amber liquid or crumb passing my lips.
It was a Monday, a Monday after the last one she left.
I walked this time to Kings Cross.