Monday, May 27, 2013

The dovecote

The dovecote was a gift from her ex, which should have hinted at things to come. It was adorable, though. It was the charming domestic white of picket fences, and went with the outdoor furniture, which was in the French provincial style. Her section was long and narrow and she set the dovecote up among the trees lining the driveway, so it could be admired on the way in and out.

Of course what it lacked was doves, and so she got three little ones. They were also adorable. They were the pure white of gulls, and their breasts were soft and when she held them gently their tiny hearts beat into her hands. And they made that slightly pathetic little cruu cruu noise that doves do.

A few weeks later, delight! She heard peeping noises coming from the dovecote. Her doves had had babies. The future beckoned.

We are now two years later. The doves have been a-shittin' and a-shaggin' and a-feudin' and a-fighting'. Long ago she stopped feeding them. Now the dovecote bulges with dove shit. The doves squeeze past it to get inside. And there are many of them, uncountable in fact, and the doveliness has gone from them because they have been a-shaggin' with the local pigeons. In fact, she describes them as now 'Well, pigeons, really'. She runs the gauntlet of them when she heads down the driveway - they shit on her car and they don't even move aside when she runs down to get the mail. She thinks if she had a headscarf and sunnies she would be channelling Tippi Hedren. 

Well que faire? as they would say in the French provincial style. What can a girl do about this Hitchockian nightmare?

She has had a lot of advice, most of it unhelpful. She has considered rat poison, but doesn't think she could emotionally manage the deaths. Some advice involved shooting one every day at random, the way you do with hostages, until they accede to her demands and Go Away. Pipe bombs and vaseline bombs have been discussed at length, but it seems a bit anti-Peace Movement and doves are supposed to represent peace (rather than how they actually behave, with the a-shittin' and a-fightin' and so on. How to get rid of the 'pigeons, really' without disturbing the peace?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reasons for Not Drinking Part II - It goes down. It comes up.

We are home. It is not a good time to be home. It is the bad hour, five aye em. The cold, clammy hand of sobriety clamps itself of the backs of our necks and say, you're nicked.  We need something to take, and fast. There is nothing. We rummage through cupboards and he finds a packet of nutmeg. How despicable is that. That's what you take when you are about 13. Don't do that, for fuck's sake. Have some self respect, man.

He mixes half the packet into a large glass of cheap powdered orange juice and sculls it. He retches a bit, but takes it like a man. OK OK OK. i mix the other half into a large glass of cheap powdered orange juice and scull it. It is as vile as it would be. It goes down. It comes up. It lies on the kitchen floor in a greasy puddle and sneers at me. Defeated, i wander off to the bedroom. Vowing sententiously never to sleep in a bed again until i am reunited with my beloved (whoever the hell that is) i lie down on the floor.

Nevertheless i wake up in a bed. The first thing i notice is someone left the lights on. And i am still wearing my earrings. In fact i am still wearing the little retro black woollen suit that unfortunately never actually does make me look like Audrey Hepburn, regardless of my state of consciousness. i roll over. A pile of vomit sits snugly among the huddled bedding. It is sweating slightly in the gathered sunlight, and a little crust adorns its top, like a bun. I am strangely fascinated by it. Titanium rainbows writhe in my brain. I watch them. Then a hot wire of pain is pulled through the darkness inside my skull, and it is all on.

An entirely undeserved sense of beatitude washes over me. It is morning, or at least what passes for morning, being some time before five pee em. Time to do it all again.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Reasons for Not Drinking, Part I - So You Think You Can Dance

I don't know why, fights just break out around me. One minute I am on the dance floor at the wildly indigenous Surabaya Nite Club, and then there is some sort of altercation involving payment, and next thing I know I am crouched under the hand basin and there is literally an angry mob at the door. Latifah, the Surabaya's resident trans, is standing in the doorway, legs apart, arms locked in the frame,  looking positively majestic, at least from where I am on the floor. She is protecting me, God knows why, I don't deserve it.

'I may look like a woman' she snarls. Honestly, I have never heard anyone actually snarl before. 'I may look like a woman but believe me I still have the strength of a man and I will use it'.

I regain consciousness underneath a sailor from Hull. Yeah, he sounds like the start of a bad limerick and it doesn't get any better. I can hear my friend involved in yet another altercation in the next room. I am babbling on and on about the Battle of Agincourt. I have somehow conceived the notion that if I just keep babbling random facts about medieval military history my friend won't get the kicking he is probably overdue for. It seems to be working. The sailor from Hull helps me with my clothes, leads me gently to my friend and thence to the door, all with a bemused look on his face, and I babble all the way.

My friend dives off a small bridge into a culvert. We are singing Iggy at the tops of our ragged voices. 'I shot myself up...' The Police arrive rather promptly. I didn't know it was illegal to jump into a culvert. Seems like a victimless crime to me. All he is is a bit wet and grazed. 'I refuse to be harassed by Police of lesser intellectual standing than myself', I announce sententiously. 'Well, that wouldn't be very difficult then, would it', says the officer sarcastically. I have no answer to that one. That wasn't supposed to happen. The last thing we need around here is witty cops.

In a car, somehow. We are getting a lift home, our dignity more or less intact. We sing Iggy at the tops of our ragged voices. 'I shot myself down...' Someone, not me I am afraid to say, has the presence of mind not to reveal where we are staying. We are dropped off a block away and with a bit of wandering and some more sterling imaginary accompaniment by Iggy we are home. *

*This account is highly fictionalised. Latifah** is real though. You don't get any more real than Latifah. Latifah, honey, you really did save my sorry little white ass and I wish you all the luck and love in the world.

** Not Her Real Name.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Prison visit No. 2

That was the day I went with Mikaylah, who was then 15, to the men's prison, to visit Bronson, the father of her baby.

Bronson was already a neighbourhood legend. At seven, he accounted for most of the family income, providing sexual favours for gang members. Now at 17, he was doing his first lag in adult prison.

When I rang to make the appointment, I was expecting the usual unsupervised chat in a room with a plastic table like a child's desk and plastic picnic chairs. But for Bronson, I was told it needed to be a non-contact booth visit. So we sat in a tiny booth like the ones people go to have joke photos taken, on two stools behind a thick perspex partition, with a rose of small holes in it, and we were told  if we when we had had enough we were to push the button.

Bronson turned out to be beautiful. Snake hipped, sloe eyed, cheek bones as high and fine as a Disney princess, the colour of caramel. His eyes were heavy lidded and languid and long lashed, and the most unusual dead black. He looked like a Persian catamite.

I briefly explained the purpose of our visit. The baby, Galaxy, named after the car, was now nine months old. Mikaylah had shown little interest in her. Mikaylah's mother Jax was already her main carer, and Jax was doing well on methadone and kept a tidy ship. We wanted to keep Galaxy away from the child protection services. We needed Bronson's agreement for Mikaylah's mother to have the parenting order in her favour.

Bronson readily agreed. He had no interest in my proposal. I had nothing to offer him. He had more pressing matters to hand.

Their conversation was demotic, barely verbal. I can remember almost every word, because they used so few of them. They made no eye contact. Bronson sat directly in front of Mikaylah, hunched and tense and barely flexing, except for his eyes, hypervigilant under their lids and lashes, always on the move.  Mikaylah sat leaning back, almost as if she was relaxed, turned half away from him, fiddling, buying little escapes with tosses of her head.

- Whatcha been doing.

- Nothink.

- Whatcha been doing.

- Nothink.

- Who you been with.

- Nobody.

- Who you been with.

- Nobody.

I hear you been with that Teina.

- (She shrugs).

- I thought you hated her guts.

- Well, she's got a car now. (Mikaylah looks aside to me and shrugs and grins briefly. I interpret this to mean What you must think of me. But I may well be wrong. Today, Mikaylah is as mysterious as quantum physics.)

- Whatcha been doing.

- Nothink

- Who else you been with.

- Nobody.


- I love you babe.

- (She sighs and stares at the wall).

- Babe. You know I love you babe.

- Yeah, well.

- D'ya love me babe.

- (Silence).

-  Cos I love you babe.

- I dunno.

- I still love you babe.

- I dunno.

(He leans forward and drops his voice)

- Babe, you know. You know what I do.

- (She shrugs).

- You know what I did in your room.

I pushed the button. An alarm sounded. The prison officers arrived just as Bronson launched himself at the perspex partition, howling and punching it. They pulled him back by his shoulders. He kicked out. He was in the air. He was horizontal when he left the room. The door slammed. We could hear punching and kicking and dragging. He was still howling, wordlessly, he never had any words anyway.

The prison officer escorted us out. He seemed impressed. Who was that? he asked. I told him. Where's he from? he asked. D Block, I said. Jesus Christ, he invoked.

When we got outside into the dazzling heat and the wind that was stripping the decent earth, I lost all professionalism. I rounded on Mikaylah. You can do better than this! I shouted. You will do better than this! You will have nothing to do with him! Whatever becomes of you in the future, Mikaylah, if he ever comes near you again I will hear about it and I will Do Something! I mean it!

She stood there, that big pale girl in her giant shoes, in that unholy heat, and gaped at me. Lines of dust had slaked themselves in the crevices of her makeup. Her lip gloss had formed a viscous pink pool on her lower lip, a sorry substitute for a tear.