Wednesday 30th May


I waited for you in oppressive heat, the sour smell of pavements
smeared with butter, dubious stains on the slabs beneath favoured
trainers. Men greeted one another smiling, clutching cellphones,
calling, talking on the move, making deals. The notebook in my bag
was itching, but I didn’t feel like writing – soaking up the rhythm
of the moment in the moment. There was an email making ant steps
in my head, the pitter-patter of tiny horrors, flashback to images of
record sleeves in bedrooms, a memory of someone who used to be
your sister…
“She’s gone” – it was a mechanic’s tone, the conveyance of fact, like,
“Needs new break pads”
From the slant of the email I’d guessed it was the bottle, but had to ask
on the off chance it was something more dignified.
“Total organ failure” – there it was again, the tone of a professional
repairer of other people’s breakdowns. You could drop a hundred
Grand Canyons into the gulf between the tone of that voice & the misery
of a story I’d heard a thousand times. ‘The Happiest Man I’d ever met’
is how I’ve always described him & yet now even he had heard the knock
in the night. I still remember his sister, dressed in black, necklace
dangling, modern, exciting, a bright red head bob & a look in the eyes
that said,
“I don’t belong here”
Perhaps because she recognised a kindred soul, perhaps took pity on a boy
starved of nourishment, she lent me her albums, stuff I’d never heard –
music the older kids listened to, a secret society. She let me peer through
the window, gave me a glimpse of days to come, she was a thrill in a
quiet town, so out’ve reach it made me want to reach further – maybe she
was the start of my eventual leaving. Here now amongst my most prized
possessions I have the thing she gave to me, made me feel older than my
mates, a sign I was secretly accepted by her clan. She heard I’d bought
Voodoo Chile off the market, naked, wrapped in paper & sent me a spare
picture sleeve ’cause she knew that glorious sound should be dressed
like a prince. Every time I see it remember & the thrill of receiving
a gift from some one as cool as her.

I was never able to return her favour, nor give her the gift that was
freely given to me. She died, lonely, not alone –
a girl in a bubble all of her own.