Saturday, 17 October 2009

A North London Odyssey


This is the product of a hideous morning after a wonderful night out. We're new in London and still getting the hang of its intricacies or whether in fact it has any.

Long and Short of it: My best friend/housemate and I had a terrible journey from a flat above a pub in N1 and had to somehow find our way back to our lovely safe calm abode in E15. Unfortunately, we didnt know the way, we weren't feeling nearly intelligent enough to approach the situation with sense or logic and all went rather disasterously...oh yeah, and it was midday on (i think) a saturday. So our journey took place THROUGH civilisation.

When I got home, my first instinct was to write it into a semi-factual novel. This is what occured:

A North London Odyssey

Joe fell into the street. Spat out of the comfortable squatty den above The Queen Boudicia. He felt fine for a second. For one second. A second which was rapidly followed by a series of terrible seconds. There was a severe crushing in his central nervous system. His legs buckled. His eyes seared. A tyrannous cocktail of anger, fear and hopelessness cascaded through his being. Curiously, his innate devotion to social convention and the maintenance of demeanour somehow stood firm and he endured this physical and mental blight in an impressively English fashion. It took every remaining fibre under his control to stand, wince and wave goodbye to his loving host.

Will was less composed.

The door closed on them. Their mother goose was gone. No more could they cling to her bosom for security or gaze in fascination at the unintentional asymmetry of her hair, the product of a gram of ket and a candle that got out of hand. They were exposed to the outside world. They had no choice now but to attempt to find their way home. There could be no more procrastination. The journey to Stratford had begun.

Will had Clubmasters between him and the scorching midday sun, yet it wasn’t the sunglasses Joe coveted. Will had the advantage of sleep, although only an hour or two. They were hours which Joe had spent with his eyes wide open detesting every grunt and wheeze to emanate from the tranquilly sleeping six foot gothic-man-child. Hours in which Joe was forced to evaluate his life, because what else is there to do between the hours of nine and ten in the morning? The party has finished. Friday has yet to end. Saturday can’t possibly have begun. He exists on impossible time. A fitting time to realise the impossibility of the years ahead. What was once an ambitious leap of faith into the unknown with both feet forward and Optimism as a guide now felt like a plummet towards some form of hostel or at best a rehab clinic.

Neither knew the way. They were aiming for Angel tube station, with the ambitious possibility of making the extra trek to Islington and Highbury to minimise time spent underground. For some reason the underground seemed a thousand times more psychologically damaging than meandering through the uncharted streets of North London in a state in which tying a shoe lace seemed Herculean. As was often the case with Joe and Will they didn’t discuss this lack of plan. Rather than take a second to discuss the situation, Will laughed at a dog whose body appeared to be much larger than its own face.

Joe couldn’t handle this. They turned left.

On walking down the greyest of streets, framed by concrete beasts and lorded over by that oppressive blue sky, its sun a lingering memory threatening to attack again at any point, Joe became aware of a person on the other side of what he could only assume was a road. Possibly male. Possibly human. Facts had taken on a more fluid subjective form. Or lack of form. Or something.

The person appeared to have given up on the world. It wore loose trousers and a white vest. Both were dirty, but neither insulted Joe so much as the horror between. This person had an extra quantity of flesh attached to its stomach, which made it unlike any of the other stomachs in Joe’s life. It hung over the waist of his stonewash jeans and forced the vest out of the way.

Baying for attention.

There was a centre piece of a large cavernous navel with long black claws guarding the entrance. Joe couldn’t fathom why this security was necessary. Surely there was enough about this demon to scare off any approaching predators.

His eyes were drawn in. Towards the navel. Down the rabbit hole.
What were its secrets?
Why had it been allowed out today of all days? Was it personal? Had this stomach found itself in this place at this time purely to torment this fragile traveller?
What was there that Joe couldn’t understand which seemed so obvious to the man wearing this flesh extension?

Both stomachs convulsed. The man’s in time with his nonchalance. Joe’s in response. For a second it crossed his mind to turn away, face the wall, lurch over and attempt to expel these memories all over the pavement. He determined instead to convey his fears to Will as calmly as he could.
- Darling?
- Yes
- How is it that even when we feel like death, have on dirty clothes and can barely see straight, we still manage not to be the most disgusting people on the street?
- I was just asking myself the same question

Joe suckled on the bottle of water he’d clutched onto now for about eight hours. It wasn’t the elixir he’d hoped it’d be, but he felt a little safer. They continued on their journey and the man’s stomach continued his, probably with more purpose and confidence than Will and Joe were capable of that day.

As they neared a main road, Optimism returned to Joe’s heart. He’d been to Angel tube station a long time ago. He convinced himself that somewhere in the back of his fragile mind, among the shards and real life bits, outside of impossible time, he could piece together some squidgy shadows of faded photocopies of facts. As he searched, he was repeatedly confronted with his ex telling him effortlessly that it is home to the longest escalator on the underground. That information was no use.
- Someone once skied down the gaps between and called it “art”
- No Matt! No! That’s useless information!
- It was the first place you saw me charge an Oyster card and you had a hissy fit about how it was “witch craft”
- I know that Matt. I fucking remember! I do. But that really doesn’t help me find the fucking place!
- There’s a bunch of bus stops outside. You once stood and watched a woman pace up and down shouting at the screen. She tried to speak to you, but you were scared so you wandered down the road and sat in a park smoking multiple cigarettes and reading Brideshead Revisited. I arrived late, but you didn’t mind because you’d become lost in your book. You wouldn’t even come and meet me. I had to follow your aweful directions to find you. I then spent the rest of the day insisting that the SnM cafĂ© nearby stood for Sausages and Mash and not…
- Oh, shut up! There’s a map over there. I don’t need your help.

Joe steered Will towards a map of the area. It soon became one of those situations in which the more information you are provided with, the less you feel like you know.


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