Nye and Bilan, lived in the brothel’s attic room, long since out of business, the damp and mould having crept along too much of its smoke daubed walls. Now, instead of a ramshackle dungeon with pads and paddles, imprinted with blood and torn skin, it was a hold up of mattresses and sleeping bags, for those passing through.
Bilan had been passing through for a year. Nye, just short of it. In streamed Nye on sunken sandals and in a knee stretched mustard dress, and Beryl had said “Student?” And Nye had shook her head, no. Maybe one day though. Bilan took her in her fancies and under her wing. She said, to Nye whose head lumbered with smitten,
“Have you ever read The Life of Pi? Do you like Milan Kundera? Do you think Tony Blair is a psychopath? Do you think Dean is a psychopath? Did you know Beryl used to be pretty? Do you know who Bibi is? Were is your favourite city in the world? Do you like Coco Chanel? Have you got a phone? Do you like enchiladas?Are you a feminist?”
“I don’t know what that means.” Nye had replied.
“I’ll explain. You need to understand.” Bilan concluded.
And back. “Do you have a picture? Who is Bibi? Have you ever left the country? What is your favourite horror film? Where do you buy your clothes? Do you like Martin Amis? Where is the best place to buy red wine?Do you ever go for walks in Roath Park? What kind of men do you like?”
“No, no men, Nye, I don’t much like men.”
“I’ve never read it. I haven’t. I suppose so. Bambi says so. I can’t imagine that! No, who is she? I think Paris, though I’ve never been. I love it, I have some, you thought so? You could tell? No I haven’t, I mean to get one. I’ve never tried that. I don’t know what that means.I don’t think I much like them either.”
“Has that always been so?”
“More or less so, I seem to see. Sometimes I like men in passing, but it never sticks. I never try to make it stick.”
“I tried to make it stick once, and yes, too, it wouldn’t.”
“How did you know?”
“I feel in love with a Tree. Et toi?”
“A bug that was meant to turn into a butterfly, but didn’t.”
“Folk are what they are, Nye.”
“Seems so, Bee.”
“I think I’m in love with you. I’m red to say it.”
“I think I’m in love with you too, I’ll shout it from the fucking rooftops!”
“Its is meant to be?”
“It was not meant to be, but it was authored.”
“I see, I see.”
In other words. Nye had asked, Is it Meant To Be? She and she. Bilan said, if she and she – the best of things – were meant to be, then so was all the rest of it. She and she the best of it, and he and he and he and he and he and he and he and he…the worst. And some of the other shes, that don’t belong in the she and she. Like Bambi. She was not Meant To Be, surely?Any which what way, she and she were passing through, together. Nye and Bee and not he, nor Bambi.
Nye’s mother died, and her sister jumped ship. Who knows to where? Nye suffered the perfunctory rumbles of foster care. A sticky plaster on wet skin. Nye had Layla, then Chrysalis, then Damien. You don’t need to know about Damien. Because now she had Bilan, and that would be where it would end. For the forevers and evers, never mind the Meant To Bes.
Bilan did have relatives, but they did not wish to relate to her. Or she them. Which was it? A would be husband waiting by the phone. Lots of jumped ships. Stories avoided or told in stole bits. Nye and Bilan. Orphans together. Meant To Be? in any case always would be.
Living in the smoky, mouldy attic. Sharing two sleeping bags zipped into one two-woman den. Divesting with men, as quick as could, and siphoning off the spoils. Drinking, sleeping. When Dean gave them some of his minutes. A whole night off! Then why be anywhere but lying down? With a bottle of passable wine and menthol cigarettes and an ash tray and the talk radio. Talking funnies. Hushing each other if they spoke over the quips. Bilan and Nye both capable at quipping. And acerbic little asides. But both much too kind, much too often. Or much too worried?
Kept it in but for together, their secret vaudeville of quips and yucks and funnies. Giggling over the bare legs of coffees tables – Madam indeed! – or oddly operated extremities and the Ministry of Silly Walks. And theirs. Sounds sounding like other sounds. Guffs and squidges and scrumples. Or the cliff top tall purple hats they wanted to wear, to match shoes on springs and Send More Brains zombies and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Its A Marvellous Day For An Exorcism. How to be a horror! To job interviews dressed as space rockets. To the market, a donkey! One each end. Nye will sell bags of sugar, Bilan pots of salt.
A thousand pounds a granule! That’ll learn them! Bout time these bastards paid for the earth.
And all the other things they jumbled on about, heads bumping along, low on oxygen and high on wine.The cautious faces folk make. The little sniffs, the looking downs. Furores slowly reacted to, calls for aid ignored. The stomps on shoulders and the medals dished out to friends. The daily minutia of cruelties. It ain’t my business and charity begins at home, and seldom even there.
Whichever what way – silly cracks, or sad little sighs, or what are we likes! – it was all they, they, they. They, who had never felt so so so as when wedged up against each other, inside their sleeping bag den, moving only to stretch and limber and tinker young legs inside the collected warmth.
An except from my in process novel what they call silence
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