By reading this you will gain nothing but an insight into someone you don't know.

I go to an archaic boarding school in of England. There I met a boy whom I shall call Adam, for anonymity’s sake. We became very good friends indeed, spending three years talking to each other until two in the morning. We knew everything about each other. At the start of the fourth year (of five) he began to drift away, as was most probably inevitable, and I saw less and less of him, and knew him less intimately, but when we did talk we still got on famously (quite literally). A girl from another continent whom Adam had met on the net called Eve professed her love for him and he reciprocated, and then spent hours every night sending mammoth emails to her, becoming in general from my p.o.v even more reclusive, and this withdrawal made me sad and jealous and many other selfish things. Nonetheless, we made plans to direct a play together, and here the plot thickens.

We chose/were steered towards choosing The Birthday Party, and we started rehearsing this summer before term ended. We continued into this term, the start of our fifth year, as our slot was at the end of November. As Lulu, (for those of you who know this great, disturbing, fantastic bitch of a play) we cast an attractive girl from a local sixth-form college who I’d known vaguely having been in a big production with her before.

Two months on, at the end of October, with the whole play blocked (i.e. who moves where when and to say which line- the framework of the play onto which acting is then built) and lines being learnt, I was forcibly removed from the production of the play by my Housemaster and my father. It was like being denied a drug. It was being denied an addiction. With two weeks to go I rejoined the cast and Adam, and it was fantastic. I’d really missed it and it was great to back and getting know the cast I’d auditioned again, besides which things were now very busy, and all the help possible was necessary.

Although the audience, being almost exclusively 13-18 on the first night, laughed at the conclusion to Act 2 (and if you know the play, you’ll know that’s sick ) we were all so pleased. I just couldn’t watch, so I spent most of my time backstage talking to the actors/resses. Midway through Act 2 on the next night, (six days and 23 hours ago) just before the party itself, Lucy told me that she was going out with Adam, but told me not to tell anyone

/dull factual history

I just stood and opened and closed my mouth. Adam, who had been mid-LDR for fifteen months, and still emailed and called every day? This didn’t make sense. She asked why I was so surprised, and I shelved my thoughts and just said I hadn’t expected it at all. Which was true. I’d not noticed any longing hazes from Adam to Lucy. That’d been me , in a kind of wouldn’t-it-be-nice way. We’d spent some time talking on quite an intense level for near-strangers, but mostly it was just idle lust. Come the last night of the play I was so upset at end of play-ness that I cried and it was all very emotional compared to Adam’s ever-present stoic front.

That Sunday we all met up for a meal and got drunk, all eight of us. It was most convivial. That evening Adam told me that he and Lucy’d been kissing these past two weeks but that it’d got out of hand. There was, he said, no emotional attachment, but was so desperate for human contact after not having kissed anyone for so long that he’d done so. He still loved Eve and felt disgusted at himself and at Lucy’s suggestion that they have sex- he’d do anything to avoid it. What was even worse was that he really liked her, but only in the context of a friendship. He wished he’d told her about Eve 2 weeks ago, and then everything would have been fine. I said she’d told me, but explained why I’d not mentioned it to him: because if it was true then he might be upset at Lucy for having told me, and if it wasn’t then likewise, but more so. For some reason here I stopped eating, too confused and preoccupied, possibly.

I’d arranged to meet Lucy on Monday and when we did so we talked a lot about her, and it transpired that she’d been fucked over so many times she was now very self-protective and tried not to commit to any relationship so that she wouldn’t be hurt by the eventual inevitable breakup. As a romantic idealist, this failure to be young and carefree etc upset me quite a lot; to be disappointed with life at 17 was depressing. I told her so. We talked a lot about a lot. She said she was despite herself becoming emotionally attached to Adam and had great hope for their relationship, but had tried not to let Adam know this, but was still keeping herself outwardly reserved. That night Adam told me he was going to write her a letter to explain it all, because the truth was the least anyone deserved.

On Tuesday I rang Lucy in the evening and we talked for about an hour about lots of stuff that runs very deep with me, like insecurity and self-acceptance, and Adam started the letter. I started eating again. I met Lucy for coffee again on Wednesday and she gave me a letter not to read in her presence. It was really touching and about lots of what we’d spoken about on Tuesday night, and that evening we talked again for about an hour about personal histories and the like. Adam finished the letter (I think) and might have posted it by now.

Term is over. I’ve gone far away from where school is and won’t see Lucy for a month . Adam knows of my interest in Lucy, but I don’t. Is it purely physical? Emotional? What’s going on? I know that she’s currently attached to Adam but that changes nothing for me, possibly because I know Adam doesn’t really reciprocate. But it’s all so horribly complicated, and I don’t know how I do feel, or should feel, and I’m going to ring her tonight and if she asks me why I didn’t tell her about Eve, what am I going to say? There’s nothing I can say really, but you can see why I didn’t, can’t you?

For whom have I written this? Why have I done so? What do I want from it? Reassurance? Attention? Reference to My Fascinatingly Detailed Teen Angst Bullshit Day Log - Part 1 ? Answers to all these questions on a postcard, please.

God, am I ever tired.

My week still is not finished. I have two labs and an assignment that were due yesterday, but are still not finished. I'm not working on them either. I just finished sewing buttons on my jacket that had been caught on something or the thread gave out or whatever else happened. I was finally forced into action on the button front because I need my good jacket today.

It is my grandfather's funeral.

He was actually my stepdad's father, but I don't care what anyone says. He was family. He treated us like family, even though we were just stepchildren. And now he's gone.

I have been crying all week. We knew he was sick, but not that sick. This is a first for me; the first close relative that has died. The first person close to me whatsoever that has died, in fact. I guess you could say I'm not dealing with it well.

I'm sorry for bitching and wasting space, but I need to get it all out. Better now than when I help give the eulogy later today. I need to be all cried out by then.

Rest in peace, Grandpa Earl. I miss you already.

today is my birthday! wahoo! i get to see ed wood tonite, yay! i am bouncy and high. and now i will be able to buy cigarettes when i get home! hooray for lung cancer!

back to my usual lurking and clicking on random nodes for hours...
you can ignore me again.

Tribute to George Harrison and John Lennon on the radio today. I woke up on a couch in Boston, listening to Beatles songs, and clips saying things like: "A few days ago, George Harrison finished a long battle with cancer and quietly passed away in a friend's home in Los Angeles. Although this event is sad, we must remeber that George understood that life on Earth was not infinite, and firmly believed that our souls live on. And so, we must remember those four Beatles, armed with guitars and drums, who changed the world with their music." Which immediately reminded me of a conversation I had with my 55 year old English teacher last week. We had been talking about Beatle George's death, and I said how depressing this must be for him, considering he grew up while Beatle singles and records were coming out for the first time. He told me this:

When he arrived at boarding school for the first time at the age of 13, he was taken to the gym along with everyone else every evening by the older boys, where they were basically beaten up through sport. My teacher actually played rugby and boxing everyday, but those who didn't would spend that time being beaten up indoors. And those who joined the choir were beaten additionally everyday for two weeks. This was simply the way it was and the way it had been. However, by the time my teacher was at the top of the school, 5 years later, the entire practice had dissappeared. How come? I asked. His answer was: The Beatles. The Beatles had hit the scene by then. They were the heart of the entire peace/love/flower power scene, and they changed the way people felt. They made people want to love each other. He said that when the single I wanna hold your hand came out, there was a noticable increase in hand-holding.

The radio rolls on. I hear a version of Help! with the James Bond theme as an intro, a cover of a Bob Dylan song, and between every song is a clip of John Lennon explaining how unhappy he was when the Beatles were bound by contract to shove out albums, recording with a format, a system which never existed between the Beatles before, or explaining how he doesn't really like writing songs for movies, but he can do it if someone really wants him to. And then, as the DJ is handing over the show to the next one, he reveals that all of the clips which we heard are from a conference which took place on December 8, 1980, a few hours before his assassination. He finishes off with a story about John Lennon and George Martin, the producer for the Beatles who once said he wasn't sure if he did as well with the Beatles as he could have done. Heh.

John Lennon: I wish I could do it all again. If I could do it all again, I'd re-record everything again.

George Martin: Even Strawberry Fields?

John Lennon: Especially Strawberry Fields.

(DJ puts on Strawberry Fields to finish the show.)

I was thinking today about Hal Hartley...about how the characters in his films speak in such a stylized manner, so clever, as if they’ve always known each other, from long centuries of play and suffering. You know, at the time I presumed it was all just an affectation, a device of some kind. It annoyed me, that kind of self-conscious intelligence, wordplay with unreal characters, as if we all had nothing better to do than to take a wander through someone’s clever little mind and laugh at their out-jokes and puzzle over their in-jokes. And yet, I love his films, almost without knowing why. I was thinking of the end of Amateur, where the guy gets shot in front of the convent. I remember she holds him in her lap at the end, like the Pieta, and the police ask her “Do you know this man?” and she looks up with indescribable eyes – the eyes of someone who cannot be threatened because they have already lost everything they can lose – and says “Yes. I know this man.” Film ends.

I never understood exactly why she said that – or rather, I never understood why it was important. All these crazy things have happened throughout the film – he is an amnesiac whose unremembered life was spent being a hit man – and because he’s the hero, the protagonist, we feel that we know him, that we trust him, no matter what secrets come to light about his past. “I know this man.” She knows him, as we know him – no matter what he’s done, she knows, as we know, that he is a good man, that he is worthy of trust. How do we know this? I don’t know. “I know this man.” If we leave behind us no one who truly knows us, trusts enough to say that; no one who would cradle our dead body, beyond fear, against the righteous killers; no one who would say “I know him,” “I know her,” then we really are just a ghost, a transient doomed to return again to this realm in the search for honest arms and a true heart. There would be no memory of us as we were, only an image, a character, a story – not a person.

We have to admit that we know each other.

To Be Concluded

§3. Heart Fog:

        "Okay, don’t be miffed. Let me get these other bits out of the way first. The story isn't going to make any sense otherwise. It may scare you a bit to know that I actually tried to follow your example for a while there just after Rob left. I tried to get cozy, making moves just for the feel and pleasure. There were actually a few doe-eyed guys I'm sure I could have swung my self around, quite satisfactorily. So don't try to always cast me as the endlessly chaste, last of the great lapsed Catholics. Yeah, well, you do have a tendency to play that up whenever I make appearances in your stories. Whenever I run into guys after you've been around them alone for a while they look at me like I might be their virtuous little sister. Like I might want go on a bike ride, or grab an ice-cream cone. Maybe push me on the swing set."
        "Anyway, don’t matter. I just couldn't trick myself into it. I thought it would've put me on Rob's level. After all, he pulled up the stakes and zipped out of town - and I though it must be someone else. Some little bean-sprout out in the country where he was working was no doubt banging him in the haystack or behind the old oak tree. So I felt I had a vested interest in maintaining the high moral ground. I have no idea what I was thinking. And of course any pronouncement of a high-minded sort like that’s going to have the whole universe immediately conspiring against you. Just the cosmos trying to get you to loosen up, I guess."
        "Details, details, yes, I'm getting to those. I'd already written Rob what was essentially my parting shot, left it with my roommates for him to collect, if he ever even bothered to show. I certainly wasn't going to do myself the indignity of paying for a stamp on his behalf, regardless of how badly I might have wanted some outlet. But outlet I got somewhere else, all the outpouring and finality with Rob I could ever dream for, even if he had no idea about any of it. I was sitting in one of the little parks down the drive I lived on, rummaging through the Sunday editions. There was whole rat-pack of little kids running around the park that day, splashing in the fountain, just chasing each other around, until one slightly more grown-up kid showed up with his pet boa constrictor, which was easily as long as he was and probably could have swallowed on the toddlers whole if given half the chance. They all scampered over when the big kid set the snake down on the grass, they all wanted to pet it or just watch it slither along and they were pointing and pushing each one another closer. They had absolutely no fear at all, most of them."
        "I'm just sitting there on the grass then, sunglasses and big straw sun hat to keep the sun off but still feeling my shoulders burning a little, just reading away, when I hear someone clearing their throat behind me. I turn around, and sitting about five feet away is this guy, whose just kind-of half smiling, half-grimacing at me. He's got his shoes and socks off to one side of him and his pant legs rolled up and he's got a pile of library books by his side and a bottle of water. He's wearing reading glasses, and a white kerchief on his head and it looks just at first glance that he's getting a bit red in the sun as well. In other words, he's kind of geeky-seeming and I find myself wondering exactly what it is he wants. He gestures with his head over to one side, past me, 'your bag' he says. And so I turn and of course find that while the snake went unattended momentarily by its young keeper it decided to make for the shade by winding its way into my carry-all. Only its tail was visible now, still sliding along inside, as it packed itself away in there. So that was pretty disgusting, not because I have any particular aversion to cold-blooded reptilian monsters that can strangle you in your sleep or anything but just since my sandals were in there. 'Eww,' I think may have been my immediate response, and I looked around to see if the owner was anywhere nearby, but before I could yell out for the kid, the boy just walked over and reached slowly tipped the bag upside down and the scaly thing slid right out and away."
        "'Very 19th century of you. Thanks,' I said then and he said he's had one named Sal for a few years ago until he ran, or slither away one day. He said his name was Jason, and I said I was Angie, and then he said he was glad to have been of service and he went and sat down again. Well from that point on I was only half reading, newsprint getting all cut-up by my wanting to turn around and take another look, just for my peace of mind, or make sure what he was reading wasn't terribly interesting. Then I stopped trying to read altogether and started thinking about what I'd resolved about Rob, which had by this time been four months past. I wondered about what precisely the point was in me keeping myself in a little hermetically sealed bubble, just watching the world go by without me, holding to this severed connection just on a point of pride. I take myself way too seriously, was basically what I came up with. So I did turn around, and he caught him dribbling water on his shirt as he was taking gulps out of his water bottle, and he looked kind of embarrassed and that sewed it up for me."
        "And then the next night you called me, because you'd gotten my letter no doubt and I'd sounded like the basket-case that I was, and the timing of events never ceases to amaze me, because up until that moment I'd been floundering awfully, yet in the course of one weekend everything had righted itself. I was thinking about this earlier today, about how people and places, as beautiful as they are in, make us to see and do things for ourselves. Jason was both, beautiful but also one of those people who’d spur something inside you, change you instantly if you're open to it. Turned out he wasn't the total nerd I'd pegged him for initially, he'd just looked a little silly at the time. He wasn't real self-conscious most of the time I figure, he just really wasn't out to make a big impression. I could relate to that after six months playing ghost to the outside world, just swishing through the scenery. But by the time you called, god I had no idea what was going on anymore, if I ever had. Just that first day we drank coffee for hours, then some dinner, so we swung round his place and he changed, and then we walked up to my place and I did the same, and from that first point when I asked it was me, for the first time I can remember who held the reins. I asserted preferences, 'sounds great' he said, where I wanted the conversation to stick, or deepen, or move it did but there was nothing ever mechanical about it. It was more like he just wanted to hear everything I had to say or do anything I wanted to do, to see how it might hang there in the air between us."
        "We had dinner in this amazing Afghani place, The Last Horseman. They serve these peppery fried potatoes that ought to be outlawed, like you about gave yourself whiplash reaching for your glass. I was maybe a little wary of the idea of desert food actually being much of a treat for a first date, but you get to sit with your shoes off all propped up with this big cushions and its all lamp-lit and there are tapestries everywhere. So it seemed really quiet and the light would be good for me, so we're there sitting at the corner of this long, knee-high table, just talking. The whole place is filled with the smell of frying sage with cumin, clove incense and pipe tobacco. Jason spends most of his time just looking mostly into the lamp light on the table. Seems to me I was pouring the last drops out of the carafe. I was at that point now also staring at the crook of his neck and the lines of his shoulder-blades under his shirt. I don't think I was even totally listening to what he was talking about at that point, something about the eclipse coming up and a Concorde ride you could take to watch its shadow move, and I think I may have said something painfully vapid about earth and moon and stars, because what I was really concerned with was that we were out of wine and it was getting late and place might start to shut down soon. It was really hot though in there and I didn't want to move and the waiters seemed to be having a bit of a tiff by the bar on the other side of the place. I was trying to be cool, really, but you can imagine how suave I looked doing a kind of DT- cheerleader- signalman thing to get their attention. 'So Angie, what're we going to do next?' is what came across the table next at me, and I looked back at him and he was wide-eyed and just waiting for answer, because I'd planned or allotted for everything so far after all. That's what his expression said, up for anything. '
        “We're going to get more wine little boy”, that's what' was what I managed to come back with to put it off, 'And you're going to tell me why you were all by your lonesome in that park today.' He started thinking it over, with a little peak in his eyebrow, and I remembered the word I'd been fishing for all night. Portuguese, saudade, a heady mixture equal parts melancholy and longing, like when you know, you just know that what starts out fairy tale never ends that way. No matter how bad you want it to."


        Finally the big questions were getting some treatment, Angie thought, the air was finally clear enough for the hate, sex and money matters to be thrown out on the table. It was, appropriately enough, one exceedingly vile and filthy table which they were parked around much, much later that evening in yet another smoky basement apartment, lit by strings of colored lights and candles, to the whir of the ceiling fan. They'd been up now playing cards at mutual friend's pad for hours, everyone else who'd been there practically and visibly re-coiled in fear and surprise when they'd marched in the front door together.
        'Oh that's good, that's rich,' had been John's reaction. Zoe and Angie were not widely held to be a magical combination for the outside world, boy-dom in particular, as they fit together and re-configured in such a way that made it exceedingly difficult to either argue or resist them. They could've cared less. Angie, in particular, thinking about everything she'd just spilled, about the decision to leave Jason high and dry, about finding the strength to actually consider, and ultimately set aside another person for oneself, for once, after all that verbiage she wasn't terribly interested in taking any lip. So they did what they needed to do to clear the room, that is, they drank everyone else past silly and well-on-the-way to sick, by demurely playing waitress and bartender for the room full of boys all evening and showing no mercy in the stiffness of anyone's drinks, least of all their own.
        One by one they went down, if not necessarily in heaps, but rather more gurgling, slurring but still in a quite cute and clever in-their-own-fashion sort of way as they tried to pretend there were no girls in the room or at least appear that they weren't giving the matter any undue consideration. Adding to their collective woe at this new problem was that, first, they'd all been manageably but still noticeably single for varying degrees of what seemed like forever, second, in the two years Zoe and Angie had been away, both of them had gotten troublesomely beautiful, and finally, worst of all, these were the sort of guys who could never get it together to ever acknowledge to themselves, let alone voice, and heaven forbid ever act.
        Terry was the drummer in a local band who moonlighted making furniture. Dan was an engineer-prospector who loved photography and ended up in places like Ghana, Peru or Uzbekistan for months at a time. Erin was a geologist doing boat tours for a sliver-niche of people interested in indigenous rocks and land-forms. John was slacking off the summer before he went to teach English overseas. Craig was a painter who pumped gas. They'd all known each other since junior high, so they really didn't need to go over fundamentals that often, each knowing pretty well where the other stood.
        Guys either wonder and toil constantly over what girls think, or they give it little or no thought whatsoever. They either adjust their pitch to fall in synch with female presence, or they just go on acting exactly the same. This particular pack, Angie knew, fell certainly into the second category and before long they were all immersed in a heated banter of typically single-guy marginalia- new great bands, new god-awful bands, what books would make great movies, what purportedly great books didn't deserve to be used to hold your bed up. There was discussion, ad infinitum, about the rise of the new digital class, the influx of recent illegal immigrants, the way Russia seemed to be headed, what could happen if all the lights went out at New Year's. There were conspiracy theories about reclusive novelists, about Islamic fundamentalism and US interests abroad, about the Kosovo crisis and the bombing of the Chinese embassy, the whole rise of Japanese super cuteness. In general, Angie thought, the boys were talking about everything but themselves, by throwing out as many tethers as possible to the world around them, as it went on, very far away from here and having nothing really whatsoever to do with them.
        When they finally turned in, or dragged themselves up the stairs for home, Angie and Zoe were left feeling like they'd been sitting in less on a bunch of people who knew or cared about each other, and more like they'd stumbled on a chance meeting of correspondents in the bar of some hotel in the Third World. They sat there with their drinks, then started playing gin rummy, not saying much of anything for a few minutes, letting the totality of difference they felt wash away in the renewed silence. Zoe won the first hand, and so Angie started shuffling the deck again.
        "The money Zoe."
        "The boy Angie."
        "Stolen, isn't it?"
        "Let me guess: nothing happened and you didn't shag him?"
        "You first."
        "No you first."
        "Okay, on the count of three. Okay? Ready? One, two, three."
        "Sugar daddy."
        "Five ways from Friday."
        "Oh my God."
        "Deal the cards please."

<< - Backstory
To Be Concluded

QXZ's London Invasion, Part Nine
back to part eight

Like a record, baby. Round, round, right round
retail therapy.

Shopping day. Time to hit the record store in Notting Hill Gate that Marcie told me about. Then, maybe over to Carnaby Street. If I have time, I'd still like to get up to Abbey Road. I thought I had directions and an address, but I can't seem to find any of that now.

These are exactly the type of record shops that High Fidelity is based on. Clerks with esoterica-packed brains and a dearth of social skills, lengthy debates with regular customers about record labels, obscure 80s rock on the sound system. Racks and racks of vinyl, CDs, singles, promo crap. I bought a Specials 45 and a 7 inch from the soundtrack to some French porn film.

The store gets extra points for having signs posted forbidding cellphone conversations indoors.

T-shirt store: a British girl sings along to a Notorious B.I.G. track.

An antiques shop in Portobello Road is selling iron keys dating back to the 11th century, Roman coins, medieval daggers, neolithic hand axes and other antiquities. Now those are some things hard to find at home.

Had to, did it. Purchased a 12th century iron key for £70.00 (around US$105.00) from John Dale Antiques, 87 Portobello Road, London, W11. Amazing... I now own something a person crafted 800 years ago. I wonder if that medieval locksmith ever dreamed that a tourist from a country that didn't yet exist would one day own his key, and as a curiosity rather than a practical item. Here's to you, my man.

A cave-like shop in an alley is selling arms and armor. Some of this stuff appears to be, at least, late medieval. It'd be exceptionally rare for blades that old to be in such good condition, though, and there are swords haphazardly tossed into bins. But as the shopkeeper doesn't seem too interested in coming back it's hard to know what, if anything, is legitimate. Passersby are drawing swords from a bin outside the door and waving them at each other. Ah well... I suppose I couldn't really take any of that stuff back home.

The Portobello Road market is clearly infinite. I didn't get much past the antiques section. It was getting damned cold, so I took my 800-year-old key out for pizza.

Went down to Carnaby Street, which doesn't seem particularly "swinging" these days, to buy stupid crap for people back home. I got Charmayne a Union Jack tank-top which she probably can't wear, (this bit temporarily omitted to preserve a surprise), and, yes, I got Rene's dad his silly London spoon. Also picked up a Manchester footbal scarf for Jack 'cause I think he'll think it's hysterical.

Regent Street and Oxford Circus were thick with people. What with the aforementioned inability of Londoners to crowd properly, it was slow going.

Some of the hostel crew have invited me out with them tonight. Planned on wearing my Clare jersey, but was warned that some pubs don't allow team jerseys as they're likely to start fights. I guess it's the bowling shirt, then.

Aisa put the Doors greatest hits ("I hear them first five days ago!" he says) on the room boombox. He and I and a Portuguese guy sat around talking about September 11 (they wanted to hear my story... everyone's ears prick up when I tell them I'm from New York City), the war, fame, celebrities, American sports, American movies, Afghani oil, Osama bin Laden and jobs.

I'm the first American Aisa's ever met, so he asks me a lot of questions. Fulfilling the cliche, he tells me that everything he knows about the US comes from American movies. Is Cop Land a real place? Where do all the Mexicans in New York live? Is there really a Chinatown in New York? Little Italy's real? I wish I'd brought a New York City map with me.

Second thoughts; no, I'll stay in tonight. I'm unconvinced I'd be able to get up to do the last things I want to do tomorrow. S'okay.

Ivan, Pedro and company reappeared, towing a Czech girl named Katerina with them. I asked her if she was staying in the hostel, and, from her reaction, I think she may have thought I was asking her to get into bed with me. Moral: gesture carefully when sitting on a bed and talking to foreigners.

Excerpted from QXZ's travel journal, 12/8/01.
QXZ endorses nothing.

Back to Part Eight
Forward to Part Ten

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