Wednesday, 5 October 2011

So Flows The River, Part One


In the sky-dyeing evening sun, Constance parked the Honda in a narrow, double-yellow-lined road off the side street of the high street, and tucked her sunglasses into the glove box as Michael got out of the passenger side, brushed down his jacket and attended to his tie. Flickering red candles were the only sign of life in the Spanish-looking restaurant across the road, Casa Ira. The two left the car and went further into the city.

"Well what do you mean?" She asked, while gazing to her left impatiently. A monstrous woman waddled around the corner with the nonchalant and disgusting expression usually worn by one that has just birthed an horrendous shit. Elsewhere pub-goers obediently got on with their drinking: the old boys in the corner, the young estate agents on the sofas self-importantly waving about the latest dross that the ever-enterprising drinks industry had managed to pour down their throats (spiced apple and rhubarb cider no less), the long-redundant actor boring customers at the bar with details of parts he never landed and casts he never was a part of.

Michael forlornly examined his flawlessly rolled cigarette, his face that of his newest guise - the desperately tortured soul, as solemn and statuesque as he dared get away with. Such exhaustive effort left little capacity for much else, so he left the question unanswered and continued to fondle the cigarette.


"How's you're writing going Michael?"
"Slow and sporadic. Writing is like anal sex." 
A sigh. 
"Don't force it. I always find that's a good a-nalogy for me."

They moved on to the next bar, some twenty minutes' walk elsewhere, sat down with their drinks at the back of the garden and settled into the murmured trickle of a water fountain and warbled Italian and chirruped Scandinavian of some form. Michael rested his hat on the head of a three foot high statue of deep green bronze, from whose mouth spurted a long thin cum of cold water. He was a sort of modern amalgamation of a Riace bronze, a Laocoon and a Discophoros all thrown into one tangle of testosteronic decadence - but a man that still managed to look relatively authentic, albeit in a charmingly kitsch kind of way. 

Things were much more serious here. There were little fairy lights in the uniformly trimmed yew trees, great expanses of glittering granite paving, and glass, lots of it. And the pints were £4.50, just to reinforce how seriously things were taken here. Another couple sat at a table next to the railings over the river, and as these awkward and mismatched couples often do, they made throwaway comments on the beauty of the skyline, the city lights, the reflections on the water, the relatively decently priced wine and the not too overdone fillet steak.

"Just listen to those two. Do we not slip into this stereoscopic view of life in such a perfunctory way?" 
A slight raise of Constance's left eyebrow invited him, world-wearily, to continue. 
"In the sense that we, people, comfort each other by pretending everything's all A-OK. When alone, I can see that this is all pointless, 'Ah But', you say, ah but what? Am I scared to be alone? Am I being too vague, too hypothetical? Am I wrong? It all works just like a stereoscope, two images shot from slightly different positions - take their views, only a yard apart - that are put together to create the illusion of depth. The illusion! There is no depth, it's a shit as you see it on the surface. Great, I can see a fucking great rusting crane and some long-derelict warehouses reflected on the river. It's bad enough having to see it once, it should just wash itself down into the sea with all the other shit the Thames picks up on its way down and out into the vast ocean of futile fecundity that is this life."


So conversation had not moved on much; at least nothing of any great consequence had been achieved, the two were just a little more drunk than before. Bruce Springsteen wafted out onto the terrace and a very high class prostitute swept across the floor of the bar inside with the kind of heels that make such a noise as to demand the attention of everyone in the vicinity, potential customer or otherwise. Michael sniffed, wiped his hands on his trousers and pulled a cigarette from the inside pocket of his blazer; Constance rearranged her skirt over her milky knees. Another portly banker sank bank into a cream Chesterfield and chewed an olive, dreaming of the next time he would fly to the US of A in business class to sell madcap loans to going-nowhere 'entrepreneur' loners somewhere in the Midwest on behalf of his failing employers.

Laughter echoed around the tall buildings outside, that carefree kind that is only laughed by someone with a particularly puissant bank card. It began to grow cold; Constance wrapped her jacket around her shoulders and they moved on.