“Oh, did you live in Tunbridge Wells? Where?”
And suddenly I realize that I haven’t the foggiest idea where I lived at all. I remember very well the white apartment building, four stories high, every apartment empty but the attic. It was Terry’s den. I remember Terry, of course I do: no woman forgets the first man she ever lives with. He was tall, pale skinned, with lots of freckles and a flashing red moustache, light blue eyes and curly reddish hair. Yes, I remember.
We used to hang about Terry’s den, Roger, Whoopi, Lola, Huguette, Mark, myself. I didn’t think Terry fancied me; it was Roger, the Scottish guy, the one who wanted me in his bed. Terry had already a girlfriend, a Dutch girl, proud owner of a yellow parakeet. But one day Dutch girl and parakeet were gone.
Then one night, while we were classifying photographs on the floor,Terry asked out of nowhere:
– “Will you marry me, Lexie?”
It took me just a nanosecond to answer: “yes”.
– “For fun”
And that was it. That night I graduated from the sleeping bag on the sitting room floor to the mattress and eider-down quilt in Terry’s room. From then on, I shared his bed, his home, and his life.
The parakeet girl returned once. Whe she arrived she said “I suppose Terry’s bed is still my bed”. It was Roger, the discarded Scot, who told her it wasn’t.
We climbed four steps to get to our front door, and four flights of stairs up to our place in the attic. We had pinned several notes to the wall to help visitors: “go up” “keep on going” “just a bit more” “you’re near” “almost here”. Then there was the landing, and the sitting room to the right, and the bathroom. To the left, the kitchen, and a little door which led to yet more stairs to our room. Small, panelled with wood, with a bow-window overlooking the roofs. Little pegs scattered on the wall, where my cotton Indian dresses and Terry’s shirts were hung; left side for me, right side for him. His trousers were neatly folded on top of an overturned wooden box, which we had painted burnt sienna. My side of the mattress was placed against the wall, so the alarm clock was on the floor on his side of the mattress.
-“Lexie, my love, wake up. You’re not going to make the bus”
-“Mmmmm. Just five minutes more”
I remember those summer nights when we opened the bow-window, and ate fish and chips sitting on the roof, laughing at the Salvation Army people who used to sing about sin and punishment five floors below. I remember breakfast, tea and Granola chocolate biscuits.
– “Terry, would you like sugar with your tea?”
– “Yes, my love, four lumps”
– “And would you like some tea with your sugar?” Four lumps, really!
We rolled Old Holborn tobacco in liquorice paper, and his lips and my lips tasted of liquor. We ate Granny Smith apples on the sitting room floor on rainy afternoons. We talked, laughed, disagreed.
– “When I die, and in my funeral, I want this song to be played”.
– “But Terry, My way? Frank Sinatra? I want Always look on the bright side of life”.
– “Monty Python? Lexie, my love, you know you’re crazy, don’t you?”
– “What’s your favourite number”?
– “I don’t have one, Terry. Numbers are just numbers. They mean nothing”.
He waited for me at the bus stop, all dressed up in blue suit, white shirt and tie, still holding his briefcase but with no shoes and no socks. We walked hand in hand to the park, and I read Thackeray while he checked his papers. We went to Scarborough Fair, we went to Brighton, we ran and laughed on the beach.
I loved him with teenage passion, but even then I knew that when my work permit expired, I would leave as the Dutch girl before me had left; Terry would walk me and my backpack to the train station, kiss me and wave goodbye, but he would not try to keep me by his side, as he hadn’t tried to keep the Dutch girl and her parakeet by his side.
– “Lexie, my love, can I borrow some of your cigarettes? I forgot mine at the office”.
– “Just take them, what’s mine is yours”.
I didn’t understand why he insisted on calling me “my love”.
– “Don’t you dare have your hair cut, my love. I quite like the way it falls when you’re on top”.
– “Don’t call me that. You should say “my love” only to the woman you love”
– “I know what I’m saying”.
I remember so many things… why can’t I remember my old address at all? Yes, that’s it, I can try Google Street View. A good option… if I remembered the street.
Let’s see… when I came home from work the bus left me near the War Memorial. That’s a beginning. Right on Mount Pleasant Road. And then we walked down the street… er… no, we couldn’t have walked that long, we were barefoot. Must have been up the street. No… the train station wasn’t near our home. I walk virtually down the street again. And up the street again.
It’s frustrating, I must have walked this road on my way home thousands of times. How can I have forgotten it?
Google Street View stops right there; the street has no name.
I should have known better.
Innocent, pure, virginal, beautiful and shy girl meets the richest, most handsome and most interesting man in the world. Of course she falls head over heels in love with him. Love at first sight. Most gorgeous man in the whole wide world decides that virtue is to be rewarded, marries Pamela and they live happily ever after. Sorry, wrong book. I mean Anastasia, but I’ve read all this before. Didn’t Barbara Cartland write this same book about seven hundred times? Oh yes, she did.
The pure, virginal etc. girl – whose intelligence is outstanding, or so she says – gets drunk and her best friend tries to take advantage of her. Hold on, a friend who tries to rape you when you’re drunk is hardly a friend. Apparently she’s not that intelligent, because she still considers him his best friend, because oh my, what he tries to do is not rape. Then a knight in shining armour, or rather shining BMW, comes to rescue this damsel in distress. Hold on, I’ve read this before as well. It’s what knights in shining armour do as a rule since Tristram rescued Iseult. Though damsels in distress usually weren’t drunk after too many margaritas, cheap wine and beer.
Knight in shining BMW takes her to his castle/loft and fucks her. Virginal girl feels the most shattering orgasm a woman has ever felt in History, it takes her like seven pages to describe it. So shattering it is that as soon as he withdraws she immediately demands another, and knight in shining BMW complies. Hold on again, who’s fucking her? Bloody Superman? Then the innocent inexperienced shy girl performs the best blow job a woman has ever performed, outdoing Monika Lewinski at the first go. Very deep throat, semen swallowing and all, about seven pages. Is this romance or science fiction?
Anyway, the experience must have been shattering indeed, because the now ex-virgin suddenly becomes a hydra with three heads. There’s the
Jiminy Cricket Victorian headmistress personality, the dancing queen/inner goddess personality and the ex-virgin who is deeply in love after a couple of fucks personality. The three personalities are unable to decide if their lover fucker is Angel Clare, Fitzwilliam Darcy or Edward Rochester (literary references to remind us they are intelligent), but they all agree they’re being fucked by Michelangelo’s David reincarnated. The inner goddess, by the way, is always hot and wet and ready for sex, even when wearing a Tampax. In short: the Queen of Blow Jobs suffers from schizophrenia. Three split personalities? Get Dr. Freud here and fast.
Well, ex-virginal girl thinks about fifty ways to leave her lover after discovering that her knight is shining armour is the dark knight after all, but of course she doesn’t leave. Not everyone gets seven orgasms that last seven pages per chapter. It’s so very romantic, when she comes down the stairs and finds Richard Gere playing the piano and gets a seven page orgasm on the instrument – oh sorry, I’ve got the wrong story, that’s Pretty Woman. Then we get seven pages of sex and shattering orgasms (give it to me, baby) on the sofa, then seven pages of shattering sex in the lift, on the billiard table, against a wall, I don’t know, even up the chimney, who cares. It gets utterly boring. Yeah we know, pretty woman. You’re carried to infinity and beyond every time he fucks you. I wonder why the author didn’t copy Fanny Hill for the sex bits, after all, she copied the Twilight series all over the place, classical music Edward Cullen likes included. Meanwhile, the fourteen pages contract the Dark Knight carefully wrote stating which services he demands for his money is forgotten in the intelligent girl’s handbag. Intelligent girl apparently doesn’t realize that getting paid for sex is what prostitutes do.
Intelligent ex-virginal girl then gets a job as PA in a publishing house. Her duties, apparently, include getting pastrami sandwiches for her boss, and running to the next Starbucks to get coffee for aforesaid boss. The rest of Bridget Jones working hours are devoted to sending hot emails to Daniel Cleaver and er, I’ve got the wrong story again. Sorry. Well, as I was saying,
Bridget – I mean Anastasia, works very hard sending hotmails – guess what, not from her Blackberry or her mobile, but from the company computer. Oh my, how intelligent she is. But America is the land of opportunities: in a week she has proved to be so invaluable to the company that she is immediately promoted to chief editor. I must move to the United States ASASP, because I can write really hot emails and apparently that’s all I need to become chief editor somewhere.
As for the Dark Knight, well, yes, he is twisted, but so very attractive, clever, interesting – no, it’s not for his money, even though he’s richer than Rupert Murdoch plus Bill Gates plus the whole Rockefeller family. What woman could resist him? All of us like Hannibal Lecter, after all. So elegant, so cultured, so impeccable a taste in music, food, wines…. oh my, I’ve got the wrong story again.
Hannibal… Christian Grey likes his women tied, manacled, lashed, spanked, humiliated, gagged, caged. He is able to pay, and pays very well, for what he wants. Several prostitutes accepted his terms and his money, or so he says. Oh my, I’m so sorry, they weren’t whores, they just fell for him, but as they were not as intelligent as Anastasia, they couldn’t keep him. As the very intelligent ex-virgin reminds us every two pages or so, every woman hungers for Christian Grey (she keeps repeating “he’s MINE, you slut”, just in case). Oh wait, lesbians don’t, that explains why his second-in-command hasn’t fallen for him, of course. But the rest, oh, the rest, all of us want him for ourselves, no matter how sadistic he is or how humiliating would be to be deprived of our own free will, to have someone monitoring every breath we take, to have even the freedom to choose our own food denied, to be unable to pee without a man watching us. Anastasia knows better: she knows all he needs is love, and because love is all he needs, the nymphomaniac (well, how would you call a woman who wants to be fucked when she’s pregnant, hurt and has an urinary catheter inserted into her bladder?) Anastasia gets a wedding ring – diamonds are, after all, a girl’s best friend.
Not to mention that she gets all his money as well. But it was never about money, or was it? Would she ever have considered moving in with him had he been living in a camper van and bought her clothes at Wal-Mart instead of Neiman Marcus?
I kinda doubt it.
Elvira has been pestering me of late. She wants to know what happened to that book I wrote a long time ago: Flying madness. It was a collection of short, funny stories (mostly true, but somewhat embellished). I don’t know what happened to the book, and I couldn’t rewrite it even if I tried. I do remember some of the stories, and this is one of them. I don’t remember who told it to me, all those years ago. Some colleague from Ansett Australia or American Airlines. It’s probably all over the net by now; airport stories always end up somewhere on the net.
So, Elvira, this is for you.
John Gay, airline employee, decided to go on holidays using the discount tickets that airlines usually offer for staff. He got his standby boarding pass, and was fortunate enough to get a seat at the last-minute gate check. But when he tried to take his seat, he found another passenger was already sitting there. Holders of freebee tickets do not make a fuss, so he simply chose another seat with no passenger sitting on it. Easy, as “free” passengers are usually last on board.
Unfortunately, another flight at the airport was having technical problems (all right, either the plane or the pilot were down). The passengers of this flight were being rerouted to various other flights, Mr Gay’s included. So every seat was needed and “free” passengers were being bumped. The dispatcher, armed with a list of freebee ticket holders and their seat numbers, boarded the plane to tell them they had to give up their seats in favour of fare paying passengers.
So, when the flight dispatcher approached the seat where our mate John Gay was supposed to be sitting, she asked him “Are you Gay?”. The man said that yes, he was, so she told him that he had to get off the plane.
John Gay, realizing what was happening (it’s a standard procedure), stood up and tried to clear up the situation: “I’m Gay, I’ll get off!”.
Then a passenger sitting a few rows back stood up as well and yelled “Hell, I’m gay too! They can’t kick us off!”. Then a fourth, and a fifth, and it was pandemonium as more and more passengers began yelling that the airline had no right to remove gays from their flights.
As far as I know, they’re still on the tarmac trying to sort out the mess.
I don’t usually pay attention to the people who are sitting around me at a restaurant. Or anywhere else, to tell the truth. But yesterday my mate pointed to me a couple sitting at the table next to ours. “Look what their baby’s eating for dinner” – he said.
And I looked. The German (or possibly Austrian) couple Mr. Fat Belly and his wife Even Fatter had filled their daughter’s bowl with French fries – and filled it to the point that said fries were falling on the table, on the floor and onto the baby’s lap. The baby, she couldn’t be more than eighteen months old or so, was having nothing else.
We are staying at one of those super-beach resorts where people help themselves to food and drink as much as they like. The food display was impressive, from fast food (pizza, burritos, spaghetti bolognese, fish and chips, roasted chicken, ham, hamburgers) to vegan (bananas, pineapple, watermelon, mangoes, melon, cauliflower, peas, carrots). And yogurts, jellies, smoked salmon, cheeses, chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, ice cream, meat balls, coleslaw, tempura, fried or boiled eggs…. any food anyone could think of. Yet Mr. Fat Belly and Mrs. Even Fatter just chose to fill their daughter’s plate with fried slices of potatoes.
Oh well, not our business.
Today we were coming back from a late show when we almost collided with something small in the darkness. It was the baby, wandering about the garden on her own. The beach resort is huge, with each hut surrounded with palm trees and bouganvillae shrubs, and pools scattered here and there – so as to give the impression that you’re spending your holidays in a wild place. The only way to find your way to your hut is to check the zone (A;B;C;D;E…) and the numbers (100,101, 217,324…). The child was all alone, there was no other adult around. My mate and I were utterly surprised. It was after midnight. What the hell was doing that baby, still wearing her beach clothes, wandering in the dark?
My mate went to try to locate either Mr. Fat Belly or Mrs. Even Fatter. We didn’t want to leave the little girl alone, but I was well aware that I would frighten her if I picked her up. Being German, or possibly Austrian, she wouldn’t understand a word I said. So I just kept following her and making sure she didn’t go near any of the pools. Given the size of the resort we agreed on a 40 minutes wait before I called the police.
35 minutes later my mate appeared followed by Mrs. Even Fatter, who was holding a beer that kept spilling as she walked, or rather waddled. She picked up her baby (but she held to her beer with the same care) and I was so angry that I shouted “do you know that there are paedophiles out there, or don’t you even care?” but she just shouted at us something that sounded like blutigen ainmischung auslander.
I wish the little girl all the luck in the world. With such a mother, she’s going to need it.
We are, by now, in dire need of a drink. Mint tea for me, hot and fragrant. I retrace our steps on the map and paint the route we walked. I watch literally hundreds of people following our steps, the steps Jesus the Christ is supposed to have walked (some ten or maybe twenty metres below the pavement, bien entendu).
The route begins at the place where Jesus Christ was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate – note to myself: stop thinking of Bigus Dickus. Then it goes back to the flagellation place, where Jesus received thirty-nine lashes. Then it continues more or less in a straight line towards the place where Jesus fell for the first time; zigzags to where he met Myriam (I still don’t know if this Myriam is Mary Magdalene or Mother Mary; my mates, all Christian, don’t know either). Then it goes on to the place where Simon of Cyrene took the cross, to where Jesus met Veronica, and to where Jesus fell for the second time. Simon of Cyrene apparently didn’t carry the cross for very long.
The path goes up to where Jesus is said to have comforted the women of Jerusalem and afterwards retraced his steps, cross and all, to the place where he fell for the second time. And no wonder. The Way of Sorrows goes straight for a while and suddenly disappears; against all probabilities makes half an U-turn to nowhere in special – there Jesus fell for the third time, got up, retraced his steps again, and headed on, at last, straight to the Golgotha, where he was disrobed and crucified.
I’m still trying to make sense of this absolutely crazy Path of Grief, Way of Sorrows, Via Dolorosa. And it does not make sense. The crucifixion place is now in the Old City center; sometime it must have been outside the city walls.
I do not doubt a dissident rabbi would have been crucified by the Romans; crucifixion was a common capital punishment and anyone who knows anything about the old Romans knows they did crucify people, Spartacus and his army of rebel slaves being the most famous of them all – if only because Kirk Douglas made a wonderful job in the movie. But this Way… well, this way makes no sense, not even twenty metres below the pavement. And Romans didn’t conquer half Europe doing senseless things.
Anyway, we followed the Path; and if we had received thirty-nine lashes before the start and had to carry a heavy cross we would have been dead long before arriving to our final destination.
We hadn’t thought of visiting Bethesda. Fortunately – for us – one of my mates found that my street bought falafel was more hygienic than his restaurant-eaten food, and the bathrooms were too tempting for him. So we entered.
Apart from the church, which has been a cistern, a wall, a Roman temple dedicated to Serapis (Romans didn’t care much about whose gods belonged to whom: Serapis is an Egyptian god); the temple was destroyed by the Persians, and rebuilt as a Byzantine church, destroyed again by Caliph Hakim and rebuilt by the Crusaders, who dedicated it to Saint Anne. Salal al Din destroyed it and the site was converted into a Koranic School.
From them on it has been a Church, and there are excavations all over the place.
A column from the crusaders’ time (easily recognizable):
Some of the excavations reach down to the original ground – again, hopefully: it’s not that easy to excavate a city under a city.
Originally there were some cisterns here, and around one of them the sick people waited to be cleaned, as they couldn’t go near the Temple if sick. So it must have been there, or very near there, where Jesus cured a paralytic, according to John 5,1-9. This information was painfully dug up by me in a Christian Bible; I just remembered the ex-leper dancing around Brian and claiming to have been cured by Jesus.
Anyway, this seems to be the pool – or what is left of it.
The water is stagnant.