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The Red Woman

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Grandmother’s velvet curtains, IKEA lamp, fake ruby heart. No power to resurrect anyone.

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Memories

“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”.

– “Why?”

– “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?

And suddenly there it is. First turn left after the bus stop, first alley. The house is still standing, and is still white. There’s the brick house, and then the house that was once our home.IMG_20150529_204355

Google Street View stops right there; the street has no name.

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I should have known better.

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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.

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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.

 

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I climbed the stairs that lead from the Wall to the City of David, way up the hill. On the second landing there’s now a sentry box where a very young, and apparently very bored, Israeli soldier, stood guard. I sat on the wall next to the sentry box, under the shadow of a tree, to roll a cigarette. I had taken off my shawl and my long-sleeved blouse, so I was wearing cutoffs and a tee-shirt.The stairs are a good vantage point: all the people coming and going down on the square can be seen from there; at that moment was filled up with of American tourists.

The soldier looked at me, laid carefully his rifle (maybe it was a rifle, I know nothing about firearms; it was long and black) and begged me for a cigarette. I rolled one for him, and we both sat on the wall, this time watching the stairs – because, after a frantic search through pockets  (in his case),  and handbag (in mine) we found out none of us had a lighter.

A varied crowd of people climbed up and down the stairs. The soldier and I kept on asking for a lighter, but the anti-tobacco league is widespread.

One of them, a very round, very jolly mullah, in a long black robe and white turban, approached us with a lighter and, after I rolled another cigarette for him, lighted them.

So there we were, a Muslim, a scantily dressed Jewish woman, and an Israeli soldier, talking about how really expensive tobacco is nowadays and smoking our cigarettes.

There was just one religion missing there, and it was coming up the stairs. The young man wore a pair of canvas trousers but was bare-chested; he didn’t, anyway, need a shirt: his chest was virtually covered with crosses, crucifixes and icons of Saint Mary hanging from gold chains.

When he saw us, he stopped right on his tracks, wide eyed.

– “Sinners!”, he shouted, “you will all burn in hell”.

The mullah, the soldier and me looked at each other. It was the mullah the one to answer first.

– “In what way are we sinning, son?”

– “I can see your black souls, sharing marijuana with the Whore of Babylon! God is my witness!”

– “Yeah, I’ve hidden the marijuana inside my gun”, said the soldier, “you can check it if you want”.

– “The soldier is lying”,  said the mullah, “I’m the one who has the hashish hidden inside my turban “.

– “Convert to the true religion and forget your false prophets! All your false prophets are burning in Hell, and so you will!”

The Israeli soldier exhaled a puff of smoke and calmly said:

– “What about Moses? Isn’t he a prophet of yours, as well? Is he burning in hell?”

– “And Jesus Christ is a prophet of ours”, said the mullah. “Is he burning in Hell too?

– “The only true salvation is in Christianity! Convert, you sinners! Convert and denounce the evil ways of false prophets! Accept Jesus Christ in your hearts, and spread the Word! Denounce the Whore of Babylon!”

He meant me, of course; the Israeli soldier hardly looked the part, and no sane mind could have imagined the round mullah as a voluptuous belly dancer.

By that time there was a crowd of Muslims, American tourists, passers-by and schoolchildren from a nearby yeshiva watching the scene.

The soldier crushed his cigarette but, shook hands with the mullah, smiled at me, retrieved his gun and told everyone to leave. The mullah crushed carefully his cigarette butt, put it inside his pocket, winked at me, and left.  I crushed my cigarette butt, looked around to see where my mates were, and joined them.

– “What was going on?, they asked.

– “We were just having fun”, I answered.

The young man with the crucifixes, after some hesitation, decided to follow the Whore of Babylon, namely me, still shouting.

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I have been trying not to pay very much attention to anything at work. Ok, so I was the one who gave orders and now I´m on the receiving end. It does not matter. After all, I work for the money and that is all. Money is still coming and I am still being as capricious as always when it comes to buying clothes or books.

And to tell the truth and nothing more than the truth: I´m enjoying myself. No responsibilities, no decisions to make, no explanations to give. I go by the book: I do what is requested of me, and no more.

The son of a bitch of the station manager, though, seems to have decided that stripping me of all my privileges and sending me to the beginner´s corner is not enough.  “We have to give a lesson to that woman, the one who was a supervisor and now is not”. That was said right in the middle of a meeting.

And that was enough. Excuse me, but I´m not easily cornered.

So, I called the trade unions representatives and went right to talk with him.

He was stupid enough to say things like “I can´t send you to the cargo  ramp”, “I don´t think of you when I´m at home” (and who asked you that question, pray? What the hell do you mean) “I have hated you from the day I set eyes on you. I said to myself I have to get rid of that woman”.
How the devil has he reached his position?  He must have licked some asses, and  quite dirty ones.

“I´m sorry, but I don´t take kindly to mobbing. I am a proffesional right to my fingertips, and everyone knows it.  If you try to mob me, I am taking sick leave indefinitely. But before I go, I will sue you and I will sue the company. And I´ll win my case: I have recorded everything. So you choose: I just want to be left alone”.

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growing-old

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