by Martin James Hunter
A Near Fatality
I am standing in a public square. A Gothic clock tower leers overhead, its hands clasped at midnight. Around me a diverse gathering of the public all shapes and sizes and nationalities. Some beggars also present. A rare moment existing without prejudice.
A figure draped over a bench on his back, another administering CPR. The only sound is that of clothing with each pump of his arms. For this brief moment I am convinced the figure is dead. Uneasily I watch on.
The relief as his chest begins pulsing with slow rhythm. Eyes gradually opening. Pink slits directed towards the sky. No stars tonight, only thick clouds. Awakening to a grey palette. The crowd stand in silence, the air heavy with uncertainty.
For obvious reasons the first thing I think of is drugs. A veteran in a specific type. I step forward and pry his eyelids further but his pupils are normal. Waving a hand over them brings no response. Already out of ideas I step back from the scene, my meagre contribution over. No idea what I was expecting really.
Suddenly, motion. A gradual reawakening of the limbs. An old computer slowly booting up. He rises like a rigid dummy. Hands jerking violently as though being shaken by the wrist. The man tries to stand up and as though having taken a bullet goes down sideways but I’m there. A sense of triumph. The Heroic Beggar.
Then the paramedics and police are there. Arriving simultaneously as though having waited on another in order to emerge on cue. The sight of the authorities is enough to obliterate my feeling of accomplishment. The smell of vodka thick on my breath, the bottle in my pocket. The man now in capable hands, I make my escape.
Final Blow Out
Before entering I peer in the window. The place is designed after a Texan barn. Hay spread across the floor. Bales instead of seats. Saloon doors to cubicles. An attractive woman in a checked shirt singing chart music in a western accent.
The door steward challenges me as I approach. I mention journalism, flashing my notebook like an identification card. The man’s eyes light up at the concept. With the softening of his face and voice, I am granted access.
Sitting up front I quickly grab the attention of the band. The mysterious figure scribbling away. Eyes alternating between them and the pad. Perhaps they consider me a critic of some sort, cruelly assessing their performance. It may be my imagination but I feel they have suddenly applied more effort. Spurred on by the arrival of this bearer of judgement.
I am now relatively drunk. My money will not last forever, particularly in this pretentious city. The aim is to make the most of it while I can.
Whilst outside smoking, a camp stranger approaches and initiates conversation. He asks where I come from and I humour him. Turns out his hometown is nearby, and that he knows of my village. Upon further questioning it so happens he is friends with my sister. After being introduced to his associates I decide to leave with them for a club.
She is standing outside when I arrive. The porcelain doll. I was aware she lived here before purchasing my ticket so am not surprised at her image. But I am surprised at the speed of our reunion.
As I approach, her eyes light up with surprise and happiness in tandem with my own. Like before we begin causing mischief to those around us. Drinks stolen with ineffible speed. A dunt of ketamine brought to the attention of my nose, compliments to her friend. Supposed to be behaving myself but why not. In the toilets I express my admiration for the substance to a man in a similar state. Tell him I would shake his hand if I were not urinating. On the dancefloor someone repeatedly bumps into me and I push them over with a clumsy hand.
It becomes time to leave. As we retrieve our jackets my camp friend approaches with bitter eyes. Who’s that bitch? he snarls, confirming my suspicions. A friend, I reply as I turn my back on the man.
The clubs here are open a lot later than in Glasgow. Throughout the night figures stagger in the distance like the undead. The clattering of high heels on cobblestone. Vomit and broken glass around every corner. As we make our way through the city we are not starved for entertainment.
We stand on a bridge over a canal. In an eruption of light the next day is being born. The water glares painfully back at the sky, its surface now a pathway of fine metal.
I received no call and my phone has long since died. With a great heave it is sent to a watery grave as though having spoken ill of the wrong person. Then I am atop a barge, and opening another’s door. As I peer in a slit of daylight cuts across the interior. Accumulated mess in great piles. Something swinging from the ceiling. Suddenly a voice. Movement from the darkness. Maybe an arm. Without hesitation we make our escape.
We race alongside the water until we come to an embankment. Up there we find an orange net blocking an entrance to a building site. We tear through and are soon lost within a network of concrete. In that moment I am again a child rich with imagination. As she darts off I shut my eyes and cover my ears and count to thirty.
Peering into the foundations of each room I find only basic shapes. Each one the same impression, each one the same void. Chalk sent up in a roil of grey with every brittle footstep. Emptiness after emptiness after emptiness. For a minute her warmth dissipates and I am alone inside this unfinished structure.
Then he is blinding me with his torchlight and telling me I need to leave. Uniformed command intercepting liberty yet again. Though this one is not entirely unpleasant. Just doing his job. Like a disobedient child I am brought through a grey and featureless labyrinth until again united with her in the courtyard.
Two Days Later
I descend her stairwell towards the pavements scorning myself for cheating. Having somehow managed to expend most of my money in no time at all I am now unable to celebrate at that level again. The daylight almost blinds me as I push open the close door.
Cigarette in hand, I turn to the public for a lighter. A dozen of them pass without acknowledgement, two of them smoking. One woman in particular cuts me a glare as though I were made of the most abhorrent matter conceivable. Assuming my first request will be followed by a second for change. Not yet pal.
Eventually the end of my cigarette is lit and I am on my way. The sky is filled with antagonistic clouds but for now the path remains dry. Eyeing the heavens wearily, I head east. Today’s objective is to find a place to sleep.