Sunday, 24 April 2016

Just stay

So I'm sitting there again, slightly freaking out. I find myself in the same situation time and time again. Different people, different places. Same story.

The pub is almost the same as all the others. The carpet is a variation on the same carpet. The drinks were all the same.

"Fag?" he holds out a slightly crumpled ciggy.

A wave of redish purple social anxiety rolls from the ceiling, down the wall behind me and over to my forehead, leaving a subtle film over the top of my cerebrum.

"Yeah sure," I take the fag and follow him outside.

Rich joins us and we discuss the nuances of the Sunday evening psyche.

"Right, I'll see you inside yeah." Rich stubs his out.

There's a pause until the pub door closes. I back up against the wall and notice that my heart starts beating distractingly hard. It makes me aware of my breathing and then I become aware that my mind is blank for what to say next. It's so hard to describe the overwhelming feeling of social anxiety, but the word panic comes to mind.

Each thud in my chest brings to mind an excuse to use for jumping on the next train.

"...I mean, it's just not right, you know?" Ian weighed up one hand.

"Uh yeah, yeah totally," I stammer my way through the automatic response.

We head in and I go to the bathroom, preparing to make my exit after peeing. The emerald green walls of the toilet are bathed in the warm glow of the eco light-bulb. Light danced around the smooth surfaces of shiny white sinks.

I slammed open the tap and gargled a mouthful of water. My reflection looks anxious so I gargle another mouthful.

"Just stay." She had said on that beach. She had this way of smiling with her eyes that made you feel like she knew just exactly what she was talking about.

So I did. That time, on the beach, I had stayed.

I stayed very still sometimes, on that beach, trying to learn the art of self-control from her. I didn't master it, on that beach, nevertheless good things had come from staying.

So this time, in the pub, I stayed - and I had a cracking time.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

White noise

She pressed her feet into the sand, still slightly warm from the day and looked out over the ocean to the sky, still softly coloured from the sun.

Frenzied seabirds and raging waves echoed off each other, the next getting louder than the last.

She kept an eye out for snakes that might be tangled in the wild vines of the sand dunes. She waded through the beach's white noise on her way to no where in particular.

One foot landed and the other foot lifted. The other foot lifted and one foot landed squarely on a hard-knuckled hand.

Her eyes followed the hand as it pulled back over the head of a young man, sitting crossed legged facing the ocean.

"Why are you crying?" their eyes levelled as she kneeled in front of him. He reached both hands out and pulled her onto his lap. She wiped a warm tear away and he pushed his rugged cheek into her palm.

"Because I was thinking about the way time is," he rested the crown of his head against her sternum and clung to her waist.

Her brow furrowed as she thought for a moment and fiddled with his ear lobes. His shoulders shook and he tightened his grip.

When he looked up at her face she saw that he was laughing. She crinkled her eyes and wiped his nose with her shirt.

"It sounds a bit dramatic when I say it out loud," and they both laughed a little, then a lot.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

6th November 2015

On the day of Soma Edirisinghe's funeral. She was an incredible woman.


I was sitting in an empty Hansa cafe that morning. The barista and I were a couple of coffees into enjoying each others silence. Dust floated in the soft sunlight.

The tiny room was scuffed from countless jazz and poetry nights and was steeped in that post-colonial Colombo ambiance, kind of frozen in the late-50's.

I was staring absently at the space between me and fliers on the opposite wall. Suddenly, the door swung open and slammed against the fliers. The room froze before tipping into chaos.

An older sweaty man in white linen staggered through the frame. He swung around at the sound of the door clicking shut and blinked at the window, tears streaming down his cheeks. He took off his sunglasses and stumbled closer to the counter.

"Can I have an espres- a double espresso? Please," he weighted each word with breathy sobriety.

"Y-y-yes, uhm please sit. I will bring for you," the barista quickly set about making the coffee.

"Can you grind the beans? Fresh, in front of me? What kind are they? Do I have a choice as to what kind of roast I'll be drinking?" he gargled.

The barista hesitated, looking over at me, cup in hand.

"I saw him grind the beans two minutes ago," I raised my coffee. He managed to focus on my face for a few seconds and smile.

The man pushed out a wheezy laugh and collapsed into the chair under the fliers. His left arm hung off the back of the chair and he rested his right elbow on the tiny table. He let his knees splay, melting his back against the wall.

"What's that you're reading? I- I- I'll tell you someone to read.. Malcolm Gladwell, he wrote Blink, Runaway, David and Goliath.." he sobbed lightly wiping his tears away.

The barista brought the coffee over and the man drew back slightly. He bowed his head in thanks.

"You know, I- I- you'll have to understand, I lost a very dear.. She was.. The reason why I am so very different to that dear, sweet girl is because of Karl Marx. She never tried to change anyone you know, always accepted people as they were." He pushed his sunglasses back on and sniffed, shaking his head.

"I'm sorry to hear that. Were you close?" I watched as he emptied cigarettes, a wad of cash and keys out of his pocket and onto the table. He cried all the while.

"She was.. You know, we.. What makes the world go round? Some say money, but actually it's the gravitational pull of the planetary system. Round and round it goes, on and on. And we? Well, we..." He pushed out another wheezy laugh.

The door tinkled open and a guy in a grey suit walked in. He ordered a coffee then sat on the sofa next to my chair. He pretended to read documents from a folder.

We listened to the hum of the AC, waiting for the man in linen to speak again.

"Now, now.. Now, you see, this is how I am going to categorise you. What is -" another older man with a pony-tail entered the cafe and the man in linen bolted out of his chair.

"Fancy meeting you here, join me for a coffee will you? I want you to sit right here with me and tell me a joke." He followed the pony-tail to the counter, holding his finger up as he spoke.

"Ah shit, don't do this now..." the pony-tail was wearing a blue shirt and jeans. "What are you doing here?" he sounded fed up.

"No- no- because now, I want to know, just what exactly were you doing before coming in here? Where were you? Come, sit here with me. Tell me a joke, I need one today. You are being very rude now because I have invited you to sit with me" he jerked in closer to the pony-tail's face with every word till they were nose to nose.

"Look, I'm leaving. I can't -" the pony-tail tried to duck past the man in linen.

"Can't? Or Won't?" the man in linen blocked the door, slowly shaking his head. "You, you, you.. You are like the dengue mosquito infecting everyone with your disease," his lip curled.

"Get out of my way." the pony-tail hissed and motioned for the barista.

The barista stood up.

"Okay, okay! Okay... Leave, if you must," he held his hands up and wheezed out a laugh as the pony-tail left. His eye's panicked as he padded around agitatedly, wringing his hands.

"Hey man, do you wanna go out for a smoke?" the guy in the grey suit gently asked.

"Now here is a real man!" gratitude rushed over his tear soaked face. Before the door shut on them he poked his head back into the cafe and laughed.

"Sorry for being, how do they say it? Interruptus maximus! Haa haa haa..."

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


We were all sitting around here and there, under the warm glow of the lamp shade, under the coconut-leaf-thatched roof, under the starry sky.

I can't remember what but we were celebrating something.

The beach was soon to begin that osmosis of becoming saturated with tourists but for now it was suspended sweetly and quietly. It was just waves, clinking from our glasses and peals of laughter.

I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my flushed cheeks. I giggled at my reflection because it was pointless. When I got back to the group, a tall man had taken my place and was talking to Oshi.

"Ah! Hello hellooo! How are you?" He jumped up with a huge smile and shook my hand enthusiastically.

"Ha-ha-hallo, I'm fine! What's your name?" I couldn't help but to laugh.

"Very good, very gooood! My name is Chaminda," he proudly spread his arms, "what is your name?"

"Veena! Nice to meet you Chaminda," I curtsied to him, fanning out the hem of my dress and hopped back up on the daybed.

He took his place at the opposite side of the crooked circle. He held his wine glass to his nose pacing back and forth, thinking.

"Veena, Veena... Ah! Veena! We have a story about Veena from the old times of Sri Lanka. You know the one that people are playing for the music?"

"Ah, ah, what's the story?" I asked.

Everyone was listening now. He cleared his throat and started to perform.

"Many, many years ago there was a Prince in Sri Lanka and he played the veena. He was playing so nicely that people coming from everywhere, even far far away, just to listen. He was famous!" He made a sweeping gesture with his arm.

"Then, one day, a woman coming to listen and she having a baby in her hands." He looked down at a baby cradled in his arms. "She's listening to the sound and the sound is so nice! is so beautiful! that she's falling down the baby!" Chaminda's face creased and he bent over in a roar of laughter. "She's falling down the baby!"

The group erupted with laughter and they started remembering the story in Singhalese. Chaminda stood like a Prince and played an imaginary instrument. "Veeeeeeena!"

I'm sure we were celebrating something but we always used any excuse anyway.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Tamil banana. Part 2.

So, we walked past the reception and nodded hello to the guys behind the desk. They looked at us strangely because maybe its a bit of a strange sight, you know, a young girl with an ancient dreadlocked dude. Or maybe it's not that strange, I don't know.

Anyway, we stopped in front of a private room. It was unlocked and thankfully he didn't hold open the door for me.

He went and sat at the dressing table and started mixing a brown paste with some water in a plastic bottle.

I planted myself firmly in the open doorway and tried to casually lean against the frame but I must have looked on edge because I felt pretty on edge.

A tall chubby Pakistani man wearing black plastic glasses was standing at the foot of the double bed.

His nose was red and puffy and he was assessing the situation through sideways glances.

Dreadlocks gave him the plastic bottle and he drank the whatever it was.

"I told you I'm a healer. You have to be careful about what you eat, so many things are poison, even the tomatoes. Come with me and I'll take you places." He held out the brown paste for me to smell. "These are herbs, there are 23 in here. They can fix any kind of problem you have with your breathing, you know, if you have a cold or flu or whatever."

The room was very white and the lights were very bright and I really didn't know what to say.

I edged into the room keeping the door wide open and behind me. The herbs smelled spicy.

"Here, this is for you angel," he held out a banana. "It's a Tamil banana, up from the north. I got them fresh from the tree."

"Yeah, I've known Russell for years and whenever I have a problem he fixes it for me. But he doesn't like it when I go to Ministry of Crab, he says its poison, but it tastes hella good. Do you wanna grab some food tomorrow?" He asked me from the corner of his mouth, with a sideways look.

I took the banana and looked at it. Then I looked at the Pakistani man.

"Uuhhm, I'm seeing someone...tomorrow," and I really hated that I didn't just say no because I didn't want to go. "So, Russell? I'm pretty tired by now, thanks for the.." I shook my head slightly and left.

I kind of wonder what would have happened if I had committed to the situation more, what story I would be writing instead of this. But anyway I climbed up to my room, sat on my bed and ate what turned out to be the tastiest banana I've ever had.

Tamil banana. Part 1.

I was sitting on the marble window ledge outside my hostel, smoking there because I just liked that spot on the street, especially at that time of night.

Anyway, a blacked-out Jeep pulled into the driveway of the hostel.

It stopped midway, next to the window ledge.

The electric window whirred down and from its smoky depths a dark figure leaned out.

Naturally, as anyone would, I approached the window.

"I didn't see you yesterday, I came looking," his voice drawled.

I took a drag, kind of buying time, because what the hell am I supposed to say to that?

"Yeah?" I studied his eyes. They were soft brown, old age had collected in a grey ring around the iris.

"Yeah, you're staying in room seven, yeah, I saw your bag in there when I knocked yesterday. My friend needed a place to stay so I checked him in here. You don't know it maybe but we drove past you right here the day before. Now I'm thinking," he leaned closer, "what's an angel doing sitting out here and where did she come from?"

I poised the cigarette between us, by way of answer I guess, because really now, what the hell am I supposed to say to any of that?

"I'm from Pakistan but I was born in London. Where are you from?" I thought he was wearing a turban but actually he had wrapped his decades long dreadlocks around his head.

I thought about why I had just told him that.

"I'm from right here! Sri Lanka. Ah, so what you doing down there where they eat the pig? You're drinking toilet water in London, toilet water. After so many years of eating pigs they become pigs, don't you know. Do you smoke? The herb, I mean." He held out a fat joint.

"No thank you, I'm a teacher.." I had a strong impulse to bail on the situation and I think he sensed it because he pulled back into the darkness of the Jeep. Smoke billowed out of the window.

His chest rumbled with slow laughter while he pulled on his long white beard. His eyes searched my face for something.

"I'm a healer, don't you know.." His mouth set in a grim downwards smile that didn't reach his eyes.

He rolled the car into the car park and we started walking up the stairs of the hostel.

"Come and meet my friend. He's from Pakistan too. You should stay with your people, not those pig eating, toilet water types. An angel like you should be with her people, I can take you places don't you know. I got a white woman. Man! I can't get rid of her! She's got five children from me and I tell you, she just won't go away."

I followed him to a room and mulled over the many things he'd just said.

Monday, 28 December 2015

The cockroach.

It was dark brown; hard and polished.

Scuttling around, twitching its antennae, probably on some Godless mission - unaware and hateable by virtue of its very being.

I snatched the bum-gun and shot.

The cockroach wasn't expecting the assault. It panicked, desperately trying to find a way away from the relentless jet.

I cocked my head, clinically looking on as the water pummelled the pitiful creature.

When I finally let up the cockroach pressed itself into the tiled corner up on its hind legs, it's forelegs out and ready to brace itself against another attack.

Confused betrayal seeped through the bathroom.

He never came back.