No 168 - 2002
Son of Sinbad
Memory. Being abducted by Iranian terrorists in
the sand dunes of my youth. I remember a beach. Held
hostage there for days. Tied up. Force-fed The Music of
Andrew Lloyd Webber via headphones... police finding me
dazed and confused... almost catatonic.. Other memories
too: an incident in a boys changing room... (a stout
Geography teacher, arms folded. Smiling. What was that
all about?) Liverpool seeming a big city at the time... the
iron railings and squares. The ice cream streets, the skittish
impoliteness. The old school buildings rusting obtrusively.
Furniture inside all made from cheap pine. (Only later it occurred
to me that I had been studying literature and
history and music my entire adolescence for a future
eventuality which never arrived under my nose: a nose
oddly unassuming at the time, lengthening much later of its
own accord, two nostrils flaring with a feast of mucus. Yes,
I was nervous as a youngster. Yet I was not unacquainted
with the bravery of stealing other people’s cars...) My
father? Since you ask, he was a magician and disappeared a
lot. He’s going away to sea, a group of relations told me
one day. There are so many adventures for him to have,
they chorused. So many oceans left for him to cross... Then
a cowboy came from the South and introduced himself to
me in the hallway. I was 15. So I didn’t grasp the
significance of the event at the time.
following the cowboy to Southwark, the cowboy dropping my mother’s crockery, various pieces in various places, usually against walls, my mother buying high quality replacement crockery at first, but as the cowboy continued to drop her crockery, just picking it up cheaply at car boot sales and second hand shops, eventually giving up on buying any replacement crockery at all, realising not all cowboys were good guys, carpet burns chafing my face from where he held me down and buggered me repeatedly, playing the Johnny Cash records which made my mother unfairly nervous, spluttering sometimes like an old car engine refusing to
still out there,’ she said, the night we went to the seaside without the cowboy, ‘I can feel him still out there’, while I fell asleep she stayed up all night, checking the pale street outside, her eyes starting to turn red that summer, spending most of it sat up in bed, shrouded in white sheets, limbs skeletal and fleshless now, hair thinning also
raised by distant Eskimo relations suddenly appearing in extreme close up, their skin brown and well-leathered, fields of golden flames blazing endlessly through my childhood window until the fire services were called out, ‘Eskimos?’ the kids at school laughed, ‘Don’t they live in ice houses?’, ‘No,’ I explained to them, ‘Motels’, drinking my first full bottle of Vodka when I was nine, my Eskimo grandmother giving it to me, nightmares following, codeine in her portable medicine cabinet too, also some grass, some acid and mescaline, nobody knowing what they were going to find in that cabinet next, moving onto her bourbon when I was twelve, because it made me talk funny and I’d
education coming and going in front of the portable television set, flipping channels from game show to plane crash, ‘What are you going to do with the rest of your life?’ some people asked, ‘This...’ I replied, flipping channels some more
eventually thinking of trains, of unexpected movement, frequent delays, pulling up a chair beside me, her conversation unreeled at random: ‘Kierkegaard!’ she cried, ‘Isn’t he great?’, ‘No,’ I mumbled, embarrassed, Evangeline in that flimsy black dress, utterly mesmerized by the abundance of
breasts falling apart, between her lifted bikini top,
nipples slung low like lazy eyes, mouth all inviting
teeth, skin perfectly caramelised, the sight not
unexpected, but happy, staring up into her dark
eyes, puzzled, afraid, two years passing although I
didn’t notice at the time, and now I loved a bitch.
She had a big old head, pale hair and dark, watery
lips. I submitted to her orders. I stripped for
her, called her Boss. I licked her boots. She attached a collar to my neck and led me on my knees to the master bedroom where
the car overturned unexpectedly, and we were pulled singing from the wreckage. Unusually blonde medics lead us away down the motorway, hand in hand. Vague periods of hospitalisation followed, I admit. The next thing I know Alice turns to me, an empty wine glass squinting in her hand. ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ she asks.
Her glass fixes me with an odd gaze.
‘Where am I?’ I ask, looking around.
‘Australia,’ she says.
To my left is a large stretch of dark water. Above me is a silvery moon.
‘What am I doing here?’ I ask myself, out loud.
‘Please go and throw yourself in the nearest river,’ she said, eventually.
I knew then I’d lost her. Eating lobster in a glass restaurant.
‘That’s not a mistake I’m particularly keen to make,’ I pointed out, regarding her river proposal. (Homosexuals surrounded me with questions, questions, questions in the rest room. While I froze up inside. Unable to answer them or finish my lobster or even request a refund.) Alice left for good then, when she won her first Brit award. I had devoured her radiant nipples like sunlit pizza. I had repeatedly straddled her vagina with the barbaric force of a spicy Quorn burger squeezed inside a dwarfish sesame bun. Now she made thirty thousand pounds in less than an afternoon shooting a Pampers commercial.
• (Life struck me as unfair)
“... this was 1995... temporary shelter in Britpop... maybe looking for a guru... yeah, my initial impulse naive... a romantic time... whatever... just wanted some excitement... to nick some grass... bake marijuana pie... be self-indulgent... six of us in a hire car: destination Newquay... living cheap, the dope good... stammering slightly in everyday conversation... out on the trail... looking out at the motorway... the pin-prick cities... a half-imagined landscape of incidents and conversations stretching out before me like a rippling acoustic... Cardiff... Dublin... Nottingham... London... New York... cities filled with muted dreams... improvised trumpet solos waiting to be improvised... released from the ragged spirituality of life up North... surrounded by women ... thousands of them... the most magnificent women I have ever seen...helping the beautiful paraplegic girl back onto her feet... letting go of her hand... the beautiful paraplegic girl falling back down again... other, less attractive women also... viewing them all as an equally spectacular and particularly wondrous seafront hotel...”
“... pole-vaulting through my window... moving in soon after... her skirt sliding right up those slick naked thighs... biting her top lip... eyes dull and unresponsive... talking about ouija boards... a film she liked... What do you like about it?... The theme music... staggering down into the dunes... Emily with me, unshaven... early and the pale light bleaching the waves... the rest not here... This feels strange... Why? ... Don’t know... her stubble glinting with perspiration... coming down on the beach... side by side, waves washing in... her t-shirt pulled up high... her flat, bare stomach... catching the sun... talking of the future... how there wasn’t going to be one... I was to be her lover... for just under a week, she decided... never to tell anyone about me... being older and less physically attractive than her seemed to be a problem... sometimes when drunk she did help me piss straight, however... in retrospect certain satisfactory events at the time... got drained of any meaning immediately afterwards...”
I abstracted, then. Hardly a career move. A near fatal mistake in all honesty. Nobody understood. Along the promenade, your absence embracing me. Engulfing me. The resonance of the sea not letting go. Later, I fragmented. Hardly a wise move either. The hearts of others pounding. My fear of wages growing daily. My self-want self-destructive, a wild desire, a talent for natural waste. Lost in metaphor suffocating me like a Mediterranean hotel room without a halfway decent air conditioning system... like a man on the gallows, not sure he wants anybody to cut through his noose. (Meanwhile, subsidised Arts funding mended my inanest feelings, but robbed the painful creative poverty from my existence. Saddened most of the time, yet also faintly delighted in the evenings because of my recent voguish indulgence of fine wines.) Lonely evenings by my own admission, myself now rudderless. Sickness closing in on my gums. After a sorrowful period in a situation comedy, I eschewed Indie music and began writing dreary screenplays, my mind growing for over a year: idiotic, lazy, vacated almost permanently. During one night, a partially sighted stranger reminded me of Evangeline, only with a limp. Regaining consciousness, we spent time dancing at the other end of the ballroom. The partially sighted stranger deciding I should smash my hand through the nearest windowpane. But when I got there, thought about it, I decided not to. The partially sighted stranger leaving my room emptied and darkened. Again. The past being scythed from under my feet... pianists I once loved all long since grown dull and lyrically uninspired...
... aching alone, frequently frequenting all-new improved
Thai restaurants, better than before, superior in almost
every regard, etching out notes on napkins, some
thoughts towards an unfinished novel called Evangeline.
There are, I decide, six ways of looking at Evangeline: 1)
As an historical event 2) As a learning curve 3) As purely
symbolic 4) As someone I once knew 5) As romanticised
revisionism 6) As a lost opportunity. But then: a gigantic
explosion of waiters. Choreographed. In spandex waistcoats. At
the funeral of a mutual relation. Each pushing a dazzling trolley of exotic drinks. Flaming azure cocktails drunk by minor TV celebrities. Everybody else pitch-black in sombre dinner suits. Except for the minor TV celebrities, laughing loudly - and your father; who is here: now smaller than before, costumed as Sinbad: garrulous bandanna, polka dot cape, bulging satin jump suit, carefully tousled beard. Pulling rabbits out of hats for the amusement of a gaggle of blasé woman: carousing them expertly. There is so much you want to know, so much you want to ask. Like: where did he disappear to all those years ago. (And why? And why? And why? ) ‘In a former life I was a magician,’ he tells you, earnestly. ‘I trained in the dark arts. But it wasn’t quite me. I had to get out. I needed a new adventure... None in particular. I just needed a new adventure. And there were so many to be had back then. So many oceans. So many waltzes. So much human drama. It was only later, after I’d crossed the vastest oceans (2nd voyage), danced a thousand identikit waltzes (4th voyage), witnessed a myriad of forgettable human dramas (7th voyage), that I came to understand I’d made a grave, grave mistake. It happened when I found myself in a tricky situation: namely, confronted by a large one-eyed woman in a skin-tight rubber frogsuit, harpoon gun aimed straight at my head. Well, it is at times like these (confronted by a large one-eyed woman in a skin-tight rubber frogsuit, harpoon gun aimed straight at your head) that it can be apposite to ask yourself certain question about the strange sequence of events which has brought you to this exact point in your life ...’
Nodding vigorously, but saying nothing.
Your father jollified, happier than ever it seems, relieved of some burden. ‘There’s nothing out there,’ he says, ‘you understand that, don’t you?’ and you say, ‘Yes, oh yes,’ eyes swimming with disappointment, knee-deep in thoughts of uncrossed oceans, manmade beaches, yawning wine-dark women, unfashionably family-orientated coastal resorts...
HP Tinker is the pseudonym of acclaimed feminist critic and poet, Heidi Zellweger. Don't Let Them Call You Skinny, her 37th volume of poetry and casual thoughts, is currently available in most good discount book shops. To find out more about her publishing career and recent breakdown visit www.hptinker.com.
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