Sunday, 25 September 2011
...Joe - Chapter 4
Give me silence and I will make it my music
These last 48 hours have really taken it out of me. Why does life have to be so brutal? It doesn’t feel like I slept last night. My eyes are sore and my neck is stiff, a sign of a bad night for me. After getting Jonie to bed I just lay there staring at the ceiling, thinking.
The kettle whistles and I instinctively pour hot water into two mugs and let the tea bags steep. I arch my back and rub the back of my neck in an attempt to relieve some of this stiffness; it must have been the weed. I rolled a “final” joint before bed, it must have been that. I rub my aching head and try to dislodge some of the sleep from my eyes and grab the milk out of the fridge.
I spin round and Jonie’s standing in the doorway.
“Bloody hell Jonie, you scared the life out of me”
“It’s alright, how you feeling?”
“Yeah, good I guess”
I doubt it. She looks like someone sprayed pepper spray in her eyes.
I finish making the tea and hand her a mug.
“So, what do you want to do today?”
We need some adventure, some excitement after all this darkness. I try to come up with a few ideas. Zoo, trampoline, paintballing, cinema, theatre, arcade, gallery – museum? But they all sound lame and take way too much energy, which I, of course, have none of. Jonie’s staring at me and I realise I haven’t spoken for at least 15 minutes. I’ve been so caught up in my own thoughts.
“How about we just go to St James’s Park?”
“Yeah, that’s a great idea”
Jonie always has the best ideas.
“Ok so how about we leave in an hour? We can pick up some more beer and you know food and pack a blanket and music or books or magazines, you know or whatever you want to read...”
She’s rambling which means she’s nervous and she doesn’t need to be, it’s just us, Jonie and Joe, no matter what happens.
Jonie turns swiftly, tea in hand,
“I’m going to have a shower ok?”
“Ok” I call back.
I put some bread in the toaster, Jonie’s going to take awhile in the shower, I might as well get something to eat.
45 mins later she’s out of the shower and giving me that “why-aren’t-you-dressed-yet-look”. I grab a clean towel from the cupboard and jump into the shower, there’s so much steam I can barely breathe. I turn on the water and it’s cold. For fucks sake. How the hell do you use all the fucking water? I’m so angry but I need a shower so I brave it. Fuck me it’s really fucking cold. I’m gulping down air, I feel like my body's going into shock and I swear my balls are freezing. I’m in and out in five minutes a record I think. I wrap a towel around my middle and ruffle my hair in the mirror, it looks good. I look like a young Jimmy Hendrix – minus the talent. I grab a pair of boxers and jeans of the floor and drag them on whilst frantically looking for a t-shirt that doesn’t smell as if I live on the streets. I find a green Fred Perry polo shirt under a pile of papers in my wardrobe and pull it on. It smells ok; if I spray it a bit under the arms no one but me will know.
By the time I finish getting dressed Jonie is standing in the hall, waiting for me. She looks agitated; she’s clenching and unclenching her fists. By her feet is my battered blue rucksack, practically bursting at the seams – what the hell could she possibly have in it?
“Hey Jo what’s in the bag?”
I sound like a game show host.
“Oh you know a couple packets of biscuits, a few cans, those portable speakers you have – by the way do they work? And my iPod, your iPod, a blanket and that book you told me to read – you know the one about a tiger or something? And an umbrella, just in case it rains you know?”
My heads swimming, how can one person fit so much into a sentence? And how the fuck did she get all that into a rucksack? I stare at her in disbelief and all I can think it’s that one day she’ll make a terrific mum.
“Cheers Jo. Err you’ve thought of everything”
I smile, she smiles, all is right again.
We walk to Balham tube station with Jonie struggling half the way with the rucksack before she finally lets me take it off her. We wait forever for the tube – I fucking hate the northern line it’s a load of bollocks, the trains are always packed and there is always some fucker on there vying for your seat. Every time you move, even if it’s just to scratch your arse, they twitch, ready at any moment to pounce.
We get on and the trains relatively quiet but then we hit Clapham common and its sheer madness – I guess everyone’s heading in to town for some shopping. I’d wish they’d piss off and stop stepping on my fucking feet. The crowd is making me agitated and I can feel my chest getting tight, I look over at Jonie and she takes my hand, running her thumb over my thumb, she looks me in the eyes and mouths “take a deep breath”. I do as I’m told and I feel a bit better but then a crowd of tourists force their way on at Kennington and I wanna get up and scream “there’s no space for God’s sake get off” but I don’t. I grit my teeth and try to focus, the sound of their language making my head spin. The doors close and I’m fucked. The train stops in the tunnel and I remember that it’s a long way to go before we reach Waterloo and I’m sweating, I can smell myself, the odour of my high priced clothing is seeping off me. Jonie keeps stroking my thumb and I close my eyes, concentrating on the rhythm her thumb is making on mine and before I know it we’re at Waterloo and its only two stops till Charing Cross and I can hold on till then, I know I can. No one gets on – there’s still no fucking room, those tourists and their stupid backpacks and their overpriced SLR’s with stupid attachments. It’s Embankment and Jonie grabs my arm and drags me off. It takes my body a while to realise what’s happening but I’m so relieved to be on the platform, I feel like dancing.
“Come on Joe”
Jonie hands me the blue rucksack and weaves her hand into mine, guiding me through the crowds, up the stairs and into the blazing sunlight, fuck that feels fantastic. I blink for a moment, trying to adjust my eyes to the light and I squint at Jonie, relishing the feel of the sun on her skin. She’s so beautiful.
We walk through Charing Cross, past the British portrait museum and the tourists frolicking on the lions. We walk up the mall and I can see the park, Jonie’s mouth is moving but for the life of me I can’t understand a word she’s saying, I’m too engrossed in my own moment.
We picked a good day to hit the park, it’s nice and hot and thankfully it’s not too full. We pick a spot next to the lake and set up camp. Jonie’s still rambling on about “fun St James’s park facts” and all I’ve gathered from her so far are random snippets like “did you know it was named after St James’ the lesser AND a leper hospital?” blah blah blah. I can’t take this Jonie. I need the old one back pronto.
“Jonie please, just shut the fuck up, I’m really not interested in St James the lesser. Can we just crack a beer and play some music and I dunno act fucking normal please?”
Jonie’s silent. Fuck. I’m such a cunt. After everything she’s just done for me. I... shit.
“Jonie, I’m sorry. I just don’t want, you know, talking for the sake of it. We used to be good with just silence.”
“Well things change Joe”
“Fine Joe, let’s have it your way, you want a beer, here. You want music? Something ridiculously depressing right? Well here, have The Smiths. You want silence? You’ve fucking got it.”
I’m stunned. I pick up the beer next to me and drink a bit. I look over at Jonie and she’s fuming. How can I get something so wrong? Whenever I voice my opinions I get shot down. I’m just trying to be honest for fuck sake. What would she rather have? Me pretending like all her nonsense is ok and all the shit I’ve been taking from her for the past couple of weeks, no years is forgotten? Fuck me, I’m only a man.
“Just leave it Joe. Drink your fucking beer”
She punches me in the arm and I know we’re going to be ok. At least I hope we are, there’s only so much shit this relationship can take, but we have to be ok, we only have each other now and that includes family. Well at least for me it does. Shit. The only idea I have of family is from Jonie. I remember going around her house every day after school and her mum making everybody dinner, from scratch and it was always something delicious. We’d all sit around the dining table and her dad would ask us all about school. He’d even ask me, he wanted to know how I was doing and he cared, he wasn’t just asking because I was there. They were the perfect family. Even there house felt perfect, smelt perfect, like freshly baked bread and whenever I went around they made me feel so welcome, I even had a change of clothes that her mum washed and ironed for me and kept in the second drawer in Jonies room next to Jonies clothes. I don’t think I’ve ever felt lonelier then when I was surrounded by them and their kindness. Not even when I sat at home by myself waiting for my mum to finish work, with only the TV and my dad’s old records to keep me company. Heating up the food she left on the cooker for me. It never tasted the way Jonie’s mums food did. Even when Jonie “came out” her parents were fantastic, there was none of the clichéd phrases you know, they were just so happy that she’d figured out who she was.
When my dad finally figured out who he was, who my mum was, he didn’t want us, he didn’t want me. So he left and made his perfect family in America. I’ve been there once or twice but it made me feel sick. He just looked so fucking happy with his kids, his green eyed, blonde haired, perfect fucking kids. And there was me, standing on the outside, my slightly afro hair not swaying in the wind, the colour of my skin not blending in with his idea of perfect. I saw it, I felt it from him, so I turned my back on him like he did to me and I haven’t looked back since.
“Joe, why are you crying?”
It’s Jonie again and I’m not 16, I’m 25 and my face is wet. When did I start crying?
Jonie’s staring at me now, her concerned face making me feel worse, more than I do already.
“I’m fine” I lie.
“I don’t believe you. Don’t tell me I actually hurt your feelings? Come on Joe.”
I force a smile. My dad is the one thing we don’t talk about, it’s a rule.
“Seriously Joe, you ok?”
“Yeah, I was just thinking about how big a douche bag you are”
And I laugh and Jonie’s laughing and she’s put me in a headlock, my beer spilling all over the grass and I take those memories, those feelings and I shove them back down, further then before and I lock the door. They will not be allowed out again.
“Make me Joe”
She’s managed to pin me, I really did think I was stronger than her, I guess I should start lifting weights. Her long auburn hair’s tickling my face and that smile, she’s so beautiful. I am very aware of her thighs against mine, her breasts brushing against my chest and her breath, warm on my face. Shit.
“Make me Joe”
I push her off me easily. I’m so ashamed of myself. I try to position my body so she won’t notice, but it’s pretty hard. I’ve gone fucking red. I can feel her staring at me and I’m just praying I go down, please go down. Fuck, I feel like I’m 13 again and just discovered breasts.
Then I hear it. It’s Jonie and she’s laughing, in fact she’s hysterical. I think I’m going to cry again.
“Oh Joe, I’m glad I can still turn someone on. I haven’t lost my touch.”
And she kisses me on the cheek and wipes the tears from my eyes. I want this day to be over.
“Come on” she says and hands me a fresh beer “let’s just have a drink and chill in the sunshine and on the way home we can pick up some porn so you can wank it out”
And she’s laughing again. I take a swig of my beer and thank Jesus I’ve gone down.
“Lighten up Joe. Before I realised I was gay I thought we’d get married”
“Yeah Joe, you’re an ideal catch; you just need to get your head out of the Anna clouds and into reality. Oh and cut you’re fucking hair, you look like the crack version of Lenny Cravitz”
“You’re right Jo, I was gonna ask you to cut it for me”
“I will don’t you worry”
She runs her hands through my hair and I try my best to not think about how good her hands feel running through it.
“I’m thinking we take a bit off here and here and oh definitely here”
Jonie’s tugging at random bits of my hair and I know it’s gonna look like shit once she’s finished playing with it, but I don’t care, I’m just happy she’s happy again.
“Ha ha, you look like a clown that’s been on a clown bender”
“What?” I say laughing “that doesn’t even make sense”
“Yes it does”
“Fine, if you say so”
“Lie with me Joe?”
My hearts pounding, what the fuck does she mean? Have we gone back to biblical times and I’m Jacob and she’s Rachel and we need to lie together to make a baby but we can’t because something’s gone wrong. Something doesn’t work. And shit. I think I’m hyperventilating.
Jonies staring at me again, I wish she would stop looking at me.
“You’re a weirdo today Joe”
I laugh nervously, I sound like a choking bunny.
“I want you to lie with me Joe and look up, look at the clouds with me. Let’s make pictures like we used to when we were kids and we used to go to Brockwell Park because it’s where everyone said all the cool kids hung out but they were full of shit remember? It was just a park, granted it had its fair share of pissheads but Joe it felt like our little patch, where we could just look at the clouds and make our own memories.”
I do remember; it was a quiet time in a moment of my life that was filled with chaos. Dad was leaving, mum was absent, not physically, just you know, mentally.
I fall on the grass and stare at the clouds.
“Good. You can’t hide everything in that little black box of yours Joe. You need to let your memories roam”
She flops down beside me and hands me my half empty can of Stella and we stare, picking out objects, animals, places and memories, for what feels like hours.