We had picked up on a sense of change. First, Sweet and Sour stopped coming with our meals, then he was replaced by a woman, Uberbriefenfuhrer. It was strange. We felt slightly violated, so stripped of everything, as we are here. But in all the time she served us, I don’t remember once seeing her face. She was one of those types: shy and business-like at the same time; and from the moment she entered our room ‘til the one she left, she seemed only to look at the floor.
So many things about her put me in mind of home and the people there. Long, angular, and boyish, like Big Tooth, she didn’t quite convince you that she was in charge of her movements. Though, she was most like Johnny Carver’s mum in one particular. They each preferred tight trousers: crimplene slacks in Eggo’s mother’s case; yoga pants in the girl’s, which in both cases revealed a wide gap at the top of their legs suggestive of a mannequin’s curved, plastic, insert. How did she ever pop-out something as big as Eggo from that? Perhaps she wore it out in the process and needed a prosthetic replacement? As for our new assistant, God knows; maybe having seen us she’d decided she wasn’t safe and she’d taken to sliding something down there, just before she came in – in the way you’d hide an exercise book down your pants just before a caning – like a slimline cricketer’s box, or an old pencil case or something.
And she topped off the ensemble with a pair of mum’s knickers, like those Big Tooth used to wear. They stuck out of the top of her pants, and all that you could think about when you saw them extending up her back, was the enormous waste of material going on in them. They were made of that thick, sports-knicker, material, which had some real heft to it, and that, from a distance, you could almost take for having a rubbery quality. The sort of things, which, if you ever found a pair of them in your hands, would feel difficult to dispose of properly.
I longed to pluck up the courage to advise her to roll down the waist band a few times, but we never reached the stage where that wasn’t an inappropriate thing to say. She rarely spoke, but the few utterances she made betrayed the same out-of-sync, social awkwardness that was Big’s trademark too. That way of speaking that Big had that never fell into the right rhythm, and committed her to the next sentence before she was ready for it, until eventually she had to bring a drastic action to it to make it all stop – pulling a strange face, or doing a silent, single, yawn-cum-guffaw, where you got to see all her teeth at once, like a prairie animal in a nature documentary.
The overall effect of all these moments with the new woman was to make you crave to be at home, whilst at the same time, dread the prospect of life’s quotidian transactions. “Good morning Mammaquin Eggo, may I say how much I admire your sturdy foundation garments?”
It was a beautiful day when it came. Like one of those you think you remember from your youth, where you’d set out into it with nothing to do but have a game of tennis or a swim, then hang around with friends; and no other obligation but to fill it with joy. I wallow in the memory of a moment not lived for a few seconds, before the mood flips with the realisation that it never happened, suddenly certain that had such an opportunity presented itself, I’d have gone into it with my stomach in a knot, anticipating the worst, unable to enjoy a second of it.
The door banged open, and Mareva burst in, seeming to bring the energy of the brand-new day in with him. A little while later, Uber-briefs followed him, dragging an empty trunk, then left again immediately, to be replaced by two new, previously unseen, menacing, male operatives.
It was one of those robust, plastic, garden trunks that you’d find in a DIY store. A sweaty, airless, boiling-hot, chamber, which possessed but one good feature – length, which was just as well because one end became the toilet. They put a chain and padlock around it, with something heavy on top, which once a day would be removed, as they opened it a crack to hand me a cup of water and an egg. Many days I spent like that. Worse than anything I’ve ever endured; worse than climbing up gasometers to please Sammo Bietch; worse than expecting to die within the next few seconds; worse than getting your exam results and only then realising that you’d forgotten to prepare. There is nothing quite so terrible as contemplating forever in a place like that. One hour in, you think that it’s forever; six hours in, and it definitely is about forever; one day in, and it can’t be anything else but forever.
But then, eventually, you adjust, and the terror ebbs a little, and you realise that the event which has haunted your dreams, and made you live with constant dread and foreboding, has now happened. It’s bad, but it’s no worse than that which you’ve put yourself through waiting for it.
There could be some comfort in that, had not your life ‘til then been spent anticipating it.
You must be logged in to post a comment.