Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel (Wednesday morning. Before you awake. This is what you think about when you think about love.)
But this is what you think about when you think about love.
Antonio Visconti, hair slicked back like Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II, a mother who had her own Piedmontese olive grove. He was so cool it didn’t even matter his dad was a fully-fledged butt scientist, travelling around the world with a Rolodex full of arse-cases, pruritus ani, pinworm infection, imperforate anus.
You were on a school trip to Kew Gardens. There had been protesters outside. Doughty women with placards and fine facial hair. They thrust a leaflet in your hand. The bonsai garden was inhumane, the Swedish rock garden a kind of concentration camp.
Will you join us? one of the women had said to you and this woman didn’t seem so earnest as the other women because this woman only had the leaflets in one hand and in the other hand was a choc ice and you had said you would like to join their group because you had never been asked to join anything before and also you liked choc ices and handing out your first leaflet, Let your inner bonsai grow, you had imagined yourself as an fully fledged eco-warrior, sleeping in a treehouse and spending your days chained to the buckets of dumper trucks, your innocent face photographed and then appearing on the front of international newspapers under the headline ‘Cherub in a bucket’.
“There goes the cherub in the bucket!”, people would cry out every time you went to Mace or to other less well known corner shops and you would become so famous your face would be put onto a poster like the almost naked man holding a baby or the woman in a tennis skirt putting her ball away so you could see her knickers. Students would put your poster on their walls in their student accommodation next to Haile Selassie and Jim Morrison and they would want to be you.
Or someone like you.
It would be glorious.
Many years would pass and you would widely be regarded as the catalyst that made the eco warrior movement an international phenomenon. Greta Thunberg would have plastic surgery to look like you. A tree would be named after you. And thanks to you there would be the complete abandonment of road building.
No more roads! No more roads!
And there are. There are no more roads.
And because you are so famous and influential you are able to have any women you want except because there are no roads anymore these women you want, and who want you!, are not able to get to you and you end out your days wanking alone in a tree house, dreaming of better times, slickly red Ferraris zooming along perfectly asphalted roads, the smell of fresh bitumen redolent in your nostrils, half naked women leaning out of their window silently calling your name.
But then Mr Reeves, the geography teacher who it was rumoured had a map of the Southern Hemisphere tattooed on his buttocks, put his hand on your head and ushered you into the park and away from the eco warriors and you were secretly glad because you did not like the look of these women, the piercings in their ears, the short lopsided haircuts, the aggressive slogans crying out from their t-shirts, Bras not bombs, You can’t fix stupid but you can divorce it, I Shit Dick.
There was already a long queue for the toilets, the more aggressive boys pulling at the underpants of the boys in front of them to give a wedgie and although you needed to pee you did not want to be given another wedgie, not since the last time when you had been hung from a goalpost and your mother had had to take you to the hospital and the doctor, who was trying to be cool, had asked who has ripped you a new asshole, and your mother had laughed and flirted with him, and flirted with him, and flirted with him, and then she had removed her bra, pulling it out of the sleeve of her jumper with her teeth, and had asked the doctor, calling him Herr Capitan in a German accent because she thought the German language was both authoritative and sexy, if he would proscribe her some morphine, just a little bit, for the pain, and when he said he wouldn’t she had kind’ve become aggressive and her eyes had turned into saucers, her pupils pinpricks, and she had pinned this prick to the wall and this prick had called security and you had been escorted from the hospital, still in a hospital gown, a thick wedge of cottonwool protruding from your butt, your pride between your ankles.
And so that day at Royal Kew Gardens you had walked off looking for somewhere else to pee, this was a garden for Christ’s sake!, and sure enough there was bush after bush after bush.
You were a genius.
You had reinvented Kew Gardens as a huge open air toilet. Why had no one thought of it before?
Oh yes! Oh yes!
But you still had your minuscule dripping dick in one hand, in the way that your father had taught you, like a workman protecting his fag from the rain, as Visconti came flying out of the bush, closely followed by Jenny Stieglitz, her bra awry, the pair of them as soaking as Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film noir thriller Niagara.
Stieglitz had a reputation. She had even touched your willy once. Queuing behind her in Mace to check out a copy ET she had groped you at the same time she had been gobbing off to the Asian owner.
‘You’ve short changed me,’ she said, weeping. She hadn’t even paid.
Later you heard she was banged up in some institution. She’d been found naked on the top floor of a town centre car park, her two children in one of those suitcases with wheels. The family dog she’d buried in a sand pit. It’d lived. The local paper had done an article on it.
‘Tell me,’ said Visconti, a drop of your pee still clinging to his nose, ‘what’s the Italian for revenge?’
You looked into his eyes and imagined you were him. It hadn’t helped that he had a single sprawling eyebrow or thick shining braces that glinted in the sunlight.
‘Omertà,’ you said but already you were thinking parting, your childhood word for having a pooh.
You had heard what Visconti did to those that crossed him.
He was his father’s son.
You were thirteen back then, or maybe fourteen. Your mum still bought your jumpers, ironed your underpants but you were allowed to chose your own books from the town’s library; Maupassant, Balzac, the verses of Rimbaud. The librarian, Sue, knew your first name and you knew hers but were too young to know her type. Pressing herself close against you while you were quietly reading you would touch yourself under the table. Alcoholic girlfriends who came later, a wife who scared you, dull senseless girls in bars who wouldn’t put out in toilet stalls, Sue might have been the love of your life.
And so this is what you think about when you think about love.