Pigeon Variations - Ch 2 - Blame the Parents
By Mark Burrow
Pyser found a temping job of sorts in an accounts department, licking envelopes for a mass mailout. It was the kind of work he was born to do.
In-between sealing the letters, he flirted with a Kiwi girl in credit control. It started with banter over accents and pronunciations – "fush and chups".
He was invited out for work drinks one night and they were the last two in the bar. Completely arseholed. They snogged down an alley off Tottenham Court Road. He fingered her, almost shagged her in the alley, before a copper shouted at them. So they staggered to the tube and took the Central Line back to her gaff, a grubby flatshare in Shepherd’s Bush, where they stripped off and got down to business.
Except Pyser was crap in bed.
“Are you in me?” yelled the Kiwi girl.
“I can’t feel anything?” She tutted.
“I can’t feel it,” she said.
“Let’s do it bird style,” he said.
“What you on about?”
He shifted her around and she pushed her bum in the air. She was a big unit. That was okay. Pyser liked to ‘Go Large’ now and then. She kept her bra and top on. She was self-conscious over the ridged, purple scarring from when she’d pulled a kettle on herself as a toddler. Whatever. He was wankered. He hated condoms and pulled it off, forcing his cock in, feeling himself getting harder. Better. Much better. She started moaning but in a good way. One of her housemates banged on the wall for them to be quiet. He took a swig from a tinny. He wasn’t enjoying what he was doing and he doubted she was either, but drunken crap sex was better than sitting in a shitty room in a lonely, boring flatshare of backsliders and suiciders on a cold and rainy Wednesday night.
Earlier in the pub, when it was only the two them left, he realised what was going to happen. He ordered shots of tequila or aftershock or sambuca. Maybe all three. She liked black sambuca. He remembered that. And she started telling him about her life and the family stuff. The stories told of divorces. Whorny mothers having affairs. Lying, cheating fathers. Rows. Fights. Beatings. People having kids without ever fucking thinking about what it meant. Never thinking it through. Just doing it ‘cos they’re fucking selfish. It always came back to family. It was like a magnetic north for suffering and torment. It was the agony of rejection, of the damaged caused from not feeling loved. Boo fucking hoo.
“That’s terrible, I’m so sorry,” he had said countless times.
“I like talking to you.”
“I like talking to you too.”
Pretending to be good people. He learnt that you could do that in the beginning. Presenting a version of the human you imagined yourself to be. Editing the past. Providing a censored, approved copy and pretending it was the truth until the creature inside revealed itself.
She talked about the misery of growing up in New Zealand. “It’s a fucking shit tip.” She said how her father was a sheep farmer and how all farmers got fucking wasted. The dad would come home leathered and start abusing her mother, her younger brother and her. He guessed she meant verbal and physical abuse, not sexual, but he wasn’t altogether sure.
Pyser saw the emotion on her face as memories surfaced of her mother screaming at her father to stop.
“That’s terrible,” he said, stroking her dry, streaky blonde hair.
Part of her was grateful to go to Boarding School and part of her resented her parents for sending her to Boarding School.
“New Zealand’s an unhappy place. Auckland’s alright, but there’s fuck all else to do in the rest of the country.”
They lay in bed, cuddling. “I like your arms round me,” she said, smiling.
He wanted to leave the second he’d cum. She hadn’t clocked that he had removed the condom she’d given him. Too pissed. Pyser slyly checked his phone on the bedside table. He’d cab it back to his own flatshare at three in the morning. She had to stop talking soon. New Zealand had its unhappiness quota. So did America. Kenya. Nigeria. France. Germany. Australia. The UK was full of fucked up adults living with the insanity of their childhoods. He never understood what made people have kids. Why did they think it was a good idea? She talked and talked. He gave her nothing back about his own life, about how he’d had to leave Jenny after the fight. And all the other shit like with his brother, stabbed to death on the fucking doorstep.
They shagged a couple more times. It was 4:45am before he got out of there. A kiss goodbye smelling of booze and fags. A promise to keep what happened between themselves. Colleagues couldn’t know. Yeah, right. And then relief to be outside. The streets deserted. It started to rain. He could hear the electric buzzing of the lamp posts in the silence. Lights reflected in the tarmac like when he left home, that fucking council estate, walking by the Thames, along Embankment, looking at the Houses of Parliament across the water and understanding he existed in a different universe entirely.
He entered a 24-hour mini-market near where he lived in Peckham. The owners never batted an eyelid when he bought booze, no matter what state he was in. They called him ‘Boss’, putting cans of lager and bottles of white wine and fags in a black bag. The only catch was they charged extra for booze in the hours they weren’t supposed to serve it. He walked along the street, suddenly he felt good about himself. Edgy. Rebellious. Like a fox. Fuck the norm. Fuck what society wants. Not that society gives a flying fuck anyway. No one does. Never had. Never will. That’s where people went wrong. They craved approval and acceptance when you have to accept you’re on your Jack Jones. Get that straight.
He stayed up drinking, listening to music, The Stooges. The Sex Pistols. The Strokes. The Jam. Bands with “The” in their name. He listened to “The End” by The Doors, drinking cider and dancing naked, looking at himself in the mirror of his tiny room in a flatshare of fucking misfits. His body lean and muscular. Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. Jim fucking Morrison, pissed out of his nut in Peckham. West Coast psychedelics meets South London kitchen sink living. Fuck teachers. Tories. No one ever got him. Understood him. Some thought they did. Thought they knew what he was about, but he was always someone else.
A right nasty bastard with a heart of gold.
He punched a mirror. Sliced up his hand. Smeared himself in blood. He did the pigeon pose. One day, one day he’d be a pigeon. That much he did know.
At 9:15, his temping agency called.
“I’m gunna be a pigeon, haven’t you heard?”
Lizard Kings sauntering down Peckham High Street.
For the rest of the day, he stayed in bed, drifting in and out of consciousness, forcing the drink down him until he gagged, imagining he was above everyone else, destined for greatness.
So fucking edgy.