Elephant Nest Chapter 2
The Sun sets here, but it never rises.
These streets upon streets of row upon row of red brick, terraced relics. Still home to the marginalised the forgotten the infirm and the old, who are pushed to the corners and the edges by the new the vibrant and exuberant young, who flock here from all over England and the world.
Once, close knit communities, families and familiar faces now replaced with the indifference of the overwhelming influx of youth … Students.
And with this comes the clandestine phone calls, shady backstreet meets, quick exchanges through car windows, wide eyed faces, gurning jaws. Parting ways with barely a warm word just half uttered farewells as one life drives away in a cloud of gas to the next dark curb or corner. While the other holds firm in the palm of their hand the endless possibilities of what could be forgotten unforgettable times; temporary Heavens or induced flashes of paranoia and Hell that will all be, too soon, washed away with the comfort and solitude of the long awaited sleep until natural daylight wanes, again. And another dose of ten-bag happiness is craved for once more.
“Gerrin this fuckin’ house, now!”
Sometimes those dark corners are right outside your front door, or, to be more precise, right next fucking door.
“Gerrin ‘ere, I said! … Little Cunts.”
Three little girls from the age of 4 to 10 rush up the steps and into next doors house. The door slams, the curses continue.
He’s like a Gorilla; deep set eyes, short and stocky, nostrils pulsating and chest pumping. His tats inked across steroid induced clumps of hard flesh and a T-shirt worn tighter than a Nuns Knickers on Sunday.
Since the family next door moved in eight days ago he has been there every single night when I come home from work, without fail; stood on the stone steps to his front door, just … waiting.
Scowling the streets for his prey?
The door flings open and the Gorilla steps back out. He looks at me, I look at him, awkward much? I nod, affably, as I make for my front door, but those deep set eyes just follow me like the fucking Terminator.
I trip up the steps and drop my keys. As I try, simultaneously, to snatch them while ascending the next step, I get stuck on VHS pause button; flicking back and forth as my fingers repeatedly miss the keys. Fuck a duck! Calmly I recover my composure; standing up straight and grasping the keys to find myself being greeted by a now grinning Gorilla.
He nods, I reciprocate; then quickly scurry inside like the little bitch I’ve just shown myself up to be.
Thick swirls of Weed smoke hit me before I close the door behind me.
“Easy, Si.” Fish, welcomes me in. Sat in the single red arm chair, legs spread and hands hanging over the arms like he’s some King on his day off from doing nothing as usual. “Warhead?” He offers me his newly lit spliff. (Note: Warhead, Buddly, Zoot, Joint, are all street slang for the same thing)
I shake my head no.
On the sofa is a body inside a hoodie, the hood looks up, and from within the dark cave comes a “Murr.” I nod back and “Afternoon, Han. Loquacious as usual I see.”
“Murr!” Han confirms.
“Murr.” Han, points a finger to the ceiling.
I make across the room tripping and tip toeing around a maze of plates, cans and take away boxes scattered around.
“Si.” Fish calls while exhaling a cloud of smoke towards me, “How’d work go?” He smiles.
“How’s ya Mam?” I throw back.
“Unfulfilled.” I hear, as I ascend the stairs.
I reach the landing, his room is at the end of the hallway. I press an inquisitive ear to the door checking for signs of life. Nothing.
I turn to go up to my loft when the door flies open and there he is, tall, athletic, mucky blonde, wide-eyed, gurning jaw and grinding teeth.
“Hiya, sweetheart!” He announces, arms out embracing me in a long hug, “Missed ya.”
Since last night?
“How was work- fuck it, forget that. The nightmares over, pal. Let’s have some fun!” He shakes a bag of powder at me, gleeful.
“I’ve not slept for twenty-four hours, I’m going to bed.” It’s been much, much longer.
“Childs play!” He says, while his head dances to lights that don’t exist, “I’ve not slept for three days straight, mate ‘n’ look at me.” He dances on the spot, “Eye of the fuckin’ Tiger, son. Eye of the fuckin’ Tiger.”
Life’s easy when you don’t work and muggings here is covering the rent.
“Westy, I … need … sleep.”
“Come on, lad.” Then he whispers, “Snort from me and live forever.”
“Boring Cunt.” Westy, shadow boxes back into his room and shuts the door with a spinning kick.
I flip my loft window down and admire the view of chimneys, roof slates and room extensions sticking crookedly out from nearly every roof top. Down below, the concrete, I see myself fall, my skull splitting as I hit the deck.
I roll a Zoot, best I can (I’m shit at rolling) some hours from now my head will hit the pillow and the base lines will reverberate from the cellar to my ear. Sleep, as usual, will be a myth an idea, distant and seemingly unattainable.
The front door to the house of Cats across the road, slowly creaks open. Mary’s old, but innocent face pokes out through circular spectacles, darting, cautiously, up and down the street. Deeming it safe, she holds onto the railing with one skeletal hand while the other cradles one of her strays curled in her arm like a baby.
She lives alone, has done her whole life. One New Year’s Eve I knocked at her door with gift wrapped chocolates.
She came to the window at first, afraid. Couldn’t blame her, really. I mean why would a twenty-something be knocking on the door of ancient crust like her, right? I thought about how lonely anyone would be on their own at that time of year.
How alone I was.
Walking through her front door and into her living room, with the exact same lay out as my house (Both break in between the terraces so both our house are slightly bigger than the rest) It felt like I had travelled back in time. Her TV was a Bush 70’s model with the brown wood finish and a nozzle to twist and switch to the next channel. She welcomed me onto her sofa, an Old Bessie Velvet in Frog Green.
Another one of her Cats curled around an old Grandfather clock. And a few other strays just lazily lounging around various pieces of antiquated furniture. Sultry, sexy little fuckers I have to admit. (Note: Cats are evil)
I ended up eating the chocolates and slyly feeding the ones I hated to her furry little friends, as it turned out that Mary is diabetic.
“I don’t understand Television these days.” She said to me from her rocking chair.
I asked her why she lived alone and didn’t she have a husband or any family to visit her, but she said they all lived down south and called her every now and then. Her telephone was an old Mustard coloured rotary phone. (Fuck up once and start all other, again)
“Don’t understand TV these days.” She, repeated.
“Aye.” I said; The TV was tuned to a dead channel.
“Those two little boys, what’s their names? One of them looks like a Chipmunk or little gerbil …” She was referring to Ant and Dec. “On every channel they are. Sick o’ seeing them.”
“Aye.” I replied; whilst chucking a truffle at her Ginger Pussy.
An original “Loiner” she said she was (Note: Loiner derives from Loidis; late 8th century for Leeds.) I prefer the term “Leodensian” sounds almost, aristocratic or the name of a Western, (Simon Eastwood is the Leodensian!) anyway the old Leeds is dead now, dirty Leeds they used to call it, and not just because of how Leeds Football Team used to play. Leeds was, for a time, one of the most successful industrial cities in the world, not that any of my fellow plebiscites benefited from it. Unless you count Typhoid, Cholera and Bronchial babies as beneficial.
“I fell in love, once.” She said; her gaze forlorn and distant, like she was reliving the moment.
She snapped out of it and “Sorry.” She said; with a solemn hand touching her chest, “Was elsewhere for a moment, dear.”
“Oh, long gone now … with the Lord.”
“Was it the War?”
“No, nothing so valiant. It was different back then … people were a bit less accepting of my kind in those days.”
A Grey Feline said hello on my shoulder and then jumped off. Mary moved slowly to where an old record player stood, slipped out a vinyl, “Do you like Sam Cooke?”
“I always loved twist ‘n’ shout.” I answered.
She placed the record on the turntable, then the needle, “This is “Teenage Sonata” my favourite. We danced to this, oh God.” Her eyes, glazed, stared off into space, “We must’ve been, well, nineteen at the time.”
That night I told her I would visit, again. And on occasion I did, but it’s been nine months since I actually set foot in her house. Now, if she’s in her garden, I just wave as I pass by.
She looks up from her garden, sees me in the loft window, her frail hand waves and I wave back.
The Sam Cooke song never played that night it just scratched our ears. I wished her a Happy New Year and we both stood in our respective gardens watching the fireworks all around us explode the sky.