It was one of those seedy summer days. The dirt and the memories clinging to the forehead and under the arms in shiny patches of secretion, secrets and skin. One of those desperate summer days when the jaw clamps tight like a crocodile, walking miles, tough skinned and camouflage-hued. Walking miles, leather upon concrete, across the snakeskin square tiles. She, he, a shape shifting quantum leaping warrior, a gender fluid tattooed nomad, they were, he was, she was thinking of money, of the money of the money, the money. Drip, dripping, gender fluids through the mask, and lifting the sunglasses back onto his, her , their smooth backed crown of hair -It is hard to function when your glasses are steamed up, and blind to it all, with the billows of bullshit floating in the air. Billows of bullshit coming at you from every ding dang fangled corner of the internet, from the news reports, the obsessive YouTubers who cake on the makeup without realising that it is OVER. O.v.e.r. Life as we know it-
Summer days of sun and sea. Summer days of sandy beach towels, seagulls, broken flip flops. Summer days of lives gone wrong. Of men outside the door. Of broken lifts and minds. Broken lifts and minds. Summer days battling the waves, like a pirate, like a reality check, like a dolphin. He, she, they, crocodile breath beneath the mask, was getting tired of this already. These queues. Popping down to the shops for a loaf of bread and a pint of milk -Hardly popping now is it? Pints and miles. Get with it, love. You'll be paying in shillings next, and tuppence. Tuppenny-ha'penny is how I feel-
But it was hard to feel anything but hollow and sad and sweaty like a ball sack in the desert sun. Waiting in the sun, melting under the withering dazed gaze of the security guard in his plastic face guard. Farcical, debacle of a day. Another day. One day at a time. Dreaming of last summer. Day dreaming of the serene blue mineral pool. The harbour had been built, a fairytale tower, music blasting from the beach bar, the Black Sea and its jellyfish tides held back by man-moved boulders, rocks to sunbathe. Rock star. Forever blue skies, forever worries that somehow vanished. That somehow seemed so insignificant. The pathetic Mafia, the stupid gun, just a joke. It all seemed so awesomely auspicious.
-There was a bee flailing in the calm blue pool. It had become lost and fell. Lifting up the bee onto one finger. Swimming across the mineral pool, to save the bee, balanced on one finger. Reaching the rocks on the side of the harbour. Placing the bee at rest on the rock, to dry its wings, to fly and pollinate and calculate basic trigonometry. With its geometric mind, Bee was thankful. And sent octagons and pentagons and crisscrossing shapes telepathically just to say thanks-
They were saying on the news to wear the mask only once to avoid contamination. They were saying that most schools were closed. Desks wide apart to avoid spreading the infection. They were saying that the president was taking malaria tablets to avoid the affliction. They were saying there were forty thousand dead back home. Forty thousand dead.
-Bees can do basic maths. Flies can feel pain.There's a cockroach in the bathroom the size of a mouse that only creeps out at night. I stand two metres from the others to stop any infestation. With my vest on. It's hot- She, he, it, had now avoided all human contact, and the fragile post lockdown normality, the smile behind the mask, the rigid squaring of the shoulders like a combatant at war, was melting. Wilting for a withering wimpy minute -Hey, not possible. I have to be the last one on Earth to survive- Back into tough-jawed crocodilian strides back to the rented apartment.
It was one of those rip-roaringly boringly avoidant summer days. Tired from running, this time from the mountains up in the north. Arriving with paintbrushes, and jangling pieces of a broken dream in a suitcase. Where the birdsong and crow of the cock is interrupted by the honk of the bread van warning the villagers that he is there, with his baguette, with his corn bread, with his great big baps. The way he hides, and follows, and crawls and waits. Tired from running.Then stopping. In an empty soulless rented apartment. Where if you are careful, you can sneak through every stolen ticking minute without falling prey to a bread man in a white van, or a neighbour peering at the window, waiting for the bin to be emptied, for that trash to be rifled through. Get through the day unstifled.
They, he, she was far away from that wrinkly old neighbour, less despising and magnanimous. This was the way things were. Twisted and unholy. This was the way things were now. Forever. It did not matter that there was no one else. That no one had ever checked, no one had even asked around, no one had ever looked. It did not matter that there were gangs of them, following, infiltrating, rounding you up like a sheep to the slaughter. As the pandemic was announced, one mask fell, as the other became mandatory. There was no more pretence at belonging.
Lockdown was a piece of flippant flap, Jack. Nothing to it. If you had a hide out. If you were not a coward. You could not bail out, or fail. It was the perfect window of opportunity of course, a perfect time to steal. And steal up they did. Yet it was easy to live in the dark, alone. To see with ultraviolet bee eyes. To see the colours that others do not. To leave the magnificence of the mountains wearing a thin mask. A mask to cover the mouth drawn narrow with horror and sadness. Forty thousand dead.