Sunday, 13 December 2009

Two Fragments from the Recent Past

Tonight Y commandeers every toast made, orally anointing all those present in his own name. He starts an argument with a solicitor in which he repeatedly threatens to push her down the nearest set of stairs. He drinks heavily, takes coke and talks shit about sex, race and the easiest way to break a person’s collar bone, all of it with the intensity of a man speaking in tongues at a Pentecostal ceremony. At one point he even gets me in a sleeper hold and chokes me into unconsciousness. So why do I like him so much?

Maybe it’s the spontaneous acts of largesse: the rounds bought, the cigarettes given away; he spends 10 minutes arguing with the manager of a club over whether he can buy one of the barmen a drink. Maybe it’s the strange (and distinctly homoerotic) displays of tenderness: he drags me out on to a balcony for a smoke, and when he sees that I’m cold he puts his mouth on the top of my spine and warms my back with his breath.

Then again, maybe it’s just because he carries off a pinstriped suit jacket, green keffiyeh and purple beanie with such panache. I should have learned long ago not to underestimate the extent of my own shallowness.


Two hepatitis injections and a blood sample. The nurse delicately inserts the small needle at the point where my forearm and biceps meet; red-brown liquid shoots down the cannula so fast it looks like a movie jump cut. She says sorry for about the fifth time and I tell her that I’m okay, but the truth is I feel surprisingly queasy; it’s unsettling to learn that your bodily fluids are so eager to get away from you. After filling three collection tubes she removes the needle and presses a cotton pad against the puncture; I hold the pad in place while she turns around to get some tape. Then I black out and have an intensely violent dream.

It’s hard to tell exactly what the dream involves—aliens, fist fights, explosions?—but it seems to be rendered in the crude, brightly coloured graphics of an 8-bit videogame. When I regain consciousness my vision is dominated by a beautiful and vaguely familiar face; it takes me a while to realise that it’s the nurse, because I’m convinced that my visit to the clinic took place several weeks ago. She asks me again and again if I’m okay and I tell her each time that I am, although this is primarily a reflex action. Apparently I banged my head on the desk and she thinks I’m going to have a bruise, but when I reach up and touch my face I feel no pain. My body is tougher than it looks, and it never stops reminding me how little I deserve it.

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