Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

“Dorothy Dancer hated the hills. The incessant rain drumming up a demon rhythm on the tin roof; that smell of wet mud on her body, like a second skin, always around; even the whistling thrush that arrived every morning, comical at first, now sounded like her dead sister who just wouldn’t shut up. She stared at the bird from her window, as the rain cleared for a moment, and wanted nothing more than to wring its skinny neck.

The clouds were sagging, and the morning mist wrapped itself around tree trunks: rotting brown bodies floating toward her. She held a cup of tea to her forehead, shut her eyes, and longed for it all to end. For a landslide to arrive from above and sweep them all off this mountain into the tea gardens below.

Why fix the bottle-green threshold gnawed away by blind mice? Why change the beige curtains brittle with dust and silverfish? There was a certain pleasure, the only kind she experienced nowadays, in watching it all wither away.

The only thing she wished she had control over were her memories: the kind that arrived in full-blown technicolour, unannounced and uninvited, from a different age. A sea of mulligatawny soup, garlands of handmade sausages, slabs of salted beef, and a steady flow of rhododendron wine and Superfine No. 25. Just the thought of all that food made her want to vomit. Connie Francis singing about unrequited love from a gramophone as the laughter grew louder, tumblers clinking, her husband’s broad palm on the small of her back pressing her against his familiar body, dancing; the sweet aroma of Charminar smoke drifting to the chandelier ceiling. Dorothy wanted to forget, but unlike her sagging skin and pockmarked face, her mind was sharper than ever. She wanted to remove it from her skull and bury it among the azaleas growing wild in her garden. But the memories kept arriving, one on top of another, reminding her of a life so far in the background that it surely must have happened to someone else.”

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

"I’m not used to these kinds of situations. Please excuse the way I speak and the jokes I tell. I’d like to say something amusing. I’m afraid I’ll need another glass of wine. Yes, that much is enough. Thank you. I’m glad to see you all here even though you might not feel the same about seeing me. I understand, I would look at me like that too. With just one eye, though. I used to have two as well, you know, but it’s not a very interesting story. A fight, it was a fight and I lost it. Pretty fast, actually. You would think it would take more to lose an eye but it didn’t. An ordinary coat rack was all it took. One of those little hooks… It’s not interesting, it’s simply disgusting. I’m sorry. We’re eating. You’ve all been very kind to me tonight. This goulash is delicious and you’re all so beautiful and witty. It’s great to be surrounded by family. Even if I haven’t seen you in years you feel like family, the warmth… I know you’re family. Even the little ones who I hadn’t met before. I would know you share my blood if I ever saw you somewhere. It’s the warmth, like I said. The kindness. You’ve been very nice to me. Letting this ugly old man sit at this table, have this delicious food and listen to your conversations. I wish I knew what to say. I love you. I’m embarrassing."

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

She knew she’d be the fattest in the class and she was – by far. But she wasn’t the oldest. In fact, of the eight Silver Swans who’d arrived in various versions of old people’s ballet clothes, she might have been the youngest, grey hair notwithstanding. She’d managed to google an oversize leotard – you really could get anything nowadays – and her shoe size was the same as it had always been. It was the only physical thing about her that was unchanged.

“I’m so unfit, she told the teacher, (young, blonde, slender, name of Charlotte, of course.) “And I have arthritis in both knees, and a bunion in my left foot.”

“I really need to get in shape,” she added, unnecessarily.

She wheezed over to the barre and got ready to plié. As a child she had floated around the local studio on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but today, when she pointed her right foot forward to tendue she felt an agonizing pain grip her toes.

“Ow,” she called out to Charlotte. “Cramp.”

There was no judgement. The woman behind her had a broken shoulder, in front stood a tiny, wonky lady - a first-time dancer. Everyone had something.

Would this hour of gentle ballet once a week in a church hall shift the weight, straighten the knees, soften the toes? Probably not. Still, when the tinny piano chords of Swan Lake came out of the Iphone, something shifted. It didn’t matter what it was

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

Rose Winter, fourty-two in a month, was having another panic attack. She tugged at her turtleneck jumper and shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She pulled her hair into an untidy bun and her damp neck prickled with goosebumps. Rose was 32 000 feet in the air somewhere over Calais and nursing a hangover headache that felt like the crook of a wire clothes hanger had been inserted into her brain stem and was being twirled like a swizzle stick. Everything felt too small for her - her jeans, her jumper, the seat, the airplane, her life. She bent down and, so as not to alarm her fellow passengers, pretended to search for an elusive ‘thing’ in her handbag which was stuffed under the seat in front of her. Here, head between her legs, she took a few slow, deep breaths and imagined lying on a bed of moss in a forest glade, a golden retriever puppy nestled by her side. She’d seen a similar scene in a YouTube ad and archived it for just this kind of moment. The rush of blood to her head was helping sooth her anxiety but she’d need to sit up again soon or someone would think she’d collapsed. She pulled her knitting from her bag, then right side up again, pushed her glasses into place and settled back into her seat.

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

She had a penchant for laying idle in her bed. Every morning as she awoke at eleven amidst the cacophony of the domestic help going about her daily jhaadu pochha, she laid in her bed, unmoving, eyes fixated on the ceiling. One day when she was more awake than usual, she looked at me and pointed at the ceiling “That looks like a crow. And a bunch of other birds next to it.” It was only cement chipping off. The ceiling of her house on the second floor carried the ravages of a myriad rainy seasons, but nani had given up domesticity just as easily as exercise, even as it meant complete confinement to her double bed. When she was a younger old lady, and still sharp of mind with a sharper tongue, I had written a poem about her. “Oh grandma, my grandma, she cooks me delicious treats, oh grandma, my grandma, her house of love and sweetmeats!” She was teary then, maybe she was aware of how she hardly ever cooked. I knew my poem was a lie, she was not the most grandmotherly of grandmothers. And greedy, so greedy, with a taste of gossip. We would lie down together under the summer fan whirring overhead as she’d fill my ears with sweet vice : “And they left her stranded on the road, she was there on the road, probably just looking for attention. Ringing all her relatives up to complain. That Kiran, I tell you. Her family doesn’t talk to her for a reason. Can you believe it? I can. She has always been evil.” I had to believe it, I was five. And now she was 80. And now she smelt hot oil and fritters, her nose alive with the memory of chutney. And now she shot up. Her back obeyed her desires, and her legs were happy, her tongue happier, and my greedy nani munched away at her evening snacks.

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Casey raises dogs when she isn’t stripping. Big, furry Saint Bernard’s. Which is funny, because she reminds me of a Doberman – all muscle and meanness on the outside, but a bit goofy and really quite sweet once she knows you. She has a fake tan, fake breasts, fake blonde hair that she bleaches herself. Casey is proud. She stands tall, shoulders back, her smile toothy and large, not caring that she has scuffed shoes with missing heel tips, or dark hair roots showing, or even a yellowed upper front tooth.

I once made the mistake of trying to dance for one of her regular customers – a driver of an 18-wheeler who, from time to time, stops through on his way between Orlando and Knoxville. As I started to sit down next to him, a sweet smile pasted on my face, I felt a hand roughly grab my arm and spin me around. Casey glared down at me. “Get the fuck away from Bob. He belongs to me.” I looked to “Bob”, in my ignorance expecting him to say I had sat down first, but he only grinned and reached up to pull Casey onto his lap. I shrunk away, not sure what to do and afraid to approach anyone else.

Later that night, Casey came up put her arm around my shoulders, in the dressing room. “Don’t worry; you will figure it out eventually, sweetheart.” She laughed, grabbed my hand, and led me out into the crowd of customers.

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When curiosity becomes an obsession someone gets hurt. How was he to know. Only 3 months into his 6 years on earth, he was naturally curious about everything. His sensitivity towards others was heart-warming. His mother would say to her friends, “He is so sweet and innocent, but life will change all of that.” She was proud of her son but after a life of heartbreak—she just knew.

He loved the backyard garden that his mother tirelessly nurtured. The roses were his favorite. Their red petals would sway in the breeze against a backdrop of deep blue sky and white puffy clouds.

But why would something as beautiful as a rose have thorns? It was confusing to him. His mother would tell him “it’s nature’s way of protecting herself from us.” But who would want to hurt a rose.

On this day his life changed.

For no reason—other than curiosity—he grabbed a pitchfork that was leaning on the shed near the garden.

Sticking the forks in the garden dirt felt satisfying. In and out the forks cut through the ground, and then, out of the corner of his eye, jumped a frog. And without thought he aimed the forks towards the frog, but he missed. And he jabbed again and missed.

Jabbing. Missing. Jabbing. Somehow the forks eluded the frog.

The more he missed the more determined he became. Focused. Obsessed. Then anger in his determination. Relentlessly jabbing. Fork. Frog. Dirt. Contact.


and then he thought, but who would want to hurt a rose.

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

Hanif couldn't put down the pen. The muggers grabbed his hand, his arm, even his balls, and pulled hard. He screamed, i wanna write, wait, give me a second. The largest mugger laughed, and kicked him harder. He fell to one knee, but still held on to the goddamn pen, even after the rest of the gang pinned him to the pavement.

i will rise, he thought, i will sing, i will fly. no, wait, that's not quite right, he thought as one of them hit him in his eye, which immediately closed. i am rising, i am singing, fuckit, i am....another blow to the plexis shut him up. for a minute.

they grabbed his purse. faggot one of them screamed. but by then he was too far away to be reached. the siren of the cop car drove the thieves away. the writer lay supine, half-conscious, half-dreaming of the day he could thank his father for that pen.

then the pen began to leak.

it formed a blot on the pavement.

the red ink. the blot.

by the time the cops arrived, he was out of it.

some chekhov.


a bug bite, and then, the words. came: I decompose but i composing still.

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

This woman would claim her name was irrelevant, possibly because she has had so many, probably because she has been known by many more, of which at least some, are unknown to her.

Her body is, and has always been, she could not possibly deny, an asset.

But she would always consider it as secondary to her mind. Her wants her needs, her desire, her purpose.

Age, growth (in both breadth and depth) could be attributed by any observers. Certainly some development should be noted.

Yet inevitably, by all others than herself. She would not consider herself to be overly self critical, but that critique enabled development. Any idea of “soft power” a laughable concept, which she considered herself too practical to consider.

Her thrust remains intact, unburdened by the progress of time, unburdened by the expectations others would place upon her.

Her singleminded vision has at times become clouded, having endured a marriage and then enjoyed a second, she benefitted from her second husbands large family, from the children she got to influence (for better or worse) and then the clarity of thought which became apparent during this process of becoming “other”.

She would argue not “wholly other” but different, disparate, more aware of the diaspora than ever, more determined to endure, to apply effort and energy to ensure the decisions of the whole aren’t differentiated into duality.

As a functioning (and at times high) alcoholic, she always sought clarity, whether momental or monumental.

She persisted, none the less.

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

Fab. Love it. I teach “creative writing” but in a foreign language, so really students mainly want to improve in that written language - rather than write full blown short stories or novels - but I’m always looking for short sharp exercises and I will definitely try this one next week :) Very inspiring! Can you give me more ideas of the exercises you suggested to your students ? All the best in Rome and with your recovery x

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I have met many extraordinary people , but Stella was something else .She was beautiful and fearless.We would walk through the street together and she would walk past each male as though she wanted to fight, but instead of fighting they wanted to woo her.She slept with many and in the morning she would tell me how terrible they were."My Gawd"she would say."I woke up this morning next to Casey M.I must have been insane .Or very drunk ".I had to agree, he was a pillock and in my year.Stella got me a room on the same floor she lived on .She would make the breakfast bench rock as she vigorously rubbed foundation on her face, staring gloomily in the mirror."I look like shit" she would say, while I poured more tea.

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The morning rituals were strict. He would wake, pitch to the left of the bed and make his way to the bedroom door. Tibby, an ex factory cat would be waiting .They moved side by side down the slim council house corridor to the bathroom. The cat again would wait outside. Sounds indicated the stage in proceedings. The toilet would flush, cut throat razor scraping, teeth brushed and mouth gargled. Followed by the singing. His voice crooning Al Bowley to the black factory cat. With military precision and in regulation string vest and baggy Y-Fronts the felidae challenge commenced. Feet in place, paws in place. On the precipice of the top stair, a tense time for man and companion. "GO!" Tibby on the right, tripping him up, coming in on the inside, its a close call and yes!! Tibby the favourite coming in 2-1. My father was a gambler but he would always say our factory cat needs to win.

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Karn found Peter depositing coins into the slot of a self-service checkout.

“Guess what I just saw two minutes ago in the bakery,” she said.

A stream of five pence pieces clattered through the internal workings of the till and into the rejection tray.

“Take my money, won't you,” said Peter, under his breath.

“Sorry pet, what did you see?”

“A birthday cake for £2.25, with all birthday bits on it.”

Peter began to feed the rejected coins back into the machine

“I don't think that's going to last until May,” he said.

“We could have it like a normal cake. It could be instead of getting jam tarts.”

His fingers raked through the small change in his palm. When he was sure there was enough, he poured the miserly jackpot into her cupped hands.


“Oi Rob! You look like a lion!”

Across the street, Rob lowered the fur-trimmed hood of his parka. He opened his mouth revealing two rows of white teeth. Moving his head irritably from side to side, he issued a bloodless roar.

“Any hole's a goodun!” shouted Karn.

“Your father wouldn't like to hear you talk like that,” said Peter.

He glanced at the cake in its flimsy box. Through the perspex lid, he could see the words 'Happy Birthday Nadia' spelled out in glossy brown icing.

“Wasn't Nadia the name of one of the girls who died in that car crash?” he said.

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His fingers were long and tapered. Each night, Marco followed the same ritual, slowly massaging in the very expensive pot of hand cream, before slipping them into the Marigolds he kept by the bed. Naturally, in these circumstances he preferred to sleep alone, whatever the state of his sporadic dating. It suited him. This ritual, these moments were sacrosanct. He lay completely still in the dark, memories rising with the scent of rose and geranium. There she was - his mother, once known as the Gina Lollobrigida of Peckham - sumptuous, seated at her dressing table, watching him in the mirror as he watched her evening ritual. The same hands, now his. The same cream.

He felt close to her now he’d moved into her bedroom. Keeping everything just the same.

He’d been told he had the hands of a musician, an artist. Sensitive hands. Ones that deserved a better life, a higher calling, according to his mother. Only her lips smiled when he told her he intended to become a hairdresser; though she’d been perfectly happy to have him perm her hair for free on a Sunday, disappointment hanging in the hairspray between them.

Now she had died, he was open to suggestion. Strangers occasionally remarked on his hands; Marco resting them ostentatiously in his knees on the train, or flicking his fingers for attention in one of the Soho bars he frequented, courting brief interactions with strangers. On his days off from the salon, he’d take the train to Green Park, stroll along to Piccadilly, carrying a small wooden box of oil paints and a canvas wrapped in brown paper, or an empty violin case he’d found in a charity shop on the Old Kent Road. These objects acted as the backdrop to the hands. An ice breaker, particularly with the Americans. Answering shyly at first - casually mentioning plans for a new show in London or New York, feigning modesty at their gee whizzes. Or, depending on the prop, his recent debut at the Wigmore Hall; the hush, when he laid down his bow, before an eruption of applause. In those moments, as he watched the brief flicker of interest ignited as he struck the match, he almost believed it to be true. Did he experience any guilt? To him it seemed a road now taken. A journey repeated again and again, constantly re-editing, reducing, reworking, creating anew.

Last thing, as he switched off the lamp and rested his rubber gloves on the frayed pink candlewick coverlet, somehow he felt his mother would have would have approved.

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On a cold NYC night, at the back door of Gramercy Tavern, singing the beginning aria from the Barber of Seville – Oh tis a charming life, brimful of pleasure, brimful of pleasure - Olaf waited for uneaten and partly eaten table scraps. He didn’t like the golden beet tartare, but bits of squash agnolotti, hay smoked gnocchi and roasted sirloin that filled the garbage bags were pleasures. A well-dressed woman passing by the alley to the restaurants front door heard his singing and seeing his ragged frame pulled sixty dollars from her wallet. He laughed at her. “How much will you pay for the same meal I get free?” Stunned, she insisted he take her money for other things and equally insistent he said no. A conversation ensued, Olaf explaining he eats incredibly well on the waste that four-star restaurants throw out. He had a job once he told her, but the confines of offices and apartments became too much. His home was hidden in the subways deep recesses underneath the Flatiron District. A mattress, blankets and a thrown-out duvet were neatly wrapped in tarps. Cast aside books were lined up along the hot water pipes.

Olaf showed the woman three people hovering in doorways or laying on the grates above the subway tracks. These people need the money he said returning to the alley singing the aria about brimfuls of pleasure.

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

Not sure I can do this. Once, I would have leapt at it, once upon a time. Like in the days when I had a companion called Trakhleigh the Flying Night Man. He was completely imaginary I think. That is, I remember making him up, knowing I was making him up. The idea came from a poster of Toulouse Lautrec I had on my wall. Trakleigh flew against my window, slapping his moth-like wings against the glass, his bowler hat on his head, his cane in his hand. He usually came some time after I turned off Radio Unnameable coming from NYC, which ended at 3:30 am. There was no comfort knowing he was, or might be, out there. It was not the same as when I invented Janis Joplin. She was great. I got no satisfaction however from having invented her, because it was clear that for a woman to become a famous singer, she would have had to have had her own life, independent of my invention. She was bound to be- bound to exist. This I could know. Even now, I am cautious about who I invent. Not sure I can do this, like i said. Why?

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The room is small and musty with stark, dingy walls whitewashed with yellow water stains. She sits in a hard metal chair her hand wrapped around a coffee cup. Above her the light fixture sways back and forth, creaking like a worn-out rocking chair. The motion casts shadows on the walls making it appear as if someone is in the room with her. It is eerie, the almost silence. Sudden shuffling of feet and muffled voices causes her to sit up straight. As they move down the hall she slumps back in the chair, her eyes fighting to stay awake. She is sleepy even though the room is cold and uninviting.

She can’t remember the last time she had a good night’s sleep. One eye always open looking for the intruder who invades her nights. The harsh, dark voice whispering to her, “Confess your sins.”

She catches herself as she almost falls out of the chair. Her neck is sore from flinging her head back to the upright position each time she began to doze off. She takes a sip of her coffee and spits the cold bitter liquid back into the cup. She gets up and looks out the small window in the door. Looking around the room she begins to chew on her fingernails. A habit she had long given up, but the last year she chewed on them relentlessly.

The door opens. The detective tosses a thick clear plastic bag on the table. She leans forward. Inside the bag is a hand, partially decomposed, fingernails still neatly manicured. Areas of the exposed bones brown, stained from months of exposure to the dirt they were buried in. Looking closer she recognizes the wedding ring.

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Feb 4·edited Feb 4Liked by Hanif Kureishi

As dawn brang light, she warily opened the curtains to see how her neighborhood had fared now that the thermometer reached 50 below zero. No trees had fallen but no cars were starting. Water that she collected in barrels from rainfall was frozen, and only the water in the now half full bathtub remained for the week. Were her neighbors as smart in preparing? Local news had given scant warning, but she had survived many winters long ago when the freeze was almost as bad. Her elderly dog was an aditional blanket last night but if the cold continued was there enough water to share? How about her neighbors- most were hiding behind their curtains. She had seen no signs of weapons yet. When the election dissolved into violence last month, gangs had started forming in the cities. It was hard to imagine a gang in the retirement community.

She pulled back and returned to her sitting room/office. What had her life come to- two small rooms and a computer. Friends in other states had slowly disappeared. Her dog rested against her knee. maybe they should go out together....what would be a kind death? All her medications were organized on a shelf in the kitchen. Would they do anything if combined- other than a sick stomach? Most of all she missed having a talk with her sister. A nurse, she could have told her about what was best to do. Linda died long ago in the first Great Freeze. Her car broke down and she got hypothermia before help arrived.

She petted her dog again and slumped into the chair. Memories danced in her mind creating fleeting movies. The love and friendships just out of reach, ephemeral and too out of reach now to assuage her growing fear of the day to come.

(Morbid but inspired by the cold in Maine today)

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Feb 3·edited Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

Ugh, no thanks. Sam scratches his stubbly head. In no universe does he need or want a "writing exercise"-- what is this, school? But until the outage is over, trying to get any real work done is pointless. And meanwhile there's a "situation" he can't stop thinking about, so fine. He'll give it five minutes.

It's not a situation so much as a person. Well, a situation with a person in it.

Two people, if you count himself.

The other person is the "research assistant." Hired, on Ash's regrettable recommendation, to help with the Farragut grant. Small. Curly hair. Greenish eyes rimmed with what might be fake lashes? Prefers to be referred to with a plural pronoun; even so, unquestionably singular.

Sam watches his reflection in the courtyard window use a pinky finger to pick a flake from its ear. Cranky fretful bastard, just like himself.

Actually there are three people in the situation, if you count Sam's "other half" Maya. Which of course you do. And if you include Ash, four.

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It was with a spirit of martyrdom that Teresa accepted to be appointed Vice-President of the Pro-Loco advisory board. As the board itself only comprised of one single person, she was effectively installed as advisory board herself. There was nothing to be celebrated about the election, she stressed with

everyone - yet she went to the saloon and had her hair cut. “Extra short!” she told

Donatella, who thought Teresa had started to lose it. She also opted for a much lighter shade of blonde, and a mullet.

“You look like a lesbian,” her son Paolo told her as she got back home. But she liked the reflection on the mirror and the ineffable, powerful quality she thought it gave her.

The position of Vice-President was a perfect fit for her nature. Since a young age, Teresa had spent most of her days telling everyone what to do, and strenuously pursued those who resisted her suggestions. It was a talent, in her opinion, to see with such clarity people’s needs and understand what they should have done to live orderly, sensible lives. “Why don’t they listen to my

recommendations?” she asked her friend Grazia, truly baffled. “If only they knew

how badly they need an advise, they would at least ask for one!” Teresa thought of

her spontaneous guidance as a gift to the community, much like that of a spiritual

minister, and undertook her new role at the Pro-Loco as a form of self-sacrifice for

the higher, common good.

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Feb 3Liked by Hanif Kureishi

She's bright, bold and loud. She has an opinion on everything. She believes in herself and what she looks like. Doesn't care what she looks like because she feels good about who she is. Elegant when necessary, casually dressed otherwise. Argumentative, convinced, caring, hard working, full of laughter. Loves her family and adores her close friends.

Runs with the neighbour's dogs, but doesn't have a dog of her own.

She's brilliant, committed, dedicated and never stops. Cannot sit still.

Why does she have to be so busy? She doesn't know how to relax. What does she have to prove?

She's funny too, loves life.

Big jobs, responsible, creative, gives 100% of herself.

A brilliant friend, always there for you. You can't ask for more, she's right there.

Gives but also takes, she receives and appreciates it.

Cooks stuff but mushes it all together, huge appetite, finishes everything on her plate, and on yours.

Men before but now her love for a wonderful woman. They are brilliant together.

Covid twice, first time scary as hell, she just avoided hospital.

Feel her close despite the geography.

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Because she had no discretion, he was full of hope. For as long as it had mattered to him, he was abject before women, their indifference proof of his inadequacy. Every attempt at conversation was another chapter in his great book of shame; every ostensible witticism corroded on his tongue; every gesture at sophistication seemed mawkish or clownish or both. He loathed himself. But she, who bestowed her favors at seeming random, was an opportunity. Why not? Perhaps she would smile at him. Perhaps she would kiss him, relieving him of the need to talk. Perhaps she would take him into her bed, allowing him to employ his mouth even more usefully. Perhaps she would bear him children.

He looked at himself in the mirror – his pasty face, his pink lips, pitted with dry spit, his startling, hectic eyes. “I’ve been watching you, and I’ve noticed how serene you are,” he said. His voice was only a little scratchy and his breath was only a little bad. “I’d like to shadow you and find out how you do it.” It made him sound like a stalker and it made no sense, but who cares? Her love would be like a Lotto prize; unmerited and rich beyond measure.

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Born in Kent, by default, Beth was tired of having to explain that she was, in fact, a South Londoner, born and bred. Five years earlier. her brother had staged a three day show down with midwives, stubbornly refusing to comply with their attempts to rotate him in the womb. Consequently, for her second child, Beth’s mother attended a specialist maternity hospital for a caesarean delivery, which the local inner-city hospital was not equipped to perform. To her, the location of the hospital was a technicality, Beth would not be denied her rightful birthplace because of her brothers’ ill manners.

Beth filled her days working in a charity shop, spending her time in the company of people who have little better to do than browse through the second-hand books and unworn designing clothing, the unwanted impulse purchases of wealthy locals. Some of whom frequented the shop daily, as though it were the local pub, Beth being the bar tender with whom they shared their woes. She wonders what it was about her that enabled people to believe she can be trusted with their most intimate secrets, or indeed that she has an iota of interest? But it is true to say, Beth holds many secrets.

An existence free of any real responsibility suited Beth while recovering from her breakdown. Crushed, aged 49, by her own inconsequentiality, this second-generation Irish Londoner had lost herself. Abandoning her career as a moderately accomplished Barrister, she begun the search for the real Beth Hogan

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He didn’t know if he was a good father but Alan reasoned he was a just one. It was better – kinder and more just-- not to speak to the twins if all he felt like doing was bitching them out. If he did, if he really let go, it would be like pounding a steel tap into a 22 gallon drum of bile and just letting it just spew and spew hot and sticky on their skin. That would be his father’s move, and he was not going to be anything like the man, no. Not that those two didn’t deserve it. Those boys couldn’t look a real man in the face, that’s how much of a mess they were. It was too late to fix them, they were nineteen already. Best not to say a word when nothing at all is so much kinder than the alternative. It’s kind and just. They had no idea how kind he was. They were clueless about what Alan gave up for them -- all the things he didn’t do. He knew guys at the office who would make a sale and go out to a strip club and treat every greasy disgusting pole dancer like it was her birthday. One even kept a piece on the side, paid all her goddamn bills for Chrissake. Not Alan, no sir. Every dime to the family, every time. That’s what a real man does, not that his example did the twins any good. They had learned nothing from him.

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When Hanif asked me for a promo pic for his site I didn't hesitate in choosing my go to, fuck you shot. He's a man, and like most men, seems to get excited by a strong hint of cruelty. When I'm with my girlfriends I can dial it down somewhat...although of course trust or the lack of it isn't just determined by gender. Generally I keep it pretty tight with just a little chink in the armour in case something special seems to be happening. With a promo shot you can hide for years as your wrinkles become rivulets and only the kindness of your failing sight saves you as you stare balefully at the mirror. But then there's the passport shot. Whoopsie. Staring at some pale remnant of who you thought you were, knowing officially that that's your calling card till the next appointment with the unforgiving neon glare in a decade. Now that's a real wake up call. I guess good looking women get it the worst (I've been told many times, so why the false modesty?) Sometimes I envy the uglier ones. But, to be honest, usually I don't. Sorry to be shallow. When I look at this photo of me I remember what I was doing at the time, channelling some frosty hauteur learned from old novels and watching my mother. I guess that is where it all started. For all of us, whether we have a fuck you photo or not. Our mother.

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Klara doesn’t know where it all went wrong.

She was supposed to live in a foreign country, fighting for world peace and working for the UN. Completing her law degree in London was supposed to be a steppingstone that would take her to the life she always dreamed of. A life where she will be contributing into something real, something big, something meaningful. She used to imagine herself living in a modern beige house with two children and a loving husband. A husband who also spend his days contributing to something real and will be supportive of her career choices. They will live somewhere in Europe, and in that life, her picture-perfect family will adore her and look up to her.

“Your glass of wine miss Klara” the maid interrupted her thoughts as she entered the room.

Klara gazed into the bedroom mirror and noticed the dark circles under her eyes. It feels like she hasn’t slept a wink these past three weeks. She walked over to her bedside table where the maid had placed her glass of Pinot and took a large gulp. She couldn't remember how many glasses she had already had that night, but she knew she needed it to fall asleep.

Feeling dizzy, she walked slowly to the large built-in wardrobe. She opened the doors almost instinctively as it’s the only place in her house where she feel seen. The endless rows of designer outfits glittering from one end of the room to the other. A dedicated row at the top right shelf was dedicated for her channel bags. And on the opposite side, she can see rows of her favourite shoes, including her YSL heels and Celine loafers. She smiled, thinking of the time she purchased the loafers in London before what was supposed to be a short holiday in Jakarta after completing her law degree.

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At first, despite the warnings, it didn't hurt. The skilled right arm was extended overhead, encased in a foam block, as the surgeon lay prone on the table within the tight tube of the machine. That arm had been through so much worse: regretfully extracting itself from the grasp of clinging children, detecting hard fixed masses and cutting them out from women's breasts, and the recent wrist shattering injury that brought her to this MRI.

She’d taught herself and others to find their breath and anchor the attention there. So during the exam she practiced acknowledging:

Noises as the coils vibrated, clunked, clicked, and clanged.

Fearful thoughts, “Will I be able to work again?"

Berating thoughts, “I should have seen it coming."

Again, and again coming back to the breath. And when, as promised, the shoulder began to ache, “I got this," she told herself.

Her confidence felt warranted. She was now 20 years past completing treatment for her third bout with breast cancer. Her children and her career were young back then. She got through it with grit and her husband’s love.

It wasn't until later that the hairline fractures opened into cracks and then chasms. Several relationships, a good job, and worst of all, her oldest child were eventually swallowed up in the aftermath.

She’d grown up trusting hard work, science and her intellect but in grief and loss those weren't enough. She found a kind of healing through the panoply of poetry, psychotherapy, spirituality, and moving her body alongside other bodies on bicycles or yoga mats or through the water. Eventually she accepted the stillness and non-doing of meditation.

And that was what was called for as the pain intensified. Stillness, breathing in and breathing out. Letting the mighty magnet whir, collecting the images that would identify and speed the treatment of the fractures.

The shoulder pain escalated from dull, to sharp, to excruciating.

“Hello. Can you hear me?” she called out.

She knew not to move. She knew interrupting the exam would negate the 20 minutes she already invested. She had lots of MRIs, her patients had had lots of MRIs and never was anything she’d experienced or they’d reported as bad as this.

“Hello?” She yelled. “This is hurting a lot… can you hear me?”

A friendly voice would've helped. She wanted to feel compassion not just for herself, for her shoulder, for her wrist, but also for the techs who had warned her that it would hurt and who weren't responding to her voice.

“Hello? I gave birth to two 9-pound babies with no anesthesia and this pain is worse.”

No responding voice.

“This fucking hurts!”

She completed the final five minutes shouting profanities, with the unvoiced desire to slug one of them, and with the clear seeing of how pain and powerlessness could push a compassionate human to violence.

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Flory’s parents had arrived in the United States armed only with a pillow and the address of a distant cousin who did in fact allow them to sleep on the floor under the dining room table while they figured out how to make a few dollars doing piece work.

They were anxious people, and it was that anxiety that fueled their rise into the middle class and through their children even beyond. But they conveyed their worries to Flory, who had been born here, attended American schools and gotten through university. It was completely useless to her, but she kept it with her always, along with her mother’s diamond ring, purchased when her parents bought the sweat shop and made good in ‘schmatas.’

Flory never wore the ring for fear of losing it. She rarely wore anything nice even if it was a gift from her daughter. She saved everything ‘for best’ although no occasion ever rose to the superlative.

Flory worried about any and everything. The Covid era elevated every concern into a major catastrophe, to the point where she could barely leave the house for fear of being hit by a car or bitten by the neighbor’s dog or shot by one of the local drug addicts that slept in doorways in her neighborhood. When she died of old age her closets were full of lovely clothing with the tags on.

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The woman folds her hands together on her lap. Long, slim hands, the skin becoming thin, transparent. Soothing cafe sounds comfort her, warming her spirit. The young barista making coffee, a baby crying, a small girl excitedly talking about her game of skipping...Life around her playing on like a film in the city lights, rushing by like water flowing in a stream. Her face is set with a friendly, content expression. No one must know the pain within and some days she even convinces herself it doesn't exist, never existed. A melody from long ago folds itself around her, reminding her of people she knew, smiling faces, laughter. She's aware of her breath...

Suddenly, a brown dog with long hair runs in through the cafe door knocking over the chair next to her and running in circles. Laughter erupts and the man sitting at the little red and white table next to her bends down to stroke the animal. The woman looks at the man and a smile is exchanged between them, bringing warmth - a human connection.

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Wisps of candy-pink hair blew into her mouth, she shook them free which only made the wobble worse. She licked her dry lips, anxiety soaking her large-bosomed bodysuit.

“I can’t.” She shrieked.

“You can! You’re doing it!” Eddie shouted.

“But I’m gonna fall and break my bloody neck!”

“No you’re not Reets. You’ve got this!”

“What?” Rita hit a bump that made her fart loudly in Eddie’s face.

“Bloody hell old girl!” Eddie wafted the air.

“What…did….you….say?” Rita staccatoed, bouncing along.

“You’re a queen! You’re Lady fucking Godiva!” Eddie thew his head back dramatically, leaping like Nureyev for added effect.

“I’m bloody terrified. This is your fa—-ult. Your stupid harebrained I———de——a.”

“That’s it cock. You’re doing great!” Eddie gave her the thumbs-up.

“I’ll bloody kill you when I get off this thing. Once I’ve changed my kecks!”

Eddie laughed.

“What?” Rita shouted down.

“For fuck’s sake! Deaf-aid for the queer!”

“Who’re you calling qu——e—-e————r?” Rita demanded.

“Well you, sort of are my darling. Don’t quite know how to break it to you. But you’re a raging, rambunctious, receptacle of a resplendent Regina!” Eddie rolled his R’s.

“I have ne—-v—-e——r been so insulted! I’m all wo—-man me.” Rita bristled.

“Keep yer wig on Reets! Watch out, getting steep here. Take off your platforms?”

“Bollocks!” Rita teetered dangerously.

“Not very ladylike.” Eddie said.

“Fuck!“ The tree was inescapable. “I’m going to die! In drag on a fucking penny farthing!”

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You f*cking c*nt, come ‘ere you f*cking silly c*nt, Danny crooks his arm around my head, pulls me to his chest, and rubs my scalp painfully with his knuckles. Thus was my entry into Danny and his cohort’s world, this had been solely on the strength of, having heard a crash in the street, peering from my bay windowed flat, spliff in hand, and having seen Danny doing the same from the flat next door. Up had gone the sash window “I didn’t know you puffed, come round here you c*nt. I had negotiated the Pitbull, George, who stood squarely at the top of the stairs, and who begrudgingly, moved aside, only after Danny had said ‘George’ from the corner of his mouth. I had glimpsed a mum and vest wearing dad in the kitchen and was ushered into the living room, where the boys were sat. Roll a puff, roll a puff said Danny, indicating a huge pile of weed that put my ten-pound weekly draw to shame (Pigeon food Danny described it as). This puff was pungent, it had been steamed so the leaves had gently uncurled, there were patches of dark green intensity and there were no seeds. It hit immediately, I could feel my muscles releasing and a distancing from reality, I anxiously tried to pass it on but weirdly, and somewhat distressingly, this seemed not to be the etiquette practiced here, no, no have a puff Danny insisted. Want some whizz?

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Feb 3·edited Feb 3

"No, you didn´t mean what you were saying. Not by any means. You would not have the nerve. And certainly, I do not want you to come over and ask me for a dance. No, please sit down again, turn back to your brave comrades and make jokes with them about the pretentious necklace I wear. It was my husband who gave it to me and I am supposed to wear it with pride, which I will. No, he did not buy me – and even so, it would not give you the right to take me for granted. Sit. Down. Please."

- Sorry for any punctuation errors, I´m not a native speaker.

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A bit late to the party, I enjoy reading your blog, but I don't normally write anything other then recipes so it was just for fun and I thought you might like it.

He heard it long before anyone else. It started as a low rumbling, like the earth had a tummy grumble.

He thought it was moving closer, and now a clanking sound accompanying the rumble.

In his haste to check it out he threw himself down the stairs, narrowly missing the sleeping cat, and out into the garden.

The gate was unlocked, unusual for his friend to have been so careless.

He took off, he was fast, he knew that. It felt like the world was spinning below him. The feeling of freedom was overwhelming. He ran across the field and felt the wonder of the big open skies.

He slowed down, now forgetting why he was here, the noise long gone from the road and his thoughts.

From far across the field he heard a new noise, it sounded like his friend, she was calling out. She did that a lot and he wasn’t always sure she was talking to him, but he felt a tug in her direction.

He could see her now and as they moved closer towards each other he realised he was pleased to see her, but she grabbed him by the neck and started shouting.

She was ranting, something about tractors and death, he wasn’t interested, he gave her a big hug that seemed to appease her.

Then he cocked his leg on the nearest daffodil and his thoughts turned to dinner.

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It was in that moment, she felt the love snub out and die. She watched Vincent’s hands gripped around his pint glass, sloshing it side to side as he performed. She leant on her palm with her chin, noticing for a brief moment, how the pupils in his eyes dilated when the room was on him. There it went, like a paper turning to ash, her feelings for him waned and withered and disappeared into nothingness. Her head was thick with daytime drinking.

She watched a tree outside being thrown about by the wind and fancied being thrown about herself. Laughter erupted and she was pulled back into the room.

Vincent was gleaming, ‘S’cuse me while I go relieve myself’, he said standing up and pushing his chair back with his legs. She rolled her eyes.

He squeezed past her, ‘Notice I added a character, babe?’

She gritted her teeth, ‘Yes’.

The table had returned to chatting in small groups and pairs. Opposite, her friend Ava rocked a small child on her knee, her arms wrapped around its tummy. Julie watched a line of green sludge run down from its nostril into its mouth.

‘Getting broody, Julie?’ Ava asked, proud of the lump gurgling on her lap.

Julie burst into hysterical laughter.

Unsure how to receive her reaction, Ava tried again, ‘Twelve years is it? Haven’t you talked about starting a family?’.

Julie felt a pull in her chest, a gray spot drilling into her ribs, growing bigger and bigger.

‘You know what, Ava?’

‘What hun?’

‘I used to paint. I was really good.’

‘Oh really?’

‘I got into art school, nearly moved to France! Imagine.’ Julie's eyes drifted and landed on a young woman at the bar. She was waiting for someone. Julie wondered if the young woman was waiting for a date and what decisions she’d make to adapt to their way of life. If one day, after years of rolling along, that young woman might decide to give up her relationship in order to carry out her dreams.

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She liked to get her deep sleep in the morning, sometime between four and ten.  In the summer when it was hot she often found it hard.

“ Fucking Russians “ she muttered. “ I’ll give it to them. “

She was laying on the couch in the living room. A dim light from the windows to the alleyway made its way into the room. Kicking her feet off the couch she slowly sat up.

“ Sons of bitches throwing stuff again! What the hell do they think this is?

She was wearing a white house dress with a big hole. A large breast was sticking through. Slowly she stood up and walked to the window.

“ Stop throwing garbage out of the window”. She screamed upwards and outwards . “ Go back to fucking Russia! What time is it?” She said turning and looking at the clock over the fridge. Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

“ Who is it?” She yelled.

“ Me. “

“ What are you doing here? You better not be here for money. Let me put on my robe. “

A few moments later she was taking off the small chain and opening the door.

“ What the hell do you want?”

“ That’s how you say hello?”

Her grandson walked into the room.

“ Yes that’s how. What the hell are you doing here? I told you not to come in the morning. I sleep at this time. “

“ You don’t look asleep. “

“ Don’t be a wise guy. Fucking Russians. They think the alleyway is their personal garbage. Wait till I get ahold of them. Want some breakfast? There’s cereal and milk. “

“ No thanks. “

“ Then what the hell do you want you son of a bitch. You know the money’s going down. Do I have to show you? It’s going down. What are we going to do ?”

“ Tony needs to go to the dentist. “

“ You’re a fucking liar. I’m not an idiot. “

“ He does. “

“ You’re a liar…are you working?”

“ Looking for a job. “

“ Looking for a job. Bumming around with those friends of yours. Can’t Louie give you a job? Well you’d better do something because IM TELLING YOU MY MONEY IS RUNNING OUT!”

“ Is the card in the bathrobe?”

She nods and he walks into the other room then comes back holding it.

“ I’ll only take two hundred. “

“ Two hundred? Then you’ll be back in two days. Take four and give some to Tony. And don’t give me a cock and bull story about a dentist. Take him out to eat. At least if you’re going to burn through all the money you may as well eat good. “

“ Thanks Granny , you’re the best. “ He kissed her on the cheek.

“ Don’t you kiss me you son of a bitch. Al died and left me a few bucks and you became my partner. How the hell did you become my partner? Are you sure you don’t want some grapes?”

He opens the door, walks out and the door slams behind him.

“ Fucking con man. Son of a bitch. “

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The steady movement of his jaw insures I hear the crunch of every potato chip. It’s a sonic rhythm now catalogued in my brain as he watches television. He can do two things at once – eat and watch tv. Nothing more. He chews deliberately and quickly as if the bowl of chips I’ve given him will be yanked away at any moment. I wonder if he ever went hungry when he was young. Protecting his dinner from his brothers when they were rambunctious teenagers, hoping for something extra before their afternoon rugby practice. But now he sits in his chair for hours every day, his hand moving steadily between the bowl and his mouth, his stomach protruding to keep his hands propped up. When he reaches for his cup of tea, his jaw is momentarily calmed, yet it still moves like he’s chewing, an aftershock of snack time. His eyes are still fixated on the tv screen when the bowl is empty and placed aside, his body slightly slumped, his hand curling over the edge of his armchair, fingertips leaving faint greasy stains on the blue upholstery. He begins panting between sips, and then repeating a phrase he has seen on the screen 'snow and rain', his mantra of the moment. His dementia symptoms have returned to govern his body again.

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, a ripped workout fanatic, a tough guy, even he was zipping up his jacket and tucking in his

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The cat (alive up to a point)

I have done many drugs but I find marijuana is still one of the most dangerous, so much so that I quit long ago. From the beginning it made me feel like dying and I've already died many times, I want it to be a surprise when it happens for real. But when I was younger I was not very popular among my friends, they thought I brought bad luck so I had to smoke like the others or more just to be barely accepted sometimes. So one day we were sitting around the table puffing it away… actually no, it was not that simple. Most of my friends were the artist types so they were building fantastic constructions like the mustache, the large artichoke, the double castle etc etc. It was all going up in smoke but it was more fun and the more entrepreneurial could show it off. I don’t remember whose home it was but the owner had a cat. Like they say curiosity killed the cat. The poor thing happened to walk in our vicinity, for a while he just roamed about, but after some minutes somebody noticed him and this was his unfortunate moment because we were actually becoming a bit bored so someone said “who knows what happens if we make the cat smoke?” Immediately he pulled hard on the artichoke and blew the smoke directly in the kitty’s nose The cat was just off at first, after a few seconds the substance hit his brain cells and he started jumping all over the place like he had been hit by a high voltage cable. Everybody was dumb-struck like before, maybe a little different. The cat did an erratic tour of the walls, defying gravity. I was totally stoned but I'm not making it up. After that he suddenly fell on the floor, fluffy paws in the air and that was it.

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A tall and well built guru, he was bald and had bushy eyebrows twisted upwards. He said the common thing about a guru and disciple is that they both fart. He was on our computer screens every morning sitting in silent meditation for awhile and then lecturing his discourse. His words seemed to spontaneously come from another source which he had tapped into, capturing his virtual audience in awe. He was a fake. He had touched upon the occult and held onto it as truth just to get his fifteen minutes of fame and be idolised by his sect members . He was a guru with no integrity experimenting on magic mushrooms and ecstasy stimulants to be able to glimpse the unknown. He was Master Guru Cult Leader Mischief Maker deluding folks in the name of self realisation.

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The most interesting person I ever met is this arrogant lady with minimalist morality. She kept her life simple and simplified my life by wiping away my karmic guilt. She told me that I have lived once in misery but now is the time to make up for all that misery but following her long tail of jet black hair that required me to learn all about making buns and fixing them with long wooden pins. I couldn't ever learn to be dexterous in winding up her hair without knotting it but I became an expert in stealthily uncoiling her hair, just so that I drew her flagging attention on my unreformed self. With a swish of her hands she would tie up her long dark strands into a knot and stab with a pin at a jaunty angle to tempt me to pull it off once more. As I kept teasing her with that gimmick this game of stealth became more and more intriguing. To catch her unwary moments, I had to know her gestures, the movement of her head while she is awake. But her body language I learnt was not enough, I had to think of engaging her in conversation so that the slightest movement of my hand at her back goes unnoticed just at that moment of snatching that pin temptingly dangling at a jaunty angle. Well, when I had mastered the art of knowing her with a successful attempt at her birthday party, she had only this to day: I have got you hooked by my hair, but I can predict your every move.

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I love this ! The last months I've been unable to write. Life has taken over with an urgency. I will consider my words carefully, and get back to you on your challenge. Thank you.

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thanks for the comment - loved the YouTube - Olaf and I had a similar conversation. He taught me how wasteful we humans are and happiness does not mean lots of stuff. It was a wonderful conversation. He was however definitely mentally challenged and I guessed gave up medication to live a "free" life. He loved NYC so I can't imagine he traveled beyond his neighborhood which was the Upper West Side - I chose the Gramercy Tavern arguably the best restaurant in NYC to make the point. I would look for him every time I returned to NY but never found him again - sadly

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Subscribe channel bonus you

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Feb 4·edited Feb 4


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Chapter 1

Backpackers Rue de Casemates. Cannes.

Oh, so beautiful. Look at your face, your skin is soft and shiny, your teeth are perfect, so white. Your eyes are like two beautiful beads, shining. Your smile is electrifying. Yes just smile, one more time. Perfect.

Here she is again standing by the mirror admiring her work and herself. She has chosen her clothes very carefully. Just enough flesh to suggest how perfect her body is. Her voluptuous breasts and thighs. People do stare at these parts. Her body oozes with desire, everyone wants her.

I do find this quite difficult sometimes. Everyone wants me, but I do have to keep up with expectations. There is work to do and I must just get on with things.

This is my destiny. My work is the future. I will just carefully finish this stage of the process, yes just a little modification, more lipstick and readjust the boob tube.

She puts away her lipstick, closes her purse and turns from the mirror. She leaves the bathroom as the others waiting outside, look on with curiosity and humour. They talk in other languages. She is aware that they are talking about her. They are all so jealous of me, they are a useless bunch of losers. Jealous of my beauty and style.

She is so confident as she leaves the hotel. This will be her destiny and she knows just what to do.

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“For heaven's sake, why would she be so unhappy, so ... angry? She is healthy, she has a great job… She may still meet someone, if she weren't that difficult. So, what is it?” Alice leaned in. Her mature, wrinkled bosom, under a mass of gold-colored jewelry, spilled out over the table.

She stared at Henry, demanding an immediate response in support of what she just said. The silver bracelets stopped rattling in favor of a tense silence.

“Well?” wide-eyed and with the palms of her hands in the air, she was the picture of righteous indignation.

“At some point she will get over it,” Henry offered.

“Ha!” Alice, flipping her hair over to the other shoulder, “Now… that is unlikely!”

“Just when you think things are good - this - out of nowhere. Time to make your mother feel bad.” Alice flipped through the pages of Time magazine.

“Here! This is Soon-Yi saying ‘I admit it’s off-beat, but let’s not get hysterical’. That’s what I say. This whole thing is so exaggerated. We are all adults.”

“And, here, listen to this, it’s rather poetic. Woody Allen says ‘The heart wants what it wants. There is no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that.' Don’t you feel that way, darling?”

"Oh yes," he said, I do."

She picked up the glass of white wine and looked lovingly in Henry’s light blue eyes.

“Here is to us, sweetheart. To all the wonderful years to come.”

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Dear Mr. Kureishi I love your blogs - I look forward to them each day. This was a really fun exercise and it brought to mind a homeless man that I had met many years ago when I lived in NY and to this day I would love to know more about him.

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Feb 3·edited Feb 3

Suddenly it was dark. Branson coughed as he shook another ciQ out of the package. Damn, gotta find more soon… somewhere. He’d slid through mountains of ciQuettes over the years, just as he’d slid through his four marriages. Branson didn’t engage much with his spouses (and friends for that matter), but rather skimmed across relationships much like a flat stone skipping across the surface of a pond.

The worst one was Mollie. She was the fourth, and hopefully last! God, he had loved her, no, craved her. But he also hated her; she drove him nuts, always on his back about this and that. And always with the work, work, work! The worst thing was, she wouldn’t tell him what the hell she was doing there. Making little widgets for her aerospace boss… or doing other things for her aerospace boss, maybe, hmm…

Well, just as well he left. They hardly saw each other anyway, what with their shifts never lining up. What’d she expect, marrying a guy who drove a truck?

Almost never saw Conrad, either.

Conrad looked just like her.

Conrad was an accident. My own fault! Forgot one stupid little pill, and… shit. I shoulda been more careful, dammit!

The siren just wailed. Okaaay, time to head down to level triple-B. He didn’t want to be flash-zapped to a smoky wisp.

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This white woman arrived in the last luxury ship. She descended the stairs with elegance and she appeared a tad apprehensive, I don’t know of what. The heat of the day was harsh on her, her checks turned reddish, almost short of breath, until she saw her uncle welcoming her to our island. Years before her father owned a large estate and the family had become very  rich from the financial gains made trading coffee, cotton and sugar in particular sugar when it was the rave of Europe. The island was populated by enslaved Africans, lindentured Indians from Calcutta, and large number of mixed race children, product of rapes or forced intercourse. For their ancestry, mixed race people were a cast of its own, some were trained to be maids, some were cooks, and those considered rebellious, suspicious to organize rebellions were at the edge. In town their daughters were whores in the many bars visited by sailors and white men.

Her father’s estate located in 300 acres on a magnificent harbor flowing to the glorious Caribbean Sea, was built with the riches gained by the trade with Europe. They wanted a hybrid of the architecture they had envied in Europe, but now with big verandahs, splendid hardwood built staircases, large windows designed for ventilation and illumination. Flowers everywhere that came from the cultivated gardens. Servants were everywhere also working in the gardens, polishing the wooden floors, or the mahogony furniture and magnificent Venetian lamps they imported from Europe.

Ruby, a mixed race girl was assigned to be her maid because she knew how to curl that straight blonde hair, put creams she developed herself for that white skin, she knew how to dress her with colorful gowns and knew how to place beautiful flowers that enhanced her whiteness. What Ruby noticed was that this woman was cold as ice which in many ways entranced many white men, particularly those who were charged of running the island. Those men drank the best liquors, controlled the plantations, worshipped as goddesses white women, but frequented the bars in town, or raped black or colored women. They owned those women and they fathered many of the young people working everywhere, but never saw these babies as human beings or as their “children.”

In their first encounter Ruby noticed the sadness and fright in the white woman’s face.

For the first soirée, Ruby prepared her bath with wonderful herbs and hibiscus petals to smooth her skin and relax her. Ruby also noticed that this woman was too skinny, shapeless, long limbed, had huge feet. She never uttered a word, while Ruby dressed her with silky pale gowns, and tried to curl her hair. She looked with sad eyes at Ruby, then walked to the large parlor where all the important people in town had been invited to dine. Her uncle owned the estate now and administered it, keeping into consideration her niece had inherited a large portion of it.

That night, Ruby ate in the kitchen, delighted to be exchanging funny stories with her own , but ran quickly upstairs in the grand bedroom to undress and prepare this tall white woman to bed. The white woman brought her sadness with her as Ruby helped her with her silky nightgown, brushed her hair, and placed cream on her skin. Ruby gently got her to bed, eager to finish her duties and run to her man who was waiting. But the white woman almost as a helpless child embraced her, whispered mommy, curled herself in Ruby’s arms and sucked her thumb.

Sent from my iPad

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