Parallel-o-Gram

A work in progress…

Set: two chairs, parallel forward, Rothko painting in background.

Nick
[enters, soaked] Why am I always walking? What fate has cursed me to be walking, walking, forever walking? [sits] Well, how can I describe it to you? The greasy leaves in a hazardous sludge, the air as grey as a commuter’s suit, the houses looking at you with blank square eyes, no light. But some things look bright. I’m always looking down at the pavement, seem to have been conditioned into this from an early age, too scared of dogshit or spinal breakage from line steppage.

There were bright colours there, the stones in concrete washed by the drain water running away, polished up the browns to red, the greys to silver and the white to diamond. It’s lucky I was looking down, because otherwise I wouldn’t have found this [raise stencil]. What is it? I can’t imagine why you would need to draw these shapes. I had to stop a car from running it over, leaned in under his wheels in the drizzly high beams. Nodded to him, off I went, this under my arm.

And that’s Monday.

Rachael
[enters][into hand, distorted voice] It’s something hidden behind, the eloquent surface, father of fuck-ups, you did it on purpose… [sits]

Nick
I met a girl last night. She was so amazing, now, let me try to describe her – I though she was Portuguese, or something, but I asked her, and she wasn’t. She was from somewhere else, but I didn’t catch where, as she speaks so softly and gently, and I didn’t dare lean too close.

Rachael
Hello. My name is Rachael, I’m from [speaks too quiet] and I work in an art gallery. We get some interesting people coming through, and those who think they are interesting, because they dress interesting. I saw this guy come in today, torn jeans flapping around, holding his chin with his hand when looking at paintings, an action that shows people he is appreciating… But does he? Do any of them? I’m not sure, because although I am here all day, I never really get that into the paintings or whatever, I, mean, they’re alright, its just that… they’re something to look at, they don’t mean that much. And if they do mean something, they do it in such an obvious way. Mouldering meat with flies around it – a metaphor for death? Mortality? Give me a break. Anyway this guy…

Nick
I’m going to head out in a bit, just need to see something other than this room, plus I need… Well, I’m off for a bowlaround, just with my thoughts, need to comprehend this girl situation. I mean, my girlfriend is alright and everything, and she puts up with me usually, but this other one is just too perfect. Yes, I guess that’s it. Too perfect. I don’t stand a chance, but if I could… I think life would be alright. A normal house in Tuffnell Park, warmth in the room, smiling, simple face, a head that is calm and free from mad thoughts, like… Well I might as well get a drink now…

Rachael
…he left pretty quickly, looking the other way near the “Suggested Donation” box, and headed out into the park. It was getting quite dark by this time, almost four, and the draught that came in after him made me shudder. I could taste the decay of leaves, felt the metallic cold tang of exhaust-fume tainted air in my throat. My fingers clenched into little fists.

Nick
You see, I just don’t believe in what the world has to offer us. Especially not what it offers me. From this bench, I can see all these suits and uniforms taking the bus into town, breathing each others’ hideous moist dank air, DNA and skin cells flying around your cavities, fear of the boss and a longing for 5:30 the only things in your heart. But me, well, I have this, [raise can] this [raise upside down book] and this [go to tap head – tap heart instead]. That’ll do me.

When I woke up this morning, it took a while to arrange my thoughts. But all the nonsense has now been stripped away, and I know how my world can be completed. What you are all doing is living life by the book. Too scared to do it a different way. You think life ends at thirty, and way before then you will need, checklist – house, mortgage, Dualit toaster, some job that takes you home on the 10pm train, and because you’ve done it all right, you will be rewarded. Well, I’m afraid the only reward for that is ITV on a 52 inch plasma on Saturday night. Mondeo cooling down outside.

Rachael
I have a record on my mantlepiece, a record by The Sonics. I don’t have a record player, so I’ve never listened to it. It just seemed to turn up at my flat, but I think it belongs to Shez. I was looking at it this morning, stood up, wiped the dust from it with my sleeve, then slipped it into a carrier bag to shield it from the rain and headed up to Notting Hill to the Record Exchange. I got £9 for it, and I felt like I was 16 again, weaving in and out of the new saplings that have been planted on the pavement, making a little dance up to the reggae coming out of that shop, reading Tuesday’s cinema timetable and running across the road in front of roaring cars. All the while, the record made me feel part of it all, some scene that has been and I never was in, and never will be.

The guy in the shop gave a nod of approval to the record, but I couldn’t really nod back, he might ask me something. I took the £9 and headed out to the park. Bought a cider lolly. The splintery dry wood of the stick on my tounge made me feel all… brrr…

Nick
Maybe I should do a bit less of this [shakes can]. I mean, this morning I was looking into the mirror and saw my eyes are going yellow. This is while I’m drinking a can, too. I didn’t cheers myself or wink though… Anyway, just a while longer. I’m sure things will be different soon, once the days start getting longer, and Christmas is out of the way. I wouldn’t need this if people would just listen to me, recognise my talents. I went to a gallery the other day – pure shite. Everything has at least £4000 written next to it, and worse, some guy was reciting a story he’d written. Utter dross. About drugs in a Shadwell flat, all shallow characters showboating on cocaine. Bilge. I can write better than that. Here’s one for you [uncrumple paper] “Who’d have thought: a couple kisses at an oak table, the warmth of the room could almost be the heat haze of the candles. Hazy day. Hazard. Haggard.” [crumple paper] I’m feeling haggard now.

Rachael
I met this boy a couple of nights ago. He was such a prick, banging on about how life is, how his is a “Belle & Sebastian” lifestyle, how he basically holds the true key to existence, which, by the looks of it consists of drinking like mad and espousing bullshit to anyone who’ll listen. Or not listen, in my case. He sat down next to me and was trying out all his anti-establishment lines, I’m sure he says this stuff all the time, trying to come across as Bukowski or something. But drinking a shit load of booze and not writing does not a Bukowski make. He kept looking at my eyes, but it was not like a connection of souls, just a leer into a retina. Probably looking at himself in the reflection. Whilst calling for a toast to the Don Raj, whoever that is, his knee moved closer to mine, came into that little aura of a zone where you can feel the heat of another. I could almost sense static on my tights. I jerked my knee away as I downed the drink, heaved myself up and staggered off down the hall, towards the bare bulblight.

Nick
So, I had seen her sitting on the low brown velour sofa. I opened a bottle of absinthe, and slammed down onto the couch. I knocked a copy of The Face onto the floor, and cleared away a few cans with my boots. We turned to face each other there, and my knee touched hers. I looked at our knees together, hers at the top of the black leather boots, hidden in grey woolen tights, with little bobbles on them. Her knee moved imperceptibly away, but I felt it. I looked up to her face as she said “Drink a shot with me, and look me in the eye as you do.” We did. I didn’t feel the effect of the alcohol, but her eyes gave me a warm glow, I was swallowed by them, as she swallowed the green liquid. I couldn’t get enough. We did it again and again. Rinse, then repeat. As needed.

Rachael
I remembered something he said about taking the night train, the sleeper, to Scotland. He was going on about how romantic it would be, going asleep in an old London terminus and awakening to a new country, or, as he added, “a new world,” as he says its so different up there, so other worldly… I just said its horrible, remembering my inter-railing days, and that there’s nothing romantic about a smelly, hot, noisy cramped cabin from the 70s. Or Scotland. What was it he said to that? Er… “I sometimes feel the urge to stand in a place where I can see something with my naked eye which would take me several days walking to reach. I don’t know why, like, I just do.” I think that was it. [quieter] Wanker.

Nick
The mind is meant to be our tool, but the tool can take us over entirely, so we become it, we can’t see anything out of it – it’s circular.

Rachael
A lot has been said about thinking, but its taken me ages to work out that it is what goes on in my head, and I thought that I was powerless over my thoughts, and when I feel low or anxious it does-very-much feel like my thoughts are in control, er, and there’s no, there’s no control over them at all, by myself, but, a bit like anything really, I suppose its practice, and realising, um, how my thoughts can screw me up.

Nick
My God! I want you. I want you! I need to be near you, and breathe the air you exhale.

Rachael
And, er, sorry to bang on, last week I went to the shed, my garden shed, and I had all of my letters, and postcards and everything from… past relationships, and erm, there’d been a leak in the roof, and most of them, most of them were wrecked, and erm, and I went through them, and erm, and it felt a bit like clearing out after someone had died, clearing out all the stuff of somebody who had died, and erm, and erm, I was sad for about ten minutes, and then I felt absolutely liberated as I took all these erm, love letters, you know, that I’d hung onto, you know, love letters that I’d hung onto as physical evidence, you know, that some beautiful boy had once loved me, and you know, and then and then watching it disintegrate, you know, because of all the shit that had gone on it, and thinking, and then putting it in the bin, and thinking, “actually, I don’t feel any less loved now they’re in the bin, than I did…” but it was, it was like hiding, like hiding this evidence of you know “I must have meant something to someone, surely surely!” and I just dumped them all in – and I survived. So yeah, so I’m living in the day, and erm, I don’t keep cards anymore, and erm, just living in the day. 

Nick
I like the Rothko room in the Tate. I stared at those paintings in the grey darkness they have in there, I stare into them, and as our friend Nietzsche (I think its him) says, the void can stare back into you. Those paintings always stun me silent for a long while, and I drift out of the gallery, feeling like I’m in a bubble, floating through the crowds, and kids, and the people needlessly replicating the works on notepads, and the people who stand in the corner looking suspicious and arrogant, on minimum wage, and I find myself much further down the road, past hot-dog stands and beer gardens before I really come to, and back into the clatter of my mind, music loops, thoughts, plots, schemes, worries and… dreams.

Talking of those people who stand in galleries, she said she works at the Serpentine, I think… [picks up stencil and leaves]

Rachael
I went out to the Mogwai gig at the Brixton Academy last night. Feeling a wee bit ropey today. At least we are allowed to sit down here – I fought for that. I can look just as bored standing up as I can sitting down. Perhaps more so. I couldn’t get anyone to come with me, my boss from here was meant to come, but she canceled out, saying she wasn’t feeling up to it. I know how she feels. [sings] “Sad times… with my new friend…”

Rachael
This is not my town, but then again, where is? These are not my people, but is anyone, really? He is here again. Windmilling around the rooms, knocking ashtrays over, bellowing to be heard, desperation in his eyes. I know how he feels, but he does something about it. He gets out of his face, waits for a gap in the conversation, and gabbers his philosophy without solicitation. Our eyes meet across the room. [eyes meet] I gather the spent cans in a blue plastic off-licence bag, and smile as I stoop. [gather cans and smile up at Nick]

Nick
[making eye contact with Rachael] How has your week been?

Rachael
Well, work was quite good, stared at a Rothko, for a while, and… [both look forward. After a long silence, knees touch imperceptibly. Both look at knees and a trace of a smile forms]

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