Aurora - Part 1
By David Kavanagh
One sung of thee who left the tale untold,
Like the false dawns which perish in the bursting;
Like empty cups of wrought and daedal gold,
Which mock the lips with air, when they are thirsting.
A Tale Untold, Percy Bysshe Shelley
For a second, everything is illuminated. Crystallised bubbles of
bourbon, shimmering gold. The burgundy leather, glowing in the
golden bronzed light that sashays its way out from the fireplace
behind. A portrait of a gentleman of high class and wealth, of
self-assurance and elegance, peering down from above with a
greying caterpillar shuffling its way across his upper lip. The
model sits back, poison in hand, an obstinate glare chiselled
deep on his rugged, young face. He smirks slyly, handsomely, but
it's not what he's searching for. What we're searching
for. Instead, there's a bland coffee-brown sprinkled with the
occasional red, these strange lightning embers. There's an
unfamiliar creak that repeats and repeats and repeats, obnoxious
and dry. Without this bourbon, he winks, you'll be alone forever
and nobody will respect you. You'll be kissing the arse of every
self-loving exec from up-top until the end of days. The bulbs
dim, the smile dissipates and a wily sigh escapes him.
"Are we done?" Feigning exhaustion he's hardly earned, he stretches his tanned neck, veins bulging. His dark Armani jacket sizzles beneath the bright headlamps located at each corner of the set. "I'm getting a bit tired." I can feel Neil resisting the urge to scoff.
"Just a few more." Just a few more and you'll never have to see Narcissus here, or any of his spit-polished, neatly trimmed, culturally brain-dead clones, ever again. No, this is it; the end of this life. The Serengeti beckons. Wearied tears of perspiration dribble down Neil's forehead and neck, rushing like tributaries to meet similar streams on his arms and hands and the deep pools of black ink that are slowly forming on the side of his Nikon. At least he's roasting more than me, he's thinking to himself, grinning with self-satisfaction, eyes trembling vindictively. "Hold the bottle a little higher this time, will you?" and burn in this dish best served hot. The set flares up again. A wave of white-washed light pours through the lens and zigzags into a permanent state of digital existence.
Neil breaks out by late afternoon, leaving in his wake a storm of
curse words that hungrily pursue the laughter he let loose only
"Impatient, egocentric, pretty-faced little shits. Thank Me, oh Holy Me. I'm finally, finally done". Always so fond of reminding the world that it's only him on his shoulder inciting virtue or vice, he stumbles through the timber halls jovially, almost gagging. I force a few deep breathes. Relax, I whisper in the form of neuro-transmissions, you've got to relax. Listening, he swigs down air like its Lager, excited and eager to pump himself up so that he can somehow float forward into the near-future. And don't forget, it's date night, tonight. 7pm at Mon âme soeur. He grins enthusiastically at the bedazzled janitor. "It just gets better and better" he laughs and continues to descend the staircase with tired legs of jelly and a wicked craving for a Steak au poivre. Descent completed, he bursts through the metal door at the bottom of the building and is met outside by a tapestry of blurring, burning yellows and sharp strokes of black that catch him off guard and remind him that New York is still a headache. Cotton snakes of busied conversations ebb their way out of cell phone receivers and fall dead onto the concrete. Vulgar sirens thrash the evening sky into a pulsating stew, the distant high rises drenched in neon gravy. The place shrieks. Around the corner further down, like every day and every night, Times Square explodes into a chaotic whirlpool of muddled tints and hums, brain-crushing stuff, and like every day and every night, Neil charges through, spirits suddenly gorged, head so low it scrapes the tarmac as he leaps across the road and descends into the cities underground. A city in itself.
In a near-empty compartment, with green columns and walls of
shadows hurtling past, I play Neil a song to calm him down again
and prepare him for the onslaught of the financial elitists
awaiting his arrival three stops down the line. Lee Morgan walks
down the aisle, cheeks bulging red, trumpet gold and spraying
Search for the New Land across seats and down
graffiti-scarred windows. Only we can see him, and I find myself
wondering whether Morgan really was what he played, whether the
sounds I would have heard if Neil had been alive to meet him
during his mainstream years would have been as smooth, as
genuine, as hard-bop as the tunes he created. Neil's index finger
taps rhythmically on the silver window frame, his forehead
creasing against the glass. The shadows outside are interrupted
by short glimmers of a time long ago: a leather suitcase leaning
against the hallway wall, Uncle Martin appearing out of thin air
in the threshold of the dining room door, a record spinning,
Morgan heard for the first time, grown-ups discussing a
decades-gone march and a junior King and voting rights or lefts
or whichever direction it was, little Curt taking young Neil's
hand and dancing across the kitchen tiles. And then I'm stopped,
just like that, by the smallest shudder and God declaring:
"Next station, 34th Street - Herald Square, please stand clear of the doors."
The train slows and the trumpeter's echoes recede into the black tunnel behind and now Neil begins to hear a growing purr of opinions, reactions, "excuse me's" then "bloody move's". My focal point is submerged in screams and whispers (and is that a ukulele I hear?), and drowns beneath all of the colours of a rainbow and others I wouldn't be able to even describe to a mortal. That elderly Pole in the yarmulke, smoky blue and an owl hooting in a distant valley, the young suit who'd sacrificed his seat for him, honey gold, chlorinated waves splashing over limestone, children laughing, the undead one with piercings on every exposed headstone of pale skin, pitch black, rasping wind. Our eyes shift back and forth between the moving masses. But while Neil sits tolerantly, fingers now tapping a beat far too rapid and modern to be Jazz-inspired, an excited, anticipatory drumming drummed by a man who would be among wildebeests in less than a week now that that "blasted" Bourbon campaign was over and who had his young, loving wife to impress at a fancy French restaurant later that night, I scour the air for the it, for the thing, for whatever it is I need to find.
In the worldly plane, if a peeping Tom were anywhere nearby, he would be hearing an orchestra of zealous moaning, winded gasps and the violin-esque squeak of metallic bed springs. From my seat on cloud nine, in this other plane, it sounds like that orchestra could very well have been under the direction of Amadeus himself, performing for his life within earshot of a howling copper bell, and Picasso would likely be seen standing on a steel beam way above it all, hurling brilliant Earth-browns and faded-orange dyes onto the regal hairdos below. This passionate declaration of intricate hominid emotions, this extreme, carnal exchange of gender-specific bodily fluids, this act of human, earthly sex, this is art in the making, expressive and exultant. And although I'm the only one to see it the way I do, I can sense that, not only in this moment but in every moment she's spent with him, Kate shares my satisfaction. That she's realising in these split seconds of pleasure that stars explode erratically, indifferently, that death is inevitable and feared because it's exotic and may bite, that there's no such thing as right or wrong, there's only popular opinion, that contentedness is a state of mind, that the hands of Fate are gloves puppeteer'd by the Self, that love is real, infinite yet forever indefinable and that it's this place, a cheap apartment overlooking a tiny, dilapidated deli in Chinatown, where she needs to be right now. Here in this oil painting of two faces, four arms, four legs, wherein the centre of it all I meet his 'me', and with flames alight, bright as suns, we fit together perfectly.
With camera case in lap, Neil lies half asleep across the
backseat of the Greyhound S59, bound for Richmond Avenue. I sit
awake as I have for the past thirty-one years, never resting,
watching and listening to everything and everything beneath
everything. In the violet mist of dusk, the bus snails slowly
through the traffic, heaving its way into the crowd of tailgates
inch by inch as pedestrians speed past unaffected. Our path is
navigated by a gruff Italian too good for his job, a man defined
by how rude and bolshie he can be, by his refusal to switch on
the air-conditioning and by his attacking of passengers who pay
with coins. A pervasive khaki-green slime cascades from his being
and he believes himself to be a victim of circumstance, the
only victim of circumstance. It's the moment when
Santa's long-lost homeless cousin boards the bus with a dog-crap
bag chockfull of pennies that I, seeing the coming storm, avert
my attention back to Neil. Lying there, eyes juddering in beds of
rosy cheeks, sifting through the days of his childhood; the Good
ones, the Bad ones, the ones that will haunt him until Death
takes his Flesh from my care, he looks as frail as a newborn.
Quietly, I squeeze through the stupor. I find Neil sitting in
1993. His eyes are glazed and I enter delicately, only to be
overcome with an uncontrollable sense of childish elation. I'm
bouncing up and down, shaking and throwing eager glances around
the room. There's a tree wreathed in lights and fiery tinsel, a
golden, glowing orb perched on its tip like a halo. There's Curt
with Mr Grizzly tight and secure in his tiny, tiny arms. There's
mum and dad, sipping wine, laughing, ew! - they're smooching now,
and Uncle Martin, leaning in, watching me unwrap the large parcel
wrapped in candy cane patterned paper that I hold in my
"Go on Neilly," he smiles, "we haven't got all day."
My hands blur, my fingers dig into papery crevices. Uncle Martin laughs at my enthusiasm. I finish the job mercilessly, yank back the last flap and there, in my lap, a big, black pupil stares up at me.
"It's a Nikon N4004!" Uncle explains excitedly, "It was mine in the 80s. They advertised it by photo shopping it hanging down around the neck of Albert Einstein, can you believe that?" He's boasting to his brother mostly. "And it's only a beginner's lens, 35mm, autofocus but in the right hands… You can be just like your Uncle Martin, Neilly."
I don't respond. I'm mesmerised, still, by that eye, that deep, dark eye. I feel like I'm falling into it. A portal into another world, a wordless world of crystal mirrors and Mirrormen like my Uncle. Those dedicated warriors who force society to step back and look at itself, to notice the irregularities, the prejudices. That's what my Uncle had always said photographs are for, anyway, and then he'd remind me of his encounter with the King. "We could have protested forever", he's quoting him, "but if it weren't for guys like you (like me! He'd add in disbelief), it would have been for nothing." He'd pause here. "The whole world saw your pictures. That's why the Voting Rights Act was passed." And that's why we need the Mirrormen.
Uncle grasps me from my trance and brings me up to my feet. Directing my arm and pointing finger, he focuses the lens on Curt who sits on the sofa, innocent and wide-eyed, teddy bear still in hand, totally unaware that I'm about to grant him immortality.
"It's time to join the Order little Neilly" Uncle Martin says to me, "Are you ready?" I nod vigorously, thinking of the King and the many treasures he'd reward me with. "Well then, point," He's steadying my elbow, "and shoot." Click. The world explodes. White light fades and is replaced by a ghostly green. A wall of silk swaying beneath a sea of stars. So delicate, so grand. A Polaroid that my Uncle holds, three years later. "The Northern Lights" he whispers to my brother and me, "I'll show you them someday, maybe when you next come up to visit." Uncle's colour is blinding sand-hot white. His sound is a revving, dying motorbike. "Yeah, Uncle" I croak, my voice deepening and awkward "that would be sweet". Mum and dad are at the pictures. Curt begins to shiver, shudder, spasm.
"Oi." The khaki Italian. "You getting off anytime soon, buddy?"
Neil's roused awake, sweating. The bus is empty, the moon is
blushing silver. I help Neil reorganise his thoughts, window-wash
the haze from his eyes, compel him to look at his wristwatch and
jump-start his legs into motion. Propelling himself up, he heads
for the door. "You forget something?"
The Italian points a fat cigar-like finger towards the back of the bus.
"Right" says Neil, stumbling back again, "thanks". Another ten seconds gone, he picks up his camera case. There's no time to go home and change, I tell him. You'll be late.
"Fuck", he whispers under his breath as he leaps onto the curb.
"Fuck!" Kate jumps awake and pulls the blazing covers from her body. "Fuck, I'm gonna be late". That muddy, Latino-British accent. She's glancing at the white clock face on the opposite wall, brow furrowed. Then her eyes dive down instinctively and land, head first, on Robbie's naked buttocks. She grins a whispered "worth it," jerks up silently, and begins traversing the minefield of dress-shirts, mini-skirts and shiny, snake-skin condoms towards her wardrobe. Hooking on her bra and pulling up her black skirt, she looks back at him, taking it all in, completely blind to the crispy thistles of brown and orange that only I can see dancing around the room. The furry legs and colossal shoulders, the light caramel mop of hair that always falls into his eyes, the trenches of muscle on his back, the butt - again. She's still smirking as she heads towards the kitchen. A pocket-sized paperback copy of Adonais lies bare on the marble counter, next to the leftovers of last night's lasagne. I remember Kate had read that Bysshe's daughter-in-law had carried an original of it, and within its pages lay scattered the deceased poet's ashes. Quite tragic, his death. Kate feels for the Shelley's. Whenever Frankenstein and Prometheus Unbound appear side by side on her 19th century vintage bookstand she's almost always pricked by the needle tip of melancholy. Two young artists, she, his "child of love and light", he, her inspiration. Lovers forced apart by their transient mortality. Thank God Robbie turned out to be a Lit geek as nipple-deep in it as Kate, otherwise he'd have been out the door the moment when she, on their very first date and despite my frustrated attempts to stop her, began to recite The Trial of Love with those extremist, star-glazed eyes of hers! "Parts of me remind me of you" he'd whispered. "Please don't die on me" she'd replied. Finishing the lasagne, running out into the street, turning down wrinkly Mrs Cheng's handful of lychees, Kate remembers it all.
It had been during autumn, eighteen months ago. They had met at
Lizzie's twenty first, apparently, but I hadn't noticed. The
real-world smog of smoke and blinding strobe lights and trashy
techno music would have been enough to render me oblivious, but
there had also been almost a hundred people there, and so many
colours and noises, so much squawking and vomiting and ecstasy,
the bell's chiming had been swamped out almost completely. I do
remember her schmoozing to him, once or twice, too drunk to care
what he thought as she grinded around his barstool singing about
how much she wanted to see his disco stick. Looking at her then,
you wouldn't think that this girl was an aspiring English
professor. Even when she yelled: "I've always luffed books" and
"you don't gotta be a boring, old fart to be a teaching. You
gotta love the words", you still wouldn't take her
"That's gender-stereotyping for you", she'd say in her more sober conversations. "Women can't be English professors because you don't see it in the movies. The mainstream ones anyway. Only in pornos, and don't even get me started on those." Kate is Shelley and Wollstonecraft. And Robbie had no idea until they met again a few weeks later.
"Hey, Lizzie's friend right?" The cute guy's holding out his
hand, pointing, and I'm going insane, flaring out. Noisy wailing
with no source in sight.
"That's me… Kate" Kate smiles, unsure of herself, shifting uneasily as I hurriedly shuffle through her past, trying to find that memory. So many fuzzy, drunken nights out late, it's frustrating! "Have we met before?"
She's sitting on the granite ring that circles a large willow tree outside Fordham Uni, waiting for Jackson's class to finish. The tree bursts with dirt-browns and oranges. Leaves fall gently to the gravel buried ground.
"You wanted to see my disco stick" he teases, and seeing her blush, "but I see you've changed your ways." He nods at T.S. Eliot, Selected Poems which lies open in her lap. She's halfway through annotating The Wasteland and now, now she's embarrassed. But that quickly gives way to indignation.
"What do you mean change my ways?" she quizzes intently, half-pink, half steaming "If I want too, I can be a party girl and…". His eyes are twinkling; she can see 'me' swimming in them, graceful and cool.
"A nerd?" he offers, dimples bell-shaped.
"What? No! Intelligent. An intelligent, independent, self-assured bibliophile." She pauses a bit between each word, adamant about making a point.
"And a pretty damn cute one at that" the boy grins. She's going red. No, no, no! Stop blushing, she scolds herself, that'll give him an advantage and that's not right. He's objectifying you! "Shantih, Shantih, Shantih" he adds after seeing her eyes scrunch up in defiance.
"Don't tell me to calm dow - wait, what." She's caught off guard. "You know Eliot?"
"April is the cruellest month…"
She snorts. "Well that," there I am again, somersaulting in the hazel cream around his pupils, "That is so clichéd"
"It's almost painful" he laughs, "two hopeless romantics falling in love over poetry under the shadow of an ancient willow tree". She laughs too. A copper bell rings and the doors swing open. A thousand different shades of colour stampede towards them. "My name's Robbie", he breathes while jotting his number on the top-right corner of Part III, "give me a call". And she did.
It should be just around the corner, come on! Words of
self-encouragement echo through the canyon in Neil's mind and I
have to hold on tight to avoid falling off the edge, he's running
that fast. The skyline springs up-then-down-then-up-then-down and
I can see that Neil's lungs, feeling underappreciated, are
already signing paper-work for the establishment of the Union of
Overworked Organs and intend to threaten a strike. I know it's
hard labour but you're almost there, Neil tells his workers. But
then a raggedly dressed leg materialises from around the corner
and we land face-down on the concrete, grazing Neil's cheek and
shattering the factory within his ribcage.
"Watch where ya' fucken' goin'" the owner of the leg hollers. He's sitting against the discoloured wall, his face is unshaven, one of his eyes roll to the right and Neil's afraid that if the man isn't careful it might one day roll right out. It's strange, I'm seeing khaki green. "Got any change? You owe me man, almost broke ma' legs" the figure holds out a grimy hand from which the remains of a fingerless glove hang like a mutilated rat.
"Yeah, I" - Neil fumbles through his pockets and grabs a handful of pennies "here". He drops them into the open hand and it closes its jaws greedily. Just then, the stench of alcohol is wafted up by a sudden draft and Neil becomes oddly doubtful about the genuineness of the cardboard sign reading 'NEED MUNEY 4 COLLAGE." He leaves the scene anxiously, realising that yes, there is a fate worse than death; the life without the living, the broken, colourless kaleidoscope. Standing before a reflective window-pane of a perfume store with an extravagant European name, Neil touches the bloodied gash on his cheek and winces. His dirty, dark brown hair is a mess, his pea green eyes simmer in their tired sockets and I don't think he can see me in there at all. "Please, let this be the end" he mutters to the face staring back at him.
Mon âme soeur is the kind of place that people want to
be seen at. Reservations must be placed at least two weeks in
advance, entry requires at least five items of jewellery on
visible patches of flesh, and the dessert is advertised with the
tagline, transcribed in golden cursive, "Indulge in something
other than yourselves for once you pompous, posh pricks". Or so I
see Neil imagining. Weaving through the polished Agarwood tables,
Neil realises he's never felt more uncomfortable or out of place.
Love, he reminds himself, requires sacrifice. He scans the room,
is assaulted by bewildered glances from all angles, and finally
spots Lana in the back corner, an enormous, ivory framed mirror
towering over her like a monument to the true price of
"Gosh, I'm so sorry baby" Neil splutters as he lowers himself to the seat opposite her, knocking over a pepper-dispenser probably made from blood diamonds, "Things got a little crazy". Lana, her fair blonde hair hovering around her like an aura, grins, picks up the dispenser and gestures to the menu which lies open on his plate. She's ignoring the crusted blood on his face.
"I've ordered for us both," she begins, looking straight at Neil, "Escabeche for me, Steak au poivre for you." The grin's still there but her cheeks have lost colour.
I can feel Neil flush with admiration, then shame, then simple intrigue "Laney, you look so beautiful. That's the necklace I bought you, isn't it?" Her smile is unquenchable and she nods wistfully while rolling the pink pearls between her slim, feminine fingers. She's looking at him, but through a veil. Her gilded ring catches the light of the chandeliers above. "Well, I do have good taste", Neil laughs, still uncomfortable, possibly for all the wrong reasons. It's still there on her face. Neil glances at the suits and dresses and the formal uniforms of the attendants around. In the centre of the chamber, a couple hold hands as a chirpy girl of twenty-something, wearing a black skirt, takes their orders. At Neil's table, there's a silence I've never experienced, the Neil/Lana 'arrangement', an idea drafted way back in their Uni days when Neil had studied photojournalism and Lana psychology, entirely neglected. Sitting on her couch in her dorm room with Danica, her dorm-mate, out working a late night shift, the two had created a system that they'd followed every year since. It was designed to bring an end to all the awkward lapses in their conversations.
"We can call it the question game", she'd said as Neil lay with his head in her lap enjoying the motions of her fingers in his hair, "whenever I ask you something you have to answer, or you don't have to answer, but you've always got to finish with another question." She'd looked down at Neil knowingly, hinting that the game had already begun. "Okay?" she asked.
"Sure thing, Ms. Pedantic" Neil had teased, before twisting sharply and crawling up the length of her body. Sticking to the new rules, he'd bitten her ear and mouthed, "So, do we have time to fuck?"
"God yes" she'd hissed, and after that adorable, pert giggle Neil had first fallen in love with at Fordham's central library, "who's on top?"
And now they were sitting there quietly gazing at one another, waiting for their orders to come gliding across the restaurant floor, not knowing what to say. I was as unsure as Neil. He could bring up the lion cubs and the trademark African sunsets and how great it was that he'd finally be able to go use his skills to eternalise something genuinely beautiful, but he'd always felt that Lana was secretly dreading his trip, his absence, and so he avoided the topic as much as he could. She had dulled, somehow, since that morning, and I sensed it long before she'd pasted on that stoic grin she's still displaying. Her clean, soft, echoing hum, the sweet, apple red; they were a palette I'd grown accustomed too over the past seven years but they were different now. Less relevant and disappointing. Neil takes charge:
"So how was your day?"
Before Lana can reply or smile some more, the room erupts in a brassy applause. Patrons from all positions in the room rise to their feet and cheer. Neil turns his head curiously, a puppy hearing the squeal of some flying thing for the very first time, and follows the rest of the room impulsively, standing up straight and spinning right around to see a young, neat man in a grey-blue tuxedo holding open a small case, kneeling on the velvet floor in the centre of the room. Before him sits a blubbering, teary-eyed calamity wearing a tight dress. The woman shoos imaginary flies away from her beaming, quivering lips and only just manages to cry, "Yes, yes I will" before stumbling forward, knees quaking, into a kiss. With his hand caressing her swan-like neck, the space around the couple bursts into bright pink sparks and the sound of high heels on a hollow stage. It's perfect. Around them orbit more paroxysms of refracted light; each clapping person a vibrant, throbbing nebula of inimitable design. Deep lilac, faded maroon, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, bristling auburn cannon-fire, a dirt-brown, autumn-leaf orange, deep-sea black. All of it revolving at faster-than-light speeds, so much energy in this place now, and to think I still can't find it. Not a single one satisfies, not even the apple-red - the apple-red!
Neil whirls around and finds Lana half her size. She's toppled over forwards, her face breaking in her hands, her whimpers meek and obscured by half-hearted attempts to calm herself down.
"You sentimental sob" Neil chortles. But then she looks up at him and we can both see it clearly. The naked, hideous truth, mirrored in her thoughts which leak onto laundered bed sheets stained with self-reproach. She's shaking with the kind of chagrin and self-loathing that mothers experience when their children are guilty of some horrific crime; introducing vulgar language into the pre-school playground or shooting holes through their classmates and then their own brain.
"Neil, I'm - can you come outside?" And with that she blunders through the cheery-eyed "congratulations" being tossed around the room like a bouquet at a wedding, towards the exit. Neil follows and I steady him. When you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, it's probably a train. The chandeliers seem closer to the ground and Neil's worried he might his head. The carpet crackles and turns to quicksand. What the heck is this about?
It's nine, it's freezing. Kate carries herself down the alleyway
behind the basketball courts, ears perked to the hollering of
teenagers and the muffled dribble of a basketball on concrete.
She's reminded of the favelas, and then of Paulo, and then of
that horrific night she'd never experienced but can never forget.
A dog yowls in the distance and Kate clasps her purse to her
chest. The dingy glow of street lamps fade behind her as she
creeps through the backstreet, fire escapes gawking at her from
above, the wind picking up plastic bags, nimble little ghosts,
and sending them slamming against the red brick walls. Maybe I
should have taken the long way home, she's thinking, and then
somewhere in the distance there's a loud crack and a bang. A bike
backfiring or… It's a motorbike, relax. Regardless, she's
speeding up, eyes fixated on the doorway of light ahead of her,
cursing Robbie for forgetting to collect his car from the shop
again. And then the clouds break, and Kate is able to
spot him. A man emerging from the side passage ahead, moonshine
illuminating his face; his eyes red, his dark brown hair
glistening, a scabby graze on his cheek. Kate is reminded of a
lost dog, frightened and confused.
"Are you okay?" she mutters hesitantly after a few seconds. There's an air of sympathy beneath her distress and although their eyes meet, the man doesn't say a word. His eyes are glazed and unaware and I'm blind, deaf and deeply intrigued. I can't see anything, not a single speck of unfamiliar colour, only the white of the moon that even Katie can see. Not a single peculiar sound, only the wind that's whispering through the alley and the far-off bounce of the basketball.
"Are you hurt?" she tries again, refusing to drop her gaze. An alarm begins echoing across the rooftops and the man jumps. Only then does he nod his head before slowly turning away and staggering in the same direction we'd been heading all along. Kate watches him go.
4B swings open and Robbie's standing there in a grey undershirt
and fluoro green boxer shorts. In addition, to symbolise his
veritable appreciation of class, Robbie wears a small black
bowtie around his neck.
"Dinner is served" he exclaims in a stagey Butler-esque accent while bowing, before taking Kate by the hand, "I'd like to see your chef friends cook up something like this." He leads her through the entrance hallway, past a series of paintings by Louis Parsons; two smudges of white, embracing, and another one, crawling desperately away from a tidal wave of blue and black. They pass through the living room where something's missing, don't stop at the marble counter like Kate's expecting, and enter the bedroom. "Le spaghetti de la boîte".
"Robbie, you are so fucking cute." There, on the bed, lie two plastic trays and on top of each, an open, simmering tin of canned spaghetti. At its foot crackles the old but undyingly loyal TV set that Robbie had rolled in from the other room. Kate's pushed her uncomfortable encounter into the corner for now, and I'm so caught in the autumn leaves falling from the ceiling that it doesn't seem to matter.
"Like it was at your old place" Robbie smiles proudly, grasping Kate around the waist and waiting for his much-deserved smooch. The hand on his crotch is unexpected but he isn't one to complain and the two spend a good few minutes in each other's mouths before Kate breaks free, kicks off her black skirt and unbuttons her shirt.
"You know you're getting laid tonight, don't you?" Kate laughs as Robbie sits at the end of the bed, watching her pull on one of Robbie's flannels as a night shirt. I can see his eyes vibrating with each gong of the copper bell.
"Of course" he beams boyishly before scooting up along the bed sheets and settling in, his tray on his lap. He flicks on the Tele and the room is filled with the melodramatic blare of the Law and Order theme song. Kate hops into bed beside him.
"In the Criminal Justice System," Kate and Robbie begin to mimic simultaneously, "the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime," their voices are theatrical and fresh, "and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders." They look at each other with a mock sense of gravity, holding back smirks, "these are their stories", and then both, in their deepest voices, "Dun dun." And now, as the detectives on screen survey the scene of a particularly gruesome double homicide, they're spluttering out laughter so ridiculous Kate can't breathe.