Smile

by Brendan Strong

Night time. The neon splashes on water lying in the gutters, running down windows. The rain splashes on the people lying in gutters, running down streets. Cars pass, throwing puddle water and neon from the gutters. There is no rush, but confusion comes down with the rain. Should we go in here? How about here? I just want to get out of the rain! Anywhere that has a roof is fine with me!
Some run to the pubs. Some run for their trains. Everyone wants off the wet streets. In the pubs, damp hangs in the air. Words hang too, maybe stuck to the damp. Unfinished conversations. Famous last words. Arguments that aren’t arguments at all. Vocal, boisterous agreements about politics, business, books, the theatre, pubs. Is it right? Of course it’s right! The question is why it’s right! Here’s your evidence, here’s mine. My evidence is even more compelling. A pint’s in order after that argument! I love the way we can argue, yet still retain our winning friendship!
They go home, feeling like why didn’t I say it was wrong? Deep down, that’s what they believe. But deep down they know, who would believe that? Only a fool! Best to convince themselves, then try and convince others. Like it was their opinion, like they were sophisticated, like they were liked.
That damp.
Waiting for dry.
No need to wait anymore. Hop on a plane, be there in a few hours. Bask in the winter sun. Tip the locals, they’ll like you then. Build up a relationship. Let them see how sound you are, despite all your money. At home, it’s not much. Over there, it’s a pile.
Despite all your money? Having money proves a shallow ability to extract money from others. The idea probably derives from the forties or fifties. Maybe the twenties. Maybe even the century before last. When product quality was questionable. When salesmen sold things that didn’t exist. Faulty insurance, widgets. Government stepped in. Legislated for ‘merchantable quality’ and made it illegal to sell certain things that didn’t exist. But then people invented other things that didn’t exist. Sold them at a good profit. Then the people who bought them, the invented things, came to realise the things they bought didn’t exist. And they hated anyone involved in creating the thing that didn’t exist and the lousy bastard that sold it to them. Then, to cap it all off, the lousy bastard salesman and the guy who created nothing take all that money and spend it on a beach somewhere. Getting friendly with people who get screwed by other people in their country.
And we have the damp. Hanging in the air with drizzled rain.
Rain, drizzled on a city like the way they describe olive oil on salads with all those leaves. Adds to the flavour. Maybe even the texture. Who knows? Does it really matter, though? Whether or not olive oil is like rain? Makes no sense really, if you think about it.
The train goes slow, because of the rain and the leaves. Creates a fine fluid-type substance. Something similar to Teflon. Making the rails non-stick. So you could stir fry on them. Or maybe fry. In olive oil. But rail food is famously crap, so who would do that? I don’t know.
So the rain comes down and the train runs out. The people, a little drunk and very wet, wish they were at home. Drops form puddles. Some people sit on the floor. Might get piles. That’s how you get them, they say. ‘They’ that are the people who told them that they say. They’s they.
No one knows how anyone feels. But they all feel the same. Damp, depressed, drunk. There must be more. But where is it? Scrape around in the neon in the puddles in the gutters, before cars throw it all up to splash on someone drunk. Everyone searching for something. They don’t know what. Everyone knows how everyone feels. But they can’t let each other know. Who could trust anyone that scrapes around in the puddles, searching for something they don’t even know? How could you trust yourself, knowing it’s what you do? If you can’t trust yourself, you can’t trust anyone. The best thing is to forget it. Look out the window. See the city railing past.
Somewhere out there, relationships are breaking apart. Children are being beaten. Someone is throwing up bad Chinese food and wine. Someone else is hoping to score. Someone again is trying to find a vein, in vain. Desperation hangs in the air, with the damp.
Damp, filling, but empty. There’s nothing in the spaces. Between the spaces, droplets of water. H2O – not water – not at this temperature. The same chemical makeup, but it’s in the wrong form – to call it water. How can ‘damp’ be a wrong form? Who knows, but it’s not the form we’re looking for. Not water.
Damp. Dreaming now, staring out windows. Dreaming of that Man, that Woman. They’re waiting for them. At home, with beauty and food. A fire, maybe a DVD. Something to do to distract from this. This damp: not wet, not dry.
But how do you let them know you’re dreaming of them? What words? I dreamt of you on the train home. We were naked in front of the fire… You’re losing it. There’s no room for such words in reality. They’re made up. Created from nothing. You wouldn’t pay for it, but you might feel for it. You might feel like this is what you’re looking for. At the bottom of the puddles, in the spaces between the water, the H2O. The moon shoots a beam of light through the drizzled window, and you know. You know you’re going to make it tomorrow. Smile.

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