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Something stupid

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                   Something stupid


”B lue”,       he said; his voice expressing all the energy and
optimism of a hung-over college student (the kind that probably
could find his way to a classroom, but only because he once
attended a midnight-break in-beer-and-dope-party arranged by
you average kappa-phi-deltas) who, ten minutes before the finals
are due to start, desperately tries to find a functional pen among
the empty beer cans, UBO’s 1 and pools of vomit.
    “Blue?” I replied, trying to convey a world of compassion and
sympathy, since this blue-thing obviously wasn’t good.
    “Blue, yes. That is pretty much all I have and it’s really not
much, you think?”
    “Yes, well, I’d say that it… well. You see, hm. I really don’t
know what you’re talking about? But feel free to fill me in.”
    Theo looked at me with something that probably could be
described as dismay. I admit I probably should know what
this blue-stuff was all about, but unfortunately I had over-
developed the skill to say “m-hm”, “really?” and “oh, that’s really
interesting!” while my thoughts were somewhere completely
different. It was a very useful skill to have and it had saved
me from hours of extreme boredom but it tended to kick in
automatically. I had the feeling that this might be what had just
happened here.
    “Well, it’s the book of course”, Theo explained, “the book I’m
starting to write now.”
    “Uh-huh. And… blue?”
    “As I said! It will be the first word of the novel, I’ve been
brainstorming for days and that is what I have come up with.
Blue. I really don’t want to start off with a pronoun…”
    “Why?”
    “Why? Because I don’t like them! And a verb, well, you can
only imagine how that would sound. ‘Running, he was…’, no,
that won’t work. I’d have to write in passive voice, and I really,
really don’t like that either.”
    “So… adjective then?”
    “Yes, precisely. Blue. And I don’t really know where to go

                               -5-
from there.”

   I must say Theo had hit a new world record. After one word
(one that, mind you, he hadn’t written yet but only planned to
                                                                                                       2
write) he already suffered from writer’s block. That was quite a
unique accomplishment.                                                                      Sunny side of the street


                                                                   T hat afternoon I decided to go CS:ing . It’s not like I had
                                                                                                                 2

                                                                   anything better to do anyway, since it was Tuesday. Military
                                                                   Camp was on Mondays, Star Wars on Thursdays and Homeless
                                                                   Or Millionaire on Fridays - and in between these peak points, my
                                                                   life was pretty dull at the moment. Normally, I would have things
                                                                   to watch all week around, but the cable guy hade done something
                                                                   to the box under the TV and since then we could only watch seven
                                                                   channels and missed out on all the good shows. Theo was going
                                                                   to call him and ask him to come and undo whatever it was that
                                                                   he did to the box, but there was no answer, and he would be back
                                                                   soon anyway to fix or break something else so we might just as
                                                                   well wait. But in the mean time there were only three RLSes 3 I
                                                                   could watch and quite frankly, it made me kind of restless.

                                                                       Main Street was crowded as usual. Do people even have
                                                                   homes? When I passed Richie’s, there he was. Again. He’d been
                                                                   sitting there at least twice a week the past month, and not that I
                                                                   was looking for him but I did really start to wonder if there was a
                                                                   hidden meaning in the fact that he was constantly thrown in my
                                                                   way. Right, okay, maybe he didn’t rank that high on the regular
                                                                   celeb-scale, but he did have something rather… original about
                                                                   him. God, I mean, he is a tall man, and not actually with a tiny
                                                                   bone structure either. And he always wore that hat, and smoked
                                                                   something that looked like a cigar, yet… not.
                                                                       When I walked by I tried to remember something he had
                                                                   actually done, I mean after all he was a celebrity, right? That is not
                                                                   a status one reaches without actually doing anything. Even that
                                                                   (invectivious word deleted) Titchmarsh was doing something to
                                                                   earn the admiration of half a million bored housewives, even if
                                                                   it was only poking in the dirt, wearing – oh god, let’s not even
                                                                   go there. (I really feel better when I manage to steer clear of the
                                                                   thought of flannel.) Anyway, I did actually remember something;
                                                                   a comedy show, was it? Possibly together with that other bloke,
                                                                   also a tall one with the face of a horse (good-looking horse, mind
                                                                   you), now what was his name again? Anyway, never mind, I left
                                                                   2
                                                                       Celebrity Spotting
                              -6 -                                 3
                                                                       Real Life Soaps                -7-
the dodgy part of Main Street behind and the sunny side of the          you know.”
street appeared before my eyes. Oh yes. This was the Mecca for              “Yeah.”
CS:ers like me. This was where it where they all went, where you            “Another, ey?”
could see them, although the hit-rate might be higher on a Friday           “Right you go, that liquor company would go bankrupt if you
night than on a dull Tuesday afternoon. But you never know. One         didn’t support them.”
day Madonna could drop by for a latte-to-go, or who knows…                  “Nah, do you know how many inhabitants Finland has? Over
even my brother might show. As far as I knew he was still in the        five million. Five! Millions! Of vodka-drinkers!”
city… somewhere in the city.                                                “Come now, they don’t all drink, do they?”
                                                                            “Oh, didn’t you know? Even babies drink in Finland. It’s
    “Hey Bart”, I greeted my bald friend behind the bar at              really scary. You can see toddlers get in to drunken fist fights
JimmyD’s, “pour me one, will you?”                                      in kindergarten. Luckily, the nurses and teachers are usually too
    “Oh, sweet thing, I haven’t seen you for two days, I thought        drunk to notice. I swear, the women does not have mother’s milk
you might have found yourself another hangout.”                         in their breasts, they have vodka. And speaking of vodka…”
    “Nothing like JimmyD’s, I tell you. Slice of lemon, please              “Already? Yes, yes, I’m filling up, and here is the lemon. You
Bart.”                                                                  should speak to Marietta, by the way. The lady over there.”
    “Oh, don’t give me that game-show routine. ‘I’ll try Plato,             He glanced at a lady sitting in the dark corner behind the
please Bob’. For gossake. Whoever gave you idea you have to, or         jukebox. (It was broken, by the way.) She was really something,
even are allowed to, say please to me? Here go you, and one more        I could tell just by looking at her. If Forty was an animal that
‘please’, young lady, and you’re out of here for good.”                 had attacked her a few years ago, she had probably wrestled it
    (Needless to say, I love Bart.)                                     down and forced it to work to her advantage. If Fifty was a huge
    It’s amazing how many things there are to do behind the bar.        monster just waiting to sink its big teeth into her neck, she was
I can watch Bart all day, wiping with his cloth and slicing with        still fighting it back pretty well (possibly with the assistance of
his dull knife, sorting all the bottles, washing the glasses (and       Forty, if we stay with the assumption it is that wrestled down
occasionally breaking one, but I’m sure that’s only for fun, a little   animal; a metaphor I believe it’s called). All in all, she was a
variation in the sameold-sameold-routine) and mixing things in          woman in control and I stepped over to her table. I think Bart
the blender. I think bartenders are highly underestimated. How          might have communicated with her through ultra waves or
on earth would we survive without the Barts and the Teds that           psychosomething (or possibly, she was one of those women that
pour us drinks and insult us and make us believe they actually          could run into Elvis when grocery shopping, and not even raise
listen to our problems? Therapy is really not my game – I tend          their eyebrows – and eyebrows should really be raised if running
to go completely blank in the presence of a professional mind-          into Elvis, what with him being dead and all), because she didn’t
problem-solver, but give me an hour in a bar and I’ll tell my           look surprised to see me, and immediately started to HKMP-5 me
story faster than you can say “castration complex” or “Freudian         with words.
slip” (and then there is the added value of the alcohol, we must            “Aha! My name is Marietta van Dijk, which is my name
never forget the alcohol). Safe to say, I’ve spent more hours in        and not who I am. Who I am I will not tell you, although you
bars than…yes, well, anywhere else. Except possibly in bed, but         undoubtedly will want to know. If I ever tell you, I will probably
considering it has never been the same bed for more than short          be lying. Who are you? And by that I mean your name!”
periods, I’d still have to say I’m more a bar lady than a bed lady.         “I’m Norma Jean and can I get you a drink?”
Although that does, I must say, give the wrong impression about             “Thank you. No. I have had my drink and I only have one.”
me. I do enjoy sex as much as the next person; I’ve just never been         Her voice was grim, like she was telling a very upsetting story
a fan of doing it in bed. And as far as sleeping goes, I usually do     with a terrible ending that she couldn’t wait to deliver so that she
that in libraries.                                                      got to see horror and panic in my face. I would soon learn that
                                                                        this was in fact quite accurate; one of the many frightening but
   “So, any news on the brother situation?”                             alluring details about her.
   “Not really, Bart. I know he’s somewhere around here, but,               “So, Bart tells me you are looking for celebrities and your

                                 -8 -                                                                   -9-
brother. Not necessarily, mind you, in that order!” Everything
Marietta van Dijk says seemed to have an exclamation mark in the
end, even if she was actually asking a question. It didn’t bother
me. Her eyes, on the other hand, were bothering me a great deal.
                                                                                                     3
They were brown and I don’t respond well to brown eyes.
    “Yes”, I admitted, “I am. Not looking for, er, exactly. Well,           I won’t let the sun go down on me
my brother, of course. But the celebrities, I’m just… really…
spotting.”
    “AH!” Marietta burst out, leaning forward and looking at me
like she was a hungry beast and I was… well… lunch. “But what
is the difference? Looking for! Spotting! And I will also add that   A fter I had carried ice and towels (and a shitload of guilt),
people who are looking for something in most cases really do not     Marietta actually seemed to forgive me, although I think she still,
want to find it!”                                                    to this very day, holds a grudge deep inside. You see, she was
    Now, bear in mind that it was Tuesday, that I had had a few      that kind of woman who, when she was spanked as a child not
vodkas and that the cable guy had broken my box thing, thus          only first hit back and then sued her parents, but also represented
depriving me of my favourite RLSes. Add to this the fact that        herself in court and won enough money never to have to ask for
it would have crossed no-one’s mind to ever call me Miss Boat-       pocket money ever again. Safe to say, not many people had ever
Who-Cannot-Be-Rocked, or added me to a mailing list for people       tried to, or dared to, hurt Marietta. She was a complete package
with Mental Coolness Syndrome (that doesn’t exist, of course,        of girl power that had safely developed in 44 years, and the
don’t be daft, it’s just en example-syndrome that I just made up).   results were, I assure you, overwhelming. The black bob haircut
Remember this and try to cut me just the tiniest bit of slack when   and the sharp jaw line alone were enough to make you think
I tell you what happened next.                                       villain-that-would-cause-007-substantial-pain, and add to that
                                                                     the staccato way of speaking, the look in her eyes that could open
                                                                     a tin of beans with no extra appliances and her nails that were
                                                                     perfectly manicured and neatly shaped to deadly weapons, it all
                                                                     kind of added up to a woman you didn’t tick off if not absolutely
                                                                     necessary. So I believe my punching her in the face - and thereby
                                                                     causing a slight nose bleed - this perfectly normal Tuesday was
                                                                     quite unexpected. It wasn’t like I planned it or anything; my God,
                                                                     I hardly knew this woman and the little I had seen of her was, as
                                                                     mentioned above, quite scary. But you know, sometimes you just,
                                                                     what is the correct term for it… oh, yes. Freak out.
                                                                         “I’m really sorry”, I said for the one-million-fourhundred-
                                                                     you-get-the-ideath time, “I didn’t mean to.”
                                                                         “I think punching someone in the face, with the fist, would
                                                                     have to be hard if you don’t mean it, no?”
                                                                         I had to admit she had a point. Punching someone is not
                                                                     exactly like tripping over a very small dog or forgetting to adjust
                                                                     your clocks and watches that weekend in October, its more a
                                                                     question of willingly moving your fist, which is actually hard to
                                                                     do without intent.
                                                                         “Norma Jean, I will undoubtedly be pissed off for a very long
                                                                     time beneath my cool surface. This, however, does not have to
                                                                     undermine our acquaintance. We can still talk and I will not


                               -10 -                                                                - 11 -
punch back, thank you very much.”                                        plain old lunch – I had the feeling that something about me
     “That’s very big of you. Can I offer you another towel?”            started to interest this scary woman), her eyes narrowing as if she
     “Thank you, the bleeding has now stopped. Please not to             was pondering something very deeply.
punch me again. I think you would probably not survive that.                 “Norma Jean”, she finally said, “you have been in therapy,
Tell me now, why this strange outburst? I think my blouse got a          yes?”
little stain of blood, you see? So tell.”                                    “Well, you mean for the aggression thing? I…”
     The stain she mentioned was probably not a stain, but I                 “No, not for the aggression thing. I was thinking, you give
couldn’t prove that without dragging her out from the shadows            such good explanations. It sounds to me – but what do I know, I
and dim lights behind the jukebox and out in the light, and I            am only a very rich and successful business woman who does not
really didn’t want to test her patience any further. Especially          need a husband – that you have everything very well thought out.
since I probably needed her for something, Bart had sent me over         This is often the result of therapy. I know when my boys and girls
to her, and he always did that when he had found someone he              start to talk like this, yes, it’s always a sign that they have found
thought might know my brother, have tickets to a real killer show        someone to overpay for messing with their brains.”
or simply be the kind of person I could drink with when I needed             For the moment, I ignored the fact that I had no idea what
bad company the most. (Considering this, the punching was bad            bunch of people she was referring to when she said “my boys and
policy, I know. But remember the freak-out-factor.)                      girls”, and instead tried to figure out whether or not I should be
     “Ye-es”, I hesitated and sat down again (but slowly, and on         insulted by what she had just said. Bart distracted me for a second
guard). “You see, it was, I have been looking for my brother for so      by stopping by the table with a new vodka drink for me and a
long and I am so terribly worried he is dead. Or worse.”                 bowl of peanuts for Marietta.
     “Worse, how, what could be worse, hm?”                                  “You alright there, ladies?” he asked blankly.
     “He could be, I don’t know, really, but I’m sure there are              “Thank you Bart, we’re fine”, I said hastily, wanting to avoid
worse things than being dead.”                                           more talk of the punching. He nodded and disappeared again,
     “For him, yes, but for you I think dead is the worst since you      leaving me to wonder what the heck he thought Marietta van Dijk
can not change it in any way.”                                           could bring to my life (except unplanned outbursts and quite a lot
     “No, yes, okay, I see your point. But you see, I got so angry       of fear). Too late now, anyhow. And, all things considered, I had a
when you said I didn’t want to find him. Of course I want to find        vodka drink. I decided to ask Marietta to tell me about her life.
him! That’s what I’ve been trying to do, very hard, for quite some
time. So I just, you know, well...”
     “Hit me.”
     “Yes, I would have gone with ‘freaked out’, but as that resulted
in me hitting you… I guess, yeah, that’s correct too.”
     “You have a mother, hm? And a father? They wonder too
where he is?”
     “Our mother is dead since many years, but my father is very
worried too.”
     “And you spend your time looking for this brother. This is,
one might say, the quest that you are on.”
     “Yes, and I do a little CS:ing, too… but that’s of course not the
important part of my life, it’s more a question of finding some fun
in the existence. So, I guess I got a bit angry with that too, that
you seemed to think that spotting celebs and looking for a lost
brother was of the same dignity to me.”
     Marietta glanced at me (and, again, made me feel like a meal
– this time, perhaps, more of a steamy, Hungarian stew and not

                                 -12 -                                                                   - 13 -
                                                                         “No, can’t say that I have. Want a beer?”
                                                                         “Oh, don’t mind if I do. So, hmm, it’s not the signal wire.
                                                                     Could it be the ranger that’s out of sync? I will have to open the
                                4                                    box. Thanks.”
                                                                         “You’re welcome. And you haven’t seen Theo?”
                                                                         “He left a while ago, didn’t tell me where he was going, no
                   The water is wide                                 siree, he didn’t.”
                                                                         “Okay, well, you know, I’ll just go upstairs and have a bath,
                                                                     okay? If you leave before I’m done, be sure to lock the door
                                                                     behind you, ey?”
Of     course, I had forgotten my keys, so after my regular              “Will do, Norma Jean, will do.”
afternoon nap at the library I walked home, just hoping Theo
would be home and awake. The big man with the crooked                    I brought my beer to the bathroom and drew myself a hot
nose had left Richie’s, his table was now occupied by three          bath. After considering the day so far, I added a cap of lavender
teenage girls (spitting images of each other, very scary, like a     scented oil to the running water. Something soothing and
doppelganger episode of Star Trek). They were giggling and           relaxing would actually be somewhat a treat. I really had to
smoking and had too much concealer smudged over their spots.         consider what Marietta had told me. Oh, not the story of her life
Anyway, I didn’t stop there (I never did), I just noticed that he    (it was the usual yadiyada; I grew up an orphan and had nothing
wasn’t there anymore. Maybe he actually had a home.                  and I worked harder than anyone else and now, miraculously, I’m
                                                                     all rich and almost famous, yadiyada again – can people please
   The cable guy opened the door for me. He had an blunt stump       come up with a slightly more interesting success story that that?
of a pencil behind his left ear and didn’t seem to know where        God, I’m so bored with all the started-out-with-empty-pockets-
Theo was. Not that it mattered; I’d had enough of blue as the        crap!), but what she had told me about networking. In the middle
topic of the day early that morning.                                 of the success-crap, she had actually said something interesting:
   “Have you fixed the box?” I asked the cable guy while opening     “Without my network, I would be nothing.” Now, what Marietta
my post (it sounds so grand, but really, it was just an invoice      meant by that was that she a bunch of devoted assistants that did
from the library – something about a broken chair, I don’t know,     the dirty work for her, and without whom she could never deal
but I supposed it was my fault or they wouldn’t have sent the        with life. That was not what I was thinking (that had been the
invoice to me, now, would they? – and some glossy pamphlet           idea when forming an emotional attachment to, or at least moving
in garish colours, advertizing the services of a lady that read      in with, Theo... and see how well that ended). No, my vision was
Tarot. Her name was Madame Smith… which didn’t really seem,          different than that. A network. Or maybe some sort of a club. A
well, proper. Weren’t they supposed to be named Zelda? Or            gang of people with all different qualities and characteristics,
Grismeralda? Or possibly Katitzi?).                                  people who could help each other, support each other. I had a
   “The box, hey? Nay, I’m here for the top cable switch relay.”     vague idea I had seen a definition like that before somewhere, I
   “The what, now? Oh, never mind, but you have to fix the box.      just couldn’t remember where. It would come to me, but I really
All my favourites RLS channels are gone!”                            had to start thinking about that network thing. Wouldn’t it be
   “Oh, blimey, nay, we can’t have that! I did a thingy, you know,   good to find a group of people like that? Good, and maybe also
I switched the twelve-tip a little so that the perception would be   fun. Also, I thought, networking was probably quite modern. I
clearer for you, and I cleaned the clog-off-filter also. Blimey,     had the feeling I had seen and heard the word many a times. It
blimey. I’ll check the signal wire, I think I must have bended it    was probably a good idea to start a network. (But how?)
somehow. Have you seen small, green flashes of light in the right
corner?”                                                                (When Theo came home, I asked him if he had ever heard the
   “Er, no.”                                                         definition of a group of people that hung out together, supporting
   “The bottom right corner?”                                        each other and forming some sort of network.

                               -14 -                                                               - 15 -
   “Oh, you mean friends”, he said.)                                     sure that you’re taking your bath outside of office hours) and no
                                                                         errands can be run. This is your time. If you are going to read,
    I decided to stay in the bath for the weekly call. Yes, I            read something harmless. Or go for the ever more popular option,
have a phone in the bathroom. I have always had a phone in               to phone a friend. That’s what I did this Tuesday, but then again,
the bathroom, there is no place on earth you can have a more             that’s what I do every week.
rewarding phone conversation than in the bath. I take my bathing
very seriously, I tell you, it’s not like I just accidentally hop in
the water and whisk away the dirt from my wandering feet every
now and then. Nah, that’s what you have showers for. Bathing is
a completely different business all together. Let me tell you how
to take the perfect bath.
    First of all, the bathroom needs to be clean. If you live together
with a sloppy bastard who does not recognize your bath needs,
you need to have your own bathroom. Or, if this is impossible,
you’ll have to get a cleaning lady or, worst case scenario, do the
cleaning yourself. Now, when I say the bathroom needs to be
clean, I use the phrase “clean” quite loosely. It means that it has
to be clean where you can see that it is clean. (If you can’t see a
clean surface, why does it have to be clean? If you can’t see it,
who cares what it looks like, right?) This enables the possibility
to cheat – turn out the lights and use candles and there you have
it. (A lot of cleaning becomes redundant when you learn the
proper use of candles, this does not only apply to bathrooms,
but is a wisdom to be used in all your rooms.) Ah, and yes, light
a lot of candles. That was really going to be rule number two,
but I think we’ve already covered that. Then you need to learn
how to use scents. You can use scented candles, aroma lamp or
just bath salts or oil in the water. Lavender for calming down,
for example, and eucalyptus for cheering up. Or, whatever you
feel you like. Cinnamon, vanilla, jasmine, sandalwood… you can
basically make your own aromatherapy kit, containing the scents
you prefer. (Extra plus for all of you who don‘t have the luxury of
a private home: try to find scents you like but the ones you share
your home with don’t. That way you will get more me-time all
alone in the bathroom.)
    Then, when all preparation has led to the point where you
are ready to take off your clothes and slowly – slowly! – sink
yourself in the hot water, the really great part begins. You see,
there is nothing you can actually do in a bathtub. No research
can be done, no heavy books be read (you would drop them in
the water and that would be a waste of both money – books are
expensive - and precious bath time), no important calls be made
(you have to plan a little for this; if you have a telephone in the
bathroom – and I strongly recommend you do – you need to make

                                 -16 -                                                                 - 17 -
                                                                     mess of a world, Norma Jean. About this syndrome?”
                                                                         “I know it has to do with a talk show host at least.”
                                                                         “Okay. Let’s just move on. Any leads on your brother?”
                                5                                        “No. Same old. I’m sure I’ll find him one day.”
                                                                         “You have been in that dodgy city for two years, and still no
                                                                     trace of him. How long are you going to stay there?”
                      Unforgettable                                      “Well, I wouldn’t say no trace at all. There was this rave
                                                                     thing last spring, I’m fairly sure I saw him there. It was just too
                                                                     crowded, I couldn’t get to him before he disappeared again. Have
                                                                     you ever tried fried eggs with green Tabasco?”
      “H ello-o.”                                                        “Norma Jean! It’s not even October and already you’ve started
    “Norma Jean, the cherry of my eye, the garden of my apple,       practising on your Halloween routine. That was the scariest thing
the paki of my stan.”                                                I’ve ever heard!”
    “Yes, I’m the… paki part.”                                           “Worse than when I asked you if you ever had sex with you-
    “Oh, break my heart. What kind of mobile phone are you           know-who in a…”
wearing this week?”                                                      “Don’t go there!”
    “Oh, I’ve got this Siemens, blue-ish and kind of… rounded.”          “Touchy.”
    “Buyable?”                                                           “Sweetheart. You know I love you and you’re my bestest
    “Oh no. Absolutely not. I stole mine.”                           friend in the world?”
    “But of course you did, you naughty little one. You have             “The paki of your stan.”
stolen things all your life.”                                            “Yes, true, and also the one and only sugary plum in the hot
    “That might be true, but I’ve also been giving things away and   stinking liquor I bought in Istanbul.”
helping people solve their problems all my life. I’ve been miss          “You confuse me with all this.”
Marpleing for as long as I can remember.”                                “No, I don’t, Norma Jean, because you ignore me. Now, tell
    “Yes, I know you like to believe that, but when did you          me about Theo.”
actually help someone solving a problem recently? Tell me, I             “Well, he is going to write a book.”
know you’re a GG 4 at heart, but proof, you see, I need proof.           “Yes, you told me about that.”
When God calls me up at night, asking me about this Norma Jean           “Oh, did I? I had forgotten all about it. You see, this morning,
he keeps hearing so many thief stories about, I will have to prove   he, out of the… well, blue, started talking about blue. I got so
to him that you are, most of the time, a much younger and prettier   confused.”
miss Marple, but still, at heart, a kind old lady with a sense of        “Yes. I can see how that could happen.”
moral that could knock the teeth from the mouth of Mohammed              “And he never stopped talking about it, it seemed, the words
Ali in a flash.”                                                     about this blue stuff just kept coming, and the context just didn’t
    “I think God would never call you, you mean mean person,         get any clearer.”
and besides, any baby could knock the teeth of Mohammed Ali,             “I am still with you, 100%, let me assure you I know exactly
the poor bastard has whatsitcalled, the syndrome that makes you      what you mean.”
go all shaky and unstable.”                                              “One could really lose one’s mind over something like that.
    “Old?”                                                           What, just mention ‘blue’, and expect the one you’re talking with
    “No, I think it must be Kilroy’s syndrome, or Monkhouse’s.”      will understand it all? Just like that?”
    “Monkhouse’s syndrome, isn’t that the one where you feed             “Very valid questions, indeed. I can so relate.”
your child poison and then act all exemplary mom when the                “Why didn’t he just say he was going to start the bloody book
doctor say your little one is ill?”                                  with the word ‘blue’?”
    “Watching X-files again, have we?”                                   “Ah. Yes, one can wonder if that had not been an easier way
    “Well, that’s the only thing that even begins to explain this    to go.”
4
    Good Girl
                               -18 -                                                                - 19 -
     “I am in the bath. I need to wash my hair now. Oh, yes, and I
saw that big man again, you know, the smart looking one with the
crooked nose and that smashing hat. What is the deal with him
being present at all times?”                                                                          6
     “Good question, and one that for the moment lacks an equally
good answer. Other celebs worth mentioning?”
     “Well, I thought I saw Hugh Grant at Starbucks. It wasn’t him
                                                                                             Self Control
though. But I did see him, what’s his name, the Shakespearian
guy, the 007 with no license to anything?”
     “Timothy Dalton. Yes, he is rather uncool.”
     “And that woman who wrote those books, you know about the          “b art, is Marietta here?”
little brat with the scar in his face.”                                  “No, haven’t seen her since you, you know, since last time.”
     “I know, I know. Not very glamorous, though.”                       “Oh. Vodka, Bart.”
     “No, I’m still waiting for Madonna to show.”                        “Comin’ up. Did you need to see Marietta? I could give her a
     “Hey, I saw Posh and Becks the other day.”                      ring, you know. I have a telephone in this oh-so-well-equipped
     “Really?!”                                                      bar.”
     “No, it was really just a flag pole, I mistook it for Posh.”        “No, don’t bother. I just want to be prepared if I’m to see her.
     “And Becks, was he the… flag then?”                             She’s a little…”
     “No… I just assumed I saw him too, since she was there. I           “Scary?”
mean, he’s always around when she is anyway, I really think              “Yes. But, I’m sure, good-hearted.”
they’ve formed some kind of unhealthy, physical attachment to            Bart polished a highball glass with some foreign brand name
one another. A symbiosis even. I expect her to toddle around         on it and said thoughtfully:
after him when he’s doing those things that he does with the             “Well, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. But as long as there
football that he likes to play with. Gotta go now, Norma Jean.       is Marietta in the world, you want to stay on her good side, right?
BAGAYC 5!”                                                           Not someone you’d like as an enemy.”
     “Likewise, the eye of my storm.”                                    “Good heavens, no.”
                                                                         “She’s not here anyway, so you can relax and have a drink
   Always keep at least one person in your life who knows who        with a friend of mine, a journalist actually. He sits over there.
you really are. Just in case you get confused and forget, you need   Shall I bring your vodka to his table?”
someone who can tell you about you. I’d actually recommend
keeping a friend like that as warmly as I recommend having a             I agreed and walked over the old, chipped wooden floor to
phone in the bathroom.                                               the man Bart had pointed out. I could hear an old country song
                                                                     from the jukebox (something about being a lonesome cowboy
                                                                     and a long way from home, one of those songs you’ve heard a
                                                                     million times but never knew what it was called or who the artist
                                                                     was), so it was obviously fixed again. Not that it mattered, but
                                                                     it struck me as a little odd. The jukebox had been broken since
                                                                     first I got here, and somehow it seemed a little out of place for it
                                                                     to be working. I guess that’s the way some things go: you get so
                                                                     used to them being broken that it actually seems wrong if they
                                                                     get fixed. I reckon it’s only a question of our ability to adapt. A
                                                                     broken jukebox cannot produce music, so we see it as broken – it
                                                                     doesn’t fulfil its sole purpose of existing. But if no one removes
                                                                     the jukebox and it keeps being broken, it will cease to be a music-

5
    Be As Good As You Can
                               -20 -                                                                - 21 -
producing-item-that-cannot-perform to us, and end up being              “Bargain! Bargain! Who the fuck invented the word ‘bargain’?!
perceived as something else. Perhaps the-thing-in-the-corner-           It’s absolutely idiotic, it doesn’t go with anything!” or “Do we
that-glows,       or    the-damn-thing-I-always-knock-my-head-in-       have any books at all on Greek mythology?!”.
when-I’ve-had-too-much-tequila. My point being that a thing is              I did, even if it hadn’t to do with speaking, have access to the
only that thing as long as it does what it’s supposed to, but after     good TV channels again, but everything on the screen now had
that it’s still a thing, just not that thing.                           an unhealthy shade of ochre, which made everything look like
                                                                        an extra cosy episode of Oprah. Needless to say, that took the
    I think I probably should have opened the conversation with         edge out of Trapped at the Tivoli and Who Will Survive. When
this friend of Bart’s with something else than a quick recap of my      someone is fighting an alligator with his bare hands and you
jukebox thoughts. I’ve never been a good recapper anyway, my            know the results are going to be really bad because you saw the
recaps normally takes about three times as long to tell than the        pools of blood in the preview, you really don’t want it to look like
original story. By the time I’d finished, the friend-of-Bart was        the whole scene has been drowned in orange lemonade.
staring at me with a completely stunned face, and when he spoke,            So anyway, having this long conversation with Antonius
his voice was actually very nice to listen to.                          Silver was a very welcome break from the routine. Besides, he
    “My god, woman, you’re completely insane.”                          was the first journalist I ever met.
    “Oh”, I replied (I really never know what to say when people
get all assertive on me like that), and he added with a great big           I feel I have to add here that I normally don’t enjoy talking
smile:                                                                  to people. I do it because I have to, much like going grocery
    “Completely insane. I think I love you. My name is Antonius         shopping or clipping those cocky little toe-nails of mine. To be
Silver, do you have a name? Nah, for God’s sake, don’t tell me, I       fair, it’s not like I really hate it either, it just seems to me a waste
don’t want you to have a name.”                                         of time. Normally, people are boring anyway, and conversations
    “But I do, even if I don’t tell you about it.”                      tend to end up as arguments. But sitting there, with my iced
    “Yes, but in that case I won’t know and what I don’t know           vodka and this funny-looking stranger on the other side of the
doesn’t exist. That’s the secret of journalism, by the way; if I        table, I actually found that I was enjoying myself. After a couple
didn’t lead my life in that belief, I’d go nuts in a week. What I       of hours I realized I hadn’t even asked him any of the obvious
don’t know about doesn’t exist. I’ll give you my own name, do           things, and that was a sign of… something, I’m sure. I can’t really
you mind?”                                                              say why talking to him was more rewarding than talking with Joe
    “No, as long as it doesn’t mean I have to wear all white and        Random, you will all have to make up your own theories on that
dip myself in a pool while you’re reading some strange chant            one. Your guess is as good as mine.
about fathers and sons and holy spirits over me.”                           “I have this theory”, said Antonius sometime just before the
    And, speaking of holy spirits. Bart had showed up in his usual,     light of dawn punched darkness in its face and drove it away,
forthcoming manners, and filled our glasses yet again.                  “that each and every one in a civilised society have something
                                                                        that they want to crush, or destroy if you want.”
    We ended up sitting by the battered, old table talking for hours,       “Everyone?”
which probably had its explanation in the fact that I thought my            “Yes, that is, everyone even slightly more intelligent than that
lips were growing together, like a wound healing. You see, I            bimbo TV-presenter from Sweden.”
had been quiet almost all week, the last person I had been truly            “Don’t even go there. The jury of me has found her guilty of
talking to was Marietta, and that had been the week before. Theo        all stupidity charges and is working to get a mental restraining
wasn’t really interesting these days, he never showed up before         order. Eww. But anyway. Okay, let me think, I have to think.”
I got out and when I came home, the most I could expect was                 “The vast amounts of vodka you’ve been pouring in to that
him coming out from the study (a fancy word for closet, in this         – very fine, by the way – body of yours doesn’t make it easier,
case, a truly tiny floor space surrounded by plaster walls – it was     does it?”
too damp to keep clothes in and Theo had decided he needed a                “This is neither the time nor the place to lecture me on the way
study) with wild eyes and greasy hair, half-screaming things like       I implement alcohol in my life, thank you very much. I need to

                                -22 -                                                                    - 23 -
figure out – how did you come up with this theory anyway?”
    Antonius was one of those fortunate people who can raise
one of their eyebrows, a talent I had always admired, and at this
moment he chose to flaunt this ability. I couldn’t exactly define                                       7
the slightly sinking feeling it infused in me, but it made me forget
a little of what we were talking about. (Oh dear, oh dear.)
    “Well, you see”, he explained, “I used to ask people the
                                                                                               It’s my party
question: what do you think of the world you live in? This was
during my thereisameaning-period, I was young and, well, maybe
not that young, but still, and I thought that life and existence had
a deeper meaning and that the people living in the world were          V odka      simply isn’t the same when drinking it at home,
the ones to ask. I was convinced that the truth was not out there,     alone. The distraction factor is minimal when you’re home, the
but (he placed his hand over his chest) in here. You see? I was        possibility of the unexpected is virtually non-existent. (Of course,
very naïve. But that aside – and I do have other theories now – I      a plane could crash into your living room, or a big group of
was surprised to hear that each and every one of the ones I asked      Mafioso’s could step in, demanding to use your bedroom as the
included a wish of destruction in their answer.”                       Headquarters of Crimedome. But seriously, those things never
    “I really wonder.”                                                 happen. And even if they did, they would most certainly not lead
    And I did. I tried to imagine what sort of answer I would have     to fun in any way, which was the true meaning of the unexpected.)
given to a question like that, but somehow I couldn’t picture          Therefore, it was obvious I needed a good party.
anything but reaching out across the table and touching that               Theo didn’t qualify as company these days, as I’m sure you’ve
strange and messy (but obviously clean) hair of his. My inner self     understood by now. It was much like talking to a very badly
went all Silverstone, just jumping up and down chirping ‘iiiih!        directed movie: you never got any direct answers from him and
Project!’. This was not good. I decided I must leave, and leave at     he did little less than dwell on one single word. Well, obviously,
once.                                                                  it was a different word every day, but still. Have you ever tried
    “You’ll tell me about your brother next time”, Antonius cried      having a conversation with someone who can only think about
to me over the all-drunkenness of the room when I left. And it         how a certain word should be placed in a sentence, where it
wasn’t even a question.                                                comes from and what a font change from times new roman to
                                                                       arial would mean to the impression that specific word gives?
    When I was stumbling home in the early light of dawn, I            Not that conversation with Theo was, even best case scenario, a
passed Richie’s, and guess who was there? Right you go. He had         fun way to spend time (or even remotely interesting) but these
a whole group of people around him, and they were all laughing         days he was more boring then ever. And, for obvious Antonius-
and most definitely having a great time. None of the others were,      reasons, I couldn’t go to JimmyD’s – which was truly disturbing.
of course, as impressing as him, I mean, there is the size thing and   JimmyD’s had been my second home since I got here (some would
that original quality I believe I have mentioned before. This man      argue that it had actually been my first home since I didn’t really
had the face and the posture of someone who was in complete            have a first home, I’d been moving around a bit you see). If you’re
control of the situation, any situation. I wonder if he ever got       a fortress, you need to protect yourself from invaders. Even if
drunk and threw up in strange places, like normal people do.           – or especially if – they were nicely shaped and journalists. So: no
                                                                       JimmyD’s for me, until I had regained a little self control.

                                                                          Yes, I needed a party, somewhere to drink and dance and
                                                                       probably laugh a little too. I went through my post hoping that
                                                                       someone had sent me an invitation to something, but no. The
                                                                       only thing that had come was a bill from the cable guy and yet
                                                                       another outragously over-designed come-give-me-your-money-

                                -24 -                                                                 - 25 -
letter from Madame Smith. How annoying. But one of my good
qualities is that I hardly ever stop to sulk – if I have a problem
I deal with it (within reasonable limits, of course). So, I phoned
Marietta van Dijk. I figured it was worth a shot, since she was the                                    8
type that always had more parties to go to in one week than most
of us have in a life time; one of those whose biggest problems is
to find time to reject all the dinner invitations and grand opening
                                                                                     Model, actress, whatever
parties.
    “Norma Jean”, she replied with an almost hearty tone in
the sharp, icy voice, “it’s good you should ask. There is, to my
knowledge, a party in China Town tonight. One that I, I’m sure,       t he perfect party, I’ve always thought, has music that is loud
would not like. You can not say you are me! Of course not, but I      enough to disguise any form of communication (except for the
can get you on the guest list.”                                       sweaty pre-intercourse-thing on the dance floor), lots of vodka,
    “I sure would appreciate that, Marietta”, I said, hoping my       a great deal of male hunkiness and a host(ess) who doesn’t know
voice conveyed enough gratitude to please her. I figured I had        who you are. All of this, and more, was the case with the China
already used all my acting-stupid-credits, and then some. What        Town party that Marietta so kindly had invited me to. It was held
with the punching and all.                                            in something that looked like an old warehouse (this, however,
    “Oh, no problem. But please. Behave, will you? I think no         was probably the result of ten architects working shifts and
important people will be there but I also think one can never         spending millions – the warehouse look is, as I’m sure you know,
know.”                                                                the essence of cool in wannabe cities like this one), people were
    I can accept a rebuke, especially when it’s justified, so I       dressed like supermodels and gay guys. It was all very Sex & the
thanked her for her advice and hung up. I had a party to go to.       City, and once I’ve noticed the open bar, I felt like I was home
                                                                      again. I sat down and asked for a vodka lemon.
                                                                         “Lemon?” said the very handsome but stuck-up bartender
                                                                      (rented for the night, I’m sure, from either an escort service
                                                                      company or the screen actor’s guild).
                                                                         “Yes. Citrus fruit, yellow when ripe, commonly used in drinks.
                                                                      Zest used in desserts of various kinds…”
                                                                         “I know what lemon is! We only have lime. You will get
                                                                      lime.”
                                                                         “I hate lime.”
                                                                         “You’ll have to remove it yourself then. I will not serve a drink
                                                                      without garnish and lime is what we have. Or would you prefer
                                                                      an olive?”
                                                                         “An olive? In vodka?”
                                                                         “Yes, I might fix you a Lady Perfect.”
                                                                         “Thank you, but I’ll stick with the vodka with no lemon but
                                                                      lime and without that too.”
                                                                         “You have to remove it yourself.”
                                                                         “I know, you said. I have hands. Give me the drink now.”
                                                                         “You know, it wouldn’t kill you to say please.”
                                                                         I guess I don’t need to tell you how much I missed JimmyD’s
                                                                      and Bart in that moment. These posh I’m-more-successful-
                                                                      than-thou-art-parties really only had one thing going for them:

                               -26 -                                                                 - 27 -
free booze. And even that obviously came with unnecessary               although I still found him enormously annoying I didn’t let my
disturbance like splashes of idiotic conversation and a twist of        true feelings show. I was sure (although I might have been a bit
argument. The extremely good looking bartender finally gave me          drunk, so maybe the logic wasn’t so clear as I thought at the
my vodka (with the much detested slice of lime) and I said a very       moment) that this was a very good sign, something that proved
polite thank you very much and decided to go somewhere that             me to be, I don’t know, good or something.
wasn’t close to him.
                                                                            Of course, at that moment I managed to pour my drink over
    Now, I should not have been surprised, but I was. I’d gotten        the woman sitting next to me, and the microsecond after I heard
so used to seeing him at Richie’s, I think I probably thought           her irritated cry but before I actually turned around to apologise,
that that was his one and only hangout. But there he was,               I prayed to the lord above (or, well, whoever really powerful,
wearing something very dandy-ish and all cooped up in a lively          Shiva, Ra, Odin, Zeus, whoever) that it wasn’t Marietta. I could
discussion with someone who might - or might not - have been            very clearly remember her saying that I wouldn’t survive
Bob Mortimer. The third party in the discussion was someone I           punching her again, and she seemed like the woman who takes
recognised from last season’s Star Wars (he hung in there until         pride in her appearance to the extent that she’d prefer to have her
the bitter end when he finally had to give up to Natascha (you          leg broken than her nail.
all know her by now) who gave him a serious nose bleed and, I               It’s probably not evidence enough to prove that God, or
believe, also disfigured one of his ears – he got a contract with       Gods, exist - but this time he, they or luck was on my side. It
an agent to write a book as some sort of consolation price, but I       wasn’t Marietta, and it wasn’t a celeb either. (That wouldn’t have
don’t think the book was ever finished, or at least it didn’t hit the   been good, either. That’s not the kind of spotting I’m referring
list over must-reads or even possible-Christmas-presents), but he       to when I say celebrity spotting.) At least no one I recognized,
didn’t seem to contribute much. I couldn’t remember his name,           but then again: she might have been an LSP from On The Road
but it didn’t matter much. As I said, he was an LSP 6 and I needn’t     Again or any of the dodgier RLSes. The problem with today’s
pay any attention to him. The sudden urge to step up to them and        celebrity world is that you don’t always recognize the celebrities
actually talk to the tall man with the funny but very kind face I       because they can be anyone. They can be you, or me. That makes
tried to ignore, and turned away, concentrating on my vodka. I          it hard for serious CS’ers like me, but I do try to keep up with the
left the outskirts of the room and went straight into the middle,       current shows at least. No one can remember everything, or even
where the dance floor was and the DJ 7 (undoubtedly called M.D.         anything, from more than maximum a season back.
Funky or D. Stuffy H. or something very similar) ruled. The music           “I’m sorry”, I said to the unknown woman, the auto pilot
was, as I mentioned, quite loud (and, as usual, really bad – I’m        switched on, “I’m so clumsy, please, send me the dry cleaning
not the one for the rap and funk and soul and fusion and the what       bill.”
now) which released me from the demands of conversation. No                 Now, I’m sure you have an auto pilot, too. You know, that’s
one would expect me to talk to anyone… although they might              the one saying all those wonderfully correct things in social
actually expect me to have a movement pattern that could pass           situations, like “thank you, I had a lovely evening” after a
as “dancing”. This was also a bad thing, so I decided to actually       disastrous date, or “just what I needed” when given a novelty
go back to the handsome bar guy. He had two strong advantages           mug saying “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it
at this point: he had the liquor and he was impolite, which I felt      helps” (or something like that) for Christmas. The auto pilot is a
rather comfortable with.                                                fast learner and is a very good help when in situations that call
                                                                        for politeness and social competence. But the thing is also, that
   “Would you give me one of those, whatever they were called,          if your auto pilot is not met by another auto pilot, it could cause
the vodka drink with an olive in it, please?”                           serious system breakdown. My auto pilot was expecting a “Oh,
   “A Perfect Lady. Yes, certainly. You might like it.”                 don’t worry about it” or maybe a little grmbling with an annoyed
   “I’m sure I will.”                                                   voice, and then the whole thing would’ve been over and done
   See, I was actually being very polite and nice to the actor-         with. But see, that didn’t happen. The woman over whom I had
wannabe that tended the bar. I was very proud of myself, because        spilt the drink said something completely unexpected.
6
    Last Season Person
7
    ... you know this one already, right?   -28 -                                                      - 29 -
    “What was it?”                                                        very useful.
    And there you go. System breakdown, in need of a reboot.                  “Oh, feisty!” she said appreciatively, and I couldn’t help
After that, I was on my own.                                              but smiling, I was still relieved it wasn’t Marietta sitting there,
    “What?” (Not very witty, I admit. I’m really not that much of         planning on how to kill me in the most painful way she could
a fast thinker when pressured or otherwise stressed.)                     figure out. And now, when all systems were sending green signals
    “The drink, you little tart! What was it?”                            of NoImmediateDanger, I was starting to enjoy myself a little.
    “Tart?”                                                                   “I have been told”, I nodded.
    I admit I was still not very well spoken. Would you have been,            “What do you do, Norma Jean, when you’re not pouring
being called a tart (!) by a complete stranger, even if she happened      alcohol over people?”
to be the target of your vodka-throwing? And it kept coming.                  Why do people have to ask that question? It always annoyed
    “You clumsy bitch, better? What was in the drink?”                    me, because I didn’t have a good answer. They never wanted to
    “Er, vodka”, I said, starting to regain a little of the normal me.    know what I was actually doing, but what I did to make money.
It takes some adjusting when the auto pilot gets overridden by            Why do we have to be defined by our jobs, careers? VAI 8.
unexpectedness.                                                               “Well”, I said finally, “now that you put it that way… I don’t
    “Good. Vodka doesn’t stain. You really are clumsy. May I              do much, really.”
introduce myself: I’m Leeliah, and I don’t appreciate being spilt             “I thought maybe you were a movie critic or something
on.”                                                                      similar.”
    I took a closer look, starting to realize she was not really upset,       “Me? Oh, no! Not at all. I’m just, er, not really… anything. I’m
just desperate for some action. Her dress was black so it would           here in this city to find my brother who is lost, so, well, that’s
have survived even a severe attack of Merlot, and furthermore             what I do. And you… what do you do?”
it was not even close to new. Okay, there was the possibility she             Again, she looked at me with that possible smile and waited
didn’t like to get wet, but somehow I got the impression she didn’t       for a few seconds too long before she answered.
really mind. But the secret of seizing the day is to create a day to          “I’m actually a fortune teller”, she said.
be seized, and a verbal bar fight was just as good as anything else           “A fortune teller?”
in terms of making this a night to remember. I could fully relate             “Yes. Maybe you have heard of me? I’m quite famous within
to that and decided to fight back.                                        certain circles, I tell you. The Tarot Deck is my tool, and I go by
    “You old hag”, I said, making my voice stern and chilly (I            the name Madame Smith.”
tried to copy Marietta, but I’m afraid it turned out more a Vanessa
Redgrave-kind of thing... which, come to think of it, is not bad
either - that Redgrave woman is completely scary), “my name
is Norma Jean and I do enjoy attacking people with vodka. The
people I really dislike I normally drench with Blue Curacao or
Pisang Ambon, so I’d say you should take my vodka-spilling as
a compliment.”
    Leeliah raised her left eyebrow (she was not even close to being
as good as Antonius, but better than I was, and I had practised
in front of my mirror many an hour – I think my muscles were
simply not designed to do that) and folded her arms over her
chest. I think she smiled, but it was hard to tell, because she had
that sort of face that basically has only two versions: eyes open
and eyes closed. Actor Michael Douglas (who I spotted once at
some classy night club (one of the by-invitations-only-kind, and
I really wasn’t invited, but that’s another story), by the way, pre
Zeta-Jones) has much the same sort of face. I’m sure this can be
                                                                          8
                                                                              Very Annoying Indeed
                                 -30 -                                                                   - 31 -
                                                                       more. It was a very vivid thing, Technicolor Visions at your
                                                                       service, and I felt this pressing over my chest. I believe they call
                                                                       it panic.
                                 9                                         “My dear”, said Leeliah, concerned, “I didn’t mean to scare
                                                                       you. I’m so sorry.”
                                                                           I had stepped up from the stool, attempting to flee, but she
                A whiter shade of pale                                 kindly grabbed my arm and gently sat me down again, which was
                                                                       just as good – I would probably have fainted had I tried to walk.
                                                                           “I guess that makes us even then”, I said with a feeble voice
                                                                       I hardly recognized myself. Leeliah looked at me with that calm
N ow, if I believed in that thing they call destiny, I would           and blank face and commented in a very low voice that I could
probably have reacted differently to this information. Of course,      hardly hear:
I could have remembered the pamphlet I had gotten (twice!)                 “I think what I did to you is a lot worse than what you did to
from a Tarot lady called Madame Smith and, when realizing I            my dress.”
had just (by accident, mind you!) poured my drink over the same            “Yes”, I admitted, still amazed how much the thought of
Madame Smith, immediately drawn the conclusion that there              knowing the future scared me.
was something that someone wanted to say to me. This would                 It sounds a little weird, and at the time I thought so, too. But
undoubtedly have been a good thing, had I also been a strong           now I think I know why I had this reaction. You see, I think it
and healthily curious kind of woman. I could have responded            had never before occurred to me that the future would actually
with an immediate request to be Taroted, or if I had been slightly     come, that it was on its way every single minute. That the future
less curious I could at least have put on my regular oh-isn’t-that-    was something that, come to think of it, was happening now. And
interesting-face, while planning what I should wear the next day       now. And now. There was no future, not a day when I would wake
or how many drinks I could possibly drink before going home.           up and know that this was it, this was the future. Or tomorrow.
    Now, I didn’t do any of those things.                              Tomorrow would never come and the future was just like now,
    You would possibly, if you’re the New Agey-type of person,         just not… here. But approaching. Coming closer, passing, sliding
say that I wasn’t humble enough to hear what the Powers                away. Every second I spent was a second less of the future. (I
wanted to tell me. On the other hand, if you’re more of the            don’t need a Tarot reader to tell me I have issues.)
Freudian, psychotherapy-kind of person, you’d probably draw
the conclusion I had very strong defences that I absolutely didn’t         I noticed, much to my surprise, that the handsome bartender
want to have penetrated. You would, in that case, probably not         looked at me with something resembling compassion. Maybe he
be entirely wrong.                                                     was the type that only liked the ones that he could feel sorry
                                                                       for. Some men are like that. And I also noticed a hand stroking
   What actually happened? Well, I surprised myself again. (It         my back, from the neck and down, with slow and soothing
was becoming something of a bad habit. I’ve mentioned that             movements. It was Leeliah, comforting me even though I’m sure
I’m really not considered for any AllsIsCalm Award, but still.         she had no idea what was the matter with me. (But then again,
There has to be limits, and I do normally have a reasonably well-      I hardly knew myself.) And when she asked me if I wanted to
developed self control.)                                               leave, I nodded and followed without saying anything. Not
   You see, I freaked again, although not in the violent way. I just   that I imagined the sudden future panic would be easier to bear
got this terrible vision where three strong men held me pinned         somewhere else, but it would hardly be worse either.
down and Leeliah, dressed like Xena or something like that, stood
spread-eagled over me and screamed future-stuff (that I really,            On our way out, we met Anne Robinson, Ginger Spice and
really didn’t want to hear) at me, although I tried and tried to       someone I could have sworn was Bryan Adams. They all greeted
make her stop. I normally don’t have visions (hallucinations,          Leeliah with a heartiness that suggested she had some sort of
sometimes, but never visions), which of course scared me even          influence over them, I couldn’t imagine what it could be. It wasn’t

                                -32 -                                                                 - 33 -
like the future was bribable – if you were going to die in a car
crash, sucking up to the fortune teller wasn’t going to stop that.
    Unless she was something more than just a fortune teller?
What if – and I don’t know how to excuse, or even explain, the                                       10
sudden Mulderness I experienced – she was not only one that
could see the future, but someone who could actually make the
future?
                                                                               Lucy in the sky with diamonds
    Yes, you see, I was very naïve. I’m just telling you what went
through my mind as we made our way through the wannabe-
warehouse to quietly vanish into the night. (Allow me a little
poetry, please. I’m quite ashamed of my behaviour, and I at least    i think I spent at least two days in Leeliah’s apartment. At
want to make my leaving the party sound a little, well, grand.)      least two days, I say, because I missed one of that week’s episode
                                                                     of Homeless Or A Millionaire. It’s a quite boring show anyway;
                                                                     you always know which ones of the homeless guys will make it.
                                                                     There has been talk about a fixed show, suspicions of the homeless
                                                                     guys not being homeless at all but carefully recruited actors. But
                                                                     who knows, television has a truth of its own, the normal rules and
                                                                     definitions are really not applicable there.

                                                                         Leeliah’s home was very stylish. I think if I had had any
                                                                     interest whatsoever in decorating and design, I’d have taken notes
                                                                     and made sketches. She obviously had a strong sense of style, or a
                                                                     very expensive interior decorator. Either way, the apartment was
                                                                     lovely; all beige and ochre, the soft furnishings carefully chosen
                                                                     and placed, walls covered with fine art of the more modern kind,
                                                                     and a fire place with a huge, antique mirror placed over it. All in
                                                                     all, it was like stepping into a magazine, or possibly an unusually
                                                                     successful episode of Real Rooms.
                                                                         “Sit”, Leeliah demanded as she switched on the stereo (some
                                                                     kind of jazz was playing, a soft and old fashioned tune that I
                                                                     recognized but didn’t know the name of), “I’ll get you a picker-
                                                                     upper.”
                                                                         I sat down in the comfortable sofa, expecting her to show in
                                                                     the doorway with a whisky or a Dry Martini. She was gone for
                                                                     some time, and when she came back, she was carrying a bottle of
                                                                     Evian, a crystal glass goblet (not that I was an expert, but I would
                                                                     have guessed it was bohemian) and little delicate porcelain plate
                                                                     with something on bit; was it watercress? She placed the plate in
                                                                     my hands and explained:
                                                                         “This will make you feel better. Don’t be shy. It’s on the
                                                                     house.”
                                                                         I looked at the plate again, and… well. In the middle of the
                                                                     very decorative green leaves, on top of a little pile of something
                                                                     that looked like multicoloured crystals, was a white little pill.

                               -34 -                                                                - 35 -
    “Leeliah? What is this?”                                               of those 87 brain cells) and, at first glance the book was a typical
    “It’ll make you feel better, you’ll see.”                              coffee table book – large and stylish with a very artistic black
    Reluctantly, I took the pill from the beautifully arranged still       and white photograph on the front. It showed a flower of a sort
life on the plate and swallowed it with a mouthful of Evian. (This,        I’d never seen before, laying on a white surface, with a handful
if you knew me, would be the definite Norma-Jean-is-really-not-            of white pills of various shapes and sizes, spread in front of it.
okay-sign. I wasn’t stupid. White pills, especially when served            The shadows where soft and the composition perfect; the focus
with the words “on the house”, were never legal. Although that             was exactly on the middle of the flower, causing the pills and the
bit doesn’t bother me much, but the reason they’re illegal matters         petals to be classically unsharp. Across the top of the cover, the
all the more. To put it very simply, I was quite afraid of mind-           title was shown in a large block font, in an almost transparent
altering things stronger than alcohol. But, yes, I took the pill. I        grey: How To Dope, and the authors name below it: Leeliah
did.) It was only shortly after that, that time seized to exist and I      Smith. This book was a true work of art; one of those books you
started to feel fine again. The future, that scary thought I had had       might buy only for the look of it, for the sole purpose of placing it
before, vanished and I leaned back in the sofa, smiling happily.           on your coffee table as an interior design detail.
    “Now you’re feeling better”, Leeliah said. It was like an order,           “Ah, I see you have found the bible.”
but it didn’t bother me. I did feel better, so what was the big deal?          Leeliah was back. (I don’t think I was in the perfect condition I
And wow, I had to get me one of these spinning ceiling deals,              first had thought I was, because I hadn’t heard her step back into
where on earth could you get a ceiling like that? Not at IKEA,             the room.)
surely. I opened my mouth to ask, but I’m not sure what came                   “Well”, I said – I could actually not think of anything else to
out. It sure as hell wasn’t the question I’d been meaning to ask,          say. Besides, my mouth was still not back to the normal level of
but it didn’t matter. Actually, I’m lying. I know what came out.           humidity. Leeliah sat down beside me.
    “Antonius”, I said, “his name is Antonius.”                                “My book”, she said, “you have found out what I really do.
    Leeliah smiled (which, considering what I told you about               You understand, of course, that the fortune teller thing is only
her facial default mode, was probably just a figment of my                 a cover. Although it has turned out to be a pretty good way to
imagination; the drug doing its thing) and left me there, happily          reach potential customers. People go to a fortune teller for much
babbling the night away all by myself in a huge sofa with beige            the same reason as they come to me. This is what I do, this is my
linen upholstery.                                                          true calling.”
                                                                               “’LSD your way to heaven’”, I quoted, flipping the pages and
   When she came back into the room, an hour or a day might                reading in disbelief, “’Regaining your inner self with PCP’…
have passed, for all that I knew. I was still a little blurry, but a lot   Leeliah, what is this stuff? Are you a drug dealer?”
clearer now.                                                                   She rose to her feet again, hastily, now blushing, and raised
    “How are you feeling?”                                                 her voice a little.
   “Fine. Mouth a little dry but… fine.”                                       “Why, you little…! I am an artiste, let me tell you! I do not
   She filled my glass – or was it a new glass? – with ice cold            ‘deal drugs’! I sell, no, I offer pieces of well designed pleasure!
Evian, and I drank. It felt as if someone had decided to have some         That is what I do!”
fun with my mouth and a blowtorch; it was as if I couldn’t get                 I kept going through the book; it was filled with the most
enough water. But that was, as far as I could tell, the only thing         unbelievably beautiful pictures and descriptions on what to do
that wasn’t tiptop with my condition. That, and a possible loss of         and when and how. The way you should scent the room, if you
about 87 brain cells, which really didn’t matter now anyway.               should do the particular drug in company or if you reached a better
   A phone was ringing and Leeliah rose to her feet, bidding her           effect on your own, how you should arrange for the inhalation or
excuses all the way in to the other room where I could hear her            injection as if you were preparing a religious ceremony, how you
pick up the phone, but then she shut the door and I could hear her         could flavour the cigarettes with coriander, how lime and honey
voice only as a mumbling.                                                  was the perfect balancing taste when chewing peyote… it was all
   There was a book on the coffee table and I picked it up just to         very well thought out, very organized and, as I said, extremely
see if I still knew how to read. I felt a little odd (probably the loss    beautiful.

                                  -36 -                                                                    - 37 -
    “You see”, Leeliah explained (calmer again), “people will do
drugs no matter what. I want it to be a great experience for them.
I don’t want them to buy a dirty fix and have a bad trip on a filthy
concrete floor in the outskirts of the city. I want them to plan, to                                     11
enjoy, to make the most of the experience. I want the drug to be
clean, I want it to be a beautiful experience every step of the way.
Beauty, you see, is my drug.”
                                                                                                    The rose
    “So you do sell drugs.”
    “I sell concepts, my dear. You cannot come to me asking for
anything, a quick fix. There are bad boys on the streets for that
sort of thing. No, I have to get to know you a little first. I have to   A ll I really wanted when I got home was to draw a bath (with a
know what effect you need. And when I do, I can design for you           massive dose of sandalwood oil, guided by the shimmering light
the perfect trip, or, I can give you the budget version and just give    from at least seven black candles and accompanied by some Satie,
you a pill, but at least in a nice package. That is the very least you   possibly something from the Gymnopédies or the Gnossiennes)
will get from me. Like the plate arrangement I made for you. You         and stop thinking about this strange Leeliah person. It was always
see, I have a certain gift. An eye, if you like, for the innermost       worrying when someone claimed to know what you needed, and
needs. I will not give you what you want. I will give you what you       I really didn’t want to give it much thought. Her being the most
need, and that is many times better. My judgment, and this is the        sophisticated drug dealer someone could possibly imagine was,
first rule for anyone who wants to be a client of mine, is always        as I said, not bothering me – my moral standards are probably not
better than yours.”                                                      even high enough to step over a normal-sized threshold without
    “And what do I need?”                                                having to climb - but the part about knowing what I needed, and
    “Now, I’ve given you a taste of what I can do for you. Your          separating it from what I wanted was something of a nightmare.
pain vanished, didn’t it? The scary visions lost their significance.         However, my dreams of scented, hot water and soft music
You will come back, because what you need is something that I            came to an abrupt end when I entered the kitchen. Theo was
can give… but that will take some time.”                                 running around in there, his hair straight up and his face panic-
    “And what is that?”                                                  struck. He might have been trying to make a pot of tea, but I’m not
    “The second rule is to never ask me that, but accept what you        really sure, as he was moving around acting generally illogical.
get. I am expensive, but I am good.”                                     At first, I didn’t understand why on earth he was acting like this
    “And aren’t you afraid I will tell someone about you, the            (not even under heavy bookwriting pressure did he normally run
police? Why are you telling me all this?”                                around the kitchen with some sort of pot in his hand), and then I
    She put a cold hand on my knee, giving it a quick squeeze. I         saw the back of someone sitting by the kitchen table, not making
had the feeling she was feeling kind of sorry for me.                    conversation (which, I’m sure, would have made Theo feel more
    “Because, my dear”, she said, “if you are going to trust             at ease, you kind of expect guests to, well, speak, don’t you?).
someone, always choose someone who is afraid, and who needs                  “Antonius Silver”, I said, trying to make it sound as if I was
you more than you need them.”                                            ironic in that cool, Alanis Morisette-way, but it just came out…
                                                                         idiotic.
                                                                             “Yes”, Antonius admitted, now looking at me smiling, “that is
                                                                         my name, and hello.”
                                                                             “What, well, how are you here, I mean, what did you, how did
                                                                         you find me?”
                                                                             Oh, that eyebrow-raising again. And we had only spoken for
                                                                         30 seconds.
                                                                             “Give me some credit, will you? I am a journalist after all, you
                                                                         couldn’t possibly imagine the resources of information I have at

                                 -38 -                                                                  - 39 -
my disposal.”                                                             Now, he came to me to offer his help, he was sure he could find
    “Oh. And I see you’ve met Theo.”                                      this brother of mine if he was still in the city and all he wanted in
    “I’m making coffee!” Theo cried out, obviously on the verge           return was the rights to the story. He had been waiting for me at
of some sort of breakdown; he’s not much of a people’s person.            JimmyD’s, but when I didn’t show he decided to find me.
One of the reasons, by the way, that I took a fancy to him in the             “So now you do know my name”, I responded.
first place.                                                                  “Ey?”
    ‘Oh, Theo, don’t bother, let me make the coffee. Why don’t                “How else could you find me? You didn’t want me to have a
you go write your book? What is the word of the day?”                     name, remember? You said you would give me a name.”
    He smiled, more at ease now.                                              “Yes, I see, but I will have to go with Shakespeare on this one.
    “Conjugation”, he said and added a not-expecting-an-answer-           What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name
question, was I sure, was it okay if he. And I made reassuring            would smell as sweet.”
sounds, so he left, fled off to the “study” to work his way through
a dictionary or something.                                                    I couldn’t believe he was quoting Shakespeare. I couldn’t
    And left in the damp and messy kitchen with dull knives               believe he gave me that rose crap. Or possibly it was even simpler
and the faint smell of coffee was me, with Antonius Silver. I             than that: I couldn’t believe he was sitting here, in my kitchen,
couldn’t help feeling a bit upset by this fact. I had tried so hard       not drinking my coffee. And that I was not allowed (or brave
to avoid him that I had ended up being charmingly drugged by              enough) to touch him.
the poshest drug dealer I’d ever met, only after being so scared              “That is too bad”, I said slowly, “I was actually looking
by her connection with the future – and then realized that, in the        forward to see what kind of name you would come up with.
future aspect, she was a fraud. And after all this (very, I’m sure        Would I have been something dull and ordinary like Vera? Or
you’d agree, confusing chain of experiences), I came home only            something more mystical and suggestive like… Carmilla? Or
to find this man sitting in my kitchen, scaring the wit out of my         maybe something poetic. Juliet?”
boyfriend purely by his overwhelming existence. This was not                  “Well, now that you ask, I would have gone for Mildred.”
going to be a good day, or week for that matter. I could tell.                I don’t know about you, but for me, rudeness can go too far.
                                                                          You can always discuss where the limit is, you can argue that it’s
    “So”, I finally said, “what are you doing here?”                      all just a question of definition, and you’re right. But I tell you,
    “Is it completely unthinkable for you that this is a social           one thing is for sure, and that is that when being signed up for
call?”                                                                    “Mildred” in the big lottery of names, the limit is so far behind
    “Yes, well, yes.”                                                     you can mistake it for a childhood memory – in short, you should
    “Alright, you are right. This isn’t a social call. It’s actually an   never have to accept being called Mildred. That is, no matter
offer to help.”                                                           what definition of rudeness you use, so rude that you are fully
    We had our coffee in somewhat clean mugs in front of us;              excused if you should resort to violence. No doubt I would have
neither of us was actually drinking it. I felt like I had a lock in my    exercised that right, had I not already used that month’s quota
throat, preventing me from eating, drinking and the main part of          of violence when I punched Marietta. This only goes to show the
speaking. Not that it mattered. Antonius was a word processor             importance of carefully choosing the victims of your outbursts,
by profession, so he was doing enough talking for both of us. He          by the way! (If you believe, that is, that you’re only allowed one
was working on this series of articles, he told me, stories about         punch a month, which I’m not sure I do… oh, blimey, as the
people who had lost their loved ones and how they dealt with the          cable guy would say – now I’m complicating things more than
loss. Now, he wanted one article about a lost person coming back,         I have to, sometimes I think words are like trees; a forest that I
a story about someone who had kept their hopes alive through              get hopelessly lost in from time to time. So anyway, moving on,
eons of time (I’m afraid he got a little pompous when describing          I think my point – namely me feeling enormously insulted by the
this project) and, as a grand finale, how the lost one was found          Mildred-thing – is pretty clear by now.) I actually got so upset I
and all was joy. Or something close to that, at least. And this           didn’t know what to say, I just opened and closed my mouth in a
made him think of me, or, to be perfectly accurate: my brother.           probably very fishlike manner.

                                 -40 -                                                                    - 41 -
     “Mi - Mildred?” I finally managed to say, the resentment in             There was something untouchable about this man, a quality
my voice as easy to miss as a truck loaded with cow dung. And            that I recognized from my reflection in the mirror and it made me
then (just to keep the analogy going), I shit you not: he laughed        feel like an earthquake waiting to happen, or like a situation in
at me. What did I tell you about this not being a good day? Well,        the Middle East. It wasn’t poetic, it was terrible. I decided to skip
there you go.                                                            the bath and go have a drink at Richie’s.
     “You mustn’t be so narrow minded”, he chuckled and reached
out to – undoubtedly – pat me on the shoulder, a touch I avoided,
“you obviously don’t know what Mildred means, you shouldn’t
let yourself be blinded by the… hm, non-poetic quality of the
name.”
     “Let’s move on”, I grunted with my teeth clenched, and he did
his best to hide his amusement. I felt like a female in a romance,
hating and longing for the handsome lord Thisandthat at the
same time.
     “I think I was done, actually”, he said after pondering for a
few seconds.
     “I think you were too, and can we find my brother another
day? I have had a bad… well, two… or something, bad days,
anyway, I just want to take a bath, okay?”
     “Well, don’t let me stop you. Maybe you’d like someone to
wash your… back or something?”
     Flirting. Definitely flirting. Why would the bad simply not
stop happening? I could not handle flirting from someone I really
wanted to be flirted with by. In fact, if there’d been a book called
How To Not Be Flirted With, I’d have written it.
     “If I want my back washed, I will call for Theo”, I said sternly.
The damn Antonuis seemed unimpressed and laughed even
harder when he went for the door:
     “Yes, right, you will call for Theo. Come on. You can fool
yourself, maybe, but I’m smart, I have eyes and Theo is, oh, come
on, his just… he’s a nobody. A harmless nobody, mind you.”
     “… I…”
     “Let’s not have this discussion now. You know it as well as I
do, you’re… you’re an adventure, you crave life, you need your
kicks, I can read you perfectly, he can give you nothing. He’s a
boy, and you… you are a force of nature, I apologize for the the
cliché, maybe I should call you – I won’t call you anything”, he
added hastily after taking one look at my face, “I’ll just leave
now. And get your ass to JimmyD’s tomorrow, a’right? That is,
unless you want me to come back here…”
     “I’ll be there. Goodbye, now. Very much.”
     “I’m sure. Have a good – “
     I slammed the door in the middle of the sentence, I don’t know
if it ended “bath” or “day” or “life” or, for that matter, “fuck”.

                                 -42 -                                                                   - 43 -
                                                                       It wasn’t as if I needed a reason to see him, I was going to meet
                                                                       him at JimmyD’s the next night anyway, so I might as well use
                                                                       him, pump him for some information).
                                12
                                                                          The bartender didn’t mind when I said please, so I didn’t tip
                                                                       him much. He was stupid anyway, and he had the unforgivable
                      Every breath you take                            personality flaw not being Bart.




A fter two hours of MNS:ing , I felt a little better. The drinks
                                 9

were cheaper at Richie’s, and so was the clientele. On top of that,
the bartender was a prick with a bowtie and a face that looked
like leftovers from an Eastenders casting. But I got a table quite
close to the one where Mr. Nose normally had his whatever he
was drinking, and he was actually already there when I showed
up. He was alone this evening, but was obviously the kind of
man who was never lonely. He had an impressively heavy book
in front of him and he was reading it with a pen in his hand,
as if wanting to be ready to take notes. Or the pen might have
been only for show, I didn’t know. It was a silver fountain pen (I
suspected it to be a Mont Blanc; there was the characteristic star
on the top of the cap) and he held it very gracefully in his left
hand, twirling it between his fingers every now and then. It was
very soothing watching him read and sip his drink (I think he was
having green chartreuse with tonic and crushed ice, that alone
forever granting him a place in the gallery of great men), smiling
and greeting people passing his table every now and then. It was
as if he was studying something, the book was too heavy to be a
novel or something of the kind; maybe he was doing research?
I had the impression he had written books… or something. I
decided to do a little research myself, Mr. Nose being the subject.
I needed to sleep soon, too, so I would go to the 24-7 library a few
blocks away after having finished my drink anyway. I guessed
they had some sort of books or databases or something where
you look someone up. Or maybe libraries concentrated on dead
people, like Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe? It was after all a known
fact that the level of interest for a certain person increased by
several thousand percent when they died, and then you’d have
to allow a little time for the publications to actually be printed.
Probably someone had to be dead for at least six months before
the information was commonly available (not including the media
coverage, of course, which made me think of the damn Antonius
again, maybe I should just ask him what he knew about Mr. Nose?

9
    Mr. Nose-Spying
                                -44 -                                                                - 45 -
                                                                       I tell you: way ahead. I probably had something to learn there,
                                                                       but I had had to fight so hard to get rid of the female polish of
                                                                       well behaviour that I found it impossible to go back to it. If I got
                                13                                     pissed off, I knocked down a table or, occasionally, an idiot. Not
                                                                       a very feminine way of acting, but who was judging me anyway?
                                                                       It wasn’t as if anyone was standing with a big notebook and a
                       Super trouper                                   grim face going all “Dear me, that’s five minus on the account of
                                                                       using bad language. No truly feminine woman should use the F-
                                                                       word. Truly sorry, but there goes another ten points for actually
                                                                       using violence, the proper way of dealing with that jar with its
T hat week’s episode of Star Wars was very entertaining. I             lid stuck would have been asking the man of the house for help,
knew it would be, because the four people left were all bitches, of    not getting the power tool kit and use electrical equipment (!!!) to
both genders. There is always a risk with the kicking people out,      open it. Come to think of it, minus points for knowing where the
in some shows it’s all just tactics and the smartest one manages       power tools are kept…what do you mean, they’re yours? Dear oh
to kick the only real competition out in an early stage – causing      dear, that’s another twenty points off and I believe, ladies and
the final show to be as dreary as the election, or Last night of the   gentlemen, that we have reached an all-time low!” while marking
Proms. But this season had been really great, mostly due to the        my points (or lack thereof) for some future reference.
fact that the casting had been good from the beginning. Every
time a rookie was elected to enter the house, they managed to              Anyway, the TV was working, without the ochre filter and
pick someone who was just the right person to start a conflict, or     without flashes of green light, and the show was really good. I
one who had exactly the right personality to show someone else         had popcorn, Theo had “surface” as the word of the day (I had
in the an honest but not very flattering light. And every time it      no idea how a word like “surface” could keep someone occupied
was VOT 10, the jury had a veto that could be claimed if suspicion     for hours and hours, but Theo took his book very seriously, and
of tactical voting occurred. Needless to say, it did. I admit I was    who was I to judge?) and the first session with Antonius had
sceptical to the whole jury-deal in the beginning, but it turned out   actually been good. There had been no flirting, no mean words,
to be an extra dimension and actually had a lot of good effects.       no touching, no nothing but actually preparing for the article
    The violence had also been a lot cooler this season. After the     and filling me on how he normally went about in finding a lost
disastrous last season finale, the broadcasting company had had        person. (He did tell me he used to be a private investigator, but
to give guarantees that no one would actually be harmed (hurt,         I immediately dismissed that as a lie, I mean, come on. Are there
however, they could not guarantee) and also to fully cover any         even private investigators? And even if there are, what were the
medical costs, including psychotherapy. No one wanted another          odds of me meeting one?)
suicide, not even the audience (I think) – oh, I take that back, the       And a good episode of Star Wars was always a kick, so when
media wouldn’t mind - , and the rules were a lot stricter this year.   that was done (and the poor Ade who got voted off had been
This had had only good effects; that meant that the competitors        verbally and physically abused in the most delicate way I had
really had to work on their refinement, and also their sense of        ever seen) I got on the phone, leaving the normal me-costume
timing (there was always the moments between camera takes). All        to rest while I enjoyed hearing the voice of the only one I could
in all, it gave the whole thing an edge, a much welcome edge. It       tell… stuff. Some say that a true friend is one who knows
had strengthened my belief that women were more dangerous than         everything about you but still loves you. I detest common-place
men, in the sense that their imagination was far more developed.       phrases like that, I think that clichés holds the responsibility
Sure, a fist in the face, yeah, a man can do that as well as a woman   for many an unhappy person in the world, not to mention the
(probably better, because he is not brought up to believe that the     misunderstandings (or worse, the understandings!) of politics.
well-being of others is his responsibility), but when it came to       However, I must admit that this one, about the friendship I mean,
the wily and vicious attacks that could do all the damage in the       actually is somewhat accurate. I say that a true friend is someone
world but still not show on screen… the women were way ahead,          who knows all about you, still loves you… and lives quite far
10
     Voting Off Time
                                -46 -                                                                 - 47 -
away from you so there is no risk of overdose, or anything else
that might spoil the delicacy of the relationship.

                                                                                                  14

                                                                                        Amazing grace


                                                                  T he same day that Theo ran around the house whining about
                                                                  some word he couldn’t fit into a proper sentence (or was it
                                                                  paragraph?), we had a rather unexpected visitor. There was a
                                                                  knock on the door as I was getting ready to leave for JimmyD’s,
                                                                  I’d had a very disturbing phone call from Leeliah (who,
                                                                  apparently, got my phone number from Marietta – silly me for
                                                                  thinking there was a possibility to meet someone in the city who
                                                                  didn’t already know everyone you already knew) and I wasn’t in
                                                                  a very friendly mood, so I thought some quality time with Bart,
                                                                  vodka and possibly a late night party in the shabbier parts of
                                                                  town would do me good. I opened the door (Theo was, as I said,
                                                                  busy stressing over the book) and there stood a… well, “man”
                                                                  sounds so profane, but gentleman isn’t really accurate either. And
                                                                  anyway, he was more like a character from a movie.
                                                                      He had a large bush of reddish hair, a beard big enough for
                                                                  birds to nest in and a body that could probably be mistaken
                                                                  for a smaller mountain – he was, in short, huge and hairy and,
                                                                  excuse me, kind of scary. And that was even before he opened he
                                                                  mouth.
                                                                      “You must be the little missus!” he bellowed and before I
                                                                  knew it he had swept me up in his arms and then I think I must
                                                                  have lost consciousness. We are after all talking about full body
                                                                  contact, which I am absolutely not compatible with. The whole
                                                                  touching thing (if not resulting in instant gratification, like, say,
                                                                  sex) makes me extremely uncomfortable, and if the touching is
                                                                  performed by a giant who could squash you in an instant it makes
                                                                  it even worse.

                                                                     When I woke up I was lying on the kitchen table with the
                                                                  giant man (who was, and I swear I wasn’t delusional or anything,
                                                                  wearing a kilt!) and Theo fussing around me like two parallel-
                                                                  world-nurses.
                                                                     “I’m so clumsy”, murmured the giant, “Really just wanted to
                                                                  express happiness, I was. Oh bugger, must have scared the little

                              -48 -                                                               - 49 -
thing out of her wit.”                                                 heartily remark about letting them catch up.
    “Yes”, replied Theo, “and the fact that she hasn’t had a proper
meal in about two days doesn’t help either. It’s not your fault, old       It must be said, before I go on, that Haggis was probably not
chap, she’s just a bit… well, fragile.”                                as big as I make him out to be. First of all, I’m rather small myself.
    “Hey!” I snorted. “I resent that. I’m definitely not fragile.”     Second, I’m used to hanging around Theo who is just barely taller
    “Coming to, she is!” grunted the giant and backed of, as if he     and heavier than me. And third, well… Haggis has a lot of hair. A
was scared the mere sight of him would make me pop back into           lot of hair. His head was no bigger than any normal head, but due
unconsciousness-land. (A well-calculated risk, indeed.)                to the fact that he had more hair than your average bearded collie
    “I’m fine, don’t worry… Theo? Care to explain who this, er,        he would have to custom make any hat he wanted to wear. Not
man is, since you clearly know him?”                                   that I could imagine him wearing a hat (of any kind), but still. It
    “Allow me! I am Hagardh McArena, flew in from                      at least gives you an impression of the amount of hair growing on
Ballygowobbhle this morning, I did! Theodore and me, we were           that thick, Scottish skull. Oh, and by the way, credit where credit
friends in school, spent many a day hunting and fishing for cod,       is due: it was Bart that came up with the bearded collie metaphor.
we did!”                                                               Me, I have never even seen one, or if I have I didn’t know I was.
    “Hunting?” I was completely stunned. The most lethal thing I       But Bart likes animals, you see, at least if they are furry and pet-
had ever seen Theo use was aspirin.                                    esque. I should think he does his uttermost to avoid things like
    “Of course, had to teach him all I knew!” The giant, Hagardh,      snakes and lizards, but add a tad of fur and he will go all awwww
laughed (I was sure the neighbours would complain to the               on you. I don’t know if it’s a comforting or disturbing thought,
landlord) and almost knocked Theo over, I think he was trying to       that of a grown man cuddling a furry, purry animal. Anyway,
pat him friendly on the arm.                                           when I told him about Haggis he came up with the collie-thing,
    “McArena?” I said, still aghast, “What kind of name is that        and since it seemed to amuse the people around I trust it must
anyway?”                                                               have certain accuracy.
    “Oh, go on and mock me”, Hagardh said, frowning. “Sounds
silly, it does, and hadn’t it been for that stupid song, the bearer        “How’s it going with Antonius?” Bart asked me later that
of a proud, Scottish family name I’d be! Now I admit I feel a bit      evening.
ridiculous when saying it, always hoping people won’t notice I             “How could it possibly be going with Antonius”, I replied
am! But they always do. Yes, Hagardh McArena, that’s my name.          grimly. Bart grinned at me, wiping a glass with a cloth.
My friends call me Haggis, and you may too.”                               “Seems to me he annoys you?”
    “Haggis? And, er, am I your friend?”                                   “Doesn’t he annoy you? Oh, that’s right, you’re friends. You
    “Any missus of Theodore’s is my friend, and well, almost           really like him?”
scared the living daylights out of you I did, so that makes you my         “Yeah”, Bart said thoughtfully, “I don’t see what there is not to
friend also.”                                                          like. He’s friendly enough, good fun too. A good chap, I think.”
    The logic wasn’t clear to me (I figured maybe it was some sort         I didn’t know how to explain the untouchableness I could
of Scottish logic, like the Chinese thing about being responsible      smell in Antonius, the distance that was left like an icy wind
for someone forever if you happen to save their life), but I           wherever he went. I could hear the frosty midnight in the middle
decided to accept it for what it was. We obviously had a guest         of his sunshine laugh; I just knew it was there.
in the house, even if it was one that hugged people, called Theo           But maybe, just maybe, you had to have been there yourself
Theodore and was the bearer of a name that would make any              to recognize it. Maybe it was one of those things you could
low-class comedian in need of a stage name truly happy. Or, if         not explain or show to anyone who didn’t have first-hand
one chose to use the nickname, Haggis… as if that’d be a less          experience.
ludicrous option. My house, or strictly speaking Theo’s house,             “Ah look”, Bart said, looking at the door with a smile, “here
was invaded by a Scottish maniac (wearing a kilt!) to whom, I          comes Marietta.”
had an unpleasant feeling, I was expected to be nice. I decided to         “I do”, responded Marietta, “I certainly do.”
put this off for as long as possible, and left the men with an over-       “And what can I get you?”

                                -50 -                                                                  - 51 -
   “Yes, a Martini would be good. With ice.”
   “Certainly.”
   “Hello Norma Jean. Are you in a violent mood today also, or
would it be safe for me to sit down beside you?”                                                   15
   “Oh, Marietta, I have told you I normally never hit people,
and today I have been hugged by a Scottish man with hair like a
– what was it, Bart? Oh yes, a bearded collie. That made me feel
                                                                                        What a wonderful world
weak, so today, you are extra safe. I promise.”
   “I will sit then, Norma Jean, and you can tell me about the
celebrities you’ve seen lately.”
   So I did.                                                              “H ello-o.”
                                                                       “Norma Jean, the apple of my pie, my one and only true splash
                                                                   of colour in this grey, very grey, world.”
                                                                       “You, mine, are also.”
                                                                       “Aren’t we sweet, after all these years.”
                                                                       “We are, indeed. Have you been good?”
                                                                       “Norma Jean, I have been an angel, I have been goodness on
                                                                   two legs and charity with a face. You?”
                                                                       “Not very, I think. I have been doing the D-thing.”
                                                                       “We all do the D-thing from time to time. It isn’t good for
                                                                   our bodies but it gives us a little relief. Although you know you
                                                                   shouldn’t do it, right?”
                                                                       “I know.”
                                                                       “So, what cellular magnificence are you accessorising with
                                                                   this week?”
                                                                       “A Nokia. And hey, the display has blue lights!”
                                                                       “One of those tiny things, is it? One that you don’t dare to use
                                                                   while eating because it might slip into your mouth and you might
                                                                   swallow it, thinking it’s a piece of liquorice?”
                                                                       “Except that liquorice seldom glows in blue.”
                                                                       “Oh, after the next nuclear plant meltdown everything will be
                                                                   glowing in blue.”
                                                                       “Green, I believe.”
                                                                       “You are so… picky these days, Norma Jean. What’s up with
                                                                   you? New guy?”
                                                                       “Nah. Just an annoying prick who flirts with me.”
                                                                       “I can see why that upsets you. Is he SBS 11?
                                                                       “No, he’s definitely not.”
                                                                       “Which part?”
                                                                       “Both. Oh bugger. No. He’s not stupid.”
                                                                        “Hmmm, and anything new on the brother-being-gone-
                                                                   thing?”
                                                                       “Well, the AB 12 is a journalist and he is working on it with
                                                                   me.”
                                                                   11
                                                                        Snoggable But Stupid
                              -52 -                                12
                                                                        Annoying Bastard          - 53 -
    “Oh good. And will there be a snog-fest to celebrate when the
mission is accomplished?”
    “I’d wish. But I think not.”
    “You’re not saying he can resist Norma Jean, are you, my little
                                                                                                         16
slice of sugar pie?”
    “I’m saying he is… he has that thing, you know, in Titanic? I
mean they really did their best and everything, with the sweaty                                 Book of days
sex scene and all, but it stood perfectly clear to anyone who was
willing to simultaneously use their eyes and their brain that it
just wasn’t believable. Kate Winslet would never in a million
years kiss Leo DiCaprio, you know, he could never… he was just
not…”
                                                                        I decided to make a list, or ten lists. Whatever could take my
                                                                        mind of the manly laughs and fratboy-like talk (although 50%
    “I see! My God, the impossibility in it because she was,            with a Scottish accent, somehow I couldn’t imagine anything
although there, in a completely different, ah, yes, I see.”             like a fraternity in Ballygowobbhle, or even remotely close to
    “Yes. Impossible, untouchable.”                                     Ballygowobbhle) from the kitchen.
    “I think the very American way to put it would be that she is           Haggis had obviously brought some joy to Theo’s life. There
‘out of his league’, don’t you think?”                                  had been no talk of the book, and no dwelling upon single words
    “Yes, well, they have complete phrases for everything now,          since he arrived to our house. This was good, but it also made
don’t they. But yes, that’s the general idea.”                          life completely different, which I’ve never really been equipped
    “I see. Oh, you poor thing.”                                        to deal with. Then again, I’ve never been equipped to deal with
    “Don’t pity me, you know I hate that. Seen any cool celebs?”        the dullness of same-old-life either. Oh, I don’t really like where
    “Not one. The flu hit me, I’ve been knocked down for five           this is going, so let’s go back to the fact that life, suddenly, had a
days, haven’t been out. Thinking of hitting the clubs tonight,          very different grin in a very different face. There was talking and
though. I’m in the mood for something a little less cough-              laughing and eating and drinking things and strange smells. Theo
syrupy, possibly something with a lot of colours and one of those       is almost smell-free, if such a thing exists, while Haggis seemed
umbrella-things.”                                                       to smell of earth, wind and fire, plus a little aftershave on the
    “Had enough of being the head of the Lemsip-patrol, have            side. Or it might have been whisky, come to think of it; something
you?”                                                                   containing alcohol, I’m sure. And he did drink a lot of whisky,
    “Have I ever. I’m resigning,”                                       and talked a lot about whisky – so it wouldn’t be too strange if he
    “I’ve decided to start a networking thing.”                         smelled of it too, now would it?
    “Oh, this is not a religious thing, is it? Will your network be         In any case, the smell of Haggis in the morning was actually
known throughout the world as the NJ sect or something? Will            not that bad. It was the lack of normality that annoyed me, or at
you steal people’s money, arrange huge weddings and pledge              least bothered me. I never got to do my regular stuff, I mean I
your life to, well, you?”                                               could decide to take a bath and before I knew it I was engaged in
    “Don’t be stupid. You know how I feel about God. Well,              a game of something that involved moving little sculptured pieces
actually, I could start a non-religious-kinda-sect, just to, you        of wood across a board of some sort. Or, I could get dressed for
know show my disrespect. But no. This is not that sort of thing         an afternoon strolling up and down Main Street while checking
at all. It’s more of a… I don’t know. Theo calls it ‘friendship’, but   for RLSers and movie stars, and suddenly I was arm-wrestling
what does he know.”                                                     Haggis (and losing, of course, I have already mentioned me being
    “As long as you have fun and don’t end up in a long beard like      small and he being, well, reasonably huge) by the kitchen table
that Manson guy, you have my blessing.”                                 (where everything seemed to happen these days) while Theo
     “Listen, I have to go. You know I love you and you’re my           were ordering another twelve dozen of spicy chicken wings from
bestest friend in the world?”                                           the local take-out place.
    “I know, Norma Jean, as you are mine.”                                  Even the cable guy was affected; he didn’t really get along

                                -54 -                                                                   - 55 -
with Haggis. I think Haggis was mostly to blame for this, he had        the bedroom? There is something wrong with the image quality
this major problem with guys (or girls, I presume, although that’s      there, I think the cable has a glitch or… something.”
not very common, is it?) that were fiddling with electrical stuff           “Sure, Norma Jean, I’ll have a look.”
for a living. I think this was a classic example of the old what-           “Great, you’re abfab. You want a beer?”
you-know-nothing-about-scares-the-poopoo-out-of-you-thing; I                “Oh, don’t mind if I do.”
wasn’t sure they had actually connected Ballygowobbhle to the               It’s just that ten minutes later when I passed by the bedroom,
electricity network of Scotland yet.                                    Haggis was hanging over the poor cable guy and asked him to
     “Gonna make the sound come louder from that one, are you?”         rearrange the cables.
he grunted when the cable guy was twitching a thing or the                  “Nay, really sorry, no can do. Haven’t got any cables to
other.                                                                  spare.”
     “I’m just restructuring the filter tip, or the fledger will sway       “No cables, eh? One would think…”
on and off like a great big autumn storm”, replied the cable guy            Yes, I interrupted again, trying to distract Haggis from
and moved the pencil to the back of his other ear.                      making large annoyance with the cable guy – not a pretty sight,
     “Is that so. Really. Can you show me the… um, the filter           as I’m sure you understand by now. I managed to talk Haggis out
thingy, yeah?”                                                          of the room and the cable guy into cable switching. I had to watch
     Anyone with ears who understood Scottishmalese could hear          them constantly, because the second I left the room, Haggis got
that what he was really saying was “You’re a jerk and I think your      back and started demanding stuff, and cable guy went into no can
ability of fixing anything is about as big as the things you scrape     do-mode. All work and no play for Norma Jean, hence the urge
out from under your toe nails after a bath”. The cable guy heard        to flee into something more controllable, like making lists. (You
it, too. He got terribly offended, which he didn’t show in a normal     have to admire my ability to close a wide-open circle.)
kicking-ass-kind of way but in a sort of obstinate I’m-three-years-
old-and-have-just-learned-to-say-no way. An offended cable guy              The first list I made was a true idiotic one, just to start off
is not a hooray and happy blast in anyone’s home.                       with something simple: the top five episodes of Melrose Place.
     “You wanna see the filter tip? Blimey, no can do. It’s stuck.”     Simple.
     “Stuck now, is it? Really.”                                            First, the one where Cole from Falcon Crest is a married (not to
     “Indeed it is, all stuck.”                                         mention boring) biologist with tendencies towards psychopathy
     “Well, really, hm, then maybe there is other things you can fix,   and decides to blow his head off while he’s on the phone with
a socket broken I believe, upstairs.”                                   Allison.
     “Socket you say? Nay, blimey, no can do. Haven’t got the tools         Second, the one where Jo inexplicably falls in love with a grim,
for the sockets y’see.”                                                 broad-shouldered doctor with serious politeness problems, but
     “Well, how about the fuse?” Haggis snorted, taking a sip of        for some reason she decides he is worth leaving the series – oh,
whisky from the glass he was holding (Cragganmore, I believe, a         sorry, I mean, the city… – for.
number of years old, I’m sure – it said so on the bottle). “As long         Third, Jake is studying for his high school diploma and
as you’re here, can you change the fuse?”                               Allison is helping. (This was while Jake still was cool, and not
     “No can do. Sorry, fuses. Not my area, could have an electric      a dim jerk with a crew cut.) They both live out their high school
shock from that, you know.”                                             fantasy when kissing on the hill, looking down over LA. Could be
     “Aha. Thought you cable guys took care of that stuff, I did.       up on Mulholland Drive.
Silly me, eh?”                                                              Fourth, Kimberly takes a direct flight to Schizophrenia Airport
     “Well, sir, you said it and who would I be to argue with a fine    and thinks she’s a housewife from the 50’s, selling Tupperware
gentleman like yourself?”                                               and all. (I’ve always felt very close to Kimberly.)
     At this moment the punch was in the air (and I don’t mean              And the fifth is the one where Matt meets some devastatingly
the drinkable kind of punch, with fruits and stuff), so I decided       cute guy with a great career that he falls madly in love with
to interfere.                                                           and who falls madly in love with him and they are really great
     “Oh, but you think you could have a look at the TV set in          together but then it turns out that the devastatingly cute guy

                                -56 -                                                                  - 57 -
hasn’t come out yet and won’t because of whatever reason. (No,         and heard a voice with distinct earthquake qualities roar “A good
wait, there is something wrong with that picture… oh, I know:          night you had, I hope?” a few feet up in the air (measured from
that wasn’t an episode of Melrose Place, that was in fact every        your ears). This could cause some serious jumping and a slight
episode of Melrose Place.)                                             attack of panic. And Nokias don’t respond well to being dropped
   Highly enjoyable show on the whole, I must say. If you are very     in water, not even if it is Perrier.
bored some day, you might want to draw a Melrose Place shag-               So, the phone was broken, I had to stay at home so I couldn’t
map. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you, but I can assure that      go out steal a new one and as long as I didn’t have a new one I
there are not many opposite sex-characters that didn’t do it. (And     was forced to stay at home. This, it suddenly dawns upon me, is a
you can only count Kimberly once, in spite of the schizophrenia        textbook example of the word “dilemma”. Or is it “catch 22”? Or
and the, well, dying over and over again.) Try colour-coding it        both? Anyway, I that’s the reason I had to stay in and make lists to
for even more of the fun! Red for long-term relationships, blue        distract myself from the all-over-the-house-occurring weirdness
for temporary shag-fest, green for friendship with a twist (like       that was suddenly as present as if it had been a full-flesh member
a one-time quickie or drunken kiss or similar) and purple for          of the household. I had bought an old Ericsson-monster via eBay
reoccurring long-term relationships. Michael and Jane would be         (I’m serious, I had actually bought one!), but the package hadn’t
the perfect example of that.                                           shown yet. So I had to wait.
   Second list was a trickier one (and I had to put earphones on
while doing it, the male drunkenness in the kitchen had increased          Oh yes… and the reason why I couldn’t take a bath, well, that
severely, thus bringing forward the noises of nostalgia): five top     was entirely Haggis’ fault. He had only two kilts (did you know
things to do on a boring day when you couldn’t go out or take          that different clans have different patterns in their kilts? I thought
a bath. I had to think really hard on that one, but finally I came     it was all just checked stuff in green and red, which offended
up with a few things that I actually could have done (but never        Haggis so bad I thought he’d start to cry (which I’m pleased to
had done, of course, because face it: a boring day almost never        announce he didn’t)) and one of them was always being washed.
contained the extra non-perk of not being able to go out or take       Of course, such a delicate item of clothing could not be run in
a bath, except for now, of course, and that is why number one on       the washing machine, and a bucket was not even an option, it
my list was “make lists”).                                             was obviously an insult to the great kiltness to suggest that one
                                                                       of its true members should be cleaned from the dust and filth of
    The reason I couldn’t go out might not be, I suddenly realize,     the world in a non-stretched out position. So the kilt that was
all that obvious to you. That had nothing to do with Haggis, at        currently engaged in the cleaning process was always in my bath
least not directly, but I just realize I haven’t told you. You see,    tub, enjoying the peace and quiet that are so commonly connected
Antonius called me late one night and told me that he had some         with baths. It goes without saying I kind of wanted Haggis out
serious leads on where my brother might be and that I should           of the house, even though I had to admit he brought with him
wear my mobile phone at all times so his “sources” (maybe he           the element of the unexpected that I, a few chapters ago, claimed
did use to be an investigator after all, I thought, or was “sources”   could never be found at home. Well, with Haggis, I tell you:
a proper journalist term?) could reach me and get me going in          anything can happen, and most of the time it won’t stop there
a flash. Now, I couldn’t very well do that, because the Nokia          – it will happen. Also I say: not until you have seen a man from
was broken. And this is where me not being able to go out has          Ballygowobbhle do the Achy Breaky Heart Dance you know what
indirectly to do with Haggis, because he was the one breaking it,      the unexpected would look like if it had a face and was made of
or at least he was the one who made me break it.                       flesh and blood. And had lots of hair.
    Although not as big as I thought he was the first time I laid
eyes on him, he could still give you a good scare when you snuck
in to the kitchen in the middle of the night, thinking you’re the
only one being awake and poring yourself a glass of mineral water
while preparing to phone the long-distant friend - and suddenly
you felt a hand placed on your body (luckily only the shoulder)

                                -58 -                                                                  - 59 -
                                                                      the machinery going. It was clear, said Marietta, that I was really
                                                                      attracted to him and that he was really attracted to me. So why
                                                                      on earth did I act like a blossoming virgin that had never before
                               17                                     tasted the loveliness of the skin-versus-skin-game?
                                                                          What I answered? Well, I lied of course.
                                                                          “There is Theo, you know”, I said, and Marietta looked
                          Overload                                    displeased.
                                                                          “Are you a faithful Norma Jean? Are you the kind of girl – “
                                                                          “I haven’t been a ‘girl’ for years.”
                                                                          “ – the kind of woman, then, who will stay in something you
   “a      re you kidding me?” Antonius said to me, for once not      do not want simply because you fear making someone else sad?”
laughing at me, or snorting, or flirting, or patronizing. Well, he        “Yes.”
had been just a moment ago, but this seemed to reach him on               “Hah!“ Marietta snorted and bought me another vodka (which
some serious level.                                                   I didn’t really want, but finished anyway).
    “No, I tell you. I see him everywhere. It’s really making me          “You haven’t even met Theo, Marietta, why are you so sure
paranoid.”                                                            of this?”
    “Ah, well, but you… it’s amazing. Why don’t you talk to               “I am always sure of everything, that is a part of the Marietta
him?”                                                                 van Dijk-concept! That is why I am so successful, you see. Do you
    “Talk to him.”                                                    want to me find you another party, by the way, it was weeks ago
    “Yes. I know you master the art of opening your mouth and         since you went to the one in China Town.”
forming words, because you do it all the time. Actually, talking          “Absolutely and definitely no, but thanks. I have to deal with
wouldn’t be the issue, it’s the stop talking that you don’t seem to   the situation at home.”
do very well.”                                                            “Is that why Bart says he never sees you anymore? You are
    “Haha, I am so amused. What would I say?”                         home? Playing a hostess of the perfect kind, yes?”
    “Well, anything. He’s absolutely one of the most intelligent          “Yes, this Haggis guy has stayed with us for weeks now
men I know about. Have you read any of his books? Seen any of         and although he is good fun to be around it’s just not the same.
the interviews? I’m not one who believes in fate, or destiny if you   Everything is different now, it’s like I always end up in some sort
please, but I think when God throws you a loaf of bread it’s better   of, well, social situation. I even cooked!”
to make sandwiches than to duck.”                                         “No!”
    I was actually quite surprised. Now, I know I didn’t know             “Well… I ordered the food anyway, and when the delivery
Antonius very well, but his reaction surprised me anyway. Maybe       guy came he was all late so the food – chicken wings – was cold,
it had been a mistake to judge him on the behaviour he showed         so I, um, heated them. In the, whatsitcalled, micro?”
towards me. It was somewhat a scary thought, but what if the              “You are a regular Martha Stewart, Norma Jean.”
teasing thing was just a reflection on something I did? Maybe this        “Yes”, I agreed convincingly, “I definitely am.” (I’m sure
wasn’t him at all, maybe he just responded to some signals I sent     someone, someday, will tell me who Martha Stewart is.)
out, without even knowing. Maybe I just hadn’t seen the serious           And at that point in the conversation Antonius came up to us
side of him. Or any side. I had just assumed he didn’t have sides,    and made me feel all strange and nauseous and Marietta claimed
you know, apart from the ones I wanted to… well, I won’t even         she had some unfinished business with a guy in some other part
mention it. Partly because I suck at the whole porno-thing (pun       of town (I wasn’t listening very closely because of the closeness-
not intended, but necessary), and partly because I’m sure you can     of-Antonius-factor, but there might have been talk about ripping
imagine everything I could say. Marietta, who despite what one        off balls and using them as Japanese stress removers. This lead
might think was a pretty perceptive woman, had asked me why           me to believe the guy was probably located in China Town). And
on earth I didn’t just give in, why I tripped over my own feet the    then she disappeared and I was – again! – stuck with Antonius.
moment he tried to touch me, why I just didn’t flirt back and got

                               -60 -                                                                 - 61 -
    “I want to read this to you”, he said, and continued after my      about Mr. Nose instead, and suddenly I was in the middle of this
presumably approving grunt, “’When we meet for the first time          scary thought that there might be more to Antonius than what
she’s pale, with dark and somehow hungry eyes, like en emotional       I had seen so far. A serious guy? Someone who didn’t call me
vampire that hasn’t been fed for centuries.’ Isn’t that analogy        an emotionally starved vampire, someone who didn’t mock my
great? Anyway. ‘She talks about the love of her brother with a         boyfriend, but someone that I could actually… no, absolutely not.
voice that sometimes doesn’t bear all the tension; one can hear it     I mean really no, but what if it was yes, or even perhaps? It was
cracking up when the emotions run too high. One can easily see         time to leave JimmyD’s and go to Richie’s.
that she hasn’t been eating enough, or sleeping enough, for a very
long time.’ That’s true, you know, you could use a little flesh on
those bones, even though I am a fan of the skinny type myself,
you know, men usually like a little flesh in their women.”
    Can you see how he was treating me? It was like I was a
mixture between a little sister and someone he thought could
use a good shag but wouldn’t admit to it. It made me, of course,
all frustrated and I tended to react with my normal me in coma
and the five-year-old within fully awake and in control over my
whole body.
    “Well, Theo thinks I’m just fine the way I am”, I said, my
defences knocking the top off every possible scale.
    “Well, I think Theo has no idea who you are or what you
need.”
    “Well, I think I’m the best judge of what Theo thinks.”
    “Well, I think you’re just hiding behind that little boy because
you think it’s convenient!”
    “Well, I think… hold on! What? Convenient?! What do you
mean, convenient?”
    The Well-I-think-game came to an abrupt end when he, at this
very moment, actually grabbed my wrist and pulled me close, all
the way through the intimacy zone.
    “Yes, Norma Jean, I believe you think that Theo is convenient,
and don’t you think it’s about time you let something not so
convenient in your life…?”
    Red flashes before my eyes: pectoral alert, body heat alert,
male-goodness-smell alert, each and every warning system in my
body gave maximum beep and had they existed outside my head,
everyone in the bar would have gone deaf. Now it was just me
experiencing a strange weakness and a terrible, unwanted wish
to tell him exactly what I felt. I could hear the words echoing in
my head, wanting to slip out and find their way to my lips. I’m
so afraid, Antonius. God in heaven, I think I have never clenched
my teeth so hard. Which seemed to make him want to kiss me
(at least he did that closing in thing with his face, but sure, for
that matter, he could have just done his impression of a 70-300
mm zoom lens), so I changed my approach and started talking

                                -62 -                                                                - 63 -
                                                                           wasn’t it? Was I stupid or what. In spite of that much hated time
                                                                           in school it was obviously a time of much joy and happiness (and
                                                                           hunting! And fishing! My God, I just could not imagine that
                                  18                                       actually happening!). Nah, it was a puzzle to me, and Theo was
                                                                           so caught up with the action around the at all time present Haggis
                                                                           so I never got the chance to speak to him about it either. But one
                    Let’s all join hands                                   day I would ask him, and in the meantime it was a good topic
                                                                           of discussion for the first meeting of the network that I had now
                                                                           decided to gather.

   t       he idea of gathering a network kind of grew on me. I had            Now, in my mind, the gathering of a network was easy. All
been thinking about it ever since that first punch-and-talk with           you had to do was find a few people that you liked (or at least
Marietta, and I think what finally got me to realize the idea was          could stand), call them and arrange a meeting. In theory, nothing
the fact that I felt like a refugee in my own home since Haggis            could be simpler. In practice, however, nothing is as simple as it
(obviously) moved in. I felt the need to take control again, to not        is in theory (just look at juggling, or playing the guitar – perfectly
be numerically inferior. I mean, I did realize it wasn’t a grand           straightforward instructions, a logic clear as the bright summer
scheme to outnumber me or anything, it wasn’t like we had the              sky… and two hands messing up the whole thing, causing balls
world championship in Domesticism going on every night, with               to knock over stuff everywhere or a terrible noise that can make a
them winning cause they were two and me being just one – but               boy- or girlfriend go crazy in less than a week).
still. I still felt like the outsider, having the handicap of not being,       The first problem I encountered was actually finding the
well, a man that went to school with them. You would not believe           members of this network to-be. It’s not like you can dig up any
how many memories they had, and for that matter you wouldn’t               idiot and ask them to join in, at least not if you want the network
believe how many times it was actually possible to talk about              to be at least somewhat enjoyable. You remember I’ve told you
every single one of them. I mean, yeah, okay, big fish, huge fish, I       I’m not big with the small talk? Well, it has been suggested to
got it, move on! But endless dwelling upon lost days seemed to be          me that I’m picky – picky! – when it comes to relations, friends,
the sport they were going for these days (that, and eating lots of         whatever you like to call it. I want to state, just for the record, that
chicken wings). It made me think that even though the childhood            I resent that! But okay, I can see why anyone would think so, with
and adolescence were terrible when they were going on, they still          me thinking that so very few people in the world was actually
seemed like the best time in life afterwards.                              worth the effort. I had met so many people, so many people, that
    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who claimed they had a              has just passed me through, you know I’ve spent hours and hours
good childhood or youth (except for those clearly delusional               talking… and there are so few conversations that have stayed
freaks - with defences higher than the Eiffel tower - that sound           with me.
like a novel of Dickens when they speak about those times, and                 I’m sure I’m not very unique in this matter, I’m actually
that always make me think ‘yes, sure, and in between those                 sure it’s the same with most people. We treat talking, making
fabulous picnics and all-joyful summer vacations your mom                  conversation, as if it has some sort of grand value in itself. Well,
killed your dad with a pointed toothbrush, your brother ran your           let me break it to you: it hasn’t. Conversation has a value only if
dog over with his motorbike and your friends were, well, you               the result is something. It can be a talk you remember, a phrase
didn’t have any’), but still, people talk about it like it was the         that makes you think in a new way, or it can bring you closer to
best time they ever had. I don’t get it. Theo had told me dozens           someone you really want to get closer to. But conversation, in
of times how he hated school because he was so small, and got              itself, is only a means to an end. It’s when we lead ourselves to
picked on by his teachers, and because he didn’t fancy rugby like          believe that producing words with our mouths is something that
the other boys, and this had lead me to believe that he somehow            is good and valuable in itself that we end up in the terrible social
was a sensitive guy who was smarter than the rest in school and            situation we are in now, so accurately described by Paul Simon:
that, somehow, was a sign of him being smart altogether now,               people talking without speaking, and people hearing without

                                  -64 -                                                                     - 65 -
listening. We’re placed in this world to connect –

    - I think I have lost my mind. Please forget I ever said that
last sentence. I can’t believe I just checked in to a room at the                                        19
Oprah Hotel. I stand by my conversation theory, so don’t forget
that part. Just ignore, or if possible forget, that really lame cliché
about connecting. I’m sure that very same thing could be said
                                                                                          You’re the inspiration
with way cooler words, and one day I might actually do it. But at
the moment, that’s beside the point. I want to tell you about – not
very good with the whole follow the tracks here – the network, and
what happened when I tried to put together a group that would             o kay,     so the first problem was finding members for the
serve a purpose, the purpose of, well, having a good time. I keep         network. After having thought about this for a lot longer than I
coming back to this, but it really sounds so simple, doesn’t it?          wanted (this was supposed to be a simple procedure, remember?),
People seem to form these kinds of networks all the time – and if         I decided that I would have to go with Marietta, Antonius, Bart
Theo is right and they’re normally considered to be “friendships”,        and Chisandra. Chisandra, although not mentioned up until
then I suppose it’s not strange that it happens all the time. It’s just   now, was a witch sort of girl I sometimes performed rituals with,
that to me, friendship has always been a very isolated and private        sometimes for fun and sometimes for purely selfish reasons. I
thing, not something you do in groups (much like sex, the one on          admit I was unsure about her. She’s a great girl and she has many
one thing is perfectly okay but as soon as you try to apply it to a       qualities, as well as a very interesting and mysterious look (you
group situation it starts to give off that hmmm-not-really-sure-          know, with the dark stuff around her eyes and the hair draping
mum-would-like-this-vibe). Although now that I think about                around her like some very generously draped cape made of black
it, there are various TV-shows on that very theme; with people            silk), which is exactly why I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring her
living together in loftlike flats in New York, or hanging out at          into this group. One had to consider the fact that Antonius would
a really cool coffee shop together or something… I guess I just           be there, and it might be considered stupid to… well, but on the
figured friendship was fake, pure TV-reality (like Geri’s boobs           other hand I didn’t even want to think about what I wanted from
or the homeless guys slash actors in Homeless or a Millionaire). I        Antonius, so that put me in quite an interesting dilemma – a
decided not to call it friendship anyway, Theo might be right but         battle between me and my subconscious, the bright and common
I couldn’t very well start to use definitions I didn’t really believe     sense versus the downstairs full of messy, dirty desires. Oh, I was
in. Besides… it’s something terribly frightening about asking             a Freudian textbook example (here I go again with my textbook
someone to enter a circle of friends that you’re putting together.        examples, maybe I should just start writing textbooks, it seems
It’s simply not at all as frightening asking them to join a network.      to come natural to me), I repeatedly ended up having thoughts I
(I wonder what it would feel like not being afraid.)                      didn’t want to have so I had to tell my subconscious me to shut
                                                                          the fuck up and leave me alone, but doing that I couldn’t very well
   Oh, bloody hell! Is it even possible for me to stick to the same       avoid Antonius because in doing so I admitted I had the thoughts
topic for more than two minutes?!                                         I just spent so much time and effort ignoring I had, so I had to
                                                                          trick myself in way more clever ways – it was no game, I tell you,
                                                                          I worked really hard making myself believe a lot of stuff.
                                                                              But the possible jealousy-situation aside, I actually wanted
                                                                          Chisandra there. I thought she’d add some spice to the group so I
                                                                          decided to (or, well, the process was of course more complicated
                                                                          than that because of the above stated complications, but the
                                                                          bottom line was that I was going to) invite her.
                                                                              So now I had a list of four names, plus a lot of notes and
                                                                          names that had been crossed out. All the ones whose exact names

                                 -66 -                                                                   - 67 -
I couldn’t remember had to go, so the list was full of lines like       perishable, and you can’t tin it or keep it in the freezer. It has
“the guy I met at that really bad party, the one who had this           its own rules, completely indifferent to your upbringing that has
interesting theory on how the dinosaurs were really killed (also        told you to eat the disgusting stuff on your plate first and leave
JFK??? connection? can’t remember), James? John? Something              the goodies for last and to never eat all the candy at once but to
with the apostles!! Get guest list?” or “the hairdresser I used to go   save parts of it for later. It doesn’t care about careful planning or
to on the corner, Lisa or something”. After the first brainstorming     patience, it wants to be consumed now.
process (nothing should be left out in a brainstorming they say,            These are the rules of inspiration. Accept them or discard
God knows why, it just gives you a lot more to remove later on)         them, but be aware of them. I’ve noticed that it’s not very
I crossed out everything like that. Not that James (or John, or         common that people are.
whatever) wouldn’t be a great networking guy, but I felt that if
I couldn’t remember a name, the person couldn’t have been that             So the first step (deciding who I wanted in the network) was
interesting. Besides, I was in somewhat a hurry. Or, at least, I was    taken and in theory, the only thing left would be to give them all
impatient.                                                              a call and say “let’s meet at JimmyD’s after hours tomorrow”.
    What good is it, namely, having a great idea that you want to          Yes. Well.
realize if you can’t make it happen now? The longer you waited,            Have you ever noticed how darn busy people are? Well, I was
the more the risk of losing interest increased. I’d seen that happen    soon to notice.
before – say for example when I wanted to become a barrister
(it’s all about where you choose to practise, really, but those
wigs and capes are such a great dress code!) and had to fill in
applications and copy papers and just generally go through a lot
of work – and that was just to get in to law school! Then it turned
out I had to wait for months before I even got to start my classes,
and then I got bored. You see, inspiration is a delicate thing.
You have to embrace it, go with it when it happens, because it
can’t be generated or artificially produced. Inspiration is the
most powerful thing in the world, but you have to understand
the nature of it, or you will never be able to use it. The thing
is that you have to forget all about “holding on” and “endure”
and similar non-relevant ideas. Inspiration has nothing to do
with consistency or long-term decisiveness. That is something
altogether different, that is just simple stubbornness – being able
to stick with an original idea through thick and thin, holding on
to it and working towards a solution without letting yourself slip
for a moment, yes, very admirable, but it has nothing to do with
inspiration. You can get the most perfectly flavoured bite of life,
catch that perfect moment, and seize that proverbial day… if you
learn to go with inspiration. I’m not saying it’s the only way to
go, or even the most correct way to go. I’m just saying that it is
one of life’s treats for the courageous – if you dare to accept that
Now contains only now, it can give you the kick of a lifetime. (Of
course, Now can also contain a certain amount of ruthlessness.
You have to accept that, too, or you’ll never get it.)
    Inspiration does not survive long-term commitment. It dies
if you try to stretch it to cover more than the moment. It’s a

                                -68 -                                                                   - 69 -
                                                                            “Not cappuccino colour! Please!”
                                                                            “Very well then, what would you suggest?”
                                                                            “What’s wrong with the current colour?”
                                20                                          “Now that you put it that way… but I couldn’t have it redone
                                                                        in the same colour, could I?”
                      Time after time                                       “But of course you could.”
                                                                            “Alright, I’ll do that, then, that makes it easier, otherwise I’d
                                                                        have to pick a colour. And you know, there are shades too! You
                                                                        can’t just say ‘I want it blue’, no, you have to be specific. Like,

t omorrow after hours was absolutely not an option! Marietta            ‘lavender’ or ‘eggshell’ or ‘hibernated cauliflower’ or whatever.
                                                                        I mean, who knows the difference between ‘royal’ and ‘azure’
was on her way to a two day business trip to, where was it again?
                                                                        anyway?”
Switzerland? The place where they make all the cheese anyway
                                                                            “Good, now, back to necessities. Sunday is out of the question
(and possibly some cuckoo clocks?). Friday night was better,
                                                                        then? Monday?”
she said, then she would be back from abroad, and she even
                                                                            “Should work, let’s do Monday after hours.”
promised to bring some really expensive brandy for us. Alright,
                                                                            So I called Marietta who got even crankier about having to
it didn’t matter to me, it was just a matter of two days, so I hung
                                                                        change her calendar entry again, and then I called Antonius who
up and called Antonius to let him know he was supposed to be at
                                                                        couldn’t do Monday because he had an important interview with
JimmyD’s Friday night.
                                                                        some wannabe who had started a new club downtown, but that
    Hah.
                                                                        he could do either Tuesday early morning or Wednesday after
    That was absolutely not possible, because Antonius was taking
                                                                        hours but he had to check that with someone and could I call him
the weekend off to go to Paris with a date (ouch, ouch, ouch, let’s
                                                                        back? I decided it was probably not wise to call Marietta until we
not talk about that now, but please acknowledge my pain). He’d
                                                                        had found a day that was perfectly okay for everyone, so I called
be back Sunday, though, and if everything went alright with the
                                                                        Bart again and we agreed that Tuesday was out of the question
date he’d probably be virtually high on the conquest adrenaline,
                                                                        but that Wednesday would work, and then I called Antonius
so he wouldn’t mind going straight to JimmyD’s for some brandy
                                                                        and he said yes, he had checked and Wednesday would be fine,
and networking, and by the way, could we give this network a
                                                                        and could he suggest a name for the network already? I said No
name, like a real cool name? I said fine, and that he could come
                                                                        and called Chisandra, who was leaving the country Monday
up with a suggestion for a name. Sunday it was.
                                                                        and would be gone for two full weeks (some sort of invocation
    I rang off and called Marietta back to fill her in on the changed
                                                                        workshop in Romania, already paid for and eagerly anticipated
plans. After a little muttering she said ok (but she wasn’t very
                                                                        for months). However, she could probably do Sunday evening if
happy with Antonius being the one coming up with a name and
                                                                        that would work. I had a minor breakdown and said I’d get back
told me she would have her marketing people come up with some
                                                                        to her on that and then I had a double vodka and a bath with my
suggestions also since they were professional and all), and I called
                                                                        emergency oil blend added (a mix of seven extremely relaxing
Bart. But no, Sunday was not possible at all, because there would
                                                                        herbs). I did remember to remove Haggis’ kilt first, but he wasn’t
be some carpenters there to fix the place up. At this moment I got
                                                                        very happy later on when he realized I had deprived his kilt an
a bit distracted from the whole networking thing.
                                                                        hour of quality bath time. However, I think he could see from my
    “What do you mean, fix the place up?”
                                                                        still flustered face and hear it from the growling tone in my voice
    “Well, Norma Jean, the whole interior is a bit dated. And we
                                                                        that I had actually been more in need for quality bath time than
have a water leak behind the bar.”
                                                                        the kilt at the moment, so he didn’t give me too much trouble.
    “But you’re not gonna, you know, change it? Like paint the
walls in some cappuccino colour and get new furniture with all
                                                                           The result of all this was that we all agreed on Sunday, but
steel and plastic or retro 70’s with green and, please Bart, you’re
                                                                        decided to have the meeting at my place instead of JimmyD’s.
not gonna do that, are you?”
                                                                        Now, all I had to do was to convince Theo (aka The man who
    “Well… I was going to, the walls could use a lick of paint.”

                                -70 -                                                                   - 71 -
doesn’t leave home unless the house is on fire and even then
would whine about wanting to go back in) to take Haggis with
him and do something else for a few hours. Maybe they could
go clubbing. (Yeah. Right. And Fresh Prince might go through                                     21
one full episode without punning about uncle Phil being fat and
Carlton being short. Who am I trying to kid here?)
                                                                                              Music


                                                                  H aggis had a bagpipe that he liked very much. I daresay that
                                                                  they had a special relationship, him and his bagpipe. I base this
                                                                  opinion upon one single thing: he had named it. The bagpipe
                                                                  was called Maggie and I promise you, he talked to it. He was
                                                                  like a ventriloquist with an instrument instead of a doll, when he
                                                                  was angry you could hear Maggie scream. When he was happy,
                                                                  Maggie made merry music and when he was sad Maggie cried.
                                                                  Not that the layman could tell the difference, to me Angry Maggie
                                                                  and Merry Maggie sounded quite alike, but luckily Haggis always
                                                                  told his (reluctant or downright panicking) audience exactly what
                                                                  she was expressing.

                                                                      Knowing this, maybe you can imagine my feelings when I
                                                                  tell you that when I started talking about the network meeting at
                                                                  our place, the men of the house misunderstood me and got really
                                                                  excited about the whole idea and Haggis decided he (and Maggie)
                                                                  would be the entertainment of the night. Oh, swell. Just swell.




                              -72 -                                                             - 73 -
                                                                        approach, which is, I think, not very considerate. What are they
                                                                        supposed to answer to something like that? A simple “thank
                                                                        you” might do, but after that, what will the result be? Will you
                                22                                      feel better, having said what thousands of others already have
                                                                        said? Will they feel better, after having heard from you what they
                                                                        have already heard from (the very same) thousand of others? I
                       Eye in the sky                                   think not. It might be clear to you by now that even though I
                                                                        like spotting the celebs I don’t really feel the need to confront
                                                                        them. I mean, a celebrity’s job is to be watched, looked at, right?
                                                                        They exist for the sole purpose of us watching them, because we
m r. Nose was, according to most information I could find, sent         need to feel that there is something else, something bigger in life
to prison for three months when he was 17. He had stolen credit         than waking up, eating bacon, reading papers, writing memos,
cards or something, a juvenile delinquent thing that one would          cooking pasta and going to bed. We need to know that heaven
never under any circumstances connect with him nowadays.                exists, we need to know about the garden of Eden. Religion is not
Maybe he was bored? Maybe he teamed up with the wrong                   important to us anymore, and do you know why? I’ll tell you: it’s
friends? Or, maybe, he just had a little devil inside who thought       because the Bible isn’t illustrated, and because it doesn’t star Liv
it was fun doing stuff that resulted in getting to spend money that     Tyler as Mary or Ben Affleck as Jesus.
wasn’t his. The list of all the films and TV-series he had been in          You see, we are so disillusioned, we live in a world were
was impressive, and he had (as I had vaguely remembered) also           nothing can be trusted. Everything is a special effect or a
written a few books and, well, he was generally an active and all       commercial lie, every promise can and will be broken. This is
admirable kind of man. The only thing not fitting into the picture      what they call a modern society and we have adjusted. So who
was this credit card thing and the three months in prison. And,         could believe the apostles when they talk about Jesus? We haven’t
okay… the talk about doing the D-thing, but for all I knew he           seen them, we know nothing about their reliability, and actually
might be one of Leeliah’s customers and who could blame him             the whole Bible is hearsay, so objection, Your Honour, move to
anyway?                                                                 strike. We need to believe in paradise but the paradise has to be
                                                                        somewhat real, we have to be able to see it, smell it, know that it
    During a long night at the 24-7 library I even read his first one   exists. And it does. It’s not Adam and Eve, it’s Posh and Becks.
book (I truly recommend it, you will feel like a truck has run over     We have created this whole world of beauty, an image (although
you - but only after dancing ever so gracefully with you on the         moving) that we can keep on our altars (TV sets) and worship,
M14 - when reading it, it’s like Wodehouse but with depraved            imagining one day we can also be there. And my point is that an
sex and constant plot twists), and I fell in love. How could I ever     image should stay an image. The moment you confront the image
have thought that this man didn’t rank high on the celeb-scale?         with the reality you realize, of course, that the image is just an
Yes, sure, you didn’t see him host an RLS or hang out with Oasis        image and that nothing is as perfect as it looks from afar. (Anyone
in any of the clubs in town, but Antonius had been right: this was      who has ever gone to church should know what I’m talking about.
most obviously an intelligent man and he had been productive. He        God doesn’t live there anymore.)
was witty, fun and he was something as rare as a true intellectual.         The policy, as I see it, is to watch and not to meddle. A name
And he was someone with balance in his life, that was at least the      signed on a piece of paper will not help me uphold the image of
impression he gave. It made me want to speak to him even more,          paradise. No, sneaking up on celebs going all “oh, I saw your last
but really, what should I say? “Excuse me Mr. Nose, but I think         movie, like, eighteen times, and you’re, like, the best!” wasn’t my
you are a very smart and interesting man, is that contagious and        thing. Watching, not speaking. They could visit our world, which
if so, can you please sneeze on me”?                                    was great because then you could imagine some of the paradise
    No, really and truly no.                                            qualities kind of spill over us, but that was as far as it should go,
    There is nothing you can say to someone you really admire,          according to me.
unless you want to go with the “I think you’re brilliant”-

                                -74 -                                                                   - 75 -
   Speaking to Mr. Nose was therefore impossible. As I said:
what could I possibly have to say to this man that he either had
not heard before, or would look down on me for saying? Instead
I watched the movie where he portayed that famous writer (that                                       23
was sent to prison for his homosexual relationships) about a
dozen times (bonus: Haggis hated it! Which meant I was left alone
while watching) and started to have my coffee at Richie’s every
                                                                              Everything counts (in large amounts)
now and then. He wasn’t always there, thought, it seemed as he
now didn’t show up nearly as often as before. Which was just my
luck, really.
                                                                     t he first networking meeting could, after all, have ended much
    I admit that I thought about writing him a letter. But then      worse. Alright, it wasn’t the civilised, discreet, polite meeting
I realized that would definitely qualify me for a lifetime           with considerate laughs and delicate cookies I had imagined, but
membership in the club of stalkers united – I was already            I kind of had to get rid of that idea as soon as it stood clear to me
dangerously close to pledging to that club, considering I had been   that I wouldn’t be able to get rid of Theo, Haggis and Maggie.
at the same place as he for so many times. Sure enough, in the       (Theo was quite harmless by comparison, but still.)
beginning it had been more like him stalking me but that’d never
hold in a court of law.                                                  Theo was ASG 13 all day. He never meets my friends or
    So, no letter.                                                   acquaintances, partly because I don’t want him to and partly
    And a letter had the same disadvantages as speaking to him,      because it freaks him out. Apart from not being Mr. Congeniality,
because what would I say? What was it that I wanted to say?          he’s just not the kind of person that easily adjusts to, well,
(Apart from the request that he’d sneeze on me.) Maybe the first     craziness. And the people I hang with tend to be a little over-the-
step should be finding out what was on my mind. Expressing           top, sometimes even for me. (And I’m not easily shocked.) Not
my admiration? But I’d never felt like that before (see above        that any of the networking guys were super crazy or anything, all
reasoning on not crossing the line between reality and celeb         things considered they were quite normal. I had seen and known
paradise), so what was it about him that was different? I would      a lot worse.
have to ask Antonius. If I could get him to be serious with me           I think, honestly, that the fact that Antonius was coming
for just a minute or two… and actually, the last time we spoke       made Theo extra edgy. Antonius hadn’t exactly been friendly, or
about it, he had been serious. Not for long, mind you, but this      even polite, to him when he came over to see me that time, and
was possibly the only topic that could make him look at me and…      Theo is not a man who easily forgives and forgets. Once a jerk,
well, see me.                                                        Theo thought, always a jerk. Then again, it works the other way
                                                                     around as well, which is really good for those who has managed
                                                                     to impress him or win his friendship. Theo thinks that things stay
                                                                     the same, you see, he doesn’t realize the panta rei quality of life.
                                                                         And apart from Antonius already being filed under the letter
                                                                     O for Obnoxious in Theo’s mental archive, there was probably the
                                                                     instinct, too. A man can smell a rival; feel him in the back of his
                                                                     neck even when he’s not completely aware of it. The subconscious
                                                                     and ever dominant male competitiveness will never cease to
                                                                     amaze me.

                                                                        However, Antonius surprised me (and Theo) again. He
                                                                     showed up wearing a smart, black three-piece suit (that made
                                                                     him look like something from a movie), he shook hands politely

                                                                     13
                                                                          All Speedy Gonzales
                               -76 -                                                                 - 77 -
and did the conversation thing with a splendour never seen in          more when Bart came, and this went on for quite a few hours. I
this house before. Haggis was a huge bowl of sunshine when             think we all got a little drunk (even Theo!). Bart and Chisandra
Antonius managed to admire Maggie, express his love for single         formed some sort of immediate attraction (though, I suppose, not
malt and reveal that he was once the press agent of something          of the sexual kind, Chisandra has always gone for the half-manly-
that I had no idea what it was (but Theo told me later that it         half-mysterious guys with a touch of the bad boy quality, like the
was a football team, by coincidence Haggis’ favourite team of all      young John Malkovich, or Billy Zane – and Bart was, bless the
teams). Even Theo relaxed and told Antonius things about the           sweetheart, more of a George-from-Seinfeld-type) and giggled
book he was writing. So far, I thought while checking that we          together like little girls, while Antonius and Marietta discussed
had enough wine cooling in the fridge, things were going okay.         the qualities of Cragganmore versus McAllan with Haggis and
There was no McArena-mocking (which I had been really afraid           Theo served them all more wine, chatting wherever he happened
of, Antonius can be extremely witty in a mean sort of way, and         to go. I think it’s called “to mingle”. Me, I was doing the same
even though Haggis is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, he has his         thing, and having sort of a good time. When Theo was out of the
weak spots – his name being one of them –, and there is only so        room Antonius came up to me and whispered in my ear that he
hard you can push them before he starts responding, and, let me        really wondered what it would feel like to touch some part or
add, not responding very well), no disrespect towards Theo and         other of my body that my top left bare (sorry for not being very
no touching me. (That last part annoyed me beyond belief, but          detailed, but there are things you treasure), and I was beginning
I really tried to bring it up as being on the plus side of things. I   to think that this networking idea was even better than I thought
tried, okay? I can only do my best. And honestly, sometimes not        from the beginning.
even that.)
                                                                           I don’t think things started to go wrong until Antonius started
    Next arrival was Marietta, almost on time and impeccably           to present his theory.
dressed in black and silver, it made her look all French and even          “I have this theory you see”, he said, and suddenly everyone
more dangerous than usual. She kissed me, shook hands with             was listening to him. This was good. That meant I could look at
Theo and Antonius and almost charmed the kilt off Haggis. He           him as much as I wanted – as long as the others also looked at
lit up like a (very hairy) Christmas tree when she smiled at him       him, no one would notice precisely how I was looking at him.
and asked him if he was one of the Ballygowobbhle McArena’s,               “Tell us”, Chisandra said and we all nodded, me too.
and if so, was he closely related to Angus and Luella McArena? It          Antonius could be quite a fascinating speaker; he had that
turned out that Angus and Luella were Haggis’ cousins by second        presence that separates the winner from the rest. There was
marriage (or something of the kind), and Marietta knew them            something about how he used his voice. He was easy to listen
through some obscure business connection, I think she bought           to, regardless of what he had to say. Some people just have that
wool from their sheep farm (it might have been something else,         quality, you know. It’s terribly unfair, but there you have it. Life
but wool sounds sensible enough now, doesn’t it?) and before           is unfair, but at least it’s sometimes unfair to your advantage. (I
I knew it the small talk was kind of bubbling in the room, a           would suggest you cherish those times!)
comfortable sound mat of laughs and oh-did-you-really’s. Not               “Yes”, he said, his eyes slowly wandering around the room.
at all bad, I thought to myself, and things just got better when       He was smiling too, and looked a little like a faun in an old story.
Chisandra joined us, a bottle of wine in one hand and the other        “I have a theory that every man – and woman, not to mention
one decorated with heavy silver rings with intricate patterns          – in this world, has something that they want to destroy, or
and gemstones. She was also all dressed in black, but instead          exterminate. What do you think, friends?”
of looking like a chic mademoiselle, she gave the impression of            There was a short silence while his words sunk in. I could
being a moderately house-trained witch. Not too far away from          almost hear the brains starting to kick off and go into overdrive.
the look Madonna had in the Frozen-video - always referred to              “No one? Well, I will start then, since it is my idea and all.
by Chisandra as “the video where that darn bitch stole my whole        Maybe our lovely hostess could bring some more wine? Yes,
approach and was considered to be a trendsetter”, by the way.          thank you, and now, if you want, I will tell you what I would like
    Well, wine was served, conversations were spreading even           to destroy.”

                                -78 -                                                                 - 79 -
   We all went quiet, waiting for him to tell. I don’t know what      any exception whatsoever. This annoyed Theo a little, because he
the others thought he’s say, but I was thinking maybe he would        liked Eminem, and they almost got in a fight over that.
say something really provocative like “Indians” or “career
women”. But I misjudged him again. His faun-like smile subsided           The moment before the fight was an indisputable fact,
and he looked very serious when he opened his mouth:                  Antonius spoke again. The temperature had risen about ten
   “Love. That is what I think should be exterminated. Love.”         degrees in the room and the atmosphere’s friendliness was
                                                                      decreasing by the second – this could end badly. Very badly. But
    That set off a series of reaction, the first one being “oh,       this was apparently not what Antonius had in mind. He captured
can you say something abstract too!”, pretty much all around,         our attention again, managing to stop the bad language and rising
and suddenly we were all talking about our hearts deepest,            rage in a second:
destructive desires.                                                      “But our lovely hostess hasn’t spoken yet! We have all told
    “Anyone who is not fun”, proclaimed Marietta, but changed         what we’d like to get rid of, what we think should be exterminated
her mind immediately, “no, wait! I think not. I think the Labour      for the sake of the country and all good men or whatever noble
party. I would not want to kill the proletarians but I would like     reason we think we have, but I believe Norma Jean hasn’t said
for them to be shut up. They should all work and be grateful, why     anything of the kind. Now, would you do us the courtesy to let us
is all this, what do you say, yes, whining? What is that about?       know what dirty little destruction fantasy you have?”
They work, yes? They should see real poverty, and then they               I looked around. Everyone was suddenly looking at me and
would not so very much whine anymore, I tell you!”                    I remembered that a very good reason for not doing the group
    “You can’t be serious!” Chisandra exploded. “You want             thing was that sometimes it happened that everyone was looking
to shut up all the Labour parties in the world? What kind of          at you at the same time… and expected something from you, like
protected, fairytale-world are you living in?! If anyone should be    having an opinion.
exterminated it’s you, you capitalistic überbitch!”                       There was this moment of silence, at least I have to assume it
    That could have ended in violence, by the way, Chisandra is       was only a moment, thought as far as I’m concerned it might have
not your typical fuzzy-bear when it comes to politics. She is what    been an hour or a week, time has this funny way of not moving at
you’d probably call a prone-to-asskicking-left-wing. But there        all when you’re really, really scared.
was no time for violence to break out, because Haggis spoke:              “Fear”, I finally said, “I’d like to see fear disappear. Not so
    “Tourists, I think! Or maybe better to just remove women          much for my own sake” – I was coming back to life as I spoke,
altogether.”                                                          finding my way back to the place where words are the perfect
    By this, you can learn never to step in between to fighting       protection – “although it would be nice to be able to do…
sisters. You will inevitably have them both turned against you,       whatever, without being afraid. But I think without fear we’d all
and this is what happened. Marietta forgot about the family wool      die sooner rather than later and – problem solved!”
and Chisandra forgot about Marietta being an überbitch and they           The laugh was liberating and we all joined in. But I thought
both attacked Haggis’ in an instant.                                  then, and I think now, that each and every one of us was secretly
    When we had managed to calm them down, Theo said that             wondering how serious the others have been, and whether or not
he would prefer to destroy war, or possibly starving, from the        anyone of us would ever act on our beliefs. And I know that I
world. This was however not possible, Antonius told us, if there      thought that it was more a question of who would do it first than
were no wars and no starving people in the third world, the world     if anyone would do it at all. But then again, I’ve always had an
economy would collapse in an instant. Chisandra then added,           unfortunate lack of confidence and trust in the fact that people
rather sharply, that in that case she’d like to remove the world      are basically good. I really don’t think they are. (They? We. I
economy please, and Antonius laughed and gave her a huge              don’t think we are.)
hug and said she was adorable, and then Theo said that for that
matter, cancer could also go as far as he cared, and Bart said that
bad alcohol, rap music and any politician older than 55 should be
exterminated without hesitation and with no questions asked or

                               -80 -                                                                 - 81 -
                                                                             “Sarcasm! You know what sarcasm is, don’t you?”
                                                                             “I believe I do. What I just said, for example, that would be a
                                                                         sarcasm.”
                                 24                                          “Yes, that was an example of sarcasm, but I’m telling you what
                                                                         it is. Sarcasm is fear, my dear. Excuse me for rhyming, it wasn’t
                                                                         my intention.”
                      What evil lurks
                                                                             I trust we all have triggers. There are things that we don’t want
                                                                         to hear, phenomena we don’t want to discuss. Things we, to speak
                                                                         Freudian, are repressing. When we hear of them, we sometimes
D id I ever tell you about what Leeliah said when she called?            freak or fight back or, well, punch someone in the face.
No, I rather think I didn’t – I think I was going to but then came           “Thank you so much for calling, but I assure you I’m perfectly
Haggis. (He’s like a force of nature, that man.) The thing is that       fine and thank you for the kind offer, but I won’t be needing your
she got my number from Marietta (I told you that much) and               services.”
called me to see how I was doing. Yes, that is what she said.                “Fear, Norma Jean. That is what is running your life, isn’t it?
    “My dear, this is Leeliah speaking. I hope you don’t mind me         And not only fear, but fear of fear itself. You don’t have to say I’m
calling, I got your number from Marietta van Dijk. I just wanted         right. You just have to listen to me, and accept what I’m offering
to see how you are doing?”                                               you. I can give you relief from your fear. You could be here in just
    I have mentioned that I am naïve from time to time, but I            half an hour, and you could step into a world without fear right
wasn’t naïve enough to not realize that she wanted more than             away. Think about it, Norma Jean. Your clenched fists, your tense
just check if my blood pressure was okay or if I had had the flu         shoulders, that headache that you so eagerly deny, that whole on-
recently. If there is anything at all I have learned about drug          guard-routine you have… you could…”
dealers (or tarot women doubling as concept creators or whatever             “No thanks! And goodbye!”
she wanted to be called – it all came down to the same thing: she
sold imaginary satisfaction to people with the means to pay;                 My hands would not stop shaking (not a good thing when
you can call a cleaning lady “physical environment specialist” if        putting makeup on; my face looked like a palette of a long-time
you like, but she’s still the woman cleaning up your vomit and           active artist with a flair for earth colours) and my heart was
washing your blood- and sperm stained sheets) it was that they           beating as if it was on the Prodigy payroll. There is a time and
had a well developed set of mental hooks that they used with             a place for everything, and that, even without Haggis deciding
great skill and enthusiasm to make any salmon or trout bite. (As         to show up on our doorstep, was the perfect time and place for
a metaphor it might not be a very successful picture I’m painting        actively repressing with the courteous assistance of Mr. Vodka.
you, but the meaning is the same, still. You’re the fish, the drug
dealer the fisherman. And his skill and experience is always
bigger than yours. Hey, you’re just one fish, and he has been
fishing for years. He’ll always have a head start.)
    “I’m just fine!” I said, infinitely more cheerful than I felt. Not
that I had any hope of fooling her, really, but there is also the
dignity factor to consider.
    “Are you really?”
    “Oh, yes, splendid! And how are you?”
    “But this is about you, my dear. I wanted to know if you had
given our last conversation any thought?”
    “You mean, do I want to give you a shitload of money and
direct access to the arena where you kill, say, my brain cells?”

                                -82 -                                                                    - 83 -
                                                                          presented criticism), the cable guy was fixing something or other
                                                                          in the living room (while giving Haggis the silent treatment,
                                                                          which Haggis didn’t notice, because he was giving the cable guy
                                 25                                       the silent treatment too) and I was waiting for Chisandra to pick
                                                                          me up. I had received my cell phone from eBay (an Ericsson,
                                                                          smart little thing with games and all sorts of unnecessary – but
                        That old black magic                              fun – things in it) so I could now leave the house and still be
                                                                          available, should the brother-thing suddenly come to a critical
                                                                          point. This was good, because Chisandra was taking me out on
                                                                          the countryside (not that far from the city, she had promised) to
n ow, after a while, things always become routine. You learn to           perform a ritual. I believe I mentioned before that sometimes we
live with a loud Scot (and his explicit Scottishness) and you learn       do that, she is very serious about these things and almost always
to live with your favourite hangout place in the world suddenly           gets result when trying to accomplish something.
having new furniture. You may not like it very much, but you                   Once, for example, she managed to make a bottle of wine triple
learn to live with it. This is what I did, what I have always done.       its intoxicating effect. I admit this doesn’t sound very grand, but
It’s just a question of SUAD 14.                                          it resulted in someone who was married and had high moral
                                                                          standards sleeping with Chisandra because he was so drunk after
    It was like all the cool celebs were hibernating; the only ones       just one glass of wine – which was exactly what she was after, the
I could spot were the really boring ones. Not much fun there.             little bitch – and I mean that in the best possible way – because
It was getting colder by the day and it was probably what you             she really, really hated his wife and wanted to give her a bad
would call winter, only without snow. I don’t even remember the           time. Hmm, I just realized this doesn’t make Chisandra sound
last time I saw snow. I could tell by all the lights and glittery stuff   like a very nice person, does it? Oh, this came out all wrong, the
all over town that it would soon be Christmas. There were angels          wife truly was a goddess of death and all bad things you can
of glass, plastic Santa’s singing and dancing in a disgusting             imagine, and she could really use a good na-na-na-na-naaa-na…
sort of way, there were garlands in all colours with shiny stars          and suddenly, I don’t seem very Jane Austenish either, do I? Oh,
attached to them, bunches of plastic holly, fake snow on fake ice,        never mind.
statues of baby Jesus and his family (including the camels and the             Another time she had summoned some sort of revenge
donkeys) and their crib… and this music. Oh, I swear, if I had to         demon that she set off after a guy that had dumped her in the
hear “Silent night” sung by an idiotic children’s choir one more          most horrible way. It was something about she finding her sister
time, I’d have freaked. I can’t say I hated Christmas, or loved it,       chained to his bed one night when Chisandra paid him a surprise
it was just a thing that happened and that didn’t really bother me        visit. Not that the sister in question seem to mind the chains,
(except for the Mariah Carey video where she had a Mrs. Santa             judging from the position, what she was wearing and the sounds
dress and tumbled about in fake snow, that bothered me, but all           she made. And yes, the revenge demon got a bite out of the sister,
the music channels kept playing it all the time, as they did every        too.
Christmas), but as with everything else, Christmas capitalist                  So make no mistake, Chisandra has her ways with magic, even
spirit has a limit. It should be time-stamped, like milk or fresh         though her hit rate isn’t 100%. And this time, I had asked her if
meat. There is only so much you can take of shiny baubles with            she could help me find out what was the driving forces in my
glitter, ho-ho-ho’s and reindeers.                                        personality (… yes, I admit, Leeliah’s words hit me quite hard, I
                                                                          had decided not to think about them but I wasn’t really the queen
   This dark night was no different than most of the nights these         of repressing as I had once been – it seemed I wasn’t really in
days. Theo and Haggis were doing some sort of old-chap-routine            control of myself anymore, I hated it but I had to face the facts)
where Haggis taunted Theo for being small and Theo taunted                and, if I didn’t like what I found, how I could change it. So she had
Haggis for being stupid (they were both right, of course, but             said ye-es, she supposed she could do that, but was I sure I was
somehow it seemed to be a bonding thing and not seriously                 ready? That could be a disturbing experience for someone who
14
     Shutting Up And Dealing
                                 -84 -                                                                    - 85 -
wasn’t ready to meet his or her true, inner self. Me, not having            “Sure!”
slept properly for weeks (and being banned from the 24-7 library            “Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. In… and out. In… and out.
because I woke up screaming as soon as I managed to catch the            In… and out. Like that. Now, count backwards from 100. When
nap-train for a few minutes, and this apparently disturbed the           you reach 50…”
other visitors), said that that would not be a problem, and even if         I’m afraid I can’t tell you what I was supposed to do when
it would be, it would be smaller than the ones I was dealing with        reaching 50, because I was sleeping when she told me.
now.

    Chisandra didn’t come in, she just honked the horn and I took
my bag to leave.
    “You leaving?” Theo yelled from the kitchen.
    “Yeah, told you. Girls night out with Chisandra.”
    “Oh right, I forgot.”
    “Have a good time, you two”, Haggis bellowed, “and try
to not be too nice to each other, eh?” Haggis had this thing for
lesbianism, he was always afraid something juicy would happen
when he wasn’t there to watch. I assured him I wouldn’t be too
nice to anyone, as this clearly was not in my personality, and then
I left.

    “How are you?” Chisandra asked, shooting me a glance while
driving through a sleepy part of town where I had never been
before.
    “Prepared”, I responded promptly. I had obeyed all her
orders: I had been fasting the whole day, I was wearing dark,
lose-fitting clothes and I had not been drinking any coffee or
alcohol for 24 hours.
    “Good, but are you tired, happy, excited…? I’m only asking
because I can feel your energy very clearly, and I need to know if
what you feel is consistent with what I feel that you feel. If not, it
tells me you have a blockage somewhere in your chakras, and in
that case we need to start the ritual unblocking that. No worries,
I have everything I need for that, it’ll just take half an hour extra
or something, so no biggie.”
    “Oh, well”, I answered, trying to analyse what I was feeling.
But given I didn’t really do that very often, the results were not
as clear as I would have wanted them to be. “I guess I’m a little…
not scared, but… tense? Excited. Anxious, maybe? And, well,
hungry. Can we eat later?”
    “We’ll have a splendid meal over at Chez Marquis, I
promise.”
    “And, yes, I’m tired also. I haven’t really slept lately, so…”
    “Right. Now, can I ask you to do some preparation for the
ritual?”

                                 -86 -                                                                - 87 -
                                                                          Chisandra was on the phone. It was kind of strange seeing her
                                                                      with a mobile phone, she struck you more as a smoke signal kind
                               26                                     of girl. I don’t think she even owned a TV, and I swear, if it was
                                                                      allowed she’d be having horses instead of a car in the garage. But
                                                                      even she understood the necessities as being able to go shopping
                       I will survive                                 and, above all, being able to go out in the woods at midnight
                                                                      when the moon was full. Although she did quite frequently talk
                                                                      about moving out to the countryside and be… what was it… self-
                                                                      sufficient? By that I assume she meant growing her own tobacco
t he car stood still when I woke up. The heat was on so I wasn’t      and cows and stuff. For me, there are only three types of animals:
cold, but I could hear Chisandra’s voice as if it was speaking to     the ones you buy in plastic boxes in the supermarket, the ones you
someone (“no, don’t be stupid… yes, we’re in the north woods…         cuddle and the once you are afraid of. Every single animal ever
she’s still sleeping”) and that worried me for some non-identified    mentioned to me falls in under one of those categories. (Although
reason.                                                               I’m suddenly not sure about the ostrich. Please tell me one can get
    How long had I been sleeping? I had no idea, it was still dark    them in the supermarket?)
and I was frankly still quite caught up in the dream I had had. I         Anyway, while Chisandra was finishing her conversation, I
remembered having an argument with my father, or, rather, him         took a look around. It took about two seconds to establish that
having an argument with me. He was lecturing me for things I          there was darkness all over. In between the darkness, there were
didn’t even remember, things from when I was very young. I            some trees stuck, too, I could see their silhouettes but not much
got more and more upset and I knew that I couldn’t interrupt          more. So, this was the perfect spot for a spell like this.
(with the logic that dreams are made of I knew that if I did, my          “Right, I will see you tomorrow, yeah? Take care, sister.
teeth would fall out) and that I had to wait until he decided he      Bye.”
would let me speak. As he went on and on, I tried to make a list          “Sister? I didn’t think you were on speaking terms with your
in my head of all the accusations that I wanted to meet, and all      sister.”
the stupid things he said that I wanted to comment on – it wasn’t         “A sister of the moon, not a flesh and blood sister.”
easy, because they just kept coming. On top of this, I knew I was         “I see. I’m sorry I feel asleep.”
in some sort of terrible hurry, there was someone I had to meet           Chisandra smiled at me and touched my forehead with her
somewhere, and I had been on my way to get there for a long           fingertips.
time and I was terribly late already. And then, my father (whose          “You were supposed to. You were so tired, I needed you to get
face I couldn’t really see, by the way) finally stopped talking and   some sleep before we started. I’ve set everything up, come with
I knew I had exactly 3 minutes and 7 seconds to reply to all his      me.”
nonsense, plus saying all the things I wanted to say but never
had gotten around to do. So I took a deep breath and opened my            She lit the candles around me, for every candle she lit she said
mouth, and the only thing that came out of it was the barking of a    something like hail to guardians of the something-something and
small and rather irascible dog.                                       on this eve we call you zippididoda. A lot of nonsense I didn’t
                                                                      understand, but Chisandra had told me to sit still and focus on
   I’m sure you can imagine the frustration of such a dream. The      letting my thoughts go, it didn’t matter if I understood what she
urge to defend yourself is the strongest thing you have. Well,        was saying, she explained, I just had to focus on focussing. So I
maybe next to the survival instinct, although they do go sort of      did that, and the soft light from the candles spread around me.
together. It takes some time to wake up and recover, and I also       If nothing else, this was a very pretty sight, but I did, as I’ve
had to try out a few words to make sure I still had the ability to    mentioned, have confidence in the way Chisandra handled the
speak. I wouldn’t want to go through life only being able to bark     powers.
and growl - it had been a very vivid dream, okay?                         After saying a lot of stuff, throwing things in the fire in the

                               -88 -                                                                 - 89 -
middle of the circle she sat down, face against me.                    (The fact that the assistant has to is not important, it seems. And
     “Now”, she said calmly, “you need to tell the powers why you      anyway, the idea was that they were probably rewarded, salary
are here. Please be specific.”                                         wise, for this diplomatic know-how.) So maybe the forces or the
     “I want to know what influences my life is under.”                goddesses or whatever had the same kind of rewarding system, I
     “Your life, or your personality?”                                 didn’t know (and considering how much I really didn’t care, it’s
     “Er… I never really thought that there might be a difference…     amazing how much time I just spent telling you about it, isn’t it?)
but… my personality.”                                                  but the bottom line was that Chisandra didn’t tell me any nasty
     She nodded solemnly and lifted her hands, palms up, in the        things.
air.                                                                        “You would feel more fulfilled if you managed to disregard
     “Please, guide us into the wilderness that is Norma Jean’s        of your need for control”, was one of the things she said. Later,
soul. Walk with us through the darkness, show us what we need          when I thought about it, I figured that was about the same thing
to know and give us strength and courage to open our eyes and          that Leeliah had said, only in fancier words. But I also got very
hearts to recognize what we see. My will be done, for the best of      specific instruction on how to deal with the parts of me that I
me and everyone, so that no one gets hurt and all turns out for the    didn’t like (the fear, or, should you choose it to put it another
best – so mote it be.”                                                 way, the control freakishness):
     I could have sworn something exploded at that moment,                  “Always carry a topaz and keep a crystal and a sapphire by
but Chisandra told me later that was only the light from the           your bed. Use thyme and lavender in your bath and drink a lot of
goddesses entering my soul, telling me that I had been granted         herbal tea with chamomile and peppermint.”
my wish and that I would be able to see – in short, that the ritual         I mean, come on. How many people know what a topaz is,
could succeed.                                                         let alone how to get one? I was going to ask Chisandra to help
                                                                       me with all that, but the ritual had actually drained me of the
    I have never been so cold in my life as when we had finished       little energy I had, and I dozed all the way back into town. We
the ritual and put the fire and the candles out. I was freezing, but   skipped the meal, as I clearly had a stronger need for sleep than
at least the goddesses had been somewhat nice to me. Or maybe          for nourishment at that point.
they had been bad and Chisandra nice – since she was the one
explaining the whole thing to me. What do I know, maybe she got            I went straight in, grabbed Theo and told him I wanted to
extra divine credits for being the diplomatic interpreter? I mean,     sleep, now. I trust he was deeply surprised, but he didn’t even
there are big bosses who pay their secretaries and assistants a        protest. He just put me to bed and held me ever so tenderly while
lot of money so that they will write letters saying “Mr. Smith is      I fell asleep again, almost in an instant.
sorry to inform you that he can not attend the luncheon December
12” when what Mr. Smith really said to her was “oh, that bloody
cock-sucker would just love for me to come to his new country
house so he can show off the big-boobed blondie he picked
up in Los Angeles, I’ll eat my own faeces and snog Margaret
Thatcher before I attend to any of the social gatherings that
superextraplusprick are hosting!”. And the thing is, the assistant
is really suppose to figure out by herself that what he wants her
to write is “Mr. Smith is sorry to inform you that he can not attend
the luncheon December 12”. An assistant like that is worth all the
golden items of the Inca Indians, because she effectively doubles
as a therapist. Once Mr. Smith has yelled those things to her he
has gotten it off his chest and can move on with all the important
things (meetings and signing papers and whatever), and doesn’t
have to take an hour of his busy schedule to go see a shrink.

                                -90 -                                                                 - 91 -
                               27                                                                     28

                    The same old sun                                                     Love changes everything


t urned out the topaz and the other stuff didn’t really help,                “H ello-o.”
or at least I didn’t notice anything different in my feelings            “Oh, the soy sauce of my teppanyaki, the white stuff of my
or reactions. Of course, one could argue that all the changes         Oreo! It’s so good to hear your voice.”
occurred on a deeper level, somewhere in the subconsciousness.           “Really? My voice is a yummy treat for your ears?”
Nowadays, everything seems to be subconscious, so how could I            “As it always is, Norma Jean. What’s wrong with you? I can
tell? But I’m afraid my attitude was far more pragmatic than that     hear BB 15 in your voice.”
– old fashioned, even – because I wanted to notice the change. I         “I don’t know. I did this ritual.”
think I share Antonius’ view: what I don’t know doesn’t exist.           “Oh, very bad.”
What good is a change deep inside if the surface remains dead            “No, it was good, I suppose. But I got this information about
calm?                                                                 myself.”
    No, I had expected more from the yellow gem stone and all the        “Let me repeat: very bad.”
(revolting) herb tea I drank. Or I had at least expected something.      “No, well, yes, I don’t know, but now I feel bad.”
But nothing happened, it was just same old me thinking the same          “This has to do with that snoggable Antonius, yeah?”
old things. And feeling the same old things.                             “No, yes, no, not really.”
                                                                         “Norma Jean… you’re not… you’re not in love, are you? That
                                                                      would be the freakiest thing since the first holding hands-picture
                                                                      of Calista and Harrison.”
                                                                         “I don’t even know what ‘in love’ means.”
                                                                         “Good, keep it that way. Love hurts, love stinks, love makes
                                                                      you go all the way to hell and back, love is all kill and despair and
                                                                      blood and other things we both hate. Avoid love, Norma Jean.”
                                                                         “Ye-es. It’s never really been an issue. Love has avoided me.”
                                                                         “And now?”
                                                                         “I have an Ericsson. It’s really cute.”
                                                                         “They are slap-around-able. You can treat them very badly
                                                                      without them breaking. Much like you, my brave little one.”
                                                                         “Oh, I’m not slap-around-able. I break.”
                                                                         “You’ve never broken, Norma Jean.”
                                                                         “Haven’t I?”
                                                                         “Never ever in the mist of time or the land of confusion has my
                                                                      Norma Jean broken down. Has never happened.”
                                                                         “But I’m sure I must have.”
                                                                         “I’m sure you’re sure, the peach of my pie. But never, I tell
                                                                      you. Love will make you break. Love always makes the strong

                                                                      15
                                                                           Big Badness
                               -92 -                                                                  - 93 -
ones break. Love tackles you down and jumps on your head and
leaves you with nothing.”
     “We fear love?”
     “We fear and detest love. It makes us break.”                                                     29
     “But can it also make us tingle?”
     “Norma Jean, are you tingling? Like Tinkerbell? With the
glitter and happy thoughts that can make you fly?”
                                                                             Touch me (I want to feel your body)
     “Well, he does have a slight tendency to make me tingle a
little.”
     “You’ve got it bad, girl.”
     “I think I do. But not exactly with happy thoughts, I must        i knocked on her door late one night when I felt very, very
say.”                                                                  lonely (alone, even). I wasn’t sure why I turned up there, or even
     “And the happy threesome at home?”                                how I got there, but there I was. Outside her door, and what else
     “Oh, we live by some sort of obscure set of rules that includes   could I do but to knock? If one has even the slightest respect for
all but excludes sex, so no worries there.”                            the subconscious, there is nothing else to do in a case like that.
     “I’m terribly worried, Norma Jean.”                               Leaving would have seemed... rude, somehow. Like saying,
     “I know you are and I love you for it. But there is nothing you   “Sorry, mister Basement, no more giving in to you, I will think
can do now. You can’t very well get on a plane and come here to        for myself, thank you, and please never speak to me again.” I
save me from the evil monster of love, can you?”                       think it’s not a good policy to piss your subconscious off. God
     “I guess not. Or I guess I could, but I won’t.”                   only knows what can happen then.
     “I know.”
     “Just be careful, yeah?”                                              I had had a long night at JimmyD’s with Antonius touching
     “Careful is my middle name.”                                      me all the time. I had – finally, and it wasn’t totally by my own
     “Yes, and I will spend the next week on the moon.”                choice, the constant tension had also worn down my self control
     “I kiss you, I kiss you.”                                         to the last, itty bitty bit - given in (given up if you want) and I
     “I kiss you back.”                                                was sitting there waiting for something to happen. There were
                                                                       a lot of people around the table, Bart kept serving us drinks and
                                                                       telling us jokes and I was sitting next to Antonius... and he kept
                                                                       touching me, teasing me. When leaning forward to speak to
                                                                       someone, he put his hand on my knee. When reaching out for his
                                                                       drink, the back of his hand touched mine. When talking to me, he
                                                                       whispered in my ear. It was all very confusing and very exciting.
                                                                       I was beginning to think that maybe it wasn’t a question of ‘if’
                                                                       - maybe the correct question to ask was ‘when’.

                                                                           I think the reason why I started to give in, was the things
                                                                       Leeliah said to me, the whole idea of fear, and the fear of fear,
                                                                       being the driving forces in my life. It’s not that I believe that you
                                                                       kill ghosts just by naming them, but knowing that you’re on to
                                                                       them can actually make them weaker. And after that ritual with
                                                                       Chisandra, that so much seemed to confirm Leeliah’s opinion (and
                                                                       was a little more trustworthy, because Chisandra and her magic
                                                                       elements had nothing to gain from diagnosing me, which Leeliah
                                                                       had), I was starting to have these unwelcome, but somehow

                                -94 -                                                                  - 95 -
pleasant thoughts, like: why should I settle? Why should I let fear       vodka?”
of whatever it was prevent me from doing what I so desperately                “No... no thanks, I’ll just have some mineral water perhaps?”
wanted to do?                                                                 She returned with a bottle of Evian and two crystal glass
    You see, I had never before had an obsession like this. Desire        goblets - I recognized them from my first visit - and poured it
was something I felt but could live without, something that               while shooting me a quick glance.
was nice and fun but not necessary. Sex had been like a chill                 “What can I do for you this lovely evening?”
pill, something to take when having tension in your shoulders                 “Well.”
or simply a bad day. A nice, fun, and ultimately physically                   “You come to me because of what I said the last time we
rewarding way to let off some steam, and that was basically it.           spoke, right?”
    But this, this thing I felt when Antonius was close (or even in           “I do, yes”, I said, sipping my water and feeling rather uneasy.
the same room), was something completely different. This was a            The truth was I didn’t know why I was there, I just felt so bad and
back-to-basics kind of thing, something that had no words except          I didn’t want to feel bad anymore. I was so tired, so confused and
for the absolutely necessary ones, like you. touch. me. now. or.          I had a terrible suspicion that I was actually quite unhappy.
else. I. die. Some nights I tried to make it stop, tried to give myself       “Let me just mention something very important, hm? I know
some relief from the rising tension, but it was like trying to put        what you need. But I am not a therapist. You don’t come to me for
out fire with gasoline. It just wouldn’t help. In the middle of an        talking, that is not a service I provide. Is that understood?”
orgasm that should’ve released the desire and made it go away at
least for the moment while drowning me in contentment, I could                I could easily see why I this woman was so appealing to me.
see his face and hear his voice and feel his smile running down           She was not the one for talking, not saying that talking solved
my spine like ice or fire or both, and then the moment where I            everything, or even anything. You say action speak louder than
could’ve found peace was gone and I was back to square one.               words? Well, I say words unfortunately speak a hell of a lot
                                                                          louder than actions, but I don’t want to listen. Anyone can say
    And sometimes he said things that amazed me, sometimes he             things, there can be talk of love or hate or great things that are
saw me, I mean really saw. It was like as if he had watched me,           to be done, and while people are listening, applauding, I prefer
and then, when the right moment was there, he presented his               to look behind all the words to see what is actually done. Not
analysis. And it was always accurate. Not complete, but accurate.         always easy, I tell you. There truly is much ado about nothing,
I think that being seen by someone you feel invisible to is the           everywhere, that is the way we live. One could easily avoid doing
most irresistible compliment of them all.                                 anything, ever, just by saying the right things to the right persons.
                                                                          And if feeling down, or depressed, you could solve everything by
   So, here I was, outside Leeliah’s door in the middle of the            going into therapy and talk about it. God almighty, how all this
night, just hoping she’d be there and willing to see me (and, also,       talking wore me out.
hoping that she wouldn’t be there and, if she was, wouldn’t have
time to see me). I thought she was, but one never knows. But I                So why was I here, still shivering all over, after a night in the
was right: she was there, and she invited me in as if we had an           all-demanding closeness of Antonius? What was it I wanted? I
appointment and I was just in time. I thought it would probably           wanted a spell, a modern, synthetic spell in the form of a white
be hard to catch Leeliah off-guard, she would not be surprised by         pill or two (since the natural one with herbs and gemstones had
much and show that she was surprised by even less.                        failed me). I wanted to sleep, I wanted to feel fine, I wanted… to
   “So the little drink-spilling tart shows up again”, she said,          feel safe. So I told her and she nodded approvingly.
referring to our first meeting. Since she didn’t raise her voice I            “Yes, the fear factor. I told you. I know what you need; I know
assumed she was joking (with that stern, expressionless face it           you need reassurance, comfort, and a vast amount of security. I
was really hard to tell) and smiled at her.                               can do that for you.”
   “Yes”, I said and added, “I won’t spill any drinks on you
tonight, though.”                                                            That very moment, my brand-new and very smart-looking
   “Oh, good. Would you care for a glass of wine? Some                    Ericsson rang. I thought it would be Theo wondering where I

                                 -96 -                                                                    - 97 -
was (I hadn’t been home for quite some time) but it was the devil
himself, the reason for all my trials and tribulations. Antonius.
    “I need to see you”, he demanded.
    “You’ve seen me for the whole night.”                                                                30
    “I know that, Norma Jean, bloody hell, do you think I was
sleeping in that bar? Or that I’m blind? But I need to see you now.
Again.”
                                                                              You gotta fight for your right to party
    “Why? It’s in the middle of the night and I’m in the middle of
something…”
    “You with someone?”
    “Why, are you jealous?”                                              t hat    night would turn out to be the longest night I can
    “Don’t be absurd. I’m never jealous. Where are you?”                 remember I ever had to live through. Not only was I tired already,
    “It’s none of your business where I am! Why do you need to           but I ended up chasing around the outskirts of town in taxis, on
see me?”                                                                 stolen motorbikes, walking… and all the time with Antonius
    I was so upset I almost broke the little Ericsson (mobile phones     present, but not helping, at least not emotionally. (Very much his
are really tiny these days, but it was, as my friend had pointed         style, don’t you think? Present. But not emotionally helping.)
out, a slap-around-able phone that would survive more than the
attack of the angry Norma Jean). I wanted him to say it, I needed           What had happened was that one of Antonius’ sources
him to say it, I wanted to hear him say that he felt the same urge       (sources! There was that private investigatorish word again!) had
as I did, the same inevitability, the same… oh, just the same            spotted someone he thought was my brother at a party, or rave,
thing.                                                                   or whatever, downtown. He had lost my number, so he called
    “Norma Jean”, he said with a patience that would have been           Antonius who decided this could be the lucky break, the finishing
wearing thin, had it ever been thick or even existing, “I tell you to    touch of his article. So he grabbed his pen and notepad and stood
come and you come, understood? This has to do with your brother,         ready to fly when I entered his house.
and if you want me share the information with you I suggest you             “Sorry for becoming a bit more official now”, he said in the
remove yourself from the not-so-very-satisfying lover you’re             taxi, “but can I ask you how you feel? We’re on out way to a party
with, get dressed and get your ass over here, pronto.”                   where you very well can end up in situation of facing your brother
    “Not-so-very-satisfying?”                                            who has been gone for such a long time. How does it feel?”
    “That one, yes. I’m so sure of your inability to be satisfied that      “It feels… like… how should I put it... like as if it’s destiny.”
I’m willing to make a deal: if you’re honestly satisfied by the guy,     ”Destiny, that’s good!” He scribbled something down and added,
or gal, between your thighs, I’m willing to compromise and talk          “You should have been a reporter, you have this way with
about this brother thing tomorrow.”                                      words.”
    As he himself had said: bloody hell.                                    “You’re taking the piss, aren’t you?”
    “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”                                      He laughed.
                                                                            “I guess you’ll never know, right, Norma Jean?”
                                                                            “I guess. Did you have any other questions, or...?”
                                                                         ”Hmm, yes, but I can ask them later, or just make something up
                                                                         that you might have said.”
                                                                            “Well, that’s not really ethical, is it?”
                                                                            “Norma Jean, my sweet, when did you suddenly develop a
                                                                         sense of ethics and morals?”
                                                                            “I haven’t said a word about morals, mind you! Only ethics,
                                                                         and you’re quite right, I don’t give a damn, I’m just letting my
                                                                         mouth do some verbal aerobics to distract myself from the fact

                                 -98 -                                                                  - 99 -
that I’m nervous.”                                                        very into drugs – more, actually, I am afraid of them. (That alone,
    For a second there, I thought he actually felt compassion and         even without the tendency to look right through me as if I was
that he was going to touch me. Something friendly. But he didn’t,         a window, would have been enough to make Leeliah seem Evil
he just kept quiet while the taxi driver took us deeper and deeper        to me. Add it up, and well, there is a considerable sum of fear to
into the heart of the city. I’m sorry for being so pathetically poetic,   be had when it comes to her.) Vodka is the strongest thing I take
but I can’t help it. It was such a strange night, and it made me feel     voluntarily, but then again, I take lots of that. So what I’m saying
like as if was all just a dream. Everything, the fabric of my navy        is that I have never actually taken a Golden Dream or a Turqouise
blue slacks, the soft scent of some after shave from Antonius, the        Heart or any of those things, but I have seen a lot of crap going
subdued music from the radio. Everything was so… how should               on during parties like this. And I’ve also been trying to find my
I put it… so surreal, but completely logical. It was like watching        brother at similar places before, only to see him (or what I, at the
a Monet – up close you can only see blur, but as you take a few           time, firmly believed was him) slip away without being able to
steps back you suddenly see the pond with the shimmering, white           cut through the crowd to reach him before he vanished.
water lilies or the shadows in the garden of Giverny. More, you
knew how it felt to be there, that was the true magnificent things            Antonius screamed something to me, but I had no idea what.
about the impressionists: their ability to make you feel what it          He pointed in a direction and I followed with my eyes. That was
must be like to be elsewhere. We all long elsewhere, don’t we?            true – there was a group of people heading towards the door and
And that was what it was like, this rainy night. The details didn’t       one of them might actually be the brother I was looking for. I
make sense to me, the things Leeliah had said to me and that              didn’t see much of him, but he did have a tattoo on his neck – I
I had said to her, what I was wearing; nothing seemed right or            couldn’t really say if it was the eagle or something else, but he
logical when I was thinking about it. But when just relaxing and          was moderately brotherish buildt, and that combined with the
accepting the situation as an entity, everything made perfect             tattoo… well, it was a must-check. I signalled yes, and Antonius
sense. I could smell destiny up its butt – I had the feeling that this    grabbed me and started to push people aside in a serious attempt
was the night where everything was supposed to happen and that            to reach the door, and fast, I think he threatened to severely
I, somehow, was the one in control of it. The trick would just be to      hurt one of the merchandisers trying to stop him on the way, at
not question it so goddamn much.                                          least that is what the merchandiser’s face looked like when he
                                                                          let us through. If that was the case, Antonius must really have a
    The party was overwhelming, in the same loud way these                stronger voice for emergencies, or just a face with an enormous
parties all are. It’s all much the same, really, nothing new or           capacity of looking like Hannibal Lecter in his finest moments.
innovative about it at all. You pay a symbolic sum of money to            (Come to think of it, neither would surprise me much.)
get in to this huge, industrial building, you immediately go deaf
from the music, you’re offered drugs (that always seem to have                We got out just in time to see the me-wannittobe-brother
names with colour in them, what is the deal with that?), you buy          disappear on the back of a motorcycle.
drinks in an overcrowded bar from a bartender that doesn’t really             “Where are they going?” Antonius yelled to the door guy and
hear what you say so you get beer whatever you order, and then            apparently got an answer back (I didn’t hear it, though) because
– if, that is, you have bought and taken the drugs – you dance            suddenly he was sitting on a motorbike and screaming at me to
like a member of Jackson Five all night. Unfortunately you also           jump on it and hold on, cause we were going to the RedRum.
think you’re Britney Spears, and act accordingly. Then you get            The what, now? No idea. I just obeyed, and a moment later the
gangbanged somewhere outside, and when you wake up you feel               huge machine under us roared and threw us into the night yet
like God has just had a severe attack of diarrhoea and mistaken           again, this time with me clinging to Antonius like snow clings
you for the giant toilet where he normally lets off his, shall we         to the last days of winter, panicking in the spring sunshine and
say, steam.                                                               knowing that this will all be over soon. (I was embarrassingly
    Now, all this may also be prejudice on my part, because I’ve          NF 16. I really don’t like being that way, but motorcycles are, you
never actually done the Jackson Five/Britney thing. As I’ve               know, really big. And they make lots of noise. And I can’t even
mentioned and as I’m sure you’ve understood by now, I’m not               drive a golf buggy.) I thought I heard someone yelling behind us
                                                                          16
                                                                               Needy Female
                                 -100 -                                                                  - 101 -
(possibly the owner of the bike) but only moments later it was all     admit I might have been provoking him on purpose there, so a
far, far behind us. Antonius’ hair was blowing in my face and his      threat would actually have been sort of… interesting), the door
jacket was of the black, leathery kind that always gave off a bad      opened. Antonius stepped forward and spoke in a very low voice
boy-vibe. I thought Chisandra would like him like this. Stealing,      to the man I was sure in there, although I couldn’t see him. I
screaming, threatening, and… well… dominant. Although the              didn’t know what to do, I mean, I’ve been to my share of clubs,
dominant part was probably more a projection on my part, I had         even the illegal ones, but never the kind where you have to give
no idea if she wanted her men submissive or dominant. I just           a password or do some initiation rite before you could get in,
knew how I wanted mine.                                                like this obviously was. Normally it was enough just waving
                                                                       your money and assure the door man (or occasionally woman, in
    When we stopped, it was in a dark and damp alley, I had no         that case she was always called Madame Helga and wore black
idea where we were. But I thought we were probably at the right        leather things that looked like they either were causing, or could
place, since there were about a million motorbikes parked there.       cause, considerable pain) that you were in a spending mood. If
All of them looked expensive.                                          the monetary argument failed, I really didn’t know what else to
    “This is the RedRum”, Antonius whispered, pointing at a door       do. What more could they want? Our blood? But they did let us
that looked like no one had been using it for years, “this is the      in, and I decided not to ask any questions. Now it was more of
coolest and most illegal club in town.”                                an early morning than a late night, but it was also time to look
    “What can be more illegal than drugs like at the first one? Do     around and see if I could find a lost brother with an eagle tattooed
they kill each other in there, or what?”                               on his neck.
    “Well, not kill, perhaps… at least not on a regular basis, but
there is gambling, prostitution, strippers, at least so I’ve heard.
I’ve never been there, although I think I can get us in.”
    “Really.”
    “Yes, I think so, but one can never be to sure. Can you take off
some clothes? Try to look just a little, I don’t know, dangerous?”
    “There you go, insulting me again.”
    “Don’t play Little Miss My-Feelings-Are-Hurt with me, I don’t
go for that kind of woman you know. Just do something to your
hair and take off a little something and we’ll go in and see if the
guys did come here.”
    Oh please, I thought to myself while I tried to tear off some
fabric of my blouse, someone remind me why I like him so much.
(No answer of course, but then again I didn’t need it. I already
knew.)
    “How do you know of this place?” I asked after my appearance
had been somewhat altered and accepted by him.
    “Oh please. Will you, just for once, remember what I do for a
living? Journalists know everything. We have to. That’s our job.”
    “Pompous much?”
    Yes, that was obviously one of his buttons, the ones I
mentioned before that we all have and that are pushable. His face
turned all grim an fantastically dangerous; had it been a movie,
he’d be portrayed by Alan Rickman.
    “Oh you little…! I ought to…!”
    But before any definitive threats were spoken (although I

                               -102 -                                                                 - 103 -
                                                                         exposed to water or sunlight), but it sure wasn’t as tacky as one
                                                                         would have thought either. For example, I couldn’t see anyone
                                                                         dressed in red. (But they might have been instructed not to, on the
                                 31                                      account of not competing with, or blending in to, the all redness
                                                                         of the walls.) One of them, a blonde in royal blue silky things,
                                                                         came up to us and smiled, at me as much as at Antonius. Which,
                        Pretty woman                                     come to think of it, was rather impressing, customer service-
                                                                         wise. Either she was instructed to be nice to everyone coming in
                                                                         regardless if they were her target audience or not, or they offered
                                                                         sexual pleasure to both men and women – either way, good
i don’t think I’ve ever really pictured an illegal club of this          customer service and that should always be rewarded.
kind. (The one’s I’d been to hade been pretty boring, and I frankly          “What can I do for you this lovely evening?” she asked.
never understood what was so illegal about them, but this was            “Would you like something to drink, are you here to gamble or
TRD 17.) I’ve read about them in Christie-books and such, but I’ve       perhaps see a show? We do have a rather interesting program.”
never actually imagined what they would look like. With this in              “U-huh”, I said (not doing my best brainy work there, I admit,
mind, it’s hard to say I was surprised by the RedRum – with no           but she had placed her fingertips on my arm and you all know
expectations it’s not really possible to be surprised, is it? Surprise   how I feel about touching, although I admit it was a touch of the
is kind of built on an expectation of some sort at least, so I can’t     more pleasant kind).
really say surprised. However, there was a slight amazedness in              “I myself have this… hmm… this partner program, where I
me, maybe we can compromise and agree that I found it very               can assure you… both of you… a great time.”
interesting. Yes, very interesting indeed.                                   This woman had more than two hands, I swear. She somehow
    There were a lot of very large men in there, to the extent that I    managed to keep her fingertips ever so gently on my arm, sliding
was actually wondering if you got a special discount in the bar if       an arm around my waist and placing a hand on Antonius’ thigh
you were taller than 6’3”. Antonius isn’t exactly Mr. Tiny, but in       at the same time. For the first time I got the pleasure of seeing
this room he would surely not impress anyone with size alone. He         him not in complete control. Very nice, and that alone was worth
did seem to belong in the room though, one would never believe           all the trouble I’d gone through so far. And the blonde-in-royal-
he had never been there before. It might have been the leather           blue-touching.
jacket. All you guys out there, you should never underestimate               “I, er, we’re not a couple”, he finally said, trying to move away
what a black leather jacket can do for your image, or for that           from both her and me (she had this little manoeuvre, you see,
matter your sex appeal.                                                  where she kind of… pulled people together, very slick).
                                                                             “No? Well, in that case, it might be even more interesting for
   At RedRum, there was also music, but not the kind (or volume)         you.”
that prevented you from talking and hearing anything but the                 “We’re actually here looking for someone”, I snapped – the
DJ’s choice. The place wasn’t dirty or really worn-down either.          snappishness due to the fact that I actually liked the idea (much
The walls were deep red and the furniture was perhaps a bit              to my own surprise) and didn’t want to hear Antonius say that he
dated, but seemed to be of good quality, either mahogany or very         didn’t fancy anything of the sort. But the blonde fingertip-lady
good mahogany-wannabe’s. The bar seemed to have all sorts of             didn’t seem to mind, she just kept smiling and got us a table and
things in it (not only beer and tequila!) and the half naked ladies      took our orders of drinks.
that walked around seemed to be more than a touch classier than              “Have you seen him?” Antonius asked as soon as she left us.
your average prostitute. But again, this might be prejudice on               “No, but this is a big place.”
my part; I really don’t know that many prostitutes. Alright, they            “When did you last see him? Would you even recognize him?
were dressed in a way that might have been too conspicuous for a         What if he changed his hair colour, or gained a lot of weight?”
meal at your favourite restaurant, or even for a day on the beach            “Yeah, okay, valid question. It’s been a few years since I, but
(the glitter and the spandex don’t seem to work very well when           hey, he’s got that tattoo, right? And, well, I was kind of hoping
17
     The Real Deal
                                -104 -                                                                  - 105 -
that blood would speak louder than – no, that’s not right, is it?”     feminism has to be battled by the good-lookers. They are the ones
    “Blood is thicker than water, you mean.”                           having to prove that women want to think, and do think, even if
    “That’s it, yeah.”                                                 they don’t have to. It’s terribly unfair, I know, but the unfairness
    “You are truly a confusing person, you know that? But I like it.   doesn’t make it any less true. Intellect is not something a woman
I like you, Norma Jean. At least a little.”                            develops only if she doesn’t have beauty to rely on, and it goes
    “Yes, well, I like you too, Antonius Silver. Not that much, I      almost without saying that the ones considered to be the ugly
admit, but I do like you.”                                             ones can’t prove that. It’s like when Claudia or Naomi say in
    “How could you not like me? I’m the only person in your life       interviews that what really counts is the inner beauty and the
you can’t push around like a train on one of those little landscape    personality. Yeah, right. Like as if they would know. (Well, it isn’t
models.”                                                               exactly like that, it’s more like… like that, but quite the opposite,
    “I think those are run by engines, and hey! I resent that. I get   but, yeah, I think you understand.) (And if you don’t, just forget
pushed around by everyone.”                                            about it, because it’s really not that important.)
    “Theo?”                                                               “I think”, the blondette said, pouting and frowning and
    “Except, okay, for Theo. He’s not really the push-people-          looking all adorable, “I think I’ve seen… a tattoo in the back of
around-kind of guy. But then again, Haggis pushes for both of          the neck, that’s quite unusual. An eagle? I don’t think so, but I
them. Not that Haggis actually means to push me around, he’s           think I’ve seen a guy with a snake. But that was probably not the
just a member of his own mental society, bless him, and there is       neck either. Sorry. Is it important?”
no room in there for other people, or for any thought that might          “Quite important.”
mean you have to be considerate to the ones that are outside.”            “Oh”, she leaned forward, her breasts being fully capable of
    “You have to admire that in a man.”                                choking an entire village should it happen to be in the way, “it’s
    “And in a woman?”                                                  nothing to do with… with the police, has it?”
    “Well, he is a man, isn’t he?”                                        “What? No, nothing like that! I promise. It’s just someone that
    “Never mind.”                                                      she – we – are looking for. No legal business.”
    “Don’t hit me with your girlpower-stick, Norma Jean. I don’t          “Oh good!” she sighed, relieved, and added, “I’ll ask around,
respond well do that.”                                                 okay? And in the meantime… why don’t you think about that
    “And what do you respond well to?”                                 partner program I mentioned. I’m sure you’d like it.”
    “That is the topic of the day for a day that is, well, not
today.”                                                                    Antonius and I got quite drunk while she was “asking
    “Right, let’s look around for my brother. Here comes the           around”. We started out walking around the place looking for
lovely blondette with our drinks. Thank you, sweetheart.”              something brother-resembling, but with no luck. However, there
    (If you think I was flirting with the blondette to lead Antonius   were a lot of “private cabins” in the club, and what happened in
mind into the playground of dirty associations, you’re quite right     there we had no idea. Or, we could imagine (sex and gambling
of course. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.)                  and the occasional fist fight), but what we didn’t know was who
    “Have you seen a man with an eagle tattooed on the back of         participated. My brother, or the guy looking like him, could
his neck?” Antonius asked the blondette, obviously determined          be in any of these rooms, happily involved in a whatever with
not to fall for my little pout-lips-an-imply-threesome-routine.        whoever. Hopefully not losing too much money, but if he was
The blondette frowned; it was clear that the art of thinking, as       indeed gambling, there was little hope of that. My family had a
in recalling details, was not something she mastered, but hey…         long history of being too optimistic about their betting, and also
with that body and that smile she would never have to think if         to involve themselves in things that shouldn’t have been bet on
she didn’t want to, but it still bothered me – beautiful women         in the first place, let alone bet with high stakes. This was why I
have such a heavy burden to bear, feministically speaking. You         never gambled, well, maybe apart from the odd lottery ticket and
see, ugly and fat women are expected to be smart (they have to         maybe a quiet game of bingo between friends (I’m sure that will
compensate), but the beautiful ones are expected to be stupid          happen any day now; me playing bingo… with a friend). I had
and non-intellectual. It’s a terrible thing to say, but the war of     once lost a whole month’s worth of vodka by putting my money

                               -106 -                                                                 - 107 -
on the wrong guy – yeah, sure enough, in movies the weak guy
always manages to win somehow, but in real life there is just
no way that a guy in a wheelchair can beat someone with two
perfectly healthy legs when it comes to beach volleyball. That                                       32
wheel-thing doesn’t really work well on sand, you see. But as
a rule, I tried to stay out of gamble in any way, it simply never
ended well. Although I have been told I have a pretty good poker
                                                                                       I want to break free
face… which is strange really, because the person who said that to
me had never seen me playing poker, maybe he meant something
completely different and not at all what impressions I gave when
playing cards?                                                       S uddenly (I didn’t really understand what happened) there
    Anyway, we had quite a few drinks, and being too darn tired      were police officers everywhere. First I thought it was some
they kicked me right of the cliff and made me dive in to Loch        kinky show with male strippers that would just give people a
Drunkness. And a very happy lake to swim in it is, I might add.      good scare and then start undressing and showing their well-
I think Antonius got a little drunk, too, because he started to      developed muscles (yes, okay, I wasn’t perhaps scoring an A
comment on the girls in their outfits, and he wasn’t very polite.    on the perception-and-intelligence-exam – swimming in Loch
As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t exactly the woman you’d find      Drunkness can cause a certain numbness, mentally speaking),
standing outside of the Crypt of Moral, guarding it with her life,   but it soon became quite clear that this was a real raid, and not
so it didn’t bother me from that perspective – but it bothered       some show-stopping number with muscular drooling objects for
me that he was speaking to me about other women as freely as         the girls to enjoy. I think I also drew the conclusion that this was
if I was… I don’t know, someone he could do the whole male           probably not very good, and it seemed like Antonius had the
bonding-thing with. And I really didn’t feel like being his best     same thought.
mate, a human version of the brotherhood of the penis with a pair        “Fuck fuck fuck”, he grunted, “we have to get out of here.”
of breasts (that could easily be ignored).                               “Oh, I thought the whole idea with a raid was that they’d
    And then there was a raid.                                       throw us out?”
                                                                         “Not until they’ve, I don’t know, identified us.”
                                                                         “But we haven’t done anything.”
                                                                         “What would they care? They’re the police! They just wanna
                                                                     get us and hunt us down and beat us to bloody pulp with those
                                                                     truncheons…!”
                                                                         “Er, Antonius? I think you might be suffering from a slight
                                                                     case of overreaction.”
                                                                         But there was no stopping him. He went on and on about
                                                                     wanting to join the French Foreign Legion, or maybe just grab his
                                                                     weapons and have some sort of a revolution. I tell you, that man
                                                                     either has a huge problem with authorities or he needs to stay off
                                                                     the booze. Possibly both. I suppose it was good, though, because
                                                                     that fear of getting caught seemed to trigger some unexpected
                                                                     level of mental creativity inside of him. After a few minutes
                                                                     of panicking, his mind suddenly went all clear and he was all
                                                                     commando-guy.
                                                                         “You – keep track of that one. I sneak up behind that one. You
                                                                     distract him by knocking over your glass and stain his uniform.
                                                                     I go for the fire exit. On the way I start a fight and in all the

                              -108 -                                                                - 109 -
commotion you can follow. Just be careful so you don’t attract            up, and I ask you who is ‘society’? It’s you, and it’s me! Right,
too much attention when sneaking out. We don’t want the police            so why would your idea of depriving others their lives be more
to follow us.”                                                            correct than mine?” If there is one phrase I’d like to remove from
    “But Antonius – “                                                     the world vocabulary of today, it is “well, that’s just a question
    “Shut up and do as I say! We got here on a stolen motorbike!          of definitions, isn’t it?” (and, if I could take two, the other one
This is an illegal club with all sorts of nasty businesses and I have     would be “that’s what you think” – I have to quote my favourite
no business being here except for a rather lame article about a lost      fiction character, doctor Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park II – The
brother, not enough to justify stealing of motorbike and spending         Lost World: “There are no versions of the truth.”).
my boss’ money on vodka, I assure you – I could lose my job over              “Where are we going?” I asked the back of Antonius (I hadn’t
this, you know! I suppose that side of life never really occurred         seen his face since we left the club, due to a combination of him
to you, but to me, my job is my life. My job is what I am. Can you        being in a larger hurry than I out of there and him having a lot
understand, or at least accept that?”                                     longer legs than me. I was a tag-along).
    I could, and I did. We followed Antonius’ magnificent plan to             “Anywhere that’s open and serves coffee and is far away from
escape (I was actually a bit surprised seeing Mr. Nose talking and        the uniformed guys that carry weapons.”
laughing with a couple of the police men, I couldn’t really tell if           I thought this was fair enough. All very decent demands,
he was one of them or one of us) and before we know it, we were           definitely not asking too much.
standing on the street again, although not the same street as the
one where we had parked the bike. It was probably just as good, I            And as for my not-understanding the whole Sloth-deal, I’ll get
don’t think Antonius was in the mood to stick his neck out again          into that some other time. Remind me, will you?
by driving the stolen bike, so we headed off on foot instead. We
were clearly in the part of town where no buses have ever set
their feet (or… wheels), and you would probably have to claim a
life’s worth of luck to run into a cab.
    Oh, and it was still raining. Everything was wet and dark and
depressing, just like in that movie you know, I just expected a
disgustingly dead guy on the sidewalk with an enormous sign
around his neck saying Greed or Sloth - what is the deal with
sloth anyway, I don’t get it – I mean, I know the meaning of it,
but why is it so wrong? The other sins I understand the badness
about, anger and greed and gluttony… although now that I think
about it, the rigid attitude towards lust is also a little unnecessary,
isn’t it? But anyway, the general idea about having a few things
that you’re not allowed to do is pretty okay with me. It kind of
creates a black-and-white-world where I feel right at home. It’s
just so stressful dealing with people who feel they have to define
everything all the time. The sort of people that can’t take anything
for what it is. You tell them “you know, you really shouldn’t go
around killing people” and they immediately respond with “ah!
But what is killing anyway? It all depends on how we define
life, doesn’t it? You kill flies, don’t you, when they disturb your
meal? So why should I be the one being blamed when you get
away? Why is your killing of less significance but of higher moral
standards than mine? And who, really, has decided that killing
is wrong? That is only a conventional rule that society has made

                                 -110 -                                                                  - 111 -
                               33                                                                     34

                       Black coffee                                                              The call


w e managed to find both an open cafe (however shabby it             w e decided to have a new networking meeting. It seemed as
was), and, after an hour and about five cups of coffee, a taxi. We   if the others had forgotten all about the let’s-talk-about-what-we-
didn’t really talk; dawn was starting to spread its light over the   want-to-destroy-tension, because they all rang me up and talked
roof tops and I honestly didn’t know what to say. I wanted so        about how much fun it had been the last time, and much they were
desperately to reach him, to… well, make a difference. But I’m       looking forward to doing it all again. Haggis was extra happy,
not trained in that area, and I was very tired. He was going on      because Marietta had asked him if he could play something (with
about what his work meant to him, but he was also completely         all the fighting, he forgot to do that the first time). The weeks that
knackered so he didn’t make much sense (and the little he might      had passed since the last meeting had been strange, at least for
have made I wasn’t able to pick up on, I think).                     me, and I think also for the others.
   “Anything else there for you?” the girl behind the counter            Marietta, for example, had bought a company in Germany and
asked. “We have blueberry pancakes, you know.”                       had secretly determined to liquidate it, because “my people do
                                                                     not like their people and this the voice of my people speaking
    “Until next time”, Antonius said when he dropped me off at       from my mouth” – the bottom line was that the Dutch, as well as
home.                                                                many others, still held a grudge since World War II and would
    “Yes. And. Well. Thank you.”                                     probably never forgive and forget. At least it would take a few
    “For what?”                                                      more generations to do that. However, it seemed to me a little
    “For trying.”                                                    silly to buy a company for the sole reason of terminating it, and
    I thought he’d laugh at me, or condescend me in some way         this only because it happened to be located in the wrong country,
(I’m not good with the thank-you’s either), but he just looked at    and be run by people from the wrong side of the border. Marietta
me. I couldn’t tell by the look in his face what he was thinking,    did not see my point, and we actually almost had a confrontation.
but then again… what else was new?                                   Finally, we decided that it was okay for her not to see my point
                                                                     and vice versa, as long as we just didn’t talk about it.
    When I got in, they guys had some sort of poker thing going          “Thou shalt not lead us into temptation to fight”, Marietta
on – much to my surprise Bart was sitting around the table with      concluded solemnly, “it even says so in the Bible.”
the others. He smiled at me (the others didn’t notice me at all)         “… does it really?”
and asked if he could bring me something, but I reminded him             “Well. We could have an argument over that also, if you’d
it was my kitchen and not his bar. And that I would offer to get     like?”
him something hadn’t I been so beat. Then I wished him good              “No no, I’m sure it’s in the Bible.”
luck in the game (my exact words were “beat the crap out of              “Book of revelation, I believe.”
those losers, show no mercy”) and bid good morning as I retired          “I’m sure.”
to the bathroom to throw Haggis’ kilt out and draw myself a
ridiculously hot bath.                                                   And then Antonius had called me early one evening. He was
                                                                     in a bad mood, he said, but I didn’t think he sounded that upset
                                                                     and he didn’t want to tell me why he was in a bad mood. The

                               -112 -                                                                - 113 -
only thing he’d tell me was that he wanted to spend time with
someone who could make him feel better, and would I be so kind
as to accompany him for dinner that very same night?
    “I’m a good cook, I promise!” he said, as if I had already said                                      35
no and he needed to persuade me. I knew I should play a little
hard to get, but frankly, that is the most idiotic thing to do – it’s
an approach almost impossible to get right (98% of the times it
                                                                                                     Erotica
just comes out as bluntness, rejection or something else that badly
damages the budding flower of flirt), and even if you got it right
it was so complicated to keep right that you couldn’t concentrate
on the important things. So I just dropped the whole shoulddo-          y ou know when you get that feeling that it’s now or never and
act and said that of course I’d be there, and would 8.30 be a good      that ‘never’ is not really an option? If you never had it, I pity you.
time?                                                                   If you have, you know exactly how I felt when Antonius opened
                                                                        the door for me, accepted the bottle of wine I brought him and
                                                                        kissed me on the cheek. There was music coming from the living
                                                                        room, goddamn if it wasn’t Madonna!
                                                                             With Antonius, nothing is a coincidence. He knows what he is
                                                                        doing, every step of the way is carefully planned. The music, the
                                                                        glass of wine he gave me, the soft lights, the tight t-shirt he was
                                                                        wearing (and the loose fitting shirt he wore, unbuttoned, over it)
                                                                        - it was all a carefully designed stage; I saw it and I appreciated
                                                                        it. The importance of creating the stage you perform on is sadly
                                                                        ignored by most people. But any line sounds better when in the
                                                                        proper surroundings, much the same as the perfect diamond
                                                                        needs the perfect setting to have the exact right effect. So, with
                                                                        this in mind, can anyone guess what Madonna song was playing
                                                                        when I entered? Well, you should be able to! If not, you should be
                                                                        punished by not being told, but I’m an extremely nice person and
                                                                        will tell you anyway: “Justify my love”. I was willing to bet that
                                                                        the next song would be “Erotica”.

                                                                           “Have a seat, Norma Jean.”
                                                                           “A long as you don’t call me Mildred.”
                                                                           “You still remember that?” he said, laughing, and I shrugged.
                                                                           “If truly insulted, you will never forget it.”
                                                                           “Alright then”, he said, still smiling, “Mildred means all good
                                                                        things - mild and strong - but since you obviously resent it, I’ll
                                                                        give you another name, okay? I promise. In about two glasses of
                                                                        wine, okay?”
                                                                           “Okay, I might forgive you the Mildred-mistake then. Mild
                                                                        and strong! Pah!”

                                                                           You must understand that the past weeks had been like
                                                                        an extended foreplay. Just a tiny bit more tension and I could

                                -114 -                                                                  - 115 -
easily be sold to some crude-hearted countries as a substitute           and I suddenly realized I would probably feel a little less dizzy if
equipment for the electrical chair. Or possibly as one of those          I started to breathe again.
hospital thingies that they always use in E.R. and Chicago Hope.             “You really… really want me to give you another name?”
(I have no idea what they’re called, but they have two handles,              His really, really-question sounded as if… as if he was asking
you have to yell “clear!” before you use them and they make              a question indeed, just not the one that he was actually asking.
people jump.) From the first hour I had spent with this man he           Did I really, really want for him to give me – oh, this was torture,
had had the ability to make me feel like – no, you can just stop         lovely, pleasant, fabulous torture, and do you remember the lack
there. He had the ability to make me feel, full stop.                    of humidity my mouth had suffered from after the adventure at
    Now, was I afraid? Hell yes. Did I resent the lack of control it     Leeliah’s? Well, I was good and proper making it up for it now,
brought with it? An even more assertive yes to that! Life without        only with other parts of my body. Good God.
control is just like a visit to an amusement park with no safety             “Well”, I said, not really knowing whether to answer the
regulations. Sure, you could go into the haunted house, but you’d        question in his words or the one in his voice (the answer would
never know if you’d get out alive or if there would be monsters          not be the same to both), but decided to go with the one in the
to eat you or ghosts to kill you or witches to chop you up in tiny       words, “no, I guess not. Not really. But it would be nice to know
pieces and boil you until you turned into green smoke or a toad          what you had in mind – but then again, the last time you tried
or something (I wouldn’t want to say this in front of Chisandra,         you came up with Mildred so you’ll have to excuse me if my
she can be a bit edgy when confronted with the stereotypes of            confidence in your judgment is somewhat damaged.”
witchcraft). You could take a ride on the rollercoaster, but even
though it did give you a thrill, you might just fall out in one of the       And then I’m really not sure what happened, or how. I don’t
loops and end up crushing every bone in your body when landing           even know how long it took, it felt like five minutes and three
on a hippopotamus on a merry-go-round. (That’s not even fun              hours at the same time, if that makes any sense at all.
in an ironic kind of way. Who would want to go like that? On                 What I can tell you (you’ll have to excuse me for not being
a hippopotamus?! I’ve never liked them anyway, have you seen             very detailed, this is not something that I like to talk about) is that
Fantasia? Yeah, well, in that case, you know what I mean. And if         we were suddenly kissing, and that kissing him was like having
not: please don’t see it. Or at least remember I warned you.) Life,      a really large glass of iced water with a splash of lemon when
in short, had to be a safe place (and I mean emotionally safe – the      you’ve been out Christmas shopping the day before Christmas in
worst kind of safe, or at least the hardest to accomplish without        way too heavy clothes: it did stop the immediate, life-threatening
shutting off completely). And with Antonius, it wasn’t.                  thirst, but it also woke up the monster within that craves a
                                                                         Singapore Sling, a Tequila Sunrise and then some hot cocoa with
    “I know what name I’d like to give you”, he said thoughtfully        brandy, topped with whipped cream. You see? Yes, that’ll have to
as he finished his second glass of wine and the whatever he had          do or I’ll just start ranting about how I felt and what he smelled
cooking in the oven had started to give off a fabulous smell, “but       and tasted like and what parts of my body he touched and so
I’m not sure you’ll like this one either.”                               on, and that’s really not the point here. Or it is, at least it should
    “We’ll never know unless you say it. And I’m not close enough        have been. We had been preparing for this moment for weeks,
to cause you any real damage if you displease me.”                       yes almost months, hadn’t we? And not only me, I really would
    “Always the ultra-feminine girlie-girl!”                             like your opinion on this – I mean, yes, okay, I had been more
    “You’re laughing at me again!”                                       than obvious and maybe I was reading everything into nothing,
    “I am, I’m sorry, you’re just so delightfully… different. Now,       but I’ve told you pretty much how he acted and, well, really,
okay, this name I have for you. But you know…”                           don’t you think I had reasons to feel kind of relieved when his
    “Yes?”                                                               hands were finally touching my skin because this was something
    “I’m not sure I want to give you another name.”                      expected, wasn’t it?
    He had stretched out his hand; he touched a coil of my hair,             Well, let’s just say that if this situation was a casserole, there
lifted it up and twisted it between his fingers. It was kind of a        had been more than one opinion-spice in it. Because suddenly
dreamy touch, not at all the decisive Antonius-way of touching           Antonius let go of me and rose to his feet (leaving me half dressed

                                -116 -                                                                   - 117 -
and, frankly, quite confused on the floor) and said:                   because he was so clearly lying and him being all patronising and
    “Oh dear… this wasn’t suppose to happen.”                          oh-poor-you (the worst, I tell you, the worst approach anyone
    I should’ve just killed him on the spot. (That would probably      rejecting you can take!). I don’t recall things very clearly (there
have saved me some time in jail, by the way… but okay, possibly        was some sort of mist in my head, vaguely connected to the black
have gotten me in to jail on the account of murder instead, which      hole of something painful that ate its way through my chest), but
would probably be for a longer time than the two days I had            I do remember thinking something diffuse – and defensive, no
to spend behind bars later on.) However, my normal engine of           doubt – about men with fragile ego’s, and how I almost (but only
sarcasm and violence wasn’t running (it tends to be disassembled       almost) cried running away from there, trying to avoid thinking
by hot kisses and erotic touches) so I didn’t kill him neither         what was so painfully clear to me: he had never really wanted
physically nor verbally. I’m afraid I just stuttered (and also tried   me, he just got his kick from the challenge. He didn’t want to do
to find the parts of my outfit that were spread all over the living    it, he just wanted to know he could do it. (You know what I said,
room) something that could be interpreted as “why not?”                and I’ll repeat it: I should’ve just killed him. I don’t think murder
    Please, be prepared for this. I can hardly believe that what I’m   under those circumstances should even be considered criminal
telling actually happened, that these are actually the words he        offences, but a service to society.)
spoke. Men are, well, we can leave the invectives for later.
    “Well, there is, you see”, Antonius said apologetically
(running his hand through the very same hair I’d been grabbing
just moments ago), “it’s just, it wouldn’t be fair to let it go any
further than this.”
    “No?” I said (gaining a little more of my wit with every piece
of clothing I managed to put back on my so recently kissed body),
“But it’s fair, you think, to do it this far and then back out?”
    “I’m so sorry, Norma Jean, I never meant for it to go this far.”
    “So how far did you intend it to go?” (My voice might have
had a slight tone of anger or maybe even blame here. And if, by
some miracle, it didn’t – it should have had.)
    “Not far at all, I mean, nowhere, I didn’t want to do this,
you’re really an attractive woman, but…”
    “Let me assure you”, I interrupted, “ that it would not be wise,
at this point, to visit It’sNotYouIt’sMeVille!”
    “ It’s just, well, you know… after all, there is Theo.”
    Have you ever heard such a load of BSATS 18? I was fully
dressed by now, expect for my stockings which I decided I’d
leave because I couldn’t find both, and my voice was so sharp
you could’ve shaved a fully grown man (although not Haggis)
with it.
    “You’ve never cared about him before”, I said, “if it wasn’t to
mock him.”
    “Yes, well, I didn’t say I like him, I think he’s pretty much a
pathetic little fry, but this is just me, sorry… but I don’t go for
ladies that are already spoken for.”

   Oh, I’ll just skip the rest of the conversation. I’m sure you
can fill in the necessary blanks. It was just me being pissed off
18
     Bull-Sheep-And-TRex-Shit
                                -118 -                                                                - 119 -
                                                                        that I’ve started, I’m sorry, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but
                                                                        please take a moment and try to picture me, try to picture Norma
                                                                        Jean in this very situation. It might look like an overreaction or
                                36                                      it might seem as if I’m trying to dramatize the whole thing. But
                                                                        I assure you – Norma Jean was breaking down, and Norma Jean
                                                                        had never before broken down. Never ever in the mist of time or
                  Break me, shake me                                    land of confusion had Norma Jean broken.)

                                                                            Needless to say, in this condition I wasn’t exactly looking
                                                                        forward to the next networking meeting. But how could I get
n ow, I’m not sure how I’ll continue this, because no matter            out of it? It was going to be held in our house so I couldn’t
what I start with it’s just gonna end up being terribly confusing.      very well simply not show (or I could have, but that would’ve
At least for me. You see, the truth is that I’m not exactly sure in     taken some planning on my part, and I really wasn’t capable of
which order things happened next. I wasn’t really in my right           that at the moment). What could I do? The thought of having
mind, as I’m sure you understand, and the days after mine and           to face the deceitful bastard that had – well, you know what,
Antonius’ close encounter that had been so abruptly interrupted         wasn’t really a source of oh-fun-and-joyness. It was not even
were just passing by in a sort of a fog that contained one thought,     imaginable, actually. As soon as my thoughts even got close to
and one alone: that there was a door I under no conditions could        recall that night and the participant that was not me, I cringed
knock on.                                                               and suddenly my thoughts were elsewhere, desperately trying
                                                                        to fight off this sudden need to vomit or to do a little nails-on-
     I vaguely remember back massages by Haggis’ huge hands,            arms to inflict some serious, physical pain. There were nights
chicken soup that Theo made for me, eucalyptus drops sent over          and hours I only got through because I thought out all these
to me by Marietta, get-well-cards from Bart and Chisandra (and          intricate ways of hurting myself, and imagining how the pain of
phone calls from Leeliah that I never returned), so I think that I      the outside would lift the pain on the inside and make it easier to
somehow had communicated to the people around me that I was             bear. Remember I really didn’t have any practice in these things,
ill, or at least not feeling well. I remember lying in bed grabbing     not that I think that you can ever learn how to deal with the pain
the side of the bed and clinging to it as if I were drowning, and I     of a broken heart or whatever you want to call it, but maybe you
remember feeling like I was dying but so slowly that every teeny        can at least learn ways and techniques to channel it all? And, if
weeny drop of pain would have time to run up and down my                you have survived it once, you at least know that it is possible to
body and through my veins. And I remember thinking I had been           go through it and come out on the other side. I didn’t know what
played with, fooled, not even used. Just… played with. Like as if       was going to happen. Could one die from this? If so, I’d welcome
I were one of those insignificant little pieces in a game of chess      the opportunity and jump on it the second I got the chance. Take
(whatever they’re called, the ones you have about a dozen of            it from me: it isn’t possible to meditate yourself to death. There
and only can use as a bribe to the Gods of Chess to get an extra        is that survival instinct again, that simply stops you from not
Madame or Dame or Queen; the good female piece anyway, but              breathing. Very annoying when you’re so apathetic you can’t
there are certain conditions connected to that exchange-thing, I’m      even bring yourself to find the sleeping pills or a knife sharp
not sure exactly what you have to do, but anyway, I felt like one       enough. If you’re ever in the situation that you’ve been switched
of those); I’d been sacrificed on the altar of fragile maleness and I   off all your life and suddenly have the opportunity to switch on
had been tricked into feeling, tricked into pushing that on-button      and to control the process: do it bit by bit. It might end badly
that had always been in off-mode and how, how on earth was I            otherwise. But then again, you’ll probably not have the choice.
supposed to switch it back off? I hated chess. I never understood
the stupid game, I always lost (even though Theo had done his              But you survive. That’s what you do, you learn to live with
very best to explain the rules and moves) and this time I had more      things even though you might not like them, and you adjust.
than lost, I had been crushed. (I could dwell on this for ever now      That’s what I’ve always done, and old habits die hard. There

                                -120 -                                                                  - 121 -
actually came a day (I’m not sure after how long, but it was less
than three weeks because it was before the networking meeting)
when I could open my eyes and not have the immediate thought
that I would have to find a strategy for the day on how to avoid                                     37
running to Leeliah’s house. There came a time when I smiled and
said thank you to Haggis when he came in to dab my forehead
with a cool, damp towel. And there was this moment when I
                                                                                                  Ironic
actually got up to draw myself a bath. That was not a very happy
day, mind you, but it was at least a day where there was a hint of
possible survival. And I am actually quite proud to say that there
also came the day, not long after the day when I drew myself that    i had decided, finally, to speak with Mr. Nose the next time
bath, when I cried my eyes out.                                      I saw him. I had thought out a number of possible openings to
                                                                     the conversation, but it all just boiled down to one and the same
                                                                     thing: how deeply impressed I was with his attitude and his
                                                                     ability to do anything, be anywhere. He was the symbol of all that
                                                                     was cool and controlled, and I had to let him know. Maybe even
                                                                     ask him how he did it, what his secret was. He didn’t strike me
                                                                     as the person who spent his whole life being switched off, and
                                                                     therefore it seemed to me that there had to be ways to deal with it.
                                                                     To be that kind of cool and intellectual person, yet be productive
                                                                     and open to all these new possibilities in life. This, obviously,
                                                                     was not something I thought of while in bed, trying to survive or
                                                                     die (whichever was less painful), no; this occurred to me in the
                                                                     bath (I have revelations in the bath, I tell you, and not necessarily
                                                                     of the sexual kind even though admittedly that has happened
                                                                     too, from time to time) one day when I was actually considering
                                                                     getting dressed. I shan’t say I had an epiphany or something of
                                                                     the kind, but at least it suddenly occurred to me that there might
                                                                     actually be a reason, in a higher level kind of way, for him being
                                                                     everywhere I turned and that the reason might be that he had
                                                                     something that I wanted. I wasn’t really sure about this destiny
                                                                     thing, but I guess Chisandra had had a little influence on me after
                                                                     all. She was always searching for hidden messages and possible
                                                                     guiding signs from her helpers. (I think that the helpers were
                                                                     dead people that kept hanging around like some sort of spirit
                                                                     managers, you couldn’t see them but they were all supportive at
                                                                     least. I wondered if I had any.)

                                                                         Of course, because that is the way universe works, I never saw
                                                                     him again. Either the Gods have an ironic sense of humour or
                                                                     they simply like to fuck around with you. (There is, of course, the
                                                                     possibility that they don’t exist. I normally go with that theory,
                                                                     for the sake of my inner peace.)



                              -122 -                                                                - 123 -
                                                                       seen the lights and read the signs, you know. And I think that was
                                                                       what she was doing now. It was just that, well, I was beginning to
                                                                       see the point of actually telling someone something. If not for the
                                38                                     mental relief, for the sake of justice. You don’t get my point? Well,
                                                                       think of it this way: at first, I had been downright devastated.
                                                                       After that, I’d started to wonder: had I been an idiot? Acted like
                    I can’t do it alone                                a jerk? Did I do anything wrong? Was I disgusting? In short: was
                                                                       it my own fault? It’s always a question of wanting to put the
                                                                       blame where it belongs, and preferably establish that it didn’t
                                                                       belong with the person you called “I” or “me”. But this process,
i ’ve thought this through and I think that the next thing that        I just realized, could not be worked through on your own. A lot
happened was that Haggis moved out, or disappeared. It was             of feelings were involved and feelings, well, they do tend to mess
completely unexpected, and it caused turbulence in my already          things up and if you ask me they’re really sorry little buggers
unstable world. Earlier, we talked about adjusting, and how you        that should be exterminated (terrible flashback here – wasn’t
actually acclimatise to the circumstances; however they turn out       that what Antonius had said in the matter of what he’d like to
to be. This is one of the driving forces in human nature, I’m quite    vanquish? Suddenly that seemed like a huge, flashing warning
sure of this because I cannot imagine a world where people don’t       sign that I should’ve paid proper attention to at the time). It
try to adapt to the situation. What would it look like? There would    would help, I thought, it would help a lot hearing someone other
be chaos. And I had actually adjusted to having Haggis in the          than me saying that Antonius was a jerk that had been leading
house. Maybe his presence had some influence over me, I don’t          me on and that he should be strangled to death with a pair of
know, I just know that he turned life upside down when he came         synthetic panties – used panties, mind you! – or at least tortured
along – he made Theo forget about his book, he played Maggie           in some unimaginable way. For a long period of time, please.
all the time, he always tricked me into laughing and playing silly         We walked slowly under the dark sky with all the stars and
games, I don’t really know what the word “alive” means (apart          the moon that was halfway on its way to full, and we didn’t speak
from in the obvious breathing-eating-sleeping-sense), but I’ve         much. It was nice. Just walk, with someone by my side that I
come to think that was a quality he had, and a quality that could      actually liked. No pressure. I made up my mind.
be shared. And he was generous with it. I had come to accept the           “Chisandra?”
fact that he was there to stay, so - of course – he disappeared.           “Yes?”
                                                                           “Can I tell you something?”
    Chisandra had taken me out on a late night walk, it was one            And I did. Alright, I didn’t tell her everything, as I said, I’m
of the first times I left the house. She didn’t ask any questions,     not very comfortable telling this sad story of rejection, but at least
but I could tell she wasn’t exactly buying the bad-case-of-the-flu-    the main parts. Enough to give her something to go on, and she
thing that I had told… or, rather, implied to the others. I think      responded with all the right invectives like “that bastard!” and
Chisandra probably have had her shares of dark times, but she’s        (slightly more innovative) “the stinking pile of dog poo in the
not Miss ShareAll, at least not with me, so I don’t know for sure.     shape of a man!”. Of course it ended with me crying again, and
Come to think of it, no one was Miss ShareAll with me, and apart       her holding me and stroking my hair and murmuring calming
from the occasional phone calls to my friend in another country,       things with no meaning. We stood under a lamp post and hugged
I didn’t really share either. I had never understood the point of      (hugged!) for at least ten minutes while my tears subsided.
sharing, telling, talking – it seemed to me that the only thing that       “I’ll take you home”, she said, “and have Theo put you to
happened when putting things into words was that you created           bed.”
them, confirmed them. So, no, I’d never be the one for long heart          “You can’t tell Theo!”
to heart talks with anyone I happened to come across. So it was            “Norma Jean”, she said, “of course I won’t tell Theo. You will
probably only natural that Chisandra never told me when she had        have to trust me on this. I know it must be very hard for you,
her downs, but I’m not blind and not particularly stupid so I’ve       since the game of trust is not one you usually participate in.”

                               -124 -                                                                  - 125 -
   “I guess I don’t.”
   She smiled and kissed my forehead (and, I think, did some
sort of sign with her fingers, but I could only see it in the corner
of my eyes and anyway I was actually sure it was a good thing,                                          39
not a curse but rather a blessing).
   “You’ve let me in, Norma Jean. You don’t have to worry.”
                                                                                             The unforgiven
   And when we came home Theo was typing furiously in the
study and Haggis was nowhere to be found. (Haggis comes and
Haggis goes, but Maggie was left in the kitchen and that freaked
me out.)                                                               i did try to speak to Theo about Haggis’ disappearance, but I
                                                                       couldn’t get him to concentrate or, I think, even listen to me. It was
                                                                       like Haggis’ departure had put Theo in a time machine and sent
                                                                       him back to the days when he did nothing but wrote his bloody
                                                                       – sorry – book. Again, he shut himself in the study and only came
                                                                       out to scream about the odd word that he couldn’t get the hang
                                                                       of or combine with the right thing or put in a sentence that would
                                                                       make sense. By this time I was completely sure that something
                                                                       must have happened to Haggis, it was just unthinkable that he’d
                                                                       leave without a single word, and without Maggie. Where could
                                                                       he have gone? I knew he wasn’t back in Ballygowobbhle, because
                                                                       I had Marietta call Angus and Luella to see if they knew where he
                                                                       was, but no one had seen him there either. (Great, now we had a
                                                                       whole upset village to worry about, too.)

                                                                           It was time for the networking meeting. It was nothing like
                                                                       the last one, let me tell you that right away. For one thing, Haggis
                                                                       wasn’t there, and neither was Theo. (Well, he was in the house,
                                                                       but not available to us. Take a guess: was he in the study, the
                                                                       study or the study?) Apart from that, it was the first time I saw
                                                                       Antonius since the thing in his apartment. Weirdness all around.
                                                                       But Marietta and Bart was in high spirits, and both of them had
                                                                       brought lots of liquor.
                                                                           “Brandy”, said Marietta, “and I have this special kind of gin. A
                                                                       lot stronger than regular gin, nothing for beginners!”
                                                                           “I’ll have some of that”, Antonius smiled and got his glass
                                                                       filled up to the rim.
                                                                           We were waiting for Chisandra, who had said something about
                                                                       wanting to bring a friend, or, as she of course put it: a sister.
                                                                           “The same sister of the moon you talked with the night we
                                                                       did my ritual?” I smiled and she smiled back, answering that she
                                                                       had many sisters of the moon but it so happened that it in fact
                                                                       was the same sister, and would it be okay? Or was the network
                                                                       a closed group, a limited few? I said it was okay, I didn’t really

                               -126 -                                                                  - 127 -
mind – the group dynamic was shattered anyway so what harm                 “Yes, I’m sure he is. Not! Bloody hell, Bart, be realistic.”
could it do? And now we were all waiting for them to show up so            “Well, maybe he studies you, like a model for a character in a
we could stop waiting and start networking. Waiting for someone         book. He does write books, you know.”
who hasn’t yet shown up can take the sparkage out of any social            “I know.”
situation; fun demands concentration. You need to be able to
focus! Which you can’t if you’re at the same time on your toes,             And there came the doorbell (or, really, the knock, but it
expecting the door bell to go off any second. But in the meantime I     doesn’t sound as poetic, does it? But the fact is that the doorbell
had a glass of sparkling wine, and made heavy conversation with         was very capricious and you could never rely on it to work when
Bart (leaving Marietta to deal with Antonius, I had smiled ever so      it was needed (although if you tried to bring in a new sofa or
briefly and oh-right-you-I-had-almost-forgotten-about-the-thing-        something and happened to lean on the door frame, it always
that-is-you-ly when he kissed my cheek and said hello and acted         worked like a charm), so most of our guests simply knocked) and
like as if nothing had happen (the sad truth was that nothing           I went to open the door.
indeed had happened, but he seemed to have no idea what effect              I admit I shouldn’t have been surprised. Nothing should really
this nothing had caused within me and I was absolutely not              surprise me. But the fact that the guest – the sister of the moon
about to tell him, or even let him suspect anything of the kind)        – that Chisandra had brought was Leeliah Smith surprised me
– I thought Marietta simply was better equipped for dealing with        anyway. Would the world ever stop being such a tiny little place
him at this moment. Besides, I hadn’t seen Bart in ages, and it was     that was built on coincidence and hazards?
good fun to catch up).                                                      “Norma Jean! This is my sister, Leeliah Smith. She is a tarot
    “I haven’t seen you for a long time”, he said lovingly and          reader.”
smiled, “we’ve missed you, you know.”                                       “Oh. Really. Yes. Hello. I mean. Come in, please. Nice to, er,
    “Oh”, I said (touched, even though I tried not to be), “I haven’t   you know.” (And again, I’m sad to say, I was about as witty as a
been feeling well, lately, but it’s better now and I’m going to be      brick wall on heavy sedatives.)
back at JimmyD’s in no time, finishing of your whole stock of               Damn that woman’s face of stone. I was caught completely off
vodka.”                                                                 guard and was, for some reason, not sure if I should pretend I’d
    “Good, the place just isn’t the same without you.”                  never met her before or if I should admit to the fact that we had
    “So any news? Any celebs on the lookout for some serious            met before. It would have been easier if she had had some sort of
fun?”                                                                   expression on her face telling me what she expected, why would
    “You won’t believe this, but Gabriel Byrne stopped by for a         I have to make the decision? While I took her coat, Chisandra
gin&tonic the other night.”                                             greeted the others and I made the decision to not make one. Some
    “No!”                                                               say that not making a decision also is making a decision, but I
    “I assure you. Apart from that, there were a few wannabe’s          don’t entirely agree. I can see the logical point in that, but I think
from some RLS, but I don’t remember which one… none                     it’s more of a, how should I put it? It’s not like actively making a
of the important ones anyway. Oh, and yes, that actor guy,              decision; it’s more like avoiding a decision. Making is active and
whatshisname, the tall guy that had this show, Hugh & Laurie,           avoiding is passive, so they are really not equal from my point
was it?”                                                                of view. Oh yes. This is what you could call it: a polite little self-
    “The one with the nose? Or the other one, with the face of a        deception. (And I like that.)
rather attractive horse? Really?!”
    “No, the nose guy. Very friendly chap, he was. Seemed as if            So, introductions all around. That is, what happened was
he was looking for someone, but he denied it when I asked him.          that Leeliah shook hands and said her name and that the others
Didn’t stay for long, seemed a little restless.”                        said their names (except her and Marietta, they kissed cheeks
    “Ah. It’s just that I’ve been seeing him everywhere for quite       instead) – and then there was an awkward silence in the room
some time now, but he normally hangs out at Richie’s, you know          where absolutely no one wanted to look at each other or Leeliah,
the dodgy place in the first corner of Main Street?”                    and Chisandra got terribly confused because she didn’t really
    “Yeah, I know. Well, maybe he’s following you.”                     understand why. Me, I recognized the others’ predicament

                                -128 -                                                                  - 129 -
perfectly. And suddenly I knew things about these friends of
mine that I didn’t before. I was not the only one she had smooth-           Okay, looking back, I could’ve chosen to save the situation
talked into the world of concepts.                                      in some other way. I could have started to talk about politics to
    “So, Leeliah”, Antonius finally said (noticeably odd-feeling),      get Marietta started (that was a safe bet), or I could have said
“you are a… a tarot reader, are you?”                                   something about the government wanting to forbid the practise
    “I am indeed. I find the tarot deck speaks to me in ways I can’t    of any wicca-like religion to tick Chisandra off. I could have done
even describe.”                                                         anything, anything. But since not thinking about Antonius was
    She was obviously mocking us. I poured wine and gin and             all I could think about, of course the only thing I could muster up
then there was this silence again, the kind of silence that is filled   was the theory of destruction, Antonius ice-breaking topic from
with people desperately trying to find something to say that’s not      last time.
in any way leading thoughts into a certain area. And, of course,            “Last time we talked about what we wanted to destroy”, I
when trying to avoid something, that’s the only thing you can           said, “Antonius here has a theory that every person in this world
think of.                                                               has some sort of desire of destruction. Something that they would
    I realized that it would have to be me breaking the awkward         like to get rid of, remove altogether from this world.”
silence – not because I was better equipped to do so, but I was             “Glad to have made such an impression with my theory”,
after all considered to be the hostess and there are certain things     Antonius added with his usual, half scornful smile. I ignored him
you need to do when you’re a hostess. Saving your guests from           (I’m hoping it looked cool, but the reason for the silent treatment
being terribly embarrassed by their so far not known drug use           was that I didn’t know what to say to him, even the simplest
was one of them.                                                        “yes” or “no” seemed to be an impossible thing to get my mouth
    “So”, I said, raising my glass, “let’s toast to, well, any          to say when it was directed to him) and went on:
suggestions? No? Well, okay, let me make the toast then. This is            “I think we all told what we’d like to get rid of, but since we
to friendship.”                                                         have a new member here tonight, maybe she would tell us what
    Rather odd coming from me, but I couldn’t think of anything         her wish of destruction is. I think what we said was… let me think,
but love and friendship (remember what I said about only being          tourists, love, fear, politicians older than 55, the labour party, or
able to think about the things you really, really don’t want to         was it anyone that’s not fun? So you see, it can be anything, the
think about) and I felt friendship was less dangerous to say than       span is wide. Leeliah?”
love. I didn’t want to speak of love. I never wanted to speak of            And it was after that everything went so horribly wrong.
love. Not that I’d ever done it before, really, but if I was going to
start I wouldn’t pick a moment when Antonius was present.
    “I’ll drink to that”, Chisandra agreed, and as she raised her
glass the others followed her example and in a chorus of “hear,
hear!” and “to friendship!” we all drank, and then returned to the
awkward silence in which everyone tried not to look at Leeliah.
Even Marietta seemed to have problems with that, in spite if the
earlier cheek-kissing. Oh dear. Not even the oh-so-competent-
and-self-reliant Marietta was obviously all innocent when it
came to the art of snorting some concepts up the nose; and it was
obvious that she’d very much prefer if the others didn’t know
that. Oh, we were all just perfect mirrors of each other, weren’t
we? (And, much the wiser now, I’d like to give you a little advice
that we really, really could have used: no matter how awkward
you feel – never ever avoid looking at a woman in possession of
drugs, okay? Or, alternatively, keep an eye on your glass at all
times. Just a little tip, complimentary, from me to you.)

                                -130 -                                                                 - 131 -
                                                                         that it seemed wrong to her that people were allowed to stop
                                                                         other people from being true to the inner selves. And if it was
                                                                         wrong to stop someone from being true to their inner self, wasn’t
                                 40                                      it in fact despicable to force people into the chains and leashes of
                                                                         Capitalism, where no man could be free, but only a slave to the
                                                                         money? And if it was despicable to force people into those leashes
         Where the streets have no name                                  – what, then, could be said about not even allowing people to
                                                                         speak their minds about things? What could be said about men of
                                                                         the law fighting back every attempt to protest against conformity,
                                                                         and with way more violence than was called for?
W hen you think about it, it was actually quite revealing. There             Incrementum always works, you know. We all felt that yes, we
are two kinds of people in the world: those who step into the            were misunderstood. We were captives of something or other,
danger, and those who don’t. You can recognize the ones who              and we started to feel that we wanted for it to stop. (I think
don’t by imagining who you think will go into the fight, and             another thing with us humans is that we always feel that someone
then revert the idea. People’s carefully created images are so           has done us wrong).
often deceitful, you see. The ones you believe are strong and will           But she didn’t stop there. She kept talking. About us. About
grab their weapons never do. They tend to run away instead, or           how we were being treated appallingly by the government, by
(if possible) stay out of the heat altogether. Sometimes, though,        the police and by… I don’t really remember, but you get the idea.
they enjoy stressing other people into it, whipping up a killer          She pushed our buttons, every thing we were afraid of or wanted
atmosphere and then just lean back and enjoy the show. (There            or felt threatened by – yes, I can see it now, but then we were all
is a slight possibility I’m not being fair here, I admit that. But I’m   spellbound. Except for Antonius, who sparred with her. Trust me,
not going to compromise on this theory anyway.)                          it was like a religious service (the ones that are always held in
    So, considering this, the fact that the only one who managed         tents), one of worst kinds where the preacher yells:
not to get jailed after that disastrous networking meeting was               “Will we hurt our children to bring them to God’s kingdom?
Antonius shouldn’t surprise you much. After all, you’ve been             Yes, we will!”
there when he snuck out of a night club, babbling about how his              And the whole congregation waved their hands in the air and
work was the mere soul of him (or something), when it was all            screamed:
just about him being a coward and not wanting to get caught by               “Yes, we will hurt them, praise the Lord! Hallelujah!”
the men wearing blue. A coward putting up a great big show for               And then the preacher would go on chanting and telling
everyone to see, but at the end of the day: just a guy who wanted        the idiots out there to kill their parents if they stopped them
to play run and hide as soon as the going got tough. (Still, must        from living a righteous life, to burn down the house of the ones
say, there is a chance I’m not very fair. Deal with it. This is me,      doubting them, to crucify the sluts of the town and spit in their
Norma Jean, telling my story, and if I decide Antonius was a             faces and, yes, well, you get the general idea. And the crowd
coward, that’s what I’m going to say to you. But he truly was a          would keep yelling Yes and Praise the Lord and Hallelujah.
coward, I’m sure you agree.)                                                 As I was as caught up in the moment as the others were, I
                                                                         must say that this analysis of mine did not happen then and
   What happened was that Leeliah held a speech that was                 there. I have carefully thought through everything she said, or
worthy of a Kennedy or a Churchill. She started out with a               the parts that I can remember (my memory is getting more and
perfect humiliatio, saying that she was really not in any possession     more dim the longer her speech went on the more the pure rage
to make judgments like that – after all, she was just one humble         within me – us – took over, and that is bound to mess a little with
person, with very limited experiences of the world, in fact, she         your memory functions), and this is what I can tell you about the
knew almost nothing of the things that we, the ever so intelligent,      methods she used.
public had face in our day-to-day-life. Once that was done, she              Yes, she got our motors running, that’s for sure (with help
went directly into incrementum. Maybe what she could say was             from Antonius who managed to say the exact right things, and

                                -132 -                                                                  - 133 -
also, knowing her, with a little help from some white powder that
I’m sure she managed to put in our drinks without us noticing, as
I implied before) – it was very powerful, and the only thing I can
clearly remember is the rage that filled me. The anger that burst                                          41
out from nowhere. And looking at the others, I could see they felt
it, too.
     “We should not take this anymore!” Leeliah demanded with
                                                                                                   Condemnation
a voice that could have been used as a prayer siren in one of
the towers of Mecca. “We have been wronged, I tell you, and
there is evil out there! There are people trying to tear down the
foundations on which this country is built!”                             w aking up behind bars the morning after was probably not
     I can see now that it was all just a bunch of clichés she fed us,   the most significant point on the enjoyability chart, or come to
words that had been used in riot situations all around the world         think of it, even on the chart. My head hurt and both my lips were
for centuries. But at the time, it felt more like being in touch with    swollen (had it only been humanly possible, I think I’d have more
something real, a rightful anger. Leeliah stood on a chair, and we       than two swollen lips, but given I only have two, like any normal
were all screaming and raising our fists, responding to the things       person, I’ll have to settle with that – sometimes pure facts don’t
she said, as she gathered all her strength and went into a peroratio     seem to do justice to the truth, do they?) and venue wise, I had
that would have made Cicero himself turn a whiter shade of pale          hit rock bottom. Avoid prison if you’re looking for something a
with envy. We were doing the whole Stepford routine without              little extra luxurious or comfortable, or even in any way nice. Just
even noticing, we just got caught up in the tension.                     a friendly advice from yours truly.
     “So are we going to take this any longer?!” Leeliah yelled.
     “No, we will not take this any longer!” Antonius echoed and             I wasn’t alone, thank God. There was a Chisandra-shaped
we all roared “No!!!” at the top of our voices and of course Theo        heap on the floor, and although she wasn’t moving at the
chose that very moment to come into the kitchen to see what all          moment, I would at least have someone to talk to as soon as I got
the commotion was about. I’m afraid Antonius knocked him                 my lips back in moving mode. Oh, and there was a definite HFH 19
down, and that started the riot. I’m not sure if it was the blood        going on between my ears! I don’t know if it was a backfire effect
from Theo’s nose or the act of violence itself that triggered us (I      from the drugs I by now was sure Leeliah slipped us the night
would like to say “them”, but I’m afraid I was equally crazy at the      before, or if it had something to do with breaking that window by
time, or at least as much a victim of mass hypnosis as the others        running into it with my head first. (If you see a Donna Karan in a
were), but it was like a take-off – up until then I remember the         window and you feel the overwhelming need to own it and at the
evening at least in general, but after that everything is a blur. We     same time you’re really upset with all the capitalists in the world
were high on anger, power, and whatever Leeliah had fed us (but          because you feel they stand in the way for the only true way of
we didn’t know that at the time and even now I don’t have any            living – that is, they force you to buy the things you want instead
evidence of that, just a very firm conviction within my, by nature       of just taking them; after all, sharing is the most important thing
suspicious and cynical, mind) – and we were out to see blood.            in the world! – then I would advise you to use something else
                                                                         than your head to ram the window, and also, should you decide
                                                                         to go with the skull option anyway, to avoid the kind of windows
                                                                         where they have a metal net inside the glass. It might seem like
                                                                         a good idea to use your skull, I mean, you have for sure seen
                                                                         enough movies where the hero breaks a whole city without even
                                                                         disturbing that Beverly Hills Salon-hairdo or wrinkle his Armani-
                                                                         suit, but I tell you, it just isn’t the same thing in reality. Maybe it’s
                                                                         the cameras that make all the difference.) I vaguely remembered
                                                                         wiping the blood off my face but I probably wasn’t badly hurt

                                                                         19
                                                                              Headache From Hell
                                -134 -                                                                    - 135 -
(and the fact that the window broke, by the way, wasn’t enough         least a little.
for me to go in and take that lovely Donna Karan either – you              “Don’t touch me”, she murmured, “or I’ll throw up. What did
know, the metal net I mentioned). What lead me to believe this is      I do yesterday? I haven’t been this hung-over since I gave up the
that I, as I mentioned, woke up in jail and not at a hospital. Oh,     magic mushrooms. Gaaah.”
I wasn’t having the best of times, let me assure you. And… what            “Chisandra, honey. It’s me, Norma Jean. Don’t panic now,
had actually happened? I really needed to think this through. Not      sweetie…”
easy when being trapped in an HFH.                                         “Norma Jean?” She still hadn’t opened her eyes. “Did we
                                                                       finally hit it off, or what?”
    Somehow I managed to collect my thoughts. The head didn’t              “What?”
feel like it was going to immediately explode if I was lying very,         “Why are you in my home if we didn’t do naughty things, ow
very still with my eyes closed. So that’s what I did.                  ow ow, my head hurts, yesterday?”
    First of all, we had all been caught up in Leeliah’s little act.       “Sweetie, we’re not lesbians.”
What was the deal with that anyway? Oh, I needed to sort this              “Aren’t we? Oh, that’s good, at least I know something.”
out… I tried to look at the ceiling but with no success, so I closed       “And also, we’re not in your home.”
my eyes again (the room was fairly depressing anyway, so it                “That would… ouch. Head. Hurts. And throat. That would
wasn’t like I missed out on a good view) and tried to focus. Why       explain why my supersoft waterbed is so hard. I thought I’d
had Leeliah done that? Was she some sort of chaos demon that           happen to break it.”
simply enjoyed causing trouble and who should be promptly                  “Break it? How on earth would it be possible to break a
hunted down and killed by the main character in any Stephen            waterbed? Those things are thicker than Trojan condoms.”
King novel (but not, mind you, until after about 2000 pages                “Well, you know, sharp objects. Or, I don’t know, there might
describing the scenery in Maine)? Somehow I didn’t think so,           be a plug that one can, owww, I feel bad.”
but there had to be a reason. What did I know about Leeliah?               “I know, honey, but you have to wake up now.”
What possible reason could she have turning a friendly group of            “Why are you calling me sweet things? You never call me
nobodies into a screaming riot that broke windows, threatened          sweet things. You never call anyone sweet things. Oh no. We’re
to kill people, knocking policemen in the head, threw stones at        in deep trouble, aren’t we?”
celebrities (not me, I’m happy to say, it was actually Bart being          “Yes, um, well. We’re a little… er, imprisoned.”
completely out of hand and not wanting to admit that celebs                Diplomatic as always. But I really did try to smooth talk her
were better people than us and then, well, I didn’t remember it        first, it’s not my fault it didn’t really work out. At least she woke
very clearly), smashing cars with baseball bats (where did they        up and came out from under the disgustingly dirty blanket she
come from, had there been a break-in in a sports gear shop or          was under, and (miracles do happen!) opened her eyes.
did Leeliah had some sort of in the event of a riot-stock?) and            “Imprisoned?! You mean we’re… in jail?!”
generally acting like football hooligans? The only thing I could           “Yes, I’m afraid so, and please don’t scream. I think a million
imagine was that she was hoping to sell a lot of drugs, sorry,         elephants have used my head as a springboard.”
concepts, to us because we were so terribly embarrassed and                “To what?”
desperately needed a forgetting spell of the major, medical kind           “Oh, to whatever, it doesn’t matter. To a better world maybe,
(unless Chisandra had something more herbal to offer), but             one where elephants inherit the earth and can have as many
somehow that didn’t seem enough.                                       Snickers bars as they want. Please focus, and don’t raise your
    But okay.                                                          voice, Chisandra.”
    Maybe think about this later. I would try to wake Chisandra            “Good point, it hurts both of us when I do.”
and, maybe, see if there was a guard somewhere. Someone who                Her face was all black and blue and I got this flashback
could tell me what had happened to the others, what time (and          – Chisandra attacking a young policeman saying he was a
day) it was and how the heck we were supposed to get out of            disgusting pig and she wouldn’t sleep with him even if she got
there.                                                                 a million drachmas (I also remember trying to tell her that a
    I managed to crawl over to Chisandra and wake her up. At           million drachmas was not even enough to buy a nice car, and that

                               -136 -                                                                 - 137 -
they didn’t even exist anymore because of the whole euro thing,           “Yep. Want to come along? As for you” – he nodded at me
but she didn’t listen), and that all policemen were dirty errand      while unlocking the door – “I’ll come back and talk to you as soon
boys for the capitalistic schwinahonds (you guess is as good as       as I’ve put this little one safely in the visitors room. Okay?”
mine) that run this country and all the other countries and they
should all die. I think the policeman would have just dismissed           He kept his word – kind of, I think he had a cup of coffee or
her as a lunatic, but apparently his girlfriend was there, too (and   something on the way, it took him well enough fifteen minutes
I think he wasn’t really a policeman but someone on his way to a      to get back to me - and was all smiling when he opened the little
costume party because his girlfriend had a striking resemblance       window, looking in.
to Darth Vader (only her clothes were a bit more… revealing)),            “Now you have a visitor, too”, he said, seemingly in a good
and she got upset because of the wouldn’t-sleep-with-for-a-           mood. But he didn’t want to tell who it was or why, and all I
million-drachmas-bit (maybe she knew how much the drachma             really wanted to know was if I could have some water and how
was worth and it made her feel really cheap sleeping with the guy     long I’d been there.
for free, or she was just a bit too much in character and went all        “Well”, the guard said while pouring me some water (in a
laboured breathing and there-is-no-escape) so she hit Chisandra       plastic cup!), “it’ll be 45 hours in a few minutes.”
with her helmet (head still in it) and… then I didn’t remember            “45 hours?! You’re kidding me! That’s almost two full days!”
anything more from that episode (we can call her the phantom              “Yes, I guess those drugs you took messed a little with your
menace if you want, I think that is nicer than the things I’m sure    sleeping pattern.”
Chisandra called her, even though I can’t remember it). Anyway,           “I didn’t – oh. I probably did.”
that might be the explanation for the colours of her face (looking        “Yes, you probably did”, he said in same friendly as-a-matter-
much like a Bob Ross palette when he was going to do a winter         of-fact way as if we hade discussed the colour of the walls or how
scenery).                                                             the coffee in the cantina tasted. “Now, are you ready to see your
                                                                      visitor?”
    When we had managed to sit up straight and made sure that
no limbs were missing or lifethreatingly damaged, we decided
that calling a guard would probably be the best policy. Neither of
us wanted to stay for longer than we had to in this stinking little
room (do you know, by the way, that prisons don’t even have
bars anymore? There are just solid doors with small windows in
them; what’s the whole point with the expression “behind bars”,
one wonders. Those words have survived too long – and if you
feel sorry for them and don’t want to kill them, you can use them
to describe people moonlighting as bartenders, or any bartender
that tends to change his job often) with no mirrors (probably a
good thing in this specific case) and a complete lack of niceness.
So we knocked on the door – have you any idea how strange it
feel to knock on a door from the inside? Well, it does.
    After just a short while someone opened a hatch in the door
and we saw this man glance in.
    “Aw, hello girls, so you are awake now! Not so cocky today,
are we?”
    “Well, you seem to be”, Chisandra snapped.
    “Hey, watch it. I’m the guy with the key. And you have a
visitor, if you’re not nice I’m not going to bring you to her.”
    “A visitor?” Chisandra asked doubtfully.

                               -138 -                                                               - 139 -
                                                                        actually smiled. If I hadn’t already smelled the fish, that’d have
                                                                        been the dead giveaway. I was definitely in the seafood parts of
                                                                        town, and things just fell into places. Have you ever heard the
                                42                                      distinct click of a coin finally hitting the bottom of a vending
                                                                        machine, causing the display to show 2,00 instead of 0,00? That’s
                                                                        exactly what happened with my head at that very moment.
           If you don’t know me by now                                       “No thanks, Leeliah”, I said slowly, “I really don’t want to
                                                                        spend the rest of my life having to be a… what should we say… a
                                                                        concept retailer? I don’t want to owe you anything. I don’t really
                                                                        think that those records would disappear – more like ending up
w hy was I even surprised when I found Leeliah sitting in the           in your personal archive for catches.”
small and depressing room (where it was okay for us jailbirds to             Her smile faded away and her hand left mine in a split second.
speak with someone from the outside)?                                   Cold face looking at me, cold cold eyes. The look of a woman
    “My dear”, she said, “you don’t look so well.”                      whose cruel intentions had been revealed.
    I can’t really say that her concern was very touching, or even           “Suspicious girl…” she said, her voice so chilly it could have
convincing.                                                             frozen the entire country of Brazil in the midst of the summer
    “It has its reasons”, I said. “Why are you here?”                   heat.
    “Direct as always. I’ll return the favour. I’m here to offer my          “Well, that is why you staged this little charade, isn’t it,
services.”                                                              Leeliah? So you’d be able to bail us out and then make us your
    “Say eh, what?”                                                     little concept slaves, holding those files over our heads like the
    “You’re in prison, my dear. They’ve arrested you, or put you        sword of that guy, Hefistofanes? Democrat?”
in custody or whatever the term is. You’re charged for violent               “Democrat is something else, it has to do with politics. I
behaviour, breaking and entering or… maybe I’ve picked up               believe you’re thinking of Damokles.”
those phrases from some movie, but anyway. Anyway. You will                  “Yes, well, that Greek guy anyway, that’s not the point.”
either have to go through a most painful law process or you can              Leeliah looked at me and her face had a cold layer of something
simply let me buy you out.”                                             black and destructive (possibly hate) over it; in that moment she
    “I’m not sure there is room for exchanging law processes for        frightened me.
money in the law.”                                                           “So. You say no to my offer and prefer to go through a trial
    “Of course not, my dear, that would be preposterous. No,            and god knows what? You prefer to stay here to let me free you
what I’m talking about is a good, old-fashioned bribe. I happen         in return of just a few, and not very demanding, services every
to know someone who can arrange for your release and for all the        now and then?”
papers to disappear.”                                                        “Yes. This prison is at least open about it being a prison, while
    “Wouldn’t that cost a lot of money?”                                the prison of Leeliah is just – just – well, I’m sure I could find a
    “Oh yes, I’m sure. A lot of money indeed.”                          really good thing to say about this but my head hurts so can you
    Hmm. There was something fishy going on, and my head was            please just leave?”
still, in spite of the refilled water supply, not fit for thinking of        My head really hurt. And now it was not just the window
the less immediate way (I could still do need pee now and man in        incident, it was a pain coming from a huge attack of crying that
blue uniform bad, but anything more complicated than that was           had decided to settle down just above my nose. Fighting those
simply not in question).                                                tears didn’t help lifting the pain, I swear, and I really didn’t want
    “And… and why would you spend all these money on getting            her to see me crying. But I didn’t have to worry. She stood up,
me out of jail?” I asked, trying to find my way through these           hardly looking at me, and banged the door.
misty waters that was Leeliah Smith, concept seller and artiste.             “Well, your friends agreed. Chisandra and Bart are already
    “Well, I have a heart, you know.”                                   out… and you”, she concluded, “you are nothing. Remember that.
    And she smiled, reassuringly, and put her hand over mine. She       You are nothing.”

                                -140 -                                                                  - 141 -
   “At least I’m not ‘nothing’ controlled by you”, I whispered
and the first tear broke out while she slammed the door behind
her. She had played us all, alright.
   I called the guard and demanded my phone call, which he                                      43
granted me (but adding that there was really not a rule saying
that you could have a phone call, and that I had been watching
too many movies).
                                                                                  Wherever, whenever


                                                                    “H ello-o.”
                                                                     “Oh sweetness of my sweet, Norma Jean; the sparkle of the
                                                                 fire of the – “
                                                                     “I’m in prison.”
                                                                     “Oh. O-oh. Dear. Did you feel it was too predictable to call me
                                                                 from the bath tub, or what?”
                                                                     “No, well, I was involved in a little riot. Although now that
                                                                 you mention it, I have been rather predictable lately, haven’t I?”
                                                                     “Just a touch, lovely. What has happened to you? And I’m not
                                                                 talking about the riot. There is something with your voice.”
                                                                     “My lips are swollen. I think someone slapped me.”
                                                                     “Yes, that’s too bad, but I’m talking about the voice behind
                                                                 the lips.”
                                                                     “I broke.”
                                                                     “Oh sweetheart.”
                                                                     “Yes. I truly did.”
                                                                     “Should I send out my hit men, alert my connections in the
                                                                 mob? Buy a very large gun and hunt the bastard down and shoot
                                                                 him like a mad dog with rabies?”
                                                                     “That would actually help, but I think I shouldn’t make
                                                                 decisions like that until I’m… well, out of prison would be a good
                                                                 start.”
                                                                     “Norma Jean.”
                                                                     “Yes.”
                                                                     `“Do you want me to come? Can I help?”
                                                                     “Don’t be silly. We haven’t seen each other for fifteen years.”
                                                                     “We’ve been in constant contact during those fifteen years
                                                                 though, and now… well.”
                                                                     “No, please, no. You don’t have to worry. I’ll get out of here
                                                                 in no time. I swear.”
                                                                     “Do you have a plan?”
                                                                     “Plan? Yes, several. One of them being letting my drug
                                                                 dealing so called friend bail me out by bribing a high police guy
                                                                 and thereby be helpless in her hands for all time to come.”

                             -142 -                                                            - 143 -
    “Oh, you should really avoid the D-people, Norma Jean.”
    “Don’t worry about me. I’ve lost my mobile phone.”
    “It was time to steal a new one anyway, wasn’t it?”
    “Yeah, but I’ve actually started this new thing where I buy                                      43
them.”
    “Oh horror and terror and end of days. Norma Jean is growing
up.”
                                                                                           Lost and found
    “Never, I promise.”
    “But still.”
    “Listen, I’ve got to go and work my magic on the prison guard.
I just wanted to hear your voice.”                                   i      felt better after that phone call. After the aspirin the
    “God bless.”                                                     extremely nice prison guard gave me and the extra pillow
    “Don’t you love me anymore?”                                     (somewhat clean) he also upgraded my cell with, I felt almost
    “Oh, sorry, I forgot about your… somewhat stern relationship     like a human being. I lay down and decided that the silence in
with God.”                                                           here was not all for the bad; actually, I could see myself in here
    “You mean except for the part where I don’t believe he exists    for weeks, like drifting away into a completely different world.
and he keeps punishing me for it?”                                   Not seeing anyone, not talking at all, not thinking, not drinking,
    “Your logic is impeccable. Take care now, my sweet.”             nothing. A period of cleansing; maybe I could treat my time in
    “I will. I’ll call you when I get home.”                         prison as time in a convent? I didn’t really want to do all that
                                                                     promising not to own anything or snog anyone and all that, but
                                                                     the mere idea of withdrawing into a convent-like state of mind
                                                                     felt quite appealing. I think I for the first time fully realized how
                                                                     tired I was.

                                                                        But there would be no peace and quiet or meditation for
                                                                     Norma Jean. I had hardly closed my eyes when Mr. Guard (no,
                                                                     that wasn’t his name, of course, at least I don’t think so – that
                                                                     would be a bit too much of life’s irony, wouldn’t it? Or possibly it
                                                                     could have us start a debate about self-fulfilling prophecies - , but
                                                                     he was so nice and I want to call him something and since I forgot
                                                                     to ask his name, Mr. Guard will have to do) cheerfully knocked
                                                                     on the door again.
                                                                        “Miss, hm-hm, you have a visitor.”
                                                                        “Oh, no. Is it the same lady as before? If so, tell to stick
                                                                     something up her – “
                                                                        “No, no, no foul language in here, please! And it’s a man that
                                                                     has come to see you.”
                                                                        “Isn’t it forbidden to see more than one visitor?” I asked
                                                                     pleadingly, but Mr. Guard was the kind of guy who could only
                                                                     take a discreet hint if it dressed up in bright red bluntness and hit
                                                                     him in the face, so he laughed and said I wouldn’t have to worry
                                                                     about that, I could have as many a visitor as I liked, and besides,
                                                                     he was a closet revolutionary so he thought we should’ve been
                                                                     awarded instead of jailed. I just say. There are all kinds of toys in

                              -144 -                                                                - 145 -
the kindergarten of the Lord. (Are you beginning to understand         had an expensive dentist bill if that had been the case.
why I don’t believe in God? It’s just no way anyone could invent           “Norma Jean, I think you should try to get out of here. You
a world like this. When things are really, really strange and          see, I’ve actually found your brother.”
seemingly full of the most bizarre patterns, they just have to             “Spotted him at a rave again, have you?”
be accidental. Or someone up there has a very, very sick sense             “No, listen, you don’t understand me. I have not seen someone
of humour. Alternatively sucks at his job as a world creator.          I think might be him or happened to walk by a guy with an eagle
The only conclusion that will bring you peace is that he doesn’t       in his neck. I tell you, I’ve found him. There is no doubt about it.
exist.)                                                                I know where he is.”
                                                                           “In this very moment.”
    Again, why was I not surprised? The shabby room where I so             “Yes, in this very moment. Or, not exactly, like I don’t know
elegantly had dismissed Leeliah (at least I want to think of it like   if he’s eating or taking a leak or… but never mind, I got it, yeah,
that, if you have another opinion I’d rather not know about it,        I know.”
okay?) now contained… yes, you guessed it.                                 “And what the when and how of huh?”
    “Norma Jean.”                                                          I’m afraid I wasn’t very clear at that moment. Not in my
    “Antonius. What can I do for you?”                                 thoughts and not in my words. I must say – though it makes me
    I looked at him and I felt something I first couldn’t recognize.   sick having to do so – that Antonius was wonderful. He took my
Had he always had those red-rimmed eyes? Those weak                    hands (I didn’t really notice that until later, he must have been
fingertips? And that sly expression that rested behind every           surprised that his second attempt actually succeeded), stroke
smile, every face he showed – had that always been there, had I        them and spoke to me in a very soothing voice. I have no idea
just been too blind to see? Or was this something I now imagined,      what he said, but after a little while the world stopped spinning
impressions that were bred by the disappointment, born from the        and I rose to my feet.
anger and raised by the – yes, the contempt that I felt when I was         “Can you take me there?”
thinking about him throwing mental gasoline of the revolutionary           “Yes, but Norma Jean, you’re in prison.”
fire of Leeliah? She, I could understand. But him? No. There was           “Yes, I know. Meet me outside in 30 minutes, with a car if
no understanding in me, just an overwhelming urge to call him a        necessary.”
spineless coward with a prickish craving for manipulating others           “Do you want me to –“
just for the fun of it. But at the same time, a kind of whatever-          “I want you to leave now, and get a car if we need it and meet
strike knocked down all my mental bowling pins and left me with        me outside in 30 minutes, be a good soldier boy now and do as I
a full score in the really-really-not-caring-round, so it all came     say.”
out as “what can I do for you” instead. Oh well. The mysterious            And, as I think I’ve pointed out before, miracles do happen.
mind of the human being.                                               He did what I said.
    “A rather strange question from someone in jail!” Antonius
laughed (obviously not noticing my all-else-than-happy-face, or
simply ignoring it).
    “Yes, well. Did you expect me to, what did you expect me to
do?”
    “Beg me to get you out of here, maybe?”
    “Oh, please, just stick something pointy up your butt and stop
bothering me. Why are you here? To gloat?”
    I think the lack of Norma Jean-amusement finally managed to
knock down that wall of Antonius-himself-focus and he actually
stopped laughing. He looked me in the eyes and tried to take
my hands – wow, I tell you, that man should be glad that the
standard cell equipment doesn’t contain a baton. He would’ve

                               -146 -                                                                 - 147 -
                                                                             “You are truly bizarre. I’ve never before met anyone that
                                                                         treats life just like a, I don’t know, a lottery? A playground? Or
                                                                         a circus?”
                                 44                                          “What are you talking about?”
                                                                             “Well, you see, all these things that happen to you all the time.
                                                                         Chisandra once said that if she got drunk and lost in a big city
             Knowing me, knowing you                                     she’d be raped and mugged, while you in the same situation would
                                                                         be taken in by a rock star or adopted by an eccentric oldtimer with
                                                                         a chocolate factory who would make you his heir.”
                                                                             I was about to ask him when Chisandra had said this and why
A ntonius had his arm around my shoulders in the taxi. I closed          they spent time behind my back, and then I realized I couldn’t
my eyes and thought that it would be so much better if it had            say that unless I wanted him to know exactly how his rejection
been Theo sitting there in the back seat with me. Our discussions        had affected me – asking those questions would be like signing
would never result in anything that one could win a Nobel price          Charta Jelousia and waving it in front of him, and as I’m sure
for, but at least he was safe and dependable and sweet. Antonius         any proud woman who has been terribly hurt by someone when
was just, well, a moderately intelligent guy with a certain kind of      she normally doesn’t let anybody in would understand, that was
sex appeal. And okay, he was also the guy who claimed he had             simply unthinkable. And I didn’t have time anyway; the driver
found my brother. But then again, the grip he had of his camera          stopped and told us we were there. And so we were.
with his right hand was way more intense than the grip around
my shoulders, so we needn’t worry much about where he had his                It was a… a camp, maybe, for lack of better words. There was
priorities. For a moment, though, I forgot who I was with and a          a fire, a couple of dozen caravans, a dog barking, what was this, a
thought happened to slip out loud:                                       gypsy camp? Someone was standing by the fire juggling and there
    “If you have found my brother, what will I do then?”                 was a woman with long skirt carrying a big pot of something.
    “Well”, he said, “I guess you’ll have to find something else to          “What is this?” I almost whispered, it was like neither my
obsess about. How about stalking Mr. Nose? You seem to be on             voice nor my legs really wanted to carry their burden.
you way to that already!”                                                    “It’s a camp for the outcast, they’ve been hanging here in the
    Maybe I’m just a grumpy old bitch with no sense of humour,           woods for centuries. Only a few of them ever leave.”
but I really felt like deep frying his balls and serve them for snacks       “This is bizarre.”
on the next networking meeting. Obviously, the not-caring-score              “Norma Jean world.”
was not possible to bring to the next round.                                 “Oh shut it. How did you find him here? How do they survive?
    “When we get there, can you try to stay with your face turned        Who are they?”
to me, at least a little, so I can get a good series of pictures?” he        “Call them the hippies of the new millennium, I think that’d
changed his approach when I didn’t answer.                               be rather accurate. I have an acquaintance that stops by here
    “You’ll get your story. Do you want me to cry?”                      every now and then, he’s not really ready to leave his comfy flat
    “Well, if you could…”                                                with hot stove, washing machine and water closet but he likes to
    “That was sarcasm.”                                                  hang out here. You might say he’s a sort of hangaround. Are you
    “Oh, well, I ignore all sarcasm but my own. Makes life so            okay? You are frightfully pale. Can I take a picture?”
much easier, don’t you think?”
    “How would I know? Now shut up. How long until we get
there?”
    “Ten minutes. How did you get out of prison?”
    “I asked Mr. Guard to let me out.”
    “Er.”
    “Yup. Temporarily. I promised to be back before curfew.”

                                -148 -                                                                  - 149 -
                                                                           Suddenly I didn’t know. This man with long hair and distracted
                                                                       face, was that the person I had been looking for so long? I could
                                                                       hardly recognize him; it was looking at someone through a pint of
                                45                                     lager. All distorted, but in a mental sort of way.
                                                                           We sat down by the fire, side by side. The juggling man didn’t
                                                                       notice us, but a few others were ogling us. It suddenly made me
                      Walk this way                                    so sad; the heat from the fire didn’t help warm my oh, so cold
                                                                       feet.
                                                                           “How could you just disappear like that?!” I burst out,
                                                                       trying not to show the sudden, inexplicable sadness. “Don’t you
D id he recognized me when I hugged him? I don’t know, but             understand people have been worried sick?!”
he didn’t seem to mind being hugged even if the one hugging was            “Norma Jean”, Antonius cried from his position a few feet
a total stranger. But how could I blame him? I had turned up from      away, “don’t look angry, you’re spoiling the happy reunion.”
nowhere and he surely hadn’t expected to see me.                           The man who was my brother looked at me, puzzled.
    He was alive. Really. That was the first shock. (I mean, of        (Although I must say he did a good job ignoring Antonius, as did
course I thought he’d be alive or I wouldn’t have come, but still,     I. But this was probably due to the fact that Antonius was very
there was a little part of me that simply couldn’t imagine him         annoying and highly ignorable at this moment.) His hands were
being alive because he had been gone for so long.) He was skinny,      moving very slowly, like as if he was concentrating really hard
that was the second thing that struck me. But of course. It wasn’t     trying to avoid knocking something over. But there was nothing
like he spent his days in front of the TV eating popcorn; not          to knock over. (Not anymore.)
leading a very weight-gaining kind of life here, I would imagine.          “Have they?” he said with same, strangely detached voice
And the third shock was the smell. He smelled… old.                    that I for my life couldn’t connect with the brother I thought I
    These three things passed though my head in a split second,        remembered.
and then I started talking, not knowing what to say but speaking           “Of course they have!”
anyway. Antonius’ camera clicking away, I didn’t even care.                “Who?”
    “Hey, it’s me, it’s Norma Jean, your sister, do you, I mean,           “What do you mean, who?”
hello? Remember me?”                                                       “Who was worried?”
    And there was a little light in his eyes, and he smiled and            “Me! And daddy, he has been so stressed ever since you went
hugged me back.                                                        away.”
    “Oh, Norma Jean. How, er, it was, how long has it been?”               “But I sent him a postcard.”
    “Forever!”                                                             “A…?”
    “Who’s that bloke with the, er, the…?”                                 “Postcard.”
    “Camera?”                                                              “Are you sure you posted it? With a stamp and all?”
    “Camera, right.”                                                       “I think I must have. It’s not in my bag anymore. But now that
    “He’s a journalist, never mind him, tell me, tell me               you’ve seen me you can tell him, um, I’m alright, yeah?”
everything!”                                                               “Oh, I haven’t really spoken to him for a couple of years.”
    My voice almost tripped over itself, it was like I was trying to       “U-huh.”
fit twice as many words as possible in every sentence. I think it          We were quiet for a while. Sitting there beside my long lost
might be called rambling, or babbling.                                 brother who seemed happy and/or confused and smelled like an
    “Er, not much to tell”, he said and looked at me with a helpless   old man felt like being inside someone elses head when they had
sort look in his eyes, “I’ve been, you know, here.”                    a really bad trip. Not the kind Leeliah would ever conceptualize,
    He made a faint gesture and he met my eyes but he wasn’t           I thought with a slight touch of bitterness.
really… there. And we had been so close… hadn’t we?                        “Norma Jean?”
    Had we been close?                                                     “Yeah.”

                               -150 -                                                                - 151 -
    “Maybe you should send daddy a postcard, too? I’m just
saying.”
    “Yeah. You’ve got a big fat point there, brother.”
    “Huh?”                                                                                             46
    “Never mind. You’re right. Are you happy here?”
    “Happy?” he asked thoughtfully, as if the words contained
a riddle he had to solve before he could answer, “I don’t really
                                                                                 Inside of this, outside of that
know what happy is. I feel okay. I wake up and feel good and
play with the dogs and I grow potatoes. And sometimes I, um, fix
people’s gardens. I don’t like that. That means I have to go into
town.”                                                               M r.     Guard surprised me thoroughly when I returned as
                                                                     promised. He did this by looking at me like I was a complete
   I think I had had the idea of a rescue operation. I had been so   maniac when he opened the door and, after a moment of
sure that the messypot that was my brother would have gotten         confusion, understood who I was.
himself into something bad, something that he needed his level-          “What do you mean, you’re back?” he asked, his baby blue
headed younger sister to fix for him. I had been on a mission, and   eyes growing even bigger in amazement.
someone had just stolen the, well, the mission.                          “Well, you know. You let me out, I had this little trip to
   “So”, I said, not really knowing what to say, “how was your       make… and I promised to come back.”
weekend?”                                                                He frowned and scratched his head.
                                                                         “Well”, he pondered, “you see, I have already put another in
                                                                     your cell. Haven’t you read the papers? Do you have any idea
                                                                     how overcrowded we are?”
                                                                         “Er, yes, but… I… what are you saying, you won’t let me in?”
                                                                         “I’m so sorry”, he said apologetically, “I really didn’t think
                                                                     you’d be back, and now I’ve kind of happened to accidentally by
                                                                     mistake burn your file, so I’m afraid there would be no reason
                                                                     for, er, committing you. Can you please leave and forget it ever
                                                                     happened?”
                                                                         “Mr. Guard”, I said and smiled from the depth of my soul,
                                                                     “you are a pride to community.”
                                                                         “Why, thank you miss. Oh, oh, I almost forgot! That, er,
                                                                     gentleman that was arrested at the same time as you yesterday…
                                                                     the one who was charged with, what was it now, stealing a car,
                                                                     taking a swing at someone he thought was the mayor and…”
                                                                         “Well now”, I interrupted, “no need to dwell upon details, my
                                                                     good man. What about him?”
                                                                         “He came back here, he was released earlier and he came
                                                                     back to see you. He left you this note. And now I really have to
                                                                     go, miss, you take care now. And don’t get busted the next time,
                                                                     okay?”

                                                                        “Dear Norma Jean,
                                                                        Leeliah Smith is evil. Never ever deal with her. I made the mistake
                                                                     once, but I won’t do it again. This is why I have to leave. I let her buy

                              -152 -                                                                  - 153 -
me out of prison (if we ever meet again, will you please remind me
never to pick a fist fight with a lamppost? In speed and technique a man
is superior, but when it comes to pure strength and stamina, nothing
can (or should try to) beat a metal pole. I broke three tiny bones, thank                                    47
goodness it was in my left hand so I can still write) but I know she is
going to keep those files as an everlasting threat over my head, making
me run her dirty business. And I won’t stand for that. So I think I’ll be
                                                                                                       End Game
going to Australia. I’ve left the bar to Marietta (she bought herself out
of prison, by the way, I think she probably owns the police and all the
judges too) and I’m sure she will take care of it.
    There is something I need to tell you, I haven’t been wanting to          A s I walked home I realized it was one of those mornings Theo
but I think I need to. Antonius is no longer my friend, and I think he        never would mention in his book. Not that he would actively
shouldn’t be yours either. I’m just a bald bartender, but I have eyes and     avoid mentioning it either, which really goes to show how sad
I have a brain so I think I understand about your illness and the reasons     it was. It was just one of those ordinary, thick grey days with no
for it. I would really suggest you punch him and that witch friend of         weather to speak of, no world-shattering news and no specialness
yours also. I know this will hurt you, because I know you trusted her.        whatsoever. I stopped at JimmyD’s for breakfast (which means
Sometimes we trust the wrong people.                                          a pot of coffee and some crackers, on a good day), but it didn’t
    Oh, I have to go. Some bloke is giving me a ride to the airport. I will   seem to be the same without Bart. The bar maid (that Marietta
keep your favourite vodka in every bar I tend, just in case you show up       undoubtedly had hired) was, well, not that I’m a racist, but I
on my door step one day. Love, Bart”                                          truly think she was American. This is never good. Unless you’re
                                                                              Madonna, and she’s not really American, is she? At least 50% of
   I sat in a diner the whole night, completely blank. And after              her is pure Italian, I tell you.
that, I’ll tell you, I spent more than a week in the camp outside
town where my brother now lived. No one bothered me, I had                        The dullness of the morning was actually overwhelming. How
herbal tea and there was a dog that liked me (it crawled up to me             ordinary can a day become before something happens to it? (I
and slept with its head in my lap). When the blankness finally left           don’t know what that “something” would be, exactly.) But when
me, I expected an outburst of crying that would make the Niagara              I closed the door behind me and entered the kitchen, my eyes met
Falls resemble a little drizzle in a pond – but nothing happened.             an unexpected sight.
The blankness left and… well, I was Norma Jean and I really                       “Theo. And you’re dressed.”
wanted a bath. So I walked for ten miles and then I took the first                “Well, yes, I would think I am.”
morning bus back into town and decided to go home.                                “And where is the, I mean, why are you not sitting behind the
                                                                              typewri… and why have we got orange juice?”
                                                                                  Theo smiled a little; it was a very strange thing to see. And
                                                                              early in the morning it was, too. Someone obviously had serious
                                                                              breakfast ambitions – I mean, orange juice! I doubt that that
                                                                              kitchen had ever seen orange juice (if it wasn’t a fully integrated
                                                                              part of a screwdriver), I was actually wondering if it – the
                                                                              kitchen, I mean - would recognize it – the juice, I mean – or if it
                                                                              – the kitchen again – would have some kind of allergic reaction,
                                                                              causing orange juice spots all over the place. But nothing
                                                                              happened, at least not with the juice. Theo was smiling, though,
                                                                              and what was more disturbing was that he seemed, well, relaxed.
                                                                              Although he stopped smiling after a couple of seconds, thank
                                                                              God. I sat down by the table and looked at him.

                                   -154 -                                                                   - 155 -
    “So”, I said.                                                        “So”, said Theo finally, “you wanna… I don’t know, catch a
    “Yeah.”                                                           movie tonight?”
    “So.”                                                                “Theo, do you even like movies?”
    “M-hm.”                                                              “I guess I do”, pondered Theo, “as long as they’re not, you
    “The book, how is the book coming?”                               know, PAWAJ’s.”
    “Well. You could say that I’ve finished it. Or at least I’ve         “... PAWAJ’s?”
stopped writing it. I, er, yes, it’s not done exactly but yes, I’m       “Pointless Actions With Angelina Jolie.”
done. With it.”
    “Oh.”                                                                And in that moment, I’m proud to say, I had only one
    “Is that oh-good-I-was-just-wondering-oh, or so-what-you-         thought in my head: “Oh, goodness. I think we actually will find
fucking-prick-oh?”                                                    something to talk about.”
    “More like, can I have a third option? I think it was more of
an… and-I-found-my-brother-oh.”
    “Your brother?”
    “Uh-huh.”
    “Found him. After all this time, I can’t believe Antonius – was
it Antonius and his… mhmm, sources that did the trick?”
    “Yes, it really was.”
    “U-huh. And he was alive and well, your brother?”
    “Yes, very. A little dim, but I think that’s more a personality
thing, really.”

   It’s not that I want to make this conversation more remarkable
than it was. It truly was not remarkable. What could possible be
remarkable about it? It was nine in the morning and there was no
book. No nothing.

    “I, hm, I got a postcard from Haggis.”
    “Oh?! Is he okay?”
    “Yes, I should think so. It says… “ – he picked up a postcard
that showed an old castle, three sheep, a man in kilt and bright
red letters saying “Welcome to Ballygowobbhle” – “… it says:
‘Wanted to be a loner and a globetrotter and travel around the
world. But now realising I’m not cut out for that crap. Need
hot meals and nice bed, I do. Am back in Ballygowobbhle. Pls
send Maggie. Miss her frightfully. Love to all. Haggis (Hagardh
McArena).”
    “Oh dear. Well, I guess… that’s good. He’s back.”
    “I am really not surprised. Haggis has always come and gone
like some kind of indescribable weather phenomenon.”

    There was a silence again. Theo’s hair had grown; he needed
to have it cut.



                               -156 -                                                              - 157 -

				
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