30 June 2005
‘Carl is kind of a man-whore,’ Anthony tells me over Norwegian verbs. We have a Norwegian course out in Bloomsbury 3 nights a week. I enrolled in the course and discovered that Anthony was taking it as well.
‘Yeah. And Japanese. And trying to keep up with my Spanish dude, ‘cause it’s kinda not doin’ so well lately, you know.’
The only problem with Anthony’s languages is he tends to mix things up. We’ll be studying Norwegian and he’ll say something like: ‘Kuppen er i mesa.’
‘Oh. I meant bordet. Sorry dude.’
Or, ‘Hei, navnet mitt es Anthony.’
He also keeps filling out Japanese characters on his Norwegian essays.
‘The point is he lied, Anthony. He can sleep with pretty much whomever he likes, as long as he’s forthcoming about it,’ I nod. ‘How do you conjugate å gå?’
‘Dude, it’s irregular,’ he says. ‘But Carl. He can be a total skank. And a right bastard. You’ve never had to tour with him. Gar, present, gikk past. Jeg gar esta byen å kjøpe melk. Jeg gikk esta byen –‘
‘That’s all Norwegian, right?’
‘Yeah dude. He can be such a fuckhead on tour, if you’ll excuse me. He’s like. Anal. Uptight all the time. And the sex was kinda bad.’
‘You’ve had sex with Carl?’ I try not to choke.
‘Dude. Everyone distantly related to the Libs did or was done by Carl.’
‘Well yeah. Totally not his thing.’
‘And he’s not a manwhore.’
‘Carl’s not a manwhore,’ I say. Why does he keep having to say that?
The bloke behind us claims he drunkenly had sex with Carl once.
And his girlfriend next to him, but they weren’t dating at the time. No, she was sort of in a triangle with two other women and they all . . .
I am conjugating.
‘Total manwhore,’ Anthony snickers.
‘SNAKK I NORSK!’ our instructor barks.
‘Sssh,’ I tell Anthony and grit my teeth.
‘Dude, you’re in love with him. That’s why you’re all touchy about it. Am I right? You’re totally in love with him!’
I wish Anthony wouldn’t remind me and my poor hurting heart. It makes it hard to breathe and concentrate.
We’re busy correcting our work when who should lumber in but Mr. Manwhore, Carl.
He notices me and I must curb the impulse to yelp with glee and grab him, or sidle under my desk and hide.
He shuffles his feet and looks embarrassed while our Norwegian instructor yammers at us.
‘Didn’t know you’d be here Didz. I was actually. Wanting to talk to Anthony.’
‘You’re a manwhore Carl,’ Anthony says.
Carl glares and the woman and her boyfriend behind us start giggling.
‘Unless you’re going to be in my class, please stop disrupting my students!’
Carl huffs and sits between Anthony and I, knocking my workbook onto the floor as he does.
‘Sorry Didz, I’ll get that –‘
‘No Carl, I’ve got it –‘
‘Back off Didz, I –‘
‘Knock it off Carl –‘
End up tumbling around on the floor with everyone looking at us and an inconvenient hard-on forming from close range Carl contact.
Is love always so difficult?
‘Fuckin’ righteous dude. Count me in,’ Anthony corrects some Norwegian verbs (duermo? duermes? don’t remember those . . . ). Carl just told him he’s thinking of starting a new band (since when? and when was he going to tell me, who has been his comrade in musical arms the last months?) and would Anthony be the second lead/rhythm guitar?
‘Brilliant,’ Carl says.
Grit my teeth and poke him with a pencil.
‘Ow. Wot Didz?’
‘What about me?’
‘What about you?’
‘I’ve only been helping you and playing with you and writing with you –‘
‘I didn’t –‘
‘Do you have a question, jah?’ our instructor looms over us with crossed arms and arched brows.
Carl raises a tentative hand.
‘How do you say –‘ Carl casts around. ‘How do you say “tits” in Norwegian?’
Anthony giggling. ‘Ah man.’
He could ask me. Not some stranger. I have a dictionary! A Norwegian English dictionary! I can look it up!
Anthony off home. Stuck with Carl walking to the bus stop, as I decided not to drive tonight. Last time I did someone thought it would be funny to play a prank and steal my rear bumper.
‘I’m really sorry Didz. I am,’ our footsteps echoing off crumbling brick walls, the air cold and misty. Thick. ‘You know I am. Shit.’
‘Sorry doesn’t quiet cut it right now Carl,’ I say, half meaning it, but half wishing I didn’t have to mean it at all.
‘I didn’t . . .’ his words ebb out. At the bus stop, under the mercury-orange glow of the streetlamp, I finally look at him, look him good in the face. He’s pale, haggard, circles under his red-rimmed eyes, scruffy, hair tangled. A wild look to him.
‘You haven’t been drinking?’ I say.
‘No,’ he says, surly. ‘Just lonely. Pacin’ around with my inner demons a bit.’
I want to lean into him, put my arm around him, squeeze his hand. But the thought hurts too much too yet. I just don’t understand.
And I tell him as much.
He scowls. ‘You don’t understand Peter. The hold he has on me. Completely. Sometimes. Not that it’s any excuse.’ He turns and looks at me. ‘Sometimes when I was first in love with him, I thought I’d go mad. Being with him, not being with him. Mad either way. It was too much. It’s always been kind of that way,’ he sighs. ‘But I should know better, still.’
I swallow against the knot in my throat, and think, maybe that’s the way I feel a little about you.
He sighs and his breath comes out in a long stream of steam in the prickly London night. ‘Shyte. I know I told you and Anna I would be done with this, but it’s not always that easy. So simple,’ he smirks and shakes his head.
I suppose I understand. But don’t still. Don’t see what’s so complicated.
‘So, when were you going to tell me about the whole band idea? Hm?’
‘I was just thinking about it last night. It’s kind of a whim. I was bored and lonely.’
‘Gives me something to do?’ he says, voice uncertain as I feel.
4 July 2005
Anthony is having a 4th of the July BBQ at his flat for celebrating what his country calls ‘Independence Day’.
‘It was the War of the Insurrection,’ Gary bobs around and hums an airy tune. Anthony invited a few other folk, including fellow American Adam Green, who I don’t want to say is annoying, but he kind of is. He threw up in one of my hats once and has never apologised yet for it.
‘Oh, you Brits are still sore we beat you,’ Anthony yawns and pushes a curl out of his face and hands me a hamburger – done proper American style – apparently. Though I don’t know how this is different from the way we do it here. Maybe it’s in the seasoning?
‘We put ketchup on this, right?’ John scratches his head and pokes his. ‘I usually don’t eat foreign food. This smells funny.’
‘That’s because it’s British beef,’ Adam says around his beer bottle.
‘Did you invite Carl?’ I ask Anthony. A look goes around the small group here and I can tell by now everyone has sussed out the state of things.
‘I did, but he mumbled something,’ Anthony shrugs.
Am avoiding him and hiding behind Adam who has a bigger mouth than me and has been yammering at Gary all evening.
Gary: ‘So I hear, Carl, you’re back at the ol’ B’n’B ‘cos Anna kicked you out again. Yeah?’
Carl: ‘(Hiccough) Oh right. True enough. I’ve been a bit of a louse. Been awhile since she, you know (hiccough).’
Gary: Well. You’re a bastid sometimes, y’know. Didz is very unhappy with you. Ain’tcha?
Myself: ‘. . . (burp). Wha?’
Gary: ‘Like a wet bloody blanket than’un. Yeah? Can’t yah see you’ve broke the poor boy’s heart, Carl?’
Myself: ‘ . . . woovooo!’
Carl hiccoughs and goes cross-eyed for a brief moment.
Carl: ‘So. I’ve been workin’ on sum songs, yeah? An’ I’m thinkin’ (hiccough), Gary, you should drum with me (hiccough). New band at all. Set to be grand (hiccough).’
Gary: ‘Shweeet Carl. Sounds shweeet! You be your bad manwhore self!’
Carl: ‘Oiy Didz. Whya kick me like that? Eh?’
Drunk drunk drunk.
Gary winning and literally beating all our pants off.
Carl keeps leaning against me and drooling on my neck.
Even this pissed, certain that setting off fireworks from roof is a baaaaaad idear.
Very very very bad.
Why is my hairs on fire?
Adam is finker. Fink!
5 July 2005
He pissed on my jacket!
Carl was chasing me, had me cornered in Anthony’s bathroom, was leaning into me, all liquor breath and saying something like: ‘Didz, please . . .’
Then passed out.
Even crumpled on the floor flushed and drunk he looks so charming. Devastating.
I almost wanted to take advantage of him, but I wouldn’t do that.
I came out of the bathroom to John trying to lick a sparkler, Gary frolicking about with a lot of our clothes that he stole in strip poker and Anthony snogging someone I don’t even know (not sure if he knows) and Adam pissing on my coat which Gary dropped.
My mother bought me that coat!
Last time I ever go to party with Adam Green.
Got my clothes back from Gary, but I had to cheat at arm wrestling to do it. I don’t think he’ll remember I tickled him - too drunk. Don’t like cheating though.
Now lost in London at night and half drunk still and alcohol doesn’t make me weepy. Davida comes out tragic with her mascara running down her face and her skirts all tattered like an old movie with a violin playing in the background.
Why does he have to be such a bastid? Eh? Eh? I shout up at the stars, jumping and jiving in the sky.
Mebbe I shoulda stayed in Reading with the Clause boys and kept my heart safe.
Tripped over cold toothless homeless girl.
I feel bad so I’ll give her a couple quid.
She insists on singing ‘Here Comes the Sun’. Even if her version is very windy, what with those missing teeth and all, something is still very lovely about it, with the Jamaican accent and all (between the spitwads she keeps coughing onto the pavement).
Self pity is pointless and not something I do well, really, and I am nearly home. Least I have a home, even if the neighbors next door always play loud polka music, and my other neighbor always has me dog sit her dachshund, Diablo. I don’t mind, ‘cept, Diablo could be a little more ‘housebroken’ I suppose . . . I keep telling her -
I just don’t know. I just. What Carl tells me could be suspect (more suspect than usual . . .) now. And I still thought I meant more to him to than that. I thought we had some kind of. Future mebbe. Mebbe I call Anna. I am rather drunkishssshness.
‘Waahum?’ I croak.
‘Didz? It’s Carl. You alright? You just disappeared on us last night.’
‘You bastard,’ I say. And hang up.
Hmm, warm blankets.
I hung up on him?
And said ‘you bastard’?
He called me? Worried? About me!?
6 July 2005
Called Anna. She says her and Carl are on speaking terms, but she’s not sure yet. She’s worried and doesn’t know. Believes him when he says he’d never, ever, do it again, cross his heart and swearing on the Queen mother’s blessed memory and all. Wants to believe him.
Tell her about the band business and she starts shouting.
‘That bastard! Bastard! Not even asking you! Oh, he really is a piece of work!’
‘Anna?’ I say when she’s stopped smashing things on the other end. ‘How do you stand him?’
‘I’m still thinking ‘bout it Didz.’
‘Yes?’ I’m bothering myself picking at an unfinished sock because I can never get heels right.
‘I actually don’t think I know anymore.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You’re supposed to know!’
‘Well, because you’re. Annalisa! And I called you to sort it out! I called you!’
‘Sorry Didz? Don’t have to be shirty about it, ‘less it’s me you’re mad at!’
‘I’m not mad at you!’
‘Then stop shouting at me -‘
‘I’m not shouting!’
‘IT’S ENOUGH I HAVE ONE PILLOCK TO DEAL WITH.’
How. Rude! Well!
If Anna doesn’t know, then I’m doomed, because I am not nearly so bright as she is.
Dial her back.
‘SORRY I WAS SHOUTING AT YOU ANNA I KNOW IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!’
‘OH! IT’S ALRIGHT DIDZ – I – er – why are we still shouting?’
Listening to Alannis Morisette or Aretha Franklin (‘I will survive!’) is not conducive to sorting this out objectively.
Especially since ‘You Oughta Know’ only reminds me of that song Carl wrote while we were being sheep grazed in Wales.
It makes me want to call Anna and recommend we tie heavy things to Carl’s ankles and chuck him in the Thames, but that would be terribly mean.
‘I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of that,’ Anna drawls and I can hear her chugging beer on the other end as I try to hold the phone to my ear with my elbow and untangle my fingers caught in knitting.
7 July 2005
Finished telephoning mum and family to assure her I haven’t been blown up, and the lads in the Clause up North.
Bombs on the Underground and buses. The world is exploding around me. It’s terrible, and terrible maybe doesn’t cover it very well. Who would do such things to people just on their way to work or school? Innocent people? Tourists? (Carl would say tourists are not innocent, but I always disagree with his opinions on tourists anyways.)
I hope Carl and Anna and the gang are alright. Even stupid Adam Green.
Anthony = alright, hurrah!
Gary = alright, huzzah!
John = alright, cheers!
Adam = alright, uhm. Good. Good.
Carl and Anna . . .
No one is picking up! Pick up pick up pick up!
Pick up . . . pick up . . .
Still trying Carl. More news on bombs.
Apparently it was a group of extremist types. This makes me sad. Because I can sort of understand why.
When I was in school, I was picked on a lot, but I had a friend who was picked on even more. One day he was being teased again for being short (which he couldn’t do much about, really) and he lost it and kicked one of his bullies, right in the goods.
Maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. Maybe it was unjust in a way. But you know. People can only take so much of being mocked and tormented and feeling ignored before they go crazy. Which is what I think is going on here with the West vs. East thing, more often than not.
‘C-Carl? Is that you? Why are you there? Where’s Anna?’
‘Cor, I live here Didz. Hey, are you alright?’
‘But, you were, and . . . and . . .’
‘Oh. Anna and I. Have made up,’ and I know that tone in his voice. That lusty edged voice, like smoke and velvet that makes me shiver.
‘’Course. Was worried about her when I heard about bombs going off and came knocking. And. We had a bit of a chat and. Made up.’
A hot pang shoots up in my chest like a flare. Visions of Carl and Anna (dirty, pretty, beautiful images) sprawled over the furniture and having great sex. Sans me, of course, because I haven’t made up with Carl yet. Haven’t decided.
‘I’ve been calling all afternoon worried about her’n’you,’ I say faintly, digging my carpet with a toe.
‘So you were ringing all afternoon? Didz. I’m. So sorry.’
Throat clearing and coughing.
‘At least you’re both okay, right? And everyone you know?’
‘Oh yes. We are. Are you’n’yours?’ he says, sounds rather breathless.
‘Yes,’ I feel sullen about it all. ‘I’m fine, Carl.’
‘Didz. Why don’t you. Come over if you can? Yeah?’
I can hear the plea in his voice, which is rare. He never begs, or much asks, really.
I want to leap over there and hold him, tell myself it’s alright after all, it’s forgivable, of course it is, of course I forgive you, Carl, of course.
‘I’m in love with you, you know,’ I say.
And hang up.
And run around cursing myself and kicking the carpet and pulling at my hair because.
Knocking at my door.
‘Hello?’ I peer around my door. My neighbor and her dog Diablo. She’s dressed in a very shiny red top (Davida wants one like it, I think), thick make-up. She tosses her blonde streaked hair and looks expectantly at me.
‘So, can yah take my dog off me for the night again Didz?’
I look at her.
‘But where are you going? Things are shut down, the bombs and all . . .’ (still so strange saying that . . . there were bombs in London today).
‘Whatever,’ she shuffles Diablo into my arms and leaves. Diablo. He’s a cute little fellow, soft and fuzzy and brown.
Gnawing my elbow. Sharp little teeth!
When all else fails, chai tea in warm milk (creamy!), knitting, and reading my Buddhist poetry while dogsitting Diablo.
Finally! Finally! I finished a sock! Heel and all! Finally! And I only tangled myself up a little!
This calls for more chai tea!
Diablo ate my sock! I turn my back . . .
He probably thought it was a chewy toy or something.
13 July 2005
Drive up to Carl’s bright and early. Catch him in his pj bottoms and a dirty old t-shirt, scratching his bum, scowling at the newspapers on the curb. My heart doing cartwheels as I pull up and roll down my window.
‘Didz! I’m glad to see you,’ he yawns and flops over. ‘You wanna come in for some tea? Something? Yeah?’ leaning into my window, smelling of cotton sheets, Carl sweat, tobacco, and just a whiff of Annalisa somewhere (mint and rose, I think).
‘Actually, Carl, I was thinking, driving lessons,’ I say, drumming the wheel. For I, Didz Hammond, have a Plan with a capital P. I have a plan to lure him into the car, into my trust, and then hash things out properly. Like they do in movies and talkshows and such. The heart to heart thing.
He blinks at me in that owlish way of his.
‘I told you I’d teach you . . .’
‘Driving lessons?’ still in my window and blinking scruffily. Reminds me of morning not so long ago when I was sharing his bed. Waking up before him and finding him curled in a ball, cat-like, snoring a low purring rumble. It was bliss, lying there face to face with him, half awake and watching him sleep.
Takes awhile to be on our way after some of Carl dressing the teaing and breakfasting and talking with Anna. She’s reading White Teeth now and it sounds thrilling, all that cross cultural business and stuff.
Between Carl pretending to snore into his toast and Anna ruffling his hair, things felt better again. Well, than they have.
‘So Carl. What’s the first thing you do?’
Taking shotgun in my car and watching Carl frown and fiddle with the seatbelt.
‘I. Adjust my mirrors!’
He’s not a hopeless case at all. Gary was exaggerating all those times he described near fiery death with Carl at the wheel.
‘Carl, you can stop adjusting the mirrors I think.’
‘No! I’m not. Just. There.’ He squints and fiddles a little more with the rearview, then pouts and arranges a few strands of hair. It’s so odd, really. Here is Carl, sitting right next to me, and my heart skipping and doing stupid song and dance routines, while my stomach is telling me that an exodus of brunch should be underway. Here is Carl, who I am so in love with my head may just pop off, but who is capable of being dishonest in a way that slices through flesh and bone to the marrow. And possibly doesn’t even feel the way I do, or notice that I’m in blindly in love with him.
It’s like two different Carls and I can’t put them together. 2 + 2 does not equal 4. Quagmire!
‘Right. Now what do you do?’
‘I turn the key in the ignition?’
Ho dear. He is rather. Short. He just barely sees over the steering wheel.
‘You should adjust your seat a little so you can see better, I think.’
Maybe I should get him a pillow.
‘I’m not that bloody short Didz!’
‘Alright, alright! So turn the key in the ignition. And then we’re going to back up a little, so you need to look behind you –‘
‘I know! Bloody hell, I’ve driven before –‘
‘What’s this?’ he gestures helplessly at the stick shift.
‘That’s a stick shift Carl. The clutch.’
He stares at it as if it were some kind of strange script that required deciphering. It’s rather adorable, really.
‘You don’t know how to drive a stick shift?’ I try to say as diplomatically as possible.
‘Oh heavens no.’
‘Oh. Alright then . . .’
I hope my transmission will be alright, I think as Carl punches down a gear too low, too soon, again, and makes the car shutter and squeal.
‘Fuck, shit,’ he slaps the steering wheel and we’re stalled in Piccadilly circus (I told him to turn right, not left, so we wouldn’t land in the thick of London traffic - tourist trap traffic). There’s a large red tourist bus looming behind us and angry tourists shouting and making rude gestures, some people gaping and saying, ‘Hey, is that Carl Barât?’
Take a deep breath and think of calm things, the ocean under a balmy blue dawn, Diablo. . . Diablo not throwing up after he ate my sock . . . Carl sleeping, not drumming his head on my steering wheel and making the horn bleet repeatedly.
‘Okay, Carl, just, turn the key in the ignition and start the car again, yeah? And put her into first, nice and gentle –‘
Screeeeeeing and lurching our way forward. A girl knocking on Carl’s window asking for an autograph. Carl looking at me like a frightened child who’s going to piddle in his trousers. *
‘Carl, just, stay calm . . .’
‘No Carl, that isn’t a right, no, NO ONE WAY NO OTHER WAY BACK BACK!’
Stalled by Shaftsbury avenue, panting and thanking my guardian angel again.
‘Carl . . .’
‘We’ve circled the British Museum nearly a dozen times already –‘
‘So?’ he hunches over the wheel. Or under it. ‘It’s. Mumblemuttereasymumble.’
Stalled in the Brunswick Shopping Centre parking. This looks to be terminal for the old girl. Engine is smoking and the thing smells. Burnt.
Carl and I haven’t stopped yelling at each other since he struck the tree in Russell Square. Swerving to avoid rear-ending the car in front of us.
‘I tried Didz! I’m sorry!’
‘You don’t have to keep saying that!’
‘Just stop already! STOP SAYING YOU’RE SORRY!’
Shouting rubbish and nonsense.
People are looking.
‘Carl, let’s just stop shouting and –‘
Carl lunges and puts his hand over my mouth.
‘What do you bloody want then?! Eh?! I only wrecked your car, nearly killed us. I’ve been a right bastard, fucking hell Didz, aren’t you even a little pissed off?’
He unbuckles his seatbelt and is on me before I can even register what’s going on. Warm lips against mine, his hungry tongue in my mouth.
He’s a magnificent kisser. Wind rushing around you in vertigo magnificent. Hard in a few seconds magnificent. Wish I didn’t have to stop to breathe magnificent.
‘Didz,’ he pulls off, resting his forehead against mine. ‘Didz,’ rubbing my shoulders.
‘I – I – er –‘ I stammer, trying to find a place to put my hands and settling them on Carl’s hips. ‘I er. I dunno. I.’
He’s started to unbutton my shirt and by rights the buttons should be humming under those fingers as they come undone. ‘I can almost understand Peter,’ I forge ahead as he starts to lick and kiss my collarbone and ghosts his hands over my back, stomach, making me shudder. Damn him. ‘I mean, I can. I try. But this whole band thing – oh - you won’t even ask me.’
He pauses to flutter his eyelashes at me. I absently bring a hand up and run my ringers along his shirt collar. I can feel the rabbit fast pulse beating in his neck, echoing mine.
‘You know?’ I say quietly, wanting him to milk all the meaning I somehow can’t put into words right now, pressed under him into my car seat, in the underground dark.
A turbid look on his face, something like a lopsided frown, some kind of smirk, doubting instead of smug. I don’t know. He looks away from me and licks his lips.
‘Of course. I was. I just. I thought you’d just. Be the bassist, yeah? Of course you were always,’ he sputters like the car was only a few minutes ago. ‘I thought you wouldn’t need asking.’
Presumptuous? Taken for granted?
Maybe, but I’ve gotten past the point of caring because he’s undoing my zipper.
Does this constitute make up sex then?
I’ve never really done proper make-up sex. I mean, I’ve had my share of lovers and girlfriends and whatnot, but it was never quite things are with Carl.
It’s supposed to be electric and all that. Total clothes ripping lust and moaning satisfaction. Very Marvin Gaye/Sexual Healing was what I had in mind.
Instead I’m getting nailed in the back of my burnt smelling car in a parking garage by Carl, who surprisingly has no sense of rhythm at this moment. Probably still shaken up by driving.
My nose is getting carpet burns. My face.
And somehow I can’t stop the creeping feeling that nothing really has gotten resolved.
* I imagine Carl’s frightened face as something like this.
Aaaah. *has urge to pet the frightened lad*