“Wooooow!” this is the sound of Xeph’s Japanese house-mate disbelieving when he leans into Pixi. This Japanese house-mate is an artist and a crooked rollie emerges from between his lips. “You’re eyes are huge!” It doesn’t sound flattering in the least. Smiling a little embarrassedly, Pixi wonders if the man might be a tad stonned. In fact, he is, but that’s besides the point. Stonned or not, 夢幻 is too awestruck to be mindful of first-meeting-propriety. And in the first place, propriety never really had any part to play in his upbringing. “Close them,” he orders suddenly, slamming his chopsticks down on the tiny coffee table that he, Pixi, Xeph and YoKo are sat around to partake in do-it-yourself sushi.
“Just close them. Please!” He insists. Pixi eyes him suspiciously and then throws a nervous glance in Xeph’s direction before complying. “Woooooow!” she hears 夢幻 exclaim again followed by lots of Japanese, instructing the others to behold the sheer glory of Pixi’s double-eyelids. Selfconciously she opens them to find everyone leaning over their food in mid-examination. “Close them!” 夢幻 snaps, because evidently he hasn’t finished demonstrating whatever point he is trying to. Pixi does as she’s told for the chuckling and ‘eeeeeeeeh!’-ing to resume. When she eventually opens them again, Xeph is happily wrappig up his avocado handroll with a knowing smile across his mouth.
“So what?” like a person left-out, she looks to YoKo for an explanation.
“Double-eyelid,” is all YoKo offers with conviction.
“Japanese only have one,” 夢幻 contributes, trying to make his point.
“So?” Pixi doesn’t see it.
“So you should see me when I wake up,” he squints, apparently imitating his own morning-face. “I can’t see anything.”
Xeph near spits out some rice accidently. Weird or not, anyone that can take the piss outa themselves like that is cool by me, Pixi thinks.
“No it’s fine. But maybe I would like my kids to have double eyelids,” 夢幻 smiles.
This is good. By this point, Pixi is feeling much better. And much less of what drove her to TESCO express for ingredients at quarter to 11 the night before, and then had her churning homemade ice-cream till 3am in the morning. Though the enduring sadness was also to blame, bearing much of the responsibility were Pixi's evil wisdom teeth, who did not know the meaning of 'no room' and who had continued to shove their harrowing way into Pixi's mouth like those persistent buggers that weasel their way into a packed Victoria Line train at rush hour, with a painful exhalation of air from the depths of all the other passengers' lungs. Suffice it to say, they (the wisdom teeth, not the metaphorical passengers) did not allow for the materialisation of much sleep. So after such a bad start, this was pleasantly refreshing.
夢幻 on the other hand, had had an excellent start to the day. He'd avoided a fatal bike accident in the morning, made it to class in time despite oversleeping, and between getting from language school to his part-time job at Japan Centre, he'd caught a glimpse of some girl's pants, courtesy of the wind and her stupid choice of skirt length. 'Yesss! Today's gonna be a lucky day!'' he'd thought, and not particularly coz the glimps of pants was that exciting, but coz stupidly optimistic is what he is. Now sitting in front of a Turkish chick with the hugest, most mad-ass eyes he'd ever seen, he is feeling like luck personified.
"夢幻's flying out to Japan tomorrow morning," Xeph pisses on his fire that instant. "I've given him £100 for a giant Gundam model he's gonna bring back for me," though barely able to conceal his excitement, his volume comes down a notch as Xeph leans closer to Pixi while saying this. Which means that in-kitchen-rummaging YoKo evidently doesn't know about this expenditure and wouldn't be particularly pleased to.
"Oh cool.” Pixi smothers her avocado in too much soy-sauce to 夢幻’s secret chagrin, and then asks him, “Hey, so when was the last time you were back?"
"Two years ago. My mum is having an operation now, that's why I have to go."
"Oh no! Is it serious?"
"No no. Thank you. Don't worry," he reaches up to take the plastic bag YoKo has returned with. "She's like gorilla. She's gonna be fine."
"Eh?" Pixi's face exudes shock-horror. "Can you say that about your mum?"
"It's true. Her arm is thick as my thigh. Oh, she's scary."
"Hey stop!" Pixi insists, half pleading half scolding.
“It’s fine. Hey, I’m like monkey," he offers, with a mouthful of 'o' as if that were any justification.
"Eh? No you're not."
"I am! I like monkey. They throw their shit. My friend's mum went to zoo and monkey threw its shit at her."
"Ewwww!" Pixi’s overly active imagination paints a visual image of the anecdote that starts her laughing in spite of herself.
"You'd do it," says夢幻.
"I so would not."
"One week. One week in a zoo and you'll start throwing your shit." 夢幻 teases, and his smile betrays his growing fascination with Pixi. Then yet again, Xeph interrupts his moment.
“I’d do it at you, and they don’t even have to put me in a zoo,” he says, and with a series of hand gestures, demonstrates what his crowning moment of shiKt-flinging glory might look like. “Onigiri. Here, eat it!” In respons, 夢幻 scrunches and hurls the afore-appearance-making plastic bag at him. Bereft of its contents though it fails to do damage. "Hey is that the slimy-gone-off beans thing?" Xeph sobers up a tad.
"Ha?" 夢幻 looks down at the packet he's been tearing open unconciosly. "Yes. Do you want it?" he offers him one of the polystyrene boxes.
"What is it?" Pixi picks up the label that's come off in the unpacking process. "Nattō?"
"Fermented soya-beans," YoKo offers, accepting the box that Xeph rebuffed with a little nod of grattitude.
"Pixi, you have to taste it!" Xeph says excitedly.
"Is it good?"
"It's gross! I told YoKo I wouldn't kiss her for a week if she eats it. "
"It's good, try it," 夢幻 offers her a box in response to her look of uncertainty.
"Yeah you gotta try it," Xeph also insists, despite his bad advertisement.
"Can I just taste some of yours?"
"Sure," 夢幻 tears open the polysyrene lid and squirts a sachet of mustard followed by dashi into the beans. When he begins mixing the stuff with his chopsticks, Pixi can clearly see the strings of slime spinning together like cotton candy. A muscle in her jaw twitches in reaction. When 夢幻 holds out his chopsticks to her there's a slime-string hanging off them like snot. A tad repulsed, Pixi shuts her eyes and takes the mouthful.
It's the most satisfyingly disgusting thing Pixi has ever had. Satisfying in that how stinky cheese is bound to taste great. Only this smells and tastes shiKt to boot. But it's one of those shiKt tastes that promise to creep under your skin so you’ll call it 'acquired' to justify the culinary perversion.
Pixi swallows it painfully, trying to suppress the gag reflex. 夢幻 eyes her with a hint of amusement. Xeph with a look of sympathy.
“That was grotesque.”
Xeph has a hearty laugh at Pixi’s expense and YoKo smiles through her own, more satisfied mouthful of the stuff.
“Do you mind if I eat it Japanese style?” 夢幻 asks with uncharacteristic consideration.
“Eat it how you like,” is Pixi’s response because she doesn’t know what she’s got coming to her. “Just don’t offer me any more.”
“He he he,” 夢幻 chuckles and then does the one thing which could highten Pixi’s nausea further. He slurps, nay vacumes it straight out of the packet, adding the sensation of yuck-sound to the experience of yuck-taste, smell and appearance.
“Awwww gross!” Xeph covers his ears in an attempt to drown it out. Pixi’s senses are so utterly offended she breaks down in peals of laughter for want of anything better to do. In that moment, her sadness runs for temporary cover and even the pain of her throbbing gums subsides somewhat. In that moment also, 夢幻 forgets about his estranged girlfriend back home, who’s waiting for his return to break up with him.
‘The brain’ Kundira once wrote upon the note of metaphors being dangerous, ‘appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful.’
An invisible finger, steals the opportunity to make a mark on the dusty surface of poetic memory. A single line. The first stroke of the ‘W’ in ‘Wash Me.’ Delicious doubt that has you thinking, ‘maybe I haven’t got the world all figured out yet...’ Pixi shakes it off like a déjàvu and 夢幻 inserts another crooked rollie between his lips before excusing himself, as he still has some packing to do.
The next day, Pixi meets The Ledger Man at a bus shelter near Turnpike Lane. And this encounter fully pisses on any sparks of aforementioned doubt which might still be hiding amdist the cinders. The first time she’d ever seen him was on the tube, maybe a year ago. Now more familiar, she is less startled and more observant of him.
The Ledger Man is named thus because he carries with him numerous notebooks in which he scrawls away busily. What he scrawls are lines and lines of big, frightening scribbles. There is no sense to it. Yet with deep seriousness, and cigarette smoke billowing from his cheap fag, he scribbles and scribbles in memory of a once usefulness, or the illusion of which, he has lost. With his shopping cart in tow, filled with be-scribbled notebooks, he keeps up the illusion wherever he goes. Pixi feels very sorry for the Ledger Man and does not want to end up like him. Some things have to be let go of.
Upon that note, and on the way back home, she picks up a ten pack of silk cut purples, with the deliberate intention to start smoking off her angst. She lights up that evening when Little-Sis retires early for a change. Fag between her fingers and Shloer fizzing to itself in a glass, she sits down seriously to the ridiculous task of writing a letter to The Boy That Never Was. The letter never gets posted. It says this:
I regret that I must embrace a kind of resignation. I am afraid that I have weighed up all the odds, and found that I never really had a choice in the matter. After all, I have grown old looking for you in the faces of strange men. I have made some unforgivable mistakes and accepted too many losses to be naive as I once was. I have grown tired of waiting for you to show up one day, and tell me, 'sorry Pixi. I got held up.'
I know, that even if you came to me tonight, on some balmy summer breeze, with wild hair and childhood sweat on your upper lip, the time for such things has long passed me. Because I have grown up, and you are still as you were in my mind. As though nostalgia were some spell against time, which preserved you in innocence and awe. You do not belong to this world, and I no longer fit yours.
The night that Pixi writes this letter and folds it away in some secret place, something unexpected happens. At some ungodly hour, she wakes to a sensation she cannot remember once she's risen to the surface of sleep. Was it a sound? Had someone shaken her? After a moment or two Pixi decides to snuggle back under her duvet but this doesn’t materialise. She senses a weight on her bedcovers which fail to come up when she tries to pull them over her chin. Bleary eyed she raises herself onto her elbow and finds, sitting on the end of her bed, The Boy That Never Was.
"Ufffffff!!" Pixi huffs and lies back down. "Not another dream of you."
"This is not a dream," corrects an unfamiliar voice. It shakes her to the bone. Instantly, Pixi’s once heavy eyelids glue themselves up, her eyes darting frantically this way and that in the darkness."You haven't fallen back to sleep have you?" the voice speaks again, and this time it is followed by movement at the foot of her bed. "Oi!"