Lives of F: Young Adult. (poem 4) ‘Effy & Fred do London.’
Lives of F: Young Adult. Ed 1. (poem 4)
Frederick, or Frederick-Danvers-Hill,
(as he likes to be called),
after Great Great Grandfather –
the circus-star turned soot-revolution mogul, trots up Marble Arch
to an open-plan office
loll like Dickensian fairies.
Chucking off his spotless climbing-jacket, grunting hello with enough music
to raise silent interest,
Freddy strokes keys
tilling the earth of the internet.
Bored at 12.15, he starts messaging ‘Number Two.’
She is the romantic in need
of metaphor, suggestion, inference. She fills him with credibility and images from retro Flake adverts.
Unlike number one
who knows him,
knows how to take him.
In his presence, her pride is absent.
She drinks Fred like insipid cider,
then finds impressive ways to forget –
a triathlon, a column in The Independent. Such is first-world success.
Number One’s msn image is an invitation to play. He isn’t up to it.
It’s the credit-crunch cheese-sandwiches weighing heavy on the brain.
So he sends number two a picture instead of otters mating.
Effy sits self-consciously,
trying to remember what brought her there.
A passion that burns like fat.
The desire to ‘act’ had
amassed a sizzling pyre in her gut for seven years. Money, education, time had been its slave.
She knows the fact that she envisions a pyre means she will experience a kind of death with it. Today was the beginning of that end.
Audition no. five of five- ‘The Ashes’…
of a year financially patched together,
as her mother might
a coat to keep wolves out.
In Winter, there were children with special needs until the funding drained.
In Spring, the TV people
wanting spare hands to run tapes. Now August was a bookshop
of sturdy faces who’d given up,
a library of contented failures.
The sturdy men let her rip-open morning boxes,
scoring through true-crime, erotica and romance.
The whole gamut of human feeling labelled by dollars.
She remembers Susan named her
after a minor character in a regency romp
because she didn’t want real, bloody life near her hospital bed. Because she wanted better for a baby
born after the sixties watershed.
Fate is a maid with airs and graces, Fredericka thinks.
God, how tragic!
Frederick chose a restaurant that would look good Number Two’s facebook. Lighting was kind in SW1, she’d appreciate being viewed
and he’d got his jacket and mannerisms down.
Waiting, he indulges a waking dream:
opening presents in her family chalet,
caressed in cashmere, slow organic food,
craftsmanship and decades of easy wealth,
Her – wrapped around him in a private sauna,
in Switzerland, safe from the grinding world.
Babies would polish the package of course.
Both sets of parents would be tickled pink.
The old man, stoked, would pat him on the back, fingernails drenched in second-hand motor grease.
Mum would stare, sphinx-like, stumped with amazement. ‘Hasn’t he done well!’ cooed unanimously
over: holiday snaps, school reunions funerals until…until…er…
Number Two enters oozing: Guerlain Cruel Gardenia, hairspray and lipstick. He cannot talk, there is too much at stake.
She looks like all life’s honey on a stick.
It was almost Shakespeare – a dodgy restoration piece. Lady Fancylot Syphilis. Effy brought her own corset,
A drama school practice.
They’d like the preparation.
‘Do take a seat.’
The first gentleman was a mythological theatre type – applesauce voice and seedy delivery. Nose – gin red. The other was bored and younger-ish.
Conversation felt overly ripe.
‘What are you going to do for us?’
‘Lady Fancylot Syphilis’
‘You’re the third today. Still, not bad. Why?’
‘She’s the axis of her world.’
‘She’s at the centre of her universe…during the Enlightenment…’ ‘Okay, yep, got it…Would you have sex in a Vauxhall Mini?’
Mr bored suddenly coughs:
‘Well, she looks too nice! Never mind. In your own time.’
Nigel grins stiffly, teeth wooden as a Victorian pier.
Fred’ stares deep into the window of his favourite tailors, dribbling at fitted suits, struggling to unstick
Number Two’s dinner-comment from his brain.
‘Well I suppose 24k is fine for early career. Okay.’
His eyes widen with identity disturbance.
How could she ever grasp the sheer effort?
Entrance exams, tutors, making the degree count by passing first class. Maybe he’d failed…maybe a savings fund and
his company’s career accelerator scheme
weren’t enough. He feels his Dad’s disappointment,
scratching dandruff, imagining what might have been.
Then a grinning assistant enters the display.
He thinks: she’d be grateful I bet,
Fred half-smiles all the way back to Turnpike Lane.
‘Wait! Fancylot! Wait…’
The bored cougher lope-runs towards Effy. His face, crumpled but handsome, animates:
‘I’ve got tickets for the Opera tonight;
you can have one…If you want.’
Her thoughts sing: ‘ vo’andare in Porta Rossa a comperar l’anello !’ Of a different end to young-love’s bitter dream.
Buttered with cultural references, pasta and wine
she is half infatuated by the interval.
As the curtain falls, Effy prays he breaks up with his vague, long-distance girlfriend.
Number One watches Frederick’s body wrestle sheets while he REMs through The Recurring ‘Mask Dream.’ The first, a Classical Chinese,
flares its eyebrows, says:
‘go to the Gym, you clown!’
Next, an ancient Greek, who looks like his mother,
wails from an impossibly sloppy mouth
‘We just want you to work hard, find a girl, and be happy!’
Number One reaches to touch
Fred’s clavicle of sweat,
says ‘You okay hun?’
But he’s too busy telling a plague-doctor wearing a beak that he’s finished this month’s search-analytics.
She shakes him, thick hair dangling on his face. Consciously, Fred decides
never to see numbers one and three again.
Parting at St Pancras,
the handsome, crumpled man buys Effy’ breakfast
as a mark of respect..
Silently, nursing a hangover,
he shows her a picture of the other one. Expecting a careerist of thirty-five,
Effy clocks a twenty-five yr-old doppelganger…
‘I’m in two minds whether to go’
he wheezes. ‘It’s difficult.’
Each meeting was seemingly make or break. Each meeting – a cross channel
summit of conflicting interest
resulting in more opera, pasta and wine.
‘You could stay and show me the observatory at Greenwich.’
‘I could..’ he mused theatrically. Eff numbly thinks.
‘Love is a foreign country
and I’m cast as the scruffy outpost.’
She watches him stumble
never to audition again.