Waiting on Ernie Scenes from an open Dublin Legal Clinic by E F Fluff

Waiting on Ernie

Scenes from an open Dublin Legal Clinic

 

Waiting at open legal clinics is often bleak.

Today a man in his middle to late twenties came in. Thinning nondescript brown hair plastered in feathers to his head, he’d obviously been running and was having difficulty. As there were no more seats, he asked the man nearest him if he could sit down, the man pointedly ignored him.

An older woman, somewhere in her late fifties or sixties asked him if he needed to sit down, and he was very grateful. After she got up, the man who had pointedly ignored him offered her his chair. She pointedly refused.

“It’s an emergency…”

“It’s an emergency…”

His voice was tired and increasingly emotional and it took a moment to realise he was talking to his phone and not his knees.

When he finally got through, the person on the other end began asking him why he was calling. Bewildered, he entered into a weird back and forth repetition of explaining he had four missed calls from them.

 

There’s a point in all this where you find yourself recognising old keys of gaslighting and psychological abuse and end up quietly hoping it’s someone’s overworked key-worker on the other end, and not a relative or spouse.

It was his father.

What followed was a very contained partial breakdown filled with a deep nausea layered fear.

 

He was there at the clinic, waiting to see [redacted] but there was a “huge queue ahead of me”, and “don’t know whether I should stay or just see him in the morning, I’m very tired, I’m very tired.”

“I’m just doing what you told me to do.”

“Look, I’m doing what you told me to do, if I go to prison, if I go inside, I can’t, when I come out, I can’t go back on the streets…”

“I know you told me there’s good people out there, to have faith that there’s good people but I -’’

“I know, I know…I just…”

“There’s bad people out there, there’s a lot of bad people out there with bad intentions, not all of them are good like you Da…”

“Okay, okay, I’ll do what you tell me to do…”

“I am doing what you told me to do, listen please, it’s just hard…”

“Like what if the judge is having a bad day and is in a bad mood and doesn’t understand where I’m coming from…I just can’t…I can’t…I -am- doing what you told me to do…”

This doing what he was told boiled and tangled over in inflection and seemed to have multiple meanings. Its repetition seemed to make the older man on the other end of the line raise his voice so he could be heard, briefly, quite clearly around the waiting room.

“I am doing what you told me, I am, I am trying…ok…ok…look, I can’t, I did what you told me…if this goes -’’

The Da on the other end of the line seemed to interrupt a lot.

“I am…I am…”

“I am doing what you told me, but you don’t understand…”

“I’ve suffered enough…”

“Like…I know I have a beautiful apartment and I want to keep it and not lose it if I go inside, if this goes -’’

“I can’t…I just -’’

“I am doing what you’ve told me to do, I am…it’s just…I’ve suffered enough…”

“You…you don’t understand…I’ve suffered enough, I can’t, if I go back on the street…”

“If I come out, and I’m back on the street, you’ll have to help me…please…I can’t…I can’t…”

“I am doing what you’ve told me…I am…”

“Please. You’ll have to help me, please…”

“I can’t…I’ve suffered-I -am- doing what you’ve told me. I am…”

“I don’t know whether to wait here or -’’

“Okay, so the morning then…what time will I see you, 9am? And you’ll drive me there in the car and we’ll see him be -’’

I wondered which court he was. Or how that court worked. My experience of the lower courts this far had been of 10am roll call. As he went back and forth between emotional pleading, affirming he was doing what he was told and trying to make clear what was happening in the morning and whether he was being picked up. I wondered how far the drive was, an hour didn’t seem like it’d cut it. You did not want to be late.

“Okay-okay so I’ll get up and get the Luas there…okay…”

“But like, please could you just phone me in the morning…”

“Please, please could you just phone me in the morning…”

Seemed like he wasn’t getting picked up after all.

“I will have my alarm set, I will!”

“I will! I just, please, please just say you’ll call me, please!”

 

You see glimmers of ADHD and ADD at the oddest times. You’ve long ago learnt to recognise the plaintive out-stretched grasping hand of people scrabbling, pleading with others, their friends or family, neurotypicals they know, just to offer some sort of purchase or support, a safety rope hack around the endless-weathering of being discombobulated.

“Look…please just say you’ll phone me in the morning!”

“What? No! Just please, please say you’ll phone and say ‘Ger, Ger, are you up, c’mon get ready’ and I’ll be up ready and get the Luas in. Just to make sure, just to make sure I don’t ’’

“No I won’t! I won’t! I just, please, please just say you’ll phone me in the morning, with good time, just to make sure I can’t -’’

“I won’t, please just say ‘Yes Ger…I’ll phone in the morning Ger…’ I just need to make sure I -’’

“No, I do have my alarm set! Just please say you will. Just that you’ll phone and say ‘Ger, are you up?’ just to make sure I-’’

“I will, I will. Please…”

The pleading bubbled out into the waiting room to growing discomfort as everybody else just pointed stared at the floor, their papers or the middle distance.

“I did do what-I am doing what you told me, I am -’’

“I can’t…I can’t…”

“Please, please just say you’ll phone and say “Get up Ger, are you ready, and I’ll be ready…I will…”

“I will have my alarm. But just like in case my phone breaks or the alarm doesn’t go off or-please, Please!”

The voice on the other end appeared to change subject on Ger a couple of times as he struggled to answer those points and continue pleading his case.

 

As the call wound down, he was still pleading at the same time as confirming he would be there, he would, and that he’d see them in the morning, he was going to get the Luas. In the long goodbye, the voice rose loud again to be audible in reminding him to do as he’d been told and disappeared into the indistinct of phone calls.

They seemed to agree that he didn’t have to wait. I fought the urge to tell him to just wait, just wait, it would be better if he waited.

He was still pleading when the call ended and dissolved into emotional sounds close to stressed whimpers and anguished sighs.

Irritated, I couldn’t help myself.

“Here Ger, I’ll call you…”

“What?”

“If you give me your number, I’ll call you and make sure you get up in the morning.”

“What? No it’s ok-are you sure-I -’’

“I’ll phone you in the morning and make sure you get up.”

The older lady who had given him her seat looked up from her papers and nodded at me. I nodded back.

A sweaty mess of stress, he struggled over to me whilst gathering his bag and twisting his hat. He came over to where I was standing, I had my phone ready, and he fumbled his back out of the pocket he’d shoved it.

He was about to give me the number then he seemed to get a sweaty air of worry or paranoia, and began telling me…

“Actually it’s okay…it’s okay…he’ll call me, I’m sure, it’s okay, I’m sure he’ll call…it’s okay, thank you for your kindness…I’m sure he’ll call…thank you-I’m sure, sure it’ll be okay and he’ll call…”

 

I’d like to say Ger bustled himself out, but it was more a sort of wet towel tangling and untangling itself out of the waiting room.

The old lady looked back up at me and offered a complex nod and tilt of the head with a grimace that rolled into rueful eyebrows.

I nodded back and shrugged as if to say “someone had to” and “what are you gonna do…”

She gave a backwards nod and I replied in kind. Both silently agreeing that “he’s probably not going to call him”. And she went back to her documents, and I went back to staring at the news on my phone.

Bio:
E.F Fluff is still trying to escape a Kafka-esque nightmare of corruption, death threats, violence, white collar crime, and bigotry in Finland, and Ireland. Seriously.
Photographer credit:
Sunlight Chambers Photo used with kind permission
by photographer
Infomatique aka William Murphy

Despair in a time of plague – Pandemic Journal Fragments by E F Fluff

 

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Despair in a time of plague
Pandemic Journal Fragments

April 2nd 2020:

Outside happened.

Far more homeless around than normal, in medium to large groups.
Social distancing still a problem if people are queueing for the
till. Had one guy breathing on the back of my neck because he
tried to skip the queue because social distancing spots. Fuck it
all.

One of the main places where the homeless have been gathering,
looks like they’ve had a party. Not like normal. Sticky ground.
Smashed vodka bottles. It is also where people queue to get into
the shops.

Early closing does not seem to be a wise idea due to panics and
rushes.

There are more clusters of homeless in the area than normal, and
there is no distancing. Wandered into a builder looking fellow,
well enough dressed, with a well enough dressed wife, walking
around asking anyone who looked local for crack.

“Zero craic at the moment”.

He didn’t get the joke.

“What?”

“There’s minus craic.”

“Rock? You’ve got rock?”

“No…sorry…”

I’m probably lucky I didn’t get punched in the face for that. But
how or never. The whole three blocks in the area is busy, and
still hopping until about close to 9:30/10pm.

Sometime after ten, the Gards will swing by a few times, if
they’re bothered, and sound the siren.

The homeless drift back into the hostels, and the shadows.

They’ll often drift back at other times of night, and impromptu
sessions can start under my window.

If someone phones it in, maybe you’ll hear the siren.

The teenagers still roam. But a bit quieter.
Sometimes they can’t help themselves and fall into that loud
boyish honking and megaphone voice.
Sometimes a siren, sometimes self-awareness, and they too scatter
and fade.

My friend in the Lidl is confused by the shifts. 10-12 hours. But
due to distancing, they’re not as busy, or busy in spurts.

I keep meaning to ask him if they’ve been told they can’t wear
masks. As that fad seems to have passed abruptly.

The South Asian owned and run stores reacted fast. Plastic shields
went up at most cash registers. 5 at a time only.

Lidl seems permanently sold out of eggs, but otherwise remains
well stocked.
Tesco too, except for runs on alcohol.
Spar remains well stocked, but gouging still

I still see people walking in groups, and socialising.
A woman petting a stranger’s dog through a fence.
Sorta squinting watching her maybe rub Covid all over their puppy.
People spitting in the open streets. Coughing into the air.
The drunks seem more drunk
They’re getting bolder too…
Making beds in places they didn’t normally, earlier.
No quarter asked, no fucks given.

Masks are predominantly on Irish-Asians, Irish-South-Asians,
Irish-Latin Americans I don’t know nationalities exactly, but
they’re ours, so it’s Irish.

There is a healthy state of paranoia in the building.
Sometimes people jump out of your way or walking into walls to
avoid being close to you.

Nearby, addicts on a ragged tip are trying to sell half-finished
bottles of methadone to people queueing for food without masks.

Homeless swarm at their feet to sit, like ducks, waiting for
bread, which they can they turn into cans and vodka. The odd
suspicious cough here or there.

(Photos by Colin Cowdrey)

 

 

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If you have to say anything, say nothing at all by E F Fluff

if you have to1On a little island on the edge of the world.

That you’ll be tortured, degraded, humiliated, and ultimately, hardened to a strange faraway horizon point no one else will really understand; was something, we all, ultimately, later, laughed about.

There was a time, where if these childhood experiences fractured you, to a point of inability to move, continue, or handle. You, or the damaged person, was referenced with a sort of strange creased wrinkle frown shrug of half-remorse and half-ah well, they failed the hazing, but don’t talk about it too much, ‘lest there we ourselves go ah,ha-hahaa…

A very real, palpable sense of the dangers of abyss gazing, and names that should not be spoken.

The weak, the wounded; were relegated to the streets and halfway houses, alcoholism, derelicts and heroin.

We often knew why, but we rarely grazed on it in any depth.

Maybe if they died, or killed themselves; it might come up in graveyard passing, a rueful-faced aunt drag-twisted around a Superking as she threw away a comment before being hushed by another.

Our little island was never suited to the desolate rigors of Christianity.

We were a barbaric people who had found the time to give each wind its own colour.

Wrapped in hallucinogenics, our DNA hints of nomadic seafaring and other questions.

Vicious, unforgiving if crossed, midlander; there can only be one – don’t take the rivers, you’ll wake the old folk… and yet capable of drawing down a very intricate, expansive and forgiving legal system that intermingled with our fading knowledge of the power and source of Cunt.

Orthodox might have suited us.

Yet a swing of the calendar and Christendom being given open season on us, a little island on the edge of the world, unless we toed the line.

It’s no wonder the downers of knowing it is there but being gifted the ability to not give a fuck would become so intravenously attractive.

if you have to 2We used to paint ourselves blue, and dance howling into battle in baggy cloaks with sleeves for blade catching. The dye so astringent that a single cut and mingle of sweat and blood, and the wound would burn itself closed. And the only way you’re dealing with that is tripping balls, half cut.

It’s no wonder the Queen’s advisor said the only thing that would break the Irish was famine. Shortly before we entered a hundred or so years period of famines, great, large and small.

Island life is small, harsh, and unforgiving.

A revolving room of curtains you may never get to look behind.

If you have to say anything, say nothing at all.

That you’ll be raped is inevitable.

You weren’t? Maybe you don’t remember.

It’s not all buggery.

That you’ll be beaten is a given.

Each person’s view of a “beating” being relative, some more shocking than others.

We’re, maybe, hopefully, the last generation.

To get our teeth into it, to bend over, and grit.

The others gloss over the horror a little bit, preferring to focus on the biting poverty that they’ll reference as so desolate that their memories of youth are so grim; they only come in black and white.

The surreal commonplace of physical, and sexual misconduct so common, so rife, many of us don’t even know we were subjected to a wrong. Somewhere there, in the bleak hazing that is the foundry that casts the Jolly Irish Person the rest of the world has, mostly, sung the praises of for the last thirty or fifty years.

We made good soldiers; that’s a millennia old solid – no bullshit, just do, forward, like the sacred hare, always through the fire, the Paddy Mayne genetic imperative for a people so used to encroachment, one of our oldest tomes is called “The Book of Invasions”.

We’re not fucking about now.

The airport banner says a thousand million welcomes where it should say “How are ye, what’s in your pockets?” – not that we could accurately get the accompanying vaguely friendly squint down into text.

if you have to 3Father Ted was a documentary filmed in real time, written by a man who would later become trapped in the negative zone of his own past. Though he left, the old horrors would spin cycle him again and again like some dreary forgotten Lovecraftian temporal nightmare.

Little realising the rest of us had finally been able to move on.

In part due to the silver bullet he took for the rest of us.

It was all so rife, in memory it now plays out like some sort of blend of Brass Eye and Are You Being Served?

“There’s a paedophile disguised as a school/a church/a country…”

Out near the dual carriageway, a sodden alcoholic gym teacher, somewhere hitting fifty, in small tight red shorts that crush and swell his genitals to exaggerated proportions, that when the vodka makes sure he minces around in over-gesticulation. It’s hard to know whether to laugh, or feel disgust.

It seems so surreal now.

With his little closest by the boys changing room with the two-way mirror so he could watch us.

That, we discovered, and used to bait him out with ever wild and bizarre behaviour; including flamethrower fights with our lighters and deodorants.

Knowing he could never reveal what he’d seen because he could never reveal he was standing, steamed, huffing behind a one way mirror.

“What is this powder in the air!” “This powder!” “Who put this powder in the air!”

Knowing, knowing he could not reveal too much of the ruse ‘lest red-faced questions were asked.

The fanatic religion teacher with ligature scars around her neck. So fervent she thought nothing of inciting frenzied heathen dog piles on students who questioned her dogma.

The Christian Brothers who forced the fresh graduate to teach a class of thirty boys the horrors of abortion. Ghoulish teens needling a clearly emotional young woman trying hard to hold the line.

It was all so rife

We don’t even know until a foreigner puts their hand over their mouth in a strangled squeal of horror.

if you have to 4It was all so rife

We don’t even remember, and if we do, we don’t talk about it, because we’re not one of them, one of the weak ones. Sure, didn’t it toughen us up.

It was all so rife

I haven’t even had time to talk about the people who’d make you disappear. The cause, and all that. “Is Daniel there? It’s time for his tea.”

Maybe that’s why we do death so well, if you have to say anything, say nothing at all, and how better to do that, than over seven days drinking around the reminder corpse of a spirit that is finally free.

“Who can beat us? Nobody!”

Who’s like us? Nobody!

Who’s better than us? Nobody!

Island life.

If you have to say anything, say nothing at all.

E.F. Bio
E.F Fluff is still trying to escape a Kafka-esque nightmare of corruption, death threats, violence, white collar crime, and bigotry in Finland, and Ireland. Seriously. The photos above are all theirs.

Why I don’t remember my Aunt Letty by E F Fluff

letty 1.JPG

I was seven or eight when my parent told me I was adopted.

It happened over dinner.

“Yeah”

Flippant, I was initially too worried whether there would be enough gravy for me to make my potato swamp. It wasn’t a big deal – I think I’d always known – like I’d always known I was a girl. The conversation over dinner was just a gentle confirmation of what I’d always known. Initially, it just didn’t seem to matter, I had parents a family who loved me, a little over protective maybe, but a family.

I played piano, danced and sang. I enjoyed my childhood. My father used to sing Leadbelly songs to me in English in Polish. He had a very deep voice and though he didn’t always remember the words, he would always come up with good ones as he went along.

 

I was sixteen when I realized my father didn’t know all the real lyrics to Leadbelly songs he’d sing.

I had started to drink in the city; the bars I went to were drenched in sea shanties and the blues. It never bothered me; I think perhaps his lyrics with chorus were better.

 

My parents had moved to Canada by Sweden back in 1973. It was perhaps easier for them as both my father and mother had family there from before the war. A bit older maybe and unable to have children they adopted me in 1985.

 

I don’t think I gave it, or them or her much thought until I was fourteen or fifteen. Passing wonders, worries – the sort you get. If they’re okay – if they know I’m okay. Why…

That type of thing.

 

My Amother, not my Bmother, had a sister called Letty. It was short for Letitia and had been the name of her mother’s best friend before the war. My mother and her sister were close; they knew each other like bald horses, as you might say,

 

I don’t remember my Aunt Letty.

I have tried.

The memories feel as if they are there.

They just won’t come.

 

My mother would always remark, “You banged your head a lot when you were little.” As if that was it.

 

It is one of those things – you say “I can’t quite describe it” before you try and describe it. When written it infuriates people, when spoken it confuses and sits like a road mark that you will talk for a long time and probably about the same thing but different but same.

 

Maybe you have that too. Memories that sit like they are behind a garden wall in your mind – perhaps with some degree of fog – you are aware they are there. But you cannot reach them. Occasionally, your brain your memory echoes with the hints of what is there. Partially remembered sounds and the recognition of scents that when followed the mnemonic path lead only to…blank.

A heavy frowned frontal lobe – a sort of frustrated congestion.

 

My mother would tell me stories about my Aunt Letty. Sometimes my father would join in. But it was mostly my mother was always telling me stories about Letty. It was as if she was still a member of the family that’d gone on holiday and we could expect her back any minute now. Smiling, laughing, with new stories and presents for everybody.

 

Some of the stories would be about their time as bald horses. From the little mischief as children to teenage trouble. She’d tell me what horrors they were – the intricate ways they would make to steal – mostly food I think and mostly from their grandmother and relatives – people in their block of flats.

Mushrooms were often the subject – often my mother would say,

“If you ask – if I have memory of my youth – I tell you, mushrooms. I remember mushrooms. Picking mushrooms, preparing mushrooms, eating mushrooms. My father was a park ranger and between him and my mother, they knew everything you could eat in the forest and the field. My favourite was mushrooms.”

 

letty 2.JPG

When I was younger it would really upset me that I couldn’t remember my Aunt Letty and I would ask my mother if she was sure I really met Letty, if she was not confusing people and things. She would always reassure me, yes, yes we’d met. Letty knew me, loved me, I’d just bumped my head a lot when I was small.

 

Perhaps it was their age – but as I got older my parents grew very protective and very controlling. I think, maybe they were too old to have a child. They loved me, but sometimes, I don’t know. I find it very difficult to see them and now stay as far from them now as I can. My father lapses through worry and control of me and my situation to being depressed – it is a hard wall depression – I think just, that of age. Sometimes he tries not to be, but still is, sometimes he is and I try to lift him from it. Rarely – he just isn’t.

 

Letty used to wear trousers; Letty had a tape of a tape of a tape of ‘After the Gold Rush’ that a cousin had smuggled her. Her favourite song was ‘Southern Man’ but she and my mother sang ‘After the Gold Rush’ best. And once at Christmas while preparing the twelve dishes they made their uncles cry and they didn’t even know – they were just singing and cooking.

It is funny, because as my mother would tell, their uncles barely spoke two words of English between the four of them.

 

When I was very young, Letty used to pick me up and swirl and spin, singing ‘Southern Man’ to me. They tell me I used to laugh so hard sometimes I’d get sick and start crying and keep laughing. Though I don’t remember – I like to look at her picture now and imagine. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much since and I often don’t think it’s fair that I can’t remember something so happy. But, my mother tells me I knocked my head too much, makes sense.

 

When I think about it, I’m not sure I want my own children. I love teaching them, I just don’t know if I want my own. I am terrified of getting pregnant. I used to be scared of a lot of things – I spent a lot of time on my own. I think it comes from my parents. They were so controlling, so protective – I think it made me scared.

I’d just read a lot and spend time with my cat. I still read a lot, but my cat is dead. That cat anyway, I do have a new one, he is nice but not the same. I thought a lot, about what scared me and what made me anxious. Sometimes I think some of my nervousness comes maybe from not being able to remember Aunt Letty. Then I think of how protective my parents got. I don’t know what they thought, though now I think I spent too much thinking. It took me a long time to be brave. Now I do what I want.

I tried to be vegan for a few years – but it is too tiring in Poland. My Aunt Letty was strong – my mother used to tell me about how she never wanted a husband but didn’t mind having a man.

Often she would use this as an excuse to sing ‘Southern Man’. There are some things my parents used to cook that I can’t even smell anymore like meatballs and pork chops. All the heavy traditional food, also I hate cucumber soup.

 

I never wanted to be married – I was afraid of losing my independence. I think that was one part of being afraid. Maybe I wanted to be like Letty so much I was scared to be anything. It would be easier if I could remember her. I think asking him to marry me was a step in moving past the fear and anxiety and worrying about what people would think or thought of me.

Asking him was a good break from that, from them from worrying what people thought. Though we did it in secret, so my parents wouldn’t find out, so I didn’t have to invite them, so it could just be about us. What is it about anyway if not just the two of you? Polish weddings are good, yes you have fun, but it is exhausting and it is like – you are there performing for your friends because they’ll give you gifts and money. Who needs that?

 

One time, one of the priests from our area – he was very friendly, mostly with the girls though. He organised trips and had practices in his house. He organised a ski trip for us and we had after school classes with him at his house. He was very friendly – you don’t understand then I think, older yeah it’s weird, then it is just someone being friendly and one of my friends was flirty, she was attractive and I don’t think she understood what she was doing and she wanted me to go with her.

When my father found out – he said I was not to go to the priest anymore, he was angry and he went to speak with the priest. I never went to the priest’s house again.

When my parents told Aunt Letty, she was so angry she went to talk to the priest. She had my father drive her to the priest that night. They don’t know what she said, but the priest was not long in our area after that. That’s just Aunt Letty, my mother would say, it’s a pity you don’t remember her. Yeah I’d say, a pity I banged my head so much when I was small.

 

I don’t know about my childhood sometimes. I think sometimes I’d like brothers and sisters that I could ask what happened because I think for my young bit, I don’t remember things right. I think I have great ability to remember things happily and I don’t think this is always a good skill.

Though I’m not sure it’s a real skill or if I just tell myself I have it when I’m thinking. Aunt Letty always looked on the positive side of things, she never seemed to let worry drag her ankles. It was very difficult to be down or stressed around her, but don’t mistake, she could still be a hard woman. She got what she wanted, fought for it too, stole it if she couldn’t win it by fighting. All the time she used to tell me all these things when I’d sit in her lap – poking my belly to make a point – I don’t remember now, banged my head too much they tell me, but they do tell me she did it.

 

letty 3.JPG

 

When I was younger, in my teens it began, I used to worry more about my Bmother than I did when I was a child it was just wonderings. As I grew I would think adult worries and worry them for her, as I learnt more I added more worries to her. I thought maybe she was poor, maybe she had been sick – many worries. I wouldn’t always do this, just now and again.

In my twenties – I would wonder if she was okay – I would wonder what she thought. I would worry that she worried about me.

 

I wanted to let her know I was okay.

That it all turned out okay.

That I’d turned out okay.

That – everything was okay.

In the hope that perhaps she wouldn’t worry anymore.

That is, if she was worrying – which I felt a little bit that she was.

 

I looked for her.

When I had my chance – when I wasn’t afraid.

I think it is what Letty would have done.

It was difficult and my parents were not very helpful in the beginning.

They told me where or how they got me.

It took quite some time and many meetings to get everything okayed and with the changes in the systems even then the papers were partially lost or hard to trace.

 

I was directed to the place – school or home.

I visited a lot. While they tried to find the papers – I even tried to help while I was there – I – when I was there, it was, orphanage is the name, yes – it was an orphanage.

It was very hard.

They had women there, waiting to give birth, waiting to give their children over. The women in charge told me some of them were there for their sixth or seventh child in a row.

 

It didn’t matter what they said – they refused everything, sterilisation contraception anything. Many of them were very religious. Many didn’t seem to know better.

It was very hard.

I try help them, the staff, the -. Just small amounts.

As I went. Always visiting to try and find her.

I remember seeing the children first time. There were many in the room, all in enclosed beds. The smell, it was – they’d try get your attention. Anyway they could. The only way they could.

Some would cry with their arms out.

Others would stand or sit and bang and knock and bump their head against the bars of their cot bed.

They knew…

if they banged and knocked their heads, they’d get picked up.

So they did – over and over.

Banging banging knocking knocking, crying.

Just to be picked up, only to be picked up.

They knew you see.

They knew and I think they’d always known and they did what they needed to, to get picked. Up or I don’t know, just picked.

Just horrible.

I never went back.

I gave up.

I’m happy though.

I still think about her sometimes.

But it’s too hard. To keep looking.

To go back.

I still think about Letty too and how I don’t remember her.

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Mittens and The Economist by E F Fluff

mittens 1

They told me he deserves what he had coming to him.

That it was about time.

That, he’d always been a bit of an asshole.

It was a wonder it’d taken so long.

They often say that.

 

An asshole?

When we were young, when we were kids; he always hit to hurt.

Always went too far.

A cruel streak?

Yeah.

Something like that. Yeah.

There’s not much sympathy for him.

Then why did you hang out with him?

We’ve all been friends since school…

Always hit to hurt eh?

Yeah.

Something like that. Yeah.

There’s not much sympathy for him.

Then why did you hang out with him?

We’ve all been friend since school…

Always hit to hurt eh?

Yeah…

But wh-

Got away with it because he’s so big, I guess, I think…

Big?

I don’t think you remember…

Oh, I remember him being tall alright…

Very.

What?

Very tall.

What?

He’s just very tall is all.

Yeah.

Big. He threw his weight around.

Ah.

Always drank too much.

I see.

But if no one really likes him, then why the silence?

No one is going to witness anything-we’ve known each other since we were kids.

That motherfucker nearly killed me.

I think he’s having trouble at home. With the wife. They have kids, small ones. I think. He’s unhappy.

Unhappy?

No sex? Kids? She got fat?

Huh.

Maybe an affair? Bad books. I’m not sure, I know he’s unhappy, haven’t seen him that drunk in awhile, maybe years, he’s not even out that much.

Oh.

He was wasted when I got there.

Wasted? He could barely speak when I got there.

Yeah.

I don’t understand why he was so obsessed with me.

I was talking about you.

Oh. Yeah?

Yeah. Just talking about my Irish lover.

Yeah?

Of course Badger!

Yeah it’s not like anyone else had that much interest in me…

has he got something for you or something?

He did.

Oh?

Yeah. Nothing happened though.

Yeah?

I mean he wanted it to. But it didn’t.

Yeah?

For years.

So he’s had a crush on you?

For years, since we were young.

Ah…

Yeah. Well, we had a bit of a fumble recently.

Oh..makes sense..

No! Badger! Nooo! It was incredibly drunken and I didn’t want it.

A fumble?

Ohokay, he tried it on, I said no, I didn’t want to, pushed him away…turned away.

Got a wife yeah?

Yeah, apparently she’s very stuffy.

Yeah.

Yeah it’d be weird and mbleh!

Yuck Badger! Complications!

Thought you didn’t like him?

I don’t! But we were young! You know how it is, don’t you have people like that?

So you’re sure you weren’t the affair before I got here?

What!? No! Badger! Complications!

Jus’ checkin’

Para?

No, just wanna know the lay of the land is all, I give no fucks-I’m here now..with you..fuck it…just checking…working things out, the way you do after someone tries to kill you…

Badger…

I didn’t fuck him.

I didn’t ask.

We never fucked.

I didn’t ask.

Yes, you did.

No, I asked if you were the affair.

Same thing.

No.

Suppose.

Totally.

Yeah…

Drink up Badger! You’re so slow!

I don’t see it as slow.

Oh? Yeah?

No. I see it as methodical. You-you guzzle.

Guzzle?

Yah, eh, glug-glug Shit-eh…like eat/drink really fast, a glutton…like a kid with sweets. Shit, eh, you got the Internet on your phone?

Yeah.

Dict dot org

Dick dot org?

Shut your whore mouth

Badger!

Gimme…

See.

Yeah! Badger, like I always say; we’re here for a good time, not a long time.

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Flashbacks are weird eh?

Yeah, that story is wild!

Yeah.

Threats though?

Huh?

You mentioned threats?

Oh yeah, hold up I can show you on Skype, let me pull it up.

 

The winter had turned malevolent.

The old granny with the extra long thumbnail intent she knows how to tendon pressure-point like surgery.

“Yeah my fucking arm…right in the crook.”

“Ache for hours.”

“Yeah!”

“The winter was like that.”

“Okay.”

 

We’d been hanging out for a few weeks at this point.

It was disorderly. Chaos drinking and very fighty affection broken up by hangovers and drunken disagreements. But the sex was good.

Okay, the sex was weird, but good, but great, but weird.

 

Weird?

She fucked my foot.

Oh yeah, monster foot eh?

Except in Afrikaans

Weird though?

Well, it was sometimes fraught.

Fraught?

Right, okay

Ok.

Okay,

We met through a dating site right?

Right.

That’s all a story in itself.

Yeah, yeah, I remember now, that was shady.

Shady?

It wasn’t right.

Yeah…

Fucked up creepy weird shit.

Yeah

Sorry man did mean to, go on.

It’s okay, it was…

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The apartment had a balcony. It was on the seventh floor of one of the Merihaka apartment blocks. Big bleak Soviet towers configured like a mini-village on the edge of the Baltic sea.

It was viciously cold and the blocks created wind tunnels that’d sear the enamel from your teeth.

I used to smoke there. It was always a bit of expedition. You had to wrap up even for a covered balcony and it was often so cold you couldn’t taste your cigarette.

 

I can’t remember what I was doing by the balcony, but I was lost in thought and she came up behind me silently, ran her fingers into my hair, curled them about then gave it a sharp twisted thug.

 

I didn’t know I had trigger shit with my hair.

 

The sudden jolt of hair pain was like a switch turning off all and any affection for her and I had to ask her to leave. I tried to do it gently, tried explaining but it ended in a row that spilled over to Skype.

 

Yeah?

Yeah.

Told me her best friend called me Black Tar Heroin. Told me her friends had told her not to see me any more. Told me some of her friends wanted to kick me in the throat.

For what!?

I don’t fucking know…

Look, there on Skype.

Anyway, the Economist.

Yeah shit sorry, I had to explain the threats. Anyway, the economist.

 

I’d gone to Navy Jerrys to watch a DJ as I had a try out later in the week. I was to get a feel for the place. She phoned said there was a birthday party in Kallio, asked me if I wanted to join them. By the time I got there it was the bars had closed and they were going back to someone’s apartment.

 

When I got in, there was this shitfaced economist who got very hassle-y.

Kalle was his name I think. Said he’d heard a lot about me…heard I was an English teacher, he wanted classes, he wanted to make his English better. He was an economist, he needed to get his English better.

In fairness, his English was shit.

He sounded like a drunk Finn trying to do an impression of a drunk Russian trying to do an impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator.

He was demanding English classes, demanding I help him make his English better. It was very drunk in your face, he was demanding prices, and I kept telling him he could phone me on Monday when we were sober, and I could find out what he needed, test his level of fluency. But he was demanding prices now now…

Fucker.

Yeah I gave him my number repeated it’d take a sober meeting, he kept demanding now, now…

Then one of the women at the computer distracted the situation with “Sullivan, do you want to queue a song?”

Taking the out, I wandered over.

 

The apartment was the typical Finnish cramped bedsit.

Though they never called it a bedsit.

Open plan. A small hallway led to a small kitchen. A large bed took up most of the room and there was a computer in the corner. The average living space there seemed to be somewhere between fifteen square metres to twenty-two or five.

It could be cosy.

But it was often oppressive.

 

As I wandered over someone handed me a bottle of Port.

Late bottled vintage or something.

I remember saying something like…

“This is so good someone would have to wrestle it off me.”

That’s the only thing I can think of, the only fucking only think I could think of later that could have given him any reason.

Well ‘cept for the other-

Well now yeah, retrospectively yeah those other things.

 

Next thing I know Kalle the economist had snaked his arms around my neck into a chokehold around the throat. You know, the crooked elbow from behind type?

Yeah. Fuck he could have killed you.

I think he nearly did.

I’m tugging at his arm, and I go to pull his thumb and fingers back you know, to break them?

Yeah.

He leaned his head in to my ear and laughed and told me “You’ll have to do better then that” then hoisted me off my feet. Think the last thing I thought was “Than, than motherfucker…”

It kicked in pretty immediately. I was choking and foam was coming out of my mouth.

I went to swing the port bottle at his head, but someone caught it, and dragged it from my hands.

I was just there…

in the air

thrashing

foaming spit was all that was coming out of my mouth

thrashing

As he hoisted me up further

some of the foam sprayed across the bed

then one of the women started screaming

That sounds suspicious as fuck.

Yeah

Then he just jumped up and brought me down to the floor, you know like a Stonecold Stunner or WWE wrestling neckbreaker or something…

He could have killed you.

He nearly did, I don’t know why he didn’t…or how…the doctors were shocked…he should have crushed my larynx…and I’d have just died on the floor trashing and clawing at my throat…

Fuck

Yeah. I blacked out for a moment.

When I came to

I was on the floor and he was around me and still choking me.

Women were screaming.

People were there, I was told they made an attempt at pulling us apart, but I don’t remember any of that.

Just him choking me and being unable to breathe and the warm foam of spit spilling over my lips.

Fuck

Yeah…

I felt like I was going to black out again, so I just went limp in his arms. Completely limp. The screaming got more intense. I thought it’d change things, but, the cunt just tightened his grip at first. That’s what did it for me. His reaction to it was to tighten his grip, this cunt was trying to kill me.

Fuck’s sake…certainly sounds like it.

So I lost my temper…

Like…completely fucking lost my temper…

Red mist…that shit…

went more limp,

full dead weight,

give him what he wants

seemed to have gave him a fright as he only momentarily and slightly loosened his grip…

And?

And that was all I fucking needed…

I was able to turn my head into his ribs and I pressed my face into his ribs and I got my teeth around the edge of one of them, and I bit that fucker. I bit that fucker harder than I’ve ever bit anything. I bit and I fucking held until I heard him scream.

Until the my teeth scraped off rib.

Until my teeth met between the flesh.

Jesus!

When he screamed, I hung on.

When he screamed, his grip loosened

And I was able to slip from his grip

up and back around him

And just like that I had him in a sleeper hold.

 

Standing in the middle of a room

Holding this big guy

tighter and tighter

Fuck Sullivan

 

I think he struggled a bit, punched me some in the back and ribs.

Whenever he did, I just tightened the hold

I had it rough about his head for a bit of it… I think…

Think?

Well yeah, at one point when he was punching me so I tightened it around his temple as hard as I could until he howled.

I may have been talking to him I don’t remember.

Talking?

Void shit, that fury abyss voice you use when someone has nearly killed you.

Eh?

Guttural promises and hissed questions, that sort of red mist shit.

Ah.

I readjusted it back about his neck after another punch to the back.

 

People were shouting at me to let him go

I couldn’t speak properly

My throat was fucked

Mouth kept filling up with blood and foam

It took everything to un-strangle the words and bark at someone

“He’s a fucking lunatic, I’m not letting him go, he tried to break my fucking neck!”

 

“You’re killing him!”

“He can’t breathe!”

“You’re going to kill him!”

 

“Badger…”

 

“He’s suffocating!”

 

“Badger…”

 

“He’s killing him!”

 

“Badger…”

 

“Somebody do something!”

 

“Badger…”

 

“He’s suffocating!”

 

Someone lifted his arm and it flopped down by his side

 

“Badger”

 

“You’re going to kill him!”

 

“Let him go!”

 

“Badger let him go.”

 

When I let him go, he fell away on his hands and knees for a second coughing, I staggered away holding my throat, but he near immediately jumped up and drew back and was about to charge me and as he did, I did the only thing I could think of…

What?!

I rushed forward at him with my finger pointed and roared

“DON’T!”

What happened?

He froze.

And that was the end of that.

We were separated, he was taken to the hallway rubbing his throat and his ribs.

I sat down near the computer in the corner by the window.

One of the men looked at me rubbing my throat trying to say “fuck” and angrily began to snap “You brought that on yourself!”

I wheeled on him, “Brought what on myself! That cunt tried to break my fucking neck!” and he melted back into silence.

Someone handed me the port again and Mittens sat down beside me asking me if I was okay.

I looked down the room. He was with three men, pointing at me, and had to be escorted to the toilet to prevent it kicking off again.

No one had done anything.

“Badger, do you want to go?”

“In a minute…”

I resolutely skulled the bottle of port. Half or two thirds of whatever was there, in two or three long glugs.

Leaving was a surreal chaos where her friend threw beers at us, gave us beers to take home and then we were out in the snow and I was pausing to spit blood into the snow. We argued over whether it was blood or port.

Which was it?

I’m pretty sure port ain’t bright blood red.

 

You could have killed him!

I should have.

I should have just snapped his neck

Choked him out

Probably would have been easier.

Prison is lava though.

Prison is indeed lava.

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Her sister, a lung specialist, wanted me to go to the hospital immediately.

I was not fully registered and could not afford it.

I decided to try and wait it out.

What followed was a four day nightmare.

My back was fucked from it.

The damage to my throat wouldn’t let me sleep.

Each time I would begin to drift and my body would relax, my throat would close up. Deep tissue damage or something.

But I’d immediately wake up, unable to breathe, clawing at my throat, trying to force my throat open. Sometimes she’d suddenly slap me on the back or shake me and the shock would force things back working.

I couldn’t eat.

Even drinking liquids was painful.

I had to remain tense.

Except for the moments where exhaustion would take me, and my throat would close and-

Fucking hell man!

 

On the fourth day, driven nuts from being awake and the pain, in the small hours of the morning, I tried to overdose on sleepers.

No easy feat with a fucked throat, I had to work each one down. Like this…

Jesus!

She found me in the bathroom and scattered the pills.

I don’t remember much after that except apparently I slept for thirty or more hours.

We went to the hospital after that.

It was a long wait.

While we were waiting, Mittens turned to me and said, “I hope you know I won’t help you. I’m not going to help you with this, besides the doctors. I won’t help you.”

“What, why?”

“They’re my friends, I’m not going to help you or rat.”

“He tried to break my neck.”

“I won’t help you.”

“Okay…”

All in all we were there over fourteen hours, maybe more.

When we were in with the doctor, the doctor was very firm about making a police complaint. I said I would not. This angered the doctor and I had to explain that I could not and that my girlfriend would not help.

I told the doctor to tell her what she’d told me.

The doctor then went on to ask if anyone there had been a doctor or nurse. The answer was no.

She then went on into graphic detail about what could have happened had he crushed my throat. What it would have looked like. My trashing about the floor clawing at my throat.

How long it would have taken me to die.

How long?

Not as long as you’d think not as short as you’d like and not long enough for help to get there.

She then asked to speak with Mittens on her own.

When I came back Mittens was a whiter shade of pale and stressed looking. She looked at me and said “Okay I will help.”

 

What did the doctor say?

 

She gave Mittens a speech about how it was near a civic duty to report the guy, that it was likely he did this all the time and got away with it. She asked if he had a wife and kids. Mittens said yes. She said if he does this stuff out, there stood a good chance he was doing it at home. That he needed to be reported. She then went into more graphic detail about how I could have died. Mittens promised me she would help me.

 

That’s something.

 

She didn’t really though.

 

It rounded on a nauseatingly long series of emails.

He had a daughter I think. It all seemed bad. I just wanted the costs of the hospital and treatment for my throat. Made clear I felt bad for the little girl.

The hospital were very understanding and kept delaying the bill while I dealt with him.

He was demanding non-disclosure agreements and other crazy expensive things.

I had to tell him if he wanted those things, it involved lawyers, and then I would have to go the police.

Said he didn’t remember anything, only that he had a scar on his ribs.

Eventually he agreed to pay the hospital bills.

And I thought it taken care of.

Except he lied.

Paid a small services fee. Lied about the rest.

Next thing I know the hospital has issued me a court writ for the unpaid bill he said he’d paid that they’re now suing me for and I was forced to go to the police.

All the lady in billing said I had to do was keeping phoning them.

But…

He’d lied and said he’d paid.

 

Fucking idiot.

 

Seems a very arrogant Finnish male thing that’s common.

But yeah, fuckin’ idiot.

 

I always wondered if his wife knew. She worked for some big law firm in Helsinki. Before court he emailed trying to convince me court was pointless and to bribe me with an offer of €1000 or €1500, I can’t recall, telling me it was far more than I’d get in court.

I didn’t see the email until after.

 

Asshole.

Yep.

Court was fucked anyway, the security guards gave me a hard time over having medicine with me until I had a panic attack and had to be carried out of the court house by four security guards. The interpreter told me it was very common for the security guards to cause panic attacks, I wasn’t even the first one that day. Regardless, I had her apologise for me.

He was there alone.

No lawyer.

No friends.

No wife.

 

Guess he didn’t tell the wife then?

Or she told him to sort it himself.

 

We settled out of court with a stipulation that we shake hands outside of court and that he apologise to me.

 

Yeah?

Yeah.

How’d that go?

Remember when I said she’d said he was big?

Yeah

When we went to meet outside the court and he walks up, I’m just staring up. He was two meters or a little over and not one of the skinny gangly ones, but built solid as fuck. What the fuck is a two metre cunt like that doing picking on someone my size?

Bullies.

Yeah, bullies, and whatever else.

And whatever else…

That’s some shady shit.

Yep.

 

Throat has never quite been the same though.

Took a very long time for the closing episodes to fully die away.

Fuck, yeah you told me. Horrendous shit.

 

Sometimes, I wonder did the wife ever find out.

Or if some of the later legal was because of the wife.

I wonder if they got divorced.

I know mittens stayed friends with him.

Oh?

When she got back in touch with the Untamed Heart storyline about the Romanian ex-hacker porn star…

That was wild!

Yeah, they were still friends on Facebook.

Always did wonder how big the scar was.

Hopefully big enough so he remembers.

Yeah…

They did say he had it coming to him.

They often say that.

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Warm Snow by E F Fluff

It’s so cold the pink-dappled-green-brown-bubbled phlegm just sits on top of the snow. Normally it’d sink down a bit.

There’s no time to the memory. It becomes endlessly repeating.

The room is small. As you walk in, to your right, the entire wall was a mirrored wardrobe. Two-fifths of this was side-by-side shoe racks, another, her clothes. Toward the end, one has been cleared for me. A double bed sat along the entrance wall.

I didn’t have linens, so these were provided for me. There’s a skinny duvet, a curtain; velveteen with fake plastic feeling silk squares doubles as a blanket.

Pillows, a motley collection of small couch cushions used to create a partial igloo against the relentless draft. Two the consistency of deep-dish pizza for sleeping.

Routinely muscles lock and get infected from the cold. Old spine damage erratically roars into life, renewed and filled with spite.

I’m still loose temporally, melting through these flashbacks.

The pink in the phlegm holds brighter on the snow; it could be the darkness, long night an all that.

Something about it and the metallic in my mouth warps me back to climbing a mountain with a broken hand. It’s Snowdon, and the air is filled with winged ants. The pig path, and every grabbed rock is pain.

Tongue Metallics bring out the wrong in the cigarettes in a Wonka flush of flavours and disguised chemicals.  

Back to the pink star speckled glisten and white, and sinking melding brown of harsher mucus.

Lying on my back now, legs propped up against the wall with pillows. Oedema legs swollen to a point where the skin feels ready to burst. Walking, standing, even sitting is pain.

This is all that works.

In a few days the translator will tell me she is a psychopath.

Afraid then, when I look back, it is rippled with a sort of horror-riddled luck.

The conversation is upside down and awkward.

Though I’m fading in and out of memory.

It’s 8am and my legs are up with the first oedema. A few days ago I collapsed with chest pain. The translator dragged me to the bed. The last thing I said before I fell was “no ambulances.”

She performed CPR of varying energy for an hour, and exhausted, ended up lying awkwardly on top of me simultaneously trying to pump-rub my chest as trying to use her heartbeat to normalise mine.

Teeth gritting pain roars in remote lighthouse waves. I remember only darkness but it’s a full dark, of colour like a television that has just been turned off. Back arching chest explosions of pain and all we remember my hissing was

“Long afloat on shipless oceans”

…and, maybe now that I think about it –

“Holy fuck that’s pain…”

and probably, “Hnnghugh!”

But I’m pretty sure that’s it.

After more episodes, I wonder if she has been poisoning me. It sounds paranoid. But things began to correspond with heavy metal poisoning, strychnine or something. It could be the pollutants from the construction, riddled as it is with asbestos. Some of which vents out from the end of a pump-inflated tube that snakes from the basement down the hallway out under my window. A flapping thing like the car lot advertising tube men. Except for nothing but cancer.

Sitting on the floor of a shower room, my face is caked, dripping Cillit Bang, coconut milk and pineapple juice. There’s crushed chunks of pineapple in my ear holes.

The water is still running orange.

Three bouncers tried to hold me down and pepper spray me. They tried hard to pull my hands off my face and get the spray into my eyes, as close as possible. An ex-bouncer remarks, “they were trying to blow out your retinas, in essence, blind you.”

“Yeah I know what blowing out my retinas means”

Fury is a fascinating emotion.

“No! No it’s not! It fucking isn’t! Take that back! You don’t know what you’re fucking talking about!”

An electronic musician and producer with a thick unaware vein of aspiring to be a sort of Phil Spectre Svengali has swerved from complaining his woman rap band want to do a few sex songs, and how he, as a feminist, cannot allow it. To shouting at me, it is a like a wobbly twin-prop of spitty of fury taking off across the room toward me.

Conversation tilted in to balls-out gauche questions about the Irish, and “Are you all like this?” and how different the Finns were, and “probably an islander thing,” said with a smug sniff.

“Well yeah, but you’d have to look at it, that the Finnish are islanders too. Marshlanders, swamp dwellers? Islands, islanders, skulking about the lake lands in their little murder skiffs with their little pointed Finnish hats pulled up dark.”

“What! Say that again!”

“I said …” 

Riddled with thousands of lakes. Part of Scandinavia but not really Scandinavia. Fenno what? Russian, but not Russian, Swedish, but not Swedish. Touching Norway, but just the tip. Distrustful of, and disliked by your neighbours. Worried about foreigners arriving. It sort of is an island, and so, the Finnish and Irish have somethings in common. At least that’s what I used to say to them, not so sure anymore.”

“To who?”

“To you, the Finnish.”

Corpulent to a sort of shaggy melted flesh point of self disregard, this seemed to elicit a swelling skip through the red spectrum. And he grew more violent in his demands for me to recant, take back, revise, and after a hard shoulder shove, was now, taking another shot at the shouting runway.

When abruptly, our mutual friend just stood up, and slapped him echoingly hard across the face and everything stopped. And with a hand clutching his face in wild bewilderment, he appeared confused and disconnected from what had just happened, and asked just that.

“What…what just happened…?”

“You were shouting. So I slapped you

“Shouting? About?”

“I said the Finnish and Irish have something in common because they are both islanders.”

“Can, can you explain what you mean? How?”

Fury is a strange emotion.

New Years Eve 2018. After a lame fuck around, I’m on my own. I’ve just published my first book. It has taken two decades of imposter fear.

I’ve a bag of fireworks we were supposed to let off. I have a few cans of beer, a bottle of sparkling wine.  

It’s snowing.

There are rocks by my apartment. Helsinki is a city carved out and into inhospitable rock. Like the people.  

I live near Linnanmäki. It’s a beautiful thing to live beside; the distant rising, falling sounds of rollercoaster terror and laughter.

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At the arse end of Kallio, the workers district, now the last old poor bohemian district fading into corrupt gentrification.  

You can always tell when an old curiosity Bagpuss second-hand on an old street that used to be called stab street that leads to a square once called amphetamine turns into a small Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The rocks rise behind Linnanmäki, leading to forest-park filled with released rabbits making a go of it and the owls that eat them. It’s there I used to go when things were less. It’s there I go now.

PTSD is a potent voodoo. One panic attack before leaving triggers the narcolepsy so I collapse. I’m lucky not to bang my head this time.

I find the old perch, a ledge you’ve to climb around to. It overlooks the city, rail line and a step this way will kill you ravine.

Snow dusts down television static. It feels like the temperature keeps dropping. My fingers are beyond numb to pain back to a sort of numb that still hurts.

Joints – everything veers between sharp ache and numb and a slow ambient beat of ow.

There’s a distant alien warmth. It frills, nudges, creeps, pulls and drags.

City lights, trains and cars roll below, the poor district, raised so it could look down on the rich. A bizarre turnabout badly proving the stupidity of the rich now hungering for the space. 

The edging warmth is an odd bit of foreplay.

The doctor, Hakaniemi; an economist attempted to break my neck at a party with a crude WWE style wrestling hoist and drop from behind.

According to a throat specialist, I’ve deep tissue damage. I’ve difficulty swallowing, and sometimes if I turn my head, my throat closes and I lose function, and life becomes a sudden clawing panic.

This is best when it happens at the edge of a train platform and I am wearing a scarf. Things become a sudden frantic claw that blips back to normal, like the only person in the film who can see the ghosts.

Finnish doctors are often disinterested, and riddled with prejudice. If you look different, you’re likely a liar and a reprobate.

I’ve been trying to get treatment for my throat for a while. The GP has decided that the throat specialist is wrong.

My girlfriend is there. Conversation clicks in and out of Finnish and English. It feels like I am at the vet or in some slave dystopia. They laugh at jokes that go untranslated, sometimes their Finnish dips into that throaty deep I notice Finnish women get when talking sex or visceral things. This happens a lot when you’re the foreign significant other. The remarks are often followed with a chuckle and a horse market comment you imagine is something like “That’s a good breeder there, strong teeth.”

The doctor says she wants to check lower spine muscle tone for damage. She wants to do this via sticking a finger in my asshole. It sounds bullshit, but, when in Rome, and anything to get some treatment for my throat.

She asks if I mind if my girlfriend remains. “I don’t give a fuck, sure she’s seen everything and been up there finger and tongue”.

I assume the position as she lubes up.

No wine, no dinner, it’s not as easy as she expects it to be, as she’s easing in, she says, “relax, easy, see just like childhood.” The tone has that snide mischief curl and my girlfriend immediately bursts out laughing. The doctor starts laugh-faux-apologising, and in the end, I start laughing, and push her finger out of my ass. Naturally, we have to do it again. I’m told to clench and squeeze around her finger. Conversation laughs between Finnish and English on how to tell someone to clench the back muscles, not the front.

Thankfully being anally raped by the Hakaniemi doctor is over shortly.

This is Finland after all…

I shiver back and retrieve another firework from my bag, light if off my cigarette and fling it into the ravine. A stream of bangers, candles, firecrackers and repeaters follows it.

Draw. Puff. Draw. Spark. Fling.

Shivering is constant; I have to rub my fingers to get them to cooperate in the cold.

I open one of the wines and trudge through slugs in a flurry of cigarettes and explosions.

There is a sort of monotony to the light fizz, bang, shake, smoke, spit. I’m glad though, particularly in that my face remains boringly not blown off.

Lungs ache and my eyelids are heavy.

I find myself thinking the snow seems to be warming up, and that’s good, we could use a bit of warm snow.

A lung specialist is telling me the x-rays are clear.

A girlfriend asks if anyone had translated the x-ray specialist’s summary stating I was suffering from numb toes and it seems like the specialist was just spinning things to make my cigarette has gone out.

Snow and the only bits that have some warmth are a memory of it in my boots.

The bottle drains and the non-silence of the city, listening to distant sirens and cars rolling beneath.

Piling warm snow is hard to notice with sticky eyes. There’s a cacophony of people; familiar places, but always leaving. Dinner parties, old birthdays, on and back to Amsterdam home bars and people always talking around in a loud Grogans din.

Warm snow

Just like childhood.

E.F. Bio
E.F Fluff is still trying to escape a Kafka-esque nightmare of corruption, death threats, violence, white collar crime, and bigotry in Finland, and Ireland. Seriously. The photos above are all theirs.
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The strange tale of the Disco Loris by EF Fluff

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The strange tale of the Disco Loris

I met him at a rave. Or, to be more exact, the after-rave of a rave.

He was a blonde, whippet skinny, and a skater.

He mumbled, and spoke in constant oscillation from normal to almost incomprehensible nasty comment peppered sub-frequencies, and on to furious infrasound muttering.

He lived with his brother, who he said was autistic, successful, and lamentably, had thrown his life away to video game addiction.

He suffered chronic depression, or so he said, and he wrestled constantly with his drug appetites. Primarily, weed, and amphetamine, and anything else he could get his hands on.

He was, he said, desperately lonely, but was prone to lapsing into hateful misogyny about “Finnish whores who only wanted to fuck foreign men.

He was prone to mood swings, and would sometimes appear at my door, to be let in, to sit, mumbling to himself, ignoring everyone in the room, cut up lines of amphetamine he offered no one but himself.

He was suspicious of everything I said, as if I was constantly telling tall tales, and or laying traps for him in fallacy or pisstake.

He spoke of the free party movement, and wanting to put parties on that were completely free, but then would sell beer, and food, and sometimes charge in.

He didn’t drink much without amphetamine, and when he did drink, it was mostly sweet and dry ciders.

He made electronic music, and used to perform with Korgs, though said taking acid one night had led to a terrible fuck-up that’d contributed to his breakdown.

He complained about impotence, from nerves and whatever else, and in the small scene that existed in Helsinki, venomous gossip rang back that “sure he could lick pussy, but he can’t fuck.”

His childhood friend used to offhand explain his behaviour, that he was just gay. But then, it was Finland, and toxic masculinity ran deep, and men’s’ perceived weaknesses, and frailties were often explained as them being homosexual.

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The same friend used to secretly record people speaking on his phone, and rant about his genius, wanting to be a rock star, hurt people, be dead, and his numb penis. He’d sell his hip openness to impressionable women in the underground scene by talking about college orgies, being Bi, and sucking cock. Though later when you privately commended him on his openness, in the smoking area of a bar, would hush you down, and with angry-worry tell you “It was just that one time. I don’t like guys. I don’t suck cock. I know I said, made it out like that accidentally, but you misunderstood, it was just that one time. And I didn’t really like it.”

He used to shadowbox at my head and face, when my back was turned or to the side, bobbing around to my face. He did this until he gave me half a startle, and the hyper arousal of PTSD unloaded a stream of conditional invectives.

We worked together, and ran and plotted raves together.

The parties were good, and long, and addled with bad burning amphetamine that I’d long suspected was danced on meth. Or some Moomin willows bark extraction.

He would say we should be playing the big clubs then “you going play live this time?”, and always accuse us of playing pre-recorded sets, even when shown otherwise.

He intermittently made rape jokes, and got petulant if you didn’t laugh.

He was chronically jealous of the women I collaborated with, and used to say things in front of them like, “When you want to collaborate with a real artist, you know where I am.”

He listened to me meticulously detail the outline for a concept EP, then immediately stole the idea.

The first I would learn of this was when he linked me the track I had described to him, on the Metro, as we returned from preparing an old bunker for a rave.

He constantly begged and hassled for my ADD medication, and whinged loudly when he was refused.

He would invite me for a drink only to hassle me for something to take the edge off the days of amphetamine. And when refused, grow sullen, and complained I was there, and that he had to speak English.

He got jealous of the fact I gave the people around me nicknames, so I called him the Disco Loris. He thought this was a derisory reference to the size of his eyes.

I never explained that like the Loris, he was slow and cute, and that drew people in. But also like the Loris, when he raised his arms, he was readying hidden venom.

He’d written a book, but rarely spoke about it.

He would seek sanctuary after raves, and often pull up his hood, and weep, and sometimes, have to be sedated.

He woke me up late one night, and came by asking to “watch a film and sleep,” but got grumpy when I made the bed for him on the couch, and retreated to the loft. So grumpy, he could not decide what to watch, and lost interest. And when I, now awake, kept talking, flew into a fury, and stormed off into the night.

He once arrived at my door, with his hard drive, demanding my entire performing folder. So that he could perform them. Like I would. Warm eyes belying the truth of the social engineering attempt at the hard grift.

He used to write me notes about alpha and beta behaviour, imagined humiliations, long winding, screw-mouthed things left on newspapers, letters, and my wall.

He had blue eyes, and a gambling machine smile that shot around his face like the end of a summer squall.

And he was a snitch.

He used to save and travel, and Facebook brag post about the drugs he brought back. Because no one understood Finnish, and he knew those people, he knew them.

Whenever I travelled, he used to hassle me to bring him back hash, weed, or if possible, ecstasy. Anything. Even though I had long ago stopped smoking, and dropping was blue moon. Drugs were so expensive in Finland he reasoned it made sense.

He hassled with growing regularity, and intensity, that only telling him “I’ll see, I’ll see what I can do.” would get him to “Do, see, see what you can do, please.” And he’d stop.

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One October, I was returning on the red-eye back to Helsinki. It was a long journey, riddled with delays, and gate changes. In Stockholm airport, the gate appeared changed, and the route was a labyrinth walk to a smaller side gate, that led to an escalator down, second security, and to the waiting area.

The flight was sparse, and held mostly only returning suited business people, and myself.

As I descended toward security on that escalator, I was met with the vision of something I had never seen before.

Two lines of airport security each with a dog beside them, stood, facing each other so they formed a tunnel. A tunnel of security dogs, maybe six or eight deep. Three or four on either side.

It seemed incredibly intense for a handful or three of business people, and me.

As the escalator brought me unavoidably down to the tunnel of dogs, a shiver of fear ran through me, and my mind raced to try, and remember the last time a friend had smoked a joint around me.

Had I cleaned my clothes after, or been wearing this coat?

The knowledge I had nothing, and had done nothing but my prescription for so very long, allowed me to smile, stare straight ahead, and walk through the tunnel of dogs. Another one joining even as I did.

He asked did I bring anything, enquired about the journey, and seemed genuinely irritated I was back safely.

We rarely spoke after this incident, and he drifted angrily off, barely to be seen again.

E.F. Bio
E.F Fluff is still trying to escape a Kafka-esque nightmare of corruption, death threats, violence, white collar crime, and bigotry in Finland, and Ireland. Seriously. The photos above are all theirs.