Carmina – Part I
There was a man sitting at the table, alone, surrounded by people. Glasses, curly hair and stubble, jeans, crumby T-shirt, nice button-down, and vintage jacket – a real whore of a thing. Markets on a Sunday, and the cold underground expanse of world foods in the middle of London. How very fashionable and embracing of the world. He looked about thirty and either sad, or hungover, but probably not both. He had a couple of lemon & ginger Malaysian pancakes, so it had to be one or the other.
There was an opened brown leather bag and a book of some kind of literary note that no one really cared about him reading. Some books are like that, but in the right mood, the composition, subject matter, and all of that stuff can feel just like a beautifully soft Malaysian pancake sliding into your sandy mouth. Get some coffee too, and you’re in business.
He looked up from the book and stared at, then felt bad about staring at, a black kid with a dyed-blonde high top fade and a T-Shirt that read ‘You only fail if you try’. Then a trio of two women and one man asked to sit down at his table. He thought he’d been caught staring in a racist but not racist way. It was just crowded, so he nodded and went back to the book. Stopping in on the pancakes and coffee first though.
“Is the perrrfect hang-gover food, no?” Said the one with light brown wavy hair all restrained and poignant in a ponytail. She looked beyond thirty and not optimistic, but unerringly hopeful. Some kind of fire and love sat in her, unshakeable, and wrapped in a hand-made dress. She was to the man’s side. A tall stubbly man sat almost opposite him, and another woman sat furthest away from the man with glasses and curly hair and all the rest that defined him. She was also beyond thirty, but maybe younger than the other, or maybe just paler. Her hair was black, slightly greasy with a serious fringe, but crazy earrings.
“Yea, nothun like spicy food to make you forget yer decisions last night, ha!” The other man was definitely Irish, and they were all eating plates of something that was either Spanish, Mexican, or Brazilian.
“Did you regret your decisions last night then did you?”
“Well, I regret falling asleep on top of you, dat’s fer damned shur!” Definitely Irish laughed and shook his head over the tin bowl.
“I’m happy with how things turned out, the gallery was beautiful and there was such good musique!”
“I know, yes”
“But of course there was that guye… he was saying all those things about the anarchy is the waye to solve these problems in Europe. I juss, I Fahking cannot put up with these English assholes.”
“Yes, blaming us”
“Calling our generation selfish! Where, is like, you cannot say these problems come from the size of the populayshun… is like saying all people are this or that.”
“But you met some lovely boy didn’t you…?”
Crazy Earings laughed shyly as a smile spread her lips wide and her pale skin reddened for a small second, “I did make a new friend. He was very sexual, but that is all I’ll say…”
“Foyne by me!”
“If this is goin ta turn into Girl Talk, I might as well go to the loo.”
“No, no, I do not kiss and tell.”
“But you fuck and tell don’t you?”
She gasped and smacked the wooden table.
“You are so cheeky! I cannot believe you sometimes.”
“We are friends a long time. I know enough now anyway. You are a beautiful woman and you do with your amazing body what you will. We no judge you here.”
“Well, it depends girls, dere were some real douchebags at that party, so I’m not sure I should congratulate her until I know who this mystery guy was.”
“You met him. We were dancing together when they started to act like teenagers.”
“I believe I was more than a little out of it at that point.”
“Is very funny, but really, I do not like to talk about it. Tell me, how is Carmina?” Said Crazy Earings.
The man’s eyes stopped moving; they stayed on the page but went blank with wistfulness or arousal.
“Is not so good for her, this situation. She want to move on, which is good because, they were no good together. But, is hard, no?”
“I know, yes.”
“I didn’t re-lies, but he was drinking all the time. He had no time for her. From four in the afternoon, til, very late, he is drinking. And he do that every day. When I come back from Barcelona, it was the summer, so I see him at the bar, but everyone is drinking, so, is a time to cell-ebrate. For me, was normal. But then she tells me, and now I hear, is still going on. So I know, is all the time with him.”
“That’s crayzee. What does he do for work then?” Crazy earrings had both hands either side of her tin foil bowl and leaned forward saying this this.
“He, I think, does some design work, but only bits and pieces. Then he play music sometimes, but is always at the bars you see, so he spend all thee money right away.”
The man put the book down, wedged it open with a stretched pinky finger and gulped some coffee down like it was scotch and he was in a movie, at a crucial emotional crux.
“I knew a guy like dat. When I lived in Rome, this guy was drinkin all the time, but like, he was more functioning drunk than he was sober. See, his job was giving tours and tings of de city, so he’d be talking with people all day, a drink in hand or just always in between tours ya’know? But like, I know it wasn’t good for him, it’s just how he functioned, and he was never really out of control. If you saw him sober, you wouldn’t recognise him though.”
The man looked at Definitely Irish, openly and intentionally with a slightly open mouth and tilt to his head. Definitely Irish saw this in his peripheral but didn’t look directly back. He shrugged to cement the end of everything he had to say for the moment and lifted his bowl to his mouth. Slipping a large forkful into his mouth.
“They have to function though, is the problem; they do it so much, it is impossible without. This is, see Alcohol is the only addiction that kills you.” Poignant Ponytail had an arm outstretched in between
The man was making no progress with his book of some kind of note, but he was finished with the pancakes sadly. He stumbled with a breath and looked sideways at the trio. It pained him being unable to block their conversation out. Hangover or sadness aside, the book simply wasn’t as good as he wanted it to be to him. We’ve all been there.
“Ciga-Rettes, they kill you too, so much cancer and things you know. You quit, but you affected for life.” Crazy earrings chimed in.
“No, no, is the stopping that kills you.”
“Kinda like, Heroin, if you stop it, yer tolerance goes way down and when you do it again, you OD.”
“No, thee withdrawal, Is like, it would hurt, but you would not die. These people who are addicted to alcohol, if they stop it like that, they can die.” She clicked her fingers, the Irissh guy slurped something yellow and steaming into his mouth. The man stopped looking, nodded slightly, put the book aside and looked intently at his phone.
“Your body gets used to a chemical, like the sugars, and it relies on them, so when you take them away, it cannot function anymore. Is very dangerous you know, because in your mind, is just, normal; you feel better and you feel good. But your body is like, dependent on something that is poi-sun…”
“Right, is tragic to see.” Crazy earrings rested her face on a hand and forked a chunk of meat, but Poignant Ponytail was saying all of this without too much creasing in her forehead, it was matter of fact but with more heart.
“Carmina is dealing I guess, because she does not know what to do, he cannot just stop altogether. He has to want to stop and do it uh… he need to go into… um, slowly, he need to stop drinking slowly, and if he does not want to, then she cannot make him. No one can make him.”
“But does she love him, like?” Irish looked like he no response beyond that.
“Is not… I don’t think she does, no. But she can’t leave. ”
“This is a shame. I think she is a beautiful woman, and she has bright future…”
The man closed the book, slipped it into his bag then squashed the paper pancake plate and coffee cup together. There was a bin behind him and he threw them in with a high arc that wasn’t necessary or manly and stood up. He looked at his phone where there was a missed call that he deleted. He turned back to the empty table,
“No. She loves me. She would not leave.”
A pair of young very London looking girls were approaching the table and stopped to stare curiously, if not contemptuously, at him. He shook his head and smiled at them. They sat down and he turned back away, checking the time on his phone. It was just about three o’clock. He shrugged and headed to the bar, swearing it’d be the last time. He’d slow down at least.