A teaser chapter from my ongoing novel Status, a story about fluid identities, auditory bubbles and OCD.
MARCUS WHITE IS…
The city talks through drones and chaos, metering out the time of day through changing pitch and volume. Screeching tyres, over revved of the school run traffic brought to a sudden standstill by defiant jay walking children. The frantic low thunder of midday rush, voices raised with clenched fists and futile horns blaring through the evening jams.
The city talks through drones and chaos. And music. A cacophony of in car dissonance, booming beats or blaring pop, light classic and soft rock soundtracking the frustration, fusing together in the suffocating evening humidity – a symphony of random sounds, privately chosen, publicly aired and competing for oxygen in the heart pounding breathlessness of the faltering, near static traffic flow. Arteries blocked, system grinding to a halt. The heart of the city under stress. The noise of the city, pounding the subconscious with tales of that stress.
Marcus White carefully pushes the white headphones into his ears and reaches for the i-Pod in his jacket pocket. His fingers stroke the smooth casing, bringing him a reassuring sense of security as he rolls down the screen to the controlled random play of ‘shuffle’.
Marcus loves music. Can’t work without it. Can’t walk the streets without it. He soundtracks his life with playlists. Plans his journey through the day. Cool jazz in the morning, smooth R&B during the day, old 70s funk on the way home and down low urban beats when he gets home. His evenings shuffle through the entire spectrum of subterranean grooves, like dubstep, grime, and maybe the odd techno classic. Depending on mood he has the sound to score the moment. A moment defined by his life soundtrack as the reality of the lives that surround him become his personal private music video. When he’s plugged into the i-Pod he’s the director, scriptwriter and editor of his own personal movie. Just him, wandering through the chaos, watching. And listening.
Music, it’s been said, is like cheep perfume. It knows no boundaries, seeps everywhere and forces itself on unwilling people, all victim to their senses. The city’s noise has the same effect. Night and day, twenty-four hour, an often-pungent aroma. Marcus presses play and takes control of his auditory senses and the randomness of shuffle kicks in.
“It’s been along time, we shouldn’t have left you Without a dope beat to step to…”
Aaliyah’s timeless classic ‘Try Again’ filters through Marcus’ headphones, blocking out all of the auditory chaos. Near sexual excitement engulfs him, hairs tingle on the back of his neck as the hissing hi-hat and cello stabs give way to rolling 303s which melt over off-centre beats. The sound seems to create a force field around him, when Aaliyah sings the chorus no one can harm him. It’s a track that puts the stride in his
step. Untouchable. Unreachable. He taps in Twitter and captures the moment, a twenty first century Samuel Pepys documenting the city’s flaming heart.
Marcus White is… a perfumista.
The urban noise aroma thunders like life in discord stretched tight across the pollution hazed horizon. From above the street a loan figure strides up subway steps with a purposeful swagger. He wanders past the neon intensity of a downtown cinema, moving through crowds like gas and crosses the street with the fervent ardour of invincibility seemingly coursing through his body. A taxi screeches to a halt, tamed into a stationary position by the man’s regal demeanour. His eyes scream “I am the king of these streets” as the flat palm of his hand slams down on the bonnet of the car and his mouth spurts out an explosion of expletives, inaudible beneath the solitude of the i-Pod’s soundtrack. Old school gangster rap now. Ice T’s ‘New Jack Hustler’. This man owns the streets.
Back on the pavement, feet still striding through the hubbub of early morning sleaze as soundless words float on the breathy steam of people wandering head first into the chaos of daily life.
There’s something nostalgic about steaming breath Marcus thinks as his eye view wanders past ripped billboards inviting punters to last night’s pleasure palace, or last year’s must-see movie.
The sensation of seeing your breath hang in the air, like a wordless rumour, takes him back to a time when he was a child and his parents took him to the North of England. Little remains of that time but the lingering memories of a lifetime travelling and then the biting, lip burning cold that fuses shivering misery with the magical joy of seeing your breath taking flight in clouds of steam.
The low sub-level mumble of words shared with a magazine seller whose stall dominates the street corner, but unseen by passers by that take its presence for granted. The magazine stall has been there for years, volumes of stories of the street’s gutters filter through the pages of its magazines; high rise gossip from office workers fills the air. The magazine stall is the city’s ears.
As far as Marcus is concerned the magazine vendor can keep the gossip, rumours and chatter as the first beats Ultramagnetic MC’s ‘Give the Drummer Some’ jump, Kool Keith in full iridescent flow, cadence and meter, the poetics of life in motion. ‘I’m ready and now it’s my turn to build, Uplift, get swift, then drift off… and do my own thing, Switch up change my pitch up, Smack my bitch up like a pimp.’
Walking past groups of young men whose body language brags and whimpers in equal measures (Marcus’ sense of survival screams avoid eye contact), the lone figure opens a door, walks in and takes a seat.
Marcus focuses on the room where he immediately starts inane chatter with one of his friends.
“Man, you coming to the Desi Rave this weekend?” Omar is one of Marcus’ oldest friends. They’ve been through everything together. First school, footie in the dusty backstreets; high school, shared girlfriends in breathless darkened rooms. They slammed at gigs and raved till sunrise, tied each other up at their respective stag parties and through whiskey sour parties for the lads to celebrate the birth of each of their first-borns.
Years since that first meeting when Omar kicked Marcus under the table nicked his toy car and ran out to the play area laughing like a lunatic, they had been inseparable, if unlikely friends.
“Omar, you know I can’t go to that kind of event anymore. It’s far too dangerous.”
“Yeah but there’ll be lots of hotties there man and you know how much we like dat kinda shit.”
Marcus thinks for a second. He’s not sure whether to be annoyed at his mates attempts at sounding like some teenage inner city hoodlum, or disappointed by the attraction he feels towards acting like a young, free singleton at a rave featuring music he hates.
“No, I won’t be going my friend. Perhaps we could do lunch next week? Got things to do on Saturday, not my thing…”
But what exactly is ‘my thing’ thinks Marcus. It’s a thought that had inhabited the depthless shadows of his subconscious since earlier in the day when a kid in a sports car knocked him onto the pavement.
Marcus had been walking along the street, heading back to work from his favourite restaurant. His usual lunchtime coffee, “black, strong and sweet, like my women” he’d always joke with Meena, the young waitress who regularly tended his table. He knew she didn’t get the reference to Airplane, one of his favourite movies when he was around her age, and he realised it probably made him seem like a sad old man trying to chat up someone young enough to be his daughter, but he said it all the same. Everyday. It was, he thought, more like a little joke between accidental friends. A joke that put a marker on the day for both him and Meena.
Most days he would turn his i-Pod volume back up (maybe a bit of Ne-Yo to seduce the moment), open the laptop, go to Twitter and change his status bar to something obscure and apparently witty life-byte like “Marcus White is… black, strong and sweet – like his coffee”. Facebook would automatically upodate as well. No one ever commented. No ‘like this’ thumbs up. But he wrote it all the same. A private joke made public from a public private joke. His daily world in byte-sized one-liners.
Today though he didn’t go straight to Twitter. Instead his eyes lingered on Meena a little longer as she walked back to the coffee machine. There was nothing special about her, hair long and dark but scraped back in an unforgiving pony tail, white blouse clinging with sweat to the contours of her back revealing an unfussy white bra strap, jeans tight enough to frame a shapeless ass partially covered by a waitress pinafore tied round her waist by tightly bowed string.
Marcus thought about what his parents might have said about this strange fascination. Clichés like, ‘stick to your own kind’, ‘know your place’ and ‘like will always attract like’.
Nothing about this girl was his usual ‘type’ or kind but quite unexpectedly he felt a surge of excitement he hadn’t experienced since his partying days with Omar. It wasn’t simply lust. That was far too direct an impulse. No, this was an excitement for the unknown, that sense of adrenalised, heart beating, fear soaked euphoria that comes when you jump head and heart first into a brand new world, trying on another person’s life for size and embracing their experiences.
So, Meena the waitress, not so much an unexpected sexual fantasy than a reminder of that desire for freefall. As she handed the drink to him, brown stains around the rim of the cup where the coffee had spilled over, she smiled and, part mocking laughed, “Here. Black, strong and sweet… like your women”. Those words sounded quite pathetic rebounding back to him. Embarrassed, excited, beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. And then cascading to the tabletop exploding a new facet of his life like glass grenades, forced him to onto disquieting, internalised panic.
Who the hell am I? When in hell did I become this person? I used to live for chaos. I used to embrace noise.
He poured the sugar into his coffee, stirred and reached for the normality of the laptop. He opened the usual daily routine on Facebook again and wrote:
Marcus White is… comfortable?
Marcus walked back to the office through the throng of sweating bodies in the stifling heat of the afternoon. The air clung like Meena’s cotton blouse, suffocating, nauseating. Cars streamed past belching fumes and shimmering in the heat hazed tarmac and the jittering post-lunch gossip bellowed over hands free connections contorted itself into the loose limbed and shapeless throb of the early afternoon noise. The city’s sound clock turning it’s choking hands through patterned regularity, counting out footsteps in the chaos
I-Pod turned as loud as the headphones would allow Marcus felt himself clinging to the hope for normality. Smooth R&B, his daytime soundtrack. Maybe something Mary J, waist down sexuality folded into headstrong identity. Instead the Moody Boys Remix of Ian Brown’s ‘Sister Rose’ erupted into his head with its claustrophobic echo drop ambience. A slice of dub step genius. Out of place. An accidental occurrence on his playlist. A fracture in his order.
Marcus at once reached for his i-Pod and double-checked the screen details as if to confirm the track’s identity. He was grabbed by the duel feelings of panic at loss of control and euphoria at unexpected freefall – once again.
Noise is the only pollutant he can control. The auditory senses never switch off, unless destroyed by accident or never switched on in an accident of birth. Each day,
each night, noise is the constant, pressing its tyrannical presence every waking conscious and subconscious thought or action.
For Marcus noise was chaos in control. Each tea spoon stirred in a coffee cup, laughter erupted in cacophonous joy, airplane scraping it’s journey through scarred sky, or electricity pylon pulsing its synapse snapping energy flow; each tiny sound a part of an amorphic, living whole, beating its path through the planet’s daily existence. Chaos in control. Counting out the days.
With his i-Pod plugged in and turned loud he could cut out the chaos and control sound, make noise his own. And with it came that feeling of invincibility, he became surrounding by a bubble of sound, a forcefield that protected him from the unknown outside world.
Marcus White is… inside the music
The Moody Boyz intrusion though, was noise he hadn’t expected. Sure it was part of his collection, but not on his urban afternoon playlist. He fumbled with the circular control on his i-Pod. Stroke. Click. Pause. Forward. Play. Pause. The freefall was like culture shock. Marcus stepped into the road. He could feel his heart pumping a chaotic stream of blood red traffic. Heart racing in the mid day standstill. Palms clammy, head pounding, beats melting mellifluous triplets over ganja soaked sleng teng b-lines and Middle Eastern strings. Sweat cascading from his brow. Glass torpedoes.
He engaged a new playlist and felt instant controlling cool. As Erikah Badu’s liquid gold poured calm over Marcus he felt the wind forced out of his body through a rude and sudden blow to his left hand side. Where once his focus was fixed on the i-Pod he now found his face pressed against the tarmac of the road, the loose chipping digging sharp holes in his skin.
What the fuck?
Erykah still sang like songbird who’s seen too much hurt. World weary, innocence. Marcus’ eyes focused on black of a car tyre that now sat inched away from his face. Smoke smoldered around the tyre treads and the stench of burnt rubber ghosted its way up Marcus’ nostrils mixing with a metallic bloodied aftertaste.
What the fuck?
Marcus checked for his i-Pod. Still in his pocket. Checked for his laptop. It lay on the road next to him, still in its bag. He jumped up, grabbed the laptop bag and put the shoulder strap over his head, whipping the headphones out of his ears in the process. The noise of the afternoon exploded, impacting on his every sense as he faced his tormentor. Shaking with fear, crying at the loss of dignity, screaming with ear splitting anger he grabbed the teenage boy, lifted him and thrust him against the newly dented front left hand side wing of the shiny red Porsche.
“You crazy, stupid old fuck. You stepped out. You stepped out” the teenage driver screamed as the blood from the graze on Marcus’ forehead, diluted by sweat, sprayed
into his neatly gelled hair. “You should open your eyes old man,” he continued as blood splashed across his face and splattered his white shirt. A salty spray from wave after wave of bloodied flume. “You’re fuckin’ insane.” he screamed as sweat diluted blood trickled onto Marcus’ shoes.
Shocked at the severity of his anger Marcus turned away from the driver and ran down alleyways and backstreets. He ran with the leaded feet of a motionless dream, going on and on, but never seeming to move forwards. Everywhere he went looked the same. Dirty brickwork, torn billboard posters, reflecting shop windows, snaking cabs.
After what seemed an age he pressed his earphones back in an attempt to reboot normality. Erykah was just finishing her aching soul lament. He’d been running for three minutes. Marcus laughed, collapsed to the pavement and took out his mobile. Sitting cross-legged with bagged laptop back on his knee acting as an impromptu table he posted a new status
Marcus White is… at war with all the posers and the frauds.
Back in control again he headed back to work. Bruised and bloodied perhaps, but more panicked by just how exhilarated he’d felt about the whole episode.
And that feeling stayed with him. It nagged at him through the conversation with Omar. Which is how he comes to be sitting alone again, head in hands, contemplating his fifth cup of coffee. Since the afternoon’s brush with highly polished car panels Marcus has managed to turn the event from idiot walking in front of a car into a near death experience bringing with it a cathartic epiphany. Only he isn’t quite sure what that epiphany is yet.
He needs to talk, so he grabs the laptop once again and keys in the URL for his blog, Marcus White Talking. Volume on the i-Pod down low enough to be able to hear the sounds around him – the tapping keyboard, coffee bubbling, muffled and dislocated voices – he clicks on his evening ‘chill out’ playlist and than… changes his mind. Back to shuffle. He’s craving that feeling of freefall again. But not total loss of control. He needs the organised, or managed randomness of shuffle.
Benga’s ‘Crunked Up’ slides in with its whispering keys and slippery ambience, all feline stealth and backstreet menace. Marcus starts to type. New post.
The words flow from Marcus White’s fingers like an over rehearsed dancer. Nijinsky on autopilot, his movements are smooth and unlaboured as balletic digits pirouette letter by letter by obvious word. The techniques are there, but the spark, the mellifluous iridescence of that original, innocent spark is nowhere to be seen. Beaten through the tedium of repetition. To stretch beyond the inertia of functionality and embrace the wonderment of the original experience, the first act, but with an auteur’s knowledge is, Marcus imagines, the moment that you first brush with the downy hairs on surface skin of genius. It’s a caress he rarely aims for anymore. Too many times rebuffed, thrown to the wind as if a piece of teenage poetry penned on the crushing air of recently lost love.
As he leans back on his creaking chair, fingers stretched over the keys of the battle worn Apple Mac Marcus wonders whatever happened to his date with genius. When did he give up on his true destiny? He would have become a writer, but his parents didn’t think it was fitting for someone of his background. Writing, they said, is for those who like to work for free and live off society’s handouts. Writers are just short of being beggars. Untouchables. Only actors are worse. And anyway, they knew their son wasn’t up to his ambition. His genius was for management, organisation and debate. He had the skill to adapt his conversation to all people. He was lawyer material.
He reaches for his half empty cup of black coffee – very strong, slightly sweet – and half smiles at the memory of his parents’ inane mantras about making something of himslef, thinking of the future and putting family first.
God, I need to talk, he thinks.
He looks around at the action going on over his left shoulder. The lone figure sits at a café table. He drinks an espresso and shuffles restlessly in his seat. The café’s décor spells affluent bohemia, but this man seems out of place. Even the gum-chewing waitress treats him like an aggravating outsider as she slams his bill on the table. He sits, sips and waits.
Marcus turns back to his coffee and laptop. Stryda sits in front of him, echoing his movements, drinking. At last, someone to chat to.
“Hey man, I didn’t know you were there. How’s things bro?” Marcus, at first embarrassed by his obvious excitement at the site of Stryda issues his welcoming words at breakneck speed as he turns the i-Pod levels down to allow conversation in, but still keep the noise sweet (Adam F’s liquid funk classic ‘Brand Nu Funk’ throws down amorphous shapes drips, rolls and grooves through drum and bass thunder).
“Hi, been there long my friend?” he asks as the tune comes to a close. “Jus’ arrive Marcus… wassup?”
“Not much man, just thinking is all. Had a strange day, y’know?” Marcus takes a long look at Stryda. They’ve only become friends in recent weeks, but in only a few conversations Marcus has felt more inspired than at any other time of his life. Stryda, a grime MC with intelligence not cliché, a style icon for the urban ideal, a true product of the street.
So Cal ‘Repeat’ cap perched at a slant on his shaven head, black CityLocs ‘Soldier One’ sunglasses, gold tooth, gold Rolex, Marc Ecko boombox t-shirt, anti-bling heavy gold rope chain, Yoropiko ‘Hungry Dragon’ jeans, Stryda had quickly come to embody everything that Marcus loved about the urban experience. Quick witted, street smart and always cool, Stryda is why grime makes sense.
“Yeah man, I know what you’re sayin’ ‘bout dat.” he half mumbles “Been spittin’ to some new beats but nothin’s runnin’.” Like many of the UK’s Grime youth Stryda’s conversation continually slips between accents, melting Jamaican patois over the
strangely unformed vowels in the lexicon of urban UK while occasionally slipping into the northwest Thames-speak of the so-called cultured Home Counties masses. So, in any given sentence the self-proclaimed Dr Grime (“got a PhD ‘cos dem teachers got teachin’ from me”) moves from Hackney to High Wycombe and on to Jamaica with unselfconscious ease. Stryda’s chatter travels without moving. “Wha’ ‘appen to you then Marcus?”
“Got hit by a car. Look.” Marcus points to the cuts and grazes on his forehead cheek and chin, and holds up his bruised and scraped knuckles. “And my foot’s hurting’ bad.” he laughs as he tries to lift the war wound onto the table to give Stryda a better view. But all he can see is Marcus’ Prada Neropelle dress shoes. Highly polished black leather with pointed toes and silver buckled straps. $897 on import only.
Over Marcus’ left shoulder the effortlessly cool lonesome figure is joined by someone else. Only this man doesn’t show any outward signs of controlled agitation. He looks around too much, fidgets like a hunted man.
Stryda’s laughter brings Marcus’ attention back. “You old enough to cross the road without holdin’ hands Marcus… what were you doin’?”
“I was… thinking y’know? It was like things were coming clear to me for the first tame in ages and it did my head right in. The wrong music was playing right?”
“Eh? The wrong what?’
“Music, the wrong music came on my i-Pod and it was just after I’d started fancying this ugly waitress and…”
“Whoa, hold on Marcus. You’re not making sense. At all. Someone hit you with a car for fancyin’ some girl and listening to music they didn’t like? That’s fucked man!”
“No Stryda, listen. It was me. I walked into the street and the car hit me. But that isn’t important. These small things happened to me and it kind of jolted me out routine. It was like I was this dead man walking and then boom, I’m awake again. I know what I’ve got to do. Seize the day, grab life with both hands…”
“Yeah my friend, nuff clichés already. What do you mean dead man walking? You got the perfect life from were I’m sitting. Wife, kids, successful career, nice house… what’s so dead ‘bout dat life?”
“It’s just an illusion, this is where I’m alive. Here in the middle of the noise of urban life. Your noise. Back there I’m just… comfortable. I never wanted a wife and kids. That wasn’t my choice.”
It’s the first time that Marcus has thought about his family since he shut the door on them earlier in the evening.
“I’m not with them just now.” he says, head bowed, eyes focused on the near drained coffee cup. But he is with them. Stryda’s comment has brought them back uninvited into the forefront of his mind. He thinks of his wife, All Emporio Armani New York
style grey power suit, Manola Blahnik heals, long black hair pulled back to a manicured side parting and tight single plait, high cheekbones, bright red lips and dark hazel eyes. She’s dripped success, power and authority with every clickity clack step up the corporate ladder.
“So let me get this straight Marcus. You’re not with the family anymore, you’re fancying women you don’t even like, the wrong music made you walk into a car, you want the same life as me… and now you’re talking to me instead of sorting you life out. What you after?”
“This. All of this.” Marcus points at the group of youths congregating behind Stryda. A mob of fake designer cool, jostling each other for a dominant position as raised hands and pointing down fingers echo the raised voices. Edgy exuberance.
Marcus’ words are soundtracked by Dot Rotten’s ‘What You Get’, a hard nosed, stripped down electronic panic attack from the R.I.P. Young Dot album. He presses the phones deeper into his ear and nods his head to the brutal beats.
“What, you want to be some kid with an attitude arguing with a bunch of Turkish cab drivers about an unpaid fare? Marcus you’re doin’ my head right in.” Stryda laughs out loud as he says this, drawing closer attention from the youths, they raise their heads in acknowledgement. Marcus notes the respect.
“I want the full urban experience.” Marcus eventually replies “Like all that action behind you, and the guy over my left shoulder, and the style, the energy, the music, the fear…”
“Yeah, the romance. The unknown fucking romance of it all.”
“Marcus, what do you think the urban experience is man? It’s not like some words of Snoop track y’know. It’s not all bling ‘n’ drive bys ‘n’ shit. You know ya…” Stryda’s words are suddenly obliterated by background noise. Not the tunes on Marcus’ i-Pod but something uninvited coming from the street behind Stryda. A car soundsystem with ultra sub bass blares out thrashing guitars and unintelligible words.
“What the hell is that noise?”
“That’s the sound of the urban experience you’re so into Marcus. Polish rock music. To be exact Armia’s ‘Sen nocy letniej’.” Stryda says, his accent traversing yet more ground into the Polish heartland. Travelling without moving.
“How did you know about that? Its just noise.”
“Listen Marcus, when you live here for a while you get used to that noise. It’s urban noise. It’s everywhere, in car systems, cafes, and pirate stations. Polish rock is the sound of East London.”
“No way Stryda. Urban is hip hop, R & B. It’s black music. Not that Polish noise. I don’t want that noise taking over and polluting the air.”
“Never had you down as a racist Marcus. Urban music is black music? That’s so wrong.” Stryda leans in and points an accusatory finger in Marcus’ direction. “Do you know why black music became called urban?” he continues, clearly moving into one of his favourite territories, “So the white dominated American music industry could infiltrate black radio and access some of the disposable wealth of the black middle classes, that’s why. Marcus watches in awe as Stryda continues laying down his well prepered battleground. “Urban didn’t just appear with Jaz-Z and his ilk! It was way back in the seventies when all these white rock stars started to get funky. You know David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart even, they all wanted to get played on black radio, to be accepted by blacl people. So Billboard changed the name of the Black Radio Charts to the Urban Radio Charts and that opened up black radio for white artists. Worked too for people like Bowie. He even got onto the Soul Train TV show singing ‘Golden Years’ to a load of black kids. Little surpise that rock radio didn’t respond in a similar way. Do you think Funkadelic suddenly found favour alongside fuckles Eagles FM? ‘Course not. “Then, when hip hop took over in the 90s and drum’n’bass was running the underground, well all these white middleclass record company types were having a real problem calling it black music. Just in case it made them sound racist saying the word black.” as Stryda talks he leans even closer in, his accent gradually shifts into Home Counties England as he becomes less High Wycombe than Henley (travelling without moving). “So,” he continues, voice hushed in conspiratorial tones, “the entertainment industry adopted the word urban to collect black music together. It was all about changing identity by stealth. Black identity became more marketable and less race signified when it became urban. Urban as a genre is about identity relocated into the hegemonic forces of marketing. Not so much about keeping black people down than stripping blackness away, Urban as a genre definition is inherently racist!”
With the satisfied look of a politician who’s just given a government crushing speech, Stryda leans as far back in his chair as he can, pulls his cap over his eyes and grins.
“Damn Stryda, where did all that come from,? You sound really… well, even more intelligent than I’d thought.”
“Yeah man, ‘Dr Grime got a PhD ‘cos dem teachers got teachin’ from me” he spits back “And the fact that I just graduated with a first in from Corpus Christi, Oxford helps!”
“Eh? You’re kidding me!”
“Don’t be fooled my what you think you see Marcus, identity is more fluid that that. You see urban before black, imagine intelligent under achiever rather than Oxford grad. Just because I spit lyrics like my clothes don’t mean I ain’t got it going on up here” Stryder points to his forehead and then turns his wrist so he can check out the time on his Rolex. “Gotta go…”
But Marcus isn’t taking notice. Another wide ball had smashed fresh noise into the controlled calm of his reality. Stryda, a friend of unknown identity playing out a part with even more skill that Marcus. Like will always attract like.
The i-Pod plays Billie Holliday’s ‘Strange Fruit’.
A loud banging sound brings him suddenly back. Bang, bang, bang on the door and a voice shouting, demanding attention.
“What you doing in there all night long? Just talking away to yourself and ignoring your family! Are you listening to me, I am wanting a word with you…”
He opens the door of his den to his wife. She blinks and stares hard at his face, silhouetted in the neon glow of computer monitor and TV screen.
“The police are here at the door. They are saying you assaulted someone today. Is this true? What happened to your face? It’s true isn’t it? Brawling on the street like a common Dalit! Come down now and do the needful. The Police are waiting.”
The door shuts. He hears his wife’s heels clickety clack on the floor tiles as she walks back to the waiting IPS officers.
Back to the Apple Mac. Stryda has gone so he disconnects Skype. He turns to his left to watch the closing moments of the movie that has been showing the action on his 50inch flatscreen all evening. He wishes he could be like that lone figure. John Shaft, private detective, a man in control of the chaos.
He turns the lights on and takes a long look at himself. Hair black streaked with grey and slicked back, dark brown eyes, fine features. Black Armani suit, echoing his wife’s meticulous style. Not bad for a man of his age he thinks. Forty-five years young. Middle youth appearing over the horizon with alarming speed.
He looks at his bruised knuckles and thinks back to the afternoon. His fingertips still hurt from when he dragged the young driver out from behind the wheel and thrust him against his own car. His knuckles ache from punching the kid’s face over and over. His feet hurt from kicking his victim in the head. He’s still splattered in the kid’s blood.
He pauses the i-Pod (Missy Elliot’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’ a Desi sampling classic where cultures clash and writhe with jouessence), goes to leave the room and stops. To be in two places at once, experiencing difference together, in this contained but limitless world isolation is heroic.
One last thing. He turns back to the desk and returns to the keyboard of his Apple Mac, opens Facebook, checks his growing list of friends he would never really meet and types in what would be his last entry that night.
Marcus White is… no more
With that Madangopal Shveta, social actor, walks out of the two dimensional existence of Marcus White. He walks along the landing to the curved stairs of his grandiose suburban home. He walks slowly down past images from the low caste tales of Ramayana and wanders towards the large double doors where two young policemen wait patiently next to the poker faced and tearful Aryana, who looks at her husband as if he was a stranger.
Which he is. Even to himself.
And then, almost apologetically the Police arrest Madangopal Shveta, Attorney at Law, and take him out into the pulsating noise of the New Delhi evening.
Life in discord. Identities fluid.