The Streets are always watching.
That night,as I lay on my bed listening to the dogs bark,
I began to wonder how much more I could take, and I began to get a terrible feeling inside my chest and a tightness at the back of my throat, and I jerked upright with my head spinning and stared into the darkness, thinking that if things don’t change very soon I will have no choice but to throw in the towel.
Still the next day and the day after nothing worthwhile came, and I stood back from my desk, holding my head, and then hearing a familiar sound, I sprinted off to the passage.
Jesus, it’s driving me insane, I can’t do it, I panted breathless into the phone. What d’you mean you can’t do it? he said.
I took a deep breath and tried to control the frustration and anger seething inside me. Exactly what I just said.
I keep trying but nothing happens. I’ve been like this for weeks. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe you need a rest.
That’s all I do is rest. I sit in front of the thing just staring. I’ve been staring for two hours straight already. I’m actually starting to feel sick.
Well, give it another go and if it doesn’t happen…
If it doesn’t happen I think I shall have to kill myself, I said without smiling.Then I hung up the phone and went stood by the window in the living room and stared out at the traffic. A police car and a Vauxhall Cavalier pulled up to the curb.
The two cops climbed out and walked up to the Vauxhall. One of them pointed at the driver and signalled for him to cut the engine.
The doors opened and two guys got out. Both were in their early twenties, both were wearing jeans and had dark blue bomber jackets; and both were black.
They followed the cops over to the wall.
The taller of the two cops began talking into his radio, and then while his partner stood in front of the two black guys, with his arms slightly raised and pushed out in front of him, he took out his note pad, walked round to the back of the car, and scribbled something down.
Somewhere in back of the flats I could hear the annoying sound of somebody’s dog barking. It was almost 3pm and the dogs had been barking on and off for most of the day and part of the night.
The cop with the note pad squatted down to check the car’s back tires and then stepped back to check the taillights. Then he opened the car door and leaned in and checked the
glove compartment, while his partner talked into a radio close to the top of his chest. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee mainly to keep myself warm. It was freezing cold in the flat.
It was always cold in the flat and every time I breathed I could see the cold air rushing out in front of me.
I was trying to save money.
And during the day when it was particularly cold, I’d put on my green puffa or jogged on the spot wearing a Beanie and a couple of woollen jumpers.
When it dropped below freezing, as it had done at the beginning of the week, I would wrap myself in a duvet or simply refused to get out of bed.
I decided to make myself something to eat, which had ceased to be an easy task, since the cupboards nowadays were nearly always bare. I was eating one or two meals a day,
(and sometimes none at all)
but I was expecting a cheque from my ex employer soon, which would hopefully keep me from going under. In the end I settled for a thin slice of cheese that I’d accidentally left to turn mouldy in the bread bin. I cut off the mould and ate it between two stale slices of thin bread, with no butter.
I was desperately broke, and every day there would be another announcement on the news or from one of the so called current affairs programmes about the deplorable economic situation, the collapse of the banks, trust, confidence in the markets, (house prices were falling and there were almost 3 million out of work).
Over in America, The USA The home of the Buick, Microsoft, baseball, basketball, Michael Jordan; the often mentioned, and celebrated American Dream… the 44th President Barack Obamama was trying to Push his STIMULUS….Package forward.
And avert a cataclysmic crisis reminiscent of The 1930’s soup kitchens, mass unemployment, poverty homelessness They Shoot Horses Don’t They.
But some of the bigwigs wouldn’t bite, budge etc, so it was any one’s guess, how it would all turn out in the long run,and against this background, I was existing…or to use a well-worn phrase: ‘on the bread line’, romantically rejecting the rat-race, turning off and tuning out, and barely eking out a living, (if you could call what I was doing living at all); but as they say, such is the life of a die-hard writer.
When I got back to the window, still chewing part of the sandwich, I noticed that there were two more police cars parked next to the Vauxhall, and three of the cops were standing by the back of the car, peering into the boot, while a further three had formed a half-circle around the two black guys.
One of the cops at the back of the car turned to say something to another cop, and immediately afterwards, they began removing items from the boot and placing them on the ground beside the vehicle’s back wheels.
I trudged back to my desk, sat down and glared with growing resignation at my archaic circa 1980’s, Olivetti computer screen. My head felt empty. Every time I looked at the computer screen it was as if everything worth saying had either already been said and any modest contribution I might make seemed utterly banal and useless.
After a while, shaking my head, I got up and went back to the window. One of the cops was now lying on his back, with a torch in his hand looking up at the Vauxhall’s chassis.
Another cops pulled the driver aside and started asking him questions and going through his pockets.
The driver stood with his arms aloft, and his head turned to one side holding onto his wallet and keys.
The cop looked up and said something to him and the black guy looked down at the cop and shook his head.
Then the cop checked both the young men’s wallets and handed them back. The three cops moved away from the boot and started going through the inside of the car again.
A heavy looking cop with grey hair moved across to where the black guys were waiting. He and the black guys began to speak to one another, occasionally blowing into their hands and looking off to the side before engaging again.
They all seem oddly friendly. And after the cop had finished saying what ever he was saying, both the black guys nodded their heads in unison and then all three began to laugh.
I yawned and walked back to my desk. This time I hoped that something good would come of it.
In the early days shaking with excitement I had told myself that maybe I could be the next Richard Wright, or Hubert Selby Jr or Chinua Achebe or Jack Kerouac.
So I had imitated each style, which of course is not uncommon, but as time went on it become more and more clear to me, that there could only be one Richard Wright or Hubert Selby or Achebe or Kerouac, and after reading a paragraph of my prose and comparing it to that of the masters, I would instantly feel defeated, wanting to dash my brains against the wall, depressed by the apparent sad conclusion, that I had absolutely ‘no right’ to call myself a writer, particularly since for the last two months I had hardly written a word.
And since I wasn’t doing much writing. Perhaps all I really was a bum clinging to some arrogant notion, that it was my god-given-right to while away my days in the pursuit of solitary creativity, while babies starved, wars were fought, Wall Street crashed, and Rome metaphorically burned.
I scratched my head and chewed my fingernails and stared into space. Everything seemed hopeless. Then I heard the sound of another police siren and I jumped up and hurried back to my spot. A police van, with its lights flashing, squeaked to a stop behind the three police cars.
One of the cops ran up to the van, said something to the driver and pointed over his shoulder at the two black guys who were stood with their arms crossed, moving their feet from side to side, expelling puffs of cold air through their nostrils.
Then moments later both black guys were ushered into the back of the van, shortly after which they climbed down again, shaking their heads and doing up their belt buckles.
An hour had passed and I was back at my desk having still not written anything worth calling fiction.
A writer writes is what they tell you… So that what I did. I began to type the famous mantra, over and over again, in bold italics, across my tiny computer screen. Then realising that that wouldn’t work I got up and began pacing the room, and then out of curiosity or perhaps panic, I wandered back to the window and peered outside.
The black guys were now leaning up against the wall smoking cigarettes, and looking extremely bored with the extremely slow and drawn-out proceedings. One of the cops was holding what looked like a Pencil-torch in front of him and was searching the car interior, pulling up one of the floor mats with his free hand.
He placed the torch between his front teeth and slid one hand across, and tapped the knuckles of his other hand against the inside of the door panel. One of the black guys looks at the other and grinned. He began shaking his head and pointing at his wristwatch.
His mate rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. On the other side of the road, a succession of passing vehicles beeped their horns, as if to express their sympathy.
The three police cars and the van sped off. The two remaining police officers said something to the black guys, and then began quickly walking away. One of the black guys shouted something but his friend appeared to restrain him. A cop turned round, rubbed his jaw and turned back again.
Then both cops got in the police car, and sat there for a while talking into the radio, while both black guys stood on the pavement, watching them.
I stepped out into the passage and looked at the clock on the wall. It was an hour and forty-five minutes since the cops had first flagged down the two black motorists. I began to wonder if perhaps it was some sort of record. I jokingly considered writing to the Guinness Book of Records to check.
The two black guys got in their Vauxhall Cavalier. The cop car pulled out and the two black guys pulled out after them.
My only regret was that I didn’t possess a video camera. Instead I leafed to the back of my note pad and started writing notes about the two black guys and the cops. I figured that maybe I could turn it into some kind of dramatic story.
Maybe a story about the badlands of London, or a tense thriller or comical story about a couple of rouge cops who would go around hassling innocent drivers, who are mostly black, because…well, because they’re mostly black.
..A sort of 90’s version of CHIPS, meets, The Cannon Ball Run
meets Dirty Harry.
I dropped the notepad on the sofa and hurried back to my writing desk. I rubbed my hands together and ran my tongue over the front of my top teeth. I sat down, took a deep breath and stared at the blank computer screen.
Then amazingly, it came and I started to type the first sentence of my 60, 000 word, Literary novel.