Wrong Side Of Paradise

Sunday, 1 December 2013


They say that when we hear a piece or just a part of music, the notes trigger the auditory cortex in our heads and our brains fill in the rest. I hear a penny drop (literally, not metaphorically) and I somehow find myself humming a familiar tune. I’m not sure what it is but, it’s almost a cross between the godfather theme tune and the melody from Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘’Pans Labyrinth’’.  Had I the patience, I’d have put it down on paper. But instead I turn to the last page of Tolstoy’s War & Peace and read each word slowly and with caution. Savouring it like nutrition for the chaotic and starved tunnels of my brain.

There are certain, yet not often occasions when I've read something so profound that the childish part of me wants to run to the nearest person and proclaim my new found intelligence. Today is one of those occasions, but I’m sat on the morning train and the person nearest to me is a small yet chubby boy of about 5 years old who has been making faces at me…Though to be fair, I started it. I show the small, owl eyed child my book to which he brandishes his half eaten chocolate bar. I propose an exchange but he just looks at me amused before running off and head-butting his father in the groin.

I set the book down on a seat next to me, the cover battered and wrinkled and the page corners twisted and folded from where I refused to use a bookmark. I think War & Peace was published in the late 1860’s. A thought occurs to me, (and feel free to disregard my view) but it strikes me that there are (if any) only a few truly remarkable people left in the world, and for the life of me…I can’t name a single one. Sure there are great writers, scientists, theorists and musicians…But ‘’Remarkable?’’ ‘’ Genius?’’, I’d have to get back to you on that one once I've looked them up.

I leave my book in the carriage hoping someone will be pleased to find it, and then I step outside into some rare but welcome warmth. I turn my face up to the sun and curse myself when I’m temporarily blinded. I walk a short distance down a very fashionable road and see my acquaintance Seb, he’s sat atop a wide wooden bench with his feet folded underneath him. He smiles a self-conscious smile at me and moves his guitar so I can sit beside him. When I reach him, there is an awkward moment where we exchange something between a fist bump and a handshake.

I met Seb, maybe 6 years ago through a friend of a friend’s, our shared interest in whatever indie bands were then popular, sparked an unlikely friendship which has since fizzled out slightly. Seb lives in Buckinghamshire, yet every few months he will send me a poorly worded email or text message stating that he is in London and asking to ‘’MEAT UP’’, which I’m sure sounds very gay. Seb and I aren't very similar, he is quite loud, in volume and in dress sense. If I was the lightning, Seb was the thunder and the rain. Despite this, I enjoy Seb’s company, he’s witty and always has something intelligent to say, unlike the pretentious intellectuals I am used to who spit out recycled quotes and pass them off as their own. Seb has his own views which I admire, it’s refreshing considering that most people whom I have the displeasure of conversing with are associated copies of each other who purchase their politics and life views from a newspaper for 55pence.

My one gripe with Seb who is an aspiring and talented musician is when he curses his difficulties and misfortunes with the music industry. I think Seb to be quite lucky, he is almost stereotypically middle class and his parent’s small fortune would be adequate enough to feed, house and clothe him for at least 5 lifetimes. Unlike the talented, but poor artists who have little choice but to sell their skills as wedding photographers and office temps.

We discuss everything from television to Quakerism in slow pensiveness, each of us either nodding at each other in approval or shaking our heads in protest. An hour passes and I find myself with an iced coffee in my hand, wondering how it got there.

‘’I've decided after much consideration that I need a muse.’’ Seb tells me almost questioningly as he stirs his bloody Mary with a stick of celery.

‘’You already have a girlfriend.’’ I say, assuming that my words would close the matter.

‘’We’re friends with benefits.’’ He said.

‘’What’s the benefit? I've seen you with her, you’re whipped, I’d go as far as to say that you’re practically engaged.’’

‘’Ok. Fair enough, but either way… I can sense that we’re about to break up. And don’t you dare tell her this, but she’s not a muse.’’


‘’No MUSE, you idiot’’.

After thinking for a moment I said,

‘’But isn't life a muse in itself.’’

‘’Shut up, you know what I mean.’’

‘’I don’t believe that I do.’’

‘’You ever meet someone that just stirs your creative juices? Teaches you how to create a masterpiece?’’

‘’A masterpiece? No I can’t say I have.’’

‘’The Judy blue eyes? The Yoko Onos? You ever meet a girl like that?’’

‘’…I guess.’’ I said after a long pause and the uncomfortable feeling Seb’s eager face was giving me.

‘’And what do you remember of her?’’ Seb asked, intent on carrying on the conversation I wished would 
die out already.

I leaned back, resting my head in the air and tried to remember. I remembered several people’s faces, and then one in particular. In the summer when we would lay on her bed by her curtainless window, the blazing sun heating up the glass, she would lean up on top of me her hair filtering the sunlight so it wouldn't burn my face. Sometimes, if I held my mouth against her neck long enough, I could feel her pulse on my lips. I remembered that she liked it when I pressed my thumbs in the dips of her collarbone, and that in the mornings she smelled like lavender soap and in the evening she smelled like vanilla. I remembered also, that I would sometimes hurt her, just to see if I could. And that when all was done, I was left buried under an avalanche of dismay.

I was done with nostalgia, so I turned to Seb and said.
‘’I don’t remember much at all.’’

‘’You disappoint me.’’ He said.

‘’Story of my life.’’

After that, and despite my protests, Seb grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to his older sister’s house where he said ‘’our’’ friends were waiting, though they were his friends and not mine. Though they were fairly diverse, I did not like them. They essentially consisted of two groups, the slightly pretentious and fairly conceited rich kids who thought me strange due to my background, and the other desperately urban, almost chav like group who thought me strange because…Because I guess I am a little strange.

So, when we arrived at an aesthetically pleasing semidetached house and walked in to see Lissa (Seb’s soon to be ex) and Lucy (Seb’s sister) wearing paper party hats and holding big glasses of wine with tremulous hands. I walked straight through the hallway, into the kitchen and out the back door.

When I was quite a distance away I heard the banging of windows and turned to see Seb, nose pressed against the glass, mouth moving but silent. I shooed him away and made my way home, finding myself analysing strangers every now and then and thinking ‘’are they muse material.’’

That is all.

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