Chapter 6 – Five Chicken-Fillet Burgers, of No Particular Brand
They’re sweating in a greasy brown paper bag, and I can’t help but think that’s exactly what my skin is going to look like once I step onto Thailand’s southern islands; festering in my own sweat on a white-sand beach, layers of tanning-oil pooling in a bronzed bellybutton, blinding people with a greasy cocoa-butter glow. But a week is a week, and when you’re at the beginning of that week you’re also farthest from the end; nothing really passes quickly until it’s passed.
In hindsight we say, ‘doesn’t time fly?’, or ‘oh my, how time flies’, or ‘hasn’t time flown, Margaret’. Time doesn’t really ‘fly’ though, does it; what really happens in those moments of reflection is an attempt to establish our personal chronology, and we are surprised at exactly how little we are able to remember and collate in an attempt to substantiate our past experiences and, thusly, our present condition. Suddenly, we are irrevocably cemented in the present and what ensues is a momentary understanding that we have no past other than what we can remember, and if we cannot remember everything then just what the hell did we leave behind? You don’t know how you got here, only that you’ve arrived and that you’re alive. It’s like stepping off of an aeroplane; you know you’ve travelled thousands of miles, but how can you really be sure? You never see yourself fly. You see planes in the sky, see them take off, you’ve walked the gangway and been met by nice stewardess with caked make-up and cheese-wax smiles, you take off and the television plays a film and the window plays blue skies, thick clouds, land below. And then you arrive. You’re somewhere else, a new place, a new condition; a new mind. Does it matter how you got there? Not in the slightest. Because ultimately you’re in the same place you’ve always been. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done, ultimately we’re always already here – we have all just arrived, and we are all just departing. Next time feel like saying, ‘my, hasn’t time flown, Margaret’, just take a moment, look at your feet, and tell yourself: No. Time is in the same place it has always been. And so the hell am I.
Luke is lucky to be walking. He limps ahead into the waning night, the brown sack weighing him down in anticipation of its empty-calories, the grease secretion now so bad I imagine he is handling Jermaine Jackson’s severed head. The cartilage of his right knee crumbles under almost six hours of non-stop stomping to bass-lines that require you to check your pants regularly, just in case a brown note was quietly slipped in there. Josh is lucky not to have shat himself already, having held on to his gorilla’s finger since we joined the queue at Fabric. When we get back to the Travelodge, he will slyly consume the extra chicken burger when he thinks no one is looking and take proceed to take an utterly horrible shit.
Eli is lucky to be with us at all, to savour the soggy breadcrumbs of a high-street chicken booby burger, to stuff a fistful of sagging, salt-less chips into a mouth frothing with watered down Pepsi at 4am. Not only had he found shelter without booking (or paying) for accommodation, he managed to acquire a ticket at the door of a sold-out venue which wasn’t selling tickets on the door. As lady luck continued to froth for him, she sent a small, dweeby-looking scene kid with more pimples than a naked goose and a ticket for £15 at the club doors. We had all paid £12, advance price. The next morning, the Metro front page would read of a young, goosey-looking teen who had been sexually abused by crack-heads over £3 profit he had made from ‘such a promising entrepreneur work ethic’. True story; it’s London Town.
The following afternoon we part ways with Eli after three hours of festering in the Travelodge lounge until we are politely asked to leave because of the smell. We find it a reasonable request, especially considering our bowel movements after spending the hour prior in a sadistic, self-abusive effort to stuff as much breakfast buffet as possible down our free-loading throats. You can’t put bacon out in England and not expect someone to walk away with the pig, raw or otherwise. Whilst on the subject of raw pig and Englishman, I have a friend who once found a drunken acquaintance standing glassy-eyed in our kitchen during the early hours, the facial contours of his vacant chomping revealed only by the eeriness of fridge-light. He was eating a large, raw, Cumberland sausage, more than likely passed its sell-by-date, and groping the contents of our washing powder. I’m pretty sure in some cultures that qualifies as porn.
With our jeans and bag pockets brimming with harvested Weetabix singles and Tetley teabags from the inclusive buffet, we walk with Eli to Kings Cross Station and bid a temporary farewell until we meet in Camden Town tomorrow for cheap Chinese and more Amy Winehouse memorabilia than you can thrust a smack needle into. Whilst Eli will spend a night at Vash’s new London lodgings in Hendon before he makes his was to Morocco, our own nomadic mission begins with three nights of CouchSurfing in Wandsworth with a delightful black man named Ronald.