I loathe sentences starting with more than or containing more than this, more than that, more than happy, more than honoured. These sentences are more than absurd, and I feel more than annoyed. Therefore I'm leaving this bed behind and going out in Rotham: for a walk. More than a walk, a stroll, an inane wandering, a senseless walkabout.
Out on the street, in front of Green Springhill Library two shadows were talking. One of them was absurd, the other one as well. They were clearly absorbed in their conversation so I left them be, and kept walking. Just round the corner I heard a faint crying noise, but couldn't see anybody. As I kept walking, the weeping got louder but still there was no one in sight. I started looking thoroughly, and I spotted a tobacco pipe crying next to the kerbstone. I wanted to console it but didn't want to intrude, so just sat down next to it. Almost stepped on the pipe in the process but it still didn't notice me. I had an urge to light a cigarette but restrained myself, it would have been inconsiderate. Finally it became aware of my presence, but it wasn't happy. ’What do you want? ’ it frowned.
’Nothing, I was just out, thought I sit down here,’ I lied without blinking.
'Right here, next to me?'
'Right here, next to you,' I admitted the obvious.
'Do you know me?' the pipe asked, and it didn't look so upset any more.
'That is it, you see, nobody remembers me anymore!' said the pipe as it resumed crying.
'Of course they do, many people still smoke pipe.' I tried to comfort it, but this made it cry even harder.
'What is it again?' I asked, losing my patience.
'Everybody thinks I'm a piiiiiiipe!' it cried.
'Please forgive me, I didn't know. I can call you whatever you want me to, just please tell me what you are.’
It didn't say anything, just kept on snivelling, and I didn't want to offend it any more, so I waited for its fire to simmer down.
'Of course I'm a pipe!' it lit up suddenly. 'But I am not just a pipe. And although my groomed exterior doesn't show it,' and it threw a complacent glance at itself, 'I'm quite old. I was born in 1927.’
‘Really?’ I acted surprised to be polite.
'In deed I was,' it said and raised its head proudly. ‘And I knew back then that I'm not just an average pipe. First of all, because I have a name, Cecilia.'
‘Nice to meet you Cecilia. I'm Azeu.' I replied, but I was considerate enough not to hold out my hand for a handshake.
'Enchanté,' she replied politely.
'Oh, are you French?'
’No, I am Belgian,’ said Cecilia, clearly offended again.
’Oh, sorry, I wasn't using my little grey cells. You know, people sometimes think I am French,’ I said, trying to make the situation more comfortable. ’you know, L'Azeu.’
’People might think that,’ she said, ’but I am not "people". But never mind that. To return to the point, you could say that other pipes have names sometimes. But I have other qualities as well, and this was noticed by others too. There was an artist who painted my portrait,' she said and kept on raising her head higher and higher, I was afraid that her neck would break. I almost thought shank instead of neck. She didn't worry about that as she resumed bragging, 'and don't you think that I was part of that picture just as an accessory, hidden in some corner. Oh no! There was nothing else there, but me. This alone should have shown the whole world that I am special, but to avoid any misunderstandings, the artist wrote it on the canvas that Ceci isn't a pipe. And because I am – for starters – a pipe, this clearly meant that I am more than a pipe, he just didn't want to write this down, you know, it's an artistic thing. Keep them guessing.'
'Yes, I know that painting. Is that you on the picture?’
’Yeah, images can be treacherous.’
’C’est vrai,’ she agreed reluctantly, ’and besides this, I really didn't want for humans to chew on me, so I distanced myself from them, and the other pipes secluded me. So I wandered aimlessly, I even jumped in the sea in my desolation, but I am so lightheaded that I couldn’t sink. So I keep on turning up everywhere, but it's the same. Oh, I'm so miserable, I quit smoking, now I just drink.’
She resumed crying as I was struggling to find something to cheer her up.
‘In a way we could say you are lucky.’
‘That I’ve still got my health? That is such a dumb thing to say.’
‘That might be, but that’s not what I was trying to say. I was thinking about how a pipe can mean so many things.’
‘Like what?’ she asked, watching me through the wall of tears.
‘The tubes that conduct clean water to people’s homes, for example.’
‘You want to bury me alive?’ she asked peevishly, ‘and those pipes also convey sewage water.’
‘That’s another way to look at it. Okay, what about the pipe as a musical instrument?’
‘I’m fat, that’s what you’re trying to say?’ she burst out.
‘No, no, by no means, pipe down. You don’t want to be piping hot.’
‘All these clever wordplays of yours only make sense in English.’
‘But Rotham: is an English speaking city.’
‘Its name is French, is it not?’
‘That’s just a useless fancy of the founders, but everyone calls it Rotham:. And how about getting back to modelling? After all, your picture has piped lots of unique and revolutionary ideas, and visions too into people’s minds.’ I tried to open up some more perspectives.
‘Oh, no I couldn’t!’ she sighed, ‘who would want to paint me? No one.’
‘I really think you’re selling yourself short,’ I said, as I decided to stop bringing up any other meanings of the word pipe. ‘Then maybe until you manage to find out what you really are you should quit your pipe dream and decide: are you a pipe or are you everything but a pipe. Huh?’
‘But I’m a piiiiiiiipe!’
‘Well, that’s settled then.’ I said and made a quick getaway.
I spotted graffiti on the wall, a bird in a cage among other things. Luckily the clever comment was missing. I was staring at it for a while, then I felt the urge to draw it. I remembered how bad it felt, when I was told the first time that I must be good at drawing just because I am a journalist. Jerk!!! How did he know when I wasn't aware of it either? I have a bike and I'm fairly good at it, but I couldn't pilot a space shuttle. Even if it was fitted with handlebars.
So I started drawing, I almost finished it when suddenly the bird dropped dead, must have been shy. Poor thing, it made a good drawing though. I saw all its suffering, so I drew the bird standing on top of the birdcage and I was the one balancing on the perch waiting for millet. I felt sorry for it, but the night was young, so I moved on. Maybe it just fainted.
A couple of blocks away I heard a faint singing: „They pray for villains when their heroes let them down, let them down”! I looked for the source of it and I saw a bowler hat crawling on the sidewalk, though I instantly recognised what it really was.
‘All right, mantis?’ I shouted at it.
‘What?’ replied a deep, rumbling voice from under the hat, ’who goes there?’
‘Where?’ I looked around.
‘I can’t see where you’re pointing mate.’
’ Now you're just being ridiculous. How can a hat point?’
’ But you are a mantis!’
’ No I'm not! Can you see me?’
’ I can't see you, but I know you are there. Where are you taking that hat?’
’I’m not taking it anywhere.’
’Shouldn’t you have said: "I'm not going anywhere" if you really were a hat? I think you are hiding under there because you’re afraid, and you are singing for the same reason.’
’I’m singing because I like it. And I’m not afraid, we are never afraid!’
’Who is this”we”? Bowler hats? Hah. If I were you, I’d look in a mirror, a bird just shit on you.’
Suddenly the hat started turning round and round.
’A bird? Where? What bird?’
’I thought so. It doesn’t matter anyway, I couldn't care less, well, actually I could care even less but I can't be bothered. So off you go, you brave mantis,’ and I left him there and no sooner did I reach the end of the street, than I heard it resume its singing: “Just like a prayer, you know I'll take you there, it's like a dream you know I'll taaaaaaaake you there”. This was a curious meeting; you don’t see a bowler hat every night, though I heard there used to be more on the streets than flying pigeons in China.
I loved walking in this area of the city, albeit it looked better from the sky with its distinctive octagonal pattern. As I couldn’t be up there, I thought I might as well go under, so I boarded the metro at Llacuna station and off we went, meandering under the hive.
Then the train resurfaced from the underground like an air thirsty whale. A huge iron crystal atom crept up on the horizon, must have been about 300 feet high. Hungry little rust monsters clinging to the train looked that way and sighed. Then they turned back and continued slowly eating away the train. I guess for the question “what's for breakfast mommy?” the answer will be: “tra-tra-tra-train tra-tra-tra-train", " agan-ga-gain agan-ga-gain?", "‘fra-‘fra-‘fraid so”. Just as suddenly as it came up, the whale submerged again, and down it went looking for prey. The lights flickered; sometimes the only light source was my HOWDI. Pitchdarkshitfart. Finally the train plunged itself on an unaware station, so I decided to jump off and headed outside.
There was an ugly tower with babies crawling all over it, the name escapes me, but there was a heavy z noise in my head. Something was creeping on the street as well, some kind of a shellfish. It was heading towards an arcade that usually was a home for the homeless for the night. I knew I should let him be, but I blurted out without thinking:
’Lovely night we have, don’t we?’
The crawling stopped, then started again only to come to a halt once more.
’What’s it to you, chap?’ said the animal on a hilarious squeaky voice. ’And what makes you think I want to talk to you? Eh?’
’I wasn’t talking to you mate!’ I replied, my primitive defence reflex kicked in.
’Weren’t you? Who were you talking to then?’
’No one, I was just enjoying this lovely evening in our lovely town, it is lovely, isn’t it?’
’Are you talking to me now?’
By this time I went closer and kneeled down next to it.
’Yes, now I’ve decided to talk to you. Why are you so aggressive, mate?’
’I’m not aggressive, I’m tough. See this?’ pointed to its shell, ’I’m tough.’
‘Tough on the outside, soft on the inside.’
‘How do you know that?’ shouted the shellfish, which made his voice even funnier. ‘You've been chewing away on my family, eh? Enjoying the sunshine on top of the food chain?’
‘No, nothing of that sort, I loathe seafood. So what do you do out here?’
‘Not that it’s any of your business,’ said the animal, ‘but I was looking for a cup, and now I’ve found one.’
‘Why do you need a cup?’
‘It never ends with you, does it? I need it for obvious reasons. Now, why don’t you keep on walking in your lovely freaking city,’ and it waved me off with its claw.
I never knew what the obvious reasons are. What does that mean? It’s like no comment, ASAP or lovely night we have, don’t we? The creature started off again, I was curious where he was going and I noticed a homeless guy sleeping, with a cup next to him.
‘Hey, I hope you’re not trying to steal that guy’s cup, are you?’
‘That cup is as good as mine,’ and it kept itching closer to the cup.
‘But that is a homeless guy; he might not have anything else.’
‘I need that cup and I’m taking it bro.’
‘That’s a bit selfish isn’t it . . . , shellfish?’
‘Oooooh, what is this, a reverse lisp?’ stopped the animal from crawling, ‘or are you trying to be funny? You’ve got nothing better to do than walk around in the middle of the night hoping to meet an animal just to poke fun at it, innit? I guess you’ve got your answers ready as well, in case you meet a shrew, a kirk's dik-dik or a cheetah. Or are you counting on meeting the obvious ones, to keep it simple: weasels, sloths, swine or just your everyday ass.’ The shellfish was clearly enjoying his cleverness. ‘And for your information, you humorous human or what the hell are you, I’m a velvet crab.’
‘A velvet cra . . . .’
‘DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!’ cut me off the crab.
‘What? I wasn't going to say it. ‘
‘Argh, you’re wasting my time. I’m taking the cup.’
‘You’re right, you’re not selfish, you’re spineless.’
‘Spineless! SPINELESS!! Hah! You got some nerve! 4 percent! 4 freaking percent!! Of all the living beings of this world you guys with your fancy backbones make up 4 percent. And you are so full of yourselves! Oh, look at me!’ freaked out the crab totally, ‘I've got a spine! It goes right through my back! Sometimes it comes out on my ass and I can wag it. And I can lean forward, lean backward or even side to side. And you think you can make the rules as well, everyone should act like you. You guys make me sick. Look at this,’ pointed at its shell. ‘This gives me my integrity and right now it's telling me: “take the bloody cup!", ahem, actually, it’s saying take the cup, as it is polite. And guess what, I'm taking that cup and there's nothing you can do about it.’
Having said that, he started creeping towards the cup. I resent being judgmental, but I've got nothing against going mental, so I took a step and kicked the velvet crap. Kicked him hard too, sent him flying, a soaring crab, now that’s something unusual. I guess he's going to need all his integrity now for the landing.
‘Vertebrates rule!!!’ I cried after him.
I was in the mood for some more shouting, but the homeless guy woke up. He wasn't too happy and for a lack of a better word he chucked the bag he was using for pillow towards me. The bag split and dozens of empty cups littered the street.
‘Oh sorry, sorry,’ I backed up ashamed and disappeared in a small alley.
In the backstreet I noticed Esther coming towards me, but she couldn't have been, therefore she wasn't and I walked on.
The end of part I