Bridgette walked through the narrow, vapid alleyways of forever and fucking always, and spied him under the meagre appeal emanating from the street light’s lousy lumen; rain water dripped incongruously from its helmet – the monotone, monotonous rhythm made her want to thread her eyebrows with copper wire.
Instead, she scraped one heel over the cigarette she’d devoured. Its tawdry red lipstick had momentarily beautified her nicotine yellow stained fingertips. The sudden tiny blackboard screech made her teeth scream with the reminder that she still needed her heels repaired – another on the long fucking list of to dos and problematic questions of how? These were all noises that accompanied her grumbling stomach. Who would take care of those? Maybe another week without credit for her gas meter?
Bridgette decided to sit in contemplation on the damp, artsy bench dedicated to someone time forgot. It probably cost enough to feed the homeless around here, her included – pretentious pricks.
Still with money on her mind, she was subconsciously eyeing his bulge when she folded her arms across the cheap blouse that screamed on deaf ears for cover. As he leant over to pick something up from the grimy, wet floor, he obtruded even more until finally something flipped over the edge of his pants and onto the pavement. He seemed stuck in an unforgiving position due to the obvious hazards of an unhealthy BMI currently showing him a thing or two. Fucking BMI was not something Bridgette ever had to worry much about; food to her was like a long lost pen pal. Cigarettes were her new friend, and on good days, or bad, a little of the other.
Her lethargic and resentful scrape across a few of the disjointed paving stones echoed badly at the opening of the hollow tunnel she’d come from. The archaic ballast in this dingy part of the city ground on her and her teeth, again. Shit hole.
The city was always in a confused state with its backdrop to anarchy displayed in the garish bad taste of graffiti alongside the pert, metal alloy, meaningless artwhatever style benches – too Banksy to sit on with their antagonistic curled lip pushing through the concrete – Yeah right. Like we all fucking do that, she often thought. Sometimes the statement was a fair one, but the bench was way too hard to sit on, and totally impractical, always draining her of body heat – acceptable for those who liked to mull their ideas on a busy Saturday afternoon eating their McDonalds or fish and chips. Lucky bastards. Selfish, modern imperialism.
In the normal scheme of things, Bridgette could care less about isms and artists, or if she got them right. She cared that she was starving and cold and smelt like an ashtray. Ciggies or food? Ciggies or food? Or maybe some nice person could get her what she really needed? In my fucking dreams. She often thought that, too.
They knocked heads as they both reached for his brash, leather, embossed wallet.
He pulled back slightly as her cigarette breath nearly killed the hard wired circuitry in his brain, temporarily throbbing beneath the electrified buzzing grey steel of a retro lamppost adorned with the claw carved etchings, ‘Banjo loves death’. The sentiment made Bridgette’s eyes roll. Arseholes.
His body, which was lagging way behind his sweaty, bulging eyes, caught up and rose stiffly as she handed him the wallet. He mindlessly flipped its clasp, then tapped it a few times, rocking back and forth in his shiny shoes. Bet they have a sole on them…fecking idiot.
Bridgette’s mind wandered to the possibilities of battered cod and whether they would still have any at this time of night at Munro’s, and whether the sodding bus would be late again.
She heard an awkward “thank you” as she shivered in her ill considered
clothing. The rain, waiting in the seething clouds, would get her for sure, for her choices later.
Bridgette thought a lot in those terms and was wondering again about the warmth of the chip shop. She remembered the man.
No problem, you clumsy bastard, she thought, no problem.
Physically, she simply nodded, while mentally she was attuned to a finer, more important facet of her existence: if she didn’t get any curry sauce or even fish, and stuck with the crappy chips that always had eyes as big as the spores of black mould in her dingy bedsit, she might be able to take the number 43 from Kings Cross.
Avoid the drunks.
She’d been felt up too many times before, and the smell of stale alcohol always left her colder than she was now as she attempted to move past the weird looking bloke still visible, still expecting something – what that was, Bridgette wasn’t at all sure about.
She shifted from foot to foot, twisting slightly as she peered into the distance – a small experiment to see if indifference and the lighting up of another cigarette would be any sort of clue or turn off. She blew smoke right where it might catch him downwind.
Normally, Bridgette was a chimney and would toss her head back as if she might be protecting one and all from the innocuous but delicious chemicals that she spewed on a regular basis – at the same time feeling like a film star of old. But if she was honest and brutal with it, she only felt old with each cigarette; wet cigarettes only served to increase the morbidity that clung to the analyses of her situation these days.
He hung on in there making Bridgette feel uncomfortable, and Bridgette was feeling enough of a lot of things today. She didn’t need it. Arsehole.
Her reflexes and hunger had got the better of her, and all too late she noticed that she had been standing quite near to the taxi rank while deliberating over starvation or survival, and she was now getting wet. Had it only been 15 minutes since she had parted company with her “friend”? Christ! And, the ‘wallet’ was, after all, well justified in standing there.
Her arm began to itch and throb. Fuck! She’d forgotten the healing wounds of ice picked veins under the miserable excuse for camouflage. Bridgette bit her lip and coughed a damp cough; its warmth turning to steam in the dismal air.
Her shoulder flinched at the tap from a chubby finger that led all the way to the bulging eyes. Oh, fuck. “Yes?” Bridgette stepped away to make clear that her space was her space.
“I couldn’t help but notice some distress.” He gestured to the entirety of the scruffy, flimsy clothing, the black spidery mascara and her shivering wreck of a life. An unfamiliar accent came across the bitter night air.
I have plenty of that, just that, and nothing much else to give… so move along. “Er, thank you. I’m fine. A wee bit cold, but otherwise fine. I am waiting for my bloke. He should be here soon.”
His reply of ‘Oh‘ was as rounded as his eyes and belly, and Bridgette tried to shrink into her clothing a bit more.
He came at her again.
Oh, go away, or give me your fucking jacket, or your shoes, or your life! “Look,” said Bridgette, her brows aching. “I don’t mean to be rude, but can I help you?” And whatever it is you want, I haven’t got. I am cold that’s all, and tired and hungry and I don’t have a fella and I need something, it’s starting to fucking hurt…
“I am sorry, Miss, it’s just that, I er… I am lost here – on a flying visit and I got lost.”
Yeah right, and you have all this money and a spare half an hour… He was still fumbling with the wallet.
“I was about to call dinner. It has been a strange day, and a long one. Since you were kind enough to help me earlier, I wondered if I might repay that kindness with some hospitality.”
Are you fucking joking me? Bridgette was stunned. Trust was a torturous issue. Like religion, she didn’t have any and, again like religion, she deemed it unsafe and insane, especially today.
He continued, keeping his distance, “I have a daughter your age.”
And what age would that be, weirdo?
He lifted the flap of his jacket and tried to wedge the wallet back in. “She came here years ago on a whim and in a temper. She never contacted us again. That’s why I am here, I need to find her. I need to see if my little girl is okay. I guess your family worry about you too, Miss? So I hope you can understand my intrusion a little bit.”
He stepped back a few paces more as if to acknowledge Bridgette’s notable concerns.
And I look like the Embassy’s advisor? What do you fucking want?
The exhaled frosty air streaming out of her was reminiscent of smoke, any smoke at this point. Fuck! She remembered that she’d smoked her last cigarette trying to thwart this no good letch off.
Bridgette grappled with her faux leather pouch bag to hide her discomfort, and what else, she wasn’t sure. She felt heavy, tired, hungry and weak; dragging around baggage like her life behind her on a rope was tiring, and the rope never seemed to wear any or become frayed enough to set her free.
Oh dear God!
Rumbles from Bridgette’s stomach turned her face red, and she gritted her teeth. Her jaw clenched with embarrassment and resignation. Maybe a bite to eat in full view would put an end to this. Maybe I’ll be killed either way. Maybe the earth will swallow me up and this perv will take a hint and leave me be. A wave of genuine maybes hit her like a tsunami. She didn’t actually want to be let be; left inside where it hurt and where the pain echoed in her extremities, numb from the cold.
She could feel her knees buckling and head swim before the whole dizzy, dank street went black.