The next day Sam and Freddie were on the Tube. Freddie was making his way back home, back to his Portuguese family. Sam felt sad at losing his friend. He felt sad because he knew that they would part at some tube station or other while people they did not know wandered around them. He felt sad because he knew that soon things would have to be done, to enter back into the so-called real world of work and drudgery. He needed a friend around him like Freddie.
Freddie is a real person, although he’s not called Freddie and he now lives in Angola, where I suspect he will one day await death by firing squad. He is real and so is Melilla.
Melilla is a small city surrounded by a big fence. It is Europe. On the other side of the fence is Africa. It is on the North Moroccan coast, across the water from Malaga. It is the End of the Road, Jack. The last post.
Western so-called civilisation ends there.
I have lived there and so have they.
Every morning Sam had left his safe cave of a flat and passed the largest police station in that delightful cesspool on the edge of the world. Every morning he saw groups of poor African men (always men) huddled together, or sat on the walls. They were always quiet, almost silent and he often used to wonder what they thinking.
Is this place like they thought it was going to be?
It had taken some of those unfortunate bastards years, literally years of struggle to get here. Their reasons differed, some came for economic reasons, others escaping from persecution. The reasons didn’t matter, what did matter was that they were all treated like shit when they got there. There did not mean Europe, there was Melilla. That place is different. Sam had heard of and seen men shot and spat on, called “nigger” at every opportunity by the rich and spoilt Westerners who wouldn’t have had the strength to even glimpse what these men had been through. He had met one of those men who’d had his eye shot out with a rubber bullet getting across the fence. Yet Sam had refused to feel pity for them, pity is an unworthy emotion to feel for a human who has struggled as much as they had. Pity is what do-gooders and Christians who are never wrong feel for others, never realising that they are lowering the worth of others fight through life. They had survived. They should have felt lucky.
The Melillan locals said that there were two or more beaches there, but in the ten months that they lived there Sam and Freddie only saw one. It just happened to be divided into segments by a dirty graffiti covered pier, an evil chicken wire fence or a perpetually unfinished concrete wave breaker of some kind, and the artificial sand hills. Sand is imported from Morocco and placed on the beach for the rich Spanish to lie between two industrial ports, the water made filthy by the constant traffic moving across the sea.
When summer was officially there and the weather had changed to remind them that they were in North Africa, people took to the beach in droves. Walking along the promenade, past the baby pushers, the idiotic groups of young men posturing in a hope to attract the attention of a female and end the day performing an action that at its worst is just that, an action, as worthless and hopeless as a nosepick. At its best, that feeling becomes something akin to divinity.
Yet how often do people hope for the latter and have to make do with the former?
The beaches were covered in people, hiding under sun shades, all shapes and sizes, the young and old shouting and flesh, flesh, flesh... thin flesh, fat flesh, dark sausage coloured fat running children, awkward teens playing with their bikini straps, thin pale skinned girls worrying about their tans and skin cancer. A Boschian inferno of hybrids and colours, whole tribes going from dryness to wetness then back again.
Sam and Freddie had enjoyed walking down upon the beach and headed towards the pier. Standing on the sandy ground, they watched the locals drive up to the end of the pier in lines like ants on the edges of bathroom tiles, then turn right around again and drive back. Driving up, turning around and driving back. All in their 4x4′s with nowhere to go but to drive from one end of the enclosed city to the other. It was quite amusing, if the truth be told. The fathers, happy in their cars that’ll be a burden to them for the rest of their natural life. The mothers, dyed blonde hair, the cracks in their faces plastered over by thick theatrical style make up. The children some happy in their ignorant bliss at being allowed to sit in the front seat, others with a hint of flashing intelligence in their eyes that said “Is this it?”
Sam had been living in Melilla for a month on his own before Freddie came to join him. Sam had been apprehensive about another human being sharing his space. He hoped that the other would at least be an interesting person to talk to. And that he wouldn’t mind his drinking. Their first night together had been catastrophic.
“Answer t’door, you fucker!” Sam had muttered, “…come on, wake up!”
He was drunk, very drunk, in fact boys and girls, he was pissed out of his tiny little brain and not too happy about being locked out of his own apartment building. It was three o’clock in the morning and the sun wouldn’t be rising for another three hours. Gangs of youths roved the city for easy drunken pickings as the inebriated Spaniards from the port bars wandered and stumbled back to the comfort of their nagging wives and church services, forgiving them for their sins, in order for them to do them all over again the following week after the double paid slavery of their jobs. Being at the arse-end of nowhere had some perks for the locals.
Sam was lucky in that he was single and a foreigner. So, as was usual for his life the general rules of society did not apply. The laws that did apply to him were the laws of physics and the fact that he could not walk through the locked outside security door worried him immensely. It also troubled him that Freddie, his new housemate, was not answering the buzzer to his flat, as there was only one set of keys and Freddie had left the bar sensibly earlier than he had.
Sam started to worry that his flat mate had not actually made it home. He began to think that maybe Freddie had been mugged or assaulted or, even worse, that he had just picked up some floosie and was at moment in the throes of ecstasy either in their shared flat or at hers. This thought crowding around Sam’s boozed up brain upset him no end as he hadn’t had a fuck since he had left South East Asia, all of a month previously.
In a surge of anger, he began pressing all the buzzers in the building and continued to until an evil female metallic voice spat “adios!” at him. The voice was full of spite and oozed the feeling of a life led unfulfilled. Then the door miraculously farted and opened.
“Thank jeezuz fer that…” Sam thought out loud.
Freddie had managed to get home despite having to tell his body which foot came next when he walked. It was his first night in Melilla and thus far he had been drunk for approximately twelve hours. He had left the bars because even in his drunkenness, the abysmal pop dance of the bars had been too much for delicate constitution to take. It was the same Euro trashy pap heard in bars where people who knew nothing, came to think nothing and pick up girls who spoke nothing of any consequence.
“Bread an’ fuckin’ circuses” Freddie had shouted at Sam, as they both watched old men with their t-shirts tucked into their slacks ogling scantily clad young girls suggestively dancing the Latino way, not realizing the hopeless of their situation. “I’m goin’ ‘ome” shouted Freddie into Sam’s ear, “Righty ho, ol’ boy” Sam replied and he dug into his pocket for the heavy set of keys for their apartment. Freddie promised that he would stay awake for him so that he could get in.
A fateful promise.
Empires have fallen over such words, friends reduced to enemies.
So off he went, stumbling and zig-zagging this way and that. Images of his old and new lives flooded his head. Snapshots of a former life, neither better nor worse than the one he was living now. Freddie never judged his own life, never put it into the safe categories of good times or bad times. It was just life. It was all there was, the only thing a man can truly ever have any knowledge about.
He passed a cold, modern looking church of the Catholic faith and thought that and wondered at all the masses that huddled there every Sunday, true believers and pretenders and started dwelling on their happiness when he saw a group of shady looking men at the end of the Avenida. Suddenly, his thoughts stopped and the self preservation instinct took over, that animal fear of life or death. He crossed the road as unassumingly as he could. He was spotted but all he got were hisses and whistles, men trying to sell this drug or that. He just carried on walking.
He reached the apartment building and let himself in. Taking the lift, he opened the door with only a slight mishap when he dropped the keys. Freddie threw his bag on the floor and sat next it. He stripped to his underwear and sparked up a cigarette, then lay down behind the door. “I should hear the doorbell if I stay here” he thought to himself. Grabbing a supermarket plastic bag full of rubbish and using it as a pillow he slowly began to slip into unconsciousness.
Sam crashed into the building, the door slammed behind him with a noise that woke all the ghosts of the Spanish Civil War and even Garcia Lorca came to watch the show. Sam took the lift and pressed the button for his floor, then slipped and all his body weight concentrated on his right hand index finger and he fell to floor of the lift, grinning at his own state of disrepair.
The lift doors opened and he picked himself up with some effort and grabbing the banister made his way to his apartment. He began pressing his own doorbell. Once. Twice. Then continually. Nothing stirred behind the door.
All of a sudden, the hall became light and a middle aged hateful looking woman appeared from the apartment beneath him. She started screaming at him with the same malicious voice as the house phone had assaulted him with. Sam just looked at her and fumbled with the Spanish word for “sorry”. The banshee then disappeared and Sam gave a drunken sigh of relief as the hall lights died once more.
“I’m just gonna lie here until I can get in” he told himself and settled down for a night on the floor.
The next thing he knew he was being pulled violently to his feet by a face distorted with anger and hatred, a big, burly bastard that stank of sweat, aftershave and the cheap odour of ignorance. Sam realized that this must be the husband of the screaming bitch and therefore not the happiest man of this earth. The violence of attack shocked Sam to his core and in a split second he saw this relic, this throwback from Franco’s rule in all his barbarity. He wondered how many people this animal had killed in the name of one man. Sam tried to explain his situation to the deaf ears of the man but of course that required stopping and thinking. He was surprised that the man shouted at him in Spanish even though it was obvious that Sam had yet to gain a grasp of the language and was muttering his explanations in English.
“B-but I fuckin’ live ’ere!” he spoke as he had one of his arms bent savagely behind his back and his face slammed into the opposing wall. The man started to forcefully push him down the stairs towards the lift, when Sam slipped.
A moment of imbalance, a push too hard and over the friendly looking banisters he went. He heard the man above him shout something, a trace of distress mixed in with the anger of his voice and as he plummeted down from the sixth floor, hitting banister after banister like the ball in a pinball machine.
Just before the law of gravity and matter decided to break his fall onto the stairs below he saw the ghost of Lorca, shaking his head with his handsome features set in stone, a melancholy look of someone who knows it will never end; and upstairs in the flat Freddie, oblivious to the almost murder on the other side of the door, was dreaming of running on the beach with his dog.
Throwing him a stick to catch as the sun began to set.
He was smiling.
Sam had been lucky.
He came away with a black eye, mild concussion, a couple of bad bruises, a chipped bone in his arm and damaged pride. A turn to the left and he could have fallen through the banisters and fallen to his death. The fucker had even decided to drag him down the stairs and throw him into the street, like a bag of rubbish. The local constabulary were no help. The brute knew them all and explained that Sam had slipped being escorted down the stairs as he was so drunk that he could hardly stand. Sam’s drunkenness and concussion knocked bits out of his memory but he knew what had really happened.
Freddie took good care of Sam for the period he was suffering from the assault. Sam realised what a good friend he had been lucky enough to meet. He was always surprised when someone was kind to him. It was an embarrassment that he could never truly repay that altruism.
They mulled over the best way to get revenge and to keep living on top of the Nazi fuck. Time needs to pass. So, ten months later on their last night, the two of them got riotously drunk, super glued his car door locks with safety pins and paperclips, left two weeks accumulated rubbish outside his door and took turns in quietly sneaking out and phoning the house from different phone boxes throughout the night, wearing gloves of course. They then packed their bags and headed for the airport at five in the morning. They also had his postal address and after a year proceeded to send him stuff from every perverted website they could find.
Sam looked at his friend, a vegetarian, who enjoyed blowing up seagulls by feeding them bread dipped in bicarbonate of soda and who stated that the only meat he would eat was “longpig”.
Soylent Green is made of what?
Sam gave his friend a hug at Green Park station amid a tempest of strangers and watched him wander off into the morning crowd.
“Another one gone” he thought as he dived into the returning train.
Opposite him a man read The Guardian newspaper. Sam began reading, his attention caught by the headline, “Iran/U.S. standoff – Another Bay of Pigs?”
Turning around he felt a coldness pass through him and as the train doors closed something caught his eye.
On the station platform a man waved at him.
An old man with a beard and a bag.
It was then that Sam recognised him without thinking.
He inhaled sharply.
The man had been dead for three years.
I know the man too and he is not dead. Not yet.
And I hope he doesn’t begrudge me for killing him.
But I had to.