The Third Level
4) The Third Level
Three stories up in this huge concrete structure which was a throw back to Cubism there was a gigantic hole as if a monster had taken a bite out of its side. Twisted steel rods, bent, rusted , deformed stuck out like ribs from its body.
She sat on the edge of this wound staring out across a valley that held a city. Lights like jewels sparkled and mesmerised the brain into thinking it was a mere blanket laid out before her. Old terrace houses huddle together for safety surrounded this wounded monster on one side, shops on the other. A motorway snaked through the scene, its autonomous specs of light travelling to distant places in clustered convoys.
Her companion stood behind her also surveying the scene.
Orange light drifted up from the site below giving her face an unearthly appearance. He could see her eyes, asphalt black, her face now a sodium glow, her whole body looked small against the huge surroundings.
“What now?” he asked casually.
“One last fag.” she answered producing a packet and selecting one stick of tobacco as if a skilled seamstress choosing a needle for a complex task. Looking at it she turned it in her hand then let the packet drift off in to the void below.
“They will kill you.” he said trying to inject humour.
Her look was critical, as if to say, “Really?”
He now realised he had minutes to make a last desperate attempt to change her from her course.
“Let me look after you.” he said out of desperation.
No sooner had he said these words he knew what the retort would be and sure enough it came.
“Ah, ya, look aft me. Ya can’ t even look after y’sell.”
“No.. yes, that is true, but the two of us would be better than each alone.”
“What? Ya wanna pimp me”
This reply took him by surprise.
“Not in the least,” he exclaimed alarmed she held such a thought. Then added the first thing that came into his brain,
“You could wait on tables, I could push a broom or something, we would get by.”
“Shit” she said, “A middle aged white dude with a teenage girl, if we are not father and daughter you will be a pervert and locked up before you know it. And don’t you think I have had enough of men?”
“That is true, but we could be father and daughter.. a mutual relationship only… symbiotic.”
“Fancy word for living together.” she snorted but the idea appeared to hit a cord with the girl. She pulled heavily on the cigarette.
After a moment or two she spoke softly now,
“Ya don’t even know ya own name. For all ya knows there may be bad people after you.
How long could we put up with each other and how long before I would spread mi legs, for money.”
It is a nice thought though, having a father.”
This he seized upon, “Yes, yes I would do my very best, it would give me a reason to carry on.”
She laughed, “And the day ya find out you have a pretty wife, a big house and cute kids, what happens to me then? ”
“I think you have post natal depression “ he said slowly, “you can only see the down side of things with that. Give me time….. ”
“Post what” she shouted now cutting him short, “No, I have a shitty life, that’s what I have.”
Her anger washed his good intentions out of him. He felt the cold. Looking around he say the grim surroundings, the dirt and decay of it all. Suddenly his own mood was spiralling downward. What hope he had of helping this girl drained away.
“Fuck” he said quietly to himself under his breath, breaking one of his own rules. He realised how close he was to loosing her. The push to end it all may be stronger than his grasp of hope by which he held her there.
“What did ya say?” she asked looking at him as if shocked.
“Nothing” he replied but her look said she had heard him. It was a look that told him he had destroyed a line of faith, a sign of good she had seen in him.
Taking one last long draw on the cigarette she flicked its remains out into the space beyond. Blowing the smoke out of her lungs she looked up at him.
“Goodbye” came to his ears in a soft female voice and then he was looking at nothing but the lights in the distance.
He stood with open mouth looking at this nothingness.
“Shit” he said.