There is no warning rattle at the door. Not when you don’t have a door.
There is no one to come and stand over you, to tell you it’s time to pull it together. Not when everyone around you is in the same boat.
And there is no one with a crystal ball, urging you, pushing you, screaming that now – NOW! – is the time to pick yourself up, get a job, stop slouching around with these self-indulgent misfits, return to life.
No one knew where I was, no one needed to. I was alone, independent and drunk on this illusory freedom I believed I had found. Like a bird on the wind, I let myself be buffeted here and there, never alighting. I loved it.
A return to life? I would have scoffed at anyone who suggested it. This was life, and anyone who thought otherwise was just clinging to old-fashioned, outdated values.
Most days, we sat on a floating dock rocking in the waves at the edge of the wealthy, adorned city. One of those gilded Mediterranean cities. You’d be surprised to find out how grungy they really are. Tall, beautiful marble buildings soared up from the water’s edge, leaving this part of the waterfront in faded, dirty shadows. The poor in the shadow of the wealthy. And I can guarantee you, those people up there in their suites didn’t look down here into our world. They looked out at their million dollar view.
Of all the blighted areas we might wash up, this was our preferred place, here by the pier. We liked the early-morning congregation of deviants; those the previous night had spat out and those, like us, who flocked to the shoreline early, for various reasons.
There was this young man, in his early twenties like I was, who I liked to watch. His face was masked by a scraggly beard while the rest of him was poured into a sleek, black full-body wetsuit. He wore black patent high heels and somehow managed in his roaring, madcap way, to surf – still in heels! – on a board he’d constructed out of wooden palates. At least, he tried to surf. Most of the time he just floated, smiling and riding the waves near the pier, perched on his palate, probably well-supported by all the detritus that the waves brought in.
The morning that keeps coming back to me had started early, as the bleak grey dawn burned away in the rising sun. We sat in faded deck chairs we had hauled out of the waves, hands shielding our eyes from the glare, eyes distractedly on the heeled surfer. The sky was a brilliant blue.
Adriana was talking, as usual.
“But I can just ask Gianni to create something – the house of Gianni or whatever,” she shrugged in that beautiful Italian way she had, always looking like a princess, despite the dirty, oversized coffee-brown mumu she had taken to wearing daily. The less she ate, the more drably it draped across her thin frame. Her blonde hair was piled in a frizzed mess on her head so that she looked like a staged, disheveled version of the famous model she had been.
“I wish I had your optimism” I said a while later. The drugs always seemed to delay my response times. No longer watching the surfer, I was trying to shoot a picture of her unawares with a phone I’d found somewhere.
“Oh! You were too close, try again!” she pleaded as I pitched with the roll of the waves. But now it wouldn’t be candid and I didn’t want her posing. I pretended to photograph something else as she continued.
“When we really get desperate, he’ll give me a job. I can sell fashions until I’m too old and ugly and then he’ll find something else for me to do. Don’t worry, you’ll all have jobs,” she said with a vague wave that signalled this included all her hangers-on, who were sprawled nearby, strung-out on whatever it was they were doing that day.
That conversation echoes eternally in my mind. We didn’t realize we had already reached the point of desperation. We didn’t see the warning signs and, honestly, we wouldn’t have paid them much attention anyway. We were so sure we knew what we were doing.
Gianni never saved us but I have no one but myself to blame for ending up right back here in the same bleak shadows.
Word count: 746
Written for the Speakeasy #164 at Yeah Write. Click on the above badge to see the prompt, check the rules and participate in the challenge.