Steve, friends (1)
The list of his friends is small but diverse and who can say why it is that you think of any of your friends even these ones ? One of the many things in his favour includes the fact that he doesn't know that many people. But still he scarcely knows where to begin. Which in this case means its not knowable whether or not this will be in his favour in the end.
Anyway let us just consider these three and their partners Iain (a writer), John (something in TV) and Sue (painter and project manager). Trying to separate them into individual units is something else again, since he only ever sees them as a collective unit (consisting of Iain-John-Sue-ness) this is irrelevant. But when they decide to get together and invite you over for some food, drink and etcetera then they are memory, death and the endless battle against entropy in many severe volumes.
From the street you can hear the noise they are generating, shouting, banging of drums, load music and dancing. Chaos on the first and second floor. If one of their neighbours is passing by you can see from their aura, body posture and the deathlike paleness of their features that they are experiencing something that is beyond the boundaries what is acceptable. Don't bother to shout into the entry-phone, which they would not hear anyway, because the door is open, just walk in and follow the noise up the stairs to a door that somehow seems less a door than an entrance into a burning hot zone owing to the events inside, push the door gingerly in case it burns your hand but it swings open as your hand gets near it, since people are always going in and out to get some fresh air and ventilation from the stairwell.
The heat of a hundred or more bodies washes over you as you leave the world and enter the flat. It makes coherence impossible. The ability to describe anything fails, and as you enter the hall a small person grabs you at the knees and proceeds to vomit some brown vaguely chocolate smelling substance onto your coat and then another even more vaguely human creature who has climbed up an adjacent bookcase leaps onto your back like a kamikaze pilot so that the bottle you are holding lands with a wet crash onto the tiled floor causing a red puddle, like a bad map of Australia to spread across the black and white tiled floor. This doesn't bother anyone but you because the partners of your friends surround you and rescue you from the small people who've trapped you in their tendril like arms and whilst they are being separated from your body, along with your coat another person mops up the red wine with cloths that look like medieval bandages. Whilst this scene is completing John has already described the storyboard of the next TV film he is producing. Then Iain who is holding back more children who are armed with knives, airguns and the unfortunate ability to shoot, and then Sue appears out of the kitchen offering cigarettes and carrying chili, wearing an apron that was once a sunny yellow colour but now glistens with pearls of inorganic sweat. She looks surprisingly like Ophelia, or is it the Duchess of Malfi ? or maybe like the types who hang around in the XXXX gardens, perhaps even the statues. Then they start shouting that there is food and that it was made by Iain and Sue but that it is has been improved by John (to general groans from those who know of his garlic tendencies), John believes that allowing Sue and Iain to be alone in the kitchen is to risk salmonella or worse. Iain begins to direct people towards the food after pouring wine into glasses and plastic cups. The people are beginning to stack up, especially as the dancers have deserted the music and begun to squabble over the wine and the food. This causes the room to shrink and the people to become compressed into a smaller space so that the children and other small people begin to crowd into the spaces between feet and laps.
An evening with Steve's friends tends to be chaotic, loud and taxing on the nerves. It appears to him that his friends partners have the demeanour and patience of some of the lessor known catholic saints (the ones not castrated or with their bodies decoratively pierced with arrows). Certainly he admires them immensely for putting up with his friends and not taking a frying pan or bare electric cables to them. But then he has always suspected that their partners are even worse than they are, it is just that in the everyday life that consists of work, schools and the other recognisable segments that makeup a 'normal' day they disguise the difference, the weirdness well. Anyway a party with these friends is so quintessentially European that it serves as a reasonably good introduction to post-modern European culture. Actually now that I am considering such things it reminds me of something that Clive, who is an expatriate Englishman living by the sea told me, (the question of course is he better or worse than they are ?) Whilst travelling through Germany, I'm not sure if it was in the east or west (which at the time meant something different than it does now), he was driving a mini-bus to Poland, so it could have been either, but as it happens Clive , woman and performance troupe decided to have a barbecue in the rough style of Australians (She was from the desert) but to their surprise they found that to go into the woods required a permit and other sundry permissions from the authorities. These weren't hard to get but once the various dead things were spitted or laid out on grills etceteras the firemen appeared with accompanying policemen, presumably to make sure that the fire wasn't going to spread out and burn down the ancestral Teutonic forest. They of course ended up eating and drinking huge amounts of alcohol with Clive and friends, to such an extent that after the copious quantities of beer had been drunk they all climbed into their vehicles and leaving the fires smouldering (and forests burning) they all drove drunkenly with sirens blazing towards the Polish border. Furthermore the best of all uniforms are ambulance drivers or firemen (such helmets) and when the day arrives when we consign all the uniforms, including those cursed limp penis ties that we men wear at the office, funerals, weddings and bar mitzvahs, into the furnace the only ones to be saved will be the firemen and ambulance drivers but they will be made more beautiful and designed by Paul Smith so that they look so much more wonderful as they rescue cats from trees or put out office fires before admiring crowds.
So the food is disappearing down throats and into crevices in the walls and behind sofas. Jealousy is apparent between people who had hardly eaten anything and those who had stuffed themselves. More drink is found, much jollity whilst in some corners others are slouching in a maniac-depressive mode. In the hall the small people are running around indifferent to the turmoil, how many are their ? Steve was beyond counting and then no sooner had he counted two or three than they disappeared and some more would burst into view from a room, after losing count for the nth time Steve leaves the hall and goes into the kitchen to collect another Belgium beer.
The room is full of people shouting, arguing and people engaged in tentative and not so tentative displays of eroticism. This delirium creates a moment during which the stereo comes alive and begins to play some Nigerian pop and a computer turns itself on and connects to the internet through an ISDN line. Occasionally some load bangs can be heard but Sue says that it is only the neighbours and just ignore. Of course it is now two in the morning which isn't that interesting because when its four they all dance down the stairs singing "ITT - International Teef Teef" as loud as we can accompanying the speakers which have been hung out the windows. None of the personal or the worlds problems have been solved but a number of people who deserve trouble and strife will get it and some diary dates and phone numbers have been exchanged. As well as lunches, drinks and other inner space meetings have been arranged. But not of course by Steve who is feeling rough and sad by turns. Anyway tomorrow Iain is off the New York, Sue to a new job at xxxx and John is going to Bath, dispersal. Steve is feeling hungover, drunk and desperate for a shower but as he walks home through the dawn chorus he stops off at a cafe in Levallois that is opening in preparation for the first of the office workers and orders mineral water, hot chocolate a couple of croissants and then fades away listening to the Paul Motion trio. But he doesn't care because the sea is splashing onto the sidewalk over the breakwater and the cars are caked with salt and sand that has been blown all the way from the Sahara and somewhere deep in his unconscious a voice is whispering 'damn love, friends... what next ?'
Steve de Vos - London 03/16/98
Steve - modesty
Steve, his battles with management
Introduction to the Hypertext Novel
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