This is a raw preview of a long-form fiction project I am working on
Feel free to email me your thoughts
The park is quiet today. I had thought, considering the nice weather it would be bustling with activity. But, although there are still many city dwellers out and about, playing with their dogs, throwing freebies with friends, and lounging on picnic blankets with cheese and wine on hand. The atmosphere of the park seems eerily empty; looser than its usual congestion of happiness. All through the summer I would venture up to Victoria park almost daily. Enjoying the energy, and absorbing its alluring presence of untapped jovial spirits, to use to my advantage. Anytime I felt down, or in need of a boost of serotonin. I would head up here, to relish in the company of other human beings enjoying their lives. Creating memories which would succeed their own existence. Falling in love, sharing their souls, and becoming inebriated in the glorious European sun. But, as winter creeps upon us, the park’s attendees begin to fall. And, the happy essence of a London summer fades, and all the citizens descend into the beginnings of seasonal affective disorder. Something foreign to any Australian with a healthy supply of vitamin D, still coursing through their veins. Although, having been here for a few years now, I am well acquainted with the shift which takes hold of Londoners; as they lose their grip on the warmer summer climate. Their reality shifts back to the erratic motions of big city lives, and they lose sight of how to enjoy the little things. Time with nature is reduced severely, and focus centres on alcoholism in conjunction with career advancement. Londoners, navigating the corporate ladder will even forgo regular copulation. Choosing instead to be consumed by infrequent hours of passion, in the corner of some busy pub on a high street after Thursday night office drinks. Letting the professional mask of power and dominance fall for a moment of vulnerability with some co-worker up against a wall.
I walk along the path which leads through the park. Passing sets of mothers in active wear, and babies tucked up tightly in strollers. Couples holding hands and displaying affection, or, sifting through an argument which began in the morning. I find a place by a tree with the sun beaming on it. And, I sit down and open the pages of Tender is the Night. I am engrossed by the uninhibited naivety; Fitzgerald’s prose delicately promulgates. His fourth novel an attempt at true mastery. Striving for conviction, rather than artistic vision. His lyrical sonography, dispersed reservedly; as if almost coy with his now refined talent. His tale loosely masked in a manifested fictional reality, grabs hold of me each time I indulge. I always had a small affinity for Nicole, more than Rosemary. Her attitude excited me; although, I never wished her to run off with that brute Tommy. I always felt he was far more undeserving than our beloved Dick. Though, Dick’s descent into nastiness and the exposure of his true character, seemed inventible to me from the start – at least so I convince myself today, having read the pages of the novel a hundred times over. For, any man who shields his animalistic male attributes under a façade of chivalrous poise, will sooner or later, lose his resilience to the malice world. It will tear him down, and unravel his established gallantry. And, just as Dick gives into alcoholism; it is foreseeable Nicole should attempt to steer him right through jealousy. Albeit, to no avail. As the version of Dick whom she wrote all those years before when she was but a patient; was gone. For, that Dick never truly existed. At least, not as she saw. Dick, was nothing more than another white male, caught up in his own privilege. Some earnt, and some inherited by default. His timing, his humour, his graceful manner; was nothing more than an ingenuity in the art of conversation. He had become the ultimate gentlemen via simply dispensing an essence of wisdom, composure, and equanimity to those around. And, he had done so through an illusionary persona, devised for his own personal wellbeing. But, as he carried on throughout his life, pretending to be something he was not, he lost sight of whom he was trying to portray, and for what cause. And, so, the mask began to slip. His grotesque inner masculinity shone through, as he fell into reproach with the man he had become. In its place, now stood his wavering soul, beat up and beat down. Envious of authenticity, yet not quite convinced such a thing existed. Dick, was Fitzgerald. Dick was Gatsby. Dick, is all white males attempting to escape the reality which lies within us. Without spiritual renouncement of the material soul. Slowly, but surely. Your inner toxic masculinity will grab hold of the pronounced fabrication you constructed for the world to endure, and it will dismantle it entirely. Bukowski once said, he didn’t like what Scott had typed. And, I wonder if that was because he felt he saw past what Fitzgerald had. He was forgone from projecting a falsified authenticity for the world. He recognised man was doomed to imperil in society, due to a genetic makeup which left us inept to cater to the fairer sex and survive. And, we would forever be held to the whims of our addictive animalistic tendencies; to fuck, fight, drink, and fall into despair.
A white sneaker kicks my black boot. I look up from the pages of the book, to find Nicole standing over me. In washed nineties styled denim, and a black top. Her dark brunette hair, curves with natural waves around her face. Her smile, hidden behind her playful displeasure with finding me in the park, and deciding to acknowledge the coincidence. I take out my earphones, which amplify the cries of Jagger and Richard’s blues jam, Midnight Rambler.
‘Hi, loser.’ Nicole announces, recognising her insult will now be sufficiently audible.
‘Hi, beautiful!’ I say, genuinely surprised by her presence in front of me. She hesitates for a minute, before departing from her timid nature and collapsing herself to a seated position against the tree. She pushes me with considerable force for a woman of five-foot stature, weighing no more than forty-five kilos. She is slim, youthful, and pale. Nicole is my favourite of all my English friends. Despite treating me with nothing but hostility eighty-five percent of the time, when in her company. She sits next to me and snatches the book out of my hand.
‘I think I read this when I was fifteen. I didn’t like it all that much. Fitzgerald, is a bit of a bore.’ She flicks through the book letting my open page fall away in a nonchalant instance. She continues flicking through the novel, revealing her true intention to disturb my reading by losing the page. Her illustrious talents for disrupting my life at any opportunity presented to her are unparalleled. And, I somewhat long for her poignant conquering of my ego. No other woman can walk all over me in a display of sheer domination, as her Nicole can. She has a special talent, for showing me how pathetic my attempts at portraying a man are. She will not allow an inch of fabrication enter her world. And, she will stop at nothing to prove I am fraud, to anyone at all. But, when we are alone. She navigates my aching soul with a kindness and an acceptance like no one else.
‘Well he is one of my favourites. I think he is beautiful with his words.’
‘Of course, you would, you don’t know what true beauty is. I can assure you, it is not to be found in one of Scott and Zelda’s twenties party scenes. All those American writers, just stir a pot full of fluff. They’re all heady, and self-centred.’
‘Okay, Nicole. You are right.’ I smile warmly at her, not surrendering to her taunts to begin an argument between American and English literature. Where she would proceed to offload Dickens, both Eliot’s, Keats, and Austen – amongst other nineteenth-century English writers – as examples of true literary artistry. Knowing full and well, I have barely dipped my toes in the pool of English literature, nor any Victorian-era written word. Her response to my noncompliance is a mild aggravation. Often our interactions feel like a sexually charged game of chess, with no real intention to proceed down the route of lustful actions. Moving about one another flirtatiously, knowing we could never entertain the idea of a real intimate connection. The circumstances of our platonic friendship, are built around her romantic relationship with Brett. One which neither of us wished to disturb. She stares into my eyes and throws the book into my lap with force, ensuring my testicles feel the weight of the pages. ‘Ouch!’ I yelp to her, with a smirk on my face. My pain lights up her face, and she smiles gleefully like a child causing mayhem on the playground.
‘How are you doing, Harry?’ She turns away from me. Any exposé of her affection, in the form of an empathetic conversation she will attempt to conceal, by turning her face or body.
‘Good baby, and you?’ I move a strand of her hair, from her face. She blushes lightly.
‘I am good, just out for a walk. I needed to get away from Brett for a little while. He is driving me insane. Constantly nagging me about our future. I just don’t want to think about it today. Does he not understand the sanctuary of Sunday? It’s the fucking Sabbath! I don’t want to talk about going to have Christmas in the country with his yobbish family. Gosh. You men are all the same.’ She nudges me, and this unburdening is clearly cathartic.
‘Yes, how dare your man want to ensure Christmas is well planned, so you don’t have to worry about it. Organising travel plans and accommodation months in advance to avoid any undue stresses falling upon you. What a terribly inconsiderate human our dear Brett is.’
‘Shut up, Harry! How is your lesbian boss doing? Are you still slobbering all over her body in the torture dungeon at work?’
‘You know the weirdest thing is, I am not allowed to slobber over the parts of her body, I wish to.’
‘Oh, how unfortunate. Poor you, having to yield to the demands of a woman in control of her own body. You poor, poor soul.’
‘Yes, well I do enjoy getting my head between one’s thighs. Something I figured she would happily let me indulge in, what given her sexual history.’
‘Have you considered the prospect, after having women – who have their own clitoris, if you didn’t know – navigate her lady-bits proficiently. You just might not measure up, to gain access to her holy grail. I mean, let’s be honest Harry. If we must discuss your sexual exploits, do you even know how to give head properly?’ She stares at me, blank-faced. Deadpan. And, she encourages a smile from me. My lip trembles, and under any other circumstance I would lean in and kiss this powerful goddess – but, such an action is horrendously forbidden. Our relationship is strengthened by our limitations; by our moral imperative to maintain the status quo in our playful dynamic. And, not to cause harm to innocent, and unsuspecting third parties.
‘I am quite certain I have some skills in that area. And, perhaps, my stylisation of technique may differentiate, because of the very reason you just spoke. I am not a woman, and so my development as a lover in this area has evolved entirely exteriorly.’ I return to her, as she softly rests her head on my shoulder – if we are drinking, the limitations of our intimacy are pushed much further. There have been many nights, where Nicole and I have sat in the corner of a club munching the sides of our faces. Should we happen to be on MD, she will often perch herself on my lap, as we offload our deepest thoughts to one another. She will capitulate in my arms, and we will lounge together and discuss our lives. And, not a thought is given to our boundary-pushing activities, as our friends dance around too high to realise. Although, if sober our coquettish antics are reduced to conversational lustful motions.
‘If you say so.’ She turns her head away and I can see the corner of her soft lips raise. A gentle smile she is attempting to hide.
‘Anyways, things are about to change with Katie. Very rapidly I suspect.’
‘How so?’ She turns back to me, genuinely intrigued by my situation.
‘Well, Katie just split up with Michelle. She is helping Michelle move her stuff out of their place today, and on Tuesday she will be returning to her Dad’s place. Although, I have offered her to stay with me whenever she feels like it – as at her Dad’s she only has the couch.’
‘Does she not have a room there anymore?’
‘Well, up until very recently she did. But, his partner’s daughter has now taken it. Which seems fair enough. And, it is only a two-bedroom government flat. So, I can’t imagine it is all that great to return as a twenty-two-year-old woman of the real world.’ Nicole is fascinated by my story. Seemingly unsuspecting, of my latest update in the tale.
‘Wow, Harry.’ She pauses and considers it some more. Watching a golden Labrador running in the grass, near its owners sitting by a tree – in a similar fashion to Nicole and me.
‘Well, I guess it seemed like the right thing to offer.’
‘Yes, I suppose.’ Pause. ‘So, does that mean you are going to be with her now? Is that what is happening? You, Harrison Lumet the hopeless drunken stoner, failure of a musician destined for heroin addiction, are going to date a gym junkie soon to be MET Police officer?’ She looks at me, with distaste in her gaze. She seems repulsed by my decisions and repelled by my certainty.
‘Come on, we are having a pleasant chat. There is no need to lash out at me like that. No, I don’t think we are going to begin dating in that sense. I suppose, she will need time to figure her head out. And, although, this is probably best done away from a potential new partner. Her options are scarce as far as comfortable accommodation goes. And, I have space. My place is too big for one person anyway.’ I attempt to justify it to myself, as well Nicole. Still unsure as to where my true intentions lie. But, Nicole stiffens. Her face is overcome with a lingering emotion. She looks up to me slowly. Pronouncing her divine feminine beauty with a sterling gaze.
‘Harry, you don’t need to do this. Really, I hope you don’t think this is necessary. Please do not try to be something you are not. The best quality to you is your definite nature and your trueness to your character. Don’t give that in, just to indulge the presence of some girl, with cute dimples.’ She looks down to the grass we are seated on. She plays with her fingers and looks back up to my face. Staring into my eyes, and forcing my heart beat to slow. I am in awe of her company and wish only to sacrifice every crux of my being, for this person. But, she is unattainable. She is unreachable. She cannot be possessed, owned, defeated, won over, or bought. I am but sheer insignificance to her graceful presence, her glory of love. I attempt to bandage, patch, and upholster the absence of a romantic companion such as hers, from my life. And, I do so through silly capers such as the tribulations occurring in this current adulterous affair. Does Nicole realise, I would give it all up for someone like her; someone as kind, generous, and tender? That between Bukowski and Fitzgerald would arise my character free of tragic apotheosis. A tired, boring, ribboned tied Hollywood ending would result, and I would emerge a fifties-era Cary Grant, settling into the absurdity of mundanity.
‘I promise this is my choice, I want to do this for her. And, I am not worried about where this could lead. I think it will be good. No matter what.’
‘Harry – ‘she sighs and looks away. She begins to mumble – ‘we all just want you to be happy.’
‘Hey! Since when are you worried about my well-being, let’s stop being ridiculous. Now, do you want to go and get a drink?’ I touch her face softly and stare down at her. Her youthful elegance declared through her unconventional beauty. Strong, sharp, yet with a reserved shyness in her resolve. An exemplary woman of self-sufficiently, hardly restricted by the dictations of masculine figures in her life. Not a soul would dare to impose upon Nicole’s autonomous freedom. As, she has more than demonstrated her ability to perform castration of the male ego, with her razor wit.
‘Okay.’ We stand and head out of the park. Not speaking many words, but absorbing the day.