Short Story: Gold
– By Sharlene Teo
Buzzing July lunchtime. It is getting so hot the back of my thighs stick to the seat. I miss pause-glacial winter, I miss slap-nasty rain, I miss whatever doesn’t make the insects come out and cause my brain to feel like it will melt and sidle down my neck, catching on my ribs and making me forget whole periods of my life and the names of common zoo animals.
I am sitting in a Pret with my new colleague Lisa. Lisa is maybe two or three years younger than me. She is slight and wiry, a mousy atom of a person. She has a sharp, pretty face and bitten-down nails. She has chosen a three-storey calorific blockbuster of a BLT and I have opted for a “seasonal selection” sandwich. Two bites in and I regret my choice. It is the middle of the week and I am sweating and I have food envy and I am a novelty-cuckold. A dribble of wasabi mayo escapes onto my body con skirt. Now I have a suspicious stain on my body con skirt.
I’m worried about my health, says Lisa.
Woah there sister, I don’t care and I hardly know you, I think, but on my face I affix a concerned expression.
Why is that, I ask.
I know we are eating, says Lisa, but.
She leans in.
Lately, when I urinate, my pee is, my pee is golden.
Uh, everyone’s pee is golden.
No, it is gold. It glitters and everything.
No, I’m not kidding, Lisa demurs. She tells me that when she looks in the toilet bowl there is a liquid in it the colour of fine spun manuka honey, of overpriced salon blonde (Lisa and I are brunette and dyed auburn respectively)- Academy Award hued, iridescent, glimmering piss.
With gold flecks and everything, says Lisa.
That is so weird.
Have you seen a doctor?
I have. I sent in a sample. The doctor said the test results were all normal, and by the time I had sent the sample in it looked dull and ordinary, just like normal urine, but trust me, it looks amazing when it is fresh. Really beautiful.
This is a really odd conversation.
I know. I’m sorry. I just had to tell someone.
Why did you have to tell me, I think. I consider Lisa. I consider her brown eyes, her gray nail polish, her chiffon blouse, and the crumbs strewn before her on the table.
I have only known, or barely known, this small, strange person for two weeks. Before that she folded neatly into the ether of unimaginable existence, living and breathing and drinking and crankily commuting around this harebrained, labyrinthine, people-choked city.
For at least eight hours a day, we sit opposite each other in an open-plan office. We online window-shop and read the Daily Mail website in minimized windows, we nod along in team meetings, and daydream separately by the kettle. But for the most part we drain our energy over desks of cheerful fake wood using in-house operating systems to analyze Risk.
I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my dying father. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my friends. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my boyfriend, who seems increasingly bored and disinterested, drifting away on an i-Calendar of overlapping schedules and chronic fatigue, terse texts and football matches.
I wonder if Lisa’s life is a bare shelf bereft of boyfriends or otherwise, people closer to her and/or more suitably appropriate to discuss her urine with. I feel sorry for her and wonder if she has several screws loose. I remember Tim, my colleague who interviewed her, saying she was totally impressive, switched on, on the ball, on the money, that one, he said. I wonder if he said all that because he didn’t really know what he was talking about/ never knows what he is talking about, and he was tired of interviewing people near the end of the day, and she was attractive.
I feel spiky and tired, and like I will wilt. Lisa is looking at me with a concerned expression.
There’s a bit of mayo on your skirt, she says. She puts some water on a napkin and hands it to me. I dab at the stain but it only makes it worse.
I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Lisa says. I just really wanted to tell someone.
That’s okay, I reply. Maybe you pee gold because you are a really good person.
Lisa doesn’t seem to understand it is a joke and looks so stricken that she might cry if you gave her ten minutes, and froze that moment.
I took a picture, as evidence, Lisa says, glowing with encouragement, with cloying earnestness. I put down my sandwich. It is disgusting anyway, £4.50 of cosmopolitan disgustingness. Lisa fiddles around with the screen, scrolls through and hands me her phone.
I look at the screen, a high-res Android screen. I tilt my head sideways, this way and that, like a caricature of someone in a French gallery, the Louvre perhaps. The Mona Lisa! Behold! Ancient oil paints, and gilded frames. Halogen glow, no-glare, pixels and pixels.
It is a clear shot of a toilet bowl, white ceramic, containing a pale yellowish liquid. Nothing out of the ordinary; nothing too revolting. I could have seen worse, I have seen worse. I look at Lisa. Her small face is a cryptic, hopeful moon. In ten minutes we will need to cross the green, scan our cards in, take the elevator up to the fifth-storey office.
You’re right, I say, smiling slightly, holding on to her phone. That’s really something.
Sharlene Teo is a Singaporean writer whose poetry and prose has appeared in various literary magazines across the UK, US and Singapore. She is currently undertaking the MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia.
Follow Sharlene on Twitter and check out her Blog.
Personal Essay: Hurricane
– By Laura Hayley Kavanagh
The last month my mind has been wrought with an ever expanding and conflicting plethora of feelings. I have been pottering around Dublin city as it slowly ekes its way into winter; Christmas lights have been going up and the chill in the air is getting so much in the mornings that I feel like I will suffer from severe arthritis in my fingers very, very shortly. Basically, I am home and certainly not in New York.
These emotional inconsistencies have exploded recently and the major reason, I have come to realise, is Hurricane Sandy. A year previous I battened down the hatches and wondered about what would unfurl when Irene arrived. So subsequently, as time ticked on and reports of Sandy’s possible wrath became increasingly substantive and threatening, my confusion peaked. Aside from the engulfing pit of nervous tension in my stomach for my friends in the Big City, I felt jealous. As if being part of this new drama that was beginning to play out would allow me to reshape the imprint Irene had left behind.
For New York’s last hurricane crisis, I was there. That summer I had travelled over with my best friend on a J1 and as soon as reports began to disseminate on news channels, my relatives and friends at home hounded me for information. Were things as bad as the terrifying images the weather men and women had shown? Was I ok, had I enough to eat and ultimately, was it all a bit of a joke? Most of my responses were undetermined for the many questions that were heaped upon me but as the time drew closer I anticipated disaster. It only seemed appropriate because despite my living across the Atlantic, basking in the beautiful instagram glowing goodness of the sun, entrenched in a new and exciting city brimming with possibilities, I felt really alone. When I left for New York the excitement was palpable. My friend and I were giddy with the want of adventure but as the weeks passed after I arrived it seemed our paths were set to diverge.
In the midst of impending doom, normally one would find solace from those they hold dear but since arriving in the land of the free, my closest friend had become the most distant. The week Irene hit was the week I become conscious that life was in flux; I was no longer a frivolous girl, I was a woman, glaring at the crumbling gable walls of an old friendship that was ripped from its foundations when nature instigated an unplanned course of action. Signs of tumult were everywhere; the media was in total panic and the girl who had transcended the walls of friendship to become a surrogate sister was fast becoming a stranger. The end of the world had to be nigh. Right?
Attitudes towards Irene differed in most boroughs depending on whichever land zone you fell into. I still wasn’t totally sure how to take it all in myself, hurricanes not being a player at all on the Irish meteorological landscape. So, I decided to be cautious, to stock up on water and food so I could watch television all weekend (assuming the power wasn’t cut), brazenly laughing in the face of danger. That Friday evening I was in on it, immersed in the shared structure of feeling that had been erected to deal with Irene. I was with the rest of my neighbourhood who weren’t totally sure what to do but could feel something unnerving growing stronger. The reason the media were scaremongering was because no one really knew what Irene would bring. As a result, I was half expecting all the dreaded possibilities; hunger, no power, flooding, fires, roofs being torn off Wizard of Oz Kansas style.
As Sunday came to a close and Irene had torn up an enormous old tree beside my apartment block and stopped pounding the pavements with torrential rain, she calmed down – the sky turned blue and life regained normalcy. Yes, many people were devastated by her but ultimately, she was a much gentler giant than we were led to believe. On Monday I ventured into Manhattan to meet a group of friends. We exchanged melodramatic stories of the event and mocked the wholly outlandish hysteria of it all. I bought a camera and let New York take my breath away again but I observed the one I had travelled with as an acquaintance, wondering if the storm had uprooted us for good. I travelled home a month later and she is still in New York.
Two weeks ago my sister returned to me, disembodied but still able to enrapture me with her tales of adventure and droll idiosyncrasies. Her scent was intangible but her spirit called to our history through the throat of a megaphone. She rekindled my love like a favourite teenage band playing on a cd you found in the clutter of a drawer aged 29, when you are an adult in the throes of the world and only the ghost of those years remain. We discussed our anxieties about whether we would only ever be flooded with the prospect of unpaid internships finding ourselves incapable of having enough to eat and there she was, every aspect of her just hurling her thoughts against the wall of me. The bricks were being re-laid because the site was still strong. I didn’t ask about Sandy knowing she would only laugh remembering the frenzy of Irene.
We are different now but our roots are still entwined at the tips. We can be blown across continents searching for the job of our dreams but we’re still the same silly undergrads who gossiped about boys in the bathroom during library breaks. Sometimes life throws a lot at you and it can be so difficult to claw back everything you hold dear. Sandy was cruel, tearing through houses and submerging streets with her fury. Although afterwards, images proliferated on television screens of people rallying together to help neighbours repair their lives, homes and cities. Now I realise that sometimes it takes a disaster to examine the true strength of your foundations.
Laura Hayley Kavanagh is a graduate of English, Media and Cultural Studies in DLIADT. She is currently writing lots and trying to figure some things out so she can become a real grown up.
Flash Facebook Status: 14 hours ago, Near Dublin.
– By Eims O’Reilly
The following is a summary of my brief, but harrowing, twenty four hours of Facebook deactivation.
Realise that my Facebook usage has recently started to escalate to alarming levels.
Decide to be proactive. Yeah! New day! Productivity bitch! Etc.
Now, how do I disable this thing…
Find sneaky, hidden buttons in account settings.
Facebook informs me just how much all my “424 friends will miss me.”
Ha Facebook, you emotionally manipulative bastard, you.
Think of witty remark.
Update photo onto timeline.
Right, now, how do I disable this thing?
Realise that if I disable my account now I won’t see who likes my aforementioned witty repertoire.
Stream latest episode of Home and Away and hover over Facebook notifications in the meantime.
Realise this is possibly not the beginning of the new found productivity that I had imagined.
Dammit, I don’t need your validation: deactivate!
Refresh captchas until I can find one that I can actually read.
Ha, this is ridiculous, I should totally comment about this under my photo.
Wait, no, get a grip. Deactivate.
Spend the next couple of hours realising that every minute in front of a computer screen triggers a particular muscle memory; CMD+T facebo…
I guess I haven’t updated my Tumblr in a while, that’s not really procrastination, I mean it’s teaching me about contemporary art…
Remember that Tumblr is a dark, dark abyss of teenage ‘thinspo’ bullshit.
Creep on it anyway.
Feel wholly inadequate.
Exit Tumblr. Google microwave cake recipe.
Cry into empty bowl of mulch.
Oh! New episode of Boardwalk!
Ok, right yeah, down to business, CVs…
Field worried texts; “grand yeah, just trying to avoid procrastination.”
Kittens. Harharhar, I know who would love this… Share… Wait, no.
Actually I really should buy that John Talabot ticket before it’s sold out.
Checkout. Done. Now to tell people how cool I am having purchased said ticket. Yeah I’m so, like, with it, I should round up a crew.
Um… But how…
Right, ok I’m serious now, job websites, lets be having ya.
Wow, that job is PERFECT.
For someone I know.
But I’m not using Facebook so how do I…
I know, TWITTER.
Bit ly. Share.
Man, I’m such a nice person.
Oh this place looks interesting, I wonder what working there would be like. Right, yeah, links to a Facebook page.
Repeat last three steps. Over and over.
Shit, these Tweets are so old and I never replied.
Feel Twitter guilt setting in. I really should Tweet more, for my career like.
Oh look, all these people reblogged my Tumblr posts. These people must really appreciate my aesthetic. That’s nice.
But I don’t know these people,
I wonder what my friends are up to. Or my ex. Or that random girl I met at a party once…
Realise that my problem is probably access to the internet in general.
Overshare and spam up newsfeed with ridiculously long status update.
Eims O’Reilly is a sometime writer who works in and around the arts in Dublin. You can follow her here