Thursday 9 June 2022

Chap One. Carl, Midi and I.

Before I met Sarl, my life was shit.

My job was shit.

My flat was shit.

And my boyfriend, Midi, was, well…


I lived then in a squat on the East side of the city. It was an old hospital, had been empty for a long time and a bunch of folks had chosen to squat it, and no one cared; no one outside the squat cared that they had and no one inside the squat seemed to.


I tried, but it was not easy. There was no heating and the empty stone rooms were cold. There was no water and no way to get any except to collect the rain that fell on the flat roof. I set up old oil drums that I salvaged from the waste land at the back of the one garage that still ‘worked’ in the neighbourhood and collected as much water as I could. I didn’t trust to drink it, but it allowed me to clean. My room was little more than a cell, once it had been where the nurses slept back when the East Side of the city, and its hospital, functioned. Then it had probably been comfortable, today it was just forgotten and unloved. It’s where I met Midi.


See what I did there? I put Midi and unloved next to each other. He was my boyfriend, or perhaps more honestly I was his girlfriend, the relationship was not equal. I made a list once of the pros and cons of knowing him, that too was unequal; one one side of the list I had ‘sex’ and ‘Barcelona’, the other side ran to several pages. Sex is probably the wrong word, it was more like two animals coupling, sometimes aggressive sometimes desperate but neither time did it lack passion. Barcelona was a dream. Midi told me he had friends there, it was just another of his lies; lies were on the second part of the list, near the bottom. It wasn’t the worst of him.


But let me tell you more about my room. It was in the middle of a long corridor, the corridor was dusty and unlit, remember there was no electricity so candles were the only option. I had two wooden pallets from the garage on the bare floor for a bed, a piece of foam and an old duvet I ‘found’ in the charity shop; I say ‘found’, the shop would say ‘took’. I can run fast, I just can’t go back to the charity shop, my red hair is a giveaway. It’s red, unkempt, I don’t have time to comb or brush. Sometimes I hack at it if I have a sharp enough knife, most of the time Midi hacks at it with his. His knife is always sharp. Once he started to tattoo my arm with it, I was asleep at the time. I woke pretty quickly but he’s stronger than me so as I struggled he added a, I think it’s a dog he said it’s a dragon, which is unfinished because someone heard me screaming and came running along the corridor. Someone fell, because the corridor is unlit and there are piles of building rubble hidden under the dust, but the noise distracted Midi enough for me to push him off. He fell on the blade and stabbed his arse, just a little but he stopped tattooing and started yelling.


‘Bitch’, insults were on the second part of the list.

‘Bitch yourself,’ Ok, I’m not perfect; I got up and left the room. I was naked but I didn’t care, the corridor was unlit. Up on the roof I risked some of the water from the cans and washed of what I could of the tattoo, it itched like shit for days and now looks like a canine smudge.

‘Young, skinny, red hair with an ugly tattoo on right arm’ is the description on the Wanted For Theft notice on the charity shop door. 

Yes, back then I was skinny.


We never had much food; we never had much money. I say we because the squat was like a pack of animals, we hunted together and any food or money we had was stolen, and was shared, more or less. Midi always took a bit more than everyone else. It wasn’t that he was the leader but he was the first to squat and because I was the second, I suppose, I became his. I was too dumb to resist.


I found the place by accident.


I was living in a van. The van was old, comfortable and i knew how to drive and I liked to move. Like a cat I suppose, I thought it was always better to change where you slept. Besides, it wasn’t only the Charity Shop that were looking for me. 


I arrived on the east side of the city around midnight, late September when the nights were still warm and I remember how the walls of the hospital looked like castle ramparts in the moonlight. I guess I was distracted by that, maybe I was still high, either way or both I didn’t see the lamppost until I hit it. I hit my head too and fell asleep; unconscious, asleep – a bit of both perhaps and I didn’t wake until the morning. I pushed open the door and staggered out to look at the damage, it was total. Old vans don’t recover from trauma the way we can. Midi was standing there looking at the van then at me.



‘Yeah, shit yourself’ I replied and went round the back to grab my bag; one bag was all I had. That and an attitude that tried to make me look tough and mean.


‘Suit yourself’, he said and walked off over the rubble into the broken shell of the building: I don’t know why I followed.


I didn’t know shit back then.

Back before I met Sarl.




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