Saturday, 24 July 2010

Getting Off

It’s not a secret where I work. It’s not a secret because I don’t have anyone to keep secrets from. The only people who I ever see to talk to are the customers and they clearly know where I work.

The name of the shop is Unknown Pleasures and it belongs to my uncle Danny who broke his back in a car crash two years ago and probably isn’t going to be coming back soon. Don’t know why, I mean, even before the accident, he had to have the place all bloody wheelchair-access friendly and all that cos of the regulations now so he could conceivably get here. Maybe it’s an image thing. I’ve not seen any wheelchair guys come in since we had the ramp fitted anyway.

Perhaps they’re too fed up to, er, you know.

I had always known the name of the shop but somehow the nature of the business had always managed to evade my ears until the night I agreed to step in for my uncle. I thought it was a bookshop. I thought it was named after that Joy Division album.

Just goes to show how wrong you can be.

I went to visit my uncle in hospital a couple of times after the accident. He was pretty badly smashed up; all his own fault like. I can’t remember anyone successfully defending a drink driving charge by blaming the drink. He’d had eight or nine pints of wifebeater so he was pretty well lubricated.

But still, they say even Hitler liked dogs and I know my uncle isn’t that bad, despite what my parents say about him. He always bought me cool presents when I was a kid and always looked out for me when I had a row with my dad. When he asked me to mind the shop for a bit I’d just failed my finals so I was at a loose end anyway.

Two years ago that was. Two years in this dingy hole, not even the slightest bit of daylight creeping in except when following the customers in and out of the premises. Like this one bastard. Comes in three times a week. Slips me the wink like I was his mate. I don’t know what he does for a living but I just know it involves fucking people over. He’s probably a landlord or a loans manager or something else that profits on the currency of human vulnerability.

Mind you, I’m a fine one to talk. Look at me, fucking running a porn shop. If I had any friends I’d tell them the truth and hope that they understood my answer to mean working in a business where people trade possessions in for temporary loans. Not that there’s a world of difference between the two. When you’re broke, fifty quid’s fifty quid. Might be the necklace your nan gave you in the hospice before she slipped into flatline country, might be two cocks in your mouth. If you’re broke enough, you’re broke enough.

No windows in these shops. By law. Just so the moral majority are spared the sight of dildos and gimp restraints on their way to work each morning. Fair enough. I mean you turn on the telly or pick up a paper in the morning and it’s all murder, famine and ethnic cleansing so why really ruin your morning by seeing a naked woman or a device to help lonely people achieve sexual satisfaction.

Don’t talk to me about fucking lonely. You don’t know the half of it.

Before I go on, I better tell you, I’m no prude but I don’t really like pornography. That might make me a hypocrite but there’s fuck all else in this town except bar work and call centre work. I did a day in one of those call centres once. Some guy trying to tell me that the ultimate product I can sell is my own personality. Fucking no-mark. And I couldn’t go into a bar knowing that I wasn’t there to have a good time.

I’m only 23 but I reckon I’m the oldest virgin in town. The irony kills me. There I am, all day surrounded by magazines and films showing nothing but endless variations on the themes of fucking and sucking, and I’ve never had it off in my whole life. I don’t even feel like trying any more. You spend a year surrounded by jazzmags and fucktoys and see how horny you feel.

I had a girlfriend once. Met her at uni. Went out for six months but she was a fucking Godhead. Let me bastard finger her a couple of times but that was it. Wouldn’t fucking touch me anywhere erotic at all. She dumped me for Jesus and the precious little confidence I had in my looks and personality pretty much died on me then.

That’s it. My whole experience of women right there. I don’t think I’m that bad looking. Christ, my mate Ben Salmon, he’s got a face like a rhino with backache and he’s practically beating them off each Friday night in town. Got one of those silly angular hair cuts and his jeans start past his bollocks. Maybe that’s it.

Yeah, right.

There’s this girl works in the same arcade as the shop. Works in the bookshop up the road, Tall Stories. Small place. I think they sell a lot of sci-fi, fantasy sort of stuff. I keep meaning to go in there but she’ll be there so I daren’t.

She gets the same bus to me to work, gets on the stop after mine. She’s quite tall, skinny, always got her big fuck off headphones on. Sometimes she wears this psychedelic tartan dress with these big mad black futuristic boots. She looks like she’s all alone in this world but I can’t believe she is. I mean, she’s beautiful. Well, she is to me. I once caught her eye quite by accident and she shot me a smile which made my day and ruined my life all at the same time.

Ben Salmon would talk to her. He wouldn’t have second thoughts.

At least twice a week I’ll get off the stop before her and carefully follow her from a distance just to see the way she walks. Even her shadow, in summer, drives me crazy. I’m sure my shadow fancies hers. It must do.

Yeah, I suppose it is stalking. But it’s limited stalking. I don’t follow her home, I don’t know her name though I often see her in the sandwich bar at the end of the arcade spilling money all over the counter and apologising to everyone behind her in the queue without ever looking anyone directly in the eye.

Cheese and pickle. No margarine.

If I could just close the shop in time to catch her locking up behind her and get on the bus at the same time as her. Maybe have to sit next to her, strike up conversation. I think I would pretty much do anything for that.

Except of course, grow some fucking balls.

Every night, we close at fucking half five and there’s always some bastard trying to get in who’s sneaked off work ten minutes early just to run down here and buy a couple of sleazy looking magazines and a horrible film.

Night before last, it was that bastard I was telling you about. Mr Slip Me The Wink. Fucking hell. Six months or so ago the twat comes in, just as I’m trying to flip the sign in the tiny rectangle window to CLOSED. He says he won’t be a minute, wants to ask me something. There’s nobody else in the shop. I answer his second question.

“No we don’t stock rape films. Not even out the back.”

Anyway he was in again last night, making all the usual conspiratorial facial gestures. I think he thinks I won the job lottery. Like every night, I can’t wait to chuck people out the shop so I can suck on a dildo and knock one out in my leather bodice to Hospital Homos or No Cunny For Old Men.

Fucking prick’s got his head turned behind him as he’s halfway through the door.


He makes this noise like buses do when they’re letting people on and off. He looks at me, junks a thumb backwards behind him and, making his way into the shop, says to me.

“Fucking make a mess out of that.”

I’ve already shut the door behind him. I don’t want her to see me here, not ever. I could be strong one day, buy her a sandwich and take it to her shop. Send her a flower. I’ve seen it in films. Nice films with proper lighting. Films that don't end with five blokes casting diaphanous streams of spunk across the same face. Nothing like the nasty shit I sell.

Bus Noises is at it again.

“Twffffffff. That tall girl from the bookshop. Imagine hanging out the back of that, eh?”

He doesn’t stand a fucking chance.

I pick up a couple of gimp balls (£8.99 each, 2 for £12)from under the counter and slip them into one of the little sacks I use to take money to the bank on a Friday lunchtime. He’s trying to choose between Swallowing Amazons and Thelma Loves Louise and he’s practically wanking in his pocket. Before either of us can think our choices through my wrist has completed its own frantic circular motion and I’ve smashed his skull in with a wrapped-up sex toy.

The next thing, I’m dragging his body into the basement down the secret staircase behind the till. I run upstairs and I’ve got some novelty tissues (Wankerchiefs – scented with balm for your loving palm) out of a packet and cleaned up the blood from the display racks. I put the money into the safe. I go back under the stairs and I make sure he’s dead before switching all the lights off and locking the door behind me. He’s fucking dead all right.

It’s my lucky night.

I’ve locked the door behind me, I can hear the alarm going as the shutter goes down and, as I turn to walk to the bus, she’s forty yards ahead of me. She walks beautifully, like a gazelle or something else that doesn’t know it’s being watched. She’s got her headphones on and this mad gingham dress that I haven’t seen before. I feel my heart racing even faster than it was a few minutes ago when I was wiping blood off the cover of Julie Ate Romeo. I feel like a hunter. I follow her to the end of the arcade where the wind always takes you by surprise and the traffic sounds like an alarm clock and I think about that awful dead man in the cellar of my shop.

I would buy this girl flowers. I would tell her how I felt. I would ask if I could name and number each of her eyelashes and never put margarine on her bread. I would do anything just to know her name.

She gets on the bus, I am behind her but as I go to get on, this old lady steps in front of me and though I know what will happen, I have to let her on first. I mean, I just have to. The old lady takes the last available seat next to the beautiful girl from Tall Stories.

It starts to rain as we pull away. The bus heaters are on and I feel stupid hanging on to one of the little joke ropes at the front of the bus. We stop at the girl’s usual stop and as she brushes past me, I feel the momentary warmth of her body touching mine despite all the layers of clothing between us. She is gone and I remain, clutching onto the baby noose.

We pull away from the stop and I watch her adjusting her headphones in the drizzled lamppost light. I think for a moment of sitting where she has sat. To have a second moment of her warmth in my life but it’s my stop next and this is where I get off.

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