A Name On A Coffee Cup

She spies the cup on the table. Lid off. Its sleeve has fallen to the table, no longer needed by its owner to prevent burnt fingers that are already suffering from frostbite.
The cup, which is about a quarter empty, or is it a quarter full, she wonders, of brown liquid, has been abandoned by its owner.  
Mark.
That is the name emblazoned on the side of the cup, next to the familiar green logo. Surely it cannot be spelt right? It is probably Marek, or Marco. Or just perhaps they got it right for once. 
She thinks about Mark. Wonder what kind of job takes him from the Broadway into town. If he buys Starbucks every day he must be well paid, she thinks, before it occurs to her that she buys Caffé Nero soya lattes, one shot please, every day. It’s like a ritual, or is she obsessed.  
She skips her coffee today, in favour of catching the 9:08 Windsor & Eton Riverside. She has been late to work too many times recently. Already, stood on platform 6, she feels she is missing her fix. Maybe she shall take a leaf out of Mark’s book, and go to the Starbucks kiosk at Gunnersbury. Leaf. Tea leaf? No, Mark is definitely a coffee drinker. 
Could he already be drinking a second? No. His cup was still on the table outside the cafe, not joined by cups from Helen or Sanjay. He hasn’t been gone long. Long enough to hop on the Northern Line, north, not South. Not to Mordor. He’s probably passed Clapham by now, about to get off the tube at Stockwell and walk across the corridor to join the Victoria Line, also going North. Not packed today though. He takes a seat next to a man in his 50s reading about the death of David Bowie, and a woman in her 20s who opens her mouth as she applies her mascara. He opens his book. Hemingway.  
He’s a reader, as well as a coffee drinker. Yes, he read as he supped his morning coffee, and smoked his cigarette. Tried to quit last year, but the evil weed keeps him hooked. He can’t quit now, anyway, not with Amanda being the way she is. He is not ready to get married. She has been ready since she was 13. He always checks the condom after sex, and her pills in the evening, to make sure she’s still taking them. Sometimes she ‘forgets’. He remembers the last near miss.  
He is content in his life, but he knows that is because he glosses over the issues. Paints over the cracks. Layer, after layer, after layer. Layer Cake. I might watch that later on Netflix, he thinks.  
Later he arrives at work, for some reason craving another caffeine hit. Normally his morning Starbucks keeps him going until after 10am. But this morning he left some of it after receiving a call about an urgent matter requiring his attention in the office. He makes himself a coffee, his assistant Lula looking at him in surprise as he normally barks beverage orders at her.  Lula wonders if there are problems with Amanda again, not that Mark has told her this, only what she has gathered from carefully reading between the lines. As she watches him carry the cup out of the kitchen and stops to chat to one of the other partners, she wonders, and a smile plays on her lips as the fantasy plays in her head, the one where Mark proclaims his love for her and then makes love to her right there and then on the desk. Yes, Lula wonders.
She is so busy daydreaming that she does not hear her phone ring, the trill tone of an internal incoming call. 
Mark glares through the glass partitions of his office at Lula. Stupid cow, he thinks, slamming the phone down. Daydreaming again. Shakes his head. He is very fond of the girl, but sometimes her head is just not in the game. And in this business you need people who are totally committed to the game.
He thinks about Amanda again, and how he is not totally committed to that game. Far from it. He looks again over at Lula, and remembers how her hair fell over her face while she was dancing to The Final Countdown at the Christmas party. He thinks about Lula, and he wonders. 
As she gets on the Overground at Richmond, she wonders. And she thinks you can learn a lot about a person from their coffee cup. 

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Picking Up The Pieces

As this new year starts, I am very conscious of the person I want to become.  Having explored this arena for the last ten years, I feel I am finally getting closer, day by day.  

Having read an online excerpt of Matt Haig’s new book, Reasons To Stay Alive, I headed down to Waterstones one lunch break to buy it.  I have it in my bag this morning, but haven’t started reading yet.  I’m still floored by having finished Disclaimer, by Renée Knight, a recent debut chart topper.  With reviews comparing it to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynnn, another book that had a profound effect on me, I know I can write something like it, something clever.  My mind fails me with logic sometimes (I am, however, plentiful in Jodie Logic) but I can knit together the perfect tale in my mind.  

As I wait for the train to leave Gunnersbury, I think back to the reason for writing this post.   I think back to being in the car during the Christmas break, and hearing Jess Glynne’s Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself on the radio, and vowing that I would not be so hard on myself this year.  I am my own worst critic; I don’t publish blogs because I don’t believe they are good enough to read.  I start but quickly abandon any form of fictional writing because I just don’t believe I can get it out of my head and onto paper without it sounding stupid.  The minuscule amounts of creativity that bubble to my surface are quashed because I  just don’t believe in myself.  So when I say I can write like some of the current bestselling authors, I do believe I can; but there is that other part of me, the one that says no you can’t, don’t be so stupid!

Buying my soya latte this morning (a recent experiment to see if I was lactose intolerant which has really become a morning ritual), I decided to buy a gingerbread man (I do realise the epic faildom of screwing up my gluten-avoidance with this action by the way).  Anyway, the first gingerbread man I picked up and put down again, because I could see that his leg was broken off.  As I put the packet back and selected the perfect one behind it which was intact, I had second thoughts, and instead picked up the broken man I’d originally had in my hand.  

Don’t be so hard on yourself, I thought.  And don’t be so hard on broken gingerbread men.  They’ve done nothing wrong.  

  
Happy New Year everyone. 

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself – Jess Glynne (2015)

Not What I Wanted To Say (But That’s Ok)

I must be getting better.  Five minutes ago I reached for my phone; reached for my blog through my phone.  Felt the need to vent exactly what I was feeling through the short burst of tears.  

But you know what?  I hesitated.  I don’t know why.  Here I am, five minutes later; the destination is the same, but I’m here to tell you what I did today, instead of what I felt.  

That is not to say that what I feel is not important, because of course it is.  But I feel myself reaching for those particular feelings like a comfort blanket.  One that I can pull over my head and encapsulate myself in, until the feeling goes away and I can face the world again.  

Instead, let me tell you some positives about my day, not negatives that don’t really matter.  

I wrote a short story on the way to work.  It’s very short indeed, and incomplete, but hey, it’s a story, and it’s short.  And it’s the second short story I’ve written, while commuting, in less than a week.  

I went to my book club tonight.  I finally made small steps towards meeting new people in this great city.  I’ve been going to this group for four and a half months, and it’s getting me meeting new people and reading books (and books that are not necessarily ones that I would have chosen).  More importantly, it’s getting me thinking about books.  Thinking the way I used to when i was at uni.  And thinking this way gets me inspired.  

I feel like there should be a third thing.  And there is.  This blog.  The fact that I’m reaching for WordPress, not the tissues (and really the tears were barely enough to warrant a Kleenex) is a sign that I have the right outlet for those times when things go awry.  That in itself makes me happy, although the tissue makers might not be so thrilled…

Gone Goal

On Saturday night I finally had the pleasure of seeing Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl at the cinema. As much as I love going to the movies, visits to the big screen have been few and far between since I moved to the big city, but Gone Girl was one of those few films I was desperate to see before it disappeared into that black hole between the big screen and my DVD collection.

Having read the book last year, I knew the storyline. After seeing the film adaptation, the screenplay having been written by Flynn herself, I was not disappointed. Gone Girl is still one of the most amazingly clever novels I have read and if I could write something half as good as that I would be happy. What am I saying? If I could write something half as long as that I would be grateful.

Since I did my first piece of “creative” writing in 2011, I have struggled to write any fiction with the exception of the odd fairy tale. They say everyone has a book in them, and while I have ideas, I have failed to write more than about two pages before giving up. Every so often I give it a go but the truth is, I just don’t feel comfortable with writing fiction as I do with writing about real life in my blogs. They (whoever “they” are) say you should write about what you know, and at this point in my life, while my sense of direction is skewed and I may not be able to make sense of my thoughts and feelings, I do at least know I am having them. With the help of some popular culture, I can usually successfully transfer them onto the virtual page and into reader’s minds.

One thing I take from Gillian Flynn is that she published her first novel at the age of 35. Author Jodi Picoult published her first novel at the age of 37, and crime writer Raymond Chandler published his first story at the age of 45. Perhaps the best-known contemporary novelist of our time, J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book at the age of 32. Proving that novel writing is not the monopoly of the teens or twenty-somethings, some of the best come from those with more life experience.

So for now, while writing a book seems like a gone goal for me, I take inspiration from writers like Gillian Flynn, and hope that one day I will be able to craft characters who are as deliciously complex as Amy Dunne and her husband, Nick.

The World is Your Oyster (Card)

What a difference a week makes. During last weekend’s long Easter break, I wrote a couple of times about the tough week I’d had, and how I was going to have to get used to the fact that I wouldn’t be moving any time soon. On Tuesday, something happened which changed things, and now I have around five weeks to find somewhere new to live.

In Deja View: History Repeats Itself, I wrote about how I was facing my one-year anniversary of living in London. Back in 1998, I had approached the same anniversary and with house and job issues rife, had taken the decision to leave London. In Deja View, I made a stand; I would not be going anywhere. I was going to hold a stake out until London gave me what I wanted.

Last week I was forced to do something that I often find myself unable to do. I had to find faith. Faith that life would make things right for me. That if I just believed, the universe would work things out. That no matter what, I just had to hold on. The film Bridesmaids revived that great song by Wilson Phillips, Hold On. I had that song on a compilation CD since my teens and every couple of months it would find its way into my CD player. When I was feeling down, it was a go-to song, because its message is clear; no matter how tough things get, you hold on. The lyrics of the first verse:

I know this pain

Why do lock yourself up in these chains?

No one can change your life except for you

Don’t ever let anyone step all over you

Just open your heart and your mind

Is it really fair to feel this way inside?

always seemed to apt to me, and the song comforted me. The second verse was a bit more tough love:

You could sustain

Or are you comfortable with the pain?

You’ve got no one to blame for your unhappiness

You got yourself into your own mess

Lettin’ your worries pass you by

Don’t you think it’s worth your time

To change your mind?

Sometimes tough love is what is needed. Sometimes we can’t have everything we want. Sometimes we have to face the consequences of our actions. Sometimes we have to pay for our mistakes.

But if we have faith, and learn to accept that which is to be, then we may just be rewarded with what we wanted in the first place.

Now I am the most un-religious person I know. Politics and religion are prone to drive me to sleep, proven by the fact that after drinking copious amounts of wine with a friend, I fell asleep sitting up when she started talking about politics. No, I am not politically or religiously minded at all (and if you need more proof of that, read No-Ah Just Don’t Believe It).

I am not telling you to go to church or to start praying before bedtime, but just to find that faith inside you. Faith that it will all be ok. Despite the fact that at times over the years, I have felt like a weak person, I have always been aware that I have a strength running through me. Many other people I know have faced tougher times than I have, but I’ve had my share of hurt. While many times I have felt like giving up, I have always refused. Because I am determined to get what I want out of life.

At the end of last year, I almost did give up. Not on life, just on my dreams. I saw a video of myself reading the fairy tale that was my first short story, and I actually called it a crock of shit. I had always been so proud of that story and I actually shocked myself at how I felt towards it only two and a half years later. It was that story that had given me the belief that I could be a writer; here I was dismissing it and its message as rubbish.

Luckily I came to my senses, and as you can see 2014 has seen me blogging more than ever. I do feel proud to have written The Princess and the Epiphany and I know that it is only a matter of time before I expand out of the blogging sphere and have a go at more creative writing again. For now, I have to focus on finding myself and The Bish a new home. While I do that, you can enjoy The Princess and the Epiphany. When you’ve finished that, you can enjoy a bit of George Michael having Faith

George Michael – Faith (1987)

Battery Life

It started off with 28%. That’s not very much considering. But that’s how much battery my iPhone had when I walked out the house into the pouring rain this evening.

28% of anyone’s life is limited. I mean, any exertion of any kind is going to kill the battery completely, so in situations like this, it’s advised to limit use to only ‘the necessary’.

Well, my mum rang me. I was glad to speak to her. Although I know she doesn’t always understand my depression, she’s knows the situation of the last few days.

Low Battery: 20% remaining! Declares the pop-up message. What would happen if I let it reach 0%? I know from past experience, it would probably get to 6%, then the phone would shut down completely. Forever. No more input. Should no-one take the decision to recharge it; nurse it back to its full health.

My pint of Stella (in a posh Stella goblet, no less) is half empty. Or should that be half full? The goblet makes me think of the last supper. I wonder how many people have sat in a pub, having a drink, before their battery has died completely? How many have chosen not to revive it, to pump life back into it? How many have just let it stay black?

The glass is still half empty and outside the sky is still dark. Out the window, on the opposite side of the road, is a kebab shop. In the flat upstairs, the sash windows are open. Inside, well, the inside is as dark as the dark, grey sky.

18%. Its lifeline is red now, well the life it has left. The rest is black, dark like the sky and inside of the flat window opposite. There is no green here, no bright green bars, nor bright green leaves. There is only grey and that dark.

But wait, there is laughter. I look up, at my half empty Stella. I glance past the glass, at the seats opposite. I was wrong; there is no laughter there. There is only silence. Silence, solitude, surrounded by a sea of chit chat. Nattering that bypasses me, because I am not laughing. I am sat alone. With my pint. With my 17, no wait, 16, per cent.

I check outside. I hear the spray from the passing cars. The rain that fell not so long ago is all but gone. But the sky remains dark, and the open window of the flat opposite, is like someone has taken a picture of the dark sky and framed it.

I take a sip of Stella. The lager sloshes around, before settling to its position of half empty. But wait, could it be half full? No, it’s still half empty.

Outside, a girl walks past with a purple umbrella. Purple, to match the dark of the sky, and the inside of the framed flat window opposite. Funny, she didn’t look sad, despite the purple umbrella.

15%. A double decker bus drives past. Although I know its colour to be blue, its advertisement on the side panel is illuminated in purple. The only light, in a world of darkness. Even the light, is dark.

14% remaining; the thin red line pushes flat against the side of the battery, its white outline looking like the chalk outline you see on those old cop shows. 13%; here lies battery.

A second bus drives past. Also, purple. The Ritz’ pink neon lights illuminate the overhang of the front of the building. A smoking woman, with short hair, and bad teeth, draws an arch shape for her friend, who remains inside, not wishing to inhale her friend’s passive smoke.

No, I’m wrong, it’s not another woman, it’s a man in a red t-shirt. He reads the paper, ignoring the outside world completely. I try to picture them together, but I cannot. The smoking woman with bad teeth surely is no friend of the man with the red t-shirt, whose hair is neat and shorn.

The two older couples opposite me, sat in the window seats, are oohing and awwing. They say there is a rainbow; no, a DOUBLE rainbow. They observe it a few more seconds before returning to their conversation.

10%, my battery screams. Even the numbers are in red now, and a pop-up message warns me I am down to my last 10%. It doesn’t say whether I’ll get another warning, or not.

Out of the window, the sky is still dark, though it is illuminated now with a sunny haze. It doesn’t know whether to be dark or light, whether to laugh, or cry. No wait, that’s me.

In the kebab shop window opposite, two pink neon strips line the whitewashed window. A girl from the bar comes collecting glasses, as the two couples put on their coats.

“Is it still raining?”, “No, it’s not too bad now”, “No, it’s not too bad now, is it?”. The conversation continues as they all go their separate ways.

A man comes out of the big, red doorway opposite, squeezed between the kebab shop and the travel agents. I cannot see where he is going, but I feel sure he is heading to the Spar, for more cigarettes, or maybe a tin of beans.

6%. I should get some beans on my way home. Home. I look up at the sky, which is getting darker again. I check the time; 20:13. It’ll be dark soon, and the sky doesn’t have to decide if it should be dark or light. It only has to be dark, and cloudy, or clear. The windows of the upstairs flat opposite remain dark. I wonder if the man who came from the red door lives there. It seems a strange place for a red door, like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

5%. The thin red line is pushed right to the side now. It knows it cannot survive. A decision must be made. Live, or die?

The pedestrian crossing sounds, and then the traffic starts again.

I glance at my glass; Not even half-half empty now. The lager pushes against my bladder, warning like the 4%, that a choice needs to be made.

I swig half the remaining liquid. Outside, the pink neon glow continues its own rainbow on the window of the kebab shop.

“It’s not that bad,” the conversation from the couples comes back to me.

3%. I glance at the glass. I finish it, then place the glass, with the Stella Artois logo facing me. Just so.

I glance outside, then back at my battery life. Like the weather, it’s been a stormy night. But it’s not that bad, and now, like the storm, I have calmed.

2%. I leave to the darkness. Tonight is not the night.

Copyright Jodie Orton/33andLostinLife 2012