November 19, 2006

The Promise in the Cellar (8 of 12)

Thread: Mission

The following morning, she left the hostel early. It was her final full day in London and she felt desperate. The answer to her problems seemed so far away and this little pilgrimage could be filed under the category of Complete Failure. Mizzy had tried talking to every type of person she encountered about her troubles.

A Polish guy in a café in Canary Wharf, whose English was actually better than some of the locals, grinned and declared he loved tiramisu too. A Caucasian black cab driver in the West End, listened carefully to every detail and then said she owed thirty pounds, but retracted the demand quickly when Mizzy got a bit weepy. A homeless man on a bench, somewhere amongst grand white facades of the Pimlico streets, was silent and smelly through her tale and then cast some coins on the ground and asked her if she knew what they foretold. Some handyman on a side street in Stoke Newington told her to get her “tits” out and wolf-whistled, but when she tried to talk to him about her life story, he told her to “fack awf”. Then there was the imam who, just like Tom, saw Mizzy as American and nothing but American. He kept telling her, over and over again, that he had nothing to do with 9/11. There were others, of course. She couldn’t remember any of their names. It was a form of promiscuity; telling secrets to strangers without protection. Yet she didn’t feel unclean, just unfulfilled. No climax, only urgency, need.

Public transport was too expensive and she had quickly learnt to walk everywhere. So she kept walking that morning, an American tourist with nothing to tour. She crossed over the Thames to the South by Blackfriars bridge. She paid little attention to the river view with St. Paul’s Cathedral struggling to be noticed amongst the growing skyline, despairing that she was going to leave London with nothing to show for it except for the meaningless memories of random encounters. She left the well-trodden districts and ventured into the urban maze of the local. Places tourists did not go, because they had no reason to visit. Nothing of interest happened there.

The meandering streets welcomed her with indifference, offering up nothing of consequence. There were corner shops with conspicuous cameras, discarded Metro newspapers jammed into drains and hooded youngsters who were not in school probably because it was boring and no one had convinced them that an education was good for them. Too much Pop Idol, nurturing dreams of immediate success without a mountainous climb of endeavour and experience. She wondered about that climb. Had Tom been right? Was she simply suffering from responsibility vertigo?

She was willing to surrender the cat, return it to its rightful owner, and call the whole affair a bad dream. Perhaps its purpose was merely to shake her up and force her to reflect on the failures of her life and root around in the soil for buried truths. She still wasn’t sure. She needed more time to think about all of this, but the money had bolted from her wallet fairly fast in this foreign land. The return flight was tomorrow. Game over, girl. Game over.

Mizzy was surprised to find herself back at the street with her hostel. She had been so deep in thought, that she had let feet carry her in any direction they wanted to go. They had brought her back to base camp. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply and decided to prepare for departure. This grimy city held no secrets.

When she opened her eyes, bloody paw prints lay on the path before her. She turned her head slowly, following the trail across the road.

On the opposite side walk sat a dusty grey cat, tail curling and beating the paving stones with uncertain rhythm. It looked disinterested and unlikely to be killed by any over-stimulated sense of curiosity.

Mizzy stared at its snow-white paws, tinged with blood.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1909

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