LOCAL BOY IN THE PHOTOGRAPH
By Ciarán West
“Bûm gall unwaith – hynny oedd, llefain pan ym ganed”
– I was wise once: when I was born, I cried
(old Welsh proverb, uncredited)
“It’s just short for Pakistani, though innit?” Gar said, scratching his ear, like he always did when he was nervous, or not sure about something.
“It really isn’t, Gareth,” said Angharad. I was glad she had come. I thought she was going to be gone home for the summer, like most of them in the Halls, but she’d got full time hours off himself in La Caprice, so it was worth her while to stick around; especially since she’d paid for a whole year’s stay, with her Loan, at the start of term. No need to pay rent somewhere else.
“It is, though. Same as you say Scotch when you mean Scottish, innit? I’m right, innit, Stu? Innit?”
“Na yin says Scotch, pal. Nae unless thay wantae git thair fuckin’ heid kicked in,” Stuart said. He was from Scotland, originally. But he’d lived in Llanelli since he was about fourteen. Still had the accent; he was only seventeen now. It got stronger when he was drunk, or angry, or both. His mum had it even thicker; I’d been round his house a few times and met her. I was already losing my Irish one, my own mum said, every time I talked to her on the phone.
“What about Iraqis? That’s short for Iraq. That’s not racist, is it?” Gar was from the Rhondda Valley, I liked the way he rolled his Rs, even if he was usually talking shite while he did.
“Iraqi is longer than Iraq, you tool,” Angharad said, opening another bottle of Breezer. It was the watermelon one; it smelled rank, and it tasted worse.
“Well, yeah… but you know what I mean, butt,” Gar said, reaching for the box of Richmond that someone had bought at the shop. That was about four cans of Carlsberg Export ago though, so I couldn’t remember who’d put in money for them. Not that it mattered.
“Ah dunno whit ye mean ninetey per cent o’ th’ time, ye muckle eared fud. Bit come ‘ere, doesn’t mean ah dinnae loue ye,” Stuart said, punching him on the arm. The accent always made him sound a bit threatening, but this was him being nice.
“Tidy,” said Gar, rubbing the spot where he’d been hit, cos even when Stuart was nice, it sometimes still left a bruise.
“Right, whose toilet am I using, then?” Angharad said, getting up from the kitchen table. Five rooms shared one kitchen in Ty Alban, (ten rooms on each floor) but everyone had their own loo, en suite.
“Oh! Tell you what. You can use mine, like,” Gar said. His eyes were bloodshot; could have been from the session today, or from the one last night. I didn’t think any of us had got much sleep.
“Not being funny, Gar, but your toilet is buzzing,” she said, making a face. She wasn’t wrong either, to be honest.
“Oh, that’s fine. Shit in the street then, butt. Suit yourself, like,” said Gar, then he let out a belch I could smell from the other end of the table.
“I’m not going for a… Irish, what’s your toilet like?”
“Ah, it’s like a little white seat, with a hole in it,” I said. She always called me “Irish”, hardly ever Niall, which was my actual name. She only called me that when I was in trouble.
“Aaaaaaaaah! Aw, tell you what, Nailler – you’re fucking hilarious, you are, no word of a lie. Legend, innit boys?” Gareth said, even though it wasn’t that funny. Everything was funnier when you were pissed, though. I had a drink from my can. It was still a bit warm. They hadn’t been in the fridge long enough, still. Or mine had been out of it too long. Didn’t stop me having another sip straight after, though. Nailler was something people in Ireland only called me, but when I had some of the lads over to visit around Christmas, Gar and the others had sort of picked it up from them calling me it, so I was Nailler here too now, sometimes.
“You’re some pricks, mind,” Angharad said, wandering out the door, probably to my room, since it was the nearest one, anyway, and I never locked it. I panicked for a minute, in case I’d left some skin mags out last night, but I’d been too tired for a wank, as far as I could remember. Happy days.
“Aw, why are we fucking here again, Irish? Tell me?” Angharad said, when we were waiting at the bar in Tom Pepper’s, about an hour later. I’d thrown on a shirt with long sleeves, to look a bit tidier. I was still in the jeans I’d slept in, mind. They didn’t get creased easily, though. They were grand.
“Where else would we go?” I said. It was a Sunday, everything closed at midnight in town, so everyone went out earlier than on a Saturday.
“I dunno. Masons, Wetherspoon’s, Sol, anywhere?” The Masons Arms was the Alternative pub here, like Quin’s in Limerick. I should have loved it, but it wasn’t the same, probably because they were the local Indie kids, not my own friends back home, and Indie kids were pricks, really, when you weren’t part of their clique. And I wasn’t part of it; not yet, anyway.
“Nah, it’s Happy Hour, like,” I said. The trick was to get in before the prices changed, and order a shitload of pints, then drink them for the next few hours, on the cheap.
“Yeah, they all look fucking overjoyed, innit. I’ve seen happier people in concentration camps.”
“Whisht a while,” I said, even though I wouldn’t have been caught dead saying something like that back home. It was pure Culchie altogether. You could be extra Irish here, though. The locals appreciated it. Sometimes I thought they only liked us because we looked like them, but we weren’t English. But maybe that was why we liked them, too.
“Shush, mush,” she said, taking one of the trays of pints. It wasn’t too far to the table, but I still got nervous watching her. I’d gone face first into the dancefloor many a time in that place, holding fewer drinks than that.
And it was a dancefloor, because Tom Pepper’s was a pub in the day, and a disco at night. On Sundays it was all ages, but the other six nights it was over 25s, and I was 25, but I never got asked for ID anyway, cos I was tall. The bit we were in now was tiny, but they opened the door into another part of it later on. There was an upstairs too. And a different nightclub, called Storm, that was for eighteen plus, so obviously it was full of fifteen year olds, most nights. I could only really tell the underage ones when they were boys, though. The girls all looked older, to me. I’d have been shit as a bouncer. I was bad enough as a barman for it.
When I got over, Tegan was at the table, with the others.
“You all right or wha, bach?” she said. She was wearing a top that was practically a bra. I had to remind myself to look at her face.
“Tipping away,” I said. Another Irishism that I’d never use in Limerick.
“You doing the karaoke tonight again, is it?”
“Ah, I dunno,” I said. I’d never have done karaoke back home, but it was like a religion over here. My voice was all right, but I was more of a guitarist, really. I’d played the bass in our band, Crane, back home. We’d split up before I’d applied to come to college over here. It was one of the reasons I’d chosen to go abroad. There wasn’t anything left for me back in Limerick. Everyone I knew had sort of moved on. And anyway, some bad things had happened that year, and it was easier to forget them when I was hundreds of miles away, across the sea.
“Oh! Karaoke? I’ll get up, butt,” Gar said. He was on a high stool, looking about as sturdy as the Twin Towers. He liked to think he could hold his drink, but he really couldn’t. A week ago they’d thrown him out of Storm for having a piss at the bar while he was waiting to get served. The guy who owned this place owned Storm too, but we were probably all right tonight. He never really came into Storm, so he wouldn’t know Gar’s face.
“You could barely get up on that chair,” Angharad said, lighting up a ciggie. She only kind of smoked – never when she wasn’t drinking. I put my hand on her leg to get myself up on my stool, but if she noticed, she didn’t say anything.
“Look, it’s Dai Dregs, aye,” Stuart said, pointing at the fella clearing glasses off tables at the other side of the room. He had a bent back, and one of those slopey foreheads you’d see on pictures of cavemen.
“Call him over, yeah?” said Gar.
“Fuck off,” I said. Dai Dregs was a local character, as my dad would call it. His name wasn’t actually Dai (or even David). That was just a thing they did here, called you Dai, and then added whatever you were known for to the end of it. Like Dai DJ, who was actually a DJ called Colin. Or Dai Meat, who was the butcher in Station Road. Or Dai Poop, Gar’s friend from back home, who got shat on by a pigeon once. That was how easy it was to pick up a nickname for life, around here. Dai Dregs was called Dai Dregs because he didn’t get paid for working; they just let him drink the dregs out of all the glasses he picked up. That was the rumour, anyway. You could hardly ask him was it true.
“Leave him alone, Gareth,” said Angharad. She had got changed before coming out. Just into a tight Ramones t-shirt and some tartan trousers. She wasn’t really a dresses kind of girl. She looked great anyway. She always did.
“Cos he’s fucking twp in the head, mun. Bad form, like. Don’t be a cunt all your life,” she said.
“Oh! Fucking like that, is it?” Gar said. Stu looked up from reading a beermat, in case something was about to kick off.
“Aye, lea th’ poor laddie alone, like. He’s ainlie a wee huddy; fuckin’ harmless, he is,” said Stu. I had no idea what half the words he used were, half the time, but you could sort of figure them out, if there was context. I guessed “huddy” meant someone a bit soft in the head. Or in the heid.
“Yeah, Gar. Leave him be. I heard his mammy keeps him in the cwtch dan star, like. Feeds him on buckets of fish heads,” Tegan said. She had a bottle of WKD, the Iron Brew one. Most of the women over here had no problem with drinking a pint, but a lot of them drank shite like that. Although so did the men, too. Especially the younger ones. I knew, from the amount of times we had to restock the fridges at work, on a Saturday or a Sunday.
“Fucking hell, sounds like you when you’re at home in the Rhondda, Gar,” Angharad said, and everyone laughed, even Gareth.
“Oh, all right ‘en. Anyone playing the bandit, is it?” he said, digging in his pocket for some coins. I looked over at the slot machine in the corner, and saw a little auld fella walking away from it, swearing to himself. Mug’s game. Never played them, myself.
“Ah’ament movin’, pal,” Stuart said, leaning back in his chair and stretching his legs out under the table.
“Fine. I’ll go myself. Back in a minute, now. Watch my pints, yeah? Tidy,” Gar said, taking one drink with him, and leaving his other two on the table, with about ten identical looking lagers, and my couple of Strongbows. I’d sometimes get a Murphy’s here (or a Guinness somewhere else in town), but you couldn’t buy a load of those all at once. The lagers might go a bit flat, but stout would be rank after sitting there for more than a small while. You didn’t need to be Irish to know that.
There was no DJ in this part, early on Sundays, so they were just playing CDs, or maybe the DAB. Once the place got going properly, in the big room, it would be all old music – 60s, 70s, 80s. I found it weird the first few times I went out here, but I was used to it now. It was because here, and La Caprice, and Kavannagh’s (the place I worked) had a mix of young people and old people all the time. I guessed it was because it was such a small town. It wasn’t like that in Limerick. The auld ones were the ones who spent the most money, too, so it made sense that most of the music was for them. The young ones didn’t care anyway; some of the old songs were proper tunes, and you’d dance to anything when you were hammered. Sol and Storm played all the young people music, anyway. So there was always that, if you fancied it.
They’d be opening the rest of the club up soon, but we wouldn’t move until we were on our last drink from earlier. Or til they came over to move the tables and chairs away and make it a dancefloor. That was always the way. Then Laura the Lesbian would start the karaoke. I liked her, she did the karaoke in Sol sometimes too, on Thursday nights. But it was usually the other fella, round there. He was sound as well, though.
“Aw, lush. I loves her, I does,” Tegan said, when a Shakira song came on. Underneath Your Clothes. I liked the video for that one. She was a fine thing; good singer, as well.
“Oh! Tell you what like, she’s smart as fuck, she is,” said Gareth. He had won money on the slot machine. He’d probably lost money as well, I hadn’t asked. When he said “smart”, he meant good-looking, that was another Welsh thing. Gar wasn’t the type to get a hard-on for someone’s master’s degree.
“Yeah, she’s got a lovely belly, innit. Well flat, it is. I feel like I’m twenty stone just looking at her,” Angharad said, even though there wasn’t a pick on her, and she knew it. I loved her accent. She made words like “belly” last for ages, but she could say “seven” or “eleven” and make them sound like they only had one syllable. I made her say “ridiculous video” about 20 times in a row once, when I was stoned. It was only fair, since every fucker in Wales made me say “thirty three and a third” first time I met them, like I was a performing seal.
“Oh, shut up! You’re a skinny cow, bach,” said Tegan. Her name meant “a toy” in Welsh, which I always found funny. It was a funny language anyway, though. Their word for “carrot” was “moron”.
“Oh! Tell you what, you’re not that fat, Anga. Anyways, I like a bird with something to get hold of on her, not gonna lie,” said Gar, speaking of morons.
“Listen tae Will fucking Smith there. Smooth…” said Stuart.
“Chopsin’, like…” Gar said, giving Stuart that weird stare he sometimes did when he was pissed. It was somewhere between aggressive and just really thick looking. Stu took no notice.
“Where you living now then, Tegan?” Angharad said, changing the subject.
“Um, I dunno for now, to be honest, bach. I’m supposed to be at my Mam’s, but I hardly been there since College finished, innit.”
“Where you been, then? With Aled, is it? Shacked up?” said Angharad. Aled was Tegan’s fella, sometimes. Skater guy, played the drums. Tattoos, big holes in his ears, blue hair (last time I saw him, anyway, it changed a lot) Complete prick, but he could get a hold of drugs, so we put up with him.
“Wha? That fucking arse, no,” Tegan said. She’d got a straw from the bar. I was glad the music was loud, because the sound of people sucking on the end of drinks drove me mental.
“You finished, is it?” Gar said, talking to her breasts now, apparently.
“Finished, no. Fucking… we’re engaged, innit,” she said, showing us her hand. There was a thin gold ring with a tiny diamond. At least two weeks’ dole money, that was. From the fancy part of Argos, I guessed.
“Oooh, give us a look!” Angharad leaned into see better. I wished I had one of my photography loupes from college on me, to give to her. That would have been gas.
“Lush, innit?” Tegan said, handing a stack of empty glasses to Dai Dregs as he passed. “Cheers, babe.”
“S’real diamond, is it?” Angharad said.
“Course it is! Nothing but the best for me, babe. Not gonna lie, I did look it up on Ask Jeeves, after I got it. But, yeah, mun. S’the real deal. Elizabeth Duke. Not some shit from down the Market, like.” I’d guessed right.
“Where’s he tonight then? Is he here? Working, is he? Is he coming later, then?”
“No, he’s a… I dunno, really. I think he’s in Sol, playing pool with the boys. Rhys, and Dai Skate, them boys. Never know with him, Anga; free spirit he is, that one. The prrrrrrrick, like.”
“Oh, how’s he a prick though, if you’re engaged?” Gar said. Both of the girls gave him the same look, together.
“You’ve never been in love, babe, have you?” Angharad said. She was the closest to my age, at 22. Gar and Billy were both eighteenish, as far as I could remember. They hadn’t taken any detours between leaving school and coming to Coleg Sir Gar, like me and Angharad had.
“S’more complicated than you think, Gareth,” Tegan said, and Angharad nodded. I nodded too, because love’s a crazy fucking thing. Freddie Mercury even said so, and that was before he got AIDS off it.
“GOOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAAAAAAAAM!!!!!” The voice was outside my room door, but it still managed to wake me. I’d been dreaming about Ireland. Nothing exciting, just being there. Happened a lot since I’d moved over. Homesick, probably. Although I wasn’t at all, outside of my dreams.
“Fuck is that?” Angharad said. Her eyes were still half-closed, and her hair was a mess. She had loads of it, nearly down to her arse. She was lying on me, head on my chest. I got very aware of my morning wood, and tried to think it away. The lovely smell off her wasn’t helping, though. It wasn’t perfume. Just her normal, nice, girl smell – and a bit of shampoo, maybe.
“Billy, I think.” I could still hear the Northern Irish in his voice, even though he was trying to sound American. He sounded exactly like James Nesbitt, off Cold Feet. The first time I met him was when I passed one of the rooms in the Halls, my first week there, and heard his voice coming from inside. I’d half expected to see Jimmy himself in there, when I popped my head around the door for a nose. But it was only Billy. We were friends soon after that, even though he was clearly some class of Prod, from Antrim. It was like that book, Across the Barricades, but without the sexual tension.
“Ah, right. The wanderer returns, is it?” She sat up, looking a bit dazed, like she wasn’t sure how she’d got here. She wasn’t wearing her trousers in the bed, just her t-shirt and some knickers, which wasn’t helping my efforts to not have a stonk on.
“Yeah. Did we see him last night, no?” I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember much at all, though. We’d come back here after Tom Pep’s. There was cheap ASDA vodka, and cheap ASDA Red Bull. And loads of food from Charcoal Grill. The rest was a blur.
“Nope. Off somewhere, he was. Man of Mystery. Like Austin.” She reached across me to get the pint of water off the locker next to the bed. It was still full. One of us had been smart enough to pour it before going to bed, but neither of us had been smart enough to drink it. My head was pounding, so I was already regretting that. There were Anadins somewhere.
“Yeah, or he was in bed again.” He did that a lot, Billy. Stayed in his room for two or three days, watching movies, or playing Playstation. He had a toilet and a shower in there, same as the rest of us, but I did wonder what he ate, when all his food was in the kitchen. Maybe he only came out at night to feed, like a fox, or a badger.
“True. Ugh, will we get up?” Angharad stretched her arms out and yawned, I yawned too, cos it was catching. Her t-shirt lifted up a bit, and I could see her belly button ring. Again, not helping.
“Looks like someone’s already up, bach,” she said, nodding at my crotch. I felt my face going scarlet.
“Uhhhhhh. Feck off out of it, will ya?” I put my wrist over myself, but touching off it made it twitch, and that was worse.
“Do you want me to hit it with a spoon for you, is it?” she said, laughing. The laughing was helping, to be honest. Hard to keep it up when a woman is looking at your knob and pissing themselves. I wasn’t that kinky. The last time we did a load of Es, the usual thing had happened me, where I couldn’t piss for the whole night, and went completely impotent, but woke up in the morning with a willy like a tree trunk. That time, she’d grabbed a hold of it through my trackie bottoms, knocked on the head with her knuckles, and said “Is this thing on?” into it, in front of everyone in Liddy from work’s sitting room.
“I think I’m grand for now, cheers.” I pulled my shirt down over it, and took the pint glass off her, because I was suddenly gasping.
“Fair enough, mush. Where are my trows?” She stepped down off the bed, facing away from me now, in her good pants with her great arse, and I was in trouble all over again, knob-wise. I could hear shouting from the kitchen, but it didn’t sound like aggro. Just Billy, and probably Gareth. I looked at the clock. It was two in the daytime. I was lucky I hadn’t had work, or I’d have been sacked.
“You two shagging or wha?” said Gar, when we got in to the rest of them, in the kitchen. I needed toast, but I wasn’t sure if I’d bought bread. Someone else would lend me some, hopefully. It was share and share alike here, usually. Until the last week of the month, when everyone’s money was gone, and someone would cut you for asking for a slice of ham.
“You ask that every time, Gar. And the answer is still no,” said Angharad, pulling up a chair.
“Yeah, fuck off, you pervert,” I said. There was bread. Kingsmill wholemeal. Two slices, and one of them was the end, but it’d do me fine. Me and Anga had never been a thing, in that way. I fancied her, of course. She was a massive ride, in her own way. But I fancied loads of people, to look at. We were great pals, and she trusted me to look after her when we were out drinking; keep her out of trouble and pull her away from twats. I’d have been a wanker to cross the line with her, so I didn’t. I’d tried it on with her, accidentally-while-drunk, a few times, sure. But she always told me to fuck off, politely, and never brought it up the next day to mortify me. That was a sign of a good pal. She was a keeper.
“Oh! Nothing pervy about asking someone a question, is it?” said Gar. I pushed down the handle on the toaster. Number 4. That was fine. Not too light, not too burnt. She’d slept in my bed last night because she couldn’t be arsed going upstairs, and because my bed was bigger than anyone else’s. One of the perks of being the Assistant Warden, you got the biggest room in the Halls (Chris had a whole flat, mind).
“Depends on the question, Other Irish,” Angharad said, pulling her big load of hair to one side so she could brush the tangles out. She’d found a hairbrush belonging to her in my room. She was always leaving her stuff behind.
“Here, I’ve a question for you,” Billy said. He had on a Rangers top. He had a lot of Rangers tops. You probably got them for free if you were a Protestant from where he lived. Or at least a discount on VAT.
“What’s that?” she said. It was just her, me, Billy and Gar. Tegan was gone, and Stu hadn’t come back with us. He’d pulled, I remembered now. Things were coming back to me.
“D’yiz ever consider brushing your hair somewhere that isn’t where I’ve to prepare my fecking meals, no?”
“Amazingly enough, no,” she said, giving him the finger.
“Prepare your meals? Fuck off will you, Billy. Pouring a bag of chicken dippers onto a baking tray isn’t preparing anything, like,” I said. No one ate properly in this place. It was wall to wall Student Food. None of them could cook, apart from Anga, and she lived up in the top floor, with three other girls, and Slow Simon.
“You underestimate my culinary skills, so you do. Aye, wait until you taste my platter.”
“That’s what Angharad said to Nailler last night, innit,” said Gareth, and everyone laughed.
“My fanny is not a platter, thanks,” she said, pretending to throw the hairbrush at him, making him duck, in case she meant it.
“What’s it then, an all-you-can-eat buffet?” said Billy. I looked down into the toaster to see if it was nearly ready. The smell of it was making my stomach growl.
“Nah. It’s like a tiny little hors d’oeuvre,” she said. For some reason the mix of French words and a Carmarthen accent sounded extra sexy; it would have even if she hadn’t been talking about her vagina. I was definitely in medical need of a wank. There was about two minutes left before the toast popped. I could probably pop myself in that time and be back before it got too cold to butter. Maybe it was time for me to get a girlfriend. Eleri had been a long time ago, now. Nearly four months.
Me and Angharad went to get some shopping around four. Nobody else wanted to come; Gar had gone to bed, and Billy disappeared into his room again. I wanted something more to eat, but I didn’t know what, yet.
“So, are you gonna come do pictures then?”
“Pictures?” Angharad had been for a shower and a change of clothes. I hadn’t. The girls were so much cleaner than the boys, where we lived. That was why they all lived together, cos they didn’t want to be around us and our filth all the time. I didn’t mind. It was less hassle, that way. I’d hoovered about three times since last September.
“For a photoshoot,” I said. She knew what I meant; I’d only mentioned it about a million times before.
“Oh. Your little plan to see me in my pants, is it?”
“I see you in your pants all the time.” The Brits said pants when they meant underwear. We said it when we meant pants. “Two countries, divided by the same language”.
“Yeah, well. To see me with my pants off, then, innit. You perv.”
“It’s not that kind of… I wouldn’t…”
“You wouldn’t want to see me with my pants off? Why’s that then? Not good enough for you am I, Irish?” She went through the big doors of the shopping centre and took a left into ASDA. It was busy, for a Monday.
“No, I just don’t… I’m not talking about nude stuff.” I didn’t know which part we were going to first. I didn’t have a shopping list. She might have, though. She was organised, that girl. More organised than me, anyway.
“Well that’s good, cos it wasn’t gonna happen anyway, mun.” She took a basket off the greeter guy with the Happy to Help badge. He looked a bit twp in the head. Maybe his name was Dai Baskets. Or Dai Shop.
“Yeah, well. I just… I want to do some stuff with the D60 – on digital, not for college. We’re still using bloody film there. And, I just think you’d- I think you’d be great for it. That’s all.” I didn’t give a shit about seeing people in their underwear. I wasn’t some 60-year-old perv in a Camera Club whose wife wore pyjamas to bed. It was fucking easier to pull someone in a club and see them naked than it was to get someone to model for you, at my age. I didn’t even really like shooting. It was always a bit stressy, and too hot (if it was in the studio), and I usually couldn’t wait for it to be over, so I could work on the pictures. That was my favourite part. But it wasn’t very rock and roll. You never saw Austin Powers converting .tiff files; or using the Eye Dropper tool to make a 25% Opacity skin tone airbrush.
“Great for modelling? I’m not a model, like.” Someone passed us and gave us a nod; a blond girl, big boobs, wasn’t sure if I knew her, but I nodded back anyway.
“You don’t have to be a model.”
“What do I have to be, then?”
“Just… fit,” I said, cos I knew if I said something like “beautiful”, or “pretty”, she’d take the piss out of me, or she’d start putting herself down. She was a weird combo of cocky and insecure, I always thought. But maybe we all were.
“Fit, is it now? Fair enough. And what would I have to do? I’d feel stupid, you know? I’m not that sort of girl, Irish.”
“Why, do you have a penis?”
“Fuck off. You know what I mean.” She already had about ten things in her basket. I couldn’t think of anything I needed, except bread. Bread, and something to put inside the bread. I liked the cheap roast beef slices they had here. Didn’t have those in Irish shops, just the fresh ones, and they cost a bomb.
“Yeah, but look, I’ll know what I’m doing, yeah?”
“Yeah?” She didn’t sound too convinced, but she’d never seen me shoot anyone, so she wouldn’t know.
“So, I’ll direct you,” I said, grabbing some Dairylea slices out of the fridge. I liked them better than real cheese. They reminded me of Calvita, back home.
“You’ll direct me, is it? Who are you, Steven Spielberg?”
“I’ll tell you what to do, I mean.” I was good at it, people told me. I was great at making you feel relaxed, the last girl had said. Sioned, from college. She’d liked the photos as well, but she made me give her the negative of the one with an accidental nip slip, which was fair enough.
“Yeah, anyway. What I’m saying is, I’ll set up the shots, tell you where to look, how to pose, and all that. All you have to do is…”
“Stand there and look prrrrretty?” She picked up a head of iceberg lettuce, even though no one would be eating that, unless they were shoving it into a burger bun. It’d be at the bottom of the fridge in a month; all brown, and smelling like vinegar.
“Well, yeah. Lie there and look pretty, to be honest.” The set I wanted to do was all going to be on a bed or on a floor. I’d pulled a load of tear sheets out of lads magazines – Loaded, FRONT, those sort of ones, for ideas. I’d give her a look at them later, so she’d know what I wanted.
“And what’s in it for me?”
“Well, you’ll get a load of decent photos, like; when I’m finished editing them, obviously. Good ones, no shite.” My Canon D60 was a beast of a camera. Cost me more than two grand, with the lens. But I shot RAW files on it, not jpegs, so each one had to be processed, converted, and Photoshopped, before I’d even dream of blowing it up to 8×10 for anyone to see.
“Oh! Photos of me in my knickers, yeah? Tidy. Who’m I gonna show them to, Irish? My Mam, is it? She’ll be proper chuffed, I’d say.”
“I dunno, do I?” I grabbed a loaf of Hovis seeded bread and put it in the basket. We could work out the money later. I was good for it.
“You’re not selling this to me very well, Irish; I won’t lie.”
“How ‘bout I buy all the underwear, and you can keep it after,” I said. I could afford that. I wasn’t asking her to do it for some dodgy reason. I just didn’t have anyone else, and I knew I could get great shots out of her. Her body was right for it; I wouldn’t have to do any smoke and mirrors to hide anything, either in the shoot or on the computer. And it’d be a laugh, once we were there and we got into it. Much more than me doing it with a stranger would be. I always had a laugh with her, no matter what we did. She was probably my best friend, since I’d come over here. Although Billy might have argued with that.
“That’s more like it, bach. We done here or wha?” She had filled the whole basket while we were chatting. It was like Supermarket Sweep. I was impressed.
“Uh, for now, yeah, maybe.” I’d remember something important later. Probably when we were already home, though.
“Tidy. Now, stop thinking about me in my knickers, you big rapist. Carry that for me like a good boy, innit.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said, taking it off her. I hadn’t been thinking about her in her knickers, but now I was. Her fault, in fairness. My conscience was clear.