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"My situation"

A short fiction about self-respect.

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They are thin and dirty but present with an air of self-possession, they cross their legs on the Overground, mirroring each other. The woman, wears a long chintzy black coat her hair knotted into a dandruff flecked puff, the man, wears cheap plastic shades tinted black and a turtleneck, beat up fedora. He sleeps on the steps of St George’s Church on Bloomsbury Way underneath the sign that says “30 minutes of peace amidst all of the noise” over an image of outstretched hands with a shining cross between them, under the heavy wide columns of the church and the arches just behind it, against the church’s closed wrought iron gates. She sleeps in the wide stone corridor which is the opening of Pimlico station, the point which doesn’t close at night but provides shelter from the elements along with the silent comfort of monied West London streets. They were preparing for a sort of dinner of the mind.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: If you’re hosting then you [inaudible]. Otherwise it’s not even worth inviting people.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: The host is a conduit, miserliness will be sniffed out if it’s there.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: Exactly! And so I said that. Went down like a lead balloon.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: You’ve never been one to hold your tongue. They should know that.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: You have to keep a certain standard. That’s why I care so deeply for you.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Merci.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: You don’t let your situation get the better of you.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: My situation?


[There is a brief silence. The woman looks at the man beside her with raised eyebrows before they burst into raucous laughter].


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Well this time, you’ll know to watch your tongue. They’ve been preparing for this all week.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: I know, I like Simon. It’s Polly that I’m not so sure about. She’s just desperate.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Desperate, that’s a bit harsh.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: Desperate in the spiritual sense. She’s so needy, she doesn’t love Simon. Can’t you just see it in those big brown eyes, pathetic! She doesn’t have self-respect.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Bless her heart. [Inaudible] really. Blue eyes, by the way.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: No her eyes are brown, I’m sure.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: No, they’re blue.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: Brown.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA. Blue. And for the record I don’t agree, I think she does have self respect.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: I think she doesn’t.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: But she does.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: No listen, she really doesn’t. Let me have this one and let me tell you why. I say this because I can see how she doesn’t sleep at night.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Just because you might toss and turn at night on occasion,


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: I didn’t say on occasion.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: On occasion, it’s not every night, it never is every night. That has nothing to do with a weak character. All of us have to face guilt.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: But what’s the point of guilt?


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: What you’re advocating for is saving face.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: No, I’m talking about resilience. You know about resilience.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: A lack of resilience is no failure to me. I advocate for the endurance of very little.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: One must stay true to oneself and one's decisions.


BEAUT-UP-FEDORA: We all have regrets.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: It’s about saying no to self indulgence and self hatred.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Well, that's rubbish. Without self hatred we would have no reason to live.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: [She turns] So what, you saying you hate yourself?


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Yes, don’t you?


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: Come on be serious. Do you really?


[BEAT-UP-FEDORA shrugs]


[DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF grumbles and turns away in dismay]


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: I think self respect is a secondary issue anyway. Self respect really is just something we made up.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: If self respect means nothing neither does respect in general.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: But I've never met myself so how can I know if I'm worth respecting?


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: You know yourself better than anyone else.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Not true.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: Yes true. I’m the only one inside my head. Today.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: You don’t even know what you really look like. I know you better than you ever could.


[DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF begins to respond but as she does she catches my eye for the second time and understands that I have been watching and listening intently. She nudges the man beside her]


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: What’s that puff looking at?


[The man makes a masturbating motion with his hand and laughs. I avert my eyes. They stop talking for a while.]


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: What stop is it again?


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: Liverpool Street. Then Holborn.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: Oh, their new apartment.


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: New? They’ve been there for years.


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: No, they moved to those new builds next to the university. Remember we said so last time?


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: So?


BEAT-UP-FEDORA: You can’t just change it, what’s the point if you do that?


DANDRUFF-FLECKED-PUFF: [She hushes him mischievously]. I remember now, the new builds.


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