‘What does paradise look like?’ the little boy wondered.

‘Nothing like this,’ his older brother promised. They both looked down their noses to soak up the surroundings. A land that lay flat as a torn roti on a bed of soggy spinach. It didn’t matter much to them.

‘It’s a magical place,’ the older boy continued, his audience rapt. ‘The stairways rise by themselves, you only have to step in front of a door and it slides opens…’

‘Like Star Trek.’

‘Like in Star Trek. And the fruits are so plentiful and juicy. Apples and apricots and strawberries…’

‘Strawberries,’ the little boy echoed, eyeing the scratchy bit of mango in his hand with disdain.

‘When you slice them in half they look like love hearts.’

The small boy pictured fields upon fields of blazing red love hearts, like poppies, only without the men standing guard with machine guns.

‘I’ll take you down there one day,’ he said and they both lived in that dream, with eyes closed.

‘Nothing is real,’ the older one finally said, ruffling his brother’s hair. The boy wondered about that for years to come. Did he mean to have nothing was their reality? Or that it meant that the opposite was true and everything was make-believe?

The memory had started to crackle. He couldn’t tune in anymore but it was all right. It was finally getting easier to be someone. It all works out.

He read the advert one last time: ‘Easy pickings and high earnings! All fruit covered by tunnels – stay dry! All fruit is grown on table tops… no more bad backs! Excellent training provided!’

He wondered what his brother back home would make of this field of dreams, whether he’d think any of it worth getting hung about.

‘Paradise Pickers’, he smiled aloud, clocking in. The day ahead would feel like it went on forever, but it was something. And it was real.

‘It’s all right,’ he reminded himself, shrugging off the uncertainty.

‘That is I think it’s not too bad.’

For Bhaiya (born 23rd June). By Shihab S Joi
John Lennon/ Paul McCartney


From: SoLoneMarianne
To: GypsyThief
Subject: Re: I’m Your Man

Wow! You certainly know how to get a girl’s attention.

Well, I have to admit the sound of another kind of love sounds pretty appealing, considering what’s been on offer lately…

So you’re a man who’ll fight for me, look after me and take me home? Only I don’t date boxers, doctors or taxi drivers! Just kidding. You didn’t say what it is you actually do, but will you really do anything I ask you to?

I wonder. It’s easy to promise the moon and the stars when all you have to do is look up, but how much poetry will you find for us in the cold light of our lives? Will you still look for the flowers when taking out our garbage? Work for my smile doing the dishes when you could be out letting your Johnny Walker wisdom run high? How long before the permission you give me to strike you down in anger leaves you broken looking like your dog just died?

And after it all, would you really crawl on your knees and fall at my feet begging please?

Lucky for you, I’m not that needy. I live my life as if it’s real (even if my friends call me half-crazy), try in my way to be free, and don’t rely on a man to make me feel beautiful… although I’d rather you didn’t actually howl when you see me!

I don’t know if I’m looking for a father for my child (ask me again when the moon’s too bright), but I like the idea of having someone to walk a while with across the sand. Maybe leave the mask at home though. At least for the first date…

So if you’re the knight in some old-fashioned book I’ve been searching for, and can deliver on even a quarter of your promises, then, well, hallelujah! It might just turn out that I’m Your Woman.

From: GypsyThief
To: SoLoneMarianne
Subject: Re: re: I’m Your Man

In a hotel in Chelsea. Fancy a fuck?

By Shihab S Joi
Leonard Cohen


O glaube:
Du wardst nicht umsonst geboren!
Hast nicht umsonst gelebt, gelitten!

You got it.

To me it sounded a bit gay.

Your bloody Bukowski got this, you grunted. He wasn’t a bit gay.

Bit long, isn’t it? I know you like taking your time over a Number Two, but this is taking the piss…

It’s got everything your wanky beat novelists bang on about, you insisted, then suffered this fool gladly by explaining why. The search for the meaning, forgotten pleasures, light and shadows, the greatest suffering of man, something about andante, were we talking about pasta now? … I never did pay much attention to your pop-up, split-second messaging, so I’ll never know for sure what you were on about.

But I remember the bit about shadows. You didn’t say light and shade. That I’d have forgotten. You said shadows.

So basically your shadow is with you whenever you see the light, is what I said, fishing for clever. The opposite of what Neil Young said about the setting sun, yeah?

Dick, you said, and we left it at that.

Yesterday I was at a festival and I did not like the music. But the need to dance crept up on me and I found myself borrowing sounds from the wind, the shuffle of bodies and the wheels of the security truck to create my own imaginary instruments to add to the cacophony, making my body move in a way that made me look all alone.

Only I had my shadows with me. Plural. For a second or so the light hit me in a way that left me with two shadows. The umbras and penumbras they’re called. It sounds right up there with your andante and allegro, but it terrified me. One, a lifelong comforting friend, but the second appeared uninvited, creeping and lurking. Has it always walked with me unseen?

It danced at my feet, in harmony with my familiar contour, but was gone before I could accept it.

I think I get it now.

Come back.

For Rob Bell (23 Dec 1975-29 May 2015) By Shihab S Joi
Gustav Mahler