Suggestion by Anna (@scottyjotty) when I asked her: “What’s the cheesiest song you can think of? I’ll write you a sad story.”
We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got.
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot.
For love we’ll give it a shot
Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
She refreshes her email and all of the sudden it’s there.
A little one in brackets.
She stands up and walks away from her computer and her heart races. She pulls at the bracelet on her wrist, the one she bought when she was in Portugal on her summer holiday a year ago. She was sun-kissed and heart-broken. The colours of the threads have faded but they’re still clinging together.
She looks out of the window and watches as passengers spill out of the 54 bus into the street.
It’s the bus she gets to everywhere. Her line to the city. To civilisation. Forty minutes, sure, but it gets her there.
To the city.
She turns back and the email is still there.
She runs to the computer, slamming herself back down at the desk and she clicks on the email.
Off in one go, like the sadistic dinner ladies at primary school when faced with a plaster.
We regret to inform you that, on this occasion, your application has not been successful.
A rush of blood to the head and she grabs her phone. The number isn’t a problem, she’s known it since she was twelve.
“Can I come round?” she asks.
“Of course,” he says.
She gets on the bus.
Her lifeline, stretching out into the city. Right now, it feels like fingers wrapping around her neck.
When she gets to his house, his mum lets her in and gives her a sympathetic smile. She wonders whether Tom has told her but… he couldn’t know.
And then she remembers this is the way that Tom’s mum looks at her all the time. That sympathetic smile. That smile that says: you’re the one I compare my child with, the one who has gone through everything that he has. My kid is doing ok but you….
dot dot dot.
The anomaly in bell curve.
The x beyond the line.
That’s my name, she thinks. Don’t wear it out.
Tom’s sitting on the bed when she walks in. She kicks off her shoes and falls onto his bed, face buried into the pillow. After a moment, she feels a hand on her shoulder.
“What’s going on?”
“I didn’t get the internship in America.”
There’s a pause. She sighs and turns over on her back, staring at the photos and posters and set lists on his ceiling. Some she was there for, some she wasn’t. All in the same city. Postcards that he picked up from museums and galleries. Events he’s never been to but he liked the design. Wrist bands from club nights he went to but if you asked him what happened that night he’d just shrug and laugh. All from the same city.
Same city living.
This city is destroying our dreams, she thinks to herself.
“I’m sorry,” he says finally.
She moves her head so she can pin him with a glare. “You’re not at all.”
“Well, no. I’m not,” he says. Then he scoots himself down so he’s lying next to her. His head falls on her shoulder.
“But this internship was going to help me do something with me life. I could’ve made a difference. I could have helped someone… did you look at the website I sent you?”
He nods and says yes but she knows that he didn’t. She sent him a lot of links. More than anyone with a peripheral interest would read. Sites to all the programmes that she would be involved in. All the personal stories she would be able to tell.
“Yes, I did. It looked great.”
She doesn’t believe him. She rests her head back against the pillow.
“It was just a brilliant opportunity. It would give me direction, you know?”
Tom squeezes her tight and places a kiss on the closest part of her he can reach, right at the back of her parting.
“But this means you get to stay here with me and we can watch all our friends go to university and get degrees they’ll never use and we’ll start our own business…”
“You know. That one where we start our own café with a record shop…”
“I thought it was a book shop…”
“Well yes, that too. Record shop and book shop and there’s this café that makes the most amazing cake and the coffee is to die for.”
Tom must feel her sigh because he turns to look at her, his stubble crunching on her scalp.
“What? People actually died for this coffee that we’ll serve. It’ll be a news thing. The Daily Mail will go mental for it. And we’ll mention it randomly on our chalk board sign outside and it’ll go viral on Tumblr for, like, a second and then we’ll move on and it’ll become lore.”
“Yes, lore. And we’ll encourage young artists to do shit and we’ll show their pictures in our gallery and we’ll do it for the love of it.”
“The love of it?”
“Yes. We’ll give it a shot.”
The girl sits up and looks at him in surprise: “Wait.”
“Did I miss when landlords decided they’d take love instead money for rent?”
“Yes,” he says solemnly. “We’ll sell poetry.”
“Will we now?”
“Can you write poetry?”
“I’ll give it a go.”
“Will it rhyme?”
“Do people still read rhyming poetry anymore?”
“Of course. People will read anything nowadays.”
“And that pays the bills? Gets us out of here?”
“Out of here?”
“You know, this city. This place.”
“Why would we want to leave this place? We know this place. All our friends are here. This place has everything.”
Synonyms: each item, each thing, every article, every single thing, the lot, the whole lot, the entirety, the total, the aggregate.
She thinks for a second.
Synonyms: somewhere else, in/at/to another place, in/at/to a different place.
He’s silent. She’s silent.
They sit in silence. Lost in their own thoughts.
Cars pass by below.
Tom’s mum makes a cup of tea. She hears every clink of the kettle, the whoosh as the water rushes out, the tink of the spoon against the porcelain as the sugar dissolves.
The bus, the choking lifeline, pulls up and people get off and chat and then disperse.
Above her pictures of the two of them when they were young, bad dye jobs and homemade t-shirts. Photographic evidence of the time she thought that making her own jewellery was a good thing. Plastic beads spoke to her soul a few years ago. She wrote lyrics in her pencil case then; now she can barely remember her own phone number.
Her heart is heavy. Wrapped in stone.
“You promise?” she says.
He takes her hand and squeezes it.
“I promise. We’ll make it. I swear.”
And she suddenly has the urge, the inconsiderable, inconsolable urge to scream.
At the top of her lungs. At the top of her diaphragm. At the top of her throat. At the top at the top.
Synonyms: screech, yell, howl, shout, bellow, bawl, cry, yawp, yelp, squeal, wail, squawk, squall, caterwaul, whoop.
She wants to feel the syllables and scream louder than she ever has before. Loud so the windows shatter. So the mirror in Tom’s bathroom splinters. Louder than the bus outside, so the tires pop, so the brakes screech. So the bus shelter explodes. Shatter proof glass, little tiny pieces glittering on the pavement.
So everything in her life that is ambiguous, tangible, frail, bleak, non-existent shatters: it shatters into the ether.
She feels it. She feels it in her toes. Right to her fingertips.
She needs to scream. She needs to. She wants to.
At the top of her lungs. So everyone can hear. So her syllables ring out.
So she does.
Want to write a YA story based on a song? Any song, any band, any genre! Gimme, gimme, gimme: weartheoldcoat (@) gmail.com
I also take song requests.