Swimmers Club

6th February 2017

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Treading Water

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.


Factfile

Who: Richard Brammer
Where: Manchester, UK
What: Writer, Editor, co-founder Dostoyevsky Wannabe


The End of History

She leant with her back against the wall of the Duke of Wellington smoking a cigarette. The Kingsland Road traffic weighed heavily way away in the distance to her right. It was that period of late afternoon that spilt out school kids and quick getaway commuters determined to get themselves and their cars out of London, the scene played out against the backdrop of Ridley Road market stalls that were beginning to wind down for the day. The commuters sat on their car horns as crates were stacked, pounds of tomatoes and potatoes bundled and shouted as end of day bargains. The kids pushed and shoved or stood in groups around the door of McDonalds.

She flicked ash onto her battered Adidas trainer by accident and shook it off.

"It's the end of history" she thought.

Someone came out of the main bar, added a half empty bottle of Becks to the wall next to her and walked away from the pub towards the main road. It had been sunny earlier but that hadn't lasted and a cold breeze had pushed everyone back into the sticky darkness of the lounge bar, leaving bow-tied crisp packets and half-full pint glasses. She dropped the butt of her cigarette into one and headed back inside.

Apart from the old guy who was always there every day from midday and who stood upright and silent by the bar, her friends were now the only inhabitants. The barmaid flicked through a free paper. Few people drank at this time on a Tuesday afternoon just the old guy and the occasional semi-retired middle-aged businessmen who passed through to drink a half. The type who are small in terms of business and height but large in terms of ego and bulky in a Henry VIII way. The type who wear cufflinks and gold chains with their names inscribed and who invariably own their own car-lots and park their Jaguars outside in a move that both they and their exhausted amygdalae feel makes up for their lack of height. They only stay only long enough to pick up on some news item in the daily paper and to say something right-wing about it to anyone who will listen. No one does listen. Aside from these few people, the time of day belongs to either students, small time rock stars or, like today, a bunch of Marlboro Light supermodels acting as entourage for their photographer-queen whilst she's interviewed for some left of field style magazine and who chooses this moment to dodge another question by shouting to her friend who she's just seen coming back into the bar.

"Rose! Get us some fags?"

Rose slides into the gap between the old man and the cigarette machine, puts some coins into the slot and waits for a pack of twenty to drop. She wanders back over to the group. There are ten of them commandeering three small circular tables and sat in various elbowy postures. They take up the whole of the bench that runs around the inside perimeter of the wall of the main bar.

Rose’s friend, her best friend, and subject of the interview sits with her leg pulled behind and to the side of her like a broken bone. She's fiddling and pulling at the edge of one of the stripes on her dusty Gazelles the way people play with cuts that are nearly healed.

The guy interviewing her sits opposite them all on a bar stool in the position of an adversary, his dictaphone counting up numbers on its dial, its tape-heads spinning as her entourage scissors around him.  He asks questions that he's asked before.

"So they're paying you to make sure that their seven hundred quid suits look like they were knocked up on the way to the club. How does that feel?" 

Rose throws the packet of cigarettes towards her friend, "They've only got Silk Cut".

Her friend catches them, almost. She contorts her already contorted body to pick them off the floor, unwraps their plastic, signals a question to Rose with her face that says "D'you want one?" and on getting her answer throws one back over the head of the interviewer whilst she thinks about her answer. She's answered these questions before.

"I don't fucking know, you know...I just want it to be real. The photographs. I want them to be real...". She lights the cigarette and makes a sour face, "Fucking Silk Cut!"

The angular guy behind her who looks like the most beautiful girl in the world starts to reach into the disheveled three button jacket that hangs off his shoulders to find her a Marlboro Light.

"No it's alright darling. I can smoke this one".

She changes her posture and sits uptight on the chair hugging her knees to her chest but then changes her mind and leans forward to tap some ash into the ashtray and to pick up her bottle of Becks as she looks to the interviewer for the next question. She, the photographer-queen, is fidgety and a little bit sparrow like. She has a name and a real name but we can't give you her real name so we'll call her Charlie. Charlie waits for the next question but it doesn't come.

The interviewer has clocked Rose and he's recognised her.

"So this is...from the Gucci photographs? Sorry I don't think we've met." he holds out his hand towards Rose but Rose doesn't take it. "It's the end of history, you fucker." she thinks.

She looks at Charlie, takes a short drag on her Silk Cut and turns away.

"Rose doesn't do interviews." she hears Charlie say as she walks away.

Charlie had been taking photographs for as long as Rose had known her. It seemed stupid to call her a photographer, or at least the kind of photographer who could in any way be considered 'professional' but then neither had Rose gotten used to being paid to wear clothes for large corporate fashion houses. Charlie and Rose had met in McDonalds three years ago when Charlie had introduced herself and had said something about Rose's face.

Since then they'd travelled left to right from being the subject of the short 'Up and Coming' articles at the front of the style mags to starring in the centre-pages and in longer interview features and commissioned fashion shoots. Neither of them saw the success coming but they'd eventually signed off the dole and taken the increasing amounts of money that people seemed to want to send their way. They'd had a good time but now their uniform of battered Gazelles and low-rise jeans was starting to appear on young high street girls everywhere and she felt like something was getting out of hand.

Charlie, either out of laziness or maybe out of genius, had insisted that the commissioned fashion shoots take place when and where she wanted them to and many of them had taken place at Charlie's tiny flat. Some during house parties that looked wilder in the photographs than they'd felt in real life, some on the mornings after these parties when bodies and tobacco were strewn around the carpet, and others just on ordinary Wednesdays when it was pissing down with rain outside whilst, inside, the volume was turned down on the bright studio-lit daytime TV programs that bobbed about on the screen.

The flat's boxy television remote, its plug sockets, its big faux-leather armchair, its mismatched, cat scratched, orange sofa became as much a feature of these photographs as the increasingly famous people who appeared in them. It was weird to think about the sofa like this, the sofa she'd fallen asleep on so many times when staying over to watch a film and it was because of this weirdness that she didn't talk to the interviewers.

People were surprised at her reserve and then annoyed, especially the journalists. They'd seen Rose in so many candid situations in the pages of the magazines and on the walls of small East London art galleries that they felt that she was cheating them in some way. They'd seen Rose eating cereal, they'd seen Rose sat enveloped and not yet dressed in Charlie's big famous armchair, they’d seen Rose sleeping in her bed, Rose crying just after she'd heard that her mother had died, Rose off-guard and smiling, Rose off her face on speed. They didn't like how she would allow her private moments to be displayed in this public way whilst at the same time playing mute with them. They didn't necessarily expect her to have anything to say but they wanted to be the people who decided that she had nothing to say.

She ordered a Becks and remained at the bar drinking it. The barmaid closed the till and assumed her position reading the newspaper. The old man moved more fully than he had for as long as they'd been there. He hauled himself from his standing position and walked away to the toilet. She watched him go. She wondered if it was the end of history.

Sporadic laughter broke out behind her. She could hear Charlie laughing. Charlie was unable to stop laughing at something.


Richard Brammer is a writer and co-founder of Dostoyevsky Wannabe. This story is from his book Girl at End which is forthcoming in 2017 from Dostoyevsky Wannabe Experimental.