Country Girls And Remembering Your Friend


Dedicated in memory of my friend, A.L.E.

This is how to kill a chicken. The hardest part is actually catching the bird. Lay it chest down on the floor, with the head facing away from you. Place a broom handle across the neck and place your feet on either side. Grab hold of its feet, pull up and then forward. You’ll hear a click. That’s the neck breaking, the chicken is now dead. I grew up in the country. Country girls know how to do things like this.

Alex was Australian the first time we met. And the second time. Our third encounter was a day date. With the pressure of the afternoon, his voiced slipped into the same, small town tones as me. The accent had been acted and the tan, sprayed. I’d never met an Australian, or a man that fake-baked, so had found myself easily fooled.

We would talk about our impending levels of sophistication. “When we move to the city we have to start drinking coffee.” There wasn’t any coffee shops where we lived.

Later I would get into the habit of downing sugared soy lattes in a take out cup, scolding my tongue or spilling it slightly down me. He scolded my lack of remembering, my American corporation-commercialization. “You’re meant to drink the deep, dark espresso, sat down, slowly. Like the French.”

“I’d be late for work every day!” I’d whine.

“So be late for work,” he’d wave his hands dismissively, not understanding the constraints of 9-5 employment, “It’s better than consuming all that fat to your arse”. He cut hair for a living, specifically, the hair of middle aged divorced women who wanted to revamp and tipped heavily. He kept a roster of clients, dedicating to her his whole day. An oiled head massage had become a very tame form of prostitution.

I took the 8.04 am metro into work. It routinely arrived 4 minutes late, so really it was the 8.08. I’d buy my ticket from the machine rather than the manned ticket office, as that would require human interaction. Later in the day I would be in supermarket, swearing at the automatic checkout when I had to “please wait for assistance”. This assistance would take too long to rescue me, so I would leave 50p on top of the scanner, for a 19p banana.

“The bigger the city, the harder you work.”  A fellow commuter said.

I didn’t work particularly hard, so the city we had moved to mustn’t have been that big. So long as I was on time and not off sick I managed to get away with it. I lied and said I still smoked, so I could squeeze out a few extra 5 minute breaks. I’d stand under the allocated shelter with my head against the wall and close my eyes, sighing. That equated to 15 minutes per day, which equated to 2.15 hours per week. Most people in the office were highly educated and noticeably underemployed. They had MA and PHD after their names. They would discuss politics and the recession whilst disdaining people like me who hadn’t even gone to college in order to drop out. Whilst they were busy studying hard, I was busy partying hard. My college years were spent on tour with bands through Europe. “I just never made it there,” I’d say.

The suits I wore were more polyester than cotton. They were the cheap kind. Not sweat shop cheap but cheap enough that you would end up feeling clammy even on a cold day. The lining of the pencil skirts would make me feel like I was wrapped in cling film. I’d seal my lips in a glossy red paint to further my disguise for the job that I really wasn’t qualified to do. With my hair styled austerely back the way he’d taught me, I looked like a B-Movie film noir extra. I’d run through movie titles that sounded apt:

“The Suspect”. “Blonde Crazy”. “The Guilty Bystander.” Now working at an office near you!

It was my birthday. We were heading straight out so I left my blazer on the chair of my desk and got changed in the ladies toilets. My white shirt was creased down the back where I hadn’t bothered ironing it and there was a coffee mark dripped on the front. That looked bad, so I re-buttoned the shirt, ignoring the top four buttons for maximum cleavage and tied it up the hem. I rolled the cuffs. The midriff showing, pencil skirt combo looked vaguely trendy, once I had removed my tights. I wore black pointy pumps which made it sexier. Well, sluttier, a least.

We lingered over Old Fashioned cocktails. “I feel like this drink.” His face looked tired.

I liked to watch the classics at the cinema on a Sunday. He also liked this because he could feel hungover and not have to contend with too much. They showed movies with Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall. Then we’d have a late, drawn out lunch, reading the newspapers and glossies. I’d read a magazine, followed by travel and the review, then mull over the crossword, drawing around the squared lines. He was better at it than me.

“Four down: Young Horse. Four letters. Second letter O.”
“Colt,” he’d replied confidently and it would fit. I wouldn’t have known this because I held a phobia of horses.

“Sage is the herb for 2013,” he read out loud from the seasonal subscription of Bon Appetit magazine. “Blueberries and sage. Green beans with sage and pancetta. Butternut squash, ricotta and sage crostini. Mmm. That one sounds good.” He dog-eared the page.

All this time I’d thought of him as a bon vivant, living each day gourmet. He had acquired the skilled preparation of adding exotic ingredients to spice life up.

“I add sage to bread”.

This is how to bake bread. Add flour and butter to the bowl. Add the salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other. This is important as the salt can kill the yeast. Add dried sage herb if desired. Add water and combine into dough. Knead, cover and leave to rise. The bread is then ready to bake. Country girls know how to do things like this.

That morning, Alex was late so I didn’t hang around waiting. I figured he’d crawl into his usual seat. They were showing a double bill, A Fistful of Dollars/Dirty Harry. During the interval I met a sexy, tattooed, long-haired man and we went home together.

Three days later and he was still late. We had lived in the city for seven years. It turned out the itch had got to him. They played The Rolling Stones at his funeral. I didn’t know why because he had never said he liked them.

This is how to remember your friend. Finally quit your job. Close your eyes and imagine kissing them for the last time, like it was the first time.

Country girls know how to do things like this.

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