Creative Writing Literature

Number 158

Artwork by Shafia Motaleb.

by Phoebe Bowers.

It heads a heavy breath

An inhale exiled

And awaiting 

Grey skies above the suspended bridge over the Severn.

Rat infested. Bin bags out on the streets, their aborted insides exploded on the concrete. Terraced house terraced house terraced house terraced house terraced house. Fifty shades of brown, beige, and grey. Sunshine in the day. Thirty different corners bookended by your local offy or pub. Ten minutes away from the club. They come howling out at night – tight, striped, bright variety of spaghetti strapped, low-cut, short-length dresses. Stumbling stilettos siren calling to dark figures in backstreets – they circulate for meat. In number 158 on one of the streets you could just walk right in and be offered a key or a ping-pong ball or a Snapchat code or a new persona to be – flashing fucking LEDs. Student riddled is this bubble, this burb if you can even call it that. An anomaly, community outside of reality. Locals to the city stay away and choose to live elsewhere. Families running drug-fronted stores just don’t care. New adopted parents to the inbetween no longer teen, not yet adults, lost boys or misfit toys. There are students from Surrey, there are students from Putney, there are students that can only refer to their county because no one knows that run-down sea-side town or rural or remote village they’re from.

You’re from Torbay? Yeah that’s where I’ve been on holiday! You have a zoo don’t you? Ah that’s cute.

My accent? Sorry can’t you understand my tongue – well this is the place I’m from – you’re the intruder. Foreigner.

There are students in tens, there are students in fives, there are students in sevenses, there are students in pairs. Some stuck with the people they were put with last year, some moved in with randoms they found online, some found people on their course. Every now and then a patch of green, tinnies to harvest on the grass. Late Afternoon. Someone somewhere can smell a zoot. Bass line bass line bass line – windows open. Beat drops. A book-case strewn with used condoms, Engels and Marx spines balance a plate dusted with crumbs. SCREAMING. 

Where’s the karaoke, Mario-Kart, Wii remote? Shit who’s taken my filters I’m gunna bloody kill ya. She woke up at 3pm today. He wakes up at 4am. Wednesday night has been agreed by everyone. This week’s theme? Spring-break, toga party, coppers and robbers, pub golf, charity shop, pimps and hoes. They can only stomach cheap white wine. They can’t stomach their cheap white wine. A new stranger in a bed each week. What’s your name again? With six different used coffee or tea stained mugs trophied on the desk and dog-eared penciled texts or library loans – one can finish their assignment in just six hours before the deadline. Watch the sun come up. One can work on their assignment for weeks. Footnoted, referenced, crossed every t, and every i dotted. Office hours appointed.

Vindaloo nah nah

Vindaloo

Vindaloo

Vindaloo

Vindaloo nah nah

Dietary requirements: pasta, sauce, pesto, take-away, pizza, crisps, skipping lunch, cereal for dinner, liquor for breakfast. I’ve been sick again. Tonsillitis again. Chipmunked face, ballooning, swelling like you’re allergic to nuts – mumps. Another queue at the clinic. More drop-ins needed. Societies tailored to every single hobby or interest. Societies to haze, societies to pigeonhole, societies speaking in their mother tongue. Houses with no heating on. Cigs ashed out on the coffee table, polystyrene boxes with scraps of chips and plastic forks, remnants of last night. Strolling around in just your pants. They all sit around their television screens, smoking, cackling, thinking this will last forever.

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