One Time @ Camden Lock II

I watch the man in the crumpled white shirt take a swig from his can of Stella
and remember how anything looks beautiful when set against a pink September sky.
I catch his eye through the smoke trails left behind by infinite Marlboro Lights
and he picks up his guitar and I notice that there are flowers painted on its body,
which feels unfair as he will never see the flowers inked on mine.

I laugh out loud at the groups of young girls who look exactly the same from behind,
clones, pretty clones, with their Instagram lies and bad blonde highlights,
all wearing the same beige trench coat and drinking the same sugary cocktail,
taking a photo of themselves pretending to drink it,
no delete that one oh my god I look disgusting, take another one!
no, I don’t like that one, delete.
One more.
Ergh, no!
One more.
One fucking more, what the fuck, I despair at the state of my generation.
I imagine what the girls look like without their eyebrows drawn on.
Who are they trying to deceive?
I shake my head in disbelief.

I am overwhelmed at the tragic haircuts these young white males are sporting –
another deluded bunch, convincing themselves daily that they don’t look like utter twats.
I laugh again because they look ridiculous
and I don’t know why they’re here because they don’t look old enough to drink,
and I wonder why their parents haven’t told them that they look fucking ridiculous
and I remember the time I was leaving the house and my mother told me I looked like a cheap prostitute.

The most grotesque PDA is taking place to the left of me.
The guy keeps staring at me.
He has a horrible laugh, it is false and it makes me sick.
He bites her shoulder and keeps his eyes fixed on mine the whole time
and everything suddenly feels a lot colder.

This place is saturated with vague memories of midsummer evenings
and we try to pretend that it’s not all over.
Plastic sunglasses and plastic cups,
we all sit on the dirty concrete floor by the water
and watch the sun cringe away behind the buildings,
not wanting to stick around to witness our demise into debauchery.
It’s not summer but there is a lot of skin on show.
Heavy winter coats are being thrown on over denim shorts and tiny vests,
and the more we drink the less
we notice the temperature drop,
the degrees fall away with our self-respect
and dignity until there’s none left.

We are all chatting away in various languages
and I am writing and quietly singing along
to the lyrics of the songs that the man with the guitar is playing.
We are all listening but not really.
We clap when we’re supposed to
but this is just a man on the street who’s singing for fun,
he’s not supposed to be here, we didn’t pay to see him.
A man who looks like a shit version of Iggy Pop dances
around the guitar man, spilling his can of Scrumpy Jack’s on the floor.
He licks it up.

So this man is playing a free acoustic set
for the adoring ignoring masses
and suddenly I feel bad for him,
like I’m the only one who’s listening
and appreciating his presence.
He plays songs that I know and love, by Cash and Dylan.
Then he points at me and says,

‘Your boyfriend will probably come and beat me up for this, but I’ll take my chances – this song is for you.’

And then he starts singing Brown Eyed Girl
because of course, fucking of course,
because that’s the song that you would always sing to me.
And my throat gets really tight
and the tears begin to rally together in my eyeballs
and I don’t want to remember anything anymore.
I can’t look at the guitar man.
Or Iggy Pop.
Or the PDA guy.
Or the chav youths with bad haircuts.
I just stare into the canal and let myself zone out,
and wonder how many prostitutes are rotting away at the bottom of the lock,
and I try to look through the algae to see the bodies below
but then everyone starts clapping because the song has finished
and I smile at the guitar man
and then he starts playing American Pie
and I’m fine again,
I’m fine,
I’m fine,
I’m fine…


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