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Boredom [Part 17]

July 9, 2013

*From another time, long ago…


Benny pushed open the door from the stairs to the corridor leading to

his apartment and heard the sound of tiles falling onto an invisible board and

an old woman, who had probably never uttered a quiet word in her life,

shout out in victory. It has to be mah-jong, he thought, he heard them

playing it at least five times a week. What were they doing except playing that

fucking game? What were they talking about between tile placements? In a

more distant apartment there came a stop-start line of piano, a few seconds

of rehearsed performance, a pause, and then the same few seconds, perhaps

slightly improved. Benny didn’t think much more on it as music wasn’t a

keen interest of his. It was a lesser art, an art that only appealed to the senses,

not the mind. That was why he classed himself as a writer. “If I can get the

authenticity of poverty then I’ll have a story,” he told himself as he opened

the cage protecting the wooden door to his apartment. “Those other ideas

are good, but they’re not calling cards, not like this one. I’ll come back to

those when this one is done.” The cage and then the door were opened and

he walked into his modestly-furnished apartment, kicking his flip-flops off,

turned on the thirty-eight inch TV he had bought after only two days of

doubt over the expense of it, and put the kettle on before finally letting his

shoulders drop down in comfort.

The news came on the screen and by the time he was sitting on the

couch it had moved onto a story about rebel fighters in Sri Lanka flaying

some monks who had wandered, tourist-like, into their area from the

opposing side. The Tamik tigers, they said, had killed over a hundred

innocents within the last month in order to protect their territory

in…Killinoti? Killinocki? How did he say it…Killinokiti? That was an

achievement. A hundred people in a month, three and a limb each day.

Another monk, a friend of one of the skinless monks perhaps, came on and

talked about “peace first, and then justice for these immoral, disgusting

crimes.” His face looked familiar, someone who had featured in Benny’s

own life at some point. Is there a link between them, he wondered? We met

in the past and he went that way and I went my way, and now he’s facing the

prospect of getting flayed while I’m living in this fantasy land where people

never get flayed. What would it be like to wake up in the morning and think

that, on that particular day, someone might catch you and take a knife to

your skin? There were places like that all over the world and he was nowhere

near any of them. Well, Sri Lanka’s close, he reasoned, and Tibet’s closer, but

it’s not in the same world. Hong Kong didn’t know violence like that. People

died here, sure that happened everywhere, but the percentage was so small.

Only eight-hundred and fifty-seven destitute in a city of seven million, he

recalled. Not even one percent, krist.

The story on the TV changed to the elections in Russia, forcing Benny to

shake his head as if every country were more dramatic than the one he was

currently in. Another country with a recent history of suffering that put

Hong Kong to shame. The Cold War, snuff movies in warehouses,

Chechnyan militia, the rush to sudden capitalism and riches and surplus

warheads, the tanks moving into that renegade arm of Georgia; why wasn’t I

born a Russian?

He drank some water out of a clean glass and turned his computer on.

He would try to make up for the days waste and write for a bit, then sleep.

The air con blew into his face, reminding him that it was working on in the

background, and the news reporter said goodnight from inside the TV

screen. The music played out and the studio went dark and a preview came

on for ‘House’, with Hugh Laurie being pulled over by a cop, a familiar cop,

the guy from…what? White hair, big, six-five maybe…scrunched up eyes,

who was he? When his computer loaded up he stared at it for a few minutes

before connecting and going to Wikipedia. He searched for ‘House’ and

scrolled down the page until he found the cast list, and then the list of

recurring characters, and went down that until he…

“Ha! David fucking Morse…” he cried, and sat back relieved while

outside the window, down in the estate below, amongst all the trees waiting

for the light to come again in the morning, the benches lay empty, alone,


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