HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Green Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some writers and artists who’d sent in work the chance to be published here on the website. Keep an eye on our social media for more great work like this, now that The Green Issue print magazine has been released! (For more information or to purchase your copy, visit our shop.)
Strung from lamp post to lamp post, the multicoloured fairy lights wiggled, jiggled and jumped in the wind. An angry sea scratched at the pebble beach. Flecks of sand stung cold raw cheeks. It was dusk.
The world seemed obsolete, nullified by the obviousness of the season. Decay, frost-shredded painted gaiety and cartoon characters diminished by the elements, painted on shuttered ice cream shacks.
‘It’s heaving down here in the summer,’ I tell him.
‘How far is it to your flat?’
‘Just a road away. I thought we’d make a detour, so you could see, the, erm…’
We walk huddled hands in coat pockets.
‘You look like your profile picture.’
‘So do you.’
I like the way that the wind ruffles his hair. His cheekbones are much more pronounced than I thought they would be.
‘Wild,’ I whisper, meaning the weather.
And he’s slightly taller than me.
There are lights on the horizon out at sea, ships sheltering in the bay, and they twinkle and pulse just like stars, and if it weren’t so cold then maybe I could create my own constellations.
‘I’m cold,’ he points out.
And the multicoloured fairy lights throw down a glow which gives us several overlapping shadows, our two forms merged and combined like a pack of cards being shuffled. The iron legs of the old pier stride in to the angry sea like a Victorian lady holding up her petticoats.
‘Really cold,’ he says.
‘When we get to my flat,’ I tell him, ‘you’ll be warm enough.’
‘What’s that?’ he says, pointing at the pouffe.
‘It’s a pouffe,’ I reply.
He walks around the living room, warily, looking at it from several angles.
‘What does it do?’
‘You put your legs on it when you’re sitting on the sofa.’
‘Shall we just sit down and, er, warm up and…’
‘With that thing, there?’
I sit down. He lingers for a bit, and then he sits down, too. We look at each other and we smile.
‘I really liked your profile,’ I tell him. ‘We’ve got a lot in common, haven’t we? It was great to chat online, but I’m so glad we’ve met.’
‘Seriously,’ he says, ‘it’s called a pouffe?’
He looks at it for several seconds.
‘I can put it out on the landing if you like, if you’ve got a…phobia.’
‘It’s still been in here, though.’
‘Put it out of your mind.’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.’
And then neither of us says anything for a while. I can hear the clock ticking on the mantelpiece.
‘A green pouffe…’
He sighs, leans back in his chair.
‘I was in the jungle,’ he whispers. ‘They said I was green. Green meant new, apparently. But I was more likely green because I just felt so unwell. The food, you see… And everything in the jungle was green, too. Have you ever really looked at the colour green? There are so many varieties. Green leaves, moss, bark, more leaves, green everywhere. And I felt so bad, I really did feel ill.’
‘That’s a shame. Let’s snuggle …’
‘They reckon I had some sort of disease, brought about by flies. Mosquitoes, probably. They do things to the mind, and affect the way that we see the world. You can never tell how it’s going to go. But with me, it was the effect of everything. The greenery. The predominance of the colour green, just kind of crowded in on me. Made me lose my senses, in a way.’
‘Jeez. So, let’s fool around a bit, you and me…’
‘And the greenery, it did things to me. I became obsessed. We were there to film a documentary, you see. About slugs, and I was the only newbie there, the only green member of the team. And as I say, I was throwing up the whole time…’
‘You never mentioned the throwing up.’
I try to put my arm around his shoulders, but he stands up and looks out the window.
‘Sure! A never ending spume of it. I was having visions, it was like some kind of hideous trance that the jungle had put me under. So they flew me home. And the film company, they paid to send me out and recuperate in the countryside. But the countryside, oh, have you ever been to the countryside?’
‘Every now and then. Say, aren’t you hot wearing that big jumper? And those…jeans?’
‘There was greenery everywhere. Greenery and scenery. And the scenery was mostly green. There were fields and trees and the fields and trees were green. Especially the evergreens. The greenest evergreens I had ever seen. And there was moss and dappled sun and rhododendrons. And there were villages and village greens. And the village greens were green. And everyone out there eats their greens. And also some of the tractors were green.’
‘Fascinating. Say, has anyone ever said what nice lips you have? Very kissable…’
‘So then I came back to the city…’
(‘Here we go.’)
‘…And there was lots of green here, too. The Starbucks logo is mostly green. And so is the fungus in the bus station. And my friend Pete’s car is green. And so is the tie I was wearing yesterday. And the traffic lights are occasionally green. Red, mostly, and amber, and red and amber, but occasionally green. And salt and vinegar crisp packets. Again, green. And the District Line is green. And it passes through Turnham Green. And even though the neon signs are multicoloured, you could probably turn ’em green. Green. Everything is green.’
‘Yes, it is somewhat ubiquitous.’
‘And it does things to me. All this green. It really does affect me very badly. I can’t stand it. I get flashbacks. Green flashbacks. You’ve got to understand.’
I laid my hand on his leg and made a mental note not to include broccoli with dinner.
‘I’ll move the pouffe,’ I whisper. ‘Take it away from here, if that makes you feel any better. And then I’ll start on the dinner.’
‘Thank you,’ he replies. ‘I’m sorry. But it really is giving me the willies.’
I get up and I move the pouffe outside where he can’t see if, and then I come and rejoin him on the sofa.
‘Oh my god,’ he says. ‘Is that footstool over there beige? Oh no! I was in the desert, you see, surrounded by miles and miles of beige sand, when I started to feel very ill…’
I let out a deep sigh, lean back on the sofa, and I start peeling an orange.
Robert Garnham has been performing comedy poetry around the UK for ten years at various fringes and festivals, and has had two collections published by Burning Eye. He has made a few short TV adverts for a certain bank, and a joke from one of his shows was listed as one of the funniest of the Edinburgh Fringe. You can find his website here.