Portofino, West End: Ben Carter


There is a schoolchild upstairs who used to play the violin on weekends, but now plays during the week and we hear her laugh with her mother. Her father still comes home in the afternoon and wakes us up at 5a.m. every day, pissing in the water of their toilet. He drives to work, we fall back into sleep, lifting our isolated heads by ten.

She turns to me, smiling wide-eyed and says, ‘I didn’t sleep last night.’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know.’
‘It’s okay. The website keeps crashing.’
‘I don’t know how to process it.’
‘None of us do, but we just gotta take it day by day.’

We raise the curtains. We shower, eat, but we don’t ration. We’re okay. The instant coffee jar is nearly empty. I’m outside, on the computer, drinking a mug of the last coffee. She’s on the couch talking to her mother, a nurse in times like these. They talk about growing our own vegetables and I see the garden, decorated with vines, weeds growing between and bushy bamboo palms dropping fronds and blocking out everyone. Green, wild home of small animals. A bee hovers over an empty incense holder. The magpies across the road will visit us, but not until this afternoon. We shouldn’t feed them, but they have already started singing. She ends the call to her mum and turns on the news while a conversation upstairs gets louder. They do not speak English to each other, and they sound happy. They turn their TV on, the conversation stops, but they don’t watch the news. They are spending time together like we are. It’s cloudy, so I can’t see the sun, but time goes on. A lizard crawls across the sandstone boulders, searching for food, nothing warm because it’s only cold rocks on days like this. We are warm, because once the coffee’s gone we have tea. And for the lizard, the sun will come back. I hope the cold has people burn wood in their fires this evening, but if the girl plays violin again, I would like that too. I hope she continues to play. My girlfriend comes out, the news has been turned off and music plays. She walks up the garden path to the low wall. People could see us from there, emerging from the garden, but we don’t see anyone in the street, and we don’t step over the wall.
‘It’s a nice day,’ she says.

‘We should go for a walk.’
‘We should stay inside.’
‘Food later?’
‘We need coffee.’
‘Then, we’ll go for a walk later.’
‘We’ll go for a walk later.’

I go and sit back at my computer and open the same document.

Later, we will sit down, drink rum, have lunch, get high, fall in love again, and search for some good news, wait for the website to stop crashing. And the girl upstairs will start playing again—we haven’t heard her in a couple of days. The sun might show itself before the earth spins away from its light. There is no wood smoke yet, but June will be here soon.

Ben graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in December 2019 and plans to finish his first novel- working title, Red Boy– by the middle of 2020. He never usually writes short work; however, social isolation has forced an abundance of time on him. Now his days consist not only of writing, but also of editing, re-writing, and giving up.


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