:: Article

Duos #5 – McMullan De meyer Brel is dead

By Thomas McMullan and Tineke De Meyer.

A suitcase was left outside De Haven van Texel,
close to the water’s edge.
I’m calling the bomb squad, whispered a sunburnt man.
What does that even mean, said his wife.
The police.
You don’t speak Dutch, she sighed.
Tell the waiters.
Pffffffft, you saw how long it took to get our drinks.
The man tapped the suitcase with his shoe, in rhythm to the accordion player’s song.
Leave it alone.
The man pushed harder, the suitcase’s wheels rolled forward,
past the barrier,
into the water
with a deafening splash that was heard across the city.

Ne me quitte pas
Love has been the law for her lifetime, and she was rotting in jail.
Lunch and dinner came on metal trays, slid through a hatch in the door.
Breakfast was spoonfed by the most beautiful hand she had ever seen.
Or perhaps
she had only grown accustomed to it
over time, lending its tender fingertips associations of morning sustenance.
Sometimes she would overhear the sounds of sex,
then she would clench her eyes and hope
that the owner of the hand was not involved.
She would imagine the ceiling of her cell was an open window,
facing the moon.

Les Bourgeois
Pork medallions were the order of the day.
Absolutely everyone was after them,
and the kitchen had sweat itself to skin and bones over the pressure.
One dishwasher had taken
to openly snorting cocaine on the dirty pots and pans.
On the restaurant floor the sound of chewing had knitted itself
into a golden cloak; absolutely exhausting to listen to.
The maître d’hôtel had lost so much weight that he collecting coats with one hand,
holding his trousers up with the other.
For a fleeting moment he found himself staring at the list of reservations,
convinced he’d written his own name.

It’s not because you don’t feel sick that there’s no cancer there.
What then is there to hope for? Well.
You could just say that it’s not raining.
But it is.
You see two boys standing in the open bedroom window on the fifth floor,
their backs towards you. An angry man comes in.
One boy loses his balance – one.
Falling backwards, he grabs and pulls the other boy with him – two.
Witnessing this, the bare-chested young lover
hiding under the bed impulsively crawls out underneath
and jumps right after them – three.
Like a witless hero.
As if one falling body could be saved by another.
The boys you are able to catch.

It’s easy to crush a soul,
but how to elevate it?
What’s keeping you here? The twilight is a sort of grey here,
and the sky doesn’t seem as vast as elsewhere.
You see a dark man approaching a girl,
sitting next to a freshly covered grave,
with dirty hands and bleak skin.
He looks at her. You wonder how a face can look stupid
and guilty at the same time.
She’s not waiting for his judgement. There is nothing to be learned from her.
We watch him dig and uncover the face of his father.
It’s skin is barely discernible from the damp, warmly coloured soil.
Now he changes his grip on the spade,
holding it like a hammer.
Then, he shatters the head.
Turning it to dust.
With ease.

You’re distracted.
How would you even know your suffering is real
if you’re so easily distracted?
You don’t. Look: there’s a masculine woman of small posture,
big eyes. She reaches out to touch your face,
then your neck. You let her. You wait.
She bends your head back. You wait.
You always do. She takes hold of your arms.
You let her. She makes you descend into a pool.
You see yellow snakes in the water.
You feel yellow snakes in the water.
What do you feel? You feel fear.
You understand that you have waited too long.
This is not what you wanted, you say.
But it was, she says. Look around you.
You know what to do.

Thomas McMullan is a London-based writer. He has been published by Lighthouse, 3:AM Magazine, The Stockholm Review and Cours de Poétique, and is a contributing editor for minor literature[s]. He has written for the Guardian, Frieze, The TLS and New Statesman, and is published in Best British Short Stories 2016.

Tineke De Meyer studied comparative literature at the University of Ghent. She has followed her interest in stories mainly through dramaturgy and theatre. Since 2014 Tineke has regularly worked with artist collective Circumstance, investigating dialogues between print, sound and environment.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, March 27th, 2018.