By Fernando Sdrigotti.
Nick invited me to have lunch at his. He said we could then spend the afternoon buying old records down Notting Hill Gate and Portobello. Nick had this huge flat overlooking Chepstow Gardens. A second or third floor. A lovely flat. And he always had Turkish Delight at hand. Second or third rate. London Turkish Delight. But Turkish Delight nevertheless.
“Can I get you a drink?” he asked as soon as I crossed the door. I said yes. And three minutes into my visit I was already sipping a Long Island Ice Tea, listening to Astor Piazzolla. He was working on the food in the kitchen, occasionally shouting some of his impressions about the music.
Nick had cooked a Sunday roast, with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. I thought it was nice of him. I didn’t know he could cook.
“This is sublime,” he said, referring to the music, one of the times he showed up in the lounge to top up my drink.
“It´s fine,” I said.
“No, it´s not fine. It´s sublime,” he said.
“OK. Sublime,” I said and he seemed pleased with it and went back into the kitchen.
He looked as if he had done Turkish Delight behind my back. Still, I thought it wouldn’t have been decent of me to force a conversation about Turkish Delight, so I decided to give him until after lunch to drop the invite. Only then would I get my Turkish Delight out and invite him; I didn’t have much left.
Nick had nice furniture but the flat looked somehow cold. It could have passed for one of these showrooms that they have in new buildings. Everything was too perfect. Too anal. Too clean. Shiny.
The TV screen was covered with text. Nick had mentioned that he used to spend the weekends watching football teletext but I hadn’t taken him seriously. This was indeed the case. No doubts he could have afforded cable but I guess it had to do with his profession and a fetish for written information displayed on screens. I didn’t care much about the telly mainly because I couldn’t read the text from my place in the room. Also, I was getting drunk and focusing my eyes on the screen was making me feel sick.
“The food is ready,” shouted Nick from the kitchen at some point and I went over there. A nice kitchen too. As shiny as the lounge.
We had lunch seating at a bar, in silence. The food was OK. The wine was better. And soon we were snorting my Turkish Delight from a metallic tray with an advert of Bacardi in the middle. The stuff was enough for two shots each and I made it clear that I didn’t have anything left. Turkish Delight makes me quiet. It made him talkative.
“We should go and buy some more,” he said. “Turkish Delight goes really well with Sundays afternoons. We should go, get some more, and then hit the road, have something to drink down Portobello, hit the record shops, stop to top up every fifteen minutes and then come back home, listen to some new records and maybe call a couple of whores to finish the day.”
“Yes. These are good plans. I like them. I think this is the way to go today and tonight. Get properly turked up, snort T.D. from some slut’s arse. You know the deal.”
“Sure. But I’m skint Nick. Got only twenty pounds left.”
“No worries. I’ll sort you out and sort the Turkish Delight and the whores. No worries buddy. You would do the same for me. Wouldn’t you?”
“Sure. Where can we get Turkish Delight?”
“I was hoping that was something you could sort out?”
“My pusher, Ray, leaves down East.”
“I see… Not to worry… Not to worry… We’ll sort something out. Notting Hill is Turkeyland on Sundays.”
“Have another Long Island. Ha ha. We’ll have a smashing afternoon. Ha ha. I love good plans. I love it mate. Love it. Fucking great. A.”
He started to fix two more drinks while I went for a crap. Every time Turkish Delight is discussed and/or snorted I need to go for a shit. I don’t know why. The toilet was a nice, clean, one. I didn’t have to juggle crapping standing up. There was a magazine rack by the toilet seat and I picked up a copy of Men’s Health or some fitness mag, like that. Seeing all these beefed-up guys with six packs and veiny necks helped me shit quite fast. After cleaning my arse with a good quality toilet paper, I washed my hands and my face with a delicious lavender soap. It was a nice day. Regardless of the T.D.-shortage crisis.
Then we finished our drinks and left.
We walked towards Portobello Road. The Turkish Delight started to wear off by Ladbroke Grove. I realised that was the case when I tried to speak to Nick and felt my tongue tied. I was pretty drunk. I think he felt it wearing off too because he made a passing remark about how soon we would reach that pub down Portobello Road and look for Dennis Ahmed, this estate agent and pusher he knew, that would surely sort out some T.D. for us. It was sunny but there were dark clouds lingering above. It was clear it was going to rain. It was just a matter of time.
Portobello Road was packed with people checking out stalls. We walked on the sidewalk, as far as we could from the people, almost crushing ourselves against the wall, and we walked fast, as fast as we could. And soon we reached the boozer. The pub was packed too. We walked in and went straight to the bar. Nick gave me a tenner and asked me to buy a couple of beers. He said he was going to check out the back to see if Dennis Ahmed was there. I elbowed my way to the bar and stayed there, holding the ten pounds note with my arm outstretched. I didn’t make any attempt to make eye contact with the waiter. I wasn’t thinking much at all.
Somehow, I ordered two pints of Red Stripe. And after paying I made my way out of the crowd and outside. I put the pints on the windowpane and lit a cigarette. A couple of minutes later Nick showed up. He looked serious.
“Can’t find Dennis Ahmed,” he said.
“Have a drink,” I said. And he downed half his pint in one go.
“Maybe we can find him down the road, at the Duke of Wellington.”
“Sure,” I said.
So we downed the rest of the pints and went to the Duke. Just a minute away. And there we found Dennis Ahmed. Dennis was this relatively big guy with Arabic face, Iranian, something like that. He was with two girls, one white and the other black. They were seating at the terrace. Dennis Ahmed grinned when he saw Nick.
“Give me a couple of minutes,” Nick said. “Grab a table inside.”
“OK,” I said, “and I went in.”
I was already quite drunk but still operational. I went to the bar and bought two pints of Red Stripe and two shots of tequila and grabbed a table by the toilet. I waited for a couple of minutes and when Nick didn’t show up I downed one shot and then the other. Nick showed up a few minutes later, this time smiling.
“That’s it. We’ve got some to get along,” he said. “He’ll sort three grams out for later.”
“Cool,” I said.
“I’ll be back,” Nick said and went into the toilet. He came back two or three minutes after and pushed his cigarettes across the table. I got the cigarettes and went to the toilet myself. There was music playing in the toilets, different music to the pub. The Smiths. A song I liked. But I couldn’t remember its title. I went into the cubicle and did two shots of Turkish Delight with my Argentine driving license. Then I licked the license and realised it had expire. I went out, sat at the table and handed the cigarettes back to Nick. A couple of minutes later I was feeling OK again. Turkish Delight is great. A, A plus.
We were supposed to come back in a couple of hours to pick up the rest of the stuff, so we finished our drinks and headed towards the record shops near Notting Hill Gate. Both of us were walking fast and I was in a good mood. Nick was doing the talk.
“They’ve got a good jazz selection. Very cheap. You can find mostly everything. Sometimes the LPs are a bit scratched. So be careful. Have a proper look before buying. I’ve got Billie Holiday singing the first line of ‘You’ve Changed’ on loop. Have a proper look, I know what I am telling you. You’ve changed… You’ve changed… You’ve changed… Fucking mad.”
It was very sunny, so sunny that it was impossible to see the people walking down Portobello Road. The sun hitting my eyes felt good.
“And it’s a lot better than Rough Trade. You can only get overpriced indie stuff at Rough Trade and the staff are a bunch of arrogant cunts. Have you been to Rough Trade?”
“What’s Rough Trade?”
“Don’t you know?”
“It’s a record shop.”
“Never been there.”
“Gosh. You need to get out more. You spend too much time indoors.”
“Anyway. What you after? Any preference? Let me guess… You must be after some prog rock.”
“I don’t like prog rock.”
“I actually hate it.”
“Yeah, I don’t like it either. Gobbling loving wankers.”
We reached the end of Portobello road and took a right turn.
“I’m after The Smiths.”
“Oh, great! Which one?”
“Not sure. Do you know that song, the guy who’s looking for a job and then finds it and then feels like shit?”
“Strikes a bell.”
“Just heard it in the loo.”
“Cool. Ask the attendant. Anyway. Let’s stop here for a pint and have a top up,” he said pointing towards the Sun in Splendour.
“Yes! We cannot be topping up at the record shop!”
We went in.
This time I went in first while he went for the drinks. I did two shots, once for each nostril and licked the license. We had half the Turkish Delight left and after Nick’s top up we would only have enough for one more shot each. We would have to time future top ups with intelligence if we didn’t want to end up dry before meeting Dennis Ahmed. I went out.
“There’s only half left. We have to time this right,” I said and passed the cigarettes to Nick.
“Don’t worry. It’s only two hours till Dennis’ time. Have a drink,” he said and left for the toilet.
I drank from my pint and had a look around. The pub was full of beautifully blonde people. Guys in jeans and shirts; girls in summer dresses. Hadn’t it be for the Turkish Delight I would have felt sad, out of place. But I felt beautiful too. I felt I belonged. I felt London was mine. And I dreaded the thought of running out of Turkish Delight and losing all this, having it taken away from me so soon. Nick came out of the toilet. He was smiling. He was happy. I guess he belonged too. He came to my side and leaned against the bar.
“Cheers buddy,” he said and we toasted.
Nick checked out the people in the pub. He didn’t say anything.
“Where are we meeting this guy?” I asked.
“You mean Dennis Ahmed?”
“A little bit.”
“Did you give him money?”
“Don’t worry… He will turn up. He always turns up. He’s reliable… Cheer up buddy!” he grabbed my elbow and shook me a bit. I was pretty stiff. And yes, I was starting to get worried. But I didn’t let the worry take over. Everything was so beautiful that I couldn’t spoil it with worry.
“I’m cool,” I said.
“We are having a ball, buddy! We are having a ball! Chin-chin!” And we toasted again.
“Gotta go to the loo, mate,” I said and Nick nodded and I went to crap again. It was a sweaty crap because I had to do some acrobatics in the dirty loo. It was fast too. And soon I was out again. Nick was chatting with the barmaid.
“Right buddy?” he said.
“Right,” I said. The girl smiled. I smiled back. She was blonde.
“Shall we go get those records.”
“OK,” I said.
“Right… Thanks,” he said. And we left.
It was still very sunny outside. And hot. Nick stopped to check his mobile phone and I checked my watch. It was about five o’clock. That left around two more hours till meeting Dennis Ahmed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fernando Sdrigotti is a writer, urban photographer and film researcher. Born in Rosario, Argentina he has lived in London since the early noughties. His first book, Tríptico, was published in 2008; he is currently finishing his first collection of short stories, Ordinary Stories in Minor English and a novel in Spanish, Shetlag [sic]. At times he has been a full-time musician, part-time melancholic and occasional bohemian.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, December 5th, 2012.