This is the fourth part of a fction serial, in 875 words.
One result of the parking space fire fiasco was that Mister Turkish Bloke got a nice new paint-job on his old Skoda Octavia. He had a courtesy car for a while, but it was only a Nissan Micra, and he had trouble getting the kid in and out the back. Then after the flat numbers had been painted, his old Skoda reappeared one day in gleaming metallic green. The ten year-old car looked like brand new, at least on the outside.
I never really knew if he was actually Turkish of course. I saw his wife in the lift just after they moved in. She was struggling with a baby in a buggy, and three shopping bags hanging off the handles. She wore a long coat, despite it being a warm day, and a scarf wrapped around her head and neck but not covering her face. She was pretty, in that way Mediterranean women can be, until they turn forty and start to look seventy. But she avoided eye contact, only mumbling a thank you as I stopped the lift door from closing on her as she was trying to wrangle her baby buggy and shopping in reverse.
So she got called Mrs Turkish, because she looked like a Muslim lady, but had pale skin. When I eventually spotted her husband, I presumed they were married, he definitely had the look of a Turk about him, with more hair growing out of his shoulders than I had on my head. Following on from what his wife had been named, he got himself called Mister Turkish Bloke. He could have come from anywhere of course. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Cyprus, even Bosnia. But I settled on the name, and that was that.
Somthing similar happened with the young guy who became Theatrical Conehead’s regular boyfriend. I saw him coming into the block one day with a slim Latino-looking man who looked about nineteen or twenty. My first thought was that Theatrical had met a male prostitute, as he was certainly punching above his weight in the looks and sex appeal department. But the youngster turned out to be a regular, and pretty much moved in. One day I spotted him when Theatrical had left the front door open, dancing around in an expensive-looking kimono, singing something in Spanish. The Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan popped into my mind, and that was it. He was Gloria after that.
Once Mel had cleared off with Steve, I didn’t hear from her again. I found some of her stuff around the flat from time to time. A spare Apple phone charger, some worn tights under the bed, and a credit card in a drawer with three months left on the expiry date. There was another old phone charger and cable from before she changed to the i-phone, and a carrier bag containing printed handouts from the time she was training at Hendon. I just binned the lot.
Before Mel, I hadn’t had many girlfriends. That was mainly because I got my first serious one when I was only thirteen. Alex lived four doors down, and went to the same school. I had known her quite well for as long as I could remember, but because her parents were so much younger than mine, the families didn’t really socialise. Then one day she ran up to me holding an excercise book that had fallen out of my bag. She smiled as she handed it over, then asked me if I wanted to come to hers and listen to some music, or watch a film. I didn’t know much about feminine wiles, but I had my suspicions that she had nicked that book out of my bag during double maths.
Sitting in the dining room of her family home listening to some bubblegum pop on a portable ghetto-blaster wasn’t exactly my idea of a first date, but then we were both pretty young. It was a few months before we started kissing, after turning the volume down so we could hear if her mum was opening the door. Neither of us had a clue what to do, so when it got more serious almost a year later, at a time when her mum and dad would be out all afternoon at Ikea, it was a messy encounter. I was ashamed, but Alex didn’t seem to care. In her mind, our short-lived foreplay and first experience of seeing each other almost naked implied commitment for life.
Well it wasn’t for life, but it lasted a bloody long time. She announced that we would be ‘doing it’ once she had passed her sixteenth birthday, and told me I had to make sure to have condoms. Her parents were going down to their friend’s caravan at Clacton for the weekend, so Alex talked up a big weekend of sexy fun for us. I was understandably nervous, fearing I wouldn’t live up to her expectations. I went on the bus to the big Tesco Superstore to get the condoms, casually dropping a packet of Durex Featherlite into my basket along with a small bottle of Fanta, two packets of crisps, and a box of one-pound-for-five doughnuts.
It went okay, as it turned out she had no expectations for me to live up to.