Johnny Neal

Actor, Writer

Chapter 1

Part I

Chapter 1

That day had started like any other day, cold, wet and miserable, but I awoke in surprising vigour, I knew what today was. Contrasting the grey of the outside world I sprang into the kitchen, ‘haven’t felt this awake, this early, since the morning after I first had sex.’ I was sure I meant to say that out loud but I restrained myself, there were children in the house after all; it was a long time ago anyway, not worth mentioning so far along the road.

The first step to any great day is coffee, not just any coffee, not that putrid crap they sell you in buckets at the super market. No, I mean real coffee, the stuff that you take a sip of and suddenly you feel the stark rays of the Mediterranean reinvigorating you for the action ahead as a mariachi band plays a samba in your gut. 

I ransacked the cupboards and found my stash, the good stuff I brought back from a 2 week trip to Cuba, I remember the salesman described it from his lonely hole in the wall emporium, ‘Black as the night, and thick as tar.’ Taking that first sip followed by the slow, crackling burn of my duty free cigarette, bliss, sometimes quitting seems like such a duplicitous deal, ‘where the fuck is the grinder I know it’s in here.’

‘Second shelf, behind the rice.’ The always balanced and erudite voice of my bombshell wife, Louise, she had joined a gym the year before and ever since, her comfortable pyjamas had turned into a slinky panther, swaying with every movement of her hips. I turned to see her standing in the door to our kitchen, her lioness’s eyes staring back at me, today I made her proud; with a cool movement she came over and kissed me, then turned to see the aged bag of beans sat on the worktop. ‘Splashing out today are we?’ She mocked gracefully. ‘It’s a special day’ I retorted, quick wit was never my strong suit; what had attracted her to me? Up until a few days ago I had wondered what it was that had pulled her in my direction, and where, if such a thing existed, it had gone. ‘Do you want one?’

‘MUM, I can’t find my school socks!’ Our daughter, Leila, at twelve years old she was growing to be as beautiful her mother, but in a tragic omission, as self-reliant as myself.

‘I’ll go, you get ready, you’re going to knock them dead.’ We shared a kiss, a soft passion that can only be found in a long-term partnership. ‘Oh and yes please.’ She loved this coffee as much as I did.

I remember everything of that morning, out of thirty five years I remember clearly every second of that morning, maybe because it was a good day, the positivity sweeping through my mind, fading the print of all those negative headlines discarded in the sun. My memory’s betrayed me before, but not on that day, that day I see as a series of well constructed tableau’s, there’s something to be thankful for.

I showered, letting the hot water seep over my skin, clearing every pore, I decided I needed to look well presented, but not too well, a writer, when selling himself as a writer, shouldn’t look like he could work in an office, he should look like a writer. So I trimmed the two weeks of unshaved stubble into a tidy, yet artsy beard.

Going on the same pretext I calmly and with a great deal of enjoyment put on the clothes that Louise and I had deemed appropriate for the occasion (I mentioned the lack of self-reliance). A dark blue shirt, brand new from House of Fraser, and so as not to project the image of too caustic a formality, my sandy corduroy trousers, picked them up from a thrift shop in Camden market; you can guess who bought what clothing.

I said goodbye to Louise her car key jingling as she rushed to kiss me one last time, her patent leather work heels clicking on the ground giving rhythm to her haste. 

Leila said goodbye in her usual early morning manner, a sluggish hug and a forced kiss on the cheek. Reminding me that although she loved me, adolescence was on the way. With a final good luck they left, and I was alone.

As I stared into the swirling void of my mug the nerves began to hit, I drank them down and resolved myself; picking up my wallet, keys and phone I too left the cramped flat we called our home, searching for bigger and better days ahead.