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Sunday, 6 January 2013

City Lights

summer plenty

Adelaide is famous for its summer heatwaves, days on end of temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius (95o Fahrenheit). Just yesterday the mercury hit 44oC (111F), a real scorcher. Our forecast was looking seriously hot for the next week, and I’m not sorry it’s been downgraded a little.

One of the delights of living in the Adelaide Hills is the gully breezes most hot summer nights, giving us overnight temperatures more comfortable than on the plains. But although our nights are mostly cool enough at the moment, I am puzzled by the winds – changing direction frequently, and very gusty all day and night, as if we were spinning around a gyrating compass. Unpredictability in unpredictable ways; all out of kilter. No matter how good we are at forecasting and explaining, the elements play with us and we just have to take it as it comes!

This post’s creative piece is a drama written to an ending quoted from DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. Not having read the novel, I have no idea if my story has anything in common with the original! Sometimes it’s freeing not to know (but maybe now I’ll take a peek at Wikipedia!)

City Lights
           'Come on, Sven,' Lana called impatiently.
            Sven concentrated on following the clattering of Lana's ridiculous heels down the rough steps. He hadn't yet worked out how she managed to wander up and down the back streets and outskirts of the city without ever turning an ankle.
            She entered the poorly lit bar without waiting for him. Sven stood in the doorway, adjusting his eyes to the darkness and trying to assess the situation. He felt a familiar twinge of resentment at the role of bodyguard that seemed to define his relationship with her these days.
            Lana lit the darkness, her white blonde hair and long white satin evening dress drawing what little light the flickering lamps emitted, giving her an aura. As he drew closer to her, weaving his way between the patrons who deferred to his height and Western visage, he was reminded of a moth. No matter what crazy places she insisted on taking them, Sven found her achingly irresistable. He took up his place at her side, where she put a hand of ownership on his arm. Her slender white fingers showed no sign of the tension he could sense in her, the thrill of anticipation, the drive to extract every ounce of juice out of her unorthodox adventures, to ride the wave of risk that threatened to carry her too far only to be brought short at the last moment, leaving her satisfied and him weary. So weary.
            'Ah, Miss Raffen, you honour us with visit.' An old Chinese man bowed obsequiously to her. He turned to a young man – a boy, really – behind the bar, and snapped, 'Give her a drink.'
            Sven coughed slightly and addressed the boy. 'And I'll have a brandy on the rocks.'

Another evening spent as a spectator to Lana's escapades left Sven wondering what had happened to the beautiful and talented woman he'd fallen in love with. Now she stretched the boundaries in all directions as if the wealth and status of her life as a senior diplomat's daughter was a cage she sought to escape. Sven's ambitious dreams for his promising education consultancy firm were dwindling as rapidly as Lana's reputation.
Lana was sure she knew the way to a friend's house nearby. After all, she'd lived in Hong Kong most of her life. After several dead ends,  Sven was starting to feel nervous. He was sure he'd heard footsteps behind them.
Lana was complaining. 'You're no fun any more, Sven.You used to join in but now you just watch me with disapproval. You're getting as dull and boring as the rest of the pack. But Sandy will know how to live it up tonight. She's a fun girl, that one.'
            Oh my god, thought Sven. Sandy, of all people. Yes, of course she'd want to stay with that freak. It was probably Sandy who'd put Lana onto the old man. He'd plyed her with drink, set up the poker game that used every last dollar Sven had had on him, and given her a stamp-sized piece of paper. Lana's ticket to fun for the rest of the night.
            At that moment Sven's fears were realised. Three men, the old man's muscle men, pushed Sven to one side,  and surrounded Lana,.
            'Sven, do something, for god's sake,' Lana said, laughing nervously. She looked like a queen whose courtiers had suddenly turned hostile and even now she couldn't quite believe it. A smile, a look of camaraderie, but the muscle men paid no attention. They were deliberately steering her, without touching her, to a darker corner.
            Sven looked around for a weapon. He picked up a rust-ragged steel pipe in one hand and a broken brick in the other. He launched the brick at one head, and swung the pipe at another. The posse broke into fast motion. The brick missed, flying between the aimed-for head and Lana's shoulder, dropping into the third man just as he made a grab for her. It stopped him for a moment. The pipe struck, and one man was down. The others became more frenzied. The man hit by the brick was intent on dragging Lana around the corner, while the one the brick had missed was lunging at Sven.
            He called out Lana's name, and having activated his voice, strings of oaths followed as he dodged and punched his attacker. He received more than he gave and, with the wind knocked out of him, he stopped cursing. Finding himself on the ground, his head feeling split by the fall and a karate fiend launching itself at him, Sven was puzzled to find the world suddenly flooded with light. His attacker twisted away and disappeared into the dark.
            Sven pushed himself up on an elbow, shading his eyes to see where Lana was before making the monumental effort to stand up. He was sure his head weighed three times what it had, pounding like war drums. He staggered, but still he couldn't see Lana. He couldn't see anything, and pondered the irony that more light was less helpful.
            'I'm all right, Sven. Sandy saved the day.' Incredibly, Lana laughed, as if the events of the previous minutes were simply the highlight of an entertaining evening. 'See, I was right. She does live round here. You'd better come in and get cleaned up.'
            Sandy took up the invitation with a brusque, 'You look like someone chewed you good and proper.' Nevertheless she took Sven inside her two-roomed shanty and found some water and a cloth to clean him up with. She pushed him into a chair and gave him a cracked glass. 'Drink it. It will help the headache.' He did as he was told. It tasted foul.
            But it worked. Within half an hour he was ready to go home.
            'You can stay here,' Sandy offered, but Lana answered for him.
            'No, he'll go home, sleep it off and turn up bright and early tomorrow at work with a neat cover story. He's good for that, at any rate. You should have heard some of the whoppers he's told to keep me in the good books.'
            It was her nonchalance that made the penny drop. No recognition that she'd just about got him killed, that she'd given away over one thousand dollars to have her fun without even asking, risking their lives in her search for the perfect high. In privacy she had been honey and passion, but in public she had shamed and belittled him. He'd told himself for the past few weeks that it was just a phase, that she was testing his love, that she was covering up the depths of her feeling for him because she didn't want the gossip that inevitably accompanied romances in this hothouse expatriate community. But he'd been telling whoppers to himself, he now saw. He was possibly the only one he'd fooled.
            'I'm off then, Lana. Thanks, Nurse Sandy.'
            'See you tomorrow, Sven,' Lana called as he walked into the lane that would lead him to the main road and a late night bus.
            'No, Lana. Not tomorrow. Not any day. It's over.' He couldn't believe he was saying it. The words sounded feeble, like a bad movie. Humphrey Bogart might have pulled it off, made it sound manly.
            'Sure, Sven. Bye.'
            The door closed. He heard the giggles behind it. She didn't believe him. She knew he was in her thrall. The very risk-taking that disturbed him about her excited him. She was vivacity, charm and challenge, a siren. His siren.
He stood in the dim glow of a flickering street light, torn between the desire to escape and the anger that wanted to make her believe him.
He stood. Remembered. Ached with desire, with shame. Her image burned bright within, and once again he was blinded. And then the street light stopped flickering, and the darkness was complete. Beyond the shanties he could see now the glow of the city lights. Here was darkness. There was a light by which one might see.
He could stay, remain in the darkness of her light. But no, he would not give in. Turning sharply, he walked towards the city's gold phosphorescence. His fists were shut, his mouth set fast. He would not take that direction again, to the darkness, to follow her. He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly.

Until next week…
Claire Belberg

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