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JUDE GOES TO AFRICA

Jude goes to Africa

While everything else with Ariel was going on a lot was also going on with Jude, who, as the days went by, became more and more of a prick.

“You know sometimes I wish I was someone else,” he said while driving us to some party in the west. “But then sometimes I don’t. Shit, I don’t know.” He pulled something out of his glove compartment and threw it on my lap.

I looked it over. It was a book by Paul Theroux. “Dark Star Safari?”

“I’m going to Africa. I want to fuck girls in Africa.”

I flicked through the book before putting it down. “What the hell are you going to do in Africa?”

“I just told you.”

After going on a bit more about Africa and why he had to go there Jude began telling me stories about his life, about a new girl named Megan, about a paintball session over the weekend that I “totally should’ve went to,” about this poor looking but probably extremely rich German guy he met in Eagle Street. He couldn’t tell whether the German guy was joking or not when he said that he believed in UFOs and aliens: apparently he saw a small UFO about the size of his bed in his backyard last year – it just hovered there for a good ten minutes before flying off forever. As Jude kept talking about UFOs and whatever the hell else he was talking about I began thinking about other things, things I don’t really remember or cared much about until I received a message from Ariel asking me how my day was. She said that she wanted to take things “a tiny bit more seriously” with me and stop having her drinks with other men. She didn’t mind if she’d lose a whole lot of money from it, she just wanted to spend more time with me. I looked out of the window and asked Jude something about the German guy and he said, “I don’t know, I think, like, Korea or some shit.”

We arrived at the party. I’d been drinking almost every other night with Ariel and was kind of over the whole thing but I ended up drinking anyway. It wasn’t that much of a party: I was in the wrong crowd; no one laughed at my jokes and nothing clicked. Everything looked expensive. After about an hour or so of mindless drinking I walked around, irritated for some reason, and found Jude sitting against a wall, red-faced and slouched, ignoring a girl who was laughing and trying to pull him up.

“Why are we even here?” I asked him. “We barely know anyone. Let’s go.”

“I’m going to Africa!”

“What, like right now?”

“Why not right now?”

“It’s midnight.”

“He’s drunk,” I told the girl.

“I’m not fucking drunk,” Jude said from his spot on the wall. “I’m going to Africa.”

I left the two of them and took a bottle of some kind of beer and walked outside of the party, to the front lawn, at a spot behind a tree. I leant there, just drinking the beer for as long as humanly possible…

Jude was a wreck by the time I headed back inside. He was stumbling around, yelling at girls to shut up and listen to his story about the German guy he met at Eagle Street. “UFOs are real, UFOs are real, you bitch! I’m going to Africa.”

“Let’s go,” I told Jude.

“Fuck off.”

I shrugged and walked off, found some finger food and discretely downed three shots of Black Label. I came back to Jude, who was dancing by himself to no music.

“Let’s go,” I told him again.

Instead of replying, Jude punched my chest and laughed. It was a stupid, cowardly punch. But it hurt.

“You cunt,” I winced. I took a swing at him and missed. He laughed some more, so I grabbed him by the throat and pulled him down to the ground and began strangling the hell out of him. A girl screamed and we were quickly pulled apart.

Jude kept laughing. He pulled away from a guy who was holding him back and walked to me, breathless, his keys in his hand. “Want to go now?”

“Yeah, alright.”

The drive was a long one: Jude was drunk and rambling; I feared for my life about a thousand times in a row. After a while I realised that he wasn’t driving me home – he was driving to the airport.

“Listen, Dean. You keep my car while I’m gone.”

Jude wasn’t joking. He was actually going to Africa – he’d bought a ticket and everything. We arrived at the international airport and parked. The sun was rising and everything was damp. We exited Jude’s car; he opened the boot and pulled out his luggage. We stumbled to the terminal in silence, and once in a while Jude would giggle and mutter something I didn’t understand.

I watched Jude check in before we both headed to a table in front of Red Rooster and sat there, looking at each other for a while, not saying anything.

“Why are you going to Africa?”

“Why not?”

I played around with my iPhone for no reason whatsoever. I looked back at Jude. “I’ve nearly finished my book.”

“No one cares.”

“I do,” I said.

“If you don’t make any money out of it, I’m going to kill you.”

“You punch like shit, you know that?”

Jude pressed his fingers into his forehead and, eyes closed, moved them up and down, up and down. “I wonder if there ever was a time when I was innocent.”

“I don’t think there was.”

“There must’ve been. It’s just that… I was a really good little kid. I don’t know why, but somewhere along the line I became an enormous dick. I’m bored. I’m lonely. I don’t fit in much anymore.”

I crossed my arms on the table and sleepily hid my head behind them for a while. “When you’re here, I get to be the more behaved one out of the both of us, but if you leave, like…”

“I saw this girl the other day,” Jude said. “She was wearing these really short shorts and a loose, short shirt. She almost looked naked. What killed me was that she had a great body, great legs, a cute face, the nicest fucking hair. She looked like walking sex, and I thought about how she could get any man she wanted. Even guys in any kind of committed relationship would consider cheating if she smiled and touched their arms.” Jude paused, texted someone on his iPhone before concluding with this: “I want to fuck her, every single day, until her brain just explodes.”

That was the last real thing Jude told me. We both stood up and he gave me his keys. I didn’t ask him where in Africa he was going, if he was meeting anyone, if he’d be there long. I just assumed that he’d call me a week later, asking me to pick him up. We did a brief hug and I watched him take the escalator down into immigration.

The drive home was a boring blur. The sun was out; it was hot for winter; everything was littered with traffic and red lights; The National kept playing from the CD player. I parked in front of one of the cafés Ariel and I usually go to after drinking. I looked at it for a while before driving home to take some Hypnodorm and fall asleep.

THE PIMP I’LL NEVER SEE

The Pimp I'll Never See - Generation EndAriel was a lot of things. She was smart and she was ambitious and she was the most jealous person I’d ever met.

“I know this is unfair, but if I see you with a girlfriend I will shove my fist down her throat and kill her.”

Some part of me actually wanted to see it happen.

When we first met, Ariel was “dating” about six or seven other guys a week. But according to her, she’d only ever been in one real relationship.

“I dated him way before I started doing what I’m doing now,” she told me one evening as we sat in front of the River. “He was my first real boyfriend.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“It’s true,” she insisted. “He was a school teacher. I liked him because he was ugly. He had these thick glasses and this weirdly shaped head and he never knew how to fix his hair properly. I don’t like good looking men. Good looking men have been spoilt all their lives. They’ve never had to work hard to gain the respect of others – they’re too used to people wanting their attention, you know?” She put her hand on my face. “That’s why I like you.”

“You just made me hate myself,” I said.

She laughed. “You have to believe me, honey. If I ever overhear someone say that they think you’re good looking, I’m kicking you out of my life.” Her laugh faded, and, picking some imaginary lint from her skirt, she continued: “he’s married now, I think. I still think about him sometimes.”

“If he were to come here tonight and ask you to be with him again, what will you do?”

“I’ll say yes. But that’s never going to happen.”

I didn’t ask her how they broke up. Instead, I took her hand in mine and like always, we left the bar and walked around, laughing about things, talking about things, feeling each other up. We walked into a club, Mustang, I think, and I sat somewhere and I watched her dance as she looked only at me.

We were drunk and it was five in the morning when she told me her secret:

“I’m not doing this alone.”

“What?”

“I like you. I really, really like you. And I don’t want to charge you money when we meet anymore. I’m not supposed to tell people, but I’ve got a partner in this.”

“What?” I asked again.

“The guy, the one who introduced me to this business… He gave me a place to stay rent free, and he introduced me to his friends for a fee. I get a small percentage of what guys pay me, but most of what I make goes to paying him back. He’s a pretty scary guy and I can’t just run away, but he’s been good to me, so I don’t mind.”

I didn’t know what to say. I was drunk and confused.

“It’s really not that bad.” She placed her hand on my lap. “He teaches me a lot about business and investing, so when I finally pay him back I’ll be making so much more. I’m going to start a real estate company once I have enough money. Isn’t that good? Aren’t you happy for me?”

As we ate breakfast she told me how most of her days were like: she’d drink all night, wake up, vomit for a little bit, run for an hour or so, eat as much healthy food as she can, read books on investment and real estate, get ready for another evening. I paid her, and we went to Dymocks and she walked to the counter and bought something and came back and handed it to me: it was a Bible. We argued about it for a while until she forced it into my hands. She told me that because I’m a writer I might appreciate the book of Ecclesiastes, which supposedly contains the most poetic passages in the Bible. She showed me this:

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

We kissed and said goodbye. I tried to sleep during the bus ride home, but I couldn’t. I told the bus driver to stop and I ran out and vomited while running towards a shopping centre.

 

**

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PAYING ARIEL A VISIT

Paying Ariel a Visit generation end

In my lonely times I think about life a lot. I think about that moment when I’ll stand under the sun ten years from now, and then that moment when I’ll stand under the sun thirty years from now, and then that moment when I’ll stand under the sun fifty years from now. I wonder if the stupid little things I’m doing now will snowball and completely screw my life up in the long run. I wonder if the stupid little things I’m doing now will snowball and help me eventually become a better man. What the hell is a ‘better’ man, anyway?

I told myself it was stupid but I did it anyway: I met Ariel again at the same bar. She was wearing a lot of silver jewellery as usual, and this time, she had some kind of blue top on.

“So you missed me?” she smiled at me as I handed her a hundred dollars.

“Has your rate always been a hundred dollars?”

“A hundred to hang out in the evening, three hundred for an entire day until the evening, and four hundred for a whole day and whole evening.”

“Do you ever give discounts? Promo days?” I asked her.

“No. I never break my rules, no matter how attached I get to a man.”

“How about group discounts?”

“Very funny.”

“You sound like a prostitute right now,” I said.

“I ought to slap you. But I won’t.”

Ariel left school at year ten. To pay her bills, she found a job at a bakery, and one day a customer told her about this network marketing company that sold cleaning products. She was blown away with its promise of helping her earn thousands of dollars a month in passive income, but she never really succeeded in it. She then tried an online business, but then failed at that too. One day one of her friends said that he knew a bunch of lonely guys who’d pay her lots of money just to hang out with her, and she shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”

I was drunk by the time she read my palm. She ran her finger along one line and grinned. “It says here that you have no money.”

“Why the hell do fortune tellers keep saying that?”

“Because it’s true?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Whatever. Let’s go have a coffee or something.”

She looked around. “I’m not allowed to tonight.”

“What do you mean?”

She said nothing, so I picked her up and ran outside of the bar with her. She screamed and laughed and slapped my back all the way to a café in the middle of Queen Street.

“What’s your favourite colour?” She asked me when we finally settled down.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? You have to know these things.”

“You don’t have to know these things,” I said.

“And you need to know your purpose in life.”

“I’ve never known anyone who actually knew their purpose in life,” I said. “Who could just stick by it and like, know for sure that that was it.”

“I do,” she said.

“I don’t believe you.”

“We need to know our purpose. We need to know about God and the spirit and we need to know which signs to read, or else we’ll just be scrambling around, looking for things that make us temporarily happy. Don’t you believe in God, or some kind of higher power?”

“Listen,” I said, “With these other guys, these other guys who pay you… do you kiss them, too?”

“I never go all the way,” was all she said.

“I’m sure someone would’ve forced you.”

“They’ve never succeeded.”

“One day, they might.”

“Most of the guys I meet are fragile behind closed doors. They’re scared and just want to be looked after. This one guy hired the Versace hotel for us and we just lay next to each other and talked about life and he cried.” She touched my arm sympathetically. “Is Mr. Dean worried about me?”

“There are other ways of making money.”

“Says the guy with no money,” she smirked.

“Shut up.”

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you happy?”

“I’m trying to be.”

I looked at Ariel closely, under the light for the first time. She had soft eyes and a nice smile. No wonder men were addicted to her. But I also realised something about her top: it was slightly frayed. Her jewellery, which was exactly the same as what she wore the other night, was scratched all over.

“I used to judge the type of person I am now.”

“I like you,” she said. “Can we meet again?”

“You’re robbing me.”

“I know,” she smiled.

BUYING LOVE AND HAPPINESS

buying love and happiness - generation end
On the surface, things were getting better. My vision was improving, and thanks to the pills, I could sleep a lot easier. On some days I’d wake up, write for a few hours, take a pill or two, and then sleep a dreamless sleep all over again – it was perfect.

I also found decent freelance work: two women in their forties wanted some regular marketing material written up for a medical business they were launching and for some reason thought I’d be the right person for the job.

“How much do you want?” They asked me.

“Like, four hundred a week?”

They glanced at each other before looking back at me. “Sure.”

It wasn’t much, but it was money. The first thing I spent my new money on was resuming my boxing training sessions. The next thing I spent my money on was Jude, who’d pretty much been driving me around while I was blind for the past few weeks and paying for most of my drinks.

In the evening I shouted him a meal and dessert and in return he took me to a bar and introduced me to a ‘good friend’ of his, Ariel.

“This is Ariel,” he said.

“I’m Ariel,” she said.

“You’re Ariel,” I said.

“That’s right,” she said. “I’m Ariel.”

“What, like the font?” I asked her.

“No, like the name.”

Ariel was petite and her skin was a strange sort of white, a glassy sort of white. She was wearing a short skirt and stockings and some sort of top I can’t describe. For her accessories, she wore a pair of those silver dangly earrings and a silver necklace and a small, silver watch – I couldn’t tell if what she was wearing was extremely expensive, or extremely cheap.

The three of us spoke and laughed for a while before Jude had to leave.

“Listen,” Jude said into my ear. “You’re going to have to pay her a hundred bucks.”

“What?”

“She’s not a prostitute. She just hangs out with you, and if she likes you, she does all kind of crazy shit with you for money.”

“That sounds like she’s a prostitute.”

“She’s an entrepreneur, Dean. She’s inspirational. She doesn’t have real friends. She doesn’t have a pimp or anything – she just uses that money and invests it. Isn’t that inspiring?”

“I’m going with you.”

“No you’re not.”

I could’ve followed Jude home anyway but I didn’t – I was curious, I stayed. I asked Ariel a lot of questions and she answered me with a lot of answers. She talked about her dog, she talked about how she loved Game of Thrones, she talked about how she hated her parents who kicked her out at twelve, she talked about Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, she talked about TED talks, she talked about this guy who wanted to take her home to London and introduce her to his parents and marry her and how she said no and how he cried and swore at her and called her a cunt slut.

“A cunt slut?”

“A cunt slut.”

She was twenty one years old. We exited the bar and walked from the City to the Valley to Teneriffe to the River, and all throughout this she held my hand and spoke to me as if she’d known me for years. We stood in front of the river in the cruel cold, and she shivered and we kissed.

“You’ve been living in Brisbane for a long time, haven’t you?”

“I have,” I said.

“Don’t you think it’s strange?”

“What’s strange?”

“How we can live in the same city our entire lives and not ever get bored?”

“I get bored.”

“Then why don’t you leave?”

I said nothing.

“I don’t know what Jude told you,” she said, “but I don’t really have sex with men. It’s actually been years since I’ve slept with anyone.”

“You just take their money for your company?”

“Yeah.”

“Why do you do that?”

“Because they keep paying me.”

I rubbed my hands to warm them from the cold. “I guess if all you have left is love, then you might as well try to sell it.”

She smiled. “The thing is, I’m not lacking in anything. I have plenty of love and money, and if I work at it hard enough, I’ll make even more love and money.”

“Your life is all set.”

“Well, I guess I’m missing a few things.”

“Like what?”

“I wouldn’t mind falling in love once in a while,” she said.

“Once in a while?”

It was too cold, so we decided to go home. I let her take the first cab, and before she left and kissed me on the cheek I paid her a hundred dollars, plus another thirty for her ride home. I caught the next cab home and didn’t reply to the cab driver when he wanted to start a conversation with me. I paid him, entered my room and lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling for an hour or so. What the hell is life all about? What if we had a purpose, but that purpose was completely wrong? I ask myself these questions a lot, and my answers have never remained the same. I took two pills, turned my light off and lay back on my bed. I suddenly remembered the receptionist, and then Vail and then Eva and all of those other girls who’ve entered my life and left it. I wondered what they would’ve done if I asked them for a hundred dollars every time we went out. They probably would’ve ripped my balls off. My phone vibrated and, smiling, I looked at it sleepily – it was a message from Ariel.