This is the last in a series of three “stories” I made using the William Burroughs Cut-Up technique to combine a passage from my book Eating Việt Nam — Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table with a passage from The Quiet American by Graham Greene.
His life lurked under the gutters of coconut. Thoughts came from eight thousand miles away.
The most obvious scraps : those hardworking in Bloomsbury Square, where the Foreign Office was, the portico of Euston, the scarlet epaulettes, swashed across Montague Place. He turned. Here, through the humid shadows, were the brush brooms and bundles of waste, who would hear everything.
He exhaled on a Vinataba. In the north, home had shifted; the trees, the cyclo driver’s pedals and the circle of enemies at the High Lypse..
When he first came, he stood on guard. There were men, crouching. Those rough tobacco machines like schoolboys down on Neon Street. So quiet. He couldn’t care a damn.
He was tied to the real background burr of those quick reports at 73 : of the rice fields that sucked might-be grenades, of springtime in the old abbot’s and of the inevitable release of silk-trousered figures.
Bulbs, would-be shells, noodles, deep browns, bags and the kitchen garden. The women would gather together, punctuated by mountains that they’d sling into their night dogs. He counted the days, pushcarts and wheel car-exhausts, to the collection point, marking them off.
On two or three nights, the sight of those calendars, the buckets here and there, dressed and broken cups, bicycle-riding hookers, a life time washed up, a T-shirt rolled upon his chair, the whispered sweet nothings of the repairing girls and he’d go to the road where they tracked potential customers. The gold : And the glow of a cigarette : Young : Green : And the other late night bars.
He wanted a day, half-hidden by the boulevards. A cool belly. He might, from between the few dim lamp posts, catch the occasional plea. He wanted to keep exiting where there were the women in a hidden doorway, moving with grace and working throughout.
He’d learn for himself what was left of street corners. You could, at its most blissful, smell the gold : A bus passing out their wares, from the creak and the cups of tea, on the local in Torrington, goods between the breath as he and his commercial, out in the square, stuff at a markup. He’d wait for the junk of sellers, laying almost barren, but, at noon, he wanted the mollusc hats, waiting to divvy, if you looked, or listened.
At ground eight, a mine had burst : Who’d sell the street cleaners?
Using stiff commissioners : the bright dresses city : they were the night they swished in their hats. He would have to find the flower and fruit chested of the south that held you as the 2AM gloom : largely oblivious, black clothes and, like mosquitoes, many haggling traders, the clandestine drone of planes with his bed in markets all over the Hanoi of his assignment.
Photo by me