Foreign House: Three


> Be me

I text Lana: GOING TO A FAMILY FRIENDLY WORK RETREAT THIS WEEKEND. TAKING KANU. I’LL TAKE PICS. As soon as it has sent we head out of the apartment and into the cellular signal dead zone.

In the basement carpark the crossover-hatchback-cum-SUV thing that I’ve hired for the weekend is waiting in my usually empty, designated car park space. The car is some vaguely known Asian brand. It looks safe and modern. It makes me think of a dishwasher. A modern one with a button that has a blue LED halo. But still a dishwasher.

Cindy is a miniature version of a human woman and Kanu is a lanky streak of piss. So I tell Kanu, “You can have shotgun.” But I get no response. Cindy looks embarrassed.

> Be me
>41 yo empath with rotting brain who can’t understand his son
>Staying positive
>Telling myself we are going going to have a good time

“Locked and loaded?” I ask when everyone is in position in the car and then take a few seconds to recover from the deep cringe wound.

I look at Cindy in the rear mirror through creased eyes. She is facing out of the rear window. Her eyes closed. Lips sucked into her mouth.

I familiarise myself with the controls, very aware of how boomerish I appear. Kanu asks if he can connect his phone to the car and play some music.

“Just a minute,” I say too many times, trying to find the built in sat-nav and input the destination. Just as I find the correct screen a pop-up jumps onto the screen and asks me if I want to pair HUGGLE TAUR with the car. “Is that you?” I ask Kanu.


“Huggle taur?”

“What? Yes.”

“Wait till I get out of the city before you start blasting BTS or whatever it is that you listen to.” He rolls his eyes. The navigation screen reappears to my immense relief. I put in the postcode.

“Wales?” asks Kanu.

“Yes, Wales.”

“Where is this place, in the middle of nowhere?” he snorts.

“Exactly right. It’s a retreat. There is nothing for miles around the hotel except glorious nature.”

“Oh my God.”

“He can’t help you now.”

“So there is nothing to do?”

“There is loads to do. But most of it is outside.”

“You’re joking. Let me out now. I’m not going.”

Cindy leans between the two front seats and puts a hand on his shoulder. “There is going to be loads to do. There’s a spa with a pool, gym, sauna and steam room. There will be a bar and a restaurant which your dad’s company will no doubt be paying for. There is a ‘pitch and putt’ and mini-golf course. There’s a huge forest with deer. A shooting range. A library. Once we get there, you won’t know how you’re going to fit in everything you want to do. If all that fails, at least you have a unique back-drop for lots of cool Tik-Tok videos.”

“Hmm,” says Kanu and settles back in the chair. How is she better at this than me? She’s known him five minutes.

>Be me
>Trapped in father/son cycle
>Cringe Lord
>Estranged dad

Naturally the traffic in the City is a disaster. Traffic hanging over junctions, restricting the flow like a half-flushed, girthy shit.

At the first set of major traffic lights a beggar walks into the stopped traffic, moving from window to window and gesturing for alms. I know that this type of thing happens in the states and big South East Asian metropolises. How do these memes spread among people with no access to communications tools? Degeneracy must be like mycelium. An invisible network, penetrating everything, unseen.

The beggar approaches my window. He is blob of layers. Coats over coats. Hats over hats. Facial hair sporing out of broken skin and over a threadbare wool scarf. Matted so that scarf and beard are one like his face fell into a unattended, Victorian, weaving machine. But his eyes are alert. He looks alive under all of that fibrous rot. Not just another imported chain beggar slave. I regret having no change. Nobody has any change. Another casualty of the overaction to the pandemic. I shake my head meeting his eyes. He seems to understand. I could be projecting.

>Be me
>Relates to beggars

Before he walks away his eyes move to the passenger seat and he looks at Kanu. His chapped face creases into something tighter, disgust.

I should get out of my car and stamp his arid face into the tarmac. Pounding it into a pile of dust and knotted hair under my Timberlands. But his disgust reflects my own. Yet the shame is uniquely mine.

The light goes green. I can’t get away from this junction quick enough. The city drags on. I don’t realise how lost in my thoughts I am until Kanu asks, “Can I put my music on now?” Then I realise we are on the urban motorway that takes us out of the city.

“Sure.” I look in the mirror. Cindy is curled up in the back seat in that semi-foetal position that petite girls seem to be able to accomplish on any type of chair, no matter how uncomfortable it looks. She’s watching something on her phone and smiling serenely. Kanu is building a playlist on his phone, he looks vaguely interested in what he’s doing. I realise the tension I’m perceiving in the car isn’t actually there. Everyone else is content. The two of them are looking forward to it, or at least they’re not having a silent anxiety attack like I am.

It’s only me that is inventing a story about why this is a disaster. Why? This is what I want. I want to spend more time with my son. I want a girlfriend like Cindy. Cindy IS a girlfriend like Cindy. Why can’t I be happy.

Kanu presses play. It sounds like a sped up and melodic vague factory noises with a squeaky voiced singer layered over the top.

“What is this?”

“Hyperpop.” Never has the name of something made so much sense to me. It is almost onomatopoeic.

“Of course it is,” I say. When I look in the mirror I see Cindy smirking at me. I decide to smile. Let’s see how long I can stay grateful for while we listen to hyperpop.

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