Broadway Dreams

A wander down Cricklewood Broadway

Broadway Dreams
to begin. Come, Let’s go, you and I, down from this premier block – the estate agent’s words: finest views around, nothing like it in the city; the home of choice for all the Jews, retired and alone; tea parties in these very gardens, uprooted now and bearing scars of many boots – into the broken street. Across the road a queue already at the homeless concern. Eastern looks, these men, dark and bearded by the night, duffel bags slung, waiting for the keyholder and the first meal. Their brothers we will pass on the way up, standing at the kerb, prostitutes for the building trade, jumping the fences when the cry of ‘Polizia’ goes up. Still hunted, haunted I see their faces hidden among the shrubs, waiting until the loaded vans have passed. Illegals all, but then this is the dumping ground of London. Push that trolley away. Which way shall we go? So many choices. Past the bingo with its one glaring eye or the other, more sedate? The road three councils have forgot and none with the wit to see this thoroughfare, central to the city, cleaned and with a touch here and there, hanging flowers, rejuvenated trees and washed stones, made more pleasing, or there’ the back-ways to Pedro’s, open to the morning tirade, doors back and front wide open to ventilate the plastic menus offering promises never cooked? Been there once, a cup of used tea and frozen chips still melting in the heat. No more, I prefer to die in the street. The traffic pulses, is pushed along, a heartbeat sick of itself, fixed upon a destination that cannot, will not satisfy. Eyes fixed, breathing hot gases the cars, the cabs and the taxis, the bikes and the horrific buses, the obscene vans battle up the broadway, shooting up the hill past the Persian and then the gleaming Mercs, protected behind the plate glass, where suddenly, mysteriously the air clears and the frantic sounds are for a moment quelled. Only for a moment though; don’t think the birdsong will be triumphant; there are no robins left, thorns, yes, and the sickly songs are cut off at another junction. The street song continues, rolling along the pavement stones, jumping the cracks and lights, rubbing itself into the throat, insinuating this and that. Voices mingle with the song, colours rise and fall, some strong, some like that tea; you have to look to see. See, there, that there’s Fuselli, the pharmacist’s son, only twenty-two yet with a head of thirty, and driving a dream. They bought the shop for him, keep him out of trouble; see those three notches on his brow? Those are smoking signals. The old and new around here, they all know him; he grew up with his gran just down the road, and he looks after you he does, gives a decent discount too, sometimes without a prompt. Good lad. And so’s the butcher next door, recommended, meat fresh, seen the delivery, clean he is, the best of the lot here, wears plastic all the time, none of that ‘My hand’s clean’ business with him. Patient too. God, How! If I had those Affies standing day in day out in front complaining, bickering! Give me that, no that, that one there, the one with no fat, that, that glistening one, put a little extra and a good price too, no charging me more, I know what I paid last time, and whispering how they’ll never come back, but they’re there, everyday pointing, paying a penny less, buttocks filled like camels’ backs to last the winter through. Always looks you in the eye, he does. Not like the rest. Meat settled, lets get down to the drink. There’s the offie, opposite, hidden by the shelter. How’s the beautiful lady? he’ll ask, hand under the counter covering the gun he’s said he’s never used. It’s for protection, he said. These men, late one night, one to the counter, the other guarding the door. Cigarettes, one said. What kind? Every kind you have, you fucker. And he not even dark, white as the white of Fuji! I’ll cut you, the man said. There’s no need, friend, take what you want. And he did, walking out without a backward glance, not even a thank you, the little sod. While he was thanking God, they returned, this time with a bottle. After that he bought the shooter; keeps it hidden, close by. Never seen it, but the look says all: Try me punk and see. Open all hours, like the bakery next door. Under New Management, the sign says; Serbs, they look, they say. Plastic cheesecakes, cookies the size of footballs, tiered wedding cakes, with ‘Happy ? – place your own message here’, stand decorating the dusty window shelves. Another ‘breakfast served all day’. Shrivelled, toothless men, stinking piss and dried shit, sit munching hard toast, looking out with hard eyes at the road, the tarmac crying under the load. Shall we try that spinach bake? Done right here, these premises since ’68. It’ll take the edge of this chill. It’s this corner. The wind howls just here. It was here, the memory has not been blown away, the fat man was knifed. Saw him, every morning, from the window, shuffling for his fix behind Pedro’s – a gate’s gone up there now, they didn’t want that kind of trash blowing into that alley. Was coming back from the gym and he was leaning on the rails. Breathless, at first I thought, but then he brought up his hand; like a sudden flower it was, the brightest red, the deepest. Then the sound of sirens. And he fell. The butcher came out wiping clean his blade, stood with bloody hands then turned muttering, we must all die. Never a truer word, but why now, and in such fashion? Kill the thought. It depresses me, it is a dull day already. Ahead a swell of sound, building gently, the murmuring of mermaids at play. They’re gathered at the new fruit and veg, the one that was moved from in front of the Crown – despite the petition and the boycott. It’ll spoil the view, they said, what with this new development and all – these ladies of the manor. Fresh every morning they buy fresh. Fancy a peach? Too rich? Try a tangerine. Cleans the mouth, freshens the taste of the pasty. No, then at least take a look at the girl. Exquisite she is, a packet. It’s the sharpness of the face, nothing spare here, the nose is thin, the mouth too, but red and wet, the eyes sharp, glittering is a hunger there and then the throat, tight and slim. She’s given me an extra now and then. You just have to ask, the right signals, you see. Never go hungry, me, even when I am hungry. Not your type. Try the bagel bakery; plump little Slavs baking there, soft plantular dough waiting to be pricked and poked. What is your type? Keep your eyes peeled, I’m sure there’s one for you. A bus stops and disgorges. Student’s mostly – an old lady forgotten in the rush steps down with her blind stick – switching from the 45 to the 36 on their way to the warrens. There are no schools here. Pound shops and Cash-A-Cheque, these there are aplenty, and when you have these who needs to know how to read. Can you tell the difference between this note and that? What’s that silver? You are qualified for this street. Kids push past, hoods hiding, jeans collapsed around their thighs and jumping high on day-glo boots. Some carry a satchel, but most are made up for parading. This is the cracked generation, bright but dulled, living only for the high. Pass them on the stairwells. You don’t mind, they say, burning foil. Me, no, I’m flying for free. They laugh, I laugh and we pass, dogsbodies rotting, in their eyes nothing, just a bitter wasteland.  Just like this street, carrying cast-offs from one end to the other. Journeys without meaning. Again rises the stench, fresh urine, sweat on sweat that has not been washed for years. It rises from every face I see, from every jack and jill, every bob and dick, every el and eve. There’s no escape from this street, it feeds upon the sewer, it feeds the sewer, this fucking desolate, beautiful place. All the streets lead to this street. The heart fades, it cannot take this anymore. Danger sits in every door, the smiles turn quickly, the heels grind, they come spitting in a circle, marking time, marking space; this here’s mine, you see, this stone’s mine, my bed, you hear! How easy it is to fall. The swim in the gutter is the easiest they say, and the most satisfying. But for God. Must remember to give. The tattooed lad in front of Iceland, sitting on the crate. Palm him a twenty, no a fifty. Grateful is he? I don’t know but I do know I shouldn’t have to be asked. Charity begins here, with the blind who have no regard. And this is a place of charity, refugees from all over, colours mixed and fused, no more so than in the call centres, the anxious looks at the ticking, races talking many tongues; this is the cauldron, the place of the second despair; this is the broad way through which life must pass, circulating, some for ever, and some, looking from their new glass clad heights, at the circle far below, at the broken lights, where once in the ruts they waited, sigh relief that it’s just a memory. My flight is lower. For me, standing at the cross roads, waiting, looking up, its much more; this black vein pumps my blood, feeds the green shooting thought, vitalising tongue and tear and all that is stamped as man, as son of man, I see tramping past in this street: the drunkard sleeping propped against the post, the mullah frowning from his post, the girl straightening, smiling as eyes fall on her, the lady suddenly stepping up asking for a pound to see her home, and the children wide awake their mothers wish would abandon themselves to sleep. The star cycles, it will return to shine on that corner, on that rusty patch shaded by the thinning flowers. It will cycle, time will stand still, but it will cycle. Come, it’s time to return, its time 

© Bhi 2020
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critique and comments welcome.
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This is a very dark piece, Bh. Hard to read too, but once you get into it the scene unfolds. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a monologue or an, ‘On The Road’, style SOC piece. Certainly looks like Cricklewood has gone downhill since the days I used to go there bus spotting as a kid.

Last edited 30 days ago by Guaj
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