Beautiful Blinding Lights
Hello you, my lovely reader. **Happy World Book Day** Thank you for reading my post ‘ Geek Love’. Geek Love is also the title of an amazing, amazing book by Katherine Dunn that I urge all folks who love to read, to procure. It’s possibly the most original novel ever written.
I was actually too scared to buy it as a critic said it should have come with a sickbag. But personally I thought American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis should have come with one of those ( no one cuts out women’s vaginas in Geek Love and stores them in the gym locker! It’s a crazy, great read but, seriously, ick..). Lisa Jewell bought a copy of Geek Love in Waterstones last year because I was going on about it so much at her book signing. I don’t know if she’s read it yet though.
My tale below couldn’t be more different. But it is about a Geek. And you’ll have to find out the rest. I wrote this short story last year, it’s very personal in places, but the aim was to inject some proper, techy science into it and to show that beautiful things can come out of ugliness. That there is always hope. That people can change. That sparks can fly in the most unlikely of circumstances. I’d ruin it if I said anymore.
I hope you enjoy it. A month after I wrote this story I actually got a mirror-ball. And at the end of the year my friend Trevor erected it in my bedroom : )
Jealous, yet? : )
Enjoy Diamond Life ; )
And read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. One day I should blog about it.
Gunshot Glitter is on its penultimate proof and I am sourcing printers. If anyone has a recommendation do get in touch with me ; ) Now curl up and read..
Yasmin x x
He didn’t get out that much. And sometimes he forgot to eat. On Thursday, at 10:30pm, it was only when his belly rumbled and twisted he remembered the wilted tuna sandwiches he’d meant to have for lunch. ‘ Should have eaten these yesterday!’ he muttered peering into the crumpled paper bag.
Alex Graham was a workaholic and he knew it. Everyone knew it. No one had ever been invited to Alex’s flat because he was too embarrassed by the fact it was as plain as the day he’d bought it. There were no decorative touches, no brush-strokes from the soul. A kind person would have described it as ‘minimalist’ but the truth was it was a house, not a home.
He led a monastic lifestyle and often worked weekends. Underneath the beard, long shaggy hair and hazel eyes lurked a twenty-nine year old man due to turn thirty on November 21. A milestone he was oblivious to.
Alex was a Principle Beamline Scientist. He’d arrived at Diamond Light Source, fresh from a PhD from Brunel University; sweetly geeky, shy and quiet. His credentials spoke for themselves and people were unusually kind to him, they accepted him as he was. He liked that. He wasn’t the world’s best conversationalist or the most charismatic team manager but he was passionate about his work. His mind was sharp, scientific and penetrating. He was a problem-solver and relished a challenge. It was all about synchrotron science for him and he loved what he did with an intensity well into the realms of obsession.
‘Must get new socks, must get more tuna and maybe some Dr Pepper,’ he fretted, as he ran down the stairs and out the building. Alex got behind the wheel of his blue Mondeo with a bellyful of old bread and tuna and began the long drive home. It wasn’t until his stomach started to heave that he registered what was happening and by then it was too late as he threw up all over the dashboard and crashed into a tree…
She found him literally across the road from her house. Sasha was walking down Lorelei Drive, a faux fur coat wrapped tightly around her slender frame, teeth chattering, heels skidding lightly on the new frost glittering the pavement. Then she saw it – the body hanging out of the driver’s seat. A crumpled front bonnet. A mass of dark long hair. She wasn’t sure if it was a boy or a girl. ‘Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck,’ she muttered, reaching nervously for her phone. ‘Please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead.’ She punched 999 into her mobile and cursed when her battery beeped and died. Then the body stirred and she held her breath.
‘My head!’ Alex groaned, trying to sit up. ‘Don’t move, you had an accident, I’m going to call an ambulance!’ ‘No, I’m fine,’ Alex said looking at her nervously. ‘Mate, your car’s a write-off, you ‘re not going anywhere in it. Not tonight.’ Alex looked at the dashboard, the vomit, the shattered glass, the exploded airbags. His neck hurt, his face felt wet and the inside of his mouth was filled with blood. He guessed he’d bitten his cheek. Logic said he should go to a hospital, that he might have concussion, maybe even broken bones. But he hated hospitals; it was the smell, the sickness, it all made him nauseous.
‘No,’ he said, trying to shake his head, wincing at the shooting pain in his neck, ‘‘I don’t need to go, I’m fine.’ Sasha sighed. She was tired. It was almost midnight, she’d been on her feet all day, worked a double shift at the bar and her customers had been demanding. It had not been a good day. But she couldn’t leave him there. ‘Could I please ask a favour of you,’ Alex said faintly. He closed his eyes, God that felt good.
Sasha leaned forward, cautiously.
‘Please can you call me a cab?’ Alex asked politely. And then he passed out.
Sasha gasped and shook him. ‘Don’t do this to me,’ she pleaded. She felt his wrist. A pulse. So he wasn’t dead, that was something! She looked to her house. She could ring for an ambulance, but it didn’t feel right leaving him there. Maybe he had a mobile? Sasha gingerly felt his trouser pocket, nothing there. Then his jacket, nothing there either but he had a wallet. She slid it out. Found a few credit cards, a handful of change and a driving licence. No bank notes. How was he going to pay for a cab with ….one pound and sixty-seven pence? This was not her night. She looked at his driving licence: Alexander Christian Graham, born 21-11-1981. Sasha picked up his wrist and looked at the time on his watch. 12.05am. It was officially Alexander Christian Graham’s 30th birthday. Poor guy. What a way to celebrate. She sat on the pavement with her long legs stretched out and stared at him.
The sky darkened as purple storm clouds obscured the Moon. ‘No!’ she exclaimed, as a solitary drop hit her cheek. ‘Alexander!’ she yelled shaking him. He muttered something about radiation and then the rain started come down in earnest. Big fat, no-nonsense raindrops. ‘Come in with me,’ she insisted pulling him out of the car. Alex staggered behind her blindly, ‘a cab, a taxi and thank you, thank you,’ he slurred. Sasha looked at him anxiously. ‘Just please don’t be a nutter, I’m doing a good thing here okay, just don’t be a nutter. I know where all the knives are okay? And I know exactly where you work.’ she said, eyeing the work pass swinging around his neck with interest.
She wrestled the door open and guided him in. He sat down heavily at the bottom of the stairs and clutched his head. ‘My mouth feels awful, I must smell really bad’ he moaned, ‘am I dripping blood on your carpet? Can I use your bathroom?’ ‘Here I’ll take you,’ Sasha motioned. She led him down the hallway, grabbing a clean towel out of the cupboard as she passed, then pushed the door open and sat him down as she filled a glass with water. Alex swilled his mouth and spat a mouthful of blood out. ‘Sorry,’ he murmured, embarrassed at the crimson mess in her sink. ‘It’s okay,’ she said. He pushed his hair back over his shoulders and tried to wash his face, but it just fell forward again. ‘Here’ Sasha said, reaching to hold it back. Alex jumped up.
Sasha put her arms up placatingly. ‘Just trying to help! I’ll leave you to it.’
He wanted to tell her his reaction wasn’t personal. He’d actually liked the concerned feel of her fingertips; it had felt nice to be touched with care like that which surprised him. He just hadn’t been expecting it and he wasn’t a tactile soul. No one ever touched his hair. Barbers rarely got a look in. When had he last got it cut? Two years ago? Maybe three?
He looked in the mirror; there was a shiny bump the size of a walnut on his forehead and a congealed, bloody gash above his eye. He touched it and winced. He’d never seen so much of his blood before. Sasha knocked on the bathroom door. Alex found that strange, it was her bathroom, so why was she knocking?
‘Here,’ she said, holding out a teal velvet scrunchie. ‘Thank you,’ he replied staring at it. He thought of Ella. It did him no good to dwell on her, but there she was in his mind; chestnut hair down to her waist. Just like his.. ‘Hey, you okay?’ Sasha said gently. The man had tears in his eyes. Sasha wondered if it was shock maybe or a delayed reaction to the accident.
‘I’m fine, I’ll just sort my face and I’ll get a taxi,’ Alex said, looking down. ‘Do you want a cup of tea? I’m going to have one.’ ‘Yeah, tea. Thanks…erm…I don’t even know your name,’ he confessed. ‘It’s okay, I didn’t tell you it. I’m Sasha.’ ‘I’m Alex.’ ‘I know you are,’ she smiled and closed the door gently.
Alex wondered how she knew that, then remembered seeing her holding his wallet when he opened his eyes and saw her. She was a nice girl. She was looking after him. He hurt all over and it was hard to think straight, hard to maintain complete awareness of what was happening and whether what he was doing was right or wrong. His logic, his normally impeccable logic had deserted him, he was operating on a fuzzy kind of auto-pilot and it distressed him a little. But he trusted her.
Women at Diamond regarded him with an almost maternal affection. He was Alex, shy Alex. Alex who didn’t indulge in banter or boy talk. Alex who never joined them for Friday drinks or social dos because he was working late, always working late. Alex who hadn’t been on a date since he was twenty-three and even that had been a blind one and it had been a bit of a disaster.
He tied his thick hair back with the scrunchie and leant forward to rinse his face. He spotted a tube of facial wash and squeezed some out into his palms. It exploded into masses of bubbles. Too much. Foam everywhere. Big mistake. He’d never used it before. He rinsed and rinsed and then dried his face. There, that was better he thought looking into the mirror. Alex had good skin and large clear hazel eyes; he was handsome but it was wasted on him. No one ever got to look into his beautiful eyes. He disliked mirrors, only seeing the flaws in his face. His large nose, his crooked teeth.
The hallway was dark as he exited the bathroom. ‘I’m here,’ she called from the kitchen. He followed her voice. She had a mirror-ball suspended from the ceiling; it swirled a tide of pink, dime-sized shadows around the dimly lit room. He looked at it fascinated. ‘I’d always wanted one when I was kid,’ she explained. ‘ I thought they looked really exciting, and I thought when I get my own place, I’m going to have one and sod what anyone else thinks. I like pretty lights.’ She said it almost defiantly as if she needed to justify herself.
Alex didn’t notice, he was just enjoying the rapid motion. It felt like being on a fairground ride. Again he remembered Ella. Ella needing to be cajoled to climb onto the carousel. Ella holding onto the horse’s neck for dear life. Ella looking back to make sure he was behind her, reassured by his smile.
‘I like it, it reminds me a bit of the synchrotron I work with.’ ‘How’s that?’ ‘It’s this giant machine, it makes these really intense beams of light. It gets used in X-rays. In Australia this guy exposed an old filament light bulb to a protein crystallography beamline and took a photo. The chronophotograph showed the beamline passing through the bulb. The image was cool. Artistic. But I always hoped it would look like this,’ he said pointing up. She handed him his tea and they both watched the mirror-ball in silence.
Sasha looked at him. Even with the swelling and the cuts he was handsome in an utterly unselfconscious way. With his hair tied back she could see the incredible bone structure of his face. The character in his flaws. Imperfectly perfect. He seemed oblivious to her gaze. The man was an innocent, wrapped up in a world of ultra-violet light.
She looked at her watch. It was almost 1am. But she was no longer tired. She’d crossed over into wakefulness. ‘Alex can I call anyone for you? Your family? A friend?’ He shook his head.‘ No, I’ll go, you’ve been really kind.’ ‘Are you sure? Brother, sister? Housemate?’ ‘I had a sister,’ he paused. ‘I had a sister.’ It was all he could say before he fell into silence again. Alex got up.
‘It’s okay,’ she said, though something told her it wasn’t ,but she didn’t know him, didn’t know what else she should say. He was a stranger in her home and an hour ago she’d anticipated coming back and going straight to bed. Not even stopping to remove her make up. So what if there was mascara on the pillow in the morning; tomorrow was laundry day.
‘I had a sister,’ he tried again. ‘ But she…died.’ Alex looked at Sasha, looked her in the eye. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d said those words or looked at a woman, really looked at a woman. ‘What was her name?’ ‘Ella. She killed herself when she was 22. She was my twin.’
Sasha got up and went to him and put her hand on his arm. ‘I’m sorry, mate. That’s got to be tough.’ ‘I don’t ever talk about her. I don’t know why I told you that, you don’t know me,’ he shrugged. She was still holding his arm but her face was filled with kindness. It didn’t feel awkward. He felt something unfurling in him. The accident had shocked him. The tuna must have been bad. He had to be more careful. He could have died. Like Ella. All these thoughts went through his mind as he found himself reaching out to her and she held him.
He felt her slender arms across his sore back and she was careful not to pull on his neck. Then the tears came from deep within him. Silent, hot tears. For Ella, for himself. For the whistling void she’d left inside him that he’d never quite been able to fill except with the synchrotron.
Sasha didn’t say anything. His touch was tentative, his arms were loose, around her. She could sense he didn’t do this kind of thing very often. She could feel his breath on her shoulder. His tears on her cool skin. Twice a week Sasha heard drunken stories from every kind of barfly under the sun; she was paid to listen, it was her job to serve, entertain and smile. She chose to work in the service industry, but she knew it was highly unlikely that a man like Alex would ever have found his way into her bar. She stroked his hair. ‘Tell me about Ella,’ she said.
‘She was kind. Bright, decent, really sweet, actually. She was scared of heights but she wasn’t scared of spiders. I’m scared of them. It’s the way they move. All erratic. She’d pick them up and take them outside for me.’ He gently disengaged from her and wiped his face. ‘I like spiders, too,’ Sasha said. ‘My sister had OCD and depression. I don’t think she meant to kill herself,’ he swallowed. ‘I think she hoped to be found, I just, didn’t know. I just…didn’t know. I should have known.’
‘You know she’s always going to be with you don’t you?’ she said, taking his hand. ‘How can you be sure?’ he frowned. ‘I don’t know. I just believe it. I talk to my mum at odd times of the day when I need to,’she said hesitantly.
Alex looked doubtful. ‘There’s no harm done either way is there?’ Sasha said. ‘I miss her. I used to talk to her. We laughed a lot, me and Ella,’ he admitted. ‘Then talk to her, tell her what you’re thinking. What you’ve been doing. Tell her about your great, big fancy synchrotron and whatever it is you do with it. Tell her about your Diamond life,’ Sasha urged.
‘My Diamond life,’ he chuckled and then winced as it made his head ache. ‘Yeah, your Diamond life, she’d want you to be happy and have a good one, right? I know it’s your birthday today Alex. So Happy Birthday. It can only get better,’ Sasha said, squeezing his hand.
Alex looked at her. He knew he was blushing. He felt like a man who’d been hacking through a dense, thicket of trees for years and suddenly, unexpectedly found himself in an open clearing. He felt completely overwhelmed and stupidly glad he’d eaten a bad tuna sandwich and crashed his car, but wasn’t about to outstay his welcome.
‘Thanks Sasha, but I’m going to go. I’m keeping you awake.’ ‘Okay,’ Sasha agreed, glad to have helped him, ‘but please will you go to the hospital? Concussion is no joke.’ He looked pained. ‘I’ll go with you,’ she offered, ‘I’ll even hold your hand,’ she laughed. Though they both knew she wasn’t joking. ‘You can tell me all about the light beams and mega X-rays on the way.’
‘You’ll be bored,’ he said, ‘you don’t really want to hear about it. You’re not a geek like me.’ Sasha considered him, coolly. He had no idea of her background, of her education, of who her father was, of all the conversations she’d grown up listening to around the dinner table, of her unofficial advisory position within the company. But it wasn’t his fault, she relished the delineation she’d succeeded in creating between her day and night. ‘You are a very assumptious man about what you think I like or don’t like.’
Alex felt confused, wondered if did have concussion after all, as he’d definitely missed something, but she didn’t look angry. Sasha was smiling; her eyes dazzled him:
‘Mr Graham, you’ve not asked me what I do during the day.’