It was unlikely anyone would notice. So I risked it. I stumbled away from the swarming, intoxicated mess of people writhing around in the middle of the park and headed towards dense foliage at the edges. I necked the last of my Fosters tinny, crumpled it in my almighty hand and launched it at an innocent tree. My right foot took a stumble on a thinly veiled manhole cover, but I got back up and headed into the shrubbery.
There was an element of that group of friends I didn’t quite get. None of them seemed to actually like each other. Quite pivotal for a friendship group, I mused. The outer bushes of a local park truly were a sordid, dark underworld. There were used condoms, needles, tin cans, shiny crisp packets, cigarette butts, muddied glass bottles and a powerful stench of urine. I shimmied, dipped, ducked and forced branches out the way with as much caution as a day of drinking beer would afford, before I found a lovely area to make my own.
I’d never shat in a park before.
But my therapist had mentioned to me quite recently that you have to be open to new people, new things, new experiences. So, with a wry grin and a salute, I said ‘here’s to you Ophelia.’
My thoughts then floated onto Jenny. Jenny was the reason I was drunk and taking a dump in a park at midnight. It was her fault for living in a shit, cheap flat with a broken toilet system and secondly, for having these drunkard friends. I then thought of her cute almond coloured eyes, sweet skin and rich black hair. She was quickly forgiven.
I covered my business with dirt and dead leaves and from my red leather handbag I took a tissue and cleaned myself up. Maybe shitting in the woods ain’t so bad, I thought. But while I hauled myself up and as I pulled up my knickers, an excruciating pain that shot through my back. A sharp jarring pain. A pain that froze me completely and force my legs to buckled. The pain was paralysing and I lay motionless in the dirt struggling and trying to get my breath back.
Then, I heard movements.
People were coming into the undergrowth. I heard Samantha’s voice. The one who’s brother had gone to prison in Spain for drugs charges and wouldn’t shut up about how she was jealous because he got access to a playstation the whole time and kept referencing Love Island and hair extensions and bitching about people Anna just didn’t fucking care about. But oh fuck. I winced as I tried to move my leg. I still couldn’t move.
It wasn’t unusual for this to happen. I had back spasms my whole life, scoliosis, you see. It was a rush of crippling pain, and then the need to relax breath to try to get the muscles moving again. But I couldn’t relax, not with Samantha’s torch on her phone scanning the undergrowth like a fucking prison guard. I tried to sit up, but could only manage to roll forward onto my front.
“Oi! Is someone there?” Samantha’s voice pierced through the faint bass from the speakers still blaring in the park. If I just stayed quiet, Samantha might wonder off. The hungry light of Samantha’s phone torch lit me up. I was exposed.
“Shit. Who’s that?” Samantha started walking towards me, I could her her tentative footsteps crunching on the twigs and leaves. I couldn’t move for shame and pain. No use.
“Anna… it’s Anna” I said.
“Holy fuck, are you alright?”
And then the suckerpunch, “Wha… what’s that smell? And what’s that on your top…?”
So, when your grandad asks why I haven’t managed to find a man (bless him!) in all these years, this is why. No it’s not because I’m inordinately picky (I am), nor is it because I’m waiting for the right person (Jenny was perfect and no one quite compares), nor, is it because I am ugly to the point of being physically and magnetically repulsive. No. It’s because I do shit like this.
Harvey James is London based freelancer writing curious features for the likes of VICE, HIGHSNOBIETY, Soho House & Wired. He also grinds out short fiction whenever possible. He can be caught on all socials at @harvjam + his website www.harveyjames.org.