In the wild, humpback whales have often been observed devouring entire schools of herring with such ferocity that they inadvertently swallow up to a dozen unsuspecting seagulls bobbing away on the surface.
In banking, managing directors were the whales, feasting on fat deals and juicy fees whilst we analysts were the seagulls, nervously pecking at the leftover detritus, hoping that we wouldn’t ourselves be accidentally gobbled up in the ordinary course of business.
I downed my second coffee of the day, or technically my eighth, since I hadn’t left the building in twenty six hours. It was 10.30am …
“You sure about that dudeman?”
“Course I am,” Hugo said indignantly. “I saw someone do this on YouTube.”
Unperturbed by my lack of faith, he tore off another length of duct tape with his teeth and slapped it onto the back of his left heel, checking carefully that the edges were patted down neatly. I sat down on a small rocky outcrop amidst the swaying conifers and watched this curious exercise unfold.
“Tea tree oil,” said Seb solemnly, “is the answer to all your problems. Right between the toes, every night, and you’ll never get blisters again.” …
We rumbled along a four-lane highway, slow enough that I could almost count the blades of grass sticking out from the dark, muddy bank to our right. Behind it lay an endless sea of single-storey wooden houses propped up on short stilts, the only form of flood insurance affordable to America’s poor in a city that sits almost entirely below sea level. It was an unbroken expanse of rickety shanties honeycombed with cracked asphalt lanes and short-cropped grass, sprawled under a tangled spiderweb of power cables trailing loosely through the air.
“Not what you was expecting, huh?”
I looked over…
“You know what I like about Sundays?”
“Wearing jeans to the office?”
“Well yes, but not that. It’s setting up my bullshit bingo for when Darth Serious chairs the Monday meeting. I draft it the night before, every single week.”
“I think you need to find a girlfriend.”
“I’ve even started probability-weighting his catchphrases. ‘Music without lyrics’ is currently top of the charts.”
“You definitely need to find a girlfriend.”
We both stepped through the door, into the realm of nondescript slate tiles and mass-produced citrus air freshener. Our conversation died abruptly. …
“The police,” he said. “Were shooting us. With gas, bullets, everything, you understand?” He lit another cigarette, and the orange flicker cast a dim glow over the untrimmed stubble reaching down to his collar. Next to me, three cockroaches lay mournfully shrivelled on a ledge, the poor bastards smothered to death by decades of accumulated second-hand smoke. “But me, I was ok.” He shrugged. “So next day I went back, and then again, every day.”
It was 2016 and we were sitting in a dingy basement cafe in Tunis, 5 years after a popular revolution swept through the nation’s sun-bleached…
The air hangs heavy with the smell of rain, like freshly cut grass, warm against the skin even though the sun…
Always searching never lost.