1654 c/o Giles Ruffer

Blaise walks into town. He has no reason to and no money to spend. He has headphones on and a song called ‘Cool Ice Cream’ is playing. The way the music is played and the irreverent tone of the lyrics seem to control his mood and he cannot understand why. He decides his personality is easily manipulated and that someone could probably talk him into thinking anything, like joining a religious cult, quite easily.

A man approaches him and Blaise takes off his headphones.

‘Excuse me mate,’ the man says. ‘Now just listen to me, I know I look bad right, but I just need some money to get a cup of tea.’

The man’s face is tanned and dirty like he has been outside and not washed for the best part of a week. Blaise sometimes hides in his bedsit for entire days, washing himself when he is already clean, maintaining a pale complexion.

Blaise wants to carry on walking and waits for a chance to respond as the man continues:

‘Now I don’t want to spend your money on beer or anything, you could just buy me a Big Mac.’

‘Is there a McDonald’s this way, I’m walking this way,’ says Blaise, pointing in the direction he was walking.

‘There’s one down here.’ The man points in the opposite direction. ‘You can just give me the money for it, look I can give you the number of the hostel I’m staying at. They know me, they can vouch for me. I just need enough to stay there over the weekend.’

‘How much is it to stay there?’ says Blaise.

‘Twelve-fifty a night.’

Blaise imagines people viewing him through TV cameras, judging him on how he handles the situation and expecting him to make the right moral decision and renew their faith in humanity. And if Blaise succeeds, his kindness will be rewarded in an even greater way, with balloons and confetti and sailing boats with bikini models drinking champagne on board.

But £12.50 is a lot of money for Blaise, who has just calculated in his head that he has a budget of exactly £12.33875 a day for the next 14 days.

He tries to quickly recount how the conversation has escalated from asking for a cup of tea to £12.50 in such a short space of time, but instead creates a tableau in his brain where the man is sitting in a tea room in York. Bone China cups. A giant Battenberg. A woman with long blonde hair, bright perfect teeth, surgically sculpted breasts inside a bikini, sitting opposite. Blaise watching on through the window of the tea room, outside in the rain.

Blaise makes a half-hearted compromise.

He takes his wallet out and says, ‘This is like, all the change I have,’ handing the man two £1 coins.

‘All right. Thank you,’ says the man, his head turned, mumbling, ‘I won’t spend it on beer.’

Blaise puts his headphones back on and continues to walk in the same direction as before.

A few minutes later he notices a playground with people in. Although he doesn’t realise it at first, two of his friends are by the swings in the playground.

His friends have not yet seen him and he contemplates walking past, eyes on the ground.

He does this until he passes them.

He then hears his name being called over the music playing in his headphones. He feels bad for ignoring his friends and can’t think why he is doing this. He looks around, feigning perplexity.

He takes off his headphones again.

Blaise’s friends take him to a party at a squat. There are not many people at the party. They don’t even need to shout.

‘I think it might pick up once Tom and his friends get back,’ says Blaise’s friend Marc. ‘They’re just picking up some mandy.’

Marc explains the party is “Hipster” themed.

‘Everyone just looks like they live in a squat,’ says Blaise. ‘This girl looks like she’s in Dexy and the Midnight Runners.’ He points to a girl sitting on the floor.

Marc laughs. ‘I’ll tell her that,’ he says. ‘She’ll love it.’

In the top floor of the squat is a room, the floor is a sea with an archipelago of uncovered mattresses. No one else is there except Blaise and Marc who sit on the edge of a mattress and talk about their band that has not practised in three months.

‘I feel... normal,’ says Blaise, looking at a can of Oranjeboom. ‘I was going to say “I feel tired” but… I don’t know.’

Marc laughs.

Two girls enter the room. One is short with dreadlocks, the other is the one Blaise said looked like she was from Dexy and the Midnight Runners.

‘Er, excuse me,’ says Marc. ‘We’re trying to have a band discussion here.’

‘Oh, what is your band?’ says the short girl with dreadlocks as she jumps onto the mattress. ‘Hello, what is your name?’ she says to Blaise. She has an accent that Blaise cannot place.

‘You’ve asked me this like three times already,’ says Blaise.

‘Oh I don’t remember. I’m DRUNK!’ She throws her arms up revealing two unshaven arm pits, and falls backwards onto the mattress.

The other girl laughs and says, ‘Oh Marie, I love you, you’re so awesome.’

Blaise feels a desire to touch the girl he had earlier insulted to Marc. He wants to touch her in several places on her body for prolonged periods of time. He considers asking her—an approach which would at worst result in a minor loss of dignity—but decides not to.

Someone comes into the room and tells them to come downstairs.

Blaise looks at his watch.10pm. It will take him half an hour to get home.

‘I’m going to head off,’ Blaise tells Marc as they leave the room.

‘Okay. I’ll speak to you soon,’ says Marc.

‘Yeah, have a good night.’

As Blaise leaves the squat he passes a middle-aged man talking loudly on his phone. Blaise feels the beginnings of a migraine.

The migraine snowballs as he walks home. He concentrates on his feet to try and think about anything but the throbbing but by the time he puts his key in the lock his head is aflame.

‘Oh God,’ he tries to whisper but it comes out in a loud drone. ‘Oh God. Jesus Christ. Oh my God.’

Two hours later he can do nothing but write down this experience.